Life with a smile: More lessons, some painful

Published 6:35 am Saturday, August 11, 2018


Contributing writer

When your energy drink explodes in your lap, it seems like the universe might be trying to tell you something. In this case, I think it was trying to say something like – “Quit drinking that crap and sleep, woman!”

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I wrote another column earlier this summer, “Lessons from fairy camp” and it was sparkly and sweet, just like I felt. But that was a six weeks ago, when I was younger, more rested and probably better looking. I’m not going to lie, friends. I am staggering across the finish line of this summer.

My children are exhausted, grumpy and probably suffering from sunscreen poisoning —  is that a thing? My house looks like a hurricane blew through it, and we’ve all been eating far more pizza than is probably healthy.

One of my final acts of summer was to teach another week-long art camp, this one with the theme of “Christmas in July.” Once again, I immersed myself in the world of tiny art-makers, spending my mornings instructing 20 elementary students in the ways of paint and glitter glue. And, in the spirit of being a lifelong learner, I’ll share a few lessons gleaned from this latest round of arts education.

Lesson 1: Challenge inspires us — Initially, I was totally overwhelmed by my theme. Google “Christmas art projects” if you’re not sure why. Embracing the “in July” portion of the theme was my salvation. Even though it technically limited my options, suddenly the ideas started flowing because I had more focus.

Ornament projects? Yes, but not candy canes or snowflakes. We turned pinecones into pineapples, painted dragonflies and assembled whimsical beaded jellyfish. When we painted a snowman, he was situated on a beach and wearing a Hawaiian shirt. We even rewrote the lyrics to “12 Days of Christmas.” Gone were the pipers piping, and really, good riddance. In their place, we had flamingos flapping, bottles of sunscreen, mermaids swimming and other assorted silliness. I was particularly proud of the decorated cardboard flip-flops we made and placed beneath the Christmas tree to see if Santa might make a special summer visit. (Spoiler alert: he totally did.)

Lesson 2: Beware the siren song of the hot glue gun — Some of us become martyrs to our own high expectations. Making Christmas ornaments with children takes a lot of adult involvement.

Wait, let me rephrase that: Making Christmas ornaments that actually look good with children takes a lot of adult involvement. And hot glue guns.

However, hot glue guns should not be wielded by small children, so I found myself at the office at 10:30 on a Wednesday night, gluing fishing wire onto 100 painted pinecones and dragonflies. It turns out that when 20 children create multiple items, the cumulative impact is a bit overwhelming. I remembered in the nick of time that the building alarm system automatically arms at 11 o’clock and made a hasty exit.

Lesson 3: Say ‘yes’ to cookies — Some late nights are just undeniably worth it, especially when there is no opportunity to accidentally hot glue your fingers. For example, frosting sugar cookies at midnight is a noble and glorious sacrifice. I love sugar cookies. The ones I made for this camp were in the shape of flip flops, palm trees and sunglasses. The kids loved them; I loved them; they were worth the hassle.

Lesson 4: Know your limits — We enthusiastic overachievers can sometimes get a little bit carried away. When I push myself past my healthy limits, it shows up in predictable ways as my brain goes spectacularly to mush. For example, I left a large bowl of chicken couscous salad in the car overnight because I forgot it after a potluck because there was simply not room for one more thing in my head.

And then there was the energy drink incident. Ordinarily, I would realize that vigorously shaking a carbonated beverage so as to speedily dissolve a powdered substance is a bad idea. But in the final weeks of summer, such calculations do not come readily to mind and disasters happen, usually when you’re late for work.

It’s been a fabulous summer, full of fun, laughter, art, ice cream and sidewalk chalk on the driveway. But I’m tired, y’all. I am ready for the routine and predictability of the school year. So let’s round up the backpacks, sharpen the pencils and dive into the next adventure. Just try not to spill anything on yourself on the first day of school.