Adventures in Betta-sitting

My mother was opposed to pets of all sorts, especially Goldfish, which she considered to be ‘gateway pets’.

She also had unruly hair that required frequent maintenance. The hair problem, combined with a lack of after school childcare, made it necessary for her to bring my sister and me with her to her hair appointments at the local mini-mall.

To keep us occupied during her appointment, she would give us money for ice cream at the mall’s Dairy Queen. We would scarf down our ice cream then head to the pet shop where we could imagine that maybe one day, we would have a pet of our own.

My sister and I were thrilled when we finally realized, after many hair appointments, that Goldfish are shockingly cheap. Armed with this valuable information, we came up with a scheme to finally get ourselves a pet.

The next hair appointment, we got an ice cream as usual, but instead of getting fancy cones with sauce or toppings, we bought the cheap soft serves and pocketed the change. Optimistic from sugar, and rich with leftover quarters and nickels, we went to the pet store as usual but this time, we weren’t browsing. We were customers.


j_arlecchino / Foter / CC BY-NC

Our newly coiffed mother was less than thrilled when she saw us with our plastic-bagged pet and our little container of flakes.

“They don’t last long,” she said, annoyed and a little grim. “You’ll see.”

Sadly, she was right. Our first fish died in its salad bowl within a day.

But hair grows and mothers forget. Four to six weeks later, we got a new fish.

It was a vicious and deadly cycle.

I don’t know how many there were but it was more than a few. I mourned them at the time but otherwise haven’t thought a lot about those unfortunate fish since. That changed last week when a neighbour, Mrs. B, asked me if I would fish-sit for her, and those memories rose to the surface of my consciousness like, well, dead fish.

“Can you watch our Betta?” asked Mrs. B.

I had no idea what she was talking about.

“Our fish,” she explained. “Fishie. We are going away for Passover. Can you take the fish?”

At first I was kind of excited. The girls would love to fish-sit. It would be like having a pet that we could return. Of course we would take the fish!

Mrs. B told me she’d drop her off before they left.

It wasn’t until later that day that the memories of my old pets started to surface and made me wonder if fish-sitting would be a mistake.

A couple of days later, I returned from grocery shopping to hear delighted squeals coming from the kitchen. Our baby sitter looked like she had a headache; my children looked like they might burst with joy.

“Mrs. B brought the fish!” yelled my kids. “We have a fish!”

The fish looked nervous. I didn’t blame her.

“Did Mrs. B leave any instructions?” I asked.

“Just to feed it,” answered our baby sitter, LoriLee. “She told us to give four or five little pellets a day but no more.”

“Anything else?” I had told LoriLee that this fish business had me worried.

“Nope. Just feed her. Bettas are really basic fish. You can buy them pretty much anywhere,” she added, confirming my fear that poor Fishie might bite it at any moment.

It was then that I realized that Mrs. B had never actually said when she’d be back.

I started a mini-log to keep track of Fishie’s stay:

Day 1 (delivery day, afternoon):

Uneventful. Moved fish away from loud, pokey children to quieter spot on mantel. Fish swimming in glass vase. She ate her food. Seems happy.

Day 2:

Children fight over who will feed fish. I decide that it should be me. I can’t risk them giving it too many pellets.

Took kids to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and saw many healthy looking fish. Feeling more confident about Fishie’s chances with our family.

Took a walk on the pier and saw a caught but not dead fish being toyed with by a slobbering dog. Ominous!

Day 3:

Allowed the girls to ‘rock paper scissors’ to decide who gets to feed the fish but controlled the process so tightly that everyone lost interest. Good!

The small glass vase is starting to look a little dingy.

Reminded of the quote from Benjamin Franklin about fish and house-guests stinking after three days. I realize that he didn’t mean fish that are actual house-guests but if that water gets any cloudier, he will be proven all too right.

Day 4:

Called my sister to talk about the fish and ask her if she remembers or ever thinks about our former pets.

“Are you kidding?” she said. “I remember them too well. And how Mum would always be so calm and tell us that she lived on a farm as she flushed them!”

