Friday, July 9, 2010

The Second Summer Trip

It is time for my next trip this summer. I am heading south once again. This time I am not stopping in Missouri, in fact I am not even stopping in the US. I am traveling to Mexico.

One of the great things about going to Mexico two year in a row is that I get to reunite with lots of the same people.

It is so good to make good friends and to spend time together. We started off meeting at the Chapel service and gathered for a large group picture.

The other nice thing about returning to the same place is that you know more what to pack. Here Emily is modeling her brand new pink tool belt and her father's hammer with the largest hammering surface.

Side story - Last year as Emily was attempting to nail in a board, she missed so many times in a row that the man running the trenching machine for the crew installing a sewer line, told her to get down, and then he hammered the nail. And no we have not let her forget it.

See ya next week!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Work Camp - Middle School Style

For detail on AbFab's trip to Sikeston Check out the official blog.

Our assignment this week was to help out the Missouri Mission . This is a place where men with various problems and addiction can start their life over.

The first task was to knock out the existing counter and drawers that were between the two closets in order to make more closet space. We divided all of the kids and adults into teams and each team was assigned a room.

The man who lived in the room we were assigned to eyed us a bit cautiously. Who could blame him? Nothing like having a group of kids ages 12 to 14 invade your room and start moving your stuff.

Finally we moved everything onto the beds, pushed the beds into the center of the room and began to tape off for painting. Oh and the demolition? Well quickly, I saw the need for some safety rules when two boys started swinging the hammers as hard as they could. I decided we would take turns, three hits and then the the next person could swing three times. I told the kids it was like a pinata. They bought it. The counter and drawers were removed with no injuries.

Finally the paint arrived and the kids attacked (I mean painted carefully).

We painted the entire ceiling and then began painting the walls. My team began with lots of enthusiasm.

This enthusiasm lasted until after lunch, when all the energy was gone. It was a long afternoon.

Luckily the success or failure of any mission trip is never decided on my the first day. By Wednesday, my team was completely different. We started our second room and finished in less than one day what had take us two day to accomplish in the first room. The kids took the lead and I have never been so amazed by a group of kids aged 12 to 14. I was honored to have witnessed the transformation.

Oh and the first resident that we unexpectedly moved in on on Monday, well he made a point of giving the team several packets of Crystal Light and a box of cookies. From a man who entire possessions could be stacked on two beds, the gift was heartfelt and meant so much to all of us.

Here was another Thank you note from another resident. He and his assigned team communicated by leaving notes on his white board.

The week was a challenge for all the kids but especially for the Middle Geek. He finally found a knack for painting and got into the work on the final day.

He also found some great friends, that was his overwhelming response - "Wow, I made some great friends this week."

I was overwhelmed with the attention from the cooks. These two ladies cooked everything from scratch - cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, coffee cake. I brought all of my own food for the Middle Geek (like I usually do) but they went out of their way to make sure he could eat dinner like everyone else. They even found some So Delicious brand Ice Cream so he could have dessert every night too.

Just when I thought it couldn't get any better, we were at the last chapel service on Thursday night where we had communion. I am not sure where my mind was - maybe it was the heat or the exhaustion - but I stood up to get in line for communion and realized that I had not gotten any gluten free bread for the Middle Geek. I watched him hang back and sit back down (He hates standing out in any way) when all of a sudden on of the women who had cooked for us all week, is stand right by him with a slice of his bread. She had run back to the kitchen for it.

There was plenty of time to do lots of fun stuff. We had a movie night, and one night we had a talent show. The Middle Geek joined with a group and they played - Lean on Me. Oh yea he rocked the drums.

We also went to a local park and spent one evening at a swimming pool. There were two diving boards so the Middle Geek worked on his front and back flips.

And is anyone curious about my Indian Visa? Well it was approved last Wednesday. This is a picture of me "discussing" the approval.

Yes she told me several times to "calm down".

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New Summer Trip

Because I just happen to have my schedule clear for this week and next (ahem). I remembered that the Middle School Mission Trip was scheduled during the same week.

So I decided to be - that person. You know, the one that calls last minute and says, "Hey I know the sign up for this event is long past, and you have been working hard finalizing your plans, but you know I just happen to be free now and so, can I join you?"

