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Sunday, January 20, 2013

School Projects

One of the most dreaded sentences in the life of parents with school-aged kids is ”I’ve got a project due tomorrow.” Uttering those six simple words can often cause a grown man to cry like a little girl ... and give mothers chronic facial tics. If a child could crawl inside a parents head the moment those words leave their lips, they would hear the loan moan of a bass ... the kind you hear in suspense films ... the kind that always signal impending doom! 

Although the child has known about this project for well over a week, and sometimes considerably longer, the parent isn’t privy to this information until the very last moment. I guess kids consider parents to be on a “need to know” basis, and we apparently don’t need to know until just before, and sometimes after bedtime, the night before a project is due.

There’s nothing funner (I know "funner" isn't proper English, but it seems to fit this thought so well!) than digging through the basement, junk drawers, closets, and garage in a frantic search for all the supplies necessary before a looming deadline! Scavenger hunts are fun when you’re a kid at a slumber party ... they’re not so much fun for weary parents who were naively anticipating bedtime just a few moments earlier! If you’re lucky, and those instances are rare, you’ll already have all the items you need for the project. In reality, most school projects require a trip to Walmart or Lowe's just before bedtime.

If you ever walk into Walmart or Lowe's between the hours of eight o’clock and ten o’clock on a school night, note the number of parents scurrying around with poster boards or plaster of paris ... their nightclothes visible beneath the hem of their coats. (Note: These parents are not to be confused with those who shop on Saturday afternoon in their pajamas ... those are an entirely different breed!) And the ones in the craft department or the school/office supply aisles? Don’t be fooled into thinking they’re there to simply stock up or to buy yarn to crochet an afghan for Grandma! They’re trying to find supplies to build a replica of ancient Rome or the solar system or a Mount Vesuvius!

I had been moving since the moment my eyes popped open that morning. As the evening was winding down, I hurried through the last of my chores and headed to my room to relax! I didn’t get to settle into the comfy chair in my bedroom until after eight o’clock. No sooner had I sat down than Thing 3 informed me, ”Mom, I’ve got to make a pair of moccasins for school tomorrow.” 

(Cue the bases)


Sacagawea could undoubtedly stitch a pair in her sleep, but I, my friend, am no Sacagawea!! I looked at the clock. My son goes to bed at nine o’clock!! He couldn’t have told me this a couple of hours ago?!! Raising three kids who are as skilled at procrastinating as mine, you’d think I’d have seen this one coming, wouldn’t you?

”Okay,” I told him, springing to my feet like a soldier called to active duty. My weary, panicked mind immediately shifted into high gear. Then I muttered what every parent is required to ask at moments such as this ... one of those rhetorical questions to which no child ever has been able to successfully answer. ”Why didn't you tell me earlier?”

I had no animal hide dried and tanned, and buffalo are scarce in these parts ... which was fine with me ... I was tired and really didn’t want to hunt, skin, tan rawhide, AND whip up moccasins before bedtime! Then I remembered Thing 1 once had to make an Indian vest for school. Did I still have some of that pretend-rawhide fabric? And, if I recall correctly, Thing 2 had to make an Indian camp ... tee-pee, camp fire, babbling brook, etc. The tee-pee was made with the same cloth as the Indian vest had been and the moccasins would be ... providing I could find it. 

I looked through my Great Aunt Addie’s cedar chest in the dining room for the cloth. For some reason, I have always kept any cloth I buy in there. Aunt Addie, my Grandma’s sister, never married, but she dated Oscar for fifty years! When my mother gave me the cedar chest, it was stuffed full of Aunt Addie’s (ugly) purses, which were stuffed full of love letters from Oscar. I wish I’d kept them, but I threw them away with the purses! Why did I do that?

Aunt Addie was a good Christian woman who never, ever, EVER drank. The only alcohol to ever enter her bloodstream was in the form of homemade cough medicine ... and knowing what I know about Aunt Addie, I’m sure she had to be close to death before she would swallow any! 

As a little girl, my mother once accompanied Aunt Addie to the store to buy a bottle of whiskey to make cough medicine. On the way to the store, Aunt Addie tripped on the uneven sidewalk and fell down. After she bought the whiskey, they walked out of the store. I’m sure my prudish Aunt Addie was terrified someone had seen her make the purchase and would think she was going to drink it. Several men were loitering outside the store. My mother looked at the bag Aunt Addie was holding. Knowing it contained a glass bottle, and remembering that Aunt Addie had tripped and fallen on the way, my mother offered to carry it for her.

”Do you want me to carry it for you in case you fall down again?” my helpful, once-young mother asked.

Prim, proper Aunt Addie was mortified! My mother said she was afraid Aunt Addie would kill her on the spot. She grabbed my mother and practically dragged her home.

She also refused to let my mom go to the store with her ever again!

Aunt Addie was an accomplished seamstress (as was my mother), so it seems only fitting to keep fabric in her cedar chest. Anyway, I did find the fabric. And, of course, it was at the very bottom of the cedar chest. That fabric sure turned out to be a good investment ... good thing I bought so much!