“I didn’t realize that those fish had traumatized me for life. Fishie is bringing it all back. Anyway, her water is cloudy and I think I have to change it. It must be horrible for her in there,” I told my sister.

“Don’t do it!” she said. “You’ll regret it. Remember the one that almost died in the sink?”

How could I forget? It was one of the few that lasted long enough to need a fresh bowl. We’d filled the sink and dumped her in to wait while we cleaned. But the plug was leaky and the water drained out. The fish flopped desperately. My sister screamed. I scrambled for the tap, sick with horror. The fish lived that day but not much longer.

“Just leave it alone. Your neighbour would’ve told you if you were supposed to change the water.”

I knew my sister was right. I hung up and checked on the fish. She looked a bit lethargic.

Called my husband who also strongly advised me to leave the fish alone.

Decided to go online and see if there were any suggestions about caring for a Betta. As expected, the internet turned up a trove of advice and information (mostly consistent!) and it seems that Bettas are hardier than Goldfish (i.e. as long as the water temperature is exactly right, they probably won’t die when you clean the bowl)so I decided to go ahead and change the water.

I cleaned a square vase (like the one she came in but bigger) and added some room temperature water. It felt perfect. I was reasonably certain that it wouldn’t kill Fishie.

Scooping her out was tricky (breath-holding/cold-sweat tricky) and eight year old was providing running commentary as well as ‘helpful’ advice. Fishie did not want to be in a ladle and was surprisingly hard to catch but eventually, she gave up and allowed the transfer.

She seems to be doing okay now. Eight year old thinks Fishie is grateful for the fresh bowl but I doubt it.

Day 4 (later):

Repeatedly checked on fish. Caught her resting near the bottom several times and had to gently tilt the bowl to get her moving. She is doing well but may be a bit annoyed that I keep waking her.

Allowed the three year old to drop four pellets into the clean bowl.

Fishie seemed pleased.

Day 5:

All is well. But where is Mrs. B? I thought this was supposed to be short trip!

Was going to cook fish sticks for the kids tonight but that seems insensitive. Fishie is disrupting our lives!

Day 6 (Easter Sunday):

Fishie is alive and well and even participated in the Easter egg hunt. She has become a member of the family! fishie at easter

I really hope she leaves before I have to change that water again.

Still no sign of Mrs. B.

Called my sister. “Our neighbours had us watch their fish once,” she told me. “They supposedly forgot about it when they came home. We had it for more than a month.”

“Oh my God! Did it live?”

“Yes,” answered my sister. “It lived but I kind of hated those neighbours after.”

When is Passover OVER anyway?

The internet says it goes until next Saturday….

Day 7:

Nothing to report. Fishie is perky today and swims over to me when I check on her which I do almost as frequently as I spy out the window for signs of Mrs. B.

I hope this story has a happy ending!

Day 8:

Fishie is still with us as both a house guest and a living being. My fish-care skills have  improved significantly since childhood. Will change bowl later today….Unless Mrs. B shows up. Where are you Mrs. B???

5PM: Fresh fish! Not quite seamless but second water change was much less traumatic for me and Fishie. Will be buying a new ladle and strainer after Passover….

Day 9:

Still here. Still swimming.

Fishie

For the rest of the story, look at The Fishie Report.

The time I got Pinterest-y

How hard can it be? I thought to myself after an encouraging chat with my sister. I had decided to make this fancy rainbow cake for my daughter’s 7th birthday.

 

IMG_1533 (1)

We were having a ‘My Little Pony’ party and other than a plan to throw a bunch of ponies around the back yard, the theme was pretty weak. Not only would the cake be perfect for the party, but my kids had a day off school and we had some time to kill. A towering rainbow cake seemed like it might be a solution to a few mini problems.

It was fun at first.

We mixed the colours and made the thin cakes. Our colours did not resemble anything found in any rainbow I’ve ever seen but otherwise, it was going well! By the end of the day before the party, our six thin cakes were baked, and ready to be stacked and frosted the following day.

The morning of the party, about an hour before the start time, my husband went to get ice and whatever else we’d forgotten while the kids and I finished the cake. I knew it wouldn’t be exactly like the picture but my kid would like it, I was sure.

We put the purple on the plate first. All went well.

