My Fashion’s Wearing Off! Long Live My Fashion!

Against all odds, I remembered this morning that today is Picture Day.

I wonder that the School Picture hasn’t gone the way of the Scratch ‘n’ Sniff t-shirt in an age where a teacher can just whip out her cell phone during class and upload, but apparently, there is still a market for generic photos of overdressed children.

They are hard to take seriously.

Even so, I pulled out the bots’ wedding outfits–buttondown shirts and nice pants. We attended a beautiful family wedding this past weekend and I took no pictures, so I figured I’d let Special EFX capture the bots’ Wedding Look.

But everyone knows you do your hair first.

Mbot’s coif was in its usual morning Harry Potter look-alike mode, so I dribbled a little water on it while he was rinsing toothpaste out of his mouth, and plugged in the blow dryer. He was excited about the blow dryer. He wanted to do his hair himself. I set the switch to “cool” and figured it’d be safe to go finish packing lunchboxes.

Silly me. I’d thought “cool” referred to temperature.

Several minutes later, the following conversation ensued over the sound of the blow dryer:

Gbot: “Mbot, are you done yet? Your hair looks completely perfect!”

Mbot: “I’m trying to make a Mohawk. Where’s the water, Gbot?”

Gbot: “I can get the water cup and fill it up!”

Pause.

Gbot: “Here is the water!”

Mbot: “Okay, pour it on something!”

Gbot: “You mean your hair?”

Mbot: “No, a towel!”

Pause.

Gbot: “I brought you the towel!”

Mbot: “Now, pour water on it!”

Pause.

Mbot: “Thanks!”

Just another day at Salon des Petites Coiffeurs

Just another day at Salon des Petites Coiffeurs

Now we're gonna have to start a boy band.

Now we’re gonna have to start a boy band.

Then it was Gbot’s turn with the blowdryer.

The updo, re-imagined.

The updo, re-imagined.

Then, for some reason, perhaps because he likes playing with water, Gbot dampened his hair again.

But he didn’t realize the effect applying water would have.

Gbot: “Oh, my hair is back to curly! My fashion’s wearing off!”

Mbot: “I’m going to try to cool it outside.”

(Rushes out the front door to cool his hair.)

Mbot (rushing back inside): “Oh, I need to see if my fashion’s wearing off!”

(Disappears into bathroom.)

Mbot: “Oh! It’s not!”

hair 10

Gbot, having doused his hair again, enjoys watching Mbot trying to add more lift.

They spent the ride to school discussing which world they were going to choose to have their picture taken in. These were their world choices:

Yikes.

Yikes.

I decided that DP140 was the lesser of the cheevils (cheesy evils), because, with the fanciful mushrooms and far-off castle, at least it didn’t look like it was trying to fool us into thinking it might be real. Mbot was very excited by the possibility of going into Mushroom World. Then I had to explain to the bots that they would not, in fact, be going into Mushroom World. The mushrooms would be added on a computer. They took it pretty well. Although, when we get the pictures back, Gbot, who preferred River World, might be disappointed to find that I sent him to Mushroom World instead.

When we hugged goodbye at school, Mbot was concerned that I not mess up his hair.

Mbot: “What if someone else messes it up?”

Me: “Then just say, ‘Hands off the ‘do, Dude!'”

Pause.

Mbot: “I think I would feel a little bit foolish saying ‘Hands off the ‘do, Dude.'”

Me: “Then just ask them nicely not to touch your hair.”

And off they went, leaving me very glad I live in Bot World, and that it’s not just in my computer.

Don’t touch this. (And yes, up at the very top, that’s Gbot in the mirror, getting his fashion on.)

Proof of Life Via Bathroom Conversation

Why the bots haven't been heard from in so long: they're both in juvie. KIDDING. They thought playing in dog kennels was HILARIOUS.

Why the bots haven’t been heard from in so long: they’re both in juvie. KIDDING. They thought playing in dog kennels was HILARIOUS.

We are alive and well, and to prove it, I will transcribe a brief conversation I enjoyed with Gbot in the bathroom yesterday*

*For those not familiar with Spanish nomenclature for human anatomy, the word “pito” is Spanish–and our family word for–the little penises in the household. (Usage tip: Do not make the mistake of transferring the word to the larger, grownup version. Apparently, it is understood as insulting. Something to do with size.):

Gbot: “My potty thinks all life is evil!”

