Mama Diaries

Friday, January 31, 2014

Frozen Bubbles

Due to the snowfall in Atlanta, Georgia, my kids have been out of school all week.  It's pathetic, really, but we're just going with the flow.

To keep themselves busy, my kids have devised an interesting game.  It's the "blow bubbles, watch them freeze, and pop" game.

Here's how it works:  You go outside in sub-freezing temperatures with a bubble wand and bubble solution.  You blow a bubble and let it sit on the wand.  Ice crystals form, hardening the bubble.  And then the bubble pops.  Loudly!

My kids amused themselves for at least an hour doing this.

If you ever find yourself bored in an Arctic blast, you may want to give it a try. Here's what it looks like:

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Immortal Snowball

If you live in the United States, you may have heard that the fine city of Atlanta, Georgia, where I live, was crippled by a grand total of two inches of snow.  Pathetic!  I've never seen anything like it.  (I recently moved to Atlanta from Ohio.  I'm a native of Cleveland, Ohio, so I'm no stranger to snow!)  Many kids were stuck in schools overnight because they couldn't get home. Fortunately, my kids weren't one of them, but my daughter's bus never arrived until 7:00 PM.   People were stranded on highways because of the ice. Somebody actually delivered a baby in a car while they were stranded.

Anyway, the kids thought it was the greatest thing to have snow.  They pulled out Rubbermaid container lids and sledded down the icy street slopes.  They tried to build a snowman, but there just wasn't enough snow.  So they had snowball fights.

When they were done, they came inside.  My son had a rather substantial snowball in his hands.  He put it into the freezer.

"Dude," I said.  "Why did you just put a snow pile in our freezer?"

"Mama, we might not ever get snow again.  I want to make sure this snow lasts forever!"

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Horse Shampoo

"Mom," my twelve-year-old daughter said.  "Can you get some horse shampoo?"

I raised my eyebrows.  "Horse shampoo?  Why do we need horse shampoo?  Last time I checked, a horse wasn't part of our menagerie."

"I need it for my hair."

"Your hair? Are you a horse?"

She scowled at me.  "No, Mom.  I'm not a horse. Horse shampoo makes your hair long and soft. I want long, soft hair."

I took a good look at her hair which falls half-way down her back.  "I don't think you need any help in the long-hair department."

"I want it longer.  And softer."

All right, then!

(I have not gotten horse shampoo for my daughter, but I did do a little research on the matter.  If you'd like to learn about horse shampoo because you want long, soft tresses, read here.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Search for Octopus Balls

"Mama," my nine-year-old son said.  "We need some octopus balls."

My eyeballs nearly popped out of my head.  "Excuse me?  What did you just say?"

The boy repeated himself.  "Octopus balls. We need to go get some.  They're really yummy!"

I didn't know whether to laugh or vomit.  I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts.  "Okay.  Are these some kind of sushi/Asian food?"

"Yeah, Mama.  My friend's mom made some for me. And she told me where to get them."  He slapped down a calendar with the store's name on it and a package wrapper of the stuff.

I looked at it dubiously.  "We'll see," I said.

Today I decided to find these octopus balls.  "Come on, Bubba.  Let's take a little trip."

We ended up in a Korean part of town.  All the stores had Korean signs.  All the people walking around were Korean.  And I didn't have a clue what the signs said, or what the people were saying.  We walked into the Korean supermarket.  Korean music was blaring on the speakers.  Korean salespeople with headsets on were blabbing about Asian pears and fish heads. In Korean, of coarse.  My boy and I were the only Caucasian people in the place.  We wandered around trying to find octopus balls.  We saw piles of live blue crabs squirming in buckets, ready for picking.  We saw whole fish lying on ice in the center of a main aisle.  We saw things, which I couldn't even begin to describe.  It was like walking into another country.

After wandering the store for thirty minutes, and not finding octopus balls, I decided to ask a worker.  "Excuse me.  Can you please tell me where the octopus balls are?"