Then the blue. No problem!

In the excitement, the yellow somehow missed the stack. It landed with a muffled thump (and some shrieks), on the floor.

“Pick it up!” begged my children. “No one will know.”

“We’ll know,” I told them. “We can’t serve floor cake to our friends. Especially not floor cake from our floor.”

“But it won’t be a rainbow without yellow,” they protested.

“Oh I’ve seen rainbows without yellow,” I lied.
We glued the orange on top of the others with icing. Then the red hot pink.
 A few rainbow sprinkles on top and it was a masterpiece!

It is an understatement to say that we were impressed with our amazing creation.

At first I thought I imagined it. Could the cake have moved?

It shifted again, then a crack that looked a lot like the San Andreas split the cake. Smaller cracks spider-ed out from the original fault.

We screamed.

I lunged forward to protect the cake with my arms and body but I couldn’t hug it back together.

“Call Daddy!” I told my kid as I held on for one final moment.

I had to let it go. And clean icing from my armpits. The day was not going as planned.

“Can he fix it?” she asked.

“No. Just tell him to pick up some cupcakes with that ice.”

IMG_1258

And life goes on….

via Daily Prompt: Cake

 

<a data-pin-do=”embedPin” data-pin-width=”large” data-pin-terse=”true” href=”https://www.pinterest.com/pin/267823509063725413/”></a&gt;

Save

50 Things

A friend recently told me about her high school principal and two key pieces of advice she imparted to the graduating class:

  1. Always maintain your own bank account.
  2. Have a filing cabinet.

Hmm. 

It did get me thinking about the good and bad advice I have been given (such as when my mother told me to say “I’ll think about it” to any and all proposals of marriage) and what I would like to share with my children. I decided to start a list.

My list does not cover great big moral issues – that is what I am trying to get through to them on a day-to-day basis. My list consists of a bunch of random things (that I think I know) that I want to make sure I cover with my daughters at some point. Here is my list so far:

  1. Listen to music as often as you can.
  2. Do not ever, under any circumstances, try to take Spanx off over your head.
  3. Do not buy shoes that hurt you no matter how much you love them.
  4. Do not stay with a partner that hurts you, no matter how much you love them.
  5. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
  6. Whatever job you have, be it cleaning toilets or running a country, do it to the very best of your ability every single day.
  7. Learn to drive as soon as possible.
  8. Sit up straight!
  9. Vote. Even if your side is ‘guaranteed’ to win. Or lose.
  10. Volunteer.
  11. Say ‘no’ when ‘no’ is what you want to say.
  12. Skip the tattoos.
  13. Or don’t. But don’t get a dolphin or anyone’s name. Or anything on your neck or chest.
  14. Do not put olive pits in the garbage disposal – they are nature’s bullets.
  15. Mind your own manners but let other people worry about theirs.
  16. Use your manners to make people feel comfortable not inferior.
  17. Learn to cook.
  18. Don’t eat and walk. Or drive.
  19. Actively contribute to your friends’ success – show up to the book launch, re-Tweet that Tweet, run the charity run, help make a connection, whatever is needed.
  20. Always RSVP in a timely manner.
  21. Be a great tipper. Especially for breakfast.
  22. Do not buy gossip magazines.*
  23. Say ‘thank you’ (and mean it) to everyone who helps you in even the smallest way.
  24. Don’t jay walk.
  25. If someone tells you that they are a jerk, you should believe them.
  26. Do not go to work or school when you are sick. People will not be awed by your heroics.
  27. Don’t make assumptions about people based on anything other than what they actually say or do.
  28. Just because everyone believes something doesn’t make it true. Think for yourself.
  29. Send thank you notes (or emails) whenever there is a reason.
  30. Floss. Every day.
  31. Eat breakfast.
  32. Don’t waste your time on pastries that aren’t fantastic. If you bite into a disappointing croissant, leave it.
  33. Only butter is butter. There are no substitutes.
  34. Save or invest 10% of your income.
  35. Keep a mini pack of tissues, and a wet wipe or two in your car and purse.
  36. Negotiate your employment terms. Always. Don’t just accept the first offer.
  37. Always ask for a better deal – more often than not, you will get one.
  38. Never buy peaches or corn out of season.
  39. Wear sunscreen and a hat.
  40. Open all crinkly candy wrappers BEFORE the movie starts.
  41. Do not take your phone out at dinner.
  42. Do not text and drive. You can park and text.
  43. Say ‘yes’ when someone asks you to dance (unless you hate them).
  44. If you aren’t sure what to get at a restaurant, order the Special.
  45. Be brave but not stupid.
  46. Stay informed.
  47. Stick up for other women.
  48. Less is more when it comes to make up and eyebrow plucking.
  49. Don’t participate in phone surveys.
  50. Never buy any clothing unless you love it. Even a white t-shirt. Or a too-good-to-be-true sale thing. You have to love it!!**

