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craft stores scare me


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.