On The Consideration of Being a Pet Owner.

You know how kids go through that stubborn phase where they will absolutely not try anything you want them to, for no other reason than because you want them to?

“Seriously, son. You will LOVE this dessert, made with all the things you love – chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and more chocolate.”

“NO. I WILL NOT TRY IT.”

Whatever kid. I’m not going to shove sugar down your throat. 

And then, a month later, completely out of the blue and in no way related to any recent opportunities, the kid says “You know what I’d really love right now? A s’more. Mom when can we get s’mores? Can we have a s’more now? Hey do you think you could go to the store and get the ingredients for s’mores? I’m super craving a s’more.”

And you’re all like WHAT THE WHAT YOU ILLOGICAL BEING I TRIED TO OFFER YOU ONE OF THOSE A MONTH AGO AND YOU ACTED LIKE I WAS GIVING YOU MONKEY BRAINS SERVED ON AN ARMADILLO HALF SHELL.

That’s exactly how it went down with Noah, and I, and snakes.

I guess most of you don’t revere snakes on the level with s’mores, but we all know that I do. I’ve long held a great fascination and bordering-on-obsession with the species. And last year, we found snakes on almost every hike we went on – it was The Year of The Snake. Multiple times I was able to identify the snakes with 100% certainty so that I could pick them up and hold them, and I let the other children we hiked with hold them as well, and in some cases experience the delight of allowing said snake to wrap around their arm (all while I kept tight hold on the head.)

But my kids? No way. They wanted to have nothing to do with it. They didn’t scream and run away but they were NOT going to be touching, observing closely, or  experiencing a snake’s immensely cuddly qualities.

Fast forward a year. We haven’t seen hardly any snakes on hikes. And so it makes perfect sense that this year, Noah would decide, entirely unprovoked and without any experience whatsoever, that he
a.) Loved snakes,
b.) Desperately wanted to hold a snake (and regularly got irritable when I couldn’t locate said snake on a hike,) and
c.) Wanted his very own pet snake. AS SOON AS POSSIBLE.

WHAT. THE. WHAT.

Why do children have to be so freaking weird.

But because of my own personal love for snakes, my enthusiasm over having someone to share my feelings with trumped my frustration and his craptasmic timing.

So we began by visiting our local quirky pet shop that specializes in reptiles, the only place in Birmingham where you can walk in without an appointment or a plan and end up with a large snake wrapped around your neck in ten minute’s time.

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When we arrived, the rickety screen door was open, and sitting a foot from the entryway was a teenage girl with a very obese skink on her shoulder. A giant tortoise was free-roaming one room over – the room that held the collectible toys. Yes, this was where we wanted to be.

We were there for an hour. In that hour, Noah held four different snakes, was fully educated on all sorts of things about pet snakes and snakes in the wild, and fell head over heels. As I watched his eyes, I saw them gain an amount of LoveLight that I’d never witnessed before in my son.

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A week later, after Noah having talked about his experience incessantly for said week, we took Chris back with us. This was the kind of decision that needed to be Father-Approved WAY in advance. Because I love snakes. Noah loves snakes. Ali likes snakes enough to say that she’s fine with Noah having one as a pet as long as it doesn’t keep her friends from wanting to come over. But what about Chris? He’s never really been on the snakey bandwagon. One could only hope that our obsession somehow softened the scaly blow for him.

We started out by asking to see The Big Snake – we’d heard of it on our last visit, but his cage was being cleaned on our last visit, so we couldn’t lay eyes on him.

As an aside, my own obsession with snakes started 21 years ago with a massive snake – a snake as big around as a large child. I met this snake when I was in Cyprus. He was in a rickety cage with a screen door latch and a crack in the opening. The whole thing looked like he could huff and puff and blow it right over any old time he wanted to. The thrill of seeing such a magnificent, gigantic creature so close to me and so able to squeeze me to death was oddly addictive. Perhaps I’m a Reptile-Specific Adrenaline Junkie.

