Thursday, December 19, 2013

Candy Houses 2013

We were lucky enough to be invited back to the Candy House party at the Gee's.  Last year we had quite an evening of sugar and spice and everything nice.  This year the girls were both more prepared and more distracted.  You see, there was a promised surprise midway through the evening that put everyone on a shorter time table for construction and design.

So some of the designs suffered a bit...

Others did not.

The usual suspects were there with a few new faces.

We really destroy John's house in the process of creating these houses.  The floor is covered in sugar and ground up candy with the occasional sticky gummy bear residue.  Most of the time I can tamp down the overwhelming need to start sweeping up and just enjoy the festivities.  (It is really very good immersion therapy for me.)

Daddy and daughter building together.  One oreo for the house, one for oreo for the house, one for me...

I like the modern design of this house.  Although I worry that the roof will collect water if it rains.

Here is the candy house development.  Obviously we need to work on the neighborhood covenants for next year.

Some of the property values will suffer because of the poor choices next door.

But do they look like they really care?  Nope.

The big surprise was a limo ride to look at Christmas lights.

Everyone had a great time, except Lucy.  She didn't like the loud noises or the bright flashing lights or the loud music.  So we asked if we could sit up front with the driver.  After that, she was extremely pleased.  It was quiet and calm and all was right with her world.  She perked right up and talked the driver's ears off.

Thanks John for another memorable evening!

Friday, December 13, 2013


What would you do?
I'm really asking here.  What would you do if you witnessed disgusting behavior from an adult?

Today I went to watch the four and five year old kids sing at a senior living center.  I witnessed reprehensible behavior, not from our students, but from parents.  There were two particular mothers who stood, not around the perimeter of the room, so that the seniors could see the children.  They stood in the center of the room blocking two different tables of seniors with limited mobility so that they could get the best possible photos of their children.  WE WERE NOT THE AUDIENCE!  The senior citizens were the audience.  But it didn't occur to these two women.  They had to be close enough to see their kids, no matter the cost to the little people.

Then during a ballad these two mothers burst out in laughter and started pointing at a woman who was obviously altered.  She was asleep sitting up and the sleeping position was unflattering.  Her mouth was open and it was not her best and most flattering look.  One woman began to take pictures using her flash.  She made it look like she was taking photos of the kids but from my vantage point, I could see that she was taking photos that included this woman.  Never mind that the flash was going off in this poor woman's face each time.  It made my stomach boil.

I tried to refocus on the reason I was there.  Lucy was watching me and I tried to focus on her.  This woman was directly in my line of sight and each time I tried to take a picture of my girl, she was leaning in to take a picture of her son and was in my shot because she was in the middle of the room.

Later as we were assembling the kids to leave, I watched from nearby while she assembled a photo collage.  In the photo collage were Mayo kids, clearly identified by their patches, a close up of her son, and a photo that clearly shows the woman with her mouth agape that she could have easily cropped out but instead zoomed in on.  She saved it into a square format and I can't be 100% sure if she was saving it or uploading it but I saw the circle going round of the photo rendering in someway.  It was either being uploaded or saved for future use.  (why on earth would you collage and edit if you weren't going to post)  I don't know on the type of phone she was on what the icons mean but it sure looked like she was uploading. 

I hate myself for not taking her phone away from her.  I will never forgive myself.  I thought through what that would look like with all the children around us and what an impression that would make inside the nursing home.  Another mom approached the two mothers and the one who did not take the pictures said "Show her that picture of that lady!"  And then they all three had a good laugh.  At that point I walked out with tears in my eyes and waited.  I waited by the door for her to exit but she must have gone out a different door, because she never came out.  I waited for 15 minutes and then went back inside and she was gone.

I drove to the school and told the principal.  The district is looking into how they can handle this.  What, if any, recourse they have against a parent with no moral compass and poor judgement who has made the school look bad.

I personally want to humiliate her by naming her publicly.  I want her to be ostracized by the community at large.  I want her and her friend who laughed at the defenseless woman to be so ashamed that they decide to leave Mayo. 

I carry my own shame for not stopping her and I will have to live with that.  May she live a long life at the end of which she finds herself in a center, defenseless, wishing for the respect that she did not give this woman today.  Karma is a bitch.