Me: (nothing)

Gbot: “My pito thinks all life is disGUSTing!”

Me: “It won’t always think that, Honey.”

Maybe for the next post, we’ll venture out of the bathroom. But there are never guarantees.

Reasons Not To Store Your Money In Your Underpants

It's bad enough, just putting the mons in the undies. Save your money by NOT buying this piggy bank for your kiddos. It might give them ideas.

Fortunately, Gbot’s mons just went in the underpants, and no further.

Due to the nature of this post, I cannot provide photographs of the actual subject at the time of his discovery.

But Gbot likes to count his money, although I use the word “count” in the most liberal way. In relative terms, he doesn’t have very much, although more than Mbot, because he’s better at keeping track of it. He is a natural hoarder. This morning on his pillow amongst fifteen or so stuffed animals, lay a purple puff ball, a hot wheels car, some Trio pieces, a toy microphone, and a harmonica. (He uses the harmonica most mornings before 6 a.m.) Under his pillow were two gift cards he had liberated from the glove compartment of the Botmobile.)

Several times a week, Gbot will come to me holding a piece of spare change to put in his piggy bank. He finds it laying around–it’s either fallen out of Husbot’s pockets, or I’ve left it on the counter or pulled it from under the sofa. Some of it’s actually his own, as last summer, Nanny gave both bots little fabric baggies filled with quarters to take to the zoo to buy food for the fish, goats, and llamas.

The baggies and their contents immediately became objects of contention: I quickly learned that the propensity to hoard and fight over small shiny objects seems to be embedded in our DNA. Every time I’d let the bots get out their money, it would start a fight. They were two and three when it began–too young to even know the practical value of what they were hitting each other over.

Let me reiterate that Gbot just turned three. A just-turned-three-year-old doesn’t understand that a Starbucks gift card enables the holder to walk into “The Chocolate Milk Place” and buy ten boxes of chocolate milk. But he’s always liked the toy credit card that came with the toy cash register he got for his birthday, and apparently, he likes real ones, too. He knows they’re good for something.

So yesterday afternoon when we were all very tired, Mbot played with his LeapPad and I let Gbot count his money. Generally I keep the piggy banks in a high cupboard–out  sight, out of mind. But yesterday I got his down, uncorked the hole, and helped him empty it on the table. Counting his money kept him busy for thirty minutes.

And because I forgot to put it away last night, it was still on the table this morning, a shining pile of change beside it. I told him that he had to put it away before I would give him his Cheerios. Then I went about my business in the kitchen. Several minutes later, I heard, “THIS is a spectacular way to clean up my money.”

I was emptying the dishwasher and didn’t look up.

Then I heard, “Here! Is that what you expected?”

I turned around. “I need to put copper pennies in my underpants so it will seem like a piggy bank!” he told me happily, jingling his underpants, into which at least three dollars in change had been deposited, with both hands. They were Batman underpants, and The Joker smiled wickedly from their crotch. The Joker would have been thrilled at this development. Then Gbot’s expression changed from glee to consternation and he began to rearrange things down there. That’s when he announced: “If I put too much money in my underpants, my pito will hurt.”

That’s when I suggest he rethink his banking options, and use the ceramic pig instead. I helped make the withdrawal, and explained that money has germs on it and so it’s best to keep it out of our underpants. And hoping fervantly that his were the only underpants it had been in.

And this is a good reason not to store your money in your mouth, either.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Still Life with Letter to Santa

On Christmas Eve, Mbot remembered to put out cookies for Santa. He dictated a letter to go with them:

Santa Claus,

Thank you for bringing us presents and is Mrs. Claus having a good time with you? Thank you for the presents, Santa Claus.

I hope you have a good week and I hope you had a good year, dear Santa Claus, and your reindeers are having a good time and having a good, nice rest.

Santa, is the list not all dirty? And the reindeer are having a good time exercising and doing stuff in a nice, good year.

I think the list Mbot refers to is the Christmas list he painstakingly dictated over the last several weeks of 2012. He was perhaps worried that the light saber had been smudged out. It had been.

I realize that, in the photo, there is an apple on the plate. That was a last-minute addition. As he turned away from the cookie-laden plate, Mbot exclaimed with alarm, “Oh, we forgot! We forgot to give him something to eat that has more nutrients! Like a banana.”

