Monthly Archives: January 2008

Ode to Mr. Fish

When I walked in the door he was crying so hard you would have thought someone had died. Then I found out someone had died. Only, that wasn’t why he was crying.  He wasn’t crying because someone he loved had died.  He was crying because “DADDY FLUSHED HIM DOWN THE TOILET BEFORE I COULD DRAW HIM!” 

And that’s how I found out that Mr. Fish had bit the dust.

Mr. Fish, we got you at a school carnival back when Snags was three.  You were small, no longer than half an inch, I think.  And orange, that typical goldfish orange color.  You were swimming around in a plastic cup, hoping not to get bonked on the head by a ping pong ball tossed by little hands.  But you were. Snags landed a ball in your cup, and you were knocked on the head and likely a little stunned.  Some of the water in your cup sloshed out, but you were his. Someone manning the “Win a Fish” game dumped you into a baggie and you came home with us, glub-glubbing along, eyes bulging, but ever the strong one.  I imagine that you were still in a daze from that ping pong ball. We set you up in a fish tank all by yourself and with all that space and no other fish to fight with over food, you grew and grew into the size of a small Mrs. Paul’s filet.  And yet, we didn’t eat you. We kept you. We fed you. We loved you.  Eventually we moved you into a larger tank and got you some friends.  Snags insisted on that, he didn’t want you to be lonely.

But tonight my husband found you floating listlessly at the top of the tank.  If all the fish were playing a game where they were imitating letters of the alphabet, I understand that you were pretending to be the letter “U”, folded floppily in half, bobbing ever so slightly by the miniature current made by the tank’s air bubbles.  So my husband scooped you out.  He didn’t want your rotting remains to bump into the other fish, so he scooped you out and flushed you down the toilet.

You should know that Snags cried.  And cried and cried and cried and cried.  Then he sobbed incoherently for an hour more.  I thought, at first, that he was overcome with sadness at your death.  But it turns out that he was furious with his father for flushing you down the toilet. He wanted to draw a picture of you.  A picture of your sad and lifeless body floating in the toilet…

I’m glad he couldn’t find his camera. I fear that he will grow up to take photos of the dead in their caskets. Photos of me, perhaps.  He’ll print them out on his home printer and take them to work to share with his co-workers.  He’ll say, “Doesn’t Belle look so peaceful?” and his co-workers will think, “FREAK!”

Or maybe he will grow up to be a crime scene artist…  I am not sure why it was so important that he capture you all bent in half and floating like that. Something in a six-year old’s mind…

He is still barely talking to his father.  He claims that he is so mad he won’t buy his father a birthday present. I tried to reason with him through the tears. “Maybe Daddy didn’t hear you say that you wanted to draw him,” I suggested. Snags responded by deciding that if he does decide to buy his father a birthday present, he will buy him a hearing aid so he can hear him scream “STOP! I WANT TO DRAW HIM!” the next time a fish bites the dust.  His father’s birthday is in November.  It’s January right now.  I hope he forgets this whole ordeal, forgives his father, by then. I suppose I ought to raise his allowance a bit so he can save more money between now and then.  If he does decide on the hearing aid, well I think those things are pretty expensive.

Good bye Mr. Fish.  I hope you made it through the pipes okay.



Filed under death, fish, life, Mr. Fish, Snags

Those Pearly Whites

The tooth is leaning forward, a tiny spear pointing directly at his bottom lip.  Push against the outside of his lip and the little tooth might pierce it, poke all the way through like a drill. If it weren’t loose it would be standing up, in its socket, like the rest of his teeth.  But it won’t go back into formation.  It leans forward, a miniature drawbridge across the moat that is the space between his lip and gums.  He can twist it side to side, make the bridge swing to and fro, but it won’t stand back up.  A new tooth is creeping up behind it, blocking the path, a pebble in the gears.  The drawbridge cannot be closed.

It’s been like this for weeks.  Every morning and every evening I ask Snags to wiggle the tooth.  “Harder,” I say.  “Can you twist it?  Try twisting it all the way around.”  It twists some, but it won’t spin. I won’t touch it because loose teeth make me shiver in an uncomfortable kind of way, remind me of the various failed efforts to extract my own loose teeth so many years ago. Snags won’t wiggle or twist too hard because he doesn’t want to hurt himself.

But I am tired of looking at the hanging tooth. It looks painful, although I know it’s not. I am beginning to wonder if I will have to haul him to the dentist and have her pull it.  How many weeks can a tooth hang on?  How can he eat with such a wiggly tooth?  How can he talk with the tiny white spear scraping against his lip with each syllable he utters?  Thinking about it too much leaves me covered in goose bumps.

I’m desperate for the tooth to fall out.  It disturbs me. I want him to yank it out. “Snags,” I say, “Did you know that if you loose a tooth on the night before a holiday that the Tooth Fairy will give you FIVE dollars for the tooth?” Surely, this, the promise of bonus money, will be enough to get him to tug a little harder.

