Help! My Three Year-Old Has ESP

                    image via

That is what I’ve thought, several times in the past few months, when Mbot says something that I thought I’d only thought. “Maybe I was talking on the phone when he was in the back seat,” I’d explain to myself, knowing I hadn’t had my phone with me. “Maybe I talk to myself,” I concluded, after the fourth or fifth time Mbot mentioned something that I’d seen or heard or thought.

The first time he did it was about a year ago, when one day I was working on a rewrite of the novel, and he announced that his stuffed animals had shot a potato gun and an avalanche had come down.

But how do you know that’s how the novel starts? I wanted to ask my then 2 1/2 year-old. I had not read it aloud. I had not even talked about it to anyone over the phone. It was old news to Husbot. So where did he get the idea?

Not that I don’t believe in ESP. But I also believe in more mundane explanations.

Tonight, I got a flash of understanding about Mbot’s superpowers.

We were driving home from Grandma’s after a very long day of zoo-going, playing with the new rubber snake, William (a nice snake), and the new wolf grabber toy, Edgar Hochenwaller (their uncle bought them, do not ask me where the names came from), and running after Charlotte, another uncle’s Boston terrier. I had acquiesced to requests to watch Max and Ruby which is on, unfortunately, at 7:30. 7:30 is traditionally bedtime. I knew better.

Past 7:30, Mbot gets upset at anything remotely upsetting, and many things not even remotely upsetting. Tonight, he was upset because Husbot put him in Gbot’s car seat. After the switch, he was upset because Gbot had a stuffie and he only had a plastic cat (William was long forgotten in Grandma’s backyard, and wouldn’t have done anyway, because William isn’t fluffy).There was lots of wailing regarding the plastic cat’s lack of fluffiness. So I did what usually helps me feel better when I’m feeling tired and whiny: I turned up the music. I was all classicalled out for the day, so I had on the beat music.

“Is this Lady Gaga?” Mbot asked, his quavering voice calmer than I’d heard it in twenty minutes.

“It is,” I replied.

“I love this song,” he said. “What’s a pokah face?”

I explained. I attempted to demonstrate to the backseat without endangering our lives. We were going forty-five between stop lights. We were going the long way home. Gbot was already asleep. It was my fervent hope that Mbot would be, too, by the time we pulled up to his bed.

“But I still don’t know what Lady Gaga looks like,” said Mbot.

“We’ll look at a picture on the internet tomorrow,” I promised. “She wears lots of crazy costumes, like superhero costumes.”

There was a thoughtful pause from the back seat.

“Does she wear a net over her face? I think she wears a net over her face.”

Step back. Now how in the name of all the Grammy winners in history did he know that?

Because that’s just what I was thinking at that very moment. That was the picture in my head: Lady Gaga with a black net over her face. Why? The split-second image flashed on screen last Sunday during the Grammy’s after Adele’s win. The announcer had pointed her out to us.

We’d been over at Grandma’s that night, too, for our traditional Sunday night dinner. The owners of the Charlotte the Boston terrier had turned on the Grammy’s. Everyone, including Charlotte, had plopped down in front of the TV. But the Bots were playing–they were horsing around with their uncles, they were patting Charlotte, they were struggling while their pajamas were applied, they were asking for juice and more crackers, neither of which they were given. We went home forty minutes into it.

But Mbot must have seen that image, and heard the name, and put the two together. And then remembered them.

So this is the key to my three year-old’s ESP: Although he appears deaf when I am asking him to put on his socks, he’s taking in gigabytes more than I have given him credit for.

it is a good lesson for me and for all of us: Paying attention actually makes a person appear to have superpowers.

Are you paying close enough attention?

Hitting the Road Jacks

The killer rabbit from Monty Python, available in plush for $16.99 at

The Midgets are old enough that I’ve begun bargaining about what music we all listen to in the car.

Mbot: “I want the beat music!”

This means something–but not anything–with a loud, insistent beat, preferably dance music. When I hit the button for Lady Gaga’s Pokerface, there was a wail from the backseat. “No that’s Gbot’s music! That’s not my best beat music!” So he had noticed, too, that Gbot often, especially when he is diaperless, prances around chanting, “P-p-pahty, yeah. Bang bang!” I tell you, he did  not learn the dance moves from me.

So I searched for Justin Timberlake while I explained that first, we would listen to Mommy’s quiet music, then we would listen to Mbot’s beat music, and then we would listen to whatever Gbot wanted to listen to. So while a very lovely violin concerto played on KBAQ, the local classical station–that I used to be able to listen to all the time, with no input from the backseat–I asked, “Gbot? What do you want to listen to?”

Gbot: “Mona Mona Mona!”

Me: “Uhhh…What’s the rest of it?”

