What Kind of Creature are You?

Mbot Fly 4

After a recent bath, Mbot, in his winged Red Fish towel, realized he might be wearing a garment that would allow him to fly. “Mom! I’m going to fly!” he announced. He mounted the steps of his bunk bed.

He raised his arms wide.

He leapt.

He landed. Ker-plop.

I waited.

He said: “I think I need to start from higher.”

He climbed higher.

He raised his arms wide.

He leapt.

He landed, ker-plop.

He said: “I think I need to flap my arms faster.”

 

 

Mbot Fly 3

He climbed up again. He raised his arms wide. He leapt. He flapped.

He landed, ker-plop.

He looked at me. He said, “I think I’m more of a gliding creature.”

And that was the end of that.

I thought, my heavens, if everyone figured out the truth about their own natures–and accepted it–so readily, what a different world we’d live in. I wondered about myself and some of my own unfulfilled ambitions, the terrycloth fins I spread.

Even if we dream of being flying creatures, is it so bad to discover that we are only gliding creatures, in the end?

 

Mbot Fly 2

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Oh *I* See the Problem Now. There’s a Pig in My Shoe.

Last week, we were leaving Tae Kwon Do class, which looks like this:

Mr. Rice demonstrates a punch for Mbot. (Mbot: "Oh, I've punched my brother.")

Mr. Rice demonstrates a punch for Mbot. (Mbot, unimpressed: “Oh, I’ve punched my brother.”)

At the end of class, Mbot sat on the floor to put on his sandals. Kids were coming in and practicing for the next class, and after two full minutes of watching Mbot through the milling crowd, I saw that he was working very hard jamming into the toe of his sandal a keychain, which looks like this:

A gift my brother in Japan gave me long ago finds new admirers in the next generation. (on sale now for $1.50! at getgags.com)

A gift my brother in Japan gave me beellions and beellions of years ago ago finds new admirers in the next generation. (still on sale today, for $1.50! at getgags.com)

Having accomplished this task, he worked for another two minutes to stuff his foot far enough into the shoe to affix the heel strap. “Mbot,” I was urging, “If your shoe is not on by the time I count to three, we will leave without shoes.” The door to the dojo was standing open, desert air flowing inside at 102 degrees, and Gbot, who had just awoken bleary-eyed in my arms, was growing exponentially heavier as the seconds passed.

Finally, Mbot tottered happily out the door and across the grass with his heel hanging off the back of one sandal and the other sandal in his hand. I left him at the curb to climb into the car while I loaded up Sack-o’-Potatobot. Mbot, gaining his seat, crossed his foot over his other knee, considered it without expression, and then said as though totally surprised, “Oh I see the problem now. There’s a pig in my shoe!”

I take a few things away from the pooping pig in the shoe incident, and they look like this:

1. Don’t assume that your goals are the same as the person you are with.

2. When the world is not funny enough,

The world is not funny enough.

The world is not funny enough.

 make your own jokes.

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.”

Teacher Appreciation Week: Mums and Conundrums

Imagine yourself putting on this outfit and bicycling through a splashpark. Now you are in the right frame of mind to choose a flower to give the teacher...

Imagine yourself putting on this outfit and bicycling through a splashpark. Now you are in the right frame of mind to choose a flower to give the teacher…

It is Teacher Appreciation Week again.

I love our teachers. Mrs. Pursell and Mrs. Gonzales rock. They are firm, understanding, insightful, patient, and smart. But I do not like Teacher Appreciation Week.

Part of my dislike for it is founded in my own inability to sit the bots down to make cards for their teachers a week in advance. And yesteday, on the way to the varicose vein doctor, I forgot to ask the babysitter to oversee a card-making event.

And so this morning, while sipping strawberry-secret-spinach smoothies festooned with tropical umbrellas, we had a card-making extravaganza. For three-year-old Gbot, this meant going wild with the Elmer’s glue. For four-year-old Mbot, this meant attempting to cut out snowflakes and hearts from flowery paper. He is neither strong enough or well-coordinated enough to cut through four layers of paper at once with dull child-proof scissors, and got frustrated, but at last we ended up with four cards that were only slightly goopy still upon delivery.

Yesterday was “bring your teacher a flower” day. Last year I think we brought them each a sunflower from Safeway. This year, however, we have dwarfish mums growing on the patio, and Husbot helped the bots cut one apiece for their teachers. All the other kids brought in gorgeous tulips, luscious roses, sunflowers the size of dessert plates, frilly carnations, lilting lilies. Our raggedy offerings were on six-inch stems. Last time I checked, they had not made it into the glass vases overflowing with long-stemmed gorgeousness.

But Mbot and Gbot don’t know the difference. They clutched each measly mum as though it was a rare orchid for a prom date. (although I caught Gbot squeezing one blossom in the back seat). Among the preschool set, there is definitely a disconnect between aesthetics and intension.

