Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas Poke-a: Part Two

Where was I?
So as you can imagine, with a baby in the house we have to find multiple ways to keep Annabelle entertained.  I continue to be amazed at how she is turning into a little real person.  She knows so many words and talks in sentences and phrases.  We can almost have an actual conversation with her, granted it is a very one-sided and frustrating conversation that one might have with a criminally insane person...but a conversation nonetheless.

I suppose that when I say Annabelle is turning into a little person, a more accurate statement would be that she is turning into a little dictator. Christmas is just days away and I have yet to be able to impress upon Annabelle that if she is naughty Santa won't come.  She is certain he is coming and she is certain he is coming every, single, night.  I have learned that two year olds do not have a firm grasp on how the spacetime continuum operates.  I have also learned that when you raise your child to play outdoors every single day for hours until she is filthy and broken, winter in Wisconsin is a painfully long stretch of  time.

So in addition to competing with a new baby in the house, Annabelle has a touch of cabin fever and it has manifested in her personality, causing her to behave like Attila the Hun, which is what I have been calling her (not to her face) for the last couple of weeks.  Although I think Attila may have just been a tyrant and not officially a dictator.  And in that scenario would that make Bryan, Georgia, and I Eastern Europe? I'm not sure, history is not where I excel. Neither is math. Oh...and science.  And I think we all agreed that brevity wasn't either, so I'm not sure exactly where my talents lie. 

Perhaps you may think I am being unkind or am over-exaggerating this personality flaw, but let me provide you some highlights of life with Attila the Hun.

Annabelle prefers elevated seating so that she may supervise the house
Each day I pick Annabelle up from daycare and drive her home, which takes about thirty minutes.  In that thirty minute stretch I learn that I am not allowed to smile, dance, smile, stare, look at her, or speak.  My hands must remain at 10:00 and 2:00 (unless I am giving her a snack or a drink) and my eyes must remain straight ahead, per the edict of The Dictator.  Katie Perry comes on the radio and who can resist her empowering and catching girl power lyrics?  So I turn up the radio and begin to sing and bob my head back and forth.  From the back seat I see a single finger rise into the air followed by the angry war cry of Annabelle "NO DANCE, MAMA!  NO DANCE!" and if I ignore this order from the backseat, a shrill scream is shortly to follow.  So I stop dancing and quietly sing while I stare at the road, but The Dictator misses nothing.  "NO SING, MAMA!  NO SING!"  and then when I try to ask permission to sing I am interrupted with "NO TALK!"  So I stop talking and just quietly enjoy my song. And after a few minutes I glance up into the mirror to see what she is doing, and the finger is raised again, "NO, MAMA!" I am not sure what I have done this time, and then I realize I have made direct eye contact with The Dictator, which one should never do.

I don't know why I'm complaining, Milton and Bernie receive the brunt of Annabelle's leadership. 
do not disobey The Dictator
cruelty at its most primitive
Her new favorite activity is to boss the dogs around. she likes to open the gate
to our stairs and order them to go up the stairs and STAY or LAY DOWN.  Milton can handle this sort of guidance but Bernie is a nervous wreck.  He has been clinically depressed since we brought Milton to the far.  Annabelle corrals the dogs upstairs and then opens the gate to give them a taste of freedom and then slams it in their hopeful faces.  Its is a cruel form of torture.  Even now I had to pause from writing to go intervene on a situation on the stairs where Annabelle was at the top of the stairs shouting at Milton to "COME UP HERE!" and when he did not, a  Category 5 meltdown occurred.  And while I was trying to figure out how to fix the situation both dogs went into the kitchen and ate Annabelle's  "cerealraisin" in her snack bowl on the kitchen chair.  So as soon as the tears were dry from Milton not obeying her direct commands, they began to flow again when she realized her dogs ate her snack.  Maybe she shouldn't leave her snack bowl on the floor or where the doggies can get them like mama said.  Just a thought.

I try to engage Annabelle in activities such as reading, counting, flashcards, puzzles and anything else I can think of that we can do together. I don't know why I try to engage her in educational activities, she learns all she needs to know on the farm.  Some of Annabelle's first phrases were "dog hair everywhere" and "woodstove chores."   I can only imagine what the rest of the world thinks of our parenting.  We have to check her coat pockets before she goes into daycare because she smuggles nuts, screws, and bolts in.  I also don't know why I worry about my ability to educate her because my games and activities are never her first choice.  I have to compete with Daddy's games, and I have learned being the mom kind of blows.  Happy fun dad is always the one she goes to for entertainment.  I'm the jerk who washes her face and brushes her hair so she doesn't look like an orphan.  So when given the choice between playing with Mama or playing with Daddy, the winner will always be Daddy.