And if that wasn't enough....

"Also the Middle Geek, whom I will be bringing, will not be back in town until later on Sunday, so I will drive us down separate. We will be a bit late, oh that mandatory parent meeting, I will probably miss that, and what is the menu, because my child can't eat anything."

I don't understand why the Youth Misister was not just THRILLED.

But some things are meant to be. So tomorrow the Middle Geek and I will be headed for a week at Work Camp. I will take lots of pics.

And I am trading in a trip to Southern India for one to Southern Missouri.

The Answer: Keeping Busy.

The Question: So what has AbFab been doing with herself since the unexpected change in plans?

I have been determined not to sit around and mope this week thinking about all I am missing in India. I just had on lapse when Cory sent me a short email (that's all they have been able to do. There is no WiFi and just one computer. When it rains, the electricity goes out.) Anyway he mentioned that the students had asked the engineers to teach - or perform- a song or dance. Cory was hoping they would forget. He did get away without singing, but he told me he go video of Kate and Theresa teaching the students the Macarena. Oh what I would have given to be a part...

But enough.

Last week I was an incredibly lucky winner on Houseparty . I won all of the equipment to do your own canning. The package arrived and it had a large canning pot and all the equipment. They sent me four coupons for free cases of canning jars, fruit pectin, lots of other coupons to hand out, reusable canvas bags. It even had a large flip chart to walk you through the steps of canning. There were also recipes for salsa and pepper jelly.

The idea of these parties is that the manufacturer send you the makings of a party and informally you and your friends try out the new products.

I had never canned before but I love to cook and try new things so this seemed like lots of fun. I decided to make the salsa - I have some frozen tomatoes from last season that needed to be used and some fresh cilantro in the garden. I did not want to make the pepper jelly because while I like it, I wasn't sure that it would be enjoyed by the majority. Instead I went through the recipe book (also supplied) and picked out Strawberry Jam.

So I canned 24 small jars of Strawberry Jam, 16 slightly larger jars of salsa, and because there were three larger jars included decided to try pickles.

The verdict. The Strawberry Jam was awesome and a big hit. The salsa was good but I think needed more salt. And the pickles, oh my the pickles were the best ever. I had some small seedless cucumbers from CostCo. I cut them into wedges and chose the easiest recipe of vinegar and salt and sugar. Then I added one chipotle pepper. I processed the pickles for 15 minutes. The next day I put one jar in the refrigerator because the College Geek and I could not wait (He is a pickle pig.) They were only the BEST PICKLES EVER.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Change in Plans

So I bet all of you are here looking for some exciting news of my trip to India. I can hear you now, "Why AbFab must be getting on that plane today. I wonder when she will post an update on her exciting trip."

Well unfortunately you all will have to keep waiting for that update.

In a very sad turn of events, I am not leaving for India today. Instead I am sitting in my very own living room typing out this posting. (sob)

To make a very long story short - Out of our group of eight travelers, there were three that did not get our Visas approved by the Indian government. And yes, I was on of the three without a Visa.

That means no trip to India for AbFab. At least not this trip.

I am truly hoping that I can get approval for the planned December/January trip. There is a group that is planning on returning then to supervise the building of the designed toilets. Everyone please cross your fingers.

In the meantime, the assessment trip must go on.

I transfered school supplies that I had had donated for the school we were visiting - along with coloring books and jump ropes - to the students bags.

I also gave them some of the engineering tools for the assessment - Some hand surveying equipment to determine elevations and diffusion tubes to use to measure indoor air pollution. (This will be used in households were they cook indoors on wood burning or charcoal stoves.)

There they are at the airport. I made them pose for an embarrassing picture. I had planned to make them pose in pictures all week so they got off easy.

And there they are --- walking into the airport --- without me ......

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

World's Biggest Toilet

I came across this during my toilet research....

Check out this .

It can "serve" 30,000 users each day!

This is quite the engineering feat.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Middle Geek's Double Down

KFC doesn't have anything on the Middle Geek. Here he is displaying his very own Double Down*, which he made for breakfast.

*What is in the MG Double Down? Well I am sure you do not want to know. Really, you don't.

Okay, you insist.

