The Saga of Pip and Pebble

Jane has been clamoring for a pet for a while now and Sunny has been clamoring for anything her sister wants for most of her young life. Christmas tends to intensify this kind of thing, so it was getting kind of loud around here.

Most of our dinner conversations since Thanksgiving have featured names for the dachshund we aren’t getting,* because the other adults in the house, including Toby, our geriatric cat, have put all their** collective feet down.

But I like the idea of my kids growing up with their own pets.

I did—we had several cats and dogs when I was young, and a large aquarium full of fish and snails.*** We also had many, many generations of gerbils, descendants of a single pair which, despite the pet store’s reassurances, were clearly not both male.^ There were also various free-range turtles over the years, a couple of ping-pong playing pigeons from Dad’s behavioral science labs, and also a short-lived, but much adored lizard.^^ Not to mention the illegal hamster and fish I smuggled in and out of my college dorm rooms and managed to keep alive for much longer than my roommates had hoped anticipated.

I think—my family can tell you for sure—that caring for small animals taught me about responsibility and empathy and stain removal.   I’d like my kids to learn about those things . . .  and also about keeping the floors of their rooms clean, which was the only stipulation I set.

To be honest, I set the standard pretty low, because Sunny loves fish and I’d already found a small, single-occupancy tank that cleans itself (more or less) through a siphoning system, which was just too cool to pass up.

She unwrapped it on Christmas Day and announced that she wanted a big black fish named Godzilla.

Pour clean water in, and the dirty water at the bottom comes up the pipe and out the spigot.
It is essential, by the way, to either remember to keep a tall cup under the spigot or place anything that can contain clean water well out of the reach of your child.
Just sayin’.

But her sister wanted something she could hold.  Because I try to get my kids to learn a little something whenever possible, we did some research on that.

We reluctantly ruled out lizards, because her bedroom is the coldest in the house and I could afford the reptile or the heating system, but not both. Because I have some experience with keeping small mammals alive—one for almost twelve years, though she keeps growing up on me—we went through the options and decided that a hamster was a good starter pet.^^^

So this past Saturday, we all trooped to the pet store.

Sunny and my husband went to look at the fish and found a Longfin Dragonscale Betta with beautiful silvery-hematite scales and red-tipped fins.

She immediately dubbed him . . .  Pebble.

He doesn’t seem to mind the simplicity of his new name, but I’m not sure how you could tell.

No betta in the history of the world was ever loved by an 8-year old like this one is.

This is Pebble, whose coloring is far more stunning than I can capture with my phone camera and general lack of Photoshop-fu.
No betta in the history of the world has ever been loved by an 8-year old–or fed as regularly–as he.

Meanwhile, Jane and I went to the rodent cages to look at the hamsters—or rather for the hamsters, as most of them seemed to be asleep under a thick layer of bedding material.

In fact, the only animal awake was a bruiser of a gerbil—he was so big that I thought they’d mislabeled the rat cage.

The gerbils of my childhood were small, brown-brindled things and generally quiet, modest, and self-effacing.  This one was huge and butterscotch colored. He sat there in his wire wheel, rocking slightly from side to side on his big hind feet as he looked us over with bright, bold eyes.


This wasn’t supposed to be a close up.
He’s quick for a powerlifter.

I glanced at Jane, whose own eyes were glowing with an emotion I didn’t think I’d be seeing for another couple of years.

“Mom. Mom. I want him.

“Are you—“


“That’s not a—“

“Please, Mom. PLEASE.

So we brought the not-hamster home, along with a car-trunk full of the stuff we needed to sustain his small life.

And then we needed to name him. He wasn’t a Fluffernutter or a Whoopie Pie or a Captain Seedeater, all names we’d thought might work for a hamster.

This was a gerbil, and a manly one at that.

Finally, after much laughing debate— Dempsey! Megagerbilius! John Henry! Thorin! Gerbil X! Mom, stop it!—Jane finally said, “His name is Pip.”

“Pip,” I said. “That’s a good name. You mean, as in Pipsqueak?”

