Monday, September 14, 2009

Of Mice and Toddlers (and recording booths)

For the past 5 years, we've had a home studio. We call it the Bat Cave, and if you look at Tim's CD liners, you'll see reference to that. The name came about because at one point, about 8 years ago, we were living in a basement apartment that was accessed down a long, narrow, steep staircase. A friend who happened to be an artist came over and said it was like our secret creative hideout. He went home and then a couple of days later brought us a sign he'd made from metal for our secret lair--it said "Bat Cave."

When we moved into our next house, the spot we ended up dedicating for a studio and office for Tim was an unfinished room in the basement that had low ceilings, concrete floors and walls, and a hole that led into the garage. It looked like a cave. So up went the sign, "Bat Cave". Not long after, Tim started doing the home recording studio thing, and the name stuck. I mean, after all, we had the sign.

(This all is leading to the mice and toddlers. You'll see.)

So Tim's first recording booth, in Colorado, was a tubular metal bunk bed that he stood on end and strapped the mattresses to the outside of with bungee cords. He threw a carpet over the top and recorded (very successfully) in there for years.

When we moved to Vegas with twice as many kids as we'd moved to Colorado with, the kids needed the bunk bed to sleep on, so he started just recording at close range with a good mic right at his desk. He'd done some of this in the Bat Cave before, so he'd worked out how to make it work. (We did have a few recordings spoiled by children, and a few that children noises in the distance were just incorporated into the aural fabric of the song.)

As we toured, Tim learned a lot about recording just wherever we happened to be. I remember him making a very successful recording in the corner of the living room at my mother's house over the holidays when people were visiting not far away (and not quietly) simply by throwing a heavy coat over his head and the mic.

Anyway, we left Vegas and came to stay with my mom for a bit while we look for a new place to land in Vegas, and Tim has struggled to find a recording space. There are 8 farm outbuildings on the property, all with electricity. And all with VERY LOUD Crickets. Since Tim does most of his recording in the dead of night, that didn't work. One outbuilding has a root cellar that would be quiet, but he'd have to carry his equipment down a ladder into a very dark hole with a low ceiling (and he's a tall man who likes to record standing up) and there's lots of dirt to spoil things.

He tried recording in the room where we set up all our computers, but there were two problems: Kid noises and a very friendly wild mouse (see, I told you I 'd get to that) that started using his desk as a highway while he was working, running across it three or four times a night.

Finally, he went into our family bedroom and leaned two mattresses up in the corner, squaring himself a box about as big as a card table--a recording booth!--and he recorded (successfully, again) in there, with two wood walls and two mattress walls.

So the recording thing worked out fine (Christmas music that came out so beautiful the rough copies were intensely moving to me--and they were mostly your run-0f-the-mill Christmas songs, not even religious ones!).

But the mouse thing was an issue for all of us. An expected issue, being on a farm at the beginning of fall, but an issue nonetheless. I mean, the little black thing was frolicking with the children in the living room and openly eating the food in the cupboards.

So we put out mouse poison in places children were not going to be able to get to.

We underestimated Benjamin.

Tonight while I was trolling the 'net for gigs for Tim, which I do frequently, I was only half watching the kids. They're usually fine. I was holding the baby. Benji was playing by my feet. Nobody else gets in trouble.

And then suddenly I heard spitting behind the entertainment center. Alarmed, I leapt up looking for Benji. He was gone. So I stumbled over toys and peeked behind the entertainment center.

Benji was standing there, block of mouse poison in his fist, spitting. There were little teeth marks in the block of poison.

I let out one of those only-moms-can-do-it "NO!!!!"s, scared Tim into the living room in a half second (he guessed what had happened), scared the baby witless (I was holding him and put him down, so I imagine he thought he'd done something wrong), and scared Benji half out of his mind, too.

But there were no chunks out of the poison and he looked fine.

So Benji and I had a spitting contest in the sink. Yes, I taught him how to fill his mouth with water and spray all over. Cleaned his mouth out good and he thought it was fun. And we played "bubbles" and "Scrub scrub scrub" with the soap and washed our hands good. Then he went off to play and I went off to see if I could find the box from the mouse poison to see what I was supposed to do next.

A few minutes later, Benji was trying to shake my cajun seasoning all over the baby saucer, so I went to fetch him and found his palms and fingers had turned bright bright red, and he was acting really quiet (this is unusual for the boy who SHOUTS even when he sings) and tired.

Then I really got panicky. I rushed him in to Tim and we played, "If you're happy and you know it, stick out your tongue" to see if just the places he touched the poison with his hands were turning red (and he acted like they were itchy) or if his mouth was turning red and swelling, too (since we had that walnut scare with Dan last month, we've been a little wary of this). He thought it was great fun to sing his favorite song AND get to stick out his tongue. His tongue looked normal.

And then I noticed the perfect white circle in his palms and remembered there was a leaky bottle of red food coloring in the box with the cajun seasoning with a lid just the size of that white circle. And that he'd just had a major scare (from me screaming) and it was almost 4:00 am and he'd only slept 5 hours the night before so we could go to church. That explained the red and the quiet and the sleepy.

So I got him a baba and Tim put him to bed while I called poison control for only the second time in 8 years (pretty amazing considering we have 4 boys and a very adventuresome girl!). They made me wake my parents to find out what brand of mouse poison it was (and I think I've never heard both my parents swear right in a row like that ever in my whole life! They aren't swearing people. Usually.). Scott, at poison control, was really nice. He said the poison was a blood thinner, so we have to watch him for a few days because it's a slow-acting poison. BUT he also said that they haven't ever had a kid in Utah eat enough of that particular brand of poison to die from it yet. It's formulated for very small creatures, after all. (I'm not telling you which brand because if your kid eats mouse poison, you should call poison control, not just trust that some blog somewhere said it's okay. Some brands can kill kids really fast, apparently. We got lucky.).

When I told Tim, "Everything's probably okay, but that child will be the death of me!", he replied, "He'll be the death of himself first!"

So, relieved, we put everyone to bed (after 4 milk bottles, 3 bananas, 2 cheese sandwiches and one only-jam jam sandwich with no butter and no "lid", each of which had to be fetched in its own trip to the kitchen, naturally). (Caleb asked for a "whole" sandwich so I was delighted when I pulled the pieces of bread out of the bag and they each had one big hole in the middle. He thought the pun was great--he ended up with a "Hole Sandwich").

And now that I worked my stress out by writing all this, I'm going to bed, too.

And then I'll be spending the next three days watching for unexplained bruising on a toddler who does things like fall into the coal bin and play there, jump off the tables, fall down the stairs headfirst regularly, walk barefoot through patches of thistles, fall off the hammock repeatedly and laughingly, and get hit by swinging children on purpose.

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