M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Monday, October 29, 2007  

Phantom Pooper

Just one thing before moving on to the new entry: Adopt Marvin!

Not getting declawed, okay???

M. Small is still in diapers. Yes, we know -- we've been slacking on the toilet training, even for a long period a few months ago when it looked like he was going to just go ahead and train himself. Actually, especially during that period. We were like, "Hell, looks like he's got it handled. Knock yourself out, little dude!" But then he lost interest in the process and we're having a hell of a time getting him back on track.

So obviously, there's still a diaper disposal unit in his bedroom. But since we usually change him in whatever part of the house he's in at the time we notice a new toxic aura surrounding him, it doesn't usually get used any more except when Trash dresses him in the morning. But occasionally a big old poopy gets stuffed in there, and occasionally it doesn't get pushed all the way down to where you're not supposed to be able to smell it any more.

That's what I thought had happened a few weeks ago when I walked into his empty room and discovered that the air inside it had become a 10' x 8' brick of solid stink. But when I checked the diaper unit, everything was in order. The gooey brown pile on the floor next to his toy chest, however? Way out of order.

We knew that Turtle had diarrhea the past couple of months -- not just because the steroids were supposed to do that to her, but also because I'd accidentally walked in on her using the litter box once while she had her back to me. And, by the way, if anyone has any tips on how to unsee something, let me know.

But we didn't realize she might be having trouble controlling it until one day this summer, when Trash found a little puddle in M. Small's playroom that looked like dark chocolate pudding and smelled like a water treatment plant. At Turtle's next appointment, Dr. P. told us to keep an eye on it, and hopefully it would stop the next time we tried tapering Turtle's dosage down. And indeed, it seemed to be getting better until I discovered M. Small's smeary new area rug.

Except that there's one very important thing I didn't mention in the last entry about Strat's bum tumor and Dr. R.'s examination thereof. While she was looking up his bum, he released a little squirt of brown liquid onto her (ungloved) hand that didn't come from his anal glands. He had diarrhea too.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that it might be Strat who had been leaving runny little gifts around (and yes, by this point there had been more than one). This was good news. It meant that once Strat was better, he wouldn't be dropping sloppy plops of glop around any more. And it also meant that maybe Turtle wasn't as bad as we thought, and might be able to hang on longer (about which we later turned out to be wrong). It was good news all around. Well, except from Dr. R.'s point of view, although she washed her hands with equanimity. Equanimity, and lots of soap.

But then, for about a week, the stealth poo attacks at home increased in frequency. Used to be that if I found a damp spot on the carpet or in the laundry, I had the esoteric if totally unmarketable skill of being able to determine by the smell whether it had been Strat or Orca who had peed outside the box. I can't do that with three cats in the house, and I could never do it with poo, anyway. Never thought I'd want to. But now we kind of needed to know whether it was Strat or Turtle who was having sphincter trouble. I kept meaning to collect a sample the next time to see if the vet's lab could trace the source, but every time I found one I was so grossed out that all I could think to do was get rid of it as quickly as possible.

And then, a few weeks ago, we were all in M. Small's bedroom putting away his clean laundry. Suddenly he said, "I smell something!" The boy's got a keen nose, much keener than mine, and maybe even as keen as Trash's. But the poo smell that was suddenly drifting out of his closet was powerful enough to knock over Tycho Brahe. We had just received a delivery, and we were about to catch the culprit red-handed. Or brown-anused, as the case may be. We struggled to focus our watery eyes, and we watched as out of the closet, at full speed, came…

Phantom. Should have known.

One cat with terminal anemia. One cat with ass cancer. One cat who was using biological weapons. For the first time in over a decade and a half, Trash and I found ourselves contemplating whether a zero-cat household is the way to go. We kept her locked out of M. Small's room for a few days after that, and there haven't been any more incidents. Either she just had a little bout of Pepe LePew's revenge that is now over, or she's too afraid to try it again now that she's been busted. Either way is fine with me.

But just to be safe, maybe our next pet will be a pig.

posted by M. Giant 5:39 PM 5 comments


Ahhhh I followed the link to the original Phantom post, and I laughed so hard it still hurts! Especially when I got to the part about the storm drain. So funny! Our cats are also big fans of the phantom pooping. Why? WHY?!!

By Anonymous Kelly, at October 29, 2007 at 7:58 PM  

One of my dad's best stories from Boy Scout camp back in the 50s is the one about the sumer when the whole camp was -- well, not terrorized so much as appalled when someone took to leaving a pile of poo neatly between the latrine's two holes. Whoever it was came to be known as the Phantom Crapper.

Pass my thanks on to your kitty for giving me a new secondary association for the phrase. Star Wars wasn't cutting it anymore.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 29, 2007 at 8:09 PM  

Less disgusting but sometimes as interesting as the Phantom Poo, is the Random Turd.

It's lonely, soft and damp, waiting for someone to tread on it in a half-awake state on the way to the toilet.

While you're cleaning it from between your toes, you ponder how it got there, meters away from the litter box, with nary a string nor any other apparent mode of transport.

Perhaps the Easter Bunny is moonlighting.

By Anonymous Will Stanton, at October 29, 2007 at 8:27 PM  

Must be the week for it. We had a Protest Poo recently, as Teslagrl was out of town and the older cat doesn't think I'm good company.

Jokes on her, though: that pile of clothes is set to get donated.

Tycho Brahe; heh heh.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at October 29, 2007 at 9:19 PM  

Totally off subject- they have Lightening McQueen lamps at Menards. Maybe other Cars characters too, but mostly I figured M.Small would be about the red car...

By Blogger lap, at October 30, 2007 at 1:24 PM  

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Friday, October 26, 2007  

Meet Marvin

i can haz nu hoam?

Marvin is not my cat. But maybe he could be yours.

A reader sent me an e-mail this week upon learning that we might have a vacancy or two. For one reason and another having nothing to do with him, keeping Marvin has become problematic. I'll let her explain:

"Marvin's about 5 years old, but very friendly, active and healthy. He's well-behaved. He's hilarious. I've never seen a cat with more personality. He's neutered, but not declawed. I would have kept him for forever, but I'm never home anymore and he's lonely. I also moved to an apartment, so he doesn't have the space to run around like he used to. And the final straw was when the apartment I'm in changed management and I renewed my lease and found out that under the new management, all cats have to be declawed. I just can't do that. He doesn't scratch my furniture. He loves those cardboard scratching things, tho."

As I told the reader, we can't take a new clawed cat with M. Small in the house, and we're not about to take Marvin and declaw him at his age. But I said I'd be happy to help her find Marvin a home. And then I saw the picture and decided I had to act fast or, despite everything, that home would become mine. So here you go.

If you live in the Twin Cities area, send me an e-mail at m.giant[at]gmail.com and I'll put you in touch with Marvin's person. Unless you want him for animal research, in which case you're out of luck.

posted by M. Giant 5:06 PM 16 comments


Declawing is... bad.

I grew up with cats, from when I was younger than M.Small is, and all of them had claws. This did not result in any kind of trauma for me. Cats often recognise that children are children and will avoid using claws on them anyway, but if your child does get scratched, a) it will do no lasting harm, cat scratches aren't serious and b) it will teach him a valuable life lesson about pissing off kitty.

Not to sound heartless or to wish ill on M.Small, but seriously, pain is a part of growing up, and the minor injuries to which children are prone help prevent more serious injuries later. The world is not a gentle place and kids need to learn that in small ways that heal. And Marvin doesn't sound like a child-scratcher anyway.

