What Ants Do In Their Spare Time

And here is proof. (meta.wikimedia.org)

Yesterday, from the back seat, after an unusually long silence following a conversation about nothing in particular:

Mbot: “Mom, do ants have little, tiny books?”

Pause.

“Mom?”

The answer, after I succeeded in not choking on my coffee, was: Of course they do.

What was the best question you’ve heard lately?

 

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And the Oscar for Least Cooperative While Dressing for a Photo Shoot Goes To…

These guys didn't want to get dressed, either. (www.iwatchstuff.com)

Gbot.

He was the favorite for it, and indeed, he carried it away last night. In his speech, that went something like this: “Noooooooo!”, he did not thank his mother.

Coincidentally, our photo shoot was planned for Oscars night. I’ve been wanting to have professional photos taken of the Bots but put it off and put it off and finally realized that if I put it off much longer, we’d have to Photoshop out the acne. Then I met a professional photographer, and the rest is history. Very, very recent history.

We had two choices on meeting times: 7:00 a.m., which is a good time for light but not particularly for toddlers, or 5:30 p.m., which is a good time for light but not particularly for toddlers. We chose the latter. I packed snacks, and two Cookies of Bribery.

At 4:00, I completed wardrobe preparations. I had found three alternative outfits for Gbot, who, as students of history know, isn’t fond of sweaters, despises anything that zips or buttons up the front, and prefers nudity above all else.

My first choice consisted of matching wool sweaters that Nanny had knit–that the Bots have worn many times before (before Gbot developed his sweater allergy), and red wide-wale corduroy overalls for Gbot. The overalls were half way on when the wailing began. “Noooo! I want to be Diego! These are not my Diego overalls!” For those of you not on intimate terms with children’s television, Diego is the star of the animated show, “Go, Diego, Go.” In each episode, he and Baby Jaguar save a different baby animal from some terrible fate. First they hear the baby animal shriek. If Diego had been listening to us, he would have swung immediately through the jungle and across the desert to rescue Gbot from his mother’s fashion choice.

Gbot’s rebellion was fortuitous, however, because although I was willing it to be sweater weather, the temperature was hovering at close to seventy.

I moved on to Choice #2: cute jeans and the aqua t-shirt with the cardigan sweater Nanny knit two years ago, the one with the cables and the bears on it. Mbot wore it probably forty times and would wear it again but it no longer fits him. I got Gbot into the jeans and t-shirt. I got the sweater on over his head. As I secured the last button, the wailing began. “Noooooo! I do not want to wear a sweater!” And he actually removed it himself–at least he pulled it back over his head so that he was stuck with his arms still in it and most of the sweater behind his neck.

I was not wearing a sweater but at this point, I had started to sweat. The clock was ticking. The sun was moving inexorably across the sky. Meanwhile, Mbot was lounging on the sofa in his Captain America underpants, completely deaf to my repeated requests that he add to his ensemble from the pile I had laid out neatly (the third pile, the pile that would coordinate with Gbot’s third pile).

Gbot’s third pile included a striped long-sleeved t-shirt. The coordinating shoes, however, were apparently unappealing and he insisted on wearing boots. Since I am all about having photographs of children whose faces are not puffy and red from crying, I stifled a sigh, tied the laces and called him ready for the red carpet.

I helped Mbot into his striped terry hoodie, which looks good in evening sun, and stifled another sigh when he pulled on his dusty Batman crocs.

At last they were strapped into the back seat. I shifted into “drive.”

“Nooooooo!” This time it was Mbot. “Where’s Thomas! I only ever wanted my picture taken with Thomas!”

That would be Thomas the Tank Engine. He never, ever plays with Thomas. But he had, for five minutes before he got into the Midget Mobile. I circled the car back to the curb (see the paragraph about being all about photographs of children without tear-streaked faces). The sun was slipping down the sky. Thomas remained in hiding. I returned to the car with the news that we would just have to make due with Junepbear and Spruce Bear.