The two current running favorite Daddy games are  "Wallenda" and "Christmas Pokey Eye."
Wallenda is pretty self explanatory, right? Named after the famed Flying Wallendas, it is a death-defying act of balance.  Bryan lies on the floor and Annabelle steps carefully onto his outstretched arm and hand, and he yells "Balance!" and then she yells "Balance!" and then she balances precariously on his hand.  Then he instructs her to let go of his other hand she is using for support, and then she waves to me before crashing to the ground. To be honest I was pretty surprised at how good she is at this stunt.  She is able to balance, but she prefers the crashing to the ground portion of the game.   Actually she doesn't crash to the ground, she crashes into Bryan's skull and ribcage.   Bryan is most likely going to not only have brain damage from this game, but is also going to require rotator cuff surgery in the near future as well.

It is here I should offer a tip to parents of toddlers.  I was very afraid Annabelle would break ornaments on our tree or worse yet, pull it down.  I was prepared to have Bryan rig up some sort of system to tie the tree to the ceiling (wasn't that good of me to put in all that work thinking of  ways for Bryan to do work).  But we found an easy way to prevent this, we purchased the pokiest tree known to Earth.  We have a Blue Spruce and it is like barbed wire and therefore is almost impossible to touch.  As a result of this Annabelle does not touch it and gets very upset when anyone else touches it or grazes against it.  It is very pokey.

Thus the invention of "Pokey Eye."  In this game Daddy lies on his back and hoists Annabelle above his head superman style and pretends to fly her face-first into the Christmas Tree.  This causes her to squeal and recoil and scream "Pokey Eye!"  Lather. Rinse. Repeat. This makes her laugh very hard.  I think it is not dissimilar to a super fast roller coaster that is fun but also terrifying at the same time. The whole time you're laughing and screaming, but deep down you're wondering if your harness is going to come loose, sending your body flying through the sky like a rag doll.

At press time I was just corrected, and apparently I did not know the correct name of the game.  It is not  "Pokey Eye,"  it is "Poke YA."   As in "look out, the tree's going to poke ya."  Either way, it's a fantastic way to entertain a toddler. What better way to spend quality time with your daughter than pretending to hurl her, eyeball-first, into the pokey Christmas tree?  Really, if you were her, which would you choose: Flashcards or Christmas Poke Ya aka Christmas Pokey Eye?

Our activities and parenting choices may be questionable, but I am lucky to have a husband who will engage in this unsafe behavior so I can wash the dishes, feed the baby, or maybe even sit down and compose a blog post.  And Annabelle may be a bossy little dictator, but I would rather raise her to be confident in her voice than afraid to speak out.  I would prefer it if she wouldn't speak out so passionately to me and me alone about my dancing, but we will fine-tune this attribute later in life....hopefully.

Merry Christmas from Annabelle's Chickens

Friday, December 20, 2013

The Christmas Poke-a: PART ONE

I am fortunate in that I get to spend another Christmas on maternity leave.  I was home through the holidays with Annabelle, and am here again with Georgia. I have asked Bryan if we can continue to have babies, specifically in the fall, so I may spend every holiday season at home baking and cooking but he has yet to answer that question.

During both pregnancies I was terrified of having a newborn.  I pictured it as a hellish nightmare of a screaming baby and no sleep, and that has not been my experience either time. I feel like people really emphasize how rough newborns can be.  I am guessing we are lucky and I shouldn't rub it in the face of any mamas who found themselves in such a hell. I would say the first week is rough, and a lot of that was mainly due to breastfeeding.  Bryan and I are trying to figure out why mother nature didn't design this process so your milk comes in IMMEDIATELY upon giving birth (of course Bryan also believes human babies shouldn't be born with arms because they "just get in the way").  Because those first few nights before it does...holy moly.  Not fun.  But after you get the hang of it it's not so bad.  And I would imagine if you gave your baby formula that might ease some of the hell of the first few nights of life on planet Earth for baby too.  But aside from the first week of sleepless nights, I love having a little baby in the house.  It's having a toddler people need to warn you about!

