Minimalist Cat, here to save the day!

Minimalist Cat is here to help you with all that unwanted stuffJoking with Kate and Little Green Revolution on Twitter about being ingrates who give unwanted, personalized, gifts that you can’t regift, a genius brainstorm hit me. I can hire JuggerBaby out! Ze can finally earn zir keep!

Ze is a natural (two-legged) cat with the added benefit of not shedding (much). Ze has been auditioning for the role of Minimalist Cat for MONTHS. If there’s anything breakable within reach, ze makes eye contact, reaches out with a chubby paw and pushes it off the shelf. Grins for the smash. Extra giggles if you react. Extra extra cackles if you react with anger.

Foolish human.

Minimalist Cat thrives on bringing chaos.

Disclaimers: Minimalist Cat does not recycle. Minimal Cat does not dust or pick up unless you offer really good bribes and use Mom voice. Minimalist Cat is a fan of brooms but mostly for licking and wild gesticulations. Not so much for sweeping.

Got clutter? Minimalist Cat will help you!

  • Is it breakable? Minimalist Cat will break it.
  • Is it fabric? Minimalist Cat will pick and chew it.
  • Is it paper? Minimalist Cat will shred and cheek it.
  • Is it shoes? Minimal Cat will steal them.
  • Is it a gift you really really didn’t want? Minimalist Cat will rend and tear it.
  • Are you daunted by how much there is? Does it feel like too big a job because your shelves overflowing? Minimalist Cat will empty them and strew things EVERYWHERE. The better for you to sort it.
  • Are you not unsure what’s in that one closet you don’t open the door to? Minimalist Cat fears not! Ze has your back. Services offered: pull everything out of the closet, unpack all bags and boxes so you can’t pretend you didn’t know it was there, and lick half of it. It’s marked now, throw it out.
  • Is that your mouse? YOU DON’T NEED IT.
  • Is that a landline? Ze can smash it.
  • Is that a cell phone? Ze will use it.
  • Is that your baby? No, silly, that’s Minimalist Cat’s baby now.

“‘Uh-oh’ is for accidents, Minimalist Cat,” says PiC. HAH.

No, but seriously

Clutter is a problem around here. Unwanted gifts, poorly selected clothing, snowdrifts of junk mail all make their way in and it’s a Herculean labor to shovel it all back out again. It’s an endless task but it’s gotta be done or we’ll drown in Bed Bath and Beyond coupons.

I’ve tackled the closet one 20-minute session at a time, forcing myself to make ruthless and realistic decisions. The one-year rule doesn’t work for me because I can go a whole year without touching half my closet but then need that half the following year.

Now, I’m paring down with the aim of having a week’s worth of clothing suitable for each season, casual and business. If I do it right, I’ll end up with a much slimmer and more classic wardrobe.

As for kitchen supplies, nothing new is allowed in there unless we get rid of three things for every one item. I refuse to end up with a Hoarders-level kitchen!

:: What decluttering challenges do you face? Do you discourage gifts from family or friends? Would you like to hire JuggerBaby? 

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Married money: Combining finances or not

In our marriage, our finances are 99% combined. How would you do it?

PiC and I have taken years to properly combine and organize our money since the wedding.

The end goal has always been that I shall take and keep complete Dominion over All Things Money! Given our wildly differing levels of interest, it’s for the best.

We started out with completely separate finances. It was all too complicated to merge, I thought. But as we started to combine our lives, the separation and siloed information started to drive me bonkers. It turns out that I need to have almost complete control over the whole picture to be able to make effective, informed decisions. It’s simply how I work best.

There are still some loose ends. Some of them may stay loose-endy due to their nature of being specifically one person’s thing to deal with. I recently wrapped one of my own, dealing with a retirement account that was weirdly designated and dumping those funds into my primary retirement account. I have another one that I’ve started writing about and am not ready to put out there yet.

Things like inheritance gets tricky. I don’t feel like I have a right to touch money inherited from his side, nor do I want to touch it. On my side, there’s been nothing but grief when it comes to money so I especially hate the feeling that doing anything to protect his inheritance feels like I’m a moneygrubbing so-and-so. Except I don’t want any of it for myself! I just hate seeing money managed less effectively than it could be. But because of the feeling that I didn’t come to this union with my own family money (except I did, it was all money that I earned with my own hands), I’m more comfortable ignoring the nagging feelings that it could be better managed and leaving it alone.

Viewing the landscape, I see friends of varying economic levels from poor to very high net worth with all kinds of financial arrangements.

I also keep seeing strong opinions on how, if you’re married, you need to combine finances. I agree that you have to have a system but I don’t agree that it has to be any specific kind.

