Thursday, August 28, 2008

Oob, the Walking Edition

He's walking for real now.

He still walks delicately, hands outstretched, with a delicious smile that says, "Look, Mom, no hands!"

When I stretch out my arms to him he gives me a puckish grin and toddles in the opposite direction. "Look what I can do!"

He sees something across the room, wobbles over, seizes his prize and then giggles with delight! "I did it!"

At the Arboretum he walked more than he ever had before. He got tired and put his arms up to me with a worried look.

I picked him up and he snuggled against my neck. I was so very grateful to carry him back to the van, still my baby for just a little while.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Happy First Day of No School!

Yes! It's that time of year again! Monday was the day the public school kids went back.

What I had hoped to do was give the kids a preview of all the fun stuff we'll be doing, hang out and celebrate our freedom from the school schedule by doing lots of fun educational stuff they wouldn't be doing if they went to school. And get slurpees.

What actually happened was that our beloved Grammie was going off on a trip later in the week, so we ended up spending most of the day with her, hanging out, and having slurpees. So that was OK!

We just pushed everything else later into the week. Happy First Week of No School, was nearly interrupted on Tuesday by a Mommy meltdown, but that ended up being PMS, so that was OK (eventually, after chocolate).

Which brings us to today which was great! We tried out our new workbooks (we like doing workbooks from time to time) and then went off on an expedition to the Arboretum.

That was lovely! Our first trip with Oob walking! He loved the nice soft grass under his toes (ours is a bit crispy at present). Best of all: gravel! Yes, the beds in the dwarf conifer garden are mulched in gravel. Perfect for picking up and dropping back down. (I don't totally get the appeal, but I have not yet had a toddler that hasn't loved spending an hour or so doing this, so who am I to argue tastes?)

The older Zoomlians took pictures (the picture was by Mxyl) and played a game of hide and seek that was either wildly successful or dismally unsuccessful. No one found anyone (the garden is vast and lushly planted, and Zoomlians are wily) but no one minded, so that was OK. And they collected 172 cicada shells. That's not hyperbole, they counted them when they got home. Interestingly, Zorg, who collects cicada shells, had just yesterday found one with the cicada still inside ("one without a hole"). It was examined carefully then placed on our maple tree.

I taught the older Zoomlians how to identify pines and cedars. This was a triumph for me which nearly expunges my mortification at discovering (at the age of 10) that not all evergreens were pine trees. I went to visit my grandmother in Washington state and I was surprised at how many pine trees they had... In my defense, we didn't have many conifers on the base where I grew up. To my grandmother (born and raised in conifer heaven), it was like calling an oak a maple. As shocked as she was, maybe it was more like calling a telephone pole a maple. I'm pretty sure my Mom heard about it. My point is: look Grandma, my kids can tell a cedar from a pine! I'm still working on the spruce/fir thing myself. I think it's spruce cones point down and fir cones point up. Or the other way around.

In other news, we are going camping on Assateague this weekend. Please don't rob my house. We have a tent. We can put it up. We can take it down. We have an enormous list of WHAT NOT TO FORGET. I don't know where I put it. This will be fun. Really. Kate told me so! We are actually getting pretty excited!! Now I remember: I have to call Coleman and tell them I found the missing pieces under the tent when I took it down. We'll be fine. We're going to have a great time! Right, Kate?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Bright Idea

We did it! The lamps work great!

Here we have Lampbot (Mxyl's of course). Lampbot is actually a water bottle glued to a takeout plastic container covered with construction paper and spray painted. The socket fit neatly into the bottle neck and I was able to drill a hole in the bottom to put the cord through.

Zorg's lamp was a spice container in a previous life. We filled it part way with sand for ballast and then he added Lego figures (just the duplicates, he assured me). The beauty of this lamp (and Klenda and Leena's lamps) is that you can unscrew the lid and change the contents.

We fished lamp wire (just like the cord on your lamps) through the body. We separated it into 2 wires at the end and stripped the last inch or so of plastic off of each wire. We formed the exposed copper wire into a loop and put it over the screws in the base of the socket. We tightened the screws and that was it for the socket. We pulled the cord on the other end so the socket was nice and tight.

On the other end we had a plug that opened up and squeezed shut onto the cord. You could see little metal teeth which bit into each wire exactly where the prong was. It's a circuit, see? One prong into one wire into the socket, through the socket, into the other wire, into the other prong.

Screw in a light bulb, plug it in, and turn it on!

