Do you have small children and pets? You do? I'm in awe of you. I still haven't caved despite the thrice daily: "Can we get a cat can we get a rabbit can we get a cat can we get a rabbit can we get a cat can we get a rabbit...?"
The truth is, I'm now in a place where I'd love to get a pet, and I'd love the girls to have one too. But for me it'd have to be a cat.
A dog would be too needy. I already have two miniature beings hoovering up my attention (and I really can't imagine having a pet that needed bathing). I don't really fancy cleaning out hutches (and I'm pretty sure that job would fall to me somehow). I definitely don't fancy cleaning out water tanks (slime, ugh). Exotic pets? No.
But, yes, it'd be great to get a kitten. Kittens are funny and cute, and they turn into cats, which are funny and intriguing. Perhaps we would end up with a tough boy cat, who'd mark his territory and stop all the other cats in the neighbourhood cr*pping in our garden, and I don't mind admitting that would be a great bonus.
Alas, getting a cat isn't really an easy option for us because we discovered last year that Ruby is highly allergic to them. I know, I know – we could spend five hundred quid on a non-allergenic breed. But we don't exactly have a spare five hundred quid, and I would also have a constant fear that our beloved (valuable) feline would get nicked. I know someone in this part of the world that has happened to.
So I'm in a quandary about getting a pet at all, but the pleas keep on coming. So naturally, I do what anyone (probably) would do in my situation – I fob Ava and Ruby off.
Let's see. Last year, we had a pet frog for a few hours. That went really well (sort of, I think we saved the frog's life, but might have inadvertently scarred it mentally, it'll be interesting to see if it comes back again).
Often, Ava will find a few woodlice. She declares them her new pets, and we pop them into a tupperware box with a loosely balanced lid. Of course, they're all gone about 10 minutes later – we lament their disappearance, while celebrating the joyful time we had with them.
There's a spider which has taken up residence above one of the kitchen cupboards. It doesn't come down much though, so we wave at it and thank it profusely for eating the naughty flies.
A ladybird flew into the kitchen a while ago. We all had a go at holding it, then we put it on the sage bush (which was already covered in sage flies) so it could have a feast.
So, we've had some lovely fleeting moments with, erm, 'pets' – but two weeks ago, we had our best yet.
I was just walking in to the kitchen from the garden when I spotted something on the patio – a small, brown cocoon.
'BRILLIANT!' I thought to myself (bearing down on that nagging feeling I was insane).
I popped the cocoon into a wide-bottomed, slim-necked glass bottle and showed it to Ava and Ruby.
"Eurgh!" Ruby said. "Why you got a poo?!"
"It's not a poo," I said. "It's something very exciting. It's our new pet!"
I quickly grabbed the laptop. Bingo!
"Aha!" I said. "This WILL be a fluffy pet, eventually."
A quick search had told me our small, poo-shaped cocoon was likely to reveal a disappointingly brown, but fairly impressively FLUFFY brown moth.
"Don't you know what it is, Ava?" I asked. "I'll give you a clue. We saw some things similar to this when we went to Butterfly World."
Both girls gasped.
"It's a cocoon!" Ava cried, with even more enthusiasm than I'd expected.
"Er, yes! But it's not going to be a massive blue or yellow or red butterfly," I told them hastily. "It's going to be a brown, and fluffy, moth!"
"Wow...!" the girls said in unison.
Then Ru asked: "When will it be a moth, Mummy?"
"Er..." I flipped open my laptop again. The search results were a bit ambiguous. "Maybe a week?" I guessed. "So we are going to have to look after it 'til then."
"Yes!" Ruby said. "Shall we give it some leaves, Mummy? Or some water?"
We didn't give it either, we just popped the bottle back onto the window sill.
We loved that cocoon on a daily basis. It was checked and re-checked. Its bottle was hugged. Once or twice the cocoon came out of its bottle and sat on the kitchen table. But then it was put back, and waved at, and said goodnight to.
After a week, I was beginning to worry that the cocoon, or rather its contents, was dead. Had we loved it (/shaken it about) too much, I wondered? Had we inadvertently cooked it by putting it in a glass bottle on the windowsill?!
The following day, I'd been to collect the girls from school and nursery and I glanced at the bottle as I poured them both some water from the tap. There was a unpleasant looking smear on the bottom of the glass.
'Eurgh,' I thought, 'maybe it exploded.'
But THEN I saw it.
The cocoon was split and empty, and sitting prettily inside the glass bottle was a big, fat, fluffy brown moth.
It's hard to explain how excited Ava and Ruby were to meet their 'baby'. We spent half an hour looking at it, and talking about it, and naming it Fluffy, and saying "Awwww!"
Then we took Fluffy, in his/her bottle, out into the garden.
It was ever so tempting for the girls to stuff the top of the bottle with leaves, so Fluffy could stay forever. But they didn't.
Ruby said: "Bye bye, Fluffy moth!"
Ava said: "Have a nice life, little one!"
We left Fluffy to his/her own devices, free to emerge from his/her bottle into the fresh air.
In the morning, Fluffy had gone. The girls were a bit sad but I was proud of them.
And almost certain the neck of the bottle was slim enough for a moth to emerge from, but far too slim for the beak of a hungry bird. I'm, like, 95.