(Just in case "despite everything" comes to pass, you understand. I'd take him, he looks adorable, but he'd have to spend six months in quarantine to get to my house and I wouldn't wish that on him either.)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 26, 2007 at 9:54 PM  

Many of the declawed cats I've met have actually been more dangerous than clawed ones -- they've tended to be biters, and they liked to grab on with the front legs and kick with the back feet. I also grew up with clawed cats, and although I did get some scratches, they never bothered me (I was a tough little girl, heh), and they caused no lasting harm. Cats don't want to scratch people, anyway... since I've become an adult, I've only been scratched once, and it was an accident (cat was scared by a very loud noise and hooked a claw into my neck).

That kitty's adorable... he reminds me of one I lost recently. If I didn't live in Canada, I'd take him.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 26, 2007 at 10:34 PM  

We have 4 cats, a toddler, and a baby. All of our cats have claws and our toddler has only been scratched once, mildly, for inadvertently stepping on a tail. I wouldn't worry about it with M. Small.

By Blogger Melissa, at October 27, 2007 at 1:29 AM  

My cats are declawed, but I would never do it again (they're 12, 9 and 9). My parents cats are not declawed and my kids (6 and 2) do great with them. The 2 yr old has been scratched once in nearly 3 years.

Many vets have stopped declawing. As long as the cats are given places to scratch openly, they'll mostly leave the kids and furniture alone.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 27, 2007 at 6:25 AM  

While in general I wouldn't be too concerned about a cat that age with claws around a little kid, we did once have a kitten of dubious origin who scratched the heck out of the entire family playing, and transmitted some type of staph bacteria, causing genuinely nasty infections. I guess the lesson from that would be to clean a new arrival's paws & claws with something disinfecting before you have much interaction. I was really sorry to read about Turtle, by the way, and wish the best of luck with Strat.

Totally off topic, did you ever find out why Trash's car smelled so bad?


By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 27, 2007 at 9:08 AM  

I'm with everyone who grew up with clawed cats and came through unmaimed. I'm also with those who decry declawing as inhumane. I use these on my cat:
I'm not with the company, just really like the product. My cat doesn't love 'em, but she'll stand it. She's pretty good about having her paws messed with though, which isn't always the case with cats. Best of luck to Marvin! If I weren't in Chicago, in a studio apartment...sigh.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 27, 2007 at 10:10 PM  

Lesley, I think the lesson there is actually to stay away from kittens of dubious origin. ;) My mom brought one home once and it had weird red fleas. She checked kittens more carefully after that!

I clip my cats' nails. They're good about it. I don't know if it's the best thing for a cat's claw, being clipped, but it's a lot more humane than declawing.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 28, 2007 at 12:22 AM  

If I were ever to become an activist it would be on the declawing issue.

I grew up with EIGHT cats, none of them declawed. It's all a matter of teaching the kid how to interact with the cat.

My husband says, no no, we can still keep it legal, but anyone who has their cat declawed will be declawed themselves. Let's see how they do without the first joint of all their fingers and toes.

That said, Marvin is adorable and I'm sure he will get a good home.

By Anonymous GhostGirl, at October 28, 2007 at 7:02 AM  

M. Giant, I am SINCERELY sorry for the number of angry emails you're going to get from the Pro-Claw faction.

2 of my 3 cats were declawed as tiny kittens, and they are happy, healthy little monsters. That "declawing makes them more hostile" idea is simply not true. The only reason the third isn't because we got her at the age of 2 and she's a little unsteady. That one? Has ruined my sofa. And she pulled off the Softpaws and ate them. So, there ya go.

Frankly, I'm willing to sacrifice as many little kitten toes as necessary to the great god of Catnip if it puts them in a forever home where they are loved and cared for. Don't get me started on the "cats know how to deal with babies and children" thing. He has a brain the size of a walnut! Don't spread that kind of junk advice!

Sorry, now *I* sound a like a member of a crazy faction...

By Blogger Adrienne, at October 28, 2007 at 5:03 PM  

PS If Marvin were my cat, I would snorgle the hell out of him. Look at that nose! LOOK AT IT! I am dead from the cute....

By Blogger Adrienne, at October 28, 2007 at 5:04 PM  

Oh, awesome. Declawing. The most productive topic of debate on the internet after (1) fat people; (2) bikes versus pedestrians; (3)home schooling; and (4) osteopathy.

Aren't you glad you mentioned declawing? Aren't you?

By Blogger Linda, at October 28, 2007 at 6:51 PM  

Eh, I've had cats all my life that were declawed. We currently have 6 inddor cats and 4 of them are declawed, and SOMEHOW they are all fine. The other 2 simply don't use their claws in ways that cause problems, but despite using all methods to deter them, the others tore out carpet, ripped up furniture, clawed people (not with malicious intent, but still...not appreciated) and so they got declawed. They never go outside, ever, and they remain extremely spoiled and happy. They also have not found the need to resort to other violent means of expression. Good grief.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 29, 2007 at 3:59 AM  

Cat scratches aren't necessarily harmless. Cats have something in their saliva, that gets on their claws that can cause serious bacterial infection in humans. It doesn't happen often, but I've personally known people who've had some serious infections from cat scratches. That said, I wouldn't declaw either, it just seems mean. it's painful, it can deform their paws over time and it's not necessary if you keep the claws clipped and/or get SoftPaws.

By Blogger URBAN PEDESTRIAN, at October 29, 2007 at 9:37 AM  

I live in the UK, where declawing cats is simply not done, any more than extracting all their teeth would be. The very thought makes me shiver. Strange how pet-keeping culture varies so much from country to country. Anyway, I hope Marvin finds a home soon, he looks like a darling.

By Anonymous goodcatmum, at October 30, 2007 at 6:30 AM  

For the love of god, can't someone go the one extra step and make a cat scratch fever reference?!?!?! It's killing me!

I got yo back, Nuge...

By Anonymous Chao, at October 31, 2007 at 7:00 AM  

Marvin is so freakin' cute! I'm sorry that we can't take him in.

By Blogger Teslagrl, at November 1, 2007 at 11:51 AM  

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007  

My Cat Has Ass Cancer

Late one evening a few weeks ago, Trash and I noticed a weird little pinkish damp spot on our bed. I assumed that M. Small's sippy cup full of juice had leaked and didn't think much more of it.

But then, at bedtime, Trash saw what had happened. As soon as I get in bed, Strat likes to crawl up on my chest and get pets and kisses and turn around in circles and stick his ass in our face. And there was something wrong with that ass. Something even more wrong than usual.

We decided to take him to the vet the very next morning, which happened to be a Saturday. Dr. P. wasn't in, so he saw Dr. R. instead.

When I got home, Trash asked me what the deal was.

"You don't want to know," I said.

"Yes, I do," she said.

"I swear to God you don't," I insisted.

So consider yourself warned that things are about to get nasty.

Cats have anal glands. I first became aware of this years ago, when I was playing with him while he was on his kitty condo. He was upside down, his ass sticking straight up in the air, when suddenly a few drops of thin brown liquid shot skyward from his fundament with a startling ploot.

"Okaayy, play time's over," I said, thinking his weapon of choice had escalated from paws to claws to poo. That's an arms race I want no part of.

I later found out that it wasn't in fact poo, but the product of his anal glands, which had burst open as is normal for cats at a certain age. He was fine.