“Really? Wow,” he says, and he reaches into his mouth to wiggle the tooth some more.  But at bedtime the tooth is still hanging on and Snags is upset.  He really wants to earn that five dollars, but he just can’t bring himself to snap that hanging tooth free of the vine that holds it.  He worries over it and wants to know if it’s only the night before a holiday or if the promise of five dollars extends into the day of the holiday and the day after.  I hedge, saying I’m not sure, but that I think it probably extends to those days as well.  The tooth’s remaining days of hanging out in Snags’ mouth are numbered. So is the five in my wallet. 

Morning comes and the holiday, the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. is official.  And the tooth remains.

Schools are closed so we visit a neighbor.  Snags and his friend go down to the basement to build with LEGOs.  I’m in the kitchen, talking to my friend when Snags comes up the stairs, a look of utter horror on his face.  His mouth is agape, his hand extends toward me. “Mom!,” he whispers.  I am taking stock, trying to figure out what the problem is, why he looks so ill.  I start to reach for the EpiPen in my pocket.  Maybe he is having an allergic reaction to food found in my neighbor’s basement.  I ask what is wrong, but Snags isn’t talking.  He looks like he’s hardly breathing.  A frightened ghost shuffling towards me.

My friend figures it out first.  “You lost a tooth!” she exclaims. 

“My mouth is bleeding,” he replies.

I begin to relax.  It’s not an allergic reaction.  He can talk.  He looks stunned and ill and pale because his mouth is bleeding.  This is nothing.  I uncurl my fingers from the Epi Pen in my pocket.

The Tooth Fairy comes that night as expected.  Snags calls to me in the middle of the night.  I glance at the clock as soon as I hear him yell, “MOM!”  I go to him.  “What is it?  What’s wrong?”  In the dark he shows me the five dollar bill that he found under his pillow.

“The Tooth Fairy came? That’s nice,” I mumble.  “Now go back to sleep.  It’s 3:00 a.m.!”  I cannot believe he woke me up for this.

He is six years old. I have a small collection of his baby teeth hidden away. Teeth he lost, teeth the Tooth Fairy left me. 

The first tooth was a great event, and of course, you always keep the very first tooth.  It marks something special, the official beginning of growing up, the loss of the baby teeth, the appearance of the adult teeth.  The second tooth, I have that one too.  And now, I have this third tooth, and I realize it’s a collection.  Of teeth.  Not unlike Kevin the mail clerks’ collection of owl beaks from the television show Just Shoot Me!
So I search the internet.  I am looking for wisdom and advice from other mothers.  What do they do with all of these baby teeth?  Many, it appears, keep them.  They say their children, once they were past the tooth fairy stage, enjoyed looking at all of their lost baby teeth.  Other people, I read, keep the teeth on the hope that scientists might one day extract stem cells from them.  They might one day use them to cure age related diseases.  But in order to do that, the parents have to specially prepare the teeth and send them off to a tooth bank for safe keeping.  All I have are three dried out little teeth, sitting in the back of a dresser drawer.

I just finished reading Alice Sebold’s book, The Lovely Bones, and I can’t stop picturing Mr. Harvey sitting in his basement amongst the bones as I realize that I sleep in my room at night, amongst the teeth.  And I get chills all over again.


Filed under life, loose tooth, Snags, teeth

A Science Experiment Yields Cake

This morning, over breakfast, Snags comes up with an idea for a science experiment.  My husband thinks it’s an awful idea. Snags thinks it’s a wonderful idea. I am stuck somewhere in the middle, like the narrator in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, thinking it’s both: a wonderful, awful idea. Snags wants to take Gobstopper and Dum Dum brand fruit flavored candy canes that we have left over from Christmas and put them in a bowl with hot water and baking powder and bake it to see if it will turn into a cake. He wants to see what will happen to the Gobstopper candy canes when they hit the water because they are layered with different colors and flavors throughout.  He figures the water will have some interesting effect on them, and the baking powder might make them bubble.  My husband announces that this will never work. I am reminded of Sharon’s secret recipe for freckle juice and I decide that no matter what happens, I am not eating this concoction.

I haven’t even swallowed the last of my toast and already Snags is yanking mixing bowls from the cabinets.  He’s breaking brightly colored candy canes up into pieces and placing them in the largest mixing bowl we own.  He adds a ½ cup of flour on top of the candy canes, then dumps in two ½ cup measures of hot water.  He stirs the lot and comments that it “doesn’t look like batter yet.”  I suggest that we add some more flour to thicken it up, so we add scoops of the stuff until he decides the mixture is thick enough to be called a batter.  Snags is ready to bake it at this point, but I suggest that if he wants it to turn into a cake, that we might want to add some sugar and some egg replacer (since he’s allergic to eggs). At the last second we decide to melt a chunk of margarine and I help Snags stir it into the mix for good measure. 

