Zip Zip

The kids are having a sleepover tonight, so the house is unusually quiet.

Zipper is very concerned. She still follows us if we go to the bathroom, so the notion of spending a whole night without two members of her litter is Just Wrong.

Here is a nice pic of her, and a not-that-nice pic of my kids. PRIORITIES!

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In other news, I’ve cut down my chocolate intake—I’ve regained most of the weight I lost earlier this year, so it must be done—and as a result I believe all life is pain, all humans are hateful, and every breath I take is an imposition on both myself and the universe.

This is why I don’t often attempt to lose weight.

In other other news, I am reading the first Harry Potter book aloud to Louisette. It’s an extraordinary experience. My own writing has been going very poorly lately, and it helps to be reminded of what good fiction feels like from the other side.

99 cents

IRON LIGHTS is on Amazon now, which probably means it’s almost everywhere! So to celebrate, Book 1: HEART OF BRASS is having a 99c promo.

I’m posting it here for those of you on an RSS feed.

https://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=felicity+banks

And here’s Zipper, but sideways.

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More Important Matters

So IRON LIGHTS is out (through my store and Dymocks Belconnen ONLY at the moment—it’ll be available everywhere in October, including digitally), MURDER IN THE MAIL is exhibiting at The Front cafe gallery… and all you really want to know is, “HOW IS THE KITTEN THO?”

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She is good.

As you can see, she prefers her collar half untied (and will unhook it every time I try to neaten it) but it doesn’t freak her out any more. I think she enjoys chewing on it when the rest of us aren’t sufficiently entertaining.

Today is day 15 of her life with us. It feels much longer.

Chris and I quite often wake at 6am or so to hear, “Noooo, nooo, Zipper, nooo, ouch!” in the morning as the kids wake up before us and don’t always remember our new golden rule (“when Zipper is playful on the couch, you go on the floor, and when Zipper is playful on the floor you go on the couch”) but I don’t think she’s actually drawn blood on the kids yet. Of course Chris and I have some (very minor) scratches because we do things like pick her up.

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I’ve begun altering her food from the RSPCA’s preferred brand to a more ordinary kitten-friendly food. The change disturbed her yesterday but she’s definitely eating it so that should be fine.

My sister has two young daughters (6 and 7.5) who visited us yesterday to meet Zipper and have a play. They’re not nearly as familiar with cats as my two, but Zipper was clearly quite interested in them (despite her obvious nerves) and if they ever sat down for more than ten seconds I bet she’d hop on their lap/s.

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It’s very exciting having a cat that’s NOT a long-haired type, because she can actually sit on the couch without leaving it covered in fur. This is a new and wondrous thing—and she certainly looks good on green.

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She still sleeps a lot, usually sitting on one of our dining chairs (hidden by the tablecloth) or in a lap, or at/over my feet. She still follows me to the bathroom and calmly waits for me before following me back into the living room.

It’s rare for her to meow these days, so hopefully she’ll just grow out of it. But keep the habit of saying, “Prrrm?” by way of greeting or query.

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She still plays a lot, and has begun enjoying different toys—the balls we bought for her, crumpled paper, my doona, Louisette’s soft toys. She still doesn’t really ‘get’ the whole treat thing (she tends to sniff at a treat, bat it around a bit, and then walk off).

And she’s still utterly perfect.

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Zipper

She’s doing fine. Her playfulness is clearly demarcated from her cuddly times (which is very handy, because the kids know exactly when not to try to pat her), and is getting livelier as she grows in confidence (and presumably recovers from her operation).

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Today she had her first visit to our local vet, who gave us a pack of kitten-oriented info, food, treats, and even a cool toy that is designed to have a treat inside that the cat has to get out (great entertainment and good for their brain).

Zipper handled the vet (and injection) very well, didn’t meow at all on the car trip (a positive sign), and even visited TJ’s pre-school class! I’d been toying with the idea of taking her for a visit, since she’s so good with kids and it’s good for kittens to be exposed to a lot of different people and environments.

She endured the children with perfect patience (I kept her in a pillowcase, held firmly with just her head poking out) and all but one of the kids (who wanted to tickle her a bit roughly) were very gentle and good. Some were very reluctant to go back to their activity, but I can hardly blame them for that because I’ve been known to completely ignore people in favour of cooing over their cats for any number of hours.

