This Cat Will Never Go to San Diego,

I should not have been surprised, as this is what happened when we painted pony statuettes.

I should not have been surprised, as this is what happened when we painted pony statuettes. Fortunately, the antique cat was out of range that day.

and not because he’s dead. The antique cat is alive and not long ago,smelled like a coconut. Along with the smell was the visual effect: he looked like he’d lost a sun lotion squirting fight. Of course he lost. He doesn’t have thumbs. It’s the price he paid for my sleeping in (6:30).

Gbot did not sleep in.

Gbot, although he insists loudly that he’s fourteen, is three.

And I’d left the Hawaiian Tropic SPF 30 sunblock in the swimming bag, and I’d left the swimming bag within fifty inches of the floor.

I did not take a picture, to preserve the dignity of the victimized party. Also to preserve the upholstery, pillows, and antique quilts. Because the antique cat was getting ready to curl up on all three, threatening to transfer the great white globs that were slathered from withers to hips onto anything that moves slower than he does.

A few minutes in the shower with the baby shampoo did the trick and the antique cat emerged clean, albeit nonplussed, and smelling like babies instead of beaches.

The sound of the shower awoke Mbot. “Mom, why’s Tesserpiglet so wet?” he asked.

I explained that Gbot had smeared sun lotion on him, and that we do not do that to animals. “Why?” asked Mbot. “Why did he do it?”

“I think to be funny,” I said. Then it occurred to me that I didn’t really know WHY Gbot had done it. “Gbot, why did you smear Tesserwell with sun lotion?” I asked.

“Because!” he replied guilelessly. “I wanted him to be cool in the sun!”

“Oh,” I said. I explained why kitty cats don’t need sun lotion. I explained that when it gets too hot for them, they go inside or lie in the shade.

“Then I will NEVER take Tesserpiglet to San Diego,” announced Mbot. “Because that’s the HOTTEST place on earth.”

I was grateful that my children are (at least attempting to be) kind to animals. I was grateful to be reminded not to prematurely assign nefarious motivations to others. I was grateful that I’d stored the Rainbow Animal Painting Kits more than fifty inches above the floor.

Mbot actually started it; the animals in his Rainbow Animals Painting Kit became a Skele-Pig and a Skele-Pony before he turned to bigger and better things. I have cropped this photo for privacy purposes, but let's just say that Mbot became Skel-Mbot, from brows to bare booty.

I’m still slightly dumbfounded that Mbot’s Rainbow Animals Painting Kit mini-statues became a Skele-Pig and a Skele-Pony before he turned to bigger and better things. I have cropped this photo for privacy purposes, but let’s just say that Mbot became Skel-Mbot, from brows to bare booty.

Veni, Vidi, Virus

Customer Service Representatives are standing by ready to take your order.

Customer Service Representatives are standing by.

“Hello. You have reached the Center for Viruses of the Digestive System. If you would like to order a Virus for the Upper Gastrointestinal Tract,  please press or say ‘one.’ If you would like to order a Virus for the Lower Gastrintestinal Tract, please press or say ‘two.’ Your order will ship immediately upon the arrival at our main facility of another sample. The estimated arrival time will be less than” (pause) “one hour. Oh, look, here it is now. To hear this recording in Spanish, please go to a different, more multicultural blog. To hear a different, less gross message, please go to a blog where everyone is healthy. Thank you for calling. Have a nicer day than ours.”

New Superhero, “Naked-Boy,” Sighted Near Phoenix,

it is rumored that Naked-Boy shares a tailor with the Emperor. (library.sc.edu)

It is rumored that Naked-Boy shares a tailor with the Emperor. (library.sc.edu)

….Experts are still debating exactly what his superpowers are, and whether they are helpful on Planet Earth. One eye-witness reports seeing him do the superpee, shooting, in a fit of defiance against larger powers, urine up to two feet onto the wall behind the toilet.

