Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dinner Parties and Toddlers 101

Last week, the company Mark works for had a summer dinner party. They flew most of the team from their Minnesota branch to Vermont for a few days of meetings and this social gathering – a chance to work and chat face-to-face. The owner of the company has a beautifully remodeled farmhouse, where the dinner party was held.

No one else was bringing kids to the event, but E is the newest company “baby,” so a few of the women asked if I was bringing her, and I decided to make an appearance. Mark and I took separate cars, in case some unexpected baby drama caused me to leave early… See, we’re getting better at this planning-ahead thing!

I dressed myself up to the best of my ability – hair down, dress jeans, a silky top, and (what was I thinking?) zero-tread flats. Next time I will wear jogging shorts, a tank top, hair in a pony-tail, running shoes, a baby harness, and tool belt complete with: milk, water, cheddar-goldfish, apple slices, duct tape, and rope.

I met Mark at the office then followed him to the boss’s house. He found me a parking spot, then went in the house ahead of me, waving to coworkers and chatting with his work friends. I stepped in the door, just off the kitchen, and ushered E through ahead of me. The women who noticed us come in started ‘aww’ing over E’s party dress. I echoed their ‘aww’s, said “Thank you,” and smiled lovingly down at my little lady, who was now… gone.

The lace edge of her dress disappeared around the corner, into the kitchen.

“E!!” I yelled, then chased after her. She was at the stove, brow furrowed in concentration, turning a small knob between the burner switches back and forth. Blue neon numbers were flying – 35, 15, 45, 10. I pulled her away then read the knob label: “Timer”. I quickly gathered, by the trays of expensive appetizers that were flying from the kitchen, that this was another company-catered event, that the main course was in the oven, and that E had just set the timer to Lord knows what.

Two minutes in the door, and I was explaining to the chef how my “sweet, little, innocent daughter” had accidentally turned the oven timer way up, with interjected ‘I’m sorry’s. The 10-minute salmon platter was now set for ‘some time next week’. The woman gasped, ran for the kitchen, called on the other kitchen staff, and somehow (probably only by checking the salmon every 5 minutes until it was done) managed to put on a perfect meal.

But by that time, I was standing outside, on the back steps of the porch overlooking the green mountains, taking in the majestic view, breathing the pure, woodsy air, and prying flower petals out of E’s hands that she had pulled off the boss’s wife’s flowering bushes lining the back of her property. When did my kid get so fast? I quickly rearranged the flowers to cover up the gaping hole where E had plucked the blooms.

While I did that, E ran straight for (and into) a soccer net that the boss’s son had in the back yard. She quickly got tangled in it, arms and legs flailing. I was at her side in an instant, detangling, unwrapping, as E giggled and tried to get herself re-tangled. Once free, she darted for the back of the property, which sloped downward. I tried to keep up in my flats, but she and I were doing the same maneuver – as she realized that the ground was descending faster than her feet could keep up. She tumbled into a roll down the lawn, and “Gretchin came tumbling after.” I grabbed her, as she fought me, and looked up to see that I had been putting on quite the show for the majority of the company, as they watched from the back porch.

I decided to get E settled into a porch chair for a snack. Of course, I was derailed by trying to have an adult conversation with Mark’s supervisor – a fellow Beatles fan, how lovely! While I chatted happily about the Cavern Club and other sites on the UK tour, E got out of her chair, approached me, held up something orange, and said, “Mama! Wass dis?”

“Umm… That is… a (probably $25!) wedge of smoked gouda cheese. Where did you get it!!? Where’s your father!?”

E had visited just about every Vermont-cheese platter the boss’s wife had put out – eating the apple garnishes and playing with the cheese. While the employees giggled and cooed over her, I was horrified. The chef kindly offered to cut her an apple. Sometimes E has trouble chewing apples, so I cut them up even smaller.

Then, Mark kindly took E into the living room for her apple snack, while I ate delicious salmon, BBQ chicken, and sipped on apple cider in the dining room. Yum!

In the middle of my meal, E came running in to me, face red, gagging. She was choking on an apple slice. I did the pre-Heimlich maneuver my mom had shown me, pulled E’s arms up in the air, and she spit out the apple, gasping for breath. This is just proof that all my anxiety is anticipatory. I worry so much about these things happening. When they do, I calmly slap an apple out of her, cut the pieces smaller, then keep feeding her.

When I finished eating, the boss’s son took us to his room to offer E some books that he was getting rid of. He had a great collection of classics – Shel Silvertstein, Dr. Seuss, Berenstain Bears, etc.! We gladly gathered up what we could take. Then he asked E, showing her one of his favorites, “Do you like this book? You can have it if you want!”

She turned around, glanced up at him nonchalantly, gave a look of, “Whatchoo talkin’ ‘bout Willis?” and said, “No! No… way!!” She waved her hand dismissively, opened the door to the hallway outside his room, and ran for the stairs. Then I panicked. Luckily my flats held strong to the old wood-floor in the hallway. I ran quickly after her and grabbed her arm just before she attempted the steep staircase on her own.

When I brought her downstairs, she spotted the house cat. She chased after her and was very gentle, cooing “I nice cat” and trying to pet her carefully, but I think the cat sensed that this mini-person was a bit unpredictable. She darted down her kitty door, into the basement. When E tried to go in after her, I picked her up, and…

The pterodactyl scream (the scream heard ‘round the world) flew out of her mouth like nothing I’ve ever seen or heard before or since. The chef dropped a spoon, and looked up from her blueberry sorbet. There was a hush around the dinner table where people were still eating, a fork crashed onto a plate. The cat peeked its head back through its cat door. Mark chuckled.

I laughed nervously, “That’s my cue,” and since I had everyone’s attention: “It’s just been a lovely evening. It was so nice to see you all again! Bye!” I wrestled with the screaming and squirming from E in my arms as I carefully carried her out the door. We were there barely one hour.

Now I know that… dinner parties are out, at least for the time-being. I need to bring more baby-friendly activities to occupy E. Boundaries set successfully at home, in the confines of a 2-bedroom apartment, do not apply anywhere else in the world.


Adele @ how to find a man said...

I laughed when your checklist included ductape.

I'd understand the apple slices and gold fish but duct tape and rope...


I notice that in every generation our children always beat the adults into submission.


Unknown said...

Hahaha!! Thanks, Adele! I was almost desperate enough to make a leash for her! Kidding, of course, but those baby back-pack leashes are looking more appealing every day!