Sunday, August 16, 2015

Of Mice and Men.

Sometime in mid-April, after the flux of company for Abby's baptism had left, I was peacefully brushing my teeth upstairs when Eliza announced, "Mom, there's a snake in our house!" Now, of course I assumed she was either referring to James's wooden snake, or possibly hallucinating. But, I've never been one to pass up a dramatic moment, so I rushed down the stairs only to find that she was correct. There, up against the base of the window, was a small garter snake. I was anxious to see where it had come from, so I tried to get it to retrace its tracks. But it just slithered this way and that, clearly not interested in going back out. I was left with no choice but to pick it up and hurl it across the lawn. Not 3 hours later a smaller, baby version of that same snake was in our house. This time I decided it would be best if we started trapping these snakes and relocating them down the road. (All the while considering that since they eat mice and moths, maybe they could stay? Is that crazy that I'd rather snakes in the house than moths?) So the baby snake sat in a small bucket, awaiting it's destiny. The girls grew fond of it, named it, and fed it grass and twigs from outside.

That evening a lady from church came over to have Reid help her with taxes. She is a sweet lady who has many struggles, disabilities and fears. While they were at the table I picked up our dust mop only to find a third snake, nesting happily in all the treasures that I hadn't properly swept up earlier that day. This sweet lady started truly hyperventilating. And since Reid was there, I figured I'd let him, as the man of the house, grab and deal with the snake, while I tried to calm her down and tell her that this is normal, in fact it's the third snake we'd had in our house just today! That oughtta do the trick.

To Reid, I calmly whispered, "It might be the baby's mom. Don't throw it outside, put it in the bucket with the baby." Well, I now know that Reid is not the go-to person in the family for snake disposal. He freaked out more than the lady at the table, and completely disregarded my instructions. He threw it outside. I then quietly questioned him, "why didn't you just put it in the bucket?" to which he replied "I don't know. I panicked!" And somehow, in the moments that followed, that panic resulted in him taking the trapped baby snake out of the bucket, throwing him on the walkway out front and chopping its head off with a shovel. Again, I emphasize that Reid, who handles many stressful situations very well, is apparently not a serpentine guy. I did not understand this at the time, however, and just watched the beheading with my jaw dropped. "The girls are going to ask about the baby snake in the morning, what are you going to tell them?" He responded, "I'll just tell them I let it go. The chickens will probably eat it anyway."

As expected, the next morning was filled with questions about the whereabouts of the trapped snake. Reid told his rehearsed white (and red, and scaly) lie, and all was well.

Until Grace found it's head out in the pasture, just a few feet from it's body. The chickens had failed us.  I guess they didn't trust the snake in the grass.

Grace burst through the door in tears, asking why Dad had lied to her. She vowed never to speak to him again. And by golly, she kept that vow for three whole days. Three days of not talking to one's father is no small feat. But she was determined to teach him a lesson--You don't kill baby snakes, and you don't lie to your kids about killing baby snakes.

Reid apologized profusely, admitted that he should've handled the situation differently, and after three days they were back on speaking terms.

We only caught two more snakes in our house over the next days that followed, and haven't seen any inside since. They say that garter snakes aren't bad to have around the house.  They help home-gardeners with rodents and pests, and tend to keep the rattlers away,  We don't have any cats, so we depend on these snakes for controlling the mice population.

Which is maybe a mistake.

The Sunday after the snake-beheading incident, we were sitting peacefully in church, when Eliza, the same child who spotted the snake, shout-whispered in her loudest church-voice, "Mom, there's a rat in our bag!" And sure enough, perched atop all of our quiet books and church magazines and bags of stale fishy crackers, there was a small little mouse, looking up at us with a hint of panic in her eyes.  Hoping that Reid's disdain for snakes didn't carry over to all vermin, i quickly scooted the bag down the row to him, informed him that we'd brought a live mouse to church, and sent him out to deal with it.  Looking back, I now wish I'd have said "Are you a man or a mouse?" but wit is never my strong point in moments of crisis.  While awaiting his return, we stifled our giggles and tears of shame and after 5 long minutes he returned.  Getting the mouse out of the bag hadn't been too hard, but keeping the mouse from running back into the church was quite the battle.  One that several other ward members witnessed.  That's not embarrassing at all.

Silly mouse, just make a new nest here at the church entryway.  Every church needs a good mouse for the children to look to as an example of volume control, lest the old expression lose it's meaning altogether! Why are you trying to get back inside?

The next day, as I cleaned out the bag, I discovered why.  You see, she already had made a nest.  Inside of our church bag.  And there, at the bottom of it, was a mostly-dead tiny baby mouse.  I mean, it wasn't moving, but when I poked it with a pencil it squeaked.  What do you do with a mostly-dead anything?? I tried to get my dog to eat it, and she wouldn't. I considered just throwing it in the garbage, which is probably what any sane person would do.  And then I remember the chickens! Besides the snake, I've never seen them pass anything up! So i scooped up it's mostly-lifeless body with a coloring book and walked it over to the chicken coop.  I didn't watch to see what happened, but when I came back later, it was gone.  And my first thought was, "Well that oughtta save a little on feed."  

And that's the moment I realized just how crazy this all is.  Our life here.  What it's done to me.  What it's done to all of us.  We're all completely off our rockers.  The kids are naming vermin, Reid's killing vermin with his hands, I'm feeding vermin to slightly larger egg-laying vermin.  We're all completely cuckoo.