Zipper still tends to follow us from room to room, including to the bathroom. It’s a good thing I work from home, or she’d definitely be lonely. She’s gained weight since being with us due to to fact that I’ve never yet let her supply of dry food run out. The up side is that it means she never begs for food, which is awesome. I’ll be careful in my experimentation with limiting her to the recommended amount of food, keeping an eye on her weight (we don’t want her to lose weight either) and behaviour.

I’m toying with possible cat-run ideas so that she can remain an ‘inside’ cat but in a way that lets us stop bothering to deal with kitty litter/keeps her restricted to our backyard. It seems to me that she needs human company far more than a broad range, so it might be possible to keep her both trapped and happy.

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My original observations of her (in the pet shop, with her brother and another cat) were that she was more tentative than the others. That holds true so far. She is both smarter and less curious than the average cat, which makes her less likely to get herself run over and less likely to destroy my stuff (at least, so far).

I bought Chris a bunch of flowers when he was sick last week. For the first two nights I put them in the cupboard overnight, but after that I left them on the dining table, and Zipper left them alone. That shows that (a) She knows the dining table is forbidden, and (b) She’s not the type to habitually disobey behind our backs.

So for a young kitten, she is VERY low-maintenance.

Book Week activity for pre-school to Year 4 kids

Last year, I wrote a story with my daughter’s Kindy class. This year I’m going one better (or at least noisier) and writing a story with my son’s pre-school class. This is a fairly fancy* pre-school, so even in pre-school the kids are encouraged to write their own names, and most can write the first letter.

I start off the class by saying that I’m a writer, and waving a book around—perhaps one of mine; perhaps one from their shelf (pointing out the author name in either case).

Optional parts of the opening (for older kids):

-Talking about how a lot of books have both an author/writer and artist/illustrator.

-Talking about how books can be true stories or made-up stories (fiction and non-fiction), keeping in mind that younger kids genuinely can’t distinguish between reality and fiction in the same way older kids can.

-Talking about how writers send their words to a publisher, who arranges printing and sends the books to a shop.

-Reading a book to the class.

 

The central message of the opening spiel:

I have written a book but it’s not finished and I need your help! There are no names in the book, and no pictures!

 

Preparation:

-A binder with lots of those clear plastic sheets inside, like these.

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-A title page and beginning to the story, an end, and a lot of pages that are complete (and interchangeable) except for requiring a name.

Eg. For pre-schoolers:

Title Page:

1R [or whatever the class is called] Story

Page 1:

One day there was a pre-school class with lots of friends.

Middle (many copies of each):

______ is clever.

______ is kind.

______ is strong.

______ is funny.

Final page: What a great class!     The End

 

I explained that there were four describing words and that all of the kids were all of those four things, but they needed to pick their favourite (and I also had four people—my two kids, and two teachers) stand in different parts of the room to gather their groups (the kind group, the strong group, the clever group, and the funny group). I was quite pleased with how gender-diverse the results were (although of course one boy said “[Girlname] isn’t strong!” and I said, “Yes she is!” and moved on).

Then I handed out the piles to each group, and had the kids write their names and draw a picture on their page, giving them back to me when they finished.

I put them back into the folder in random order, checked it was all legible, and then when everyone was done I gathered them back on the mat and read the finished story. Then I let the class have the finished story. (The teachers can photocopy it and email copies to all the parents if they want.)

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Feel free to use and adapt this lesson as much as you like.

If you feel grateful, buy one of my books from my storeThe Monster Apprentice is suitable for 8+ (it’s like Narnia with pirates) and the Antipodean Queen steampunk fantasy books are suitable for 13+ (with bonus bits of much-mangled Aussie history). In both cases, advanced kids can go ahead and read them at a younger age. I read The Monster Apprentice aloud to Louisette when she was 5, but skipped a couple of scary bits.

*debate the merits of early literacy training in the comments!

Kitten kitten kitten!

Meet Zipper.

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Zipper and her brother were found at a camp site and taken to the RSPCA. I think what happened is someone’s cat had a litter and they were too embarrassed to take them to the RSPCA themselves so when the kittens were old enough they took them into bushland and let them go.

