O rly?

May 6, 2012

in no manual for parenting,random


I don’t remember ever sign on a labor division agreement in which I am the designated parent in charge of school projects. Learn from my mistake: Before you get married, in addition to the pre-nup, AND the chore chart, make sure you and the other party agree on 50-50 should you ever become parents, including tackling school projects. Not including school projects in your negotiation would be a serious oversight IF you plan to bring up your children in the U.S.

The panoramas, the volcanoes, the cardboard box buildings, the solar system models. You will come to dread all of them and learn to schedule your family’s weekends around the deadlines. Although the teachers include in their notes to warn parents against TAKING OVER the projects, which I am more than happy to oblige, as parents, we are still expected to be the supervisor, the  “creative director”, the material supplier, the general contractor. And more often than not, our role turns into that of a bootcamp drill sergeant, “Shut up. Stop crying. Just finish what you are doing!”, and also, that of a motivational speaker, “You will be fine. Your thing looks good. No, it is not that lopsided. And of course it looks like a _____ . Your teacher will not give you an F. This is not the end of the world for Christ’s sake!”

These are the moments when I long for the rigid education style back home that emphasizes mostly rote memorization, i.e. your children do all the work and all you have to do is to intimate the prospect of a good beating.

Mr. Monk, my 3rd grader, has to make a realistic, life-size model of an owl for his class. We had our first breakdown when he read in the teacher’s instruction that the owl has to be within one inch of the actual average size of this specific type of owls. The modeled owl also needs to look realistically similar to an actual owl: coloring, existence of tufts, toes, claws, tail. BUT you are welcome to use ANY material you want, for example, things you find around your house, for the construction of this life-like owl.

Maybe I am dense. Maybe my house is not appropriately stocked for necessities. I looked around the house after I put down the instruction sheet, and I could not think of ANYTHING that resembled any parts of an owl.

Because my son is fortunate enough that his parents’ discretionary income could afford it, off to the crap craft store we went. Since we had no idea whatsoever, we wandered up and down the aisles, looking for inspirations and ideas, bits and pieces to put together into an owl. Kind of like MacGyver. With a glue gun. [Remember: You NEED a glue gun as soon as your child enters grade school]


I always get lost, in more ways than one, when I am in one of these stores. I walk in with fear as I am unfamiliar with most of the material and tools sold there. It is wilderness, uncharted territory, the final frontier, as far as I am concerned. As I peruse the exotic goods in each aisle, I am delighted by all the discoveries. “Wow. You can do this yourself?” “OMG. You can make this on your own?” “Ooooo. That’s such a neat idea! What are they going to think of next?”  At the same time, a sense of loss and longing would take hold of me. “I wish I were a domestic goddess. I wish I knew how. I wish I had time to learn the how. I wish I were good with my hands. I wish I had delicate hands and no stupid fat thumbs.”

Soon I am being pushed along by the DIY, Can-Do, “Even I can do it” spirits that fill the air.

Stencil French phrases on plain coffee mugs? Yup. I can do it.

Personalize napkins with monogram stamps? Oh yes. I need those.

Frost a cake with fondant? I would love to do that!

It’s like I have stepped into turbo HGTV land, a dream world where anybody could be a regular Martha Stewart.

Thank goodness I usually come to my senses by the time I get to the cash register. Laziness wins.


For the owl project I had to go back three times. I came out unscathed despite the self-doubt each visit to the store elicited in me. It was a good dream while it lasted.


Mr. Monk finished making his owl after I brought back the final piece of the puzzle: yellow pipe cleaners.



{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Velva May 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm

That is a darn cute owl…I stay out of hobby/craft stores.

I still draw stick figures as my work of art which is why I cannot re-negotiate my contract with my husband who by and large works all the school projects.

Velva´s last blog post…Wordless Wednesday


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Check out xkcd.com. Sick figures are all the rage now!


BigLittleWolf May 9, 2012 at 3:27 pm

I’m shaking my head, I’m shaking my head, I’m nodding I’m nodding I’m nodding…

And years later, as you’re literally tripping over all the projects and trying to figure out what to do with them, you can’t quite bring yourself to trash even half of them. It’s not just about your kids’ recollections. It’s all those hours at the craft store and the hardware store and the art supply store and Home Depot… the sequins, the feathers, the glue guns…

I could fill a room. A big room. And likely, a nice savings account.
BigLittleWolf´s last blog post…Searching


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:20 am

Thank goodness for glue guns! I would have not survived without them: regular glue never ever works the way you want it to work!


Jack@TheJackB May 9, 2012 at 11:14 am

I thought that there was a rule that states that mom shall always take the lead on school projects. It sounds like you missed the memo. 😉
Jack@TheJackB´s last blog post…Blogging With Passion and Purpose


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

Lol! I see what you did there…


Kathy May 8, 2012 at 9:41 am

OMG–I love this post, Lin. I don’t have children, but, as the “artist” in the family, I have gotten roped into helping my nephews with these kinds of projects. Where, in God’s name, do teachers come up with this stuff? You may have even inspired me to do a post on this. I’ve never taught elementary school, but as someone who has taught writing to college students for years, I think I know a thing or two about learning. The owl looks brilliant!
Kathy´s last blog post…7 Signs of Bag-Lady Chic: A Confession in Photos


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:16 am

I would love to hear your take on these school projects!


