Wednesday, October 05, 2005

I could have told you, Vincent;

. . . this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you.

Yes, Avan and Jensen's turtle has passed away. We noticed he was sick on Thursday with slimy eyes and shell, and by Friday there were little, white worms in his aquarium. How do I know what to do for a sick turtle?! On Saturday morning I thought I'd make sure he was eating; so I picked him up to bring him to his food, and knew immediately he was dead. I think I might be a bad Mom: my first thought was, "Gross, I've handled a dead turtle!" It was only after that that I realized Jensen would be crushed.

She was. I tried to break it to her gently, without making a big deal out of it. At first she seemed only somewhat disappointed, I think because her mind was on something else. But later, when we decided to bury him in a small box, she lost it. She cried and cried and bawled and bawled. She asked for some alone time with him by his grave to say good-bye, and we could hear her from yards away trying to hold back her sobs. For twenty minutes or so she grieved over how much she loved him and would miss him, saying things like, "I've never been this sad," and "This is the saddest day of my life." I could barely handle it.

We buried Vincent, and Daddy said a few words and a prayer. Jensen made a red X on paper and cut it out to mark the grave. She continued to sob uncontrollably, and seemed ashamed of it. I told her that it was absolutely OK to feel this way, and that she wouldn't feel this sad forever. I think that made her feel like it was OK to cry, because then she didn't even try to hold back, and she let it all go. Thankfully, Cooper was oblivious. I couldn't have taken two grieving children.

Resting Place

Fortunately, Tom had planned a nature walk with the kids. Right after the funeral he took them to Firestone Park here in Akron and they walked the trails and marveled at nature. They made a little fire and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, and had a great time. Jensen was feeling MUCH better by the time she got home, saying that it was "one of the best days ever, EVER!" I was so relieved.

Nature Walk, October 1, 2005


The next day we were telling Avan about our weekend, and Jensen told her that she thought Vincent had died because Jensen took him on a field trip to school for Green day. Of course that broke all of our hearts, and thankfully we were able to convince her that wasn't the reason. Later she told us that she still missed him, but she wasn't as sad as she had been the day before. A lesson in grief.

I just hope PETA doesn't catch wind of this.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Caricature of the Month

I'm posting this sketch of Don's as a tribute to Avan's new pet turtle, who stays at our house, which she named Vincent VanGogh after her favorite artist.
(Order prints or t-shirts from in time for Christmas!)

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Our Little Student

Well, it's official. Jensen's a Big Girl. She started Kindergarten on the 25th of August. We went to her orientation the day before and found out where her bus stop is, and what time she'd be picked up and dropped off. She had been a little apprehensive about taking the bus; so I offered to drive her on the first day, but she said no. She was very excited, and I was very proud of her.

Everyone asks if I cried watching her go. I did cry, but only because I could see how very happy and excited she was, and so I was for her. I didn't cry because "my baby had grown up" or anything. We are crazy about Jensen, but there's no question about whether or not she belongs at school right now.

Jensen with backpack and bus tag

So far she loves it. I think she likes the bus more than school, but she likes school as well, and says her teacher, Ms. Knickerbocker (really) is a great teacher. She says she has trouble "being good," and has to put her head on the desk sometimes, but she tries hard and prays every day for help with concetrating and behaving at school. One morning she told her teacher that she was going to try extra hard that day, and Ms. Knickerbocker said something like, "Oh, it's OK. It just takes practice." So I'm sure many of the new kindergarteners are going through the same thing.

Cooper and I are enjoying our mornings together, and he loves going to pick her up at the bus stop. He rides his bike down, and I walk Jensen's bike so that they can ride back together. I'm hoping the weather cooperates with us as long as possible.

Meanwhile, we're doing Phonics lessons at home four or five times a week, and the kids are learning to read. Jensen's already pretty good at reading many words, and will soon move on to books for beginner readers. Cooper is starting to read as well, and is able to read as well as spell several three-letter words. Funny. He can read but he can't use the toilet. Go figure.

Hens & Chickens

Most people know that I'm not a gardener. In fact, it's all I can do to keep my children alive in my house, let alone plants. I'm the Charlie Brown of gardening. Tom gave me a cactus for Mother's Day once, since we'd heard that's the one plant you can't kill. Mine lived for three days. No kidding. The only things that grow around here are mold and potato eyes. . . and with no help from me.

