Sunday, September 27, 2009

Suzie the Hamster Killer

I mentioned in my last post that Eric is putty in his girls' hands and even though I'm sure he doesn't want me sharing this with the whole world, he really is. A few months ago he thought Suzie's hair was long enough for sponge curlers, so he embarked on a Saturday night sponge curler session with her. (Raise your hand if you had these sessions on Saturday nights and got to watch "The Love Boat" and "Fantasy Island" during them like me.) Anyway here is physical proof that despite the hard, crunchy shell, Eric is nothing but soft nougat and caramel inside. (Please excuse the candy references. I'm on a no candy diet for a year and it is starting to mess with me especially with all the Halloween candy in stores since August when I started this blasted bet.)
I had told my parents about this and they didn't believe that Suzie's hair was long enough to be curled. So here is the big reveal:

I know its no "Mufasa" like we use to call my sister's mane of curly hair, but it is leaps and bounds for our Suzie who didn't have any hair to shake a stick at when she turned 2.

Our Suzie has numerous nicknames- Suzie-Q, Suz, Suz-a-phone, Snooz, strawberry,etc. But don't let this sweet, innocent face fool you. Her newest nickname is Suzie the Hamster Killer. The incident wherein she earned this name occured a few months ago but I felt the need to "be accurate. It's for posterity- you know." (Name that movie-one of my favorites) and get it written down. We have to go back to June when Annie had her 8th birthday. She got a good chunk of change from her Grandpa and Grandma Christensen and instead of put it in her college account like I'm sure they wanted her to, she decided to flex her "responsibility" muscles in a different way. She took the first step toward child pet ownership and got a hamster. Finn, already having this charge of pet propriety with a hamster of his own, helped her research online the best kind of cage to get. Then Eric took her to Petsmart and got her a Winter White Dwarf hamster with all the gear- cage, ball, food, bedding, toys and water bottle. I tell ya- pet ownership is no small thing which is why you need the wisdom of 8 years and the funds from the celebration of so many years to even think of taking on this kind of obligation. Annie, along with several "helping hands" in Dad, Finn, Katie, Suzie, Kalian- the neighbor and Summer- the friend, got "Chocolate" all settled in its new home. It was given the name Chocolate because Finn's hamster's name is Chip and they thought the two names went well together and I must say I agree. I won't go into the naming process and the conversations that ensued between Finn, Annie and Katie concerning what to name Annie's hamster. But let's just say Eric and I didn't have as hard a time or as heated a discussion in naming our children as those three had in coming up with a name for a rodent.
So fast forward about 6 weeks, Chocolate is acclimatized to its new environment and Annie finds her new responsiblity is like taking candy from a baby. (Sorry- did I mention it is Fast Sunday AND i'm on a no candy diet.) In her fastidious zeal to take care of her pet she put Chocolate in its ball, blocked off the stairs so it won't fall down them, closed all the doors to all the bedrooms upstairs and starts to clean out its cage. And in my apparent not so fastidious zeal in being a parent at that moment, I pay no attention to the hamster or Suzie during this process. I'm more concerned with Annie not getting bedding all over the counter and floor so I tell her to clean it outside and then I go about doing something else. About ten minutes later Annie comes back in and asks where Chocolate is. I tell her I have no idea. She goes around looking for it. A few minutes later she yells out, "Mom, there's something wrong with Chocolate." Now my girls have been known to be a tinsy bit dramatic so the first yell usually doesn't send me running. She senses my apathy and thrusts the yellow hamster ball in my face. I look inside and what I see is kind of disturbing. Chocolate is flat on its back, little paws and feet sprawled out and breathing quite shallow. Now I'm no doctor or veterinarian but I'm pretty sure Chocolate has suffered some kind of violent event and in the throes of death. I think the poor thing has broken its back and no matter how I try to revive it, it won't move. But it is still alive and breathing which is even more disturbing to me and Annie. She starts to get very emotional. Finn was over at a neighbor's house, but Annie seems to think he can do something so I call him and ask him to come home to check out the hamster. Finn comes in and Annie starts wailing, "Chocolate is going to die!" Now Finn has been a brother to his 3 sisters for 8 years and the first wail doesn't send him running either and he responds quite glibly, "Oh he is not." But then like me, his response changes when he sees Chocolate to "Oh, maybe he is." Since Finn couldn't really do anything we call the other man in our life- Dad. Eric says just to put it back in its cage and he will "take care of it" when he gets home. And what he meant by "take care of it" we are not really sure, but we have all agreed to a "don't ask; don't tell" policy when it comes to the euthanasia of an animal.
In the midst of all this Annie and I are trying to figure out what has happened to cause such trauma to a hamster. It hadn't fallen down the stairs since Annie had blocked them off and Katie assured us that she never picked the ball up. As I'm holding the ball with the lifeless, limp form of Chocolate in it, Suzie come up and innocently says, "I kick it." She tries to take the ball from me and again says, "I kick it." And all the puzzle pieces fall into place. Suzie thought the hamster ball was a soccer ball and had been kicking it around while Annie was cleaning the cage and I was "otherwise engaged." Poor Chocolate was no match to the fastidious zeal of a two year old playing with a ball. Chocolate, may he rest in peace, has been replaced by another Dwarf hamster named "Gus-Gus." And now not only does Annie have fastidious zeal when cleaning out its cage, so does her mother by keeping Suzie the Hamster Killer away from that enticing yellow ball that can move on its own until you kick it as hard as you can against the wall.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Birthday, Conquering fears and Sufficiently Amused

