Yikes! It’s pediculosis capitis!

perhaps you wonder where I’ve been.

Oh, I’ve been busy, dear readers. Very busy, gathering new material for this very blog. My family has currently met another milestone of childrearing, one far more terrifying than the death of a goldfish, far more work-intensive than the nursery school process, and far more gross than the stomach flu the boys had the weekend Maddie was born.

What could possibly top all that, you ask?

Cooper and Fergus have head lice.

And so do I.

I promise, all the glorious details will follow. But right now I have to scratch my head and do 1700 loads of laundry.

to everything there is a season

Foxy Winston Flaherty passed away peacefully at home Saturday, May 10th. She was preceded in death by her cousin, Balloon Winston Flaherty. Foxy had a wonderful spirit and will be sorely missed. She died in her sleep.

Well, make that OUR sleep. We woke up on Saturday morning and she was not moving. We actually went out to breakfast before I got a chance to tell the kids. When Aunt Sheila arrived, to find an empty house and a dead goldfish, she was desperately trying to contact me on my cell to see if she should dispose of the body before they saw it.

Well, I didn’t have my cell with me, so Cooper and Fergus got to see the scene of the crime. They were quite stoic. “We kept Foxy alive for a LONG TIME,” Cooper told me. “Oh, yes,” I concurred. “Six days is a long time. Apparently.”

“Now we flush Foxy down the toilet and she goes back to the river!” Fergus yelled. First I was worried they’d be too upset; now I’m worried because neither one of them seems to give a crap. Oh well. All my fretting and worrying about keeping Foxy alive is over, at long last.

I did leave one thread hanging in my previous post: How did Balloon (and Foxy) die? Clearly, goldfish are sensitive of temperament, but I was dutifully following all instructions, neither over nor underfeeding, leaving their water till it was cloudy but not overly so. (Talk about the Mother Load.) And yet, still, they passed. I have only one clue as to the reason for Balloon’s particularly speedy passing: a conversation I overheard in the kitchen between his two titular keepers.

COOPER: You know, Ferg, it’s your fault Balloon died.

(I almost intervened right there. “Cooper! That’s a terrible thing to say!” Then, something told me to hear him out.)

FERGUS: No iss not.

COOPER: Yes it IS.

FERGUS: No iss not.

COOPER: Yes it is. You were the one who put salt in their water.


FERGUS: Fishies wike salt.

I haven’t googled “goldfish toxic salt” yet, but really, do I even have to wonder?

Next time we’ll try a different pet. Although I have a hard time keeping non-human living things alive. Whatever the opposite of a green thumb is, that’s what I have. Plants wilt in my presence. Goldfish expire within the week. I mean, puppies can handle a little salt in their kibble, for pete’s sake. On the other hand, you can’t flush a puppy down the toilet, should expediency be suddenly required. I might need to think this out first.

Foxy Update!

I know so many of you have been up all night waiting to hear news of Foxy, and how the death of Balloon went over in my house. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, quickly! scroll down and read the previous post first.)

Since my huge gentle whopping fib over the death of the Swimmys was a total non-event in our house last year, I figured that this week’s death of our beloved goldfish Balloon, who had been with us for three whole days, was an opportunity to be more upfront with the boys.

I considered reciting a little verse:

Because Balloon could not stop for Death–
He kindly stopped– for Balloon–

and then I could see where that took us. But when the boys came home, I decided to take the most direct approach at all.
“You guys,” I said. “I have something a little bit sad to tell you. Balloon is dead.”

Cooper looked stricken. Fergus said, “What, Mommy?”
“WHO’S dead?” my babysitter shrieked, utterly panicked.

To relieve everyone’s anxiety, I led them to the kitchen, where I had left Balloon floating in the bowl. His companion, Foxy, swam below, seemingly unaffected.

Cooper’s lip quivered a bit. “How do you know he’s dead?” he asked.
“Because he’s not moving,” I said.
“But maybe it’s not Balloon,” he said. “How can you be sure?”
“Because Balloon was bigger,” I said. “Just like you–“
and then I realized: Cooper was sad, not that A goldfish had died, but that HIS goldfish had died.

Fergus was grinning at Foxy. Cooper put his arm around Fergus’ shoulders. “I have an idea!” he said, in his most syrupy tones. “Why don’t we make Foxy’s name Balloon now! And then he’ll be Balloon!”

“Balloon is DEAD,” Fergus reminded him, calmly.

“Let’s flush him down the toilet,” I said, trying to distract Cooper before he blew a gasket, “so that he can go back to the river and a big fish can eat him.”

“We’re going to EAT Balloon?” Fergus said, none too sure about that. (He has a great appetite and all but still.)

“No a FISH will eat him,” I repeated. “And he’ll be part of the circle of life.”

I thought that the novelty of flushing Balloon down the toilet would ease Cooper’s pain, and give him a sense of closure. However, as the water started violently swirling around with the orange blur of Balloon amidst it, I realized, too late, that it had been a terrible idea.

