I bet if Nate and Helena were in charge, Rome would have been built in a day

About a month ago, Helena’s third grade teacher assigned the heritage project, where students report on countries from their heritage and offer at least one visual about their chosen country. Helena came running home that day, all excited because she had been waiting all her life to be able to finally say to her sister what her sister says to her on a daily basis: I can’t play now, I have BIG HOMEWORK to do.

Helena chose to do her project on Greece because she is 50% Greek, thanks to me.

I wasn’t born in Greece but I wish I had been, because it sounds so much more exotic that having been born in Nowhere, USA which is located just south of My God, Do People Actually Live Here?

Technically speaking, I suppose Helena should also thank her grandparents and great grandparents for her Greek heritage since they came directly from Athens, Crete and the Peloponnese Peninsula.

But since when do I speak technically? That’s against my religion, so I’m just going to say that Helena gets her Greek heritage all from me, with no help from anyone else, because I never get to take credit for anything, unless you count Helena’s astigmatism or Zoe’s lack of coordination, in which case, who asked you? Go away.

So, Helena is concentrating on Greece and she chose the Parthenon and the flag as her visuals. Thank God she didn’t choose food because then I would have had to beg my mother to cook some authentic Greek food because that whole “Greeks make awesome cooks” thing? It skips a generation.

I helped Helena with the Greek flag. We bought an 11 x 14 art canvas and some blue duct tape and went to town.

I think it came out pretty darn good. When Helena’s done with this project, I’m going to keep this in my purse so that I can whip it out the next time my mother shouts FOR GOD’S SAKE, ANDY, YOU CAN’T USE DUCT TAPE FOR EVERYTHING!

The Parthenon itself was out of my creative parameters, though. Unless Helena wanted to build it out of popsicle sticks? Q-tips? Tampons?

Nate decided that no flesh and blood of Project Guy was going to present anything made out of super absorbent feminine hygiene products to the third grade so he took it upon himself to whisk Helena off to Joann’s Etc., where they stocked up on supplies and discussed Doric architecture and goddesses and ancient civilizations at length, washing it all down afterwards with some chicken nuggets at McDonalds.

The juxtaposition alone is a little jarring, don’t you think? Not to mention eating greasy chicken nuggets at 10:30 in the morning. Ugh.

Here’s Helena, totally enthusiastic to start construction. Poor thing. She thinks she’s going to be building the Parthenon any minute now.

She reminds me so much of that young, wide-eyed, innocent newlywed from nine years ago, the one holding a roller in her hand, jumping up and down excitedly in the middle of the living room because she could not wait to dive in to the paint can in front of her and splash some Mocha Frost up on the walls.

Six hours later, she lay on the floor in a disillusioned and dejected heap, the pristine, untouched roller cast aside, the enthusiasm sucked from her soul by the other newlywed who had insisted on first covering the carpet with a drop cloth and then carefully and methodically taping the moldings and windows and doors and then slowly and deliberately cutting in the ceiling and corners before any paint touched the naked walls.

It’s called prep work, Helena. It’s the key to doing any job well and it sucks the fun out of everything, coming in at #4 on my THINGS THAT BLOW LIST, right after #3 Pap Smear.

Here’s Nate, starting the prep work by laboriously calculating and dictating measurements to Helena. I wasn’t really paying attention at this point, having been transfixed by the donut and apple cider in the background.

Hey Nate, I’m just going to move those so they don’t get knocked over. OK?

Hey, you guys are doing a bang up job so far! Pay no attention to me, act like I’m not even here. Just like every other day of the year.

What do you mean? There’s nothing on my face! What are you talking about?

What crumbs?


What donut?

Helena studiously recorded all of Nate’s measurements.

Until all the geometry, trigonometry, calculus and physics completely overwhelmed her to the point she shrieked I HATE QUADRATIC EQUATIONS and proceeded to give her Bratz doll a facial with a permanent marker.

