You are currently browsing the monthly archive for March 2007.

We started reading a new series today called “Guardians of Ga’hoole”.  It’s a fantasy fiction series that features a lot of different kinds of owls in it.  We took the time to look up some of these owls on the internet and found that Kathryn Lasky, the author of the series, very cleverly used the genus names of different sorts of owls as place names in the ficticious setting for the series.  Since our interest was peaked concerning owls, I decided to take D-11 and P-9 out for the afternoon to the Museum of Nature to see their new bird exhibit.  The boys had an awe-filled time looking at the great variety of birds we have in Canada.  Some made them laugh, some made them say “wow!” and others made them ask questions.  The exhibit is very interactive and both boys had fun pushing the buttons and trying out the hands on stuff.  We managed to spot some of the owls mentioned in the book we started.  It’s nice that they now have a picture of what these owls look like.

 Of course, we had to visit the “mammals” and the “dinosaur ” galleries as well and push all the buttons there too.  The surprise came just as we were leaving the boutique and thinking of going home.  In walked another homeschool family that we know well.  That started round two of the museum visit where D-11 and P-9 eagerly acted as tour guides showing their friends the “cool” places to visit.  I had to laugh when the four boys got to the “wild bird clinic” play area.  They donned the scientist garb as disguises.  They were pretending to be thieves out to loot the clinic of all its goods.  They worked feverishly to put all the bird clinic paraphenelia in the “get-away”car parked outside the clinic.  It’s great that they could have so much fun in a museum with little more than their imaginations and a few props.  In the end, we spent almost three hours there very happily. 

There is not too much I can say about packing peanuts except that they are not all created equally.  Some are made of cornstarch and some are made of polystyrene.  In our kit, both types looked similar but when they were put in water they reacted very differently.  The cornstarch peanuts dissolved.  The polystyrene peanuts floated in the test tube unchanged.  The moral of the experiment?  Before you throw out packing peanuts make sure that they are made of cornstarch.  They will dissolve when they get wet and are apparently not harmful to the environment.  If they are the polystyrene kind, reuse them.  Well, that was  my “green” lesson for the day.

Now onto magic.  D-11 is getting pretty good at fooling me.  He  took an ordinary banana and had me examine it.  It definitely was ordinary.  Then he pretended to chop it with his hand.  He had me examine it again.  It still looked ordinary.  I then had to peel the banana.  To my amazement, it was sliced inside.  Very tricky!  He still has to learn to not give his tricks away.  He was pretty excited to tell me how he did it.  I’m pretty excited that he’s willingly getting his nose in books to keep trying to astound me.  As long as we’re all excited, I suppose it’s a good thing.

The boys were supposed to go out yesterday night but the person who was supposed to take them out came down with the flu.  Oh dear!  Time for Plan B.  I pulled out the old chemistry kit.  We’ve had it for about two years I think but the boys had forgotten all about it so it was suddenly new again.  I thought that we might be able to go out and get all those necessary ingredients you are supposed to have but for some reason we don’t.  D-11 pulled off the miraculous finding all that we needed to do electroplating just by rooting around the house.  Yesterday they poured the last of the vinegar (it’s amazing to me how much vinegar is used in this house in the name of science!) into the test tube and dropped a zinc strip into it.  The zinc was supposed to dissolve into the solution over night.  It did!  This morning an eager D-11 and P-9 took the zinc strip out and got the “alligator clip do-hicky” set up.  They successfully connected the battery to the correct clips (one had to be negative and the other positive) and then clamped a penny to the negative clip and the zinc strip to the positive clip.  Some sugar and magnesium sulfate (a.k.a Epsom salts) had to be dissolved into the vinegar-zinc solution.  When they put the penny and the zinc strip into the solution (still attatched to the battery) we got bubbles!  I love it when what is supposed to happen actually does happen.  We checked on the penny after morning devotions and it had turned grey just like it was supposed to.  It had been electroplated with zinc.  The handy dandy book that came with the kit told us all about what actually happened.  We learned that the concoction the boys made in the test tube is an electolyte or in normal everyday English a chemical that is a good conductor of electricity.   The bubbles we saw were part of a process called hydrolysis.  The bubbles were actually escaping hydrogen gas molecules.  Neat!  Electroplating happens because positive and negative ions are attracted to each other. 