Only then does it occur to me to ask Snags if he actually peeled the plastic wrapper off each candy cane before putting it in the bowl.  He doesn’t sound certain as he says, “I think I did…”  I decide that I better check, and luckily so, because as I fish through the odd pale purple-brown colored batter I find several pieces of broken candy cane still encased in clear plastic shrink wrap. 

Snags pulls out a cake pan and we grease it, flour it, and dump the batter in. I set the timer on 350 degrees for 25 minutes and Snags watches the action through the little window in the oven door.  He announces at least once a minute that he can see it rising.  And yes, for those of you keeping score, that would be 25 renditions of “it’s rising!”

When the timer goes off, I stick a toothpick into the middle of the pan and it comes out clean.  I figure whatever we have cooked up is most likely finished, so I remove the cake pan from the oven and set it on the stove top to cool.  Snags looks at it and decides it isn’t complete until he dumps a half cup of cake sprinkles on top. 

After the “cake” cools, Snags wants a piece.  I cut into it.  It looks like a cake.  It smells like a cake, albeit a VERY fruity one.  It cuts like a cake.  At least the top does.  The bottom is a hardened mass of melted candy canes that have to be chiseled from the cake pan.  I put a piece of the cake onto a plate, a chiseled melted candy mass beside it. 

Snags eats it, declares it “Yummy!” and notes that “Daddy said this wouldn’t work!” 

“Yeah, well what does HE know?” I reply.

My husband wanders into the kitchen. “You cooked that?” he asks.  “I thought you were going to dump it in the trash.” 

“We had to bake it, it was an experiment, we had to see what would happen,” I say.

Snags’ science experiment is a success…

My husband eats one piece, then asks for another.  I’m still thinking about Freckle Juice.  And I’m still not eating any of it.


Filed under cake, life, science experiment, Snags

Less is More

How much would you pay for a bottle of water?  Because I am looking at my room service receipt and apparently, I just paid $2.95 for a twelve ounce bottle of Dasani. 

OH, NO you did NOT! I can hear you shouting.

OH, YES I DID! I shout back in response.

And the sad thing is, the soda machine is  I could have gone there and bought a twenty ounce bottle of Dasani for $2.00.  But I did not want to pay that much for a bottle of water, so I figured I’d just order a bottle along with my chicken sandwich.  Shame on me.  I paid more for eight ounces less.  This, I am now convinced, is how they came up with that saying, “less is more”.

The sandwich was reasonably priced and sounded rather tasty: grilled chicken topped with melted pepper jack cheese and grilled pepper and onions on a roll, a side of fries, and a pickle all for less than $10.00.  But when the room service girl knocked on my door with the tray in her hands, I was on my cell phone listening to my son go on about a ship he was building with his Star Wars LEGOs and I found myself quickly confused.  There was a glass of orange juice on the tray that I hadn’t ordered.  There was the little bottle of water, and there were two additional glasses of water.  Did the juice and the glasses of water come with the sandwich?  If so, why didn’t they tell me that on the phone?  Why didn’t they ask, “Are you sure you want a bottle of water?  Your meal comes with two glasses of water and a glass of juice.  You know, in case you didn’t get any at breakfast.  Juice is full of vitamin C…” Or was the girl taking the drinks to another room, perhaps? 

To be sure, I told her that I hadn’t ordered any orange juice, but that fact only appeared to confuse her.  She looked like she might take my whole tray away while she sorted out the problem.  “That’s okay,” I finally told her.  “Leave it here, I’ll drink the orange juice.”

“It’s really good,” she offered hopefully. “And it’s fresh squeezed,” she added, for extra assurance.  But later, as I drank the juice I thought, yeah, fresh squeezed by Tropicana perhaps, but not by someone with a bag of oranges standing next to a juicer in your kitchen downstairs.  Later still, when I got over the shock of the size of the water bottle and the fact that I paid almost $3.00 for it, I noticed the price of the single glass of juice.  It was $4.25! 

Yes, I know I could have had an entire gallon of Tropicana from the grocery store at that price.  But I am out of town, ordering room service in a hotel, away on business.  And tonight everyone I am here with claimed they weren’t hungry for dinner or they were going to eat somewhere I wasn’t particularly interested in.  So I thought I’d take a shot at room service.  Only, it seems room service took a shot at me.  Or at my wallet, anyway.  Maybe I’ll steal a towel to get back at them…


Filed under bottle of water, price of water, room service, travel

Before You Send My Account to Collections…

Dear Hightlights Magazine:

I am in receipt of your Past Due notice.  I received it around 8:00 p.m. last night, when a neighbor who lives up the street from me, knocked on my door.  It was dark, and I wasn’t expecting anyone at that hour, so I almost did not open the door.  But when I saw it was an elderly woman, I yelled through the door “Who is it?” and she yelled back, “It’s me,  your neighbor.”  So, I took a chance and opened the door, all the while shooing the dog from her feet and waving a spoon and a stick of margarine at my unexpected visitor because I had been in the middle of making popcorn for my son, and he wanted “butter” on it. I was going to cut off a chunk of margarine from the stick and melt in the microwave, and pour it over the air popped popcorn, but you see, I was interrupted.

