What you know, can kill you.

by: Andrea Mulder-Slater

I’m fairly certain getting healthy shouldn’t make you feel sick.

Then again, I’m no medical expert - though I do read the Google News Health headlines faithfully, which – as a rule - is not conducive to getting a good night’s sleep, what with all the bulletins about procreating superbugs, medical mix-ups and bacon condoms.

Seriously. Look it up.

Still, all of my late-night reading brings me closer to the truth. And the truth is, I’m a health failure.

Case in point: Omega 3 fatty acids. Apparently, according to medical experts, I am not getting enough of them in my diet. This means I will become sick and die but not before my nails become brittle, my hair turns to straw and I become overly anxious.

It may be too late.

Appealing, no?

In an effort to stay alive – and supple - I decided to take matters into my own hands. However, after contemplating the prospect of eating salmon every day, I developed an alternative step-by-step plan.

Feel free to follow along. It’s for your own good. 

Step 1: Determine you aren’t getting enough Omega 3 in your diet. This is a given.

Step 2: Research the hell out of Omega 3 supplements.

Step 3: Despite hours of online research, in a fit of grave concern over your health, grab the first bottle of fish oil - and the first bag of potato chips - you see on your next trip to the health food store.

Step 4: Eat the healthy chips as you begin to regret your $40 fish oil purchase.

Step 5:  Contact the fish oil company to make sure their product does not contain heavy metals, PCBs or crack cocaine. Wait for email reply.

Step 6:  Become instantly suspicious of anyone who signs her emails with “Yours in health”.

Step 7: Put your new bottle of Omega 3 fish oil in the fridge. In the door. Behind the coffee cream.  Walk away.

Step 8: Wait six months. 

Step 9:  Remember that you still aren’t getting enough Omega 3 in your diet.

Step 10:  Sample a mouthful of your husband's sardine snack in the hopes that you have somehow developed a taste for all things oily, stinky and chewy.

Step 11:  Eat a handful of chocolate chips in an effort to mask the flavor of canned fish. Make a mental note to stay away from cats.

Step 12:  On your next trip to the grocery store, pick up a bottle of “Organic” Omega Fish Oil pills. Make sure they are Norwegian, because Norwegians are healthy.

Step 13:  Talk your mother into taking a pill. Wait 5 minutes (or so) and then, take your own pill.

Step 14: Panic when your mother tells you she is experiencing blurred vision. Wait 5 minutes and then, panic when you start seeing double. Develop a serious case of nausea.

Step 15: Talk yourself out of the thought that fish oil pills can kill you. Repeat the following: “It’s just fish. It’s just fish It’s just fish”.

Step 16: Abandon your fallible mantra and instead Google “fish oil supplement death” in an effort to ease your mind.

Step 17: Discover that taking fish oil supplements can actually increase your risk of stroke and death in general. Wonder why in the hell you didn’t spot this fly in the ointment during your countless hours of previous research.

Step 18:  Panic like you’ve never panicked before. Worry that you may have inadvertently created a murder-suicide situation. Quickly work out the movie title. Decide on “Death by Omega 3”. Imagine Drew Barrymore as the protagonist.

Step 19: Once vision returns to normal and the urge to vomit subsides, ceremoniously throw away any and all fish oil products that may be lurking in your house.

Step 20:  Resolve to eat more flaxseed.

No, really.

You say toilet paper tube, I say jungle gym

by Andrea Mulder-Slater

It's been a little over a week since we added a new member to our family. He loves bananas, has teeth like a Medieval snake and he eats his own poop.

Let me back up.

My daughter is cuckoo for animals. She loves them. A lot. It’s a deep kind of love. The kind that makes her heart ache every time she sees a dog, hears a story about a turtle, thinks about a kitten or smells a chicken.

See, from the time she could comprehend such things, my girl has told all who would listen, that when she grows up, she is going to be a veterinarian. Because, she says, “I take good care of animals.” 

The kid loves critters.

But – and this is where life grabs you by your ear lobe, forces you to the ground and steps on your left shoulder until you vomit and pass out - my kid (you know, the one who LOVES animals) is allergic. To animals. Specifically, dogs and cats. You know, PETS.

