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.