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Monday, August 17, 2015

Aaron's Bridge to Somewhere

This is our swamp.  I know that when most people brag about their properties or write descriptions for real estate advertisements they don't announce that their yard is bounded on one side by a swamp, but that is the case in our yard, and we embrace it.  Except the mosquitoes that fly out of the swamp.  We squash those.
This swamp separates us from our neighbor to the west, which happens to be an overgrown empty lot.  The lot has been for sale for as long as we have lived in our house, and as far as we know there has never been the slightest bit of interest in purchasing it.  We don't really mind having no human neighbors in that quarter - the peace and quiet is nice - but we do have an interest in the property (although not buying).  You see, the road our house faces is very busy and isn't a good place for young children to be riding their bikes but the road in front of the empty lot is much quieter and is a wonderful road for riding.  Aaron the Engineer decided that it would be fun and practical to build a bridge across the swamp so that the kids could cut through to the side street and ride their bikes in safety.
It took a few weekends, but the bridge is finished now and the kids are enjoying the adventure of using it to go on little roadtrips together.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Science Experiment #26 - Is it Art or Science?

Is it really the middle of August already?  Shocking!  The past few weeks have been filled with fun because some of my relatives, who live in Germany, have been visiting this month and we've been going to baseball games and the beach, having sleep overs and bonfires, and just getting together often.  As a result of all this family fun time, we have not been doing our weekly science experiments very regularly, but this week we are getting back on track.

I found today's experiment on Pinterest, and it looked simple enough, so I didn't even follow the link.
Image found here
The only problem is, it's a little bit tricky to decide if this is an art lesson or a science lesson since you use a pendulum to create a painting (I guess that makes it a STEAM lesson)!  I turned to Youtube to up the science factor and let the kids watch several movies (this one and this one) to illustrate what a pendulum is and how it works.   Then we made our own pendulum using a camera tripod, some string, and glue bottle cut in half.
We filled the glue bottle with tempera paint, opened the cap, and set the pendulum swinging.  It turned out to be a bit more tricky than the picture made it look, because I couldn't get the paint to flow with any sort of consistency out of the bottle top.  One second it would be dripping only occasionally 
and then suddenly it would start streaming so quickly that the paint would begin to puddle and ruin the design.
We did get it to work well enough to illustrate the pattern that swinging pendulums make, but we sure didn't make any works of art.  We'll call it a partial success.
Photo credits go to Ian.  He manned the camera while I tried to manage the glue bottle.

Happy science, everyone!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Controlling the Collections

A few months ago we rearranged the girls' bedroom.  It was a good thing because it allowed the furniture that they needed (beds and dressers) to fit more efficiently while still leaving them plenty of space on the floor to play.  What it did NOT do, however, was provide space for their rapidly growing collection of treasures.  What no one tells you when your cute infant daughter first arrives in your home is that she will collect VAST amounts of "things", all of which are labeled "Indispensable and Precious Treasures" and all of which must be kept forever and prominently displayed on every available surface, regardless off how full those surfaces already are.  When you have a second cute infant daughter the problem only gets worse.

These treasures were the source of many mother-daughter disagreements, which lead to discussions like this one: "This acorn from last year is not worth saving."  "YES IT IS!! IT IS MY FAVORITE  ONE AND DADDY GAVE IT TO ME!!" "Could we get rid of the other acorns then?  You can keep just the special one."  "NO, THEY ARE ALL VERY, VERY, VERY SPECIAL!!"  Eventually the acorn problem was worked out to nobody's satisfaction and mother and daughter moved on to the next precious stack of scrap paper.  Repeat discussion.

After too many repetitions of these arguments it became clear that some sort of solution needed to be found in order to protect and display truly special (and fragile) items from being broken and buried under mounds of less desirable junk (the mom's opinion, not the child's).  A trip to IKEA provided the much needed shelving and some tips from Aaron provided the know-how to properly install them.  (Yes, I did it myself.)
The girls were so thrilled to finally have a place to put their pottery pieces that they willingly allowed me to remove several stacks of old papers and even some dead leaves from their bookshelf.  What they weren't willing to give up was moved to some new storage boxes (also from IKEA - I should get some sort of store credit for all this endorsing) that fit under their bed.  I might not agree with the girls' "what to save" policy, but at least i don't have to look at it any more.

