Friday Flashback: Fingerless Arm Found

2013 Feb 8 009My apologies to those of you who already read yesterday’s post, but I was informed by one of my followers that none of my followers were informed of my post. This is due to my server doing me a disservice as I was publishing the post.

So this is a Notice of Posting: Tune in to yesterday’s, which features photos of the completed Ironman pinata. Some of you will be pleased to hear that I found an arm in the back of my car today, under a box of papers To Be Shredded. I guess it’s true: he just can’t die. And you know what? I’m actually glad.

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.

Vote for me!

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.


Feel Me Better By Clicking Here

I have this new image in my sidebar because SuperheroUnderpants has been accepted! It’s a marvelous community of bloggers and readers, with blog categories that cover everything from crafting to coupon-cutting, marriage to adoption, eco-friendly tips to fashion to food. But I think I am the only one of us making a sixty-eight inch-tall Ironman pinata.

The pinata really, really didn’t mean to be so big. I mean, I didn’t mean for it to be so big. My friend Solveig asked this morning on Skype chat, “Why, again, are you making a huge pinata?” I realized it was because I had fallen in love.

Not with Ironman. Not even with Robert Downey, Jr. (well maybe just a little). And not with the glory that would be mine (at least in my mind) if I completed this damned thing in time for Mbot’s birthday party (now seventeen days away). No–I fell in love with the mylar “It’s a Boy” bottle balloon.  I fell in love with its potential. With the possibilities. We would go places together. We would change the world. So what if it was 24 inches tall? Love is, if not blind, myopic, with little foresight, and as impractical as a boat made out of Wonder bread, and I was too in love to do the math.

With each additional layer of flour paste and newsprint, Ironman, The Killer Pinata more closely resembles both my marriage and my state of motherhood. It’s way bigger than the fantasy, way messier. Way more consuming. In its best moments, it’s captivating and marvelous. In its worst? Well that’s where the chianti comes in.

But back to Readers can vote for blogs they enjoy EVERY DAY! (one vote per day), with a simple finger motion. Clicking on the TMB image will cause me to rise in the Top Mommy Blogs ranks.

On a not unrelated topic, when Gbot crashed on the tile floor and burst into tears yesterday, all he wanted was a kiss on his elbow. I gave him one. He looked up at me in wonder, apparently pain-free. “Yook,” he exclaimed (his version of look), “You feeled me better! Sanks for feeling me better.”

And so, in anticipation of your clicks, sanks for feeling me better!


T Minus 19 Days: Ironman, The Killer Pinata, Part 3

It would be so much simpler to just drape Robert Downey, Jr. in wet newspaper, allow it to dry, and then gently snip it off.

Isn’t there some culture out there with a creation story involving balloons and masking tape?

This is Stage One of Ironman’s left leg. Did I mention I am beginning to dislike Ironman? And not just because his legs are longer than mine. But because, as the project continues, I am faced at every turn with several ways to do things right and several thousand ways to do things wrong.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, in which he explains cultural and social reasons for the existence of, say, Bill Gates, and The Beatles, explains that it has been calculated in cases from Mozart to McCartney that it takes a person 10,000 hours of doing something before he truly becomes an expert.

Bill Gates was able to spend about that much time in front of a computer with a modem–almost unheard of at the time–before he turned twenty-five. The Beatles played nightly six-hour sets in a German club before they returned home to change history. And Mozart, of course, if he began composing at the age of four, had about that many hours tucked under his frock when he wrote The Marriage of Figaro.

And so, assuming that I possess an innate ability, if I practice paper mache three hours a day, every day, even on Christmas and when I have a hangover, I should be an expert at Ironman pinata-making by Malcolm’s fourteenth birthday. A sobering thought. Do you force your fourteen year-old to use the Ironman pinata you’ve been perfecting for ten years? Maybe my time (not to mention my Times) would be more wisely spent elsewhere.

I’ve got nineteen days to get this big boy (way too big) ready to hang. I will  not be an expert by then. But I might be 100 hours closer. (And when I put it THAT way, I am really quite unsure about whether I want the crap candy beaten out of him!)

It seems to just keep getting messier.


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

I don’t think the Bionic Man started out this way.

But you have to start with something, and since we don’t have an abundance of seventh ribs to practice carving up, we here at Pinata Central use balloons, printer paper, and old-fashioned masking tape. We also consult a tape measure and the trusty Ironman Action Figure, to make sure we don’t end up with something that looks more like Babe or Benji than Robert Downey, Jr. in a puffy suit. I actually thought a few days ago that I should consult my friend Geo, who is a professional model-maker (as in models for sunglasses and ski goggles, not as in Cindy Crawford) and who has been known to fabricate not a few  fabulous Halloween costumes. (I am not always so good at recognizing the resources at hand.) So as soon as I have a spare minute, I’m going to ask him if he has any tips for pinata construction. If they are not copyrighted, I will share them with you.

