Thursday, May 30, 2013

Happy Birthday, Choclo!

 Choclo is  a great 8!

He had an Angry Birds themed party with friends.

We did a pinata!

We did an Angry Birds treasure hunt - the clues looked like Angry Birds, and the treasure at the end was a pile of kazoos.

We did Pin the Nose on the Piggy! The prize here was a bunch of Angry Birds disk shooters.  The kids all head a great time with those!

And, of course, we had an Angry Birds cake.  Meaning we just put the Angry Birds toys on the cake. I think my standards of cake decoration are declining, but Choclo loved it!

Eight Great Things About Choclo:
1. He can skip count by 15s.
2. He tells hilarious knock knock jokes.
3. He knows all about all 17 types of penguins!
4. He loves God very much, especially receiving Him in Communion.
5. He can move around under water like a shark!
6. He loves to play chess.
6. He loves adventures!
7. He likes to snuggle up and read.
8. He likes to help others.
8. He's curious about everything!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kids' Chemistry: Crystals

Crystals are molecules making regular formations.  This is usually dictated by the chemical properties of the molecule.

Water, for example, is a not just H2O, it's H-O-H.  It's polar: the larger oxygen atom carries a slight charge which bends away from the smaller hydrogen atoms.  This creates a bend in the molecule and causes the water molecules to stick to each other in regular ways.  That's why all snowflakes form with six sides; water crystals are 6 sided.

We started out by looking at examples of crystals in our rock collection.  This was lots of fun, and we got to talk about how different imperfections affect the clarity, color, and shape of the finished crystal.  Pure quartz, for example, is clear.  But different contaminants give it other colors: rose quartz (pink), smoky quartz (brown), citrine (yellow),  or  amethyst (purple). Agate, jasper, carnelian, tiger's eye, and onyx are all other kinds of contaminated quartz.

Next we looked at some salt crystals we had grown earlier.  The crystals which formed quickly were small and irregular.  The ones which had formed more slowly were larger and more perfect.

Then we made rock candy by making a super saturated sugar solution (3 cups of sugar to 1 cup water).

I have had trouble making rock candy before, but this time it worked pretty well.  I dipped the popsicle sticks into the sugar solution, then rolled them in sugar to make seed crystals. before hanging them back in the solution.

After a week, they were large enough to enjoy, although they didn't grow as large (or perfect) as the commercially available rock candy.

Still, it's the most success I've had, and they tasted like sugar!

Lastly, I tried an experiment I've wanted to do since I was a kid: grow a crystal garden!

I never got to do this because my Mom could never find bluing.  But I have the internet!

Here's what you need:
a dish or pie plate
porous substrate: bricks, concrete, charcoal, coal, even wood
2 parts water
4 parts non-iodized salt
2 parts ammonia
2 parts bluing

Put the substrate in the dish.
Mix the rest of the ingredients and pour them over the substrate.
When the liquid is gone, you can make more and add it to the dish (not on the crystals) to keep the crystals growing.

Here's what is happening: you are growing contaminated salt crystals.  The bluing breaks up the cubical form of natural salt crystals to give a feathery "flowery" growth.  The ammonia increases the evaporation and makes the crystals form faster (also interfering with their regular shape).  You know the contaminants make these salt crystals toxic, right?

And that was it for our Kids' Chemistry!  Hooray!  We made it!  And I hope it helps anyone else out there who wants to do a little chemistry exploration with kids!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Not so Easy Fun Art

I'm sure I'm the only one who has ever found a fantastic craft on the internet that, in real life, made me want to poke myself in the eye with a popsicle stick.

Well, here's a brilliant idea that must work for many people:

Slice a large potato in half.  Scoop out a section of the top and fill it with moist potting soil. Put the potato in a shallow dish of water and sprinkle the potting soil with grass seed. Decorate the potato to look like a face and, when the grass seed grows, you have hair on your potato person! 

What a great idea: a cute easy craft that incorporates art and science!  Let me fetch the popsicle stick before I continue.


Okay, this totally works and probably is the cutest easiest craft ever, unless your potato actually rots from sitting in the water.

In which case it will secrete a foul-smelling brown liquid, your house will smell horrible and you will find yourself answering interesting questions about microbiology. 

Then, if you are me, you will slice off the rotten section, bleach the dish and try again with the exact same results the next day. Why, yes, I do know the definition of insanity, why do you ask?

If you have the foresight (dare I say wisdom) to have given your potatoes large googly eyes, this will give the curious effect of slowly panicking potatoes, daily sinking further into the dish.

Eventually, I gave up, and cut a new  potato and did a "hair" transplant (Hair Club for Potatoes).  This time I skipped the water in the dish, and the potatoes aren't rotting (much).  The grass never grew as well as advertised, so, instead of cute lush hair spilling over around their little spud faces, I have two rather shocked mostly bald tater people. 