But the other day, as Cooper and I were waiting for Jensen at the bus stop down the street, my neighbor approached me and asked me if I wanted some free hens and chickens. At first I thought she was crazy, but when she showed me a few boxes full of uprooted plants, I realized she was referring to them. Before I could explain that they'd be wasted on me, she explained that they grow like wildfire and were overrunning her yard. She implored me with her tone as she held the somewhat heavy boxes toward me and said I'd be doing her a big favor. Of course I took them, wondering the whole time where I'd be able to pawn them off. She told me how to plant them, and said they'd even grow where nothing else would. Yeah, we'll see.

I don't know what made me do it, but Jensen and I began transplanting them almost as soon as we got home, around this little garden in the middle of our yard. (It was there before we moved in, of course.) I worked on them on and off for the rest of the day, and was finally finished just before dark. They look cute, I guess, but I still have my doubts as to whether or not they'll grow or even survive for very long.

Luckily for all of you, I took pictures!

I still don't know why they're called hens and chickens. They look like neither to me, nor like any other farm animal I can think of. Anyone else have any idea? (See comment -- thanks, Sheila!)

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Introducing the Amazing Jensen!

Jensen does magic tricks. Actually, she doesn't really think she's magic. To her, magic is when you make something REALLY disappear, not just appear to disappear. Her art, in her mind, is in making you wonder how she made something appear to disappear. She's really something. Unfortunately for most of you, you have to see it to appreciate it. Some of you have had the privilege of witnessing her "magic" for yourselves. For the rest of you, I thought I'd try to describe it, add a picture, and see if you can create the full image in your imaginations.

This is a picture of the Amazing Jensen doing her very first trick. She puts a small item--for example a Hot Wheels car--on the stool, places a kitchen towel over it, and rubs the towel with both hands around and around on the stool, until the car falls onto the floor. Then she picks up the towel, waits for the appropriate reaction, then announces that the car disppeared onto the floor. Everyone gasps and stares in amazement and tries not to laugh.

That trick evolved into one of her current favorites in which she covers the item with the towel, rubs her hands together, then quickly picks up towel and the item at once, waits for the appropriate reaction, then announces that it disappeared into her hand.

If you're really lucky, Her Amazingness might select you to be an assistant. This is a special privilege that garners you with the great responsibility of holding the towel up in front of the item, then keeping watch over the rest of the audience to make sure they close their eyes tightly and don't peek while she makes the item disappear into the sofa cushions. Of course then the audience has the equally weighty responsibility of making believe they don't hear her footsteps going to or from the sofa, or the change of volume in her voice while she travels about the room.

It's all very entertaining and she rarely tires of performing, and I can only hope our guests don't tire of indulging her.

Along with this I must include an anecdote about the time last winter when Jensen attended a birthday party for a boy at Pre-Kindergarten. A local magician attended, who has apparently been a well-known Birthday Party Magician in this area for some time now. The kids gathered around, and Jensen, who had been doing her own "magic" for a couple of years by then, sat wide-eyed in the front row. She was aghast with her mouth open for most of the show, and I couldn't take my eyes off of her.

At one point this old and seasoned magician included an actual dove in his performance. I wasn't sure if Jensen, being such an animal lover, was more impressed with the magician or the dove. But after the intial excitement of seeing a real, live dove in the house, she watched attentively as the magician continued. He had a stand on which sat a box big enough for the dove, and then some. In front of the box hung a little curtain, and when he lifted it we got our first glance of the dove inside the entirely black box. He removed the dove, spoke to him a bit, showed him off to everyone, the kids oohed and aahed, and he placed the dove back into the box lowering the curtain. Then, while holding onto the back of the box with one hand, he raised the curtain with the other and the dove was gone! The children were amazed and burst into applause. Jensen was clapping along with the rest, and was so excited she couldn't control her laughter.

