Great Gender Expectations

Wrong is relative: If you’re two and wearing rented ski boots, I’m betting there’s just not much difference in the left and the right.

From the back seat:

Mbot: “I saw a girl that looked like Gbot.”

Me: “What made her look like Gbot, Bug?”

Mbot: “She had hair that was long and had curls like Gbot. (Giggle) She looked just like a boy!”

Just the day before, I’d been reading writer/teacher/blogger Kate Hopper’s new book, Use Your Words:  A Writing Guide for Mothers, in which the mother of two–one born dangerously early–dispenses practical, invaluable, and hardwon advice on the craft of writing and the art of balancing writing and mothering. She includes superb excerpts from her own writing and that of many (m)others–the bibliography reads like the guest list of my dream toddler group; I’d had no idea the genre outside the blogosphere was so rich.

But the one that came to mind after Mbot’s comment was “Pretty Baby,” in which memoirist Catherine Newman introduces her son, a boy whose favorite color is bright pink, and whose favorite outfit “involves a floral-printed t-shirt with fuchsia velour sleeves, and the pants…from the magenta-striped terry cloth that Ben picked out from Jo-Ann Fabrics.” The essay is the most articulate, funny, searing argument I’ve read for abolishing the expected gender-specific appearances and behaviors that have a stranglehold on the majority of our society–and abolishing them from Day One. Because Day One is when children start to learn. And they learn from us.

Mbot’s observation from the back seat is proof enough for me that I have taught him–however inadvertantly–that long, curly hair is for boys. And now it’s my responsibility to teach him tolerance: that we don’t laugh at girls who have long blond curls like a boy.

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Dear Nora,

Nora Ephron. Photo by Elena Seibert on tumblr

I will miss you.

In today’s New York Times obit, Meryl Streep is quoted as calling you “stalwart.” Stalwart is something I’ve never been.

You weren’t a whiner.

I am.

I don’t like that about myself, but obviously not enough to make great inroads into changing. Husbot bears the brunt of it. But this is not a whiny post. This is about how you affected–and still affect–my life.

I remember when Mbot was six months old and I was feeling particularly sorry for myself, that I came upon a profile of you in The New Yorker. For a couple of months after reading the profile, I sucked it up. I kept my mouth shut when I wanted to whine. I looked on the bright side. I had more confidence in myself. I didn’t mind making enemies for the sake of saying something I believed. Yet at the same time I attempted to be more diplomatic.

Then we moved (down twenty-one stairs, without professional movers, in the summer in Pheonix, eight months pregnant with a fifteen month-old on my hip–sorry, am I whining?), and the article got buried in a pile of other New Yorker articles I’d ripped out and put in a folder to take with us, and I forgot about it. I gave birth again, lost sleep in a box-filled apartment to not only a hungry infant but to a howling one year-old; I forgot to not whine, to look on the bright side, to have confidence, to be diplomatic. I had my sense of humor, but it works better somehow in the company of those other things.

It is time–past time–to read that profile again.

But since it is not at my fingertips, and since quiet time in my house has failed to result in a nap for the two year-old (the almost four year-old finally fell asleep, in spite of the midget Cirque du Soleil on the next bed), my blogging time allowance may end at any moment, shifting you to stage left and the weebots to front and center. In fact I am right now typing to the chant, “Please give me a cookie,” which, however polite, is distracting. And so I will just briefly mention three points in the profile that stayed with me.

# 1

You were married three times, divorced twice. You obviously weren’t afraid to try, and fail. You turned your divorce into a best-selling novel (Heartburn)–and not only a best-seller but a funny, self-deprecating, insightful, vivid story about womanhood, marriage, pregnancy, professional life, and motherhood. You felt like a failure, as a woman, and as a wife, but you wrote about it, bravely and with humor. I am not planning a divorce, but there are things other than my husband that aren’t working out so well, that I would like to walk away from.

Like my whining. Some might say it’s a symptom: a symptom of my need to communicate honestly; of my children who no longer nap regularly; or of the fact that I am living in Phoenix in the summertime. But that symptom is f**cking with my life.

Honest communication is great, but so is strength of character. And if I were a character in my own book, would I admire me?

Not when I was whining.

#2

You were taught by your alcoholic screenwriter parents that everything in your life is material for your writing. I always felt that was true about mine, but often lacked the conviction to jot things down on the spot. Although I was the first junior high student in Juneau, Alaska, to wear legwarmers, a bandana around my head, and a cropped t-shirt, when it came to real life, I was afraid of doing the unexpected. My floor might as well have been cold, hard, Mexican ceramic tile for all the times I made love on it. Reading that you and your writer sisters embraced this way of seeing your lives–as material–strengthened my courage to do the unexpected, even if it was only ignoring snickers when I whipped out my notebook or took notes on my arm during events or conversations that others deemed unremarkable. Being true to my need to document the ordinary has a temporary effect of whine-quelling.

#3

You have two grown sons whose absence in the tabloids leads me to suspect they are fairly well adjusted. As a mother of two sons myself, I know this is part their doing, part yours. I would like my own sons to grow up with a mother who can lead by example in the nonwhining department. But it is too late to send them to you. And so I will just have to buck up.

In an essay of yours that appeared in The New Yorker not long after I read the profile, titled “My Life as an Heiress,” you wrote about how you were working on a screeplay at the time you received an inheritance from some long lost relative. You mentioned that you remember the screenplay was “‘really, really hard.'” The sum of the inheritance was debated among family members, and estimated to be quite large. You had some expensive landscaping done to your house in the Hamptons. You fantasized about retiring to a life of leisure.

When the money finally came, it was something like $5,000. I think it barely paid for the landscaping. You finished the screenplay because you suddenly really needed the money. You pointed out that it was a good thing you didn’t retire right then and there, because the screenplay you were working on–the one that was “‘really, really hard,'” was When Harry Met Sally. Which, in spite of its lack of Oscars wins, is probably–among women between forty and fifty–the most quoted and widely referenced movie I know. Still, today, over twenty years later.

I shouldn’t whine, even when things are really, really hard. You’re right. You’re right. I know you’re right.

I want to just suck it up and turn it into material. I want to have the confidence in myself to leave behind what isn’t working and try something new. I want to have the confidence in myself to believe I am trying hard enough. Or if, in fact, I’m not, to recognize and remedy it: read more, write more, seek a mentor, seek an audience, seek the quiet time I need. I want the longterm perspective to see past this tired day and draw strength from knowing that I will not always be this tired, this constantly needed, emotionally and physically. And also to appreciate that as long as I am needed, I’ve got job security.

I want to be braver, more confident, more persistent, and more stalwart. Even if it’s really, really hard.

I want what you’re having. But with the dead part on the side.

The Amazing Powers of Weebots

Tara Gaffney Photography

Aside from last night, when Gbot shook an enormous red thigh until a lone, leftover Tootsie Pop fell out, life P.I. (Post Ironman) has returned to normal. It’s a heavy, pre-monsoon 106 degrees outside our air-conditioned box, and so we went to the zoo early. The fun of visiting the zoo often and at different times of day is that it offers the opportunity to see all of the animals active some of the time. Yesterday, one of the normally sedate Colobus monkeys was zooming back and forth across forty feet of tree branch, long white fringes flying, making him look like a throwback from the seventies; any minute I expected him to hop on a mechanical bull.

Mbot wanted to ride the merry-go-round, but the zoo was in sleepy summer weekday mode and it wasn’t open. As we walked past the silent carousel, Mbot asked thoughtfully, “Do you think the guy who works there has to stay home and listen to his mother?”

A little further on, Gbot broke free, raced past the monkeys and the birds, and disappeared around the eucalyptus trees. I knew where he was heading: to the reptile house. The bots are in thrall to reptiles these days, as long as they are alive and not just a reconstructed set of ancient bones. I found him using his whole small body to angle open the glass door. It was all his thirty-seven pounds could do to keep it open long enough for me to slip through, too. He looked up, his rump and shoulders still pressed hard against the glass, and said from beneath sweaty curls, “I opened the door with my AMAZING POWERS!”

It occurred to me that he had never opened that door before. Had never been allowed to; had never been able to. And now he could. It wouldn’t have been any more amazing if I had suddenly shot a web out of my index finger and pinkie and swung on it into the top of the eucalyptus.