What would you do if you were me?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Eleven Years Ago

Dear Emma Jane,
As you sleep in your bed on the last night you will be ten years old, I am restless thinking back to the long night we spent bringing you into the world.  And since the calendar repeats itself every eleven years, this Thanksgiving weekend has been spent reliving each day that led up to your birth.  From the ridiculous black Friday shopping, to the tree trimming and wrapping marathon, and ending with the cleaning frenzy of Sunday, I have been thinking back to the days of the weekend before you were born. 

You were not due for four more weeks, so I could not know that you were coming so early.  But my body somehow knew you were imminent.  The classic nesting signs that are now part of the family lore were just me being OCD that weekend.  How convenient that I got the tree up and decorated, presents purchased, wrapped and under the tree, the entire house cleaned, and a grocery store trip that involved me purchasing a deli tray for 20 people, all before my water broke on Sunday evening.

Just as everyone was returning to their hometown after the Thanksgiving weekend, they started to get the phone calls, Emily is having a baby tonight...well tomorrow anyway.  I was in denial all the way up until they told me I wasn't going to be back home in time to watch Bobby Donnel in The Practice.  "What?"  I said, "Why?"   The nurse just looked at me and said "You are having a baby."

It was a tough night.  I am not going to lie.  You were a difficult child to birth.  A breeze to raise to eleven, but a tough one to gestate and birth.  But you were finally born at 10:19 a.m. on Monday, December 2, 2002.  There are a lot of things I don't remember about that morning and I blame the stadol for that.  But I do remember the look on your dad's face when he saw you.  I couldn't see you, but I could see him.  The best word I can use to describe it is awestruck.  He was in awe of you.  Then suddenly, we both were.

As I sit next to the Christmas tree decorated with ornaments you and your sister have made over the years, I can't imagine not being your mom.  You have changed me.  You have made me into the person I am today.  You see, before you, I was...selfish.  And kind of a boy, really.  I had no maternal instincts.  None.  I had no desire to ever be a mom, or do mom things.  I was a scientist!  And I was really pretty happy doing non-mom things.  I was 32 when you were born.  All my friends had children and that was fine for them, but I had things to do!  I had boats to race and rocks to climb and miles to run!  I knew that I should feel something when people would hand me a baby, but I never did.  I never felt that yearning to start a family...or bake...or sew. 

You must find this odd to learn that your mother who bakes and sews and crafts all the time, didn't learn to do any of this until you came along.  When you were born a hormone was released that caused me to become domestic and crafty and maternal...I turned into a girl.

Thank you for changing my life.  Thank you for giving me focus and meaning and joy.  I love every part of being your mom.  Watching you grow and mature these last eleven years has been the best time of my life.  I am so lucky to have been here for it.  I can't wait to see what the next eleven holds.

Your father and I could not be more proud of you.  You are loved to the moon and back.  For the sister that you are to Lucy, for the daughter you are to us, for the person you are when we aren't watching, and even for the times when you feel you've let us down, you are loved unconditionally.

Go back and read the letter I wrote you this past March. It says everything I want to say today.  Because as I have been typing, the day has now changed over to your birthday. 

Happy Birthday Emma Jane


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Dry Ice Bubbles


This is what happens when you have an inquisitive daughter who LOVES SCIENCE.  She reads science books and comes to you and says "Mom, can we do this experiment at my next birthday party?"

You can order a kit from Steve Spangler here.  But we decided we could make one ourselves. Be sure to watch the YouTube video from their's "awesome sauce" as Emma would say.

So our sweet exhausted Mike, who has been working all day and going to work from midnight to 4 in the morning, somehow found the time to drill a hole in glass so that we could make our own apparatus.

The jar is one of those drink dispensers that I never used with a hole drilled in it with a glass drill bit.  We used the lid to control the amount of CO2 forced out the plastic tubing.  Be sure to keep the water level below the tubing so only water vapor and CO2 are forced out.  Use leather gloves to pick up the dry ice and put in warm water.  THE DRY ICE WILL BURN YOU IF YOU TOUCH IT.  DO NOT LET CHILDREN PLAY WITH DRY ICE.  I handled the dry ice (with heavy duty gloves) and placed it in the container myself.  Other than the dry ice, there is nothing else dangerous about this experiment.  I felt very safe letting the kids play with the bubbles.  I did make them wear goggles because of the dry ice and the soap.

We used warm water and dry ice to create the fog of CO2.  Then forced it into the plastic tubing which we dipped into a cup of Dawn dish soap.

This was our practice session for her upcoming birthday party.  We weren't sure what kind of soap solution would work best and if we had the right kind of gloves to actually keep the bubbles from popping.  This "dry" run was worth the money spent.  We needed the practice to figure out the right mixture of soap. In the photo below we tried bubble solution, but it did not work as well as the Dawn dish soap.

