Yes, Betta, as in Siamese Fighting Fish.
A little history: Let's go back to a lovely weekend in early November when we dog sat Tucker, our youth pastor's adorable little Yorkie/Shih Tzu mix. My children fell in love with him. They continue to talk about him and pray for him at bedtime with regularity. They have since met an adorable kitten named Georgie, a friendly little Westie named Sam, and a bighearted cat named Son. They have pet fever.
My husband is anti-pet, in a major way. (I'm convinced it's because he is still suffering from a broken heart over sending our beloved 22 lb. orange tabby, Rudy, to a new home 4 years ago. There was a major biting incident involving Aaron's knee, swelling, redness, a trip to the ER for antibiotics and four resulting puncture scars. We had a 2 year old at the time, and Rudy had just bitten the "alpha male" in our home - he was feeling liberated as far as biting was concerned. That was our first "difficult parenting decision.")
Anyway, Aaron has vowed to never own another pet.
After our wonderful weekend with Tucker, I began quoting statistics on regarding the correlations between owning pets and longevity and overall happiness. I told him how much my ever-present cloud of melancholy had lifted during the weekend we had the dog. Also, the girls were so happy and well-behaved.
My argument grew stronger. He remained firm. This is the one circumstance regarding his precious daughters (who have the man wrapped so tightly that he's cutting off the circulation to their little fingers) to which he has not caved.
So, last Sunday, our dear friends Pierce and Meghan, who felt my children really needed a pet, presented my children with a fish. A Siamese Fighting Fish or Betta splendens.
He came pre-named. Mr. Christmas II. We just call him Mr. Christmas for short.
(Aside: In early 90s, a Christian rock band called Jacob's Trouble had a song called "Mr. Hitler." The chorus was, "They call me Mr. Hitler when they talk behind my back/ They call me Mr. Hitler, but I'm stating just the facts." Aaron and I have been singing this since the arrival of the Betta. But we've changed the words, of course, to "They call me Mr. Christmas when they talk behind my back..." True story.)
Anyway, my girls were thrilled about this gift, to say the least.
Betta care instructions were printed in Meghan's lovely handwriting on the side of the Freedom Christian Connection Center Cafe' coffee cup in which the fish was presented to us.
But I am arrogant. I've owned fish before. So I knew what I was doing. And Aaron trusted me since I am the pet-owning veteran in our relationship. My childhood pet ownership consisted of two dogs, a cat, several goldfish, a crayfish, gerbils, a guinea pig, frogs, toads, and several lizards. Again, I knew what I was doing.
We brought him home and transferred him to a big vase filled with room temperature water. Pinched some food into the vase and voila we had a pet.
Kayla and Karis peered at him through the glass and spoke to him in high-pitched voices, "Mr. Christmas! You're so cute! You're such a good boy! Peek-a-boo! He's lookin' at me! What a good boy!"
They didn't seem to notice that he was a little lethargic and didn't eat the food we gave him. The thought only entered my mind for a brief moment before I dismissed it. He was just having some adjustment difficulties and would be fine in a day or two.
I am arrogant.
Last night, we ventured out into the bitter cold to purchase Mr. Christmas a real bowl, with some gravel and plastic plants.
While in the fish aisle at Meijer, Aaron and I began to notice little bottles of "tap water neutralizing solution specifically formulated for Bettas." Apparently, chlorine levels in regular tap water are poisonous to fish.
I never knew this. My arrogance deflated.
We looked at one another in wide-eyed horror as we realized the dire nature of the situation.
"Mr. Christmas is in peril," Aaron declared in all seriousness.
We rushed home and switched everything out, put new "neutralized" water in the bowl and released Mr. Christmas into his new home.
His fins immediately fanned out and he swam around with newfound vigor. I pinched some food into his bowl and he ate it as soon as it hit the surface.
So far, he seems to be doing well.
That was a close one.
Here are some photos of Mr. Christmas, happy in his new home: