Pinata de Ironman: Back From the Dead

ironman 1 fullbody with m

For many of you, my Ironman pinata of ridiciulous dimensions is old news. But last June, just as I was finishing building the largest and best behaved guest at Mbot’s fourth birthday party, my camera died at the hands of said birthday boy, and so the final images that appeared on the blog were teeny-tiny stills captured from my video camera, and I didn’t know how to make them any bigger. Well, seven months later, I have figured out how, and due to the overwhelming number of Google searches for Ironman pinatas, many of them in Spanish, I’ve decided to post them here, just in case anyone wants to repeat my folly and create in their dining room a 5’8″ hollow Superhero sculpture made of newspaper, water, flour, and balloons.

I do not recommend it.

ironman complete thighs up

The entire premise of building a pinata in your dining room–especially when you live in Arizona, within a thirty-minute drive of an ENORMOUS pinata store, and your assistants are two hyperactive midgets with too little appreciation for long-term goals and too much appreciation for flour paste, is ludicrous. But there is nothing like laundering many small socks, wiping many small booties, and preparing many small meals every day, many of which are greeted with “Blech!” before being pushed half way across the table, to inspire one to create something big and lasting that will be greeted with “Ooohs!” and “Ahhhs!”, even if it’s eventually whacked to bits and survives only in photos. It was that sort of housewifishness, mother-of-weebots, frustrated artist mentality that drove me to purchase the thirty-inch high “It’s a boy!” bottle-shaped balloon that would become Ironman’s torso, setting the scale for Ironman’s body, and coming to represent the first circle of Pinata Hell.

ironman complete legs down

ironman torso legs

Here we have Ironman at about the midway point. The coat hanger that we hung him from is visible sticking out his neck and arm holes. The hanger eventually required reinforcement in the form of Gorilla glue, when the metal hook pulled out of the wood.

I suppose I should report on what has finally happened to Ironman. For a long time–many months–I kept his limbs in a pile in the garage. The bots got a kick out of trying on the legs from the knee down, and chasing each other wearing the giant red arms. My plan was that perhaps I would reassemble him and hang him in their room, slanting from the ceiling like he was flying.

But a few weeks ago, in a claustrophobic cleaning frenzy of the sort that grips me every ten years or so, I stacked the body parts in the recycle bin and breathed a sigh of relief that it was gone. After seven months, in my mind, he had finally turned into an it. I forgot one arm, and the bots spent an afternoon chasing each other with it, at which point I think it, too, went into the recycle bin. This morning when I brought the empty bin back into the garage, I saw a single red finger laying on the concrete. I thought of evil little Peter Pettigrew in the Harry Potter books, who cut off his own finger before turning into a rat, to “prove” to everyone he was really dead.

Hmmm. Is Ironman not really dead? Does he live on? If I ever start building a giant rat pinata, will somebody please stop me?

ironman behind complete hanging

For those of you who missed the original posts, just click on these and you, too, will be able to witness the whole sordid affair:

If I Build an Ironman Pinata, Will Robert Downey, Jr. Jump Out of It?

Ironman, The Killer Pinata, Part 2: Taking Up Arms

T – 19 Days: Ironman the Killer Pinata, Part 3

T – 8 Days: Ironman the Needy Pinata Boyfriend

T – 4 Days: Ironic Man

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

T – 0: Blast Off: (From Both Ends)

Trick or Treat! It’s Chip and Harry!

Finding time to write this week has been like looking for the Golden Snitch in a heavy fog with Draco Malfoy on my tail.

Gbot’s caught a cold, it’s his birthday week, with all the preparations that entails, and, of course, Halloween is coming at me like a bludger.

I don’t think I even got a chance to tell you what we were going to be for Halloween. Roughly in order, over the past couple of months, Mbot and Gbot were going to be:

the bad cockroach Spider-Man



the Bat Sisters

“a storming trooper”


“the big guy not the color of snow what’s his name?” “Darth Vadar.”

Chip and Dale

“the shiny guy” (C3PO)

“the guy who beeps when he’s mad” (R2D2)

Harry Potter

Luke Skywalker

a kitty cat

Han Solo

You can understand why I hadn’t ordered or begun making their costumes until last week, when I made the executive decision that the bots would be Chip and Dale. I bought the necessary fabric and craft items in order to execute my bossy mommy plan. My plan this year was to make the costumes simple and quick. I don’t have time for anything but simple and quick.

Saturday morning, I began and nearly finished Mbot’s Chip and Dale costume. And Mbot was in tears, wailing at the top of his lungs, “I don’t WANT to be Chip and Dale!”

Normally this behavior doesn’t faze me, but it’s a Halloween costume, for heaven’s sake. Who really cares? Not me. Mbot. That’s who.

