Saturday, March 31, 2012

Week in Review

-- Thalia made it home from the Dominican Republic Sunday evening.  She seemed none the worse for wear, although she needs to keep taking the anti-malaria pills (we chose doxicycline) for a few more weeks.

-- She did have a rash, which started clearing up almost immediately when she got home and washed with local water.

-- The first thing she wanted to do when she got home was take a shower and brush her teeth.

-- In the meantime, Rick had 2 tickets to the NCAA Regional Finals here in St. Louis on Sunday afternoon.  His sister, a huge Kansas fan, drove over (from Kansas) to see the game with him.  This gave her celebrity status in her small town, by the way.  Bonus information:  her birthday was a few days before this, so it was her birthday present.

-- In case you didn't know, Kansas won.  And Rick's sister about lost her voice from yelling.  She said it was a great birthday.

-- Then Rick went somewhere ... okay, I remember, it was Mexico.  It's sort of a blur -- he went to Italy and Germany, then Arkansas, and then Mexico (different trips during different weeks) and in the meantime Thalia went to the DR.  Annabeth commented that it seemed like a long time since we've all been in the house at the same time.

-- While he was gone we went to see The Hunger Games.  I hadn't read the book, but enjoyed it anyway. Some of the acting in it is amazing.  I thought they did a great job of filming it.  I'll get around to reading the book eventually.

-- I was trying to make an Easter dress for me.  But it had an unfortunate tendency to gape at the neckline.  So I put that to one side, and am now going to make a skirt.  Maybe.

-- The weather has been spectacular.  I've mown the lawn twice (well, over the course of the past two weeks), and it needs it again.  Also, Annabeth and I washed the car to try to get off all of the pollen and catkins, not to mention bird poop.  Usually we take it through the car wash, so Annabeth thought it was an adventure to do it ourselves.

-- Right now I should be washing dishes or working on my skirt or cleaning the car windshield.  Okay, off the computer now so I can go check something else off of the to-do list.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spring Break

Spring break actually covers several weeks around here since various schools choose various weeks as their one-week break.  But by some amazing confluence of events, everything we do had a spring break this week.  

I was wondering why I felt so liberated by the concept, since the only major thing I do is teach a co-op class.  Eventually I realized that not having to schlepp kids all over town all week was a major savings of time, not to mention a major savings of gas.  

Of course, Thalia began the week by heading for the Dominican Republic.  Here she is a 7:30am on Sunday, having spent the time after Annie Jr. on Saturday packing up all of her stuff (including things like bedding, towels, toilet paper -- like going to GIrl Scout camp, but in a different country).  Starting the week sleep-deprived -- probably not a great idea.  Oh well.  

If we're friends on Facebook you've got access to the videos the leader has been posting through the week -- I've either shared them or liked them.

The week here has been amazingly warm for the most part.  Early in the week we were taking photos of the redbuds Dad planted a few years ago.  He had dug them up from his yard in Indiana when they were about 2-3 feet tall including root "ball" (actually little trailing bits of roots, not much of a ball at all).  We included Annabeth for perspective, although she's grown quite a bit in the past few months, too -- she's up to about 5 feet tall now.

Lots of messing about with photos, as a matter of fact -- I came up with a new Easter slide show to use as the screen saver on the main computer, I ordered bunches of prints to frame up and use for spring decor.

Much cleaning, much hauling stuff to Goodwill (which has suffered from major traffic jams since everyone seems to have had the same idea), much tossing clutter.  Sewing -- a new pair of pants from the Style Arc Linda pattern and some stretch bengaline.  That should've taken just a couple of hours, but I ran out of thread, went to get some, realized the thread was on sale (woot!  Stock up on basic colors -- I'm low on white after all those aprons and caps from Annie Jr.), decided to wander around and see what else is on sale, which turned out to include picture frames (hey!  Just ordered prints!  What a coincidence!), so all sorts of new clutter has already started to pile up already.

