The Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Creamcheese-Cupcake Ship

img046Yesterday, Mbot made a pirate ship (pictured above, upper left). We had been reading library book about pirate treasure. “Only Tesserwell and Mbot allowed,” he pronounced, while assembling his vessel, which he named, in honor of the favorite foods of the captain and first mate, “The Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship.” Later, he said to Gbot, who also decided to build a pirate ship on the same patio, “I get Tesserwell. He’s a great pirate cat.”

I am not sure where the antique cat earned his swashbuckling reputation. It could possibly be because Mbot believes Tbug to be capable of Great Things. Earlier that morning, I’d found the ancient fellow sitting in the bath tub, a place he has always enjoyed. He looked up at me and plaintively meowed. His favorite drink besides apricot juice, preferably from someone else’s glass, is running water, preferably from the bathtub tap; preferably trickling very lightly so as not to splash his fur, so he can sip delicately from around the drain without getting his feet wet. Not to deprive him of one of his great joys in life, I turned the tap on just a smidge, brushed my teeth, and got on with my morning.

Twenty minutes later, when Mbot got out of bed and ventured into the bathroom, I heard him exclaim, “This is SO EXCITING!” He repeated it: “This is SO EXCITING! Mom, did YOU turn on the water?”

“No,” I called, lying.

“Did Dad turn on the water?”

“No.”

“Gbot, did you turn on the water?”

“No!”

Like any good detective, Mbot was eliminating all other possiblities before reaching the conclusion he suspected and desired. “It’s AMAZING! Tesserwell turned on the water!” he called, using his best deductive reasoning.

Such an impressive cat would certainly be good company on the high seas.

Gbot, who couldn’t find a ship as good as the emptied patio toy bucket, decided he’d join Mbot and Tbug in theirs. The first thing he brought on board was his toy cash register (complete with its key, which I’d lost track of long ago). He explained it was for his gold doubloons. You will see, in the picture of Captain Fishypants, above, that he made sure I drew him holding a bag of doubloons in addition to a sword. (Mbot drew the picture of himself, upper right.)

This is in keeping with Gbot’s interest in finance. Five weeks ago, he produced his first two representational drawings ever, shown below:

Abraham was notoriously not  handsome man.

Abraham was notoriously not a handsome man.

The second work in Gbot's series, "Abraham Lincoln," which represents a new direction for the artist. (Image courtesy of Gbot)

The second work in Gbot’s series, “Abraham Lincoln,” which represents a new direction for the artist. (Image courtesy of Gbot)

For those of you not schooled in the iconography of preschool stick figure drawings, it is an image of Abraham Lincoln. Behind and above him is the Lincoln Memorial. Gbot was not inspired by the great man’s accomplishments, but rather by what appears on either side of a penny.

Mbot was not pleased about letting Gbot join his crew. But if I put chocolate chip-oatmeal-walnut-coconut cookies in the cash register drawer, I think Cannonball Mbot will reevaluate whether or not his ship has room for Captain Fishypants and his booty, and the Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship will sail.

Hair Trouble Starts Early

Gbot, this morning, scowling in front of the mirror and wildly smoothing down his hair, which I’d just brushed into floofiness: “No! I look like a baby!”

2012 March 19 Sun Valley 026

Gbot, seconds later, after I’d help smooth his floofy hair flat against his head: “Noooooo! I look like a rich old man!”

Cheney Rumsfeld_Bush

Personally, I’d go for the baby look over the other any day of the week.

 

 

A Four-Year-Old’s Icebreaker

Mbot's first visit to the pediatric dentist. Free Pac-Man in the waiting room, movies on the ceiling, and a balloon. Oh, and dental x-rays, sharp tools wielded gently, and three cavities. I tried to hide my shock and dismay, but I think it's actually greased the wheels of Mbot's social life.

Mbot’s first visit to the pediatric dentist. Free Pac-Man in the waiting room, movies on the ceiling, and a balloon. Oh, and dental x-rays, sharp tools wielded gently by kind Amy, and three cavities. I tried to hide my shock and dismay, but I think they’ve actually greased the wheels of Mbot’s social life.

Mbot, pumping all by himself on the swingset at the park, to the six-year-old (judging from the gap in her front teeth) stranger girl pumping by herself on the swing beside him: “Do you know I go to the dentist now? Do you go to the dentist?”

Stranger Girl: “Yeah.”

Mbot: “I have this many cavities–” (untwines one hand awkwardly from the chain of the swing to hold up three fingers, then counts them) “–three.”

Not-Quite-Such-A-Stranger-Girl: “I have one.”

Mbot: “They’re going to give a filling. It’s weird, isn’t it?”

Friend Girl: “REALLY weird.”

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.

 

First Day of School

2013 Jan 7 First Day of SCHOOL 012

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!”

2013 Jan 7 First Day of SCHOOL 013

Not as happy as Mama.

