Class Project

I've always believed my kids should do their own school projects, even back when they were in elementary school and had their very first "projects": Write three sentences about snow and glue cotton balls into a snowman shape at the bottom of the page. (I mean, you could always tell which children's parents had made the snowmen for them.) Over the years, I've helped a little, but not loads. And with my kids now in high school you'd think I'd be pretty much out of the "helping with class projects" picture, wouldn't you?

Uh, no.

The other day, my son was assigned a project that was due in two days: Make a Central or South American dish for Spanish class, and it couldn't be something easy like guacamole or salsa.

I was in a hurry when he explained it. We Googled "easy Honduran recipes" in honor of his uncle, (my youngest brother was adopted from there) and pulled up a recipe for "buñelos," featuring ingredients I had on hand. Score!

Josh came home the next day with lots of homework: a math packet to complete, a science test to study for, 45 pages of a book to read, a Spanish worksheet to finish, and…buñelos to make. After dinner, I left him to mix the ingredients. After much clattering of the silverware drawer, other drawers and several dramatic sighs, I finally caved and helped.

I watched as he s-l-o-w-ly scooped flour into the measuring cup.

"How much flour do you need?"

"Six cups."

SIX CUPS! I looked dubiously at my flour container, then mentally added flour to my grocery list.

Over the next hour, he painstakingly measured in the remaining ingredients. "We're out of salt now," he said when I came back to check on him.

Add salt to the grocery list.

"Um, mom I still need to finish the rest of my homework." He looked worried; it was now 7:45 p.m.

"Okay," I sighed. "I'll help."

The dough was sticky and jammed my beaters. When I tried to clear them, dough spattered the walls, the countertop, the dog and me. Grrr! He'd doubled the recipe to make enough for every kid. So after cleaning the mess, I formed 40 round balls of dough.

Next step: let sit for 30 minutes. 30 MINUTES! It was already 8:45 p.m. Fabulous. So they sat. I stared at them while they sat. They didn't do anything interesting.

Sitting allows the buñelos to dry out so they don't absorb too much oil.

What do they mean, "too much of the oil"? I look at the recipe again.

Pour oil, 1" thick into the bottom of a pan and heat.

Oh. My. Gosh! This is DEEP FRYING!

"Josh, can you bring me the fire extinguisher?"

He carried it into the kitchen. "Mom, you know you can't use this on an oil fire, right?"

"Of course I know that!" How come my 15-year-old knows this and I don't?

"Okay," he says calmly, and leaves the kitchen to finish his homework.

I dumped the entire bottle of oil into the pan, (add oil to the shopping list) said a prayer, and heated it.

Roll each ball flat.

I do this. The end result is this thin, circle-shaped blob. I eased it into the hot oil, suddenly realizing I could only cook one of these babies at a time. I looked at the remaining 39 balls of dough.

"Yo Josh, how's that homework coming?"

"I've got another 30 pages."

Now it's my turn to sigh dramatically.

As it cooked, I noticed something else. "Hey, this is an Elephant Ear! Why didn't the bloomin' recipe say it was an Elephant Ear, maybe we'd have picked something else!" I grumbled.

As each Elephant—er, I mean buñelo came out of the pan I placed it on paper towels to drain, sprinkling both sides with cinnamon sugar.

At 10:15 p.m. Josh entered the kitchen, his eyes were drooping. "What should I do?"

As much as I wanted to, I couldn't make him do it. He was obviously exhausted.

"You have to cook at least one," the mom-making-her-kid-do-his-own-homework-in-me said.

"Okay." He did it with a yawn.

"Go to bed, buddy. I'll finish."

A little after midnight, the buñelos were cooled and packaged for school.

I yawned, and made a note to go grocery shopping.

All I have to say is, I'd better get an "A."


Heather Binkley said...

Good job, Mom! I'm like you - I offer little help with even my Kindergartener's homework. Still, there are times when you just have to help. I used to be a teacher before I had kids and never really understood the cumulative effect of all the projects and homework and extracurriculars on the kids. It's substantial.

Kristi Faith said...

Ah yes! I have that curse too. Sometimes I feel like these extra projects are silly though. LOL Of course, what fun would school be without them?

Aging Mommy said...

OMG! This made me laugh so much! My daughter is just three so we are only at the making cookies stage. Thankfully they don't take very long to make or bake - however the messy and time consuming part begins at that point. I never realized just how many bodily crevices one child could get frosting into, and every cookie has to be liberally covered in sprinkles and it seems to require almost an entire tube of sprinkles to decorate just one cookie - meaning most of them end up on the floor and then all over the rest of the house. I hope you get your well deserved "A"!

Vivianne's Vista said...

The dilemmas of parenting! I also prefer to let my children do most of the work. My daughter got me however one night at 11PM, in tears over a report she forgot to do requiring parental assistance. Guess who wrote it? I felt VERY guilty.

How were the Bunelos though? They look tasty!

The Girl Next Door Grows Up said...

You are a great mom!

I am just like you and do not do everything for my girl.

I would have also done what you did in the end :-)

Once in college I had a paper due and I had been working on it then I got horribly sick. My mom ended up finishing it for me and she was so super pissed that she got a B!!!!

She talked about that for weeks!

Meagan Frank said...

I would totally have done the same thing. I hope you got a good grade!
We aren't there yet, but I was just retelling a great "me-doll" story that happened when my son was four and all the "me-dolls" were really "Mommy-dolls". My kids' was the only one with sparse coloring and four-year-old features...the others came in fully clothed in 3-D outfits and I could have sworn there were a few that had been commissioned by professional artists! As long as his teacher doesn't read your blog, you're cool:)

Kristine said...

Oh you are such an awesome mom staying up to midnight to help him! You are such a great story-teller, too! I'm waiting for your first novel which will feature a busy mom! :)
p.s. OK but the parents who do the 4th grader's science project really annoy me. I didn't--my kid draws a basic chart and slaps a few pics on a posterboard. But, he did the whole thing himself. Gets a C. The next kid brings in some highly researched computer model with unbelievable 3-D graphics, whose parents HAD to do it, gets an A. AGH!!!

Melissa Romo said...

I was groaning reading this! You are a hero, Holly. Hope you both got a good grade (and I'm freaked out now about what's ahead... kindergarten starts in 6 months!)

Name: Holly Bowne said...

Honestly Kristine, you're a wonderful boost to my writing ego! :o)

And what you described drives me nuts as well! My mom was a teacher and they can clearly tell when the parents have helped and when they haven't. Your poor guy, that's just wrong!

Tina T said...

Oh my goodness, I had to laugh and laugh. That's only because I've been there too despite my same philosophy that the kids should do their own projects. When they have plenty of time the "do it yourself, kid" approach works great but sometimes it's just not possible on a tight deadline. Great story, and it makes me feel better that I'm not the only one who gets roped into these projects too.