This is our "Katie-bug" and she turned 5 recently. About 6 weeks before her birthday, Eric asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She responded, like any 4 and 3/4 year old (this is the age she gave herself up until the day she turned five) would, that she wanted to go to Disneyland. And Eric, despite the tough-guy exterior, is complete putty in his girls' hands and made it happen. So we took the kids out of school during the first week of school-no less- and spent 2 and 1/2 days in sunny Southern CA with several other hundreds of people celebrating birthdays in Disneyland. This year Disney has a "Celebrate" theme and they are encouraging their patrons to come celebrate whatever occassion with them. And of course Disney celebrates right.. for a price! :) But Katie had an unforgettable birthday and I've decided that having a handful of fingers to hold up when someone asks you how old you are matches a five year old's personality perfectly. It was so cute to watch Katie proudly hold out her hand with all five fingers spread wide whenever someone asked her how old she was turning on her birthday. But Eric may just have to be careful, for her 6th birthday Katie may just ask for a pony!

Besides celebrating birthdays in Disneyland, we also worked on some pretty significant fears. Katie is terrified of fireworks and Disney does a firework show every night. We were dog-tired every night we were there so we never made it to the 9:30pm showing of the fireworks in the park. But we could see them from the RV parking lot we were staying at. The first night Katie refused to come out because as she explained it, "Fireworks are made of fire and they burn people and they burn houses." Well I couldn't really argue with that logic, so she just stayed inside while we enjoyed the show. The second night her curiousity got the best of her and she poked her head out of the RV for a few minutes and then decided she could watch them from the safety of Dad's arms. On the last night I was cleaning up the dinner dishes about a half hour before the show and I overheard Annie say to Katie while they were taking a shower, "I bet everyone is already watching the fireworks." And Katie responded, "Well we need to hurry so we don't miss the fireworks." What a difference 2 days makes!
Another fear we worked on is Finn's fear of roller-coasters. He really hates them. Annie, on the other hand, can't get enough of them and this really speaks to the difference in their personalities. When Finn was about 4 and Annie was 2, I took them to the aquarium. There were crabs you could touch there. Finn wouldn't get near them, but Annie kept putting her pudgy two year old fingers right up to them. This freaked Finn out and he kept telling me to not let Annie touch them because of their "pinchers." Anyway, luckily for Finn most of the roller coasters in Disneyland are pretty benign. They go fast, but tend to not have a lot of steep drops or chances to be upside down which is what he doesn't like about them. We started with Matterhorn which even Suzie can ride and worked our way up. The best was when Eric took Finn on Splash Mountain. I don't know if this next picture can be blown up, but if you want a good laugh- try to make it bigger and look at Finn's face. It is pure terror. There is absolutely no joy in his face whatsoever. And Eric and I, being the sympathetic, sensitive parents that we are have laughed and laughed about this picture every time we look at it. When Eric saw it he just couldn't pass up having hard evidence of why Finn doesn't like roller coasters. And what's even better is before they saw this picture, Finn said to Eric, "I wasn't expecting that drop at the end." Really?!?
One final note about "amusement parks." As fun as they are I can't help but wonder if the "amuse" in "amusement" means for parents having to tell your kids "No, we are not buying souvenirs until the last day" 100 times or feeling violated by having to pay $4.00 for a 12 oz soda or trying to keep both a 2 year old and a 10 year old happy at all times or dealing with mid-day meltdowns because we are all hot, hungry and have stayed up too late and gotten up to earlier. Well if it does- then yes, we have been sufficiently "amused!"