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ANOTHER CHILD, ANOTHER RASH OF SCHOOL PROJECTS - AND MOM RARELY COMES OUT UNSCATHED BY IT ALL

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`Are you having fun yet?" my husband asked me one evening not long ago, walking into the kitchen where I was busy helping my 11-year-old daughter glue strips of white-crepe-paper soaked in starch around a naked Barbie Doll.

"Just as much fun as Cinderella did sleeping in the ashes," I responded."Dare I ask what you're doing to those dolls," he ventured.

"This is my last year in sixth grade," I told him, "and Elizabeth and I are creating the best `Egyptian-Mummy-Exhibit' you'll ever see.

The year before was my final year in the fifth grade and so for the sixth time I learned about the States of the Union while Elizabeth and I made shoe-box-floats about North Dakota and Texas.

"I'm afraid that I've had it," I told my husband later, while washing bits of paper and starch from my fingers. "I don't know how many more school projects I still have in me. I didn't like them as a child, and I like them even less now that I'm a parent."

And it's true. When I was in school, I felt that areas of time should be deftly defined. Schoolwork was for school time and the time after school was strictly for play - never the two should meet. Needless to say, I've never found a teacher who agrees with this philosophy. Consequently, after-school-hours are soon punctuated with various school assignments, the most horrifying being of course, THE SCHOOL PROJECT.

The problem with these type of projects," I lamented to my husband, "is that 99.9 percent of the children involved are incapable of completing one of them on their own. They all require parental assistance, which in 99.9 percent of the cases is `good-ole-mom' " Such is the case with the current parental-assist-project with which I'm involved.

No sooner had I driven Elizabeth and her collection of "mummies" to school in the family car, than my eighth grader - Jonathan - informed me that his Science Fair Project was due. I had to congratulate him for the way he broke the news to me. First of all, he told me about the four-week-project a week before it was due - instead of the night before, and second I was informed about it during daylight hours and while the stores were still open.

On the PUKE SCALE (Parental Unlikelihood of being Keenly Enthusiastic) for rating school projects, science projects come out a minus 50 - (that's looking at the high end of the scale). You see, I've yet to see a mother come out of them unscathed. In my own project experiences, I've crushed fingers in simple machines, spent a small fortune on colored markers and poster board, and watched my vacuum turn into a cigarette-smoking-machine just once too often.

But what really makes these type of projects hard is that for some reason teachers are tired of seeing vomiting volcanoes, Styrofoam-balls revolving around a yellow, baseball, sun, and plants trying to grow in the darkness of the hall closet. So they require some imaginative genius to be evident in the project which almost ceases to exist when you've gone the distance as many times as I have.

Jonathan's teacher was no exception. Along with the former objections, which she also registered with her class, she had a few of her own.

"I don't want a report - I won't read it. I don't like posters - I won't look at them. And, I won't repeat any project that can't stump Stephen Hawking," she explained emphatically. "I want you to do a scientific experiment that will have the magnitude of Einstein's Law of Relativity or perhaps you could base your experiment on solving the problems involved with cold fusion."

When Jonathan related her directives to me, I knew right away that this teacher had never spent 18 years helping her offspring with science fair projects. Otherwise, she'd have re-considered and accepted a volcano vomiting baking soda and aspirin with gratitude.

So, Jonathan and I were off to the medical-supply-store to buy agar plates, and for the next few days he collected bacterial laden material, applied them to the agar, and then incubated his collection of germs in my oven. (Which brings up the final reason why science projects are rated so low.)

Science projects never turn out the way they're supposed to. Germs, mold and mildew should be really easy to grow, right? Wrong. These same pesky life forms that invade damp showers, smelly sneakers, and multiply profusely under covered containers in the refrigerator in a matter of seconds, will cease to exist and grow when asked to do so on command.

Well, if I've frightened you from ever starting your child in kindergarten, so be it. As Jonathan's science teacher told me when I called her on the phone to beg for mercy - LIFE IS HARD!

Just remember mothers, that when you finish that science project on jet propulsion with your son, that there are those hundred or so Boy Scout merit badges waiting to be completed, and IF you get those finished and IF you're still on speaking terms with his Scout master, then Cinderella, and only then, may you go to the Ball.

You'll have to hold the coach-and-four for me awhile longer, however. I'm helping my eldest son with the movie he's making for his university film class. He needs someone with a whiny voice to be the narrator. Oh, by the way, this is my second time through the university. I've only got four more times to go.