"Have cats and hamsters. But not at the same time."
We have too many pets in this house, there is simply no denying it.
And of course, by "we", I actually mean ME. Because, even though I may not actually physically be "The Hand That Feeds" in the most literal sense, I am most definitely "The Nag Who Reminds" those whose responsibilities include the duty of providing care and sustenance to the aforementioned pets.
Two kittens, three guinea pigs, one bearded dragon lizard, four guppies, numerous snails, three kids, and a husband all reside alongside me in this smouldering heap we call home.
So, why on earth I felt that it would be an even remotely tolerable idea to bring two more small, furry creatures into this house last month, I still have no idea.
I blame the dentist, actually.
The orthodontist, to be specific.
Those of you long-suffering readers who have been around the block with me will remember that there are few things that I have an abject terror of. Any sort of association with these things can cause me to act in such a manner as it would appear that I had completely taken leave of my senses.
The Dentist? Is Thing Number One on that list. The fact that The World Economic Crisis comes second gives you an idea of the scale we're talking about, here.
My eldest child has had to endure many years of dental treatment, due to an "overcrowding" issue, which, naturally, she inherited from my side of the family. Because of my own history with dentists (of which I shall spare you the gruesome details), I made every effort to spare my highly sensitive little girl from emotional suffering during this process. Many of the procedures were performed in hospital, by highly competent and capable medical professionals, under general anesthetic. We both came through these ordeals much less the worse for wear than we otherwise might have, and happily, she is now safely "embraced" for the next two years.
Her megawatt smile makes every, single minute of effort, and every ounce that our wallet was lightened in the process, absolutely worth it.
Last year, while things were so hectic and stressful on the work and school front, my children's dentist called me into her office to examine Child Number Two's latest panoramic xray. To say that the sight was mind-boggling would be an understatement. That wrap-around view of the unseen treasures stored within my second little girl's jaws resembled the mother-of-all jumble sales. There were teeth EVERYWHERE, just bustin' to make an appearance.
"YES. Well. So, you see..." began the good doctor... and I could feel the room spin a little.
Child Number Two is an entirely different creature than her older sister, however. And even though it is very true that I have long felt an unreasonable amount of anxiety about her safety and welfare, due to her dramatic entrance into this world, and her determined efforts to undertake dare-devilish feats that should surely have caused her to make an even more dramatic EXIT... I conceded that this child might be a better candidate for in-office dental procedures, with the assistance of local anesthetic and "laughing gas", rather than an operating room drama.
True to form, she has been braver and more stoic than I ever imagined she would be... And what's more, so have I, as I have stood at the bottom of the "operating chair", and gently rubbed my child's feet as each of the surgeries progressed.
Finally came the day when Child Number Two was fitted with what our orthodontist called a "twin block": upper and lower retainers, which encourage the growth of the palates and jaw, while (hopefully) providing more room for all those enormous choppers to grow in.
The retainers were no problem. She lisped a little at first, and it was a pain to remember the plastic cases every time she wanted to take them out to eat... But she's a conscientious little thing, and very independent with her oral hygiene, so things went swimmingly.
Until the headgear appeared.
The day that spacers were put between Child Number Two's back teeth, and the rather industrial looking strap-and-mouthpiece was presented to her, was a dark, dark day in this household. She was mortified... she felt beyond unattractive, and totally humiliated, in spite of all our reassurances. She would not let me help her put it on or take it off, and tried numerous ways of combing her hair over the thing, even though she was only required to wear it for twelve hours at night. You know, that time when it's dark, and everyone is supposed to be ASLEEP.
We tried everything to console her, to no avail. And eventually, she confessed that her biggest worry was having to take the dratted appliance on sleep-over visits. She was due to spend a week at her cousin's house, and simply could not face him with a "CAGE" (as she described it) over her face.
Now, my 8-year-old nephew, Iman, is Child Number Two's best friend. He's a "boy's boy", which is part of what makes him such a perfect companion for my boisterous daughter. He loves Harry Potter, Super Mario Bros., and anything with wheels, in that order. And, true to form, when he eventually got his first glimpse of headgear, he reacted as though his pal had turned into a real, live transformer. Two words said it all:
Iman: (a huge grin spreading across his face) "Woah. AWESOME."
It took many weeks of encouragement before Child Number Two dared to sport her new dental appliance in front of even the closest family members, however. Backing up the story a little, though, Child Number Two was adamant, at first, that her headgear nights would NOT START until after her week-long holiday at Iman's house was over.
Once I had my daughter's solemn promise of "NO WHINGING, NO SNIVELING" once the circled date on the calendar arrived, I agreed to the bargain.
Child Number Two had a glorious time with her cousin, and arrived home on cloud nine... They had been to art day-camp... they had eaten sushi... they had played for long hours at the water park on some death-trap called a "Slip-'n-Slide" (which sounds to ME like a pediatric orthopedic surgeon's DREAM...)
But, the most wonderful tale of all was of Iman's brand new hamster. He was a little more than a handful of white fluff, with tiny dark patches all over him. He was called "Dots", and it was clear from the way that her eyes shone, that Child Number Two had fallen in hamster-love.
I half-listened to all of my daughter's stories... to be truthful, I was dreading the evening, when all happiness and promises would be forgotten, as the headgear was strapped on for the night. And slowly, an idea began forming in my desperate, unhinged, and exhausted brain.
Why not get the little girls a hamster to keep in their bedroom? Hamsters, after all, are nocturnal creatures, and so feeding and entertaining the dear little soul would surely distract them from the headgear issue. We could get a "silent" wheel, and what the heck-- if it did turn out to make too much noise, I could always take the tiny cage down to the kitchen and put it by the guinea pig hutch during the night. Heck, they'd be company for one another, right?
The joy was truly unconfined that evening, as not one, but TWO dwarf hamsters, each about the size of a Canadian Loonie coin, took up residence in my young daughters' bedroom. Pip and Freckle seemed sweet, but soon gained a poor reputation with me, as they raced to take large chunks out of my fingers as I changed their water dish at night. We chalked it up to "new hamster jitters", as I disinfected and bandaged myself up. Mercifully, Child Number Two headgeared herself up without complaint, and we actually laughed our heads off as we learned to stretch our lips waaaaaaaay out past the little metal wire, to kiss one another goodnight.
(There's ALWAYS a "but" in my stories. Just my luck.)
What I had failed to factor in... or, rather, WHO I had failed to factor into this equation, were the cats, Maude and Charlotte.
Unbeknownst to any of us-- least of all HIM-- their unwitting co-conspirator:
The Hapless Husband.
(...to be continued... if you can stand it...)