Fortune Cookie Messages For Outnumbered Parents At Kite Festivals

These Are The Days We'll Remember...At The Laredo Kite Festival.  By Critters And Crayons.

At The Laredo Kite Festival


One of the festivals we absolutely love to attend each year in Laredo is the Kite Festival in March.

Today, we attended our fourth.

This means that we have attended since our children were in diapers, nursing, learning to crawl, learning to walk, learning to talk….all the way up to this year.

This year is the first year both children are past all of those milestones, but they can also both hold their own kites, fly their own kites, and be genuinely interested in holding and flying their own kites.  

They can do these things after getting just a little bit of help by Mom or Dad to catch the wind, of course.

I have to say, though, there is one truth that appears to be self-evident and inviolable.

If I had a fortune cookie message to foretell my future or offer sage advice about taking more than one child to any Kite Festival alone, it would read:


“Winds Favor The Wise Parent Who Is Not Outnumbered By Children Or Kites.”


Another possible fortune cookie message might bring a different perspective while delivering the same message:


“One Foolish Parent With Two Children At Kite Festival
 Will Be Entangled In The Strings Of Crashed Kites.”


Each year, we pile into the mini-van on a beautiful, but very hot day, with our newly selected kites.  We walk to the festival from our distant parking spots.  
We find a plot of land that is not completely marshy and that is not so packed with people that we might get one of our kites airborne.


But, the unspoken and unfair Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents ALWAYS kicks in.


That law, in case you have not experienced it firsthand is:


“Your Child’s Kite Will Only Fly When Your Other Child’s Kite Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”


And this Law is also supported by a couple of Theorums:


“The Vertical Height Of One Child’s Kite Is Directly Proportional To The Vertical Drop Of Your Other Child’s Kite.”


“If You Rescue One Child’s Kite By Gaining Wind Resistance By Running,

You Will Surely Run Through A Mudhole Where You Sink 3 Inches Before Kite Still Crashes Into Some Unassuming Picnickers.”


(Seriously, I cannot believe they didn’t move the first time.)


But, do you know what?


I’m certain we’ll be back, again, next year.


We may have muddy shoes and ankles, and some tangled kite string, and maybe even some occasionally frustrated children who haven’t completely grasped how to keep their kites in the air for longer than a few minutes, but, overall, we’re making some serious improvement.


Next year, we may be able to break that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents and its supporting Theorums.


Maybe, our Fortune Cookie Message, if we had a fortune cookie with a message about the Kite Festival, might read:


“Outnumbered Parent At Kite Festival Will See Two Kites In Air Simultaneously.”


or, maybe:


“You Will Not Trip On Tangled Kite Strings This Year.”


That would be cool.


But, maybe next year this fortune could really happen:


“You Will Remember To Wear Crappy Shoes To Places Where You Know You Will Run Through Mud.”


And, maybe, just maybe, some folks will get this fortune cookie message:


“Picnicker Who Moves After Kite Crashes Into Face Finishes Rest Of PB&J In Peace.”


But, I want to wish “Cheers” to all of the families out during the pretty Spring Days doing these kinds of activities.


There is humor in them, and sometimes, a little frustration.  
Yes.  Sometimes, you cave to the frustration after that Law Of Wind Dynamics For Parents kicks you in the teeth and ruins your shoes, again…when those imaginary fortune cookies foretold the future you should have predicted yourself.


For instance, I FINALLY cut the streamers completely off of one kite, and even sliced clean through the strings from the kite handle to regain the circulation to my legs after a near tourniquet had been formed by an errant kite with a very strong and determined child yanking on the other end.


I DID offer to pay the screaming child for the damage but she ran off to find her parents before I could give her any money.


(Um…..Really Sorry About That If It Belonged To Your Kid And You’re Reading This Now After Wondering Why Your Wailing Kid Brought Back A Kite Frame, But I Couldn’t Feel Anything Below My Ankle…..)


Seriously, though.


Days Like Today Are Never Boring. The Never-Boring Days Are The Real Memory-Makers.






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Being A Practical Consumer Looks Like This

Being A Practical Consumer Looks Like This.  A Post By Critters And Crayons.


I haven’t been able to write as much as I’d like, recently.