We've had very little trouble with his anal glands ever since -- we've never had to bring him in to get them "expressed," as the hopelessly euphemistic term has it. But apparently something else happens to a cat's anal glands as he ages.

Now, here's where it gets gross.

As a cat gets older, that stuff that fills up the anal glands starts to harden. But it still builds up. Eventually what happens is a bursting type of situation, and then what your cat has is an infected abscess in a very sensitive spot. I have no idea what it must be like to poo past something like that, but I suspect we're lucky it didn't put him off his litter box completely.

So Dr. R. did some...oh, let's just call it "creative expression" and have done with it. She also put him on some antibiotics.

While we were there, I thought I might mention a few other things. For instance, almost every night during the last couple of months he's been parking himself at the bottom of the stairs and unleashing an ear-splitting feline aria, just at that point where either Trash or I is just about to fall asleep -- the same point where, if something wakes you up at that moment, you're up for another hour. How he's able to unerringly pinpoint that precise second from another floor, I don't know. So I asked about that. Oh, and also, the fact that he seems to have lost a pound since May.

Dr. R, took a bunch of blood to check his sugar levels and screen him for hyperthyroidism, which can sometimes cause more youthful (read: nocturnally noisy) behavior in an older cat. All the tests came back negative. His kidneys and liver are also great, there's no infection in his urine, and his blood sugar couldn't be better. He's like a furry, seventeen-year-old Swiss watch with diabetes.

So after he finished a round of antibiotics -- and a second round that Dr. P. put him on -- I brought him back in to see Dr. R. again this past Saturday. Yes, that's the very day after we found out Turtle's time was about up.

Dr. R. looked at Strat's anus a lot more closely than I've ever cared to, and while satisfied that she had healed, she said that there was something hard and irregular in there. In other words, a tumor. And the chances of it being non-cancerous are, as she put it, slim.

That's the bad news. The good news is that Dr. R. has seen a lot of these in her career, and cats who have them often live happily for years.

But let's be realistic. The longest I've ever heard of a cat living after being diagnosed with the beedies is four years (if you've heard of longer, please share), which we're coming up on in December. We've found ourselves wondering how Phantom would do as an only cat. We've asked her about that, but she doesn't seem to have an opinion on the matter that she cares to share.

We never expected Strat to outlive Orca, let alone one of the cats who followed her. But here he is, still, and something tells me it's not going to be the beedies or the ass cancer that gets him.

It's going to be me, at 12:40 on a Tuesday night, at the bottom of the stairs.

posted by M. Giant 9:19 PM 6 comments


This comment has been removed by the author.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 24, 2007 at 4:27 AM  

I can't speak as to diabetes - my diabetic cat has only been diagnosed for a few months. I can offer some words of optimism for elderly cats with cancer, though.

My beloved cat Mouse was diagnosed with cancer when she was 15. Inoperable due to her age - odds were slim she'd survive anaesthetic.

She died at 22. Some cats just keep on kicking.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 24, 2007 at 4:29 AM  

ive seen (as a vet tech) several cat that have lived well over 4 years with the beedies. One is 15 and we have been treating him for 8 years now. Granted he was younger than most when we diagnosed him but he is doing GREAT!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 24, 2007 at 5:34 PM  

For a great resource on diabetes in cats, go to felinediabetes.com. They have a great message board and lots of informative articles. Lots of people on there have had their cats survive diabetes for a long time. Unfortunately, my cat only lasted 2 years after diagnosis.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 24, 2007 at 6:22 PM  

I am so sorry to hear about the loss of Turtle as well as Strat's problems. I have made a donation to the Los Angeles SPCA in Turtle's memory to help the wildfire victims.

By Anonymous Michael, at October 25, 2007 at 6:05 AM  

on the topic of cat glands

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 28, 2007 at 8:59 PM  

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Friday, October 19, 2007  

Turning Turtle: Endgame

UPDATE: Turtle died peacefully tonight (Monday) at 6:30. My mom was kind enough to come over and watch M. Small so that Trash and I could both be with her at the end. Thank you all for your comments. And thank you to Linda for the flowers. They're beautiful, and Turtle thought they were delicious.

im in hevin, meetin ur granparentz

One of M. Small's bath toys is a little plastic turtle. It has a cord you pull, and then in theory the turtle's flippers spin, making it swim through the bathwater as the cord winds itself back up. During his bath tonight, I noticed it was broken. The two segments of the shell are cracked apart, and the cord is stuck in the full-out position. I showed this to M. Small, and asked what he wanted to do. He took it, and pulled on the cord, and nothing happened. He kept trying, but after a while he understood that there was nothing he could do. He gave it back to me and asked me to throw it away for him. Their time together was over.

Now, here's where, if this were some touching family drama, you would correctly call all kinds of on-the-nose, anvilicious bullshit. Because this just happened to be the same bath during which we explained to him that Turtle's gotten so sick that she can't live with us for much longer.

I know I haven't given any updates on Turtle's health for a while, but here's the thing: she's dying. Really, she's been dying since March and we've been postponing the inevitable. The steroids are literally the only thing keeping her alive.

It's been a long summer, taking her back to the vet every two to four weeks, hoping that we'd find the right combination of meds to maintain her red blood cell count up in the twenties (normal range is the thirties) without keeping her on a toxic level of Prednisolone. Nothing has worked. Every time we try to taper off the dosage, her CBC follows it right down.

Having that many steroids in your system for that long isn't good for you, even if you need them to survive. For one thing, she's over fourteen pounds now, on the frame of an eight-pound cat. She can barely get up the stairs sometimes, and half the furniture is beyond her reach. For another, it makes her crap totally soupy. Which I don't mind scooping out of the litter box so much, but at her current weight she can't reach around to keep herself clean, and it's starting to have consequences.

Today it came to a head. Friday is when Trash stays home with M. Small. While I was at work this morning, she told me that Turtle's hindquarters had become a disaster area almost overnight. And indeed, when I came home early this afternoon, the house smelled like a dairy barn.

I locked her in the bathroom with me and tried to clean her up, but she wasn't having it. And when I noticed that some of the smears on the damp cloth I was using were red, I decided to bring her in today. Besides, it was too big of a job for one person without the proper equipment. I mean, have you ever seen a cat with buttocks before?

Dr. P. had two techs with him when he came into the exam room, which never happens. "Yeah, you're going to need reinforcements for this," I said. He sniffed her tail end closely (which -- wow) and when I told him about the smell in our house, he asked her, "Are we going to have to start milking you?" Given her increasingly bovine physique, it almost sounded like a serious question.

He took her in the back, drew some blood, cleaned her up (which necessitated barber's clippers), applied a topical cream, and brought her back, telling me that she had developed a localized dermatitis. He sent me home with some oral antibiotics and some cream to put on her butt three times a day, starting a few days from now. To Trash and me, it seemed more serious than just a skin irritation. It seemed like she was literally starting to unravel from her asshole out. It wasn't just a poo smell coming out of there. It was the smell of decay. This can't continue indefinitely.

When Dr. P. called back later with the lab results for the blood he drew today, he agreed that we were pretty much out of options. Basically, the only thing we haven't tried is having her spleen removed.

Arguments against: she can't have surgery in her present condition. We'd have to get her blood cell count up to a normal level, which would require such a massive dose of steroids that she would almost literally shit her guts out (all over the house, I might add, which has a three-year-old living in it). After the splenectomy, she would be a hemophiliac for the rest of her life. And there's no way to know that the problem isn't actually in her liver, in which case a splenectomy would accomplish nothing.

Arguments in favor: it might help a little.

