"I love my cats because I love my home, and little by little they become its visible soul." Jean Couteau

Saturday, September 27, 2014

a supergirl blanket for a supergirl baby

Wow, I hadn't posted anything in quite awhile, and now three posts in a row! I have been busy lately 
:-) But this post will be short, since I've already posted about similar projects here and here

Our very dear friends welcomed a new baby girl a few weeks ago. This would normally be a very happy thing, which it was, but she came about 3.5 months early, so along with the joy came much anxiety for both her short- and long-term health. She's had a few surgeries already, but seems mostly in reasonable health for a baby born so small. We've been helping them out as much as possible, and they're having family come and visit.

Usually, I've made blankets for my friends' babies to go with their shower theme, but since this baby came before we'd had a chance to plan a shower for her, that didn't work out. However, I really wanted to make her something now that she's arrived. 

At first, I thought of making a tiny blanket, since she's so tiny, out of leftover bits from other blankets I'd made. However, I didn't have tons of leftovers, even for a tiny blanket, plus nothing was really grabbing my love. Then the idea of Supergirl popped into my head. This seemed especially perfect for this tiny little fighter. I immediately went on an Internet quest for Supergirl flannel or fleece. This turned out to be surprisingly difficult to find; in fact, I only was able to really find one place that had it -- Hancock Fabrics. I ordered 1 yard, and then waited anxiously for it to arrive.

The other blankets I made had a micro-fleece back and edges with flannel in the middle of the front. Since the Supergirl fabric was fleece, my initial plan was to use that as the back and edges and get a plain either dark pink or purple flannel for the middle front. In fact, I even purchased purple flannel and JoAnn when I was there getting fabric for Zach's birthday present. However, once the Supergirl fleece arrived and I laid the two fabrics out together, it just wasn't doing it for me. I thought about putting a smaller square of the fleece in the center of the front, surrounded by the purple flannel, but that didn't seem right either. So I changed my plan to instead put the Supergirl fleece in the front and get a micro-fleece for the back, like I had done with the other blankets. I excitedly took a small piece of the fleece and went to Hobby Lobby to check out their selection. I was kind of planning to get purple to tone down the pink-ness, but I didn't really like the look of that. Instead, I chose a light pink rose-patterned micro-fleece. The rose pattern is subtle and mostly just gives it a fluffier look. The fabric was super sheddy, but once I washed it, it was fine.

I cut the micro-fleece to 4'x4' and the fleece to 3'x3'. The freshly cut raw edges of the micro-fleece started shedding again, so I washed it again. Then I followed the same instructions as my first blanket post, and voila!

I hope my friends like it and don't think it's to pink! It will be awhile before the little baby can have the blanket in bed with her, but until then, it can sit in her NICU room and inspire her to grow big and strong and bring optimism to her parents.

standing in the hall of fame

Another year has gone by, and it's time for Zach's birthday again. He heard a few weeks ago that, coincidentally on his actual birthday, he would be inducted into his high school's hall of fame! In light of this, it seemed especially appropriate that I frame some of his track medals for his birthday. This is something that I've had in mind for awhile. He's had one shadow box of medals hanging in our room, but it's been looking pretty sad. Unfortunately, I neglected to take a picture of it, so you'll just have to trust me. The medals were attached to the cardboard back with velcro, which peeled off on some of the larger medals. My initial plan was to just figure out a better way to attach the medals, but when I took the frame down and looked at it, many of the little bendy parts that hold the back into the frame had broken off, so I wasn't convinced of its long-term last-ability. Since I wanted to frame more medals, I just got an extra to replace that one. 

Zach showed me the boxes of his medals. He identified the most prestigious ones and helped me sort them by years.

I had some foam left over from my cushion project, so I decided to use that to pin the medals to. I borrowed an electric knife to cut up the foam. I didn't do a very good job of cutting even strips, but once they got covered with fabric, you couldn't really tell. 

Speaking of fabric, I covered one with leftover fabric from my curtains. For the other three, I picked up some red, white, and blue fabric to match the medal ribbons, most of which I removed. I thought that not having all those ribbons would give the displays a cleaner look, but I still wanted to pay homage to them. I also ended up incorporating one ribbon in each of the shadow boxes. 