She looked at me like I had three noses. She shook her head, said something in Korean, and walked away.

"Dude," I said.  "It looks like we're not going to find our octopus balls."

So we wandered around for another fifteen minutes, picked up some packages of food with Asian writing on them, that I have no idea what they are, but I'm going to feed them to my family anyway, and headed to the checkout.

That's when I spotted the Macaron cookies.  "Dude!  Normal food!"  Of course we had to get some.

So that's my story of the search for octopus balls.  If we survive eating the food we purchased, maybe we'll take a trip to the Atlantic Ocean and find some real octopus balls.  Or not!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Mama Portrait

My twelve-year-old daughter is taking art class at her school.

"Mom," she asked, "can I draw a portrait of you?"

"Um, okay," I said.  I couldn't wait to see this!

I sat down and she began to draw. "Mom, don't move!" she instructed.

Right. I sat, unblinking, while she did her thing. She kept her eyes glued on me, and kept the marker attached to the paper. "I'm doing a contour drawing," she explained. "My teacher says this is the correct way to draw."  

A few minutes later, she was done. "Do you want to see what you look like?"

Did I?

I reluctantly agreed.  This is what she produced:

Don't I look lovely?  Just like the Mona Lisa!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Answers to 18 Truths Blog Fest and Nut Job

I bet you are sitting at the edge of your chairs wondering which statement I gave during the 18 Truths Blog Fest was a lie.

Here they are again.

1.  I was almost run over by a train.
2. I've zip-lined through a rain forest in Costa Rica
3. I've swam in shark-infested waters

The answer?  #2...  I have not zip-lined through a rain forest in Costa Rica.  Although I'd like to.  It's on my bucket list.  Anybody want to join me?

(For the record - I was almost run over by a train in Germany when I was foolishly exploring a train tunnel.  I hadn't realized that trains actually do run on a regular basis over there, and I barely got out before the train came rumbling through.  As far as the shark-infested waters - I was a SCUBA diving instructor in my past life (before kids). I did shark feeding dives in the Bahamas, and not only swam with them, but fed them.  (Don't try doing this at home - you need a special suit!))

So now you're all thinking I'm a real nut job.  And do you know what?  You're right!

Here's my latest nut job story:

My nine-year-old son and I went to the theater to see the movie, Nut Job.  I think it was produced by the same dude who sings Gangnam Style.  Throughout the movie, the squirrels and other park creatures danced to the tune.  At the end of the move,  an animated Psy did the dance.

My son looked at me.  I looked at him.

And do you know what we did?  We got up and started dancing, too!

Since we were in the front, and everybody saw us, they all decided that would be a terrific thing to do.  Before you knew it, the whole theater was on their feet during the credits, doing the Gangnam Style dance!

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

18 Truths Blogfest

Beginning January 22nd until the release day of her book, 18 Truths, January 28thJamie Ayres be hosting the Can You Handle The Truth Blogfest. This is something anyone, anywhere can participate in.
All you have to do is post a blog centering around the classic Two Truths and a Lie get-to-know-you game.
Players tell two truths and one lie. The object of the game is to hop around the blogs and determine which statement that each blogger posted is the false one.
Anyone who posts for the Can You Handle The TRUTH? blogfest between January 22nd-28th can enter to win a number of prizes donated by 18 terrific people, including:
1) Jamie Ayres–18 Truths paperback + swag
2) Mara Valderran–Heirs of War ebook + swag
3) Eliza Tilton–Broken Forest ebook
4) Tara Tyler–query critique
5) Alex Cavanaugh–Cassa ebook
6) Ayden Morgen–ebook for Fade and Fall
7) Lynn Jake–journals
8) T.F. Walsh–Cloaked In Fur ebook
9) Sharon Bayliss–print copy of The Charge + critique of query and first chapter
10) Katie Hamstead–ebook of Kiya
11) Michelle Ziegler–homemade granola and bookmarks
12) Elizabeth Johnson–Moonflower ebook
13) Lindsey Loucks–signed bookmarks
14) Krystal Wade–ebook of Wilde’s Fire
15) Teshelle Combs–1 copy of Core (paperback) and 1 ebook copy of Core
16) Krista Rausin–2 copies of Mystic paperbacks
17) PK Hrezo–Butterman Time Travel ebook
18) Jessa Russo–Ever ebook

 Let’s get this party started!

