Media and Art · Personal Entries

A toe in the pool of prepubescent crazy

We have two weeks of stuff to cover here, so let’s all pipe down and focus, shall we?

We have field trips with insane preteens,  a class mural,  swearing off dating forever and ever until I die and the pixie haircut which accompanied this decision,  and a graduation or two.   Where shall we start?

Although I’ve worked myself up into quite a state thinking about the haircut and the swearing-off dating,  I’ll start with the mural because it gives you something to look at.   Complaining about my bad attitude towards dating has no visual hook.

This year, as I have in previous years, I offered to do a painting with Matt’s class.  The idea is this: I provide all the materials, and guide the kids through the process of creating a large-scale collaborative painting.  I provide the steadying adult voice of reason, and they make all the decisions and do all the work.

After much brainstorming and voting, the kids decided to paint an amusement park scene,  anchoring the painting with a horizon line and a roller coaster, and setting the scene at night.  They would all add their own elements to the painting, and each would also draw themselves on the roller coaster.   They worked together to come up with a strong, cohesive theme, and I was impressed.

Which is why I’m so, so baffled about how we ended up with this:

Click to enlarge this fabulousness: 5th grade Amusement Park, 4 ft x 7.5 ft. Acrylic and watercolor on Arches paper.

An amusement park with an erupting volcano, under attack from nine space ships, three dragons, two bears, and many, many zombies.    I had no idea how much time zombies spend at amusements parks.

I’ve learned some things about fifth-graders:  They’ve dipped a toe in the pool of pubescent crazy.  They like to draw very, very small.  Their collective goal is to out-funny one another.  They don’t do collaborative. They erase each other’s preliminary drawings, and this goes about as well as you’re imagining it does.

1.  This, blogosphere, is Tiger Woods on the moon, in a bikini.  His golf club is floating away, and that’s why he’s shouting, “Nooo!”   “Let’s draw all his girlfriends, too!” Said the fifth-graders. “Nooo,” said Ms. Stein.

2.  This pretty little clock and the things drawn around it are the work of a very sweet autistic boy who joins the class for much of the day.  The kids collectively bossed him about his clock being off-theme.  When he left, they all started drawing clocks.  I urged them to erase their clocks, and they took this to mean that they should erase anyone else’s work that they didn’t like.

3.  Bears!

4. “Honey, what is that?” I asked.   “A volcano,”  she said. OK.  By this point I had realized that artistic coherence was a pipe-dream.

4.5.  “I’m confused about why you’re drawing ice cream cones in the sky.”   “I like drawing ice cream cones.” Later, these became ice cream cone rockets.

5.  An upside-down zombie paratrooper with an ice cream cone instead of a parachute.   This drawing was explained to me at the time, but because fifth-graders all talk at once, all I heard was, “MS. STEIN HE ERASED MY CAN I PAINT NOW ZOMBIE PARACHUTE FAIRY ROLLER COASTER FALLING HAHAHAHAHA BEARS!!!!!”

6.  This family of zombies did not make sure they were securely belted in before the ride started.  Luckily, they are the walking dead and so their fall can’t kill them.

7.  Several things are happening in this part of the picture.

a.  A dragon is heating up some pizza.  The dragon was drawn by child A, and the pizza was drawn by child B.  Child B did not discuss the addition of pizza with child A, and child A was not pleased.  Pizza made a mockery of the dragon.

b. Medusa and Frankenstein are getting married.  I have no idea.


The kids, somehow, came away from all that lovely planning with the message, “Go forth and draw twenty-three different pictures!  Make it as random as you can!”  Amused, shell-shocked, baffled; halfway through the first day I caught Matt’s teacher’s eye.

“Wow,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief.

“I know!”  She said excitedly, “this is the best they’ve worked together all year!

Teachers are not paid nearly enough.



Personal Entries

Snowy day

My boys seem to think I don’t like playing in snow, and I can understand why they think this.  I love snow, but snow as a child and snow as a parent of young children are very different things.

As a parent, snow means digging out endless pairs of gloves,  drying jackets,  tucking pants into boots, dragging sleds out of the garage, and making cocoa.   It has very little to do with enjoying the snow, and everything to do with helping others enjoy the snow.

Suddenly, though, things are different.  My youngest has suddenly reached the age of snowday self-sufficiency, and so my snowday role has dwindled to making large vats of cocoa for hoards of neighborhood boys.  Why am I the neighborhood go-to girl for cocoa?  Because I’m stupid, that’s why.  And my backyard is the best sledding hill in the neighborhood.

When the neighborhood hoards descend upon my back hill, I spend the day anxiously gauging the potential for injury inherent in each new stupid idea they come up with.  I’m tickled by their creativity, but I don’t think my home owner’s insurance company will feel that’s a good excuse for allowing children to maim themselves while on my property.  Build a snow ramp, hose it down, let it ice up, then snowboard down the hill blindfolded?   Sled towards the house, using the deck to stop yourself?  The deck that will be level with your face and bash all your teeth in, that deck?  Oh, you clever little ducks!  On these days I find myself yelling out a window at someone else’s teenager, at least once,  “I told you not to do that, and if you won’t listen then you need to go home!”  I’m the snow police.  Nobody wants to be the snow police.

Yesterday,  North Carolina woke to the perfect snowday.   Three inches of snow had fallen overnight,  perfectly piling itself onto every branch of every tree.  The sky was blue,  the sun was shining warmly enough that the roads were clear by midmorning, and I took my boys to a local park with wicked hills.

It was the first time I’ve sledded in years, and it was awesome.

Yesterday I wasn’t on duty, and the safety of other people’s children was not my responsibility.  Knocking Riley down in the snow to take his sled,  whooshing down the hill head first with my hat pulled over my eyes, pelting the boys with snowballs as they snowboarded….  it was wonderful not to be the adult in charge.