The Dog Ate my Homework

“Let’s see everybody’s homework today.”

Uh oh… I did something. Something that I had never done before. “What could it possibly be?” you’re wondering. Snake handling? Speaking in tongues? Hamster juggling?

Well, it’s really more like something I didn’t do. My homework.


There. I said it.

Maybe this photography thing is going to me more difficult than I thought. The assignment was really difficult and my pictures sucked. What was the assignment? I had to take pictures of four different types of motion. It’s harder than it sounds.

No way was I going to share my suckiest-suck-that-ever-sucked pictures so they could be used as examples of ‘what not to do’.

When it was time for show and tell, my stomach twisted into knots and my heart pounded. Confession time. Once I laid my soul bare, the instructor moved on like it was no big deal. Huh. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal. I paid for the class so why would she really care if some bored suburban housewife wanted to waste $130?

Why do I get myself so worked up? It’s a curse.

Then, the instructor turned to Mr. Picture-Perfect and said, “I’m sure you want to show us your pictures first.”

Background on Mr. PP: For our first class he shows up with a kick-ass camera, a camera backpack, multiple lenses, a tripod, etc. Either he’s an overachieving geek (like me – I was ALWAYS the kid that always showed up with all of my binders, books, pencils, erasers, rulers and protractor on the first day of school) or in the wrong class. This class is called Fundamentals of Photography which, I guess,  is better than Picture-taking for Idiots.  It’s designed for those that need help turning their cameras on. The first class is mainly devoted to labeling all of the buttons on your camera, including the ON/OFF button.

As the class progresses, I realize that he knows way more than he should for a Picture-taking for Idiots student. I’m starting to get suspicious. Then, the instructor gives us our homework assignment and she stresses that she does NOT want us to edit our pictures. We should “edit” our pictures as we are taking them. Basically editing = cheating. That seems fair.

Then, Mr. PP says, “I only take my pictures in RAW.”

Musings flying through my head at the speed of thought: Did I hear him correctly? He only takes in pictures in the nude? Why is he sharing that? It shouldn’t really have an impact on the assignment. Oh, wait. She does want three pictures taken outside – I guess taking his pictures in the RAW could be a stumbling block for this part of the assignment unless he has forgiving neighbors.

Observing the Say What? looks on our faces, the instructor proceeds to explain that RAW is a format setting on our cameras. Only professionals use this setting because when you take pictures in this format, each picture needs to be edited separately and you need to know what you’re doing. Okay, that’s cool. Hey, wait a doggone minute. What is this guy doing in our class and taking up precious class time on non-beginner stuff? Now I’m just irritated. At the least the instructor shut him down and told him that he would have to slum it with the rest of us and let the camera process his pictures. Take that Teacher’s Pet!

Now, back to the original story:  He blushed and shyly said, “Sure. I can go first.”


Okay, his pictures were awesome. Yes, he’s a good photographer. My point is why is he in our novice class? To make us feel even worse about our camera abilities? He should be in a couple of classes ahead of this one. He’s the fun-sucker. I know, I know. I need to just grow up, put my big girl panties on and act like I’m happy we have two instructors instead of one. More bang for the buck, so-to-speak. Yay!

Once the show and tell of the movement pictures was completed, our third lesson began. Aperture was the topic. We were going over the aperture setting on our cameras and I had trouble locating mine. She looked at my camera and found it for me. Then, I’m like “What’s this number four over here to the right? It doesn’t seem to change.” I offered her my camera, she studiously looked at it and then shrugged her shoulders. Without asking, she shared my camera with Mr. PP and he looked perplexed. Then, lightbulb! They conferred in secret and clearly uncovered the mystery. I looked at them searchingly and  they both blurted, “You don’t need to know that.” What? It’s my F@%$ing camera! Will you have to kill me if you tell me? Is the information over my head? Why does Mr. PP get a say in what I need to know?

Fine. Whatever. Uncharacteristically, I just let it go. It’s in the manual somewhere and I will find it.

The instructor may have been subliminally trying to convey to me that I needed to go back to using my awesome Kodak Disc Camera that I got in high school (and still own) because I will never be able to use a real camera. But, I’m going to ignore it.

Don’t worry. The fourth (and final) class is next week and I’m going to do my best to take some ass-kicking pictures. I will update my Flickr account with them so you can check out my awesomeness.

Take that, Mr. PP!

Mommy, I Already Looked in There!

Yesterday was one of those days. Yep, it was my monthly “What if I just ran away?” day. Does everyone have these days, or is it just me? If it’s just me, don’t tell me. I’d like to think I’m not alone. I just picture myself getting in Mike’s Sporty Acura (leaving him the Minivan) and driving off into the sunset….

