Thursday, October 31, 2013


Halloween 2013 is much different with older kids. I feel so lucky I got to help out in EB's classroom and see her have a great time at her class party. I snuck away to catch Fisher and Tate too. I am a tad heartbroken that this year was the first year that I don't have a picture of the kids all together -- not broken up enough though that I think we do it all again tomorrow. :)

EB's class party.

My Iron Man!

Spiderman got some new teeth!

EB and her wonderful helper, Mrs. Moore!

Tate and 2 of his favorite ladies in the world -- Mrs. Brindle and Mrs. Kalata!

EB and her friends getting ready to head out.

Tate and Fisher and their friends.


Harper and her friends!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lego Soaring

EB is one creative girl! The other day she was busy working on a Lego project and came up with this great Disney Lego Soaring model. I think there has been a lot of Florida talk going on and she has Disney on her mind. Love you, EB!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Halloween at Park Jr. High!

Tonight at the Jr. High there was a Halloween "social" and Harper had a great time with her friends.  Cannot believe how big she is getting.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Bubbles of Love - The Pathway to Million

All weekend, Harper's been working on a creative writing project for school.  We knew it was something that meant a lot to her because she blew right through the four page minimum and kept on writing in her free time.  We loved her story and wanted to share.  Here it is:

“Are you a good artist?  Want to be a millionaire?!  Submit a piece of artwork to the National Youth Art League (NYAL), and the winner of the contest will win a million dollars.  Go online to our website at www.nationalyouthartleague.artist or call 1(800)555-ART1.
**Entries Due before Friday, October 25th.**”

The day I saw that sign, was the day my life changed forever, although I didn’t know it at the time.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let me start at the beginning....
Another day of seventh grade.  Another day of leaving my mom to retire from our run down apartment in our dangerous neighborhood that has the highest murder list in the state, so she can work two jobs.  I live in Brookdale, Iowa. My home is four and a half miles away from Elmore, the town where the rich kids with daddies that didn’t leave them when they were in third grade, live.  My school, Crestwood Middle School, the place that my personal angel became a devil, is in that town.

When people ask me about why my dad left, I honestly don’t have an answer.  I thought things were going ok, but obviously they weren’t.  Every so often, I would hear a shout from downstairs at night, or a crying from my mom’s side of their bed.  But I assumed that that was normal.  I know now that it isn’t.  Somedays, I’m glad that he is gone from my life; that he blocked me off completely.  But others, I wish life would be the same as it is for other kids my age.  A family with both parents, and children.

I used to have friends at school, but when my dad left, they abandoned me.  They are the kind of people that only care about what clothes you wear, what food you eat, what you look like, and how much money your parents make.  When my dad left, I lost all of that, including my best friends: Amber, Brooklyn, and Jennifer.  Amber and I used to be the leaders of our group, then Brooklyn, then Jennifer.  I was the prettiest, Amber the richest, Brooklyn the smartest, and Jennifer the sweetest.  So even within our own personal kingdom, we had rankings and were in that order: me, Amber, Brooklyn, and Jennifer.  Now, they are all my equal enemies.

Everyday, I get up at 5:45 so I can get to school on time, but the “Popucats” get dropped off in Amber’s pink limo with plenty of time to spare.  They still use the ridiculous nickname that I made up in second grade just short of a year before my dad left.  I wish things were different.  I’m tired of being teased.
As I ponder what my life has turned into in these past four years on my walk to school today, I kick the gravel that serves as a sidewalk.  In just over half a mile I will be in Elmore, and can continue with doodling on my second-hand notebooks that my mom saved money for all summer to buy.  ‘Oh well,’ I thought to myself.  ‘It’s the closest thing I have to being an artist.’

As I enter the boundaries of Elmore, a bright yellow poster catches my eye:
“Are you a good artist?...”

At this, I stop in my tracks.  I first became interested in art when my father left.  I guess it is sort an outlet for me to reveal my feelings of anger and loss created by him.  After a while, I became pretty good at it.  But never an award winner or anything.  But now, here is the chance to be a real artist.  I could finally make something out of myself.  ‘But what would I make? What could I make it out of?  I don’t have any money to make a project.  My mom and I barely have enough to keep going.’  This predicament almost makes me cry.  I could solve all of my problems, help my mom find a job that she actually enjoys, and get my friends back... but I can’t.  There isn’t enough money, or time, or, or, I can’t even think the word.  ‘Talent’.

I run the next six blocks to school with tears streaming down my face, to the Popucat’s delight.

“Look!” screeches Amber as Brooklyn and Jennifer emerge from the limo behind her, snickering.  Amber is wearing her uniform with pink rhinestones embellishing it.  The backpack that rests on her shoulder is a pink puffball explosion.  Her blonde curls are held up with bobby pins,and bounces as she points at me.  “Ickle, wittle Callie is a crybaby!”  Brooklyn with her red hair and black and blue glasses encourages everyone in the courtyard to erupt in laughter.  As Jennifer’s purple flats hit the pavement, I feel my face heat up as my cheeks turn tomato red.  

