Let’s start with “this.” Now, unscramble it, and you’ll begin to understand what I’ve stepped in. So, I’m pretty sure my kids ate Sour Cream and Onion flavored potato chips for breakfast today. We’re gonna go ahead and call that two vegetables. Abigail had the wherewithal to tip her head outside and nod to the bus driver. “It’s all good,” I heard her say, as I continued to place Lucas’s photos in a Photoshop document. Holy this. Holy this. It was time for the bus. “Our mom’s gonna drive us.”
I’d been up past 5am the night prior working on her Writing Workshop folder assignment, and now I was scrambling to finish the last of his project. I realize, just as you did, that the italicized pronoun in that sentence is “her.” Her assignment. His project. So, why exactly had I gone a night and a half without sleep, especially when I’m the type of parent who refuses to correct their homework? I want teachers to see the types of mistakes they’re making, what they need to learn. I see no value in doing the work for them; what do they gain from that? They know it. I know it. And, please, the teacher damn well for sure knows it.
In this particular case, the assignment was for “Writer’s Workshop,” where they work on developing the necessary skills to become independent writers. Students keep a Marble Writer’s Notebook and a Writer’s Folder in which they generate ideas and stories. They experiment with writing, so here, their work is free from adult comments and corrections. “Our goal is to have the children feel free to write without judgment, which will lead to developing a love for the craft.” And the colored girls say, doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.
Right on! Absolutely. Love it. Sign me up. Wait. It’s basically a blog. Only with comments turned off. But offline. Riiiight. It’s a notebook. Brilliant.
Note: must buy more girly clothes for Fall to make up for uncle-like jokes.
The assignment asked that you “assist your child in locating some items to glue onto the front and back cover of his/her Writer’s Notebook and folder. Look for photographs of special places or people, postcards or ticket stubs from family trips, pictures of things your child likes to do, favorite foods your child enjoys, etc. Enjoy discovering and finding things together while creating opportunities for fun discussions. The decorations on your child’s Writer’s Notebook and folder will be a springboard used to generate writing throughout the year, so please make sure that your child works carefully and thoughtfully!”
Honestly, they should’ve put your child in boldface for parents like me. That and the word “assist,” with the “ass” in italics for those parents who get carried away. The problem is that I can’t half-ass anything. If it’s my kids’ art project, it’s theirs. I don’t get involved. I help them gather supplies, but it’s all them. I wouldn’t dare do it for them. But here, I’m being asked to step in. It’s not as if we have a bowl full of photographs lying around, ready to be carved with safety scissors.
I asked them to make a list of everything they might like to include on their folders. I probed for favorite books, memories, people, clicked through photos, asking what they wanted, where they wanted to visit, favorite things, etc. And together we chose some images. But, that’s pretty much where their involvement ended. They helped glue and tape, once we (read: I) found both. But all the photo resizing and collage and discovery and layout was moi.
LUCAS’S MARBLE WRITING NOTEBOOK
FRONT: Like me, Lucas loves working on our family tree! And he wanted me to include the time I dressed up like a bus. “Because any party where someone is dressed like a bus, it’s a good time.”
BACK: (EMPTY) Glued a very lonesome magazine cutout of a single Skylander – last minute and likely still wet as I type this because, shocking, they finished the glue dots and someone misplaced ALL the glue sticks in this house. Yes, all. Once upon a time we had enough glue to feed a family of crazy people who regularly need to sniff it. Now we have none.
We put a lot of effort in selecting each one of these photos, making sure there was a story to tell behind them. Art selection “Art Buying” takes a long time, never mind the process of printing, making sure the wireless printing works, there are no paper jams, you haven’t run out of ink, or glossy paper. Everything that could go wrong, did. Wireless went down. Printer jammed. Paper stuck. Out of paper. Out of ink. Out of glue. Horror show. I am wiped out. All from a SECOND GRADE WRITING FOLDER PROJECT. Yes, but you did all of this well before the due date, right?
Ahem. With twins there are EIGHT SIDES to get through. 8 pages full of “springboard ideas.” It could have happened had we made these photos larger, or slapped some random “this” on there and called it a day. But we were busy touring the historic grounds of The Elms in Newport, RI this past weekend. So we couldn’t work on the project over the weekend. We had guests in Newport and were relishing the last of the summer. We worked on it for two nights straight, and now I can no longer speak without apologizing or complaining, or threatening to glue something. Good thing there’s no glue to be had ’round here.
LUCAS’S WRITING FOLDER
BACK: Lucas loves museums and all things learning oriented. He adores art museums and learning about artists, despite not enjoying doing art. This year he enjoys ice skating lessons, trapeze, fishing, tennis. I didn’t have time to include the other photos of karate, swimming, golf. Oh, well.