In the last month, we have endured Strep Throat, Allergies, Asthma, Pink-Eye, and Houseguests.

Back in August, I wrote about how we were now committing ourselves to “Buying Only The Essential”.


I think teaching our kids to be “Practical Consumers” is a great life skill that will truly benefit them into their adult years.


Every year, we go through a “Stuff Audit” to donate or sell.

*  Clear out the clothes and shoes that don’t fit the kids anymore.

* Cull our closets for the stuff we haven’t worn in a year.

*  Edit the play area for toys the kids have outgrown, that are junky, redundant, dangerous or annoying.


SO, doesn’t it make sense that since writing that post where we bought the amazingly essential Alligator Toilet Paper Holder, that we have brought these things into The Household Fold?

My husband’s favorite, favorite, favorite Christmas Movie is “A Christmas Story”.

So, this was the perfect gift for him from us.


Being Practical Consumers Critters And Crayons-4

The Crooked Leg Lamp From A Christmas Story.


And, we all use Salt & Pepper, right?

What could be more PRACTICAL than buying a Salt & Pepper Shaker?

Salt & Pepper Shakers pretty much DEFINE “Practical”.


Being Practical Consumers Critters And Crayons-1

Our Alligator Salt & Pepper Shaker…


And, just this weekend, my husband took our visiting Sister-In-Law to some local pottery and metal-work venues to shop for unique items.

He came home with THIS.


Knight In Armor Statue Critters And Crayons-1



I saw a segment on a morning talk show that discussed how to  “Test Compatibility” of married couples as part of The Valentines Day-themed topics.

There were marriage experts, book authors, digital quiz recommendations….but I think I’ve got the answer.




a)  With Horror.  He better have kept the receipt!



b)  With Relief.  NOW, I don’t have to feel guilty about buying those shoes, after all.  







Knight In Armor Statue Critters And Crayons-2

My Answer To The Marriage Compatibility Quiz?


And, to show that we are committed to this “Practical Purchasing” resolution, let me show you how useful and versatile that Alligator Toilet Paper Holder has proven to be!

Sadly, he fell over one day and one of his arms shattered.

He could no longer stylishly hold the toilet paper roll for which he’d been purchased!


BUT, the kids figured out a solution before we could grab the Super Glue!


Being Practical Consumers Critters And Crayons-3

Versatile. Innovative. Above All, A Very Practical Purchase.

Just as we were feeling good about that crocodilian TP-holder back in August, I definitely feel like our kids are being imbued with a real appreciation for “Practical Material Consumption”.


The Leg Lamp?  
It provides light.


The Gator Salt & Pepper Shakers?  
They provide seasoning.


The 7-Foot Tall Knight In Our Living Room?    
He is an excellent conversation starter.


The Alligator Toilet Paper Holder?  Did you LOOK at the photos?  
Totally pragmatic.






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Parenting Is Like Sledding. Sled Optional.

My kids often surprise us with the unspeakably comical things that they say.

They also make us pause when their questions require an honest and thoughtful answer.

We’re coming off of a holiday trip that bore some of the typical challenges of traveling during an already busy season.

Sometimes, reality didn’t match the idyllic scenes in a Hallmark Movie for the various tugs and pulls of life, and family, and obligations.

Essentially, it was a normal holiday season- one that many might relate to, and one that might lead a child to ask a simple, but very thought-provoking question of her parents like our six-year old daughter did tonight on the way back from a drugstore where we bought vitamins for immunity support to stave off any more festive seasonal illness-on-the-go.


“Mom?  Is It Easy Having Kids?”


I could have answered her quickly with a fleeting and dishonest, “YES! It’s Super Easy!”, but I’ve got a sort of rule about not lying about that kind of stuff. 

I don’t want to be the Army Recruiter who promises someone a job in a highly marketable computer field who then lands him in a basement working with dot matrix printers circa 1985.  That’s just bad Mommy PR.  So, I told her the truth.


“No.  Having Kids Is Not Easy.”


Our First Grader looked concerned so I elaborated,


“But….It IS Awesome!”


Our daughter was confused.


“How can something be hard and awesome at the same time, Mommy?”


I didn’t have any concrete examples to give in that second.


But, I told her that most things that are completely awesome

in our lives are usually not that easy.  



