Fish Balls, Not Just a Recipe From Norway

When you get a baby (mail order or the usual way, it doesn't matter) you find yourself suckered by purchases that would never make it into the shopping basket otherwise. Perhaps it's because you're so busy reading about baby-raisin' and feeling inadequate that you begin listening to any white noise you hear about tots. One thing that rose above the din was that babies teethe. I knew what this meant before the bun showed up; I'm not THAT stupid. But the sheer repetition of this particular developmental stage made me panic somewhere deep under the surface, which made me susceptible to a generalized fear of impending gummy disasters.

So I did what any angst-ridden novice would do: I bought teethers. I bought a lot of teethers. I bought teethers from different manufacturers because I thought he might prefer one over another, like fine wine or good cheese. "Hmm. No, this one has too many nubbins on it. I'm afraid not." Or, "I like the shape, but the consistency is all wrong."

Now that I have the baby, my purchases seem like the mark of the amateur I was: I bought the teethers before I even had the baby, and now I understand that he's as content chewing a clean burp cloth (or dirty, if I'd let him) as he is any of the teethers I bought.

There's one teether that we're particularly fond of, though. It's shaped like a fish. It has rubber nubbins for fins, a googly eye, and a tail filled with water.

In the store I must not have been paying a hell of a lot of attention to the aesthetics of teethers. If I had, I would probably have left this one behind. Because its behind (or its tail rather) looks exactly like a set.

And I mean a set of testes.

When I pointed this out to my husband, he was both appalled and amused. Sure enough, the fish has a tail that looks exactly like a bright yellow set of cartoon testicles.

Of course, this means that we've taking to calling this teether the "testicle fish;" to call it anything else would be dishonest. You can't "unsee" something once it's been seen. You can never not see the skull in the image of the woman at the vanity once it's been pointed out to you, nor can the fish ever have just a simple rubber teether tucked onto its back end.

And so our son gnaws with delight on the testicle fish. We chill the testes so that they cool his gums. It's portable, so we stick it in the diaper bag. One day, after many sleepless nights and a napless morning for the bun, we were desperately trying to put him to sleep any way we could. Our last resort was to walk him to a restaurant, grab a bite, and then possibly walk the 3000-plus miles to New York City if he had not by this time finally taken a doze.

In the restaurant the bun was as ebullient as ever, and in my exasperation I said, "Give me the testicle fish," with a note of pure exhausted sobriety.

I am waiting for family services to show up. I know that the nice people in the restaurant clearly think that our little patch of heaven is a bit risqué for such a tiny tot, but really, they should be talking to the teether manufacturer, not me.

I just call 'em like I see 'em.