“I keep getting your mail,” my neighbor said as she handed over an envelope addressed to my son.  I thanked her, but I thought it was an odd thing to say, “I keep getting your mail,” when I could not recall her ever stopping by to drop off any of my mail before.  How does getting one piece of mail equate to “keep getting your mail”?  Then she said, “There’s a Highlights thing in the envelope too, my husband opened it by mistake.” 

“I didn’t know your name,” she said.  “So I called the people’s phone number,” she continued, and she turned to leave as I shooed the dog back into the house so I could return to making popcorn.

I handed the envelope to my son and it turned out to be an invitation to a birthday party for one of his classmates.  I thought it was odd that the mother would include a Highlights form in a party invitation, and I was right.  It was odd.  She had not.  It was an overdue account notice from you.  I assume this notice was part of the “Keep getting your mail,” that my neighbor referred to.

And so I am writing this letter to defend myself.

Your over due notice says:

The situation briefly, is this:
• You ordered a Highlights subscription.
• We mailed several issues.
• We have not received your payment.
• Your account is past due.
To avoid further collection action, pay this bill immediately.

In my defense, please note that:
• I ordered a Highlights subscription in September.
• I did not receive ANY issues.
• I did not receive a request for payment but I attributed that to the fact that I NEVER RECEIVED YOUR MAGAZINE.

I will pay your bill.  But I respectfully request that you send me the “several issues” that you claim to have mailed.  Because you did not mail them to ME.

Perhaps you mailed them to my neighbor, and seeing a children’s magazine, perhaps she threw them out, or perhaps she gave them to her own grandchildren.  At any rate, she did not give them to me, but I assume they are part of the “keep getting your mail” that she was referring to.  I want the issues I will be paying for.  Pronto.

Also, please note that your mission statement on your website claims:

This magazine of wholesome fun is dedicated to helping children grow in basic skills and knowledge, in creativeness, in ability to think and reason, in sensitivity to others, in high ideals and worthy ways of living—for children are the world’s most important people.

I seriously question the “helping children to grow in basic skills and knowledge” part when it appears that somebody on your staff, a dyslexic perhaps, reversed a 9 and a 6, which resulted in the magazine going to the wrong address.  I filled out the subscription form and mailed it myself, and I know that I would never have reversed those numbers, and so the error must have come from someone on your staff either as they read the form or as they input it into your computer system.  Please correct this error, send me the back issues that I am owed, and I will gladly pay your invoice.



Filed under customer service, highlights magazine, overdue notice

Paper or Plastic? Who Cares?!

Paper or plastic is the least of my worries when I shop for groceries.  And the truth is, I couldn’t care less about the type of bag my groceries go into.  My son has food allergies: he is allergic to milk, eggs, peanuts, and tree nuts.  Although some families choose to keep an allergen free household, some families do not.  I fall into the latter category.  My son is six.  He understands his allergies, he knows what he must avoid, he remembers the feeling of being stuck with the Epi Pen to combat past allergic reactions, so he doesn’t touch the foods that he is allergic to.  But there is nutrition to be gained from milk, from eggs, from nuts: calcium and protein, healthy fats.  Plus, they just taste good. So I buy those foods for my husband and I to eat even though I admit that I cannot hear the “Got Milk?” campaign without repeating it in my head this way: Got Milk Allergy?  And as I shop for milk and eggs and nuts I think of those items as “poison”. 

And so grocery shopping involves more than list making and running out to the store to pick up a few items.  It involves label reading and gut instinct checks and decision making.  It involves space planning and stage management, even traffic management skills, and it involves, of course answering the question “Paper or plastic?”

When you have a food allergy you do not eat ANYTHING unless you can read the ingredient label on it.  And because manufacturers can and do change ingredients often and without warning, you have to read the label each and every time you purchase something to eat.  Since I am the parent, and since my son is six and just learning to read, that job falls on me.  At the store this means I pull an item from the shelf and read the ingredient label and look for any allergen warning statements before putting the item in my cart.  Bought pop tarts last week and need more?  Well, you’ll have to read the label again before you buy them.  Even if it’s the same flavor?  Yes, even if it’s the same flavor.

Sometimes it’s not as simple as just reading the label.  An item may appear safe, the ingredients may all be fine, but then you notice that the same company makes a different flavor of the same item, and that different flavor contains one of your child’s allergens.  Consider something like biscuit mix or spaghetti sauce or cereal, as these items often come in different varieties.  The company that makes biscuit mix, and the company that makes spaghetti sauce also sell similar versions containing cheese.  How confident do I feel on any given shopping trip that the two products weren’t run on the same production lines? The label doesn’t have to tell me about that.  And even when I know what the company line is, because I talk to them often enough about their products, still, seeing the two products side by side on the grocery store shelf sometimes gives me pause.  So I check my gut instinct.  If I feel funny about buying something on any given day, I listen to my gut and put the item back on the shelf.  Maybe this week I’ll make biscuits from scratch.

