Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Professional Development

In our school district, each school gets 6 days in which the teachers professionally develop themselves. This has been around since the dawn of time, or when I was a kid. Back then we called them "P.D." days. Now we are much more evolved and call them "Pro D" days. Last Friday was the last of this school year.

On these days I have to navigate alone (as in, Husband gets to get up early and go to work) the fine balance of kids who want to have a fun and special day. Why a fine balance? How hard can it be to have fun with the kids?

One kid, I know will be bored before breakfast and to him "fun and special day" means doing something completely new and different, like building a hotel in our backyard or at the very least creating a new invention that will required dragging out odd bits of yarn, broken toys and especially rocks, which despite my persistent proclamations that "rocks don't belong in the house" are perpetually littering the interior landscape.

The other one will happily sit down in front of the TV before breakfast and to her "fun and special day" means never dragging her carcass away from the TV except for cupcake breaks. Sure, she'll occasionally want to mix things up by say, putting (clean) underwear on her head.

And so began the last Pro D day of Grade 2/Kindergarten. I had suffered a case of the sniffles through 3 days of work and so asked the kids to let me "sleep in" until 8:30. On a school day, of course they need to be severed from their bedsheets with dynamite, but I know that the teachers wickedly must implant something until the kids' fingernails at school that makes them rise with the chickens on days off of school.

I made each child raise their right hand and repeat after me "I promise ... to let Mommy sleep in ... no matter what." They both made the vow.

To hedge my bets, I put out a cereal bar for them to eat so they wouldn't lack for sustenance in the morning. Because I wanted to leave nothing to chance, I also put out Easter chocolate.

The only thing that would have better ensured success was if I had turned down the volume on the TV which was set at just below a heavy metal concert. The family room is located directly under our master bedroom and the TV is most unfortunately, placed directly below the head of our bed.

So I did enjoy a "lie in" as the Brits would call it but not even a wink of sleep after the cartoons were blasting into my head. Nonetheless, a great start to our day.

I was quite pleased that upon my entry into the Pro D day fray, the bored one was eagerly pouring through a craft book realizing at 8:30, and the long day stretching ahead, that he would require some form of entertainment. Husband and I are always pleased at this kind of display of coping skills as we fear our son will be age 40 and texting us in our seniors' home rocking chairs that he is bored at work and did we have any diversions for him?

So as I'm making my coffee I start getting the "can we do this craft today Mommy?". A complicated craft is a grand idea and, to my later regret, I encourage it. "Why don't you read me the list of things we'll need and I'll tell you if we have it".

Fortunately over her 3 years with us, Nanny has accumulated in our basement an impressive cache of craft supplies. So the first hour of our Pro D day is spent with this kind of quality interaction:

J: Do we have craft foam?
Me: Yes.
J: Do we have coloured paper?
Me: Yes.
J: Do we have colourful buttons?
Me: No.
J: Not that one.

As a means to allowing Mommy to enjoy her coffee and check on the Facebook status of her 112 closest friends, I suggest they start bookmarking the ones that they like and later we can decide which one we want to do. They did this with surprisingly little friction.

Then quite out of the blue J says to me "You said garlic bread is healthy, right?"

I'm working on making a Scrabble move on Facebook so don't take proper care to give him the right answer.

"I said Garlic chicken is healthly". Wrong answer.


J is learning about the food groups at school and "other" group is not in any of the healthy ones. So candy is not protein, dairy, grains of fruits/vegetables and so falls in "other". And he has taken a serious fancy to garlic bread, the kind that comes dripping in butter.

I try to undo my serious miscalculation "Bread is in the GRAIN group, it's not in the OTHER group!!! And you need to eat grains. So it's part of a healthy meal". I know from experience that if I now proclaim garlic bread to be healthy, he will want to eat that and that alone for dinners into eternity. So I need to choose my words carefully.

It's too late, he's sequestered himself in the hall closet and kicking the walls. Something I know that requires two things to resolve: passage of time, and carefully timed and worded distraction.

So the Girlie Goo and I endure a few hundred rounds of "GARLIC BREAD ISN'T HEALTHY" and then when I notice the intensity dropping a little and it's possible to get a fraction of his attention I say:

"Do you want me to make you some garlic bread with your lunch?"

He sniffles and agrees and we all cuddle on the couch and watch some cartoons.

Next up on the Pro D day agenda is S's soccer class. She is beside herself that her brother will be watching her. Most of her activities are when he is in school so this is a rare treat. J earns my undying gratitude when he enthusiastically displays his keenness at seeing her play soccer.