Bananaless, we decided on an apple. (“Did you wash it, Mom?” Blearily, I turned back to the sink to run it under the tap.)

Apparently, an apple was a fine pick-me-up, because apparently Santa made it around the world, at least according to NORAD. I’m not so keen on NORAD’s Santa Tracker, but more on that after our thirty-six-hour family trip to California for Great Aunt Noel’s ninetieth birthday. Apparently, she still jogs. She’s probably eating apples with her cookies. Joyeaux Noel!

I hope you are having a good week, and I hope you had a good year, dear readers.

With Joy and Nutrients,

Betsy

Boys R Us, or, Getting Back Whatcha Give

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

Christmas shopping with bots can be as unpredictable as setting out to make marshmallow snowmen with them.

I experimented this year: I took each bot to the toy store by himself, to buy a present for his brother. I realized that, with a four and a half-year-old and a three-year-old, my optimism might have been slopping over into the idealistic. But I just had to try. I figured Gbot might be fairly easy to persuade into picking out what I thought he should pick out. I thought Mbot might throw a small sputterfuss about one or several things before we settled on a compromise.

Since Gbot had the sniffles and I couldn’t foist him off on anyone, he went first. At the toy store that I hate but that is the only one within about ten miles of us, he bounced from Legos (me: “they’re for bigger boys”) to a FurReal bunny that made chewing noises and moved its hind legs when you rubbed its back (“let’s keep looking”) to bubble machines (“it’s too cold outside for that”) to the toy guns (“no”) to a giant, spherical, plush, hot pink, butt-ugly cat pillow (“let’s look at the other stuffed animals.”)

At long last, he settled, at my urging, on an enormous fluffy stuffed doggie that looks like it could be Junepbear’s half-brother. It was not stitched by a fair-trade artisan out of organic cotton. In fact, it was so affordable that I see much seam-repair in my future. But Mbot, whose favorite word at the age of sixteen months was “fwuffy,” and who continues to seek out fwuffy experiences, will be thrilled.

Gbot lugged the thing, which is as big as he is, up to the front of the store, happily talking nonstop about how Mbot would love his new doggie. It was fun to see him so happy about something for his brother. That was two days ago, and he hasn’t yet spilled the beans, in spite of the fact that this morning, we wrapped it (but only after he ran to get a blanket to spread in the bottom of the box).

Yesterday I took Mbot. As I’d predicted, it was more of a challenge. I hadn’t considered the fact that, after walking in and within fifteen seconds identifying a cool Thomas the Train quarry complete with crank elevator and roundtable, that would have been perfect and was on sale, no less–he could happily spend three days examining every item on every shelf within reach in every aisle of the eight billion acre store. Or that he would want to get his brother the six hundred-dollar four-wheeler (“that’s way too dangerous”) or the fifty-dollar plastic bat-cave that I know would provide a great seven minutes of uninterrupted fun before boredom set in and they never looked at it again. Or the remote control helicopter (“that’s for bigger boys.)”

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too....

Gbot might hurt his finger on this, too…. (amazon.com)

What I didn’t foresee was how either protective he would be or how eager to assert that Gbot is a baby–every time I’d point to something that looked like a possibility, Mbot would find a health reason to boycott it. “Gbot would choke on those pieces.” “Gbot might break that and hurt himself.” “Gbot might cut his fingers on that part.”

“How about a stuffed animal?” then, I asked, because one of the ways I’d lured Gbot out of the store the day before was to tell him that maybe Mbot would buy him one, too. “Noooo!” howled Mbot. “how about we go back to the fun aisle.” And now of course I must entertain the possibility that he won’t like Junep’s giant half-bro. But distanced from the overwhelming profusion of crap, I’m quite sure he will.

What I also didn’t foresee was how I would hear myself mimicked back to me. Every few minutes, if I was lingering in an aisle with appropriate items, I’d here, “Mah-ah-ahhm. Don’t diddle-dawdle.”

“Okay, I’m coming,” I’d say, in a reversal of roles.

If he’d vanish around a corner and I didn’t follow, he’d backtrack and admonish me to stay close.

And once, as we were perusing the remote control aisle, I must have been lagging, because he suddenly said, “Come-come,” using exactly the same word in exactly the same sing-song tone I use to call the antique cat.