Once at the park, Mbot stripped off the crocs, along with his socks, to run barefoot in the grass. It turns out that bare feet are very photogenic when they are three years old.

Gbot got chocolate from the Cookie of Bribery on his shirt. It turns out that you can Photoshop out chocolate.

After the shoot, which I’m sure went as smoothly as these kind of things usually go, I opened the car doors and chatted a few minutes with the photographer. The Bots scrambled into the front seat. I had the keys. What could go wrong? When I turned to buckle them in, I found that, in true Oscars style, they were both wearing my lipstick. Mbot on his mouth, kind of, and Gbot on both cheeks.

When I look at these photos, on the day the Bots go to college, will I remember the chocolate stain from The Cookie of Bribery? Will I remember the mad rush for Thomas? The lipstick? Or will my memory Photoshop these things out? I kind of hope they’re just gently pixelated, like JLo’s nipple.

How will you remember the 84th Oscars?

Whoops….Ten More Tips I Forgot to Tell You About Traveling With Toddlers.

This handy plug-in will automatically call five contacts in case of emergency, then go to hands-free mode. Sadly, cell phones must be turned off in flight, making them useless for mothers who forgot a sandwich. (www.androidzoomcom)

If you remember my last post, I was dispensing invaluable advice on how to survive air travel accompanied by a person younger than a cheap Merlot. I was doing this because a good friend was scheduled to board a plane today and I said boldly, “Oh, I can help. I know all about that.”

Well, according to the texts my friend began sending me from seat 14C, I have forgotten more than most people have ever known.

TEXT #1: …”Rear seat pockets are a f**king joke. They hold NOTHING!”

Er, right.

Forgotten Tip #1: Here’s what you do: You make sure that everything you KNOW you will need during the flight (raisins, goldfish, drinks (for both of you), antibacterial wipes, pipe cleaners (Forgotten Tip #2: didn’t I mention bring pipe cleaners? Just a handful can provide what could be the crucial ten minutes of distraction) is in just one half of the diaper bag: the half that’s most easily accessible by bending down over your toddler with your face crammed against the tray table in its up and locked position. Because the only other place to store things is….

TEXT #2: “I’m keeping all the flat stuff behind me. I’m a genius. :-)”

Forgotten Tip #3: Airplane seats are funny this way: Although they don’t have enough room for a normal-sized human to sit comfortably for even three minutes, there appears to be vast quantities of useable airspace behind the small of one’s back. This is caused by the concave profile of the seats, which were apparently designed by an ergonomics professor on a planet inhabited by hundred-pound avocados. I have stored not only my own zip-up hoodie (see FT #10), but also a 34 inch-tall stuffed bear, two milk bottles, and a Richard Scarry book behind the small of my back, resulting in no less discomfort and better lumbar support than actually having the seat to myself.

TEXT #3: “Add to your list to make sure that the mother eats well before leaving for the airport. I’m starving! I haven’t eaten since the cookies I had for breakfast.”

Forgotten Tip #4: Eat. More than cookies. Before you go. If you (understandably) don’t have time, while you are packing raisins and goldfish, make yourself a pb&j sandwich. Pack a few granola bars. A bag of nuts. An apple. A piece of chocolate. And extra plastic baggies, to make sure you have a place to put cores/used wipies/used tissues. You can do this the night before. Don’t have room in the carry-on? See Forgotten Tip #5.

Forgotten Tip #5: To make room in the diaper bag, remove the copy of The Help you’d packed just in case. I mean, really. Time to read? What do you think this is, prison?

TEXT #4: “Just now taking off. Only 80 minutes late.”

Forgotten Tip #6:  Prepare yourself for delays. This means two more diapers, an inch more of wipies, and at least one extra bottle of breastmilk or 9-ounce baggie of formula powder, and one more change of clothes for the Bot than you at first packed.