 

* Read them for free at the hairdresser.

**Courtesy of my step-mother who follows this excellent advice much more consistently than I do.

This is just a starter list. There are so many little things that I’d love for my girls to learn the easy way.

What else should be on here? Please share your thoughts!

 

 

<a href="https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/fifty/">Fifty</a>

 

The Fishie Report

We said ‘goodbye’ to Fishie this week. Here is what happened….

Day 11 (but feels longer):

Fishie is still doing well but how long can that last?

Mrs. B is back from her trip. The girls swear they saw her car.

Fishie may well be going home tonight.

I am suddenly nostalgic for our time together. All those times she swam to the glass and waved her fins at me as if she knew I was like her temporary fish mother. Or the way she would pretend to be dead just to scare me then act all swimmy once she got the right amount of attention.

I am going to miss that fish!

A little.

Lunch:

No sign of Mrs. B. I will give it a couple of hours.

3:15PM:

Time to collect the big kids from school. I drag the three-year old to the door. She wants the stroller but we are actually on time today so I insist that we walk.

We make it all the way to the corner before slipping in an enormous mud puddle (like a small lake!) and landing in a tangled heap in the road. One of us is crying.

We scurry home to change into the closest clothes to the front door. Now we are late.

We head out to the car (no time left to walk) and 3-year-old tells me: “This is why we should always drive.”

Did she almost drown us in that puddle just to make a point….?

We make it just in time to pick up girls and when we get home, the 3-year-old and I, still quite muddy, take a shower. I put on my nice flowery sundress with my new black flow-y top and feel much better.

The doorbell rings.

It is Mrs. B!!

She has a potted orchid in her hands and she smiles as she looks me over. “Are you expecting?”

I should have killed her fish.

“Uh, no. It’s just a flow-y shirt,” I tell her. “It’s new.”

I am throwing out this top!

“Oh!” she says, like she only sort of believes me. She hands me the orchid. “This is for you. Thank you for looking after my fish. He is such a nice fish. Is he still alive?” she asks.

HE???

“Fishie is fine. Great actually! I’ll get him for you right now,” I tell her.

But no. Mrs. B says she has to go! The laundry repair guy is there, the rest is lost in the blur of her running away.

We still have Fishie!

Fuck.

“I’ll bring her over later today!” I shout at Mrs. B’s back.

She gives a little wave over her head without turning around, and is gone.

Day 12:

Tried and failed to return Fishie. Could have sworn I saw movement at Mrs. B’s house. The girls and I walked Fishie across the street, slow and steady, careful not to slosh but there was no answer even after 50 or so rings.

Does Mrs. B not want Fishie?

Day 13:

Our landlord visited today. He noticed the Betta and told me that he used to pet-sit for Mrs. B when he and his family lived here.

“Watching the fish used to stress me out,” he told me. “Do you know how easy it is to kill those things?”

Day 13 (later):

Fishie is gone.

Holy (Steam) Rollers & Other Corporate Villains

Revenge is sweet and not fattening.
Alfred Hitchcock.

