Thursday, May 28, 2009

I Be-leeve in Sci-ence

Having a fourth grader means that I got to participate in my first Science Fair. . . ever.  When I was a girl at Lincoln Elementary, science mostly consisted of trying to create fire with rocks and monosyllabic grunts.  But Mr Davis has grown up since I was his student and informed us at the first of this year that there would be a Science Fair in May.  

We went on one of the internet sites Mr Davis recommended and I'll admit that I chose a project that looked like it had gotten high ratings on the ease factor.  Apparently I am just a great big nerd.  

Oh, ignorant Sarah!  Flash forward to the Science Fair when we witnessed the experiments about "How to Temper Chocolate" or "The Life-Cycle of a Preying Mantis."  Holden and I spent hours creating a "buffer solution" so we could extract DNA from two different types of fruit and then measure and compare the volume.  We were hunched over our carefully measured experiment while other Moms and kids were having fondue parties!  Next time I'll know better.  

As I read the instructions I had downloaded for the project, I was paralyzed by the thought that this right-brained girl may have gotten in over her brain-cells.  When I got to the part about calculating volume, it sounded like this to me : "Measure the diameter of the container and then multiply the square of the measurement of the bippety-boppety-hodee-haa ?"  I'm really a much better fairy-godmother/party planner than I am a lab assistant and I felt like my head was going to implode.  

    My fears about my qualifications as a parent subsided when I realized that the project would be graded on the quality of the poster, not necessarily the depth of understanding of the scientific method.  In essence, the project was like making a big crafty card. . . Oh yes!  THAT, I can do!  

With utter crafty confidence, I sat at the computer, finding the perfect science-fair-esque font and a color scheme for his poster, planning out the photo-ops and the implementation of clever copy. I really got into the whole affair when I realized that I would be able to photoshop all of the pictures in a blog-tastic way.    In the end, it was just like creating one big, happy blog post on poster-board.  

 Holden's younger siblings eagerly gathered round to witness our scientific miracle, probably supposing that this scientific display would compare to Professor Sargeant's at Caleb's Harry Potter party.  They seemed a little disappointed when there were no explosions and no blood.  They perked up a little when I told them they could eat the apple peels, and Ethan was happy to use the extra piece of the nylons we had used to strain the fruit mixture to look like a future bank robber.

As Holden measured the ingredients for the "buffer," I'm sure we looked more like a lab in the style of Marie Calendar rather than Marie Curie as we used mixing bowls and pyrex rather than test tubes and medicine droppers. I rummaged through my tupperware to find something like a test tube and I found the cylindrical containers the NICU gave me last year for storing breast milk. I was thrilled to be able to recycle those maddening little pieces of plastic--the constant reminder of how inadequate the nurses seemed to think my milk supply was! (If only they could see my little, rolly piglet now!)
I was genuinely shocked when the experiment worked and we could actually SEE the layer that had the DNA in it.

 Before we were done, Holden had to make a quick exit to one of his two and a half hour baseball games and didn't return until 8:30 PM, so we didn't end up finishing the poster until 11:27 PM that night.  As we glued on the last of the information, Holden was sprawled out on the floor groaning about how tired he was, and I was prancing excitedly around the craft room,  making sure everything on the poster was symmetrical, and that the colors and pictures were balanced thematically according to the scientific information.

It wasn't until the next day at the Science Fair that I saw that our carefully composed thesis statement and use of precise evidence went above and beyond the expectations of Holden's teacher.  I tried to remind myself of the value of the academic bonding experience of mother and son as I relived the painstaking process of ensuring that Holden knew about formulating a research question and using evidence to prove his theory when I glanced around and saw other students happily dipping marshmallows in chocolate and reveling in the fact that the female preying mantis does indeed eat her mate.  
In the end, though, we learned a valuable lesson.  We DO believe in science.  But we believe in scrapbooking skills even more.  

