Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Hamicide part 2

Last week in my class was Where The Wild Things Are. We did many many projects on wild animals. Little did we know that inside our room were a couple of wild animals that would provide a lesson perfect to the week's curriculum. 

Salt and Scissors were much quieter since Pepper's death. (please read part one). I guess now we know who was causing all the trouble. The two remaining hamsters seemed to be friends. All was going well and because of that, my affinity for them began to grow. To the point that I decided to go to the pet store and get a little education and necessities for the little creatures. 

I go to the pet store on Monday afternoon. The pet store was like any other. Full of CRAP you don't need but you would buy because you don't know better. Luckily, I had most of what the hamsters needed. What I knew they needed was the proper liner of the bottom of their cage. I didn't know what it was but I knew hay wasn't it. I knew wood shavings wasn't it either (this is what I had to work with in the classroom) I got the recycled newsprint stuff and kudos to the lady who sold it to me, it's perfect! She also gladly sold me new food, wood things for them to chew on, and a house to hide in (a nest). I was good with all this as I knew the hamsters needed it. Besides I was going to turn in the receipt so I was more liberal with my spending. It's for the hamsters.... right!?

So on Tuesday, I'm so excited to share the new goods with the little guys. I put Scissors in its ball and it's happy to be loose, so to speak and I put Salt in one too but since the leg is lame, it doesn't roll anywhere. I clean the cage, add the new stuff and put them back and watch as they examine the new things. Right away Scissors goes to work on the nest, pulling out the stuffing, gnawing at it here and there and began making it home. I give kudos again to the sales lady who obviously didn't just talk me into something I really didn't need. 

On Wednesday the two hamsters are happy as clams. Salt is looking a little weak. As I said, it is fat and lame so I'm praying it will die soon. Regardless of my prayers, it is hanging on. Scissors seems pleased with all the changes. 

On Thursday I come in and decide to bring the cage down to the children's level. It stays up and out of reach during class time so they (the kids and the animals) are not overwhelmed with excitement. As I bring the cage down, the kids gather round. They are excited to see them up close. I peer in and notice that both hamsters are up in the apartment on top. I peer closer. I notice something that doesn't look normal. I'm thinking to myself that maybe one of them is sick. It doesn't look like throw up, it looks more like intestines. I ask the kids if I can get closer. When I get really close, the thing I'm staring at moves. ..... OH CRAP! What the hell is that?!!

I keep my cool and never let the kids know I'm freaking out. As I widen my view and take in the whole scene and see that we have baby hamsters. WE HAVE BABIES~! I realize that the thing I first saw was the last birth still in its sack. Then I survey the situation. One of the babies is bleeding because it's missing a leg and the other is not looking so good, I look at Salt and it is pushing something around, I count another baby and this one is covered in wet mucus stuff, I look at Scissors and it is chewing on something, another baby and this one is bleeding from its head. 5 Babies. Two already chewed on, one normal, one still in the sack, one being cleaned or moved around by the mother? I look at Salt. Sure enough that girl has lost some weight. She's all skinny now. I look at Salt, who is now having a hay-day torturing the infant. 

Can I just say, my state of "freaking out" is a little out of control? I'm desperately trying to think of what to do next.  I know that if Scissors stays in there, it will kill them all. But before I save any babies, I run over to Ms D's room and let her know that we have babies. I tease her, no wonder she wanted to pawn them off. She claimed complete ignorance and started freaking out, out loud. I sent her away. I call my director, Ms M. who is at home trying to get ready. She says she'll be right there. In the meantime, I go find Ms B who is wise and has had many many pets in her life including rodents. She comes in and surveys the situation. 