Once Lucas’s project was printed, 20 minutes after the bus had gone on without us, on the car ride to school today, where I threatened both beans if I had to rip myself from the car and walk into the office to sign any type of late note, we all lost it together. “Seriously, so help me if I have to walk you both in there. I am not walking the halls of your school with no makeup, my teeth not brushed, in bleach-stained shorts, in, what are these, Lucas’s flip-flops I’m wearing? And without a bra! No chance in all G-d’s glory. I will die, and I will take you both with me!” I was laughing as I threatened it, and Abigail actually snorted. “No bra,” she said. “I love it.”
“That’s right,” I continued, “You will both be dead to me!”
“Hey,” Lucas said, “you need to ask first if you’re gonna wear something of mine.”
“We’re missing the point here, people!” We were the last car on the car drop-off line, and we were all, at this point, thankful that we hadn’t missed drop-off entirely. It was probably the very last minute. “The point is,” I mock yelled, breaking to let them out now, “that if I could take a photo of this hellacious moment, of us scrambling to get here, with me all nasty in my pajamas, and Lucas’s shoes, and manage to affix it to your Writing Folders, I’d do it in a hot second.”
They both looked at me with huge smiles. Lucas all chin and teeth. Abby all eyelashes.
“Guys,” I said, softer now, “this is what you remember in life. The little crazy moments. Maybe the big fish you caught, but really, you remember this. And um, you know I’m not planning on dying or killing anyone, right?”
I’d never threatened to “kill them,” even jokingly, or “take you down with me,” or said “dead to me,” and wanted to make sure they understood the somewhat adult humor, in context. I realized it wasn’t quite appropriate, despite hearing it on the Disney Channel.
“We get it,” Abigail said, “It’s called a figurine of speech.”
“Yeah,” agreed Lucas. “But I might have to kill you if you don’t put my flip-flops back in the bin, Skylander Mama!”
Well, there are worse things.
I am not going to lie and say that next year when the same assignment comes it will be any easier, or that I won’t go overboard with the photos. The sad truth is that I want to provide them with as many “springboards” as possible for their memoir type of writing at least. What’s funniest of all is that last year, I went through the same thing, and do you know not a SINGLE piece of writing came from a single photograph included on their writing folders? And I’m fine with that. This year, I only feel badly that Lucas was slighted. The back of his folder is missing many of his photos that I didn’t have time, in my rush, to make visible before printing (his karate, mini-golf, swimming, etc.). But he’s fine with it and understands that just because there’s no image doesn’t mean he can’t write about something. Also, he accidentally is stuck with Abigail’s Spanakopita photo (and he hates spinach)… maybe he can write a humor piece about that.
ABIGAIL’S WRITING FOLDER
FRONT: Memories and family mostly. Florida with Yiaya (and Big Yiaya), very small in the corner is the raccoon at the beach in broad daylight, and the lecture that came to follow about not going near all animals, especially nocturnal animals who are out during the day! Abigail fishing, discovering pineapple and bananas in my mother’s backyard, down at the lake with Phil’s side of the family, then more family, family, family. Katy Perry, food glorious food, cooking memories made in the kitchen with my little chef from lobster races to Spanakopita and her getting the coin in the pie for luck “which Poppa took and never gave back!” “So, write about it.” Her favorite stuffed animal, Serendipity visits aplenty with her cousin, a dairy farm visit, where she fed a calf, then milked a cow, then trotted off with some of our fav peeps in Austin to go eat one. Also, The Elms and Castle Hill in Newport, RI and Test Track from Disney, where Abigail cried non-stop until the ride ended, and she asked if she could go again.
BACK: More Activities-Based memories from Girl Scouts to MoMa visits to swimming, Karate, Ice Skating lessons, climbing, learning how to pack, camp sing, mini-golf, finding a baby turtle, etc.
ABIGAIL’S MARBLE WRITING NOTEBOOK
FRONT: (EMPTY) Yes, completely empty. Last minute, Abigail “found” a few photos in my special scrapbook, which I sliced into strips, and she taped them onto the cover in a pinch.
BACK: Favorite things. Matzo ball soup. The 360 bridge in Austin. Movie Nights at home. Cruise Ship day at camp. Castle Hill with Lucas. Grandma Carol with Chloe & Hannah. Anne Shirley & Gil from Anne of Green Gables (Oh, how Abigail LOVES to LOVE Anne Shirley!). She also adores Shirley Temple and wants to hit up Paris and get a Pink Beret. And wants to see the New Annie movie with me and our friends Shea & Betsy. Abby loves all seafood, especially clams. Loves artichokes and art and Grandma Barbara’s dog, Molly, loved helping me decorate the “LuvBus,” and she loves to tell the story of the time Norma (our Nanny in Austin) took her out with Kini (Mr. Bikini) and how Kini hunted down some rabbits, baby bunnies, and how he ate them. And how Norma freaked out.
Here’s to a great year 2 for my favorite 2! And to their mama learning to chill out and learn how to slap it together? Kills me. And to learn to stop saying things like, “kills me.”