Bully Fish

darla_finding_nemo_by_digitalwideresource-d5ce49kWho knew pet fish could be bullies. And that those bullies could bring several members of our family to tears.

Dang fish.

After a couple of petless years, I caved and decided my boys could get some fish and aquatic frogs. Our last fish tragically died (you can read about that here) but it has been a couple of years so I thought maybe we could handle some new ones.

I promised my boys that once we moved we’d go pick out some pets.

Every morning they practically woke me up before dawn screaming, “Can we go to the pet store?”

It took a few days to find our fish tank and its equipment; meanwhile my boys thought they were going to die waiting. Last Friday we finally got to pick out their new pets.

Each of them picked out an African Dwarf Frog and then my two oldest boys picked out two fish each.

It took forever to choose! And of course we got the most unhelpful employee in the entire pet store. We asked him what fish would be compatible with the frogs. He told us pretty much any of them. But every time they chose one he’d shake his head and tell us that it wouldn’t work with the frogs.

Say what? After being shut down four or five times I was just about ready to whack that worker with a fish net.

They ended up with the most random fish — A black molly, a red swordtail, a zebra-striped tetra and a yellow-finned guppy.

We set all the animals up in the tank and they seemed to be doing great — until the next morning. The small guppy was barely swimming. He looked weak and tired and he wouldn’t eat anything.

By Sunday night he was dead. And it was tragic. My poor five-year-old sobbed and sobbed. Then my oldest cried too as he tried to comfort his devastated brother. The poor fish was floating belly up and gruesomely his tail had been torn off. That cute yellow tail!

Monday after school we headed straight to the pet store with the dead fish in a baggie. Luckily there is a 2-week guarantee and thankfully my son found an even “cooler” guppy to replace the poor first one.

I admit. The new fish was cool. It was yellow and black and had leopard spots on its tail and fins.

But sadly it didn’t make it either. Tuesday morning we found him sucked to the bottom of the filter. My oldest “saved” him by scraping him aside with our fish net but a minute later he was sucked back to it. He saved it from the filter once more but to no avail.

It was horrible. Once again my five-year-old was crying, begging me to save his fish.

I don’t know how to save a fish!? But I saw him kneeling by his bed praying for his fish. What was I supposed to do?

I got an old jar out and put the fish in it alone with some food. I hoped and prayed it would make a rebound but it swam slow circles around the jar while scraping his side across the glass. It didn’t look good.

By the afternoon it too was belly up. And we were pet store bound again for the third time in five days.

Thankfully, this time a different employee helped us. We told her about our two poor guppies and she said it sounded like one of the other fish was picking on the tiny guys – a bully in our tank!

We left the store with a different, larger fish this time. We loved the guppies but they couldn’t fend for themselves against our aggressor. Hopefully our new one can.

Now that the pet store employee mentioned it, I can totally see a bully in our midst. The flat-faced zebra-striped tetra! Shame on him.

He’s the biggest fish in the tank and he thinks that gives him the right to snap at all the others and push them around. He hogs the food and rules the roost. I’m sure he’s the one that ate the yellow guppy’s cute little yellow tail.

I’ve never wanted to slap something more in my entire life. I have to stop myself each time I go near the tank from whipping my hand into the water and smacking his flat finned face. Sometimes I’ll flick the glass where he’s swimming and send him scrambling.

I’m half tempted to set up a picture of Darla, the fish-killing niece on Finding Nemo, as the tank’s background. Maybe she could scare some mean out of him. He’s a bully and he’s got to stop.

I’ve never been more stressed about some silly fish in my entire life. It’s freaking me out. I worry that each day I’ll walk in to find another one dead. Then we’ll have more sorrow followed by another trip to the pet store.

Have you ever taken your kids to the pet store? For us it’s not a quick, easy trip.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get our three frogs to start eating before we lose one of them. We’ve tried pellets, flakes and now bloodworms. Hopefully they’ll start snatching up something. Because I don’t want to lose another pet and I definitely don’t want to make another trip to the pet store.

Bird Fever

DSCF7711I always told my boys that if they ever caught a wild bird they could keep it. I should never have told them that.

