Fun project with the kids ... or, you know, whoever

Note: Maybe I was influenced by this "Stop Fakebooking" blog post, even though I actually found it extremely irritating. I mean, I could have tossed this up on Pinterest as a fun project and left it at that. But that's not what happened. So here you go:

I'm not going to lie: Since our cross-country move a few weeks ago, I've felt like something of a stay-at-home mom fail.

Four days after we got here, we started researching preschools and daycares, which didn't exactly match up with my expectations of how things would be once I wasn't working at my extremely busy newspaper job of almost 14 years.

But the 4-year-old, who had been in full-time daycare since he was 7 months old, was begging to go back to school, and frankly, I was already worrying that he was going to lose his school routine, and possibly some of his reading and writing skills, before starting kindergarten this fall.

And if I'm going to launch my photography business here and do freelance work as planned, clearly, I'll need time for that. But still. I thought we'd last at least a week.

Nonetheless, the kiddos started their part-time program last week, and they love it. (And hey, I started on my research and wrote a couple of freelance articles, so the plan is working, right?)

But it is part-time, so yesterday, one of their home days, I thought we'd have a ton of fun -- the park since it was sunny, some drawing, some reading, maybe a picnic ... the possibilities were endless.

Until the 4-year-old woke up with a serious case of boundary busting. I want to watch another showwwwww! I want another snaaaaaack! I don’t want to go outsiiiiiiiiiide! I just want to be by myselllllllllf!

I mean, in a way, I can hardly blame him: His routine that's lasted most of his life has been completely undone. He just left all his friends. We're in a new and unfamiliar house. I'd be freaking out, too. But still, no.

The last straw was when my mom came over, and he was stomping around saying he wanted her to leave. Nuh-uh. Not OK.

The plan changed: Baby would stay with my mom, and I'd take the boy out for some one-on-one time. Stat. But first, I'd have to install the gargantuan car seat in my mom's car, during which I bashed myself in the side of the head with it  -- hard -- and burst into tears of pain, a little, but frustration mostly. Argh.

I don't know if it was seeing me frustrated too that turned him around, but the kiddo kind of got it back together at that point. Before we left, he told my mom that actually, he wanted her to come over every day, and he was excited about our outing.

We had fun walking around the grocery store and getting our bearings before picking out our lunch. He was a total sweetheart while we were eating, bursting with questions and telling me all about his new school, his energy now bubbling out positively instead of negatively. Ahhhh, better.

Walking through the produce section, I caught sight of some positively gorgeous rainbow carrots. "Look at these!" I told him. "Did you even know carrots came in this many colors?" He was fascinated, and I had a brainstorm. We'd get them and cut them up and have a taste test -- a scientific experiment, if you will. Brilliant!

Later, at home, I asked if he wanted to help me clean them up, and he said no thanks. So I washed them and scraped them. When I cut open the purple carrot, I saw it was pale orange in the middle. "Hey, check this out! Did you know it was going to be different colors in the center? Cool, huh?" Neat, Mom. (Whatever, Mom.) Then I cut them into sticks and offered them up for the taste test -- and got another no thank you.

Wind out of my sails, I started mindlessly slicing the carrots into rounds and before I realized what I was doing, I'd arranged them into a pattern on the cutting board.

"Hey, that's cool," I thought. "Almost like an art project you'd do with your kid. If your kid wanted to participate."

He later tried a few of the carrots, and the rest went into the night's beef stew. And I don't know, the mere creative act of making something pretty out of something unexpected made me happy, even if it didn't meet my initial "do something creative with the kids" expectation.

We're figuring this being-at-home stuff out together, even if it's only part-time. Together was kind of the point, right?


Art project idea that might work out for you (even though it didn’t for me):

Get a bunch of rainbow carrots, or a couple each of purple, yellow, red-orange and orange. Clean and slice into rounds. See what kind of patterns you can make with all the colors. Then eat! (For the record, they tasted mostly the same, so my taste-test idea was kind of a bust. You’re welcome.)