First you take one slice of lunch meat. MG prefers bologna or turkey - Oscar Meyer. Then you add a generous amount of Sunflower Butter and Grape Jelly. Cover with a second slice of lunch meat and seal the edges.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Summer Trip 2 - Mexico

My second planned trip for the summer is in July and I am going to Mexico.

My church has traveled to Mexico every summer to build houses. Last summer was the first time that I went with them.

The exciting difference this year -- I am taking the Middle Geek!!!

This is bound to be a time for growth for both of us. I am so excited for the Middle Geek to get out of his small suburban life and see some of the wonders and wondrous people that are out there.

I am also glad that he and I will have this week during the summer before he enters High School to spend time side by side.

To raise money for this trip, I organized - with tremendous help of family and friends - an EPIC Garage Sale*. (*quote by Middle Geek) It was lots of work but in two days of sales we raised almost 800 dollars.

This is going to be quite the summer.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Planning for a Busy Summer - Trip 1

I have big plans for travel this Summer.

First trip in June is India!! Can you believe it?

Our chapter of Engineers Without Borders is starting a new project near Pathanamthitta, India This is the southern part of India. We are going to work closely with a school and a small community of families. The first request that we have had is toilet facilities for the school. Right now the school uses a three walled enclosure for the toilet (number 1 only). The first trip is an assessment trip and we will evaluate which sort of toilet will be the best fit.

How many types of toilets are there?

To start with there are Pit Latrines. You know you dig a hole and put a seat on top on the hole. When the hole fills up, you bury it and dig a new latrine of you shovel it out.

Then there are various composting toilets that may be appropriate depending on the utilities available and user acceptance. There is no sense in building a wonderful composting toilet that no one uses or worse yet, everyone uses but no one maintains.

A water flush toilet even has many choices depending on the water supply and the options of where to send the waste - septic or sewer?

See I told you engineers are wonderful, that think about all your sh%%t so yo don't have to.

We will also be interviewing the poorest part of the community that live in thatched houses. We want to know what is there greatest need in the community, rather it be water, sanitation, better cooking stoves, or rain drainage.

This will be an exciting trip.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

What is this Engineers Without Borders?

For over a year (since my first trip to Haiti) I have been involved with the group Engineers Without Borders. I have never been quiet about my enjoyment about all (well most) thing engineering. I truly think that engineers can make a big difference in the world and there are several organizations that are forming for that purpose.

One of these groups is Engineers Without Borders. It was formed in 2000 by a man in Colorado and this video gives the background.

When you think of how lives can be changed by simple tools of engineering such as water delivery, I believe that engineers morally obligated to move out of our comfort zones and from behind our computers.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Geek Familiy's Life List

Our church is beginning a sermon series based on the MTV show - My Buried Life. This led to an interesting dinner conversation where we all started our Life List. (College Geek is at college, so I will have to add his later.)

AbFab's List

Sing in a Gospel Choir
Be interviewed by Stephen Colbert
Go on a Safari in Kenya
Visit Kibeho in Rwanda
Write a book

Mr. Geek's List

Ride a bike from St. Louis to Chicago
Ride across the United States by bike
Ride across Europe on bike
Invent something
Be a grandpa
See the Tour de France
Race an Iron man

Middle Geek's List

Visit Japan
Ride the fastest roller coaster in the world
Become a professional drummer
Go to Disney World
Ride a bike from St. Louis to Chicago
Learn how to do a back flip on the ground
Stay home alone for an entire day

Littlest Geek's List

Get married
Work at the Pokemon Center in Japan
Go to Disney World
Go on a walk alone far from home

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Do video games make kids violent?

The Geeks playing Call of Duty - World at War.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

For My Mom!

On Friday I was honored along with two of my Abfab friends to be inducted into the Women's Hall of Fame at Missouri S&T.

Here we are entering the building.

Posing for the Paparazzi before the ceremony.

Behind every successful women is a handsome man.

The plaques for the Wall.