When you’re a parent with a child who desperately wants a pet, and is no longer satisfied with a menagerie of stuffed toys (most of whom are currently sporting Dora the Explorer Band-Aids)… you improvise. 

And then -- after you've encouraged your four year old to play with a jar of window flies, a dead Luna Moth scraped off the road, and a mummified cricket found hidden in the tractor bucket -- you telephone Joe.

Joe is our rodent guy. At least, he is now.

Joe told me a hamster would be the ideal pet for our family. Specifically, a Black Bear, Teddy Bear or Panda Bear hamster. He also said mice are great companions, because they are frantically friendly – offsetting the fact that they smell like armpits and urine.

It’s entirely possible that Joe transports rats on his head.

Joe also said I should get to the pet store soon to take advantage of a “Buy a cage, get a hamster free” promo. Also, he wouldn’t be working tomorrow so I should ask for Philip.

As it happened, Philip was a good sport as he carefully inspected the private parts of several Black Bear hamsters while my daughter waited patiently. Satisfied, he showed us our new pet - a 6-month-old boy, who my girl immediately designated, “Blackie”.

We were counting heavily on Philip’s knowledge of hamster’s genitalia, since males are apparently much calmer and less likely to bite, than females. Sexing a hamster (I swear, this is scientific terminology) appears to be a “one lump or two” kind of method. It’s a system Philip was (thankfully) familiar with.

Happy with the choice, we sped off with scores of hamster paraphernalia and a tiny, nervous mouse-like creature huddled in the corner of a cage, on the back seat of the car.
Once we arrived home, we realized none of us had the slightest idea of what to do with a hamster. And so, we took him out of his cage and let him run around in my daughter’s baby bath (dry but lined with a tea towel) where he promptly burrowed himself under a coffee stain and a dried up blueberry.

Getting him back in his cage involved a fair amount of expletives beginning with the words HOLY and MOTHER. By the time the traumatized animal was back in his enclosure, he had a look in his eyes that said, “What the $%*# is wrong with you people? Are you freaking insane?” and "Have you seen my teeth?"

It’s remarkable to think we were permitted to bring our daughter home from the hospital four and a half years ago.

When it came to rodent care, we weren’t in Joe territory, clearly. In fact, we had no effing clue what we were doing. So, the next morning, I consulted the experts online. And by experts I mean four hundred and thirty-six twelve-year-old girls with You Tube videos on how to feed, train, clean and tame your hamster.

I discovered there are strict guidelines when it comes to hamster care.

Rule #1: Do not, under any circumstance, take your hamster out of his cage when you first bring him home. Wait until he has had a chance to get used to your home for two days to a week.


Rule #2: Never, ever swear at or near your hamster, or your 4 year old daughter.


Rule #3: Don’t panic if your hamster starts to eat his own feces. Just chill and listen to Justin Bieber.

Bottom line - I now have a hamster playground in my living room.

I’ll write that last sentence again, just in case it didn’t register.

I now have a hamster playground. In my living room.

And, I've become skilled at crafting homemade hamster toys out of toilet paper rolls. Also, after several rounds of “Is he going to bite me?”, “I don’t want to hurt him!” and “Will he ever stop eating his own poop?” We can all cup a hamster like nobody’s business, which sounds far less appropriate than it should.

But, I’m exhausted. Because - and here’s the thing – hamsters are nocturnal, which is no big thing, except... I need to know what he is doing. At. All. Times. Mostly I'm convinced he will somehow find a way to MacGyver his way out of the cage, scurry behind the filing cabinets and disappear until the smell of old feet takes over the office. 

In reality...

2am: He is sitting on his wheel. Not running. Just sitting.
3am: He is moving wood chips from one side of his cage to the other.
4am: He is stuffing his cheeks full of toilet paper.

We may have bought ourselves a dud.

Come to think of it, having a hamster as a pet is not so different from having a newborn in the house.  I'm bleary eyed and nervous and, there's a fair amount of poop involved.

But most of all, I have a ridiculously happy kid.

No, really.