I may have blanked on examples but our daughter threw one out.  She said,


“You mean like if we’re sledding

and we have to walk all the way up

to the top of the hill in the freezing cold

so that we can sled down super fast

and have all that fun

spinning all the way down?”


I didn’t think I could put it any better myself so I told her that was pretty much exactly right.

Really, that is about the best metaphor I could think of that I didn’t think of at all.

Maybe, to complete the parallel, I could have added a few crash-and-burns at the bottom of the hill, some broken sleds, or a dud slope or two to round out the analogy, but I felt pretty good she now understood that something can be TOTALLY NOT EASY while still being simultaneously TOTALLY AWESOME.

That’s Us.

We Parents.


We’re all trudging up a slope,

looking for a safe route,

eyes on the peak,

moving forward when it hurts,

striving upward when we fall,

willing onward when we’re cold,

and getting to the end

as honestly and happily as we can

so that the long and arduous trip

might all be worth it

for one magnificent launch,

followed by a brief 

and validating

soar to the bottom,

on a cheap, round sled

that spins you like a top

until you crash,

or fall,

or coast to a stop,

Hoping For The Coast,

Always Hoping For The Coast,

so that we might trudge back up

to do it all over,



That’s Us.

That’s Parenting.

It’s Not Easy Having Kids.  But, It IS Freaking Awesome.


It’s Like That.




Parenting.  We Got This. From Critters And Crayons.


Trusting Clutches, Giant Smiles, And Closed Eyes


 Astride Quiet Screams And Immense Hopes


 That You Will Coast,


Coast Without Crashing,


 Still Smiling, Still Laughing,


Without Breaking Anything,


After That Fervent And Amazing Ride


Hoping You Didn’t Lose Your Sled On The Way…


But Even If You Had,


It Would Have Been Worth








So, to wrap it all up in a nice, pithy little phrase:


Parenting Is Like Sledding.  Sled Optional.

 It’s  Easy  AWESOME!

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Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf

We have a very Curious Elf On A Shelf.


Teaching Kids About Culture With The Elf On A Shelf


Time is scarce so our elf, is very thankfully, not too into mischief and messes.

He IS a very curious Elf, though.

Each morning, the kids find him on top of something that came from a different place in the world.

And, each evening, we sit down at the computer together and they excited ask questions about whatever it is that they found the Elf sitting on or in or under that morning.

We simply Google Away together.

And, each image or map or costume they see triggers another question and another search.

An example of what our curious Elf On The Shelf taught the kids this morning when they found him on the Mongolian String Instrument was that it was not simply a “HORSEY BANJO”, which is what they called it when they found Snowflower Flaky Sassypants sitting on top of the traditional horse-handle like a rocking horse.

It’s called a “MATOUQUIN“.


It is from MONGOLIA.




 The MATOUQUIN is shaped like a TRAPEZOID.



The kids now know that Snowflower The Elf is NOT simply  sitting on a Horsey Banjo.

So far, we’ve explored Mexico, Afghanistan, and Mongolia alongside our very globally curious Elf On A Shelf.

I wonder where she’ll take us tomorrow?



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Mom, What Is College? Do They Let You Go To Recess Every Day?

mom whats college 2


These days, the kids have been on a roll when it comes to verbal communication.

This morning, our 4-year old son informed me that I was “spectacled”.

I don’t wear glasses so he was using that term properly, but in a more unorthodox way.  His knowledge of that term comes from his obsession with crocodilian species, and the spectacled caiman is one that is spotted.

He was referring to my freckled face.

I can’t complain, though.

When my daughter realized I had freckles, she mistakenly called them “pickles”, and explained that they were, “You Know!  The Dots All Over Your Face!” as she poked the air like she was popping balloons with a needle.


Then, there was a HILARIOUS circular conversation between my son, my daughter and me the other day about his puffy coat.

He didn’t want to wear it.  There was a reason for it.     It was an astonishingly funny and unexpected series of accidental insults and miscommunications.  To read that one, go HERE.


Fast forward to tonight.

As I was putting the kids to bed, our 4 year old boy piped up with the statement that he didn’t want to go to college.   He’d been told that college wasn’t fun so he had decided he didn’t want to go.

