School Projects Suck

Do you want to know what I just love? Yes, that is the sound of sarcasm you hear. I love when teachers send home projects for kids that they know damn well the kids can not complete. I just love that.

I understand family projects, which my kindergartner has one monthly, that we, as parents, help complete. These are still a big pain because the parent ends up doing 90% of said project and if you are anything like me you are busting your ass so your turkey or snowman or pumpkin looks better than the other ones in the class. It goes from a family project to a flat-out balls to wall competition between parents.

Alas, these are not the projects that I really love, okay despise. The ones I hate are the ones where the teacher, school, whoever, want the kids to make something that they know the kids have no ability to make.

I want to insert a disclaimer here that I truly LOVE my kids teachers. They are amazing and they do great things for my kids. So I really like them, just not the projects, just to be clear.

For example, Joey's preschool class is having a curriculum night this week at school. Since his 3 year old preschool class has been reading the Eric Carle books (you know the ones, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Grouchy Ladybug, The Very Busy Spider, etc.) the teacher asked that the kids make one of the animals from one of the many Eric Carle books they have read in class. There was a recipe for a modeling clay that you could make at home included and they asked that you make an animal out of the clay and then paint / decorate the animal to match the story. They also wanted you to take (and then provide) pictures of your child working on their project. Which makes perfect sense because it wasn't as if the project itself was a lot of work to begin with, best we add the task of photographing it and then dealing with getting the pictures printed as well.

Since the recipe involved cooking the ingredients (which I had to modify because I ran out of baking soda) on the stove top, right then and there my child's participation was out. For anyone that knows my son, Joseph, you also know he is not allowed near the stove. The kid is a hot-mess. I don't need to let him play by fire. This means I am the one cooking the play-doh concoction. Fine, no big deal.

We decided to make The Very Busy Spider, which I kept referring to as the Very Angry Spider which then had Joey yelling at me every 5 seconds for calling it the wrong kind of spider. He was quick to explain, Mom, there was a hungry caterpillar, a grouchy ladybug and a busy spider. No one is angry, Mom, just hungry, grouchy and busy. Noted, thanks Joe. After that I kept the angry to myself and started referring to his creation as the busy spider. Stupid spider has no idea what busy is.

Then the directions say to sprinkle some cornstarch on the counter, then have your child roll the ball of dough until smooth and then make whichever animal they choose. Seems easy peasy, right?

The minute the cornstarch was sprinkled on the counter it was also all over the floor, my childs' clothes, my kitchen walls and myself. He begins rolling and patting while I was taking pictures (I still haven't gotten the cornstarch residue off my camera.)

This is before I let him really touch it.

Besides making a large lump for the spiders body, the kid was pretty useless. Since the "clay" was nothing like the play-doh he's used to he quickly became disinterested. While rolling the legs they kept cracking and breaking, which I realize may be due to my slight alteration of the recipe, but the stuff was just hard to work with. Needless to say I was quick to get some sort of spider looking creature built so he could sit out and dry overnight.

By morning he was dry, but almost all of his legs had fallen off his body. This then required me to attempt to glue the legs back together and then glue them to his body. Mind you, my 3 year old wants no part of this and is sitting watching Dora while I am swearing, covered in Elmer's, trying to attach dry, crumbling, crappy spider legs.

The glue was not really working so I skipped right to painting. From my memory, I thought the spider in the book was all brown. So out came the brown paint and I put Joey to work painting.

He was over the idea of painting his spider about 3 minutes in. He informed me he was done and the spider was hardly painted at all. He went back to Dora and I got painting. While the paint was drying I constructed a cardboard piece and planned on covering it with tinfoil. As I am unrolling the tinfoil, the roll runs out, well because of course it does. Why wouldn't it?  Since I only have one small sheet left I chopped the cardboard piece smaller, prayed our spider would fit and had Jason draw a spider web on it because I will be damned if I am the only one suffering through this project!

At some point during all this I decide to google The Very Busy Spider and come up with an image of the book cover. This is when I wanted to shoot people. Obviously my memory is not what I thought it was because the freaking spider on the book cover has a red body, green head and brown legs. Did I mention how I just got done painting our entire spider brown? Out came the red paint and I was able to make the body appear red by sch lapping a very thick coat of paint on him. It took 3+ coats of green on the head to cover the brown and it still doesn't really look green. 

At this point the spiders legs are still not attached and he still needs to make it to the tinfoil / cardboard display without crumbling into a million pieces. I yelled for Jason and told him he needed to get this spider put together and on the tinfoil or I was going to kill someone and since Joey goes to a Christian school Jesus was definitely watching and we would be screwed later if we didn't pull this off.

I left him alone with a bottle of Elmer's glue and the spider and came home to this:

Ta Da! Our Very Angry Busy Spider

Now all I have to do is print out the pictures and attach them neatly to construction paper to tell the story of my 3 year old creating the spider. Pictures obviously lie. 

A Week of Lessons

Like I mentioned last week, life has been insane lately and I have been hanging on by a thread. Some days you need to just give in to the notion that things are out of your hands and what will be, will be.