Dr. P. said he wouldn't put his own cat through it. Right now, she's not in pain. But she's not comfortable. She's not happy. She's not energetic. She's not playful. In other words, she's not herself. She hasn't been for a long time. We've done everything we can, and it's only going to get worse. She's going to keep deteriorating. Quickly. And soon.

So this is it. We're all going to take the weekend to say goodbye. We're keeping her on the meds for the duration, because if we discontinued them her red blood cell count would drop so low and so quickly that she would effectively suffocate. Kind of a shitty way to go. We'd like to avoid that.

This is completely different from when Orca died. That was so sudden, such a shock. This is something we've seen coming for months. We pretty much expected to be a two-cat household again by New Year's. It's sad, but it's not devastating. I think it also helps that we have another person in the house this time around who's so important to us. I mean, yes, he was there last time too, but we'd known him less than a month. At that time he was a very confusing, noisy, messy, needy new roommate. Our hearts are so full of him now that the loss of a cat doesn't leave the hole that it once did.

But at least back then we didn't have to explain it to him. He's not upset or crying or anything. He's just confused. We told him that Turtle is sicker than anyone he knows has ever been, and so next week she's going to go back to the kitty doctor -- like she has been all summer -- but she's not going to come back this time.

"But why?" he keeps asking.

Why, indeed.

posted by M. Giant 9:01 PM 25 comments


I'm sorry. That's a hard decision to make, but it sounds like it's the right one for Turtle. Poor baby.

By Blogger Cori, at October 19, 2007 at 9:13 PM  

I'm so very sorry. Never easy to have to go with euthanasia, but she'll be in a better place. I hope M.Small handles his first major loss well. Poor little guy.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 20, 2007 at 4:14 AM  

I'm so sorry. Having had to make the same decision before, I know how difficult it can be. You all will be in my thoughts.

By Anonymous Shoddygirl, at October 20, 2007 at 5:20 AM  

I'm so sorry. I have a 15 year old cat and I know how hard this decision is. But sometimes the hard decision is the right one for the cat.

By Anonymous Jeanne, at October 20, 2007 at 5:56 AM  

Man oh man, that sucks. I'm so sorry.

Going to go hug my kitties now. :^(

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 6:16 AM  

I'm so sorry. Though I've never met her, Turtle has a special place in my imagination (and everyone else's) through your chronicles.

To help M. Small through this, might I recommend "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney," by Judith Viorst? It's a children's book about the death of a beloved cat.

By Blogger Jenny, at October 20, 2007 at 6:24 AM  

I just went through this with my much loved dog, and my heart goes out to all of you. As my vet put it so beautifully, just remember you're NOT taking anything away from Turtle: you're giving her the gift of dignity and peace.

You'll all be in my thoughts.

By Anonymous Jennifer, at October 20, 2007 at 7:40 AM  

I'm sorry. This can't be easy, even if you know it's the right thing to do.

By Blogger Fraulein N, at October 20, 2007 at 9:25 AM  

I'm so sorry, loves. I know you and your boy will make it through, but what a sad thing. Such a dear kitty, too. Many hugs to all.

By Blogger Linda, at October 20, 2007 at 10:48 AM  

So so sorry. She's such a sweetheart. Say goodbye for us too.

Heidi & Erik

By Blogger Teslagrl, at October 20, 2007 at 11:12 AM  

I'm so very sorry for all of you. As everyone else has said, it is such a hard decision.

By Blogger lumenatrix, at October 20, 2007 at 12:25 PM  

I am so sorry about Turtle. I'm sure it will be a very emotional weekend for all of you.

When my younger son was 2 weeks old and my older son was 16 months old, my cat Lucy became seriously ill. After six months, we had to put the sweet little kitty to sleep. While we tried to do everything we could for her, it was hard to make time for a sick cat with two kids under two in the house. We miss her terribly. It was heartbreaking to put her to sleep, but becoming a parent does put a different perspective on pet ownership.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 1:31 PM  

My deepest sympathies, I am going through something similar with my Libby. She's 10 and we have battled feline CRF for 8.5 years. Right now we do hypodermoclysis (under the skin fluid infusions) twice a day, and 3 meds and syringe feeds...and it goes on and on. She's been on kitty hospice 2 months sunday.

It's the prolonged anxiety of it all that stings for me. I, like you, want to do what's best when the time comes and it appears you know your time has come. May you be at peace.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 20, 2007 at 7:13 PM  

So sorry it's finally happening. I lost 3 pets last year, each to various and sundry horrible ailments, and I watched every one be "put to sleep." Umm, maybe I just don't have kids, but all of that seemed pretty awful at the time. I hope it's as easy as it can be for your family; I hope your Turtle goes quietly and peacefully. And I hope that kitty butts are always clean in heaven.

By Anonymous Michelle, at October 20, 2007 at 9:37 PM  

I'm so sorry. When I was 14 or so, my mother had to make the decision to euthanize our cat, whom she'd had since before I or my sister was born. I think being a parent actually made it harder on her, since she sort of thought of the cat as her first kid.

Of course, parenting kids who are way past the diaper and boardbooks stage is a lot different than being a preschooler's parent.

In any case, I hope Turtle has a good last weekend and an easy exit.

By Blogger Marissa, at October 21, 2007 at 8:33 AM  

I'm so sorry - it's never easy to do. I hope you've had a good weekend together. The photo collage/tribute is just gorgeous.

- JeniMull

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 21, 2007 at 9:09 PM  

Like everyone else, I'm so sorry for you today. A week ago today-- last Monday-- I lost my beloved kitty to a benign but inoperable tumor in his stomach. Food couldn't get past it, but removing it would have left him unable to digest food-- not a pretty picture. We chose not to wake him up from his exploratory surgery.

Having others in the house definitely makes it easier, but explaining to a child that their favorite pet isn't coming home is heartbreaking. Just know that you guys will be in my thoughts and prayers today.

If love means anything, it means putting someone else's best interests ahead of your own. That is a valuable lesson for young M Small, which he is way too young to fully absorb now. It hurts, but you know that you are doing what is best for Turtle and ending this before her quality of life deteriorates to nothing.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 6:09 AM  

I am so sorry to hear this. What a terrible decision to have to make, but I think you're doing what's kindest. My thoughts go out to you and I hope that you had a nice last weekend together.

By Blogger Her Ladyship, at October 22, 2007 at 7:03 AM  

I am so sorry to hear about Turtle, when my cat passed I read your Blog about Orca and it was such a blessing. Thank goodness this time you have the chance to say "goodbye'.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 7:59 AM  

I'm so sorry. We had to make the decision to say good-bye to a much-beloved cat about two years ago. It wasn't easy at the time, although we knew it was the only remaining option. We still miss him, but we know we gave him dignity and a peaceful passing with us with him.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 22, 2007 at 8:01 AM  

Awful thing to have to decide. I'm sorry for your family. It seems you're doing a great job trying to explain in a way that M.Small might understand, though. Thoughts go out to the Giant family.

By Blogger Tami, at October 22, 2007 at 11:39 AM  

RIP Turtle. May your name be a blessing.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 23, 2007 at 6:14 AM  

You're so welcome. I am happy to provide something pretty, and a nice cat treat for Turtle.

Hugs all around.

By Blogger Linda, at October 23, 2007 at 8:54 AM  

I'm so sorry. So long, Turtle.

