Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

Wednesday was cool and wet.  I made a pot of chicken-with-wild-rice soup, and another, bigger pot of chili for supper.  We lit a fire in the fireplace and spent the pre-Thaksgiving evening watching the original Tron followed by Tron Legacy.

On Thursday got up bright and early to watch parades.  I made the various foods we were taking to Thanksgiving dinner over at Rick's aunt's house:

1. Roasted Green Beans -- snap stem end off of fresh green beans (we did about 4 pounds worth).  Dump them in a roasting pan, thrown in a bunch of chopped garlic, drizzle with olive oil; cook at 400F, stirring every 5 minutes.  When they look as done as you'd like, take them out.  We like them somewhat crunchy.  People tended to pick them up with their fingers and eat them like french fries.

2. Sauteed Collard Greens -- chop up some onion and slowly sautee in olive oil until tender and sweet.  Throw in chopped collards.  Cover pan to steam, utilizing water left clinging to leaves as well as some other water thrown in from the tea kettle (or whatever).  Cook until bright green.  Serve to crowd that doesn't usually eat collard greens and feels a bit adventurous putting it on their plates at Thanksgiving.

3. Celery stuffed with sunflower butter.  Self explanatory, right?  Very popular as something to nibble that wasn't sweet or otherwise junky. Also satisfied the sense of trying something new, since many of the crowd had never tried sunflower seed butter.

So, yeah, when I looked at the table I realized we were in charge of all of the green.

Anyway, we had a pleasant afternoon over there.  Much talking and laughter.

From there over to Rick's sister's house to see her new wooden floor.  This stop also featured pie and a viewing of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Then home.  Although Rick was a bit regretful that we didn't have a longer drive home ... for years and years we spent the time after Thanksgiving stuffed in a car with all sorts of luggage, listening to Christmas CDs.  We considered maybe head over on the J.B. Bridge, then up north and come back into Missouri  at Chain of Rocks, then loop back down on 270, making laps around the county.  But, alas, we didn't have our Amy Grant Christmas CD with us (although David pointed out we could just download everything off of iTunes, it just didn't seem the same, you know?) so we came straight home.

And I spent the night having some sort of weird reaction to something I ate.  I finally got up at about 4am and sat reading a book in the family room.

Today was nice out (as was yesterday) so it was a great day for raking.  Not that I wanted to rake -- really, I wanted to sew -- but the last big drop of leaves is now up off of the yard, as are several hundred more of the Sweet Gum Balls.

We've spent some time organizing the Christmas lights, but don't have them up yet.  Tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, so who knows what we'll get up when.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Co-op Science Week 12

Continuation of light and optics.

We started off by playing with a set of spinning top optical illusions I'd found at Hobby Lobby.  It included Benham's top, a spiral that produced the waterfall effect, and some disks that worked better under fluorescent lights.  We discussed briefly why these things appear the way they do; I included the information that scientists don't know everything about these illusions, so the kids could maybe discover more about them some day.

Next, discussion:

What produces light?  (Sun, lightbulbs, flames; the moon simply reflects rather than producing)
What happens to light? (travels in a straight line forever unless it hits something)
What happens when it hits something?  (sometimes passes through whatever it hits; may convert to heat or other energy; may bend)

While talking about these things, did the demo of shining a flashlight through index cards to show this concept (although I just cut notches in the bottom of mine instead of punch holes -- directions in Super Science Projects about Light and Optics by Allan Cobb).  Answered repeated queries as to whether we could set the modeling clay on fire with a firm "No".

Vocabulary words:  Opaque, transparent, translucent.  I broke these down into their roots.  Mostly I was surprised that some of the kids didn't know them.  Shone flashlight on cardstock, copy paper, and through glass.

More vocabulary:  reflection, refraction.

For reflection we talked about mirrors, and how the light bounces off at the same angle it hits.  I had made  a shoebox periscope using cheap little mirrors from the craft store (Hobby Lobby?  Michael's?) and a bunch of duct tape (by the way, it was amazingly tedious to get the mirrors lined up correctly).  Pretty much everyone was familiar with the concept, but no one had actually made one before.   Again, I used the directions from Allan Cobb's Super Science Projects about Light and Optics We shone the flashlight through it, we used it as a periscope, we shone a laser pointer through it.  I had to keep moving one kid's head since he seemed determined to have the laser pointer reflection go right into his eye in spite of my saying we were NOT going to point it into anyone's eyes.

