Sunday, August 21, 2011

Summer Labor

It's the third week of August.  My garden zinnias are high, the mint is bursting -- and this year my kids don't go back to school until Sept. 7!  That's pretty late for them.  Cara and Ryan aren't so much happy for the extra time it gives them to hang out and eat ice pops.  No, they're grateful for the extra time it gives them to do their summer homework.

Ryan, who could possibly be diagnosed with a reading allergy, finally got a book from the public library a week ago for his 6th-grade summer reading.  Usually, there are 40 books to choose from.  This year when we walked in, there were five lonely books on the otherwise empty shelf.  One was about a princess, another was about a boy growing up Chinese.  Ryan chose one with robot zombies from the Imagine Nation.

As cool as robot zombies sound, the book actually has almost 500 pages.  And there's only a couple weeks left to summer.  That shouldn't be a problem for most kids.  However, whenever I tell Ryan to read, he pulls out  his menu of excuses as to why he can't:

"I have a headache."

"My eyes hurt.  I think I played too much Xbox."

"I need to go to my gym!"

"After dinner."

"After this show."

"After I'm done with my shower."

"What did I do--why are you punishing me?!?"

Cara, meanwhile, has assignments for science, history and English.  One of the projects entails reading a  1,000-page book, "Pillars of the Earth."  Cara loves to read.  But from what I gather, this book discusses architectural details in great detail.  For many, many pages at a time... just... architectural details.   She's not impressed.

However, whereas Ryan will use any excuse to get out of reading, Cara will use her need to read to get out of doing anything else.

Me: "Cara, did you clean your room yet?"

Cara: "I have 100 pages to read today!"

Me: "Yesterday you said you had 100 pages left. What is happening?"

Cara: "No, I had to read 100 pages yesterday, and 100 more today, and 100 more tomorrow and do a report, and then I have to...."

Me: "So... the bed... the clothes...?"

Cara: "AAaaagh!"

In just a couple of weeks, the days will be broken up into the morning rat race to get them out, the workday, and then the afternoon/evening activity craziness, with homework hell thrown in for good measure.

Should I pour a minty mojito now or wait 'til I really need it then?

Monday, August 08, 2011

Fish Tales

Ya ever hear the one about the kid who wanted to play a carnival game to win a goldfish?

I have, too.  And I've raised those goldfish.  So guess what?  I've never allowed my kids to play carnival games that involve goldfish prizes EVER AGAIN!

Cut to my son having a sleepover with his aunt and uncle.  Two nice people who wanted to take him to a country fair.  Now, it seems, it's my problem to run around and scare up a fish bowl.  Because my brother let Ryan play, and WIN, a carny game that had a goldfish as the prize!

It's not like my brother doesn't know what's involved in taking care of pets.  He and his wife have two very happy, very healthy Springer Spaniels.  But my brother and his wife are indulgent with their nieces and nephews.  They don't want to slowly and scarily say, "No. God. Damned. WAY!" to any of them.  Because that would be viewed as being mean.  Or fun-sucking.  Traits that have long been ascribed to me by my own kids.

You might say, "Cath, why don't you just use the old goldfish bowl you must have lying around your house?"  Good question.  Because I did, indeed, have to have a goldfish bowl.  In the garage.  Along with a filtered fish aquarium, TWO hamster cages, a tadpole/frog habitat and a hermit crab crabitat.   But somewhere along the way, I came to my senses and said, "These creatures barely get a passing grade as  'pets.'"  So a few years after all those "pets" passed on,  I came to my senses and sold all those "pet homes" at a garage sale.
In the subsequent years, Ryan would beg to play carny games involving fish prizes.

Ry: "I'LL take care of it!"

Me: "Really? You'll scoop the fish out of it's bowl, dump the dirty water out of the bowl, refill it with clean water, add special aquatic drops, and then feed it... on a regular basis?"

Ry: "Wait, what?!  ...I just want to win a fish!!"

Let me just say, when I owned the first two goldfish, I did pretty well with them.  In fact, they lived for two years in a fishbowl on the kitchen counter.  When they died, it was very sad.  They got the full funeral with a burial in the back yard.  Twenty minutes later, the small voice of a wee little Ryan asked, "Can we go to the pet store and get new fish?"

Me, being idiotic, said okay.  Which started a hellish three-week cycle in which no fewer than 10 fish keeled over and died (sometimes within HOURS).  After the first two or six kicked, the pet store told me I needed a real aquarium with a pump filter.  I got the "SUCKER" sticker for free with that purchase. The two goldfish I bought with that purchase seized up after a day or so, so the pet store said I needed to get better fish.  About 45 minutes after bringing them home, one of 'em started listing.  GOOD GOD, THE HORROR!

The kids were turning to me like, "Do something, Mommy!"

I was like, "What in Sam HELL?!?!"

Against all odds, I had kept two carnival goldfish alive in an unfiltered bowl for two years!!  Suddenly, I was going through more fish than a sushi chef.  Mass burials were taking place daily.  After nearly three weeks of this, my kids were ready to charge me with genocide.  I put the collective mess of aquariums, fishbowls, filters, gravel and aqua decor in a sad corner of the garage.

So, yes, for years now I've avoided the fragile creatures.  Hell, I got a cat before taking on the uncertainty of another fish.  Clean water and fresh food, and felines are good to go.  Fish?  Clean water and they die.  Dirty water and they die.  Too much food?  Dead.  They get scared between the pet store and your house?  It's over.

I was hoping my brother's dogs would sniff out the fish before Ryan brought it home.  Instead, my son proudly walked in with not one, but TWO goldfish.  My sister-in-law thought the one would be lonely.  They generously bought Ryan a net, gravel, fish food -- they even let him NAME them!    

So, here's hoping I wake up to fish that aren't listing or doing the dead fish float.  And that my cat hasn't  procured them as a midnight snack....