There is a classic riddle about a man who has to cross a river in his little boat, ferrying a goat, a wolf and a head of cabbage, one at a time. How can he do this safely, without leaving behind something that could get eaten by another thing before he returns?
Our household is sort of like that. We have three kids and three pets, some of whom cannot safely be left alone together without someone being eaten - or at least nibbled on.
Of course, we planned the children, even consenting to be outnumbered by them. And we consented to ownership of one cat and one dog.
Then we visited our local petting zoo.
Little did I know, it was coming home with us.
We had just toured the barn on a crisp spring day.
Starting to feel a bit peckish, we washed up and opened the picnic lunch I had packed when, out of nowhere, one of the zoo attendants approached us with a cardboard box.
Surely, she jests.
Surely, she sees me sitting here with a weeks-old infant in my arms and two preschoolers hopping all over the place.
Surely, she is not going to do what I think she is going to do.
"Congratulations!" she beams.
Congratulations my fuzzy white tail.
"You've just won a rabbit in our raffle!"
This is one of those situations, as comedian Demetri Martin put it, where you can be a winner and a loser at the same time.
What can I say? The kids have already peeked inside the box and now realize that the white rabbit inside belongs to the Battens.
They've already started thinking of names for it, just as they had started thinking of names for the stray orange tabby cat who had been lingering on our porch for the past several weeks. No, no, no!
I can't break their hearts.
So home we go with yet another mouth to feed.
Or, more to the point, the corollary of another mouth to feed: another living being whose poop I must clean up.
Am I the only one who feels it's wrong the primary food preparer in the family is also the primary poop-scooper?
In an attempt to lighten the workload, I suggest that the rabbit be an outdoor pet.
The down side of having a large family is that you are easily outvoted.
On the way home, we stop by the pet supply store for a cage and some rabbit food.
We could have bought a week's worth of groceries for what it cost to outfit this animal. At least the baby is breastfeeding.
By the way, its name is Cadbury (the rabbit, not the baby). Feeling guilty for outvoting me, the family threw me a bone and named the rabbit after my favorite chocolate.
One night, when the baby was a bit fussy, I camped out downstairs so my husband could get some rest.
Around 4 a.m., I had just gotten the baby settled down again and stretched out on the sofa to get a little more sleep.
Although rabbits have a reputation for being prolific breeders, what's not widely known is that they are also prolific noise makers.
About the time I drifted off to sleep, Cadbury began alternately sneezing and sucking water from his very rattly water bottle. After what seemed like an hour, he finally quieted down.
I finally fell asleep, too - dreaming of a hearty stew.
Fortunately, my husband has offered to take responsibility for the care and feeding of our newest furry friend.
He's taught the kids to add food to its bowl and tidy up the cage. And, in spite of all the trouble, the darn thing is starting to grow on me.
When it comes to little ones, fuzzy and otherwise, the real riddle is: How do you know when enough is enough?
Well, don't ask me. And, whatever you do, don't ask the rabbit.
Editor's note: The answer to the first riddle is: A wolf does not eat cabbage, so the crossing can start with the goat. The man leaves the goat and returns, puts the cabbage in the boat and takes it across. On the other bank he leaves the cabbage and takes the goat. He leaves the goat on the first bank and takes the wolf across. He leaves the wolf with the cabbage and rows back alone. He takes the goat across.