My single-minded pursuit of the perfect Ironman last week removed me from the daily reminders of how amazing the weebots’ world is, and mine. The most amazing power, I think, is the power to be amazed.

Tara Gaffney Photography

 

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T – 0: Blast Off! (From Both Ends…)

Our party was easy to find.

Today, Ironman met his maker, and she was wielding an axe handle.

The party went off, on schedule. Ironman went off…slightly ahead of schedule. And Gbot went off…slightly off-schedule, too.

T – 4 Hours (5:30 a.m.): Applied the last coat of paint to Ironman’s neck because I’d reengineered it the night before.

T – 3 Hours: Fed weebots.

T – 2 Hours: Vacuumed. Began yelling occasionally at weebots for undoing party preparations.

T – 90 minutes:  Blew up helium balloons. Mbot kept leaping across the sofa cushions and coffee table trying to reach the ribbons–I kept telling him not to, unless he wanted to spend the day at the Emergency Center instead of a birthday party. “But I need that one! And that one!” he kept gasping, completely ignoring my increasingly irritated orders to get down, until he’d finally gathered them all and stood in the middle of the rug clutching the strings to the cloud of balloons over his head, and asked, “But why am I not flying?”

T – 45 minutes: I was running interference between Gbot and the marshmallows when Mbot sprinted to the bathroom. Before I could race in, Mbot raced out, “naked butt,” leaped onto the sofa, and slid down the white pillow and onto the upholstery. Now all three–child, pillow, and sofa–bore what seems to be the sign of our clan: a giant skid mark. One went in the washer, one was scrubbed with Nature’s Miracle, one was scrubbed with wipies and pulled into superhero underpants.

T – 0 minutes: Riiing! The doorbell. Party time.

Until about 10 a.m., guests were greeted by a naked sofa cushion and pillow and an open laundry room door. I often feel that my job on Earth is to make everyone else feel better about the quality of the jobs they are doing. But I think the lesson here is the importance of having polite, kind, tolerant friends with senses of humor. The birthday of a four year-old is  nothing if not a celebration of the (mostly delightfully) unpredictable.

There were ten weebots all told, ranging in age from 2 1/2 to 7; eleven adults including two three dads; a baby, and Ironman. I’m still trying to figure out if his candy-ass self counts. Now, two days post-party, it would seem that he is still with us: There is no killing Ironman. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

It was a fun party. A party is kind of like making pottery–after you painstakingly form a bowl and apply glaze exactly as you’d like, then it’s time to place it in the kiln You hope to hell you kneaded out all the air bubbles so it won’t explode. Then you crank up the heat and wait. That’s the point, when you turn the temp up to 1200 degrees Fahrenheit, that you relinquish control and let the universe do what it will.

(projectblog.bluesquash.co.uk)

Mbot immediately started a new tradition of opening gifts as they arrived. Which turned out to be the best innovation in birthday parties since the modern birthday party was invented by some masochistic mother (or by Mattel?). It works because everyone’s arrival is staggered. Mbot rips open the present, ogles it, plays with it, thanks the guest for it, and then another arrives. True, it’s hard to keep track, but I made sure to ask before everyone went home, so the thank you cards have at least a chance of being accurate. But this method also avoids the awkward, boring King-Chair-and-Minion Syndrome where antsy, sugar-filled weebots squirm while endless gifts are ripped open and possibly not oohed and ahed over as much as etiquette might demand by another antsy, sugar-filled weebot. And everyone can play with the new toys at the party! Mbot will be receiving the 2012 Nobel Common Sense Prize for that.

T + 1 Hour: The bots gathered around Ironman. Gbot approached and whacked him with his fist–something he’s been wanting to do for days (haven’t we all). And then: I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I’m afraid Ironman suffered from premature ecrackulation.

Ironman: The aftermath

I had purposely engineered the joints to be weak, because the limbs were pretty indestructible, but I underestimated the force of peanuts and gravity. His right calf split, the foot and ankle dropping to the ground. Peanuts, candy, and plastic  littered the grass.
But everyone took a turn with the axe handle, and Ironman came apart limb by limb. At one or two points, he broke free from the hanger sticking out of the back of his neck, and Husbot hung him back up in a noose.