Since my husband and I drink milk and eat things like cheese and ice cream and eggs, when I buy those items, I have to be a space planner as I fill my grocery cart.  I pay attention to where I am setting the “poison”, the foods that my son is allergic to.  In my mind I worry about them.  At home I have a system to keep the poison away from the safe food, but in the grocery cart, they all mingle.  It makes me nervous.  There is a chance, even though it’s probably remote, that the milk might leak on the bag of bread.  And the plastic bag sometimes has snags in it.  What if a tiny speck of milk protein got on the bag in just the right spot, along a seam where there is a tiny hole, almost too small to see?  And what if I make my son a sandwich and he reacts from the milk protein that leaked from gallon of milk onto the bread bag, and in through that tiny hole?  How awful would I feel then?  And so I am careful to separate the poison from the safe foods as much as I can.

And later, when putting the food onto the conveyor belt at the cash register, I am the stage director and traffic cop.  I load the groceries carefully, being sure to keep the poison separate, ever watchful as the cashier reaches over items to grab something that might better fit into the bag she is loading.  I move food back toward me on the conveyor belt, pulling back the milk, pulling back the ice cream, pushing forward the ground beef and the apples.  Bag the dishwasher detergent, the bathroom cleaner, bag the apples with it, the potatoes, I don’t care.  If chemicals spills all over the fruit I’ll wash it off.  But by God, keep the milk away from the bread, the eggs away from the grapes.

When I get home I read the labels again as I put the groceries away.  I write on the boxes and cans and bottles to indicate if they are safe or not safe for my son.  When I am tired, or when I have bought something new that my son has never eaten before, I hand it to my husband for him to read the label, a second set of eyes. A second opinion. A safety net.

Once more when I get ready to make something. I check the label once more, just to be sure.  Remember I’ve already read the label at the store, and I read it again and marked the food when I put it away, but still, I cannot help it.  What if I missed something?  And so now it’s three times, like somebody with OCD.  But you can’t be too careful when your child has food allergies. So read the label each and every time, and do that three times.  Keep the allergen containing foods away from the safe foods.  Mark them with a black sharpie, or stickers, red for things that aren’t safe, green for things that are.

And don’t worry about paper or plastic.  That’s the least of your worries.


Filed under food allergies, grocery shopping

Hide and Go Fish

Snags was three years old when he changed his name to “Eddie”.  My sister-in-law had bought him a cute little pair of boxer shorts with a racecar on the front.  Only, Snags refused to wear them until the day that he watched a Fisher Price Little People video that had a scene in it where one character, Eddie, was driving a race car.  Then, like a typical three year old, Snags ran upstairs to his room, dug the boxer shorts out of his dresser drawer, and put them on, with the intent of keeping them on.  For EVER.  Snags could not be parted from those boxer shorts without considerable effort on my part.  Months went by where Snags called the little boxer shorts his “Eddie Underwear” and he insisted on wearing them DAILY because, as he said, “They make me turn into Eddie.” 

That is how I found myself washing the same pair of underwear out every. single. night. for months. so they would be clean for Snags to wear the next day.  And that is also how I found myself buying a fish tank, Snags’ reward for no longer needing diapers. 

But I wasn’t good with fish.  Once, when I was a teenager, I had a goldfish that I’d gotten from somewhere.  It lived in a bowl in my room.  One summer as my family got ready to go on vacation I thought it ridiculous to pay a friend to feed one lousy goldfish, so I set about trying to kill it.  I didn’t want to outright flush the thing, because that would have been fish murder.  Instead, I poisoned its water with things like bleach and Seabreeze and vinegar.  Anything clear that wouldn’t be noticeable to the untrained eye, but that might make the fish go belly up.  Only, it didn’t work.  The stupid fish lived, thrived in fact.  And I ultimately had to pay a friend to feed it while we were on vacation.

Anyway, it wasn’t long before the fish in the tank that we bought Snags came down with ICH.  My husband and I treated the tank but there was too much ICH and one afternoon, one of the fish, Dorothy, bought the proverbial fish farm.  My husband scooped her out of the tank and flushed her off to fish heaven or wherever it is that dead goldfish go when flushed, and I was left to break the news to Snags.

I pulled Snags up onto my lap and said to him “Snags, I’m really sorry, but your fish Dorothy got really sick and she died.”  I was worried that he might cry at the news but to my surprise he jumped up and asked to see her.  I had to explain then that he couldn’t see her, how that wasn’t possible since his father had flushed her down the toilet.

“Why?”  Snags asked.

“Well,” I stammered, “because that’s what you do with a fish when it dies. I am really sorry, Snags, are you upset?” I asked.

