Science Fair Survivor (One Mother's Story)

Just when you think you've seen your child's last Science Fair in the 6th grade, it rears its ugly head again in 7th. Of course you know nothing of this event until the 11th hour as your child has developed a sense of independence (and secrecy) over the past year that keeps every parent of a pre-teen in a constant blindfolded game of "Life."

My daughter, Madison, chose to discover which fabric stain remover, out of four, works the best. Why this is of interest to a young lady, who wears her favorite "white" but ketchup-stained sweatshirt over and over until it is actually walking itself to the clothes hamper, baffles me. Unbeknownst to me, she has been merrily working away on 4 strips of towel (now I know where the mate of a matching, beautiful white towel set went) with the staining and the saturating with stain removers, washing and drying, and writing her report.

The Day before Science Fair: (17 hours to be exact)

2:30 p.m. -Madison calls from school and is complaining of a sore throat, stuffy nose and exhaustion. Thank goodness my parents were able to pick her up at school early so she could nap for a couple of hours before I picked her up to start on the final form of her project.

5:45 p.m. - She seems to have caught a second wind after a healthy macaroni and cheese dinner. Busy at the computer, she typed, changed the font size, shape and color about 3,489 times, and printed the 'binder' portion of her project. My good sense told me to stay away, so I start trimming the 4 pieces of the shredded sides and ends of my once beautiful and white towel. I then kept myself busy with clothespins, strips of my once beautiful and white towel and her 3 sided poster board. Did I mention that the teacher put in the instructions that parental involvement should only be about 10%? I figured I still had 3% left in the bank at this point. Minutes turn into hours.

9:12 p.m. - I tell her that her project just won't be complete without the actual specimens of the stain removers she used in her testing. She enthusiastically agrees so I strip off my warm soft slippers and run across the street to purchase Simple Green, Shout, Zout, white vinegar and their cheapest bottle of red wine. (This last item was not a stain remover).

10:30 p.m. - We are both delirious and crawling on the kitchen floor (I swear she didn't have any wine) and having fun as she printed materials and I taped sections of her report to the 3-sided board. It was really taking shape. Did I mention the 10% parental involvement?

10:45 p.m. - Madison tells me that there are two parts to the end of her report that she wasn't clear on but that Mr. Friesen said she didn't have to add. Now this confuses me a bit but I don't know if it's from lack of sleep or pre-teen secrecy, and I start asking questions that take out whatever is left of her second wind. We talk about this in great length as women do about any subject but did not come to an agreement on how to finish this report up.

11:00 p.m. - The human body and spirit are not designed to be creative and peppy at this hour, so we called her project 'finished' and go to bed.

Science Fair Day -

5:45 a.m. - I hear Madison's alarm. Her feet hit the floor running and I can sense she is excited about her day and feeling better. This delights me but I am wishing it was still the middle of the night. When I crawl out of bed to put the dogs outside I notice that the driveway is dry for the first time in a week.

7:00 a.m. - About 30 minutes before we leave the skies open up and I see a mad dash developing as we prepare for getting her project, backpack, and lunch to the car which is parked outside in the downpour. Trust me... there is not an umbrella big enough in the world that could have helped us on this morning. The dogs lay in the middle of the kitchen floor and their little heads looked like they were watching a tennis match that had gone helplessly out of control.

7:30 a.m. - We are now on the road and I bring up the two parts missing from her report but she can't seem to explain to me what "Practical Application" and "Biblical Application" mean. I am just trying to understand what it is the teacher is looking for. Lots of silent stares from my co-pilot. So being the comedian I am, I tell her the Biblical Application should be that she pray that God forgives her when she lies to the teacher that I only helped out 10%. Ha ha ha ha ha. That is me laughing; she's not having fun with it and I notice this lately from my pre-teen. I see that the Fellowship Hall is already a flurry of activity with the setting up of tables. We kiss good-bye and I wish her luck. When I return to the car, I notice she had left the back door of the car wide open and we now have a little lake forming on my leather interior. I decide to chose my battles carefully and dismiss this one.

7:45 a.m. - I'm driving to work and I finally get what the teacher is talking about on the Practical and Biblical part. I make a U-turn and go home to finish the last page of her report in hopefully the same font and color. (I have long since passed my 10% parental involvement allowance so I am going for broke at this point). This is what I put on one piece of paper:

" Practical Application": I now know where not to spend my valuable time and money on these three products that do not effectively remove stains {from my mom's beautiful white towels}. I actually decided to not humiliate her with my humor any more today and left off the towel part.

"Biblical Application": As we know, only God can remove our stains completely.

Of course at this point I am having conversations with myself on whether this is a good idea or not. I look at my watch and need to call work to let them know I will be late. When our receptionist answers, she tells me that Madison just called because she forgot HER BINDER REPORT for her Science Fair Project at home. In slow motion I turn around and there it is on our kitchen counter. I smile and now know there was a reason I made the U-turn and came home. I just hope the photo radar picture that was taken of me doing 50 mph in a 25-mph zone isn't too blurred. I hate that.

8:10 a.m. - I climb the hill in pouring rain to her school. I am not used to so many cars at this late hour! I have 5 minutes to spare before her first class starts. I am about 23rd in line to get near the Fellowship Hall door. I park my car in the middle of a puddle, jump out and instantly wash my feet for the 2nd time this morning, and dash to the Fellowship Hall. The place is mobbed. I see Madison amidst her friends, and watch the guilt and terror sweep over her little face. I admit that I enjoyed this for a brief moment because I'm a firm believer that guilt and terror are good motivators. I smile, since I know I am truly the Hero Mom today as I show her the last piece of her project that needs to be taped to her board. She was even prepared with scotch tape. (That was another one of my ideas.) We hug and kiss. All is good with the world.

8:20 a.m. - As I am leaving, her friend Sonja excitedly pulls me over to show me her project. I walk over and there is a 5-sectioned Plexiglas container filled with sand, dirt, rocks, water and something green. She explains to me that the tube running from each container has a knob that turns on a generator hidden below the table that blasts some air or material through the tube into each of the 5 containers to give the sensation of how a volcano disrupts the earth. I know this is hard to imagine, but I am at a loss for words. I quietly compliment her and tell her that I'm sure it will earn her a good grade. As I walk away, I am thanking God that Madison's project is not right next to hers and that my parental involvement (ok, let's call it 18%) would perhaps not be noticed after Mr. Friesen sees Sonja's project.

Madison has already told me there is another Science Fair in 8th grade. I already know which red wine works best. This next project should be a breeze!