And one more pose after the induction.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Googling Engineer and Valentine

And this is what I found

and this too:

An Engineer's Valentine
by Matthew Dalton

I was alone and all was dark
Beneath me and above
My life was full of volts and amps
But not the spark of love

But now that you are here with me
My heart is overjoyed
You've turned the square of my heart
Into a sinusoid

You load things from my memory
Onto my system bus
My life was once assembly code
It's now like C++

I love the way you solder things
My circuits you can fix
The voltage 'cross your diode is
much more than just point six

With your op-amps and resistors
You have built my integrator
I cannot survive without you
You're my function generator

You've changed my world, increased my gain
And made my math discreet
So now I'll end my poem here
Control, Alt, and Delete

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Blind Side

I believe that I might be the very last person in the world to see this movie. I tried to be one of the first. Leigh Anne Tuohy, one of the main characters, is a Kappa Delta which is AbFabGeek's very own sorority. Because if that connection I had received an email announcement before the opening. I tried to arrange to see the movie with a few of my AbFab Sorority sisters but our schedules never did line up.

Anyway Mr. Geek wanted to see the movie too - he had heard it was not just a chick flick. Then our church then started a sermon series based on the movie. Sometimes waiting until you have time to do something just doesn't happen. So we just said - tonight- we are going to see it tonight. Never mind that tonight was a Sunday evening - that is a school night.

Then we made another big decision - We decided to see the movie as a family (minus College Geek - he was, you know, at college). This was a big deal. Mostly we only see movies like The Squeakquel- very much kids movies and now we were planning on taking the little geek to a grown up movie (not to be confused with adult movie --ick).

And the response from the little Geeks was .... "Why do we have to go? Can't we just stay home? Can't we go see a different movie?" You know-- enthusiastic.

But we held firm. "You will like this movie", we told them.

"No I won't I saw the preview. I HATE those kind of movies. I think football is stupid."

So we headed to the movies. (I even bribed them each with a dollar if they would just not disturb me.) The little geeks sat in the very first row and Mr. Geek and I sat in the very last row. (Family bonding at its best.)

As you all know by now the movie is wonderful. It has gotten great reviews and several awards so I won't bore you with my review.

What I do want to share was the response of the little geeks.

They were blown away by the movie. During the credits they walked back to where Mr. Geek and I were sitting and began to talk about the movie. The conversation continued as each of them laid down in their bed that night through breakfast the next morning.

Here are their impression: The Middle Geek was ready to search for a homeless person for us to adopt.

Littlest Geek: When he said that he had never had a bed before I wanted to cry.

Not enough has been made about Leigh Anne's husband Sean Tuohy role in Micheal Ohrer's story. The emphasis is on Leigh Anne and her take charge ways. In the following interview, I found out that Sean Tuohy was already buying Micheal his lunch everyday.

But I think Sean has an even more pivotal role in the story. I love the way he looks at Leigh Anne from the car when she is about to ask Micheal to stay over night. I love the way he reassures her when later she is wondering if she did the right thing. I love how you know that none of this story would have been possible if the family did not work together as a team.

Oh yeah and you know what else? I love how Sean Tuohy (and even Tim McGraw) remind me of Mr. Geek and his unwavering support when I make announcements like : I am going to Haiti. I am going back to grad school. I think we should adopt. Mr. Geek, we have a new son . I never have to guess, I know Mr. Geek is in it with me the whole way.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Those of you on FaceBook know that last week was Doppleganger Week. You were supposed to find a picture of a famous person that people say that you look like. Then you were to post that picture as your profile picture.

Some of my friends resemble celebrities so much that I had to do a double take on their profile picture. So I wanted to play along. The trouble is that - I have never been told that I look like a famous person. ever. People come up to me all the time asking if I am their neighbor's cousin, cousin's neighbor or child's prinicipal (I actually have gotten that one more than once.) However never has anyone ever said, "You know when you look that direction, when the light is just right, and I squint my eyes - You look exactly like Big Famous Celebrity.

But I did let that keep me from the fun.

One someone had said that Leelee Sobieski in Never Been Kissed looked like me. What do you think?

We are twins separated at birth, right?

SO ANYWAY, while I was looking at images from Never Been Kissed, I saw my perfect doppelganger.....

Josie Grossie!!!

But my nieces didn't seem all the resemblance.

So back to google images. There is one celebrity that I have been told I resemble - the way I speak anyway (oh and the way I dance )

But I was informed -- Doppelganger? No way!

After doppelgange week was over, I came up with the PERFECT match. (Isn't that always the way.)

