One of the reasons we wanted to get the kittens now is because we wanted The Caterpillar to grow up with them. The KoH and I both grew up with animals around the house and so had The Dormouse from the time she was born. There's something about having and caring for an animal that helps kids learn things. Responsibility for taking care of them, sure. But I'm talking more about the experience of having another creature in your house and learning to get along with it, be gentle with it, love it, share your space in the world with it. When The Dormouse was little, she quickly learned The Rules of Lizzy. You can pet Lizzy, but you have to respect Lizzy. Do not pet Lizzy behind her shoulders. Give Lizzy her space. When Lizzy growls, you must leave Lizzy alone. Do not taunt Lizzy. OK - maybe most of Lizzy's benefits were learning not to do something. Hank, who pretty much grew up with Lizzy but died a couple of years before, was a much easier cat, but he still had his rules too. With both of the cats though, there were moments when we could sit and they'd curl up on our laps purr loudly and make us feel loved. That's what I wanted for The Caterpillar.

I've talked before about my attention to The Caterpillar's language issues. It's been coming along, but slowly. I often have the mental picture of children's development as one of those old video games. They go running along on the developmental milestone trail until they come to a brick wall. And then they repeatedly bang their heads against that wall and chip bricks away one by one until they break through that wall and go running on to find the next wall.

Since kittens came to live with us less than two weeks ago (and completely made themselves at home within a matter of hours, might I add) it's spurred The Caterpillar to break through a language wall. This is why I believe that the kittens have magical powers.

She has not only started putting two and three words together, but she's much more likely to be understood and use language as her first attempt at communication than the grunts and whines we've become so accustomed to hearing. This is a benefit of the kitties I can get behind.

The other day, I gave The Caterpillar one of those buckets of baby ravioli. She likes to carry around the dish and eat them free range. I went to the bathroom and left her in the living room, when suddenly I heard shrieking of clamorous proportions. I ran back into the living room and found The Caterpillar, sitting on the ground, with her ravioli bowl between her legs, face stretched heavenward, and big dripping tears coming off her cheeks... as both kittens were crowded into her lap with their faces in her bowl, eating her ravioli.

Since that incident about ninety percent of her communication has now become reprimands for the kittens. She follows them around with her rhetoric and her outstretched finger, shaking it at them:

"No no no no kiey!"
"No no no no cimb!"
"No no no no unintelligible!"

The kittens have been subjected to at least a hundred new rules courtesy of The Caterpillar. Currently, they are not allowed to: climb, get on the table, scratch the furniture, sniff her hand, let their tails brush her leg, sit, sleep, eat their own food, use the litter box, and run. Oh and they're not allowed to touch her stuff. Woe be unto the kitty that TOUCHES HER STUFF!

It's very confusing, if you're a kitty I suppose, but they seem to be taking it in stride.