By Blogger Sars, at October 24, 2007 at 12:18 PM  

I hadn't read your blog in a few days and just now saw this. I am very sorry you have to say goodbye to your kitty. I have had to have several cats euthanized over the years, and it's always painful to know that you won't get to be with them again. But my experience has always been that a time comes when you know what you have to do to make your cat comfortable; it's the last and best kindness you can provide. My heart goes out to you.

By Blogger Katherine, at October 25, 2007 at 3:15 PM  

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Tuesday, October 16, 2007  

Mental Dental

Everyone hates a dentist appointment, right? It's always uncomfortable, and sometimes downright painful. And the options for pain reduction aren't so great either. You can have gas, which doesn't do anything except make the synthesizer intro from "Won't Get Fooled Again" echo in your ears, or you can have Novocaine, which hurts when they inject it and then either doesn't work or leaves you a drooling idiot for the next couple of hours.

Or, you could just have the dentist rub your boobs.

There are just so many unanswered questions in that linked story, aren't there? Okay, yes, he wasn't so much trying to get his more buxom patients through a root canal; he claimed that the "pectoral massage" was simply a treatment for TMJ. Anyone out there have access to the dental journal article that proposes that therapy?

Also, it doesn't say anything about whether he also applied the "pectoral massages" to his male patients with TMJ. Maybe he just forgot.

So why not give him the benefit of the doubt? As the story says, he "needs to keep seeing patients so he can feed his seven children and pay for his defense." And if he's being "supervised by two assistants" and "would no longer do the chest rubs," as the story also says, how could anyone object?

I certainly don't want to appear to be blaming the (27) victims here, but at least one of them seems to have given him the benefit of the doubt as well. I refer in particular to the 31-year-old woman who told police that the dentist felt her up six times in two years. Not that she tolerated all six occasions without taking steps.

Specifically, she started wearing tight shirts with high necklines, "and Anderson would still get in under her shirt and bra," says the police report.

Under her bra? Seems a leeeettle forward.

Without more information than that, who can tell whether any wrongdoing actually occurred? Its not like the police report includes a photo of her rack. But if she had noticed enough of a pattern that she was beginning to dress specifically for the appointments in a way designed to thwart Doctor Handsy, maybe it should have occurred to her to see if maybe another dental practitioner was available.

Two other questions I have: did he fondle the funbags before or after he started rooting around in the patient's mouth? And if it was before, does he still have all of his fingers?

I've never wanted to be a lawyer, but this is one case I wouldn't mind arguing.

posted by M. Giant 4:07 PM 7 comments


A quick search of the medical and dental literature turns up...

Yeah. "TMJ" gets over 10,000 hits, and "TMJ Massage" gets a few, but nothing about the chesticles.

"TMJ massage pectoral" apparently gets you 10 to 25. Hey-yoooo!

By Blogger Febrifuge, at October 16, 2007 at 4:42 PM  

Cooincidentally, I also discovered that buying shoes doesn't require a full thigh massage in order to get a perfect fit, either

By Blogger URBAN PEDESTRIAN, at October 17, 2007 at 6:09 AM  

OK several things went through my mind while reading this...first being I don't mind the dentist because my dentist ROCKS! He numbs the area of the novocaine injection first so I don't even feel it. Second, a massage is one thing, but if he HAD to massage the chestal area, wouldn't he recommend undressing rather than go under the clothing? Third, when I read he had seven kids, I just about lost it because MY awesome, non-massaging dentist has 7 kids! Finally, the woman who kept going back? I totally understand. Once you find a good dentist, it's hard to switch.

By Blogger Finding My New Normal, at October 17, 2007 at 8:21 AM  

Not to mention, this is next door to a major university town, which means you have a large number of young university students who may not report being skeeved out because they're anxious to be "adult enough" to handle any situation on their own.

By Blogger Elizabeth, at October 17, 2007 at 2:10 PM  

I don't see what the issue is. It's not like he's charging extra for the massage. [Insert Trash calling me a pig here]

By Anonymous Chao, at October 18, 2007 at 7:38 AM  

i will be the first to tell you that my dentist is a hottie, but good grief, i have to draw a line! having been in the health insurance industry for a lot of years i can honestly say i have never seen clinical evidence of chest massage being an accepted and effective treatment of tmj. didn't a chiropractor get arrested a few years back for doing something similar??? big eeewwwweeeeiiiieeee

By Anonymous blaine, at October 19, 2007 at 10:55 AM  

But that is how they clean teeth, right?

Yes, yes it is. IN PRISON!

By Blogger Fraulein N, at October 20, 2007 at 9:27 AM  

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Friday, October 12, 2007  

Birthday the Third

When my alarm clock went off at three o'clock this morning, Trash had a rather urgent question for me:

"What the hell?"

"It's M. Small's birthday!" I reminded her after blowing my nose and rubbing my gooey front teeth with my finger. "Three years ago, at this very time, we got the call that he'd been born!"

Trash didn't seem caught up in the moment for some reason.

"First of all, that happened ten minutes from now," she said.

"Oh, okay. I'll hit the snooze button."

"Don't you dare!"

"You're right. I'll go wake him up right now."

"I will kill you dead if you do."

"Don't you care about your son's birthday?"

"Yes, and I don't want the rest of his birthdays to also be the anniversary of when I killed you."

Okay, none of that actually happened. We didn't actually wake up until around 4:30, which was when M. Small, totally unaware that it was now technically his birthday, came toddling down the hall carrying his new lovey: a Halloween decoration in the form of a plastic skull that lights up. He crawled into bed, snuggled for a minute, and then hitched a ride with me back to his own bed.

"Don't forget his…skull?" Trash reminded me as the two of us were leaving. I'd been the one to put him to bed that night, so she hadn't previously been aware of his macabre new cuddle toy.

And then my alarm didn't go off until 7:15. M. Small didn't seem to want his special day to start yet, for some reason. "Cover me up!" he wailed, breaking into actual tears when we not only didn't do so, but changed his diaper as well. I left Trash to deal with the fallout while I went downstairs to get ready.

Two minutes later, he was bounding happily down the stairs. Apparently he had received word of the donuts and presents that were waiting for him in the kitchen, and this news had improved his mood considerably. As it would anyone's.

I hung out while he opened his presents and ate his breakfast and then I went to work feeling like a chump, a bit envious of Trash for getting to spend the whloe day with him, looking forward to coming home a little early, and really glad that next year his birthday falls on a Sunday. His birthday weekend continues tomorrow, and I think we're looking forward to it more than he is.

Happy birthday, little dude. It was happy for your mom and me, too.

posted by M. Giant 7:57 PM 5 comments


Shoot, this is belated already, but since it is still his birthday weekend -

HAPPY BIRTHDAY M. Not-Quite-So-Small!!!

(Also, our kiddo's current favorite lovey is an eyeball ball that flashes blue and red in a rather seizure-inducing way when thrown or banged against something hard enough. It was a Halloween present from her godmother and she sleeps with it pressed against her cheek, occasionally lighting up the room during the night when she rolls over on it and thereby scaring the heck out of her goldfish and the cat. Kids!)

By Blogger Heather, at October 13, 2007 at 5:20 AM  

I've been a reader for a couple of years now with no comments, so I think it's about time that I wish your little guy a great birthday week. And many more years of learning and laughter and loveys.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 14, 2007 at 10:09 PM  

I remember crying tears of joy about MTiny's addition to your life a couple of years back. And I don't even know you (or like kids all that much)!

Being an adoption kid, I know how important these celebrations are. Happy Birthday to the whole family!