I hold grudges. I try not to hold them against people (to varying degrees of success) but I have no such qualms about holding a big grudge against a corporation. It is a leftover from my childhood when my mother made it clear that we could not have the Nestle chocolate powder with the funny rabbit on the box because they had done very bad things with milk and formula in Africa. Since then, I’ve known that as a consumer, I have a tiny way to make my feelings known and an obligation to do so. It is more than 30 years since I couldn’t buy the chocolate milk and I have not forgotten…

Until last week, I thought that Hobby Lobby was just a crappy replacement for the previously shitty Kmart store that blights one of Tamiami Trail’s ugly highway strip malls. But it turns out that it is actually a fairly large third-rate craft store chain with an owner who has a God complex.

It is, I guess, good to know what the hell a Hobby Lobby is and it is refreshing to be mad at a company that I would never patronize anyway. It will be so easy (though admittedly ineffective) to boycott these emporiums of Made-in-China crap because I already am! I sure won’t miss it like I miss Chick-Fil-A.

Chick-Fil-A – yes, I had noticed a certain sanctimony in their kid giveaways (lots of nice morals!!) and the ‘closed on Sundays’ stuff but that


shrff / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

didn’t hurt anyone so I didn’t care and I would go enjoy a sandwich whenever we were in Florida. If Chick-Fil-A had stuck to making tasty sandwiches, there would be no grudge but for some reason, they just had to wield their religiosity against others.

Their anti-gay comments puzzled me.What does sex have to do with chickens (other than when chickens are having it with each other, obviously)?

And troubled me.I can’t eat there now!!

Had Chick-Fil-A remained benignly preachy, I could’ve enjoyed their sandwiches til their illiterate cows came home. But, like most zealots, the owners of Chick-Fil-A couldn’t resist spewing their noxious brimstone. Even when their VP of propaganda died in the midst of the maelstrom (or was he struck down?) they stuck to their hateful stance and refused to apologize. More recently, the CEO made a point of bringing it up again by commenting that it was a ‘sad day’ in light of the basic human rights that were extended to their country’s adult citizens!

So no more chicken sams for me. Still. And probably ever.

And definitely no crappy crap from Hobby Lobby.

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_writing_challenge/leftovers/

Parenting Like an 80s Drug Lord

“Is this the real stuff?” my daughter asks warily.

What she wants to know is: ‘Has it been cut?’

She is right to be suspicious because that is what I do. I cut the product.

I wasn’t always this sneaky.

Maybe she did know what she was missing!

Maybe she did kind of know what she was missing!

My first child was virtually refined ‘sugar-free’ for a long time.
Family members grumbled and made comments like, “What are you going to give her for Easter? An avocado?” But the world is a sugary place and it couldn’t go on forever…. Once she tasted the sweet stuff, I knew the golden era of perfect eating was over.

That was okay, but I still wanted to keep things as healthy as possible.

I got the idea from a re-run of Miami Vice – an easy way to shrink the sugar intake was to make like a sleazy kingpin and cut the goods. It was a eureka moment in an otherwise sluggish, too-tired/lazy to turn off the TV and go to bed situation.

There was a learning curve and if I really were a drug lord I would’ve been killed and left in an alley long ago (hundreds of times over). Fortunately, my product is much more benign (cereal, flavoured yogurt, and juice) and duping my ‘clients’ isn’t dangerous.

It is all about finding the perfect ratio.

Mix plain Cheerios with sweet treat Honey Nut ones at 50/50 and you’re golden. It is still a ‘treat’ cereal. They don’t get it often but when they do, it is half as bad and just as tasty. Go 60/40 and you’ll get complaints so why even bother?

Yogurt is the same. Two tablespoons of plain mixed with two tablespoons of the fruit-flavoured ones (that would more accurately be described as pudding) is truly delicious. The alternative is serving all plain with a generous teaspoon of jam and letting them mix their own.

With juice the ratio is more like 80/20 juice to water. Any more water, and the kids start to get cranky. I’ve pushed the limits and that is why my two-year old insists on watching like a hawk when I pour the good stuff.

“Pour it here!’ she shouts. “I want to seeeeee!!!!”

“You need to relax,” I tell her. “Hey, is that a squirrel out there?” She’s no fool but the second she looks away, I am going to add some water.

In the words of Tony Montana: I always tell the truth. Even when I lie.

What other things can be ‘cut’ and still taste great? Does anyone else do this? Does anyone have any other valuable insights from the criminal underworld? Please share your thoughts.