Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday

 I like to do quiet art projects on Good Friday.  Coloring stations of the cross, making Resurrection Eggs, or stained glass crosses, are all nice ways of keeping the focus on the day while letting the kids enter the mystery at whatever level they can.

This diorama from Catholic Inspired was from earlier in the week.  I couldn't get her patterns to print at the right size, so I expanded the background on our black and white copier and had the kids supply the color.

This was a blessing in disguise, because it allowed for greater individuality.

The top one was Leena's.  The one to the right is Zorg's.

I did a peephole diorama with the extra "too small" pictures.

Klenda painted her own background.

Mxyl used the background to give Jesus a "halo" that somehow intensifies the scene.

One project we do every Good Friday is to color Jesus on the cross, cut out his body and put it on the cross on our Walking with Jesus poster.  At 3:00, we take down his body, wrap it in a tissue, and seal it in the "tomb" with the round "stone" taped to the poster.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Garden Science

Among the seeds I wanted to plant were beans, peas and nasturtiums.

These are all big seeds which undergo fun transformations as they sprout, so we looked at them and handled the dry seeds first, then tucked them into damp paper towels in bags

We've been taking them out and observing them once each day.

Once they are well sprouted, we'll set them out in the garden, or in peat pots indoors, if this weather doesn't warm up!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Chemical Changes

 We started out reviewing what physical and phase changes are, then jumped into chemical changes. 

First on the list: rust!  The day before, I had placed pennies on a paper towel soaked with vinegar, and they had developed a nice green layer of verdigris.  I also had dredged up a variety of rusty tools and screws from the basement.

Rust is interesting because it is the same chemical reaction as fire:it's the addition of oxygen to a substance.  It also, like fire, puts out a measurable amount of heat, if you can get the rust reaction going fast enough (steel wool in vinegar can be measured with a thermometer).  Oxidation reactions are also the way we turn food into energy in our bodies!

Then it was time for one of my favorite chemicals: hydrogen peroxide!  This stuff is great! At 3% it's an antiseptic.  At 6% it's hair bleach.  At 18% it's a stain remover.  At 100% it's rocket fuel!
All that and it breaks down into harmless water and oxygen.

First we tried it on Choclo's scratch.  It bubbled satisfactorily.
If you have a large enough reaction, those bubbles feel warm because breaking that extra oxygen off of hydrogen peroxide (2H2O2 into 2H2O and O2) breaks a chemical bond, which releases heat. Fortunately, Choclo's scratch was pretty small, so we just saw bubbles.  Those bubbles are there because the peroxide is in contact with living cells.

Virtually all living cells make an enzyme which breaks down hydrogen peroxide.  That's because all those cells make their own peroxide as a waste product in the energy cycle.

This makes peroxide an excellent "living cell detector!"  Where could we find cells?

All over the kitchen!  My favorite was testing both raw and cooked meat.  The raw meat fizzed, and the cooked did not.  We also did potatoes, bananas, mangoes, oranges, (all of which fizzed) and crackers, noodles, lentils, and pretzels (none of which reacted).

I had intentionally included some starches because the next experiment tested the same group, this time with iodine! 

All the starches turned black.  You can also see one of our "rusty" pennies on this plate.
But starches are just complex carbohydrates, and complex carbohydrates are made of simple carbohydrates (sugars).

The iodine turned flour an instant black, but in the sugar it had no change at all.

I had the kids chew crackers for a minute without swallowing so they could taste the change as their mouth enzymes broke the starchy crackers into sugars.

 Next we dropped an egg into vinegar.  The vinegar reacted with the calcium in the shell, and formed bubbles.  It takes two days for this reaction to finish. 

Fortunately, I had started an egg two days before!

Shell-less eggs are fascinating!

For one thing, the membrane is rubbery and translucent.  You can see the yolk rolling around inside.

For another, soaking in the vinegar, the egg has absorbed a lot of water, and so is quite a bit larger than it used to be!

And, when lobbed on the driveway, it gives an amazing grand finale to your science class (and proves that it really was a raw egg)!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Garden Box

You have to realize, this is more than box to me.  It's more than a garden to me.

This is the garden my kids built for me! After years of not being able to garden because I was taking care of my kids, now I can garden because my kids are taking care of me!

I've wanted to try a raised square foot garden for a few years now, but never quite had the money to set it up.  The kids built this one out of spare folding closet doors, spare boards, angle irons, and some extra paint.

 We filled it with compost, peat moss and topsoil.

