Attack of the Eggliens

2013 March 30 hike & eggliens 021

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?

Chipless Dale and Mini-Harry: A Photo Essay

It was a Halloween miracle, or several: Gbot’s brown turtleneck arrived via UPS at 3:45 p.m. Having forgotten to load up their pumpkin buckets, I bought the last $1.99 cauldron at the corner drugstore at 4:10 p.m. There was a $1.99 bat bag hanging above it. In spite of a still-coldy, sore-nosed Gbot (and after the application to the nostrils of Vaseline, which ingited a bout of wailing that only a piece of pizza could stop), we were all outfitted in time to take pictures. And Gbot wore his costume. All evening. The Great Pumpkin surely was watching over us.

I hope The Great Pumpkin was watching over you, too!

Mother Finds Something Resembling the “V” Word in South-Central Idaho

Take me home, country road.

We took the Strider bikes around the block our first evening here. The block in Idaho looks a little different than the one back home.

In the haste of coming off the conference and packing for an unfamiliar airline, which meant packing differently–only one big suitcase and three small carry-ons, I forgot my good camera. Which is a shame, because the bots are finally big and independent and trustworthy enough to give me small moments to fool around with stuff, both technical and non, without destroying the order of the universe.

“What’s the weather like up there, Cap’n Mbot?”

There is a pirate ship in the back yard.

“What else do birds like in their nests, Mom?”

There are ingredients to build birds’ nests. We came back from a walk down the dry creekbed with pockets stuffed with the wormlike tips of cottonwood branches, coin-sized river rocks smooth as gumballs, yellow-gold leaves, grasses, and even a few oriole feathers. After drawing directions for how to do it, Mbot carefully built a nest on the porch railing. He put a few pretzels in as bait. We check them periodically.

Bushwacking to the bewildered* garden (*a garden that’s nearly taken over by wilderness.)

The weather is perfect: frosty or close to it at night, mid-sixties at midday. Aspen leaves shiver in the chilly breeze and the light glows golden under the tall, tangled cottonwoods. We have practically lived out of doors since arriving. Out of doors in the Wood River Valley is my favorite place to be. It is apparently Mbot’s new favorite place, too. After our long creekbed excursion, while Nanny was preparing lunch, Mbot asked her, “Where will you move after this?”

“We won’t move,” replied Nanny. “We like it here.”

“But when you die you’ll move,” Mbot pointed out.

“That’s true,” said Nanny. “We’ll move to Heaven, I suppose.”

“Mom,” said Mbot, turning to me, “Can we move to this house after Nanny dies?”

I explained that we were lucky that Nanny wouldn’t die for a long, LONG time. And then we agreed it was much more fun being here while Nanny is alive.

And then we ate lunch, and went back outside to play–the bots chasing each other around the towering lilac bush, climbing the rigging of the yard swing pirate ship together, swinging in the hammock together, and discovering the bewildered garden together. It’s as though someone waved a cottonwood wand with a crisp tawny leaf at its tip and pronounced us the family of peaceful playing and quiet cooperation.

This has begun to acquire the feel of a vacation.

The Woman Who Mistook Sewing For Her Strength

Robot pants!

(the post formerly known as “The Woman Who Mistook Her Strength as Sewing”–ack!)

I’ve been sewing, and I have to admit, I’m not a natural seamstress, nor a well behaved one. A couple of nights ago, I scared Mbot with the sound I made every time I revved up the old Singer and the thread, instead of zooming through the fabric to do its sewy thing, popped back out through the hole of the needle instead, because I hadn’t pulled it through far enough to keep this from happening. I had to stop, rethread the needle (read: consider putting on my reading glasses, which I don’t need except to read the labels on children’s medicine bottles, not put them on because it adds an extra step, and push the camelesque thread through the hole of the needle, which seemed to grow smaller each time this happened.)

But. I like to make cute things I can’t buy. I like to make them for others. I like to discover great fabrics in strange places and modify patterns. But the design process does way more for me than the actual real work at the machine.

