Saturday, September 13, 2008

Fish, Et Cetera

You know those rear window stickers with the little stick figure brother, the stick figure sister, the stick figure mommy, the stick figure daddy (or sometimes the other stick figure mommy), and the stick figure dog? We don't have those stickers, and I doubt that we ever will. We are now a multi-species family that goes beyond the imaginations of the window sticker producers.

It started out with a dead cat. Lucy had been a part of our family since three months after we got married, long before human children were on the radar. She was petite and delicate, with long silky fur that never lost its kitten softness. She was a lovely mix of tan and grey and white, with perfect little white feet and enormous pale green eyes. She was so pretty you just couldn't help but pick her up, which was when you found out that she was in fact a horrid little wretch. She liked my husband, and barely tolerated everyone else. I am convinced that she thought she was a lion, and that it was only the fear of indigestion that kept her from eating me whole. Lucy never forgave me for bringing Mary and Peter into her domain, but when she finally died at the age of twelve, they mourned her sincerely.

It was a while before we were ready to bring another pet into the home. Katie the Cat was, shall we say, not a good fit. It transpired that the good people at the humane society had not been quite as successful as they claimed at housetraining her, and that she had originally arrived there due to her penchant for wetting on anything that would hold still. If it had just been the pee on the carpet (in every room of the house), the couch, the box full of clothes to give away, the bedspread on my bed, the sheets (after I took the bedspread off), the mattress pad (after I took the sheets off), and the mattress (after I took the mattress pad off -- she was fast, I'll give her that), well, that would have been one thing. But when it turned out that I was violently allergic to her liquid offerings, Katie found a new home, and we were pet-free again.

We asked the kids what they wanted for a pet, and they had some interesting suggestions. Mary said, "I want a fish!" Peter said, "I want a piranha!" Mary countered, "I want a puffer fish, and I'd name it Puffy!" Peter raised the ante: "I want a puffer fish too, and I'd name it ... um ... Puffier!" We said, "How about GOLDFISH."

Just so you know, it doesn't work to keep feeder goldfish in a bowl without a water filter and an aerator. Now that you know this, you don't have to try it seven times in a row, and that will save you the theological complexities of conversations with six-year-olds about the afterlife of goldfish. (The right answer, by the way, is "Yes." Even if you don't believe in God, heaven, or an eternal soul. All fish go to heaven by way of the toilet, end of story.)

Eventually, a betta fish named Wavy found a home in Mary's room, with nice blue rocks, a fake plant, a little light, and (lesson learned) an aerator. Wavy was joined in short order by Frogger the Frog and Rosie the Shrimp. (Did you know you could buy live shrimp at Wal-Mart? Apparently you can.) You'd think that would be enough, wouldn't you? You would be wrong.

Now, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail, because if you read in tomorrow's "Weird News" websites about some deranged woman trying to mail an overly friendly pit bull to the outback of Australia in a large box with holes poked in the top, I don't want to leave a paper trail. So I'll just tell you some random interesting facts and hopefully avoid arrest.

It turns out that a perpetually grinning chocolate-brown dog with a penchant for licking people's knees is also capable of doing upwards of a thousand dollars' worth of damage to a home. Sarah can dig holes into decking, scratch off chunks of siding, bite off whole pieces of doorframe, chew through leashes, disembowel stuffed animals, destroy bedding, ravage carpet, and chew the heels off of cute new sandals that had only been worn once (not that I'm bitter). She can dig so many holes under the fence that you get to meet nearly every neighbor on your street and a few from the next block over, thanks to the opening gambit of "I think we have your dog." She can bash her head against a weak board until she actually goes through the fence, helping you meet even more neighbors. She can flatly ignore all efforts at housetraining, resulting in odorous little gifts in every single carpeted room in the house, plus a few closets, a laundry pile or two, and a scrapbooking project laid out on the floor for organizing. (Just so you know, in a showdown between dog pee and scrapbook materials, dog pee wins.)

I'm sure we'll get it all worked out at some point, and if I mail her anywhere, it will be to my sister in California because her dogs would put the fear of God into mine in about three seconds flat. But I tell you ... that piranha is starting to sound pretty good.

Friday, September 12, 2008

And now, for something completely different!

You know, I never do this. I just really don't. I don't get all activist about things, because I am too tired. And I don't link to other people's blogs, because this is the one little corner of the universe where I Am The Queen, so why should I share it any more than necessary?

But I'm making an exception this time, and for what I think is a pretty darn good reason. I will warn you right now that these links include discussions about nursing, lots of unhappy mommies, and a few Bad Words. So if those are going to offend you, stop now -- just skip it and you can come back in a few days and hear about Peter's ideal pet. (A piranha.)

I follow the blog of another mother, a wonderful writer who posts under the name of Her Bad Mother. She was flying home from the funeral of a friend, and her daughter got hungry. Since she is a breastfeeding mother, she discreetly set her daughter up to eat. Like many nursing mothers with a fair amount of experience at it, she didn't feel the need to lay a blanket over herself and the baby, since nothing was exposed and no one was looking. The flight attendant took it upon herself to "offer" her a blanket -- several times -- so that she could cover up and not bother people, even though no one appeared to in fact be aware that a baby was nursing.

The email campaign to Canada's WestJet Airlines that followed was, shall we say, not particularly successful. The airline sent a form letter that said very little at all, and the person sending it had not even bothered to change the name of the passenger from the last time such a letter had been sent. Her Bad Mother was understandably irritated, and I decided to pitch in with my blog since I know I have a few readers who support the idea of breastfeeding without having to practically put on a burka and hide in the ladies' room.

(And to those of you who have never breastfed, would YOU like to have to eat every meal with a blanket on your head?)

The post explaining the event is here. The post where she waits for a response is here. The part where she gets irritated and writes a funny interpretation of the form letter is here.

If this is the sort of thing that winds you up and you feel like sending a cranky email, please stop by Her Bad Mother's blog. I spent two years nursing my children, at home, in restaurants, on airplanes, in church, pretty much anywhere the baby and I went. (Sorry if I made you squirm when I was new at it and hadn't quite figured out that whole decency thing.) It's not the easiest thing in the world, and it gets a lot harder when people are glaring at you for, well, doing what mammals do. When I see a young woman nursing in public, I like to make eye contact, smile, and whisper "Good for you." They usually grin from ear to ear, since that's not usually what people say to them, unfortunately.

So, Her Bad Mother ... good for you, and I hope they send you flowers to apologize. One can always dream ...