Another eye-witness, or possibly the same one, claimed she saw him break through a discipline deflector shield that was supposed to be protecting items on a very high counter, and obtain an entire bunch of bananas, simultaneous upsetting a stainless-steel decorative trivet which landed on Naked-Boy’s foot.

Still another eye-witness has produced proof that the newest and smallest superhero pranced across newspapers splattered with still-wet oil-based magnetic wall paint during his mother’s latest attempt at home improvement. The witness was charged with negligent looking-away-from Naked-Boy while being in charge of him. Naked-Boy does not appear to be magnetic. He does, however, appear to be naked.

He was first sighted several mornings ago, after his mother dressed him for school, or thought she did. Soon afterward, he pranced into the living room in his distinctive “costume”  and declared, “I’m NAKED-BOY! Meet NAKED-BOY! I’m SOOOOooOO NAKED!”

There are no photos available, in the interest of protecting the privacy of the private parts of the party.

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.

Attack of the Eggliens

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The first egglien spaceship arrived in the docking bay. Close behind it was a second, this one with a more elaborate antenna, and an eye :

2013 March 30 hike & eggliens 024

The hatch opened.

The eggliens had arrived,

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bringing with them a unique and unforeseen dilemma:

How do you convince your kids to eat an egg that is looking at them? An egg upon which they painstakingly placed the eyes and hair themselves?

And am *I* going to have to eat twenty-two hardboiled eggliens in secret, all by myself?

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!”

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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.

 

 

Animal Care Center Helps Mom Most Of All

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The honeymoon is over.

For at least thirty-six hours after my return home from Boston, the bots were delightful. And then real life set in.

It’s spring break, which is easier in some ways, most markedly in that we don’t have to rush out the door each morning in a flurry of mismatched socks, half-brushed teeth, and cries of “I want to take Junepbear today!”

Yesterday morning while I was attempting to make French toast, the bots were arguing loudly and playing Let’s Kick Each Other at the kitchen table. Nothing good has ever come of that game. And so, over the rising mayhem, I shouted, “I’m doing my work, guys! My work is making breakfast. I think you have work to do, too. What is it?”

Now, my idea was that they would go and try to make their beds which, while it wouldn’t be helpful from a housekeeping point of view, would be helpful from a lowering-my-immediate-stress-level point of view.

“Hey G!” exclaimed Mbot. “Let’s go make an animal care center!”

And so, as I did my work, the merry sounds of the bots doing their work drifted happily in the air, mingling with the aroma of French toast.

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 007

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 009

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 010 2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 011

It was remarkable. I am quite sure the term “miracle” was coined by one of the first mothers upon witnessing just such a cooperative effort. The lesson is not original but it is a good one nonetheless: even a four-year-old is happier when he’s got a job to do.

Field Trip: The (Normally) Peaceful Prairie Alpaca Ranch

Mbot and Little Gus

Mbot and Little Gus

Meet Little Gus. He’s the one not wearing a dinosaur raincoat. Instead, he’s wearing a coat warmer than wool and soft as cashmere, in one of twenty-two natural colors.

Little Gus is a cria, or baby alpaca, and in addition to wearing a lovely coat that, when he’s fully grown, could potentially become ten pounds of Ralph Lauren sweaters or the world’s most luxurious socks, he also knows where to poop. The alpaca uses several communal waste piles in a pasture and their natural cleanliness, along with their gentle, aloof nature–two ranchers I’ve spoken with have likened them to cats–make them ideal tenants and soothing company.

The herd gains a chia in froggie boots.

The herd gains a chia with stripes.

We visited Little Gus and about ninety of his huacaya pasture-mates a few weekends ago, on a road trip to Peaceful Prairie Ranch, just over ninety minutes north in Arizona’s altiplano. (Huacaya, pronounced “walk-EYE-uh”, are the most common of two types of alpaca, Huacaya and suri (pronounced “SOO-ree.”) They live with Wendy Dittbrenner, on acreage she’s crafted into an ideal alpaca preserve, with divided pastures for males, females, crias and their mamas, visiting stock, etc. She also keeps a small herd of Merino sheep, a variety of hairy sheepdogs, and a henhouse around which colorful chickens strutted.