But the design process forces me to confront one of my mental weaknesses: while I can sculpt a decent (depending I am sure on who you ask) human or animal in wax or clay, if I’m faced with an  interfacing with undulating edges and pants with an undulating top edge, that I have to put together a certain way in order to turn the final product inside out and upside down and have it be right–my mind fails to make the necessary leaps for me. I mean, really fails. I have to actually think hard about it, hold the pieces up to one another, go through the motions of turning them as if already sewn together, and then write it down–still not entirely sure that it will actually be right in the end–because I will forget. It’s like the part of my brain that should be standing by ready to visualize piecing 2D shapes into semi-complex 3D forms with a 3/8″ selvage was left in the gene pool when I hopped out (along with the extra three inches I really could use between the hip and ankle). I am sure Coco Chanel and Linda McCartney never had this problem.

And so, to make myself feel better, along with having a glass of wine, I told myself that my brain is wizzled like a dried shiitake in that particular module, other parts of it are firing in fun (if not entirely useful) ways. For example, mild synesthesia runs in my family. Her Wikiness describes it thus: “a neurological condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway.” Many writers, musicians, and artists have it–some of the famous ones have (or had, in the case of the dead ones). A few weeks ago, a young musician on NPR’s “From the Top” (one of my favorite radio programs ever), described how she experiences each musical note as a bright color. Some people do drugs to get this way; some people are born this way. But as I mentioned in the beginning, mine’s not exactly an acid trip. It’s mild.

Both my sister and I assign colors to numbers (mine didn’t match up with hers), and I recall being annoyed as a child that seven was gray, since it was my favorite number, and green was my favorite color. But there was no helping it: seven was the color of a thundercloud. Not even a pretty shade of gray. A medium, flat, not-particulary-blue variety. As far as seven goes, there are not, in fact, fifty shades of gray.

It was much later that I realized not everyone shared my strong feelings about odd and even numbers, either. And it was only very recently that I learned this particular form of synesthesia has a name: “ordinal linguistic personification.” Even numbers–even the word “even,” clanged in my ears–they were harsh, ungiving, metallic. Odd numbers–even the word “odd,” on the other hand–were soft, benign, giving. They were comfortable numbers. Even writing this,  I feel it is an obvious statement and that it’s foolish of me to call attention to it when everybody already knows.

Although seven was my only strong color association, the others had distinct feels, shapes, and personalities. I still wonder if these are based on the sound of the name of the number as it is spoken, or its shape on the page. I think both, nearly perhaps weighted a few points to the side of the sound in my ear.

I don’t like three. It’s a showoff. It’s important and it knows it. Three and five are not “normal” odd numbers. They are too strong, harsh, bold. They are even numbers masquerading as odd, or odd numbers dressed up as even–the drag queens of the number world. The odd numbers that act lkie odd numbers are one, seven, nine, eleven–none of the teens–twenty one, twenty-seven–not, for some reason, twenty-nine (too brassy), etc. Ten is full of itself and overly confident, sharp and black. Eleven is soft. It is waltzing. Twelve is hard, solid. You can’t push twelve around. Thirteen is brash but feminine. Fourteen is boring. I would not want to marry fourteen. I would not even date fourteen.

Anyway. You get the idea.

And so, although I am mentally wrestling with my current sewing project, at least the numbers on my fabric ruler keep me company. I don’t think this makes me crazy–at least not in a bad way. And besides, according to Oliver Sacks (neurologist and author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat, among other great readable nonfiction reads), who writes about all sorts of neurological phenomena, there are five million shades of normal. Or five million shades of crazy. Depending how you see it.

robot pants, from the front.

Yesterday’s Mystery Post, Take Two

Sorry it’s so dark. But it IS a cave. Mbot is modeling the giant bat ears that demonstrate how well bats can hear. So here he is hearing the story of the unlucky sloth, told over and over again, really really loudly.

For those of you who read yesterday’s cryptic post before I discovered that most of it was missing, I apologize. Now, in today’s few bot-free minutes, I will try to recreate it:

11,000 years ago, a sloth fell through a crack. It fell into a cave. It couldn’t get out. It died in the cave.