Speaking of which, Rick loaned me his nice red laser pointer he uses in presentations -- one of the nice, expensive ones.  He has a friend with one of the green ones, which would've impressed the kids immensely, I'm sure, especially since I told them that in many places it's illegal to shine them up in the sky at night, and that you can't even take them into some countries.  As you can imagine, the set-the-clay-on-fire, shine-the-laser-in-the-eye crowd instantly realized that their deepest desire was to obtain strong laser pointers and shine them in the sky.

For refraction, I drew a picture on the board of a bird's eye view of all of them holding hands and running in a straight line; the line was at about a 45 degree angle to a body of water.  As the first kids got to the water they had to slow down since it's harder to run in water than on dry land ... eventually, the line looked bent.  I got this analogy from Vicki Cobb's Light Action, which is a book  I would highly recommend if you're explaining this stuff to kids.

We refracted light with water .  I put a coin in the bottom of the bowl, had everyone stand where they couldn't quite see the coin, then filled the bowl with water; the penny appeared (I'm pretty sure this same demo is one of the experiments in Apologia Physical Science).  Then I placed a penny on the table, put an empty glass on top of it, filled the glass with water, set an index card on the top of the glass (so we couldn't look straight down into it) and the penny was invisible.  This one really confounded one of the kids, who thought I'd done something or other with the penny even though he was watching every thing we did.

We also shone the flashlight through plastic prisms (purchased cheaply at Hobby Lobby) to bend the light and see a bit of a rainbow.  It was a gloomy day, so we couldn't use sunlight to make better rainbows, unfortunately.  Again, all of the kids seemed familiar with the concept, but they enjoyed messing around with the prisms.  And we shone the laser pointer through the prisms, too.

Finally, we made Movie Wheels.  I had shown one I'd made to some of the kids the week before when we made thaumatropes.  They were surprisingly enthusiastic about this.  Well, most of them were.  One boy wanted to play with the tops -- we had him sit at a different table, and he eventually started making some rather sophisticated paper airplanes.  Another wanted to make it, but wanted someone else to do the work -- pretty funny.  We have a mirror in the room, so they could view them in there or else stand in pairs and view each others'.

A few of the kids said they'd studied all of this before, but they are enjoying studying it again.  That's what we're after -- a hands-on supplement to the curriculum they're doing at home.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Saturday was a lovely day -- it was perfect for raking leaves.  Too bad we weren't home long enough to do any raking.

-- In the morning, a make-up class in Theater Skills in Maryland Heights.  The teacher had been sick earlier in the week.

-- Then home for lunch.

-- And off to U. City for ballet class.

-- And from there directly to Pattonville High School Auditorium for the Fall Showcase, wherein the performing arts students from one of the places we take classes show what they've been working on thus far this school year.  This included monologues from the Theater Skills class:

Thalia did a monologue from A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, which was rather earnest and angsty.

Some songs from Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella for Annabeth's Musical Theater class:

Seen here making Cinderella's coach -- the kids who were the wheels were supposed to do forward rolls as they moved along.  I wish I had a video of Stepsister's Lament, but our camera chose that moment to cease focussing.

And the older Musical Theater kids performed numbers from Pippin:
Thalia singing Magic to Do.  I've decided to believe the out-of-focus pictures look arty, in keeping with the Fosse-style choreography.

-- Home for supper.

-- Then to Nerinx Hall in Webster for their production of Phantom of the Opera.  Which was excellent.  But I really dislike their theater due to lack of leg room.  (Of course, the fact that I'd spent much of the day either sitting in a theater or sitting in some creative arts building on a crappy seat didn't help matters.)  Several of the guys in it were from SLUH (Nerinx is all girls), and Thalia actually recognized some of them.  The Phantom was played by a guy from Pattonville, coincidentally.  Small world.

So, overall I felt like we sort of had a marathon of performing arts going on.  I awoke Sunday morning with the main musical theme of Phantom running through my head, although I kept tending to sing, "Join us.  Leave your fields to flower...."  In the meantime, Rick kept singing "Ten Minutes Ago".  