Then she turned to me with utter astonishment and exclaimed, "Mom! Did you see that?! You couldn't even tell how he got the dove to disappear behind the black wall!" Note that she had to say this quite loudly so as to be heard over the applause. She was not finished her exclamation, however, until the applause had subsided. An short but awkward silence followed, joined by looks from Birthday Boy's parents, and a chuckle from the magician who said, "I see we have another magician in the crowd." Jensen yelled proudly, "Me!" as she raised her hand. I just blushed and gritted my teeth praying that he'd move on. He did. I'm wondering if she'll be invited back this year.

Caricature of the Week

In light of Jennifer Aniston's "outing" in Vanity Fair this month, I thought I'd feature Don's caricature of the "Friends" gang. He drew this by special request. I won't mention who made the request. Ahem. Incidentally, if you have an idea for a caricature you'd like to see on a t-shirt, let Don know at

Monday, August 08, 2005

Old Friends

I'd like to dedicate this post to the girlfriends I've had for as long as is important. These are the girls who knew me before I knew me, and who stuck with me anyway. These are the girls who saw through my lies and facade of my youth and hung with me anyway. These are the girls who believed in me at my most unbelievable, and forgave me at my most unforgivable. These are the girls with whom, when we get together, no matter how long it's been since we've spoken, emailed or met, it seems as if no time has passed. These are the girls whose longstanding friendships have helped shape who I am today. And I love them anyway!

In May we got together again to celebrate a big day--our Jilly Bean got married. It was a beautiful ceremony, a fabulous celebration and a wonderful weekend all around. I can't even describe what a time I had and what a feeling it left with me. Thanks to the girls and Jill's family for embracing me and including me in on a weekend I won't forget. So here's to Carri, Jill, Jocelyn and Heather. You guys are the best!

Love, Maria

Time it was and what a time it was it was;
A time of innocence a time of confidences.
Long ago it must be, I have a photograph.
Preserve your memories;
They’re all that’s left you.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

No Mirrors in My Nana's House

I woke up this morning with this song in my head. I learned it from watching an animated short on Nickelodeon. Jensen loves it, too. The song is lovely to listen to, and the lyrics are inspirational to hear.

No Mirrors in My Nana's House
Ysaye M. Barnwell

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything,
The beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I never knew that my skin was too black.
I never knew that my nose was too flat.
I never knew that my clothes didn't fit.
I never knew there were things that I'd missed,
'Cause the beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun);
...was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything,
The beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

I was intrigued by the cracks in the walls.
I tasted, with joy, the dust that would fall.
The noise in the hallway was music to me.
The trash and the rubbish just cushioned my feet.
And the beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun)
....was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything,
The beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

The world outside was a magical place.
I only knew love; I never knew hate,
And the beauty in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun)
....was in her eyes.

There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
There were no mirrors in my Nana's house,
No mirrors in my Nana's house.
And the beauty that I saw in everything
Was in her eyes (like the rising of the sun).

"Chil', look deep into my eyes."
"Chil', look deep into my eyes."

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

GQ Junior

As many of you know, my stepdaughter Avan is in cosmetology and plans to use her new skills to put herself through college. Well, judging by the haircuts she gave my husband recently, and son today, she should have no problem! Here are some pictures of today's project. Though we'll miss his shag, we all love the new look, including the model!

We're Back!

Last week I decided at the very last minute to take the kids and head to my sister Sharon's in Niagara Falls. I made up my mind on Sunday the 24th, and left on Monday. We needed a break. The summer's been great, but we were growing stagnant and I ached for a change of pace. It was a good decision! We had a nice time. I always love to see Sharon. She has such a positive outlook and rarely seems down about things. I went there thinking I would vent to her about things that have been on my mind lately, but being there made me forget all about them.

My other sister, Helen, is living with Sharon for the moment, and although I didn't get to see much of her I enjoy our time together as well. And Sharon's kids are adorable. She has two boys and a baby girl, the oldest being 3 and the youngest being three months. They are well-behaved and laid back, which is a good thing. I can't imagine having three crazies so close together.

Speaking of crazies, my children had the best time. They were much more obedient than usual in the car, thanks to my friend's portable DVD player. And Aunt Sharon has a pool, which kept them well occupied and entertained for the week, even though they had three of the coolest days they've had in months while we were there.

