Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Geek attack: When science, pet ownership and mortality collide

The 9 lives of cats: A brief report on a (pseudo) scientific theory
There is a belief that the common house cat has 9 lives. While this may, on average, be true, I submit that in reality not all cats have 9 lives. I posit that nine is actually the average number of lives that cats, as a population, have. The number of lives each individual cat has, is, in fact on a bell-curve like continuum from 1 to n+1.

Number of lives

In order to arrive at the average of 9 lives, analyses must be done. Taking a statistical mean is the most basic approach: When outliers are dropped from analyses and the number of lives for each cat is summed and divided by the annual incidence of house cat mortality the mean number of lives is approximately 9 (+ 5%). 

However, more sophisticated analyses are required  in order to arrive at the statistical mean of 9.0 and other factors, that have either direct or indirect impact on the odds that a cat will have multiple lives, must be included in the equation. For example, there is anecdotal evidence that the number of lives a cat has may be indirectly proportional to the positive qualities of the cat. Therefore, positive qualities of the cat must be quantified and included as potential modifiers in the analyses. Thus, a cat that is friendly, has wonderful soft fur, does not completely destroy the furniture in the first 6 months in the house, and doesn't try to scratch your eyes out in the middle of the night while you are sleeping is likely to have substantially* fewer lives, perhaps only 1, than a cat that is mean, stinky, and hisses at your significant other every time he/she enters airspace within 75 feet of the cat. The latter cat is likely to have substantially* more lives than the average, say 12. These positive and negative qualities must be statistically counterbalanced by the number of opposing qualities. For example, the first cat described above may also have flea treatment resistant fleas (a negative quality) and the second cat described may submit docilely to handling by young children (a positive quality). These factors, too, must be accounted for in analyses. Hence, when all positive and negative qualities are included and analysed at the population-level, the statistical mean number of lives per cat works out to be 9.0 lives.

Two case studies:
Luna: Awesome cat. Put up with a toddler poking him, a 7 yr old trapping him under the laundry basket, and a 9 yr old carrying him like his legs were broken. Softest fur ever. Like kitten fur but long beyond kittenhood. Willing to let you rub his belly and so friendly that the neighbors referred to him as Mr. Friendly. 
Lived: 15 months


AN: Loved, ok, tolerated only one person (me) and probably only because I fed her. Hated everyone else - passionately. Made "Grumpy Cat" look gregarious. Hissed, spit and pooped every time Michael (husband) came within 20 feet. Ran and hid anytime anyone else came within 50 feet. Managed to live through 2 falls off a 2 storey balcony, getting lost in Vancouver, British Columbia while on a cross-Canada road trip, 4 house moves and one major house renovation, disappearing for 6 months and reappearing literally a step away from death, and 2 dog attacks. 
Lived: 12 years

Not surprisingly there is interest in early prediction of lives in order to reduce the trauma of selecting a cat that, ultimately, may have only a single life. Unfortunately, there is little empirical data in this area and it appears that the early predictive value positive of personality traits is limited. Kittens are endowed with deceptive qualities (e.g., adorable-ness, extreme cuteness) and all appear, on the surface, to have the capacity for attaining, at a minimum, the mean number of lives. More research is needed in this area.

* Note: I use the term "substantially" rather than "significantly" because we lack empirical data of sufficient quality to substantiate statistical significance.

Reported by F. E. Line, PhD, Institute for the BS Scientific Study of Pets, Wild Cat, KY, USA

Monday, April 29, 2013

From the mouths of babes - Mortality and the 3 yr old

There is nothing parents less want to do than find themselves in a situation where you have to explain to a child that a loved pet has died.

And there I was this past weekend. Here's how the conversation went:

Brenna asked if Luna was still lost.
I said, no he wasn't lost but he would not be coming home because he had died.
B: How he die?
M: He was trying to cross the street and didn't look both ways (always a teachable moment) and had an accident with a car.
B: He got a boo-boo?
M: Yes.
B: Where? Here? (pointing to her arm)
M: I don't know, sweetie.
B: Here? (pointing to her other arm)
M: Probably here. (I pointed to her ribs)
B: Does it hurt?
M: No. That the good thing about being dead - boo-boos dont' hurt when you're dead. (well, it's true!)
B: Oh. Where he is?
M: I think he is in kitty heaven where he can play, and chase squirrels, and do all the fun kitty things.
B: Oh.

Then we had a long discussion about how we can remember Luna and look at pictures of him and even make something to put in the garden to remind us of him.

B: I need to tell daddy that Luna died.
[Given that daddy was the one who got the news, I'm pretty sure he was aware of this fact but who am I to quash her sense of control?]
M: Ok.
B goes running into the family room where Michael is watching TV.
B: Daddy! Luna died!
D: Yes. I know. I am so sorry. I'm sad. Are you sad?
B: No.
D: No?
B: No. He happy.

