Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The Case of the Missing Butter

On becoming a mother, there have been many strange and unexpected surprises. Things I couldn’t have imagined encountering while I was still a single woman. For instance, I never realized how effectively one small child could destroy a previously clean room, simply by walking through it. Or the vast number of glasses three kids could dirty on one warm summer afternoon. (I washed over forty glasses one day in August, I actually counted!)

Or the things that come out of a Mom’s mouth. Things she never thought she would say like, “Can you please put that thing back in your underwear and go get your pants on!” or “Yes I’m glad that you love me sooooo much, but the question still stands. What time will you be home from the party?” Then there is my favorite spoken to a fifteen year old driving on a permit. “For pete’s sake don’t run into that parked car. I know the woman who owns it!”

But perhaps the most astonishing things about running a house are all the mysteries one encounters in the course of a normal week. Not even Perry Mason or Jessica Fletcher could keep up with the curious happenings I deal with.

Of course everyone knows about the missing sock mystery. Two go into the wash and one comes out of the dryer. But that it a relatively easy crime to solve. The washer and dryer (which are always placed side by side) create a two dimensional vortex which sucks in one sock, leaving its identical mate alone and useless in the world.

Perhaps the same is true for the one missing earring. I actually have a shoe box full of single earrings that I refuse to throw away in the hopes that the pirate look will come into vogue again and I’ll be set with my eye patch and single ear ornament.

But let me get on to the butter. Every week I buy two pounds of butter. That may seem like a lot to those of you without teenagers, but when your family lives on Mac and Cheese and cookie dough, like mine do, a pound barely covers it.

So I bought my boxes of butter on Saturday morning and on Saturday evening I decided I wanted a piece of buttered toast. (Now please don’t lecture me on my choice of snacks, because fat mixed with carbs is my very favorite!). I opened a cube, placed it on a dish, nuked it for exactly ten seconds (the magic number for just right soft butter) and then shaved off a bit and spread it on my bread.

The next afternoon (that would be Sunday) I again got a craving for buttered toast. I headed for the kitchen but try as I may, I could not find a trace of the butter from the day before. I didn’t even bother asking the kids. Something about our house causes a type of blind-amnesia among the children. They could be standing in the middle of a room during a gang war and afterwards they would all insist they hadn’t seen anything, and if they did, they couldn’t remember but it was undoubtedly all their brother or sister's fault.

I had no choice but to get another cube of butter. By Monday, that new cube of butter had disappeared too, and the same thing happened on Tuesday.

I considered various options. Perhaps someone was breaking into our house each night and stealing our slightly used butter, or maybe one of the kids was doing the dishes without being asked and simply washing the cube down the disposal before placing the plate in the dishwasher. But as both those options were equally as unlikely, I had to give up and admit I was stumped.

Then on Wednesday morning, I happened to be wearing my slippers and had entered the kitchen without making any noise, and there, with her big black paws up on the edge of the counter was our black lab, her long pink tongue stretched out as far as it would go, pulling the butter and the plate closer to the edge of the counter.

I thought I knew my household pretty well only to discover that my dog is a closet butter thief. It felt as if my whole world had been torn apart and I found myself pondering the next natural question. What is the cat up to?

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