Eeny, Meeny , Miney, Mo, Catch An Owl By The Toe

An adolescent owl hanging upside down by the claws of one foot twenty feet up in the eucalyptus tree is one of those things you don’t expect to see when you pull over for an emergency potty stop.

I’d bundled the bots into the car because the morning started too early and by one p.m., everyone was tired, fussy, hitty, whiney, bursty-into-tearsy and refusing to admit to any of the above. Gbot fell asleep almost as soon as the latch on his carseat clicked. Mbot took longer…and after ten minutes on the road, he revealed with urgency what was keeping him awake.

So, while Gbot slept in the car and Mbot sat in the buff on the traveling potty seat in the minty-smelling shade of the old eucalyptus at the edge of a field, I heard a rustling from above and looked up, to find two yellow eyes staring at me from within a mass of leaves and feathers. The adolescent owl, hanging upside down like a bat. Every now and then it tried half-heartedly to flap its half-spread wings.

My first thought was motherly: I would of course climb the tree and rescue the owl.

But so many obstacles stood in my way: my general lack of tree-climbing skills, the fact I had two bots with me who needed a mother who had not fallen twenty feet out of a tree, and the absence in my glove box of leather gauntlets. Or protective eye gear.

I considered calling the animal control people. Or the fire station. In a Richard Scarry book, a group of pigs wearing sieves for helmets would rush from the fire station, extend a red ladder, and carry him down into the waiting wings of his mommy.

In our world, though, I knew both the firemen and the animal control people would be too busy to attend this small crisis. So I called Husbot.  He’d lived near these eucalyptus trees and had watched the owls who nested here for over a decade.

While Gbot slept on and Mbot made patterns in the loose, dry soil with his bare toes as he perched on the travel potty, Husbot told me what he knew. “There’s nothing you can do,” were his first words. He had read my mind through the ether.

He explained that the youngster had probably been blown over by the gusty winds, and was clinging because he knew he’d fall if he let go. Apparently, red-tailed hawks were the little fellow’s only enemy at this point (along with gravity, I thought wryly), and his mother was in that tree watching for them, Husbot assured me. Come night, she’ll bring him food. When he finally loses his grip, he’ll fly. Or not. But he probably will. He’s fully feathered. He’ll surprise himself and land across the road near the sump pond. There’s nothing you can do.

I since learned, in a post by the folks at the blog, that I could, set up a rappel system, buy a pole saw, helmet, and leather gloves, and actually get him down, but I just don’t think even Mbot and Gbot together would have provided an adequate or reliable counter-weight.

The only thing I could do was to try to hurry Mbot at his task, because I felt our presence was making the owl nervous. But of course there was no hurrying him; my own youngster was enjoying the feel of the warm breeze on his back. Aaah. There’s nothing like taking a nice poop in the nude under a hanging owl.

We finally finished. We packed out our poop. We will return tomorrow, but whatever the outcome, nature will most likely have erased all signs, at least to my inexperienced eyes. No one will be able to tell that any of us were there, or how large, or small, our emergencies were.

Attack of the No-Stain Bubbles, Part 2: Escape From the Bathroom

I forgot. To throw them. Away.

In the excitement of rescuing my children and my towels from the no-stain colored bubbles in the bathtub last week (see Who? Who Bought These Things?), I had shoved the half-full bottle of green bubbles high onto a shelf in the medicine cabinet.

Then I forgot about it.

Gbot did not.

In The Diary of a Reluctant Mother’s recent post, Deni Lyn asks, Is It Possible to Baby Proof My Judgement? The short answer, according to her and her commenters, was, No. And now it seems I’ve discovered that it’s impossible to baby proof my memory.

Last night, Husbot and I fell asleep to the calming white noise of the air filter. (Husbot’s allergic to spring.) I thought, as I drifted off, “I must turn that off. I will not be able to hear Gbot when he wakes up tomorrow morning.” Then I promptly fell asleep.

Eight hours later, the person (I can’t remember who) in my dream shouted “No! Noooo!” But his voice sounded just like Mbot’s. I opened my eyes. A long, high-pitched wail shot down the hall. I bolted upright and ran.

To find this:

The scene of the crime.

And this:

The criminal.

