Lessons from a skincat

Lulu header

Happy New Year! AND it’s mid-January. I know it. I’m a bit late to the party. Back at blogging! Yes. Photography ate me alive this fall. I love those sunsets and leaves, then Christmas rolled around, and well…I’m back!

Meet Lucy. She’s our two year old Sphynx, aka a “skin cat.” A few recessive genes (yay double r’s in the Punnett square!) makes a Sphynx cat. How’s that for a hands-on STEM lesson plan? Yeah, bring the kids by! Either you’re fascinated and wanna come over and pet her, or you’re totally grossed out right now and possibly wondering why we’re friends. And that’s ok. If you have any sort of reptile or poisonous insect in your house as a “pet,” I’m wondering the same about you. This is our kitty, Lucy, our Lulu, and we love her dearly. But I didn’t always. GASP! I’ll get to that.

Lulu isn’t the first or only of her kind. She’s also not our first Sphynx. Fish was. Now you think I’m even stranger for having a cat named Fish. That’s ok too. My 94 year old grandfather was so terrified by what he thought as a “possum” in my living room that he tried (repeatedly) to stomp on my pretty kitty and save our family from the “varmint” while I shrieked, trying to explain who and what she was, while family members pulled him into a chair. I will never forget the look of sheer panic on his face. Who knew a guy that old could jump so high? I digress.

In January of 2013, I had to make one of the hardest decisions of my life. Fish was battered by kitty cardiomyopathyheart disease. On a freezing, cloudless Saturday morning padded with fresh snow, January 26th, at the door of the vet’s office, I had to decide to end her suffering. UGH. Not only was that hideously difficult, try watching your then 4 year old cry hysterically for weeks each night, petting the cat’s pictures on the iPad, begging God in her nightly prayers to send her back from heaven. Stomach churning, heart wrenching, gut punching difficult moments as a mom. How did we handle it? Guess. A kitten, of course. Kittens can solve a lot of problems.

A few months later, as birds arrived with spring, Lucy arrived at Newark Airport via from Ed and James, her loving breeders in Raleigh-Durham NC. She purred and welcomed cuddles from day one, and she loved the kids – a bonus, because Fish loved me (and Phil way, way more), and really no one else.

Despite her adorable-ness, loving nature and lightening-quick adaptability to our home, I found myself working to love her. She did nothing wrong. She did everything right. Purred, chased strings, attacked feather toys with bells on cue. So why was my heart so hardened like the Grinch’s on Christmas Eve? It was because every time I saw her, in the background of my mind was a dark urn holding the remains of Fish-cat. I only figured out later, after I realizing how much I had grown to love this 9 lbs of happiness, what my problem was. It took me about a year to get over the fact that she wasn’t Fish.

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Don’t I sound like a monster now? Hear me out.

My problem wasn’t with Lucy. My problem was with me. I couldn’t get over the fact she wasn’t who I had to let go of. Fish was gone at just 8 years old. Without even knowing it, I couldn’t accept the change, and so I didn’t – I couldn’t accept Lucy, let alone love her. As the adage goes, change isn’t easy. No kidding. Major, major understatement. We are creatures of habit, like it or not. Most change is forced upon us. SLAP! Life goes at you again. When the situation is painful, as I learned, it’s easy to become bitter & jaded – and without even meaning to – to hold a cold, marble heart even in the face of an aqua eyed, tiny purring kitten. (Monster! I admit it on a blog!) What did I learn? I learned I don’t always have a say in the changes that happen around me, but I can help how I react to those changes.

Besides my slow climb toward nirvana, there is a happy ending. I was able to make room for Lulu. One morning as I watched T carry her all curled up like a baby doll across the living room for the 55th time without complaint, without even trying to escape the clutches of a super-loving 4 year old, she did it. She won me over big time, oh-yes-she-has-oh-yes-she-has (insert smothering kiss sounds as seen below:)

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(Had to.)





I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to riff with. This month’s prompt is *bloom.*

To understand why this is wrong, you don’t have to be a feminist. You just have to be human.

In the early hours of April 15, 2014 in Chibok, Nigeria at Government Girls Secondary School, 276 girls were forcefully taken by militants. Some escaped; the majority did not. They’re still missing, likely being sold into slavery or forced into marriage, the repercussions brought down on them by extremists for simply getting an education.

#bringbackourgirls is all over the media, with famous faces backing the hashtag, looking serious, disappointed, disgusted. Rightly so. The images that get to me the most are not those of celebrities, but those of the mothers of these young girls – women with tears streaming down their faces, washing over worried crinkles and grimaces as they beg someone, anyone, to bring their babies back safely.

