We have a 30 gallon tank filled with "rescued" feeder fish. They get quite large and develop very distinct personalities - which endeared them to The Bearded One as well as to their technical owner, Ms. Flippers. The fish (all 13 of them) would greet The Bearded One as he got his coat and hat each morning, begging for "just a pinch of food!" so that they wouldn't starve before Ms. Flippers got up 2 hours later. Christmas Eve morning they were JUST FINE and eating well and the chemistry in the tank was JUST FINE. By dinner time on Christmas Eve I noticed dead fish stuck to the filter intake. The pH of the tank had plummeted (yes, it was buffered). "The heck with raising the pH by 0.2 per day!" said Ms. Flippers, "This is a matter of life and death." And it was. We were checking pH every 1/2 hour and bringing the pH up as gradually as we dared. By the time I left for church we had only 4 fish left - Ms. Flippers and I held a short service for the lost under the Avocado Tree when I got home. By this time fin crud had showed up and antibiotic treatment was begun. In the end we managed to save two of the fish.
By comaparison to Christmas Eve, Christmas Day was completely relaxing. Following "The Longest Christmas Eve Church Service in Recorded History" (see Guiness Book), I just fell into bed exhausted from all of that singing including that which was done in the dark when the choir loft lights were turned off. I'm sure that the long suffering choir director found it enchanting as well. Luckily the next morning The Bearded One had handled all of the Christmas Stockings, lighting the completely un-necessary fireplace (because the morning was already over 60 degrees) and feeding and watering the cats. At 8 AM we gave the first of the wakeup calls - to kids who eventually rolled out of bed between 9:30 and 10 AM. This had allowed The Bearded One and I leisurely showers, a couple of pots of coffee and breakfast.
Following presents I put on my "farming clothes" and spend the rest of the day weeding and transplanting and fertilizing and such in my vegetable garden. I LOVE to muck around in the dirt (and by the time I was done with parts of it, mud).
This was followed by a steak dinner and a Snooze on the couch.
I have made a list of all of the things that we avoided by having a quiet, "just the four of us" Christmas:
- rushing presents by getting young adults up before they have slept their fill (even worse than having a cranky toddler)
- dinner guests who arrive a) too early or b) too late (worse)
- whiny overtired, overexcited, oversugared kids
- complaints about the selection of food for the dinner
- arguments about HOW TO COOK certain foods
- at least one drunken relative
- repeatedly biting my tongue so that I have to eventually find laundry that needs doing NOW. YES, I MEAN NOW!
Yes, the two surviving fish are still doing well.