We marked off one foot sections with roofing nails and cheery yellow yarn.

Then we started planting!

Monday, March 25, 2013


 March 25th, a day when we are usually reveling in spring blossoms, looks like this! 

I measured nearly 3 inches of snow. 

Not bad for spring, especially when you consider that our total winter snowfall was 1.7"!

Gospel Dessert: Palm Sunday

 For some reason, the kids did not want palm sundaes this year.

So I tried palm shaped sugar cookies.

I took regular sugar cookie dough, rolled it out, sprinkled it with green sugar, then free hand cut ovals from it.

I tried putting little diagonal cuts to make them look more like palm branches, but they were pretty subtle by the time they were baked.

Still, they were well received as the first cookies in nearly 40 days!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Poem of the Week

HT: Bartleby
John Donne
72. "Death be not proud, though some have called thee"
DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,         5
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,  10
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1.  My children have spontaneously started building yurts!  With my long standing fascination with all things Mongolian, I can't tell you how excited I am by this.  It's a real yurt: removable, solid, round walls, solid door (you can't see the door in this picture) and fabric roof.   It makes me want to go out and buy a bunch of horses and recurve bows... or herd camels.

 2.  On St. Joseph's Day we had cream puffs.  It's a solemnity.  In fact, it's a holy day of obligation in the universal church!  So it was fine to have dessert. Not that anyone (cough, cough, the Emperor, cough, cough) would ever tease me about the number of desserts we have in Lent.

It's just St. Joseph, and St. Patrick, and Sundays, and Leena's birthday (a major feast in the domestic church, so, naturally, we also celebrate the vigil), and ice cream sundaes every time we go to confession.  Oh, I guess we had pie for Pi Day, too.

3.  That reminds me, I forgot to post the last two weeks Gospel desserts!

Week  4's gospel was the prodigal son.  Except, at our Mass they  did the gospel of the healing of the man born blind! It was also Laetare Sunday, and Leena's birthday party, and, since she had a pink cake, I called it a day.

Week 5's gospel was the woman caught in adultery, and I did meringue "stones."

4. Back to St. Joseph's day. I figured it would be all right to do Oob's favorite math activity: marshmallow math!

It has been super cold, so we made an inside number line, and practiced adding, subtracting and dividing.

Making this numberline with the kids was fun.  We used different colors for different numbers and looked for patterns.

5. In other math news, Choclo, Oob, and I have been playing store a lot.  After teaching basic math 6 times, I think playing store is the best way to cultivate number sense, and get automatic adding, subtracting and multiplying going.  Also it gets loose change sorted!  We had $17.83 in loose change with no quarters to be found anywhere (all swiped for parking on field trips!)

In other, other math news: Klenda has finished Geometry, Zorg is nearly done with Algebra 1, Leena is into decimals, and Mxyl is doing Precalculus!  Wahoo! 

6. It has gotten so cold here that the cherry blossom bloom time has gotten pushed back by more than a week!  Which means our magnolia visit got pushed back a week.  We were scheduled to visit this week, and we actually took a trip there without our usual group of friends.  But it was breezy and cold and hardly any buds had opened.  Next week should be glorious, though!

7. One good thing about the evil time change.

It's given us the best crop of bed head ever.

Have a great week end!  More quick takes fun with Jen.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Franciscan Monastery

 Last Wednesday we visited the Franciscan Monastery.  This is an accurate recreation of the the Holy Land pilgrimage sites, and one of our archdiocese's pilgrimage sites for the Year of Faith.

Here we have Zorg, praying at St. Joseph's altar (Zorg loves St. Joseph!).

I love visiting the monastery!  It's run by the same Franciscans that are the caretakers of the Holy Land sites represented here, and our guide had spent most of his life in the Holy Land. 

My mom has visited both the actual Holy Land and the monastery, and says it's very accurate but less noisy and more prayerful!

 Here, as in the Jerusalem, the place Jesus died is on one side of the church, and, directly behind me as I was taking this picture, there is Jesus' tomb.

Most of the walls are covered with bas-relief sculptures.  The stained glass windows, made in Germany, depict Franciscan saints.  It was a thoroughly Franciscan experience, which made it quite stunning, later that day, when our new Holy Father took the name Francis!

They also have replicas of the catacombs beneath the church.  That was really neat, especially since they have reproduced the little chapels where the early persecuted Christians had Mass.