Finally, I enacted a “choose one of these two things,” rule, and a time-limit of two minutes. He chose. The Thomas the Train Quarry won out.

So: success. Except that now Gbot keeps talking about a remote control stuffed doggie and Mbot keeps wondering what toy Gbot got him.

One reason I even let the boys do this, in addition to the “Christmas is about giving” angle, and instead of making something or visiting the dollar store–is that the bots don’t get piles of toys for Christmas. I see them playing more happily with the Trios, or with pipecleaners, or with their small bin of Legos, or their stuffed animals or blankets for forts or plastic bin lids for television screens–than I ever see them play with actual plastic toys.

And it was a good reminder to me, hearing Mbot repeat back to me my own words, that lots of times, you get what you give.

A Potion For the Bottoms of Our Shoes

Florida M-beach face-001

Day two on the Continent of Great Grandmothers turned out to be more about the great grandsons. I had promised the bots a trip to the beach. We got a late start, though, groggy from the two-hour time change, and I was feeling the strain of trying to do a lot with a little–a little time, a little energy, and two little bots. Navigating from the hotel to the Health Center to various stores for necessities was proving to be a time-eating exercise in one-way streets, endless waits in lefthand turn lanes, and impatient drivers who went for their horns without mercy.

By noon, we’d arrived at the Health Center again, and Mbot asked to come upstairs to get Great Grandma with me. So Solveig ran after Gbot, who seems to have more energy than all the rest of us put together these days, while Mbot and I took the elevator to the second floor and ventured down the hallway to the lunchroom. We found my grandmother as she’d been the day before. Although lunch looked good, she wasn’t eating; she’s uninterested in food and unable to feed herself. We pulled up a chair. I put my hand on her shoulder. She roused, and turned to look at us. I introduced myself again, and Mbot. Her face brightened and she said, “Oh! I was just thinking about you this morning!”

“That’s because we came to visit you yesterday, Grandma. The boys played in the fountain!”

We stayed just a few minutes, because an enormous man asleep at the next table started making some pretty terrible sounds which scared Mbot. No one else in the room seemed to notice. But when Mbot squirmed in my lap and asked to go, I told my grandmother that we were heading to the beach to play in the sand, not to worry because the boys would wear life preservers, and that I would come back later. She asked how my parents were. “Are they meeting you?”

“Yes,” I replied, nodding and smiling. My parents were in Idaho. I hugged her goodbye. She used to give me a hard time about being uncomfortable hugging and kissing–I was, back in my twenties. I could just hear her unthought thoughts: “So this is what a grandma has to do to get a hug around here!”

I didn’t know at the time, but knew it was a possibility, that that would be the last time she recognized me.

We managed to find the local WalMart, where we purchased picnic supplies, life-jackets, a package of Toy Story underpants to serve as swim trunks, and a short-sleeved t-shirt for me, because I’d only brought one and had left it back at the room. Then we went to introduce the bots to the Atlantic Ocean. We cruised west past a shop selling “The World’s Best Quilts,” Tarot Readings, and Accurate Accounting Services (we figured that maybe in Broward County, such a thing might not be assumed. We found the beach, clean and wide, just south of the pier, complete with a life guard who emerged from his life guard stand when he saw Mbot run in the direction of the street.

Florida Gbot profile donut 2

And there we spent the afternoon. The bots waded up to their hips in the waves. Solveig had thought to bring pool towels from the hotel lobby, and they quickly became covered with sand as we sat among the opportunistic seagulls. We buried Mbot’s legs and decorated him with shells. The bots ate chocolate-iced donuts with sprinkles. Solveig and I opened a bottle of screw-top shiraz, which turned out to be 15% alcohol, and drank it out of empty water bottles. It just seemed like a day for treats–to revel in the tangible physical comforts, to swim in Toy Story underpants and get our faces messy and to pursue a buzz in the middle of the day.

By five, I was exhausted, without the emotional energy to visit my grandmother. Back at the room, we found that the latch to fill the tub was broken and so after a group shower (of which Solveig opted out), we camped in front of the computer to watch four episodes of Tin Tin. I ordered Chinese food and it all tasted the same. Mbot made a Chinese food-eating breakthrough when he gnawed the kernels off of the baby corn.

