Fifty Million Shades of Okay (Part 2)

is what I should have named last night’s post. Except that it was very late by the time I finally sat down to write, and the title I ended up Twittering and Facebooking across the land was not only not entirely accurate but also grammatically incorrect.

Gbot hard at work painting a giant rocket in the craft room of the Phoenix Children’s Museum, because I didn’t take a picture of him fabric surfing.

But speaking of okay, Husbot sent me to the spa on Sunday. I’d done a solo fifteen-hour marathon (isn’t that an Ironman?) (and not unlike those I do many days) with the bots Saturday, including trips to the Phoenix Children’s Museum, the swimming pool, and that massive mecca of fabric, 35th Avenue Sew & Vac (tip: do NOT go here with Gbot, who will, when left to himself for thirty seconds (my mistake–I admit to letting go of his hand and turning my back), will attempt to bodysurf across the floor on a bolt of extra-thick-‘n’-fluffy fleece, to his mother’s mortification (I quote: “Who’s child IS that?” At least that’s what I wanted to say.)), and I guess that evening it showed. Maybe it was the three glasses of wine I downed at Grandma’s house during dinner. I ALWAYS pay when I drink three glasses of wine, and the next morning, indeed, I was wishing a third glasses hadn’t sounded so good–nay, so necessary–at the time, when Husbot walked in the door from his morning dog walk and announced that I would be at the spa from 9:45 until three that afternoon.

My first thought of course was, “and WHO is paying for it?” But he assured me it had been “reasonable” and that I deserved it. I knew he was right about that last one, and hey, one outta two beats Vegas odds, so, as he packed up the Husbotmobile, I transferred a pile of dirty dishes to the dishwasher so I didn’t have to do them after I’d been pampered into noodlishness, and headed over to the historic Wigwam resort, where I crossed the Einstein-Rosen bridge* into a parallel universe.


I’d been to The Red Door Spa a few times, but not since I was pregnant with Mbot, and I hadn’t had a facial in what my good friend Z will tell you had been unforgiveably too long. But Husbot had signed me up for a facial followed by a pedi/mani and then a “makeup refresher,” (to refresh, um, what makeup? I wondered, along with, “is he trying to tell me something?” but looking a gift Husbot in the mouth didn’t seem helpful) at which point I was free to lounge about in any of the “relaxation rooms,” use the outdoor hot tub, or swim, or lounge by the pool in my extra-thick-‘n’-fluffy robe–(almost as good as floor surfing on a bolt of similar fabric).

I didn’t mentally wind down until about forty minutes into the facial, but it did, eventually happen. And afterwards, as I fell asleep briefly on a chaise longue in a relaxation room (look how easy it is to get used to using those words–I don’t even need quotation marks anymore!), I thought, “This feels strange because I never sit down and do nothing. EVER. When I do sit, I sit in front of the computer (or of course on the loo, but even there I do my catalogue shopping). I know I should find time to medidate, but I now think “meditate” is just another word for “sitting and doing nothing and feeling good about it because it is goal-oriented.” Either way, sitting and doing nothing is WAY UNDERRATED.

Personal experience has verified that it is not so easy to return through the wormhole, and that it is a very good thing children exert a very strong gravitational pull.

I returned home a nicely altered version of myself, and escaped after spending only a little bit more on a small tube of exfoliation goop called Phytomer Vegetal Exfoliant. My esthetician had revealed that it had been known to significantly reduce hyperpigmentation, that pesky result of pregnancy and aging. Fifty million shades of hyperpigmentation are not so much okay.

So last night I used it again, and left it on for ten minutes instead of the recommended five, because I was busy, and this morning when I looked in the morning, I actually blinked because the hyperpigmentation on my chin had actually faded. I’m still stumped about how it worked, and so fast…could I have done this years ago? Will it continue to fade? Tune in next year. I’ll let you know. Unless I’m too busy meditating in my extra thick-‘n’-fluffy robe and my new-and-improved shade of okay.

(*contrary to the calculations of physicists, the journey wasn’t difficult at all.)

The Woman Who Mistook Sewing For Her Strength

Robot pants!

