Friday, March 10, 2017

survival tips for indoor cats

this post is sponsored by our friends at nutrish. all opinions and thoughts are, as always, our own.

my cats are exclusively indoor cats. they just are. i feel like a helicopter parent where they are concerned. when they were baby kittens, the most precious little fur balls ever, all i could imagine was sending them into the great outdoors to be a snack for the countless hawks and coyotes in the woods beyond my house. i couldn't handle the thought of them becoming a meal for some neighboring predator so, indoors they stayed.

they have free reign of the house and chase each other day and night over every square inch of our place. they are healthy and happy but there are some things that i have to do differently because my cats are exclusively indoors. if you have indoor cats of your own, these tips can help to make your little fur ball's day too.

give them some way to exercise and play

my two cats are brother and sister and, like my own children, they have a love/hate relationship. they play and fight and then fight and play all day, everyday, until they crash and sleep for ten hours. they do a pretty good job of simply playing and wrestling with one another but i also like to provide other toys to keep them busy. my absolute favorite new toy for my cats is this spinning butterfly. it is literally endless entertainment and they cannot get enough of it. whether you buy this one or find an amazing toy of your own, toys to entertain your cats will keep them (and you) happy while they are in the house.

or just give them a box to play in...

get a great scratching post

cats can destroy furniture faster than you can say retractable claws. there is only one way to avoid that and that is with an amazing scratching post or toy. there are so many out there but i don't want anything too big or cumbersome in my house. there are a couple that we love. 

get a great litter box

i hate cleaning the litter box. it is literally my least favorite chore. i know it costs some money, but buying a good litter box is worth every. single. penny. if you get a great box when your cats are kittens, they will be happy with it their whole life through. this one is absolutely magical. one box to throw away, once per month. done. best. box. ever.

give them food created for indoor cats

it's no secret that we are big nutrish fans and have been since our cats were kittens. we were thrilled when they announced their new "indoor complete" cat food. this is perfect for our little hair balls. the cats love the food and we know the cats are getting just what they need for their indoor cat health. rachael ray nutrish indoor complete chicken with lentils and salmon recipe is a natural food for cats with added vitamins, minerals and taurine. the recipe contains a real superfood blend to meet the complete needs of your adult indoor cat and is available right where you shop for your family's groceries. chicken is the number one ingredient and the recipe also contains lentils which are rich in fiber and protein and low in fat to help maintain the optimal body weight in your cats. this is especially important for my mr. darcy. my oldest son says, "he's not fat, he's just big boned." he may at this point just qualify as fat. he is hefty by any standard and needs a good cat food that can help him maintain his rather broad but lovely physique. 

we also love buying rachael ray's nutrish because of how they give back. rachael's rescue was created for all the forgotten pets, the ones who might not have someone who loves them as much as they deserve. a portion of the proceeds from each sale of nutrish is donated to the rachael ray foundation, which helps animals in need through rachael's rescue. through december 2016, rachael's rescue has donated more than $17.5 million dollars to pet charities and other organizations that do good for animals. the funds are used for food, medical supplies, treatments and more for animals in need. it's amazing what they are able to do with the money they give and i feel good about feeding my cats what they need and giving back as well. it's a win-win. 

there you have it friends. cats really are so easy to care for and they make the kids so happy...and me as well. a few simple tips can make life with indoor cats just a little bit easier. that's something i can get on board with any day. 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

what i wish i had known about raising a teenage son

my oldest is 13, quickly approaching 14. i'm proud of him, of the person he is becoming and of the potential i see in him. still, parenting a teenager is hard, harder than i ever realized for reasons i never imagined. i'm having to walk through an entire new set of emotions and loss that i never expected. so to all of you moms of little boys, amidst the chaos of the younger years, here is what i wish i would have known.

your son will push you away

i keep telling myself that this is normal. this is what is supposed to happen. he is supposed to rely more on himself, less on me. it doesn't change the fact that this process is incredibly painful. daily my mind races back to the baby he was, the moments i spent rocking him to sleep, the songs i sung to him to calm him as an infant. i recall every time i had to pry his hands off my legs and wipe his tears so i could leave the house without him, every time he wanted to hold my hand for a little extra security, every time he asked me to hold him when he was hurting. with those memories your mama heart breaks just a little bit each day for that time you will never get back. as much as you long for your son to be independent and that you understand that his success depends on him standing on his own two feet, you will long for the time when he would walk around the house clinging to yours...and it will hurt that those days are gone. 