I visited my grandmother the next morning, leaving Solveig in the room making costumes for the bots out of The Wall Street Journal. She was dozing in front of the TV when I arrived. I took her to sit in the courtyard, in the gentle sun and soft fresh breeze. We walked around the lake, through the rose garden, and sat by the fountain again. But this time, when she woke, now and then, she didn’t recognize me. She talked quietly to herself, a sililoquy I couldn’t understand. I read to her, as she dozed, from a biography called The Founding Mothers, by Cokie Roberts. I’d bought it at the airport; she’s always loved biographies. I held her hand and told her more about the boys but it was my own sililoquy. And at eleven o’clock, I returned to the room to finish packing. It was time to leave.

Driving to the airport, Mbot said, “I wish I could send all of this away. The trees, and the beach, Great Grandma.”

I could tell Solveig was slightly disturbed by this seemingly nihilistic desire. But I have learned that when a bot doesn’t seem to make sense, ask questions.

“Send it where?” I asked.

“Send it home with us,” he replied.

“Me too,” I agreed. Except for the impatient drivers and one-way streets.

“I wish we could just hop and be here with Great Grandma.”

“Me too,” I said. “We’d have to hop REALLY far.”

“Hmm,” he mused, in problem-solving mode. “Maybe I could make a potion for the bottoms of our shoes.”

It is a lovely thought, isn’t it?

I don’t think I will have another chance to see my grandmother. But Mbot has, out of the blue, started talking about her, almost every day since we returned–counting his grandmas (three!), remembering her silver hair, and that “all the grownups were eating kid food. Hotdogs, soup, pie…” We took pictures, and a video, that first day, and so that will help him remember, too.

And he’s getting a chemistry set for Christmas, so he’ll be working on that potion.

Giving Thanks for a Hamster Dance

Do not let the reindeer pajamas fool you. He is guilty.

ln our neck of the desert, Thanksgiving came and went with much gaiety about the feast in the Montessori classroom and much griping about the feast on Grandma’s picnic table. Apparently, Thanksgiving would be better if the Pilgrims had eaten pizza.

I expect a fair number of the Pilgrims had colds over Thanksgiving, and we did, too. Gbot had the croup. We spent Monday morning at the doctor’s office while he struggled to push off the mask attached to the nebulizer. I found myself chanting a wild, ridiculous, rhyming song about dancing hamsters that I made up as I went, to make him giggle and forget the mask. It worked. By the time we were heading home, he was breathing deeply, and the hamster dance was jammed in my head like some parasite from the Amazon jungle that disappears into your ear and consumes you from the inside out.

I wrote it down that evening, at which point it had turned into a forty-line tongue-twister. I tweaked it. I loved it. I actually sent it to an agent.

She wrote back the next morning before eight a.m. She loved it, she said. But she thought it was too sophisticated for the picture book crowd.

A disappointment. Especially as the bots were on their way to memorizing key verses and danced madly to it every time I chanted it, and Mbot had decided he wanted to bring it to school and turn it into a play.

I tweaked it a little more, and sent it off to seven other agents. Into the ether. But it has already served a purpose. Not only did the ludicrous thing help Gbot breathe easier, it helped me, too. It reminded me of how much I love silly children’s verse.

So the next day I checked out a book called Pizza, Pigs, and Poetry: How to Write a Poem, by Jack Prelutsky, the U.S. Children’s Poet Laureate. I hadn’t even known there was such a person! It is a wonderful book, written for a pre-adolescent audience. It is full of sage advice. Prelutsky repeats perhaps ten times that kids should carry a notebook and two pens around with them everywhere, to jot down ideas as they have them. He does, he says, because if he doesn’t, he forgets them, and there goes a whole poem. This made me feel a lot better about my inability to recall a bot-statement even fifteen minutes after it’s uttered.

For anyone who loves language, and who wants to teach children to love language, check out this book! Literally.

amazon.com

Oh, and the picture of Gbot pillaging sweets first thing in the morning, with the help from the stool that should be in the bathroom? I just needed an image to start me writing. It’s always a delight to find actual photographic evidence of someone caught with his hand in the bag. This week, I was reminded of my love of poetry for children–really good poetry for children–both reading it and, with any hope, writing it. Rediscovering this, I feel like a kid stealing candy. It’s such a deep, simple joy. And I can do it in my pajamas.

I hope you had a Thanksgiving that was peaceful–even if it wasn’t pizzaful.