By Anonymous megs, at October 15, 2007 at 12:54 AM  

Happy birthday, little one. I remember it well.

M. Giant: "So...he was born! The baby was born."

Linda's brain, remembering that the baby isn't due for seven weeks and that Trash just showed her...the one pair of baby socks they own so far: Oh my God, they got a different baby! I wonder what happened with the other baby!


Linda: "OH! Oh, I get it. Wow!"

By Blogger Linda, at October 15, 2007 at 6:07 PM  

Happy Birthday M-Small!

I'm very excited to learn that he is part of the Super-Deluxe October 12 birthday club with me, Kirk Cameron, Hugh Jackman and the now disgraced Marion Jones!

I am also jealous that he got donuts and presents for breakfast on his birthday. Warn him that birthday #3 gets a lot more attention than birthday #37.

By Blogger Helen, at October 16, 2007 at 7:50 AM  

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Tuesday, October 09, 2007  

Stench on Wheels

Trash's car smells.

We don't know what it is. Last week, she called me on her way to work to alert me to a foul and mysterious odor that was her persistent fellow passenger. Even M. Small noticed: "I smell something," he said on the way to getting dropped off at day care. "Something bad."

That night, I searched Trash's car to find whatever might be the cause or source of the foul and mysterious odor. Nothing was visible -- no restaurant leftover boxes, no used Rubbermaid lunch containers, no dropped M. Small snacks, no severed body parts, nothing. I even shone a flashlight under the seats and came up empty.

I promised Trash that the next day, I would bring it to the fancy-ass car wash in our neighborhood where they give it a thorough inside-and-out cleaning. Which I did. M. Small especially enjoyed this, as he got to watch from the windowed hallway as the car progressed through the car wash, ultimately coming out clean and shiny on the outside and smelling strongly of vanilla on the inside. Mission accomplished.

Except the next morning, the inside of the car smelled like vanilla rot. And by afternoon, when we left, the vanilla was gone.

Trash's mom took a sniff, trying to find the source herself. All she could say was that it was in the upholstery of the back seat. I went and got the big spray bottle of "pet stain and odor remover" and saturated the back seat, even taking out M. Small's car seat to do so (during which time we conclusively determined that it was not the source of the smell). I let it do its work, and after a while the chemical-cleaner smell faded away and the familiar one had returned. This despite the fact that by now the inside of the car looked as though you could manufacture microchips in it.

We'd done everything we could. By this point, there was only one reasonable thing left to do with the car: get inside it and go on a six-hour road trip. Which we did.

It wasn't so bad once we got on the freeway. It was warm enough that we could drive with the windows open, and a seventy-mile-an-hour wind whipping through the passenger compartment does wonders against a stagnating stink. But then about a half hour out of Green Bay we stopped to gas up, buy junk food, and steal a couple of minutes of hotel wireless, and it was like being on a road trip with an obnoxious hitchhiker who mercifully slept while in motion, but then wakes up the minute you stop and asks if you've got any weed. And who also is dead and being quite smelly about it.

Throughout our two-day trip, we drove everywhere with the windows open -- including during the rain, which was not our favorite. We left them cracked whenever we parked it, and aired it out in the morning before we left.

My initial, not-very-optimistic theory was that something had crawled up into one of the car's AC/heating vents and died there, and getting out the remains was going to require stripping the car down to its frame until I extracted a sad little skeleton that by that time wouldn't even smell any more. But since the source seems to be the back seat, where there aren't any vents, that theory doesn't really hold up. Which makes me wonder if I'm just going to have to tear out the whole seat and duct-tape M. Small's car seat to the floor.

Fortunately, the smell isn't really holding up either. We "accidentally" left Trash's back car windows open on Sunday night, and it rained from midnight till morning. So now the scent of corruption has a gentle "musty wet car" undertone that makes it almost pleasant.

I heard somewhere that a mouse takes two weeks to fully decompose. I’m giving it that long. If the smell is still there, I'm going to plan B: assume it's a rat and giving it another two weeks. Beyond that, we may have to improvise.

posted by M. Giant 9:14 PM 13 comments


We had something like that happen with our Jeep, which we only use when it's cold outside or if we have a lot of passengers. After a couple of months of non-use, we got in it and were almost knocked out by a horrendous stench. We sprayed, left the windows open, etc. It eventually turned out that a container of restaurant leftovers (barbecued ribs, actually) had managed to wedge itself into a hard-to-see spot. Very, very bad.

By Anonymous Average Jane, at October 9, 2007 at 10:02 PM  

We had that happen in a car (unfortunately the car in which I was attempting to learn to drive stick) during the summer once, and it turned out to be fish juice--it had leaked out of the bag we had brought our fresh fish home in and soaked into the rug, swiftly becoming less-than-fresh...yum. I hate to say it, but the smell never left.

By Blogger Jules, at October 10, 2007 at 8:41 AM  

I got a second-hand car that smelled of cigar smoke. I drove around with pans of baking soda in the back footwells for a few months and it really helped. You can also work baking soda into the (dry!) upholstery and carpets and vacuum it out again.

By Blogger Betsey, at October 10, 2007 at 9:30 AM  

If the smell seems to be coming from the back seat, you need to rule out the trunk. I've had stuff get wedged in the trunk behind the seat back. Don't forget the spare tire well.

You might also take it to an auto shop and have them put it up on a lift to see if the problem is something stuck to the undercarriage or the rear axle.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 10, 2007 at 10:19 AM  

This happened in an ex's car - turned out some milk had spilled in the trunk, gotten through the carpet, and pooled in an indentation in the frame. The smell was indescribable. I second the suggestion to check the trunk.

By Blogger Jenna, at October 10, 2007 at 11:26 AM  

Once you've ruled out that forgotten body in the trunk, you might try using a steam cleaner on the upholstery in the back. I had a friend who let her son eat a bowl of cereal in the back seat on the way to school one day when they were running late, and en route one of our fair city's infamous potholes caused him to upend the mostly full bowl all over the back of the car. It was the dead of winter and it still reeked. She rented a steam cleaner and added Oxi Clean to the water/shampoo and it really became quite tolerable after that - just a vague whiff of spoiled milk on the hottest of days, easily solved by leaving the windows cracked open in summer.

By Blogger Heather, at October 10, 2007 at 1:40 PM  

Definitely check the trunk. We once had a cantalope fall out of a grocery bag. Yech.

By Anonymous GhostGirl, at October 10, 2007 at 3:00 PM  

I had a potato, one teeny little potato, fall into a compartment in the trunk. Horrendous smell, took a month to locate the source.

By Blogger Bunny, at October 10, 2007 at 4:08 PM  

everything i need to know, i learned from tv. the "how clean is your house" ladies deodorize using charcoal, the plain, unfueled variety.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 11, 2007 at 6:10 AM  

This probably isn't the problem you're having, if you've isolated it to the actual back *seat*, but I drove around for like a year with a weird smell. I was convinced my evil asshole neighbors were doing weird things to my car, but it turned out to be the result of broken seals inside the passenger side doors which were letting water in when it rained, which soaked the carpet and just *sat* for days and days and days. Somehow, this also caused water to collect underneath the bench part of the back seat, which didn't help with the smell--does the bottom of your backseat lift up, by any chance, so that you can put the seats down and fit more crap in the trunk? You might check there as well.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 11, 2007 at 4:39 PM  

I don't have a car because I walk everywhere, but sometimes my shoes get stinky and then I either put them in the washer with Tide (which stinks worse than anything that could ever get into my shoes) or I just throw them out. I know this doesn't help with your car stink problem, but I wanted to get on the stinky transportation bandwagon.

