Goodbye, Noble Merle, Kitty Baby

Yesterday wasn’t the best day ever.  I was stressed knowing our kitty, Merle, wasn’t feeling well, Mon Cœur (MC) was not being a good listener, I was losing patience with her, and I was scrambling to get housework done. I suspected the cause for Merle’s discomfort, and was worried about the financial cost for addressing it.

We’ve had Merle for over seven years, a cat given to us by my father-in-law, since I had complained of mice at our new country home.  Merle did not disappoint – he was an avid hunter.  He loved the great outdoors, and would often wake me just before my alarm so that I would put him out for a little early morning hunt.  He played well with our German Shepherd, the chickens, and the ducks, and kept the mice at bay for me.

He charmed all our visitors that came to the house.  Everyone loved his piercing blue eyes, his fluffy, soft coat of fur, and his way of leaning in and nuzzling for cuddles and pets.  

He tolerated MC and her tail-pulling antics.  He adored empty boxes from online orders, or any empty space for that matter, an empty cooler, holes dug in the garden, the bidet…yes. I assume the cool porcelain was a comforting contrast on all those hot summer nights.

He was often mouthy at the worst times – MC’s bedtime just as her eyes were rolling back and she was drifting to sleep or ten minutes before my alarm would go off, waking me up prematurely just so he could go outside.


Chouchou and I knew something was up, and we assumed that it was like before – he was blocked and needed some help.  After trying our usual at home remedies to no avail, we entrusted our local emergency vets to help him again.

The whole drive yesterday evening Merle cried, and my guilt compounded.  I had to drop him off and wait in my car.  When the doctor called with a prognosis, he said Merle was definitely blocked and it was going to cost in the thousands to fix him.  

Oh, and he added that after they fixed him, it was highly possible that this issue would recur.  The issue could present itself again maybe even in just a week.

Well, this was the third time we had to take him in for issues of this kind.  And it seemed to be increasing in frequency. I had feelings of inadequacy – being unable to properly take care of him. I thought worst case scenario, we’d have the doctors fix him once more and then we would find a better home and better fur parents for him.

Waves of emotions

The last time I took him to the vet for this issue was the day before I realized Millie had stopped moving.  I had spent the morning at the vets, with MC, worried sick for Merle, trying to color and keep calm with MC, and not even worried about Millie – she was safe in my womb, after all, I thought.  

Last night, after we decided to euthanize Merle, waves of emotions came back, accompanied by thoughts.  Was I doing the right thing? I should have brought him in sooner. The last time I was here, blah, blah, blah. This stupid mask is not letting me breathe as I am having this meltdown.

I was able to be with him when the vet put him down, being there in that place and watching Merle stop moving, and the vet confirm that he had passed overwhelmed me. 

I felt pains of guilt, waves of relief, and the overwhelming sense that nothing would be the same again.  My guilt came from knowing that Kitty needed help and I didn’t address it immediately.  I was relieved, knowing that I could now focus more fully on my current pregnancy without worrying about Merle.

Explaining to our toddler 

When I got back home, with Merle packaged in a tidy, white corrugated cardboard coffin with a purple flower affixed to the top, and an empty carrier crate, I asked Chouchou if he had told MC.  

“I told her kitty wasn’t coming home because he didn’t feel well.”  He wanted to spare her being scared, and while I disagreed, we both agreed we would wait until she asked questions.  I disagreed because at two and a half, she has already experienced the death of her Poopa (grandfather), unborn sister, and Papa (great-grandfather), she knows what death is and she has handled it with grace and typical toddler curiosity. 

No sooner did Chouchou leave to dig the hole for Merle, than MC asked me, “Why is Kitty not coming home?” 

“Kitty was sick and hurting and so he went to be in heaven with Poopa and Millie.  He is rolling over on his back for belly rubs from Poopa, and twitching his tail at Millie like he used to do to you.”

That response made MC laugh and smile. And it made me feel good to know I wasn’t hiding anything from her.   

Five minutes later…”Where is Daddy?”

“He’s digging a hole for Merle.”

“Why?” (This word is her go-to word, and drives me crazy sometimes!)

“Because even though Kitty’s soul is in heaven, I brought his body back to be here at home with us.”

“Oh.  Okay.”

This morning, MC woke up and wanted to go see Merle’s hole.  So after breakfast, I grabbed some seeds we had on hand.  We went out to where Chouchou had buried Merle, and I showed MC.  