I have learned that there are some things that are made difficult, if not horrifying when you have a screaming baby in the house.  Here are some tasks that I find nearly impossible to do when my baby is screaming:
   1.   Putting snowpants on a two-year-old.  This is not easy under any circumstances.  I dressed Annabelle in full winter gear to play outside with daddy and while I was wrangling with her on our heated floor, Georgia woke up and was immediately starving and therefore screaming while I was doing this.  Now I am not a believer in letting a baby cry, certainly not to the point of hysterics, but I am also not in the practice of letting Annabelle scream on the floor either.  So as a mom, I find myself faced with the daily task of choosing who to disappoint first.  This time it was poor little Georgia's turn.  I knew she wouldn't perish due to hunger so she was going to have to wait until Annabelle was dressed for snow.  Nothing makes me sweatier than my baby crying...and sitting on a heated floor trying to put snowpants and boots on Annabelle who insists on "helping" by shouting at me that I have put her boots on the wrong feet when they are in fact on the correct feet. 
Note that this photo was taken through the
window.  I just threw her outside, into the
elements, night.
   A sub-lesson of the snowpants/baby crying lesson is that is very difficult, if not impossible, to convince your husband that you are perfectly fine and do not need his help when you are lying on the floor dripping with your own sweat, gigantic milk stains leaking down the front of your shirt, and holding your eldest child in a Full Nelson.
  2.   Starting a new roll of invisible tape that may or may not rhyme with "notch".   I was wrapping Christmas presents which is a task I actually enjoy doing.  I like to fix myself a nice cocktail (usually Baileys and Hot Cocoa, but on this particular occasion it was Lambrusco) and listen to some traditional Christmas music and lovingly wrap my gifts.  Georgia was napping quietly in her swing while I did this and I was enjoying it.  I ran out of tape in the beginning of my wrapping but was not worried because I planned ahead and bought a package of four new tapes to have on hand for this very occasion.  I took out a new roll and gently pulled the little plaid, green starter tab ONLY TO HAVE IT SLIP RIGHT OFF THE ROLL immediately.  I attempted to find the end of this tape and thought, forget it. You have three more rolls. Start a new one  and fix this one later.  So I pulled out another roll, pulled gently and off came the tab again. This time I worked at the start of the roll a little longer. I worked on it long enough to peel one skinny little strand of tape all the way around the roll. Twice.  About this time Georgia awoke and began to cry. So once again I abandoned the roll and picked up roll #3 from the package.  I am not joking when I tell you the same thing happened again. With Georgia crying in her swing I again peeled and peeled at what appeared to be the start resulting in another long skinny strand of tape around the roll.  Sweaty and angry,  I removed a large knife from the knife block on the counter and held the skinny tape strand with one hand and sliced a new starting point into the roll of tape, jammed it back onto the plastic dispenser and gingerly pulled the new starting point to the serrated edge of the dispenser.  
Look at the top of that gift! After all
that, the tape isn't staying stuck!  (I
really like how you can see our lights
falling off of the tree in this pic)
    Now it is at this point where I am sure you are questioning if this is possibly user error. I assure you it is not. My thoughts and theories on this topic would need to be a separate post in order to fully express how I feel about this issue.  But it can be summed up like this: I am angry at companies that de-feature their products in order to retain or save cost.  I am convinced that the manufacture of this particular tape shortened the length of the starter tab, and quite possible changed the quality of material they use.  NOTE TO MANUFACTUREER: I should never have to remember to include a BONING KNIFE as a gift-wrapping supply.
    3.   Trying to convince the UPS driver that your dog is not going to kill him. This is also another highly sensitive topic.  Anytime dogs and humans try to coexist there is trouble.  Something has happened between Milton and UPS in the last year and I'm not sure what exactly it was.  But Milton does not appreciate the UPS Drivers, at all.  And sweet little Milton can be very, very scary.  And I do feel bad for the drivers, usually.  One of the problems is that UPS never delivers at the same time of day, and this time of year they have been here nearly every single day.  If Milton is outside when they show up none of the drivers will get out of their truck.  Two of the drivers wrap our packages in a large plastic bag and wing them into our yard lasso-style.  So please do not send us any Hummels for Christmas as they will most likely be shattered into a million pieces. 

He couldn't hurt a fly.  Although he has killed raccoons, chickens,
and given a coyote a run for his money.  But other than that..
couldn't hurt a fly.
I had been trying to keep Milton indoors on days I knew I had packages coming, but it seems UPS had a knack for delivering at the exact 15 minute interval I let the dogs outside to go to the bathroom...and at the exact same moment I had to feed Georgia.  So countless times this season I had to run out into the subzero temperatures barefoot, once again...large milkstains present on the front of my shirt with my baby screaming in the house and my shouting "it's ok, he wont bite, he's just protective!" as Milton foams at the mouth and claws at the door of the UPS truck growling, snarling and snapping. Fa la la la la la la.
And now as I type this I see that Georgia is waking up.  And while I am willing to let her cry while I dress Annabelle, mutilate a roll of tape, and rescue the UPS Driver, I'm not willing to let her cry while I ramble on here.  Which means this officially just became Part One of "The Christmas Poke-a."  I didn't even get to the Poke-a part yet.  Brevity is not something I am good at.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Postpartum Addition

Well it wouldn't be the start of the holiday season if I wasn't on maternity leave and my dog was throwing up animal parts in my home. 
This post is the first in several months, mainly due to having a two year old in the house and my inability to engage in any activity that does not involve her.  I am not sure if I have failed as a parent, or if this is just part of toddlerhood, but I have given up trying to have any sort of identity apart from my daughter.

buggy ride for two
But we are excited to announce the addition to our family, baby Georgia.  She's just over two weeks old and reminds me on an hourly basis why I should not kill her older sister.   Babies are a blessing, it really is true.  Two year olds...well....they might be sent here straight from fire of Hades, I can't be sure.  About the time when I think I am going to rip every last hair out of my head, Annabelle will smile at me and say "Love you mama,"  and she lives to see another day.  I don't know how, but I will make sure Georgia remains as sweet as she is this minute asleep in her little swing.