I wrapped the foam pieces in the fabric and hot-glued it in place. I also glued on some of the medal ribbons. 

Then I pinned on the medals. Pretty simple :-) 

The one will get hung back up in our bedroom, and the other three will be hung in Zach's very large walk-in closet. Maybe one day I'll do all the rest of his medals too, but he does have a lot! 

And here's Zach getting his plaque for the hall of fame. There was a little ceremony at the school Friday evening with dinner, and then he got to be introduced before the homecoming game on Saturday.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

why i believe in animal behaviorists

I wrote here about our cat problems and how I had a pet behaviorist come out to the house for a consultation. The primary things we concluded were that Dodger likes to go out in the open where he has infinite escape routes should his little brother decide to come stare at him and that there was a possibility that the cats didn't like their litter anymore. She made a few recommendations: move all the boxes back upstairs to the cat room, add another box, put at least one box right in the middle of the room, and replace the litter in a couple of the boxes with potting soil.

After some time, I determined that Dodger was not at all interested in the soil and that, although Oliver would use it, he didn't seem to have a significant preference over the clay litter. I would eventually switch those boxes back to the litter we used to use for the first 3-4 years of the cats' lives, which is a corn-based litter. We had switch from the World's Best Cat Litter to Cat Attract at some point after Dodger starting having problems. At the current time, Dodger again has little interest in the corn-based litter, but Oliver will use either.

After replacing the carpet on the stairs and moving all the boxes to the cat room, we no longer had a problem with Dodger misbehaving. Oliver was another matter. In fact, he suddenly got worse, peeing in the living room and dining room. Every night, I would walk around the dark house with a blacklight to figure out if and where he had been bad that day. Due to the sudden change in behavior from Oliver, I took him to the vet. She didn't find anything obviously wrong with him, but had me bring him back a couple of weeks later for stomach x-rays, which turned up nothing. Having ruled out health problems, I emailed Mary again to schedule another visit. 

We walked around the house again, with me pointing out all the areas of Oliver's transgressions. I described in detail his changes in behavior, including both the peeing and the fact that he no longer sat on my lap and snuggled in the evenings like he used to. After all this discussion, Mary said, do you think he just needs a little box down here? One of the key pieces of information seemed to be that, much of the time, I caught Oliver in the act of misbehaving; he was in the living room, hanging out, and instead of climbing upstairs to use the litter box, he would just pee on the floor. I was hesitant at first at the idea of putting a litter box on the living room/dining room floor, as I was afraid that Dodger would then start going on the floor nearby, as had been the original problem with having a litter box in the powder room. I also knew Zach would hate the idea of having a litter box anywhere out in the open or near where we might eat. However, after some more talking it out with Mary, we came up with the plan to put a tiny litter box that Dodger could not possibly fit in, filled with the corn-based litter that Dodger doesn't like, in the corner under Oliver's cat tree where Dodger doesn't like to go. 

The next day, I went to Target to buy a tiny litter box. I had the dimensions of the cat tree base where the box would go. I was planning to get a small storage box, but ended up finding a silverware box that was the perfect size.

It's been over a month since getting the new tiny litter box. Since then, Oliver has only had one accident, and that was because I failed to clean his tiny litter box, so he went on the floor right next to it. So as long as I keep on top of cleaning Oliver's special box, I think we're going to be happy cat parents. I am so relieved to finally have this under control. It had gone on for so long, and I had tried so many things before calling in Mary. When I first got Oliver his special box, I was still checking around with the blacklight every night. Not finding pee seemed so improbable, it was hard to believe the box was actually working. I didn't want to get my hopes up at first, but it's been long enough now that I'm willing to call this solved. 

I'm so grateful to Mary. While, in the end, her solutions seem pretty simple, I couldn't have arrived at them on my own. For all the Internet research I had done, all cats are different, and things get more complicated when you have two cats, each with different preferences. It seemed like whenever I'd make a change that was better for one cat, things got worse with the other. Now we have two happy cats and two happy cat parents! Thanks, Mary!