Saturday, June 16, 2007

4-H County Fair countdown

We had our final 4-H meeting of the year yesterday, and this was the one where the kids have to fill out all their project record sheets and the group leaders have to sign them, and where all the project display tags are handed out and where the parents can sit, tense and nervous, and feel hopelessly inadequate about doing a single thing right.

Last year, for instance. Last year, I had to ask our group's leaders at least 7, 345, 971 times how to put the project card on a scrapbook. I feel it says a lot for my friends Katie and Margaret that they answered me patiently 7, 345, 971 times, although maybe if I'd gone one more than that, they would have rumbled me by stapling project cards to my head.

Then there was the fact that I realized we'd never turned in Meelyn and Aisling's project sheets or had them signed. I was still holding onto them, about a week before the fair started when they were a mere three weeks late. Margaret was very nice when I called her up, slightly hysterical, and said she'd meet me at the fairgrounds in a couple of hours (midway point between my house and hers), sign them, and get them into the main office.

I yelled my head off at the girls to get them to fill out the project sheets, simultaneously demanding that they hurry up and use their best handwriting, which is something like asking a baby to smoke a cigar while watching Masterpiece Theater and then write an essay on the themes of abandonment in Wuthering Heights. They barely had time to put a period on the end of their final sentences before I had hustled them into the van and charged off with a squeal of tires to head to the fairgrounds. Oh, that was a happy day! We were all in such a good mood!

Fortunately, when we met Margaret, she was her usual soothing, reassuring, unflappable self and she kept the three of us from killing each other.

Of course, all this is trumped by the fact that we were actually on our way to turn in Meelyn and Aisling's projects when I realized that they were supposed to have completed ten scrapbooking pages for the judging, and both of them had only finished seven. That was a very bad moment. Because, you know, the girls were basically doing what I'd told them to do, trusting that I was getting it right. It was their first year in 4-H, too, after all. To realize that I did not have it right (and had had the information about the ten pages for, oh, about ten months) and that the girls' scores were going to reflect my mistake after all their hard work made me feel so awful, I was nearly sick to my stomach.

We took the books into the proper exhibit hall where Kayte, who designed the scrapbooking 4-H project model for the state of Indiana, was sitting and receiving the entries. I babbled my story to her and she said, "It's okay. It's okay. Just go ahead and put them through and we'll have to see what happens."

What ended up happening is that whoever judged Meelyn and Aisling's scrapbooks apparently didn't notice that they were each short three pages. Aisling got a blue ribbon (the captions of her pictures were loaded with spelling errors written in permanent marker, which was aggravating at the time, but will probably seem adorable when we look back on it in years to come) and Meelyn got a blue ribbon with honors. I don't know how it happened, but I wasn't about to argue.

All I know is that I deserved a blue ribbon with honors for not falling prostrate to the floor and refusing to get up until someone brought me a double-shot espresso to revive my numb and shattered nerves.

This year, we've learned some of the ropes and we're doing much better. The girls have begun filling out their project sheets, which we will turn in to Katie for her signature on Wednesday; I have project cards a-plenty and in most cases, I know how they should be affixed to the individual entries. And last night, the girls and I stumbled upon an unexpected sale of frames, mattes and picture-hanging hardware at Hobby Lobby. My husband and I worked for about an hour last night getting their artwork mounted and framed and both fine arts projects look absolutely beautiful.

I'm jubilant because last year, we had Meelyn's fine arts entry professionally framed and it was $68 for a not-very-big project. This year, we got all the framing supplies for $40, which is a definite coup.

The scrapbooks are done; the girls just need to decide which ten pages they want the judges to look at.

They each have one more project to complete, but all their materials are assembled and ready. We have a whole month to devote to these projects, so hopefully they'll be done before we have to reprise our yelling, driving and crying routine from last year.

We love 4-H, especially when we all have a clue.

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