Monthly Archives: September 2009

Lethal Goings-on in Fourth Grade Science

I got a note home yesterday from my ten-year-old's teacher. 
It was a safety contract, which we both had to read and sign in order for him to participate–brace yourselves–in building a model car using K'nex. I include a link there for those of you who not only don't have one million of these most terrifying objects already scattered around your house, but don't even know what they are. 
Yeah. A safety contract. I confess I didn't read it fully, but I did notice it said things like my child agreed to wait for teacher instructions before proceeding from one step to the next and would not use the materials in any manner beyond that which he was specifically instructed. 
Isn't that the point of building toys? You buy them a bucket of random plastic or wooden parts and they don't need instructions? They use their imaginations and their uncluttered view of what is possible and they create?
I can see it now. The entire class, building identical cars, step by tedious step. I remember those projects in school. Come ON! Free the creative spirit, people! And for heaven's sake, a safety contract? 
You remember what you did in science class? When we were actually permitted to fire up the Bunsen burner every day and mix chemicals together and wield sharp objects over dead and decaying things? There were some safety issues back then–we burned our tongues and pricked our fingers in Home Ec, ran unaccompanied five miles through a rather frightening part of town during PE, and well, there was the kid who lost a finger in woodshop, but he was an imbecile. And there weren't any genes to blame–he was an imbecile by choice.
I get that they want the kids to be safe, and maybe even protect some of them from their own stupidity, but safety procedures for K'nex? Really? What's the worst that can happen to my ten year old–he gets one up his nose? What mother doesn't know how to fix that? And if she doesn't, well I say it's time she learned; and maybe the teacher, too.

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Red Hot Chili Tissues

I'm not a diehard when it comes to recycling–for one thing, Moses Lake doesn't have many options beyond newsprint–but I am a cheapskate and since I'm required to use paper towels for drying of hands, I do put them to double use sometimes. I might also wipe the sink down or wipe the peach juice off my chin. When I use a towel to dry out a cup before measuring sugar, I usually drop it on the microwave and then later use it to wipe up a spill or blow my nose–that sort of thing. 

Life Lesson # 685: Never, ever, ever, EVER recycle a paper towel originally used to dry hands which have cut up a large quantity of extremely hot peppers. Ever. Not even–especially not even–to blow your nose and wipe your streaming eyes. If you thought the onions were doing you in, well, you've got another thing coming.
The burning residue does not easily or completely come off your hands. Gradually, yes, it will wear off–on everything you touch for the rest of the day. And then everyone else who touches those things will feel the burn, also. Which is a handy way to discover which of your teenage children has been chewing your pencils or borrowing your chapstick [insert wild, maniacal laughter at this point] but at the end of the day, when you bend over the bathroom sink, determined to wash the last vestiges of a day of salsa-making from your face, you will need to wear latex gloves, else suffer the blinding, sinus-clearing consequences, once again.
Just a word of warning from someone who knows.

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This is That Day

This is that day.

That day you think about when your first child walks into a Kindergarten class and you think, No way! No way are they old enough to just walk away from me and spend even half of every day with some stranger I know nothing about. 
The day you think about when the second and the third and the fourth one start school; the one you think about when your oldest child enters high school and still there are little ones clinging to your knees, reassuring you that even though half your progeny are taller and broader and maybe even smarter than you–you're not really that old; the proof, after all, is barfing on your shoe.
This is the day your last child gets on the school bus and you know he is going to be gone all day. 

All of your children are gone. All day. What will you do with yourself?  
I have to confess I have fantasized about this day. It falls kind of flat, now that I have other people's progeny barfing on my shoe; I know exactly what I'm going to do with myself all day.  But still. There is the awareness there–I'm at that stage of life. We could conceivably take a day off sometime, and we could do whatever we want!  Could. Probably not going to. But the possibility is there, isn't it?
Surreal. I should have taken this day off, just to give shine to all those dusty daydreams.

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Are You Smarter Than a Sippy Cup?