“What do you want to be?” I asked Mbot, and he announced that he was still vacillating between a storming trooper and Han Solo. We can make you a Han Solo costume, I said. Phew. Easy. We just had to turn his doggie rain boots into black boots. I could figure it out. Then he went to play with his favorite stuffed animal besides Junepy, an owl he calls Hedwig. “I want to be Harry Potter,” he said, and I jumped on that. A boy wizard trumps an Oozie-toting mercenary for the costume of a four-year-old any day.

So he’ll be wearing my black graduation robes, hemmed about eighteen inches. He’ll be carrying the makeshift broom I made from a half-price piece of decorative bamboo and another half-price piece of decorative fall foliage at Joann’s. He’ll be wearing glasses specially made to stay on a four-year-old’s face (earpieces made of pipecleaners stuffed through black-painted drinking straws affixed to elastic to go around the head):

and, in my favorite part of the costume, he will be carrying Hedwig….in the inner portion of my asparagus strainer:

Mbot is thrilled with this arrangement. The smile on his face when I showed him was one of pure satisfaction. He brought Hedwig to Grandma’s last night. He fed her Chex through the bars of her cage and supplied her with water in an empty Play-Doh cannister. He put his glasses on again first thing this morning and “played a fool on me” that he was really Harry Potter.

I was reminded instensely once again of why I love the age of four. Harry Potter’s magic is nothing compared to the magic of loving a bird cage made out of an asparagus strainer.

An Argument for Sweaters for Trees, Cheerio Bombs, and Brief Prison Sentences

Weebots ‘n’ Knit bombs

Although I’d heard of knit-bombing, I’d never seen it in person until we came across an exquisite example of the practice in downtown Ketchum. Although this might be crochet. The bots were taken by it. It’s a kind of graffiti–adding “wearable art” to public spaces or objects. And maybe because it’s literally soft and fuzzy, it gives a soft and fuzzy message. If John Lennon were alive today, he certainly would pick up knitting needles between sets.

he tank-cozy: An antiwar statement that’s aware of breast cancer, too.  (

My friend Solveing, who lives in Colorado and is a mean knitter, first introduced me to knit-bombing, also known as yarn-bombing and sweater-bombing. It is her fantasy to knit bomb the giant devil horse statue near Denver International Airport, although she hasn’t yet purchased the eighteen thousand yards of yarn it would take to realize her vision.

Surely a sweater would make this less ugly. (

I thought it was a splendid idea, but she pointed out that the hideous thing is on Federal property, and she just wasn’t sure a Federal prison offered an environment in which she would thrive, what with no knitting needles allowed (I’m guessing?) and that sort of thing.

Back here in Idaho, yesterday morning, Gbot Cheerio-bombed his placemat. It was the first time he’d actually dumped a whole bowl of cereal, organic milk and all, upside down in a fit of anger about being too big a boy for a booster seat. He is two.

He got a time-out, without his bear, during which he bawled and bawled. This is not normal Gbot behavior. A time-out usually presents him with an opportunity to look at me sideways with a mischievous grin while trying to escape a disciplinary act he does not believe in. Yesterday he just sat and wailed out his argument. He knew he needed the booster seat–when I had removed it, before the bomb, in an attempt to let him make up his own mind about whether he was, in fact, too big a boy, he cried about being too low to eat his cereal.

It was clear that he just needed a reason to cry. He’d been fuss-free since arriving at Nanny and Poppy’s three days before, and the equanimity had obviously taken its toll. He needed to wail for a while. So I let him. And after about fifteen minutes of sadness, he climbed up into his booster seat and ate a new bowl of Cheerios.

One mom’s ingenius (if messy) way to turn that frown upside down: douse the O’s in glue instead of milk. (

The Cheerio bomb made a little more work for me and Nanny, but the payoff–a happy Gbot with a full tummy who’d let off steam–was well worth it.

With that in mind, I think we should all pester Solveig to complete her mission of knit-bombing the Evil Equus. We’d all feel so much better afterward, and it would mean just a little bit of unpleasantness for her. I’m sure she would receive enough chocolate from fans while doing time to make up for the narrow cot, bad food, and really unfashionable outfit. Who’s with me?

Blockbuster a Bust, and a Lesson in Neurology

I am a total novice in the collage department, but our trip to the Blockbuster yesterday called for a little something special. It was, perhaps, the shortest and most infuriating trip to a video store ever to be recorded in human history and memorialized with an amateur cut-and-paste project.

Always in the past (always being three times, past being the last five weeks, since I initiated our $5/month “family membership” in lieu of Netflix’s impoverished streaming options), there’s been a movie playing on multiple screens around the store. Always it’s been a kid’s movie. Today was no different, except that today we happened to walk in during the scary part.