Now J Boy is not known for his ability to sit for 60 solid minutes on the sideline of a 4 and 5 year old soccer class. So I bring a snack for him, a very lame handheld game he's been favouring lately and an I Spy book. The class has not even started when the J Boy tells me he's bored. I start him on a snack and instruct him to give some thumbs up to his sister as she starts kicking a ball.

In 5 minutes he's tired of the entertainment I've chosen. I had figured that we would have to tour around the rec centre a little before the hour was up. But I thought it might be after the soccer kids were at least done their warm up.

Very curiously, and to my surprise, he spent the last 55 minutes of the class, watching a roomful of 1 to 4 year olds in the other half of the gym playing on climbing toys. I'm at a loss as to what was so fascinating. It may be that he was really just trying to work out some questions he had on nuclear fusion and needed some space on his own.

We came home for lunch and I made garlic bread to go with chicken nuggets and potatoes for lunch.

And then came the great craft debacle. We quickly decided that the kids would make their own bulletin boards. It was a project that was complicated enough to enjoy but not so complicated that it couldn't be completed in an hour. And then I knew they would spend plenty of time filling their bulletin boards with treasures.

First step was to choose a fabric remnant. Not to use the work "remnant" is to suggest that I actually do something with fabric such that I have remnants left over. What I do is occasionally go into fabric stores and buy some fabric, forgetting that I don't own a sewing machine and routinely avoid even darning socks by taping them up or just throwing them away. So I have a half dozen kid-friendly flannel fabrics to choose from.

Because I thought that J might think the choices were too babyish, I did bring out one bona fide remnant from an ill-fated attempt to make a tiny curtain (which was done without any actual sewing).

J immediately chooses the navy curtain remnant. S chooses Bob the Builder until I point out the one with hearts and teddy bears and then she shifts her choice to the latter.

Problematically, the remnant is a little small, I think, to fit on the foam board I have. I actually have one foam board with I'm planning on dividing in 2 to make the 2 bulletin boards. So I secure J's commitment to this navy fabric.

Before we get very much further he realizes that the fabric is far too small for the entire foam board. I remind him that we are cutting the board in two. I point out that if we cut one side a little smaller, his navy fabric will be big enough. He agrees. I go so far as to lay out the fabric and show him where I will cut the board. I make solemn eye contact with him as he agrees to the plan.

I proceed to cutting the foam board (the only one I have) and as I'm making the last cut he asks "who is getting the bigger one?". Alarm bells.

"Remember, you'll have this one [careful not to use the words 'bigger' or 'smaller'] as it fits your fabric perfectly?"


After much gnashing of teeth, the J Boy lays out his demand "I WANT THE BIG BOARD!!".

S, the peacemaker: "I don't mind having the small board".

J is determined not to make it easy: "I WANT THE BIG BOARD AND THAT FABRIC".

The impossible.

So we go several rounds of thrashing, tears and screaming always to be confronted with reality. None of the options I came up with were acceptable:

1. Make a smaller board today with preferred fabric.
2. Use the smaller board to display one very special thing (kilometer club ribbons?)
3. Make a bigger board with a different fabric.
4. Another day, go to fabric store and CHOOSE a special fabric to make another cool bulletin board.
5. Use the preferred fabric on the preferred larger board, but it will be cut in two and a seam will appear, which would be hidden by a ribbon.
and finally
6. Make a completely different craft.

The presentation of options was punctuated by my storming off in disgust, which I admit in hindsight, did not contribute to a mutually satisfactory solution.

Eventually the J Boy agreed to solution 3, but was then greeted with the news that we did not have enough ribbon to do the craft just like the book shows. He was unhappy with any further divergence from the script.

It was then that I started on another art project, making a picture using toothpicks, rice, macaroni and fruit loops. After demonstrating the good fun, J Boy took the bait and started forming his own picture. S also joined in and I thought we could all quietly conspire never to utter the words "bulletin board" and "craft" in the same sentence again.

Then J Boy brought it up and all of a sudden had forgotten about all of his hard fought objections. He is fine with a different fabric, and does not want any ribbons at all. He denies he ever made a fuss and is questioning why I have not allowed him to do his craft?

So I suggest we clean up the macaroni and fruit loop project so we can get to the bulletin board project and J says "Mommy, can't you just make them for us?"

And after 3 hours of back-and-forth, I realize that most of the day is gone, and we no longer need the craft project to fill the afternoon. The afternoon is gone. And so I make the bulletin boards which I kind of enjoyed almost as much as they enjoyed filling them?

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