Christmas Save

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(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!!!

Still Squishing Together


This evening, I was smashed against one end of the couch by my little girls, doing my best to cross-stitch without being able to really move my elbows because I was so squished. Jonny was sitting on the floor, with Mabel between his legs, and he commented, “We have all this space now, but look, we’re all in the same room.” The big boys, the little boys, the girls, and the baby. Maybe a dog? I can’t remember. At our other house all ten of us couldn’t hang out together in one room without feeling really cramped, so cramped we were. Now we can spread out a bit, but usually we don’t. That is the gift of having lived in such close quarters for so long. The little boys have started sleeping in the girls’ room, abandoning theirs to the monsters in their closet. Mabel has stopped sleeping through the night in her crib, opting to sleep with me about half-way through. And before I forget, she also has a new trick: the fake cough. I’ve had a yucky cold and she’s heard me coughing. I guess she’s copying me? Her cough is way cuter than mine.

I got through the short rows on her pink jumper and was getting ready to divide for the legs when I realized my stitch markers were in the wrong places, and hence my short rows. I was pretty bummed about that, but then had this fantastic thought just before falling asleep that night: skip the legs! I knit a garter stitch band, added sleeves, and now Mabel has a cute pink jumper rather than a full sweater suit. I think it’s more practical this way at her age. She’s seriously contemplating crawling and would ruin the knees of knitted pants quickly. Since I finished the pink sweater I went ahead and cast on for a Granny’s Favourite cardigan for her. I’m knitting it with some of my dk wool that I stashed away for just this sweater a few months ago. I can’t remember what I dyed it with–definitely indigo, maybe it was over dock seed? I think so. Anyway, I’m so excited about having a new project on my needles!

Some of you asked to see my cross-stitch project last week. I’ve been working hard to finish up My Sweetpie ABCs, a project I started and shared here as a stitch along in early 2015. As a friend accurately commented recently, “You really fell off the wagon with that one, didn’t you?” Yeah, I really did! But I’m making lots of progress now. I’m working on “Q” for quilt and once it’s finished, then I’m done! I’m so excited to get this framed and hung over Mabel’s crib. It will be what I see on the wall in front of me when I am sitting on my bed.

Do you remember that old version of the game, Payday, in my photograph? My Aunt Genie recently sent it to me, one of my very favorite childhood games. My older kids have been playing, and really like it too. Actually, there has been a lot of late night game playing recently. My older boys are getting along so well since we’ve moved. There’s is far less fighting. I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Exhale. Exhale. Exhale.

p.s. Thanks so much for all the raffle entries!