Tuesday, December 17, 2013

One Small Step for Rubbermaid

 You may think this is a plain, lime-green rubber tub, but you couldn't be more wrong. This is a space capsule. Inside this tub is an astronaut. While the outside of the tub is sitting near our wood stove, the inside is traveling across the galaxy with a small, slightly cramped astronaut inside.

Here she is, travelling to Betelguese as commanded by mission control, otherwise known as Zaya. Sometimes Mission Control takes his turn as an astronaut, but this morning he was content to direct the endeavor.

The astronauts are well fed on their journeys. Specifically, they eat apple chips, turkey jerky, and peppernuts - the snack of champions...and astronauts apparently.

The iPad has added another dimension to space travel. Usually it takes place in a cardboard box with the control panel and viewscreen designed by Sharpie and Crayola. Since this tub will be returned to Grandma T at Christmas-time, they decided to use an iPad app called SolarWalk to visualize the adventure instead.

Does this count as science? Sure, it does. Why not? 

Snap to it

 I hadn't really planned for electronics to figure into last Friday's curriculum, but Mim dragged out all the Snap Circuits so I decided to let them "play" when they probably should have been finishing their science vocabulary sheet.

Mim made an FM radio, and she is happily surfing the waves. Zaya was worried about what she might run across. To alleviate his concerns (and mine) we made a Christian or talking rule. Since the only talking she could find would be commercials or Trade-ee-oh, it wasn't a problem.

Zaya made a motion sensor and a siren. Why you would want to spend so much time and effort making various loud noises is beyond me. I suppose I need a Y chromosome to really get it.

While there was a little more "Mom, can you help me?" than I had hoped for out of playtime, it was worth it in the end. I hear electricians make a good living, and if all else fails they'll at least be able to construct the most critical parts of a cop car.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Dressed Up and Several Places to Go

 Another October come and gone, and the kids made good use of their costumes this year. They wore them to a Gymnastics party last night, a walk around the town square this afternoon, and trick-or-treating this evening. I was reminded that I really don't like Halloween; it seems like a fairly dumb holiday, but the dressing up and the free candy I'll take, particularly the dressing up part. Society can have the rest.

Once again we scavenged our home, the local thrift store, and the internet for props and pieces. I finally remembered to ask them about their costume desires early in the season. While I can scrounge up what I need to at the last minute, it was nice to have the luxury for accuracy.

Mim wanted to be Professor River Song this year. For the uninitiated, River Song is the wife of The Doctor, the title character from the TV show Doctor Who. She is a no-nonsense, time-traveling archaeologist who makes good use of hallucinogenic lipstick, a good blaster, and her vortex manipulator to travel the universe, occasionally saving the Doctor, and occasionally being saved herself.

We were trying to re-create this specific outfit. Did we succeed? You be the judge, but don't tell me if you think we failed. I couldn't take it. We did curl her hair as well, but it would've taken a lot more hairspray and a lot more time than I was willing to put into it to get those curls.

Zaya dressed as Dr. Erwin Schrodinger, the quantum physicist who famously postulated the Schrodinger's Cat thought experiment. If you want more details, follow the link to the Wiki page. His box there contains a "cat". (It's a plush lion because it was the only feline that fit.) He couldn't bear the thought of killing the cat, so he wore the vial of radioactive poison (glow-stick) around his neck in the evening.

His costume was occasionally mistaken for The Doctor (The eleventh Doctor, specifically.) and Harry Potter. It's understandable given the bow tie for the first and the round glasses for the second. At least one person thought he was dressed up as "a nerd". What can I say? Who am I to argue? He makes an awfully cute little nerd. I'm sure the real Schrodinger's mother thought the same.

We went around our little neighborhood with some next-door friends and another homeschool family. Most of the other kids were fairly shy, but good ol' Schrodinger came up with enough chit-chat to make up for the other seven quiet characters. At the very first house he yelled, "T-R-I-C-K to the power of treat," to the poor unsuspecting home-owner. River Song gave him a don't-embarrass-the-rest-of-us wallop, but I don't think it was effective. I decided to hang back with the other parents and let him be himself. River kept him in line, more or less, anyway.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Familiar Familial Faces

One of the best parts of our recent week of field trips in Oklahoma was the chance to visit with family. We didn't get to see everyone, but Grandma T (who avoids cameras, so I have no proof) joined us for a day at the zoo, and we met Grandma Lilibeth and Grandpa Turtle at my nephew's first birthday party in Norman. Isn't my mama lovely, and isn't little Blaze adorable? It was wonderful to see them- and Blaze's camera shy parents as well.