Then there is a beautiful covered rosary walk with pictures of all the mysteries and 150 different versions of the Hail Mary (150 languages).  Choclo loved this and said he wanted to do "the whole Jesus story."  So we did!

 We also visited the Lourdes grotto and the outdoor stations of the cross.  This early in the season we had the place to ourselves and it was quiet and prayerful (except for occasional Choclo and Oob noise which only bothered us!).

It was a beautiful and prayerful visit, just perfect for Lent!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Gas Chemistry

 After several times forgetting to take pictures during class, this time I gave Klenda the camera - thanks Klenda!
 We started out talking about how we know something is a solid, liquid, or gas.

The kids came pretty close with solids and liquids!  A solid holds it's shape, a liquid takes the shape of it's container.  But a gas is harder to define!  A gas takes the shape of it's container and is compressible!  Liquids, by definition, are not compressible, hence the field of hydraulics.

To show that a gas is compressible, I decompressed some gas in a way the kids could feel: I popped a balloon and let them feel the puff of expanding air!

Next we talked about mixtures.  Mixtures of solids (Old Bay), liquids (milk in tea), and gases (air).  The mixtures of solid and liquid (sugar in tea), solid and gas (smoke), liquid and gas (fog) and, the one we worked with most, gas in liquid (soda!)

I had bought 10 little "chubby" sodas in "blueberry."  These were selected primarily because I needed the bottles for the next experiment, but also because it was transparent.

First the kids needed to drink a little to make room in the bottle!  Then they dropped in alphabet noodles (uncooked).  The gas bubbles formed on the outside of the noodles, raising them to the top, and then dropping them back to the bottom as the gas released at surface.  Fun, dancing noodles!

Then we put salt in the soda.  The salt provides lots of surface area (nucleation sites) for the gas to form from the liquid, and it makes the soda foam and over flow!!

Then we rinsed the bottles and filled them partially with vinegar.  I had pre loaded balloons with baking soda and the older kids helped fit the necks of the balloons around the necks of the bottles.

The kids tipped the balloons up, the baking soda fell into the vinegar, and the balloons inflated with carbon dioxide!

This is my favorite kid experiment!  We tied off the balloons and had the kids experiment with them.  COis heavier than air, so the balloons fall unexpectedly quickly.  I also provided some air filled, and some helium filled balloons for contrast.  So fun!  Try listening through the different balloons!

  Next I had the kids blow into lime water.  The water itself is made by putting canning lime in water overnight.  The excess lime settles out, leaving you with water containing a lot of calcium oxide (lime).

When calcium oxide meets carbon dioxide, it combines into tiny particles of calcium carbonate (limestone), and the water turns milky. You make rocks with your breath!!

 Eventually, the limestone settles to the bottom.  Very cool!

We also tried an experiment where we put yeast with sugar water in a sealed bottle with a tube to vent the CO2 into a container of lime water.

The water should turn milky over the course of a day or so. Unfortunately, I over did the yeast, and got an overflow of yeasty mess.  Oops!  My fault for not trying the experiment before hand.

But this was a super fun class, anyway!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Feast of St. Joseph!

Here is our St. Joseph Altar! 

This is an Italian tradition.  (If you aren't Catholic, we're NOT worshiping St. Joseph, we're honoring him as the foster father of Jesus).  The altar is supposed to have three levels (for the Holy Trinity, whom we DO worship).

We love St. Joseph because he was so promptly obedient to God, because he took such good care of Mary and Jesus, and because he taught Jesus (humanly speaking) how to be a man.  He's the patron of families and of the universal church!

The traditional St. Joseph altar contains flowers and an assortment of symbolic (and super tasty!) foods which are then given to the poor.

Our traditional food for this feast is cream puffs.

We have flowers, our sacrifice beans, and our jar collecting funds for Heifer, so that's a way of having food for the poor!

You can visit the virtual St. Joseph Altar here.  They have lots of great coloring pages and crafts.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Poem of the Week

The Charge Of The Light Brigade
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
Memorializing Events in the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854
Written 1854

Half a league half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred:
'Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns' he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

'Forward, the Light Brigade!'
Was there a man dismay'd ?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do & die,
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd & thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack & Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke,
Shatter'd & sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse & hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
HT to National Center 

Friday, March 15, 2013


That would be 650 ponds (about a third of a ton) of flour and sugar.

The bakery supply warehouse where I've been getting my flour and sugar for the last ten years suddenly changed their policy to a $250 minimum.

This is $254.55, and 6 months worth of baking supplies.

Now I just need to put it away.