Yesterday, Mbot made a pirate ship (pictured above, upper left). We had been reading library book about pirate treasure. “Only Tesserwell and Mbot allowed,” he pronounced, while assembling his vessel, which he named, in honor of the favorite foods of the captain and first mate, “The Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship.” Later, he said to Gbot, who also decided to build a pirate ship on the same patio, “I get Tesserwell. He’s a great pirate cat.”
I am not sure where the antique cat earned his swashbuckling reputation. It could possibly be because Mbot believes Tbug to be capable of Great Things. Earlier that morning, I’d found the ancient fellow sitting in the bath tub, a place he has always enjoyed. He looked up at me and plaintively meowed. His favorite drink besides apricot juice, preferably from someone else’s glass, is running water, preferably from the bathtub tap; preferably trickling very lightly so as not to splash his fur, so he can sip delicately from around the drain without getting his feet wet. Not to deprive him of one of his great joys in life, I turned the tap on just a smidge, brushed my teeth, and got on with my morning.
Twenty minutes later, when Mbot got out of bed and ventured into the bathroom, I heard him exclaim, “This is SO EXCITING!” He repeated it: “This is SO EXCITING! Mom, did YOU turn on the water?”
“No,” I called, lying.
“Did Dad turn on the water?”
“Gbot, did you turn on the water?”
Like any good detective, Mbot was eliminating all other possiblities before reaching the conclusion he suspected and desired. ”It’s AMAZING! Tesserwell turned on the water!” he called, using his best deductive reasoning.
Such an impressive cat would certainly be good company on the high seas.
Gbot, who couldn’t find a ship as good as the emptied patio toy bucket, decided he’d join Mbot and Tbug in theirs. The first thing he brought on board was his toy cash register (complete with its key, which I’d lost track of long ago). He explained it was for his gold doubloons. You will see, in the picture of Captain Fishypants, above, that he made sure I drew him holding a bag of doubloons in addition to a sword. (Mbot drew the picture of himself, upper right.)
This is in keeping with Gbot’s interest in finance. Five weeks ago, he produced his first two representational drawings ever, shown below:
For those of you not schooled in the iconography of preschool stick figure drawings, it is an image of Abraham Lincoln. Behind and above him is the Lincoln Memorial. Gbot was not inspired by the great man’s accomplishments, but rather by what appears on either side of a penny.
Mbot was not pleased about letting Gbot join his crew. But if I put chocolate chip-oatmeal-walnut-coconut cookies in the cash register drawer, I think Cannonball Mbot will reevaluate whether or not his ship has room for Captain Fishypants and his booty, and the Mouse-Rat-Strawberry-Cream-Cheese-Cupcake Ship will sail.
The first egglien spaceship arrived in the docking bay. Close behind it was a second, this one with a more elaborate antenna, and an eye :
The hatch opened.
The eggliens had arrived,
bringing with them a unique and unforeseen dilemma:
How do you convince your kids to eat an egg that is looking at them? An egg upon which they painstakingly placed the eyes and hair themselves?
And am *I* going to have to eat twenty-two hardboiled eggliens in secret, all by myself?
My 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.
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.
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.
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?
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:
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)
a kitty cat
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):
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!”
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:
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.
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.
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.