The lawn is mowed, more of last fall's dead leaves pulled out from the shrubbery, more sweet gum balls  picked up from the yard and thrown out.

Annabeth has done a little school work this week.  She's babysat for the neighbors -- usually she and Thalia do this together, but she went solo this week, which was pretty exciting.  And she's been decorating styrofoam Easter eggs which we purchased years ago but never got around to doing anything with.

Now we're on the downward side of the break, of course.  We're having company for the weekend, and Thalia will get home on Sunday evening.  We still have projects we'd planned to complete this week, of course, but the time we have to finish them is winding down. Even if we don't get it all done, though, it's been a good break.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Annie Jr.

Annie Jr. was presented last week on Friday night and again on Saturday afternoon.  I took some pictures during the Friday night performance, figuring that as far as pictures go I'd get the majority of them on Saturday after I'd gotten a feel for what shots I wanted to get, where the action was placed on stage, etc.  Also, there was a Very Tall Person in front of me on Friday night (this person was accompanying a family member in a wheelchair, so really needed to sit there, so although I didn't begrudge them the seat it was still unfortunate).

But, alas, on Saturday a big storm went through and the power went out 30 minutes before showtime.  Various phone calls revealed that the power company wouldn't guarantee power any time for the next 3.5 hours.  So the cast and crew dragged the set pieces out to the lobby where there was a little ambient light depending on the cloud cover, audience members set up folding chairs, and they started performing sans power.  Which meant no mikes, which for some of the performers (like Annie herself) meant that if you were more than about 10 feet from them you couldn't hear them (this is never an issue with our family -- we're the ones who go without mikes if there's some sort of shortage since we're all loud enough anyway).  Also, the music was being played through an iPod put in some sort of battery-operated speaker system someone had, which made it very hard to hear also.  They ended up turning it off during Hard Knock Life since the kids couldn't hear it to know if they were on beat.  One of the stronger chorus members has excellent pitch and rhythm, and thankfully the entire chorus deferred to her lead. 

Then during intermission, voila, power came back on.  So everything was dragged BACK into the theater, and the kids resumed Act 2 in the theater.  But, really, everyone was sort of off their game ... it was sort of like going to a sporting event and having an unexpected delay, and trying to get back into the mindset.  And Annabeth didn't bother turning on her mike when they got back into the theater, and no one other than people on soundboard really noticed because she was just that loud.

But, anyway, in all the pandemonium I didn't really get that many photos, and didn't record any of the songs.  The shots I took in the lobby were really horrendous.  And when we got back to the theater we sat in random seats, and frankly I forgot about taking pictures.

I have this vague memory that when Annie, Jr. was cast the director wasn't sure Annabeth would be able to portray a mean character like Miss Hannigan.  After all, her main roles so far at this place had been Mary Poppins and Dorothy Gale.  But I think she did fine with the range of emotion that Miss Hannigan portrays while singing and speaking.  Also, where the heck did she pick up that East Coast accent with the world-weary tone?  She did a great job.

By the way, although this was ostensibly Annie Jr., the director added in some things from the original stage play that she thought helped the flow of the production since the "Junior" version cuts out so much as to make some of the scenes almost nonsensical.  Also they used a real dog, unlike most Annie Jr productions -- a very well-trained bichon frise.

Since I had few pictures myself, particularly of Miss Hannigan without other kids around, I've swiped some off of the Tech Director's facebook  pictures of one of the dress rehearsals.  Which is why Miss Hannigan's hairstuyle might vary.

Little Girls -- wow, she had quite the expressions during this.

Very poignant here while listening to the radio - click to enlarge, if desired.

Lily and Rooster are in wigs and a mustache, so pretty well disguised for a blog post.

Also featuring Thalia on crew, shown here messing around with Pres. Roosevelt's wheelchair.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Co-op Science Week 24

Inquiry in Action chapter 5, part 2 -- Formation of a precipitate, and neutralizing acids and bases.