Mommy score! I managed to talk to my child about death and not freak her out. I guess sometimes I manage to do this parenting thing right.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

RIP Luna dude

We'll miss you cat-man-dude.

Luna Little-bits
2/2/2012 - 4/26/2013

enjoy chasing the squirrels in kitty heaven. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Suddenly my inner grizzly bear came out

B & E at soccer
Brenna has a best friend, let's call her E. Not only is E Brenna's BFF but she is also her tormenter and worst enemy. Sometimes concurrently. But B and E adore each other. They have been friends since the day they laid eyes on each other at the age of 10 months. E is big for her age. B is tiny. Together they are like Mutt & Jeff. They scrap. They make up. They scrap. They make up. They are in the same class at school and their teachers are constantly telling me how they fight like sisters but then turn around and are best friends again.

E out weighs B by close to 20 lbs and is a head taller.
Where as B is generally laid back, E is in-your-face  do-it-my-way-or-else. B's response to frustration is generally to shrug her shoulders and walk away - although B did once get so angry at another child that she bit....herself. E's response to frustration is to hit, pinch, push, or grab.

Because they are such good friends, B is often the target of E's behavior. Since B does not have a sibling who is close in age, I figure that E is her opportunity to learn to stand up for herself and I generally let the two girls sort out their spats on their own with reminders to both to use their words not hands.

So there we are on the playground after school. B is playing with a group of other kids and E comes out. B has climbed up to hang from the monkey bars and is precariously perched with both hands over her head grasping the bar above and her feet on the top rung of the ladder. Given her lack of stature, this is a precarious feat indeed.

I am chatting with another mom. Kids are all over the play structure. Parents are milling about chatting and making sure no one does anything that is sure to result in a quick trip to the ER and the need for cosmetic surgery. Then I hear B loudly say "No! Stop!" and I look over to see E pushing B's feet and legs as she stands stretched to swing. Keep in mind, E outweighs B by 20 lbs and E appears to be putting some effort into pushing B off the ladder. I say, "Carefull E! No pushing please!"

In response E looks directly at me, pauses, and then gives a good, hard shove to B's legs.

Suddenly, my inner mama grizzly bear appeared
Angry Grizzly Bear
and I covered the 5 or so feet of space between myself and E in nano-seconds, got down to E's level, grabbed her and moved her away from the ladder and virtually growled, "You do NOT push another child on a ladder. That is DANGEROUS!" E immediately flopped backwards and started to scream that she wanted to go on the monkey bars. I tride to pick her up but 40+ lbs of screaming squirming child was more than I could handle.

I am certain that my tone of voice scared the hell out of E, and my voice must have carried because suddenly all eyes, child and adult, were on the two of us and you could hear the crickets chirping. E's babysitter came running over and immediately extracted her from the playground.

There was another 10 seconds of silence and then the activity and volume level returned to normal.

In the end, everyone was fine, but now that I have met my inner grizzly mama, I will be aware of her existance in the future.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Another adventure in parenting

8:00 am

Brenna emerges from her room.
B: "Mommy, look at my nose"
I look. It's running. What else is new? Looks about the same as always.
M: Let's get you a tissue.
I get a tissue and wipe her nose.
B: It hurts.
M: Why does your nose hurt?
B: It just does.
M: Well, let's wipe again. Can you blow for me?
B does the 3-yr old version of blowing which is ineffective in the best of situations.
M: Better?
B: No. It still hurts. There's a cheerio.
M: A cheerio? Where is there a cheerio?
B: In my nose.
M (no matter how hard I try, in situations like this, I just can't seem to resist asking the obvious question that I know will not receive a satisfactory response): Why did you put a cheerio in your nose?!
B: I didn't. It just got there.
[Cue images of sinus seeking cheerio fairies with little wings flying through the air seeking random noses to enter...

I mean, really, how do I think the cheerio got there? Silly mommy!

So I move on to figuring out exactly where in her nose this cheerio is. Actually, I have a brief moment of wondering how she managed to get a whole cheerio into her nostril considering that a cheerio is definitely bigger than her nostril. But, after about 3 nanoseconds of contemplation on this apparent physical impossibility, I decide it's not worth the cognitive energy and move on.

I grab her princess flashlight and tell her to look up at the sky. Sure enough there is a cheerio wedged waaaaaayyyy up in her nose.
Again, I briefly wonder how in the world she managed to get a cheerio wedged so far up her nose but again realise that it is probably not worth the cognitive energy and I move on to trying to figure out how one gets a cheerio out of a little nostril.