Since I needed a little help last week my mom was kind enough to come and stay with me to give me a hand.  We were enjoying a quiet afternoon which was immediately disrupted when I went into the bathroom. I switched on the light and out of the corner of my eye I saw a tiny streak of dark grey dart across the bathroom floor. I knew deep down the right thing to do was to remain calm and not let my mother know there was a mouse in the bathroom, but that message did not make it to my brain in time and I began to jump up and down and scream.

I attempted to calmly explained to my mom what caused my outburst and assured her that bryan would deal with it when he got home.  While I do not relish the idea of mice in my house I live in the middle of a cornfield,  it is cold,  the combines had just been in the fields and cut all the corn down, and...I had a guest.  Those are sure signs that there will be a mouse in the house.

Just about the time we settled down and had almost forgotten it just happened, I saw the mouse scurry across the living room floor and end up somewhere near all of Annabelle's toys.  Again, I could not mask my horror.  So I did what any practical country mom would do... I jumped up and screamed and called my husband and begged him to come home.

Bernie is more of a lover than a fighter
Since I was not able to achieve success by begging and pleading with Bryan, I remembered  that our dogs where in the house.  I have personally witnessed Milton take down a raccoon and kill it in under two minutes, so why the hell was he asleep in the kitchen when there was wildlife in our house?

My mom picked up the baby and went in the kitchen, where she vowed to remain until the creature was captured and killed.  So I sat on the couch and Milton laid at my feet while I again pleaded to Bryan that he simply had to shut his operation down for the day and come home.  It was at that moment that Milton jumped up and was against the wall going bananas over something I could not see.  I cannot provide a detailed account of what happened next because I hurled myself over the back of the couch and into the kitchen the second I realized Milton had spotted something in the living room.

It was also at this point that my husband grew tired of my repeatedly screaming "help us" into the phone while providing no actual facts as to what was going on in our house and he discontinued our phone conversation.

Hiding behind a wall in the kitchen I peeked around the corner and saw Milton standing in the middle of the living room rug proudly wagging his tail. I knew he had saved the day.  He had killed and eaten the mouse that would have terrorized us for the remainder of the day.  And as I stepped across the threshold between the two rooms to reward my dog for his heroic behavior, I heard the unmistakable sound of my dog throwing up.

My mother, still clutching Georgia and standing as far away from the living room as she could and still be in the house, also head this sound.  I covered my eyes and left enough space between two fingers so that I could see through (much like I do while watching The Walking Dead) and looked into the living room and saw Milton sitting on the rug with the mouse (in tact but dead) lying on the rug next to him.

So apparently he kills them but cannot eat them, even if he wants to.

I suppose for a normal and rational person this problem would be solved.  The mouse was dead and could not terrorize us any longer.  But now the issue of a mouse corpse on the rug presented itself.  I wish I could end this post now and say I went and got a paper towel, picked up the mouse, and threw it into the cornfield.  I wish that was the country mom that I was.  But that is unfortunately not who I am.  I am the woman who looked at my mom and said "Well now what the hell do we do?"

Once again I picked up my phone and called Bryan.  After ringing once, it went to voicemail. Shocking. 

 My mother, who is far less brave than I, encouraged me to put on gloves, get a paper towel and take care of it.  I simply could not make myself do it.  I tried to convince Milton to pick it up and take it outside, but Lassie he is not.

It was at this point that I told my mother that I was going to get in my car and drive the 1/2 mile to my retired neighbor's house and ask him to come over and pick it up for us.  The flaw in this plan was that my husband would be mortified when he learned I did this. 

Bryan seems to like people to believe the lie that I am independent and self-sufficient.  Driving to a neighbor's house to have him remove a dead mouse from our living room might tarnish my sterling reputation for being a confident lumberjack woman.  

But I did not care. Bryan wouldn't be home for several hours and my mom, Georgia, and Annabelle and I could not live in the kitchen.   I will not even speculate what would have happened had Annabelle come home and found a dead mouse on the rug.  Actually, truth be told, that probably would have been the solution. I am certain she would have picked it up without hesitation.  But she never would have thrown it into the cornfield. She would have stashed it in the trunk of her little scooter car along with her other prized possessions for safekeeping.  So I needed to get rid of it before she came home from daycare.