Forgotten Tip #7: Add infant or childen’s ibuprofen or acetaminophen to your quart-sized plastic bag of liquids and gels. This way, you will not only have them onboard if necessary, you will have them at your destination in the event that your luggage goes to Melbourne, Australia instead of Melbourne Beach, Florida, and your Bot is teething painfully (and loudly) through the first night of your “vacation.”*

Forgotten Tip #8: If your bot is over two, buy a Magnadoodle the week before the trip and let him or her yearn for it but not touch it. Allow contact only after you have successfully arrived in the waiting area. If your child already owns a Magnadoodle, substitute some other inexpensive, preferably flat (see FT#3) toy whose novelty will provide distraction for short but guaranteed intervals throughout the in-air experience.

Forgotten Tip #9: Hydrate extensively for forty-eight hours before you go, but stop drinking a few hours before you leave for the airport. Because, while airplane seats were designed for a population of hundred-pound avocados, airplane lavatories were designed for use by no one, certainly not by a team.**

Forgotten Tip #10: Count. Not only children, but major carry-ons, including bears and hoodies. Do not leave the plane until you are touching as many things as you boarded the plane with.***

Forgotten Tip #11 (because this, too, is a Baker’s Ten): The day after traveling, your Bot will behave beautifully. He or she will sleep in, take a long nap, and be generally charmed by his or her surroundings. Do not get overconfident. The Greek Chorus (see the previous post) is waiting in tomorrow.

*All of the anecdotes related here are based on actual events

**You don’t hear about people boasting about belonging to the Mommy and Me Mile High Club

***Someone flying from Boise to Detroit is now in possession of a cherished sky blue Marmot zip-up hoodie that once belonged to the pregnant mother of an eight month-old. If you are reading this, step away from the hoodie. It’s mine, bitch.

It’s Not Flying. It’s Falling, With Style: Ten Tips for Traveling with Toddlers

Willy Wonka had his Greek Chorus. Mine's located just beyond the TSA. (image via http://www.nydailynews.com)

In a few days, a friend of mine will fly with her fifteen month-old daughter from Washington, D.C. to Melbourne Beach, Florida, a distance of just over 750 air miles, two hours flying time, and what will most likely be as much time at the airport beforehand and what will seem like at least a solid thirty miles from the Departure door to her seat.

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about, it’s because I do. As a survivor of ten such trips, either with just Mbot, with Mbot and with Gbot under my belt (literally) (this is a good time for Tip #1, Do Not Wear A Belt), or with both Mbot and Gbot under the ages of 3 1/2, I have become intimately acquainted with the quirks of the TSA. Yet still, I manage to learn something new with each take-off. Just when you think you’re an expert, the game changes–not because of the TSA, but because of your children. A few months in the life of a Bot means monumental shifts in behavior. And then there’s the danger of becoming overconfident. Even if the TSA can’t take your uberprepared mommy-ass down, hubris can every time. Don’t let it happen to you. The Greek chorus is waiting just beyond security.

I have a list over thirty items long of how to make it through security with infants, toddlers, strollers, and hormonal imbalance, but, having recently flown, I only have the energy to write down ten of them. Consider them a gift from the Greek Chorus. And ignore them at your own risk.

1. Channel Eli Manning. (for those of you who were breastfeeding or rinsing out poopy underpants during the Super Bowl, Eli happens to be the quarterback of the 2012 NFL champions (that would be the New York Giants–don’t sweat it, I had to Google it).

The key to successful flying with Bots is visualization: In the week prior to a voyage, I imagine it, move for move, like a quarterback going into the Super Bowl. This ensures that I have enough hands at each strategic point along the way. Once, this resulted in eleventh hour fashioning of a baby sling from six yards of checked cotton and then watching a YouTube video on how to use it, five hours before take-off. And then searching the internet for references as to whether or not one can wear it, even empty, through security. (No.)