Typically, in such a situation, I would gently try to return Helena to the task at hand by saying something motherly like FOR CRYING OUT LOUD, PAY ATTENTION, DAMMIT but I hate those Bratz dolls with every fiber of my being so I threw her a thicker ultra black Sharpie and then tackled Nate and wrestled the ruler and compass and protractor and calculator from his hands and declared that it was time to eat.

Nothing helps a frustrated child more than a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese.

Yes, technically speaking, a blue box implies something other than homemade but remember what I said about technically speaking? Go away.

After lunch, it was back to measuring and cutting. If I recall correctly, I was teetering on the edge of total freak-out mode at this moment because one little slip and we’d be rushing Helena off to the ER with her severed finger in a baggie full of ice and I just didn’t have time or energy for something as high maintenance as an amputation and a prosthesis fitting that late in the day. And I was fresh out of baggies too.

But luckily all of her digits stayed exactly where they were supposed to be.

Next, it was time to paint.

I used to have an entire box of craft gloves, sized small, which I used specifically for spray paint projects because spray paint is wretched, wretched stuff. Did you know that you need a sand blaster to get it off your skin? But sand blasters hurt and they tend to strip your skin of its epidermis and dermis, leaving your subcutaneous fat dangling right out there in the open for God and everyone to ogle.

Nobody’s going to ogle anything fat or dangly on me so I wear gloves. Try it sometime. You’ll thank me later when you’re spending your hard earned money on food and clothing instead of skin grafts and plastic surgery.

As I mentioned, I used to have craft gloves. However, that elusive little miscreant who goes by the name of I Don’t Know snuck into our house recently and absconded with them. I hate that little creep. He has cost me an unspeakable amount of money in lost and damaged items, not to mention the mess he creates in the family room and bathroom and the girls rooms when no one is looking.

I did manage to find one large plastic blue glove.

I explained the purpose of the glove to Helena, specifically that it was to protect her fingers from the spray paint nozzle.

See Helena’s head? See that two inch area right above it?

Watch carefully. Don’t blink.


Did you see it?

That was my explanation flying overhead at the speed of light.

And yes, those are numerous garbage bags full of empty ginger ale cans in the background, courtesy of Nate’s death wish. I’m waiting to get some more so that when I return them, I can pay for Zoe’s first year of college in one lump sum. That, or Nate’s esophageal transplant. Whichever comes first.

Helena used pennies to mark off the placement of the pillars. Deep down, I always had faith that pennies weren’t inherently evil, existing for the sole purpose of pissing me off at the gas pump as it flashes YOU OWE $54.01, YOU BIG LOSER because I was a nanosecond late in releasing the lever.

Stupid pump.

Here’s Helena gluing down the pillars.

Hey, what do you know? There’s Bear! Hi Bear! Remember him? He snuck down from Helena’s room to keep her company. We had to remove him from the construction scene lest he inadvertently become hot glued to Helena’s hand because then I would be in no position to ground her for gnawing off her own arm after I holler NO, BEAR IS NOT GOING WITH YOU TO PROM AND THAT’S FINAL.

Helena decided she liked the pennies so much, she glued them on top of the pillars. Technically, I don’t think the Parthenon had pennies on top of their pillars.

What do we say about technical speak? Go away.

Behold, the Parthenon!

I wanted to crawl right in there and play Athena and have everyone worship me, but I didn’t think I could fit inside without damaging a pillar or two. Instead, I proposed that I wrap myself in a sheet and portray Athena in the middle of our kitchen and give everyone the opportunity to bow at my feet in exaltation but no one took me up on my offer.

Here’s my little peanut, practicing her oral presentation. She has memorized her entire speech and is trying very hard to speak clearly and slowly so that she can fill up the allotted ten minutes instead of finishing in 60 seconds and spending nine minutes waiting for the earth to open up and swallow her whole.

Parents aren’t allowed to attend the presentations so I’m going to have to wait until she gets off the bus on Wednesday to determine how she did. If she comes running into the house like usual, I’ll know immediately that it went well. If she simply walks with her head down, I’m going to know she’s on a first name basis with the earth’s core.