I did manage to learn a few life lessons this week.

  1. Girl Scout cookie season may ruin me, or better yet, my diet.
  2. If your child continually complains of a headache, for weeks, it is okay that you, as a mother, think he has a brain tumor. This is insane and perfectly rational all at the same time.
  3. A good pediatrician will not make you feel crazy when you admit, slightly teary-eyed, that you think your sweet boy might have a brain tumor.
  4. Samoa cookies are made little bites of heavenly goodness. (see also #1)
  5. When you think something is going to be impossibly difficult, it just may turn out to be easier than you prepared for.
  6. It is totally possible for a 3 year old boy to lay perfectly still while having a CT scan - amazing you and the nurses.
  7. The attitude you have is solely determined by you. No one else. It is easier said than done, but trying to not let others affect how you act is hugely important in being happy.
  8. You can ask two doctors to examine the same kid, ask them questions, and get two totally different answers.
  9. Sometimes your expertise as a parent is just as valuable as any doctors diagnosis. 
  10. Kids are difficult and parenting is hard. There are days that I want to give up but then I remind myself how fortunate I am to have kids to make me crazy.
  11. When life goes crazy and you can't get to them gym as you normally would, you will be okay. You may weigh a pound or two more, but you will be okay.
  12. Hiring a cleaning lady will be one of the best things you could do for yourself, and ultimately, your family. Less time spent cleaning means more time for other things.
  13. If you don't make time to talk to your partner, then you will never have the time. You just need to make the time.
  14. The day your kid makes it to the bathroom to throw-up, instead of in a bed or on the floor, you will be so proud. It is an accomplishment you never expected to feel proud of.
  15. Some weeks just suck. The key is making sure not all of them do. #4 helps make this easier.
Here's to a better week...

Pity Party

It still amazes me how fast my life goes from smooth sailing, everything is going alright, to a downhill spiral with me landing in a pile of crap.

Since this is a semi-common pattern, I am not sure why this surprises me. It is like when you jump into a lake early in the summer. You know the water is going to be chilly but you still scream when you come up for air, shocked by how cold it is. I am still shocked every time my life spirals me down to the shit. Like I expected something else to be waiting there for me. That is never the case, it is always shit.

We are all sick. I know it is winter in Chicago and just about every single person has a snotty nose, but it has been going on for a few weeks around our house and I am over it. Jason and I have the usual sinus thing going on, but the kids were hit with something bigger and uglier and they are not bouncing back as fast as any of us would like. I have been to the doctor six times in the last 2 1/2 weeks between the two boys. You are welcome Blue Cross Blue Shield. At least we got the deductible out of the way.

Between the two germ mongers we have had wheezing, respiratory infection, sinus infection, bleeding ear drum, ear infection, fever, sinus infection again, vomiting, more fever, uncontrollable coughing - oh sweet Jesus the COUGHING, CT scan of the head and MORE COUGHING.

I have spent a shit ton (yes, that is a real measurement) on antibiotics, Motrin, Tylenol, cough drops, Gatorade, nebulizer meds, cough suppressant, decongestant, antihistamine, expectorant...and a lot of other medicines that end in -ant that are supposed to make your kid better that don't. I should own Walgreens by now. I am pretty certain my pediatrician and ENT's kids will go to college thanks to me and my sickly offspring. My kids on the other hand will have a bajillion dollars in school loans because we will be broke from paying for these illnesses.

Yes, I am bitter. So what.

That isn't even all of it. A simple thing like a clogged shower drain resulted in a busted pipe, a water soaked basement, a thousand dollars and a whole lotta tears. There was ugly crying. I hate ugly crying. Right after the plumber fixed the broken pipe he informed us that all our plumbing needs to be replaced sooner than later - IN MY WHOLE HOUSE. My kids should just kiss college goodbye and start selling drugs now. Mama's gonna go broke so we can have running water and toilets that flush.

Top all that off with a pricey car repair and our tax accountant telling us we owe money to the IRS and I am the queen of my very own pity party. You are all invited to join me. Misery loves company so the more the merrier.


Dear Jack,

Today you turn six and I am in awe of you. After last year's birthday, I am just so happy to spend this one with you. It is your golden birthday which makes an already special day a little more exciting.

The past year with you has been really fun. You are in Kindergarten now and that makes you seem so grown up to me. You insisted you were not going to go to Kindergarten and that you would not, under any circumstances, like it or learn but you were a total liar, liar pants on fire. You love school and have made a lot of new friends. You think your teacher is the greatest and are doing so well academically. Your Dad and I are so proud. You read and spell words by sounding them out all on your own and are kicking butt in math as well. I love watching you do your homework because I can see your brain working just looking at your eyes. You focus intently and are so proud of yourself when you get it right.

