Monday, February 8, 2010

The Dead Sea....Monkeys

Greta is intensely jealous of her sisters' fish tanks.  She is no way ready to maintain a tank and I entertain no illusions about who would be changing the water, scraping the algae, changing the filters, testing the water.  So I said she could start off with sea monkeys.  Fun!  Educational!   Not so upsetting when they die!

Sea monkeys are a bit of an exercise in patience.  The first day she put in the salt mixture.  Then she had to wait two agonizingly long days until she could sprinkle in the eggs.  And then began the even more painful wait for those invisible things to hatch.  Four or five days later she was carrying the little tank around moaning, "When will my sea monkeys ever hatch?" 

We took it into the bright but indirect light of the kitchen.  And in that light, if you looked very hard, you could just make out tiny dots moving around.  Oh joy!  Little sea monkey families wearing their teeny tiny crowns and carrying their teeny tiny scepters!

A few days later, long before you could really make out those little guys, long before they had lost their luster, we had friends over for dinner.  The sea monkeys, honored guests, had a place at the table.  One of our small human guests picked up the sea monkey container and inverted it.  Off came the lid and out came the water.  The sea monkeys, those that hadn't splashed onto plates and ended up as spaghetti and sea monkeys, now inhabited Sea Monkey Lake, a thin and spreading tabletop lake ending in Sea Monkey Falls.

The little boy was horrified and apologetic.  "I thought it was a snow globe!"

Greta was hysterical. 

I was practical.  What did we have this marvelous (if not fashionable) plastic tablecloth for except to pour a lake of sea monkeys back into its proper container?  We stopped Sea Monkey Falls.  We lifted up the edges and poured the sea monkeys back into their container.  Greta was wailing, "We should give them to someone who can take better care of them!"

I contemplated the results.  Murky.  The table had evidently been liberally dusted with parmesan cheese.  And the container was only half full.  There was a large puddle on the floor.  I did my level best with a turkey baster, but didn't recover much more.  Still, in strong light, a few hardy swimmers could be seen navigating the murky depths.

We hoped the cheese would settle.  It's salty, I thought.  And tasty.  The brine shrimp will love it.  Not so.  Parmesan cheese, in sufficient quantities, is fatal to brine shrimp.  This is a little known fact and I offer it to you in the spirit of a public service.

Greta took the news with her usual calm resignation.

Yes, she burst into tears and hid herself in a closet wailing, "They were more dear to me than I am to myself."

What did I learn from this (educational!) experience?  That I was wrong that is not upsetting when sea monkeys die.

Oh, and also, if you have sea monkeys: tape that lid on really well.


Lise said...

Oh, my gosh, I can totally see it. I'm sure it wasn't funny in the moment, but you sure made it sound so here!

Kat said...

Indeed an educational moment. Love how you shared it.

AM said...

Wow. What a great little poet(ess) you have. Hope she has recovered from her loss.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Oh, poor Greta!

I know well how attached kids can get to sea monkeys: Luke used to read bedtime stories to his and worry about them in thunderstorms. When they died, and we decided to grow triops instead, he almost didn't want to in case he got too attached to them - but by then we had the chickens and he was nearly nine.

I was laughing and crying while I read this, poor Greta - but what a memory this will make in the future.
The far, far off future, of course :-)

gina said...

oh my gosh- talk about a life experience!

Susan said...

Lise, the tragedy-to-comedy interval was blissfully short for me...but Greta may never see any humor in it.

Kat, thanks! I often find that things I view as education for the kids end up educating me in surprising ways.

AM, I know, doesn't she have a way with words? The other day she was having trouble with something and ran off crying. I went to comfort her and she said, "Leave me alone. I just want to sit here and frustrate."

Karen, aw, Luke reading to his sea monkeys is so sweet. These pets are a double edged sword. They bring a lot of enjoyment but a lot of pain, too. I've been meaning to post about the death of Clem's most beloved fish, but it won't be funny. The tragedy-comedy interval on that one has not elapsed for me yet.

Gina, you are very right that it is a life experience. Strange encounters with almost microscopic life. The funny thing was we felt attached and sorry for these minute creatures and we were utterly unable to help them. I couldn't see how to separate them from the parmesan cheese for example. And the kit came with just one packet of salt and water conditioner so we weren't able to get them new water. Yet another example of how caring for things very different from yourself is hard. I am glad that the inverse is true: caring for things that are similar is pretty easy. Because I am hell on houseplants but thank goodness, the kids are doing ok.

patricia said...

Oh, those damn sea monkey lids! I did the same thing myself, to Mr. T's sea monkeys. Although we hadn't yet added the monkeys. We were still waiting the two interminable days for the water to be ready.

I ordered a refill. This was two years ago. Have we gotten around to trying again? Nope.

That Greta is something. They were more dear to me than I am to myself. What will she be saying when she's a teenager? And how do you respond to her without laughing in amazement?

Stefaneener said...

The only thing better than reading this would have been hearing you tell it. Poor, poor Parmesaned Sea Monkeys. Poor Greta.

Oh dear. They are indeed, doing well. Take heart. My wisest parenting friend told me once that we only have pets to teach children about death.

Kristin said...

The scenario you've described so well is really funny to read now, but I bet it was really stressful at the time.

Greta is keeping you on your toes and you sure worked fast to collect those little boogers, and kept your cool throughout the screaming.

Perhaps the moral of the story is: Moms can't fix everything all of the time--

And that's a hard lesson for both a mother and her child to accept.

Susan said...

Tricia, Sometimes I don't succeed in not laughing and then poor Greta is so wounded--she can't see the amazement behind the laughter.

Stefani, your friend is wise. I've been meaning to post about Clem and her most beloved fish dying. She kept asking "Why couldn't it have been one of the other ones?" I tried to say that it would be a worse and very unfair world if things lived or died according to how much we loved them, but she was not really impressed by this.

Kristin, so true. Moms can't fix everything. Once at a restaurant a long time ago Greta broke her crayon. I took another crayon of the same color and said abracadabra and gave it to her. She still comes to me with broken crayons and seems completely mystified and disappointed when I say I can't really fix them.