their voice will scare you

it feels like my son's voice changed overnight. it is deep and manly and i have been frightened more than once thinking a stranger is in my house, only to realize moments later that it is just my son's new voice booming through the halls. that's the thing that hit me the hardest. i spent his whole life listening to his sweet little words. i could recognize his voice in a crowd. i knew how he sounded and how he cried. he could say, "mommy" and i knew it was me he was talking to, even in a room full of other moms. i knew that sweet voice like i know my own and then one day, you realize you will never, ever hear that voice again. it has sent me on a frantic search through old videos to find the voice that was lost, for some proof that the voice i know so well once existed. i miss that voice. you will miss your son's one day too.

it is wonderful and awful at the same time

it is a joy to watch my son grow into the man he is becoming. it's fun to watch him understand sarcasm and to develop a comedic sense of humor. he is smart, a great student, a hard worker. he is a lot of amazing things and i get to look at him and say, "i helped shape this boy." it gives some validity to the work that is raising another human being. still, it makes the heart of this mom ache a little as i compare this teenager to the little boy that was, the thin hallow cheeks with the chubby ones i used to shower with kisses. where he used to snuggle with me for hours, i have to force my hugs on him each day whether he likes it or not, not just because he needs it, but because i need it. in the midst of all the letting go, of letting him grow up, i need to know that the little boy who adored his mama is still in there somewhere. i will smile at him when he can see me, cheer for him publicly and cry my tears of loss in private. no one warned me of this, this painful loss that comes as your child takes step after step away from you. it's wonderful and amazing to see first hand the person they are but it's awful and painful to say goodbye to the child they were, your child, your baby who has been replaced with the man he will become. 

still, i wouldn't trade it for the world. it makes every moment i spent with him that much more precious, the knowing that it was fleeting, that the moments weren't forever. i am watching him grow. i am watching him get more and more ready to go, to leave me and go out on his own. you will watch your sons do it too and that's just how it is supposed to be, it's what we moms have worked so hard for for so many years and watching this happen is amazing and wonderful and it fills us with joy. but in equal measures it fills us with heartache because it's impossible to separate the two people that your son is. the one child you raised and spent years feeding, changing, snuggling, kissing, teaching, whose sweet voice saying, "i love you, mommy," filled your tank and made you overflow with love. the one had the scabbed knees, the torn jeans, the dirty face and the tears you wiped away. the other person is a tall, lanky almost man, with a voice you don't recognize, with his own friends, his own interests, his own life, one that you fit into a lot less than you used to. it's the memories that we can't separate that makes this process hard. and then, one day as he opens the door on his way to middle school, he will call back with is man voice and say, "i love you, mommy," and you'll recognize the voice and relish the sound of the words and you will realize that it will be okay. we were built for this, for raising them to leave, no matter how difficult that may be.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

the business of dying

it has happened to us twice now, the late night phone call, the terrible news, the unexpected tragedy. thirteen years ago my husband and i were asleep in a hotel room in cartagena, colombia when we got the call that his brother, a 25 year old sheriff's deputy in florida, had been shot and killed in the line of duty. a little over a month ago, we got another unexpected call. my husbands incredibly healthy, fit and relatively young father had died out of the blue of a pulmonary embolism. there was no warning for either death. they were both shocking and awful and tragic.

both of these experiences taught us a great deal. among those things is this: there is a great deal of business in dying. these are the all consuming tasks that fill up the days immediately after someone dies. these are the details and the phone calls and the decisions that have to be made. this is the work that is exhausting but still pulls you out of bed each morning to do it some more. it's daunting and horrible and difficult and i don't know a person out there who enjoys the process of it all. still, it is necessary.

having done it twice unprepared and having seen others go through it even after watching someone suffer a long illness, there are certain things everyone...let me say that again...e.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. should do to help those left behind in the case of an unexpected or even expected death. you guys, do these things. it is so difficult to be on the survivor side of a death and it's even harder when you have to make decisions without knowing what the deceased would have wanted. do this for the people you really will speak volumes of your love for them.

