I can say this now because school is out and my children have all, to the best of my knowledge, been promoted. A week or so ago, Whiny hops in my car after a late swim practice and announces: Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you I have to do a report on Jupiter. No big deal, I think to myself. I like a good report. When’s it due? I get a weird feeling before he even answers the question. That sense of dread, like right before you get on the scale at the doctor. He stares out the window and blankly answers. (Say it with me.) Tomorrow.

    It’s 7:30 at night. My plans for the evening involved Chardonnay and reality TV. Suddenly it becomes one madcap hour of putting together a travel brochure for Jupiter. And who, by the way, would ever choose Jupiter if they could, in theory, visit another planet? All that ammonia and bad weather, it’s like planning a vacation to Samoa during monsoon season, but I digress.

    So, gears shifted, I spring into action. Check the craft drawer! Now when I say ‘craft drawer,’ let me clarify. We did not move into the house, choose an empty drawer, designate it the craft drawer and then drive to Michael’s to pick out construction paper, raffia and a glue stick to fill said drawer. No, it’s simply a drawer where we put stuff we don’t know where else to put. It contains never-used pinking shears, stray colored pencils, dry markers, three different hole punches (why?), a cuticle clipper, and I think, but don’t really want to know, mouse poop.

    Whiny sifts through the pile of broken sunglasses and empty rolls of masking tape and retrieves several surprisingly useful items: Elmer’s glue and three or four markers that miraculously have their caps on, and he’s off to the Worldwide Web. He finds the facts for his brochure, most of which focus on Jupiter being one big, freaking planet. I mean that sucker is huge, bigger than all the other planets combined by two and a half times! Those were his first three facts, by the way. I try to give him some gentle guidance. Why don’t you explain why it’s called Jupiter. His eyes widen. Because it’s big. Good one, Mom. I try again. Why don’t you explain why there is so much hydrogen there. One guess: because it’s big. Basically, if you’re planning a trip to Jupiter based on the information contained in Whiny’s brochure, you will know this: It’s big.

    So we were a little late getting to bed, and I missed a dancer/singer/ bachelor getting eliminated, but the project was completed on time, and it actually looked pretty good. And in all fairness I can’t really fault Whiny for the procrastination. I started my senior thesis, due May 1, in mid-April. Procrastination, it turns out, is a pretty good motivator. As Ellen says: Procrastin a tion: don’t put it off.

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