It was early. My sister and I were visiting in her bedroom while the kids ran around the house playing pirates, or monsters, or whatever imaginary game they had invented in that moment.
The playpen diaries
As we sat talking, we heard my daughter warn her brother he shouldn't be doing whatever he was doing.
Not really thinking much of it and being it wasn't accompanied by a scream, thump or cry, my sister and I kept on with whatever discussion we were having.
However, we both knew when we heard the speedy pitter-patter of my nephew's feet coming down the hallway, one of us, most likely me, was going to have to get up and deal with something.
What came next was definitely not what we were expecting.
"Mom, he ate the fish."
"He ate Elmo."
As the words came out of his mouth we sat still in shock - and then it hit us.
I don't know who got out of bed faster between my sister and I. What I do know is that when we rounded the corner into the living room my son was standing over the fish bowl with a gigantic smile pasted on his face.
Wet hands dripping, you could tell that whatever he had done he was proud to have done it.
Taking a quick glance at the fish bowl I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the tiny red fish floating in the corner.
Grabbing my son I quickly began to scorn him for playing in the fish water, letting him know how dirty it was and how he should never put it in his mouth, "yuck."
While my son and I were having our stern discussion about how what he was doing was wrong, my sister interrupted us to tell me, poor little Elmo was missing his beautiful betta fish tail. Slightly gagging at the thought, I turned to my now crying son to ask him if he had indeed feasted on the fish's tail.
With the flip of a switch the tears were gone, a smile appeared and a fast nod indicated that yes, yes he had bitten off and eaten Elmo's tail.
Not really sure what to do next, I did what any grown women would do - I called my mom.
Although she was laughing at first, my mother urged me to call the health line and make sure there were no diseases he could catch or poisons to be concerned about. At first I resisted but in the end, when mom says jump, I still ask how high.
Although the conversation with the nurse from the health line only lasted about five minutes, by the end she had probably reconfirmed "he ate the tail?" about 10 times and was doing her best not to chuckle. Before thanking me for making her Saturday, she suggested I call poison control - just to be safe.
Now I don't know if this was just to give one more person a good laugh for the day or true concern, but after reaffirming "yes, he ate the tail," more than a few times, this nurse also had a bit of a chuckle and assured me that everything would be fine and that my son had just fulfilled his sushi intake for the day.
After making sure my son would not contract some foreign disease from his fish tail snack, my sister and I took a closer look at the fish to determine what to do next.
Upon further examination we realized the poor guy was still alive and furthermore was also missing one fin and had teeth marks all along his back.
Clearly the fish was suffering and needed to be sent to the fishpond in the sky.
This is when I realized my son had just killed his cousin's fish, his pet.
To try and make up for the loss I quickly asked my nephew if he would like auntie to buy him a new fish. Before he even had a chance to answer, my sister jumped in, "no, no, no we don't really need a new fish. I think we'll be OK. Hey bud?"
In the end it turned out poor Elmo was more work than he was worth and my son had actually done his auntie and uncle a bit of a favour - however I think we will keep that bit of information just between us.
As for life after Elmo? My brother-in-law was more impressed with my son's ability to catch the fish and my nephew was off playing a new game with his cousins before Elmo was even swirling down the toilet bowl.
Although the fish is gone, cut short by the curiosity of a toddler, I can guarantee he will never be forgotten.
Rest in peace Elmo.