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Have you ever embarked on a project only to realize too late that you were overly invested? That’s where I found myself the other night. I’m going to relate the experience to you now in hopes that you can learn from my mistakes or possibly just get a good laugh.

My daughter and I decided to make some bath bombs from a kit that had been sitting around for far too long. We dumped out all the contents onto our kitchen table and spread out the directions so we could follow along as we progressed. The process looked straightforward enough. It involved mixing baking soda and citric acid with water and dye until the resulting formula could stay together after being squeezed in one’s hand. Easy peasy, right?

Wrong. Very wrong.

Things started out smoothly. I measured the baking soda and citric acid into a bowl and let my daughter add the strawberry scent drops and glitter. We noted that the magazine-worthy bath bomb on the box had several colors swirling together in a vibrant pattern that undulated over its flawless, round surface.

Not to be outdone, and with much early-process bravado, I cried “Get four more bowls!”

My daughter happily and with an equal amount of swagger arranged the rest of our clean cereal bowls on the table so we could create several colors to mix together. I painstakingly divided our dry ingredients among them. We noticed the mounds were significantly smaller than the original mixture.

“No matter,” I said dismissively. “We’ll just add color, and then we’ll swirl all of them together and it will look just like the picture.”

And looking back, this assumption was a grave mistake, but I digress.

So, my daughter dropped purple dye onto one tiny mound of powder and glitter. I mixed it with gloved hands, and the result was a lavender sludge that stuck mostly to the gloves. I scraped as much of it as I could into the bowl, but I was dismayed at how little of it there was. We went with turquoise for the second bowl, and the meager result was, again, alarming. At this point, I panicked and dumped the remaining dry ingredients in with the mixtures we already had.

“Pour in more dye!” I exclaimed.

And this is where I feel the train really left the tracks.

My daughter mixed more dye and dutifully dumped it onto the newly added dry ingredients, and I did my best to produce two differently colored batches of sludge that we could then combine, but the resulting mixture still didn’t fill the two halves of the round plastic mold that we were to use to produce our multicolored, spherical, glittering masterpiece.

“What??” I groaned. “But we measured these exactly like the directions said!”

“Well, mom,” my seven-year-old, who had been leaning on the table with one elbow watching me rearrange this disaster of a project, said in a sage tone, “you did lose quite a lot of sludge when it stuck to the gloves.”

“Yes, of course — that’s it. Add more dry ingredients!” I reasoned.

And so, in went more baking soda and citric acid - in correct proportions according to the recipe, which I had to figure in my head since sludge-covered gloves make phone calculator usage an impossibility.

At this point, my mother, who was visiting, cruised by and said, “Can’t you buy these things for, like, 50 cents apiece?”

“She doesn’t understand the value of our process,” I muttered to my daughter out of the corner of my mouth.

“Would you like to see me do a cartwheel?” she replied.

“Sure honey,” I said, accepting with heavy resignation that she was leaving the project and I would have to struggle on alone.

I loaded up the molds again and smashed them together in an effort to meld the two batches of now-hardening sludge. The directions said twisting them could be helpful, so I did that, noticing at that point that I had slightly overloaded the molds and that baking soda/citric acid/glitter/dye was steadily squelching out from between the rounded plastic pieces. I pushed on, determined not to allow them to separate lest the bath bomb fall apart.

I felt sweat roll down my left temple. My elbows ached from all the pushing and twisting.

At one point, my mom gently touched my shoulder and said with some obvious concern, “Honey, you don’t have to do this anymore. She’s lost interest.”

Indeed, my daughter had moved on and was careening around the kitchen perfecting her gymnastics moves, which she is typically not allowed to do inside, but given the situation (sludge covered hands/twisting molds/pouring sweat and all), I decided not to stop her.

“It’s OK. I’m done,” I said, taking a deep breath and pulling myself together. I gently attempted to separate one mold from its contents so the bath bomb could cure for 24 hours while lying in spherical form in the second mold, just as the directions said. The mixture immediately separated into two half moons encased in separate molds. I sank into a chair in despair. A tear may have rolled down my cheek.

I decided (wisely, I think) at that point not to try for a second bath bomb because the mess this process had produced was monumental, and cleanup was going to take nearly as long as the project itself. The half bath bombs were a greyish tone owing to the fact that the purple and turquoise had long since run together, and to actually empty them from their molds was obviously going to result in serious breakage.

And that, folks, is how the Crumblys ended up with two plastic-encased, half-moon-shaped, grey bath bombs which are still sitting in a place of honor on our kitchen counter and which we may never use because who would want to see that much hard work (literally) go down the drain.

Elizabeth Crumbly is a newspaper veteran and freelance writer. She lives in rural Northwest Georgia where she teaches riding lessons, writes and raises her family. She is a former editor of The Catoosa County News. You can correspond with her at www.collective-ink.com.

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