On an unhappy note, the little table no longer looks like it does in the pictures.  The collections have begun again and there isn't much table top in sight.  Oh well.





Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Another Round of Pottery Painting Fun

Do you want to see some excited kids?  Come over to my house and whisper "Today is Pottery Day" in your quietest whisper.  You will instantly see pandemonium.  "Pottery Day" is an annual event my Grandmother sponsors for her great-grandchildren who have reached the age of four (this year that meant 8 kids) and live close enough to attend.  They look forward to this day all year and often discuss with each other what they will paint at the next event.
When "Pottery Day" finally actually arrives, we all load up in the car and head north to Green Bay, the location of a coffee shop and craft studio owned by a distant cousin of mine.  The kids get to pick a small piece of decorative pottery (well, we encourage them to pick small, but they always get their hearts set on some large and elaborate piece and we have to talk them down) which they spend the next hour or so painting and decorating with glaze.
Oh, the decisions!
Oh, the excitement!
Oh, the painting!
Oh boy, the mess!
But they are all so happy!
Once the painting is finished we join the younger cousins and aunties and Grandpas at the park for a picnic lunch.
It was a lovely day.  Thanks Grandma - we all love "Pottery Day"!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Summertime Front Door "Wreath"

These days, most of my posts have been kid related - either kids doing projects or kids doing school work.  Today, however, you get an honest-to-goodness adult project (although if you wanted to have some children help you with it you probably could).  I've been wanted a new summer-time wreath for my front door since last summer, and after wandering around Pinterest and looking at all kinds of ideas I finally decided on a simple monogram.  I found a wooden "K" at Walmart and started by painting it white with some paint I had left over from another project.
Then I cut apart a bunch of fake flowers (also from Walmart) and hot-glued them onto the letter.
For a hanger I hot-glued a piece of yarn across the back.  That didn't work so well, so I switched to Gorilla glue.  It's still hanging, which I guess means that it was the right material for the job.
Voila!  Other than paint drying time, the whole thing took about 15 minutes to put together.  Which is just about all the time I had between kid activities that day.
Welcome!

Science Experiment #25

The first few pictures are going to make it look like this is not a post about science experiments or activities, but it is - sort of.  On Thursday, our usual science day, we had to leave our house for many hours because our carpets were being cleaned.  So, we headed to the beach at Kohler-Andrae State Park.
 Some of our cousins met us at the park and we played in the water and sand all morning and part of the afternoon.  
 After the cousins left we headed off the beach to a shady spot where we could nurse our sunburns and work on the kids' Wisconsin Explorers books.  We did the pages on patterns and textures in nature, but such boring topics were tossed aside when two White-tailed Deer fawns, still in their spots, wandered into our little spot and spent a few minutes staring at us and wagging their tails. We stared right back. When they finally wandered away the kids were ready to wander on too.
We ended the day by visiting the Sanderling Nature Center and checking out their exhibits, and then walking the associated nature trail.  We were really hopeful of finding a monarch butterfly in all of the milkweed along the trail, but once again our search was fruitless.
We headed home tired and sandy, but with clean carpet and big smiles.
Happy carpet-cleaning, beach combing, nature-book doing, deer spotting, and hiking, everyone!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Birdhouses in Summertime

One of the things my kids like to do every summer is paint birdhouses for me.  I'm not much for garden art or nick-knack decorating, and I'm also not much of a birdwatcher, but I do have a soft spot for these little multi-colored treasures.  The best part is that you can find the wooden craft items for as little as 99 cents, which is a very inexpensive way to make four kids and one mom very happy.

On the particular day this project was done, two children worked very quickly and got their morning chores done in time to feature in the photo session.  Two other children dawdled, and consequently had to do their painting much later under slightly less happy circumstances.
In the end, lessons on speedily completing tasks aside, they all turned out gorgeously
Happy summer, everyone.