I got the honorary last wallop, and separated head from body. It was cathartic. We scooped up the loot before the ants could get it. I’m sure most of it went into the trash, but that, unfortunately, is the way with pinatas. I mean, seeing as Robert Downey, Jr., failed to leap out of it, and as he also forgot to send his box office proceeds from The Avengers.

T + 2.5 Hours (Noon): The last guest retreated out the door past Ironman’s corpse. I dunked both bots in the tub and took a seat on the bathroom stool, happy to be sitting. Happy to have the weight of Ironman off my shoulders. Feeling like I’d just taken my last final or finished my thesis. Maybe that’s why I had the sudden, strong urge to take a bath. It had been just over a year that I’d soaked in the tub, while in the final stages of my MFA thesis.  I checked to see if the eucalyptus oil was still up in the medicine cabinet. It was. I decided that when the bots were out of the bath, I’d hand them over to Husbot and take one myself. I could picture the scene: lit candle, silence, hot tub, the smell of eucalyptus. Me, doing nothing.

And that’s when it happened. Gbot stood up, and…pooped. In the tub. Something he hasn’t done for months and months. My fantasy evaporated, to be replaced by fast action and the smell of bleach.

I did finally get my bath, I just hadn’t planned to work quite so hard to get it.

T + 5 Hours: The weebots fell asleep. That evening, I took them to Grandma’s for dinner. Husbot begged off, too tired from the day’s events. (Parties wear him out faster than they wear me out.) Standing at the curb as we pulled away, he lifted and waved good-bye with one of Ironman’s disembodied arms.

When we arrived back home at close to 9 p.m., Husbot had one more birthday present. He instructed me to take Mbot into his bedroom and to take eight seconds to do it.

We followed the instructions, to find Ironman’s disembodied head on Mbot’s pillow. A voice was emanating from it: “Captain Mbot, Captain Mbot, come in, come in. I’ve been attacked by a group of midgets with sticks. My body parts are outside. Please help me.” Mbot broke into a grin and fished inside the head to bring out a new walkie talkie.

Happy birthday, Mbot

Happy re-birthday, Ironman.

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T – 1 Day: Ironman Has More Pizzazz Than I Do.

English: Screenshot of Julie Andrews from the ...

If I were Mary Poppins, I’d be making this look a whole lot easier. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

9:30 on the night before the party. I don’t have the energy to write, scrub the chocolate off the floor, empty and reload the dishwasher, paint the last coat of red on Ironman’s throat (yes, this morning I sawed off his head, lengthened his neck, and stuck his head back on), or lift Mbot in my arms and carry him from the sofa, where he fell asleep watching Mary Poppins.

Ironman is, but for the layer of paint, done. Pictures to come Sunday. My camera’s still broken, and Husbot is too tired from running interference all week to post pics from the Droid.

The monster cake is finished. Baked. Decorated. The marshmallow fluff frosting recipe (untested) off the internet is WAY to sweet, so I’ll caution parents to steer clear. I used an extra paper mache sphere left over from The Big I for the monster’s head, atop two chocolate cakes–a recipe I’ve made fifty times in the past twenty years–in which, by mistake, I put double the amount of butter. Blame exhaustion. Blame measuring in the company of ansty fighting weebots. Blame anything you want. It still tastes good. This is no Hollywood party. This is a homemade, folk art-type shindig and the homemade-er, the better. Except for the OCD moments with Ironman.

10:04 pm: Okay…I scrubbed the chocolate off the floor. No one’s house is ever this clean for real, right? I’ve just stuffed everything in my “office” (read: a five-foot-long counter in my kitchen) into the cabinets. I’m kind of feeling like a fraud–or feeling like everyone’s a fraud, in some way. Even my butter dish is fraudulent. It’s from Anthropologie, a small, bright melon-colored butter dish of cuteness. This morning, it was full of 80-degree soft butter, some smished around the edges. This evening, after cake-making and pasta-preparing, it was empty, still with some smished around the edges. Tonight, after cleaning? Empty. With some smished on the inside. But the edges? Spotless. Does everyone do this? Am I the only fraudulent housekeeper, grownup, mother, woman, writer?