At first the bubbles popped immediately.  Then we added more soap and got the concentration of Dawn higher and the bubbles lasted a lot longer and really bounced like in the video.  The big girls could actually toss them back and forth.  We also learned that the first towel we had down was too stiff and bumpy and was popping all the bubbles.  Once we got a softer towel down the bubbles stopped bursting.

The science behind it.  Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide.  When it warms up to room temperature it sublimates, (it turns into a gas without going through the liquid stage).  We can help this process along by putting it into warm water and it really goes to town.  The carbon dioxide gas comes off so fast and it takes some water vapor along with it.  This fog pours out the top of the container until we put a lid on it (NEVER SEAL DRY ICE INTO A CONTAINER IT WILL BUILD UP PRESSURE AND EXPLODE AND HURT YOU) and force it out the plastic tube.  The plastic tube is put into the soap solution and the bubbles are filled with Carbon Dioxide which is heavier than air (which is mostly nitrogen) and water vapor.  The bubbles are heavy and with the cotton gloves and a thick surfactant like the dawn dish soap you can keep the bubbles from bursting and play with them.  They bounce and roll across the towel.  And then they pop, they release their CO2 and water vapor fog.

We invited fellow science nerd Jennifer K and her daughter Lily over to for our trial run.  Thanks for playing with us while we worked out the kinks.  I think we are ready!

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I received a package I ordered from QVC yesterday and the box had writing on it.  Apparently the delivery driver was a former student of mine. 

Finding this on my front porch was like finding a fossil. It was a record of history that I had made an impression on another human being a long, long time ago. When I did the math I would have taught this boy from 1999-2000 school year. That was the year I left teaching at the mid year point. So I only taught him for one semester. But he remembered my name and saw it on the package. 

I'm sure glad he did. And I'm sure glad he told me he remembered me. I just wish he had left his name. 

He will never know how much this meant to me. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013


I have to share some observations and record some things that I have noticed for quite a while about both of my girls that I never want to forget.

Emma Jane is an old soul.  She has never viewed Lucy as a threat.  That is not to say that she is not annoyed by her sister.  Back in the days when Lucy was behaving badly, Emma was very annoyed with Lucy and was quite put out with her behavior.  (We all were.)  But she has always, since the moment Lucy was born, seemed to recognize the precious gift of having a sibling.  And I don't think that is quite normal at 5, 6, or even 10 years of age.  She has always been the first one to say "Look what Lucy is doing!  Isn't it cute?  Isn't she adorable?"  She speaks with pride, a motherly pride as if she is responsible for this adorable creature.  It's as if Lucy has three parents.

Lucy is observant and makes connections.  She will watch and observe and store things away.  Then she will put them all together like a puzzle and try it out and see if it fits.  She often remarks about wanting to live near her sister when they are grown.  She talks a lot about being grown and where she will live when she has her babies.  The other day when we were leaving Poteau and driving away from my dad's house she said, "Mom, how come your mom gets to be a grandma and Daddy's mom doesn't?  That's not fair?"  (Mike's mom died of Lymphoma in 1995)  I told her that she was right.  It was incredibly unfair, but that Grandma Jane was happy that she was living on in our hearts.  It was a poignant moment in the car, brought on by the words of a little five year old girl who seems to bring me to tears once a week.

A couple of weeks ago we were coming home from gymnastics and the moon was waxing.  Emma Jane gave the most amazing explanation in the car to Lucy about why the moon looks half full,  or full  or disappears from sight.  She talked about the earth's shadow and then turned on the light above her seat and used her two fists to show the earth's shadow crossing over the moon.  It was a great explanation that a five year old could completely grasp.  And Lucy seemed to understand that the moon doesn't disappear, it just can't be seen, because it's in the shadow of the earth.  I was pretty satisfied that Lucy got it and then she said, "Well, it's lucky that the earth and the moon are just so far apart.  Because if they were farther apart the earth's shadow would be a polka dot going across the moon, and if the earth were closer, we would never see the moon."  Emma Jane grabbed me by the shoulders in the car and said, "Did you just hear that?"