I love a calm person in a crisis. I love these people. She says, "Get that one out of there. If that's the Daddy, it will kill them all. Give me a Kleenex so I can get rid of the ones they've wounded. Then she said, see if the mother will do what she's supposed to. She warns us that she probably won't

Now, you have to remember that I have about 8 children watching this go down. 8 children who have never seen a death right before their eyes. 8 children and a teacher who have never seen hamsters give birth. I decide that this must become a teaching lesson and I need to get control. I explain what has happened. They love to look at the new babies. "What happened to the other three Ms Celeste?" "They didn't make it." "But what happened?" "They died." "Why?" "The mother or father didn't want them so they killed them?" "Why?" "I don't know exactly. Maybe they didn't know what to do with them." "Oh.... will they kill the other two?" "That's an excellent question. We'll have to wait and see." "I hope the mother loves them and nurses them?" (this is a very smart little kid) "Me too." "What will we do with the Daddy?" "That's another excellent question. We can't put him back in there can we?" "NO! He's not nice to the babies." "What do you think we should do?" "He needs another cage." "Excellent idea." I look around and see our old bird cage. I think that will work until we figure out what to do. Scissors gets a temporary home in the bird cage. Comical at best. 

Mind you, many many more children have come in with their parent. The kids have been retelling the story. The parents and kids have been peering into the cage. I've moved the Mamma and the two little babies into the nest and we're waiting to see if she'll take to them or kill them. For an hour and a half nothing has happened in our class but the hysteria of hamsters, birth, death, separation, and hope. What a great lesson in Wild Animal Week. 

As we go outside, I tell the kids to be prepared that when we come back we might not have any more babies left. They seem okay with this. Some are hopeful. Some don't understand. Some don't care. They're tired of this lesson and just want to go outside. 

As I feared, there were no more babies alive when we get back. Salt killed them both. I guess she knew that with a bum leg, she wasn't fit to be a mother. We also took Scissors to Ms B to examine and see if indeed we had a male. She let us know we DID NOT! So guess who was the daddy folks? You got it. Pepper. And all that noise we heard..... yeah, much rape and pillaging going on in that cage. Finally the girls got tired of it, murdered the man, killed the babies and are living happily ever after in a cage that's quiet and calm. 

I fear, deep down, that we have another litter on the way..... Does anyone know the gestation period for hamsters? 

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Hamicide part 1

I'm a Preschool Pre-K teacher. I have a room FULL of 4.5 and 5 year olds. They are wonderful. Individually they are just amazing and so cute most of the time. Together they are still amazing, not so cute and a challenge that I enjoy taking on each day. There isn't a day that doesn't go by that I couldn't put some blurb on my blog but I don't know if you guys would care and so I don't. I guess you could vote. Anyway, occasionally, something happens that demands to be retold. It's stranger than fiction. I can't make this stuff up people, even if I try.....

When I first began my job the last week of October, 2008 I had 15 kids and 1 bird. I've never had a bird. I don't know a thing about birds. I don't dislike birds but I wouldn't choose one as a pet. Regardless, I now had a bird, was responsible for this bird and needed to at least give it a chance. His name is Rocket. It took me about a month to like Rocket and Rocket's mess. BIRDS ARE MESSY!!!! Feathers, food and poop are everywhere all the time and they come with an odor no matter how clean the cage is. But I have to admit that by the end of November, I liked Rocket and didn't mind cleaning up after him. He loved to hear a story. Whenever I read aloud to the kids he would sing and sing and sing. This was my connection to the bird. Rocket, the bird who will sing while you read him a story. 

Each class has a pet. I had Rocket, there was another bird named Patrick, there were four hamsters, some fish and a turtle. There might be more, but since I'm not responsible, I'm a little out of the loop. Anyway, over Christmas all these pets had to have a temporary home. Someone decided to take Rocket and Patrick. A bird lover came in and told us that these particular birds like to have company. So since the kids wouldn't be around, we decided that the two birds should go home together so they at least have each other while they missed the kids. 

When the birds came back they were very VERY attached to each other so we let them stay together. I now no longer had a bird, just an empty cage. It was bitter sweet. I was happy to not have to clean up after the bird or worry for the bird but I missed his singing and so did the kids. They asked about Rocket often. I told them he wasn't gone, just moved. Of course they wanted to know when we would get another bird. I didn't know. I didn't care. I had grown close to Rocket but as for other birds, they could be set free for all I cared. 