‘Everyday, they tease me.  Everyday, they remind me of what I have lost.  I have to enter the contest... and win it!  Then, maybe they won’t laugh at me anymore because I finally won’t be the outsider that is the complete laughing stock of the school.’

This thought must noticeably brighten my expression, because after I start to smile, Amber turns on her heel and stalks off under the shade of the willow in the middle of the courtyard.  Brooklyn and Jennifer are in close pursuit, and stick their tongues out at me as their shoes click on the stone ground.

The bell for first period rings, and we all rush into the ancient brick castle that serves as our school.  In the hallways, the walls are lined with red and gold colored lockers and classroom doors.  As I make my way to geometry, I notice several of the bright posters that caught my attention on my walk to school this morning.

Even though me thinking this to myself makes me want to throw up, I can barely hold myself down from tearing the poster down.  I don’t want even one small competitor.  A chance that I won’t win.  Although, in my heart, I know that there is still a large possibility that I won’t become a millionaire.

Students are crowded around them eagerly discussing project ideas.

“I think I’ll make a model of a car!” one boy in blue sneakers shouts.  His face is oily and he has every hair in place.  Like a nerd from a movie.

‘You’ll never win with that!” the girl next to him sneers.  Her uniform is actually pretty on her, fits in all the right places.  The books cradled in her arms have pink sparkly book covers.  The ones that cost over a dollar each.  I can’t even afford to dream of such a luxury.  “I’m sure that the contest judges want something more creative.  Something they haven’t seen before.  I’m going to make a scale drawing of our school.”

Their confidence in their ideas surprises me, but I realize that they have probably been given anything they want in their entire life.  ‘At least going through what I have makes me appreciate that not everything comes on so easily.’

As I am thinking about the girl’s words, an idea strikes me.  ‘“I’m sure that the contest judges want something more creative.  Something they haven’t seen before.”’ her words make me realize that I have an unique point of view on the world that could help me win the contest.

Grinning, I rush up the stairs and into my geometry class.  All throughout class and the rest of the day, my mind is somewhere else.  Every time a teacher calls on me or asks me a question, I embarrass myself again.  After stuttering and giving the wrong answer about some completely different topic, I blush and receive a glare from the teacher of the particular class.  

Finally, the school day is over and I can return to planning my project without being put on the spot to explain an answer to a question I hadn’t heard.

When I enter the outskirts of my neighborhood, I immediately search through the trash cans along the streets filled with potholes to find as many useable items as I can.  If I find a can or bottle, it goes in my bag.  A plastic grocery bag, or egg or milk carton, I put in my backpack.  These pieces of garbage are going to be a part of my project for the million dollar contest.  

On the walk to school the next day, I do the same thing I did in Brookdale: get garbage from the trash cans.  Eventually, this will win.  I can feel it.

On Friday in the art room at school, I bring out the board I found in an alleyway in Brookdale.  I plan to paint it white with a black line down the middle.  All afternoon, my only goal is to get the painting part done.  It will take a few days to dry, and the contest ends in two weeks.

Drip.  Drip.  The paint is almost done, and it is getting late.  I’ll have to leave it here over the weekend, but I know it’ll be safe and dry by Monday.

Over the weekend, I continue to obsess over my project.  I can’t help but feeling that something has happened to it with my absence.  I know that it is silly, but it still raises a bump in my throat.

This Monday is almost as bad as the day I first saw the neon posters because when I arrive at school early to check on my artwork, I notice a bag outside of the art room door.  It is a pink bag covered in puffballs.  I run from the scene as soon as I can make my feet move so I will not be discovered.

At lunch, the weight in my stomach makes me sick, and my untouched lasagna is getting cold.  My thoughts are swirling around so much I can barely keep track of them.  ‘She hates art.  The only reason Amber would be in the art room is that she wants to make an art project.  But the only reason she would make a project is so she would get something out of it.  And the only thing that she would get out of an art project is the million dollars!  Oh no!  She’s probably going to win because her dad can pay for real supplies and real lessons and real projects.  I don’t have any of that.’

Although I don’t realize it, as I am thinking this, my lasagna has started to resemble guts because I have been mashing it.  ‘But why does she need the money?  She’s probably just doing this so she can hold it over me.’

At this moment, I realize that I need to win this for more than selfish reasons.  Sure, I could use a new bag and clothing, art supplies, and yes, I really would like to help my mom out, but if I win this, the “Popucats” will no longer have anything over me.  Not their money, homes, or happy parents.