(the post formerly known as “The Woman Who Mistook Her Strength as Sewing”–ack!)

I’ve been sewing, and I have to admit, I’m not a natural seamstress, nor a well behaved one. A couple of nights ago, I scared Mbot with the sound I made every time I revved up the old Singer and the thread, instead of zooming through the fabric to do its sewy thing, popped back out through the hole of the needle instead, because I hadn’t pulled it through far enough to keep this from happening. I had to stop, rethread the needle (read: consider putting on my reading glasses, which I don’t need except to read the labels on children’s medicine bottles, not put them on because it adds an extra step, and push the camelesque thread through the hole of the needle, which seemed to grow smaller each time this happened.)

But. I like to make cute things I can’t buy. I like to make them for others. I like to discover great fabrics in strange places and modify patterns. But the design process does way more for me than the actual real work at the machine.

But the design process forces me to confront one of my mental weaknesses: while I can sculpt a decent (depending I am sure on who you ask) human or animal in wax or clay, if I’m faced with an  interfacing with undulating edges and pants with an undulating top edge, that I have to put together a certain way in order to turn the final product inside out and upside down and have it be right–my mind fails to make the necessary leaps for me. I mean, really fails. I have to actually think hard about it, hold the pieces up to one another, go through the motions of turning them as if already sewn together, and then write it down–still not entirely sure that it will actually be right in the end–because I will forget. It’s like the part of my brain that should be standing by ready to visualize piecing 2D shapes into semi-complex 3D forms with a 3/8″ selvage was left in the gene pool when I hopped out (along with the extra three inches I really could use between the hip and ankle). I am sure Coco Chanel and Linda McCartney never had this problem.

And so, to make myself feel better, along with having a glass of wine, I told myself that my brain is wizzled like a dried shiitake in that particular module, other parts of it are firing in fun (if not entirely useful) ways. For example, mild synesthesia runs in my family. Her Wikiness describes it thus: “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Many writers, musicians, and artists have it–some of the famous ones have (or had, in the case of the dead ones). A few weeks ago, a young musician on NPR’s “From the Top” (one of my favorite radio programs ever), described how she experiences each musical note as a bright color. Some people do drugs to get this way; some people are born this way. But as I mentioned in the beginning, mine’s not exactly an acid trip. It’s mild.

Both my sister and I assign colors to numbers (mine didn’t match up with hers), and I recall being annoyed as a child that seven was gray, since it was my favorite number, and green was my favorite color. But there was no helping it: seven was the color of a thundercloud. Not even a pretty shade of gray. A medium, flat, not-particulary-blue variety. As far as seven goes, there are not, in fact, fifty shades of gray.

It was much later that I realized not everyone shared my strong feelings about odd and even numbers, either. And it was only very recently that I learned this particular form of synesthesia has a name: “ordinal linguistic personification.” Even numbers–even the word “even,” clanged in my ears–they were harsh, ungiving, metallic. Odd numbers–even the word “odd,” on the other hand–were soft, benign, giving. They were comfortable numbers. Even writing this,  I feel it is an obvious statement and that it’s foolish of me to call attention to it when everybody already knows.

Although seven was my only strong color association, the others had distinct feels, shapes, and personalities. I still wonder if these are based on the sound of the name of the number as it is spoken, or its shape on the page. I think both, nearly perhaps weighted a few points to the side of the sound in my ear.

I don’t like three. It’s a showoff. It’s important and it knows it. Three and five are not “normal” odd numbers. They are too strong, harsh, bold. They are even numbers masquerading as odd, or odd numbers dressed up as even–the drag queens of the number world. The odd numbers that act lkie odd numbers are one, seven, nine, eleven–none of the teens–twenty one, twenty-seven–not, for some reason, twenty-nine (too brassy), etc. Ten is full of itself and overly confident, sharp and black. Eleven is soft. It is waltzing. Twelve is hard, solid. You can’t push twelve around. Thirteen is brash but feminine. Fourteen is boring. I would not want to marry fourteen. I would not even date fourteen.

Anyway. You get the idea.