Mbot’s still on the sofa. Mary Poppins has left with the west wind. Husbot’s snoring. I’m thinking about hanging streamers. I’m looking across the room in the half-light at Ironman, whose neck just received a final dousing in ferrous-hued tempera, and he kind of reminded me of the alien in Prometheus. Insiduous.

Time to hang streamers.

11:20 pm. Streamers hung. Teeth brushed. Dishwasher emptied and loaded. Mbot lifted from the sofa and carried to bed. Sippy cup checked to make sure it was full. Gbot kissed goodnight. Nose held to his skin, inhaled, inhaled, trying to fix the smell of sleeping baby cheek in my memory, which seems to unhinge from everything these days.

Will I know better next year what to do and what not to do for a birthday party?

This morning, when I received a late RSVP “yes,” I told Mbot, “Hey! Jbot is coming!”

He said, “Isn’t she already on the list? And Mom? Can everyone come just one at a time?”

I know just how he feels. Birthday parties, except for the presents, for the most part suck ass. I said, “Moon Pie, it is easier and more fun to play with one friend at a time. I feel the same way. But everyone’s going to be here together tomorrow, just like school, and it’ll be fun, too.”

Who knows if I’m right?

At the last birthday party we attended, the newly four-year-old cried when she saw Chuck E. Cheese approaching her. “But she loves him!” cried her mom, in consternation.

So, who knows. It’s all an ongoing experiment.

Will tune in tomorrow.

T – 2 Days: You Say Pinata, I Say Peanuta

Ironman assumes the filling position

….But let’s NOT call the whole thing off.

As you can see, my camera issues still haven’t been resolved, due mainly to Ironman, who doesn’t like me to cook meals, do laundry, run errands, or shave my legs (who knew that about Ironman?). Tuesday, I reached The Stuffing Stage. I could go no further until we bought innards and put ’em in. So Mbot and I made a special trip to The Dollar Tree and then to Party City to buy stuff to stuff into the pinata from hell.

Now, here is a little secret I will share: I don’t like pinatas, and not just because of my experience with the current model. I don’t like the beating. I don’t like the scrabbling for loot. I don’t like the loot: cheap plastic toys that are made at the expense of the earth’s health, and cheap candy that is eaten at the expense of our health. Maybe next time I’ll make a water-soluble pinata the kids can take turns spraying with a hose, and when it dissolves, a hundred miniature helium balloons with strings attached (and miraculously untangled) will emerge and hover just high enough above the ground to provide several minutes of entertainment while everyone tries to jump up and catch ’em. (And just low enough not to fly away and become dangerous to other forms of wildlife.)

But back to reality: We bought a few cheap plastic trinkets. Also 3-D foam stickers, superhero bandaids, and a dollar box of 48 crayons. Then I saw bags of peanuts in the shell. The bots love peanuts in the shell. Peanuts in the shell are lightweight, bulky, and healthy. And, important in Arizona in June: they won’t melt. I doublechecked with parents about peanut allergies, and there were none. The peanuts went in the bag.

Then on to Party City, where I let Mbot pick out one big bag of something, and he chose mini boxes with pictures of superheroes on them; inside are sugar sticks that are just about the most flavorless things I’ve ever tasted, but who cares. Ironman is the ultimate argument that packaging counts. And I got a mix of mini Tootsie pops and rolls. I stayed away from the candy sold in bulk, because it was 15 for a dollar, and the bagged candy was cheaper. In retrospect, I should have spent a few bucks on Jolly Ranchers, because who doesn’t like Jolly Ranchers–and I still may go back and get some and drop them through a hole in Ironman’s head.

So I stuffed him, through wrists, feet, head, and throat, patched him up, let him dry, and then the decorative painting began. I’d been looking forward to the painting stage. It would mean I was almost done. All I had to do was splash on a little silver here, a little gold here. But seeing Jessica’s rendition of The Big I’s face made me realize with a sinking heart that that wouldn’t be enough. I had to include some of the seams in Ironman’s armor. Some of the detailing on the abdomen. Otherwise, he’d just look like a big red blob. SHEEEE-it.