We spent the week staying in the home of my infinitely patient and hospitable Aunt and Uncle T. Can you imagine saying, "Yes, of course!" when your niece asked you if she could park herself and her two rambunctious young 'uns at your house for a full seven days? They did, though, and we loved every minute of it. There's nothing like returning from a full day of sight-seeing to visit with quiet, peaceful people. It was wonderful, and I couldn't possibly thank them enough. My Aunt played games with the kiddos for hours, and Uncle T and I read books, chatted about history, or watched a little TV. Ah! Bliss!

They took us out to eat at Pops after church on our last day there, and then we headed off on Route 66 to wind our way home. We walked past the Biker Gang to take a little picture that didn't include cars and gasoline pumps.

And yes, my son does pose like that on purpose. His plan is to keep me humble.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Electric Electives

 We went with our church to "Christian Skate Night" at the skating rink in a nearby town. (They play Christian music and there's a brief devotional half-way through.)  My kids did skate, but during one of the everyone-participates games out on the rink (for which Zaya and Mim were not ready) their Daddy gave them a few quarters and let them play video games. Joy of joy!! They were so excited!

I decided they might count as classes. What do you think?
Homeschool CLEET certification - The young cadet practices his accuracy with a hand-gun and learns to recognize "perps".
Homeschool Driver's Education - You get to drive a sports car that your parents will never buy for you and drive it with wild abandon. (While wearing skates, you'll notice. Take that Gene Kelly. [if you follow this link, skip to 2:20])
Homeschool Hunter's safety course - The young hunter gets to stand a mere two feet from his targets, but it all works out because he doesn't get to eat any of the turkey either. Bonus - it's a pump-action plastic shotgun, and what little boy doesn't love that?

Well, I guess that's probably not quite enough. We'll find the real thing in the future if that's something they want to do, either that or make a few more trips to the skating rink between now and college.

 All you drivers out on the road in about eight years time should breathe a sigh of relief. The turkeys and criminals weren't real worried to begin with.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Git Along!

 This is what the discerning cowgirl wears in the new millenium. You have sun protection, and a little help when you're stuck out with the doggies after dark. At the moment she is alternately exploring with and fighting with a wizard, who is, himself, wearing a hat. His is the blue mortarboard from his kindergarten graduation, and is "The Hat of Smartness."

When the cowgirl isn't having adventures, she has been known to do a little reading. Occasionally with the help of gravity. Do you think it's easier if the blood is all rushing to your head?

Monday, October 07, 2013

Curb Appeal?

Art has been doing some improvements outside. He's in the process of painting the house, but this hasn't actually included much paint yet. He's still in prep-mode. Part of his prep this summer involved completely re-doing the entrance to our home by taking down several brick pillars and laying down two truck loads of landscaping stones as porch and garden areas.

I don't know why he suddenly decided to do this, but what woman is going to complain when her husband gets a hankering for a little landscape work? I haven't actually done any gardening, as of yet, but I'm sure it's only a matter of time.

Speaking of landscaping, today, Art decided to "trim" the bushes along the side of the house. These bushes were all between three and four feet high a mere hour ago. Here they are now.

Where are they, you ask? Great question. Near the house are a few sticks poking out of the ground. Those used to be bushes. That man is lucky that his wife isn't too fussed about appearances.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Of Brassicas and Kings

Nothing says "kitchen chemistry" like making a few purple cabbage indicators and spilling a variety of household acids and bases all over your dining table.

For the uninitiated, I will set your wondering mind at ease, and tell you that we did not invent anything that indicates the presence of purple cabbages. That's really a pretty straight-forward proposition. Are there purple cabbages here? Yes, those big, round, purple things are purple cabbages.

No, the indicators of which I speak are used to show the pH of a solution. To make it, one does, indeed, use purple cabbages. You slice the cabbage head and boil it all in a pot of water (enough to barely cover the cabbage). The deep purple liquid is then strained and used to soak paper. We chose card stock, but coffee filters are a popular selection as well.

We used these indicators, as well as some standard litmus paper to test seven liquids, namely: milk, lemon juice,  vinegar, Sprite, baking soda solution, ammonia and bleach. And don't worry; I know at least my mother is thinking, "What! Ammonia and bleach? Don't you know how dangerous that can be?!" I assure you that they were only together on the chart, never at the table. I know my kitchen chemistry safety.

We do chemistry with some homeschooling neighbors, so there were lots of dripping purple papers on my table this afternoon, but it was worth it to see some real, hands-on science happening.

