Gisele, Molly and Squishy share a snack of play dough.

Spring and summer have passed and the Nelson-Gillot household has lost it's hairiest member. Stimpy went out one evening and never returned. Soon after letting him out, a vicious snarl was heard and we ran out to investigate the cause. Sadly for us, and happily for the local voles, Stimpy had disappeared without a trace and was likely carried off by a coyote. But never fear-- our joy has increased four-fold and we're the proud owners of a merry quartet of elderly rats. Archimedes is a male seal point Himalayan rex dumbo, Spike is a blue agouti splash male, Colossus is a black hooded male, and Kohl is a silver black English Irish male. Don't let the pedigrees fool you; these rats will chew your precious belongings just as earnestly as a pet store rat.

These days, much of Gisele's world centers on her doll Molly. Molly is an (ahem) store-bought doll who penetrated our household by means of Nana. Who would have guessed that the many cloth dolls that I lovingly made would be forgotten by Gisele as soon as she set her eyes on Molly's vinyl face? Molly goes with us on most outings and she is the focus of much of our play. Often, Molly is sick because she has eaten something she's not supposed to, and Doctors Gisele and Janine along with Nurse Nels have to examine her. It's a wonder Molly hasn't changed her eating habits because Dr. Gisele often gives too many shots and is over-vigorous in checking Molly's knee reflexes.

Sometimes Molly sees an even darker side of Gisele. If we're out, and Gisele is melting down, she'll throw Molly into the street and tell me to leave her there. Or, she'll tell (not ask) me to put her in the car trunk. But Molly does have her uses. Her little plastic hands helped me knead some dough the other day. She also helps Gisele get extra toys. When we were at Target recently, Gisele somehow convinced me that Molly needed a present because "now she was potty trained". This wasn't a very creative excuse on Gisele's part because she herself received a present from Target when she potty trained.

I'm trying to get into the habit of writing down funny things Gisele says. Here's one silly exchange. I said to her, "Do I look like a sponge?", and Gisele said, "Can you wipe me up? I'll be something that splatters all over and you wipe me up".

Sometimes Gisele will tell me a story. Here are two:
"One day there was a little lid. It didn't have it's mother or it's father with it. It just wandered back into the woods".

Another: "I was walking through the night when a speck of poop fell from a tree and landed on top of my head. That silly poop!"

And Gisele is still memorizing portions of her books. I was so amazed by one example that I put it in the video section of my website.

Most of the time, I feel as though I'm doing a good job teaching English to Gisele. Nels, however has grown increasingly frantic over my language idiosyncrasies. I admit that I shouldn't say "crap" or "sucks" in front of her. But it's rare that I do. The main bone of contention is my overuse of the word "got". Instead of saying, "I have my keys", I'll usually say "I've got my keys". When Nels looked up the word "got" in the dictionary, however, it accepted my generous usage of "got" and called it a colloquialism. Well, Nels said that colloquial was basically code for low class. Can I help it if my father is a grease monkey and my mother is Canadian? By the way, I paid my $300 to become a Canadian citizen, so I can make jokes like that.

Since I'm not an eager playmate to Gisele, she has to initiate pretend play and make up most of the details herself. She can be a very demanding director! I'm told where to stand or sit, what to say, and what my role is. Often I'm told to pretend that I'm a baby. I lie in bed while Gisele brings toys for me to play with and food to eat. Then she'll tell me it's time for bed, and when I say that I don't want to go to bed, Gisele will say, "Little baby, you have to go to bed. It's very late". It's funny to hear my own phrases coming out of her mouth.

Cousin Connection

Things have taken a violent turn at the Smith household. Keeping George away from television and the rif raf at public school has backfired. Even George's Amish school books have failed to temper his warrior soul. My first inkling that he had turned to the dark side came while watching him play with his Playmobil people. He stated that his knight had hacked the head off of another. And very recently George sneaked a book called "Night Attack Gunships" into Annick's pile of books at the library. Annick didn't find out about it until much later that day when George asked Mike to read it to him.

George has always hugged Gisele rather roughly, but there used to be affection behind it. The hugs, however, have turned into tackles. Annick and I were especially shocked when we noticed George knocking Gisele over, holding her down with his left hand, and making a stabbing motion with his right. It was kind of sad to see Gisele laughing and oblivious to George's murderous intentions. And I have to say that I'm concerned about George's bad influence on Our sweet Gisele. Last week she learned to use a new word at their house: destroy.

What kind of effect is this pugilistic atmosphere having on little Anne? Like an urchin on the streets she has learned that it is maim or be maimed. She eats voraciously to keep her weight up to a solid 38 pounds and she's a good couple of inches taller than Gisele. I recently watched George try to take her down, but like a rock, Anne stood firm. I have even heard Anne say, "I'm ready! I'm ready for battle!"

It isn't ALL death and destruction at the Smith household. George and Anne are regularly released to the world to participate in scheduled activities. They both take gymnastics and music class. George has become obsessed with golf and is taking classes. Not that this is saying much, but he plays better than Annick. And George is actually very distressed by real violence towards people or animals. A passionate vegetarian, he became very distraught upon seeing the Thanksgiving turkey.

Anne has her own passions: firefighting and ice cream sales. She often pretends to operate an ice cream stand, and for Halloween she combined her interests and dressed as a firefighter who sells ice cream. And when Nels was pretending to make lunch with Anne and Gisele recently, he noticed that Anne had no interest in making any food but ice cream. So they all made playdough ice cream, and while Gisele made many small ice creams, Anne spent about 5 minutes making one huge one.

Perhaps it is impolite to mention this, but I sometimes wonder if Anne is rabid. The most telling sign is the frothing at her mouth. Like her mother before her, Anne drools a lot. And by some unknown mechanism her drool is foamy. It can be a little frightening to come upon her, as I did last week, frothing and naked, playing in a mud puddle. I can say for certain that she has never bit me very hard, though.

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