And I have Choclo, who saw them and exclaimed, "Whoa!  The potatoes grew!!"  Which is enough art and science for today.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Happy Memorial Day

 We visited our family graves and had a cook out.

At least we visited some of the graves.  When we went into Arlington, they had closed the routes in and out of the cemetery to accommodate Rolling Thunder. We were turned back into an hour and a half long traffic jam. :(

While I support Rolling Thunder, I think closing the cemetery to families on Memorial Day weekend was a poor choice.  I'm still trying to figure out who to write to about it. It's the first time our family has missed decorating our graves at Arlington since 1946.

 We brought the bouquets home and left them on the table to remember our loved ones.

We still had a lovely time with family, and we prayed for and reminisced about those of us who have gone home, so it was still a happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Poem of the Week


Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up,
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like the curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Seven Quick Takes

1.  White Knight, our long-suffering minivan, ended the suspense of the mysterious oil pressure problem by coughing up its transmission. So, we donated that car, and shared Blue Streak for a few weeks while we looked for another one.  This merely required pre-planning everything, reshuffling the schedule, and paying a library fine.

2. We eventually found a new car, and it has air conditioning.  Sure, it has low mileage and is mechanically sound, but after 3 years of record hot summers with no air conditioning, we now know what is really important.

3. We finished the younger kids chemistry class (blog post coming).  We finished the history class.  We finished CCD and Youth Group.  We finished Adventurers.

We also finished Tiger Scouts and made the cupcakes to prove it. As it turned out, they weren't  too cute to eat, and they disappeared quickly!

I'm not sure why wrapping everything up feels like running a marathon, but it does.

4.  Mxyl and Klenda have been helping care for two toddlers while their mom recovers from Baby #3.  Juggling this in the schedule was more complicated than I thought it would be.  It's a good thing, but I'm glad we're nearly done!

5. We had another shark tooth expedition!  We had another 6 or 7 families come with no overlap from last month's fossil hunt.  It started out cold and rainy and I thought no one else was coming, so I was pretty surprised when more and more and more people showed up.  I'm not sure why, but last month all the home schooling families came, and this month it was the families with kids too young for school. Everyone had a great time, the weather cleared, and we found about 75 teeth.  And we didn't get sunburned.

6. We had Mother's Day. In a continuing effort to fully express my treasured uniqueness, I was given these mugs.  Forgive me if this is obvious, but, the one on the left is a Mongolian, on a horse, with an eagle, thus hitting my interests in  Mongolia,  horses, and falconry.

The mug on the right features an elegant 18th century scientific sketch of certain squids and octopi.  But it's the squids that count!

Okay, I'll admit, it's not a sculpture of a squid tentacle bursting through a porthole, but you can't expect that every year.

7. I had a birthday  (I turned 43 which means I'm in my prime).

We had an anniversary (23 years, so we're in our prime).

We've been too busy to blog since then (you know smooching and all) so for a belated poem of the week, I'd like to offer one for The Emperor (who wrote me an entire book of poetry for our anniversary).

Sonnets from the Portuguese: XLIII
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.
I love thee to the level of everyday's
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;
I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.
I love thee with a passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood's faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, --- I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! --- and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
More 7QT fun with Jen.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kids' Chemistry: Acids and Bases

"This will be a basic science class," the teacher said acidly.

At any rate, you can't talk about chemistry with out talking about acids and bases.

An acid is a chemical with extra hydronium (H+) ions.  It tastes sour (but you don't want to taste many of them), feels astringent, reacts with metals (remember rusting steel wool with vinegar?) and bases (baking soda and vinegar anyone?), and it turns indicator strips red. It also can burn you if the acid is strong enough.

 A base, on the other hand, is a chemical with extra hydroxide (OH-) ions.  It tastes bitter (do you want to taste one?), feels slippery or soapy, reacts with acids, and it turns indicator strips blue.  It also can burn you if the base is strong enough.

When an acid reacts with a base, that H+ and OH- get together and form... H2O, water!  The rest of the acid and base form a salt.

Not necessarily salt, but a salt.  There are a lot of salts in chemistry, and not many of them are edible!  I asked the kids what color a salt was.  They said white, which is correct, but a salt can also be red, blue, green, yellow, orange, or purple.  Next I asked them how a salt tastes.  Salty, of course!  But a salt can also taste sweet, sour, bitter, or umami (MSG is a salt).

Next up, the pH scale.  This is a scale which tells you how  acidic an acid is and how basic a base is.  On a scale of 0 to 14, 7 is neutral, anything higher than a 7 is basic, and anything lower than 7 is acidic.  I didn't go into the fact that you can have acids lower than 0, and bases higher than 14, but you can.  If that sounds more dangerous than anything they are likely encounter before grad school, it is, particularly when you consider that the pH scale is logarithmic: each number you go down (or up) is 10 times as acidic (or basic) as the last.