So walking into a closet in Birmingham with no lightbulb (“The snake got in a fit and knocked the lights out the other day”) to see a snake the width of a telephone pole was right up my alley. We turned on our cell phone flashlights to see the cage at the back of the closet – or rather, the cage that was the entire back wall of the closet. Sure enough, he was delightfully huge. When inquired as to what he ate, they said “Oh, you know. Rabbits or Gerbils.”

…which explained the small furry animal section in the back of the pet shop. What a brilliant recycling program.

Then we went to the baby Ball Pythons, which is the kind that Noah wants. The employee handing him to Noah said that this particular snake was the only one that hadn’t eaten that day, so don’t worry if he was a little nippy.

(Noah: “I wanna be bitten by a snake!!”)

(Seriously. What happened to my son.)

As we held him, I inquired as to how many snakes the salesman personally owned.

“Oh I have 53 in my bedroom alone.”

“Umm…exactly why does one need 53 snakes in ones bedroom??”

“Because I’m working up to having 3,000. Because then I’ll have enough to breed them and make $150,000-200,000 a year. That’s what I’m going to do when I retire from here.”

I was then distracted entirely by the practicalities and the math involved here…

3,000 snakes means 3,000 mice a week. Except that he told Noah when you’re raising breeding snakes, you feed them every 5 days. So that’s 3,000 mice every five days. How do you keep up with who has had their mouse? Don’t you spend all day every day putting mice in tanks? And how do you possibly get that many mice? Is there a bulk mouse superstore somewhere that I don’t know about? Does CostCo have a Mouse Room in the back? Or is a mouse delivery service? Can you get 3,000 mice via Prime Shipping? That would be a fun overturned truck to see.

Now.

As for the explanation as to why one would do so well breeding Ball Pythons….

Ball Pythons are really popular right now – the most popular pet snake. They’re docile, they’re easy, they don’t grow too big (2-5 feet at full size), and breeders are creating some really wild and wacky colored and patterned Ball Pythons by breeding them with albinos and playing with genetic mutations. While a plain old Ball Python can be $50, a Morph can be $6,000 or more.

If you want to see all these bizarre creatures (there are ones that look like rotten bananas, ones that look like orange sherbet, ones that look like calico cats…), I recommend browsing the Morph Market. Careful – it might take the rest of your evening. They are FASCINATING. (At least to me.)

The thing is, though, I just have a bad feeling about the market for Ball Python morphs. What if it tanks like the Beanie Baby market? What do you do with 3,000 Ball Pythons in your bedroom alone at that point? I mean sure, it really makes for an interesting bullet point on your online dating profile, but…

Back to The Pet Shop.

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We moved on to a “teenage” Ball Python, to experience how they feel once they’re nearly full-size. This was the one I insisted Chris get his feet wet with. And I don’t mean by peeing on them in complete fear, but he might have come close.

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Actually he handled it all very well and said he was open with having such a creature live in our house.

Finally, Noah really wanted to hold the larger Python he’d held last time – one that gets bigger than his Ball Python ever would. 

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The first thing the snake did was wrap around Noah’s neck and give it a little love squeeze. Noah’s reaction – one of a calm statement – “Ouch. He’s squeezing my neck.” and quiet “yeah.” when I asked if he wanted him moved – sealed the deal for me. This kid was ready for ownership.

He doesn’t have one yet – we’re making him wait until a little closer to his birthday to make sure the obsession sticks. But we’ve pretty much decided. Even though we’re a staunch no-pet family, snakes are easier than fish. You only have to feed them once a week (which we’ve practice with Not-Crazy-Renee’s snake), and if you leave home for vacation, you just leave them and they’re perfectly happy to be left alone to digest last week’s mouse. They don’t shed (except for their skin, that is), they don’t pee on furniture, you don’t have to let them outside, and they cuddle really well.

But for now, it seems like True Love.