Of course, Sunday was cold and rainy, and perfectly awful for raking leaves.  We had church -- Thalia's choir sang -- and then returned in the afternoon for a rehearsal of the musical Annabeth's group is putting on in a few weeks.  Other than that, we've been doing the stuff we didn't have time for yesterday, like washing the dishes and letting the rats have some free range time (hey, guess what!  Annabeth had handed me a donut-hole to put in a napkin in my purse earlier!  Guess who found it!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Homeschool Update

This morning it occurred to me that it would be really cool if someone did a homeschool weekly report/wrap-up in haiku.  Not that I'm planning on doing it, but it would be fun to read.

See, I've done the work of coming up with the concept -- now I'll pass the torch to someone else for the detail work.

(I spent much of September contemplating how an existentialist would write a homeschool weekly report.  For that matter, what would homeschooling look like in an existentialist household?  Anyway, another concept that someone else can work with, right?)

As for us, last week was sucked into a miasma of spent working backstage at a ballet.  The kids were supposed to help load in the sets on Wednesday, except I decided to Just Say No, since it would involve missing their typical Wednesday classes.  They were there Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, though.  Annabeth ran the light board, and Thalia was a stagehand.  This was part of a Technical Theatre class they're taking -- earlier this fall they painted the sets for the ballet.

Which is why Jensen's continues to languish in not-getting-done land.  Aaargh!  And Medieval History isn't far behind, moving glacially slow, as though we're trying to recreate the timeline moment by moment in the present.

The co-op classes the kids are taking have stayed up-to-date:  Kinetic Physics and Notgrass World History/Literature for Thalia, Writeshop and Shepherd's Life Science for Annabeth.

And this week we haven't had A Big Event like the ballet, the Fall Formal, the everlasting bad cold, Thalia's Sweet Sixteen party, Halloween, or whatever else took all of that time a month ago.  So we've made progress towards getting back on track.

The big homeschool success of the week was that DAVE RAMSEY IS DONE!  Woot!  That's a half credit of personal finance completed (a little later in the fall than expected, but still before the end of the semester).  The next to last chapter seemed the most complex -- insurance.  We have several family members in the insurance biz, but, wow, LOTS of info.  The final chapter is on real estate, and seemed like it was mostly an excuse for Dave to entertain us with stories of his adventures in realty.  We also have a realtor in the family, plus have moved around the country buying and selling homes, so most of this wasn't news to Thalia.

Overall, I'd recommend the course.  I've heard people express dismay that it doesn't take too long to watch all those videos -- how can it possibly count for a half credit?  Well, yoohoo, that's what the CDRom is for -- look through the suggested activities, do some of them (some are better suited for a classroom, but you can still find plenty to do), take the tests, take the unit tests and the final.  Also, go on field trips -- an estate sale, a cash-advance business (okay, we did that one online instead of actually setting foot in one, and the entire concept was skanky enough to make an impression), follow the stock market.  Watch it as a family and discuss -- what do you agree with, what do you disagree with.  Assign extra reading (Thalia and I read Scratch Beginnings and discussed how the Dave Ramsey material applied -- what was the same, what was different).  It's an easy course to have your kid do, and it has a lot of great information.

Okay, so, failure with Jensen's, success with Dave Ramsey, neutral with pretty much everything else.  And all the other stuff that isn't really "school", like driving practice, ballet, tap, voice, Scouts, blah blah blah.

More tales of successes and failures, I'm sure (at least, I hope I'm not the only one who's got a failure-thing going), when you visit Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers' Weekly Wrap-Up.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Happy Rat-iversay, Emily!

Yes, we've now had Emily for over a year.  And considering how short-lived rats are, that's worth celebrating.

When we got Miss Em she had been a backroom rat -- the pet store had her in the backroom as unsaleable due to a leaky tear duct.  Rick and Annabeth were rat-shopping, and one of the workers mentioned that they had another rat in the back that couldn't be sold because of a health problem -- were they interested in adopting her?  She had been spending her life in isolation from other rats (rats are extremely social animals, and it's unusual to have a solo rat).  And she hadn't really been socialized to humans, either.   And it didn't help that she appeared to be blind in one eye.  To this day she tends to weave her head back and forth when she's looking at you, as though she's trying to compensate for the lack of binocular vision.