Newsflash: Reading is Relaxing!

Gbot sets out breakfast and an audience, about a year ago. Would I look this stress-free if I read to myself over breakfast?

Overheard at the coffeeshop on Saturday:

“So, have you read Harry Potter?”

“Yeah.”

“What book are you on?”

The conversation wouldn’t have been noteworthy, except that the two conversationalists’ chins barely skimmed the table top as they sipped their hot chocolate. They were four years old–Mbot and his friend Mbug. She’s a bright kid whose mom had told me she wouldn’t sit still to listen to picture books. I loaned her the first Harry Potter. They were on chapter five; she was riveted.

The same day, the news over at the Huffington Post was that reading a good book lowers stress levels. HuffPo editors and bloggers chimed in on their reasons how and why in Turn the Page on Stress. 

The timing was interesting, as a few weeks ago, I picked up a book I’d had on a side table for a month. I was too tired to read, and too tired to sleep. I lay down on the sofa, listening for a bot to call me back for one more hug, and opened the book. I knew that one reason I felt so weary was that I hadn’t gotten–or given myself–a chance to read more than half a New Yorker article in over a month–probably two.

The book wasn’t fiction: recommended by a friend, it was Edward Hallowell and Peter Jensen’s Superparenting for ADD. The title might reveal one of the reasons I’m so tired, but it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story. A while back, Mbot was diagnosed with “very low level” Attention Deficit Disorder–a borderline case, a case that’s almost not a case, but I feel it’s something I needed to learn to manage more effectively than I was managing it. I dislike the label because so much ignorance surrounds it and it carries so many negative connotations. In learning more about ADD, I’m learning to change my own behavior, which helps him with his; the result is a happier bot and a happier household. Hallowell’s positive approach to the issue is delightful and his storytelling is instructive and amusing.

An hour after I started reading, I was thirty-eight pages in and feeling a much-missed feeling of lightness and optimism. I recognized I felt better partly because of the contents of the book, but partly due to the simple act of leaving my own drama to witness those of others. I was reminded, through narrative, that obstacles can be overcome for a happy conclusion, and that recognizing the truth and dealing with it is a source of power–and having control over a situation is a way to lower stress levels.

I am of course reminded often of the de-stressing powers of reading, but it is a constant source of amazement to me how thoroughly we can ignore things we know, or forget them. I am reminded of reading’s calming effect by Mbot himself. Every night at bedtime, and usually during the day, I read aloud, in addition to a few picture books, a chapter (usually more) of Harry Potter (we’re on book two), a chapter of Little House on the Prairie (we’re on book two), and a chapter of The Hardy Boys. (We jump around according to whatever’s on the library shelf). Mbot, who has shown little patience with learning the letters of the alphabet, and who is often pushing the boundaries of his environment, is completely absorbed by a long narrative. He often asks the meaning of unfamiliar words, but I am not sure how much he understands of the story arc. Yet he does understand there are characters to be concerned about, and that there is a story arc. He would sit listening until my voice gave out or I collapsed face down, drooling on the Heir of Slytherin.

On Saturday, in addition to coming across HuffPo’s article, I happened to read Flannery O’Connor‘s essay, “The Nature and Aim of Fiction,” in which she writes,

People without hope not only don’t write novels, but what is more to the point, they don’t read them. They don’t take long looks at anything, because they lack the courage. The way to despair is to refuse to have any kind of experience, and the novel, of course, is a way to have experience.

When I came across O’Connor’s observation, I realized I had put off reading (to myself) for that month or those months not simply because I was too tired or didn’t have time–but because I lacked the courage to take a long look at things. I was resisting entering a drama–anyone else’s drama–because I didn’t have enough emotional energy for their’s, too: I am a slow reader, and invest a lot in whatever I’m reading. But in those thirty-eight pages of Hallowell’s book, I was introduced to nearly a dozen people’s dramas, and instead of feeling oppressed by them, I felt uplifted. Since that night, I’ve been making time to read (to myself!) every day, even if it is just for a few minutes in the car before heading inside. In fact, I’m back to my old habit of reading several books at once–like I said, if only a few pages at a time.

And so stress-relief is even closer than the new gym with two hours of child-care per day. It’s as close at hand as my bookshelves. Now all I need to do is remember that.

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.

(squidoo.com)

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.)