Christmas Save

small-things-christmas-6719 small-things-christmas-6871

(midnight mass)

“Perk up girls! It’s Christmas!” It was about 1:15 a.m….

Well, we came dangerously close to celebrating the “Worst Christmas ever.”

All was going smoothly up until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. My warning that things were going downhill in a hurry came in the form of Larkspur crying out, “Something’s wrong with my gerbils!” This was bad. I usually rely on Jonny’s calm nature during emergencies, but he was away with some of the kids picking up a Craigslist pump organ.

Maybe I should back up a bit and explain a little about these gerbils before I tell my story…

There are three of them, all male, and the offspring of some of Larkspur’s close friend Josie’s gerbils that are now deceased. So you see, they carry a somewhat precious bloodline. And to give you an idea of the level of care that Josie’s gerbils receive, here’s what her mom, my friend Rachael, commented recently after I publicly proclaimed that I did not have time to sew Christmas stockings for Larkspur’s gerbils:

I should show you Josie’s 3 pages of instructions regarding gerbil care while she is out of town for a few days. They include how to properly feed one gerbil a treat without hurting the other gerbil’s feelings because he is too fat and not allowed additional treats!!!

Larkspur and Josie care for their gerbils according to a point system that originated in a book on gerbil care. I can’t remember what the highest score is. Let’s just say “10” is the best. You earn points by feeding the correct foods, properly maintaining the habitat, offering healthy treats, etc. Larkspur recently reached a “10,” a little behind Josie who had been a “10” for some time.

I am unsure if the Christmas Eve crisis that I am about to share affected Larkspur’s score.

I asked, “What do you mean something’s wrong with your gerbils?”

“They are acting weird and sleepy and don’t want to open their eyes!”

“Are you sure they’re not hibernating? Should I Google whether gerbils hibernate?”

Larkspur insisted that gerbils don’t hibernate so I Googled, “gerbil limp and dying” and quickly skimmed a couple of gerbil health forums. One woman mentioned tucking her own distressed gerbil inside her blouse for warmth, and someone else mentioned feeding his sick gerbil maple syrup.

Two of the three gerbils were given a drop of maple syrup on Keats’ finger, and were eager for more. It only took seconds before they seemed fully recovered from their mysterious ailment. Unfortunately, the third, Larkspur’s favorite, Captain Whiskers, seemed on his way out. In fact, he appeared to be dead.

I was sure he was a goner, as was our Christmas. I have a sense about these things. Between Captain Whiskers lying limp in Keats’ hand and Larkspur sobbing on the couch, wailing, “This is the worst Christmas EVER!” Yeah, I knew it was all over.

But then, by some miracle, Keats detected a weak pulse in Captain Whiskers. I sprang into action. This was NOT going to be the worst Christmas ever if I could help it. I put the limp gerbil inside my shirt and ran downstairs to look for a small syringe. I was as much terrified that Captain Whiskers was going to die tucked inside my nursing tank, as I was that he was going to revive and bite me. I found a syringe, and raced back upstairs to prepare the maple syrup solution. Ever so carefully (Keats shouting at me, “Don’t drown him!”), I fed Captain Whiskers a few drops of the life saving elixir, all the while crying out, (only inside my head of course),”Stay with me, Captain! I can’t lose you!” I honestly meant it. Not just for his sake, or Larkspur’s, but for the sake of our entire family. I felt the faintest of swallows, so I carefully gave the syringe another squeeze. He swallowed again. Seconds later, he started to struggle a bit in my hands. I stopped holding my breath and felt hope shine in my heart again.

Captain Whiskers did indeed survive. By Christmas morning he was fully himself, and able to enjoy the homemade gerbil granola that Larkspur had tucked inside the handmade stocking that I sewed for him. (I am unsure of how many stockings I ended up sewing for dolls, pets, and even two beta fish. I couldn’t say no when they were presented to me all cut out with names embroidered on many of them.) Surely between the stockings and the (healthy!) treats, Larkspur was able to maintain her perfect score of “10.”

