Friday, February 20, 2009

Pesky Projects

What do M.C. Escher, Emperor Penguins, and Lord of the Flies have in common? They are driving my family bonkers!
It's the end of the trimester. Do you have your school projects done? I'm asking all the moms out there because you know that, ultimately, this falls under your responsibility. Who's the one that's going to be sent out to buy poster board at the last minute? Who's going to be handed a foreign recipe and told that the French class really NEEDS Sengalese Chicken on Friday or your child will get a zero participation grade? Who's going to be hunting around for miniature houseplants to fit in a homemade terrarium to illustrate how the rain forest works? (Notice that no names have been mentioned here. The past has been forgiven; it's the present projects that remain to be judged.)

Ah, these are the days when my roles as mother and teacher collide. On the one hand, I applaud teachers who allow their students to express creatively what they have learned. On the other hand, I think, why can't they take care of this at school? Teachers know that every assignment sent home becomes the parent's responsibility as well as the student's, which adds a whole new dimension to the assignment because it reflects on the home. Yikes! Having been a teacher, I wouldn't allow my child to take some half-brained project to school any more than I would allow them to wear shorts in the winter. But guess what? It happens anyway, despite best intentions, warnings, or mothers watching over shoulders as children hunt and peck to type every letter of a neat, presentable report. You just can't guarantee that your children will do the job that you know you are capable of.

So here's the damage this trimester:

Rachel's made a "woodcut" by hacking a design into corrugated cardboard to simulate MC Escher's technique. She's assembled a comparison of Escher to his cronies, Picasso and Warhol. And she's made her own Escher-like original out of foam shapes.

Jason wrote a report on Emperor Penguins, made a salt dough model to show how body coloring helps protect them on the ice and water, and created a hypothetical "Indiana Penguin" complete with corn holder claws on its green flippers.

Bryce did a write-up on Lord of the Flies, wrote a modern day version of Antigone, and a few days ago was using my blow dryer on some Kleenix that he had hand-dyed in order to make a "stained glass window" representation for art.

It's been a long, hard winter with many a snow day spent working instead of playing. If anyone deserves a bail-out, it's my overworked kids. But the projects are finished and they seem to have done their best. What can I say? Either they're all brilliant, or their mother is one creative genius. I hope the teachers think so too.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Nineteen Years

It's been a long time since the cold, wintry day when Erik and I got married. But even after all these years, that February day still stands out in my mind just as cold and just as wintry. Ha, ha, I'll bet you thought I was going to get romantic. No way. If you saw our pink noses and my purple hands holding the bouquet in our wedding pictures, you would wonder why we were smiling at all. I think my lips were frozen to the saliva on my teeth.

Oh, I love my husband. We are perfect compliments to each other. Between his sense of humor and my constant goal-setting, we're sure to stay on the path to happiness (or laugh as we get sidetracked). And with his technical abilities and my creative spark, there isn't a problem we can't solve. Mr. and Mrs. Incredible, please step aside.

We don't usually celebrate big, and we weren't going to do anything fancy this year because of our concerns over the economy, (and Erik has plans to funnel all our money into finishing his Cobra), but yesterday he surprised me by sending flowers. Not just any flowers either. Three dozen long stemmed red roses arrived via FedEx. He's so good to me. And I'm good to him too, letting him buy all those Cobra parts. As we settled into bed after our anniversary, Erik said if he had the choice, he would do it all over again. I would too BUT... I would make a few alterations. Wouldn't you, if you had the chance? Be honest.

Next year we will celebrate big. I figure any couple that can make it through twenty years of ups and downs deserves some sort of prize. My prize is travel, which I never got to do because we married so young and poor (that's the part I would change). At Thanksgiving I announced my plan to visit Sweden for our twentieth anniversay, inviting Erik to go with me if he wanted. After a time of contemplation, he decided Sweden was okay and that he would like to go too. I'm so glad. It's going to be a blast! He's leaving all the planning to me, knowing I'll make it interesting for both of us, happy just to be together. I feel the same. I love this stage we're at--able to be spontaneous again, watching the kids gain independence, seeing a string of past success, looking forward with high hopes. It feels like all our hard work and sacrifices are finally paying off. Of course, we don't really have to go to Sweden to be happy, but when we've consistently let other opportunities pass so that we would be better prepared for the future, isn't the wait long enough? Sweden is my chance to do something amazing with the person I love most in the world. That seems a worthy cause to me. Some day when we're old and gray and another cold February comes along, we'll look at each other lovingly and say, "Remember that trip to Sweden?" and we'll laugh over some shared memory that only we understand. Priceless.

And that, my friends, is the secret to a successful marriage: loving the one you're with, and loving where you are. Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Cabin Fever

The snow just keeps coming. I've already had to shovel 5 inches so the kids could make it from the street to the front door, and now it looks like I'll have to shovel again before dark. It's a wonder that I still have arm flab. As I type this, my desktop tells me that it's currently 18 degrees outside. It's 28 in Stockholm (and it's night there), 63 near Sacramento, and 88 in Brazil. I'm thinking I'd rather be anywhere but here. Six more weeks of winter? I can't take six more weeks of anything!

Lately we've been very involved in basketball. With the two little kids in one league, and Erik in another, and all having practices on different nights, it gets crazy. Jason should be the team mascot with his funny antics (he's the one without the head), and Rachel just plays her heart out. Doesn't her team look beat? They were unfortunately (she's the one squatting).

We also had a birthday over the weekend. When we asked Bryce how it feels to be fifteen, he looked a little depressed. "I don't know," he said. "I'm too old to be a child prodigy, but too young to drive." I had to laugh. He sounded so much like a twelve year old girl--too old to be a Tomboy, but too young for a boyfriend (at least in this house). I'm glad boys, as well as girls, have those introspective years to gear up for the future. Bryce got a Periodic Table for his birthday, which he was very happy about, but his favorite present was money. Typical teenager.

Monday night I took all my Cub Scouts on a tour of the police station. We had eight boys attend and we got to see everything from the weight room to the interrogation room (parents spying on the boys through the one-way mirror). Here we are being briefed. We looked at the police bikes and the police car, and the boys got to pose in the lab for mug shots. We must have been entertaining to watch because all the reserve officers took a break to follow us around. Everyone was happy when we went home, but I think I was the happiest, since I didn't have to do anything that night but show up. Pinewood Derby is next month. Whoo-hoo. I hope the snow melts by then. So much for this week. I hope everyone is surviving winter.