And the thing is? We love it.  We all love it here.  The kids are thriving, we are working hard, learning things we never thought we'd need to know, and growing as a family. And we really couldn't be happier.    Reid and I comment on a pretty regular basis just how charmed and wonderful and blessed this little life of ours is.  

And if it comes with snakes in the house, a church-bag with a mouse, and a slightly crazy spouse, we'll take it.  

Friday, August 14, 2015

Abby's baptism

Abby has defiantly disobeyed her mother, and gone and turned eight. In fact, she did it eight months ago.  I was so upset about it, that i'm just now able to blog about it. (yes, let's say that that's why i haven't journaled this until now...)  She could have been baptized just a few weeks after her birthday, but agreed that it'd be better if we waited a few months for the weather to be nicer and for extended family to come during Spring Break.  And in those months a small miracle happened--Reid's sister, Alisa, and her family moved here to their new house they just built!!!  We have been wanting family here for 9 years, and having them here has been so great.  Their son, Christopher, also turned eight, and so these cute cousins got to share their baptism day together.
The whole day was wonderful. Which works out well since Abby herself is nothing shy of pretty fantastic herself. Grandma and Grandpa Allred made it just in time for the baptism. They literally pulled into town just 30 mins before it started. Tom and Jana drove all the way from Boise with their kids, including their almost 2 year old twins. That meant a lot to Abby. No one from the Ashworth side was able to come for it (which honestly worked out really well, since where would they have stayed??) and Abby was more upset by that than i would have thought. It helped that they all sent her some congratulatory video messages on her big day. And it also helped that so many Allreds were here for it!!

Abby had a wonderful showing of friends--friends from our old ward, Northridge, friends from our new ward, Grandview, and several non-LDS friends from school, including her teacher Miss Blagoue. Our former neighbors and dearly missed friends Hannah, Brooke and Marcus, and RaeLouise and Steve came. And our current neighbors Mark and Musetta came, as well. The room was full. And Abby was thrilled about it.

Grandpa Allred gave a wonderful talk on baptism. He shared a story of two boys putting silver dollars in a poor man's boots. Mid-talk little Norah, came up to him, so he scooped her up and held her. Then little Asher came up and he scooped him up with the other arm, all while giving his talk. It was just so sweet! And all the Allred grandkids sang "Jesus Came to John the Baptist." I played the piano so I could only see the smiles on everyone's faces. I was later told that Winnie and Kate were both leading the music while they were all singing, cute girls. My sweet Abby was baptised first, by her wonderfully amazing dad. She was nervous, but mostly excited. They had practiced many, many times here at home. In fact, all the kids had practiced--because it looked so fun. The water was a bit shallow that day, but, like most things that get thrown at her, she just dealt with it, no complaints.
Abby's dress has a long story behind it, which is neither interesting nor sentimental. But Abby saw it and loved it. I made a few alterations (cut off the wrist-length, lace-cuffed sleeves, removed some other excessive lace, etc) according to Abby's wishes, and it turned out just adorable on her. Abby had gone shopping with Aunt JuJu a couple weeks earlier when Julia was here for a visit, and got her very own headband and her very own nailpolish. So her nails were a light green and she put her headband on as soon as she was all dried off and dressed. She was so cute and methodical and organized about the whole thing--it was clear that she'd put lots of thinking and planning into how this all would go, and didn't want to miss a single detail.

I'm so proud of this little girl. She still feels like my little girl, but she is growing up. Dangit! She is thriving at school. She just announced that she is the only one in her class that is reading at a 6th grade level. She pretends that she doesn't like the challenging work she has to do, or the advanced testing required of her. But it's pretty obvious that she does. She got her dad's brains and her mom's humility. It makes for an interesting combination,

She's still a wonderful peacemaker at home. When James is being difficult (which is more and more every day) she is the first to patiently show him a way to calm down. She's taking piano and guitar lessons, and if she's in a good mood she really enjoys practicing both. She's onto yet another wonderful soccer season. I wasn't going to sign her up, but the coach forced begged me to bring her back. He says that his team needs her. She's really good with rules, and soccer has a lot of rules. She's also good at helping those on the field remember where they're supposed to be, etc. (She get's her bossiness from her mom, as well) Coach says it's fine if she only comes to one practice a week. That sounds doable, even to me.

It's rare that I get frustrated with Abby. But on the occasion that I do, it almost always has to do with her absent-mindedness. That girl misplaces and loses everything! It's almost funny. Almost. Except when she's about to miss the bus and can't find the assignment that was JUST in her hands and is due today! Times like that can be quite frustrating. I've started charging her $.50 everytime I find something that she's misplaced. I'm not sure it's helping her at all, but at least I'm earning something for all my hard work.

She and Grace were asking me the other day to tell them stories of when they were little. I had some good stories of naughty things that Grace had done. But I couldn't think of a single time when Abby had been naughty! It just wasn't, and isn't, in her blood to purposely hurt or disobey others. She's not perfect--she is emotional, overly sensitive, and absent-minded. But when it comes to making good choices--she's who I often find myself looking to for an example.

I'm happy that she chose to be baptized. Of course, to some extent, it was expected of her, and she probably knew that. But we tried to help her really understand that this was a choice that she was making. And that she could decide when and if to do it. I'm proud of her for choosing to follow Jesus's example. She understands and strives to keep God's commandments. She is a light in our home, and I feel pretty lucky that I'm the one that gets to raise her--or watch her raise herself.