I’d been on the run from the time I got up until the time I got home from work. I usually get home about two minutes before Jack gets off of the bus, but some days he beats me home.  When this happens, he’s supposed to call me. I got a call yesterday:

Me & Jack:  ‘Hey, Bud!” “Hey, Mommy.”

Me:  “I’ll be home in 4 minutes. What’s your homework like?”

Jack:  “The obvious project (reading journal), math and spelling. Uh, mommy?”

Me:  “Yeah, Bud.”

Jack:  “Uh, well, I lost my reading journal. I got to the bus stop and my backpack was unzipped. It might have fallen out.”

Side Note: Ah, the reading journal. It’s our twice-a-quarter torture. He is required to read two books a quarter and write about them in a particular composition notebook (there are rules and a required structure). He has to write almost 3 pages each time. He LOVES reading and HATES writing. So, he usually waits until the last minute (like this time) and it’s about a 3 hour ordeal. BTW, the due dates are stated at the beginning of the school year – these are not surprise assignments.

Me:  “What??? You walked out of the house with a completely unzipped backpack on your back, and you think that the composition notebook fell out?”

Side Note: Really?  How in the hell do you not notice that your backpack is unzipped and splayed open while you’re putting it on your back!?

Jack:  “Yeah, but I noticed it was open when I got to the bus stop (it’s two houses down).”

Me:  “You zipped it up then, right?” {Please say, ‘yes.’}

Jack:  “Yes.”

Me:  “Well, it couldn’t have gone far. It has to be in the garage or somewhere between the house and the bus stop. When I get home, you can go hunt for it.”

Jack:  “Okay, Mommy.”

When I got home, the Great Composition Notebook Hunt was on! While he searched outside, I searched the backpack (even though it had already been searched “thoroughly”). OMG – that backpack looked like a bomb had gone off in it. I’ve been trying to take a somewhat hands off approach this year to try to ease both him and me into his first year of junior high next year. If you haven’t read my prior posts, I can be somewhat of micro-manager. In this spirit of being “hands off” I haven’t been checking his backpack (this is HUGE for me). He needs to learn be responsible, right?

How’s that hands-offy-thingy working out for us? Apparently, not well! There were lots of papers in there – some graded (all A’s – darn good thing) and some informational items for the parents (that are past due). {Silent Scream} Guess what else was in there? Yep, the reading journal aka composition notebook. When he said he looked in the backpack, who’s backpack did he look in? Did he even really look? I guess we need to go over the definition of a “thorough search”.

Crisis averted. Jack began working on his journal entry.

Then, I had to pay the bills. Ugh. It always makes me grumpy. I’m getting into the groove and then….everyone else started coming home. “Mommy, can I go workout at the Monon? Mommy, when’s dinner because I’m going to walk the dog. Mommy, what’s for dinner? Mommy, what time do we need to leave for my band meeting?”

The hubs came home early to save me (okay, not really). It was just my good fortune. Could he please take Jack to the band meeting? Yes, he will. It’s a damn good thing because I’m on Mommy overload and he just brought home my get-a-way car. I could have been gone in a blink, but I had decided to scrubbed the escape plan for the time being.

Since I decided to stick around, I made Jack and Mike scrambled eggs and toast for dinner so they could skedaddle (you don’t hear that word very often do you?). Then Rachel came home from working out and Maddie walked in the door with Jasper. “When’s dinner?” “What’s for dinner?”

Before I could answer, they took one look at their poor mother and volunteered to make their own dinners (smart girls). Sometimes it takes awhile, but eventually their Spidy-senses kick in.

Tomorrow is always another day 🙂

The Mom, the 4th Grader and the ISP (aka Independent Study Project)

Independent. Study. Project.  Those may be the three most dreaded words whispered in our house.   My son, Jack, has been in the challenge program at his current elementary school since 2nd grade.   It is a program of accelerated learning and the kids in this program do the ISP every other year.  For Madeline (our middle one), it was 3rd and 5th grade.  For Jack, his rotation has been 2nd and 4th grade. 

The ISP spans 8 weeks of the school year – the kids have to pick an issue/problem to study, interview an “expert” in the topic, write a 4 to 5 page type-written paper, prepare a  “product”, prepare a tri-fold presentation board and give a 10-15 minute presentation to the class.    Did I mention that my son is 9 years old and in the 4th grade?  I don’t think I did anything like that until high school!  My son is super smart, loves math and science, loves to read, and HATES to write.  We made it through the 2nd grade ISP (topic = Jupiter)  with a large amount of micro-management (he was 7 yrs old!).  Third grade was a blessed relief and, now, here we are in the thick of another ISP. 