Mission 8

Mxyl and Dr Inferno just spent 4 hours or so putting together Lego Agents Mission 8. Mxyl has done Missions 2 - 5 already.

I'm not sure if you can see the 5 million or so teeny tiny lego bricks in the lava mountain. The circular contraption on one end is a pit where hapless agents can be dangled from one foot over a pool of bubbling lava.

You can also see the helicopter which drops netting on bad guys, the secret weapon of doom atop the mountain, the agent getaway car and the gate which blares an actual alarm when the car goes crashing through it.

I am thinking we should bring Dr Inferno along on the camping trip and have the two boys figure out how to put up the tent!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

An Electrifying Start

to our home school year! We started with static electricity, then current electricity, generators and electrical safety. We should be finishing up with making lamps from scratch. More on that later.

Our favorite resources were:

1 The Magic School Bus book- I love the original books - chock full of serious information presented in a fun way that invites co-reading. The books and computer games are also very good for reading to a wide age range. The younger kids pay attention to the semi comic book format and absorb a lot of information, the older kids retain the details and more complex concepts. The only thing they are short on is practical experiments - they have some, but not enough. That's not a quibble, I don't see how much more could be added to the books!

2 Bill Nye the Science Guy - I have most of his shows on tape, but you can usually get them at the library. Fun, manic, ever entertaining, enlightening and encouraging, when I worked at JHU, all the MD PHDs wanted to meet Bill Nye. His tapes are great, even if you want to laugh at the 90s references. We used the episodes Static Electricity , Current Electricity and a more recent episode on Electrical Safety.

3. 1001 Ways to Explore Science and Nature - This is a very useful and kid friendly book which fills the gap between Mudpies to Magnets (a truly terrific book for toddlers to kindergarteners) and 730 Easy Science Experiments (great for 4th grade and up) with a lot of overlap in either direction. In this case, we made a static electricity detector (electroscope) and had lots of fun with balloons, combs, water, salt, etc.

4. Snap Circuits - These were an expensive investment 3 years ago when Mxyl was old enough to start using them. I wouldn't have gotten them. Fortunately, Grammy stepped in and said, "How about as a Christmas present?" If I knew then what I know now, I would have sprung for them. Today Mxyl deftly explained, modeled and helped Klenda, Zorg, and Leena build a variety of circuits (including teaching me what a short circuit is and how it works!). Along the way he modeled conductors, insulators, resistors, fans, lights, telegraphs, sirens and more! WOW! Substitute teachers are cool!!!

Hm. Oob just climbed on my lap and I discovered that he had no diaper. Hm. A second Diaper Houdini. Got to go.

Did You Have a Plan for World Domination

as a kid? I don't think I did. If I did, I don't remember. The Emperor had a great one: since Godzilla and other giant monsters don't actually exist, they couldn't save the world if he built a giant robot... that's where he got stuck since he couldn't figure out how to make the robot.

A boy/girl thing? Evidently not.

When questioned Mxyl and Klenda each admitted a plan. Mxyl's involved flying nanobots carrying a computer virus. Klenda's involved nanobots and was a little too creepy to mention here.

I gave the Emperor the memo:

We're not supposed to be raising evil geniuses here!

Maybe it's a comic book reading/non comic book reading thing?

And that virus on your hard drive wasn't us! Mxyl is still working on the nanobots.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

My Mother is Laughing at Me

On the way back from getting more parts for marshmallow blasters, Klenda was asking about Octember. There is a Dr. Suess book in which all good things are promised to happen on the first of Octember.

A teachable moment. I decided to explain how and why a writer would write about something impossible. I unfortunately chose as an example the phrase "when pigs fly."

I started with the question: Can pigs fly?

Answer from the back of the van: Yes.

If you put a pig in an airplane it can fly.
If you have a large enough eagle (or small enough pig) it can fly.

Me: No, no, can a pig fly by itself?

If it has a rocket booster, or jet pack it can fly.

Me: No, I mean all by its piggy self without help.

Zoomlian pigs fly all the time.


If its on Zoom it can.
If its a really smart Earth pig it can make its own jet pack.
If it climbs a tree and jumps it can fly (although not for very long and only in one direction).

Me: Never. Mind.

Oooh! Ask us more impossible questions!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Museum Opening

This is our friend Bill.
Bill can do anything.
OK, almost anything!
He's a computer engineer and he donated an entire wing of our museum, so he was the logical choice as the ribbon cutter.