“No, Mom,” she said, rolling her eyes. “As in Pip from Great Expectations. Aren’t you supposed to be a librarian?”

That’s gratitude for you.

But it’s still a good name.

Attica!  Attica!

Attica! Attica!

It’s been three days, and both fish and gerbil have survived.  It helps that Toby, whose bad hip is keeping him low to the ground these days, remains clueless about the new arrivals.

Sunny has used her new paint set to do a portrait of her beloved Pebble and has been stumbling jumping out of bed and into her clothes every morning without complaint so she can feed him.

Jane has been good about cleaning up the plastic ledge where Pip has chosen to do his business.  The slow bonding process has resulted in a nipped finger or two, but she’s been remarkably patient and forgiving for a kid who’s been training hard for a place in the U.S.  Grudge/Revenge Biathlon team for the next Junior Olympics.

Whoa.  It’s working already!


*The current favorites are Salami, Chorizo, Lil Smokie, Vienna, and Captain Strudel.

**Not our feet, mind you. But I’m willing to wait until Toby passes away to call another vote.

***Remind me to tell the saga of the Great Snail Migration sometime.

^It was the squirming translucent pink miracle of life every week for a while. By the time we could reliable determine the gender of a specific animal for separation purposes, it was usually too late. If it weren’t for escapees, determined cats, and severe inbreeding, we would have been buried in Rodentia.

^^Remind me to tell you about Basilisk’s burial at Frigidaire sometime.

^^^Okay, I cheated. I found a Find The Best Small Pet For You online quiz, figured out which answers would lead to “hamster”, and then guided Jane through the same quiz. Mea culpa, but her answers would have netted us a ferret, and both Toby and my MIL would smother me in my sleep.


Weekend Writing Warriors: Odd Duck (Hot Wreck Ahead)

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog, eight sentences at a time?

Want to sample other people’s WIPs, EIPs, MSs, or published works, eight sentences at a time?

Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

Rules are here!

List of participants is here!


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why not check out the offerings of the Snippet Sunday gang?


Last Sunday, Tom began to follow the maître d’ of the Poisson d’Or through the high end French restaurant.  A couple of extremely well-written descriptive paragraphs later—just trust me—they arrive at the table where Tom’s wealthy client is waiting to hire the agency, be pleased with their discrete investigative services, and recommend them to all of her equally wealthy friends.

It’s a good plan.  Except . . .

Odette and Odile

Her hair was straight and long and very blonde, hanging down her back in a way that emphasized her small face and long neck. Her eyes, ice blue with very black pupils, were wide under thin brows.

She looked very expensive and very troubled—and nothing like Mrs. Justin P. Featherton.

“Hello, Leda,” I said. “It’s been a while.”

She looked up and her troubles were wiped away in favor of a delighted smile and even wider eyes. “Tommy!” she said. “It’s you.”


Some of you might remember Leda coming up in conversation a few Sundays ago, in a bit of the story that belongs farther along the timeline than this one.

Leda is your classic Odile . . . or she started out that way.  In Swan Lake, Odile is ordered by her father to do a particularly nasty bait and switch on the hero, by impersonating his True Love.  None of the versions of the tale that I’ve read or seen bother to ask her how she felt about this.*  I didn’t mean to ask, either, but Leda ended up telling me anyway.


*Okay, that’s a fib.  Barbie of Swan Lake—which is wrong in so many ways I just can’t even—thinks Odile is a adenoidal, spoiled, whiny, evil idiot who will do what her father says if it means she gets to be queen.  This is almost lazier, in a narrative sense, than ignoring her, but not as bad as the purple unicorn and the cute animals who used to be people.  Leave Tchaikovsky alone, Mattel, please?  He suffered enough.


Image located on the website of the Ballet Theatre of St. Petersburg Conservatoire, but it appears to be owned by the City Ballet of San Diego.  Funny world, this.

A Very Wesson Christmas

Christmas Haul

We had a lot of Christmas this year.