“No,” he said.  “I am not upset but when Emily Elizabeth dies I am going to flush her down the toilet!  Even though there was a good chance that Emily Elizabeth would die, because the entire tank was infected with ICH, I couldn’t help think back to my days of trying to kill my own goldfish, and I worried that Snags had inherited my murderous fish genes.

The next morning we woke up to find that Emily Elizabeth had indeed died.  I scooped her out and Snags flushed her down the toilet and asked, rather matter of factly, “Mom, what do they do with the fish when they get to the sewer plant?”  So obviously, there was no fish heaven in Snags’ mind.  Or if there was, you didn’t get there through the plumbing. 

We gave up on fish for a while after that.  Then, one day Snags won another goldfish at a carnival.  We brought it home in a plastic bag and dug out the old fish tank again.  We set the tank with the little goldfish up on Snags’ dresser.  Just a fish, in a tank.  No gravel, no nothing.  Why bother?  I thought.  I figured the fish would be dead in a matter of days anyway.

Except it wasn’t.  This fish, whom Snags named “Mr. Fish” grew, and grew, and grew and grew.  He was the lone fish in a 10 gallon tank, and he didn’t seem to mind being alone.

Snags wasn’t satisfied, however.  He wanted more fish.  He wanted a pond in the backyard complete with koi and waterfalls.  We settled instead for a barrel pond with a pump, a plant, and four largish pond goldfish.  Not koi, but some of their smaller sized and less expensive cousins.  This, it turned out, was a mistake.  The pump kept clogging from the fish waste.  The water got dirty.  Then the barrel started leaking.

I was all for letting the fish flop around in the empty drained out barrel until they stopped flopping, but my husband thought that was cruel.  And Snags, well HE wanted an “airline” tank.  A fish tank with a treasure chest that could open and close, one where air bubbles came out and rose to the surface.  So, in an effort to spare the pond fish an early death, I took Snags to the pet store and we bought a 30 gallon “airline” tank.  We set it up, we moved the pond fish into their new home.  And we moved Mr. Fish into the tank as well.  And then we got four pretty little fantail goldfish.  And then Snags won another teeny tiny goldfish at yet another carnival.  We dumped them all into the big tank.  And there they have lived happily ever after…

That is, until a few days ago, when my husband noticed that one of the fantail goldfish was missing.  Gone.  Disappeared.  Not there.  Vanished.  Without a trace.  Now tell me, how does that happen?  Did the fish have a fight?  Did the other fish gang up on this one particular fish and chew her up?  She’s not floating at the top, she’s not lying on the bottom, she’s not stuck inside the clamshell that spits out bubbles of air.  She’s gone!

Did she jump out one day after my husband fed the fish and accidentally left the hood open?  Did she flop out onto the carpet and die there?  I think if she had flopped out and died under the tank cabinet that we would have smelled something fishy.  Don’t you?  Besides, I looked all around, the fish is not on the carpet, not under the tank cabinet.  Did she flop out of the tank and land on the floor and maybe our dog ate her up like a Scooby Snack?  I suppose it’s possible, but like Snags says, “it’s unlikely.”  So where did the fish go?  I have no clue.  The fish is just…gone.  And Snags?  He’s totally over the “I want an airline tank” phase.  I pointed out the missing fish to him and he couldn’t care less.  He simply shrugged his shoulders and went back to building a Star Wars battle scene with his LEGOs.  But I am perplexed.  I am counting fish in my head.  Maybe the missing fish never existed.  Maybe we only ever had three fantail goldfish.  Or maybe my husband secretly scooped her up and flushed her down the toilet.  Maybe the murderous fish genes are in him too. 

And then I think back to the days when we battled ICH and lost all of our original fish.  How I was so worried about Snags learning about death in this way, watching fish die, and flushing them down the toilet.  After each fish passed I’d ask him again if he was upset and finally, one day, he’d had enough.  He turned to me and with an exasperated sigh said, “Mom, I’m not upset.  I didn’t even want this tank.  I wanted a fish BOWL!” And I can’t help wonder now, if maybe I should have listened to him then.


Filed under fish, humor, life

Banana Splits: The New Health Food

“Mom,” my six year old son said to me, “I think there should be rules against showing some kind of stuff on television.  Those shows you were watching, they should not be allowed to have that on television, don’t you think?”

And I had to think back.  What was I watching? Prison Break?  Nope, we don’t have HBO.  The Sopranos?  Nope, again, no HBO and besides, I think that’s over and done with.  Plus, this kid watches Star Wars, full of explosions and chases and The Force that kills.  But then I remember.  I was watching episode after episode of a show about an obesity treatment center in New York. Brookhaven something or other.  It was New Year’s Day and I turned on the TV as I stepped onto the treadmill.  I was curious as to why an obesity treatment center would let its patients have access to phones and the front door so they could call and order a large pizza with extra toppings, or Kung Pao Chicken with a side of pupu platter.  Some of the patients have lived at this place for 2 years, even 4, without losing any weight at all.  It wasn’t hard to see why, given the contraband food that was coming in and being consumed in the dark of night, but it was hard to fathom that the insurance companies paying for the treatment hadn’t questioned the fact that 800 pound Mary was still weighing in at 800 pounds after 3 years of “treatment”.