So as I put on my coat in shoes my mother reminded me of the time when I was in high school and my dad was away on a snowmobiling trip and my mom found a mouse in the basement. At the tender age of sixteen I actually was brave and placed a coffee can (brick on top so the mouse couldn't knock it over) over the mouse until our neighbor could come take care of it.   My mom asked if I had a coffee can.   What I had was a gallon-sized plastic bucket.

So I bravely removed my coat, picked up the bucket and headed into the living room.  But as soon as  I saw the small fur ball I turned right back around and went back into the kitchen and informed my mom,  "I can't do it. You have to help me."  So my plan was to walk backward into the living room and have my mom direct me to the mouse and tell me when to drop the bucket on it.  She agreed to this plan, it was the best plan we had come up with since I spotted the mouse in the bathroom.

As I took several steps backward, blindly being led to the corpse, I realized this light plastic bucket would never land correctly when I dropped it.  My mom suggested I just bend down and set it down as opposed to dropping it, but again...I could not get near this mouse.  It was at this point I had a fantastic idea.

I have a long grabbing tool I use to pick things up while recovering from my c-section.  Well, let's be honest, I used it to pick up Annabelle's toys long before having a C-section.  Who wants to do all that bending twenty times a day?  I raced into the kitchen and ripped the blue plastic handle off the top of the bucket, and proceeded to duct tape it to the bottom of the bucket. This way I could pick the bucket up upside down using my grabbing tool and set it down right on top of the mouse without having to look at it closely or get near it!  My mother was also impress ended and compared me to MacGyver.  Rightfully so.

So as she told me how many steps backward to take, I was able to lower the bucket down over the mouse with confidence, saving my family and house from unspeakable harm.  My mom, Georgia, and I were able to return to the living room just in time to watch Dr. Phil.

the "mouse-soleum" as my mother called it

Later when Bryan got home and lifted the bucket to dispose of the mouse he could only shake his head when he saw house small this mouse was.  I don't think it was a baby mouse, but I knew it was small.  He couldn't not understand that I could not pick up a dead mouse that was no bigger than my thumb, "Damn you girls." was all he could say.

So as I recall the events of last Thanksgiving when there was a mouse in the house in front of all my guests, and the Thanksgiving before that when Milton threw up deer parts in our bed...I look forward to this holiday season and give thanks for my newly expanded family.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Where There is Liquid Smoke There is Fire

Well, I am now on my second ISP in four weeks. Let us hope I have better luck with this company.

I believe I may have mentioned that Annabelle has become much more active in the last few months. I suppose that is to be expected, she is, after all, almost a year and a half old. She's 16 months to be exact. I struggle with how to communicate her age when people ask. I have always disliked when people communicate the age of their children in months. I get it, before they are a year old there is no other way to communicate their age.  But after a year? Isn't this why we have years as a unit of measure? I don't know. It's confusing.  I decide to play to my audience. If someone who does not have children asks me Annabelle's age, I say she is "just over a year."  If someone who has children asks me her age I tell them "Sixteen months, one week, three days." This has worked for me so far.

So as an almost-one-and-a-half-year old, Annabelle is busy. Busy trying to test me and demonstrate her independence. While most times I find her to be hilarious, often I find myself on the brink of some sort of psychotic episode.  But I am learning that is one of the joys of parenting, teetering back and forth between hilarity and insanity.

Simple tasks such as grocery shopping are wrought with drama and emotion. After once again experiencing the embarrassment of Annabelle taking an apple and eating it in the store and having to try and persuade the staff that I am an engaged and attentive parent, I  was able to quickly replace humiliation with laughter.  While I loaded the groceries into the car I noticed Annabelle happily gobbling up her stolen apple while chair dancing to Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl."  I no longer cared that the store employees thought I was a crappy mom.  Annabelle was dancing and eating an apple.

Returning home from the store is usually less rewarding and yesterday was no different.  Annabelle took it upon herself to rearrange the spice cabinet.  Was I thrilled she was doing this? No.  Was she content and quiet and staying relatively safe and out of trouble? Yes.  I was able to put the groceries away as a result of her participation in re-organizing the spice cabinet. 

Kitchen organization seems to be of great importance to Annabelle.  Why just the night before she decided the way I organize my food storage container lids was unacceptable.  She seemed to want me to start over.  It reminded me of when my sister I and were younger and our rooms would be a mess and our dad would tell us to clean them.  We would then make some poor attempt at cleaning them, most likely shoving items under beds and into closets, but when my dad came in for "Inspection" he would quickly notice our diversion tactics and take all of the items out of the closet and say "Start Over."  This was usually followed by threatening to take away everything we owned except a mattress, and I now understand the motivation for those threats.  I think Annabelle was doing the same thing. She didn't like how I had it organized she took everything off of the top shelf, and then left the room. 

