Project Eve

Years ago, I coined the phrase “Project Eve.” This moniker refers to the torturous night before a major school project is due. And like New Year’s Eve or Christmas Eve, the day has its own unique set of traditions. Also, like the more traditional holidays, it can leave one with a slight family hangover. You know that feeling when you have spent just one hour too long together on a special occasion and a little distance is needed before you rekindle the love and affection you have for these people you are tied to forever.

I have always allowed my children to create their own projects—for better or worse. One time, I let Mac walk out the door with a poster depicting a shark swimming in a bloody pool of water after aggressively attacking everything in its path. I can’t recall what subject this carnage was meant to represent because, apparently, I have blocked out the painful memory, but at the time I closed my eyes, bit my tongue and let it go. A steady parade of crooked letters, appalling color choices and grammar mistakes has marched on over the ensuing years.

As a writer, a little piece of my soul chips away each time a project or research paper leaves my house unedited. The temptation to pretty up everything is overwhelming. But if I begin fixing and using “adult words” as Reed calls them, then I am one of those parents who starts with one tiny edit and ends up on the floor obsessing with a glue stick and a Sharpie surrounded by discarded rough drafts and sporting tape remnants on their clothing.

And so on a recent Wednesday, we began Project Eve by touring the grocery store for frozen meals for everyone. Before I witnessed the kind of havoc a project wreaks on a family, I actually had visions of cooking dinner while supervising the project assembly. Now, my older, experienced, exhausted self realizes that any food consumed will be made in the microwave by the consumers themselves.  I, on the other hand, exist on caffeine and the shot of adrenaline that only a 12-hour project deadline countdown can inspire.

Then we swung through Michaels and faced an agonizing decision about the color of the trifold for the project. Much like many parents wait and assess a newborn’s personality before choosing names, we let the project percolate and evolve before buying a matching trifold. Either that or I am a shameless procrastinator and that is simply not a possibility that I am willing to admit to on Project Eve.

Because this particular project chronicles the great state of Ohio as seen through the eyes of a 5th grader, Reed chooses a red board in homage to the Ohio State Buckeye logo.  I am happy with the assignment of Ohio as there is plenty of research material for Reed. Reed is happy because the Pro Football Hall of Fame is in Ohio and the state only has four letters that he has to spell out on the cardboard. I honestly think Mississippi would have thrown him over the edge from a layout standpoint.

Years ago we got a big, plastic map of America with removable states. It was meant as a mechanism to teach the boys the states and capitals. Pressing on the state prompts a recorded voice to recite the state, capital and nick name. Reed will be taking this to school as part of his presentation. The toy also has a pre-recorded version of the song “America” which will randomly begin playing at the slightest touch. There is no off button which was clearly a rookie purchasing mistake on my part.  As we work on the project, Reed and the dog step or bump into this map 1000 times playing the song 1000 times until I want to smash it to bits on the sidewalk.

Amazingly, and because Reed did advance work, the entire project was printed, pasted and propped up in the family room by 7:30pm. This was a new Project Eve record which of course made me totally paranoid that the project itself sucked. I walked casually past the board, in all its red, white and blue glory assessing its worth without raising suspicion from Reed. The papers were cut and pasted on an angle, the words “The Buckeye State” were off as well and the pictures Reed cut had jagged edges and corners that had broken free of the globby remnants of the glue stick. It looked just like all of our other projects on Project Eve, it was just earlier and I was less tired and more critical.

I even had extra time to help the kids microwave their dinners! This was an amazing turn of events, maybe Project Eve was not so cursed after. Could I finally be getting the hang of this?

Reed was given the option to bring in food indicative of Ohio, so we had chosen to make Buckeye candies. Four ingredients, no baking and Reed could help. Perfection. As I was gathering up the ingredients and Reed was washing his hands, we heard a loud thud and a ripping sound.

I looked from the kitchen toward the adjacent family room and both Drew and the presentation board were splayed on the carpet. From what I could piece together in the aftermath, Drew, inexplicably, decided to jump over the project just to see if he could make it. He couldn’t.

The thin red coating of paper over the board had ripped near one of the folds exposing the ugly, brown, striated cardboard underneath.  In the stillness of the moments following, I saw that by some miracle no other damage was done. Reed actually screamed when he came around the corner and Mac gave Drew a withering glare before resuming texting on the couch.  Presumably announcing to the free world what a moron his brother was being.

The Buckeyes would have to wait until I could repair this board, thus ensuring that we did not need a repeat trip to Michaels for a replacement. I wanted to question Drew and somehow understand what it was about that board that make him want to catapult over it when I can’t even get him to climb the stairs to turn off a light left burning. I knew that he didn’t know, so it would be a futile exercise.

I sent Drew to his room, not because I was so angry, but because I needed him out of the middle of the floor so I could mend the cardboard. Reed hovered nervously, so I gave him tasks to keep him from running upstairs to ruin something of Drew’s. The boys are prone to an eye for an eye as opposed to turning the other cheek so Reed warranted watching.

We had exactly five pieces of transparent scotch tape left on the roll so I did the best I could with it and a few well-placed patriotic stars to firm up those corners.  As I stood up, I felt a little dizzy, sweaty and had severe pain in my head. This Project Eve was cursed after all.

I popped two Advil, took a swig of Diet Coke and resumed the Buckeye making in the kitchen with Reed. This was a new recipe for me and I had to purchase confectioners’ sugar for the first time in years. Some genius came up with the idea to sell confectioners’ sugar in a plastic bag instead of a box. It wasn’t resealable, it wasn’t particularly baker friendly so I just dumped in the whole bag with the peanut butter as I counted out the cups and realized that the bag was pretty damn close to the required 6 cups.

This was not a dessert for Top Chef Masters, it was for 5th graders. This is the kind of rationale you use on Project Eve. Mediocre can become the accepted norm in the blink of an eye. 

Reed and I were rolling the peanut butter mixture into balls, when he screamed again. I swiveled my head and saw that he had a bloody nose. Both of us had peanut butter in uncomfortable places and were thus unable to cup a hand to his nose.

So, I did what any mom would do on Project Eve. I pushed him hard in the chest so he was no longer standing over the bowl and cookie sheet on the counter. As if he was not waiting and bleeding next to me, I peered into the mix and inspected the cookie sheet for traces of blood. Phew. None.

I washed my hands, then put a paper towel to his nose and guided him like a participant in Blind Man’s Bluff over to the sink to wash his hands. His head remained back and we got the bleeding under control. I feel the need to fire him as my baking assistant as a precaution and he stumbled off to the couch to watch television. Mac gave Reed a withering glare and resumed texting. Presumably telling the free world how gross his brother is.

The Buckeyes went in the freezer and I allowed Reed to come back over and melt the chocolate needed for coating. Neither of us were particularly excited by this task anymore which was saying a lot given how much chocolate I usually ingest while cooking with it.

By 9:30 all Buckeyes were coated and in the fridge. The dog had been walked.  All boys were upstairs and I sat down in a chair for the first time since I left for school pick-up at 2:30. I smelled like a mixture of glue and peanut butter and my shirt had a white, powdery stain from working with the confectioners’ sugar. 

I was exhausted but despite a little bloodshed, one failed acrobatic feat and a repetitive singing map, we survived another Project Eve. Some days just surviving is all you can hope for.

 

 

 

 

 

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

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Magnificence in the Mundane

Finding humor in kids and chaos

WordPress.com

WordPress.com is the best place for your personal blog or business site.

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