Life in the Boomer Lane May 8, 2012 at 6:26 am

That owl is simply beautiful. Go, Mr Monk. Craft stores scare me. I don’t want to make anything except my purchase. then I want to leave.
Life in the Boomer Lane´s last blog post…From Communes to Cohousing


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:14 am

Thank you. Good to know that I’m not the only one scared of craft stores!


Meg at the Members Lounge May 7, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I have to say I’m quite impressed, I was thinking construction paper myself. My sister’s kid had a project that involved coal, borax and laundry detergent of some kind. The coal garden experiment. Every hardware store in the area that had Borax only had the handy 32 oz size (you needed like 2 oz.) Couldn’t they have bought the box and split it up between the kids?

Nice job, I love how cheerful your owl is! 🙂
Meg at the Members Lounge´s last blog post…Just the Regular White Lies!


Absence Alternatives May 8, 2012 at 12:18 am

The Borax type of situation irks me to no end. I am pretty sure every mom has some large amount of leftover material that they’d never need ever again. Maybe we should start an art installation project? “School Project” and have all moms bring leftover stuff from their kids’ school projects and glue-gun all of them.


Marie Nicole May 7, 2012 at 3:50 pm

That owl is awesome, although I’m totally on the fence about the assignment. Is it a totally weird request? But the yellow pipe cleaners totally holds the entire owl together. It’s like the rug in the Big Lebowski that held the room together…
p.s. I would so totally love borrowing your kids when it comes to making craft projects and act as sit-in mom to help… maybe I can invent myself a job for this purpose?
Marie Nicole´s last blog post…My Tips for Living Off the Grid – A Bill Free Life!


Absence Alternatives May 8, 2012 at 12:15 am

LOL. Love your comment about the rug in Big Lebowski. You can be the “Kid Borrower”.

Ok. That totally sounds like a great name for a horror film…


ThePeachy1 May 7, 2012 at 11:51 am

that owl is super freaking awesome… sorry but I love love love doing the school projects. I have been doing them for my kids for 20 years, and I love it. Yeah some projects I hate, and I definitely know that I have spent enough money on projects in 20 years to buy a beautiful vacation home in the keys. But then again I don’t get out much. We are “the project house”, any kid in our neighborhood that has a project to do comes here, I have attemped with this last child The Prince to not completely take over and to do more of the ” you do it, what do you think,” type approach but I turn evil and say things like OMG tell me you are not this lazy and you are going to look me in the eye and say this is the absolute best you can do?? BLARG, and then I go whacko and shoe the child away and take matters into my own hands as my husband completely avoids me and the room it’s taking place in for the length of the project. I hope our last kid is nearly done with school projects, because my ability to sit on the floor 32 hours straight while hand crafting the entire to scale mall of america with dusty bunnies is just about OVER along with any budget I may have ever had to blow on things like googly eyes and fun foam. Hang in there, when you are done with that owl can we have it.. Just asking, it’s mighty fine.


Marie Nicole May 7, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Oh Peachy – I totally fucking love you! Can I be re-born and come back as YOUR child? I’d be such a good kid and we’d have such fun making the best projects ever!
Marie Nicole´s last blog post…My Tips for Living Off the Grid – A Bill Free Life!


Absence Alternatives May 8, 2012 at 12:13 am

I will bring my glue gun!!!


Absence Alternatives May 8, 2012 at 12:09 am

Yes! I want to be your neighbor too! How about you just adopt me and my boy together! 🙂

I want to thank you all for saying such nice things about his owl! I told him that ALL my friends think it is AWESOME, he said (on IM as I am away on biz trip), “Really?” He’s so excited. Thank you. You are the best!


ThePeachy1 May 8, 2012 at 10:04 am

I will take you all…. it may be crowded until the first few realize what a tragic mistake they made but it should thin out to people who are either die hard or just too lazy to leave, both forms are fine with me. Bring the Owl, it is awesome, I really really want the owl, like BAD, who, whose bad! Owe ( owl) see the owl has already gotten a theme song.


Absence Alternatives May 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

Lol. You are nuts. I love you! The owl is currently on display in his classroom. There’s going to be an owl party. 🙂


Alex@LateEnough May 7, 2012 at 5:49 am

That is EXACTLY what I think when wandering a craft store.
Ps. The owl is awesome but the assignment sounds ridiculous. I would’ve cried.


Absence Alternatives May 8, 2012 at 12:06 am

Thank you for saying that about the craft stores! I sometimes wonder whether I overthink things. But now I know I am in good company!


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