By Blogger URBAN PEDESTRIAN, at October 12, 2007 at 11:06 AM  

Mythbusters debunked the myth that you can't get the smell out of a stanky car(http://mythbusters-wiki.discovery.com/page/Episode+7:+Stinky+Car,+Raccoon+Rocket?t=anon). Hopefully you won't need to remove the seats like they did!

By Blogger Teslagrl, at October 17, 2007 at 10:16 AM  

Try to lift the car. A friend of mine had been smelling this awful stench inside the car but couldn't find it til she decided to check underneath the car where they found a dead cat's deteriorating body.. Eew..

By Anonymous mcqueen, at October 24, 2007 at 12:28 AM  

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Saturday, October 06, 2007  

Through the Door

After the New England trip we'd planned for this week fell through for various reasons, Trash and I abruptly decided to go to Door County, Wisconsin instead. Door County is, I presume, so named because it's the part of the state that swings out into Lake Michigan like a giant door. Either that, or it's named after its discoverer, the famous French voyageur Jean D'oor. We weren't there very long, so we never found out. You'd think we would have asked Weetabix at some point during dinner and drinks with her in nearby Green Bay that evening, but we were having so much fun that it never seemed to come up in between rounds of "Drink, Bitch."

However, we were in "the Door" long enough to discover that, being a peninsula, there's some weird zoning (or lack thereof) going on there. For instance, the majority of businesses seem to be not only locally owned, but also operated out of converted Victorian houses. And many of them advertise their wares and services not only in their front yards, but on the side of the road as well.

Late in our loop around the peninsula yesterday, we passed a house whose sign promised contents that included "Hummel Prints, Collector Plates, Art, Clown Paintings."

Let us skate past the tacit (and correct) acknowledgement that most of those things are not art, and address one of those items, specifically the last one.

"I'm glad it says 'clown paintings,' I remarked to Trash. "I could have sworn that the sign for that place I saw earlier said 'clown painting.'"

"As in, one clown painting?" Trash asked.

"Yes, and whenever someone buys it they have to order a new one. No, it made me wonder if you get to go in and paint your own clown."

"What, like a guy who sits there and you go in and paint him up? You'd pay money to do that?"

"I wouldn't, but I'm sure lots of other people would."

"And then you get to take him home?"

"Well, obviously that would cost extra."

"How would you like to have that be your job? People ask what you do and you have to tell them, 'I'm a Painting Clown.'"

"And then they ask what that is and you have to say, 'I go to work and I sit and let people paint me up. And then when they're done I wash up and let the next person have a go. Can you recommend a good moisturizer, by the way?'"

"And then people are like, 'You went to Clown College for that?'"

"Well, sure. You go in to do some clown painting, you don't want it to be just some schmo."

"Yeah, that would be perverse. You want them to have the proper training."

"How long do you think you would be doing that job before every single customer starts telling you, 'No, I don't want a sad clown'?"

"Not long at all, I'm thinking. Even the people who did want a sad clown to begin with would be like, 'A little less sad, if you please.'"

"I love Door County."

"Me, too."

Except imagine hysterical laughter throughout the above. If you drive long enough, anything becomes funny.

posted by M. Giant 8:40 PM 4 comments


I hope you had a nice time in DC (aside from all the clown painting shopping). My grandparents owned a cherry orchard in Sturgeon Bay (at the base of the pennisula), and I spent childhood summers up there. I think it's one of the most beautiful places I've been. This GA peach certainly appreciates the cross breezes between Green Bay and Lake Michigan. We didn't need air conditioning! I wish WI was closer to GA because I'd take my grandparents' home when it's time, but, que sera sera! To answer your question about how it got it's name: the early French explorers called the little strait between the pennisula and Washington Island "Death's Door" because it was so trecherous. Many Native Americans and settlers were killed trying to navigate the strait. Door Pennisula is named for that passageway. Did you get to take the ferry out to Washington Island? In any case, I truly hope you got your fill of cherrys, brats, cheese curds, and $1 Blatz beer! :-)

By Blogger Tami, at October 7, 2007 at 10:39 AM  

Listen here Miss Tami, we the good people of the District of Columbia don't hold truck with no clown paintin--oh, you meant Door Country DC. Sorry, my bad.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 7, 2007 at 4:36 PM  

... and now Glark has to come up with a T-shirt featuring a Scary Ass Clown brandishing a paintbrush and Slavic cheekbones and reads "In Soviet Russia, CLOWN PAINTS YOU"

By Anonymous Cora, at October 8, 2007 at 9:47 AM  

i would totally wear that t-shirt.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 13, 2007 at 10:22 AM  

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007  

School's Out

A couple of weeks ago the whole family went to check out a possible Montessori school for M. Small. Here's the short version: HE IS NOT GOING THERE.

Here's the long version.

Ever see that David Lynch movie, Mulholland Drive? One of the characters in that movie is Coco, the nosy landlady. Ideally cast and played by Ann Miller, Coco symbolizes the glamour of Old Hollywood refusing to go to seed no matter what it takes, with her uptight air and black lacquered hair and the makeup that's always perfectly and liberally applied at all times, even in the middle of the night.

So the lady who runs this Montessori school is like Coco, only way more Lynchian.

It took me a moment to remind myself to look past my first impression of this woman, just because it wasn't so much an "impression" as a "crater." Her entire person had this sort of weird, unholy sparkle, from her purple tap shoes to her tattooed-on black lipliner to her immovable black top-ponytail. I'm pretty sure her accent was also fake, since it didn't sound like any accent I've ever heard before, but that didn't stop Trash from mentally dubbing her "Ukrainian Whore."

She began by explaining to us, with the Talmudic detail of a true dogmatic, the extent to which her facility adhered to the Montessori method of education.

"The children bring their own lunch," she said. "Montessori. They clean up their own dishes. Montessori. They clean up after themselves. Montessori!"

I certainly don't claim to be any kind of expert on Montessori – far from it, in fact – but I'm reasonably certain that saying the word "Montessori" after every sentence like an incantation is sufficient to make it part of the method. I began to wonder if, instead of having read a Montessori book, she hadn't mistakenly read a mislabeled copy of Oliver Twist.

Maybe I'm still being unfair. We did kind of have to assemble her spiel in our heads after the fact, due to the fact that she kept interrupting herself to go harangue her miserable-looking teachers, who were constantly either putting away puzzles in the wrong order or failing to utilize the proper "stack balls by color" technique that must be outlined in the Montessori manual. There's hands-on, and then there's micromanaging. But I'd never seen nanomanging before.

Maybe you can make a case for the effectiveness of her approach by looking at the kids in the place, and taking some brief measure of their apparent intelligence, emotional health, and joy of spirit. I couldn't, though. One cheerful girl did wave at M. Small and happily call a greeting to him from across the room. She must be new.

The highlight of the visit for M. Small was the tour of the playground, a sandy wasteland of abandoned toys containing stagnant puddles of rainwater. But even the novelty of a new (or, more accurately, "unfamiliar to him") play area didn't last as long as the amount of time UW made M. Small spend scraping the sand off his shoes before allowing him back in the building.

So after about an hour and a half in this Dantean circle, we returned to our car to find out that not only had we not found a school for M. Small, but the clock in Trash's car was broken. It showed that only fifteen minutes had passed. Somehow this time-distortion effect had spread to my watch as well. I can only imagine the devastation it would wreak on a young child.