Here are my three statements.  Which do you think is a lie?

1.  I was almost run over by a train.

2. I zip lined through a Costa Rican rain forest.

3. I swam in shark-infested waters.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Online Marketing Symposium

What Works – Online Marketing Symposium

Today, I'm participating in the first ever "Online Marketing Symposium" - a blogfest with information you can use!

Hosted by Arlee Bird, Yolanda Renee, Jeremy Hawkins, and Alex J. Cavanaugh.

Do you ever wonder why some books become bestsellers while others can barely be given away? Why some businesses succeed and others fail? How does a blog post or a YouTube video manage to go viral? Is it a matter of luck or is there some magic formula for success?

Well, now maybe we can latch on to some of the secrets and tricks that make success happen or what we might want to avoid. Authors are sharing their stories of success (or not so successful experiences) in this blogging event that will help us learn.

 I've been trying all kinds of things to reach marketing success with my books.  If you're like me, you've probably read a lot of books on the matter.  One of my favorites is, 1001 Ways to Market Your Books, by John Kremer.  It provides a lot of great ideas.

I'd say there have been two things that have really helped.  The first is social networking sites. Blogger, Facebook, Twitter, and JacketFlap are all good places to be.  (The latter is really good for children's authors.)  The key is to develop relationships with people on these sites.  Other writers and friends can be so supportive in helping you get the word out about your books and telling you about other places you can market.

The second, which is really important when you release a book, is a book tour. I've seen a lot of them on Blogger, and it's great how bloggers support other writers in helping to get the word out about cover reveals and book releases.  In case you don't know what a book tour is, it's an online event, where bloggers feature an author and the author's new book.  Usually it's done in the form of an interview.  Prior to the post, the featured author answers a bunch of questions related to the book and talks about what it's like being an author.  A picture of the book is provided along with a compelling blurb.  There's also an author bio and information on how readers can connect with the author and buy the book.  This is really helpful, in that it reaches more people than if the author was doing it alone.   The key to this, is careful planning - contacting bloggers who are willing to help, and scheduling tour dates so it's not overwhelming (one place a day is good).  I've seen a lot of author/bloggers put out sign up lists, asking blog followers if they'd be interested in helping with cover reveals and tours.  That's a good way to  get help.

If you're not into organizing things on your own, or you don't have a lot of followers (which was my case five years ago), you can pay to have a book tour.  Since I am a children's author, I used World of Ink network.  It was a great experience!  They set up the blog visits and provided the interview questions.  They also did a lot to publicize the event.  Through that event, I actually gained blog followers - some are still my friends today (like Susanne Drazic).  They also make book trailers, which are really nice to have up on your website.  Here's one they did for me:     
Those are my two tips. I hope they were useful.  Do you have any marketing tips that have worked for you?

Friday, January 17, 2014

Guest Blogger and The Vampire Butterfly Feeder

Before I begin my story, I'd like to invite you to hop over to Bikers for Children's Books where I am a guest today.

Now here's the story:

My nine-year-old son likes to make things.  So I got him some wood, nails, and a hammer.  I like to make things, too.  So I got myself some wood, nails and a hammer.  But I'm not so good at making things.  I don't know why.  I'm the daughter of carpenter, so I should be very good at using a hammer and nails.

Anyway, we went out to the garage and started creating.  My son randomly hammered nails into wood and created a very interesting contraption. 

"What is that?" I asked.

"A cup-holder, desk, teddy bear chair," he answered.


