Monthly Archives: July 2011

RIP Little Fish

How could one become so attached to an animal the size of a small paper clip? Ask a kid. A kid who will tell you he just had the worst day ever.

We had just returned from a weekend trip, and my son found his fish at the bottom of the bowl. This is the third fish we’ve lost, but he was just as sad as if it were the first. He recently lost a pet hermit crab, Hermie, that we used to let race across our playroom floor. No tears. After a quick backyard funeral, my son wanted to know when he could get another one.

But these fish that he could never hold had a special place in his heart, a certain distinction: that of first pet. At the end of kindergarten, his teacher gave him two fish that had been used for science lessons in his classroom. Mosquitofish. Nothing fancy, and teeny-tiny. They were babies when we got them. Our family has enjoyed watching them chase each other and seeing their family grow. My son taught us everything he learned at school about them.

Fernick and Sammy, that’s what he named them. Turns out they would be parents the first year we had them, and we had to keep a watchful eye. No eggs, live birth, and these fish eat their very young. Our son told us the mommy fish often die after giving birth. He knew signs to look for when she was about to have the babies. Finally, one day I saw a tail hanging out of her. We scooped her into a waiting bowl of water and watched as she gave birth to three pinhead-size fish that looked like specks of dirt falling to the bottom of the bowl. A wiggle and shake and they took off swimming, all eyes.

Soon, just like our son had said, Fernick was dying. And it wasn’t quick. He took it hard.

Months later, a pregnant fish died before giving birth. He didn’t say much about it. I thought maybe we had that initial pet dying thing over with. But when he saw this time that it was Sammy, the dad, at the bottom of the bowl, his heart broke again. I tried to tell him it was one of the other fish. It had lived two years. That’s amazing for bait. But he loved them. He raised them into adults and saw them have babies. He’d had them nearly the entire span of his school career, an eternity to an eight-year-old. Why tears over two of the fish and not even Hermie? It made sense to his heart.

I guess your first pet is special no matter what it is. And size just doesn’t matter.


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“Mom, I’m Bored!”

We’re into our unscheduled weeks of summer. No trips, no camps, no real plans. Just me and the kids and some much-needed lazy days. Every summer I forget how hard this new routine can be. Going from the rigmarole of school to wearing your pj’s till lunch is a shock to the kiddies. To me it’s grand. Nowhere to be? I leap with pure joy.

I do freelance work from home and took some mornings recently to finish a project. A highly effective mother would have a plan in place to occupy the kids so she could work. It just so happens, I did have a strategy one day: a kid-friendly camera and a scavenger hunt list for the kids to take pictures of. Their photography exploration bought me enough time to finish work, put sheets on the beds, and trim a bush that was two feet higher than it needed to be. Fantastic!

The next day, no plan. Disaster. I noticed them hovering as I got dressed. They sighed. They paced. We began to fuss at each other. Hmm. My first instinct is always to get them to clean up. They usually find something else to do fast. But they cleaned. Boredom was that bad, huh? Back again, as if being next to me is an exciting alternative to the wonderland we have upstairs. Hmmm. With so many toys they forget they have, it should feel like Christmas.

My next trick is to let them know that whatever they find not fit enough to play with must be ready to give away. That threat always works. When left alone a little longer, the kids find something to do. They always do. And of course it involves an 8-foot-by-10-foot mess that I have to maneuver. Then it sits there like a minefield. I hop through it each time I enter the room, loathing it more and more. That night when I announce it’s time to clean up, I get lots of, “Ah, Mom, we’re going to play with it later” and “It took us so long to set it up.” I get it. I was a kid too. So I let them leave it another day or so…until I realize they aren’t really playing with it. And they’re bored—again.

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6:25 in the Morning

It’s 6:25 a.m. On a Saturday. It’s summer for Pete’s sake. And he’s up, our son the rooster. My husband and I know this because the toilet flushes. No matter what time he goes to bed, his eyes pop open at the first beam of sunlight. He peeks into our room. We don’t flinch. About 15 minutes later he comes in again. “Go read,” I mumble. It’s not even 7 a.m. I see him quietly peek in one last time a bit later before I finally get up.

When he was younger, he used to come in every three minutes and drive us crazy until one of us got up. And sometimes he’d wake up at 5 a.m.—in the dark. That was rough. Now at age 8, most of the time he’ll read. 

I’m not a morning person. He is. Don’t even talk to me until I’ve eaten and showered. I don’t care to chit-chat. The thing about my son is that he has been up for an hour or more and he is bursting with questions. Every sentence starts with Mom, and there are no breaths in between.

“Mom, if a whale washes up on the beach, probably three or four people have to carry it back out into the ocean.”

Well, they’re too big to lift.

“Mom, what happens if a dolphin washes up on the beach? I bet the lifeguards would have to come pick it up and put it back in the water.”

Well, a dolphin and a whale are pretty heavy and if one washes up, it’s sick or dying. Lifeguards don’t do that sort of thing.

“Mom, probably Animal Control comes and takes it to the animal hospital and they fix it.”

I tell him that marine biologists probably come take a look at it there on the beach. It’s really too early for me to function, but he wants some answers.

“Mom, do they have whale sharks at Sea World?”

I haven’t a clue.

“Mom, whale sharks when they open their mouths, it is bigger than our playroom.”

Man, that is really big.

“Mom, if a stingray washes up on the beach, probably the lifeguards can just pick it up by its tail and throw it back into the ocean.”

I don’t know if the lifeguards would touch it. (Oh, make it stop.)

“Mom, but if it’s a minnow, they can just fling it back in.”

Yes, they can just fling it back in. (My brain is hurting. But I smile.)

“Mom, did you know they make the Knight Bus Harry Potter Lego set and it comes with…”

(Not again.)


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Bedroom Basketball

My son adores his daddy, the big man he literally has to look up to, yearns to be like, and begs to play with. My son often requests one-on-one basketball games in his bedroom with my husband. I’m not sure why he repeatedly takes the pounding. He is all giggles over it and my husband is all game. My son laughs so hard he can’t breathe, and my husband takes every advantage to slam-dunk.

Anywhere in the house, one can hear the screaming and shouting, the thundering footsteps. It sounds like an entire team up there. Nope. Just my husband and son getting in that quality one-on-one time.

I usually stay away from these sweaty mismatched match-ups, but the other night my daughter and I had front-row seats. My husband takes it to the rim and dunks. “OOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH!” he shouts with all the gusto of an announcer calling the Eagles’ Super Bowl–winning touchdown, falling to his knees in utter glory.

My son somehow manages to score between the taunting, the wrestling moves that pin him to the floor, and the tricks that have him reeling with laughter. My husband stuffs the ball under the back of his shirt. “Where’s the ball?” he teases, then displays it as he makes a run toward the net. My son is cackling all the while. “Oh. Did. You. See. That?!” says his dad.

My son gets a few surprises in of his own. My husband takes one to the groin. Luckily, it’s just a foam ball. The crowd and the opposing team roar with laughter.

It’s been a close game, but Dad gets a second wind and a few more shots. “Oh man, off the ceiling, off the clock, and iiiiinn!!!” my husband screams.

48-40! Game over.

My son decides to just make practice shots for a bit. I’m sure his face just needs a break from all that smiling.


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