After school, I bring out the painted board and start to lay out the left side.  On this side, I am making a model of an average Elmore home.  It will be made of the Elmore garbage.  So, over the next few days, I construct and glue down the Elmore side.  The house I am making is large and takes up almost the entire half of the board.  The clean plastic bags neatly folded over the roof, the pieces of rinsed juice bottles nicely cut to make the windows.  On Thursday, I start the Brookdale side.

Even the garbage is shabbier by comparison.  The bottles dirtier, the cans dented and licked clean.  The broken glass from the streets will serve as the cracked windows frequently found in my neighborhood.  I make the two homes to scale, so even though on the left, the house takes up almost the entire section, Brookdale’s average home covers only a quarter of the space.  

On the Monday before the entries are due, I glimpse Amber’s project.  Brooklyn and Jennifer are proudly smiling as if it is is their own.  Amber has brought her project to school.  It is a picture of her pink limo.  Not very creative.  I hear several kids made model cars or diagrams.  And, her project can’t be larger than a regular piece of paper.  For the first time, I feel confident in my piece.

Today is the Tuesday before the deadline of the contest, and I practically have to do the entire Brookdale side.  the only thing I’ve done is set the pieces in the correct spots, and glued a few parts down.  Once everything is glued down and steady, I will rest.  But not a moment before.
After school as I walk into the art room, something feels weird.  I check in the corner of the room, and my project is there, but it isn’t how I left it.  The roofs of both houses are gone.  ‘Oh my goodness!  What happened to it?  Someone must have forcefully removed them, because both of them were glued down!’  

It is then that I realize a little part of my art work that is certainly not intended to be there.  Out of the corner of my eye, I notice it.  A little puffball now held down by paste right below the newly glued down door of the Brookdale house.  A pink puffball from Ambers backpack.  It was Amber who sabotaged my project.

On the long walk home, I do my best to find replacements of my lost roofs, but there are no bags the same color to match the ones previously used on the Elmore house.  The are no actual pieces of fallen roofs to replace the stolen ones.

The moment I get home I sprint to my bedroom and start to cry.  I cry for my broken windows that Amber doesn’t have to worry about.  I cry for the faded wallpaper that serves as my only decoration in my bedroom.  I cry that my bed creaks every time I move, or even breathe.  I cry for my broken project, and that in three days time, my mother will have to go back to her job that gives her headaches because Amber has beaten me again.  But most importantly, I cry for Amber and Brooklyn and Jennifer, because even though they have anything they could possibly want, they still envy the girl who has no father, money, or even friends.

By the time I have cried until I can hardly see anymore because my eyes are too swollen, my mother will be home soon.  I have to bring myself back to reality, and help her with dinner.  So when she walks in the door and greets me with warm hug and a kiss on my forehead, I let her grateful smile envelope me and hold me like a warm blanket.

Halfway throughout our feast of mac and cheese, she starts to question me about my day.

“It was alright,” I say with little enthusiasm.  I can tell that she is not fooled.

“No Callie it wasn’t.  I know something happened.  Tell me,” she encourages.  I shake my head.

“I can’t.  I need to figure this out on my own.”  My mother can be really brave sometimes, and right now, I think she understands that in order for me to become a strong woman like herself, I need to solve some of my own problems.

With only two days until Friday, I wake with a start.  I dress quickly, and eat in a daze because I am too preoccupied to think of anything but my project.  ‘This is my only hope.  I have to find a way to expose Amber for what she really is, and get my materials back.  Then, I can finish, and hopefully win.’

Within 20 minutes, I am out the door and hurrying to get to school so I can carry out my plan to humiliate Amber into giving me my garbage back.  I plot my revenge on Amber the entire four and a half miles.  The plan is, in the courtyard, I will march straight over to the Popucats, and demand my roofs back.  When they refuse, because I know they will, I will start to laugh at them and question whether or not they deserve their popularity, since Amber felt the need to cheat to win a contest against me, the girl with nothing.  This will work.  I can feel it.

When I arrive at school, the Popucats are already there, under the shade of the willow, laughing about something I will never know.  As planned, I strut over to them, and firmly demand for them to return the stolen items.  

I am about to start reprimanding, her when Amber surprises me with a “fine”, and a sneer.

That really catches me off guard.  Here I am standing here like an idiot, thinking I was going to become a hero, because I finally took them down.  But, yet again, I am the one who wants things too badly.  Amber doesn’t need this.  She only stole them from me to make me upset.  

I realize then that I was about to become as bad as Amber.  I was about to humiliate her, just so I can feel better about myself.  I am repulsed and ashamed by myself, and it ruins my moment of triumph.

After school, I put the roofs back on, and fix everything else up.  Tomorrow I will make sure everything looks as good as it will get, then I will turn in it to the NYAL at the Community Center a few blocks from school.  

On Thursday, everything goes according to plan.  My project is amazing and it is surely the most unique entry the judges will have seen.