I not-so-randomly decided to construct a butterfly feeder.  I gathered the wood and the little itty bitty nails.  And some glue.  I thought it might be wise to glue the wood before nailing it, just to make it stronger.  Except I ended up with more glue on my fingers than on the wood.  Somehow I manage to concoct a butterfly feeder with the glue.  Then it was time to nail it together.  I took the little itty bitty nails and the big old hammer and gave it a whack.  Except I nailed my fingers.    

I muttered a few choice words and tried again.  This time, the nail bent.  I muttered a few more choice words and pulled the thing out. 

"Mama, you really need to be careful!"

"Yes, sir," I said, and continued hammering my fingers and breaking nails.

Finally, the creation was complete.

"What do you think?" I asked, holding it up with my mutilated fingers.

"It looks good.  But I'm not sure the blood streaks you added will attract butterflies."

Hmm.  No, unless they're vampire butterflies!

(In case you want to see our creations, here they are.  And no, I did not take a close-up of the blood streaks on the side!) 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Rub-a-dub-dub, a Bub in a Tub

There was a little excitement at my pad a couple of nights ago.  My nine-year-old son, Bubba created a slightly more than minor problem.

It happened during bath time.  He took his bath, as usual.  But then, about an hour later, something happened.  It started raining in our kitchen.  I'm talking some serious water coming through the ceiling.  My husband arrived from a business trip in time to see it.

"Oh my God," he said as he walked in the door and turned on the light.  "What the @!%^& is that?"

I looked up.  Water was dripping through the ceiling by the light. "Whoa," I said, completely mortified.  "Uh, that just happened.  I think it's coming from the upstairs bathroom."

I ran to take a look.  I fully expected to see an inch of water on the floor.  Although the towels and bath mat were quite damp, there was no tell-tale water to be seen.

"Wake up the boy," my husband ordered.

Poor Bubba was sound asleep, and completely groggy, but I woke him up. 

"What happened in the bathroom?" I asked.

Apparently, he had some fun splashing in the bathtub and a lot of water spilled out.  It went through the seams around the tub and through our kitchen ceiling.  My husband got out the drill and made some more holes in the ceiling.  You should've seen the water pour out!  It had to be a couple of gallons.  So now, ladies and gentlemen, this is what my kitchen ceiling looks like:

Isn't it lovely?


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Chemistry Experiment

I had gotten my son a chemistry experiment kit for Christmas.  Like the perfume kit I got my daughter, I thought this was a good idea at the time.  It probably is a good idea, but not with the Mama in charge.

I pulled out the experiment kit and read the directions.  It listed all of the hazards of the chemicals we'd be using. 
"Mama," my son said.  "Are you sure we should be doing this?  Because this stuff is bad for the environment!"

"Sure, Bubba.  It says here that the small quantities we'll use won't produce devastating affects on the environment.  So we're good." 

He looked at me funny.  I could tell he wasn't so sure about that.

"Just put your goggles on and wear an old t-shirt so you don't ruin your clothes," I said.

He complied.

We began our first experiment.  "We need sodium carbonate.  Open up the sample and put a large spoonful in the vial," I instructed.

He tried to pry the cap off, but couldn't.  "Mama, can you help?"

I got the special opening tool and used a lot of strength to open it.  A little too much.  Because the white powder flew out onto my clothes.

My son's eyes got big.  "Mama, are you going to die?"

"No, Bubba.  Not today. A little sodium carbonate won't kill me.  But it might kill my pants."

I brushed the stuff off and we continued the experiment.  "Now we need some tartaric acid," I said.

Somehow we managed to get that in the vial without incident.

Then it was time for the water.  My son added it to the vial, and immediately the chemicals foamed up.  "Should I add more?" he asked.

"Sure," I said.  "Why not?"

He did, and the potion spilled over the top of the vial.

"Oops," I said.  "Okay, let's do the flame experiment."

"The what?" my son asked.

"We're supposed to stick a lighted match in there and see what happens."

That was it.  My son couldn't handle any more.  He went upstairs.  Two seconds later, he came back down with the fire extinguisher.  "Mama, you're definitely going to need this!"


