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


  1. Your blog completely match our expectation and the variety of our information. I’m really impressed with your writing skills & about Smoking Liquid.

  2. Yeah...she is using the vaccuum. I hope she canb help with some of that "chive mess" ;)