And so, although I am mentally wrestling with my current sewing project, at least the numbers on my fabric ruler keep me company. I don’t think this makes me crazy–at least not in a bad way. And besides, according to Oliver Sacks (neurologist and author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, among other great readable nonfiction reads), who writes about all sorts of neurological phenomena, there are five million shades of normal. Or five million shades of crazy. Depending how you see it.

robot pants, from the front.

I Love You But do I Have to LOVE You Every Day?

In belated celebration of my one-year blogiversary, I’m reposting the post I posted exactly a year ago, 13 days after arriving in Bloggingshire. There’s no particular reason I chose today to celebrate being with WordPress for nearly the gestation period of a manatee, except that I’ve been meaning to look back, and I finally got the chance. So here we go:

*  *  *

Due to operator error, yesterday’s post was not published ’til this morning, marking my official Off Blogday debut since September 13. My sister (the one who has ten shelf-feet of National Geographic (as compared to Mom’s forty, see Saving the World, One Stick of Secret at a Time), suggested recently that I post once or twice a week. My friend Solveig suggested that a decade ago. Of course I ignored both of them.

I ignored them because I liked the idea of a daily meditation that results in a completed thing outside of myself, little and whole, like a nut.

I still do.

But I have a paying job (a manuscript to edit), and query letters to send, essays to complete, and Midgets who need me to be present outside my head.

Urging me to cut back on the blog, another friend, who wished to remain anonymous, cited a married couple who’d had sex for a hundred and one days straight. People get around the world on rafts in fewer days than that. Annie and Doug Brown did it, literally, so they could write a book about it, like a naked heterosexual version of Julie and Julia. “Can you imagine?” asked my nameless and knowledgeable friend. “I’m sure it got to, ‘Can’t I just enjoy thinking about it for a few days before I have to mount it?”” 

Apparently the book, Just Do It, published in 2008, has a happy ending. After their project, the couple reported that they touched more and felt more intimate. One could argue that soldiers in a foxhole evading flying mortars feel more intimate toward one another afterward, too.

Not that posting 400 words can be compared to either.

If blogging has made one thing abundantly clear to me, it’s how insulated and safe my middle-class American life is.

But back to the point: This post is my official notice that I may miss a post or two. Not that I don’t love to be with you, WordPress. But can’t I just think about you for a few days before…?

Have you had too much of a good thing lately?

Potty + e – t + r = Poetry

Simile Man! Found on, although I don’t know who drew the fab pic.

Overheard from the bathroom:

Mbot: “I need to go as fast as a wolf catches a bunny!”

Several hours later, over heard from the bathroom:

Mbot: “I need to go as much as a meatball needs to be eaten!”

And I just don’t think anything more needs to be said.

Of Stars and Ours

NASA forgot to put grandpas on this diagram.

Mbot has been studying the solar system in preschool, and his newfound knowledge has raised some vexing questions.

Let me backtrack to say that although I’m a champion of science, evolution, and telling children the truth, I also believe in Santa Claus and that we just don’t have explanations for everything–like what happens to you after you die. I’m willing to say, “I don’t know.” But it’s more poetic to say, “you turn into a star.” I kind of like the abstract truth, the law of conservation of matter, the ashes to ashes, dust to dust thing, the fact that the molecules that make up my nasal passages today were at some point in time inside stars, and at some point in time will be something else. And so, when Mbot at the age of two asked tearfully where his Grandpa Ferdie, who passed away many years ago, is, I told him he is a star, and I even pointed one out to him, a very bright star in the winter sky.

The subject comes up intermittantly, and came up again this morning on the way to school, when he asked from the back seat, apropos of nothing, “You mean Grandpa Ferdie is a big ball of gas?”

“Yes,” I replied. Kind of because there was no other answer.

Mbot: “Mrs. Pursell said that every star is a big ball of gas.”

“Yes,” I said again.

Mbot: “That means that Grandpa Ferdie is a big ball of gas.”

“That’s right,” I said.

He seemed content with that.

We’ll save the chemistry books for another day.

Why Isn’t Anybody Peter Parker For Halloween?

The reality of the pretend: even Spiderman can be shy and clingy at a party.