After we dipped all the papers, we recorded our findings in the science journals and decided to pour some of the leftover purple cabbage juice into the test tubes. An exciting variety of colors emerged. It goes, from right to left as indicated above, with the exception of bleach, which was kept separately at all times. I won't tell you which are acids and which are bases, because what would be the fun in that? You'll have to do a little kitchen chemistry yourself to find out.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sisyphus, Orchids and John Wayne

 Wednesday we visited the Myriad Botanical Gardens and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. There was also a brief walk around Bricktown for lunch, because we were right there, and why not?

At the Botanical Gardens the kids enjoyed the (free) outdoor Children's Garden as much or more than the huge Crystal Bridge greenhouse. It was lovely, but if I had known that's what the tickets were for, I think we might have just enjoyed walking around the outside paths and looked up tropical and desert plants when we got back home.

The Children's Garden was less garden and more playground, but as you can imagine, that was just fine with the kiddos. If we'd wanted a little extra culture, we could have hung around and listened to a Shakespeare in the Park production that was getting ready to start in the outdoor amphitheater. I thought maybe we were already pushing it with culture for the day, so we kept on walking.

We drove over to Bricktown for lunch, and were delighted to see that Wednesdays are $5 lunch day at the Spaghetti Warehouse. When you've been eating at museum cafes for a few days, a $5 lunch sounds like an amazing deal.

We walked along the canal for a bit, pausing to get a couple of very important pictures- you know, the kind of pictures that every third tourist probably takes. Specifically, this one:

In case you can't tell, the kids are trying to help this man roll a big stone ball up a metal incline. They didn't succeed. We did have a nice lady offer to get my picture with them, so there is now one more piece of photographic proof that I was along for the trip.

We ended our Wednesday with a trip to the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, which I (perhaps stubbornly) insist on calling the Cowboy Hall of Fame. I got it in my head as kid, and I just can't change it now. I think that means I'm getting old.

They have built a wild west town, Prosperity Junction, there in the museum, complete with low lighting and sound effects. The flash from my camera makes these pictures look an average room, but the mood was actually much more like an evening outside when a thunderstorm is about to roll in from the west.

There were about 15 separate buildings, from a railroad station, to a mercantile, to a saddle shop. We pretended to learn in the school, listened to Mim read a 'sermon" in the church, and had a poker/go fish game in the saloon. The kids really entered into the spirit of the place. Zaya pretended to purchase from or otherwise transact business with the imaginary people in every locale.

We also visited an interactive room with costumes, saddles and a little log cabin. Zaya is holding his "six-shooters" that he bought in Prosperity Junction. Why? I have no idea. He also pretended to shoot Indians, which is certainly not something he learned from me. We decided to make it pumas. It's not politically correct, but at least it's not genocide.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Let's All Do Science

Tuesday we visited the Science museum, which was the favorite destination of both children. This was partly because we were one of very, very few families who decided to spend the day playing at the museum. I love being able to take our field trips whenever we want to do so. There were no lines for the more popular exhibits, and plenty of opportunities to participate at the shows and demonstrations.

The Segway, which was Miriam's favorite exhibit/ride, had no lines. They could just run over and ride the course whenever they felt like it. I think they each rode it five times. Luckily they don't realize that Segways are commercially available, so I haven't had to deal with any begging. (They are still commercially available, aren't they? Seems like there was something...")

Mim loved the Sand Art wheels. They spin, and you can design the sand in patterns. She spent a significant amount of time doing this. I don't mind so much, except all the "Mommy, look!" moments made me feel a little dizzy.
We took some time to go through the "Whodunit" exhibit and solved a murder using clues like fingerprints, DNA, and eyewitness reports. Yes, it was a little strange to see my children closely inspecting a corpse in an alley and then watching his autopsy in a nearby "lab".

They rode on a flight simulator, did a practice "crashdown" in the Apollo pod, climbed on a treehouse and in a "geometry playground", waited for a geyser, heard a bottle full of liquid nitrogen explode, felt an earthquake, made toroid rings in water and out of water vapor, and on and on and on. We were there seven minutes after they opened, and left fifteen minutes before they closed, and they would happily return if I didn't have our days packed for the rest of the week.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Watch Your Fingers

I took the kids to Oklahoma City for a week of field trips, and we started at the zoo on Monday. This was to avoid hearing, "Mom, when are we going to the zoo?" all week. We made a point to visit every special exhibit, which meant we walked, and walked, and walked...