I explained that he didn’t know what college was just yet, so he asked,


“Well, Mom, What IS College?”


So, I tried to put it in the simplest terms.


“Son, you are in pre-school, and your sister was in kinder last year.  

You’ll start kindergarten next year.  

Then you go to first grade.  

Then second.

Then third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh,

eighth, ninth, tenth, eleventh,and twelfth grades!  

Then, you go off to college!  

It is great fun!  

Your daddy and I loved it so much we went to college even after college!”


The kids looked very surprised.

And, then the real questions started.  It was tough to keep a straight face- but I did, because the kids were earnest with their genuine questions about college now.


Our daughter asked,


“Mom?  Do they let you go to recess every day?”


I told her that they normally did.


And, our son asked, “

“Do they let you bring your toys to school?”


I told him that they did, but I never knew anyone who wanted to bring their toys to class.


And, then our daughter asked,


“Can you sit anywhere you want to at lunch? I mean, can you sit with anyone you want to sit with?”


So, I told her that was one of the best parts of college!


I also explained that many kids couldn’t wait to go to college because they could live in a big building with all of their friends!  Everyone has their own room.  So,our daughter’s best friend could live across the hall, or our son’s best friend could have a room next door!


The kids looked horrified.


They both yelled, “NOOOOOOO!!!!    I want to live with you and daddy! “


I told them they might change their minds one day.

Then, as I was turning out the light and tucking them in, our daughter whispered something to me,


“Mom.   I WILL probably get my own apartment when I go to college.  

BUT, you can come and visit me anytime.  

You can bring anything you want if you want to stay with me.  And, you can stay with me anytime.”


I’m not sure how binding that is without credible witnesses.

Her brother doesn’t count as one because he still believes in imaginary creatures and his signature is too shaky to hold up on any affidavits, especially since most of his letters are still backward.


She gave me a big hug and a kiss.


And, I whispered back,


“Thank you, Honey. I will!   And, and if you want, I can also be a recess monitor!”


She beamed.






I’m optimistic that she might still feel this way in 12 years.

It could happen, right?





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It’s All About Winning In First Grade Girls Basketball

One thing I am over the moon about is that our 6 year old girl loves to play basketball.

It is pretty much the only sport I know how to play.

I am nearly 40 years old and truly have no concept of what “fourth down” or “offsides” means. Basketball is IT.

It has been amazing to watch a team of girls go from not knowing how to simply dribble at the try-outs, to watching them practice fast break drills.

The hoops are lower and the rules at this early level of girls basketball can pretty much be boiled down to the following,

“You Are Allowed To Travel All You Want,
Just As Long As You Remember To Double-Dribble In Between!”

They often forget.

It is a real highlight to watch a little ponytailed girl fight for the ball, and with exuberant intent, take off down the court in a full sprint, protecting that ball like it’s the hot Black Friday Toy Of The Year.

One thing that all of our girls can do this year is protect the ball. We have come up with a drill wherein the first one to grab the rebound or the fumbled ball yells, “I’ve got it!” so that team-mates don’t continue to try to wrestle it from her.


One of the funniest things to see in a game is how desperately and self-sacrificially these 6 year olds will throw themselves on a basketball, and how difficult it is to pull it from their grasps. The person who seems to have the most difficult time getting the ball out of a little girl’s hands is the referee.

You can often see the referees attempting to get the ball after repeated pleas for it. When they get ahold of it, they nearly lift the determined girl’s body up as a rigid unit since she has encased the ball in a tight fetal position, sealed with the resilience of Super Glue, eyes closed, and with a clenched will to NOT LET GO.

We may also not have our shots perfected, but they are generally headed in an upward AND forward direction.

This is a vast improvement from where we started 2 months ago.

Getting the ball INTO the basket, or simply NEAR the lowered basket, is on the long-term training agenda. Just you watch. We’ll be swishing soon.

It is helpful to remember that these are skills that are cumulative.

We’re going to get it.

Besides, these young ladies and future UCONN Point Guards and Forwards have already demonstrated a tenacious spirit and drive to WIN.

As you can see, they are a formidable bunch in pink.

Attentive. Driven. Ready To Go!

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-1

The diminutive hoopsters with matching pink hairbows (which will surely result in technical fouls in later years if worn during a game) are pounding the court!