So back to the spice cabinet.  I have learned that life with Annabelle is not unlike having a wild animal in the house.  I find myself tiptoeing a lot and simply sitting in one place, afraid if I move she will see me and attack.  So when we got home from the grocery store I fully anticipated not being able to put the groceries away until she was napping, but she sat and played I was able to put things away.  I had to be careful though. If something needed to go in the spice cabinet, it was set aside to be put away later. And when I had to put the items away in the fridge, I didn't walk directly to the fridge because I would have to walk right by her, within her sight line and I am not crazy. So I walked around the island to the other side of the fridge and then quietly eased the door open to put the perishables away, taking care not to make eye contact.

As I continued on with my tasks I heard a very small, but strange, sound.  It was like a swooshing sound, almost like distant gentle ocean waves along the shore.   I slowly turned my head and saw that Annabelle had opened my bottle of dried, chopped chives and had poured them all over the floor and was playing in them like it was sand in a sandbox.  Again, the logical thing would have been to get the vacuum out and immediately and clean them up.  But instead I found my brain working at a high rate of speed and quickly running through any potential health hazards of Annabelle ingesting Chives.  Because honestly?  I don't need them. What the hell do I use chopped chives for?  And she seemed to really be enjoying herself and more importantly, she was content and I still had several pounds of meat to repackage, label, and freeze.  After all, aren't all the parenting blogs I read constantly telling me that children need to feel in control of their own environment? Well...Annabelle's environment needed Chives.

So while Annabelle made Chive angels, I continued working. And as I was portioning out meat I started to consider all the other items in that cabinet.  I realized that before you have a baby you don't think of things like this. When you make a sour cream and chive dip, you don't think "oh. I better tighten this cap in case I have a baby one day and when she gets older she sits in front of this cabinet taking EVERY SPICE, BOTTLE, AND CONTAINER out to examine it and then dump it on my kitchen floor.  Maybe I should develop curriculum and teach my own series of parenting classes.

While taking a mental inventory of the caps and lids to the items in the spice cabinet, I looked over and saw Annabelle holding the bottle of Liquid Smoke.  Crap.  Now I was going to have to intervene.  I didn't know how tight those caps were and I certainly didn't need Annabelle smelling like a Slim Jim for the rest of her days.

I also couldn't quite work out the detail in my head of what would happen if Annabelle drank all my extracts and I had to convince social services that I wasn't negligent, I simply had seven pounds of meat to freeze.  So I quietly tiptoed over to her and smiled nicely and said "Can mommy have that?" which resulted in the usual response:  Annabelle tightened her grip, and ran off  and hid somewhere where a mommy cannot fit and contentedly coveted and hoarded her Liquid Smoke. 

I know that this is not how these things are supposed to go. I know that I am not supposed to chase my daughter around the house saying "Please, that's mommy's Liquid Smoke. That's not Annabelle's Liquid Smoke."  Yet this is what happens. I know that it should not end with both her hands, white knuckled around this bottle, lying on her back, kicking her feet screaming while I try to wrench the bottle from her hands.  Oh sure, while this physical altercation is occurring I do slide my foot over to reach a nearby ball and roll it over in her direction and say "here's Annabelle's ball." A sad attempt to 'positively redirect' her attention, but we've never really been athletes in my family. Given the choice between Liquid Smoke and a ball...well...I can hardly blame her.  So as I yank the bottle from her hands and listen for the 2.7 seconds of silence while she inhales, watch her face turn purple, and wait for the scream. And then I walk away, with the Liquid Smoke.

So this is what life has become.  Tiptoeing around my toddler in the hopes she does not see me and stop what she is doing.  And occasionally wrenching a flavor enhancing food additive out of her grasp.

It's frustrating when I know she can understand what I say, and she is so adorable yet manages to push every button that makes smoke come out of my ears and makes me want to scream.  Everybody always jokes around holiday time how children only want to play with boxes and the wrapping paper, not the toys. Which we all know is true.  But in our house instead of wrapping paper and boxes, it's all my baking supplies and Bryan's pliers.  So just about the time I'm wondering if this will get better I think....she still doesn't know how to turn doorknobs and unzip zippers.  She still hasn't figured out how to climb on our tall kitchen stools.  But when she does....I am going to have to move.