2. Leave the Laboutins at Home. Or at least check them. It is difficult enough when you and your Bot are wearing slip-ons, and you’re removing not only your own shoes but the monster slippers of the two-year old and the dragon slippers of the one-year old, while the single woman behind you with the briefcase and headset tightens her lips impatiently. Am I really misinformed here, or was Al Queda and the Taliban known for its recruitment and inclusion of women? Especially middle-aged white women lugging teddy bears?

3. Utilize The Girl Pocket. Longtime readers will be familiar with The Girl Pocket, those go-to spaces in the bra handy for boarding passes, personal IDs, and binkies (only clean ones; dirty ones can go anywhere). If this is inconvenient, consider wearing a biking jersey, with three handy pockets across the back.

4. Breathe Deeply. This comes in handy as you are unscrewing the second bottle of breast milk for a TSA employee to hold scraps of paper over to ensure that one bottle isn’t nitrogen tetroxide and the other monomethyl hydrazine, while you are also replacing the laptop and re-constructing the stroller and shoving three boarding passes and the cell phone back into your bra while replacing the shoes of a toddler and an infant while holding their hands while checking that your drivers license isn’t back on the conveyor belt.

5. Don’t Flatter Yourself by thinking that you can carry on anything that will be as captivating as the safety manual in the seat pocket in front of you, the latch on the tray table in its locked and upright position, or the buckle of the seatbelt pulled firmly across your lap. So don’t waste valuable diaper bag space with Woody and Buzz Lightyear, when it could be filled with raisins and goldfish and a second pair of extra pants.

6. Embrace the Sound of Silence. If you bring a DVD player, leave the headset at home. The under forty-month set is captivated by the pictures. For at least ten minutes. I use the DVD player mainly in the waiting area.

7. Embrace Your Local Starbucks. Even if you’re not a fan, you need to drink, and so does your Bot. Leave enough time to buy a bottle of water before you get on the plane, or fill your own empty bottle at a water fountain. Buy yourself a latte. I know it’s one extra thing to carry, but you will find a way.

8. Check the Nutrition Nazi at the Gate. There is a time for shameless application of goldfish, raisins, graham crackers, and peanuts. This is that time.

9. DD. It no longer means a enviable bra size. Now it stands for Double Diaper.

10. Gettin’ Around on the Ground: If your Bot is crawling, stuff into the diaper bag a rolled-up twin sheet or other thin piece of fabric that can be spread out in the waiting area, and then on the floor under your seat. Even if they’re already walking, this provides a good play area in the airport, and then on the plane, you can just let ’em take a nap under your feet without worrying that they’ll be snacking on the dropped pretzels of the last person who sat in your seat.

11. (It’s a Baker’s Ten) Don’t Bring Anything New (Or Really, Really Old): Flight Number Nine, where hubris caught up with me: So there I was in the middle of Idaho accompanied only by a twenty-two month-old, a thirty-eight month-old, an antique, diabetic carry-on cat, a diaper bag, a computer bag, a Spiderman rollie bag, two stuffed bears as big as the Bots, and a stroller provided by my mother, that hadn’t been in service since it had carried my younger brother’s diapered ass in 1971. Diabetes of course means that a lot of peeing can be expected. A collapsible metal stroller thirty-five years old means that, in spite of extensive testing in the garage, where it actually seemed cool, it might collapse with the twenty-two month-old in it, in front of a long line of strangers at the security gate. Whoops.

*   *   *

The only good thing about flying with small children is that you eventually get where you are going, and you do not have to spend fourteen hours wishing you had a sound-proof divider between the driver seat and the back. The only other good thing is that strangers, reminded of how grateful they are not to be you, often offer to help. They carry bags. They attempt to re-construct the stroller. Except when it was built before the first Arab oil embargo and collapses with your child in it. Then they cease making eye contact, no doubt fearing potential liability and also suspecting that you are actually, really, in fact, insane.

And keep this in mind: It will soon be over. You will soon be on vacation. In a strange place without baby gates in the right places or familiar beds or blankets; with knives in unchildproofed drawers at eye-level.

