Friday, November 23, 2007

Two White Thanksgivings

On our first Thanksgiving (Thursday), I awoke, walked downstairs, looked out our living room window, and saw this:

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I knew, to some extent, that it would be a beautiful morning. It started snowing the night before when Matt was driving me to my soccer game. The snow was really coming down; as you might imagine, I was dying of excitement. After my team lost our fourth straight (we're getting better, but I would not say we'll be approaching world cup status any time soon) we drove home and I oggled the newly blanketed chevys and street signs and front yards, so much lovelier in white. It was still coming down when we arrived home, so I grabbed my camera.

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It was a wonderful snowfall and deposited about an inch, maybe more, of perfect fluffy snow. The next morning, as evidenced above, was absolutely gorgeous--sunny, clear, COLD. When we first let Vinny outside, he looked at us like we were crazy. But Matt literally tossed him into the yard, and within minutes he seemed fairly ok with the snow, prancing around barking at the neighbors like usual. After he had thoroughly inspected the yard, we took him for a walk and enjoyed the Highlands.

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It was a glorious day. Thor, Dio, and Antigone weren't getting in until 5 pm, so we accepted our neighbors' invitation to come watch the Packers' game and eat hors d'oevres. As it turned out, this was a fascinating experience due to the fact that these particular neighbors are pretty serious hippies, but I won't go into detail about that now. Suffice it to say that it was a very nice day, and after we got Thor, Dio, and Antigone home we ate a great dinner that Matt cooked (polenta pie with black beans, peppers, and salsa, very spicy and good).

So, that was Thanksgiving #1. But today was our REAL Thanksgiving. All of us wanted a vegetarian Thanksgiving, and we also wanted to cook whatever we liked, instead of sticking to all the regular dishes. So we went with numerous courses, starting with breakfast burritos in the morning. Later courses included a sweet potato and carrot dish with chick pea topping (a favorite slow cooker recipe of mine and Matt's), pumpkin risotto and beets, mashed potatoes and vegetarian gravy, stuffing with dried cherries and apricots, and basil corn pudding. It was all delicious, and at the finish we were sufficiently stuffed. So we made some spiced (spiked?!) cider, bundled up, and took another walk through the Highlands. There remains some snow on the ground tonight, and it is still clear, and COLD. But with bellies full and brains blurry we weren't much affected by the temperature, and enjoyed the walk very much.

So, second Thanksgiving was also fantastic, and also white, and I look forward to spending the rest of the weekend with family and continuing to enjoy this clear, lovely, COLD weather.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Adventures of Lone Wolf and Crouching Tiger

Meet the newest member of our family:

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Snoopy. Aka Crouching Tiger, Destructo-cat, Snoopaloop, Snoop-Cat, or just plain Kitty. There will be many more nicknames to come, I'm sure.

We've been quite familiar with this little devil for a good while now. He belonged to our neighbor, Ali, and her son Sam, and he figured out months ago how to break into our basement from theirs (since we share a duplex, our basements are attached). He visited us almost daily, because Ali couldn't figure out how he was getting through. We didn't really mind. The cat's kind of a terror but he's FULL of personality, and he gives Vinny a run for his money, which is amusing. Anyway, Sam would always complain about how Snoopy scratched or bit him, and apparently their other cats didn't really like Crouching Tiger, either. Eventually Sam had so much animosity toward the cat that he apparently tried to strangle him, and at that point Ali decided to take him to the Humane Society and give him up for adoption.

Well, the Humane Society ran a "personality profile" on Snoopaloop and deemed him unadoptable, and they called Ali to tell her they were going to euthanize him. She informed me of this and I freaked out. So we went and picked him up the next day, saved him from death row, and he moved right in and now owns our apartment. I think Vinny is happy to have a playmate, even though Snoopy has been slowly but surely taking over all of Vinny's favorite sleep spots.

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I was a little worried the cat would destroy our place, or seriously injure Vinny, or just generally be difficult. But he hasn't been difficult, at all. He's a total sweetheart and he fits right in. Evidence:

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Matt now has two study buddies.

I like having another animal around. It makes the activity level around here much less predictable; Snoop and Vinny alternately cuddle and wreak havoc upon the rugs. Occasionally in the middle of the night I hear a crash and I worry, but we haven't lost anything valuable yet. So, all in all, I think we did the right thing. Crouching Tiger will live a long, fulfilling life as part of the Brickleach household.

In other news, Matt turned 25 yesterday. I made French toast for brunch and was pleased with the result (I've never made it before--it's not difficult, at all, but with my penchant for ruining things in the kitchen every small success turns into a serious victory). We went out to dinner later in the evening at a very nice little restaurant just a couple minutes from our house. Overall, it was a lovely day, and a good break for Matt in the midst of studying for yet another block of exams.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Breakdowns, Breakthroughs

The funny thing about working with kids with actual psychiatric disorders is that it's often unclear just how much control they really have over their actions and feelings. I clicked with a girl last week, a girl who was an absolute terror to pretty much every other person on the unit. She had visual and auditory hallucinations before she came in; struck a teacher, destroyed a classroom as a result. She was really awful. Wouldn't listen, called the nurses all sorts of terrible/creative/somewhat true (haha) things, was restrained in full leathers numerous times. She'd been admitted before. Most of the really bad kids are not new to us.

We had a breakthrough, of sorts. I spent an entire morning basically just trying to keep her in the classroom--that was my assignment. And then at some point she actually started listening to me, and then at some other point I realized that at the age of 14 she still doesn't know most of her times tables, and so we somehow got through the fours and the sixes. This apparently made me the Kid Whisperer, since the nurses couldn't even get her to eat breakfast without her wreaking havoc upon the unit. So after that when she got out of control it turned into, "have Caitlin work with her," which, honestly, was just the sort of pathetic excuse they would have for "treatment" at County. And, predictably, it only worked for two days. The last day she was in they had her really heavily medicated and it was kind of like any trust we'd built had been wiped clean overnight. She looked at me like she didn't know me, she vilified me just like she did the other teachers and the nurses, and I knew not to take it personally but it was still kind of sad. She was discharged that day because the doctors didn't know what else they could do with her.

I like to think that we can make a difference but with some of these kids you have to wonder if it's possible, at all. Makes me curious about child psychiatrists. Not sure I would ever want that job.

On a lighter note, if it's possible to make that transition, we've been cold. It's been in the 40s, and even the 30s, and tonight there's a chance of "light snow." Actually, I love it. I bundle up in the morning and the teachers make merciless fun of me because in early November I'm already channeling the Eskimo. But I don't complain, yet. I like the smell of fireplaces and I like seeing my breath, thick and unhappy as soon as it exits its little sauna. Vinny, however, isn't terribly pleased. Today when I got home, I let him out. At first he was gung-ho about it, ready to go take on the backyard, and then two seconds later he's curled up at my feet on the grass, shivering violently and looking up at me like he feels bitter and deceived. Oh Vinny. If anyone's gonna have to adapt to no longer being a Californian, it's him.

In other news, I might be exercising a polo pony (a super GORGEOUS 5-year-old bay thoroughbred mare owned by a teacher at my school--Pat, you would die) but I won't go into the details until it actually happens. I also joined 1.5 indoor soccer teams and am really, really happy to be wheezing again (um, I'm outta shape). As far as home stuff is concerned, Matt has been cooking up a storm and I can't believe my luck--he's talented, and ambitious! It works out well. He cooks, I clean, we both benefit. We are happy.