I think I got it from my grandpa. Growing up when all the cousins g0t together he’d round us up and tell us that if we caught a bird he’d pay us.

I can’t remember how much – $1 was a lot to me back then – but I remember carrying nets, hunting his neighborhood for wildlife. I was usually the smallest so I’d have to run twice as hard as my kin – all the while praying that my short, stubby legs would fly me fast enough to catch a bird.

We had some good times.

So to keep with family tradition, I told my boys that if they ever caught a bird they could keep it (no monetary reward, but still).

Well this week they did.

Were in the process of moving. Our new house has a pretty big backyard, but it’s kind of a wilderness. There are hundreds of dandelions, dozens of birds and even a few snakes.

Some of our good friends came over Monday night to help us move stuff from our storage shed to our house. I warned my friend that we saw three snakes in the back yard on Sunday and that I had banned my boys from going back there.

Not because the snakes are dangerous but because they are disgusting. They slither and sneak and they freak both me and my boys out.

But as soon as their friends came over, my boys instantly became brave. They snatched up their new bug nets and headed to the snake-infested corner of our yard with their friends trailing behind them.

They didn’t see one snake. But they found a baby bird and they rescued it. (Apparently it was drowning in a puddle in the back yard.)

They cared for that bird all night. Even though I told them not to, they cupped that cute little thing in their hands and carried it around searching for seeds to feed to it. They even built it a nest filled with twigs, leaves, flowers and seeds.


I didn’t like the idea of them carrying around a bird. Especially because if the bird was weak enough that they could catch it, chances are it was pretty sick – believe me I have tried to catch a lot of birds but with no success.

I was worried they would catch bird fever, or some random bird-bred virus, from their furry, feathered friend.

Sadly for them (luckily for me) the bird was nowhere to be found in the morning. It probably hopped out of its nest and wandered off. Maybe the prospect of being cared for by four small children thrust it back into full health and it flew off.

Hopefully we won’t find it “sleeping” in the back yard.

It was a true adventure and even though the bird is gone, they loved every minute of it.

And they seem to be pretty healthy. No apparent disease. However I think they did catch some sort of bird fever. Now all my 5-year-old talks about is getting a pet bird. If I ever agree to that, we’ll go “catch” it from a pet store. That way I know it’s clean.


Stop Smoking – It’s Bad for the Environment

stop smokingMy 7-year-old son is convinced that if he can get people to stop smoking, he can end global warming.

He and his friend were outside this week passing out hand-made fliers.

They were hackling and picketing in front of my house while I did the dishes after dinner. When I went to see what they were shouting about, they ran up to me excited that they were going to get everyone to stop smoking.

“I just feel so good inside mom,” my son said.

Terrified that they were going to offend some of my cigarette-smoking neighbors by hand delivering fliers to their doors, I tried to steer them away from telling people what to do and push them into a post-the-flier-on-our-front-door direction. I told them I didn’t want them to hurt people’s feelings.

They thought about what I said, but decided to continue with a slightly altered message. They weren’t going to force people to stop smoking they would ask people nicely to stop smoking.

“Here, I’ll write ‘please’” at the top,” my son added.

And that’s just what he did. He added “please,” above the message that read: stop smoking, globel warming, naturl gas, invirement needs help. Ice burg melting. Kids that hav asmu can’t breeth http://www.stopsmokingtoday.org.

But in the end the kids weren’t really singling out cigarette smokers like I feared.

I asked them specifically what type of smoke they were talking about and they said every type of smoke – fires, cars, everything.

These two second-graders are pretty passionate when it comes to ending pollution.

They are so passionate that they ended up grabbing a tin can and banging it on the sidewalk while drumming up “donatshons” for the “Invirment.” They weren’t able to collect anything but if they did, they were going to give it to a forest ranger.

Kids are pretty amazing. My son watched a documentary last week with my husband about global warming and the melting of arctic ice caps. I’m sure that’s what inspired this campaign – a campaign that has my full backing.

Heck, I’ll support anything that my child does to try to make the world a better place.

Especially because he and his friend weren’t judging people or telling them what to do, they were on a special mission to save Mother Earth.

And that makes me feel so good inside.

Hooking Something I Hate

July 088In the back of my fridge in a small white Styrofoam bowl sits something I absolutely detest – a muddy muck of worms.

