I'm sorry folks. I've had a cold compress on my head since the school year ended. It's tough to get through all those projects when you have one or two children, I know. But, if you really enjoy punishment, have five kids and watch the special project notes come home from school in droves. All due on approximately the same day. Along with all the clubs and classes that your children are involved in expecting your special ice cream cone cupcakes because your children think yours are 'da bomb' and sign you up. For every club and every class. (although I think the 150 cupcakes I made for three football teams in the fall is still my personal record.)
So, first we had the renaissance faire for the 7th grader. Which, really is no problem because the kid is self sufficient (he has an iPhone for gawd's sake - that practically takes the place of a real mom, and it never yells at you,..) But he did require me to pay for some baseball pants so he could pretend they were renaissance pants. Then, he donned the rest of his outfit from his colonial days dress up project he still had from 6th grade (For that project I had to make stew with lima beans. To serve 50. Do you know 50 elementary kids who will eat a lima bean? Me neither. Go figure.) sans three point hat and called it good. I'm not going to micro manage, so I squinted really hard when I saw him dressed for school and saw,.. a colonial person wearing grey baseball pants. But that's just me.
Then, of course, he had the heebie jeebies thinking about walking the entire two blocks to school and requested a ride. And me, remembering my painful past in middle school (glasses, size 12 feet, braces, 6 foot stature,.. you get the picture) I felt compelled to drive the child to school even though I had to prep for the preschool Luau, and make sure the 4th grade mission project and 2nd grade 3D ocean creature project made it out the door safe and sound.
He did great; every other self concious 13 year old boy was also wearing last year's colonial costume sans hat, so he fit right in.
Mission project: this requires entire family participation. Yes, those families in the public school system during the 4th grade in the great state of California need to pick a Mission and either do a diorama or photo journal of a Mission of their careful choosing. The note came home from all the rah-rah Fourth grade teachers - "Be creative! Why, just last year, a student created a Mission made completely of ginger bread!"
I lucked out when my eldest was in 4th grade - I just had to move all the way to Indonesia and homeschool him to get away from the Mission project. This year; not so lucky.
I'm sure a "student" made an entire Mission out of Gingerbread. Really. I, however, won't
do projects for my kids. I passed 4th grade already, thank you very much, so I was much relieved to hear my boy wanted to take the easy way out and do the photo journal. So, for Mother's Day we loaded the pack into the Suburban and headed to San Juan Capistrano to visit the Mission. It was like any sort of visit to a historical building with five disinterested children. Much gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair (mine), running to and fro, whining (me again) and so on and so forth. Any silly little fantasies I had of visiting Europe again before I turn 50, we "misplace" a few kids, or they can be left on their own with the pizza delivery number and an ATM card, were painfully dashed there at the Mission.
Of course, the minute we hit the Mission, everyone turned HUNGRY, and I only had a Costco sized box of granola bars stashed in my purse (Dear Dooney and Burke: purses need to come in an XL size,too. Thanks. Sincerely, Muddlin') so I promised Starbucks (selfish, isn't it??) right after we were finished filling our brains with all sorts of wonderful Catholic California history.
Here is what a Starbucks order for my family sounds like: "three kid's hot chocolate with whip kid's temperature, one grande nonfat latte with no flavor, one grande coffee of the day no room for cream, one ridiculously priced hoity-toity soda, three chocolate chip cookies, one tall double chocolate Frappacino without any sort of coffee, one water in a cup and,.. yep, I swear that's all." Ring it up. "Oh! I need a bagel, too! Here's my credit card again - oh wait - that one burst into flames and is mere carbon now, let me find my husband who has cash,"... but is outside the store taking creative pictures with his camera because he rediscovered creative picture taking while in Guatemala for 2 and 1/2 weeks when he didn't have to help care for five children, but now he is back in the States, and need I remind him? He has five children to take care of and can't take creative pictures again until he's about 50,.. oh you get the drift.