His topic of choice – Breast Cancer What?  I have discussed the breast cancer diagnosis of my best friend’s sister at the dinner table, but it wasn’t a reoccurring topic of table discussion. I tried to steer him toward a cancer topic that impacts children because I thought it would be more interesting for his classmates,  but he made a U-turn and would not be deterred.  So, here I am talking with my son about breasts, menopause, self-breast exams, estrogen, mammograms, etc.   I haven’t even had these discussions with my daughters!  Mike was like, “Testicular Cancer was already taken?”. 

Jack and I are complete opposites on the organizational scale (there should be an official name, like the Richter Scale) – I’m psycho and he’s mister “Whatever” (very similar to his father which makes our marriage work, weird, huh?).  This time around , I thought I would not micro-manage, you know, let him be a big boy and  take care of it himself. Right?  Okay, so we are about 5 weeks into the project, and on Monday (day after the store and green bean travesty), I decided to check on the status of the project: 

ME:  “Hey, buddy!  How are you doing on your timeline?  Can I see it?  Oh, your 1st draft is due this Friday? 

Jack:  “Yes, Mommy.”

Me:  “How much do you have done of your 4 pages? 

Jack:  “One. “

Me:  “ONE!?” [mommy tantrum and you can imagine the rest]. 

Okay, so now I’m back in management mode (trying not to get to the micro level).  So, we sat and got a game plan together regarding his paper.  He seemed grateful because I think he was truly overwhelmed by the scope of the project at hand.  And, remember he HATES writing.  He also types with one finger as I’m sure most 4th graders do and thus, the one page of the four-page paper. 

Tuesday, March 16th:  Jack forgot his project folder.  [mommy tantrum]  But, he was able to work on his paper because most of his research was from web sites  like, and the like.

Wednesday, March 17th: Again, Jack forgot his project fold  [I’m speechless with frustration]  So, he had to reprint the web sites (oh, the ink cartridges!).

Thursday, March 18th (night before the 1st draft is due):  Jack forgot the folder AGAIN!  For Jack’s sake, he stayed after school for something else and was able to retrieve the folder.  He put his final draft together (see prior post about the Thursday dinner).  So, the 1st draft of the paper was now complete.

This weekend begins the creation of the tri-fold poster board  presentation and the “product”.  Well, to Jack’s credit, he has made a layout of the presentation board on paper so he is thinking ahead (yeah!) and Mike will be assisting him in this part of the ISP – I mean, he is the architect, literally, of the family.  He does this for a living. I’m exhausted and it is time for some job-share.

Originally, for the Product, Jack wanted to do prepare a PowerPoint presentation, but I talked him out of it (more typing and pictures of what, breasts?).  So we needed another Product, I suggested maybe a magnet for the Mommies of his peers with some info on Breast Cancer health written on them.  Jack did agree to this alternate version of his dream of a PowerPoint on Breast Cancer (thank goodness since time is running out and he has one good typing finger).  I’m really glad he agreed to this because all of this has to be done by March 28th.    Presentations start on Monday, March 29th. 

Why do I care so much?  Well, Mike and I have talked about this many times.  We both agree that Jack truly cares about how he does in school, but the organizational skills required of him to be successful at the challenge level are higher than what he is able to give at this stage in his 9-yr-old life.   I know that  it is recommended that it is better to let our kids fail at this level than at the high school level where it truly matters.  They learn lessons, etc.  I agree with that premise when it is a child that is clearly capable and is not living up to his/her ability.  But, I am struggling with this topic with our little man because it is not a question of resistance, but a question of maturity.  You can’t MAKE someone mature because you want it.   Everyone knows that it is true!

I really do feel for him because sometimes he can’t play with the neighborhood kids after school because of his homework demands.  I do hope that this curriculum is worth it to our boy.  It seems to have helped Maddie quite a bit in junior high – she is very self-sufficient, makes almost straight A’s and doesn’t seem to struggle with written assignments, presentations, etc.  I’m hoping that he will also realize the benefits from this accelerated curriculum.

I love my little man so much and am trying to do the best by him regarding his schooling.  I have to say that we have not had any of these issues with girls, why is that?  Is it the difference in maturity between girls and boys?   I wish I knew!

However, what I can say is that Jack seems to take after his father in a lot of ways and that is not a bad thing!  Mike is a very successful human being as well as a businessman, so there is abundant hope for my little Jackie 🙂 

And, I need to RELAX 🙂