Thursday, July 1, 2010

One Mom's Trash

Elsa has developed a fascination with garbage.

Our kitchen garbage can sits beside the sporadically utilized Swiffer in our pantry.  Lately I've been catching Elsa in the middle of either pulling something from the trash or putting something inside it that doesn't belong.  I've found my sunglasses in there, covered in coffee grounds and banana slime.  I've fished out bottles, bracelets, and stuffed animals, and caught her removing empty packs of gum, rotten fruit and used tissues before, examining them as if enthralled that she's managed to score something so valuable that the rest of us had overlooked.

When I do stop her mid-raid, she'll look up at me and present her newfound treasure so proudly that I almost feel bad telling her how disgusting it is as I put it right back in the garbage can.  I almost want to say, Oh Elsa, what a beautiful half-eaten GoGurt!  What is it doing in the trash?  A piece like this belongs in the Smithsonian!

Now, when something goes missing, I automatically assume my little dumpster diver has deposited it in the garbage, and I will then have to decide if it's worth digging through the diapers and potato peelings to retrieve it.  (Unless of course, the missing item is either my iPhone or my keys, which I am now convinced are being constantly usurped by a herd of trolls that resides in my garage).

Sometimes, however, this presumption of mine is way off.

The other day I took the kids to the pediatrician for Elsa's 18-month well visit (as opposed to our visit two days prior, during which her doctor assessed--one hour and $25 later--that she was well enough for her well visit....?).  We were in the sparsely equipped and echoey-as-hell waiting room for a while, then relocated to the smaller waiting room with a paper-covered table and even fewer distractions and more forbidden objects.  Elsa proceeded to scream because I wouldn't let her stand in front of the heavy, might-burst-open-any-second, death trap of a door.  I let her carry on a bit longer than usual, hoping that perhaps the doctor would see us a little more quickly, but all this strategy did was cause Rollie to start yelling at her to be quiet.  And so I dug through the diaper bag for some entertainment.  I came up with a ubiquitous Matchbox car, a hair clip, a lollipop and an empty box of raisins.  If she were MacGyver she could have fashioned an explosive.

Then I turned my attention to Rollie, who was begging me to help him figure out how to work an app on my phone.  When I turned back around, I realized that all of the items I'd given Elsa had mysteriously disappeared.

Me: Elsa, where's the little car?
Elsa: Mmm?
Me: Elsa, where'd Rollie's little car go?
Elsa: Vroom vroom.
Me: Yes, I know that's how the little car goes.  Where'd it go?
Elsa pointed to the garbage can against the wall.
Me: You threw it in the garbage?
Elsa: Mmm?
Me: What about Mommy's hair clip?  Where's that?
Elsa pointed to the garbage again.
Me: You threw my hair clip away, too?
Elsa: Mmm?
Me (now striding across the room): Elsa, that wasn't garbage sweetheart.  You shouldn't throw stuff in here that's not garbage.
Elsa: No no no.
Me: Yeah.  No no no.  Little late for that.

I pushed down on the lid and peered inside the trashcan.  All I saw were balled up sheets of table-paper and discarded otoscope speculums.  On the gross-o-meter this was about a four, but still....I mentally crunched the numbers to see if the Gross-To-Want ratio is too high.  I hadn't used the hair clip in about a month, but that was because it had been buried in the bottom of the diaper bag.  Would I use it if I were to fish it out of this garbage pail?  Would I have to disinfect it first?  If I place it in boiling water, would it melt?  Would the fumes be toxic?  Would it ruin my cooking pot?  Ah, the questions a mom must ask herself at the pediatrician's office.....

I decided to go for it.  I mean, seriously, digging through crumpled paper and waxy ear speculums is probably the least disgusting thing I've done lately.  This is coming from a woman who recently cleaned up dog puke, kid puke and a dried frog carcass from her living room windowsill, all in the past week.  I removed the lid and began picking through the trash, figuring the hair clip and toy car must have sunk to the bottom.  But after rifling through every bit of garbage, I came up empty.

Me: Elsa, I thought you said you threw my hair clip away.
Elsa: Mmm?
Me: Well, it isn't in here.
Elsa toddled over the can and peeked inside as well.  Then she extended her chubby arm to start expertly digging through the garbage herself.
Me (pulling her arm back and replacing the lid): No no, Els.  No touch.  This is yucky.
Rollie (who suddenly decided me disciplining Elsa was far more interesting than the Light Saber app on my phone): Where's my car, Momma?
Me: I think Elsa threw it in the garbage, but I can't find it.
Rollie: Find it, Momma.
Me (sighing): Rollie, you have like, fifty million cars at home.  It's okay to lose one once in a while.
Rollie: But that was my favorite.
Me: You don't even know which one she threw away. Elsa, are you sure it's in the garbage?
Elsa responded by running back to the unguarded and grabbing at the handle.
Rollie: Baby Els wants to get out, Momma.
Me: I know.
Elsa screamed again.
Me (feeling like I was about to lose my freaking mind): All right, let's read a book.  Get over here right now and sit down and we'll all be civilized human beings for a change.

Of course, the doctor walked in as we were all seated, my children listening raptly like little angles as I read to them about how much fun the doctor's office can be (who writes this stuff??).  He probably figured we'd spent a perfectly happy forty minutes having story hour, and hadn't even noticed the passage of time.  I almost wished I'd had an ear speculum stuck in my hair, just to prove him wrong.

Oh yeah, as I was packing everyone back up to leave, I found the car and the hairclip in the front pocket of the diaper bag (along with the empty box of raisins and a now sticky, hair-covered lollipop).  Guess Elsa was just trying to screw with me, leading me to think she's tossed everything in the trash when I was busy paying attention to Rollie.  They sure learn the art of Jedi Mind-Manipulation early.  Must be all the cow hormones.  We are buying all organic from now on....

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