The educator in me is furious, and the mother in me horrified.

Sunday was Mother’s Day.

girls laughing

girls laughing

girls dreaming

girl sleeping

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I look at my daughters and (soon to be three!) nieces, and think of the the apps at their fingertips, the books at their disposal, the endless information on any topic available to them, and I pray they won’t ever have to fight to keep the basic human right to learn. They, like all girls and boys around the globe, deserve to learn, dream, to shine — to bloom.


“Bloom” is the May writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Misty of Momista Beginnings. A few words from Misty — I’m Misty, the southern California blogger behind Momista Beginnings. I began this blog while pregnant with Mia over two years ago to create a space for mamas out there to connect with their inner “momista.” According to me, a momista is a devout follower and lover of motherhood who takes her role to the next level. She uses her strengths to create the best childhood for her kids through activities, traditions, adventures, exploration and experiences. My blog aims to inspire all of this. Other bits of me make up my blog as well, like my passion for photography, art, crafts, my love for baking and cooking and family updates. I’m an ex art teacher of over 10 years and my art projects for kids make appearances from time to time, too. You can also find me on Bloglovin’, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and at my photography website and its Facebook page!

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Why Music Matters

PicMonkey Collage

I’m not a musician. Not even close. I can’t hold a tune, and for anyone who has witnessed me dancing at a wedding…I’m sorry, so very sorry. I wish I had rhythm, pitch…all that good stuff! So the best that I can do is live vicariously through my kids.

What I am is an educator, so I do recognize and value a well rounded curriculum, and know from training and experience how cross curriculum skills build on one another. We’re big on STEM education for our brood (science, technology, engineering, math), and a fantastic way to pump up the building blocks to excelling in these areas and improving certain brain functions like abstract reasoning skills, verbal memory and math abilities is through music education.

Spatial-Temporal Awareness

Music education has been linked to an increase in spatial-temporal awareness, aka abstract reasoning skills. These skills give us the ability to mentally manipulate images. (Think puzzles, design, engineering.) In a study involving 78 preschool children, 34 children received private piano lessons, 20 had private computer lessons, and 24 children were subjects for other areas in the testing. Kids given piano lessons showed a large improvement on the spatial-temporal test. What can you take from this? Music education can train a little one for abstract thinking, a skill necessary in math and science.

Verbal Memory

Can being a musician “change” a brain? It seems so. A study using MRI’s compared the brains of musicians to non-musicians. Sixty college students with similar educational backgrounds were given identical visual and verbal tests. Thirty of these students of them had least six years of music training before age 12, and the other half had zero training.

The findings? The musicians had enlarged “left” brains when compared to the non-musicians, and scored higher on the verbal test than the non-musicians by an average of 16%, with no significant difference found between the groups when given the visual test. What’s key to understand here is that the left side of the brain are attributed with verbal memory, and the right side of the brain is for for visual memory. This study’s findings suggest that music education can train a brain and impact verbal memory.

The Math – Music Connection

Is there a math and music connection? You bet, and there are plenty of studies to back them up. One such study involved two groups of second graders; one group of children had piano lessons as well as training in a math program, and another group received English training and piano lessons. Dr. Gordon Shaw of the University of California, Irvine, demonstrated that after four months of this training, the second-grade students in the math + music group scored 15-41 percent higher than the students in the group that received English + music training on tests that involved ratios and fractions.

If you’re interested in music education for your child, Sue On, our girls’ violin instructor and an incredibly talented musician and educator, has some fantastic advice:

How can parents encourage music education at home?

“Parents are already encouraging music education everyday without realizing it. Ask any adult or child how they learned the alphabet and they will start singing it for you. Teaching the basics is just listening to music to help develop their ear so that when they do pick up an instrument, they are already familiar with what it’s suppose to sound like.”

How old should a child be when starting formal music lessons?

“Between the ages of 0-5, most experiences are still first time experiences. With that in mind, everything is fascinating in their eyes and learning something new at every music lesson is no different. At such a young age, a lot of repetition is needed to comprehend the motions required to play an instrument but most of the activities can be disguised as games.”

How do I choose an instrument for my child?

“For children 6 and under violin or piano are great options just to get the ears training. Even if this isn’t your child’s first choice, either will most likely be a good transitional instrument due to the fine listening that is required. For an older child, 7 and up, there are more options because the lung capacity for air is larger for those interested in singing or wind instruments.”