Mbot had tried valiantly to get the bottle away from Gbot. The clash of SuperMbot vs. The Green Gbot had awoken me.

Both bots went into the bathtub.

The sheets went into the wash. So Mbot’s pajamas, which, along with the sheets, bore the brunt of the struggle. So did Spruce Bear.

The bubbles went, finally, down the drain.

This isn’t Hollywood. Surely, they can’t come back to haunt me again. Right?

The Germs vs. The Marshmallows

Although it kind of sounds like something out of West Side Story–The Sharks vs. The Jets–The Germs vs. The Marshmallows isn’t quite so dramatic. The soundtrack’s not as good, and the choreography consists mainly of small jumps with our butts sticking out.

But, like the Broadway musical from the sixties, it’s mainly about human nature.

Here is among the first things I heard today, over the sound of running water as Mbot washed his hands after dashing to the bathroom so he wouldn’t explode:

Mbot: “Mom, do germs get germs on their hands, too?”

It’s proof, without a DNA test (as though the nine-months of crankiness, the spectacular expansion of the varicose vein network, and the C-section scar aren’t enough) that I am his biological mother.

The answer, of course, was ‘Oh yes. But for germs, SOAP is a germ! Cuz it makes them sick! Hah!” (And if THAT doesn’t mess with your sense of egocentrism, just wait ’til you’re a little older and we can discuss the theory of relativity (in laypersons’ terms, of course) and the fact that the popular physicists these days think there are multiple universes!)

I’m not bragging here, because I obviously didn’t go on to win the Nobel Prize in Anything, but when I was in the sixth grade, I used to walk the quarter mile to school by myself, and think things like this: I am going to school. But how do I know that I am going to school, and not that the school is coming to me?

And then I would go over all the reasons I could think of that the school wasn’t coming to me: If my friend Solveig, walking from the other direction, was also going to school, then, if the school were coming to me, she would never get there. But she DID always get there….I also figured that, from the point of view of Auke Bay, which was on my right, the school wasn’t moving either. Etc., etc. And so, at the age of eleven, I came to the conclusion that we lived in a world of shared perceptions, and whichever perceptions were shared by the most people seemed to constitute reality.

I didn’t put it into those words. I don’t think I ever put it into any words.

And it is more complicated than that. But I was on the right track. And the recognition that perceptions differ is an important part of empathy that parents and teachers try to strengthen in toddlers and pre-Ks, who don’t develop the ability to empathize until they are older. (Some, like those who caused the housing bubble and own large banks, never do.)

It is much more natural to only consider our own perceptions, and to defend our own existence in this world, just to keep ourselves real, in a very corporal sense. Thus, the last thing I heard this afternoon:

Gbot: “I have a dangerous butt to shoot out marshmallows! Psht! Psht! Psht!”

That line never made it into West Side Story. A shame, that.

I Just Got a D in Preschool Snack Procurement


Last Friday Mbot was sent home from preschool with a big red bag and a list of food items I needed to bring into class on Monday. I’ve been faced with the big red bag and the accompanying list twice before; approximately every three months it’s our turn to buy a week’s worth of snacks for the Joshua Tree classroom. The list changes all the time.

I’ve always done the shopping well ahead because who wants to be the mom who can’t even find the caramel dipping sauce for the apple slices? (Although I had to visit three stores before I found it.)

But this weekend, having succeeded twice before, I was lulled into a sense of my own competence. And so, on Monday morning, when I looked at the list on the way to library story and craft time, I read along nodding: ten bagels, a container of cream cheese, a bunch of bananas, a bag of carrots, etc. etc. And then: Gogurts. Followed by: Pretzel Flipz.

Were they typos, spelling mistakes, or trademarked names for packaged foods I’d never heard of? I feared the last. There was no one around to ask. I couldn’t Google it because I left my smart phone in my other life, the one in which I’m savvy and hip. Hell, if I had a smart phone, I’m sure I’d already know what Gogurts where, just because hello, doesn’t everyone?

I cheated on the Pretzel Flipz and bought the funnest looking pretzels I could see, in little tic-tac-toe shapes. But after failing to find anything called Gogurts in the trail mix aisle, I admitted defeat.

I had to turn in the big red bag without having completed the assignment. I didn’t have time to explain my performance, which, if not improved within twenty-four hours, would surely result in midafternoon cries of starvation emanating from the Joshua Tree classroom.