Monday, January 13, 2014

A New Way to Ice Skate

My nine-year-old son is on a roll with taking things literally.  If you were here a few days ago, you may have read about giving Mama the cold shoulder.  He tossed an ice cube down my sweater and told me he was giving me a cold shoulder because I was engrossed in my work and not giving him enough attention.

The most recent escapade again involved ice.  I was sitting at my computer, typing away, when I heard a very strange sound.  It seemed like something was being dragged across our hard-wood floors.

A couple of seconds later, my boy appeared, sliding his feet along the ground.

"What are you doing?" I asked.

He lifted his foot and revealed an ice cube underneath.  "Ice skating."

I didn't even know what to say to that.  I shook my head as he grinned and continued his laps around the house.

"Change your socks when you're done!" I hollered after him.

What next?    

Friday, January 10, 2014

Giving Mama the Cold Shoulder

My boy is feeling better.  I can tell because he's back to his old shenanigans. 

I was doing my work at the computer, when he came up to me and bugged me about something.  I gave him an obligatory grunt and carried on.  He came back two minutes later and tried to carry on a conversation.

"Bubba, I'm a little busy right now.  Can we talk later?"

He walked away.

Three minutes later, he was back.  He didn't say anything.  He just came up behind me and inserted an ice cube down the back of my sweater.

I nearly jumped to the ceiling.  "Bubba!" I yelled. "What do you think you're doing?"

He smiled one of his impish grins.  "Giving you a cold shoulder!"   

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Spider Battle

I think there's something crazy going on with my brain.  But you already knew that, right?  Last night I had a very bizarre dream.  Usually I don't remember my dreams, but this was so crazy, I couldn't help but remember it.

I was in a desert wilderness.  As I walked, I noticed "caves" in the sand.  They weren't normal caves - they we like holes in the ground under miniature rock outcroppings.  Puzzled, I peered into one of them.  That's when I noticed movement.  The whole space shifted.  It didn't make sense.  What was it?

I walked on and encountered another "cave."  But this time the creature that was inside came out.  Do you know what it was? A giant spider!  Black and hairy like a tarantula, but as big as a car.  It came at me with its mandibles clicking.  It looked like I was lunch.

I did a super-human leap away from that thing and watched.  It turned out that the arachnid had its sights on something else.  My son!  Somehow Bubba ended up in the dream.  The big, bad spider spotted him aimlessly walking and decided he'd make a nice snack.

Uh oh, I thought.  Time to do battle!

With another super-human leap, I tackled the spider, picked it up, and threw it so it landed on its back.  But that wasn't the end of the story.  Giant hairy spiders have friends, and the friends came out to fight.

I brandished my sword (yeah, I don't know where that came from.),  did  a few slick ninja moves, and skewered a couple of arachnids, but not before one of them bit me.   My arm started tingling.  That wasn't good!  I was about to mutilate that nasty arachnid, but I was interrupted by a knock at the door.

"Mama!" It was my son, and his call sounded like a pathetic moan.  I looked at the clock.  4:50 AM.  I crawled out of bed and opened the door.  My son was lying in a fetal position on the ground.  "I'm sick!"

He sure was! He had a fever, sick tummy, headache, sore throat, and was extremely dizzy.

Time to do battle!  I did a slick ninja move to the medicine cabinet and brandished a bottle of Motrin.

"Take that you stupid spiders," I said.

My son looked at me funny.  "Are you okay, Mama?"

Yeah.  Just another night on the job. 

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Bubble Beards

My kids have been trying to entertain themselves since the cold weather is keeping them out of school.  Today they came up with an ingenious activity:  Filling the kitchen sink with water, dumping an entire container of liquid hand soap in, and creating more bubbles than you've ever seen in one sink.

"And you're going to do what with those bubbles?" I asked when I saw the mess.