And remember, even for the completely prepared ultramommy, it’s still–in the immortal words of Woody and Buzz: not really flying. It’s falling, with style. Or without.

The Octoped Goes Into Space at the Stomach Center

Image taken by the Hubble telescope of a "baby star nursery." http://www.emol.org

Yesterday we went to the Arizona Stomach Center. Which is what Mbot calls the Arizona Science Center, because of the giant plastic stomach in the permanent exhibition about the body. Mbot has a love-hate relationship with the stomach. He loves to talk about it, looks forward to seeing it, remembers it rapturously…but when we are actually within visual contact of the giant stomach, he is terrified of it. The giant stomach grumbles, groans, and gurgles. The last time it belched, Mbot shot out of it like a flu bug into the toilet.

It was our first family outing to ASC sans wheels. We were a walking family unit, an octoped. And what was more, I wasn’t carrying anyone, so I actually had a chance to put on lipstick. We were an eight-footed being with makeup on. It was a momentous occasion on all fronts. It was a good change. The kind of change I like, instead of a bad change, the kind I fear.

Before we left home, I bought us a family annual pass online. It almost paid for itself in one visit.

When we got there, it was to find that the Van Gogh Alive! exhibition and the IMAX movies were $8 and $6 extra, respectively. I didn’t mind paying the extra, although by midafternoon, the Bots made it abundantly clear that they would prefer to return to Van Gogh in not less than ten years.

We always try to include an IMAX movie–partly because they are fabulous, and partly because they give me forty-five minutes to sit down. I cherish such moments of stillness. Yesterday, “Hubble 3-D” was in town. We bought a supply of water, caffeine, and peanut M&Ms, and grabbed four pairs of giant 3D glasses.

The lights went down. Gbot laid back in Husbot’s arms, both of them limp as overcooked stringbeans, Gbot looking like a miniature Elton John. As the first strains of the overly loud, overdramatic soundtrack filled the theater, Mbot bolted into my lap. “Can we go now?” he asked. Over and over again for the next forty-five minutes, he asked this. I held him tight, tried to distract him with M&Ms, and assured him that we could go right after the next rocket went into space. (And the next, and the next.)

Meanwhile, I stared awestruck over his shoulder at the images of space clouds trillions of miles across, the birthplace of stars. Scientists had christened the shining pinpoints of new light “tadpoles,” because the solar wind caused by their formation blows so hard it gives them a tail. Computer visualization brought the still shots of embryonic stars and galaxies to whirling life.

At the end, Mbot expressed relief that no one in the movie got hurt. The ominous music had led him to expect a monstery plot. He announced that he liked the movie, and opened up his hand to reveal a palmful of half-melted M&Ms that he was now relaxed enough to enjoy. I whipped out a wipie.

This morning, Mbot asked, “Why does the Earth not stop turning?”

My mind groped in emptiness. “Because we were born in motion,” I said, rather helplessly. I was thinking of the images of those stars, all that matter, rotating into being. I was thinking that motion was as much a part of them as the mass that was in motion.

In that moment, I think I found religion.

Ever since reading Chinua Achebe‘s “Things Fall Apart” as a college freshman, I have understood that change is a constant. Chemistry class confirmed it.

But I have always hoped that it can be different.

I always thought that if I did the right thing, if I were careful enough, I could trump change.

But this morning, in those six words I said without even thinking, I really understood it. We are born in space, we are born in time, we are born in flesh, we are born in motion. If you want to groove, you gotta move. I’m not on the ride. I’m in the ride. I am the ride. And no, I didn’t buy mind-altering drugs along with the M&Ms.

Somehow, I’m not as afraid of change now.

Not bad, for some taxpayer dollars, six bucks, and a wipie.