Feeling maybe a little too proud of my gerbil resuscitation skills, I said to Larkspur, “So…pretty cool how I saved your gerbil and your Christmas, right?”

She replied, “Oh, if only Josie had been here. She would have known what to do…”

Of course.


p.s.  I asked Larkspur why she embroidered, “CAT” on Francisco’s stocking and she replied that she wants to be able to re-use it for another cat in case he isn’t still her favorite next Christmas.

p.p.s. That sweet little cross-stitch pattern is in the latest Taproot magazine.

p.p.p.s. Merry Christmas!!!


  1. Karen DiBona says:

    So……. I read this post a month or so back and decided to tuck this maple syrup trick away in the back of my mind.
    Just in case.
    Today it LITERALLY saved the lives of “Star” and “Spark”. Spark wasn’t looking too sparky and we feared Star’s light had gone out for good – she was cold and still and unresponsive. I warmed a home-made heating pad and started convincing Spark to lick some syrup from my index finger. Apparently I even managed to get some into poor Star, as they are both romping about their cage as if nothing out of the ordinary has ever happened in their little rodent lives.
    Once again you have saved the day! – THANK YOU!!

  2. Laugh out loud hilarious!! Thank you for a wonderful story to brighten my first day back at work after the holidays xx

  3. ain’t that always the way- Mom’s efforts under appreciated:) I say, well done! great stories – thank you.

  4. Donna Fry says:

    Great Christmas Story!! I laughed out loud reading.
    But, the nurse in me, is wondering what the heck was wrong with the gerbils??
    Low blood sugar???!!

  5. Shannon Dennis says:

    You are brilliant!

  6. I read this post out loud to my partner because I was laughing so hard! Thank goodness Captain Whiskers made it through! 😉

    Have the best 2017, Ginny & family!

  7. Mom for the WIN! So glad it had happy ending!

  8. Great story! Do you have any idea what was wrong with them, and why maple syrup is a magical elixir that brings nearly dead rodents back from the brink? I suppose I could google….

    Merry Christmas!

  9. That is a fantastic story!

  10. Oh, my goodness! I usually just lurk here, but I’m stifling my giggles at this library desk, so I had to comment. I’m sure it wasn’t funny at the time, and I’m so glad Captain Whiskers made it, but you tell the story so well.

  11. Wonderful! Oh Christmas adventures! 🙂

  12. I nominate you for Mother of the Year! So glad this story had a happy ending.

    Marilyn (in Dallas)

  13. Oh Ginny, I laughed out loud at your story!! What a save! Glad it had a happy ending! haha! Of course she rolled her eyes and ASSUMED her friend could do better!! ugh! 🙂 Merry Christmas and Blessings for the New Year

  14. Wonderful post. I laughed out loud with the vision of you holding Captain inside you shirt, then wondering if he’d bite you once revived. Too funny. Glad the story had a great outcome and gerbil-ville can happily continue.
    Love those gold covered nut shells. Can you share what you used for that project?

  15. Jessica Borges says:

    Thank you for sharing this post!
    Many Blessings to you, and your family!

  16. erin grover says:

    This was the first Christmas since I was little that my mom failed to put walnuts painted gold in our stockings, I miss them and I love the idea making them ornaments!

  17. Oh, this was just the sweetness I needed this morning. Long live The Captain.

  18. Oh, this made me laugh! You are such a good storyteller. I’m so happy you saved the day. Poor Francisco, though 🙂

  19. Lorraine Luizzi says:

    I very much enjoy each and every one of your posts, Ginny! Although my three children are all grown, I reminisce about those “wonder” years (I wonder how we did it all!!).
    Your values, instilled in your children are beautiful indeed… I love the expressions on each of their faces as you’ve captured as they prepare for Christmas. And, oh, the tale of the gerbils is one to treasure throughout your lifetime!
    Many thanks, Ginny for bringing such delight to my inbox.
    God has blessed you!