So yesterday afternoon, during naptime (I worked hard at wearing the bots out at the Y and the splash pad that morning), I patched up a crack in the back of Ironman’s left knee, and then got out the fine-tipped brush.

I’d rather be reading….

Not wanting to risk a fatal rupture before The Big Day, I propped up The Big I by his crotch, and then started grabbing books off the shelf to prop under the left foot. I did not pick and choose–a book is a book is a book when it comes to propping. I grabbed them without looking and noticed, as I slid the last one under the sole of I’s foot, saw that it was Shakespeare. Much Ado About Nothing.

I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

Students of Shakespeare know that the nature of human nature dictates that even if someone had told me what I was getting into four weeks ago, I would not have believed it could happen to me.

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T – 4 Days: Ironic Man

Ironman on Sunday morning. I spent Father’s Day with him.

Thank you, my very valued readers, for hanging in there with me as I am absent from my blog due to Ironman. For a few days over the weekend, he took over our lives completely. Although it’s marked on the calendar and we had a present, come Sunday morning, I FORGOT Father’s Day.

Husbot has been known to spend three weeks tying a single fly, and so he understands about Ironman. But on Sunday morning, upon returning home at 9 a.m. after getting the bots out of bed, taking them for chocolate milk and then to the park–to be met by an apologetic wife who had only remembered it was Father’s Day fifteen minutes before (and only because she’d looked at the calendar for some random unmemorable reason)–he announced he’d had enough. He could manage for a few more days, but he wanted Ironman out of the house. He wanted the flour paste off the kitchen floor and The New York Times back on the table in an inanimate pile. He went so far on Sunday afternoon as to refer to my Other Man as The Monster. To accuse him of taking over Father’s Day. When I asked himk to start thinking about where to hang it, he said thoughtfully, “Can I just run it over?”

So for Father’s Day, I took a break from my obsession and went out for breakfast with my family. And then Husbot took the bots to Grandma’s while I reattached Ironman’s arms after minor but time-consuming shoulder surgery. (I’d made his shoulders too wide–following my eye instead of my tape measure–and after the arms were attached, he looked robotic instead of Ironmanish.) I have learned a lot about anatomy in the past four weeks, but obviously, not enough.

Sunday afternoon, in the peace and quiet of an empty house, I put a final layer of paper mache over the sides of his head (a mummified balloon with both sides whacked off), and then I was ready to paint. It was a moment of triumph.

Then my friend Jessica, who happens to be an artist, offered to come over to help. So yesterday, I delegated a trained professional to the finer details of Ironman’s face. It was AWESOME. I mostly just stood around doing minor repair work on fingers and repainting hands while Jessica did the heavy lifting. I hope tomorrow I will be able to post pics.

But I was only able to get this far because on Saturday, our new superhero, Husbot, DBA Captain Understandts, took the bots out virtually all day. He returned home with photos of them lying in hammocks, submerged in sleeping bags, and peeking out of tents–they went to Cabela’s, then to lunch, then to Grandma’s–and I pinata-ed virtually nonstop. I also made whole wheat nut bread (in the Zojirushi, but still. Some days I don’t even have time to pour flour into the bread machine.) I also made white bean soup. And so, that evening, when the Dynamic Trio returned for dinner, I was able to show off a fully-put-together and painted pinata, and feed them well. I felt like a Supermom. And I thought, Isn’t it ironic that the only times I feel like a Supermom are when someone else is looking after my children?

It’s not right, but it’s true. When I’m with them, actually momming, I just feel all the things mother’s feel–and I don’t think that includes an astonishing sense of accomplishment. I feel like I’m doing what I need to do to keep them healthy, safe, socialized, educated, entertained, fed, watered, and generally clean, and at the same time keep me from feeling like I am being swallowed whole by motherhood–or more accurately, macerated by motherhood, allowing it to chew me up and spit out the other bits–the writer, the cyclist, the individual, the friend, the wife.

Shouldn’t I feel like Supermom while I’m doing that, and not while I’m making dinner and a big red hollow doll alone in an empty house?

It’s good to remember that I’m probably the Supermommest when I’m not feeling like it.

T – 8 Days: Ironman, the Needy Pinata Boyfriend

He’s got legs! And he is controlling my life.