Help! My Three Year-Old Has ESP

                    image via http://www.glamour.com

That is what I’ve thought, several times in the past few months, when Mbot says something that I thought I’d only thought. “Maybe I was talking on the phone when he was in the back seat,” I’d explain to myself, knowing I hadn’t had my phone with me. “Maybe I talk to myself,” I concluded, after the fourth or fifth time Mbot mentioned something that I’d seen or heard or thought.

The first time he did it was about a year ago, when one day I was working on a rewrite of the novel, and he announced that his stuffed animals had shot a potato gun and an avalanche had come down.

But how do you know that’s how the novel starts? I wanted to ask my then 2 1/2 year-old. I had not read it aloud. I had not even talked about it to anyone over the phone. It was old news to Husbot. So where did he get the idea?

Not that I don’t believe in ESP. But I also believe in more mundane explanations.

Tonight, I got a flash of understanding about Mbot’s superpowers.

We were driving home from Grandma’s after a very long day of zoo-going, playing with the new rubber snake, William (a nice snake), and the new wolf grabber toy, Edgar Hochenwaller (their uncle bought them, do not ask me where the names came from), and running after Charlotte, another uncle’s Boston terrier. I had acquiesced to requests to watch Max and Ruby which is on, unfortunately, at 7:30. 7:30 is traditionally bedtime. I knew better.

Past 7:30, Mbot gets upset at anything remotely upsetting, and many things not even remotely upsetting. Tonight, he was upset because Husbot put him in Gbot’s car seat. After the switch, he was upset because Gbot had a stuffie and he only had a plastic cat (William was long forgotten in Grandma’s backyard, and wouldn’t have done anyway, because William isn’t fluffy).There was lots of wailing regarding the plastic cat’s lack of fluffiness. So I did what usually helps me feel better when I’m feeling tired and whiny: I turned up the music. I was all classicalled out for the day, so I had on the beat music.

“Is this Lady Gaga?” Mbot asked, his quavering voice calmer than I’d heard it in twenty minutes.

“It is,” I replied.

“I love this song,” he said. “What’s a pokah face?”

I explained. I attempted to demonstrate to the backseat without endangering our lives. We were going forty-five between stop lights. We were going the long way home. Gbot was already asleep. It was my fervent hope that Mbot would be, too, by the time we pulled up to his bed.

“But I still don’t know what Lady Gaga looks like,” said Mbot.

“We’ll look at a picture on the internet tomorrow,” I promised. “She wears lots of crazy costumes, like superhero costumes.”

There was a thoughtful pause from the back seat.

“Does she wear a net over her face? I think she wears a net over her face.”

Step back. Now how in the name of all the Grammy winners in history did he know that?

Because that’s just what I was thinking at that very moment. That was the picture in my head: Lady Gaga with a black net over her face. Why? The split-second image flashed on screen last Sunday during the Grammy’s after Adele’s win. The announcer had pointed her out to us.

We’d been over at Grandma’s that night, too, for our traditional Sunday night dinner. The owners of the Charlotte the Boston terrier had turned on the Grammy’s. Everyone, including Charlotte, had plopped down in front of the TV. But the Bots were playing–they were horsing around with their uncles, they were patting Charlotte, they were struggling while their pajamas were applied, they were asking for juice and more crackers, neither of which they were given. We went home forty minutes into it.

But Mbot must have seen that image, and heard the name, and put the two together. And then remembered them.

So this is the key to my three year-old’s ESP: Although he appears deaf when I am asking him to put on his socks, he’s taking in gigabytes more than I have given him credit for.

it is a good lesson for me and for all of us: Paying attention actually makes a person appear to have superpowers.

Are you paying close enough attention?

My Secret, No-Fail, Kid-Pleaser Recipe

Binder available at http://www.zazzle.com for $23.50. My Super-Secret No-Fail Kid-Pleaser Recipe, Free!

Yesterday, after posting an ad for the double stroller on Craigslist (somehow forgetting to mention that it weighs 46 pounds empty), and before posting an ad for the baby backpack we used twice, I checked my Twitter account.