After this Halloween, you might not be able to accurately ask that question. You’d have to ask: Why isn’t anybody but Mbot Peter Parker for Halloween?

Having given up his brief notion of dressing as a nerve cell (Your Body Battles a Stomachache is still a big influence in our house), and after vaccillating between a Ninjago and a Storm Trooper and a Bad Cockroach Spiderman (I’m dropping the hyphen–movie critic Anthony Lane agrees with me that it’s stupid, and the fact checkers at The New Yorker aren’t reading my blog (I only suspect)), yesterday he came up with a truly original idea.

We had friends over to play, and, as usually happens about half way through a playdate at our house, Spiderman and Batman made their appearances, complete with Batman’s froggie rain boots and Spiderman’s doggie rain boots. Batman settled down directly with his scissors to cut Play-Doh, but Spiderman announced that now he was going to turn into Peter Parker. “Help me put on my clothes, Mom.” I eyed him in his fleece Spiderman suit and held out his shorts. We managed to wrestle them up around his waist, but when he looked down, he said in dismay, “MOM. But I need long pants! My spiderman legs show!”

And I thought, But it’s 98 degrees outside! And all the pants are sealed in a box because it’s 98 degrees outside! Then I remembered that just that morning, I’d washed and dried a pair of sweatpants inherited from a cousin and left on top of a box in the garage, and that I’d noticed they might now fit. I ran to get them. They fit.

“Now a shirt,” Mbot stated. I went looking for a long-sleeved shirt big enough to fit over the bulk. I found a polo shirt and drew it over his head and he stuffed his arms through the sleeves. “There!” I pronounced, feeling claustrophobic just looking at him. I had a vivid flashback to 1973. I was five, heading out on the family boat, and had been stuffed first into an itchy, tight-shouldered fisherman knit sweater and then into a foam jacket known in Southeast Alaska as a “float coat”: unflexible, unsinkable, and cut like a suit designed for Ziggy Stardust.

David Bowie, also in 1973. Sure, this suit might be in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but was it comfortable?(

I am convinced that these inventions kept people from drowning because after being made to wear one once, people simply chose to stay home.

“But MOM! I need the button buttoned!” cried Mbot. Of course. One could view a red Spiderchest above the open shirt collar. I buttoned the button.

And then Peter Parker stepped into his doggie rain boots and proceeded to play for over an hour, looking as though he had a pathological case of swelling and stiffness throughout the body.

But he was absolutely content. He was Peter Parker. No one knew he was Spiderman underneath.

It is hard to have secrets when you’re four, and this was a good one. I applauded Mbot’s desire for authenticity. An adult might have just CLAIMED to have on a spidersuit underneath. No one would know. Mbot’s contentment came from knowing he did have on a spidersuit underneath. Better even than the superhero underpants that were underneath that. There’s much to be said for authenticity, and I’m glad he recognizes its value. Although he was a boy wrapped in a costume of a fictitious character’s impossible alterego wrapped in a costume of the fictitious character, he was being real pretend. He’d taken the measure of the fictions involved, and was in control of them.

So if you see a kid on Halloween in sweat pants and a polo shirt, holding a plastic pumpkin bucket, he might not have just forgotten his costume. He might be dressed up as Peter Parker. Wait for him to pass you, then turn and check for a big lump at the small of his back. If there is one, it’s his Spidey mask stuffed into his waistband under hsi shirt That’s how you’ll know for sure. Sometimes you only know the truth looking back.

The Dursley’s Bathroom Decor

Could this be the Dursley’s bathroom? JK Rowling has kept it a mystery. But fans want to know. (uglyhousephotos.wordpress)

We have finished the first Harry Potter.

I’ve been reading it to Mbot (much to Gbot’s supreme boredom; we read picture books first, then his eyes usually roll back into his head as I intone the words “Dumledore,” “Hagrid,” and “stupid git,”), every night before bedtime. To alleviate scariness, I abridged final chapters. They even scare movie-going me, what with Ralph Fiennes outdoing himself in The English Patient to bring us something even “more gruesomer” (Mbot’s words) in He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

So tonight, because I can’t find the second or third books in the series (they are probably still in a box in the garage), we started the fourth (which, for some reason, I have two): HP and the Goblet of Fire. Started in the third chapter–that is, skipping the parts in which an old man is killed by a scary baby and a giant snake–we began where Harry tells Uncle Vernon that he’s going to the World Quidditch match. Half way through the scene, Mbot breaks in.