We started out with a review of what we covered the week before -- that chemical changes can cause a gas to be released, a color to change, or a heating or cooling to occur.  Then we worked on another possibility -- forming a precipitate.

Honestly, as I read through the lesson I thought this sounded like a massive PITA to do -- making hard water, then making soap scum.  I thought it would be easier to do something like throw vinegar in milk to make curds ... but then we got into all sorts of discussions (at home) as to whether that would actually be a precipitate or a coagulate ... and then started discussing flocculation ... and never really reached a conclusion. (Side note:  Rick is a chemical engineer, and tends to think discussing chemical reactions is quite scintillating.)  Although it did occur to me that vinegar plus milk had a high probability of making a really stinky mess in the classroom, especially if it spilled in the carpet.  So we went with the soap scum.

And, really, it turned out not to be that hard to do if you just follow the directions.  I tried it all out the night before, as I usually do.  The kids worked in groups, mixing epsom salts with water to make hard water, shredding up Ivory soap to m ix with the water (they sort of went wild with this part, even though I demonstrated it first, and even though we had an adult working with each group).

They were quite fascinated with the concept of pouring the soapy scummy water through a coffee filter -- most had never considered the possibility of using a coffee filter as a filter.  I asked if anyone made yogurt cheese at home, since it sort of reminded me of that.  I knew one family did that sort of thing (one of the adult helpers and her kids, as a matter of fact).

The kids were excellent at harvesting their soap scum off the filter, even the group that had knocked over their cup of soapy scummy water and ended up without much to use.  They were really awful about putting a similar amount of soap flakes in the other cup of water -- we've gone over this concept Every. Single. Week. of controlling amounts so we only have one variable.  But I guess the excitement of mucking about with the soft Ivory soap and popsicle sticks was too much for them.

They were absolute champions about making soap bubbles with a straw.  Well, those with the actual soapy water -- the soap scum water was pretty disappointing.

Then we set all of THAT aside (rather regretfully, as there were those among us that thought they should play with globs of soap the rest of the day) to work some more with pH.

I had made new red cabbage indicator -- it doesn't really keep its indicator qualities if it's hanging around for a week.  Plus at this point I can pretty much whip up a batch in less than 5 minutes.

The previous week one of the girls asked if we could get the color of the indicator back to the original if we mixed together the cup of indicator-plus-cream-of-tartar and the cup of indicator-plus-detergent.  I had slopped them together, but it didn't work.

This week each group used a control cup, so they could see the color they were trying to get back to, and 2 other cups.  They carefully added small amounts of cream of tartar and detergent powder to each.  Two notes on process:

First of all, the curriculum specifies using flat toothpicks to add the powders to the indicator.  I didn't have any flat toothpicks, and didn't really feel like driving around town looking for them.  Instead, I cut plastic drinking straws into segments about 1.5 inches long, then split the segment lengthwise to make a little scoop.  One straw gives you several scoops that are very thin (so it can get under the powder to scoop it up) and fairly spill-proof (due to the curve of the straw sides).

Secondly, when I tried this at home I originally tried using Ivory Snow laundry detergent powder.  I kept dumping it in and dumping it in, trying to get the indicator to change color.  It occurred to me that perhaps Ivory is mild because its pH is fairly neutral.  So I switched to a small box of Sun detergent which was the cheapest thing Walmart had.  Wowza, a tiny bit of that stuff made a HUGE difference in indicator color.  Brand of detergent really makes a difference in how this works!  And could be an interesting inquiry all on its own -- maybe a science fair project.  (Of course, now I've no clue what to do with the rest of the box of this detergent, but that's another issue.)

In any case, the groups of kids successfully turned their indicators various colors, then switched around and turned them back to the original color.  One group overshot it, and went to far the OTHER way.  Which was actually a good experience, because then we just added a scoochy bit more of the first powder.

Afterwards everyone mixed everything together as desired, which is always one of the more popular moments of the class.