Go Pink!

On those hairbows, the greatest problem with them is not that they are particularly hazardous in the under-the-basket brawls for the ball.

It is that they tend to fall out, and the little girls spend their time searching for the fallen bows on the court rather then focusing on their part of the zone defense.

It’s a little comical to watch. “I Got Her! I Got Her! Wait a minute. Where’s my hairbow? There it is by the boundary line!”

And a nice little hole is made for the fast break straight to the basket.

Often, the little girls end up tossing their hairbows to mom in the sidelines as they run up the court after a basket was made because they were obliviously searching for their lost hair bows.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-2

Even so, the B Team is waiting with baited breath for the chance to go in and redeem that error!

We’re down by 2! Put Me In, Coach!

Well, Sorta.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-3

I have absolutely no idea why we lost.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-4

Killer Instincts.

We’ve got ‘em.

We may have lost the basketball game, but some of these girls were TOP DOG in Rock Paper Scissors.

My daughter can often be overheard after a hard-won Handsie-Game on Sidelines as saying, “ROCK ALWAYS WINS! I LOVE ROCK!”

And, don’t get me wrong, we didn’t just lose because second string likes to play Say Say My Playmate.

Lots of parents want to know what the Red Shirt Policy is.

Some of those opposing team kids look like they’ve already started memorizing multiplication tables.

They probably already know how to tie their shoes and keep their letters facing the right direction. I bet their lower case “b’s” don’t look like “d’s”, anymore.

Just saying.

It can’t possibly be this.

It's All About Winning In First Grade Basketball Humor-4

Just give us a couple of years.


It’s All Cumulative.

We’re working on dribbling without looking, fast break drills, a crippling man-to-man defense, and a very cool double-back-hand-reverse slap for Say Say My Playmate, in the meantime.




** HUMOR DISCLAIMER: I am by no means implying that there is any wrongdoing by any teams in the league we play in. That snippet about the Red Shirt policy was thrown in for comedic effect. I’m sure there are lots of reasons for 5 ft tall 1st graders with uncommon hand and eye coordination to abound on some teams.**


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When You Put A Pre-Schooler In Charge Of The Thanksgiving Centerpiece



NOW, we’re ready for Thanksgiving.


Funny Thanksgiving Centerpiece Critters And Crayons


Nothing screams “Gratitude” like “Crocodile”.


It makes total sense to a 4-Year Old.


Best Thanksgiving Centerpiece Ever.




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Kids Play In The Same Language



Kids Play In The Same Language


Kids Play In The Same Language.


They just a find a way to get over the minor obstacle of competent verbal communication.

One of the best aspects of living on the US/Mexico border is the opportunity for our children to experience a different culture and language.

I was reminded of this today as my children played at an indoor play area.

I posted about it on the Critters And Crayons Facebook Page and realized that such a great thing really warrants its very own blog post.

Our 6 year old daughter ran around playing tag with a new friend.

She ran up to me and said,

“Mom! I made a new friend!  She doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Spanish!   So we made up a game!”


I asked how they played that game.  And our daughter answered,

“I teach her English and she teaches me Spanish!
It’s called Speaking Different Languages!”

I noted how brilliant that was.

It is, isn’t it?

When you have so much in common,

like the need to be gleeful in the moment

for the sake of loving that moment,

then language is not a worthy foe.


That’s something children have figured out.

A reader commented on Facebook, “And a child shall lead them.”



Kids Play In The Same Language


And So They Shall.

And So They Do.


For more posts on bilingualism and culture with kids…..


But, She Doesn’t Like Me….


Bilingualism, The Border, Dora, And Kids…


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Crafting With A First Grade Fashionista


first grade fashionista


There was once a time when I could style my daughter.

I favored earthy, bohemian clothes for her:  autumnal layers in subdued colors, natural fibers, denim and vintage-looking outfits…


Those days are gone, gone, gone.


A couple of years ago, our little girl began to assert her independence and claim her own identity by rejecting outfits with a “Nah.  That’s not really my style.

She developed a very glitzy, blingy style. Loud, bright colors and shiny, sparkling accessories are what she loves.

If she can’t find what she’s looking for, she’ll just make what she wants.