Skip ahead one month. For the month of Jan we had no pets. We got over Rocket and moved on. Then one day, Ms D came in bearing a hamster cage. With her eyes set just right and her voice with just the right amount of plead, she asked if I would take these off her hands. Apparently, they make too much noise and wake up the children during nap time. We don't nap in my room so it seems logical that they could live in here. I peered into the cage. THREE hamsters lived in there. It looked crowded. It smelled bad. Let me just say that I must have had a good prayer time that morning because the tiny ounce of mercy in me said, "Ok." 

Now, as much as I don't care about birds; I really don't care about hamsters or rodents. I'm a cat lover remember? I see toys for Tumbleweed when I look into the cage. And as little as I know about caring for a bird I know less about caring for a hamster, especially three hamsters. Their names were Salt (white), Pepper (black) and Scissors (tan). Yippie! 

I find the other teacher who has a hamster in her room. I get a basic care guide from her and one other teacher. Within hours of having them, I set to cleaning the cage and try to get the smell down to something tolerable. I put the hamsters in their balls so they can roll around. The kids LOVE them immediately. It's their joy that really commits me. Fine. I learned how to care for a bird and I even liked the bird, surely the same will happen with the hamsters. I just have to give them a chance. 

Ms D was right about the noise. These guys were fighting, biting and picking on each other constantly. I don't know anything so I think this is normal for hamsters. Ms M drops in and hears the noise and proceeds to tell me the following account. "That tan one used to be mine but my hamster was always biting it. Almost killed it. That's why you have three. We just put it in with Salt and Pepper to save it's life." Toy for Tumbleweed coming to mind. Okay, well that explains it. So who do you think is causing all the trouble in there now? She says, "I don't know." Excellent. We're all stupid when it comes to hamsters. Whose idea was this again? 

We cope and we clean and we hear them constantly bickering and carrying on. Then one day it was quiet. I peered into the cage and I see Salt and Scissors but can't find Pepper. I look and look and don't find him. The cage has a little apartment that the hamsters can climb to and an exercise ball they can get to on top and then their cage is down below. Salt and Scissors were in the ball with hay they had brought up from below. They were gnawing on something. I look closer. Finally I see Pepper. Looks like they are chewing on its leg. Yeppers, Pepper's dead. 

I honestly don't remember how Pepper got out and who disposed of him. I didn't. I was busy. I was glad we were down to two and was wondering if Salt would die soon. Salt had been dropped over the Christmas vacation and now has a paralyzed back hind leg. So not only did Ms D bring me three hamsters, she brought me three that fight, one that's gonna die, and one that bites and one that's wounded. In my right mind I would've said, give them to someone else. Ridiculous. Anyway, Salt moved around pretty good for the condition but was slow and fat and if rolled over wrong it took a long time to get right. (kind of like a bug on its back. I've fallen and can't get up syndrome). Anyway, I'm thinking Salt's on its last leg and then we'll just have Scissors who bites but is at least active and fun to watch. Secretly, I begin to pray for this event to happen. 

Last week, an event happened. Not the one I prayed for, but an event none-the-less.....  will finish tomorrow 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


While giving Colin a bath tonight I noticed a little bruise on his back. Who knows? Didn't get a bath last night. It looks over a day old. So I asked while pressing on the bruise slightly (why do we do that?) and asked: 

Me: Where did you get that bruise?
Colin: (flenching) Don't know. 
Me: On the playground probably. 
Colin: Yeah probably. 
Me: You're so tough. 
Colin: Tougher than you. 
Me: stunned silence
Colin: You're so like... NOT tough. (smile)

Then later I was retelling this to JD and Colin was listening. Then he added. "Cuz she never cries."  I guess you are really tough if you cry.  I suppose he's right. And the truth is, I do cry, just not very often. I guess that makes me, what was it? Oh yeah, NOT tough. 

Thursday, February 5, 2009


Everything is a competition. And the winner is predetermined no matter the contest. Established before the foundation of the earth. 

Colin: Mom, what color is my hair? 
Me: Light brown. 
Colin: What color is your hair? 
Me: Dark brown. 
Colin: I win!
Me: You win? 
Colin: The person with light brown hair wins!

Good to know.