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Freud's Field Day / Eve Could Have Danced All Night

Frankly, we've been slogging our way through Eve's 9 AM dance classes since last fall mostly so Eve and I could have yapping time with friends.  We yawned our way through the doors about ten after nine each week, my hair in seventeen different directions, dragging Peter and Marie and a trail of cereal crumbs behind me and Eve making her entrance, looking fabulously coiffed and tu-tued. 

(When I have forty-five minutes to get all of us ready, fifteen minutes goes to rousing Peter out of his comatose slumber and wrestling his writhing, half-asleep limbs into layers of clothing on top of his filthy Buzz Lightyear shirt,  twenty-two minutes is dedicated to unforseen bowel explosions [Peter and Marie's, not mine, silly!] and six minutes goes towards stuffing Eve into spandex and forming her up-do complete with a daisy or two. . . If you're as dazzlingly clever [kindred spirits will know the source from which I plagiarized that gem!] in mathematics and the control over time and space as I am, then you can calculate exactly how much time I have left to hop into some stretch pants and cram my locks into a stunningly stylish messy bun!)

 I figured that the approximate cost of 6 bucks a lesson was worth it if Eve and I could have some girl-time with our Allred buddies.  The dance lessons themselves were more an exercise in  play-time than they were in actual dance moves, but I did look forward to the Spring recital because of the extreme cuteness factor.  

(Yes, my dears, I am on the fourth paragraph and haven't even gotten to my point!  Nana, nana, boo-boo.  I don't care!  I spent a zillion hours grading papers over the holiday week-end and I'm going to waste as many words as I feel like!)

Since Eve in her hot-rollers is so charmingly reminiscent of Edith Bunker, we actually have more photo-ops of her modeling the curlers than we do of her dancing.  I asked her to make funny faces, which was adorable until two minutes later when the tears and face-pulling became real (I had stopped taking pictures by then).  

As we were heading out the door, Eve launched into her potty dance (which definitely wasn't part of her recital repertoire!) and I helped her out of her costume.  Usually I give her potty privacy, but since I was trying to rush her through the process, I happened to be in the bathroom with her.  She was crouched above the commode, leaving about three or four inches between her little derriere and the seat. 

 She looked up at me with a beaming smile and said proudly, "I'm practicing, Mom!"  

I was confused.  "Practicing for what, Eve?"  

"I'm practicing so I can pee like my brothers!"  

She figured that if she could get a little more air between her derriere and the seat every day then eventually she'd be able to pee standing up.  I've got a goal-setter, folks!

We had a little lesson on the perks of certain anatomy right then and there.  Girls, we've all been camping and had that same twinge of Freudish envy, so I could hardly blame her for trying.  I just won't take her to the Washington Monument for a few years.  

I did edit her dances for your viewing pleasure, but had to leave in her little Ginger Rogers-esque leg kick when she throws her ball, plus the impersonation of Gidget goes clubbing when her teacher let them freestyle (And btw. . . I should have gotten some freestyle of my own when I had to shell out the money for sixteen full measures of improv between her two dances!  [I paid for choreography, darn it!  {She was one of the only dancers who actually did some freestyle karate/dance moves in her second dance while the dragon went by.}]).  
 (Yes, I loves me some correct parenthetical punctuation.  I didn't get an advanced degree for nothin'!)


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sar-y, Sar-y, Quite Contrary

Last Saturday brought blue skies, sunshine, and an irrepressible desire to make the final reparations for our unfortunate water-line replacing tragedy last fall.  We had been graced with heaping amounts of surplus dirt after the job was done, and had been instructed by the doers of the deed not to touch it until Spring--which in Rexburg means late May or June.

About a month ago, Eric and the older boys spent hours hauling the excess dirt into the backyard, using the best tools in an English professor's arsenal : a plastic storage container and a child's wagon.  They filled up the container and then rolled it down the hill into the backyard and dumped it at least ten times.  Then, to be sure the dirt had settled enough during the winter, Eric ran the hose over it for about an hour.  By the next morning, the dirt had settled. . . again. . . leaving a huge gap between our lawn and the sagging mud.  So, Eric and the boys hauled dirt back up the hill using the aforementioned tools.  