It officially started with the Christmas Eve Children’s Service, in which Sunny played a Cabbage Patch Doll, and I played the Voice of a Cabbage Patch doll.  Sunny didn’t like the doll’s outfit, so we dressed her in a strapless gown filched from Sunny’s American Girl doll, on the theory that she has such an extensive wardrobe, she wouldn’t miss it.  The gown matched the color of Sunny’s own Christmas dress.

Unfortunately, Cabbage Patch dolls aren’t built to wear strapless gowns and Sunny wasn’t overly careful about sitting like she was wearing a skirt instead of jeans, so I spent a good deal of time pulling the doll’s dress up and Sunny’s dress down.

Jane was Mary, and wore a beautiful blue scarf that she hadn’t because it covered the peacock streaks in her hair, which she was secretly hoping would impress the boy playing Joseph. She doesn’t like him in that way, Mom, Jeez!  but it was still disappointing.

I was wearing my usual green polyester choir robe, which covered all sins from the neck down.
Can I get an Amen?

The next morning was sheer chaos, but it started after my first cup of coffee—
there are benefits to having children who are too wound up from late dinners and the prospects of Santa to go to sleep before eleven—
so I didn’t care.

Luckily, this year’s holiday madness included my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, who is a terrific photographer, so most of it was documented a lot better than in previous years, which, as some of you might recall, tended to feature my photobombing thumb.*

Christmas Stress


We upheld many venerable traditions,
including awesomesocks:

Awesomesocks 2014

 . . . which this year also meant things made out of awesomesocks, from the kits Mom gave both kids.


This is Sunny’s “Sockraties”.
(We are not arguing with the spelling. He is not ours.)


 There were favorite presents.

book bracelet

I received a lot of jewelry this year, which isn’t a complaint. I love the malachite set that the kids gave me and the chain my husband gave me for my favorite pendant–or gave himself, really, since he won’t have to battle with the clasp on my old chain–and the beautiful bracelet my folks sent me that is still firmly attached to its theft-proof box, but this one, given to me by my BIL and his girlfriend, photographed best.
It makes my wrist happy.

1 little girl from school

One Little Girl From School.

Santa gave Sunny and Jane fans in their stockings. They learned to unfurl, snap, flirt, and smack their uncle on the head.
Good times.


Sunny received these at 8am Christmas morning. By the time she went to bed, they had only been OFF her feet a cumulative two hours.
She likes being tall.


Santa gave Jane Pokemon cards.
This is, apparently, a super-extra-rare-Somethingagon, which is just as confusing when it isn’t all fuzzy.

And yes, I took this photo. Hush.

Beaver Bites

Watson mailed us a big ol’ box of Texas, most of which came from Buc-ee’s and most of which is, theoretically, edible.

The Beaver Nuggets are very tasty.

And Reindeer Games.

Reindeer Games

The photographer might have arranged this one a bit while one of the subjects was having an after-brunch snooze.


This captures not only a forty-year Wesson family tradition of ringing the bells as you pass underneath the felt Santa, but also the moment just before Sunny grabbed instead of swatted.

Santa is expected to make a full recovery, once the glue dries.

We even introduced a new tradition, we hope:

The Wesson Christmas piñata.

Contemplating the Enemy

Regarding the enemy.

Ninja Attack

Smacking the leg off the enemy with the soon-to-be-traditional Inexplicable Kendo Stick of Righteousness.

(“Inexplicable” because I didn’t know we owned one, and no one can explain why we do.)



Victory Dance

The traditional Wesson Victory Dance!
(It’s true. I’ve seen it before.)

Clown noses

To the Victors go the spoils. And clown noses.

The *funniest* part of this is when she leaned over the basket of goodies and tried, loudly and unsuccessfully—all three times—to blow it off her nose.
Two out of five adults and one older sister were appalled and disgusted. The rest of us were too busy laughing to speak.

 How was your Thursday?


*Those of you with discerning eyes—or just, you know, eyes—will be able to tell which ones are hers and which are mine.  Even if I had a quarter of her talent (nope) my phone app is no match for her professional-grade camera, with special lens attachment.  And she also gets up and moves around for shots, which I also do not.

