I’ve just suffered through two school projects (one for each child) that involved–god save me–glitter. Plus glue, posterboard, construction paper, some rudimentary elements of design, and a smattering of factoids gleaned from actual books (!) and that there new-fangled internet thing.

For his project, Liam needed black construction paper, which precipitated crisis #1 (there were several): The pieces of black construction paper were not the same shade of black.  How could I expect him to put together a display about galaxies using a background of mismatched blacks.

The horror.

When I pointed out that the black paper–well, black and charcoal, I guess, to be precise–would be mostly covered up with images of galaxies and his various snippets of information, his disdain for my slacker ways was palpable.

He managed to rally–there was much arranging and re-arranging of images and text boxes for maximum coverage of our Pantone-related faux pas–but then there was too much glitter and then his lettering was crooked and then the glued-on text boxes started curling at the edges (glue, in this climate, is ridiculous: the humidity unsticks everything), which meant it was all ruined.

Liam lives his life in italics these days, in part because he’s a perfectionist whose vision of how things should be frequently outstrips what he can actually create. I’m well acquainted with that frustration (it happens pretty much every time I cook) and in his adjustment from vision to reality, there is much italicized gnashing of teeth and rending of garments.  Once he adjusts his vision, however, it’s all fine: the morning after his glitter-related crisis, he looked at his poster and said “this is really good, actually.” Those of us who were on the receiving end of the italics and the despair and the I’m going to fail may have been, hypothetically, slightly irked by this abrupt attitude shift and–purely hypothetically, of course–we might have said something wicked mature, like “we told you so.” Hypothetically.

The second glittery project was Caleb’s project about Aztecs.  He loves the Aztecs because he loves their weapons: huge slingshots! long spears! poison darts!  He settled himself on the couch and looked through two of his favorite books: World History and Ancient World. He typed some things into the computer, and then a few days later he roamed the internet looking for more information about warfare, food, warfare, houses, warfare, religion.  And maybe a little bit more about fighting and battles. We bought a sheet of green posterboard–like the jungle, he said–and glitter glue pens. (Would it be wrong to suggest that the person who invented the glitter pen be given some kind of lifetime achievement award for figuring out how to prevent glitter spreading through the air like so many sparkly germs?)

There was some cutting, there was some gluing.  He arranged his factoids in a kind of circular pattern; I suggested that perhaps some images of these various things would be a good idea.  He found some images, there was more cutting, more gluing, and then the glitter pens were used to write “AZTECS” across the top. The lettering was a tad crooked and the letters he’d done in green glitter sort of blended into the green posterboard. I asked if he’d like to go over the words, and he said “nah, it looks good. I like it.”  Here is one of his factoids:


It says “after sacrificing someone they might eat the left overs which is an act of cannibalism. Also chocolate was only drank by men and women drank pozolli (maize gruel). Also another thing that was popular among the Aztecs was Tortillas and casseroles. Aztecs also thought insects and bugs were a delicacy and in some parts of Mexico they still are.” This information was followed by a recipe for Aztec hot chocolate (without body parts).

Did you find that blue block text hard to read? Yep, me too. I mentioned that to Caleb, who shrugged. “I like blue,” he said.

Caleb is…not a perfectionist. I suppose this trait may prove problematic in the future (don’t ask me how I know this), but at the moment, I have to say it’s a hell of a lot easier to live with.

How did the same genetic mash-up produce two such different children? I know, I know, we’re all individuals and whatnot, but did you ever pause to think about how weird that is? It’s as if I reached into the same soup-pot and ladled out first one bowl of minestrone and then one bowl of chicken-and-stars.  How does that happen? Husband, in his ever-charming fashion, points out that he is a perfectionist (albeit one who frequently loses his perfect creations in the morass of his desk) while I am, in many things, a member of the church of “good enough.” So perhaps we created one mini-him and one mini-me.

Wacky stuff, that genetics. Maybe one of my kids could make a display about it.