Trash assures me that all Montessori schools are not like this. She'd better be right.

* * *

Speaking of learning environments in need of improvement, let's pretend for a moment that any of you reading do not also read Tomato Nation. That way I can direct you to her Donors Choose challenge for this year.

Last year Trash and I did a Donors Choose challenge of our own, in honor of M. Small's birthday (he's going to be three next Friday, God help us all), but we're forgoing that this year to throw our full support – and, if you're down, yours – behind Sarah's effort.

Because if she makes her goal, she's going to be spending an entire day wearing -- nay, rocking -- a full-body tomato costume, up to and including a My So-Called Life dance in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Will there be video? Are you shitting me? Forget YouTube -- this shit is likely to end up on broadcast, what with Rockefeller Center being the home of one of my employers, a little mom-and-pop operation I like to call NBC.

But speaking of My So-Called Life, what does Claire Danes think about all this? Well, check this shit out.

Donate now! Not just because the kids need your support, but also because if you don't move fast, it's going to be too late for you to be part of it. Go, go, go!

posted by M. Giant 3:16 PM 15 comments


Thanks for the Donors Choose update - I was waiting to see what you were planning to do before deciding how much to donate to Sarah's challenge.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 2, 2007 at 4:31 PM  

I was waiting to give to the TN fund, as well. I am happy to see you join forces. Kids win! Happy Birthday, M. Small.

By Anonymous Erin, at October 2, 2007 at 6:52 PM  

Wow 3 years... I cant believe that is how long I have been anonymously reading about you and your family's life! Here is to many more! How time flies...Happy Birthday M. Small...

By Anonymous Katie, at October 2, 2007 at 7:36 PM  

Okay, I don't know if *all* Montessori schools are like this, but my mom kept me out of the one in our town because they didn't allow any kind of imaginary play. In preschool.

Happy bday, little man!

By Anonymous ElizabethRN, at October 2, 2007 at 8:39 PM  

Whereas all the kids I've known who went to Montessori schools were just poster children for behavioural problems. Neither of the ones now old enough to have done so graduated high school, and only one of the four others (note: all from different families) looks like having a hope in hell of doing so.

I've yet to know a kid who actually seemed *improved* by the Montessori experience.

By Anonymous Sami, at October 2, 2007 at 11:58 PM  

What with all the Montessori trashing, I'll be the odd voice out. Trash is right, they all aren't like that. Our kiddo is also three, but small, stutters and otherwise is painfully shy. He has flourished with the kind teachers and other kids at the school. He loves taking care of things himself and they do encourage consideration and self sufficiency appropriate for three-year-olds.

The imaginary play thing is because they assume preschool kids LIVE in an imaginary world (which they do-- yesterday I picked him up and he was "feeding" "hungry" chairs, with leaves from the ground) and don't need any structured help to get there.

By Anonymous Kate, at October 3, 2007 at 6:35 AM  

Hey, I went to Montessori, and I turned out alright... or did I?

By Anonymous Chao, at October 3, 2007 at 6:44 AM  

In defense of Montessori schools... We toured two different Montessori pre-schools when our oldest turned 3. The first one is very reminiscent of your experience. The head of the school actually derided us for exposing our children to Dr. Suess (defintely NOT Montessori).

The second school was a completely different environment. The teachers were warm and friendly. The children were working peacefully when we took the tour. We ended up sending both of our children through the school (through kindergarten), and we couldn't have been happier or more satisfied about the experience.

It seems that the Montessori system can attract some controlling, power-hungry administrators who misinterpret the method to their benefit. Everyone always has a story about a Nazi-esque Montessori school in their town. But...when the system is used by the right teachers and administrators, and they truly celebrate the child and the child's individuality, I beleive it is the best environment for a curious, inquisitive child.

Good luck in your search for the right pre-school for M. Small....

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 3, 2007 at 6:54 AM  

"Ukrainian Whore."

That is just so totally a Trash thing to say.

I miss you guys terribly sometimes.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at October 3, 2007 at 9:44 PM  

Nanomanaging power-crazed control freaks are the same everywhere, but Montessori schools are as individual as... different schools in other categories also are.

I had a very similar experience with my kid's first preschool. It was not Montessori, but it was run by a lunatic control freak. They pushed two and three year olds to do academic work including reading. They expected all the children to go to the bathroom on command. They wouldn't support us in potty-training the kid because he "wasn't ready" because he didn't use the bathroom when they ordered him to. And by "wouldn't support us," I mean that he was almost totally potty-trained at home, but had to keep wearing (expensive) pull-ups to preschool because they wouldn't let him go to the bathroom at any time except when they wanted him to go.

Their concept of discipline involved putting the kids in time-out in an unsupervised room. They undersupervised the kids in general; they had an illegal teacher-to-child ratio which they bulked out with staff members who weren't really involved with the kids. There was a ton of bullying as a result, and when children came to them to say that some kid had hit them, or when the teachers had to break up some disagreement, they would say "Well, I wasn't there so I don't know which one of you is telling the truth" and send both kids to time out. We had a problem at first with our kid fighting; then we taught him not to hit, so all that happened was that the other preschoolers beat on him all the time and then he got in trouble all the same. They routinely lied to us about hitting the kids' arms to make them drop things they weren't supposed to have, like toys they grabbed from other children. When we found out that our three-year-old snuck out of time out and they dragged our kid back BY HIS EAR, we pulled him out of the school immediately.

If it had been up to me he would have been out of there a lot earlier, but I didn't have legal custody.

and i think it is not posting this because it is too long, so i will try breaking it into pieces!

By Blogger oakling, at October 4, 2007 at 3:27 PM  

I did find the next school though. It was a Montessori school and it couldn't have been more different. Their idea of discipline was to mediate and help the kids work through their disagreements. They emphasized building conflict resolution skills. Where the previous school had been full of gay-bashing (at REALLY young ages) so that our kid got tons of flak for wearing light blue shirts or carrying a powerpuff girls backpack, the Montessori school was full of girls playing with hammers and boys playing house. The kids, true to Montessori-ness, had lots of time to choose whatever they were interested in learning, as well as more structured time. They got to develop emotionally and socially even in the academic parts of the program. Every teacher was beloved by the kids; they could hardly walk three steps in the playground without being mobbed by happy children hugging them. It was freaking ridiculous. We loved it.

We're lucky because we had tools like http://parents.berkeley.edu where local parents reviewed and recommended different schools. But nowadays with things like yelp.com and such, it keeps getting easier to get that kind of information. Come to think of it, I should go post a long negative review of that first preschool on yelp....

By Blogger oakling, at October 4, 2007 at 3:27 PM  

Whereas young Deniece has been doing spendidly at her Montessori, and aside from the occasional maiming, arson, and penchant for profanity, has thus exhibited no sign whatsoever of behavioral problems. Also, she always writes a lovely letter of apology afterward. MONTESSORI.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 4, 2007 at 5:47 PM  

I heard someone once call one of the schools "Monster-sori." Seems to fit the one you visited!

By Blogger Teslagrl, at October 5, 2007 at 8:23 AM  

"Ukranian Whore" - Trash rocks.

By Blogger Nancy, at October 5, 2007 at 4:57 PM  

Please don't give up on Montessori because of one bad school. My kids went through sixth grade at a beautiful Montessori school and turned out great. Because the children learn at their own pace, I find that bright children, as yours is described can make phenomenal strides.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at October 9, 2007 at 9:28 AM  

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