Co-op Science Week 23

Inquiry in Action Chapter 5, Chemical Change.

Wow, I was SO EXCITED about this week's lesson.

We started off by discussing the difference between a chemical change and a physical change.  I gave examples of each (eg, cutting up a piece of steel wool vs. spritzing it with water and letting it rust), and also wrote out a couple of examples on the board (methane plus oxygen becomes carbon dioxide plus water).

Then, the FUN stuff.  We looked at a couple of plain white powders -- baking soda and baking powder.  They look pretty much the same, but when we added vinegar they reacted somewhat differently.  We discussed that CO2 had been created during the reaction, and that the reaction rate had been different for the 2 powders.

Next I put some red cabbage indicator, which I made using the same process we'd used here, in a couple of clear plastic cups.  (The curriculum has a different way of making the indicator, but I thought the idea of giving out ziplocs, water, and cabbage to the kids was downright scary -- I had visions of this stuff being blasted everywhere.) I put a little cream of tartar (an acid) in one, and a little powdered detergent (a base) in the other.  Of course, they turned 2 different colors.  Only one of the students had ever messed around with this sort of thing before -- not a huge surprise, since cabbage gets rather stinky, and most parents don't care to mess with it (although it's so cheap, easy, and fun that they should).

Okay, now we've seen a couple of ways to tell rather anonymous-looking white powders apart -- looking for chemical changes that produce gas, and looking for chemical changes that cause color change.  So we set about sorting out what would happen when we tested baking soda, baking powder, cream of tartar, corn starch, and detergent with drops of various liquids -- vinegar, water, iodine (turns from red to black when it combines with starch -- this was another activity practically straight out of the old Junior Girl Scout badge book from back when GSUSA cared about getting girls interested in STEM, and also the reason I had iodine around the house), and red cabbage indicator.  The kids worked in groups of 4.  They also had an unknown (baking powder) to identify.

It was really tough to keep this organized and on track -- you practically need an adult with each group of kids, helping them figure out how to organize their work.  But it was really fascinating stuff.  I'd say that over the course of prepping for this activity I learned more about the history of cream of tartar and of baking powder than I ever thought I would.

After the extravaganza of testing all of those powders we were running a bit short on time, but we still tried to cram in the last to demonstrations I'd chosen (I'm starting to leave stuff out of the curriculum).  First I poured some vinegar in a graduated cylinder and had the kids note the temperature of it with a partial immersion thermometer (both the cylinders and the thermometers were purchased from Home Science Tools).  Then I added baking soda, let it bubble up all over the place (always a crowd pleaser), then looked again at the temperature.  It had dropped!  An endothermic reaction.

The curriculum suggests using calcium chloride for the "other" reaction, but I decided to go with the easier-to-source hydrogen peroxide and yeast reaction.  This time we put the yeast in the graduated cylinder first, measured the temperature of the peroxide while it was still in the bottle, then dumped it into the cylinder.  It bubbled up, of course, and the temperature shot up.  Exothermic!

So we managed to make it through 3  possible outcomes of chemical changes -- a gas formed, a change in color, and a change in temperature.  It was an action-packed hour.

Co-op Science Week 22

Inquiry in Action  Chapter 4 part 2 -- Dissolving gases.

Exciting thing number 1 for this week -- both my adult helpers let me know at the last minute that they couldn't be there.  As it turned out, though, Annabeth's science class was cancelled, so she came in to help me.  Also, I managed to coerce another adult to stop by for about half an hour for crowd control.

To look at how gases dissolve in liquids we messed around quite a bit with carbonated water.  Which fizzed all over the place when opened.  We had towels on hand, though, which is something I'd highly recommend for most of this course.

We poured carbonated water in plastic cups, then dumped in various things and watched what happened -- granulated sugar, M&Ms, pipe cleaners.  I think the pipe cleaners were supposed to bobble up and down like raisins or lemon seeds (oddly, no one in the class has ever put either raisins or lemon seeds in a carbonated beverage before).