Wow, she was a scaredy-rat when we got her.  She hated to be picked up or have much interaction with people.  But after a year of hanging around here, Annabeth is able to tote her around:

Seen here inspecting a birthday card for Grandma that has picture of some rodent that bears quite a likeness to Emily.  Grandma and Emily bonded last February when Grandma sat giving her Corn Chex one by one until Emily had about half a box stashed in her igloo.

She's happy to get out and explore, especially book bags, briefcases, and purses, which sometimes have random food left in them:

She's posed for innumerable photo shoots:

And been dressed up in Angelina Ballerina outfits:

Mostly, though, she likes hanging out in her cage with her friend, Farley:

Or snuggling up in an old tshirt:

One of her favorite things to do is try to stuff everything in the cage into the cube.  And she's the most persnickety rat we've seen insofar as wanting to use a litter box, which we supply in the bottom of the cage.  She enjoys avocados, bananas, beans, and Corn Chex, but her favorite is fresh raspberries.

How did she celebrate her rat-iversary?  She was out of the cage, exploring the house, and climbed in my purse, at which time she discovered that I had purchased a 2 pack of QBel Dark Chocolate Wafer Rolls a couple of days before, eaten one, stuck the other in my purse and promptly forgot about it.  Emily happily dragged it out of my purse and was quietly enjoying the feeling of being a wild rat who had foraged food AND come up with something so luscious ... unfortunately, Farley came along, grabbed the QBel and started running around the house with it in her mouth, loudly squeaking OMG! OMG! OMG! in her excitement (you know the opening scene of Legally Blonde, The Musical where the sorority sisters are all jumping around loudly singing OH MY GOD!?  Farley was doing the the rodent version of that).  So, of course, the lovely QBel was taken away.  Sigh.  Quite a bit of the chocolate covering had already been removed, though, so I think they'd had enough.

Many happy returns of the day, Emily!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bronze Award

Okay, obviously this is old news, but that's how far behind I am on things I've meant to blog about.

For the Bronze Award last year, Annabeth's troop decided to make items for animal rescue group.  One girl made blankets for dogs, Annabeth made cat toys, someone had a paper drive to gather newspapers for a rescue group, and another girl made horse blankets.

To start off her part of the project, Annabeth made cat toys by examining some of the more popular models we've purchased in the past.  She then cut up a pair of blue jeans Daddy was throwing out, sewed up tubes, and stuffed them with catnip.  We figured out which brand of catnip to use by going to PetSmart and standing in the aisle sniffing various containers until we found one with some "oomph".

She decided to stuff the catnip in the toys outdoors for easier cleanup.  She ended up using a plastic bag as a funnel.  Also, she ended up standing farther away from any lawn furniture so that the cats couldn't "help".

Then she took them back inside and sewed up the end.  The first couple were sent for rigorous field testing by our experts, who still enjoy playing with them months later.  Also, the stitching was found to be tough enough to withstand vigorous use.

Later, the troop got together so that the girls could teach each other how to make the various blankets and toys.   That way everyone got to work on everything.

By this time we had purchased a pair of men's jeans at Goodwill (size in the extra-large range -- more fabric for our $3!), laundered them to get out some of the fabric softener (what is it with Goodwill clothes and fabric softener -- they're always saturated in the stuff, and it gives me a headache -- no way I'd subject an animal to that).

And we delivered our cat toys to Open Door Animal Shelter, which I believe is where the dog blankets also went.

In the meantime, Annabeth had been totally captivated with the concept of making horse blankets.  She ended up getting together with a couple of the other girls who wanted to work more on that project.  It took a surprising amount of time to cut out and put together a single blanket, which is somewhat made-to-measure.  This was delivered to Longmeadow Rescue Ranch for use by one of the smaller ponies.

 Apparently the smaller horses have more need of blankets in the winter.  When they come in from their prior living situation they can have issues that have worn away some of their coat (like rain rot).  Also, some of the horses get really freaked out about having blankets buckled about their legs, so these are just a lightweight layer.