I consider my options:
Tweezers will not work. It's too far up there and they are too big.
Blowing is not working since the 3 yr old version of blowing is less than effective.
I'm not thrilled with the idea of a trip to the doctor to have it removed, but it is a possibility. Or at least calling the doctor's office to see what they suggest. (Once again it occurs to me that having a doctoral degree in child development and child psychology does not prepare you for real life. Did I miss the Cheerios and Your Child 101 - Cheerio Extraction course in grad school?)

So, when in doubt, ask another adult. I take Brenna into the room where Michael is flat on his back recovering from surgery to make his right collarbone bionic and say,
"Any suggestions for getting a cheerio out of her nose?"
As Michael is a rational adult, his first response mirrors mine. He turns to Brenna and asks the obvious: "How did a cheerio get into your nose?!"
[insert conversation between me and B above]

In the end, Michael comes up with the best solution. Get the NettiPot, strip B down, put her in the bathtub, and flush it out. Needless to say, B is less than enthusiastic about this idea and goes into complete hysterics requiring that I chase her down, strip her, put her in the tub and block any possible exit. She is a wiggly little thing!

Thank goodness cheerios are water soluble. Two good pours from the NettiPot, one big blow, and out it came.

Hopefully, this experience will stick with B and we will not have to do battle with the Sinus-Seeking-[insert foreign object here]-Fairy again.

To be fair to B, this could have been a lot worse. The cheerio was only there for a short period of time and is a somewhat natural, soluble substance. Ella at the same age stuck a bright orange foam sticker with the letter 'V' up her nose where it remained for several weeks.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Well, at least I remembered the important stuff...

Welcome to spring in the south.

With the advent of pollen season (which is mercifully short-lived but seems to go on forever...especially if you make the mistake of opening your windows to let the "fresh" air inside...not that I've been known to do that or anything. Nope. Not me.)
pollen 1: caddy 0

So, where was I?

Oh, right. With the advent of nice weather it was time to get back to riding to work. I took the commuter in for new brake pads and cables last week and took it for a quick ride over the weekend to make sure everything was running smoothly. Last night I pulled the child trailer out of the shed and reassembled it.

in the bike stroller for the first time last year

Then I went through the ritual of getting everything ready the night before. Work clothes packed. Lunch ready and in the fridge. Child excited to get back into her "bicycle stroller". Yep, I'm ready.

Up at 6:45. Bed made. Coffee made. Just need to put my stuff into my messenger bag, throw on my riding clothes, and get the child dressed and out the door.

And then forward progression came to a screeching halt. According to my child she owns no "fancy" shirts and as a result could not get dressed. I have yet to figure our what defines "fancy" since it seems to be a moving target and subject entirely to my child's whims. I also would like to kill the author of the Fancy Nancy series, whoever it was that bought the first book for Brenna, and myself for not hiding it in a deep dark place in the crawl space until Brenna left for college.

35 minutes later...

Brenna is finally dressed in something she deems fancy (a pink sparkly dress and blue leggings- even though it's supposed to be in the upper 70's today- blue and white stripped socks and her new sandals that light up each time she takes a step so she insists on stomping everywhere. good times). Discarded "non-fancy" clothes are strewn willy-nilly but are at least contained within the confines of her room. Her helmet is on her head. My helmet is on my head. And we are finally out the door...

It takes me 1 block to begin the discovery process of what I forgot:
  • 1st traffic light (one block from home): Front blinky headlight - nope, don't have it
  • 1 mile from home: Secure attachment for rear blinky light - nope, light went flying off with the first big section of crappy pavement (I retrieved it)
  • upon arrival at my desk (7 miles from home): Glasses - not only am I not married but I'm going to have a blinding headache from squinting at everything for the next 9 hours
But at least I remembered all the important things:
  • Child
  • Self
  • Bike
  • Underwear
So, all in all, a successful first commute of the season.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Eight 10s of what I'm not...and that's ok.

Spring has sprung. The pollen count is in the zillions blanketing the world with a neon yellow haze. To celebrate, I pulled out the mountain bike, dusted it off and headed out for my first trail ride since...uh...


still thinking...


oh, August. (wow. that's appalling.)

As I rode I realized that I have been mountain biking for 16 years....longer than the kid I kept leap frogging on the trail yesterday has probably been alive.

I contemplated those 16 years as I struggled to regain my balance and flow over the uneven terrain, and realized that I ride the way I do because there are a lot of things that I am not...

yup, not 
1. 10 years younger
2. 10 lbs lighter
3. 10.2% body fat
4. ranked in the top 10 amature female mountain bikers by NORBA
 (or whatever body is currently overseeing such things)
5. unencumbered by 10,000 other important responsibilities
6. able to do the 10 mile climb up a gravel mountain access road in under 58 minues
7. able to finish a century road ride with 10k ft climbing in under 6.5 hrs
8. interested in training 10+ hrs/wk so that any of the previous 7 points could be possible

And really, when all is said and done, I'm ok with it.