  20. Oh, that little angel of yours is just so beautiful! ♥♥♥

  21. Oh my gosh, that is the funniest story ever and you are the best mom!!!!

  22. Richard (in Charlotte, NC) says:

    Wow, once again Mighty Mom, you have saved the day. Not only are you a spectacular mother but, a very talented Veterinarian too! It’s always a treat to read your blog. So nice to know that you saved Christmas for Larkspur and the rest of the family too. Best wishes for a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

  23. This is a GREAT story. I love it. It’s one of those things that while it’s happening it’s absolute chaos, but when it’s over, it’s a fantastic story. Viva Captain Whiskers!!

  24. That was a good one, Ginny! We’ve had a lot of gerbils in our day, but, fortunately, none I had to resuscitate! They lived their average three years. The last two were mother and daughter (which when my son bought the mother the pet store declared it to be male). Soon after bringing “him” home we had babies. My son had named the gerbil Troy Smith after his favorite Ohio State quarterback. After the babies were weaned we gave all the male babies back to the pet store and kept the one female which became Teddy Ginn, Troy Smith’s wide receiver. When those two gerbils died, my son was so, so sad I swore never again. So far, I’ve kept my promise, but they are such nice little pets.

    Maybe the grandchildren will have one at our house — I’m going to be a grandma!

    Merry Christmas — it looks like you’ve settled into your house so well.

  25. Oh my goodness – so heartbreaking and so funny all in one. I hope those gerbils hang on for awhile! Happy holidays to you guys. ~s

  26. The Mom that Saved Christmas! So hilarious–all of it, but poor Francisco–he’ll be living in limbo all year long. 🙂 🙂

  27. A weird perspective probably but I love your crisis! You are an adept storyteller that takes us along in your life and things almost always turn out in the end! The idea of Captain Whiskers in your nursing tank was THE BEST! So glad they made it.

  28. only you could have that much of an exciting Christmas day! I am thrilled you saved the guinea pigs and they live another day. Merry Christmas!!

  29. Great story Ginny, glad the gerbils all survived another day. Your Christmas looks great! How did you get everyone to midnight mass???? Now that’s an accomplishment. What time were the kids up in the morning? And I can’t wait to hear about that beautiful organ. Merry Christmas! Enjoy your down time (haha) with the kids these coming weeks.

  30. Well done, you rock Mama!!

  31. That bit about Francisco potentially falling out of favor before next Christmas was the icing on this story. Poor Francisco.

  32. Oh reminded me of a less happy outcome with our dwarf hamsters. One son came downstairs very white and shocked saying that something had happened to one of his hamsters. As we went to look, it took a few minutes (heads turned sideways kind of thing) to realize that one of the hamsters had decapitated his brother and had eaten him down to the neck stump! you don’t forget that sight in a hurry I tell you.

    My son would not sleep with “Hanibal” in his room and no one else wanted the remaining hamster either. He went to another home that we instructed he preferred being an “only” one.

    Sticking with dogs now:)

  33. Great job, mama vet!

  34. oh Ginny!!! I can just imagine how dire that felt! Seriously. This is a great story for the books, as they say! You did really well!! Saving the gerbils and Christmas for your kids! I know how much a pet can mean to a child!!! Also, that was really kind of you to make all those stockings, they are super cute! and that cranberry picture with cookies – would love to know how to make those – how beautiful!!! You are doing such a good job! Sending a HUG your way! your survived and saved your family’s Christmas <3

  35. Merry Christmas to you!

  36. Oh my word, hilarious! It is amazing how many times I have done similar things. Our hamster fiasco ended once Jamed and Ben both lost the hamsters in the house (different hamsters, different days) and I gave them away on Craigslist to a cat free home. They weren’t going to get eaten on my watch!

  37. Oh my goodness!!!!! It is hysterical, yet most likely not even close to that when it was happening.

  38. Ok that was really fun to read. Thanks for the laugh! Glad the gerbils turned out okay!! Ha ha!!

  39. Melissa Nichols says:

    Oh my, now my Christmas Eve feels really ordinary. Glad you had a happy ending.

  40. Really needed a laugh right now, Thank You!

I love to hear from you!