By now, I have discovered that Gogurts are, of course, individual tubes of flavored yogurt that can be sucked directly out of the bag. I will go buy some this afternoon. Although, if I do say so: gross.

We are all learning something in preschool.

What You Didn’t Know About Edamame

Unfortunately, they are a perfect fit, like house keys into electrical outlets. (

We went to Costco today, the bots and I. By 11:50, it was ninety-two degrees, and we were heading home to lunch. Mbot, who’d been angling for the cashews resting on the floor beneath his feet, asked what was we’d be eating. Maybe edamame, I said, because a family-sized box of frozen soybeans in the shell was staring at me from the passenger seat.

We buy edamame whenever I remember to. I love it but then forget about it. Before the age of two, Gbot was adept at popping the little soybeans directly from the pod into his mouth. He loves it, but then forgets about it. Mbot can take it or leave it. Or play with it.

“What’s edamame?” he asked, and I was surprised, because his memory is like the Hotel California: what checks in never leaves.

“It’s those…” I paused because I was trying to change lanes and at the same time think of a better word than “things” and a more accurate word than “peas” without using the word “beans.” Mbot took care of my dilemma.

“Those things you put in your nose and then blow out and then put in your mouth!” he cried.

“Yes, Mbot,” I said. “That’s right.”

What does “edamame” mean to you?

Who? Who Bought These Things?

Who needs horror movies? Certainly not mothers, for whom horror is just a bottle of colored, no-stain bubbles away.

Can I blame my mother-in-law? Husbot? Santa Claus?


In a moment of innocence that turned out to be idiocy, optimism that turned to dismay, I purchased colored bubbles. “No-stain colored bubbles!” to be exact.

If you are a child, a fiberglass tub, or a concrete floor, the advertising stands up. They are indeed no-stain colored bubbles.

But if you are, say, a cotton towel that was a beachy Caribbean green, you are now a beachy Caribbean green with splotches of orange and lurid pthalo green.

Two plusses: As you can see, the bots loved them. And they blew really good bubbles.

But I’m just thinking colored no-stain bubbles: one of those inventions that should have never left the drawing board.

Can you think of any more?

Does this lipstick work with my eyes?

I Gleefully Accept the Liebster Award Even As My Pergo Is Being Laid Crosswise

Thank you, SoapfisMom, for nominating me for the Liebster Award two weeks ago. You and your bot provide endless entertainment, and it is gratifying to know that my stories of chaos are also entertaining an audience, too, even if its an audience of under 200 followers. Such are the rules of accepting the award, and I fall squarely into that category. The rules indicate that I link back to my nominator, Soapfi’s Mom at, and must invite five other bloggers to join me in Liebsterland (not to be confused with Lobsterland, of which David Foster Wallace surely would not have approved, unless it was a no-kill shelter for crustaceans). I will name them below although I am unsure of their follower numbers. (The Liebsters, not the lobsters.)

I would have announced the award earlier, but springtime has brought an increased sense of racing on a treadmill set to go just faster than I can run. I’ve managed to keep the bots, myself, the dog, and the cat alive, but I usually feel like I’ve been tossed off the back of the treadmill and landed with a belly flop on the gym floor.

The proof is that the carpet is dead.

The late carpet inhabited in the bot’s room. June, the puppy who I rescued from a no-kill shelter ten years ago, who wasn’t quite potty trained, is now the eleven year-old dog who isn’t quite potty trained. And she decided a while back that the finest spot on the earth to pee was in Mbot’s room. And then, in a rare moment of inter-species cooperation, the antique cat decided she was right.

The carpet passed away in spite of liberal use of Nature’s Miracle and the friendly neighborhood Chem-Dry men.

Pergo looked like the most practical option. The price per square foot’s not bad, but labor more than doubles the cost. Husbot said, “Not this month. Preferably, not this year.”

I mentioned the alternative: ripping up the carpet and emptying fifty boxes of kitty litter onto the floor. The bots would love having their whole bedroom turned into a sandbox.