We paid about as much for a quick snack for the giraffes as we did for our lunch. (Not quite, but close) It was worth it, though, to see this guy. Who knew the male's horns were so incredibly knobbly? I sure didn't. Both kids fed the giraffe, but Zaya got what he insists on calling his "sample of giraffe spit." It sounds like each kid was given a vial to take home, but he's referring to a particularly enthusiastic lick.

Mim particularly can't seem to resist all the bronze animals. I have pictures of her at all ages with these animals, so that in itself ought to make an interesting post someday when I get back to my own computer. There are many more pictures of her hugging, riding on or in some way participating with bronze animals, but here are a couple
This one looks like Mim has made friends with the lions, and Zaya has turned them into his evil minions. I don't know where the poses came from...

Not sure what she's holding....carrot? stick?
I guess the gorilla's snack looked tasty.

We went to "Stingray Bay" and  paid our little pound of flesh to pet stingrays. The kids really enjoyed it, right up to the moment when a stingray mistook Mim's cute little finger for a bit of shrimp. The very sweet lady next to her assured her that stingray's don't actually have teeth; it's just a bony plate. That didn't actually help much, but then she told her that they call them "kisses" instead of "bites", and that she herself (the zoo worker) had been "kissed" just a few minutes before by a stingray as well. Mim muttered a few things like, "Sure didn't feel like a kiss," but she otherwise recovered quickly.

We went to see the Lorikeets, but Mommy didn't pay for the little cup of "nectar" that must be made from the very best flowers that grow only in one tiny part of the Rift Valley if it's really worth what they're charging. (And anyway, we had just fed the giraffes the most expensive salad I've seen.) They each got a bird to sit on their finger for a while, and Mim got a little nip. She must be pretty tasty. It's a good thing the lion cage was farther back.
I think Zaya looks like he's just conjured this Lorikeet out of thin air. Presto ! Change-o!

This is the time of year when the Monarchs are passing through Oklahoma on their way down to the big family reunion in Mexico. We spent a while with official zoo-sanctioned nets in the butterfly garden, trying to help them catch and tag a few. We saw a lot of Golden Fritillaries and Skippers, but weren't able to bag a Monarch. Except these two. I got to take them back home with me.
Grandma T had joined us at the zoo by this time, and we enjoyed visiting with her for the last couple hours of our day. We figured we walked about five miles on the little roads and paths of the zoo. Now, on to the rest of the City!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Snacking, Peruvian Style

Mim decided that she wanted an Incan snack today. I do not know why, so don't ask. We were sitting by the creek, watching crawdads and wondering about the snake she saw yesterday. Do water moccasins live in the left-over puddles of run-off creeks? Were those fast-moving shadows minnows, tadpoles or crawdads? (The answer was C.)

She suddenly said, "Mom, I want a snack."

"OK, what would you like?"

"I'd like something Incan."

"Umm....like what?"

"I don't know. What did the Incans eat?"

So she wasn't hungry for a particular food, she was hungry for something that might've been eaten by a specific ancient civilization. I'm not clear how one gets a craving for a time period/ culture, but I suppose I've found myself in the mood for Mexican or Chinese food.

 I told her fruit was always good for an "ancient snack", but that wasn't what she wanted, so we looked up "Inca food" in Google. We also researched "snakes southern Missouri" while we were at it, because I wanted to know that my daughter wasn't trying to make friends with a cottonmouth. (She's not. It's a slider.)

We eventually settled on popcorn and quinoa, since we didn't have any guinea pig or llama in the house. I don't think we could've found any at Wal-mart either, so the choice was fairly obvious, but it's always more acceptable if Mim feels like she got to decide.

She and Zaya have both now had their Incan snack, scattering various bits of grain around my kitchen in the process. I'm not sure if that was a learning experience or not, but they've both had a good healthy snack anyway, which is something.

Now to start school. Who wants to do math when there are Incan snacks to consume and water-life to watch?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sandcastles R Us

When you vacation with an engineer, sandcastles will be taken seriously. We brought, from Missouri mind you, a hand trowel, a garden shovel, a hand rake, a grout blade and several plastic spackle spreaders. No, those are not technical terms.
The first effort was more along the lines of an ancient city, with mighty walls around the edge to protect the peasants, and a small central castle for nobility.

Then Lilibeth requested that we build Minas Tirith, and we decided to give it a go on an afternoon when the amount of algae floating in the water made it less desirable for swimming. So maybe it doesn't look exactly like the original...

...but we did our best. What do you think? Ours is a little less "mythical city" and a little more "wedding cake", but we were working with a difficult medium and a minimum of experience.