And no offense, dear Earth, because I love you to pieces, but I’d prefer that Helena stay far, far away from your innards.

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36 thoughts on “I bet if Nate and Helena were in charge, Rome would have been built in a day”

  1. Avatar

    Congrats on a fabulous team effort! I love the Parthenon complete with its pennies! Well even if the speech doesn’t go as well as planned the audience will be impressed with the display!

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    Random scenes from “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” keep popping into my head, for some reason. Hm.

    Good luck, Helena! She did a wonderful job on her project. My daughter likes to wait until the day before a project is due to even mention it to us. Hubby and I came thisclose to divorce court last year when Bug announced on a Sunday at 3:00 that her Science Fair project was due in the morning. What Science Fair?! Yep, quickly went downhill from there.

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    umm…wow on the project…I wish I could get my son to want to produce something that spectacular…I would so be there…I try but he wants to do it all himself and we wind up with messily handwritten signs and paint splotches everywere and a paper adorned with 45 different font selections…oh well.

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    I really love her project and what she did to achieve her goal. I have my fingeres crossed for her presentation but I am sure everything will go right. Stunning Parthenon!

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    Wow – we are impressed.

    By “we” I mean our whole family, as I had to share the entire post with them. (I was giggling and laughing and told I had to share it with them).

    If you can assemble the Parthenon then Ikea furniture will be a breeze!

    Can’t believe you have not been yet – but it is either a love or hate kind of a place. To me – heaven – free tea/coffee during the week, free creche my son loves, and lots of wonderful house stuff.

    Your husband may hate me forever if you persuade him to go. I apologize now.

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    Your Parthenon is spectacular! Papou and I are very proud of you. S’AGAPO! (translation) I LOVE YOU! GIAGIA

    TO ANDY,

    Did Betsy Ross have access to duct tape?

    Just curious — MOM

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    RIGHT ON! I never got to do cool stuff like that in school. They didn’t want us to actually create something… using our imaginations or something silly like that. No, no, dear children. You learn from books! Fascists.

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    Wow, that literally takes my breath away! It’s amazing!! And good for her for working so hard on it! I must say I was starting to hyperventilate as I got further into your post, thinking “Oh My God, am I gonna have to help my kids with projects like this in the future?”. Your daughter is just the cutest…I love her smile!

    Off the subject, I have to ask, what color is your kitchen painted? I love the color and someday (in the far off distant future when my kids are out of my hair for a good 6 hours at school everyday), I’d like to paint our kitchen.

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    Carmen and I used to hate those projects. Our sons would come home with some weird thing they (us) had to do and neither of them were the slightest bit interested if it didn’t involve a soccer ball. We would ring each other the next day to see what mark they (us) got. Her son (she) always got and A and my son (me) always got a B. (She’s so competative!!!!!!)

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    Wow what a fantastic job on the project. I remember going through this years and years ago. She really does deserve an A+

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    Seize the Day! Build the Parthenon! See Octamom read yet another Andy post to her family!

    Love it, love it! My dad is literally a rocket engineer–so I can feel Helena’s pain….I know, girl, I know….


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    WTG Helena! She really did a great job on her project. I can’t wait to hear how it goes. I know she will do fantastic!!

    on a side note, I ABSOLUTELY LOVE the Carpe Diem on the wall… that is awesome! 🙂

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    3rd grade? wow, your daughter is very advanced….the Parthenon looks better than a lot of the 7th grade social studies projects I’ve overseen this year 🙂 you should be proud!

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    My sister just had a brand new baby and I’m trying to help her 14 year old twin sons with their Greece/Rome projects. One son needs to make a parthenon replica. While I’m pretty creative and am very impressed with the thought of using tampons to make it, I’m wondering if you would be willing to share the math breakdown with me. Unfortunately, I do not have a super stud husband (or actually a husband at all) to balance out my rigging ability with actual measurements. Hahaha. If you would be willing to help out a sister, please email me.
    I would be super grateful.

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