Friday, March 27, 2009

Coral the Goldfish

We have a new family member at the Peevie homestead: Coral, the goldfish.

For career day in the second grade, Mr. S. talked about owning and operating a fish store. Not the kind you eat, but the kind you look at behind glass. Living Sea Aquarium is a cool place, with a shark habitat, a stingray habitat, living reefs, a turtle pond, 6000 gallons of fresh water fish and 10,000 gallons of salt-water marine life.

The second-graders were thrilled when Mr. S. ended his career-day presentation by giving each of them a coupon for one free goldfish. The parents of the second graders had no illusions, knowing that the "free" goldfish was a clever marketing ploy to get us into the shop to spend money.

M. Peevie has been begging for her free goldfish since the day she came home with the coupon, so I saw an opportunity to motivate her to get her landfill of a bedroom cleaned up. I promised her we'd get the fish after she'd cleaned her room to my satisfaction and kept it clean for three whole days.

This was harder than it sounds. M. Peevie is, apparently, physically allergic to picking up after herself. Every day she removes at least three or four outfits from her drawers, mixing and matching tops, pants, skirts, leggings. She makes her selection and gets dressed, always with fashionably coordinated accessories--but the clothes not picked remain in the middle of the floor until I remind her to clean them up, at which point she tosses them into the back of the closet or into a pile under the loft bed.

During the day, she'll change outfits at least twice more: once after school and once again before bed. She's a fashionista, and if she gets a fashion idea in her head, she needs to implement it then and there. The discarded outfits end up...on the floor.

The next day it all happens all over again, until eventually her drawers are empty and there are piles of wrinkled, unsorted, clean and dirty clothes crammed into various corners and crevices.

"MAAAAHHHHHAAAAHHHHHMMM!" M. Peevie hollers. "I don't have any clean clothes to wear!" So I'll head into the Zone of Crap and Clutter and start pulling clothes out until there's a huge pile in the middle of the floor.

"Here, M.," I tell her, sometimes in a slightly testy voice, "Sort these into clean and dirty. Put the dirty into the laundry and put the clean into your drawers." Eventually, we end up with drawers filled with clean clothes--until the next time she forgets that she doesn't have a full-time valet to pick up after her.

The toy situation just adds to the chaos. Barbies, baby dolls, doll clothes, doll accessories, art supplies, miscellaneous game pieces, books, magazines, random scraps of paper ripped out of magazines--it all gets a little bit overwhelming, and sometimes I just want to rent a bulldozer and push everything out the door, down the stairs, out the back door and into the garbage. I think to myself, "If I could just start over, with one kid, and no crap, I wouldn't let it get this bad."

Anyway, long story long, she/we cleaned up her room. She kept it clean for three days. Every single day she'd tell me how many more days she had to wait before getting her free goldfish. She tried out several names, but didn't like any of the names I suggested: Roald (as in Dahl), Barbara, Chlorine, and Moby.

M. Peevie was filled with questions when we were picking out her new best friend at Living Sea Aquarium. "How big will a goldfish get?" Depends on the size of the bowl, we learned. She bought a one gallon bowl, and the fish wrangler (who looked a little like Carmine Giovinazzo from CSI: New York, only cuter) said her fish would get about two or three inches long.

How should we change the water? How often did we need to change the water? How often should we feed it? Is it a boy goldfish or a girl goldfish? she asked.

Carmine answered all our questions (you can't really tell the boys from the girls, BTW, except when you have a bunch of fish together, the boys chase the girls), but his best advice was, "Don't overthink it." He obviously does not know M. Peevie, because overthinking things is her forte. She is the queen of "What Ifs".

When I was in college I tried having goldfish pets, but I decided that I was endangering the goldfish population by continuing to purchase them and then inadvertently killing them, so I just quit. Their names were Onesimus, Luke, Philemon, Four, Five and Six, may they rest in peace.

Here's hoping that Coral the goldfish lives a long and prosperous life, perched on the top of the bookshelf next to M. Peevie's bed.

Our free goldfish ended up costing us $32.96.

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