“That will HURT him!” Cooper cried.
“No, honey, he can’t feel anything,” I reassured him. Then we had to have a lengthy dialogue about death, and souls, and heaven, and the problem with Cooper is that he keeps asking more and more questions until you find yourself spewing bullshit about Fishy Heaven, and then he’ll say “Where IS Fishy Heaven?” and you realize you have painted yourself into one hell of a corner.

Anyway, we moved on, and both boys enjoyed Foxy’s company on the kitchen table when they ate their breakfast this morning. I’m having heart palpitations each time I walk out to the kitchen though. My inner monologue is something like “Please God let Foxy be alive please don’t let Foxy be dead oh God– Oh thank the Lord. She’s fine.” The stress of caring for the one remaining goldfish is slightly more than I can bear.

tomorrow: Part 3: How did Balloon die, anyhow?

(goldfish art via tracytracy.stumbleupon.com)

just two more souls to love

We were at our local playground’s Spring Fair this past weekend. This is a fair I have volunteered for in the past, but no one asked for my help this year; I will try not to take that personally. They must have seen me on the street and think, wow, has she aged badly. She must be overextended.

Anyway, we enjoyed the fair thoroughly, and saw many families we knew there. As we were finally preparing to take our leave, Cooper saw an aquarium tank on a nearby card table, festooned with paper streamers, and squealed, “Mommy! The goldfish game! Can we win some goldfish?”

“OK,” I said. My friend Karla, who was within earshot, leaned over and muttered: “You are BRAVE.”

It wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was getting into. We “won” two goldfish at the fair last year. (Here’s a little tip: for six tickets, at least they make sure that every plastic egg has a Goldfish cracker inside. You can’t lose.) We brought our prizes home and set them up in a punch bowl we never use (and I guess never will, now). Cooper thought long and hard about his fish’s name. He finally decided that evening just before bed. “My fish is named Swimmy,” he said, possibly referencing the Leo Lionni book of the same name. Fergus, never one to think independently when his older brother can do the thinking for him, immediately said, “Mines name is Swimmy too.”

I started to protest, assuming Cooper would have a cow about that, but he was surprisingly amenable to the idea. And so, for a week or so, we had two fish named Swimmy on our kitchen counter. We fed them often, changed their water often, and they seemed to be thriving.

Then David took the boys to see the grandparents for the weekend, leaving me for 36 hours of luxurious second-trimester napping. And when I went to the kitchen before bed on Saturday night, Swimmy and Swimmy were NOT MOVING. At all. They were suspended in the bowl.

I swirled the water. Nothing. Are they asleep? I wondered. Do fish sleep? (As of this writing, I still didn’t know the answer to this question, and so I just asked Digger Doug, who says that yes, they do, but they don’t close their eyes.) OK so I wasn’t crazy. Maybe they were asleep.

But they weren’t moving on Sunday morning either. And I had shortness of breath. How could this have happened on my watch? How could I do this to a 4 year old and a 2 1/2 year old? How was I going to break this to them? How would they feel after their first encounter with the loss of a loved one?

I sweated this the whole morning, and after finally facing facts and flushing Swimmy and Swimmy down the toilet around noon, I came up with a great story, which I would tell the boys when they came home: Swimmy and Swimmy looked really sad, I would tell them, so sad that I could tell they missed their mommy and daddy, and so I took them down to the Hudson River (which you can see from our kitchen window) and put them back in the river so they could be with their parents again.

That would be comforting to them. Perhaps we could even visit the spot where the supposed reunion took place. I would brush a tear from Cooper’s eye, and all would be well.

Daddy and the boys got back that afternoon. I waited for them to notice that the fish were gone, so I could sit them down and tell them this gentle tale. An hour went by without their noticing the Swimmys’ absence. Then two.

In the end, it was THREE DAYS before Fergus looked up from his chicken nuggets at dinnertime and said, “Where Swimmys?” When I spun them my tale of love and loss, they both looked at me like I had gone a little bit mad. “Their mommy lives in the Hudson River?” Cooper said, brow furrowed. But I stuck to my story, and that was the end of it. Swimmy and Swimmy were never mentioned again.

Now, here we were, trying again with the goldfish. This time Cooper was more decisive about his name choice:

COOPER: Mines is named Balloon.
FERGUS: Mines is also named Balloon.

But Cooper was not OK with that this time around.

COOPER: No, you have to name your fish something ELSE.


COOPER: How about Foxy?
FERGUS: Yeah! Foxy.

I asked, wondering in what context my elder son might have heard a name more commonly used by strippers. But Fergus liked it just fine.

So far, Balloon and Foxy are doing nicely. Of course, it’s been three days. Stay tuned.


Holy crap y’all. I just got home, and Balloon is a floater.

That’s Balloon at the top. I can tell it’s Balloon because he was a little bit bigger. Foxy is still going strong. Of course she is, she’s foxy.

But what do I tell Cooper? He’s at a friend’s house till 4:00. I have time to plan… watch this space for further developments.