"Make bubble beards!" my nine-year-old son said.  He dipped his hand in the suds and smeared bubbles all over his chin.  He looked a little like Santa Claus.

"Nice," I said, eyeing the spectacle.

My twelve-year-old daughter came over and did the same thing, except she added a mustache.  Then my boy chased her around the house. Bubbles flew off their faces and landed on the floor.

Schultz, our hundred-pound German Shepherd was curious about those bubbles which had landed on the floor.  So he stuck he nose in them and sniffed.  And guess what happened?  He got a bubble beard, too!

So what do you think, ladies and gentlemen?  Should I go smear some bubbles on my face and join in the fun?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Lego War

If you've been following me a few years, you know I used to regularly put together huge Lego sets with my son.  We're talking 700 - 1500 pieces.  My boy loved the finished products, but didn't quite have the brain power to complete construction on his own. Now my boy is nine, and can handle complicated sets.  Usually.

The one he got for Christmas was a little feisty.  It was an 800 piece Star Wars Lego set.  I can't even tell you what it was without running upstairs to look at the box (which I'm not going to do).  All I know was that it was a pain in the you-know-what to put together.

"Mama," my son said. "I need help!"

I looked at what he had done and discovered an error.  I corrected it and let him continue.  Five minutes later, the same thing happened.

"Mama, I think you need to do this part.  It's too hard."

I looked at the instructions.  It was for assembling the cockpit.  I went to work and assembled about a hundred pieces worth of Legos. It took me forever, because they pieces didn't stick together properly, and when pressure was applied on one side, the other side would fall apart.  Completely annoying!  Anyway, I finished that stinking cockpit and attempted to attach it to the rest of the spaceship thingy. And do you know what happened?  Not only did the cockpit fall apart, but the entire side of the spaceship thingy fell off.

That made me mad!  I said a few choice words and grabbed a Lego cannon. I fired a cannon ball at the decrepit spaceship thingy. It toppled over.

My son couldn't believe I did that. "Mama, you destroyed it!"

"Yep.  Mama has declared a Lego war on that faulty Lego spaceship contraption thingy!  It must die!"

(For those of you who are concerned about my unnaturally violent outburst, don't worry.  I managed to complete the spaceship thingy five hours later, and my son is now happily playing with it.)   


Friday, January 3, 2014

Bubba's Sundae

"Mama," my nine-year-old son said.  "I'm going to make a sundae."

I raised my eyebrows.  "Really?"

"Yep.  I'll show you when I'm done." He went to work.

 Fifteen minutes later he brought his concoction over to me. "What do you think?"

I took a look.  And I didn't see one speck of ice cream. What I did see was peanuts, a red sauce that looked quite a bit like ketchup, and some white flakey things.  "Dude, we don't have snow in Georgia, so what the heck are those flakey things?"


"Onions?  You made an onion, peanut, ketchup sundae?"

"Yeah, Mama.  You should try some.  It's good!"

No thanks!  

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Booby Trapped

Hope you all had a great New Year!  Thanks for all of the New Years greetings.  I've been spending time with my kids since they've been out of school, so it's a little tough for me to be online blogging.  I've got another crazy week, then things should get back to normal.

Why is it that a mom can't even go to the bathroom in peace?  All I need is five minutes.  Do I get it?  No.  The minute I go in, there's a kid shouting at me from the other side:  "Mama, can you do this?" or "Mama, I need this..."  Can't they wait until I'm done?

So today, when my son was shouting at me from the other side, I decided to ignore him.  I couldn't hear a word he was saying, which was fine with me. (The fan has a great way of drowning out what's happening on the other side.) 

When I tried to get out, I gave the door a push.  But it wouldn't budge.  What the heck? I thought.  I pushed again and managed to squeeze my way out. What do you think I saw on the other side?  A bath mat shoved against the door, and piles of towels and toiletries blocking my way.

"Bubba!" I yelled.

He came in looking all innocent.

"What's this?"  I asked.

"A booby trap.  I told you about it  when you were in there.  You should've listened!"