Pardon the poor picture quality, but some of you will remember that Mbot’s last photo shoot ended when the camera stopped working, and because I haven’t gotten as far as purchasing the right pieces of equipment to download photos off the Nikon or my not-very-smart phone, I had to use my webcam via Skype. I’m sure there is an easier way, like there is an easier way to provide entertainment at your four year-old’s birthday party other than building a 63″-tall pinata. Yes, the math you have just done in your head is, unfortunately correct. Ironman stands–or hangs, rather–5’3″ tall.

Husbot took the bots on adventures yesterday morning and this morning and I stayed home up to my elbows in balloons and flour paste, and so I just may achieve my goal of having the damned thing ready to paint by tomorrow.

His arms are drying. Here they are:

Foreground: left hand. Background: right arm.

The photo quality is so remarkably poor that it’s hard to tell what’s going on. For example, the fact that the left arm is standing in a metal sieve (balanced by threading a pipecleaner through the paper mache and then through those handy holes in the bottom of the sieve–sieves should be sold in the crafts aisle!) and that the sieve is, in turn, stabilized by another pipecleaner wrapped around a drawer pull on the table.

To get these brawny hands, I bought a pair of Atlas Thermafit gloves (“comfortable and warm!”) in XL at Ace Hardware for $7.99, stuffed them with newspaper, pulled them on over the wrist stumps, affixed temporarily with duct tape, then covered with Press ‘n’ Seal, which is kind of disturbingly sticky, and applied the paper mache over that. After a few layers, I’ll pull them off the ends of the arm, remove as much of the glove and newspaper as I can, and reattach them. More work than I’d planned on doing, but I’m sure burning up the hours until I can be an expert!

As soon as I transfer photos (which I’ve been taking, but which are trapped inside my other cameras), I will post an entire Ironman photo sequence.

The post title comes from my realization a few days ago that Ironman is taking over my life. My relationship with him has become WAY bigger than I’d planned. I’d wanted him to just be The Other Man, whom I could go to now and then for excitement and fulfillment. But he’s become all needy on me. He’s all like, “I want my legs! I want my arms!” And so I’m spending more time with him than I’m spending with Husbot. And Husbot is beginning to notice.

Today he accused me of having fallen into the trap of The Birthday Party Competition. Which is so utterly untrue that I’m afraid I laughed at him. If I were getting on The Birthday Party Competition boat, I certainly wouldn’t be whacking a homemade pinata and playing Pin The Angry Bird on The Pig and eating a homemade monster cake (I’ll get back to you on that one).

Instead, we’d be gathering thirty of Mbot’s closest friends and their parents for three hours at Pump It Up, Chuck E. Cheese, or Imagination Avenue. We’d rent a bounce house, a teenager to play Belle who paints faces and makes dogs and swords out of balloons, and a photographer at a costume booth. We’d have a three-tiered cake AND cupcakes AND a pinata. (Not that that last birthday party wasn’t really fun, and I adore the mother who threw it–she didn’t know what to do, so she just did everything!)

I’m still figuring out where to hang it to be destroyed. Our home offers no obvious place. But at this point, I’m pretty sure I want it beaten to smithereens.

 

Prometheus: The Home Movie

(itsdilovely.com)

In an interestingly serendipitous sequence of events, within three days last week, Mbot set fire to a paper Spiderman napkin, Husbot and I saw Prometheus, and the family caught a discoverment at the Arizona Stomach Center entitled “Combustion.” What do these things have in common? Read on.

The first event occurred just after Nanny and the bots set the table for my birthday party. Uncle Marty and Grandma were coming over for dinner. Nanny was busy in the kitchen boiling lobsters. (She was not wearing earplugs, as, fortunately, their screams are silent. (Z, that was for you.) I was shucking corn. The bots were behaving, by which I mean kind of watching Caillou and kind of playing with balloons and kind of doing crafts. I laid out the cheese and crackers, I opened the wine. I moved a giant candle to the center of the table–a table whose center is farther from its edges than bots’ arms are long–and lit it. The bots tried to blow out the three flames from their positions on the chairs. They couldn’t. I told them to stop trying. That fire is dangerous. Blah, blah. blah. Then I turned around to do whatever I had to do to continue getting dinner ready.