I have no idea what movie it was, except as I dropped Elmo’s Alphabet into the return slot, thunder growled, ominous music rose, and shrieking broke out behind me. I turned to find that Mbot had plastered his back to the windows and was yelling to get out. Of course Blockbuster is set up so you can’t go out through the in door (Led Zeppelin almost named an album after this problem). You have to go all the way around the checkout counter in order to escape.

As we made our way around, in fits and starts, I dragging Mbot by the hand as I issued orders for Gbot to follow, between uttering soothing yet urgent words to Mbot, I asked the young man behind the counter to turn off the movie. He looked at me blankly and, over Mbot’s shrieks of, “It’s scary! It’s scary! Get us out of here!”, I repeated myself. The employee moved, slowly, three feet. But it was not toward the video control; it was toward the counter to help the only other customer in the store. “Please turn off the movie!” I repeated again over Mbot’s  howling. He did not, nor did he offer any indication that he understood it might be the right time to move swiftly in order to Make a Difference. Does Blockbuster management encourage employees to take drugs before their shifts, or do they have a hiring policy that includes the vastly stupid?

I was furious at his lack of response. I managed to drag both bots past the double doors out into the 103 degree heat, still soothing Mbot and then asking if Mbot was okay. He answered, tearfully, that he was, and once in the car, began the usual barrage of questions that attends any event, good, bad, in or out-of the ordinary: “Why did that man have on a scary movie? What was that bad movie? Did he not know boys would come into the movie store? How about that cloud with the fangs? Why did he not turn it off?”

In answer to the last question, I said, unable to help myself, “Because he is a dopey man.”

“Why is he dopey?”

And I’m afraid I responded, “Because he doesn’t have enough brain cells.”

Mbot (who has apparently learned a little about God at preschool inspite of my less-than-god-in-heavenish approach): “Why did God not think he needed more brain cells?”

Me: “Because God is wrong sometimes.”

Mbot: “Would he not be dopey if I gave him some of my brain cells?”

Me: “He might still be dopey. Besides, you need to keep yours, Moon Pie. We need all the brain cells we’ve got.”

Gbot entered the conversation: “I do not need brain cells.”

Me: “You really do.”

Gbot: “I will give him some of my brain cells.”

Me: “Well that’s very kind, Spice Bear. Look. We’re home. Let’s watch the Backyardigans go to Mars…again!”

The cloud with fangs. What can I say? I was on a roll.

The Watermelon Chronicles: A Brief Photo Essay

Showdown at the Dropped Watermelon Corral

Some friends generously sent us home from a playdate with a sample from their backyard watermelon patch. Mbot promptly dropped it, which is the best way to find out if it’s ready to eat. The dinosaur thought so, but was a bit outsized.

The antique cat was less impressed:

Ugh, your breath–sweet and watermelony

In the end, we gutted and ate it. No pictures of that. We were all too sticky. It was kind of sad to slay the little guy. Gave a new dimension to the old saying, “I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me.”

Today we’ll just add some fresh basil leaves and crumbled feta, and finish him off. We have no remorse.



The Revising Life

Mbot, doing his own shopping at The Phoenix Children’s Museum. Fortunately, he won’t be out on his own for many, many formative years.

Over the weekend, I read an article by author Matthew Salesses about revising, and how to know when a piece is done. In “Take the Horn Out of Your Mouth,” Salesses recommends that young writers submit to their best chances first (read: those with the lowest standards)–because once its out the door, they will keep revising and–quelle surprise (not his words)–it will get better.

He’s right. At least in my case.

A few days after I read the article, I faced a deadline for a local SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference registration. I filled out the forms, and then the manuscript evaluation forms, wrote the requisite checks, and confidently pulled “Magnolia Squeakyface and the Gloppy Bloppo” up on my screen to print two copies of the 780-word manuscript to include. I had not planned to revise it. It had been finished six weeks before.

I’d already sent it to eight carefully chosen agents, behind a carefully crafted query letter. I’d already gone through a months-long writing process: write, revise. Feel good. Let sit. Read aloud. Feel bad. Revise. Revise. Feel good. Let sit. Read aloud. Feel bad. Revise. Repeat. Etc., etc.

But rereading over the weekend, after a six-week roosting period and four polite rejections (I love how quickly agents respond these days), I found myself asking a few questions about my characters’ knowledge and motives. 1. How does the dad know what a gloppy bloppo is? 2. Why does Magnolia’s brother, Newton, call his baby sister “Squeakyface?” 3. And why does he play with her at the end, instead of try to kill her?