I can honestly say that after that visit to the Mission, the 4th grader did everything else on his own; I was impressed he paced himself, and did so much (didn't even require any of my scrapbooking stuff that I found in the big amoire in the study and blew the dust off of) and got 105 out of 100 points. An awesome kid. I love self sufficiency!
Okay. 3D ocean creature project for my second grader, here goes: While hubby was on said Guatemala trip saving a remote village of people, I was hanging out with the brood. Hubby was finally back in cell phone range and called me on a Thursday night; he was coming home that Sunday evening. I had a total June Cleaver moment - I was making actual dinner - not relying on Trader Joe's or Long John Silver's take out (evil, isn't it?) when he called. I was a picture of love and calmness as I finished stirring whatever and cooing about his beautiful children, when second grader ran into the kitchen with saucer-shaped eyes exclaiming "I have to make a 3D project of a sperm whale! And it's due tomorrow!" To which my nostrils flared and I calmly, but assertively told hubby: "I gotta go." I ripped the instruction paper out of the kid's outstretched paw and read down to the end: due in a week's time. Phew.
This kid has my wily ways, but I wasn't going to take any part in it. I was going to make every stage a teaching moment and make him heavily involved in every aspect. No 'it's easier to just do it myself' from me. No sirree.
I had to make a decision in the beginning; go grocery shopping plus a stop at Michael's with all small children, or venture into Walmart. I'm not a snob, but I really love good customer service (Nordstrom - swoon!) and hate waiting in line for 30 minutes after I haven't found everything I need. And sometimes a girl's gotta have pine nuts and a good Brie and the local Walmart doesn't stock these items. Nor do they stock googly eyes, I can report. Sheesh.
So, I should have gone to Michael's. Next time, I will. But this time, I spent about five hours wandering aimlessly in Walmart (because they have bad GPS reception so says my iPhone) in search of fabric, stuffing, googly eyes, needles and thread. (Do all you readers remember I can't sew on a button? The only thing needles are used for around this house are flicking out splinters).
Second grader picked out a nice blue cotton. We waited forever to have the bolt of fabric cut (this is Walmart, remember? Need help? Bring a sleeping bag,..) So, to waste the time, I thought I'd teach life skills.
Loving mother (that's me): "So, K, we are going to ask for one yard of fabric."
Child frothing at the mouth, eyes rolled back in head, because he can sense a 'teaching moment': "uh"
Loving mother (me, remember?) "K, how many feet are in a yard?"
Child, head spinning about now: "Uhm,. about 100?"
To which I pull out my iPhone and start checking out postings from friends on Facebook until the Walmart helper decides to return to her station.
Get home. Have child draw pattern for said sperm whale (after careful reseach - shout out to you Google and National Geographic!) but I relent and cut since I can't find the special lefty scissors the kid needs. But I make him watch while I pin the pattern to the fabric and cut. Then, I thread the needle and he sews. It takes three days. But he does it. And I help stuff. And it looks great! I feel like my hubby (reinforcing concrete = reinforcing sperm whales, right??) as I reinforce stitching so the whale makes it to school.
Now, on to the three paragraph written portion of the project. Typed. I help a bit, but leave enough typos so it looks like an original piece of work. I help him find his information and structure it so it isn't just a report that says,"My report is a sperm whale. They are big. And blue. And they live in the ocean."
But while trying to figure out what interesting things to say about the whale : where in the ocean? what do they eat? do they live alone or in pods? I think for a moment, "why are they called sperm whales?" Remember this is for a second grade class and figure the origin of the name is better left unsaid. Leave it to my second grader to pick a sperm whale instead of an unsuspecting and innocent sea creature like a seahorse.
He did great with the project and the report. Yay!
The girl's luau? Are you kidding? At this point, I signed up to bring a large sized box of goldfish crackers and showed up. They have their whole elementary lives ahead of themselves for me to kill myself helping them on their outlandish projects.
I feel very thankful that we have all ended the year successfully. Who knows what 8th, 5th, 3rd, preK and preschool will bring for me? I mean us? I can only collapse in a heap and wonder,...