The kind docent in the Shasta Ground Sloth cave at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum told us this story on Sunday when we were admiring the fossilized skeleton and the ancient sloth poop that I managed to not delete in yesterday’s post.

The bots listened with great concern and then baraged the docent with questions. “Why did he fall through the crack?” (I was going to answer, ‘because it didn’t come when it’s mother called it’ but she beat me with ‘Sloths don’t have very big brains.’) “Why could he not get out?” (There was no door.) “Why did he die?” (Because he couldn’t get out of the cave.) While Mbot tried on a giant pair of bat ears which magnified all the cave sounds, Gbot stood rooted in place beside the docent, craning his neck upward to look at her and repeating the questions. Perhaps hoping for different, better answers. But the answers didn’t change.

On the way home, he retold the story many times.

Gbot: “The three-tailed ground sloth fell through the crack. He fell into the cave. He couldn’t get out and” (voice lowering sadly) “he died in the cave.”

Over the next few days, the story was told over and over again. To Daddy, to Aunt Susan, to Grandma, to Nanny over the phone, to Miss Mary the music teacher. It was obviously sad and disturbing. How was I to know it was going to turn into a story of rescue and redemption?

On Wednesday, from the backseat, Gbot told the story again. “But Mama,” he said, “we could use Bob the Builder’s tools!”

“You’re right!” I exclaimed. “A jackhammer can cut through concrete and rock.”

Gbot: “Yeah, and we could make a door and he would say, ‘What a wonderful door you made, Mama and Gbot,’ and he would go through the door in the cave and he would go home to his mommy. And we would go home and talk about how the sloth fell into the cave and got out the door. And the sloth would say, ‘Thank you for making my door in the cave.'”

I praised his creative solution to the sloth’s big problem. Now, perhaps, we could stop hearing about the sloth in the cave. Although it was awfully cute.

But of course, as all answers do, this one led to another question. After a brief pause from the back seat, Gbot asked, concern edging his voice again,

“What if we were sloths, Mama?”

“We would be careful sloths, Spice Bear,” I said. “And we would always carry jackhammers, just in case.”

More about the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum later this week. There were many moments to savor. Today’s recommendation, which would have been yesterday’s recommendation if my post hadn’t fallen through a crack, is: Go there!

 

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes: the 2012 Remake By Gbot

The upside: I now know what a hornworm is. (photo credit: classicalvalues.com)

It is fascinating to me that when I search Google Images for “tomatoes smashed on a door,” pictures of homemade bruschetta, a bowl of soup, a hornworm, and a mean-looking cartoon Viking come up on the first page, but no actual tomatoes smashed on a door.

After I purchase the memory chip to put in my phone to replace the one that disappeared from my desk last week, I will change all that. The appearance of tomatoes on my door and the disappearance of electronics from my desk help to explain where I’ve been for the past seven days, which is obviously not in front of my computer posting tips and tales from parenting, writing, and life, as my business card promises.

For the past seven days, I have been attempting to adapt to just-turned-four-year-old Mbot’s second week of his second year of preschool. For Mbot, it seems to be going very nicely. And for that I am thankful. For me and almost-three-year-old Gbot, some days are better than others. Some days, we build impressive MagnaRepTiles (I would show you a picture, but it’s stuck in my phone.) Some days, we go to the Y, where I am summoned off the treadmill prematurely because my younger half put his tooth through his lip under a table in the playroom. Some days, we play in the pool, where Gbot wants nothing to do with actual swimming, or even bobbing, but instead insists on playing catch with a SquiDiver for an hour from the cooling comfort of the steps. Other days, I try to work. Like today.

I had a lot to do. I was behind. Very behind. Husbot was in the bedroom getting dressed for a meeting. I let Gbot play by himself while I stared into my computer screen begging it to take me back.