I've outsmarted the sippy cups. 
Cheeky little devils; randomly disappearing and reappearing day in and day out. I'd fill them with milk (red for the fiesty kid, pink for the princess, green for the soccer nut–I had the color coding down to a science) and after the kids would mess with them for a minute and toss them on the floor, I'd put them in the refridgerator. But when I'd go back half of them would be missing. Gone! I'd get new ones. Pretty soon there were twelve cups in my fridge and only half of them could I figure out belonged to who.
At the end of the day, I'd dump all the unused milk into a bowl for the neighborhood "stray" cat and put the cups in the dishwasher. And the next morning, lo and behold, there they were, every darn sippy cup I'd been looking for, clean and dry in the top rack. 

Turns out that some sippy cups are chameleon–they change color, depending on how hot or cold they are! In the fridge, princess pink becomes eggplant. And how do you assign eggplant? 

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The Skin We’re In

Here in Moses Lake, the middle school has all the sixth grade children come to school one morning a day before the rest of the school attends.  They get to know the routines and the whereabouts of classrooms, bathrooms, and the lunch line without the stress of the other, older grades cramming the hallways. 

My oldest two children weren't terribly concerned about the process. My third, however, has been a little worried. First off, he had to walk a mile or so to catch the bus; up until now, he's caught it at the end of our driveway. What if it doesn't come? What if it does, but I miss it? 
My most horrifying middle school memories involve the bus. Once, I climbed on with all the other shivering schmucks, and heard my name called from the very back seat. You have to understand–only the very coolest of the cool kids got to ride in the back seat. These were city buses; the comfortable benches and the most leg room–not to mention the best place to feel the bumps–all this in the back.
So this group of cool kids, all of whom I was on good terms with, but none of whom I'd ever had prolonged social contact, are waving at me. "Come sit with us!"  How exciting is that? Only I'd been standing there in the cold, holding my viola in one hand, my oboe in the other hand, and a gargantuan school bag over one shoulder. And I desperately needed to blow my nose. I had been sniffing and sniffing and crossing my fingers that I wouldn't accidentally let anything too disgusting slip before the bus arrived and I had a chance to slump down in my seat and dig through my bag for a Kleenex. 
But now the in-crowd is waving me back. What do you do? I kept sniffing. And when–I believe it was Christie Mackensie–called out something about one of our shared classes, I made the mistake of answering. And all the sniffing in the world couldn't have prevented the giant green elastic bubble of snot that exploded out my left nostril. I dove for the floor. Pretended to have dropped my various musical instruments, my bag, anything. To their credit, nobody said a word, although years later, at least one of them admitted they'd seen it all. 
I know social humiliation. I know the agony of wanting to be significant enough for the other kids to notice, but not so significant you become that kid everyone else is snickering about. My third child is my most tender-hearted. Things like missing the bus really do throw him for a loop. He agonizes over unknowns. But there comes the day, you know? So I booted him out the door, heartless and cold. "Just go! You'll be fine! The bus will come."
It came; he missed it. One of the parents I babysit for teaches at his school, however. In his "pod", even. (This is what they call the groups of students–pods. It's kind of sci-fi sounding, but then again, middle-schoolers are kind of exotic beings.) So she picked up my poor, wayfaring man of grief and took him along with her to school. She said he looked like he was going to be ill. 
I can picture his face. He gets these red-rimmed eyes, and I haven't yet seen him lose the battle with the tears, but you know it's a monumental struggle. Poor kid. But he made it to school, and navigated the labyrinth in one piece. Having not ridden the bus there, he didn't know which one to ride back, so we had to go pick him up, but tomorrow is a new day. And his brother, sister, and four other cousins will be walking to the bus stop with him to catch or miss the yellow beast collectively, so all should be well.
Here's my question: does anybody out there really feel that much different now than they did in middle school? Weren't you pretty much formed as a person by then? Does it really seem very long ago? Yesterday. I was there, yesterday, confounded by Mr. Friesen's pink ankle socks and my health teacher's flying spittle; I was terrified and excited and insecure and even a little snot-nosed, and honestly I don't feel all that different today. I blow my nose more and I no longer play any musical instruments, but that's about it. 
I'm trying to put myself in my children's shoes, and it isn't terribly difficult. If they only knew that who they are is who they are–that they aren't going to magically evolve into competent, confident individuals some day just because they had enough birthdays.
This skin we're in. It's all we've got. It takes some getting used to, I know.

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