2 Wheels + 2 Pedals = 1 Lone Mbot

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There is something different about this picture, and it’s not Gbot’s funky shades.

Learning to ride a bike seems somehow more important than the first day of school. Maybe because riding a bike is something you do–pretty much the same way–for the rest of your life, or at least until your get so old that your children tell you you’re in danger of breaking a hip.

Santa delivered Mbot’s 16″-wheel Giant Animator without training wheels, because I hoped, after eighteen months spent cruising around on his Strider, Mbot would have the balance and confidence to take off on a pedal bike, in spite of the larger frame and a seat so high that only his toes touch the ground. The training wheels were in the cupboard, just in case.

In the past three weeks, in spite of the cold, Mbot’s been out five or six times on the big boy bike, for a few minutes at a time, with me holding on, or cruising by himself down the driveway, pedaling once or twice before putting a foot to the ground. The seat was technically too low, but I thought being able to put both feet on the ground would give him confidence. It seemed to, but it also made it more difficult to get leverage on the pedals. A couple of days ago, I raised the seat. It’s still a little low, and I’ll raise it more in a week or two.

And yesterday, trailed by Gbot, still on his Strider prebike, Mbot rolled out his new pedaling skills for a ride that lasted a good three minutes before he put his feet down, at which point he immediately asked for a push and headed off again, and this time I didn’t look at my watch. The bot can ride a bike.

He toppled over a couple of times, and got up, unphased. I love to watch this version of human-ness–this super-elastic, Flubber-butted version, this unossified phase, as different from me as a caterpillar from a butterfly, although I am not the one with wings.

After twenty minutes of pedaling–getting the hang of turning in circles, going fast!, and avoiding his brother, who was zooming around like a Gretzky slap shot–Mbot steered up onto the sidewalk, lay down the wheels, sat down, and arranged two rocks in front of him. “Mom,” he said, “Is it okay if I play a little rock game with myself? I don’t need two persons.”

And, his cape of independence settled visibly around him, a big “M” emblazoned across his shoulders, that’s exactly what he did.

Warning: Those who haven't given birth may not be able to see the cape.

Warning: Those who haven’t given birth may not be able to see the cape.

It Hops Around the Sea, Scaring People

Not this guy, silly--a beluga whale. (Mbot at the fabulous Phoenix Children's Museum.)

Not this guy, silly–a beluga whale. (Mbot at the fabulous Phoenix Children’s Museum.)

To make things easy today, and to prove that the bots are still here, being their eminently quotable selves, I’ve transcribed a few lines from the past forty-eight hours. You can see that we haven’t been bored; our topics ranged from mammals to physics to love. They are all connected, after all.

Mbot, on the beluga whale: “We studied the Polar regions. All of us had to learn about the beluga whale. It hops around the sea scaring people.”

Gbot, on panda bears: “If I were a panda, I would eat ALL your bamboo.”

Mbot, on Gbot: “I want his stomach to get REALLY fat, so he floats away!”

Mbot, on me: “I think you taste good in your heart, Mom, cuz you make my heart beat really fast.”

Mbot on Junepbear: “Joompbear, you’re deesGUSting.” (I gasped inwardly when I heard this. Mbot was examining his old stuffed bear at close range, and I feared that he finally had gained some perspective on the ratty old thing’s rather poorly aging fur, which at this point doesn’t get a whole lot cleaner looking with washing. I feared I was witnessing the end of an era. I shouldn’t have worried. He continued lovingly, “You’ve got some jelly on your head!”

Mbot, on relativity: “So, germs think that garbage cans are continents?”

Gbot on ear cell hydration: “I poured water in my ear so my ear cells could have a drink.”

Mbot, from the back seat: “Can’t you please drop me off at Grandma’s, Mom? I really want to give you some peace.”

Mbot, having rethought his opinion of Gbot: “I want him to be cute for the rest of his life.”

Ditto, and right back atcha, kid.


Why Does Everyone Want to Lowlight Me?

Ten years ago, no one would have even THOUGHT of suggesting lowlights.

Ten years ago, no one would have even THOUGHT of suggesting lowlights.

I hadn’t even heard the term before July. And then, during a routine trim shortly after my forty-fifth birthday, there it was: “Have you ever considered lowlights?”

“Umm, what?” I asked the overcoiffed twenty-something standing behind me holding scissors.

“We could work them in with highlights, and you wouldn’t even be able to tell.”

I tried not to look completely baffled as I put my expertise in antonyms to work. “You mean…some darker, and some lighter?”

She nodded, and flipped her wrist in a hand-shrug to express how simple it was. The scissors glinted menacingly. “And you’d only have to get it redone like every six months. It would hide some of this….”

Her cheerful voice trailed off as she fingered my part.