Moment later, as I was taking a serving plate down for the corn, I heard Mbot’s voice. “Uh, Mom? There’s a fire on the table.”

I whirled and yes! Lo and behold, there was a fire on the table. A small one, exactly the size of a paper Spiderman napkin. I rushed over and lifted the single unburned corner and dropped it on the serving plate that was still in my hand, then dropped it into the sink and turned on the water. And then I attempted to explain how he could have hurt himself, and us. Blah, blah, blah. He remained unfazed. So Nanny had a go at it. She explained that he might have hurt Junepbear by mistake. And that’s what got through. There was crying, and promises to never play with fire. My heart rate was still about 160. I washed the serving plate and piled lobster on it. The guests arrived and dinner was served while Uncle Marty and Husbot discussed Prometheus, Ridley Scott‘s prequel to Alien, which Uncle Marty (an author and screenwriter) had just seen at the IMAX in 3D.

The next day, Husbot decided we had to see it. And here is my completely uneducated review: It was okay. There were problems. It was also confusing. But fun to discuss and try to make sense of. Prometheuswas the name of the spaceship that arrived on a distant planet seeking the origins of mankind. Students of mythology or art history will know that Prometheus is the name of the god who took fire from the heavens and gave it to man. As punishment, he was chained to a rock, and every night an eagle flew down to eat out his liver, and every day it grew back. This happened for all eternity.

It’s an old, old story. Shown here: Prometheus bound, Laconian black-figure
amphoriskos C6th B.C., Vatican City Museums (via theoi.com)

One thing about the movie isn’t confusing. One of the morals of the story is: Don’t play with fire. Not to ruin it for anyone who hasn’t seen the movie yet, but fire, in this case, is the biological weaponry that a superior race with a god syndrome (or are they god???) had developed in order to destroy whole planetfuls of other carbon-based lifeforms. Perhaps in order to start from scratch with the hope of a better outcome (a world without the color mauve? Without reality TV and the Hilton sisters?)

Of course, the characters don’t KNOW at first that the animate sludge on the distant planet peopled by large dead guys will turn into large gross monsters that will shoot large gross appendages down their throats. (Again, I hope I’m not ruining something for someone.) The humans are seeking knowledge, and that is their downfall. Like knowledge, fire is a thing that must be used carefully and that can destroy more than paper Spiderman napkins and stuffed bears.

Which brings us to the Stomach Center. We visited it the next morning because Nanny had never been. The bots loved showing her the waterworks, the exhibit on nanoparticles, the giant telescope you look through and see your own eye projected on a big circular screen on the ceiling. Mbot wanted to see the kitty brain. No one except Nanny was brave enough to go into the giant stomach (from which the Arizona Science Center takes its bot-given name). I won a game of Mindball against Nanny, but solely because I knew she was worrying about where the bots were while we were playing, and so I didn’t have to worry about where the bots were. And then a demonstration began, about combustion.

Mbot dragged me to an empty seat and sat, riveted, while two college students explained the three sides of the fire triangle (fuel, oxygen, and heat).

(survivology101.blogspot.com)

They poured alcohol into a clear plastic twenty-gallon water bottle, pumped in air, and dropped in a match. Mbot jumped about two inches at the fireball that momentarily filled the bottle. Then they threw lycopodium powder into the air and aimed an acetylene torch at it. Then they held a flame to Peter Cottonball and we all watched as it was reduced to a blackened puff of its former self. Then they explained how to use a fire extinguisher. And then, they told everyone in the audience to put their hand over their heart–Mbot did so immediately–and solemnly repeat after them: “I promise to never play with fire.”

Mbot repeated it. “I promise to never play with fire.” Then he glanced sideways up at me, and added, “Again.”

And the next day he was back to his discoverments with liquids, pouring his cup of milk at breakfast into the mouth of a deflated balloon to see if it could be done (yes, to a point), and if, after it was done, he could drink out of it (yes, to a point). As I was mopping up, I banned (again) all discoverments involving liquids to the bathtub.

But it doesn’t look like there will be any more discoverments involving fire. Not until he gets his first chemistry set, or falls in love.

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.