Apparently, electroplating is the way baby shoes get bronzed.  Wow!  I never really thought about that before.  I don’t think that I will look at things that are gold, silver or bronze plated in quite the same way any more.

Since today’s experiment was such a success, I think that we will try the “Packing Peanut Puzzle” tomorrow.  It’s a lesson on what packing material is good for the environment and what isn’t so good.  Should be interesting (and it doesn’t even involve vinegar.)

Crane by Jeff Stone

This is the fourth book of “The Five Ancestors series”.  In the first book we learned about five Chinese kung-fu warrior monks living at Cangzhen Temple under the direction of Grandmaster.  Early on in the story the temple is destroyed by a former monk and the new Emperor’s army.  All is lost except for the five monks who escape.  Book one tells the story of Fu, the Tiger-style kung-fu warrior, book two of Malao, the monkey-style fighter, book three of Seh, the snake-style fighter and the book we just finished tells of Hok, the crane-style warrior.  None of them know why the temple was destroyed or who they really are.  In each book, the mystery unravels just a little bit further.  We were surprised to find out in this book that Hok is a girl.  (Up until now she was disguised as a boy to blend in at the temple).  Also in this book, Seh gets attacked by his own mother and becomes blind.  That was an unexpected twist.  We are eagerly looking forward to the next installment of the series to find out more.  It is getting hard to tell  the good guys from the bad guys now.  D-11 and P-9 have really enjoyed these books.  Jeff Stone gives them what they want – action, fighting and mystery.

D-10 is now officially D-11.  One of the gifts he discovered on his wild goose chase this morning was a “make your own pranks “science” kit”.  When I saw this kit on the shelf in some store, love for my son welled up in my heart and I purchased it knowing that he would love it.  I was right but the moment he opened that box I began to think, “What was I thinking buying this?”  The smell emanating from that kit was quickly released upon opening.  Whew!  D-11 quickly discovered that it is very easy to make stink bombs.  I was quick to point out the fine print on the front of the kit that read “adult supervision required”.  D-11 noted in the accompanying handbook that stink bombs should only be made in well-ventilated areas.  He then asked the pertinant question :  “Is our house a well-ventilated area?”  I was very prompt to point out that our house is indeed NOT well-ventilated with the emphasis on a certain three letter word. 

D-11 wasn’t put off.  He moved right on to itching powder.  It turns out that you can extract itching powder from dried rosehips.  It took D-11 a while to figure out what exactly in the rosehips made you itch.  P-9 became the guinea pig.  Attempt #1 to see if he had indeed made itching powder was a bit disasterous.  D-11 ran up and dumped his concoction down the back of an unsuspecting P-9.  P-9 didn’t start to itch but he sure was irritated!  The good side of this disasterous attempt #1 is that P-9 finally hopped into the shower without any prompting from me.  Wow!  God answers prayer in the most unusual ways in this house!  After some discussion about the wrongness of what D-11 had just did, D-11 got smart and wooed P-9 into being a willing itching powder guinea pig.  He offered to give P-9 some of his computer time if he would just humour him and tell him if it itched or not.  P-9 fell for it hook line and sinker.  I didn’t get off so lucky.  I got coerced into being an itching powder tester because (as D-11 put it) “good moms would want to help their children test their science experiments”.  Well, eventually P-9 and I did start to itch and D-11 strutted around like he had just discovered sliced bread.  He had the joy of discovering something that had the potential to drive people crazy. 