This is what the arms looked like today, before the third layer of Sunday Sports and flour paste was applied during naptime:

Hanging by a pipe cleaner: Finally getting our money’s worth out of the chandelier above the dining table.

And hallelujah, there WAS a naptime. After the park, a playdate, pretend flying off the sofa, fighting over a fort, and swimming (well, not quite swimming yet. Highly chaperoned bobbing, dipping, kicking, and splashing). But really–thank the universe and big business for sun, chlorine, fossil fuels and car seats. The combo puts the bots right out, only a few hours after I’m ready to drop. So, Ironman, the Killer Pinata now has arms. And a head (not shown). Next stop: Legs. Do I really need two that look alike?

Yesterday’s news is today’s source of stress and tomorrow’s triumph….maybe.

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

Mbot’s Ironman Action Figure

Because it feels like after all this work, he really should. Or at least send some of his box office proceeds to stuff into the near-life-sized limbs of Ironman, The Killer Pinata.

I’m making it for Mbot’s fourth birthday, and even if Robert just sent a boxful of one dollar bills, it’d make Mbot the most popular guy on the block. Maybe we could invite the neighbor who called not only the animal control people but also the police when she saw Junebug, our twelve-year-old Caninus Benignus, on the grass outfront without a leash. That might soften her up. Or wait–we could put that lady inside the pinata…but that is so unneighborly of me.

Leonardo da Vinci’s other lost notebook. Medieval renderings of an Ironman-like figure discovered within. Not for sale. Bill Gates, eat your heart out.

I have a soft spot in my heart for arts and crafts, but I have never made a pinata, and the last time I did paper mache, I couldn’t yet ride my bike (even though it had training wheels). But I am never as happy as when I face off with an artsy fartsy challenge with no step-by-step set of directions.

I would have prefered to make a much smaller pinata. I would have prefered to make, say a Saturn pinata. Or even a monster pinata, because monsters can be round with party hat horns. But although I did everything but repeatedly whisper these ideas into Mbot’s ear when he was asleep, he refused to change his mind. He wanted an Ironman pinata. And so I searched the internet and there were none (and if there is, I can’t imagine how much it would cost.) And then Gbot and I were in Party City searching for the perfect balloon to use as a form, and there, on the wall of two hundred mylar balloons, was Absolutely Nothing.

We were just about to give up, buy the giant round balloon and paint a picture of Ironman on it. Lame. And that’s when I spotted the giant “It’s a Boy” balloon. Well, obviously, it was made to be Ironman’s torso.

Obviously, this balloon was designed to be Ironman’s torso, only upside down. We could have picked the “It’s a Girl” one, but decided this was more appropriate.

My plan is to make several really small round pinatas, along the way, to ascertain how many layers of The New York Times I will have to shred to make a pinata that breaks under a reasonable amount of pummeling, but that doesn’t break too soon. (If anyone has any idea, please don’t hesitate to chime in. Suggestions would be cheerfully welcome, just please try to refrain from calling me a big fat delusional optimistic over-achieving idiot on my own blog)

Mbot rescued a picture of a baby and a picture of a ballerina from the glue paste. They are now on the refrigerator door. Maybe forever.

I think the test spheres will be valuable because, a few months ago, we attended a party where the Beauty and the Beast pinata withstood no less than forty wallops with a baseball bat. Finally the birthday girl’s father–who if he were given a red and gold bodysuit could reasonably pass for Ironman–had to attack it himself–and it took him about ten swings to finally break the damn thing. It was eighty degrees out and he was worried that the chocolate inside would melt. Husbot could not reasonably pass for Ironman, and it would be embarrassing to have to take a hammer to it. But it would also be unfortunate if it broke on the first swing.

In spite of everything–common sense, past experience, the little voice inside my head (I swear, there’s only one)–I am enjoying the process–the whole process: from discovering the giant bottle balloon to figuring out how to make the forms for his limbs. (After brief internet research, small balloons, printer paper, and masking tape, I think).

Two coats of paper mache. Don’t laugh. I swear it will look like Ironman by June 23. I am in deep doodoo if it doesn’t.

But I am discovering that, like vomiting, paper mache is an activity best undertaken alone. The bots helped me apply the first layer of newspaper and flour paste to the recalcitrant, helium-filled bottle balloon, and it was a thirty-minute exercise in fast-twitch muscle use and multitasking skills. Gbot mutinied after ten minutes, which was almost worse, because I could not physically insert myself between him and danger. I was elbow-deep in pinata paste. The only thing that lends itself less to simultaneous child care is deboning a chicken.

Stay tuned for The Further Adventures of Ironman: The Killer Pinata.