I also had the chance to see my brother, Haig, and his family. They visited Sharon on the first night we were there. Haig has been living in Nova Scotia with my other brother, Don, because Haig and Nichla purchased a house in Halifax and and have been waiting for their Burlington (Ontario) house to be sold. Well, the sale is finally closing, and Haig's family will finally be able to join him out east soon. They have seven children, and we all had a great time taking a late-night swim and catching up. We'll see them again in a few weeks, and then again--who knows when? Sob.

So July was a good month. Along with our mini-vacation I was able to catch up with two old and dear friends. And I mean OLD friends. Gloria Estefan and Outfield hits come to mind. They were both very dear to me when I knew them, and have remained so ever since, if only in my heart and dreams. One I spoke to by phone, and the other I saw in person, and it was such a nice feeling to remember why we were friends in the first place and to feel those connections again. In some ways, it felt like some things hadn't changed a bit.

So here's to all of your longest lasting friendships. Treat yourself to a phone call to remind yourself of how the best things in life really are free. Or maybe five cents a minute.

Friday, July 22, 2005

I Love Rhapsody!

Here's my latest thing. I absolutely LOVE Rhapsody at You pay $9.ninety-something a month for a membership, and you have streaming access to whatever music selections they have. It's almost like having a huge CD collection without having to store or care for them. I say almost, because I have found a few tunes that aren't available for whatever reason. Sometimes it's just not part of their repetoire yet, or sometimes the artist or record label still wants you to pay to listen to it. You have to pay additional fees to burn the tunes onto CD, but I don't have a CD burner yet anyway; so for me it's great. Whenever I log onto the computer the first thing I do is open Rhapsody and play whatever I'm in the mood to hear.

One of the reasons I like it so much is because there are songs I've been wanting to hear for a long time that I couldn't justify buying. I found them here. And in looking for them, I've been reminded of many other songs I'd forgotten about but absolutely love, especially ones I'd listened to on a regular basis years and years ago.

That brings me to my next topic. Those who know me well know that my taste in music is. . . well, square. That's it. Just plain square. I actually like quite a variety of music, really. Oldies, classic rock, pop, new age. . . and more. But some of my favorites are for squares. For example, I've only been to a handful of concerts in my life, and most of them include--and I'm just going to put it out there--John Denver, Roger Whittaker (twice, actually), and Neil Diamond (shut up, Terry). Add Chris De Burgh and Harry Belafonte to that list, and you've pretty much got my current Rhapsody playlist. I know. But growing up, my record collection consisted of what my parents let me play and what my older sisters left behind. And I'm not ashamed--OK, maybe I am a little ashamed--to say I loved it! As a matter of fact, at age 13 I was a member of the Roger Whittaker fan club! OK, maybe I've gone too far.

So, today I'm going to post my list of Square Favorites for you to enjoy or laugh at, whichever you prefer.

John Denver: "Matthew;" "This Old Guitar;" "Calypso." I like most of his stuff, but these are my current favorites. And "Toledo" is good for a laugh.

Neil Diamond (shut up, Terry): It's hard to pick my favorites, but lately I've been listening to "Done Too Soon" (which ends too soon); "Stones;" and "Coldwater Morning."

Roger Whittaker: "River Lady" is easily my favorite. I really like "Kilgary Mountain," too. I have to admit, although I feel disloyal, I don't like him as much as I used to.

Chris De Burgh: "All The Love I Have Inside" is an ongoing favorite, and lately I've been listening to "Where Peaceful Waters Flow" over and over. We'll see how long that lasts.

Harry Belafonte: "Old King Cole" and "Man Piaba" are really fun, and I love his versions of "Shenandoah," "Try To Remember," and "I'm Just a Country Boy."

So there you have it. I have no more secrets to hide. (Yeah, like THAT will ever be true!)

Monday, July 18, 2005


I'd like to tell you about my "little" brother, Don. Growing up we were very close. Of the ten of us kids, we were 7th and 8th. My older brother, the 6th, didn't seem to want much to do with 7 and 8 apart from teasing and other mild sibling abuse;--for that matter, it didn't seem to me he was interested in any of us besides older brothers, 3 and 4--so that left Don and me to our own devices, which was fine by us. We did most things together and we had a great friendship. I told him what to do, and he did it with a smile. Isn't that was friendship is all about? We even read Superfudge together! (All hail Judy Blume!) Anyway, he has been fiercely loyal ever since, which always makes me want to brag about him. And I do. But I wouldn't brag about anyone whom I didn't think deserved it. Ask my girlfriend who thinks she can sing.