We also put carbonated water in glasses, then put those glasses into other containers of cold water and hot water so we could observe whether they de-fizzed more quickly in one than the other.  I had taken the hot water in Thermos containers (which I then left closed the rest of the day, including one that was still full of water, thus making a dandy home experiment on what happens when the water cools down and you try to unscrew the top).

For our finale, we tried to figure out a good way to make a carbonated beverage that had lemon juice and sugar added.  We brainstormed as a class to figure out how to get both ingredients in the carbonated water without having much of the fizz leave -- the problem being that when we add granulated sugar we lose carbonation.  I did numerous tests of theories the kids had of what to add when.  One of the students sorta gave the answer -- mix the lemon juice and sugar together first, then pour them in together -- so groups of kids made their own batch using this methodology.  Many kids wanted to taste it, which wasn't particularly surprising -- I had taken little Dixie cups along for that purpose.

The kids then wrote up a booklet about their experience.  These will be displayed on our table at our final Open House of the year.

The remainder of the time was spent trying to get all the stickiness off the tables, as this ended up being much messier in a crowd than at home.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Some Things Going on Here

-- Annie is in tech week.  Annabeth is in the show, Thalia is in the crew.  So they're at the theater pretty much every night this week.

-- Twelve aprons for Daddy Warbuck's maids are done.  Still working on the 12 caps for the same group.

-- Much white thread has been used at our house in the past couple of weeks.  Also, myriad little scraps of white fabric are all over everything.

-- I've taken some pictures of this extravaganza, so perhaps I can someday do a post on how to do an assembly line of aprons.

-- Plus Thalia made the curtains for Miss Hannigan's office.  The Tech person kept saying she could work on them there, but she said she'd rather do it at home where we had decent scissors and a serger.

-- Annabeth auditioned for Muny Kids.  Didn't make it.  Probably just as well, since Thalia didn't get in to Muny Teens.  Or maybe not.  Who knows.

-- Teaching a group of 8-10 year olds about chemical reactions.  Egads, it was really cool stuff, and a couple of them were acting like total jerks just for the sake of being total jerks.  I finally got down to eye level with one of them and said, "You're not going to ruin this for the entire class.  If you keep acting like that, I know where your mother is, and you're going to go sit quietly with her.  Got it?" with a strong indication that this went for Jerk #2 also (although I wasn't absolutely sure where his mother was at that moment).  After that things went marginally better.  It helps to know that the mothers will NOT make excuses for their kids' behavior, and have high expectations for Paying Attention to Adults.

-- Thalia is leaving for the Dominican Republic in a few days.  She needs to start the anti-malaria pills soon.  It's the sort of trip where she's supposed to take along all of her bedding -- not exactly luxury accommodations.  And steel-toed boots.  And other stuff -- sheesh, I hope we have it all.

-- They've talked for months about how warm it is down there, expect to feel very hot because you're not used to it, blah blah blah.  Except with the warm spell we're having right now, it's about the same as what's going on here.

-- After we finish the maid caps I need to alter some clothes for her to take along.  Very strict rules about what types of clothing is allowed.  They're not to be the chicas that everyone is gawking at.  No shorts, for example.

-- Plus we're doing that school thing we do here.

-- Rick went to Italy and Germany.  I don't think I mentioned that.  It all sort of slides by these days like one giant montage of busy-ness.

-- Girl Scout cookies are being delivered.  Fortunately we didn't sell as many this year ("we" being Annabeth).  One customer called before the cookies were even available at Council to ask why we hadn't delivered them yet -- total cookie panic.  Really.  It was weird.  Another called a couple of days after we'd gotten our order -- she'd ordered a huge amount and wanted them on hand for when her son got back from a big swim meet, which sort of made sense. Anyway, we only have a couple of more orders to deliver.  Special thanks to all who have been patient and didn't think the world would end if their cookies weren't delivered immediately.

-- And some other stuff I don't recall at the moment.

-- More later.