At any rate, I had set out 13 random carefully selected substances for them to test, along with pH strips and a table to record their findings (Hey, look!  Something from the class that we can actually put in our portfolios!).

We had everything from laundry detergent to pickle juice, but my favorites were milk (base) and buttermilk (acid).

Then it was back to the kitchen floor for the demonstration reactions!
I had put baking soda (and a drop of soap) in a graduated cylinder and I poured in some vinegar.  It foamed and overflowed obligingly.  We poured in more vinegar.  It reacted again.  But, eventually, the reaction stopped, no matter how much vinegar we added.  We had "used up" the baking soda, of course, but in chemistry we say, "The baking soda was the limiting reagent."

So we added more baking soda, and it reacted again!  This time we kept adding baking soda until the reaction stopped, or, The vinegar was the limiting reagent."  I suspect the kids could have gone on and on all day adding one reagent then the other, but I had one more thing I wanted them to see.

Will an acid and a base always react with each other?

There is one circumstance where they won't.  I am holding a bath fizzy which we made around Christmas time.  Bath fizzies are basically powdered citric acid mixed with baking soda. The acid and base don't react with each other because the acid base reaction requires water!

Regular baking powder works the same way,which is why baking powder goes bad if exposed to enough humidity (double acting baking powder has a third component that activates when exposed to  heat).  Plain baking powder is baking soda with tartaric acid, which is why you use baking soda with cream of tartar if you ever run out of baking powder.  I've never been able to use that fact because I always run out of cream of tartar before I run out of baking powder, but your mileage may vary!

The kids had lots of  fun putting the bath fizzies in water and watching them fizz.  They also tried putting baking powder in the water in pinches and powdery handfuls.  Makes me glad I buy baking powder in one pound containers at the warehouse club.  It'll be the first time I used one up completely before it lost strength!

Tune in next week for our last chemistry class when we'll be looking at crystal formation!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Random Spring Things

 I finally downloaded photos from my phone and found all sorts of happy pictures.

Here's Choclo with the tulips he planted in his garden!

And here's Klenda when the Kwanzan Cherry blossoms were falling.  The whole family had a flower fight, flinging petals at each other and shaking the blossoms off the branches like pink snow.  I braided some of the flowers into Klenda's hair.

Some random playground fun from our playground hop last month.  We like to see how many playgrounds we can get to in one shot.

That's Zorg and Choclo climbing on the dome with Leena running by.  And Klenda, again!

We've been doing a lot of sculpey, and I make my own (super cheap!) playdough, but I found a pack of 24 colors of Play-Doh at Target, and I just couldn't resist it.

There's something magical about having that many colors at once!  Here, Oob is making an assortment of food with it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Our Toadstool Business is Mushrooming

 Leena asked if we could grow mushrooms again.

But, of course!

The thing about mushrooms is that they double in size each day until maturity.

We had the kit for about a week before the shrooms were ready to harvest.  The last four days are pictured!

And they were very tasty in a beef cashew stir fry!

These are pearl oyster mushrooms from this kit.  

We've tried a few kits over the years, but the ones from Fungi Perfecti seem to be the best.  Also, I think pearl oyster mushrooms are the best tasting mushrooms in the world, so we keep growing that one strain!

We are hoping they bloom again!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Poem of the Week

A Parting Guest

What delightful hosts are they --
   Life and Love!
Lingeringly I turn away,
   This late hour, yet glad enough
They have not withheld from me
   Their high hospitality.
So, with face lit with delight
   And all gratitude, I stay
   Yet to press their hands and say,
"Thanks. -- So fine a time! Good night."

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Happy Mother's Day!

The Emperor and the Zoomlians showed me this for Mother's day, and I have been teetering on the three way edge between sincerely touched, hysterical laughter, and appalled.  Kind of describes a lot of  my mothering career.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, Oob!

 Happy Birthday, Oob!

I can't believe he is 6!!

And what a great 6!  He's a funny, cuddly, tickley, reading, joke telling, game playing, loving, hopping, lego building boy and lots of FUN!!!

For his birthday he got Don't Break the Ice.

And Rock-em Sock-em Robots!

Both of which have been in non stop use.

We had a family party on the day, and an extended family party at Friendly's the next day.

At the family party we got silly with party hats.

Happy birthday Oob!

Thank you, God, for 6 years of delicious Oobishness!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Azalea Madness

 Last week we went on the Azalea Walk at the Arboretum.

So beautiful!

We started at the pond (where we found a lovely green frog - can you see him?), then went up and around the mountain.
 Grammy had surprised Klenda with a hat the day before, and it added a touch of elegance to our frog hunting outing.

Naturally, when surrounded by such natural beauty, my first thought is to get a great group shot of all the kids.  This is because I never learn.


Better, but nope.


                    Change of scene?


 Close enough!