Oh yeah, from my favorite movie -- Mamma Mia!

As proof during the movie when the following scene played, my friends on either side of me turned and said, "That is so you."

It's a complement right?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I have been distracted

On last Tuesday, January 12 at 5:14 pm a magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck southern Haiti near Port au Prince.

I am assuming anyone reading this already knows this.

Since my trip to Haiti last March, I have kept in touch with some of the people I met on the internet. People like Tara and Troy Livesay . I began reading Troy's almost real time Twitter on Tuesday evening and was horrified by the devastation.

My work in Haiti was with Meds and Foods for Kids (MFK) which is in the northern part of the country in Cap Hatien. I emailed the people there as soon as possible and they had only felt a few rumblings. MKF makes Medika Mamba, an enriched peanut butter, for severely malnourished kids. The number of malnourished kids in Haiti on a good day with no extra tragedy is staggering. About one child out of every four in Haiti under the age of five is malnourished. Think of the kids in your kids kindergarten and picture one fourth of them starving.

The effect of the earthquake on MFK and on the health of children will not be completely know for some time. Look here for the recent news reports from MKF.

Before this tragedy, I was planning on traveling to Haiti over spring break to continue the work that we started last year with Engineers Without Borders. We are still planning this trip but we don't know all that will change between then and now.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

One more writing prompt

None of MamaKat's writing prompts prompted me this week so I dove into her archives to grab a different one. This one sounded interesting.

Write about a time you hid from someone, or a time you disguised who you really were.

Since I already have not followed the directions, I will continue to feel free to decide the subject of my story.

When I was growing up, I was very much a pleaser. I wanted teachers to like me and I did not want to get into trouble. I lived my life very much in terror of getting something on my PERMANENT RECORD that would keep me from getting into college and ruin my life. I also had a pretty strong moral code (for a kid) and just thought that everyone should do the right thing --just because.

Why do I tell you this? Well a couple of times while I was growing up I tried on a different persona. In other words, I pretended to be someone I was not, kind of like a disguise. (See it fits the prompt, right?)

The first one was a time when I was walking around with a girl from school throughout the neighborhood. I don't really remember who the girl was except I remember I did not usually hang out with her. Walking around our neighborhood was very common. I grew up in the suburbs where most mothers kicked their kids out to play each day.

This day the girl suggested, "Let's just sit on the corner." That sounds like an innocent suggestion, but my mother had always said, "Do not hang out on the corner." She never gave any explanation why I was not supposed to hang out on the corner, but I knew the rule, don't do it. Hmmm, don't do it? Why not? We weren't hurting anyone that I could tell and maybe if I hung out I could find out what the big deal was. Oh and the girl that I was with? She said she did it all the time.

So we sat on the corner right by the stop light. It was at one of the busier intersections in my neighborhood and there were lots of cars and people to watch. Sure enough we received several disapproving looks from other mothers driving by.

The second time, I was with my cousin and one her friends at Sun 'n Fun. Sun 'n Fun was a man made pond/ lake with a sand beach (I grew up in St. Louis, smack in the middle of the US, far, far away from an ocean). We would go to Sun 'n Fun almost once a week during the summer.

This time, my cousin had a
friend with her. We went to the playground to play for a bit and the friend said. "Have you guys ever played, like pretend?" We looked at her, sure we had played pretend, but the look on her face said this was not about castles and army men. She said, "When someone comes up to play on the playground, you tell them that your parents own it and that they are not allowed to play."

Okay, that just sounded stupid to me, but in a moment that I am not particularly proud of, I just stood there and said nothing. Soon a couple of younger kids came up to play and the girl said, "You can't play here. Our parents own all of Sun 'n Fun and they said that no one is allowed to play on the monkey bars but us." The kids put up some mild protests but they were clearly out matched by three older kids and they ran off...... to get their mothers.

Their mothers came up to the playground (see I knew this was a stupid idea) and said, "What's this about my kids not allowed on the monkey bars?" I remember looking at my feet and the other girl mumbled something. The mother set us straight, "Everyone is allowed to play on the playground!"
... and of course the kids played on the playground. We left soon after.

So these were my experience at being a "bad" kid.
I am not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing.