Lucien just turned eight. It's a number that makes me say "wow" but not yet a number that freaks me out. My guess is that will come around 10.
Lucien wanted to take a birthday treat to school to share with his classmates. His teacher said, due to all the food allergies in the class this year, the only "treat" allowed was fruit. So I sent him to school with a bag of bananas. Happy Birthday, son, get buckwild.
I'm confused about my own school days, back when our parents were free to send in piles of gluten-filled gut bombs for classroom birthday celebrations. Were there fewer allergies when I was a kid? Or were there a bunch of miserable moaning kids on the ground out in the hallway I just didn't notice?
I'm not making light of food allergies. I know kids with severe food allergies; if they come into contact with the wrong thing, it could kill them. It's scary as hell. I'm just trying to understand how food allergies got so omnipresent that kids now have to blow out birthday candles stuck into browned pieces of pear.
Lucien has wanted a lizard for a long time. Whenever we went to Petco to get something for one of our other animals, Lucien stood transfixed in front of the lizards. He especially liked the baby bearded dragons because they would always come check him out, pressing their tiny bearded dragon faces against the glass with their heads cocked to the side.
Then the begging would begin and I'd have to remind him of the cold hard truth -- no way we're getting a bearded dragon, those things can live up to 15 years and that's more of a commitment than I'm willing to make to a lizard.
But lizard fate is funny. A middle-aged bearded dragon dropped into our laps last week when a woman posted on a local parenting listserve that her son was headed to college in the fall and was leaving behind his beloved pet bearded dragon named Bobo. She wanted Bobo to go to a good home, preferably a home with a kid who would love Bobo as much as her son had.
We went to meet Bobo the next day after school. The woman who welcomed us was visibly moved; Lucien reminded her so very much of her son at the age of almost-eight. There were other people interested in Bobo, too, but the woman and her family discussed and decided to tell them to BUZZ OFF. As soon as they met, it was obvious Bobo belonged with The Loosh.
When Lucien met Bobo
I wanted Bobo to be a surprise for Lucien on his birthday so had to stall for a week. I hemmed and hawwed and made up all sorts of reasons why we couldn't get Bobo, at least not yet. It made Lucien crazy to the brink of disowning me as a mother. He pulled his hair out and cried, "What?? His eyes are too blinky for your liking? How is that even a thing!?"
The crisis was solved by telling Lucien he had to "earn" Bobo. He had to take exclusive care of our other pets for one week to prove he was up to the responsibility of caring for Bobo. It was a pretty brilliant idea; Lucien stopped pestering me AND I no longer had to clean the bird cage.
The plan may have backfired on our pets, though. Lucien was so excited to be working towards Bobo he arose early every morning and completed the entire pet care checklist by 6:00 a.m. Oscar was groggy and confused as Lucien dragged him outside to go to the bathroom and gave him a bath before dawn. Stella no doubt grew concerned when the kid with the crazed eyes and shaky excited hands changed her water every five minutes.
On Lucien's birthday, while he was at school eating his celebratory banana, my sister Raba met me at Bobo's house to help carry his 50 gallon tank to my car. Carrying that tank was similar to carrying a Volkswagen -- as in, you know it's going to be heavy in theory but you have no idea what "heavy" means until you're up under the thing.
Bobo's owner had to jump in and help as we descended the steep and uneven concrete stairs outside her house. All three of us felt it necessary to holler "Careful! Careful!" every few seconds just in case the other two had suffered sudden mental impairment and were about to go all gangbusters with the thing.
It was slow treacherous going made more exciting by the fact we all decided to wear stylish heeled boots that day. Not the most practical footwear for what we were doing but dang we looked good doing it.
Raba and I were on our own once we got back to our house but after a pep talk, some stretches and some heeled shoe removal, we successfully installed Bobo in the newly redesigned kid room. I rushed to finish the room last week because I was concerned about the possible effects of paint fumes on bearded dragons.
Kid room before --
Kid and lizard room after --
The look on Lucien's face when he came home from school that day and saw Bobo in the middle of his room was worth all the effort it took to get him there. Even my severely bruised thighs, which had been used several times as a tank resting place until feeling returned to my arms, ached a little less because of all of the happiness.
Bobo is the coolest animal. He's docile and likes to be picked up and held. He loves basking under his basking lamp. He enjoys being outside in the grass in warmer months.
He also likes piña coladas and getting caught in the rain
We've never had a reptile before so there were some things to get used to. For instance, as soon as Bobo's basking light turns off (it's on a timer), Bobo immediately flattens himself against the floor and falls into a deep, impenetrable sleep as his body temperature drops. We thought we'd killed him the first time he did that.
Bobo was fine again the next morning but Oscar the schnauzer was a jittery mess. He sniffed and pawed and whined all over the kids' room in an attempt to understand what kind of creature had just invaded his territory. In a spastic fit of nerves, Oscar knocked over Bobo's cricket container. Dozens of crickets poured out and hopped every which way in joyful freedom. The Great Cricket Escape of 2014 was unfortunately timed given we were supposed to be in the car headed to school at that very moment.
I screamed for Lucien to help me and he came running. We grabbed crickets as fast as we could, stuffed them back into their cage and held Oscar at bay with our feet because he was intent on capturing ALL THE CRICKETS NOM NOM NOM with his mouth. Alex stood in the doorway and laughed until he doubled over. That man's worthless sometimes.
We're pretty sure we got all the crickets back into their cage except the two who hopped under Coco's bed never to be seen again. God I hope they aren't a male and a female and, if they are, don't find each other irresistibly attractive.
Later that morning, the men working on our house showed up and started messing around with some exterior electrical work. This involved a few crossed wires and a few tripped fuses. Bobo's heat lamp was on one of the affected circuits. When the circuit blew, his lamp turned off so Bobo would flatten himself down and go to sleep. Then I, worried about the lizard, would re-set the fuse and he'd get back up again. A few minutes later the circuit would trip again so he would lie down again. I would run and re-set. Repeat.
His first full day of life with us and he was living in some kind of surreal lizard disco.
So Happy Birthday to you, Lucien, our sweet, funny, loud animal-loving boy. You are a unique individual and a wonderful son and a source of great joy and amusement in our lives. I never could have imagined all the ways you'd change my life for the better in just eight years.
For starters, I never thought I'd see a big lizard in a bed