I was sending what would be my fourth official Tweet to date (not including blog updates, which happens by magic). I was saying how, after Friday’s carrot Valentine adventure, I had vowed never, ever, ever to pick carrots in large numbers, haul them home, wash them carefully so their top parts stay cute and perky, store them carefully so their bottom parts don’t get flaccid, and then at the last moment, affix to them cut-out hearts on which I’d written a come-hither note for vegephobic preschoolers. But despite my vow, I did it again on Tuesday. Home-grown carrots are the Montessori Way. And besides, this time, it was only fifteen carrot-cards instead of thirty.

Not six hours after I’d Tweeted about how I’d never do it again, Mbot whispered in my ear, “Sank you for making carrot Valentines.” So of course I had to officially reneg on my vow. For that, I would do it all over again. Fortunately, carrot season only lasts ten weeks.

But there I was on Twitter and some outfit named RookieMoms had just Tweeted and, finding the name intriguing and justifying my procrastination as blog research, I clicked. And that’s how I found out about RookieMoms (hilarious, helpful, go there, as soon as you finish reading this), and the new cookbook called  Parents Need to Eat, Too, by Debbie Koenig, with recipes that can be made in stages during naptime and then eaten with one hand. A beautiful thing, a practical book aimed at the one-handed creatures women become directly after childbirth.

So today, inspired by Heather and Whitney (the girl geniuses behind RookieMoms), and Debbie Koenig, I am self-publishing my own cookbook. Right here. In this very post. It consists of my Secret, No-Fail, Kid-Pleaser Recipe. That’s right: just one recipe, but it is a good one. It may not help with the under-two set, but it’s magic for the picky two-and-up demographic. And it’s fast and easy.

Here it is:

Put it on a stick.

Gbot demonstrates his technique.

Anything. Frozen cherries. Apples. Pears. Cherry tomatoes. Pieces of steak. Melon chunks. Squares of spinach and mushroom omelet. Broccoli. Yesterday’s defrosted banana wheat pancakes. Chicken with peanut sauce. This last one has already been done and served at weddings across the nation, but they use sharp, pointy sticks, and these are the kind of sticks I use:

Anything not sharp and pointy. Anything that is not a fork. Forks are boring.

Popsicle sticks bought at the craft store. Tongue depressors (preferably previously unused). Bendy straws. Non-bendy straws. Straight pretzels. (That way, they can eat the stick, too.)

Sticks: They’re not just for Popsicles anymore.

What’s your easiest no-fail recipe?

Can be eaten with one or two hands.

The View From 43 Inches and 42 Months: A Photo Essay

Impromptu photo shoot at Grandma’s house this afternoon.

By Mbot

1. Wow, look at that slouch on Mommy.

2. Sharkie Shark resting.

3. Gbot’s and my Mickey Mouse umbrellas. I could reach them if I wanted to.

4. The dining table. Why do they make them at eye level?

5. The chicken in my Fisher Price farm house.

6. One of four pictures of the statue of the little girl that I have always loved.

7. Portrait of the artist as a young man.

8. The fascinating switch for the gas to the fireplace, that I am not allowed to touch.

9. “No, Mbot. Give that camera back to your mother!”

What did your day look like?

This is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life: A Story of Full Bladders and More

If he knew there were bags like this, Mbot might not mind so much if his bladder exploded. (www.bags99.com)

Sunday morning I awoke in the strangest way. The room was getting light. Somewhere in the distance, maybe from Mbot’s room, two little voices trilled away with what sounded like…simultaneous happiness?

It was intensely surreal. My body never awakesn me these days, and certainly not when it’s already light out. Someone else’s body always awakens me first, when the light itself is still asleep.

Is this what other parents experience? I thought. Is this why other parents don’t seem as tired as I always feel? I lay there in bliss except that my bladder was telling me that the cup was about to runneth over.