write a will

or write a trust. or get something in writing. tell people where you want your things to go. make it official. sign it. notarize it. stop any bartering or questions before they start. if you have something special that you want to go to a specific person, don't just tell them in private. write it down. people are ruled by emotions after a death and they don't make logical decisions. they also won't remember or honor what you may or may not have said. just write it down. do it while you are young and check it every single year. something like this can help preserve family relationships.

make sure everyone knows what you would want at your funeral

i never used to think this was important but i have been to several funerals now and i know now more than ever exactly what i don't want as well as what i do. i've seen so many things that are absolutely the opposite of what i would want for myself and i've learned that, more times than not, those planning the funerals are making emotional decisions and are not always thinking clearly. after my father-in-law's funeral, my husband and i sat down and made it clear for one another. should one of us ever pass away, the other one knows what to do. our next step is to put it in writing. make sure people know if you want a viewing, if you want a casket or to be cremated, if you want certain song sung at your funeral, if you want your ashes in a specific place, if you want to be buried, if you want a head stone. if you can plan it in advance, do it. yes, it's morbid and a horrible conversation to have. i hope we'll be around for a very long time. still, i don't want anyone guessing what i would want or spending money on something that is not needed.

understand the costs involved

funerals are expensive. coffins are expensive. burial plots are expensive. always make sure there is an "in case of emergency" credit card or fund somewhere that can be used to pay for expenses. the last thing anyone wants is to have the wishes of a love one that they can't fulfill because they can't afford to pay for it. 

make a list of assets and update it annually

my husband has been doing this since the year his brother was killed. he has written a list of every life insurance policy we have, the account number, the password, the contact person, the amount in that policy and how soon i can get it. every bank account, every savings account, every retirement account, every ira, every single account that is in one of our names is written down completely with all pertinent information included. those files are updated annually and are kept locked up in case of emergency. a spare copy is left with another member of our family as well. my father-in-law had something similar though not in as much detail as what my husband has. it helped tremendously as we went through his files and attempted to secure funds for my mother-in-law and get her a budget of what she would have coming in and going out each month. do this for your loved ones. i cannot tell you how valuable it is. beyond just the facts, write down the whys. why did you pick that account? what are the benefits? answer questions someone might be asking. it makes a horrible situation just a little bit more tolerable.

write letters

i can remember my sweet friend as she was dying of cancer. she left one weekend to go away by herself and write letters to her daughter, for her wedding day, for her graduation from high school, for her 16th birthday, for all the days she was going to miss. i can't imagine what writing those letters cost her. i also can't imagine how precious those letters will be for her daughter as she grows up and reads them. i'm not suggesting you do this exact thing...but take time to write letters to your loved ones. my husband tries to write a letter to each child on their birthday. one day he will give them the whole stack. in the meantime, he is collecting sweet letters to his kids. it's precious and meaningful and, when someone dies suddenly, sweet mementos like this mean everything. write some love letters to those you love.

get in the picture

take pictures...with your kids, with your family, with your spouse. get out from behind the camera and jump in with those you love. frame pictures of yourself that you love. we had two very different experiences with my husband's family. his brother's funeral had a picture of his brother that we knew his brother disliked. he complained about that picture and how he never liked how he looked in it. still, it was the only picture we had to use for his funeral and so we used it. we always felt bad about that. with my father-in-law, we had a great picture to use. my husband's father was smiling and happy and looked like he could walk right out of the print. it was perfect. make sure there's a picture of you somewhere that you love.

most of all...just love and live well

if the deaths in our families have taught us anything, it's that nothing is guaranteed. none of us know the day or the time we will leave this earth. whenever it is, i want my kids to know how much i love them. i want my husband to know he means the world to me. i want the people around me to know they are precious to me. that's the important thing. everything else is secondary. we could all use a reminder to simply love people matter how long we are on this earth. everything else that falls into the business of dying is wrapped up in this. love people enough to help them walk through something if you can't be there in person to do it. walk them through it beforehand. there is so much love in that.