Originally posted on Wednesday, March 21, 2012

She's a collector, our Bella - we've returned tape and wall decorations to Preschool, store goods to shelves, jewelry and makeup to mommy's bathroom.  We've learned to check her pockets before leaving family and friends homes - as we'll most likely find stones, leggos, blocks, and acorns when we empty them.
I feel that I can say, without reservation, that this compunction is in no way malicious.  She just loves having lots of things around her and honestly she's been that way since birth.  As an infant the large empty crib recommended by the American Society of Pediatrics was too much - she'd worm her way into the corner and bury her head in the bumper pad (to our horror).  As a toddler she'd go to bed with every stuffed animal she could carry - and could convince others to carry.  She currently sleeps with blankie, extra blankie (a random blue fleece throw from the back of the car), her regular bedding, three pillows, and a minimum of 5 stuffed pets. When you check on her at night you'll find all of these things flung over her face (to our horror).

This behavior, while slightly odd, is pretty typical of her age group (so says the internet) and it would be a mild inconvenience at times, but nothing more.  However, Amabelle has 3 siblings.  3 siblings who are pretty sure that some of the things in her so called "collections" may just belong to them.  Sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong - but in our house (Tony and I say with authority) we all share.  "If you can't share then we're taking it an no one has it".  (Typing that makes it sound like the most ridiculous thing you could ever say to a child, but there you have it.)  This proclamation often sends Belle into a fit of tears.

"That makes me really really sad" she'll sob to us.

What cracks me up is that half the time she can't even tell you what the heck it is she's clutching, collecting, or hiding.  Such was the case a few nights ago.  Behold:  The treasure bin!
This particular evening I was trying to make dinner while Jack clutched at my ankles.  "up?  Up you me?"  Belle and the others were in the family room - or so I thought - until the wailing started.  Every few seconds I'd call in the direction of the cries:  "What's wrong?!  Do you need me?" Only Jack responded at first: "UP!  Up you me!?"  And because I couldn't understand a darn thing the crier was saying (mumbling I say!) I kept cooking with my Jack appendage:  "Hiay mimi - Up!  Up you me?"

At some point I must have decided that the crying was going on long enough - especially when it started to be accompanied by shrieks and then cascading thuds.  "OOOHHH!" whomp, boom, boom CRASH!  "NOOOOO!!!"  Bang bang bang! So I Hunchback of Notredamed myself to the foyer, toting Jack on my leg... and then I lost it.  I started laughing so hard I almost peed right on Jacks head.

Sitting on the chair at the bottom of the steps was Emma, reading a book, and occasionally looking up towards the heavens with an expression that seemed to say "nuts, you're all nuts".  I followed the direction of her gaze to Amabelle, crouched in the corner of the stair landing, hovering protectively around a green bin that contained all the colored blocks and balls in the house.  (The wails were hers).  Looming over her was the ecstatic Alex, who one at a time would reach into the treasured box, hold the object in front of her face (insert wail - NOOOO!!!  Not that one!) and then WHAM!  he'd wing it down the steps, clap his hands and yell "ByeBye BALL!".  (Honestly, that boy knows just how to get her attention... and since she's not particularly prone to cuddles and kisses this seems to be the next best thing.)

I dislodged Jack from my ankle and worked my way up the stairs, which you wouldn't think is a noteworthy task, but have you ever done this while dodging blocks and balls that were bouncing off the walls, your shoulders, and head?  I made it to the top, D-day style (pure grit) and collected Amabelle.  And that's how Tony walked in and found us:

Emma observing the scene cooly from below.
Jack torn between amusement at the flying objects and insult at being deposited at the bottom of the landmine.
Alex giddily throwing things from high heights while simultaneously ensuing fantastic reactions of his sister, and
Me holding the sobbing Amabelle while I shook from laughter and tears.  Alex's joy was so real and so contagious.  Amabelle's tears and horror were so real and so contagious.  I felt for both of them.

I give credit to Tony for not turning around and walking out the door.  Instead, he calmly pointed in the direction of the kitchen, I nodded, so he went and turned down the pot on the burner, then walked back and scooped up Alex, leaving me to soothe and shush Amabelle until her sobs stopped.  When I looked into what remained of her treasure bin I almost lost it again.   What was this shit?!?  This mayhem was over old baby blocks and random balls?   Then I looked up at the tear streaked face of my oldest child - she was wearing three hats.  Ah Belle.  I gave her extra kisses and extra cuddles thinking that this is bound to manifest itself in some interesting way in her adult hood.  The collecting, and the fact that she won't defend herself.

We're working on it, really we are... in the meantime, we've got her a couple of baskets to make her collecting less secretive and limited what she can bring to bed to the items she can safely carry upstairs on her own.  This would have been one for the camera crews.  You can't invent this stuff, really you can't.

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