Over the monitor, out of focus, I saw Gbot playing handball against the bedroom door with the half-deflated mini soccer ball I’d thought I’d left in the car. “How good he is at entertaining himself!” I thought, pleased. “And thank heavens, because I’m so behind.” I listened to the rhythmic, gently “Thump. Thump. Thump,” as he played. Every once in a while it would stop, and I’d see him race across the living room, out of sight because I didn’t bother turning my head, and then it would start again.

I was deep in mid-edit when Husbot opened the bedroom door. “Did you see this?” he asked in what seemed an overly alarmed tone.

“What?” I asked. “Gbot’s been playing ball against the door.”

“With tomatoes,” he replied.

If my floor had been cleaner, I could have turned it into this. (Photo courtesy of “Door to My Kitchen” at lemonca.wordpress.com)

I snapped to attention.

Had I already forgotten that earlier that morning while signing Mbot into school, and while all the other children had been milling around interacting with other humans, the Bots had gotten double time-outs for conducting a hands-on investigation of the office paper cutter?

I leapt to the scene of the present crime and yes! It was true! The vine-ripened tomatoes that had been on the high counter were now splattered up and down the bedroom door and across the floor. It looked like a murder scene.

The slipcover on the arm chair which he climbed and on whose arm he stood to reach the tomatoes will have to be removed and washed.

The velvet and beaded silk throw quilt responded surprisingly well to dabbing with water.

We will have pasta sauce with canned tomatoes.

I will have a glass of wine.

Probably two.

And I will continue working–and working toward serenity tomorrow. Thank goodness the tomatoes are gone.

Texting at the Wheel is Nothing Compared to This

image from livingthetravelchannel.wordpress.com

On this, the fifth day of my mother’s visit, she awoke from a dream about her grandchildren. Now, Nanny is known for her vivid and amusing dreams (see Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston) which take reality and give them a Coen brother’s twist. So this morning, after five days of nonstop bots–swimming, Stomach Center, more swimming, library craft hour, watching the bots while their mother went to traffic court (er…more on that later), water fights at Grandma’s, trying (in vain) to get my camera to work again after Mbot’s last photo shoot (it was ancient, it was time for it to die), etc., etc.–she told me the dream she’d had moments before waking.

She was driving, in a car on an interstate. The interstate was deserted except for a lone police car cruising in the opposite direction. Gbot was sitting on her lap.

Steering.

Suddenly a tollbooth appeared up ahead, resenting the imminent need to drive straight and decelerate. She decided it was time to take control. She awoke from the dream as she was trying, in vain, to pry his plump wee fingers from the wheel.

That pretty much sums up our week. We’ve taken the scenic route, but the bots have sped right by all the rest stops.

And now we’re off to the dinosaur museum. I’m going to drive. At least literally. Figuratively, I think we all know who’s at the wheel.

Eye-Found-It!

This is a picture of three children enjoying Richard Scarry’s Busytown Eye-Found-It! Game instead of watching TV. The game includes ten miniature fake magnifying glasses, nothing more than a hoop on a 3/4″ handle, that toddlers love to hold up to their eyes and squint through. It makes them laugh and laugh. This picture does not show anyone sticking the little magnifying glass in their ear to see how far it goes.

We have played this game several times (“played” used in the loosest of terms) instead of watching TV. Now, I realize the instructions specify the game is for ages three and up. But I have been fortunate that up until several hours ago, my children have shown no interest in discovering how far they can shove objects of any size into any of their orifices. Several hours ago, Gbot discovered how far he could put a miniature fake magnifying glass into his ear, and the answer was: far enough to draw blood (a little) and cause howling (a lot).

I dialed our trusty pediatrician and listened to calming words about eardrops and scratches that heal quickly and with no consequences. The howling had been replaced by periodic sniffling. I bundled the Midgets into the car for a drive to the pharmacy window. By this time, Gbot was giggling about the impromptu evening spin and playing footsie with Mbot across the gap in the back seat. An hour later he would be sleeping peacefully.

I was not smiling. I was thinking about how fragile we all are, how time can break underfoot like ice on a pond.

Tomorrow night we will watch TV.

What’s the last thing you discovered the hard way?