I have warned Mbot against holding it. He will not go in the morning until I tell him that his bladder is going to explode. The first time I did this, after I’d explained what a bladder was, I went on to describe how disappointed Mrs. Pursell would be if I were to bring him to school in a lunch bag labeled “Mbot, Exploded.” By that time, he had depanted himself and boarded the potty.

As I explained how, during circle time, Mrs. Pursell would be so sad because he could not participate, he began giggling, and also industriously raising the water level in the potty by about two inches. I told him that was good, because I would hate to go to school to pick him up, having forgotten that he’d exploded that morning, and wait for him to run out of the classroom, only to have Mrs. Pursell hand me the lunch bag. There wouldn’t be any point in staying after school to play, since his friends wouldn’t be very interested in playing with a lunch bag that smelled like potty.

I admit that, in the context of our adult world, brimming over with horrors from the Middle East on out, the story could be maudlin. But to a child, for whom explosions are exciting and bladder explosions are gross, it works.

I got out of bed, because I didn’t, on the first day of my calm, delightful, fully-rested life, want my bladder to explode.

By that time, Gbot had started to wail. Surrealism metamorphosed back into realism.

But I will cling to those first ten minutes of February 12, 2012. I will pull out that feeling  when I need a reminder that there will be other moments like that, and of–in spite of my tendency toward crankiness–how lucky I am. But I will have to be careful. How would Husbot explain to Mbot if my heart exploded?

A Good Idea at the Time: A Cautionary Valentine’s Tale

The way to put a damper on a choco-holiday.

I am not a fan of the way Americans tend to celebrate minor holidays, as though they were cosponsored by The Association of Sugar Beet Growers and whoever manufactures insulin for the mass market.

As Husbot–who never uses the last paper towel on the roll because of the glue–can attest, waste makes me unreasonable. And so when I returned to the garden yesterday, and saw the row of carrots–which get less sweet with each passing day–I can sympathize–stretching into the distance, I decided to make their little carrot lives count. I dug and yanked and dug and yanked, thinking, I will make carrot soup, and carrot cake, and carrot pancakes. I will give these to neighbors, and friends, and teachers, and I will bring them to the Toddler Valentines Party. Every toddler should know what a carrot is supposed to taste like. My own have been eating them like candy since our Adventures with the Earth. With such a high natural sugar content, the little beta-carotene bombs practically are candy. Practically being the key word.

They keep best stored in water in the fridge, and so I didn’t get them ready ’til just before take-off. Of course, I could have cut out thirty paper hearts and written thirty cheerful messages and taped them to thirty paper strips, the night before. I did not. The older I get, the less sympathy I have with my last minute rushes to reach ambitious goals that I knew about yesterday. I finished attaching the hearts, via paper bands and Scotch tape, to the carrots, in the driver’s seat of the Midgetmobile, because I realized that if I wanted to finish the project before the party ended, Bot immobilization was required, and since I haven’t gotten around to ordering those cages that hang from the ceiling, I had to settle for five-point harnesses in the back seat.

The carrot cards were a hit–at least with the mothers. One child, who has a garden of his own, ate it before he opened his Skittles. As for my own children, Gbot stationed himself in front of the chocolate cake pops and managed to eat half of four of them. Mbot finished a cake pop, stole his brother’s Skittles, sneaked the Tootsie pop I told him he could have after school, moved on to the Jello hearts, and begged for a cupcake, which we took home with us. And which, upon returning home, Gbot attempted to reach by balancing the bathroom stool on the dog bed.

I understand. If I found carrots–even the greatest carrots ever–in my Christmas stocking, I’d write hate letters to Santa. And the Bots cannot just reach into the freezer for a handful of chocolate chips whenever they want. But the obligatory sugar load still makes me cringe.

We’ve got a month to detox before we do it all over again, except then the sugar will be green instead of red. Carrots will be out of season. But the broccoli might be ready.

Doublefisting the cake pops and the jello hearts.