She’s turned into our little First Grade Fashionista.



Here’s one of her style creations:  


A mermaid skirt

made of butcher block paper,

held up with gold ribbon,

and stamped

with bubble-wrap

dipped in metallic paint.




Within the last year, we saw this love of fashion translate into some fun craft and dramatic play activities:


1)  DRESS-UP:   This provided a good reason to pass items like scarves, hats, purses and fashion jewelry down to our daughter to fill her dress-up basket.


2)  DRESS MOM UP:   Our daughter brings a stepping stool into my closet sometimes to pick out a dress she would like me to wear to her stuffed animal birthday celebrations in the play room.


3)  JEWELRY BEADING:  With pipe cleaners or rubber elastic cord (found at craft stores) and various beads, kids can easily make their own jewelry.   A good tip on this activity?  Use a small piece of tape to secure one end of the cord to a desk/table to help small hands focus on beading.  Even our son enjoys this activity and it opens opportunities to work on fine motor skills, counting and pattern-making.


4)  FASHION SKETCHING:  A sketch book and colored pencils are all that is required, really.  But, there are many sketch books with stencils available now for kids!


5)  3D PAPER FASHION DESIGN:  This activity rolls all of the above activities up into one very cool and creative craft activity!


This is our daughter’s newest Fashion Passion….


Our first grader borrowed the little mannequin I was using to hold necklaces because she wanted to create actual outfits she had sketched.


This is what I saw one day while in the shower.  


In the shower.




That’s Right.




fashionista 25


But when creative inspiration strikes, it is something to be encouraged!


Moms understand that “Anytime” really means At. Any. Time.

So, of course, she could totally use that jewelry mannequin!


Fashionista 26


The kids are surprisingly imaginative in the ways they use the scrap materials.

We actually keep all of ours in an an old Legos Container.

When I have leftover craft materials, I don’t throw them away.

They go into our daughter’s new Fashion Design container.

Maybe one day I’ll get my jewelry mannequin back.




Until then, I’m happy to see it being put to even better use.









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Write Each Sight Word In Bleach…

Any parent of a new reader knows that sometimes it takes a little searching to find that magic “way” our children really “GET” our language’s highly illogical and very troublesome SIGHT WORDS.

A friend of mine posted something tonight on her Facebook Page that made many of us marvel at a new way to make learning Sight Words in the First Grade fun for our 6 year olds!


It was a worksheet that included an optional task to

Dip a Q-Tip into Bleach and to write the word

on construction paper (with a parent’s help.)


My friend posted it as a homework assignment slightly beyond her creative comfort zone.

It should NOT be lost on anyone reading the homework sheet that the homework specified that a parent needs to help if they do that one.

This is a good thing.

Because my bottle of bleach says to keep out of reach of children (and to read the back panel for even more precautionary statements beyond the All Caps Warnings on the front.)

But on a high note, THIS bottle of bleach DOES NOT contain any phosphorous!



funny homework-2


Interestingly, the back label describing recommended uses for this potent liquid only details the most boring applications throughout the household and kitchen.

funny homework-3
I think that label needs some expanding to include Dolch Sight Word mastery. :)

Anyway, we all had a good chuckle.

My friend’s son’s teacher does get an “I” for Initiative, a “C” for Creativity and a small”t” for Toxicity for sending home the worksheet.


I have no idea what my friend sent in or if she even initialed that little task block.

I recommended that she substitute paint or pudding or anything that does not require Poison Control’s intervention to complete the assignment, or that might require gloves to handle.


But, I made this sign for her.

Too bad she lives in Maryland.

I can’t even overnight it in time.


funny homework-1


If you want to read more funny stuff about the trials of early elementary homework, my friend, Bridget, who writes the hilarious blog Twinisms has started a virtual series about First Grade Homework now that her twin boys are bringing it home.

She hasn’t actually called it a series, but there’s  a lot to cover.

I kind of wish she got this assignment (times two for her twins).


My Word.


That would have been FUNNY, whether it was written in bleach, battery acid, turpentine, or Drano.


If we ever get a homework assignment like that, we’ll probably just substitute ketchup or mustard for any flesh-dissolving poisons the worksheet calls for.


And, then we’ll initial the little box.




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