Last year, when Emma was in fourth grade, she told me that they had an IOC drill.  That is an Intruder On Campus drill.  My heart started to pound but outwardly I tried to act nonchalant, "Oh?"  She said that the teachers ushered them into bathrooms and made them hide in the back of the bathrooms and they turned off the lights and locked the doors and practiced being quiet.  She said that she didn't think she would be able to do it in the event of a real intruder.  I said, "What, be quiet?"  She said, "No, stay with my class."  I didn't understand.  I thought that maybe they were too loud or would put her in danger.  She saw the confused look on my face.  She said, "If there is an intruder on campus, I have to get to Lucy, Mom.  I can't let her be scared without me.  I have to get to her somehow."  I, of course, told her that she should take cover with her class, but my heart was saying you should absolutely be with your sister if there is an intruder on campus.  But I write this to remind myself that this child at 10 years old had a plan on how to get to her sister down a flight of stairs in an emergency.  I am in awe of her.

I don't know if it's normal for sisters to have this kind of bond.  I never had one.  But these two are each other's best friend, cheerleader, and accomplice.  They are the producer and director to each other's play.  They are the sun and the moon to each other.  They would be lost without each other.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Emma Jane CAN'T Do

Our dear neighbor Jordan left a comment on the last post, about Emma Jane's writing, asking what can she NOT do.  When I showed the comment to Emma last night she thought for a moment and said in her practical 10 year old way.

I can't see into black holes.

I can't make us independent of fossil fuels.

I can't stop hurricanes.

And I can't live without my sister.

Are my children purposefully trying to make me cry every day of my life?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Emma Jane's Writing

The assignment:  Write a short story where the main character discovers a secret.  Hook the reader with a great lead.  Have fun.  Use great grammar.

On Sunday afternoon while I was taking down Halloween decorations, Emma worked on her homework.  She wrote this in pencil in one draft.  She is ten years old.

Madeline rolled the cold, smooth key in her hand until she finally had the courage to slide the key into the lock; she turned the key slowly as it clicked.  As she thought, this room could have infinite possibilities, so many things could be in there and it all started when she was cleaning out her closet.

Madeline was eleven and lived in the country in a two story house with her mom and dad.  She was an only child.  Today she was cleaning out her closet full of clothes, toys and other random things.  She had just finished cleaning all the shelves when she climbed onto her footstool and found a little wooden box with a brass latch.  She climbed down and sat on her bed.  She unlatched the lid and opened it up and inside there was a key.  It was gold and worn down.  She wondered what the key was for.  She tried it on her room door, but that didn't work.  She tried it on her closet door, but that didn't work either.  So she put it back in the box and went to lunch. 

When she came back she realized that the key could go to a room that had been locked for as long as she could remember.  So she took the key out of the box and ran upstairs down the hallway to the last door.  She slowly turned the key until it clicked.   She nervously turned the knob and opened the door.  Inside there were two wardrobes, two of each play toy and two cribs.  Madeline walked slowly into the room.  She saw many pictures of her mom and dad and also saw a picture on a night stand between the two cribs of two babies that looked exactly the same.  She felt so light headed she went to go sit in one of the two rocking chairs.  The two girls looked like her.  She thought one of those babies must be her but who could the other one be?

Once she was feeling better she took the picture and walked downstairs to where her parents were reading.  She asked them who the other girl was and she got an answer.  When her parents were finished explaining, she was sad.  She had a sister, a twin sister.  She died when they were babies.

Sunsets, Rainbows and Eagles

This morning on the way to school Lucy asked why people get old and die.  I have no idea why this popped into her head or why she asked this question.  But she asked it.  I tried to explain that people's bodies get old and it's just time to go but that they have had a good life.  She then said "When you are gone, you will always live on in my heart Mommy."

I tried to maintain control of the car while blinking back the tears.  She proceeded to say, "And every time I see a sunset, a rainbow, or a bald eagle I will think of you."  (I have been known to stop and admire the sunset, rainbows and run off the road at a bald eagle sighting.)

Emma joined in with, "Or when I see periodic tables of elements, palindromes, or fonts, or eat perfect chili or pot roast."

We almost didn't make it to school this morning.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Warning!  There is some gore here.

This year for Halloween, Emma Jane wanted to go gruesome.  She decided she wanted me to use my simulation make-up skills and make her into something gross.  In September when we started discussing Halloween she said she wanted me to give her a wound or a compound fracture or maybe a knife wound.  The problem arises that we try to go as a unit each year.  The three of us try to go as a theme and how would I go gruesome with my eldest daughter while still sweet and cute with my youngest.

This is how we decided to be the firefighter, the fire dog and the burn victim.

I sewed Lucy's costume. 

Mike burned Emma's clothes to make hers.  I borrowed mine from the Tiawah fire department (and man was it heavy).