Then I told her we could plant catnip or cat grass seeds on top of Merle if she wanted.  She chose the cat grass, and sprinkled some on his little kitty grave.  I covered them in dirt, and then she asked to go play in her new log cabin.

Our family will certainly miss Merle, and yet we know he’s not suffering anymore. MC and I will continue the discussion as she talks about him, wants to go visit him, or thinks of other questions to ask. We have had other similar discussions with her, and while some might not agree, I feel that I am doing right by MC by being open and honest with her about life.

Death is just one part of life, and although we’ve experienced a lot recently, there are ways to communicate the facts and celebrate the memories of those passed before us.


Four Easter Crafts

Recently, Mon Cœur (MC) has been on a creating streak. She loves to make art, and it’s so great to see not only the end product, but the approach she takes to making her art. We’ve been inspired by many different bloggers and craft books, and have had fun experimenting with different ways to make art…below are four of our favorites.

Water marker art

This was a fantastic idea I found from a crafting book, Preschool Art by Mary Ann Kohl. We took some watercolor paper and some markers and started drawing. After we made our designs, MC wanted un escargot (a snail), she grabbed the spray bottle and sprayed the paper. The colors ran a bit, blended some, and the end product was reminiscent of a watercolor.

She loves this craft, I think mostly because she is able to use a spray bottle. I love it because we are free to make any sort of design or picture, and it doesn’t have to be perfect. When we spray the art, it’s interesting to see the art changing. 

Cotton ball painting

This awesome idea came from a friend who knows how much MC loves art. I am so glad she found this idea, because I never in a million years would have dreamed up this way to make art. The idea came from The Cinnamon Mom, and she has so many different fun variations on this craft. 

We tried painting with the cotton balls and clothespins along with the leftover shapes from our stained glass craft (below). MC had a much easier time manipulating the cotton ball “paintbrushes” due to their shorter length.

I love that the clean up is much quicker and easier than when we use paintbrushes – I toss the cotton balls and let the clothespins dry, and this is a great way to recycle all of our egg cartons as paint palettes

Stained glass tissue paper art

These stained glass crafts remind me of childhood – they were a tried and true activity and it was always rewarding to hang it on the window and see the sun shine through it. For these Easter themed stained glass, I free handed sketches based off of templates from the blog Everyday Dishes. She had cute templates for an egg, a chick, and a bunny. 

We didn’t have contact paper, so we just used wax paper and a glue stick. I also didn’t have a “supply” of tissue paper, but I did have a collection of gift bags and tissue paper from baby and wedding showers past, so I dug into those.

MC’s favorite part? Using the glue stick and choosing the color paper to use. She often applied the glue and directed me to add a certain color tissue paper to a certain part of her egg. 

Chick and bunny finger print art

I found the cutest idea for Easter cards over at Sarahndipitie’s blog. I’ve always been big on sending cards – more so now with MC. I’m especially aware of how much a simple card or letter can really make you smile when you see it in the mailbox. So we try to pay it forward. We did this just a few weeks ago with quirky little April Fool’s Cards

For Easter, I sent about the same amount of cards as I would for Christmas – I think everyone could use a little cheer right now. Since I didn’t have enough stamps, I took a picture of the front and back of one card and I took a picture to text to friends.

MC had a lot of fun making the finger prints. I told her they would be chicks and bunnies, but she didn’t really see it and understand until she woke up from her nap and saw the sharpie additions I had made. My favorite chick was the one where she was trying to finger paint – we turned it into a flying chick.

I cheated because we ended up sending 30 plus cards in the mail – I made one sheet of four cards on card stock and one sheet of four greetings on card stock and then copied them. It was a time saver and also provided about 20 minutes of entertainment as MC watched the copies come out of the printer.

We are looking forward to a gorgeous day today, some egg dyeing, egg hunting, and family time. I hope that you have an amazing day. I’ll leave you with the quote I shared in our Easter card:

Strength grows in the moments when you think you can’t go on but you keep going anyway.

Karen Salmansohn

Stay strong and happy Easter.

When you’re swimming in eggs

How have you been?

This past week has been a little tough for me to find motivation and inspiration. At the beginning of our self isolation it seemed so much easier, but now after a month, with no true knowledge of when this will peak or end, it’s been a little more difficult to cheerfully greet each new day and find projects (of which there is no shortage here!) to tackle.