The saddest part is I bought them myself.

Why would I buy something I hate? Because my 6-year-old son typed up a list of all the types of fish he wants to catch this year. Then he taped it on the back of his bedroom door. And up until I bought that nasty cup of night crawlers, we hadn’t been able to check off any of those fish types.

Now we can mark catfish off the list.

My oldest son loves fishing. He would go all day everyday if I took him. But sadly we rarely catch anything.

A couple of weeks ago I actually looked up the local fishing report before we decided where to go. It said that the Kaysville Ponds were a real hot spot for kids. A fish called a wiper was really hitting on bits of worm. WORM!

I had a serious dilemma. I could take my son to the closest pond, use our usual Power Bait and once again catch nothing. Or, I could face my fear and disgust and purchase a bunch of worms. Let me tell you, you don’t check off fish from my 6-year-old’s 2013 Fishing Goal List by sticking with Power Bait.

I did it. I walked into a gas station, went back to the small brown night crawler fridge and picked out a bowl of worm-infested dirt. I nearly gagged when my son opened it up. Those things were HUGE. And the smell! It almost did me in.

But I took a deep breath as my oldest closed the lid and proudly carried the case to the cashier. I still can’t believe I let those things in my van.

When we got to the pond I didn’t know how I was going to wriggle a worm on a hook. Let alone a bit of a worm. Somehow we were going to have to detach pieces from one of the long snake-like creepers.

Thank heavens my oldest doesn’t hate worms. I actually think he loves them. He grabbed one right off and started cutting off a piece with a knife. Then, I talked him through baiting it on the hook. I have seen my dad do this a bunch of times so I tried to describe it to him the best I could. July 089

Luckily I also happened to have a bag of marshmallows in our diaper bag leftover from our church snack pile. I put the marshmallow on, he put the worm bit on, and we cast our pole. Not five minutes went by before we already had our first fish. It was thrilling.  (Keep in mind we don’t catch fish very often.)

July 091We were fishing on a hill, which made things a little more difficult since I happened to bring my one-year-old along with his stroller, but we made do.

I hooked the fish, then grabbed my baby, ran up the hill buckled him in his stroller, ran back down the hill and helped my 6-year-old finish reeling in. We did this little dance three times before my four and one-year-olds had had enough and needed to leave.

Each of the yellow-bellied catfish we caught was tiny, yet beautiful. It was one of the funnest, wildest fishing trips we have been on. It all happened because I was willing to try something new. Something new that I thought I would hate.

We went back to the same spot a couple of days later and took my husband. We caught four catfish that night. I think we could have keep catching all night if we wanted to stay longer. It was the best.

And to think we almost missed out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still can’t believe I have a bowl full of worms in the back of my fridge. But deep down I think it both disgusts and excites me. Part of me sincerely hopes they last through a couple more fishing trips. There are more catfish to be caught.

Melting Up Some Magic

My brother and his cute new wife just got back from a honeymoon to Florida. Where they visited the Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal Studios in Orlando.

They stopped by and showed us photos of Hogwarts and Hogsmeade, where they bought their robes and wands.

Naturally, after they told us of their stop to Ollivanders and the amazing wands they bought, my boys wanted wands too.

They thought my brother should have bought them some.

I tried to tell my boys that “the wand chooses the wizard” so there was no way that their uncle could have chosen a wand for them, but they still didn’t understand.

My oldest son told my brother to go home and use his Elder Wand to do a spell to send him and his brother their own wands. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that no use of the word “accio” would ever be able to summon up wands.

The next day a small box was delivered to our doorstop while we were gone running errands. My boys ran to the porch to see what it was, but were sorely disappointed when the box contained my new year’s supply of contact lenses – not their new wands.

At that point they began to realize that they might not magically get their hands on some wands.

That’s when the constant begging began for me to help them make some wands. My sister-in-law found an easy way to make authentic-looking wands on Pinterest and my boys wouldn’t let me forget it.

Finally when I could take it no longer, I found the Pinterest pin and we gathered up some supplies to make our own magic.

First off we headed to the local oriental market for a package of chopsticks. We bought a 20-pack for $3.99.