This our main museum.
The top is cool stuff we've found.

The left side is sea shells.

The center is fossils (including the shark teeth in the white cabinet).

The bottom center shelf has our rock collection.

On the upper right we have crystals (including some from the salt potatoes!).

We also have a bird nest with various feathers and egg shells and a blank shelf for further expansion.
And here is Bill with the wing named after him. We are also very grateful his last name is simpler than Udvar-Hazy.

We have rotating exhibits related to space (particularly the Apollo program) on the top shelf.

The second shelf is dedicated to science fiction models.

The third has boats and submarines.

The bottom shelf has aircraft and a working model of a car engine.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


The highpoint of the day was Mxyl and Klenda figuring out how to make these marshmallow blasters from Howtoons. What clever kids!

The low point was Oob figuring out how to pull the chairs away from the table so he could climb up on the table and then figuring out how to get the lid of of the brand new bottle of strawberry syrup and then figuring out how to pour the strawberry syrup into the Parmesan cheese as well as over the table and himself. What a clever kid.

You Must Buy This!!!

It's called Howtoons. No, I'm not actually selling it (or in any way affiliated), but this book is incredible!

You don't actually need to buy it, either. The Emperor and I each picked up a copy at the library and eagerly showed each other our prize in the car on the way home.

It turns out it also has a very cool web page here. Check out their blog for fabulous ideas, websites and videos!

So far, Klenda has built and installed a swing (by herself) and we just bought the PVC to make the marshmallow blaster. So cool!!!

It is a graphic novel which shows (among other things) how kids can come up with ideas, work to construct and refine their own inventions, make and use safety equipment and safely use tools and other equipment. Did I mention it is SOOO COOL?? I personally would buy this book for myself if I had no kids.

Oh, Stickman, if you're reading this, we already bought a copy for your kids for Christmas.... Let us know if you need it early!

You Know It's a Great Vacation When

visiting your parents reminds you what you liked best about being a kid.

Fun with Mumpy

What else can you do at Mumpy and Pa's?

Mumpy can teach you to walk.

Then, when you're walking well, Mumpy can take you hiking.

And she can show you a special waterfall.

Where you can go swimming (or at least wading)!

Mumpy also can play lots of fun games like the Family Fun Game and the silly frog game.

And Mumpy might even let you make brownies all by yourself (except for the oven).

Thanks Mumpy! We had a great time!!

Fun with Pa

What can you do when you visit Mumpy and Pa?

Well, Pa could teach you to fish.

Or you can pretend to fish while posing winsomely by the lake. Pa will put a lure on your line with no hooks so you can practice casting.

Or you can throw rocks in the water. In fact you can spend an entertaining afternoon or two (or three) picking up rocks from the driveway and carrying them back to throw in the lake. Pa can throw the farthest.

You can go out in the boat with Pa, and maybe he'll let you row.

Pa could teach you how to start a fire. He also gives excellent tips on marshmallow roasting.

Or Pa could teach you some archery.

Or you could find a pile of Pa's old vinyl and have a dance party!

Thanks, Pa! We had a great time!!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Beautiful New Jesey

I know Kate believes me, but in case anyone else has their doubts...

This is a lake near my parent's house. I took the photo, but I don't know the person in the canoe.

The second photo I took from inside my parent's house during a sunny rain storm.

The third is from a farm near the house. I used to like to walk there and watch their sheep. Alas, they've sold off most of the land and there are unsightly houses sprouting up in the fields, a common problem in the area, I'm afraid.

I'll post pictures of the kids separately.

Busy Busy Busy

Lots happening here, so the blog has gotten squeezed out for the last two weeks. Here are the things I am hoping to blog about:

We went on vacation! We visited my folks in beautiful, scenic New Jersey. Stop snickering! That was not sarcastic! They actually live in the north west corner of NJ near the Appalachian trail, the Delaware water gap and the Poconos. They live on one of the many small lakes nestled in the mountains there.

Oob started walking!

We did a massive reorganization of the home school room (And the exercise/store room. And the guest/sewing room. And the kitchen window. And we are working on the library...)

We opened a museum.

We layed our home school schemes, er, plans for the year (or at least the first semster).

We are debating a massive excursion to camp on the beach on Assateague Island with our home school group. Currently leaning towards it, but haven't bought the tent yet!

The Emperor is returning to school next week... NOT PANICKING. NOT PANICKING. NOT THINKING ABOUT IT. Bah, humbug. Reality is so rude, sometimes.