Of Angels and Science

Niu Valley Middle School Principal Justin Mew with Sophie.
Niu Valley Middle School Principal Justin Mew with Sophie.


My most important job is being a mom, and to tell you the truth, I’m just winging it. My daughters are perfect for me. They keep me balanced. They surprise me, they overwhelm me, they sometimes disappoint me, and they love me. I love them back, but that goes without saying.

I remember waking in the early morning when Sophie was a tiny baby in her crib beside our bed. She would giggle and gurgle, she’d blow bubbles, she’d get the feel of how her mouth worked, she’d talk to the angels, as my mother said. When you’re a new born, just a few weeks or a few months old, you remember angels, you remember how to talk to them, and you are still somehow connected to that life you had before you were born. It was fascinating to lay there beside John and be quiet so we could listen to her. And then you could hear her little voice change into the hungry baby voice, I’d put her to my breast and just wonder what the heck this kid would be about.

Last night she was recognized with five awards at the 55th Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair. She’s eligible to participate nationally in Washington, D.C., in September, so she’s already reviewing the application process. She competed with students from all over the state, from the private, public, and home-schooling systems. Her grandfather, Byron Bender, was a staunch supporter of public school systems, and his five kids did well while learning through the Hawaii DOE. Now Sophie and her sister are attending the same set of schools: Koko Head, Niu Valley, and next year Kaiser High. Each of these schools is recognized for their accomplishments. It is fantastic that my girls are attending them during this time.

I don’t really have a handle on her project, but it involves examining data gathered by several telescopes to find water on main belt comets. Why? I wonder, too. Probably to determine if water exists beyond earth, and probably to determine its origin. i’m not so sure she talks to angels any more, but her mind is on things so very far away.

All I can do is wonder. One of my favorite things to do is to look up at the stars at night. I get excited when I spot a satellite or the International Space Station, and I watch them until they fade into the deep. I, too, think about what or who might be out there, how amazing the universe is, and how difficult it is to distinguish oneself from others on this tiny blue marble of ours.

Yet, many people find a way to do that. When you’re 12 it really isn’t imperative that you know what you’re going to be when you grow up. But at 12 she does seem to have her act together much more than her 53-year-old mama. It’s OK. It’s my proof that evolution is more than a theory.

As we were on our way home last night, the girls were behind me talking in the van about today’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) luncheon at the Convention Center, to culminate STEM Week here in Hawaii. Sophie plays piano and viola, Her little sister Charlotte plays piano and is still thinking about what instrument she will take up next year when she goes to Niu.

Sophie said,” If they had included the arts in STEM, they could have called it STEAM.” They had a laugh over that. She is smart, but she’s also funny. Last night was one of those gift nights for the memory bank. I’m really honored these two girls are mine to shepherd through this world. You can’t imagine how I feel about that. You can’t imagine how at any given moment it gives me a lump in my throat.

Sometimes I stumble through life, taking a hit here or there. But when I ask myself how I’m doing as a mom, I think the answer is so far, so good. And every day my brilliant girls tell me as much. Really. They actually tell me.


By lavagal

Hawaii Kai wife and mom. Melanoma Stage 3a Cancer survivor. English Language Arts teacher, English Learners Coordinator, and Paraprofessional Tutor. Super sub teacher. Dormant triathlete. Road cyclist and Masters swimmer. Gardener. Mrs. Fixit. Random dancer. Music Curator. A teenager trapped in an aging body. Did you know 60 is the new 40? It is.


  1. Pretty cool, huh? It’s great to have programs like STEM nurturing budding scientists such as Sophie and, especially in her case, HISTAR feeding her interest in astrophysics. The educators and professionals who give of their time and talent to foster the next generation of nerds deserve congratulations. You, too, mom. Great job, Sophie, and everyone along the way who helps feed her massive brain. 😉

  2. That’s fantastic! You must be so proud. Thank goodness for our children– they may drive us crazy, but they keep us sane at the same time. You are inspiring in your journey to keep fit for yourself and your family. =)

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