Wendy breeds the animals for health, temperament and fiber. Each April on shearing day, professionals wielding razors liberate the animals of their coats, which can yield from five to nearly ten pounds of useable fleece. I’m a fan of alpaca yarn–Nanny knit me a sweater of 100% alpaca several years ago, and it’s the only fiber I’ve found that rivals cashmere for its light weight, warmth, and softness.

The bots stressed them out at first...

The bots stressed them out at first…

herd black corner-001

…but they soon calmed, and stood staring, en masse….

...at the two-legged newcomer.

…at the two-legged newcomer.

Each alpaca is unique in appearance and temperament–they all had names and Wendy knew them by sight. Although the bots were curious about the big, fluffy critters, Mbot kept drifting across the yard toward the chickens. Chickens do not poop in discreet piles, they poop everywhere. And it smells vile. Mbot was not discouraged. It is confounding to me that a child who can smell dog food from across the room and identify two teaspoons of espresso in an entire batch of fudgy cupcake batter does not mind the smell of chicken poop on his boots. Nonetheless, Mbot attempted the whole time we were visiting to pat a chicken. He finally succeeded, and the hen, a silken gold and brown, stood obligingly still as a beaming Mbot stroked her feathers.

Driving home, Mbot asked if we could get another pet. “I’m ready to move on from my starting creature,” he announced. (His starting creature is the antique cat, whom he sometimes feeds and waters.)

“Well,” I replied, “I don’t think we’ll get Little Gus. They’re herd animals, and so we’d really have to get two or three, and we don’t have room for them.”

“No, Mom,” he said. “I want a chicken.”

Gbot is less interested in Little Gus than he is in exactly what his tongue can do.

Gbot is less interested in Little Gus than he is in exactly what his tongue can do.

But pictures and poop on our boots will have to do for now.

The Year of the Carrot

Apres-bath beta-carotene snack!

Right around the time that the bots bring raggedly cut paper lanterns home from preschool and announce they were born in the year of the ox and the tiger (wrong–the rat and the ox), the winter garden begins pushing all sorts of goodness out of its chemical-free furrows. Chinese New Year gives way to President’s Week among mild days, comments like, “I learned that presidents who don’t look good are smart” (Mbot), and bickering over who gets to use the big shovel.

Picking lettuce

Child labor is alive and well in Arizona.

It usually also coincides with a visit from Nanny. While The Guru stays home in Idaho to cut the corduroy on the ski slopes, Nanny comes south for a bot-fix. This year, we introduced her to the Secret Garden. We were taking a chance, as, if you need a hired gun to assasinate any lifeform capable of photosynthesis, Nanny’s your man. (You see here that she managed to kill an iceberg lettuce, but at least we will eat its head.)

Yes, Virginia, this is where iceberg lettuce comes from

Yes, Virginia, this is where iceberg lettuce comes from! (And we learned from His Wikiness that iceberg lettuce got its name because it used to be shipped under shovelfuls of ice.)

As we stepped among the rows of broccoli, green onions, spinach, and other assorted supermarket items, Nanny’s continued exclamations about how cool the iceberg lettuce was–actually growing out of the ground–reminded me of how cool the iceberg lettuce was, actually growing out of the ground.

Digging carrots out of the ground

Digging carrots out of the dirt before we….

 

...dig carrots out of the washing machine!

…dig carrots out of the washing machine!

The next day, I was also reminded that every visit to the garden should be followed by a pocket-check. Not that a little beta-carotene in the laundry ever hurt anyone.

(To read about last year’s exciting and treacherous foray among the furrows, see Adventures With the Earth.)

2013 February carrots exhibit 003

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.”