* picture of children playing Eye-Found-It instead of watching TV from http://www.examiner.com

Passengers in Zone 4, Please Board While Doing the Charleston

My mother called the other day. We no longer live in the same house, or even the same time zone, but we talk several times a week. “I have to tell you about the dream I had,” she says.

Now, when most people start a conversation that way, you check your pockets for a cyanide tablet. When Mom starts a conversation that way, you clamp the phone tighter between your shoulder and your ear and wish you weren’t also helping someone use the potty, so you could give her your full attention.

“Do you have time?” she asks.

“Yes,” I fib.

She began. “We were standing side-by-side, about to get onto the plane, because everyone had to board two-by-two, and everyone had to do something different as they boarded. The stewardesses ahead of us had their blouses all bunched into their skirts, for whatever they were doing, and when it came our turn, we had to do the Charleston. Side by side. As we boarded the plane. I remember my main worry was that I was going to lose my purse off my shoulder, because we had to swing our arms, and so I put it over my head, too, you know, around my neck AND my arm. And I remember thinking, thank goodness we don’t have the boys, too. I mean, with your hands on your knees, and the kicking….”

“Don’t tell the TSA,” I warn her. “They just haven’t thought of it yet.”

She had subconsciously regenerated my experience of flying a month ago from Idaho to Arizona, accompanied only by a twenty-two month-old, a thirty-eight month-old, an antique, diabetic carry-on cat, and a stroller provided by my mother, that hadn’t been in service since it had carried my younger brother’s diapered ass in 1971. Diabetes of course means that a lot of peeing can be expected. A collapsible metal stroller thirty-five years old means that, in spite of extensive testing in the garage, where it actually seemed cool, it might collapse with your twenty-two month-old in it, in front of a long line of strangers at the security gate. Whoops.

I have flown fourteen times since Mbot was born: twice with him alone, twice with him and Gbot at T minus two months (literally under my belt. This would be a good time to emphasize not to wear a belt when traveling with small children. Because who will keep them from disappearing while you’re struggling to remove it, and then to put it back on, and in the interim, who will hold your pants up, while your hands are otherwise occupied with mutinous midgets? But then there was that time when it came in handy as a leash.)

I have flown alone with both of them six times. TSA and I have gotten to know each other well. Our most intimate moments occur in that high-stress zone immediately beyond the security gate, where I unscrew bottles of breast milk for them to hold scraps of paper over to ensure that one bottle isn’t nitrogen tetroxide and the other monomethyl hydrazine, while replacing the laptop and re-constructing the stroller and shoving three boarding passes and the cell phone back into my bra (see The Girl Pocket) and replacing the shoes of a toddler and an infant while holding their hands.

I also enjoy the part where you are removing  not only your own shoes but the monster slippers of the two-year old and the dragon slippers of the one-year old, while the single woman behind you with the briefcase and headset tightens her lips impatiently. Am I really misinformed here, or was Al Queda and the Taliban known for its recruitment and inclusion of women? Especially middle-aged white women lugging teddy bears?

I have a list over thirty items long of how to make it through security with infants, toddlers, strollers, and hormonal imbalance, but, having recently flown, I don’t have the energy to write it down.

The only good thing about traveling with small children is that you eventually get where you are going, and you do not have to spend fourteen hours wishing you had a glass divider between the front seats and the back. The only other good thing is that strangers, reminded of how grateful they are not to be you, often offer to help. They carry bags. They attempt to re-construct the stroller. Except when it was built before the first Arab oil embargo and collapses with your child in it. Then they cease making eye contact, no doubt fearing potential liability and also suspecting that you are actually, really, in fact, insane. I pushed over the boundary last time around, with the stroller and the cat. Don’t do. it. I repeat: Do not do it.

Eight hundred words and I haven’t even gotten around to describing the joys of being on board. Even with midgets who are generally quite well-behaved. Even with bags of Goldfish and raisins. Even with two portable DVD players and two magnadoodles and pipe cleaners and crayons and Play Doh and Woody and Buzz Lightyear.

It’s not really flying. It’s falling, with style.

Or without.

Does the end justify the means?