:: Have you ever had intertwined finances or finances that were dependent on others (partners or roommates)? How did that work for you? Do you have a personal preference for combined or separate finances?

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Just a little (link) love: SDCC edition

LinkLoveWhy we can’t have nice things: pets and babies are gross

We’re at #SDCC this week so I don’t have time for a proper links post, but NZMuse’s post was too funny to pass up as a fellow pet-owner and a semi-novice baby wrangler.

It’s like there’s a dog / infant manual out there somewhere, and all my dogs (except Seamus and Doggle) followed it.

    • Shoes: Dog stole, JuggerBaby licks the bottoms.
    • Toilet paper rolls: Dog chewed, Juggerbaby licks.
    • Tissue paper, paper towels: Dog shredded, JuggerBaby shreds.
    • Socks: Dog stole for bedding,  JuggerBaby chews on them.

In other news

A friend is mourning the loss of a loved one who was truly lost to drugs a long time ago. We all know that he turned to drugs to dull the pain of serious trauma he experienced as an early teen, but the havoc he wreaked as he tried to find peace was nearly financially devastating. What he went through was unimaginable, what his family is now going through is equally unimaginable. Except I can imagine it because, like my friend, I have imagined a hundred horrible endings for my sibling that are all likelier than his being rehabilitated and I know that we’ll be facing the same situation one day. It makes my heart ache all the more for them, especially since they’re across the country and I can only provide logistical support, I can’t be physically be there for them.

It’s been a rough week already and I’m writing this note on Tuesday.

If you would be so kind as to share something good that’s happened for you, I’d be much obliged.

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My kid and notes from Year 1.5

MyKidYr1and5Lend me a hand?

Just two weeks ago, we were holding out our hands to JuggerBaby, either to assist an unsteady gait, or to lead zir the way we needed zir to go. Ze would sometimes take our hands and wobble along with us. Other times, ze tucked zir hands close to zir body with an “Ngh!” clearly refusing to be led. “I can do it! (but I won’t)” you see, on zir face.

Overnight, it seems ze can walk without wavering, without hesitation, though ze has zero concept of the proper way to navigate stairs and stay upright. Ze is now even running with that peculiar pace that wee kids use. Shoulders nearly up to zir ears, entire torso swinging left and right wildly,  angled nearly 45 degrees to the ground.

JuggerLB extends a hand expectantly. Makes eye contact, and as hand clasps hand, ze sets zir feet firmly, preparing for my resistance. Sometimes I cooperate and follow. Sometimes, I play limp noodle and resist. Ze is prepared for this, and digs in zir feet like a pro tugger-of-war. The stubborn is strong in this one.

I see a future of our wills clashing and smile. It’s inevitable to have some clashing but I hope that at least some of the time, they’ll be teaching moments: teaching zir how and when to stand up for zirself and be zir own advocate when it’s time for zir to spread zir wings and fly solo.

JuggerBaby has graduated from needing to be tickled (physically) to laugh and now finds the humor in things on zir own. We play games, like “bring me all your toys”, or “destroy everything” and either because of my expression, or my exclamations, ze will burst into laughter and try to get me to do it again. Role reversal of the best kind.

Good-bye, organization

A friend said of toddlerdom: say good-bye to anything staying in its place ever again. I did the mental equivalent of plugging my ears and shutting my eyes and pretended that wasn’t coming my way.

Sure enough, nothing is safe any longer. We often hear footsteps: pat. pat. pat. pat-pat-pat PAT-PAT-PAT as ze makes a dash for our bedroom and my nightstand. My side of the room has been off limits for months but now it’s too hard to keep zir from it. If you give chase you hear a cackle peel out as ze makes the final end run, bouncing off the dresser, crawling over Seamus’s bed, scaling the boxes to Baby-Ninja-Warrior zir way to the treasure trove that is my nightstand and bookshelf.

Every day and night, ze tries to check the nightstand just in case there’s something different there to inspect, taste, and steal.

Meal Negotiations

It’s amazing how such a little package can contain so much defiance and attitude. Ze knows the rule is that we sit when we eat, even if it’s just a quick snack and sitting on the ground. Ze sits just fine at a size appropriate table and chair at daycare.

And yet.

“Sit down and have a bite.”

Squats, opens mouth.

“Sit ALL THE WAY DOWN. I refuse to be responsible for you getting stabbed in the face with the fork.”

Plops down with a scowl. Bounces back up on zir heels before the fork is fully out of zir mouth.

And heaven help you if ze really wants something and you’ve said no. You’ll get a long stare, then ze will attempt to grab it anyway. Dodge the attempt and scolding “no” riles zir further and ze lunges again. This time for the nearest Mom flesh, not zir desired object, in order to sink seven sharp vindictive teeth in.