This kitty bears a spooky resemblance to the Antique Cat. Has he been peeing in the bots' room, too? (

Twenty-four hours later, in a surprise move from left field, Husbot had ripped up the carpet, pulled out the tacks, scraped the concrete, and actually disposed of everything. I went to Lowe’s to pick out the exact product that I’d envisioned (the cheap stuff that still looked good). It wasn’t in stock, so I got my second choice. I enjoyed envisioning the new look, with the pale Beech finish brightening the small room and the long faux-planks of the laminate flooring stretching from the door to the opposite wall to visually enlarge the room.

The next day was Tuesday. Our fabulous neighbor, Mr. Jeff, who has come to my rescue at least once before when I was Locked Out, Braless, On a Monday Morning, agreed to install it with Husbot as his man Friday. The weebots and I were evicted from the premises at 8 a.m.

We’d have retreated to Grandma’s, but Grandma’d had a tooth pulled that morning. We were on our own.

We ventured to a park that we don’t normally go to, due to the presence of a duck pond Mbot fell into last summer and my desire to avoid a drippy sequel. We rode bikes. We played on unfamiliar and therefore thrilling playground equipment. We swang for a long, long, long time. We sang while we swang:

Who comes back,

Gbot comes back,

Gbot comes back to me.

He swings in the sky so high, oh my!

But he always comes back, you’ll see….

Gbot: “Sing the Gbot comes back song again!”

We did this thirty times.

We fed the ducks. Our feet stayed on the ground. Gbot decided to ride his bike to the other end of the pond, fast, all by himself. In spite of my bellowing with my Mommy Voice. Gbot did not, in fact, come back.

Fastforwarding past the traumatic retrieval and reprimand, we went to the Y, where the bots played for thirty-six minutes while I plodded for twenty-four minutes onto a low endorphin plateau via the treadmill (set to “crawl”.) The endorphins may be the only reason I made it to my martini eight hours later, after dropping Mbot at school, driving Gbot around waiting for a nap that wouldn’t come, working on my computer via the wifi in the Starbucks parking lot when the nap finally did come, picking up Mbot, and going to the aquarium and zoo for the final two hours of our lockout.

Exhausted and hot, we finally arrived home. The house was empty and the floor was in and beautiful and….crosswise.

I hadn’t mentioned the orientation of the planks because it had never occurred to me that someone might lay it crosswise.

The destruction of an assumption is always so shocking because it shows you (yet again) that the place where your imagination and your reality intersect is about the size of a breadcrumb floating on a pond.

But it looks clean. It smells clean. It is clean.

And I am still exhausted from the day.

Here is my one (sorry, pathetic, I know) nomination for inductees into Liebsterland. The remaining four must wait until I scrape myself up off the floor.

Rebecca Lerner’s, a blog about urban foraging which probably has well over 200 followers. But still, this is an awesome blog about learning about the earth and sustainable living, which I appreciate as a mom with bots whom I’d like to be able to teach the difference between a good plant and a bad plant. (And also as a mom who just had Pergo installed. Even laid crossways, it’s 100% recycled.)

Those Aren’t Red-Headed Beetlebugs….

Goat Camp Trail: Home of the Red-Headed Beetlebug

I grew up in Alaska. When he went for a family hike, my father packed heat. The bad guys were large and had global reputations, like the Taliban: bears. Whatever bugs we encountered were large and annoying but generally benign.

Now I live in Arizona. Here in the desert, the big guys are benign (coyotes) and the good guys are little and have global reputations. But there are a lot that are little that you’ve never heard of.

On Sunday, we went for a family hike in the desert.

I packed everything we would need: sunscreen, water, extra pants, a picnic lunch, a gray-and-white wash rascal (right), and an Angry Bird (below).

I did not bring a Sonoran Desert Insect Identification Book, which perhaps would have served us better.

It was a lovely, cool morning, one of the last we’ll enjoy until October, possibly November. Everyone was cheerful. (Except the bird). Everyone was cooperative and enthusiastic and energetic.

Mbot took a picture:

Gbot took a picture:

As we hiked up the wide, gentle trail, Husbot, a native Arizonan, pointed high in the sky at turkey vultures gliding on updrafts. He pointed into the shadow of a fiery-blossomed creosote bush, where an Arizona skink was, according to Mbot, looking for his family. He pointed to the prickly prong of a saguaro, and I saw the tiny crested profile of a phainopepla:

Who knew? (

He showed the bots mesquite and brittle bush and jojoba and even some mistletoe entwined in the branches of palo verde tree. We admired the sunny bloom of a chain cholla.

