The Science Fair Blues (Which Should Not Be Confused With The Blues Of A Turquoise Sweatshirt)


The month that I have been dreading since I first gave birth in August of 2000 is now upon us.  I just have two words for you:

Science.  Fair.

Oh, people.  My spiritual gifts are typing, getting chocolate and grass stains out of a small boy’s Under Armour windpants, swiping my debit card at Starbucks and knowing how to use the semicolon appropriately.  My brain freezes with all the science, and then I just get exhausted and need to lie down.

(Lie down with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey and a marathon of shows on HGTV.)

Since the boy was wearing Pampers, I have always been quite upfront with Hubs about the upcoming science fair days.  I knew they were coming… coming ’round the bend… and then I wouldn’t see the sunshine… in I don’t know when… stuck in Folsum Prison, working on the science fair… and I made sure that Hubs knew that THIS WAS HIS DEPARTMENT OF PARENTING.

Because I work at a school, where real kids take real subjects like math and science and PE (Don’t forget the PE!), and because our science teacher, Emily, is a very good friend of mine, I know all about the annual fair.  I know how hard she works every single year to make sure three-sided cardboard displays are set up just so, with great fonts and fabulous photographs, and PERTINENT INFORMATION.  And that’s when I hold my hand to my forehead and say, “Emily!  My word!  All this science fair hoopla makes me want to just head to Starbucks for some liquid medication.”

The boy is a science whiz.  Already, as a 6th grader, he has a better grasp on biomes and cell structure than I do, and still… I have managed to get through polite society with nary a problem for years and years.  It’s because I don’t meet my girlfriends for coffee and say, “How about that cell division that’s happening these days?!”  No.  We talk about important things, like Kate Middleton’s pregnancy (where cell division is taking place), whether organic bananas are worth the money, who’s signing their boys up for swimming lessons, and DID MY SON HAPPEN TO LEAVE HIS TURQUOISE SWEATSHIRT AT Y’ALL’S HOUSE LAST FRIDAY?

(Don’t get me started on the sweatshirt.  It’s a $50 Under Armour sweatshirt.  It’s turquoise.  It zips up the front, because the boy prefers the zippy ones over the hoodies that pull straight over his head.  And it is MIA.  He THINKS he might have left it in the gym at school.  But no!  Wait!  He THINKS he might have left it at Kellen’s house on their End of the World According to the Mayans party before Christmas.  No matter.  It is officially classified as a missing sweatshirt, as of this morning, and I politely informed him that he’d better get an APB out on the thing and get some sightings, because FIFTY AMERICAN DOLLARS!)

(Okay.  I’m mad just thinking about that sweatshirt again.)

The boy loves science, and his grade is pretty much a perfect 100% in the class, because he ENJOYS doing the extra credit, which totally made up for the time he confused a couple of ecosystem terms and missed two questions on his exam in early December.  His teacher met with me and Hubs during parent-teacher conferences in November and said, “Science fair for 6th graders is optional, but the boy NEEDS to do it.  I want to see him tackle a project this year.”

And that is when I leaned over and asked, “You wouldn’t happen to have a paper sack that I could breathe into, would you?  I’m not pulling enough oxygen into my lungs at the moment, and Mama feels like she might just fall out of this chair, because did you say SCIENCE FAIR?”

And that is how we got to be here, people, one year early.  I expected science fair in THE SEVENTH GRADE.  I was not emotionally prepared for all the work that was going to go into a fair project in THE SIXTH GRADE.  I thought I still had another year of bliss left.

Of course the boy chose something EASY for science fair.  He will be working with the LIVE bacteria that causes strep throat, because WHY NOT?  He catches strep throat like I catch dirty floors at my house, and YES!  Let’s just hold the germ in front of our faces and see which antibiotic works the fastest to kill it.

(I am keeping my fingers crossed that all of the killing antibiotics work their magic in the lab, and that we WILL NOT have to visit our pediatrician for our own bottle of bacteria killers, with the fever and all the puking in tow.  The boy and the strep throat have always been tight.)

But do you know what?  The miracle about this particular science fair project is that the boy’s grandpa (who is better known as Papa around these parts), owns his own medical lab, where he conducts tests on blood and germs and viruses and (ahem!) urine all day long.  Papa has officially been promoted to CAPTAIN OF OVERSEEING THE BOY’S SCIENCE FAIR PROJECT, with his little apprentice by his side.  The boy is twenty-nine kinds of happy right now.  He loves working with the bacteria; he loves wearing the Haz-Mat suit; he loves looking like a scientist out of an animated Pixar cartoon.

Last night, he tried to explain everything he did in the lab with Papa after school to me, and all I heard was Charlie Brown’s teacher talking.  Strep.  Smeared germ here.  Fire in the Bunsen burner.  That was the extent of information I took away from our conversation.

And then I kissed the boy’s forehead and said, “Mama sure loves you,” because I do.  And I love that he loves science.  And I love that Hubs and Papa are here to just take over for me.

I can take zero-point-zero credit for these snapshots, because I didn’t take them.  Hubs’ parents took them, while the boy was in their lab, working with Papa.  I was at home while all of this was going on, telling Thing 2 that toilets are not really good for us to play in, and why couldn’t he understand that, after I’ve told him one thousand and sixty-eleven times?!

But here!  Here is the little scientist in action…

There are more days to be spent in the lab, and then we’ll have to buy one of those three-sided cardboard display units, and Mama will probably need to get a new ink cartridge for the home printer, because someone drained the black ink.  I may also pick up a bottle of wine, because I’ve heard that wine goes well with your son’s science fair projects.

Wine also helps mamas deal with missing Under Armour sweatshirts that sucked $50 out of their checking accounts.

Y’all have a very merry Tuesday night.

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