Why does anyone encourage the learning of these skills? I am going to have to send a specific letter to daycare:

Dear Trusted Childcare Provider,
While I understand your obligation to the patrons of this establishment to care for and educate their children, I must ask you to stop. Please stop teaching my daughter the following skills:
               - fine motor
               - gross motor
               -  problem-solving
               - independence
               - creativity
Included in those skills (but not limited to)is turning doorknobs, zipping and unzipping  zippers, and buttoning and unbuttoning buttons.  If  you feel you must teach her something please feel free to teach her how to put on her own clothes, change her own diaper, and prepare her own meals.  It seems she has already mastered opening latches, turning her electronic toys back on after I have turned them off, turning her body to spaghetti so as not be picked up and carried by any human, snatching food out of hands and off counters.  I have overlooked those things, but cannot allow any further development.
               An exhausted and terrified parent

I also have to give special mention to those parents who have more than one toddler. I do not know how you are not in a home for the criminally insane.

Occasionally, I am capable of rational thought when Annabelle is being mischievous and recently it occurred to me to try and channel her powers into good instead of evil.  I watched the activities she was engaging in and they seem to be domestic household activities.  So I decided to take an "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to life with Annabelle. 
I tend to experience a great deal of fighting when I am trying unload the dishwasher.  Annabelle always wants to "help." So on a particularly trying evening of kitchen duties, I did what I do best. I gave up. I gathered all of the sharp implements from the dishwasher and waited to see what she did. And the most amazing thing happened, she behaved like a human and did her best to help empty the dishwasher. 
While I watched her carefully remove plates, pans, and bowls and walk them over to me one at I time I couldn't help but feel something grow inside me.  Finally...Annabelle could start pulling her weight. I leaned against the counter and sipped my wine as Annabelle walked the dishes over to me.  She could actually be helpful and feel like she was doing something important at the same time. I noticed how excited she was to be helping.  This also meant that unloading the dishwasher went from a five minute task to a thirty-five minute task, but who's counting? The important thing was that Annabelle was actually doing something she wanted to be doing.

 I also appreciate the glimpse in to the future, and the little nudge of a reminder that one day...she will be able to do more and I may long for these toddler days (though I doubt it).  She's turning into a little person right in front of me.  She wants to help, she wants to be noticed and I need to try and remember that when I am ready to pull out my hair. 

I need to remember that when she removes every single item from our pantry and hands it to Bryan or I one item at a time, she is not being naughty.  She believes she is helping and doing something good.  But when you work all day long, drive 60 miles to work and 60 miles from work,  and come home to try and run a house, be a mom, and stay awake past is sometimes hard to remember.  Annabelle helping unload the dishwasher was not only cute, but helped remind me to reframe my thinking once in a while. 

In all fairness to me, there are days where all she wants to do is play with Liquid Smoke and what choice do I have???  What goes on in my house is not entirely my fault, you know.  While I often feel like at any given moment in my house Rod Serling is going to step out from some dark corner, smoking a cigarette saying something like "The year is 2012.  The unkempt woman you see is tired and beaten down..." But I have to believe that the overall situation in my house is not unlike every other household. We are all doing our best.  I am still trying to figure out the ins and outs of motherhood, Bryan is still trying to figure out how his life was hijacked, Annabelle is doing her best to learn and explore (and make me bald), and Milton and Bernie are doing their best to do nothing to contribute.  Just like every other house.

Soon she will be ready for the real vacuum and my labor force will be in place

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Holiday Highspeed Edition- Not a Creature was Stirring

I should probably begin this post with the most pertinent information first.   Finally, after a year of painful buffering and loading, our household is now equipped with highspeed WIRELESS Internet service.  I feel that this event has overshadowed the majestic wonder of Christmas.  So I am hoping that this will mean more frequent (perhaps shorter) posts for Annabelle's chickens. In a sense, I have been given the gift of time.

My initial intention of this post was to post the holiday season in 1-3 parts.  And even though we had a wonderful Christmas, I didn't feel it was post-worthy. And unless I can write a few paragraphs on eating dip and falling asleep during a movie around 10:15, I am certain my New Year's Eve was not.  Though it may be worth mentioning that I regained custody of my Wii which had been loaned out for the past year or two due to lack of interest,  and Bryan hooked it up in the basement. Bryan claims he wouldn't enjoy playing but I, of course, forced him to play with me any way. He enjoyed it more than he thought he would.

Sadly, it was just another confirmation that the animals in my house believe themselves to be geniuses but I have it on good authority that they are stupid.  If you have played Wii Bowling you know that the movement mimics that of real bowling and therefore you have to "throw" or "release" the ball down the lane.  Milton and Bernie were going absolutely berserk in the basement. Each time Bryan or I would bowl those two idiots would run all over the place attempting to retrieve what we threw. I suppose some could look at that from the other side and try to convince me that it displays some element of a through process, but I disagree.  It also proves my point that I can do NOTHING in this house without a dog or a child underneath my feet. 

It also confirms that I am awesome because I won. Both games. By a lot.

