childhood

Completing my Kindergarten Son’s Homework: The Torture of Xenon, Xex, and Xsturgy

If you currently have or have had a child in kindergarten you probably have experienced an odd sense of being dumb.  All of a sudden you get quizzed at all hours of the day as to what 100 plus 100 equals, why does it snow past Christmas or what words rhyme with knuckles and sonic.  I thought of gin and tonic and then thought better of it.  Then I thought of Dr. Dre’s Chronic album and really had to move on.

Luckily, we have it slightly better than previous generations in that we more than likely have a smart phone where you can quickly luck up how snow occurs and the meaning of life. Although, at times it is quite hard to differentiate the pictures sent home in terms of what letters they represent. The other day my son got a worksheet with what looked like a barrel. We did not circle it as beginning with the letter “K.”  Lo and behold he got it wrong. For it was a keg. Really. I was aghast. Why would we want to teach five year olds about kegs? I would prefer to wait till he gets to college to teach him about kegs.

This weekend my son’s homework entails finding five words that begin with the letter “X.”  I have stared at the blank piece of paper wondering what grade I will get.  Yes, the grade I will get. You do know that the grades five year olds get on their homework is more a reflection of the parent’s ability or time investment  than the child’s intellectual capacity.  We not only have to find five words but we must also include accompanying images to paste in his letter notebook.  I immediately found a picture of a xylophone and an x-ray. Those were easy and ubiquitous examples of the letter “X.”  But there is just not that much more. According to an old English dictionary there are 400 words that begin with the letter  ‘x’.  You have xanthoma that refers to a skin problem. There is also the African clawed frog called xenopus even though it rhymes with octopus. If I can’t find other options I might have to use that rare frog. In my back pocket the xenopus goes.

As I google words that begin with the letter “x”, I came across a few that I thought would present some fun possibilities to mess with his school teachers. Since I’m the one being graded after all why not have some fun with the homework?  I present first the word “xenon”  which is a colorless, odorless inert gaseous element occurring in the earth’s atmosphere in very miniscule amounts.  Its symbol is Xe and its atomic number  54.  It is apparently used in some electrical lights or research. I think it may have even been part of my MRI torture chamber this past summer.  Xenon seems to have some use but how do I post a photo of a colorless gaseous element in my son’s notebook. Although, I should note that Xenon was also a popular New York City nightclub in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Appropriately enough, the word xenon is derived from the Greek word for stranger. Of course, NYC would have a nightclub exalting the essence of being a stranger.  Hmm. Is an old photo of a NYC nightclub from the ‘70s appropriate for my son’s letter notebook?  I could just use a clip from Studio 54 movie, right, since Xenon and Studio 54 were major competitors back then.  In the movie one of the characters was heard noting that bad busboys go on to Xenon.  There was a marked difference between Xenon and Studio 54. Xenon was more geared towards the fashion crowd while Studio 54 was more Hollywood.   I am not too sure that if that is the same difference between being high-brow and being low-brow or just differing scales of haughtiness. I never had a chance to visit either nightclub as those were before my own party days.  And by then it was more a difference between the stoners/poets and the beautiful people.  Anyway, Xenon was previously a porn shop and is currently the Stephen Sondheim Theater.  I may have to rethink this Xenon nightclub thing considering my son goes to a Catholic School.  But, hey, it is New York City history and there is value in that.  Learn it well and maybe one can become mayor.

Speaking of strangers, there is the word Xenophobia which refers to an extreme dislike of people from other countries.  New York City is definitely an interesting laboratory for such a phobia.  About 36% of New York City’s population is foreign-born, one of the highest among US cities. I would even venture to say around the world.  You suffer from xenophobia make your way out of New York quickly. As far as pictures go, I am a bit at a lost as to how I could capture xenophobia for his homework notebook. This  may be just a tad bit heavy for morning session right after art. Perhaps I could instead use a Star Trek photo of Spock.

Xenophobia may be considered a heightened state of consciousness ; while the word Xew refers to a reduced state of consciousness such as that we experience when asleep. The photo possibilities are endless: colleagues at a 3 day-long meeting; myself without my two coke zeros and two cups of coffee or perhaps the Kardashian’s family Christmas photos.  Well, not that the Kardashians  are boring or asleep in the photo, I was just referring to their vapidness.  Ok.  Let me move on.

In doing my son’s homework, I came across the word xeric which I have seen before but couldn’t quite remember what it was about. The word refers to an extremely dry habitat or being deficient in moisture.  I got this! I truly believe that I can use a photo of my winter scaly legs for my son’s homework.  I can also provide him with a photo of all the cacti, which are xeric plants, that I managed to somehow kill. We have all wondered how it was that I managed to somehow not water enough the cacti.  I think I can go with xeric for his homework and if need be I can even rhyme it with cervix. Oh wait. That doesn’t necessarily work.

Lastly, in looking at scrabble-related websites I found the extremely rare word of Xsturgy.  According Oxford dictionaries, Xsturgy (AKA xesturgy) was a word recorded in 1592 referring to  ‘the process of polishing’.  Upon further investigation, it refers to polishing with stones.  Considering that I hardly ever paint my nails, I clean my house once a week and I have never polished my jewelry I have no clue what it means to polish with stones. I think this refers to rock collecting and if so, then I must assuredly have images I can provide my son with for his homework. I think this will up my son’s nerd’s quotient enormously. Maybe I should dial it back. Not good to set such high expectations so early on.

My son is looking at me expectantly. I think we will go with x-ray, xylophone, Xerox,  X-men and xenopus.  I could give Alec Baldwin a holler as he is an aficionado of Words with Friends and probably partied at Xenon back in the day, but you never if trying to find a word that begins with the letter X will set him off on an ill-advised rant.

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