“What does the Dursley’s bathroom look like?”

I looked up from the text, stumped.

“It’s probably green,” I replied after a fat pause. “With a shaggy mustard-colored rug.”

“And slime coming out the sink,” added Mbot.

Absolutely right, I agreed.

I remembered why, as a kid myself, I preferred books with no pictures: I got to imagine it all. The pictures (like so many movies) just messed with the reality inside my head.

What do you think the Dursley’s bathroom looks like?

Things I Never Thought I’d Say

Why is this kid smiling? You might not want to know. (

“We never, NEVER go potty in the cup holder of the car seat!”

* * *

(And for those of you trying to imagine Gbot dropping his pants in the backseat on I-10, I’ve transcribed a play-by-play account of what actually occurred:

1. Husbot brings a car seat from truck into the house. Its final destination: the Bot-mobile. Husbot exits.

2. The bots and I make a special-day chocolate pudding & marshmallow pie. I had no idea what a special day it would be. The bots crush the graham crackers for the crust with spoons in a large plastic bag. “Are we done yet?” “No.” “Now are we done?” “No.” “Hey,” notes Mbot. “This looks like diarrhea.” The pie goes in the fridge to cool.

3. The bots and I go to the pool to cool. We splash, we swim, we pretend we are all Batgirls. “No I’m Batgirl and you’re Batboy,” says Gbot. “But I’m already Batgirl,” says Mbot. “I know! We can be sisters.”

4. Retransformed into bots, we go back inside. I instruct bots to remove sandals and swim trunks at the door. Not so easy: there are ties to be untied and many distractions. Like the car seat on the floor.

5. I drop my wet suit, throw on dry clothes, and rush to the kitchen to whip the cream for the top of the pie while issuing instructions to go potty before we go to Grandma’s.

6. I tell Mbot eight times to put on his underpants. Gbot is singing a song about Mr. Rabbit whose ears are mighty white.

7. I tell Mbot to put on his underpants again and rush across the room to rescue the pie from crashing to the kitchen floor under his adventurous fingers. I issue only one of apparently two necessary orders: “Do not touch the pie.”

8. I try to get Gbot into a diaper instead of underpants, just in case. He is babbling something about pottying in the cup holder. The statement lodges loosely in my mind on top of the information about Mr. Rabbit’s white ears.

9. I pull Gbot’s shorts and t-shirt on. I make the executive decision: no shoes. We are in a hurry, and who needs the extra work?

10. I help Mbot into his underpants. I pop a shirt over his head. He sits down on his shorts. I pull them out from under him and hold them out. He puts them on.

11.  I rush back to get the pie. I open the door. I sling my bag over my shoulder, pick up the pie, usher bots out the door, quickly now, because we don’t want the 98 degree heat to rush in, and pick up the car seat by the top of its two shoulder straps. I take two lurching steps over the threshold. My leg and foot are doused in lukewarm liquid.

12. Gbot’s statement about pottying in the cupholder is flushed to the fore. I drop the seat. I make sure the bots aren’t running into the parking lot. I return inside to put the pie down in an ant- and bot-free zone. I approach the car seat.

13. Gbot, good for his word, has filled the cupholder half full.

That’s when I said those words I never thought I’d say, and go stick my foot in the sink.

The rest is denouement. Although I wiped it down with rubbing alcohol, I made Gbot sit in the pottyish car seat. He said he liked sitting in the pottyish car seat.

I wanted to remove pie-eating privileges, but what good would that have done? Pie and potty. Potty and pie. If you sing it to the tune of “Max and Ruby,” the morning after, it’s actually kind of catchy.

But I’m left cringing, wondering about the next thing I’ll say that I’d never thought I’d say.