Unfortunately, my sunny day was dimmed by the fact that FIVE out of our ranks, including Eric, were inside the house, moaning and up-chucking (as my fiery, flamingly red-headed Grandmother Kartchner used to call it).  Insanely undeterred,  I pounced on the relatively windless day with crazy determination and mowed the surrounding lawn and then made several trips with the non-puking kids around the Rexburg area to find enough sod to cover the area.  30 pieces of sod and three trips to different stores later, I was a-layin' sod.  I looked like a pregnant mother-duck waddlingly lugging her weight in bricks as I slowly moved each piece from the car to the dirt, but I was a-layin' sod!

I laid (dropped?) the thirtieth piece right before dinner, and then Eve, Peter, and I decided to finish the job and plant some little purple pansies touched with yellow gold, using the very last fragments of daylight.  It was dark by the time we planted the last one, and by that time, Caleb felt well enough to be in a picture (although you can see some remnants of pukiness written all over his face).  You can see by the look on my face in the picture that my child-bearing, c-section ravaged body was reluctant to be used for manual labor, but I survived.  Mud-caked?  Yes.  Back aching?  Yes.  Wimpy?  Certainly not! Ready to bite the head of any living creature who stood in my way by the time I was done?  You Betcha!

I adore Eve's pink snowgloves. . . 

Like Peter, I went through a veritable cornucopia of emotions from ornery cussiness to downright giddy pride, but we got 'er done!  (Have I lived in Rexburg too long?)

To quote Peter's newest and most favorite phrase: "No way, baby!"  When those three words popped out of his cute, rose-shaped lips, I looked at Eve and said, "Did he just say, 'No Way, Baby'?" She thought so too, and Peter confirmed it every time I made a request to which the answer was negative. Peter, it's time to go to bed. No way, Baby! Peter, I need to change your diaper. No way, Baby! And so it goes. . . 

Thursday, May 14, 2009


   The reigning princess of the pre-school scene got all gussied up in a new dress she helped me make for her so she could prance across the stage and accept her graduation certificate in style.  She stood vigil by the sewing machine and handed me the pieces for the skirt until we were done.  Her giggles of delight at the hand-crocheted cherries for the top of the dress were enough to send me into momma-heaven.  I think Eve and I have have worked in tandem on at least five new outfits for her and about three for Marie since we've had signs of weather befitting cotton creations.  Yes, I don't get much sleep and I'm constantly covered in flecks of threads, bloody nicks from my scissors and all of the pins I am constantly embedding in my feet. . . SEW what?  It's worth it!  Hearing the ooh's and aah's of adoration from a five-year-old mini-model is enough to compensate for any lack of zzz's!

Eve had her final pre-school shindig on Wednesday, so we HAD to make her an outfit that would match the giant cupcake we made for the cake-walk.  (If you haven't noticed, we're getting mucho milage out of our cake-pan!  If you want to borrow it, just give me a jingle!  I'm ALWAYS happy to share my wealth of "craft-crap," as Eric so affectionately calls it.)

The graduation was a parent's dream because the teacher has been around the pre-school block enough times to appreciate the miniscule attention span of pre-schoolers, their siblings, and their program-weary parents.  The program was literally FOUR minutes long!  Dreamy, eh?  Mrs Doggett had each child stand while she told the audience what that child has in store for themselves in the future.  Imagine the way our academic hearts swelled with pride when Mrs Doggett announced, "Eve wants to be a ballerina. . . and a cheerleader."  Hooray for the feminist movement!  Elizabeth Cady Stanton, you're work has not gone unheralded!  We've tried to convince Eve to sign up for a summer sport, but she sticks out her pouty lower lip in protest every time, and says, "No!  I want to be a cheerleader!"  Ack.  Luckily I've got a few more years to try and mold and shape her into some sort of literate, analytical, free-thinking, strong, independent cheerleader hybrid.  (Yes, you can sneer in my direction all you want.  I recognize the inherent contradiction between my insistence on raising a fashionista, and my groans when she says she wants to be a cheerleader.)