“The gray?” I asked, feeling like we were discussing the Voldemort of the hair world: That-Which-Must-Not-Be-Named.

“It would look really pretty!”

I declined.

Several months later, I had almost exactly the same conversation with another young woman wielding scissors. I told her what I’d told the first one: “You know, I actually like my hair.”

There was a time that ponytails worked. The bangs, however....

There was a time that ponytails worked. The bangs, however….

It’s an unpopular sentiment, but it’s true: I like my hair. Except for the fact that it’s nastily staticky right now, and I never make time to style it properly, which results in my trapping it unflatteringly in ponytail each morning and my mother-in-law asking me repeatedly if I’ve ever considered bangs, I like my hair. It’s brown. I’m lucky that it’s about fifty shades of brown, and so the gray that’s been creeping in had always been mistaken for just another shade of brown. But in the past two years, maybe because of bots or maybe because I’m halfway to ninety, the increasing population of non-brown hairs can be positively identified as one of the fifty shades of gray.

My sole venture into highlights, fifteen years ago. The fishing trip was much more successful than the hair.

My sole venture into highlights, fifteen years ago. The fishing trip was much more successful than the hair.

My mother edged toward the cliffs of gray hair at about my age, maybe a little younger. She took it upon herself to fight it the way everyone fought it in the eighties. It wasn’t called lowlighting then, it was called L’Oreal. My adolescent siblings and I made ruthless fun of her at the dinner table the day she finally admitted to doctoring her ‘do. She stood her ground, refusing to give us the pleasure of knowing exactly how and when she made her magic.

Mom and Dad, when their hair was at its lush, brown peak. (Dad's peak was rather more of the crest of a dune not far above sea-level.)

Mom and Dad, when their hair was at its lush, brown peak. (Dad’s peak was rather more of the crest of a dune not far above sea-level.)

Not long after, though, she stopped. I’m not sure why, and hesitate to guess, because I’d probably be wrong. She eased naturally into salt-and-pepper, then steel gray, then a lovely silver.

Mom was slipping gracefully into gray; The Andrews, c. 1988. Dad was sliding down his dune of dudeness. David's hair had definitely hit an apogee, Susan remained a natural blonde for fifteen more years and I...wall, I still havent learned to shut my mouth.

The Andrews, c. 1988: Mom was slipping gracefully into gray; Dad was sliding down his dune of dudeness. David’s hair was definitely summiting, Susan remained a natural blonde for fifteen more years and I…well, I still haven’t learned to shut my mouth.

As far as lowlights, I don’t know which way I’ll go. I don’t want to look older than I am, although if I really wanted to look younger, I’d get a tattoo. I don’t want to appear any more unkept than I already do. I also don’t want to come off as a suburban matron grasping to look like what she’s not. I didn’t always like my hair. And I won’t always. But for now, I like my hair. So I’ll go with Nolighting today.

Okay, so I don't exactly like my hair HERE, but it still looks brown. Right? Right?

And when my hair is in a less-than-photogenic state, I use diversionary tactics, like sitting with Gbot. People look at his hair, instead.

First Day of School

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The day began at 6 a.m. when Gbot, caught atop the box for his Fisher Price Circus in an attempt to extract marshmallows and sugar cereal (which is only in the house due to their inclusion in a Christmas cookie recipe) from the high cupboard, “I am checking to see if the marshmallows and poppers are not soggy.”

And then it was off to the potty. There are guinea pigs in the Montessori classroom, and Gbot adores anything guinea piggish or hamstery, and so I’ve been using that as bait to get him to the potty. For example: “When you go potty in the toilet like a big boy, you get to go to school with the guinea pigs!”

This morning upon successful pottying, he announced, “Oh, the guinea pigs will be SO HAPPY!”

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Not as happy as Mama.

At school, Mbot led the family in one final flushworthy effort.
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And then they were off.

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I was thrilled. I was as thrilled as Gbot and the guinea pigs put together. I didn’t think, “Where has the time gone?” But I did want time to stop.

Maybe it’s having lived through the turn of the century that makes me so aware of the fact that it’s ’13, and to think about everything that happened in the ’13 that I’ve grown up with: 1913. Before World War 1. Before the Model T was in production. Before women could vote. Slavery had been abolished only forty years before. And in forty years, when I’m eighty-five, it’ll be 2053. The early fifties. In the early fifties, my grandpa was only just younger than I am now. He was born in ’15. It is impossible for me not to think of the young boys born near the turn of the last century, who I knew only as old men. Because for the children who will remember me as Great Grandma Etchart, wrinkly and white-haired, Mbot and Gbot will be those boys, who those children will know only as old men. I see this vaster span of time overlaid across every day like a web. And although I know it’s ridiculous, it makes me sad. Can’t we just replay the first day of preschool forever?