Today has been a gorgeous day, though, and we have many things to be grateful for, so we still try to focus on that.

Our chicks and ducks are very happy for the longer days and the warmer weather. One of the ways they show it is by boosting their egg production suddenly from 2 a day to about twelve. The ducks also begin to find a hiding spot where they begin collecting a clutch of eggs in a nest to hatch themselves.

After Mon Cœur (MC) and I checked the hen house for a few days, we collected and set aside almost thirty (!) chicken eggs.

I did something desperate, as I am actually (not so secretly) waiting for our flock to actually slim down…I found the egg incubator in the closet, and got it set up the following morning.

Eggs take 21 days to incubate, and well…what the heck are we doing for the next 21 days?! Hanging out at the house…and now, hatching eggs! We have all the necessary materials (including the rooster!) to incubate and we already have the set up for the chicks, which just needs to be prepared.

MC could not contain her excitement as she watched me prepare the incubator. She almost didn’t nap that day she was so enthralled. I promised her after nap that we would add the eggs, and that the incubator had to warm up enough first. She finally went to sleep.

That afternoon we loaded the eggs, she helped add a few in doucement (gently).

The next morning she ran first thing to the incubator. “Mommy there’s no chickies yet!” She was disappointed.

How we are building Concept of Time

Every morning since the incubator’s been set up and loaded, MC runs to the humming machine, and pulling up a chair looks in through the windows. “Mommy there’s no chickies!”

After the first morning, we sat down with her calendar and counted twenty-one days. She circled the date and I drew a picture of a chick hatching and wrote a quick description.

Then we went back to the first day and we counted ten days out. At the ten day mark, we will take out the eggs and candle them to see if there is a growing chick. She circled that date and I drew a picture of a flashlight and an egg.

Finally, she circled the eighteenth day, since we have to stop turning the eggs that day.

Every morning after her observation, “Mommy – there’s still no chickens!,” we go to her calendar and we look at the day. We are learning to mark an “X” on the current day and then count the days to see our upcoming milestone days.

Six days until candling – stay tuned for this adventure!

We are lucky to have the materials on hand to be able to participate in this observation of the chicken life cycle. It will keep MC entertained and be a great learning experience too. This should keep us busy in the mornings until our strawberry plants arrive for planting and our other garden veggies begin sprouting.

Curious about incubating eggs?

Below are some resources and the supplies we have on hand for incubating:

Supplies for incubating eggs:

  • Our Incubator, by Farm Innovations
  • Our egg candler, also by Farm Innovators
  • Murray McMurray – Hatchery where we sourced our most recent chicks. Our rooster is a crève cœur. They sell chicks, ducks, goslings, etc as well as eggs for hatching.


Poisson d’avril crafts

What is Poisson d’avril?

Poisson d’avril is today, the first of April. April Fish as the French call it, or April Fool’s for us in America.   In France, traditionally for kids, they complete crafts with fish and even tape paper fish to unsuspecting peers’ backs.  

French Together has done some amazingly extensive research and writing on the French tradition and the possible origins of the tradition here, so I’ve kept my explanation short. If you are at all interested in the origins and history, it’s worth the time to read it!

Before completing our Poisson d’Avril craft, I wanted to read a book…

Our favorite book featuring fish:

MC requested Rainbow Fish, and since we don’t have that book, I did a quick search online “Rainbow Fish read aloud.”  The Screen Actors Guild has done an amazing job of having different actors read various children’s classics and “animate” the pictures in the books to bring them to life. These books are all available to view at their website,

As a side note, at the beginning of our self isolation that we began a few weeks ago, MC would say, “I want [this book],” or, “When will we get [this book] from the library?” I had started a list of books that MC wanted.

This week, I decided that would be a longer wait than we were all ready for, so I have been searching for these book online. Using the book title with the words “read aloud” have really saved me. Bonus – it’s given me a couple extra minutes here and there to just. Breathe. and. Relax.

Our Poisson d’avril craft

We decided to celebrate the holiday by doing a little craft to send to friends. Although I don’t think many are in the mood for jokes this year, I thought that everyone would enjoy a little card with a fish on it.  

One of the biggest things we do every day is walk to the mailbox.  And I’ve always enjoyed receiving letters and cards – it’s even more of a joy to see someone has sent some correspondence right now.

I think it was also a good mystery for most of the adults (aside from a French teacher colleague!) to try to figure out what the heck “Happy Poisson d’Avril” means.