They still have the strapping and buckles to make a couple of more blankets, which this particular group of girls would like to do.  No doubt the future versions of the blanket will go more quickly now that they've figured out the directions.   (The girl in charge of this project had purchased a pattern from somewhere, but I've no clue where.  I think to find appropriate webbing and buckles they ended up ordering from a place on the west coast that supplies rock climbers and campers -- mostly because her family is familiar with that vendor from when they lived there, and couldn't find the stuff locally.)

Overall, a decent group of projects, and a good experience.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Co-op Science Week 11

This week was our Fall Open House, so we spent much of our class time getting ready for that.  We stapled covers on our booklets of Newton's Laws.  Several of the kids drew pictures on the front of the booklets.  I brought in our catapults from an earlier session, as well as some other stuff we'd worked on -- sort of a random assortment.

(Click to enlarge pictures, if desired.)
I also had the kids decorate a poster proclaiming "3-5 SCIENCE".  They drew several things we did, and several things they apparently wished we had done.  There was great controversy surrounding the fact that the boys made the letter C into a monster; one of the girls drew an alternative non-monster C which I attached to the bottom of the poster.  Overall I thought it was pretty cool.  Annabeth had given me the heads-up that this is how we should do this, by the way -- have the kids make it themselves.
 One of the boys had brought in more magic tricks to share, having forgotten his last week.  And since many of the tricks they've been sharing have been along the lines of sleight-of-hand and fooling the eye, I thought it was a good time to segue into optics and light.

We started with thaumatropes to show the concept of persistence of vision.  My co-teacher brought in a little plastic zoetrope that she'd gotten in a kid's meal somewhere -- it was way cool.  I'd hoped to make our own rendition of zoetropes, but we ran out of time.  Overall the kids were content to color and decorate things -- a very subdued group. I think the time change really took a toll on everyone in spite of supposedly getting more sleep.

The day before class I'd come up with
New Improved Directions for Making Thaumatropes with a Crowd of Kids:

Cut a couple of 3x5  index cards into squares (if you leave them rectangles they're too flappy to work well).
Draw your pictures on the non-lined sides, taking care that the pictures will overlap appropriately.  Outline in Sharpie -- this helps the picture "pop" when you spin it.  Color as desired. (You want to color it now because once you get the straw on it, it will be too lumpy to color.)

Tape a straw to the back of one side.  If it's a bendy straw, make sure the bend isn't going to interfere with spinning the thaumatrope -- I put this bend against the back of the card, but you could also put it at the bottom.  Or just cut it off and have a shorter straw.  Also, if you use colored straws be aware that the kids will have strong opinions about which color they want.
 I used Duck brand tape to tape it to the back of the index cards because it's wide and easy to tear.
Staple the front to back.  Or use Scotch tape, which is what we used when we ran out of staples.
Spin.  Be impressed with the picture that appears.

The kids were incredibly imaginative with their pictures:  head with hat (that didn't quite line up, so the hat was sort of floating over the head, which was actually pretty cool), person in jail cell, pen writing on blank sheet of paper, jet flying through clouds, smiley face eyes with smiley face smile on the back, fish in a fish bowl ....   Some kids made multiple thaumatropes, trying various ideas.  Probably the most amazing was a dog (or maybe wolf) sitting on a moonlit, starlit hill howling -- on the facing card was another dog/wolf on a hill on the opposite side of the "valley", also howling.  I am in awe of this group, and so glad I get to spend some time with them each week.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Homeschool Wrap-Up

Last week was The Week of the Bad Cold, in which Thalia got stinkin' sick with a cold.  Which made the   difficult Kinetic Physics problems closer to "impossible".  Rick was out of town (Rick typically helps her with this), I was busy with other stuff (one of the rats had surgery, subsequently started picking out the sutures and bleeding all over the place, so I was running around in the cold, rainy night amassing gauze pads and various other first aid supplies), plus we were supposedly getting ready for her costume party.  Oh, and going to the doctor to talk about vaccinations and malaria drugs for the trip to Dominican Republic next spring.

All of which is to say, not a whole lotta schooling going on.  Although Rick got home late Thursday night,  the Physics DID get done (with 30 minutes to spare!)(the teacher sets a time by which all answers need to be entered online), and turned in.  And Notgrass history got done.  But Jensen's Format Writing and Lial's Algebra 2 suffered.