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Ali just needs reassurance that it won’t keep her friends away.

Cognitively Speaking…

Noah turns eight on Wednesday.

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His overachieving (and awesome) summer camp (Camp Straight Street) sent him a birthday card last week. Which is great and kind and made him feel special and….when mixed in with the 4-5 Christmas cards we receive every day, also made him feel rather inferior and needy of more, CONSTANT birthday cards.

Every day he’s been running to the mailbox, absolutely perplexed at the quantity of Christmas wishes and the complete lack of birthday wishes. Indignantly he will announce, “WHERE are all my BIRTHDAY cards??”

One night he was being especially moody, so we had this little conversation about it.

We tried to explain that it’s a whole WEEK until his birthday and usually you only get cards right around the day of your birthday…and also you only get one or two birthday cards total and you shouldn’t compare your birthday mail volume to Christmas (which is dang hard to do when your birthday happens to be on the 19th of December.)

But alas. He’s only seven. Such concepts of self-coaching and setting realistic expectations are completely and absolutely lost on him.

Building radios, however, is within his grasp.

He got several Snap Circuits kits last Christmas (best, most fun toy for the spatially-minded child ever, if you need some last minute Christmas shopping ideas.) Last year, I usually had to help him with them, which I rather enjoyed. Then they got lost in the horror that is his room for a few months. But, due to a forced cleaning of his room, he has rediscovered many fun toys, and Snap Circuits are one of them. Except that this year, he’s an excellent reader and putter-togetherer, and he doesn’t need me anymore. So he’ll thunder down the stairs to announce his latest invention, all rather proud and much more excited than he was when I used to be his lab assistant. (Which, by the way, he no longer has a bedroom – he now has a LAB.) (Which I kinda love.) (Except for the pain doled out to the bottom of my feet when I try to walk through the lab in the dark to give him his good night hug.)

His favorite invention, the aforementioned radio, happened yesterday. He admittedly didn’t think a radio would function as an actual radio until he built the thing, turned it on, and started hearing Christmas music and commercials about incontinence.

He was immediately enthralled – especially when he realized how to channel surf. All afternoon he’d run to me and say things like “Mom!! Someone’s grandkid is having to have brain surgery!!”

“Whose?”

“I don’t know! They’re talking about it on the RADIO!!”

His radio is quite portable, so I didn’t notice when he’d taken it in the car last night, and he proceeded to surf those channels all the way to dinner, while keeping us all informed as to what was going on in the world.

“Camila Cabello hasn’t had a vacation in six years!! But she’s taking some time off now that ‘Havana’ has done so well.”

“They’re talking about jail cells now! I think they’re in one!!”

And then, when he realized the sheer amount of potential knowledge he held in his hands, he cackled gleefully and announced,

“I AM GOING TO KNOW EVERYTHING BY THE END OF THE WEEKEND!!!!”

I side-eyed Chris and smiled. “So this is our life now.”

As I was reading in bed last night, Noah came in with his radio, on which he’d dialed to some smooth jazz Christmas music. He turned out my light. (Because jazz requires mood lighting.) He cuddled up in bed with me, with a sigh of accomplishment for his invention of transmittable music. And then reminded me that he hadn’t gotten any more birthday cards.

Inventors have fragile egos, yo. I’m sure Alexander Graham Bell had these same exact struggles.

What’s That Sound, The Lucky Episode 13

Seven is an age of deep thoughts, misheard phrases, paranoia, and brute honesty.

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Ali: “How long until dinner?”

Me: “Not too long. Maybe twenty minutes.”

Ali: “Oh good. I just wanted to know if I had time to go upstairs and dilly dally for a bit.”

Noah: “DELETE ALI?? What does that even mean??”

I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that no sisters got deleted in the process of dilly dallying.


Noah had a bright red splotchy rash on his ear, neck, and in his hair line. Ali noticed it first and sent him to me. I thought they were being ridiculous until I looked at it and it did look quite red and irritated.