Then we came home and gathered up brushes, some acrylic paint, hot glue sticks, a glue gun and a bunch of different sized beads.

The boys took turns looking through and choosing their own beads and we worked carefully to glue them on to the bottom end of the chopsticks. The instructions I saw online said to cover the beads in glue then, after the glue was cool, to mold the wands’ handles with your hands.

That didn’t go so well for me. I ended up nearly melting my palm to a few of the wands trying to mold the ends before I decided it wasn’t worth it. Instead I ran the end of the wands under some cold water until the glue was almost all set. Then I squeezed the end with my hand to make sure the beads would stay.

The beads and glue made the handles of the wands look real. We even added a feather into a couple of the wands so that they had a “core.”

Once we had the wands molded to our liking, we needed to finish them off with paint.

The painting part was probably the fastest, but most stressful part.  I don’t know why I ever think I am a patient enough mom to paint with my children. Even though I make them wear some of my really old t-shirts I am still a nervous wreck that they are going to end up with paint everywhere.

But we survived and I am really happy with how the wands turned out.

They were really easy and my boys have been playing with them ever since. You can check out the website we looked at for instructions here.

My boys wanted to be done after we made only two wands. But after I had strewn crafting supplies all over my kitchen, I wasn’t going to stop with only a couple of wands. I made them help me finish ten. That way when we lose some (which I know we will) or when friends come over, we will have extras.

They are definitely not as fancy or as authentic as the ones my brother picked up in Florida, and I am sure they aren’t nearly as nicely made, but don’t tell my 4 and 6 year olds, to them they are still pretty magical.

Oh What Do You Do In the Summertime?

ImageSummer. The time when we don’t eat breakfast ’til 9 a.m. and don’t get dressed until noon. The time when I get my 5 year-old back and he plays happily with his younger brother – most of the time.

The time when I have to find at least one thing to do each day to get us out of the house or I’ll go crazy!

I’ve heard other moms talking about how excited they are to have their kids home again during the summer. I’m dying to know what those moms do with them all day.

I love having my boys home together, but I am always interested in ways to entertain all of us – ways that don’t include Netflix or Wii Games.

We have done a bunch of fun things during the first month of summer, and have made a pretty good list of more activities we want to do, but I want to know what you guys are doing.  How are you spending your summer?

Check out all of the fun, inexpensive things we have done so far and let me know what other things appear on your list. That way I will know what else to add to our Summer Bucket List.

Here’s what we’ve done:

1.    Wild Wednesday at The Ogden Nature Center: This is one of my boys’ favorite activities. We went the last week in May and learned about Raptor birds. At Wild Wednesdays kids are taught about a specific topic in a classroom setting, then they get to go out on the grounds and learn about it hands-on. My boys are major nature geeks so they eat those type of activities right up. Here is a link to the center’s website: http://www.ogdennaturecenter.org/

2.    The Ogden Eccles Dinosaur Park: There are a handful of things to do at the Dinosaur Park. My boys like to dig for fossils and watch employees glue dinosaur bones together. I got an email this week saying that this summer they have story time in the education center Monday through Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m. They are also having a different summer project featured in the education center each week. Here is a link to their website: http://www.dinosaurpark.org/

3.    Treehouse Museum: We love the Treehouse Museum. The museum staff is always changing and improving the hands-on activities. Normally when we go, there is a craft the kids can do in the art garden and in the afternoon there is a partici-play going on where they can help act out a story on the stage. It’s a great place to go for a couple of hours. Click here for more information: http://www.treehousemuseum.org/

4.    Fishing at a community fishery: My boys like fishing whether we catch anything or not. But, I don’t like driving far and hauling a bunch of stuff with us. So, local community fisheries are perfect. We normally go to the Roy Pond – where we have actually caught some fish. Here is a link to a list of Utah’s fisheries: http://wildlife.utah.gov/dwr/fishing/community-fisheries.html

5.    99 cent miniature golf at Fat Cats: Fat Cats has an amazing deal this summer. Bowling, shoes, miniature golf and bumper cars are all 99 cents each this summer – Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. I took the boys miniature golfing and it was a blast. We plan on going back for bowling and bumper cars. Find out more info. here: http://fatcatsfun.com/