So I left the television on and watched with a sick fascination as I ran on the treadmill and I didn’t think much of it when my son wandered downstairs and sat quietly on the sofa.  I guess at some point I noticed that he was staring, somewhat transfixed at the television, at the 700 pound man with the elephantitis of his leg, but then again, so was I.  In hindsight, I should have turned the TV off.

It’s a new year, and people are making resolutions to lose weight and get in shape, and although this show didn’t offer the same kind of motivation as say, the season finale of The Biggest Loser, where you think if they can do it I can too, it had I thought, some motivational aspect to it.  The negative reinforcement that makes you run just a little bit faster or a little bit farther as you think to yourself “No way would I let myself get like that.  Certainly I’d give up the chocolate ice cream the moment I realized that I wasn’t able to squeeze through my front door anymore…”

After the treatment center show ended came episodes of Big Medicine, where they showed patients undergoing gastric bypass surgery and full body lifts to remove excess skin that remained after such profound weight loss.  And still I watched, hoping to use the negative reinforcement as motivation to keep me on the treadmill for just another mile, or maybe even two.

Later that evening I tucked my son in bed and left his room.  I had only taken about three steps beyond his bedroom door when he called me back, “Mommy,” he cried, “I need you.”  So I turned back, opened his door.  “What is it sweetheart?  What do you need?”

“I’m worried,” he cried, as tears started to roll down his face. “I am afraid I am going to be like those people when I grow up.”

“What people, sweetheart? Who are you talking about?”

“Those people on TV, the ones with the tumors…” he sniffed.

And again I had to think back, those people on TV with the tumors?  Then it hit me, the obesity clinic show…  The man with elephantitis, the woman with the lipomas… 

“Oh sweetheart!” I said.  “Come here,” I said, and hugged him.  “You won’t grow up to be like that I promise.” 

“I won’t? How do you know?” he cried, his face now wet from a river of tears.

“Because,” I said, “Those people, they just didn’t take very good care of themselves, they didn’t eat enough healthy food or get enough exercise.  And some of it’s genetics…”

“What’s genetics?” he asked.

“Genetics… genetics are like a secret code that comes from your parents to make you who you are.  I have brown eyes and you have brown eyes and daddy had brown eyes,” I explained, “that’s genetics.”  “And besides,” I went on, “Daddy and I aren’t like those people on TV, are we?” 

“No,” he admitted.

“So” I said, “It’s not in your genetics to be like that.  And even if it was I wouldn’t let you get like that.  I would not let you eat too much junk food. I would make you eat healthy food.  You play outside, you ride your bike, you get lots of exercise.  And you eat carrots and other healthy food…  Plus, you know what?  With your food allergies you can’t eat a lot of junk food anyway.  You can’t get a cheeseburger and french fries from McDonalds or Burger King.  We cook mostly healthy food at home,” I said.  “And besides,” I went on, desperate to convince him, “Some of those people probably eat bowls of potato chips for breakfast, and you don’t do that, you eat cereal.”

“Yeah,” he said, starting to brighten a little, “and cereal is healthy, right?”

It took about 30 minutes to convince him that he would be okay, that he wouldn’t end up like the people on television, so obese that they were confined to a hospital bed and unable to walk more than a few short steps, so obese that they suffered a host of related conditions such as cellulitis and elephantitis and seven pound tumors composed of fat and growing off the side of their thighs.  I felt sad for these patients.  I was curious about the ones who wanted help yet cheated on their diets nightly by ordering pizzas and breadsticks to eat as a snack after the evening meal had already been served.  I was bothered that the patients could remain at the clinic for years without making any progress, away from their families who missed their presence at home.  I was irritated that the show didn’t have follow-ups or success stories to share, no “It’s been 2 years since Mary left the clinic and she’s maintained her 500 pound weight loss despite all odds…”  But mostly, I was saddened that the show had frightened my child to the point that it took 30 minutes to dry his tears and calm his fears. 

I was nervous the next evening at dinner.  Would my son refuse to eat?  Would a plate of food remind him of that television show?  But everything was fine.  He announced that we should have a rule to eat healthy foods and then he cleaned his plate and asked for a banana split for dessert.  “Bananas,” he told me, “are a healthy food! So we can eat banana splits!  But you know what, Mom?” he continued, “Do you know why I don’t like salad?  Because it doesn’t have any taste.  Or it has taste but it also doesn’t have taste?  So not having any taste gives it an X. And the taste it does have gets an X.  So that’s a double X.  And a double X is bad.  But actually… well, I just hate salad.  And I still think we need some rules about what shows we can watch on TV in this house.  That show you were watching, that shouldn’t be allowed to be watched anymore, okay?”