And it begs the question: is Teacher Appreciation Week for the students to show their appreciation? Or for parents to show their appreciation? Maybe both, but it’s tought to balance the two. One thing it isn’t is a contest. But I have to consciously stop myself from comparing–from thinking with a sigh, “Wow, our flowers are totally lame.”  These talented women who are the bots’ teachers wouldn’t be preschool teachers if they didn’t see the beauty in a dwarfish, tightly-clutched mum that’s slightly worse for being fondled on the ten-minute trip to school.

We appreciate them.

 

Juniper at Jupiter: A Bear, His Boy, and a String Quartet

I apologize to readers for my absence–but we are back! I’ll make my excuses later. Today, I bring you volcano music.
Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the handsomest one of all?

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the handsomest one of all?

Attending the Jupiter String Quartet’s Phoenix performance with Mbot was my idea. Attending the concert with Mbot and Junepy was Mbot’s idea. So was the necktie, a strip of red felt fashioned into a bow, although in the end, Mbot wore a pair of fleecy dinosaur zip-up footie pajamas and a wide, pale blue polka-dot grosgrain ribbon tied in a Windsor knot, and Junepy wore the red felt bow. “But Junepy will be handsomer than me,” worried Mbot (unnecessarily, most would agree).

 

I’d been lucky, the week before while in Boston, to have a friend casually drop the fact that her daughter was singing that night in the Boston Baroque Ensemble at the New England Conservatory. It was serendipity–I am a huge fan of chamber music, and particularly of Baroque music, and I am a huge fan of the NEC, as it’s home to my ultrafave radio show, NPR’s Sunday evening staple, “From the Top,” which features amazing young musicians from across the nation. As far as music goes, I am one of those people perfectly designed to provide an audience, unburdened as I was at an early age (by my piano teacher, as it happens) of any illusion that I’ve got the rhythm in me. There is evidence to make me suspect that Mbot has inherited a seat beside me among the spectators.

 

So my first morning back home, Mbot climbed onto the bed and asked what I’d done in Boston. “I went to hear the most beautiful music ever,” I told him. I retrieved the netbook and pulled up the Boston Baroque Ensemble’s homepage. He pointed to a picture of a bright red, erupting volano. “I want to hear that one! The volcano music!” So I clicked it–the volcano was the image on the DVD cover of the BBE’s recording of Haydn’s Creation. I left the room to brush my teeth and see what havoc Gbot was creating, and Mbot listened to the volcano music, rapt, for twenty minutes.

 

So I bought us tickets to the next performance sponsored by the Phoenix Chamber Music Society. It would be a big evening. It wasn’t cheap, the concert venue was almost an hour’s drive away, the concert started at what was technically bedtime, and the concert would require sitting. For over an hour. And then for another thirty minutes. While Junepy excels at sitting, Mbot’s gifts lay elsewhere.

 

The night arrived. An hour before takeoff, an excited Mbot announced, “Junepy wants to come!” and disappeared into the bedroom. Five minutes passed. Ten minutes passed. Silence. In my experience, ten minutes of silence usually equates to a twenty minute cleanup effort afterward, and so I went to investigate. I found Mbot on the floor struggling the bear.

 

He’d managed to push Junepy’s large, obstinate head through the neckhole of a shirt, but the bear’s large, obstinate feet were proving too large and obstinate to go through pantlegs without motherly help.

 

“Junepy’s going to be the handsomest bear there!” announced Mbot proudly. Then he said with alarm, “But he needs a tie!”

 

At last, everyone dressed and ready, we headed into town. “The volcano music is so beautiful,” mused Mbot from the back seat.  “But why is it so beautiful? Why does it sound like swans singing?”

 

Why, indeed? I had no answer. But in my mind, the evening had already paid for itself.

 

When at last we pulled into the parking lot of the church where the preformance was being held, he studied the crowd. “Are we in the right place?” he asked. “I see lots of old people.”

 

“Then we KNOW it’s the right place,” I replied.

 

“No Mom,” he insisted. “It’s not the right place. This is the senior center.”

 

Indeed it did look a senior center. There was even a big white bus that had come from the senior center. Mbot was the youngest attendee by about forty years. There were a handful of twenty-somethings–literally, I could count them on my hands–and one teenage girl with her mom.

 

I thought the silver-haired crowd might express fear at our disruptive potential, but without exception they appeared delighted by the presence of the bot and his bear. Many observed his outfit with a sigh of envy. If only we could wear fleecy dinosaur one-piece zip-up pajamas!, everyone agreed.

 

We settled into a pew. The lights dimmed. The woman behind us sneezed. The musicians appeared. The concert began. “Mom, I’m dehydrated,” whispered Mbot. I found with horror that his sippy cup was empty. Thankfully, the M&Ms in my purse provided distraction. The woman behind us sneezed again. Beside me on the pew, which seemed to be designed by or for ascetics, squirming occurred. My blood pressure rose. In spite of the soothing and lovely tones of Mozart’s Quartet in D Major, K. 575, I sat rigid, hoping the squirming would be contained to our five board feet of bench.