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Noah has a history of reacting rather…violently…to bug bites, so I was both concerned and not concerned. But this rash was way more spread out…

Then I looked at a spot in his ear and said “weird. This spot almost looks like a splash of something…”

…At which point Noah said, “Oh yeah! Last night I made Andi laugh so hard that she spit red Gatorade all over me.”

Rash mystery: solved.

(Unsurprisingly, I later found the same red rash on his shirt and pants.)


I was getting ready one morning when Noah walked into my dressing room.

“Hey mommy you look WEIRD.”

I thought my makeup was off or something but I looked in the mirror and didn’t notice anything. I kept getting ready and ignored him because boys.

Then he said, “OOOOOOH!!! So that’s how you make a bun!!!”

Apparently the bun process wasn’t what he had in mind.


Noah: “What’s the Super Bowl?”

Me: “Have Daddy explain. But Justin Timberlake will be singing at halftime!”

Noah: “Oh good!! I want to see what he looks like. I imagine him looking like a guy in Pokémon that has a Charizard. Except it’s a Mega Charizard X. Oh I know – his name is Alain. Look them both up on Google and let’s see.”

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Yup. Nailed it.


Noah has memory verses each week that he learns. One is “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.”

Except that he learned it as…

“My little children, let us not love murder or tongue…”

That’ll preach too.


Noah, after watching a male ice skater fall in the Olympics, commentated the guy’s reaction…

“He is SO MAD. I bet he’s going to have to start kicking things like I do sometimes.”


“There’s a stink bug in the house. Don’t smoosh it, or it will stink. Or even chop it up with a sword, into tiny pieces.”


Along with risk of stink from bugs, Noah is not much of a risk taker in any areas of life…

One morning when it was below freezing, Noah came up to me.

“I’m going to go outside and throw this away.”

“What is it?”

“Part of Ali’s broken jump rope.”

“And WHY are you going to go outside to throw it away? Can’t you throw it away in the kitchen?”

“Because it could really hurt someone.”

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Orange Plastic: it’s a killer all right.


My mom licked her fingers and put some birthday candles out by pinching them quickly.

Noah gasped in horror and shock.

“How do you TOUCH FIRE without DYING?!”


We went on a hike one day. As we set off, Noah informed us…

“I brought seven band aids.”

Me: “Why? Because you brought your pocketknife?”

Noah: “Yes.”

Ali: “So you think you’re going to cut yourself seven times?”

Noah: “Or just in case it’s huge.”


But Noah isn’t as concerned for other people…

Ali: “Isn’t it illegal to ride in the back of a truck like that guy?”

Me: “I’m not sure…”

Noah: “He’ll be all right. Because he has a tattoo.”

…Better than band-aids, I hear.


…But not always the best defense – depending on what they say.

Noah: “If I had a tattoo on my butt that said ‘Kick Me’, I wouldn’t tell anyone about it.”


Noah wanted to buy an app on the iPad. He brought me $5 and begged me to buy it.

Me: “You’re wanting to spend all your money. On this.”

Noah: “It’s okay! I can always get more money by losing a tooth.”

…He’s going to be selling his plasma before we know it.


Ali: “Have you herd of Swiss Family Robinson?”

Me: “Yes, it’s a classic.”

Ali: “It was written in 1812! There was a war that year. The War of 1812.”

Noah: “Woah. That was even way before Pokémon was invented.”


Noah, quietly pondering while he chewed gum: “Why can’t you swallow gum again?”

Me: “Because it could stick to your stomach.”

Noah: “But if you were pregnant, that wouldn’t be a problem. Because when they got the baby, they would get the gum.”

Me: “Off the baby!? Like it’d be stuck to the baby’s ear?”

Noah: “No. Out of your stomach.”

Me: “Oh. So they’d cut the tummy open, take out the baby, then say ‘Here’s your baby! Oh and here’s a piece of gum we found in there.’”

Noah: “Yes. That.”