It turns out, the answer to all three questions can be answered in one question about my own motives: it was convenient.

Don’t get me wrong: the story worked. I’d already run the manuscript not only by the bots, but by several writers/mothers/friends, and it had gotten thumbs-up all ’round. But it wasn’t perfect. There were these pesky small issues that kept it from being 100% believable, 100% satisfying. And so I attacked each issue one at a time, eliminating anything that was present mostly because it was convenient.

The process was like–as I’ve found fiction writing always is like for me–putting together a puzzle, but a puzzle in which I was simultaneously creating the pieces and fitting them together, consulting the picture on the top of the box, an image I could not quite see clearly even when squinting.

By the time I printed it out in the coffee shop on the day of the deadline, it had slimmed down by fifty words. It had lost the word “Squeakyface.” It had gained another fun-to-say nonsense word. The dad didn’t, in fact, know what a gloppy bloppo was, and Newton had more incentive to play with his baby sister instead of kill her. Assonance, alliteration, internal rhyme, and rhythm had risen–and I have found, in many rereadings of many picture book classics–that these characteristics contribute to the magnetic force of a story–the invisible, often unpin-downable reason a set of seven hundred words isn’t just entertaining, but unforgettable.

I sent it out the door on Monday, feeling that if it wasn’t perfect, it was at least one degree of magnitude better than it had been three days before.

Incidentally, the same day, I found myself talking with another mother who was lamenting the fact that she hadn’t had her oldest, now in high school, repeat kindergarten. Not for the scholastic performance factor, but for all the other ones.

“Can I have a do-over?” she asked, laughing, repeating the famous Billy Crystal line from City Slickers.

The answer, of course, is no.

That afternoon, after a long day of revising, actually mailing, and momming, I received an email from a writer friend, which included a ridiculously timely quote from Kurt Vonnegut:

Artists are people who say I can’t fix my country or my state or my city, or even my marriage. But by golly, I can make this square of canvas, or this eight and a half by eleven piece of paper, or this lump of clay or these twelve bars of music, exactly what they ought to be.

I’m still not sure Magnolia’s exactly what she ought to be. But I’m sure I’ll get a second chance to make her that way. And a third, and a fourth, and a fifth, if that’s what it takes. That’s one reason I love her and need her. Because I can’t revise my children once I’ve sent them out the door.

Introducing the Love Child of Picasso, Euclid, and Martha Stewart

Dot-to-Dot: The love child of Picasso, Euclid, and Martha Stewart!

Yes, it’s an old-fashioned connect-the-dots game, brought into the twenty-first century by Husbot with an unmistakeable you-can-do-this-at-home! vibe.

I mentioned to him last night that I’d like to see Mbot trying to focus more on the shapes of numbers and letters, and so this morning he Mbot on his lap and drew some impromptu pictures, just faintly dotted outlines with numbers (in order, of course) at strategic points around the periphery.

And this perhaps is an alphabet-outlined sea-monster (C monster?) that’s been caught on a fishing line. Abdominal spikes added by Mbot.

I thought Husbot, although neither Picasso nor Euclid nor Martha, was pretty ingenius. Husbot asked Mbot to say the numbers or letters aloud as the tip of his colored pencil reached them. And you know, it kind of worked. But the big lesson for me was that customizing a silly connect-the-dots game makes it more interesting for the weebots, which means they actively engage, which means they learn more.

It was perfect for just-turned-four year-old Mbot–not so engaging for Gbot, not yet three. When I drew him a hamster (not shown, in order to retain my dignity), he claimed that hamsters do NOT have whiskers, and when I wrote the number 1 on top of his head, Gbot was so upset that I covered it up with a fire hat. “Let’s pretend he’s a Wonder Pet!” I cried, but it was in vain.

“I do not WANT a hamster in a fire hat!” cried Gbot back.

So, as with everything in parenting, even great ideas, there are potholes, and you will fall into them. But at least we’ll all go down counting.

Buck-toothed shark. Will he get you? It’s a number’s game.

Food for Thought

(image via

Aren’t lives apples and stories oranges? What really goes on when you try to change one into the other?

– Joan Wickersham, “The Suicide Index”

I love these words, and I think a lot about their truth in relation to blogging. What is said, what is left unsaid; what is picked up and woven into a narrative; what is discarded because either it does not lend itself to brief essay form, or is too complicated, or too disturbing, or doesn’t fit the blog’s tone, or requires too much analysis?

I had come to think of lives as grapes, stories as wine, and blogs as grape juice. But the apples and oranges cliche–which is so unexpected in this context as to rise above cliche-dom–may be a truer description of the relation of the two. Food for thought.

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.


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.

.Vote for me!


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.

Vote for me!