Jacob recently graduated from his preschool. His teacher, Annika, had a menagerie of animals that she and the children tended to throughout the year, to include chickens, rabbits, snakes, lizards, spiders, and hamsters. And one hand-fed tame robin. Annika is a German-born bat biologist who baked bread every single morning for the children, then led them on a day of outdoor exploration and biology lessons to rival what some junior high kids get these days. Jacob went four days a week, and I am truly sad to see him leave as we prepare for kindergarten in the fall.
Annika is akin to God in our house, and many things I've done over the past year have been held against the Annika litmus test by my son. If I go to kill a spider, Jacob places his hand on my arm and tells me, Mom. Spiders are our good friends. They eat the bad bugs. Annika would put the spider outside. Actually, Annika would create a spider habitat and let the children feed it insects while she gives discourse on spinnerets and the life cycle of arachnids. I'm not proud to admit that my typical m.o. is to nod in acquiescence to Jacob, then smash the spider when he isn't looking and flush it away. Nasty things.
Last fall I accompanied Annika and the kids on a field trip to collect leaves. We went to a gorgeous location that had flat trails along a creek, with plenty of deciduous trees and large rocks for the kids to explore. I was walking on the trail behind Annika, noting how she is not only this gorgeous thing (poreless skin, pink cheeks and no makeup ever) who weighs next to nothing, she is smart and knows how to capture a child's imagination. Sickening. Annika was in front of me carrying two baskets full of leaves, a backpack with the remains of our homemade lunch on her back, and had a child's hand in her own. I was about to ask her if she colored her hair when she suddenly dove into the brush that lined the path. Within seconds, she was righted again, the baskets and backpack still in place, but now she held a large snake in her hand, holding it up. "Children! Who can tell me what kind of snake this is?" as the preschoolers gathered around her, no one talking, no bickering or jostling. Just listening to the impromptu lesson in herpetology. She was the Pied freakin' Piper.
I tried to joke with her, telling her she was my Newman. That Jacob mentioned her so frequently, often in the context of telling me how I could do something better, that I would mutter, Annika! much like Seinfeld would Newman's name.
Annika doesn't watch television. What, the bread bakes itself?
So when Annika offered up one of her baby rabbits, I immediately said yes. Even though we're moving. Even though my German Shepherd is wanting to eat it. Even though I am not really a pet person, unless you count shoes as pets. I would do something that met the Annika standards. I would learn of bunny things and share these morsels of knowledge as my children chewed wheat things. That I made, with wheat. And other healthy ingredients that do not have the word Lunchables in them.
My daughter came up with the brilliant idea of diapering the rabbit when he is inside, so the inevitable sprinkling of bunny pellets are at least contained. I know, Annika probably collects hers and uses them in some mulch to grow her wheat. And spins her sweaters out of the bunny fur.