Husbot and Gbot marched along in front of me and Mbot. Suddenly I spotted a really cool bug in the sparse growth beside the trail. I was pleased at sighting something Husbot had missed.

“Look at that!” I exclaimed, pointing for Mbot. “A red-headed beetlebug!* (*fictional name.)

Even in Alaska I’ve gone out of my way to avoid bugs. I have had people cross town on bicycles to kill spiders for me. I am trying not to pass this inconvenient aversion on to the next generation. “And look!” I cried with what was genuine enthusiasm, because these bugs really were so cool, about two inches long and yellow with bright red heads. And they were moving slowly and we could always run. “Another! And another!”

We stepped to the edge of the trail to get a really good look before I realized there were at least ten of them, crawling slowly but inexorably closer. Look at these things!” I called to Husbot.

Holding Gbot’s hand, he retraced his steps. Half way back, he said, “They’re wasps, Honey.” He turned on the Daddy Voice. “Alright, guys, let’s not get too close. They can sting and hurt people.”

We attempted to beat a hasty retreat, but one of us dropped to the dust and began to cry. “I want to see da wed-headed beetlebugs! I want to see da wed-headed beetlebugs!”

But it turned out both of us were wrong. I wasn’t even trying to be right, and Husbot realized just after he made his daddy announcement that the army of insects was a troop of harmless blister beetles–iron cross blister beetles, to be exact. Still, they can bite. And it seemed easier to continue our retreat and let the bots be wary of red and yellow bugs marching toward them in the desert. “Because,” according to Husbot, “usually they’re not good.”

Husbot scooped up the fallen party. Further along the trail, we actually picnicked peacefully in the shade of an ironwood tree.

So time to read up at Knowledge is the power to avoid crying in the dust.

I Picture Making Myself A Giant Pair of Wings

I do not have dreams in which I perform exhilarating acts of athleticism. My brother-in-law, on the other hand, reports experiencing dynamic mountain descents on skis and bicycles whether he is conscious or not.

I tend to dream things like my entire family is a herd of elk.

But yesterday, a conversation with Husbot triggered a memory of a dream in which I could fly.

Because yesterday we were at the zoo. We’d made it past the giraffes, the zebras, and the peach-faced lovebirds to the very furthest corner, the home of the white rhino. (He is white like my car  is blue–in name only, before the dust settled.) After marveling at the double horn that almost doubled the size of his already massive head, and at his whole unbelievably prehistorical self in general, we retreated to a bench to eat our picnic lunch beside a pen in which two furry sleeping balls balanced on a branch above a sign reading “ring-tailed lemurs.”

I asked Mbot what animal he would want to be if he were an animal. He wanted to be the rhino so he could step in the mud.

Gbot wanted, for reasons I have not yet ascertained, to be a warthog.

Then I asked Husbot.

“A peach-faced love-bird,” he replied.

He was joking, but he insisted he’d want to be a bird.

Why? I asked, to the obvious answer:

“So I could fly.”

And then I remembered my dream, the one in which I could fly.

It was the most remarkable feeling, flying. It was an exhilarating freedom, soaring on wings over rooftops. There were a few of us up there, although I can’t remember exactly who they were. It was so lovely and so…quiet.

It was quiet because as long as we were aloft, borne on our own wings, we could not speak.

We had to descend to perch on wires and fence posts in order to talk to one another. While we were flying, we were mute, isolated in our freedom.

I was glad to remember that dream. To recall not only the visceral thrill of soaring weightless through space, but the limitations that accompany achieving such freedom.

Then a herd of schoolchildren approached, trampling the calm and raising dust and hooting at the lemurs to awaken them, perhaps from dreams of flight.

What Kind Of Parent Am I?

I told you I could do it myself.

I imagine there are some parents who can spend three minutes helping their three year-old in the bathroom while their two year-old sits at the breakfast table sedately finishing the Hole-‘n’-Oats in his bowl while the cereal box sits on the counter not quite out of reach.

Evidently, I am not one of those parents.

Tell the truth. I promise not to feel bad. Are you?