A strangled shout of “STOP THAT YOU DO NOT BITE ME!” is met with an unwavering glare and another attempt to bite. Never turn your back on zir. Ever.

Pure pigheaded defiance, this one. 

I remind myself that this is probably normal and assuming that ze lives to adulthood and I survive to see it, this pigheadedness and refusal to be cowed will likely serve hir well in this world of ours. A lot of ifs, if you ask me, but here I am, being patient, deep breathing and rubbing bite marks out of my arms.

The things we do for our kids.

We’ve tried this dozens of times but JuggerBaby has always held out against our bargaining. At the beginning, we would stand firm and insist that ze needed to eat as directed but we learned that a more flexible approach combined with some firmness and some humor made mealtimes a lot more bearable.

Ze remains a fan of dropping food overboard but now that ze is starting to understand simple cause and effect, I’m enforcing a new rule: if food is tossed, you’re done. Whether ze has had a full meal, or two and a half bites of zir snack, ze gets booted from the high chair the moment food is tossed on the ground.

After several repetitions, ze has gotten much better about it but that doesn’t mean meals are consumed with grace and alacrity.

We had burger night and ze was 100% focused on the juice boxes on the table. It was my treat, I usually drink water, but PiC wisely set one out for zir. The trick was in getting zir to eat food instead of sucking down the whole juice.

By the way, when I make burgers, I make baby sized burger patties especially for zir. It’s a thing I’m proud of. Next we need baby sized buns.

I dictated that ze had to eat TWO BITES before getting to sip the juice. I held out two fingers, and counted out loud, very firmly. At first, ze was defiant and insistent, shaking zir head NO at me very firmly and pointing at the juice. I replied, nope, two bites or no juice and went back to my meal. Ze called for the juice box again, and I repeated: 2 bites. Ready for one? Ze glared, then relented and nibbled on the burger bun. I praised the bite, “that’s one! One more.”

Ze chewed, mulling it over, then silently accepted when I offered another bite. Then decided to go for the gusto and launched zirself at the burger and snatched a dino-sized bite. We were on!

Ze willingly ate 2 bites per sip of juice for a while until I suggested a 3:1 bite to juice ratio, at which tyranny ze balked and decided ze would rather not eat or drink than to accept such unreasonable terms.

FINE. After I went back to the 2 bites rule, ze even relaxed enough to enjoy the burger normally, and stopped demanding the juice. I guess you can train a toddler!

It’s still hit or miss, honestly, but it’s a start!

Vegetables have been the least popular food group now that JuggerBaby has to chew all zir own food. I hate well-cooked vegetables but crisp vegetables are harder when a baby only has the tearing teeth and not the grinding teeth. We compromised with slightly more limp specimens than I like and we’re seeing more veggies go in the mouth without making a surprise reappearance.

When they’re sauced, ze will even clamor for more, so that’s motivation for me to stop being lazy with only steaming vegetables and learning to make a sauce.

We’ve decided not to care about zir very odd habit of dropping food into zir water cup, like a crow trying to raise the water level, or dipping zir food into water like Kobayashi with his hot dogs. If you want to eat waterlogged food, that’s fine with me.

We’ve also decided not to care about zir imitating Seamus at mealtimes. It’s faintly ridiculous but ze is still determined to eat and drink like big brother, cramming zir face into zir food bowl without using zir hands. It’s hard to decide if ze thinks ze is a puppy or that Seamus is human because ze does not act like he’s like any other dog.

Independence

Chatting with a neighbor while JuggerBaby struggled to pick snacks out of zir snack box, our neighbor offered to help zir out and quickly solved the puzzle. I didn’t mind, I just commented that normally I stand back and observe until JuggerBaby has exhausted all zir ingenuity and asks for help. And even then I might just point out a possible solution and encourage zir to keep trying.

Ze is still quite young but I want zir to develop a firm confidence in hir ability to eventually crack even the toughest nuts, occasionally with help, and learn that early frustration and failure aren’t good reasons to give up.

With food and books, ze is willing to batter the problem into submission but we see zir give up quickly with concepts like shapes and colors. Pondering how to fit one shape into another shaped hole, often ze will bypass the problem by opening the top of the container or hand it to one of us with an imperious “ah!” This may pass but it won’t if we don’t give hir the freedom and push to keep trying. It’s not that I worry ze will be seventeen and still unsure of the difference between a sphere and a hexagon. I worry that at seventeen ze will hit the base of a mountain, metaphorical or otherwise, and give up before ever taking the first handhold.

I’ve no idea how early children develop and firm up their willingness to face down frustration but I hope this all adds up.

:: Do all kids imitate animals when they’re young? Were you an independent kid? Did that carry over to adulthood? 

Read Months 1-16!

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