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.


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.

Random Thursday: A Randomly Illustrated Wesson Christmas

The last two days contained a lot of Christmas.

Here are some random highlights, which don’t include much from Christmas Eve, since I was too busy badgering the kids to get ready for the pageant rehearsal before the Children’s Service, making myself presentable from the neck up—the “best” part of my Sunday Best depends almost entirely on green polyester choir robes—and shoving water bottles, pretzels, cheese cubes, and a square foot of washed grapes into our rolling cooler for the young actors, who tend to get cranky without Craft Services on hand,*  to remember my camera.

Just as well, really.


My brother-in-law arrived Sunday and left this morning.  If I had to sum up his visit in one photo that wouldn’t give a family therapist a field day, it would be this one:

Sneaky Niece

This is Sunny, tying his shoelaces together.  He totally deserved it, for not allowing her to decorate his Scott Ian beard** with her pink rose barrette.

We’re actually kind of proud of her—he had to take off his shoes to get the knots undone.

Can tying her own shoes be far behind?


Christmas morning was unexpectedly peaceful for longer than anticipated, possibly because the kids were sugar crashing exhausted from the chaos of the night before.

We even had time to take a pre-discovery photo:

Santa Scat

This year, Sunny waited until 7:30 before she thundered down the hallway to find the musical snowglobe Santa had given her.

Christmas Morning

And the flashlight.

Flashing Christmas

Her sister woke up half an hour later, pretending boredom with the whole ritual, though we noticed it didn’t take her long to get into the spirit of the thing—or into the contents of those wrapped boxes.

She even admitted out loud that Santa gave the best awesomesocks.

Awesomesocks Reprised

It was difficult to stop the kids in full present-ripping mania—surprise, surprise—but certain traditions must be upheld and delaying the gratification of desperate small children on gift-giving holidays is a family favorite.

So it was only after my MIL went to church,  my BIL was retrieved from his hotel, and some of us had showers and we all had a leisurely brunch of sausage casserole and eggs and chocolate pumpkin bread, and the dishwasher was emptied and refilled . . . the adults mutually decided that we should go down to my MIL’s living room and open presents before the children detonated.

Christmas 2013

There was a special package for Janie, too, thoroughly wrapped by her father, in the hopes that he would use up That Roll of Christmas Paper.***


True story:  even though Janie rushed towards it like a cross between a demented kangaroo and an air horn, it wasn’t until this point:


. . . that she screamed, “Oh!! It IS a bike!!”

I think it says a lot about our family that  after almost eleven years in it, she wouldn’t find it at all strange that a bicycle-shaped package would turn out to be something entirely different—though we weren’t sure what she thought it could be instead.

A book, maybe, or a giant Hexbug?  A puppy?

We were afraid to ask.  But at least she wasn’t disappointed.

I received some great stuff this year myself.  This kids gave me Myrtle and Hortense, because turtles are definitely a thing now.

Christmas TurtlesI don’t mind at all.

My parents bought craft and activity sets for everyone this year—the kids were given paint sets, origami and sock puppets, my husband has a new yo-yo set and Watson has a juggling kit.  I was given Knit and Purl Pets by Claire Garland and a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory pop-up book, which are  exactly what I would have wanted, had I known they existed.

Even thought I’m probably going to have to knit Mom an aardvark now . . . 

Speaking of awesome gifts, remember that Lord of the Rings bookpurse Watson made earlier this year?

Look at this!

Sherlock Bag

It’s perfect.

She wrapped the denuded book in the same box, because it hurt her to think of throwing it away—it would have hurt me, too.

Looks like one of us is going to have to take a bookbinding course . . .


After we cleaned up, Watson and I decided that it was time to make Christmas cookies to keep the kids from playing with the messier gifts we didn’t want to deal with happily occupied.

I’m probably going to do a longer recipe post on this later, ’cause it was a hoot and this post is getting a bit long to fully explain the spontaneous Ethel Merman competition, which I won by sheer volume—plus my kids were at a chronologically-based cultural disadvantage —or why it’s absolutely necessary to sing “Making Christmas” as you roll out the dough, but here are some of the results.

If you look closely at the decorated ones, you can tell exactly when we realized we had more cookies than patience.

But before we reached that point, we made cookies with an astounding array of cutters, including Watson’s special Star Wars set, because nothing says a Wesson Christmas like pretending to be Sarlaccs with a tray of sugar-frosted Boba Fetts.

The Cookies Strike Back

Or making Chia Yodas.  His face is still visible because of the Force.