And that brings me to First of all let me say that art on paper (drawing, sketching, cartooning, caricatures) is just one of the many talents Don possesses. He is also a very gifted standup comic, writer of plays, sketch comedies, screenplays and stories, a a singer and songwriter, and a natural comedic and dramatic actor. I would also venture to say that he is a good husband and father, and definitely an all-around good guy. And I promise I'm not the only one who says so.

Don has been drawing since he was very young. He would draw picture after picture as a kid, and created his own cartoon strips with original characters before the age of ten. He continued to excel in art throughout high school, and after serving a full-time mission for the LDS church and then getting married, he was accepted at Sheridan Collage in Oakville, Ontario to major in animation. He graduated in three years (his final project was an animated short based on one of his original sketch comedies), and was immediately hired onto an animation studio in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He has been in Halifax ever since (albeit not at the same studio), and works at the waterfront on the side, doing caricatures for tourists.

Then he launched his own business, via the web, at Go there to check out his unique style of caricaturing, bearing in mind that--correct me if I'm wrong, Don--his completed caricatures are all done with pencil crayons (aka colored pencils). If you admire them, feel free to post. More importantly, feel free to patronize. His t-shirts are original and reasonably priced, and you will have done him and yourself a great service, not to mention a personal favor to me! And he accepts PayPal! What could be easier than that? With that in mind, I'd like to post my caricaturebyDon of the week! Of course I have to start with the Beatles. The two of us have always been fans, especially him. And this particular caricature launched one of his first paying jobs from the website.

So there you have it. I hope I haven't embarrassed my brother. I do hope, though, that I have helped sell a few t-shirts.


"Scrubs" Personality Test

I'm not sure about this, but this is what I came up with. Let me know what you think!

Which Scrubs Character are you?

You are...Turk A.K.A. "The Jock with a God Complex"Who's da man? You are! (Or, "da woman" as the case may be.) You're cool without trying. Confident, caring, loyal. Do you ever make a wrong move? Okay, perhaps your enthusiasm for life can get you into trouble with those more inhibited than yourself, but you've got the skills to get yourself out of any sticky situation. The only problem with leading such a blessed life is jealous peers. Don't let them rile up your competitive nature to an unhealthy level! And don't let your good looks drag you down a dangerous path, either! Those infros are tough to treat.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Enjoying our Summer

These pictures were taken with Avan's new camera phone on July 2, 2005. It isn't very often all of us get together, and when we do we try to get a family picture. Most of them don't turn out well enough to share with others. This one is no exception, but oh, well. At least Cooper enjoyed his hot dog and marshmallows! We had a cookout and sat around the fire talking and laughing. We don't get to spend a lot of quality time with Jonathan now that he's all grown up. But when we do it's always good, especially when Avan is there, too. They are great friends as well as brother and sister, and it's a nice atmosphere for Tom and me (yes, me) to enjoy. Anyway, we're having a great summer, and you're all invited for a visit!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

My Beautiful Children

These pictures were taken last week with our shabby, outdated, but better-than-nothing, little digital camera. Aren't they adorable?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The most recent picture of me. Thanks, Ali!

June 2005 Posted by Hello


Hello, friends and family!

My old and dear friend Brenda (aka myfriendBrenda) introduced me to the "Blog" idea. I think it's a great one, and would have started mine sooner if I had known it was free. I don't know how often I'll do this, since I can't even seem to shower on a regular basis, but I plan to use it to at least keep you all updated on major events in the Tom Work family, if not to beg you to indulge me in the nothingness of my life once in a while.

For now, I'll just say welcome to my blog, and encourage you to add your posts. I'm adding current pictures of my wonderful little children, Jensen (5-- and 1/2, of course) and Cooper (3). As I get my thoughts, ideas and pictures together, I'll add more.

Please let me know if any of you add blogging to your list of hobbies. It would be great to see this catch on with the people I know and love.

Be good to each other.