In the meantime, Annabeth had a crash course in rat first aid, googling how to stop bleeding (since I was out running an errand in the cold, wet, dark night, and Thalia was too sick to help).  On a more mellow note, she also kept up with math and English -- history suffered from neglect once again.  She continued to use Mango French on our library's website.

Then, of course, the weekend, which included the afore mentioned party.  And then Monday, which was Halloween.  We skipped Monday night classes in order to Trick or Treat, since that seemed a higher priority at the time.

After which, of course, it was back to Physics, although it was somewhat simpler this week.  And working AHEAD in Notgrass, since next week is going to be busy.  And playing catchup in Lial's Algebra and Jensen's Format Writing.  We ended up splitting the Dave Ramsey session on insurance into 2 parts/2 weeks , as it's a pretty information-packed segment of the book.  

Fall Formal was this week, which is sort of the homeschool answer to homecoming celebrations, but without the football game.  It takes place at Andre's on Telegraph, typically on a Thursday night.  This year Thalia thought she would make a simple Little Black Dress (counting the construction towards a half credit of Practical Arts), and then buy a pair of fun shoes.  After all the falderal of last week and the weekend, though, it was apparent that the black satin languishing in the laundry room wasn't going anywhere very quickly.  So I cut it out Tuesday, and slapped it together Wednesday.  We went to the mall Tuesday night and found shoes:

I think she wanted something gaudier, but gaudy costs more money, and this is what Charlotte Russe had in her size.  Those heels put her up over 6 foot tall.

Of course, she gets ready over at a friend's house, and refuses to bother taking pictures.  So far this is all I've got of the dress, which I swiped off of someone's Facebook (as I did the above shoe picture):

She assures me that there are better pictures on another friend's camera, but that friend is currently in Kansas City for a robotics competition.

And this week Annabeth did RightStart Geometry; got ready to take another test in Shepherd's Life Science, except we can't find the test book, which was probably stuck away somewhere during the whirlwind housecleaning before the party last weekend; missed her WriteShop class so we could take the rat BACK to the vet to find out if that lump developing under the incision was an abscess (hey, we have cats, and that's what an abscess on a cat looks like -- but on a rat that's just had surgery it's a hematoma ... I wish they would've told me beforehand that seratomas and hematomas are an option).  By the way, we don't have to take her back to have her stitches removed since she's already removed all of them with her teeth.  Also, Annabeth has been reading about St. Francis in her sloooow trip through Pandia Press Middle Age history.

Also, Annabeth is the lead in a Christmas musical at church, and is tagging along to Thalia's voice lessons so she can spend a half hour working with the director on inflection and acting.  The play is a takeoff of the old Dragnet series, and she has the Joe Friday part.  She was thrilled to learn that they'll be costuming it in a 1950s look rather than a Bible-story look (she loathes Bible-story costumes, but the 1950s look puts it reasonably close to Captain America, and she's hoping to base her costume on Peggy, his girlfriend -- she asked if she could dye her hair and wear the bright red lipstick).

Plus, a couple of nights ago while fooling around with's new book-lending feature for Kindle (which we've decided is pretty lame, by the way), she discovered a free copy of Black Beauty.  She's captivated by it.

Plus Scouts was this week, during which they supposedly learned something or other.  Thalia's troop was working on collages as part of finishing up one of the old badges.  Annabeth's group was working on a Journey, which is fairly insipid.

Earlier in the fall I read the blog by some young woman who was homeschooled in Missouri, and is quite opposed to homeschooling now because of the social isolation.  Um, yeah, right.  I could use some isolation right about now -- maybe I'd be able to write up a nice report of all the actual schoolwork we got done rather than all the running around we do, and rabbit trails we wander off on.

More Homeschool Weeks-in-Review at

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Co-op Science Week 10

Science class met on Halloween this week, so I invited the kids to bring in magic tricks to demonstrate to their classmates.  It was fun, although many of the kids forgot to bring one in.

I had put some Soil Moist granules in water in a plastic container the night before.  I took them in and announced that they were "ghost brains".  The kids didn't buy it, of course.  I spooned some out into small plastic bags while explaining that it was a hydrophilic polymer I had used in the garden over the summer, it would dry back out into granules if left on a paper towel, and it was pretty much the same thing that they could find in a disposable diaper.  This last bit of info really elicited some cries of  "eeeewwwwww!"