“Okay,” I agreed.  “I’m sorry that show scared you.  We won’t watch that anymore,” I said, as I turned to prepare his “healthy” banana split, complete with half a banana, a spoonful of soy ice cream, colorful sprinkles, and a sour cherry ball on top.  Health food, indeed.


Filed under food, health food, life, TV

His Idea of a New Year’s Eve Party

It’s New Year’s Eve and I’ve spent the day watching a marathon of episodes of Jon and Kate Plus Eight.  At some point it occurs to me that I can’t take the crying and the whining anymore.  It’s something I can’t stand in my own house, from one child, so why am I watching eight children do this on television?  Why is the film crew placing boom microphones right above the crying children?  As if their crying wasn’t already loud enough.  It also occurs to me that this family on the screen in front of me goes to a lot more places than we do. The dad has a job but the mother isn’t paid for staying at home with the kids.  How do they manage these trips to New York, and Florida, and California?  Then I remember, oh yes, they are being filmed.  The TV people probably have something to do with it all… 

Snags has been watching some of these episodes as well, but by 3:00 he’s getting bored.  His eyes are dark and he’s yawning.  “What can I do, Mom?” he asks.  Hmmm, I think… “Well,” I reply, “anyone who takes a nap gets to have a special New Year’s surprise tonight.”  “What?” he asks as he eyes me wearily.  He sees a trick coming on.  A ploy designed solely to get him to take a nap.  “Popcorn,” I tell him.  “If you take a nap, you can have popcorn tonight when you are watching your New Year’s Eve Nick Jr. shows.”  Surprisingly it works.  “Okay,” he yells. “I’m going to take a nap!”  And off he goes.  He runs up the stairs and that’s the last I see of him for two hours.  I lean back on the sofa, settle in to watch more crying and whining, to listen to the mom on TV bark orders to her husband in Toys R Us.  How, I wonder, will this family turn out?  Being filmed on TV was the death of Nick and Jessica.  I’ve got to think that the stress of the show could have some negative impacts for this family down the road.  I don’t know.  I could be wrong. I hope I am.

At 5:00 p.m. Snags comes back downstairs. “I took a nap!” he announces.  “And so did Dad.  He was playing Xbox but he fell asleep.  I wish I could play my video games but you want to watch this show…” he trails off.

“No, you can play your games,” I tell him.  “I’ve seen enough of the show.”

“Really?  Are you sure?” He’s excited.  The television is all his.  He can play Sonic, or Madagascar, or Star Wars LEGOs… And I am sure.  I’ve listened to eight children cry and fuss and have meltdowns over and over and over again for hours.  I listened to them while I ran on the treadmill, while I folded laundry, while I snacked on Ritz crackers.  The sound of explosions and light sabers and beeps and blips of video games might actually be music to my ears now.

After dinner Snags turns the channel to Nick Jr.  SpongeBob SquarePants is starting.  A mini-marathon for New Year’s Eve.  Snags has been talking about this for nearly a week.  This, Nick Jr. and SpongeBob SquarePants, is THE WAY to ring in the new year when you are six.  Snags pulls a pot from the cabinet, a jar of popcorn from the pantry.  “Popcorn. Let’s have popcorn now!” he pleads.

I make the popcorn and Snags dances about the kitchen.  “It’s time to PARTY!” he says.  “Let’s PAR-TAY!” 

Snags eats his popcorn at the kitchen table.  He says we’ll all stay up until midnight and we’ll party.  Only, SpongeBob ends at 10:00 p.m.  I’m tired.  I tell him that I am going to bed, but he can watch a movie on our portable DVD player, the one we take on long car trips.  It’s still set up in his room, left there from when he was sick on Christmas Eve.  Snags thinks this is a grand idea, a way to extend his New Year’s Eve partying.  “You might want to cover your ears,” he says as he stands up.  “HAPPY NEW YEAR!” he screams at the top of his lungs, before turning, heading up the stairs to his room. 

“You have to lie down in your bed to watch the movie,” I tell him.  “And you cannot get out of bed.  Not even once.”  “Okay,” he agrees, pleased.  “But if my movie is over before midnight I will start it over again,” he says.  I agree, that’s fine.  He can do that as long as he stays in bed.  Snags chooses Star Wars, Episode III as the DVD to watch.  He hits the play button as I pull the covers up to his neck and kiss him goodnight.

Fifteen minutes later I go in to check on Snags, and he’s sound asleep, oblivious to the light sabers and storm troopers raging just a few feet away on the DVD player.  He hasn’t made it ‘til midnight.  Not even close.  His “party” of SpongeBob and a bowl of popcorn has knocked him out.  But I won’t wake him.  I hope the sound of firecrackers and car horns honking throughout the neighborhood at midnight don’t wake him, either.  I turn off the DVD player, turn out his bedroom lights, and lean down and whisper “Happy New Year” in his ear, then quietly close the door. 


Filed under life, New Year's Eve, party, popcorn, Snags, SpongeBob