So as my first post with highspeed Internet and my first post in 2013 I decided to share some Thanksgiving memories. I wanted very much to post on or around Thanksgiving as it was the one year birthday of this blog.  But, due to the amount of time and energy it takes to post with lackluster web service prevented me from doing so.  I couldn't help but look back at my very first Annabelle's Chickens post, which was right after I moved out to the country and was hosting Thanksgiving with an eight week old baby, and a house full of unpacked boxes.  Sadly after going through our camera we did not have any pictures of our turkey or our doggies this Thanksgiving. Just pictures of Annabelle being adorable, and aren't we all getting a little sick of those pictures?

This Thanksgiving proved to be more manageable given the fact that I was completely moved in and did not have to worry about unpacking everything I owned while cooking a 23 pound turkey. If you are worried that being settled in my house for a year removed some of the element of excitement from the holiday, do not fret.  As always, there was excitement.

My mother, who had been staying with me for a few days to help me (and was a colossal help), woke up on the morning of Thanksgiving with the flu and was completely unable to help me in the kitchen.  I'm sure it was a very enjoyable experience for her to awake at 6:00 in the morning with the stomach flu, only to open her door and be greeted with the aroma of onions and sausage frying in the kitchen.  I was forced to tackle most of the cooking alone, for the first time.

Despite being terrified of hosting this meal without help from my mom, I think dinner went off without a hitch. The food was hot and only one batch of stuffing was ruined in the process. Thankfully I made approximately eight pounds of stuffing, so there was plenty to spare.

After dinner my dad and aunt decided to play Gin Rummy and Bryan and I embarked upon our first Cribbage game in well over a year.  It was a Norman Rockwell painting.  We sipped our coffee and unbuttoned our pants and enjoyed some time with the family.   About the time I allowed myself to bask in the glory of a self made holiday victory, one of my nieces began screaming from the living room.

"RAT!  THERE'S A RAT IN HERE!  RAT!"  While deep down I knew there could not be a rat in our home, I remembered that Annabelle was sitting in the living room playing on the floor so I sprang from my seat to see what was the matter.  Visions of rabies or the Black Plague or whatever the hell diseases rats are accused of spreading danced through my head. 

I snatched Annabelle off the ground just in case the creature was hiding and waiting to pounce.  My sister, being the same type of mother I am, also rushed into the living room but only to clamp her hand over her daughter's mouth to prevent her from screaming the word rat one more time.

After a line of questioning we ascertained that it was most likely a mouse.  Of course it was.  Why wouldn't there be a mouse in broad daylight in a house full of people...correction...MY house full of people on Thanksgiving Day?  As I was trying to calm myself and family members down I realized that Bryan was still in the kitchen in front of the Cribbage board eating pie.  I went into the kitchen and sat next to him and quietly asked if he was going to come investigate.  Here is how that conversation went:

ME: Are you going to come in the living room and investigate?
B: Investigate what?
ME: The mouse.
B: What do you want me to do? 
ME: puzzled silence
B: If there's a mouse I'll set some traps later. It's gone now, you want me to go in there and find it and shoot it?
ME:  stony silence
B: stony silence
ME:  Well you need to come in there.
B: I'm eating my pie. What do you want me to do about it?
ME:  Pretend to care.  When you have a mouse in your house with a houseful of people on Thanksgiving you need to pretend to care.

Later when my sister and her family had gone home the rest of us were sitting in the living room swapping mouse tales (pun intended) and my mother reminded me of the last time Bryan and I were together and had a cat, Elvis.  I am not a cat person. I don't trust cats and find them to be fickle and snobby. But I loved Elvis. He was a good cat.  So fourteen years ago when Bryan and I lived together in sin  as young lovers we also had a mouse in the house.  Because I was a softer and gentler soul fourteen years ago I wanted to Bryan to use a sticky trap so as not to kill the mouse (sorry...I have since changed my tune).  I will never forget the morning that there was a mouse on the sticky trap and Bryan set it on the counter to prepare for disposal and Elvis jumped on the counter and slammed his paw down on that mouse, thus getting the mouse and the trap stuck to his paw and running around the kitchen with a trapped mouse stuck to his furry body. 

As we were reminiscing about this and other mouse antics, a little grey mouse went running across the floor again. Once again I found myself scooping my toddler of the floor and demanding a solution from the man of the house. Remembering what a good mouse Elvis was I suggested that we bring one of the dozens of stupid cats in from outside so they might earn their keep.  Bryan contemplated this idea for a moment and shook his head no. He pointed out that the "farm cats" that live here are so fat and lazy and overfed that they would just come in and lay on the kitchen counter and eat pie. 

He obligingly found and a set a trap in the living room.

About thirty minutes after company had gone home we heard the unmistakable THWAP of a mousetrap. RIP friend. You were a brave soul.

Annabelle, Bryan, Milton, Bernie, the chickens, the barn cats, the rogue mice and I hope you had a magical and blessed holiday season. We wish everyone the best in 2013.