Friday, October 10, 2014

Where's Bill Nye when you need him?

Imagine it’s around 9:30 on a Sunday night…the weekend is winding down…everyone should either be in bed already (Riley), or relaxing (the rest of us…theoretically, at least…) The two days of respite had whizzed by, due to an abundance of activities. There were 3 soccer games (that’s right, for 2 boys--I know the math doesn’t add up, but I don’t make the schedule…) a trip to a State Park for a family hike, and playoff baseball to watch (yes, it IS important--we need to lend our support to the Orioles…even if it amounts to "cheering from afar"…) All of this resulted in the hour growing kind of late, and Derek still needing to tie up the loose ends of his homework.

Thus came the plaintive call from the teenager’s room, a pathetic cry for help in the form of: “Mooooommm? How are you at…arts and crafts?” Just what a parent looooves to hear when she’d rather be curling up with a book…or watching an episode of Halloween Wars on the Food Network…or absolutely anything else besides...coloring and gluing. And actually, the honest answer is: “Arts and crafts are not at ALL my thing”. But this is my child, and I want to lend a hand whenever I heaved a mental sigh and asked what he needed.

Turned out, it was a project for Biology class, in which he was to follow a set of instructions to build a model of an HIV virus. First he had to fold a flat piece of paper into an (get ready for an awesome sciency-type word) icosahedron. Cool, right? And no, I don’t know exactly what it means. But I can tell you that when you attach all the tiny little tabs to the right places, it becomes a many-sided structural shape. I could understand Derek’s frustration, watching him trying to wrestle the flimsy paper into submission; it was not what you’d call “easy”. But what he really wanted to consult with me about was what to utilize for the “enzymes” which had to poke through the surface of the cell (did I mention it was super-fragile PAPER?) and then be covered by the outer layer or “envelope”.

Let me just sum up by saying it required many trips between the kitchen and his bedroom, as we brainstormed different options for materials, located said items, discarded those that proved unsatisfactory, etc. Yeah, we were definitely testing that good old "scientific method", I tell ya. We finally decided upon some nails (caaaaarrrefully, gently coaxed through the surface of the paper…then superglued into place so those suckers would stay put…) and plastic cut from a newspaper delivery bag, (wrapped around and taped to hold it in place).

Let me also be clear: I’m not the parent who’s going to jump in and complete their kid’s assignment when they’re struggling, to ensure that they get a decent grade. Nope, I assure you that HE did all the work--as I sat comfortably on the bed and…supervised in an encouraging manner…when I wasn’t trotting up and down stairs, of course. In fact, I believe it was on one of my very last journeys to the Land of Creativity (aka: the pantry) for one final finishing touch, when Derek at last seemed to notice my weariness. (Was it my plodding paceHeavy footfalls? Or the creaking of my tired legs? Yep, probably “all of the above”…) Sounding a wee bit guilty, he piped up, “Sorry about this. Thanks for all your help!” I did wholeheartedly appreciate his unsolicited expression of gratitude. Keep this in mind as I replied--and you have to trust me, here, when I tell you I did not plan this at all, it just came right out of my exhausted noggin--“Oh, that’s okay, honey…you know, Biology is…my LIFE!” (I know, right? Ouch...) 

So what have we learned here? Besides the fact that last-minute projects are a b...ear? Or that constructing representations of organisms is quite tricky? Evidently, even my worn-out brain…is a nerd!

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