Chia Yoda

These are mine.  I would like everyone to know that I did the mitten with my left hand, because I didn’t know I couldn’t.

Happy Cookies

Edible Louboutins.  Couldn’t you just die ?

But then things got surreal. I don’t remember the Gingerdeadmen being this difficult last year^–thank goodness we keep bone candy sprinkles on hand!

Surreal Cookeis

The Rainbow Unity Ninja on the right is Sunny’s—she’s a modernist at heart.  The mutant angel at the bottom is mine . . . I’m pretty sure I was trying for a pinafore, but it went terribly wrong somewhere . . .

But Christmas didn’t.

How was YOUR Thursday?


*And who were given bags of candy by someone else anyway, oh, well. By showtime the start of the service, all the shepherds and one cow had chocolate beards.   And so did Mary, who was visibly vibrating.  I don’t suppose y’all would be shocked to know Mary was one of mine?

**Lead guitarist for Anthrax.  This is probably not a coincidence.

***You know the one.  No one remembers buying That Roll, but it’s there in the stash with its sidekick, The MultiSpool of Faded Self-Shredding Ribbons, and it will continue to dole itself out for Christmases to come, sending its package-shaped spores to other households like festive and probably benign mushrooms.  Our Roll is reversible, to prevent us from using it for any other occasion and eyeblindingly electric lime fugly on both sides.  And, no, of course my husband didn’t use it up, because it can’t be done.

^Are those the same plates?  Do we have a Those Holiday Paper Plates problem now?

Merry Christmas, Mom!

. . . and Dad, too, of course, and the rest of you, but Mom was the one who told me that if I didn’t do a post on the gift she sent me, she’d take ’em back.

And I’m not letting these go:


Thank you!!!

You know that now that I know you can get these at Jungle Jim’s,* I’ll be expecting regular Care Packages, right?

It was a good day for everyone.  Some of the highlights:


Pure Awesomesocks from Santa, who also went a little crazy at the accessory store—if it’s meant to attach to hair, it was in the kids’ stockings.

Watson made the kids hats that go with our family’s favorite movie** and one of our favorite in-jokes–with no written pattern:

Sunny Hat      Jane Hat

She also gave me my new favorite tee-shirt:

Coulson Lives!

Because I’m a big ol’ nerd—this can’t be news—who firmly believes that what The Whedon takes away, The Whedon can bloody well give back.

Since the Christmas turkey roast was put in the crockpot at 10 this morning with four heads of garlic, I spent the afternoon playing computer games with Jane, reading a few of the books given to me by friends and family,  and, as a personal challenge, decorating cookies.  These cookies:

Gingerdead Man

The trick with  is to make the icing just the right consistency—but by the time I mastered the technique, I’d run out.  It was tough, but I found the experience humerus . . .

I hope you all had a great Christmas—or a rather nice Tuesday—and that your evening is filled with the equivalent of the Doctor Who Christmas Special and just this side of too many strange and tasty cookies.


*If you’re anywhere near Cincinnati, go visit Jungle Jim’s—it’s an experience, right down to the bathrooms. And if you forget the name before you can, just google “Weird Grocery stores in Cincinnati,” and it’ll pop right up.  There might also be a video.

**Collectively, I mean.  Our individual tastes differ.  A lot.

O Christmas Tree

For your

Holiday and/or Everything’s Closed And I’m Bored


A Wesson Christmas Tree Puzzle:

O Christmas Tree

Find the following things:

—a Snowman made out of a paving brick that weighs more than Sunny.

—A half-shredded, tissue-wrapped, school-made gift left to the mercy of the cat

—half a bolt of pink-and-silver fake fur tied with a sequinned ribbon, from my friend Grace to the kids

—The wooden nut basket with two trees on it that we tore the house apart looking for until it showed up in the photograph and someone elbowed someone else, pointed,  and said, “Oh, for $%#&’s sake.”

—a gingerbread man ornament with feline teeth marks on one leg

—A small egg-nog stain on a hand-hooked Christmas rug from my MIL’s side of the family (don’t tell her, please)

—The TV remote, because we can’t find it and we know it’s in there somewhere.

—Three copies of The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever

—The replacement tree-topper for the heirloom crystal one that shattered the moment it was gently lifted from its tissue nest and encountered the harsh climatological conditions of our living room

—The cat because we can’t find him, either, but odds are he’s doing something unspeakable behind the tree, possibly to the remote

Merry Happy Christmas

Belated Hanukkah

and/or Tuesday

to You

from the Wessons!