6.    Splash Pad: I think I love the splash pad more than my boys do. We have been to a couple of splash pads, but I particularly like the Riverdale one with its mature trees that provide great shade. I get to sit and visit with other moms while keeping an eye on my boys. We don’t normally stay very long, but it is definitely a great place to cool off. And it’s free! Here is a link to info. about the Riverdale Splash Pad: http://www.riverdalecity.com/meetings_events/special_events/Splash_Pad.html

7.    Matinee Movie: There are so many theaters with summer movie deals for kids with shows as little as $1 each. We went and saw Madagascar 3 (which wasn’t part of a movie deal) but hope to go see more movies, particularly if they are only $1. Normally the movie deals are for older shows, but some of them we still haven’t seen. Here are links to information on the summer programs at a few local theaters:

Megaplex Theaters: http://www.megaplextheatres.com/KidsMovieMagic

Syracuse 6 Theater: http://www.syracuse6.com/index.cfm

Cinemark Theaters: http://www.cinemark.com/summer-movie-clubhouse-2012

8.    Discovery time at the local library: My boys LOVE to read. So they love discovery time. But I like it too because they get to sing, dance around, make a craft and more! Here is a link to the Weber County Library Website: http://www.weberpl.lib.ut.us/ and the Davis County Library Website: http://www.co.davis.ut.us/library/

9.    Neighborhood Treasure Hunt: My creative neighbor put together a pirate-style treasure hunt a couple of weeks ago. It was great! She hid clues at different spots around the neighborhood and we all went loose looking for them. The kids ran around the block getting out some of their excess energy and they loved finding a box full of bracelets, rings, temporary tattoos and chocolate.

10. Water Balloon Fights/running through the sprinklers:  Summer would not be complete without my boys chucking water balloons at their poor, innocent mother. They love both filling them up and throwing them down. This is the first year they have wanted to run through the sprinkler. I’m all for it – especially on a hot day.

Our Summer Bucket List – we hope to make it to the following places:

  1. Bingham Canyon Mine – http://www.kennecott.com/
  2. Old Springs Trout Farm – http://www.coldspringstroutfarm.com/
  3. Union Station Train Museums – http://theunionstation.org/
  4. Tracy Aviary – http://www.tracyaviary.org/
  5. Hogle Zoo – http://www.hoglezoo.org/

Derby Time

My boys are 3 and 5. Well below the typical Cub Scout age. And yet this past week I found myself whittling away at a rectangular block of wood, trying desperately to make it resemble a racecar.

All because my church is putting on a Pinewood Derby Party tonight for people of all ages.

I heard about the party months ago but brushed it aside. It wasn’t until church leaders started talking it up to my 5-year-old that I had any desire to participate. He got so excited at the idea of making a racecar that I couldn’t tell him “no.”

I tried to get my dad to help him. I remember him and my brother working on their Pinewood Derby cars for hours when I was younger. I think they actually won the grand prize a couple of times.

But time ran out and we needed a car. Fast.

So I spent two afternoons hacking at two awkwardly shaped pieces of wood transforming one into a “shark car,” the other into a “fire jet.”

If it weren’t for my friend Heidi, I don’t think I would have ever thought I could do it. But after I saw the awesome Ghost Buster van and Mermaid mobile she made with her two young kids, I was inspired to grab a hack saw and try making our own cars.

Of course the boys wanted to “help” but their poor little arms couldn’t make the old-school saw move up and down. They mostly played on the lawn while I sawed until my sides hurt.

For double what I paid for the wooden block, I could have bought a precut car at the store. But this frugal mom wanted to save $4.

Thank heavens for my parent’s electric sander. It helped smooth out and camouflage the rough and uneven saw marks. If you look closely you can tell that one side of the shark’s fin cuts in more than the other, and you just may see fire jet’s curves in its slant, but it’s the best we could do.

And my boys LOVE their cars. They have been carrying them around ever since we made them. We probably won’t win any type of award tonight, but we had fun working on our first cars.

Luckily the party isn’t an official Pinewood Derby race so there aren’t any official rules. We didn’t have to worry about design or weight restrictions. Who knows what we will do when we enter a real race.

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