Gbot: “Hid da woad, jaa, doncha come bah no mona mona mona mo….”

Mbot: “But that’s not my best!”

Hit the Road Jack” must appeal to the under-thirty-month set, because before Mbot discovered Justin Timberlake–who we do not listen to very often, mind you, but it made an impression–Ray Charles used to be his best.

“What’s a road jack?” he asked every time. “And why did they hit it?” And every time I would explain. It’s a giant monster rabbit, I said. Who’s really mean.

I wasn’t even thinking of Monty Python at the time. I was just trying to figure out how to avoid babbling about complex and unhealthy adult relationships. But it makes me wonder about the moment that Eric Idle and his boys thought up the killer rabbit. Were they in a car with their kids? Probably not. The carnivorous Leporid might have hopped to life when they were in a car with each other. Or in a room with each other. They might have been arguing over what to put on the eight-track tape.

In a very real way, the Bots and I are a creative team. A noisy, obstreporous, pants-wetting crew, but a team nonetheless. We might not be available on Netflix, but thinking about us this way might help me when the milk’s been spilled, the wine glass has been broken, the Play Doh’s been ground into the rug, and someone else’s beat music is on too loud.

Who’s on your team?

The Girl Pocket

Fisher-Price Trio helicopter. The Trio: better than Legos for the three-and-under set. And with rounded edges, easier on the girls.
















As I was getting ready for bed a few nights ago, the eyeball in this picture fell out of my bra. For those of you familiar with Fall Apart Chubby, you already know that I consider my best, most convenient pockets to be the two in which my breasts also happen to reside. If men can carry a Man Purse, why can’t women have Girl Pockets?

A miniature Batman figure fell out alongside the eyeball. The night before, it was a paperclip and a twist tie. Talk about the Great Pacific Garbage Vortex (You Can’t Shoot the Toy Fairy). This happens every night, except the detritus doesn’t usually stare back at me like, “It’s not my fault women don’t have pockets.”

Of course that is not entirely true: women do have pockets. And we could use them. But stuffing chest pockets is unfashionable (witness the Pocket Protector); using hip pockets is uncomfortable; and using back pockets is unthinkable if not impossible.

But the bra? Now there’s a pocket—two, actually—in which only a few of us feel like we’re carrying enough. And, thanks to the forgiving physiology of the bra’s chief inhabitants, it seems like there’s always room for more. For years, even before giving birth, I found it a convenient repository for many of life’s necessities: credit cards. Driver’s licenses. Boarding passes. Lipstick. And now: milk bottles (for short periods, between car and house, for example). Diving sticks (or anything that you don’t want to forget to bring with you as you whiz around the house late to swimming lessons). Car keys.

The bra is not recommended for everything. A few examples spring to mind: sewing pins. Nail clippers. Half a cracker. Cell phones. (You sweat. They die.)

I am, admittedly, a slow learner. I attended a women’s college twenty years ago and didn’t become a feminist until I became a mother. I am not going to rant about the need in the western world for pregnant lady parking spaces and drive-through grocery stores, but is a pocket really too much to ask?

Aside from the cargo pant, whose pockets were never meant to carry cargo, not really, or athletic pants with a zip pocket big enough for a tampon and a ten dollar bill, women’s fashion is devoid of useful pockets. There is no sexy mommy equivalent of the safari vest. It’s not anyone’s fault; we can’t blame Dolce and Gabbana. It’s just a matter of evolutionary biology. A sexy woman is one who can snap her fingers and get what she wants. She doesn’t have to actually lug it around on her person. A woman with bulging pockets sends out one of several messages: 1. I am homeless. 2. I am desperate. Neither of these things signals a good target for childbearing. Thus: the human male has no biological imperative to find her sexy.

The Girl Pocket is my secret weapon. Now that I am the mother of two toddlers, though, the secret’s out, and not just at bedtime. At the grocery counter yesterday I looked down to find my keys dangling out the neck of my t-shirt. It’s a shiny, jingly clump, so maybe other shoppers just thought it was a brooch. Lady Gaga would go there.

The road to a world where useable pockets are socially acceptable for women is a steep and uphill grade. When I flew alone with Mbot, when he was first learning to crawl (read: he did not want to fly, or be held, or sit), I wore a thin, black wool cycling jersey. It looked  normal from the front, and even lint-free, thanks to Husbot’s lint roller, but those behind me witnessed three kangaroo pockets bulging across the back. Perfect for two milk bottles, a wallet, some tissues, and two binkies (a fresh one and the one that had met the floor, in separate pockets, of course). Look ma, no hands!

“You look funny,” said my brother-in-law as we came through security.

“Smart,” I said. “I know you meant to say, ‘smart.’”

“No,” he said. “You look funny.”

But the eyeball in my bra says otherwise.

Where do you keep your stuff??