Don’t do that, kids. Cats are stone cold killers and feral cats are terrible for the environment. (Also, desex your cat. The world has enough kittens—which means a LOT, coming from me.)

These two are most assuredly not feral cats. Zipper is clearly familiar with house environments, and is remarkably well-behaved for her age.

When our previous cat, Ana, died, I knew we’d get a new kitten soon. If Australia went to war and my entire family ended up in a refugee camp, I would find a cat and make it part of our shack/tent/whatever. That’s just life.

Chris isn’t a cat person. Whenever I mentioned a cat and checked in on his opinion about getting a new fur baby he described himself as “resigned”. But of course he’s the one most likely to spoil a cat, too.

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I was being Mature and Responsible. I didn’t get a new kitten immediately, which is already impressive, to my mind. I wrote a list of things we were looking for in a cat, and what we’d need to prepare for a kitten (litter & scoop & tray, food, fishing-pole toys so the kids could play with it safely, a scratching post, etc). Bit by bit I acquired everything on the list, including a collar with a tag engraved with my phone number (in case she gets lost and the person who finds her doesn’t know about microchips), and made sure that the small bits of garden in our back yard are suitable for cat toileting (Zipper will stay inside for weeks/months but we had a good thing going with Ana—she always took care of her business outside, and we didn’t have to do a thing).

Definitely not a long-haired cat this time. Definitely not a “difficult” personality, because of my kids. Definitely not a pink nose (it leads to cancer if the owner doesn’t take precautions… which I did for Ana for a while, and always knew I should have done better). Definitely not a vocal cat. Ideally female. Ideally black. Ideally beautiful. Definitely a very young kitten—kittens over 6 months are all very well, but they’re already gangly teenagers, and (for better or worse) beginning to be set in their ways. Plus the wobbly kitten walk only lasts such a short time, and it’ll be 10-20 years before I get another cat.

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Okay, she has a pink nose. Maybe I’ll be a better parent this time.

Okay, she meows a lot. Like, a LOT. The RSPCA didn’t mention her being vocal, but I sat and watched her (and two other cats) for an hour, and during that time she meowed hello at me. So I had my suspicions.

She DID just get desexed (the day before yesterday—her whole belly is shaved as you can see below), which would certainly make me complain*. And she is deeply offended by closed doors (so far we’re restricting her movements to make sure she’s fully in the litter-using habit before she’s unsupervised in the kids’ rooms—plus, we’re observing her particular brand of destruction and cat-proofing accordingly).

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In terms of destruction, she’s pretty mild. It’s clear that it’ll take some doing to get her to exclusively use her scratching post (I bought a flat door-hanger style scratching thing today so she has a horizontal scratcher as well as the vertical ones). So far, she hasn’t climbed much at all—just the back of couches and armchairs, which is fine. She’s been on the dining table a few times, and the training procedure for that & appropriate scratching places has well and truly begun. She’s already pretty good though.

Both kids have been very slightly scratched. That’s fine: they were warned; they have fishing-pole toys that can be used without danger; they have been thoroughly trained on cat body language; and Zipper isn’t big enough to truly hurt anyone yet. She’s also gently bitten me a few times, which was actually perfect because I’ll be doing most of the direct behavioural training (so when she’s clearly in a playful mood I’ll deliberately put my own hands/feet/face in the danger zone and then tell her off when she inevitably bites or scratches me—this leads to an extremely trustworthy older cat, who will resist even the most egregious temptation).

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So far we know a few things about her: She’s clever enough that she knew her own (previous) name when I met her (that’ll make training either easy or hard, depending on her curiosity level); she’s all about the quality time (probably partly because she was so recently desexed), not much of a climber (which if it sticks will very much help in protecting our stuff) but a bit of a furniture/carpet scratcher.

She hasn’t chewed a single electrical cord, so that’s good!

 

Since I began writing this entry (on Tuesday, aka K-Day), her meowing has reduced significantly. That bodes well! She still sometimes meows when people leave the room—which is a bad habit, but shows how much she loves having company. On her first night, she slept on my pillow. It was clear that she would have liked to drape elegantly across my face and/or inside my ear, but in the end she settled down in a relatively sane manner (I could breathe, which is a priority for me).