And what of the flying pennies?  Well, that came as the result of a “science” web-site D-11 discovered.  First we watched a person dressed as a scientist drop various alkali metals in bathtubs of water.  The results were pretty impressive.  We saw two bathtubs go KABLOOM just after the person dressed as a scientist ran to a safe distance away.  Thankfully, we don’t have any alkali metals kicking around our place.  I rather like my bathtub without holes, thank you very much.  D-11 was not put off by our lack.  He ventured on until he found “science” we could replicate in our home.  He learned to balance a penny on the end of a coat hanger and spin it around and not have the penny fly off.  It was most impressive until he slowed the swinging down and the penny did fly off.  The penny hit my freshly painted wall and there is now a ding in the paintjob.  I have to look at it as future therapy.  So here I am at the end of the day still breathing some unpleasant fumes, still scratching a little and thinking of future therapy.  I can hardly wait for “science” tomorrow.

We have been operating on one bathroom for about a month now.  Some time ago the downstairs bathroom (also known as the men’s bathroom) started to have problems.  It wouldn’t flush properly.  I didn’t make much of this until I started to repeatedly have to plunger to exhaustion with no noticeable difference.  I began to inquire if anyone in the house might have an idea why the toilet was not flushing properly.  It then came out that a sparkler might have been accidently flushed down the toilet.  That started intense prayer over the toilet bowl that somehow that sparkler would pass and all would be well again in toilet land.  All is not well in toilet land.  I finally faced the inevitable and called a plumber today.  All is really not well in toilet land.  $125 today to take the toilet apart and remove the sparkler and all the toilet paper stuck to it.  Another $125 tomorrow to replace the broken ring that the toilet has been sitting on for who knows how long.  Well, we had a nice little chat about what can and cannot be flushed from now on and why.  Hopefully, D-10 and P-9 learned something in toilet land today.

The boys showed off their top-secret research on their calendars today during “the great unveiling”.  D-10 found out about the god Mars for whom the month of March was named.  I was impressed with the neatness of his presentation.  P-9 told us all about golden dragons.  Around the edge of the calendar are illustrations for the kids to colour in.  Paul chose to be very creative in his colouring.  He pointed out his rapping chicken, ninja cat, vampire pig, battle-scarred goat and the cow with red eyes and mad cow disease. 

 The next “great unveiling” will be on April 2nd where the boys have to show me what they found out for the month of April.  I think that I will try to jazz it up a bit.  Maybe I can find a musical intro, have snacks for intermission, or even give them a chance to show me other tricks they have learned.  D-10 has been working on some yo-yo tricks and is always eager to astound us with magic tricks.  P-9 has taken to demonstrating some interesting dance moves (which will only ever come out when only Mom and big brother are watching!) 

A House Called Awful End by Philip Ardagh

This is the first book of the Eddie Dickens Trilogy.  The book is written in a kind of off-the-wall, tongue-in-cheek, British humour that was far too subtle for D-10 and P-9 to get.  We opted to not continue with the trilogy.

I had a chance to look through the Recreation Guide this afternoon.  There are a lot of really neat day camps out there!  If we can manage the expense, D-10 would like to take Level 1 Robotics.  There’s a topic I could never teach!  P-9 had his eye more on Game Programmer Jr. or Toon Factory 3D Pro.  Those are subjects right up his alley which unfortunately are miles away from my alley.  It may just be worth the expense to send them to these camps and have them learning when they think that they are having fun.

I once was asked, “If you were a shoe, what kind of shoe would you be?”  I didn’t really know then.  I still don’t really know today.  What I do know is that I had a nice time looking at shoes this morning with a friend at Bayshore.  The boys were at a sleepover and we were intent on having a “girlie time”.  She had her eye on chunky wedges.  I was more intent on last pickings, clearance-rack, high quality but cheaply priced winter boots to replace my ailing current pair.  We both ended up trying on footwear we would never buy just for the fun of it and enjoying some time together.  We both left without purchasing anything but that was alright.  I rarely browse these days because D-10 and P-9 definitely have the male shopping gene.  Their idea of shopping is to decide what you want before you enter the store, find it, buy it and then leave.  Window shopping is something they are just not programmed to understand.  Hence, it was nice to look with someone who totally understood and was as happy with the experience as I was even if nothing was purchased.  Now if I could just decide what kind of shoe represents the real me….

Ecclesiastes 3:11

He (God) has made everything beautiful in its time.