At school, Mbot led the family in one final flushworthy effort.
2013 Jan 7 First Day of SCHOOL 015

And then they were off.

2013 Jan 7 First Day of SCHOOL 016

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?

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.

I Believe We Can Make Them Disappear: Thoughts on Mass Murderers

Mbot reads the news on "TV."

Mbot reads the news on “TV.” His news was about how the ants had a picnic. Do we have the power to make our news so benign?

I have been stalling with this post because I feel the need to address the shootings on Friday and I don’t want to. There is so much to say and at the same time such despair that silence seems the only reasonable course. Becoming a mother dissolved some binding agent in my emotional chain mail, allowing news items like the shooting deaths of twenty children (and seven adults who used to be children and who have children and who are the children of others) to penetrate deeply between the links. I believe this phenomenon–of weakening the binding agent that protects the one in order to allow the formation of empathy throughout a group–is a biological trick. Even Hollywood’s caught on–“women with children” is one of four demographic groups considered in the marketability of any big movie. We are different, which is the reason I nearly wept on Friday when the friend I was meeting for lunch–himself a parent–told me the news. Our server thought their was something terribly wrong. I assured her I was fine.

But there is something terribly wrong.

This isn’t the place for a scholarly diatribe and I’m not equipped to deliver a policy statement. I speak as a mother and a reasonably well-educated citizen.

This event is just the latest in an epidemic of mass shooting murders by young men. It is an epidemic, as described by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, in which he investigates social epidemics from the crime wave in New York City’s subways to the decade-long wave of teen suicides in Micronesia.

Here’s Malcolm Gladwell, in an interview about the book:

 In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Micronesia had teen suicide rates ten times higher than anywhere else in the world. Teenagers were literally being infected with the suicide bug, and one after another they were killing themselves in exactly the same way under exactly the same circumstances. We like to use words like contagiousness and infectiousness just to apply to the medical
realm. But I assure you that after you read about what happened in Micronesia you’ll be convinced that behavior can be transmitted from one person to another as easily as the flu or the measles can. In fact, I don’t think you have to go to Micronesia to see this pattern in action. Isn’t this the explanation for the current epidemic of teen smoking in this country? And what about the rash of mass shootings we’re facing at the moment–from Columbine through the Atlanta
stockbroker through the neo-Nazi in Los Angeles?

That inteview was from before Senator Gifford, before the theater in Arvada, before multiple shootings in other public places, before Friday’s horror.

We can’t change human nature–violence is our birthright. But behaviors within groups can be changed.

The question, of course, is how do we stop such an epidemic? The answer to making New York’s subway safe again began in a five-year effort to remove all the (then rampant) graffiti from the underground transport system. The theory behind the successful campaign: change the context, change behavior. It worked. A well-taken care of environment sent the message that criminal activity wasn’t expected. And people did what they were expected to do.

We’ve all seen that mentality at work time and time again: when children join other raucous kids on the playground, they become more raucous. I know that my own behavior shifts depending on my environment.

Offhand, I can think of three changes to our environment that might make this country a safer place for us all, and particularly for our children.

The first and most boring–because it’s been said a million times–is to ban ownership of semiautomatic weapons. I believe in gun ownership–I was raised by a father who provided his family with venison from deer hunting, and I married a bird hunter who shoots nothing he won’t eat. But people don’t hunt quail or deer with semiautomatics. People hunt people with them.

The second is to recognize schools–especially schools for children and teens–as the sacred spaces they are. There have been recent shootings in churches and mosques in this country, and so obviously, sacred spaces are not immune to the epidemic. But elevating our schools to the position they deserve–by paying teachers more, by valuing education more, by spend more money on programs, facilities, and protection for these facilities–we would be publicly recognizing these places as the most important places in our society, off-limits to such violence.

But I think a third change would be even more important. Peter Gabriel’s song, “Family Snapshot,” comes to mind, about a lonely boy fantasizing about assassinating a public figure:

“I don’t really hate you –

I don’t care what you do

We were made for each other –

Me and you.

I want to be somebody –

You were like that too

If you don’t get given you learn to take

And I will take you.”

It’s a chilling and horrible mentality. And we need to start sending the message that we don’t care about the gunmen. That our society doesn’t have one ounce of time or energy to spend on thinking about them or the troubles they’ve seen. That by taking life, they annihilate their own individuality, rendering them faceless criminals. Their names and the memory of them vanish; they become the equivalent of Untouchables in the Hindu caste system.

I believe we are not powerless to fight this epidemic of killing. We may live in a country where violence is embedded into society. But also embedded into it is freedom of speech. We have the power to lobby our lawmakers to ban semiautomatic weapons. We have the power to lobby our communities and government to turn our schools into holy places. And we have the power to pressure the media to make murderers not into Somebody, but into Nobody.

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.