Great Toy Find: The Stomp Rocket Rocks


It’s been the greatest toy find since last year’s Strider bike (see “Look Ma, No Pedals!”). The rockets DO glow in the dark, as advertised. They DO go really high–it looked like 100 feet to me–as  advertised. And most important, when shot point blank at Mommy’s booty, neither the rocket nor the booty experience damage.

Launch preparation: No knowledge of physics, engineering, or how to make sense of assembly manuals written in poorly translated Mandarin necessary.

The only design flaw is at the point where the three legs of the launch stand fit together. They fit, but easily spring apart. I fixed the problem just as easily by wrapping the juncture with three inches of polka-dotted duct tape.

The Stomp Rocket Junior Glow Kit with four extra rockets, $22.42 on Amazon. Amazing fact: they are as fun as the kids on the box make them look.*                                                                        *This blog is not financially compensated by Stomp Rockets in any way, unfortunately.

The key to their success, I believe, lies in the simplicity of their design. It’s nothing that I couldn’t have made a crude version of myself, out of a whoopee cushion, a length of garden hose, a sawed-off snorkel affixed to four rulers strategically taped together, a few tennis balls with holes cut in them and, of course, the polka dotted duct tape.

In fact, the only improvement I can think of that would make them even more attractive to the bot-aged set is if the air reservoir did make a fart sound when you jumped on it, in addition to sending a rocket flying up into the air.

Keep your eyes open for the new and improved version.

Yesterday’s Mystery Post, Take Two

Sorry it’s so dark. But it IS a cave. Mbot is modeling the giant bat ears that demonstrate how well bats can hear. So here he is hearing the story of the unlucky sloth, told over and over again, really really loudly.

For those of you who read yesterday’s cryptic post before I discovered that most of it was missing, I apologize. Now, in today’s few bot-free minutes, I will try to recreate it:

11,000 years ago, a sloth fell through a crack. It fell into a cave. It couldn’t get out. It died in the cave.

The kind docent in the Shasta Ground Sloth cave at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum told us this story on Sunday when we were admiring the fossilized skeleton and the ancient sloth poop that I managed to not delete in yesterday’s post.

The bots listened with great concern and then baraged the docent with questions. “Why did he fall through the crack?” (I was going to answer, ‘because it didn’t come when it’s mother called it’ but she beat me with ‘Sloths don’t have very big brains.’) “Why could he not get out?” (There was no door.) “Why did he die?” (Because he couldn’t get out of the cave.) While Mbot tried on a giant pair of bat ears which magnified all the cave sounds, Gbot stood rooted in place beside the docent, craning his neck upward to look at her and repeating the questions. Perhaps hoping for different, better answers. But the answers didn’t change.

On the way home, he retold the story many times.

Gbot: “The three-tailed ground sloth fell through the crack. He fell into the cave. He couldn’t get out and” (voice lowering sadly) “he died in the cave.”

Over the next few days, the story was told over and over again. To Daddy, to Aunt Susan, to Grandma, to Nanny over the phone, to Miss Mary the music teacher. It was obviously sad and disturbing. How was I to know it was going to turn into a story of rescue and redemption?

On Wednesday, from the backseat, Gbot told the story again. “But Mama,” he said, “we could use Bob the Builder’s tools!”

“You’re right!” I exclaimed. “A jackhammer can cut through concrete and rock.”

Gbot: “Yeah, and we could make a door and he would say, ‘What a wonderful door you made, Mama and Gbot,’ and he would go through the door in the cave and he would go home to his mommy. And we would go home and talk about how the sloth fell into the cave and got out the door. And the sloth would say, ‘Thank you for making my door in the cave.'”

I praised his creative solution to the sloth’s big problem. Now, perhaps, we could stop hearing about the sloth in the cave. Although it was awfully cute.

But of course, as all answers do, this one led to another question. After a brief pause from the back seat, Gbot asked, concern edging his voice again,

“What if we were sloths, Mama?”

“We would be careful sloths, Spice Bear,” I said. “And we would always carry jackhammers, just in case.”

More about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum later this week. There were many moments to savor. Today’s recommendation, which would have been yesterday’s recommendation if my post hadn’t fallen through a crack, is: Go there!