The lunch conversation at my office is fascinating. We cover everything from television shows and menstrual cycles to politics, religion and solutions for the energy crisis. If only the Pentagon had recordings of our midday tête-à-têtes; there wouldn't be any concern regarding what to do about Iran because we came up with a solution months ago.

The other day one of the moms in the office was talking about her son's second grade school project. He had to build... (da, da, daaaa) "A Structure". (read with melodramatic-like quality of the teacher in The Christmas Story who assigned Ralphie's class "A Theme".) He had to build it from scratch and he had to use real elements of masonry to complete the project. They'd stressed about it for days and finally settled on a castle. They used real miniature bricks (from a kit) and real mortar to put them together. The resulting project was a three-walled building that you could look inside and point out the various design aspects and rooms. They'd finally completed it the night before and she was anxious to know if her she and her husband... ahem... her son... had received a good grade on the project.

As she was talking, I joked, "So what style castle did you... I mean he... build? Tudor? Gothic?"

Without a beat she said, "Oh, it's actually closer to Edward the First."

*attempts not to swallow tongue* ".... um, what?"

These days The Dormouse isn't doing anything quite as complicated. Her assignments out of class involve things like "The color of the week is purple... please have your child wear purple on Wednesday." And, here is my confession to you, InterWeb: I cannot even accomplish This. One. Thing. How on earth am I going to erect a non-Tudor style castle later on?

Each week there's a letter that goes out to the parents, outlining the lesson plans for the week and activities that the kids will be involved in. The letter usually is printed Monday nights after I pick her up. Some of the late-comers get it Monday night and it's distributed to the rest of the parents Tuesday morning. We are not there on Tuesdays, so I don't get the letter until Wednesday morning and am already a day late and a dollar short when I come in on Wednesday to learn that my child should have brought a favorite book about an animal and be wearing something that starts with the letter "W". So Wednesday is pretty much a wash. We're not there Thursdays either, so the only chance I have to make my child look compliant is Friday.

The first week she was in this class, Friday was "Green Day". (The color, not the band.) Children were asked to wear all green. I totally forgot. The Dormouse was wearing a lovely yellow shirt and blue jeans. I told her to tell the class that yellow and blue make green when mixed together.

Last week, Friday was "Wild Rumpus Pajama Day". The children were asked to come to school in their pajamas for a pajama party while they read the book Where the Wild Things Are. I completely forgot this as well and only remembered when I dropped my fully clothed daughter off in the midst of children wearing footie pajamas and Dora the Explorer slippers. Feeling guilty, I turned around and went home to get her pajamas, brought them back and changed her in the bathroom. I was 45 minutes late for work that day, but she was wearing pajamas when I left her, by golly!

This last Friday was "Show and Tell Day" - each child may bring in a special toy to share with the class and tell them why it was special and they would be learning the letter "D", so bring something else that starts with "D". I remembered this one in the parking lot of the preschool before getting out of the car. Eyes darting frantically around for something to bring inside, I quickly rejected the empty Diet Coke can, the crushed-up Nerds box on the floor and was reaching for the paperback book on Ancient Greece with the cover ripped off that had come with the last kids' meal she'd had at Chick-Fil-A, when I realized that she'd brought "puppy" in the car to accompany her on the ride. Score! Shaking it in front of her face as we walked to the door, I told her, "This is no longer 'puppy'. He's 'dog'... dog with a 'd'."

Recently, The Dormouse began an extra phonics program in addition to the regular curriculum in her preschool. This was a compromise between me and the teachers who, when she was ready to move up from the two-year-old to the three-year-old class, they suggested skipping her up to the four-year-old class because they thought she was too advanced for the things they were doing with the three-year-olds. I didn't really feel comfortable going down that road this early in her life and said I prefer if she stayed with her same-aged peers for the time being. So they suggested this option for putting her in an extra program where she'd be taken out of class twenty minutes a day to do some pre-reading activities but she'd do it in small groups with other kids in her class that were "more advanced". They bring in another teacher to do this and it costs an extra $100 a month. (I've since discovered that these other 'more advanced' children met rigorous standards: their parents paid the course fee too. Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure all that moving her up nonsense might have just a ruse to get me to pay the extra $100... I think I got hosed.) Each day they learn different letters and slowly they will work on blending the letters together and other pre-reading skills.

So now, instead of simply forgetting Wednesday and half-assing the Friday assignments, I also have to remember that in her Phonics Class, they are learning a different letter or concept in addition to the things they are learning in her regular classroom. And there's the requisite assignment for each one of those. Today, she is supposed to be wearing red and something that starts with "M" and bring a favorite toy that starts with "Q" and be prepared to say a friend or relative's name that starts with "S"... all while standing on one foot on a balance beam. (Okay, I admit I made that last part up; I'm just glad I didn't also put her in the gymnatsics course.) I forgot it all until after entering the classroom with her hand in mine.

"Can't I just teach her what a flying buttress is and be done with it?" I said to the teacher who looked at me dubiously.

I am so screwed when she goes to real school.