And I used my make up magic to make Emma look really quite disgusting.  She could not have been happier.  While Mike was out burning her clothes with a blow torch, she came in the house and said,
"The power of Mom plus the power of Dad equals AWESOME!"

Told you it was gross.  But she was so happy with how it looked.  She said multiple times how cool she thought it all was.  I have created a monster!  But one who is really proud of her momma...  She said to me on Halloween night, "I don't know which is cooler, that you can sew Lucy's cute costume or make such realistic burns on people, or that you can do both.  But I will always remember Halloweens with you...always."

Please let her think I'm cool in 3 years.  Happy Halloween everyone!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tulsa State Fair Winner

This year for the Tulsa State Fair, Emma Jane wanted to enter her sewing in the competitive portion of the fair.  They have an age category for 10 to 13 year olds to enter.  The fair had been going on for about a week before we finally made it.  You aren't told how you placed so you have to go and look for yourself.  When we walked into the arena it took some time to locate her age group and when we found her projects they both were adorned with ribbons. 

She won a first place and a third place!  She was so excited!

This is a quilted pillow she made which earned first place in the pillowcase division.

Her lunch pail and place mat earned a third place ribbon behind two very sophisticated quilts.

She just started sewing in March and already has surpassed me.  This has really fueled her energy towards the craft.

When we first arrived at the fair, I heard Lucy say "that girl in red looks like 'sissy'".  I was focused on getting to the exhibit area so I didn't stop to look at what she was talking about.  In typical mom fashion I dragged my five year old by the hand through crowds of people ignoring what she was saying to me.  Then she said it again.  I was once again too distracted to pay her mind.

Finally, upon entering the building to buy the mega ride pass Emma Jane and I saw these banners everywhere with her picture on it.  I said "Emma!  Look!"  

Lucy looked up at me and said, "I told you about five times that I saw sissy but you were so extracted!"  (I am pretty sure she meant distracted, but I didn't correct her because she was feeling pretty superior to me, so I just let it go and told her that I was very sorry for being too extracted.)  She smiled and told me that it was okay but that I should put my listening ears on next time.

The back story:  About two years ago someone came to Emma's school and recruited children to be in print ads for the fair.  We had to sign a release and got into the fair for free.  We were followed around by a photographer and they were photographed for a couple of hours and then set free to have fun.  Then we never saw anything else about it.  Until this year when we walked around and saw these banners.  The person who saw us taking this picture said they had these banners out last year, but I certainly didn't see them.  (And neither did Lucy!)

All in all, it was a very big day for Emma Jane.  She won two ribbon and got to see herself all over the Tulsa State Fair. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

More Boat Time

Because we were in Dallas and heading home, and because the kids were out of school for one more day, and because we can't seem to get enough time on a boat, we drove up to Lake Texoma on our way home and stayed on Grandpa's boat for the night.

Now it's October here in Texas/Oklahoma and the nights are cooler and that is just when sleeping on a boat is the best!

Food tastes better on a boat.  It also tastes better on a cool fall evening when the whole cabin is filled with not only the smell of the chili but the heat from the stove.

That is the moon over the water.  We played cards and then snuggled down into our bunks for the night with the cool crisp air blowing across our faces all night long.  The sounds of a few halyards banging and the occasional discontented duck were the soundtrack to our dreams.

The next morning while the smell of bacon and coffee was permeating every cubic inch of the cabin, Emma took the camera and started snapping pictures.

My I just woke up and I am not really sure you should be pointing that thing at me look.

This photo is what Emma Jane titled "Classic Mom".  Iphone in one hand, coffee in the other.

Lucy's don't bug me face

I love the next series of shots Emma got while Lucy and I were playing.  I am so happy to have my own little photographer in training.  How lucky I am to be raising a child with such an eye.

And always thinking of inclusion, she made sure she got Daddy in the action too.

I love this growing girl.  She surprises me every day with her talents, but more importantly with her kindness and loving spirit.  She is equally at home holding her own in a conversation with adults or entertaining young children who are feeling nervous.  She is fascinated by the atomic spectrum of an element and how that is unique to each element, but just as interested in art and literature and sewing.  She is a creature who refuses to be labeled.  She is comfortable with herself and that is what every parent hopes and prays for.  I am in awe of her.

We had a great time aboard Miss Magic.  Thank you Grandpa for letting us stay there.  As with camping, we tried to leave it a little better off than before we got there.  We sure took away more great memories.