You are still taking swimming lessons and have been moving up and are even swimming in the deep end without your swim belt for part of your lesson. You are a fish in the water and swim better than I do at this point! You did a lot of new activities this year like t-ball, a sports class that focuses on basketball, flag football and soccer and are learning to ice-skate so you can start hockey. As always, you insisted you were not going to participate in any of these things because of the what if factor. What if you fall down on the ice, what if you can't shoot a basket, what if someone steals your flags in football. You always are asking what if. Your Dad and I are quick to answer all of your what if's with things like: you try harder, you practice, you won't always win but you should always have fun. You resist us, we gently but firmly push, and magically you end up loving it. You are really good at all the things you try but sometimes it takes you getting frustrated to the point of angry to push yourself to do better and not give up. You are going to play flag football and t-ball again in the spring and you'll continue with your swimming lessons.

One of the many things that I adore about you is how smart you are and the types of things you retain in that brain of yours. You are constantly, and randomly, telling me all sorts of facts about things like animals, the planets, bugs and dinosaurs. You are a sponge soaking it all in. I could not ask for a smarter kid.

With all that good, there has to be some bad and you are, after all, a six year old boy. It is still a struggle getting you to listen and to not have to repeat myself a dozen times to get you to do what I ask, but we're working on it. You have become so much more independent in the last year and you are showing signs of being a big kid by helping me out with things around the house. It may take some begging from me, but you are a great helper (when I can talk you into it!) I promise to try harder in keeping my patience and to be a better listener. I know you are often trying to get me to listen and I am sometimes so busy that I don't take the time to hear you out. I am sorry for that and I promise to work on it .

I always knew you were a sensitive kid and we really saw that when we had to put Zoe to sleep. You were crushed at the thought of losing your dog and still talk about her so often. Very rarely does a week go by where you don't remind us that you miss her. You still ask about Papa and Great-Grandma and you ask a lot of questions about Heaven. I am saddened by the thought that you have had to feel losses like these at just six. You are lucky that you have angels with you always.

You have really become a great friend to your brother, which I love to see. You and Joey do almost everything together and although you still fight with each other a lot, I know you are best friends and would be lost without each other. I am so happy you have one another because there is nothing more special than the bond of a sibling.

Your favorite things are sleeping over at Grandma's house, playing with your cousins in Wisconsin and going up-north to Grandpa's land to ride 4-wheelers, fish and swim. You talk about our week at the cottage months in advance and can't wait for our week together as a family. You want nothing more than to tackle and play football with your Dad and you guys play sports outside for hours.

I wish you a year of happiness, my Turkey. I want to see you continue to learn and grow and gain confidence in yourself. You are a brilliant boy and I couldn't love you more if I had a million hearts.

Happy Birthday, love. I wish you a hundred more.

I love you to the moon and back,
Mama xoxo

My sweet faced boy with eyes like the sky.

Weekend Away

Last weekend my company hosted an awards dinner party at the Trump Tower Hotel in Chicago. Think super fancy wedding in a ballroom with amazing views, fancy food, open bar, a DJ, dancing, but no bride or groom. It is an awesome thing that they do for their employees and part of the deal is they pick up the tab for the night at the hotel. Super generous and it's really a great time.

This year they also raffled off an additional night at the hotel. I won. Jason and I were really looking forward to our weekend away. I realize we only live 20 minutes away from the city, but when you get down there and are kid-free it feels like a million miles.

The view from our room.

The hotel was nothing less than amazing. Truly a top-notch place that I would suggest to anyone staying in Chicago. The view was lovely, the bed was heavenly and the much-needed alone time with my husband was treasured. 

 Morning sun shining through onto buildings.

View looking West out my window. The el tracks all lit up.

Since we had the entire day on Saturday to hang out, I talked Jason into heading to the Sears, er Willis, whatever, Tower to check out the amazing view and the new glass walk outs on the Skydeck. For those of you unfamiliar, a year or two ago they built these boxes out of the west side of the tower made completely of glass. You step into a box that appears to be supported by nothing. I thought I would chicken out once I was up there but the view was breathtaking. It was a clear day and we could see all the way to Wisconsin and Indiana. 

I tried, I mean begged and pleaded, to get Jason to join me out in the glass box but there was no persuading him. He preferred to keep his feet on solid ground. I would love to not call him a chicken, but he was totally that - chicken. Hopefully one day I can get him out there to see his feet with the river below. I did feel incredibly lucky to live so close to such a beautiful city.

The Hancock building (all black) and the Trump Tower (silver).

Me in the box, 103 floors above Chicago.

My feet, the city, and the river below.

It was a perfect Saturday together, enjoying the view and then some Lou Malnati's pizza, uninterrupted. No noses to wipe, cartoons on the TV or pee on the bathroom floor. When we got back to our room each night our bed had been turned down, slippers left next to the bed, fresh bottles of water on the nightstands and soft music playing in our room. A girl could really get used to living like that!

Ready for our night out.

Sunday came all too quickly and we were back home to the boys. It was nice to get the opportunity to miss them and that made leaving the fabulousness of the Trump easier to do. A special thank you shout out to my Mom for spending the weekend babysitting. Lord knows my boys can be a handful and she managed to keep them alive, and even took them to a birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. To say I owe her is the understatement of the year. Thanks, Mom. xoxo