TJ is so in tune with her that he came into my room to tell me “Zipper doesn’t like her collar” (absolutely true, although she’s getting used to it now). Louisette is in love, and since my parents’ extremely large puppy knocked her over she’s switched her allegiance from dogs to cats. There are already pics of her and Zipper on her classroom wall.

I imagine Zipper is already in the running to be their perfect listener for all their future emotional crises for the next 10-20 years. She’ll do a fabulous job. And she loves them too—yes, already. If there’s a loud noise or something else distressing, she’ll go to any one of us for comfort.

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Naturally I’m well and truly obsessed. Zipper is just lovely, and life is good. My blood sugar is down, and when Chris was sick for two days this week I did All The Things and coped pretty darn well.

So if anyone asks, she’s my therapy cat. Which is of course perfectly true.

*Huh. Technically I’m getting desexed myself sometime in the next year or so (as treatment for adenomyosis & suspected endometriosis)… for free, and it’s a much smaller op than I had last year. I can’t wait to have another great leap forward in my health!

 

 

Cat Names

Here is our brand new kitten:

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I spent a lot of time considering possible names. I needed something that could be short or long (I tend to shorten names and then lengthen them, eg Annaleise–> Anna–>Anna-bananaramagram), that the kids didn’t hate, that I didn’t mind shouting into the night (not, for example, “Fire” or “Figaro” or “Buttface”), and that wouldn’t be excessively embarrassing to the kids when they’re teenagers.

Here are some that made the shortlist:

Agatha Heterodyne (steampunk mad scientists from Girl Genius graphic novels)

Ada Lovelace (a real-life Victorian countess, inventor, and computer programmer)

Misty (for a white cat)

Leia (except I’m still broken up over Carrie Fisher’s death so I’d feel sad whenever I used it)

Isaiah

Loki (an excellent cat name, thanks to him being the God of Mischief… and Tom Hiddleston. Also it’s wise to use a character who’s dead* since they can’t then go and commit incest or something)

Ariel

 

For a black cat:

Raven

Shadow

Midnight

T’Challa (aka the Black Panther)

Chadwick (the actor who plays King T’Challa so very well)

Shuri (who is sometimes the Black Panther in the comics)

Letitia.

Or literally any other cast member of Black Panther.

 

Sherlock

Mimi (apparently that’s the “Rover” of cat names in China)

Mao (Mandarin for ‘cat’ and Louisette really wanted to call it ‘Meow’ for a while… but that’d definitely cause an increase in vocalisation)

TomTom (fun to say)

Mystique (for the X-Men character, plus it abbreviates to Missy)

Nox and/or Mademoiselle Brunet (one of my characters – good for a female cat that’s black, white, or brown)

Emmeline (ditto)

Matilda (ditto)

Patrick (ditto)

Amelia (after Ms Earhart; Louisette vetoed it on the basis that if the cat walked in while she was having one of our Amelia Earhart books read, the cat could be confused)

Gandalf

Merlin

Frodo

Samwise

Aragorn (shortens to Arrow, which is cool)

Qwerty/Qwertyuiop (I really liked this; the kids were deeply unimpressed)

Blaze/Diamond (based on markings)

Boudica

Scuttlebutt (fun to say, and piratical too)

Ping Pong (fun to say; good description of cat movement)

Snugglepot & Cuddlepie (yes, I suggested to Chris more than once that we get siblings, partly for their benefit and partly for the kids’ benefit… but he was right to say no. Two is too much for me.)

Bubble (again, fun to say)

Hiccup (fun to say, plus the hero from “How to Train Your Dragon” which is a cool movie/s/show/s/book/s)

But the name we finally settled on is….

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Zipper.

I like to say it, the kids see the logic in “she zips around” and it shortens to “Zip” or “Zip-Zip” and lengthens to “Zip-e-dee-do-ya”.

So that’s her name.

She’s another tortoiseshell/white cat. Apparently I have a type (also, the ultimate decision was between two cats, and neither was plain black which is what I was hoping for… but she’s soooo beautiful, isn’t she?)

*probably for reals this time.