Tonight, I am so nervous I can hardly sit in one place for more than a minute.  Constantly, I am biting my nails, and thinking to myself, ‘What if I lose?’ even though I can’t afford to act like this.

Today is friday, and at the end of the day we are having an assembly to watch the announcement of the winners from the local news.  I think it is a cruel and unusual punishment to force kids to wait for so long, but I don’t dare voice my opinion in case I get in trouble and have to sit out of the assembly.  

Finally, the secretary calls for the seventh grade to make it down to the assembly hall to be seated.  As my class and I walk down the stairs, I start to feel sick.  Once I am seated, I feel a bit better, but still like I might throw up.  Right now the principal is calling for our attention.

“Students and faculty members, we are gathered here today to witness some very talented young artists hopefully win a prize.  I want you all to be very quiet, and respectful because they have worked so hard.  Now, when we turn the TV on, I want absolute silence.”  No one is talking, but everyone is hyperventilating, secretly praying that the million dollars will become theirs.  The show begins.

“Hello Elmore, I’m Marty Goodman,” the news man starts.  “Today I have a special announcement for all those young artists out in the area that participated in the Elmore Branch of the National Youth Art League’s million dollar contest.  I’m going to be announcing the winners.  So lets get the ball rolling!  In fifth place, we have Andy Werdington!  Congratulations son, you just one yourself one hundred dollars!”  Andy doesn’t go to this school, but nobody’s eyes are breaking the hold they have on the TV.  The reporter continued.  “In fourth place, Miss Rebecca Harsh winning five hundred dollars!  Nice job!  Next we have our third place winner, Candace Duster winning one thousand dollars!”  The front of the crowd burst into loud whistles and cheers.  The girl that had the pink sparkly book covers must be Candace, because many people are patting her on the back.  The crowd quiets as Marty talks on.  “We are down to the final two winners!  Winning five thousand dollars, Amber Golding takes the crown!”  Yet again, the Popucats encourage the crowd to react.  I am on the edge of my seat thinking to myself ‘This could be very bad or very good.  Either I win the million dollars, or nothing.’  Everybody, even the Popucats fall silent as he announces the winner of the contest.  “And finally, the million dollar first place winner is, Callie Marshalls.  Congratulations to all.  Winners, stop at the Elmore Community Center this afternoon to claim your prize.”

The room is quiet as everyone takes in the fact that I, the outsider they all make fun of, beat Amber.  Then, BOOM!!!  I am being patted on the back, having my hand shaken, and receiving hugs from people whose names I don’t know.  The only people not congratulating me are the Popucats, but I don’t need their acceptance.

I glow as I walk the few blocks to the Community Center after school.  The representatives from the NYAL shake my hand as they give me my million in oversized check form.  After a few pictures, a representative drives me home in a limo that is even larger than Amber’s.  Once we reach my house, I get an extra smile and a goodbye.

I wait in the kitchen just smiling at the clock until my mom arrives home.  I show her my check, and she lunges across the table to give me the biggest hug anyone in the history of the world has ever gotten.

I felt like a princess that night.  But that project did me more than get me a million dollars.  It made me realize that there will always be bubbles of hate mixed in with the bubbles of love, but as long as I only blow those of love, the rest will pop.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Football Handshake

This is so cute! I had no idea they were doing!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Columbus Day Fun Day

Monday the kids were off of school, my office was closed so we we headed downtown for some fun and I had high hopes of getting a Christmas picture of the kids!

First stop - A rooftop.  All seemed better in theory as it was so bright and so windy.  

Best picture of the kids before they almost flew away!

EB!  She loved the pretty flowers behind her.
May have to use this picture of the kids for our card as it appears they all get along and are cooperative.  

Tate's suggestion of how we should take pictures.

We picked Peter up and headed to Gino's East.  We have never taken the kids to such a touristy spot.  They LOVED writing on the walls.

Tate admiring his cyclops smiley face.  

Polo Girl 21


EB hard at work.

Off to find more spots.

After lunch with a much less crabby Fisher.  

Can you find Harper and EB's signatures?

Peter and the kids!
EB with the decorated tree out front.


My girls.

Love them!

A picture of me with the kids!

We dropped Peter off at work and headed to Montrose Harbor for some pictures and fun! It was perfect Chicago fall day.  Just wish Peter was with us.

Tate had played on the turf on Sunday and wanted to go back and practice.  Harper even joined in.

Taking a walk up the big hill.  

The beach!!!!  Thinking maybe we could live close to the ocean year round, it could be a lot of fun!

The girls friends met us at the beach for pictures and there was more fun than pictures.

This picture really melts my heart!

One last effort at pictures.  Notice the more miserable Harper is the more Tate is smiling.  He is such the youngest. 

Maybe we got a winner of a picture after all.