Then we made Slime, using the directions in the old Girl Scout Junior Badge Book in the Making It Matter Badge; these are the best directions I've found for making Slime with a crowd of kids in 3rd through 5th grade.  Of course, this badge book is no longer available because GSUSA is a bunch of idiots GSUSA apparently believes that girls don't need STEM inspiration (or, at least, girls won't cough up the bucks to join an organization that has fun STEM projects), so here's how to do it:

Pass out cups to the kids, along with wooden popsicle sticks for stirring.  Measure out 1 tablespoon of Elmer's Glue (or other glue -- there are lots of websites comparing the virtues of various glues in regards to Slime-making) into each cup (have kids help with this or not -- sort of depends on your crowd)to .  Go down the row putting 3 tablespoons of water into each cup, and have them stir the water and glue together.

(For the record, all I had told them about what we were doing was that we were going to make a polymer by having using the Borax hook together the polyvinyl acetate [in the glue] sort of like paper clips hooking together lots of little chains.  Some kids recognized what we were doing, most didn't. Several websites give nice explanations of the science of this demonstration, and thanks to Wikipedia I think I know the difference between polyvinyl acetate and polyvinyl alcohol.)

We then put a squirt of glow-in-the-dark paint in each cup.

Earlier I had mixed 2 tablespoons of Borax in a cup of warm water.  Each cup of watery glue next got one tablespoon of the Borax solution, with directions to "keep stirring".  Unfortunately as the water cooled a lot of the Borax precipitated out (I'd done this at home, and at least an hour had elapsed).  So the first few cups had a few duds, as they didn't have enough Borax to start the reaction.  But, wow, it was pretty cool when SURPRISE, Slime started to form in the cups that worked.  Since we had plenty of cups, glue, and Borax solution, we started over on some of the duds.

We then discussed where we could go to see whether or not it would really glow in the dark -- I hadn't tried this out ahead of time and wasn't really sure.  We all ran downstairs to a big room with no windows, and discovered, YES, we have glowing slime!  I meant to give a quick lesson in how glow in the dark paint works, but it was lost in the excitement.

I had brought plastic bags for them to put there Slime in.  So, take-home bags of Ghost Brains and Slime! Perfect Halloween science class!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween, Musical Theater-style

This year we had pumpkins carved as Hello Kitty

 and as a Manga character.
As for costumes, for the past several years the kids have gone trick-or-treating with a friend.  But this year they found out about a week  before Halloween that she wasn't available for the evening, meaning that their planned costumes/routine weren't going to work out.  But the show must go on, so they dressed in their outfits from last spring's vocal recital -- Snazzy Jazz

 -- and became the Betty and Judy Haynes from White Christmas.
  And performed a favorite number from the movie (very appropriate for the 2 of them) (my idea, by the way).

Some people recognized the music ("You're Rosemary Clooney!") and others didn't ("Did you write that song yourselves?" [Egads, if they were going to write a song about being sisters why would they choose those lyrics? Setting aside the appalling lack of cultural literacy, there's not a whole lotta common sense going' on with that there question]).  Overall, it was well received.  Some people asked where their friend was, since they remember them from year to year (and, really, who could forget last year's amazing Riverdance Spectacular?)

Once again the they ended up with a ton of candy...

 I think even more than last year ...

proving once again that adding a little pizzazz to your trick-or-treating can pay big dividends.

Then, after we were done with our neighborhood, we blew out the candles in our jackolanterns, turned off the lights, and zoomed over to a friend's house to show them how it's REALLY done.  Because we're all about raising the bar for Halloween craziness.


The neighborhood Halloween parade.

Followed that evening by Thalia's Sweet Sixteen Costume Party.  
Which featured a cat,
and Cher (although as the evening progressed I found myself thinking about Elvira),
and a whole bunch of other characters.
Sunday they were supposed to go to a Trunk-or-Treat  our youth group was putting on at an apartment complex.  The plan was to reprise their roles as Dorothy and the Wicked Witch.  But everyone was pretty wiped out from the party (and the physics assignment, and a bad cold going around) so we stayed home to carve pumpkins instead.

 Ready for The Big Day!