Weekend Writing Warriors: Odd Duck (Cue the Flamingo)

We WriWa bannerHave a WIP, an EIP, an MS, or a published work you want to share on your blog, eight sentences at a time?

Want to sample other people’s WIPs, EIPs, MSs, or published works, eight sentences at a time?

Be a Weekend Writing Warrior!

Rules are here!

List of participants is here!


Or if you’re a fellow Facebook addict (we can quit any time we want to, right?),
why not check out the offerings of the Snippet Sunday gang?


When last we left him, our hero Tom had arrived at the Poisson d’Or to meet a client.  Having entrusted his beloved rustbucket to part-time valet and full-time illicit pursuit artist Eddie, he goes inside:

Flamingo - Lesser

I pegged the maître d as human, because I’d never heard of a wereflamingo.

He looked at me down a large, curved nose. “Mr. Mahon?” he inquired, through a long throat that sounded like it had been oiled recently.

I wondered how he knew I was me; I doubted my reputation had preceded me this far uptown. If Mrs. Featherton had someone on staff who’d been able to locate an image of me, she didn’t need a private detective.

But I just nodded and let him examine my tie, jacket, and shoes.

“This way,” he decided.

He raised each knee just a little too high as he stepped, placing each foot just so as we processed our way through the main dining room; I was betting he had some strong waterbird genes in his ancestry—or maybe a couple of performance artists.


To be fair, no one in Talbot City has ever heard of a wereduck, either . . . but Tom’s not the type to go waddling around to prove a point.

This guy may be a tad stereotypical, but he’s very good at his job.  And he also plants the idea that weres and humans can be cross-fertile.

I’ve tried to establish some fairly straightforward rules of genetic inheritance for this world—mostly because I couldn’t figure out how a duck bite would do anything but make the reader snerk, which isn’t always the reaction I want (no, really).

Happy Middle of Hanukkah, Merry Impending Christmas, and Heri za Forthcoming Kwanzaa!

Random Thursday: Holiday Notes and Some Random Flashes of Urim

Random Thursday (ˈrandəm ˈTHərzdā): the day on which Sarah plunks down all the odd bits and pieces she’s been sent by friends or has otherwise stumbled upon this week in an effort to avoid writing a real post, the assembly of which usually ends up taking twice as much time as sitting down and creating actual content.

Chag urim sameach, y’all—and Merry Last Week of Frantic Shopping For That One Impossible Person You Pulled For the Family Exchange.

Have a random mixed bag o’ holiday!


Turnabout is Scientific Play . . . Or Something


Sugar Plum Jamming

Dads + Holiday Jumpers + Dubstep =
My New Favorite Christmas Commercial

The music is available for downloading, somewhere, too—check the YouTube info.


Handel with Care


Last year, our church choir attempted to sing the “Hallelujah Chorus”
at the Christmas Eve service.

We worked really hard, learned those parts—
even brought in a couple of stunt sopranos.

This Christmas Eve, we were going to give “For Unto Us a Child is Born” a try.

But then we were told that instead of singing,
the choir will be voicing the lines of the children
performing in the Christmas Pageant Sermon,
which is titled,”The Best Christmas Present Ever”.

Sunny and I are a Cabbage Patch Kid.

I can only assume that the Chapter Office of Westminster Abbey
placed a call to our church secretary,
requesting that we not set Handel spinning in his grave again this year,
as it quite disrupted the midnight services over there.

Kids singing

We’re very, very sorry.

Just out of curiosity . . . Where is Bach buried?


No, YOU light the shamash

Menorasaurus Rex.

Menorasaurus Rex

Get ’em right here.

(Thanks, Watson—I’m saving the rest for next week!)


It’s Not Just a Gig, It’s An Adventure

Seems the  Sideboys vocal ensemble
had a few “problems” with their sheet music at the 2010 U.S. Navy Band Holiday Concert.

Remember men:
The only easy harmony was the last one.