 

It was.

 

There was considerably less squirming during the next piece, Bartok’s Quartet no. 1, due no doubt to its energetic and unpredictable progression, and so when Intermission finally arrived, with its promise of water, cookies, and an opportunity to run intervals at the back of the sanctuary, Mbot had actually earned many charmed smiles and compliments. “We need more young blood!” exclaimed one couple with delight. The woman behind us sneezed again.

 

“Allergies?” I asked with heartfelt sympathy, when she asked me for a tissue, which I provided.

 

“Do you have a cat?” she replied.

 

I admitted that we did, and she eyed Junepy suspiciously. “I’ll bet the fur is all over that.”

 

I bit back the urge to say, “Him. The fur is all over him.” but I did defend him. “Actually, he’s way cleaner than he looks.”

 

Still leveling a doleful gaze at Junepy, she replied, “I find that hard to believe.”

 

After intermission, Mbot lay on Junepy listening to the Schumann Piano Quintet until his lids slowly dropped, and he fell asleep. I finally relaxed.

 

Afterward, I carried Mbot through the warm night to the car. The sneezing woman kindly and bravely offered to carry Junepy.

 

In the following days, Mbot would claim that his favorite part of the concert were the orange M&Ms, and that he liked “to listen to beautiful music, not watch it.” But I consider the evening a triumph for chamber music, for children, and for cat-dander-carrying bears everywhere.

 

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.

 

 

Animal Care Center Helps Mom Most Of All

2013 March 15 animal zoo & boys at park 015

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.

Bang! Bang! Bangs!

Carmen went a little overboard with the floofy ringlets.

Carmen went a little overboard with the floofy ringlets.

I know I just said that I like my hair. It’s true: I don’t want the lowlights that even Husbot had the nerve to suggest not long ago. But I have to admit I’ve been getting really tired of my face.

Pulling my unbrushed tresses straight back into an elastic band every morning while encouraging pottying, pouring cereal and milk into pouring containers so the bots can pour their own cereal and milk into bowls, mopping cereal and milk and potty off the floor, pulling clothes onto bots who would rather be playing, pushing toothbrushes into the mouths of bots who would rather be playing, and encouraging self-shoe-putting-onning of bots (who: that’s right….) wasn’t helping matters.

The answer to all my problems, of course, was bangs. Cheaper, subtler, and–ostensibly–less painful than a face lift. Which I don’t want anyway. And so on Friday, I finally got around to making an appointment. I didn’t care with whom. I called the Ulta next to the Barnes and Noble, which I’ve been to several times, and was told that Carmen had an opening at 3:30. The name rang a bell. Carmen had done something or other–probably given me a trim–a few years back. I remembered only that he was very young and flamboyant with sticky-uppy hair, half dark and half platinum blond. He was a bit soft around the middle, and he talked nonstop about Disneyland. I had no other recollections, except that I had no feeling of heavy trauma associated with the memories, so he must have done a passable job on my hair.

I remembered nothing more until 3:45, when I was in his chair, post hair-wash, avoiding looking at myself in the mirror as I always do in the hairdresser’s chair, and he got out his comb.

It was a hairstylist’s kind of comb, very thin and long, like a stiletto, with two hundred needle-like teeth. He combed once, twice, and then it happened: the comb, on its way from crown to hair tip, jammed into the top of my ear. Then he raised his hand to comb again, and again it flapped my ear painfully down on its way earthward. And I suddenly remembered: Carmen, in addition to enjoying Disneyland very much, wanted to be a spy. He was concerned, however, because he only spoke English. And he might need to learn, say, Arabic. Two years ago, I had kindly encouraged him–after all, there we were–a hairstylist who wanted to be a spy, a housewife/new mother/magazine writer-who-hadn’t-published-an-article-since-giving-birth who wanted to write a book. And then he’d gotten out his comb.

And I remembered thinking, Carmen, my friend, how can you possibly be a spy, when you can’t even sneak up on my ears?

I saw on Friday that Carmen had aged well: he had lost his baby fat, his hair was all one color, and he seemed more confident. I sat with those words ringing in my stinging ears, slightly concerned about what would happen to my hair, but not particularly worried that an international assassin would appear and put a bullet through his black shirt that would then travel through my head.

He started talking about Disneyland.

But then he started asking questions. Consulting the photo I’d brought, ripped from an overpriced hairstyle magazine I would never use again, and asking more questions. They were good questions. He snipped, he clipped, he measured with his hands. He shaped, he thinned. He shared a recipe for a killer white salsa with shrimp.

And I found myself quite happy that Ulta salon will probably never lose Carmen to the CIA, because my ears may be slightly the worse for wear, but he did sneak up on my softer, more feminine side, and tweak it on the ass.

And not once did he suggest lowlights.

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.”