In honor of her academic achievements, Eve's vocabulary has been blossoming.  It's adorable to hear the sweet sounds of her high-pitched voice saying things like, "Mom, apparently my shoes are in the other room" or "Actually, I don't want any beans."  The girl isn't afraid to use words either.  At Church on Sunday, our new Home Teacher greeted Eve, and she slowly looked him up and down and said with a tone of apathy beyond her years, "I don't know who YOU are!" and then she kept right on walking as if she were leaving behind some social unpleasantness in the Jr High hallway.  

Sunday, May 10, 2009

   Yesterday, I went outside to discover two little mop-headed gentlemen holding a bunch of somethings behind their backs and looking for all the world like they'd discovered the most glorious offering for me.
   Then, they kept looking at each other and saying, "You go first. . . no YOU. . . no YOU!" until I suggested they count to three and go together.  They counted to three and produced the most brilliant collection of dandelions from behind their backs, and chorused in an adorably sing-songy way, "Happy Mothers' Day!".
   So, now you know a couple of things.  You know that I have extremely thoughtful boys.  You also know that our yard yielded enough dandelions to produce a CROP.
   Please remember the former. . . (Do I need to point out that in their gift-giving frenzy, they actually did yardwork without even realizing it?  How's that for multi-tasking-GOLD?)

This is the slideshow I sent my Mom for Mother's Day. My Mom really did teach me how to love my "blossoms."
Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Some Mothers Day Love!!!
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Caleb Potter. . . Book SEVEN!

   Caleb was in SEVENTH heaven today as we celebrated his birthday Hogwart's style!  We captured the boys in this picture during the controlled chaos of the pre-quidditch match rally, robed in invisibility cloaks, and holding their self-decorated brooms.  

   In order to avoid breaking from tradition, I huddled over my sewing-machine like some craft-deprived hag until. . . well. . . who knows what hour last night, making the shiny invisibility cloaks, grinning to myself in the darkness at how much fun it is to create in late-night peace.   However, I didn't turn into a pumpkin until the post party aftermath, staggering around the chocolate cake littered kitchen until Eric sent me to my room for my party hangover nap.  

A broomy battle ensued as the boys flew across the street to the Stake Center gym and played Quidditch.  Ethan was the referee and kept everyone in line a way that made me smile, knowing his generally free-spirited attitude about games and rules.  
Our young wizards gave a new definition to sugar shock as they combined sodas, juices, and powders (we called them unicorn blood, lizard juice, etc) in their personalized goblets. Luckily none of them spewed their brew. . . at least not on OUR carpets.  (I've been thinking about their bubbling bellies all afternoon though; I'll let you know if there were any volcanic vomit experiences when they got back to their non-magical residences.) 
We asked our Chemistry Professor friend to pose as Potion Master (he good-naturedly donned our jedi-robe turned wizard's cloak without a complaint) and he wowed the wide-eyed wizards with "fire-breathing," potion concocting, and object freezing.  One party guest couldn't resist sampling a "frozen" carrot that had been stewing in the liquid nitrogen and we had to call the Hogwart's nurse (that would be me) to wipe up his bloody lip.  Note to self: have parents sign insurance waivers next time.  
We placed a tiny Oreo on a glittery cloth and asked our Potion Master to say a magic spell to "ginormicize" the cookie and then POOF!  It became a monstrous cookie!  Our wizards were a little cynical, but at least Eve believed in the magic and exclaimed, "That was AWESOME!  How did he DO that?!"  
Yes, I did post a heckuva lot of videos, but when a party is THIS magical, how can I resist?


We LOVE Caleb's laugh!  The trick candles were so FUN!
(This was for his family party on the actual day!)

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