I cut out some construction paper fish, and Mon Cœur (MC) glued them to our postcards.  They dried while she napped, and afterwards she chose the decorations: stickers and glitter pens!  

She decorated each of the cards, then picked out which card would go to whom, and finally she dictated to me what she wanted to tell each person (mostly, “I love you!”).  

Life lessons: Mailing letters

MC loves to help and wants to be involved every step of the way.  Sometimes this is super helpful, and other times…I just haven’t figured a way for her to contribute without me getting super frustrated or trying to be completely hands on.  

We’ve tried putting stamps on and using the return address stamp before.  This time, I drew a purple square on the back of each envelope and a red rectangle on the front of each envelope.  

We worked one side at a time, and this time she had a visual where to put the postage stamp and where to “stamp” the return address.  We are still working on the return address stamp accuracy; overall, I’d say it was successful!  

I love the envelopes we use – they are super easy to seal and one more way that MC can contribute to preparing the letters to mail.

With all this time on our hands, I am trying to find ways to keep in contact with people – a text, phone call, video chat, or letter. It has been so nice to work with MC on these cards, to know that we’re sending a little bit of sunshine to each of these people. And it has brought me some rays of sunshine to receive pictures, texts, and phone calls from friends and family in response.

Lourdes and Healing

What is Lourdes?

Lourdes is a town in the southwestern part of France, located on the Gave river, between the larger town of Pau (to the west) and city of Toulouse (to the east). It is a pilgrimage town, receiving millions of pilgrims every year.

Made famous by Bernadette Soubirous, who at the age of 14 in 1858, witnessed multiple apparitions of a Lady at the grotto.

Many various reasons bring people to the site every year. To drink, bathe in, or collect the healing waters whose source is located in the grotto where all of the apparitions took place. To join in prayer in the numerous basilicas and chapels (six total) on site. To light a candle and offer prayers of intention.

Our Lourdes Experience

I have to admit, even though I mentioned the grotto of Lourdes in a post explaining our grotto for Millie’s garden, I was really quite ignorant about the town of Lourdes and famous story of Bernadette and the apparitions.

When we went to France, the town wasn’t even on my radar. However, our host family in Biarritz decided that this might be good for our soul. It was only about 2 hours from where they lived. They were right. Then again, they’re mes parents français (my French parents), so I wouldn’t expect anything less.

We arrived into Lourdes early afternoon, and wound around small streets driving past rows upon rows of hotels. Shuttered hotels. Hotels closed for the off season. We were in a religious resort town of sorts. We parked right next to the Gave and began our short half mile hike to the basilicas and grotto.

We wound through those same streets, open at street level with souvenir shops. They were selling empty bottles ranging in size from an ounce to two gallons with the express purpose of taking water from the source. There were rosaries, night lights, baseball caps, candles, mints made from the source water, cookies, handkerchiefs, books and coffee mugs. Something for everyone. A little over the top for me.

We arrived to the entrance of the pilgrimage site, with hundreds of people milling about. We were lucky to be there during the off season and were able to experience everything without the crowds. We spent some time walking around the outside – listening to a prayer by a chaplain at the grotto, drinking from the fountain, and lighting candles. Just sitting in the sunlight and taking in the fresh air. Trying to understand the history of the place and come to a calmness.

How it helped our healing

In some very profound ways it helped the continuous mending of our hearts.

We lit three candles. We remembered my Dad, we remembered Millie, and we celebrated our blessing – MC.

We visited the grotto and touched the smooth rock, worn down by the millions of visitors that do the same each year.

We drank from the line of water fountains that distributed water from the source.

We visited the basilicas. Yes, basilicas, plural. We took a moment to pause and reflect on life. To be grateful. To hope. To let go.

What now?

It’s been ten months, nearly to the day, since life without Millie became our new reality. We’ve been navigating life one day at a time, and trying to find all the silver linings that we possibly can.

For the past couple of months it’s been hard to stop thinking about what “should be” instead of focusing on what is. To wonder what “will be” instead of being present in the moment. To stop blaming myself for what I had no control over. To stop stressing over what isn’t. To be grateful for what we have.

Information for explaining the geography, history, and facts of Lourdes, France was taken from the following sources:

This is part of a mini series of stories shared from our recent trip to France. Visit my Instagram for more pictures from the trip. Previous posts include:

Do you have questions about our trip? Please email me or share in the comments section – I would love to answer them!