Okay, I had the fabric ... but how do you make moccasins? I played around with ideas in my head, then came up with one I thought might work. Thing 3, who has never touched a needle or thread other than to hand it to me or move it out of his way, was obviously not going to be of any help. And trying to teach him to sew less than an hour before his bedtime ... well, I think we all know how that would turn out!

I cut the fabric, and, using his foot as a guide, proceeded to make a pair of moccasins. Thing 2 wandered through a few times, eyeing my progress, and said she wanted me to make her a pair! I didn't look up at her, but I can only assume she didn’t have her glasses on or her contacts in! Always the gentleman, he said she could have this pair! I was about halfway through the second shoe when he started naming off the list of other things he could have made. ”A drum ... ”

He rattled off half a dozen other things, but all I heard was ”a drum”.

A drum? A DRUM? He could have made a DRUM? Why couldn’t he have told me that before? I had a box of oats, the “rawhide” fabric, spray adhesive, various colors of yarn, some white string ... which we could have dyed using tea (how Indiany is that?), and a backyard full of sticks with which to beat the drum.

Or my son.

I’d already put so much work into the moccasins, I hated to abandon the project and start another, so I continued. As I was finishing the second shoe, Thing 1 came home from work and went straight to the bathroom. I told Thing 3 to pretend I was trying to make him wear them to school.

When she came out of the bathroom, I mock-scolded my son, ”Yes, you ARE going to wear them. You told me you wanted me to make you a pair of moccasins to wear to school and you’re going to wear them!”

”I’ll wear them!" Thing 2 shouted from the other room.

Thing 1 looked at the (rather pathetic) moccasins and said ”Quit whining and just wear them. There’s nothing wrong with them. You should see the ones the kids wearl! Those look a LOT better than the ones kids wear to my school.”

Holy cow! Kids wear shoes uglier than these ... in public? Where did she go to school ... Walnut Grove with the Little House on the Prairie children?!

”I want a pair!” Thing 2 reiterated from the other room. 

Thing 1 did her best to shame her brother into wearing them while his other sister kept reminding me ”I want a pair!” 

We eventually told Thing 1 we were teasing, that they were for a school project, that I wasn’t making them for him to wear to school. She remembered she had made an Indian vest (and by “she”, she meant ME). She said “she” got an A, and it was so good Mr. Spears still had it on display. 

My son said they were awful and that he was going to get an F. Thing 1 said they weren’t awful and there was no way he’d get an F ... "Mama always gets A’s on her projects!”

”That’s right, son,” I humbley said. ”I always get A’s on my school projects.” And I do! ... I’ve been getting A’s on my posters and projects since Thing 1 started Kindergarten!

Once I got the moccasins done, I told him to try them on. They aren’t exactly a match set, and being made of soft cloth, they're a bit difficult to walk in and keep on your feet. I burst out laughing and knew this was definitely a Kodak moment!! After promising him that I would only photograph his feet ... not his face ... he agreed to pose for the picture. My digital camera is old and the flash produces too much light and washes everything out ... and since he lost my latest flashlight (Note: he's lost all of the several hundred flashlights I've bought during his lifetime) ... the only way I could get a picture with enough light was to have him stand on a chair in the kitchen. I was laughing so hard I could barely focus the camera!

I went upstairs to transfer the images from the camera to my laptop. In one of the pictures, the one with the good close-up of the fringe, the skin tones were off on his legs. I played around with the image, trying to change hues and saturation levels ... and only succeeded in turning hiss legs green ... just his legs! Pretty much everything else in the picture stayed the correct color!! It looked like the Jolly Green Giant was modeling moccasins! For some reason, I found those green legs to be one of the funniest things I’d ever seen!

There I was, sitting in my bedroom ... all alone ... laughing so hard I had tears streaming down my face! I don’t know, maybe it’s from the lack of sleep I’ve endured over these last TWO DECADES, but I found those green legs hilarious!! I’m glad the kids didn’t hear me up there cackling ... they probably would have assumed I had finally snapped.

I purposely didn’t do a perfect good job on the moccasins ... I wanted it to look like my son had made them himself, or at the very least helped. I've always hated it when kids turned in projects their parents obviously did. Mrs. Bradshaw, the student teacher, told him they were wonderful, and she was so pleased that he made them by himself! (Should I be insulted? They weren't that bad, were they?) ”You did an excellent job. Most of the kids had their parents do theirs. I’m so proud of you!” Mrs. Bradshaw put them over her shoes, and as it turned out, they fit her perfectly! She wore them all through class!

With the moccasins crisis finally behind me, I started getting ready for to bed.

”When are you going to make me a pair?" Thing 2 asked from the other room. I pretended I didn’t hear her. I jumped into bed and pulled the covers over my head.

I’m sure by now you’re chomping at the bit to see them, so here they are ... a pair of moccasins any Indian Brave would be proud to call his own. I think the fringe and decorative stitching add an authentic flare, don’t you?!!

 And, just in case you're wanting to see what they'd look like on The Hulk ... 

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