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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #8

This week's science experiment is really a report on several weeks of observations of plant growth.  About a month ago I discovered that some of the garlic cloves I had for cooking were sprouting.  I thought, "wouldn't it be fun for the kids to plant these and see what happens?"  So after our regular weekly science experiment (#5) we did just that.  Some of the cloves we planted in a glass cup with a wadded up paper towel to keep them in place and enough water to cover them.
The other three cloves got planted in a clear glass vase with good old potting soil.
Then we set them in a sunny spot and waited to see what would happen.
A week later we made official observations.  The kids were quite interested in how the roots were growing through the dirt as well as around each other in the water glass.
The following week we observed again, but the excitement wasn't the same because although the stems and roots had increased in length, they didn't look a great deal different from the previous week.
Today we observed again.  Our first observation was that the garlic in the glass was beginning to smell - and not a pleasant garlicky smell, but a starting to get moldy smell.
So we pulled them out of their home, talked a bit about roots and stems and leaves, what plants eat, and why they need dirt to grow, and then we threw them away.
The cloves that we planted in dirt did not smell, so we are going to leave them in their sunny spot and continue to observe them grow.  Maybe we'll even get a bulb of garlic to eat when the experiment is finished.
Happy edible science, everyone!

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Well-Timed Experiment

I am beginning to regret the day that I purchased the first throw pillow for our home.  And the day I purchased the second throw pillow.  And each subsequent day that involved the purchase of any pillow type (throw or sleeping) or small blanket or hand towel or fabric-covered object.  Looking back, my current self should have told my former self to save my money for the future purchase of handkerchiefs and Kleenex, because an apparent lack of facial wipes is resulting in the use by my children of any other available soft surface in the house for the relief of dripping noses.

Yep, we have caught "the cold" of the season and it is a whopper.  The kids are expelling fluid at an alarming rate (sorry if that is TMI) and while I am not one to run around with a bucket of bleach solution in one hand and a can of Lysol in the other in order to decontaminate every surface, I have been trying to keep the snot-load to a minimum by washing a lot of laundry - mostly the throw pillows.

It is an ill wind, however, that blows no good and this germ-laden one is no exception.  All this laundry has given me a good opportunity to try out my new DIY laundry soap.  This is my second experiment in this department and I have high hopes for this recipe.  The method I tried in the past was cheap and easy to make, but the clothes always seemed grubby and I just didn't end up liking it.  I went back to store-bought detergent with very little regret.  Unfortunately for lazy, money-spending me, my skin seems to have developed a distaste for certain ingredients in soaps and shampoos, and while I work out which specific ingredients are causing the trouble I am avoiding as many potential triggers as possible.  But, I still need to wash clothes so I thought I'd give homemade laundry soap another try.  This is a different formula from my first attempt and is also a powder instead of a liquid, so we shall see if it is more successful or not.  I found the recipe here:
16 cups baking soda
12 cups washing soda
8 cups of grated castile soap (four bars)
10-12 drops lavender essential oil (optional)
I divided this recipe by 8 for my first batch and also skipped the essential oil.  Grating half a bar of soap didn't take long, and neither did measuring out the sodas, so the whole process took about fifteen minutes.  I have been using two tablespoons per load, and so far I haven't noticed any problems.  Will the whites stay white and the colors bright?  Only time will tell, but for the moment not a booger is to be seen on any throw pillows and that is a good thing.

Happy laundry day, everyone!

PS - Never fear!  All the freshly cleaned throw pillows are staying safely tucked away in the laundry room until this cold has run its course.  

Linked up at:
Hearts for Home Blog Hop

Friday, February 20, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #7

 Well, winter continues and so does science, although it continues with sore throats and drippy noses and coughs.  This week I thought I'd keep it simple and use the readily available snow to show the kids that water changes size when it freezes or thaws.  The steps were pretty simple: pack a glass full of snow and then let it melt.
We also put one cup of tap water in to a separate container and put that bowl in the freezer. 
 The kids suspected that the snow would melt into "less" water, but they were surprised by how little water there really was.  They were also surprised by how much debris was left in the glass by the white and clean-looking snow.
 The change in size and shape of the water that froze to ice was less interesting.  "Yeah, Mom.  It bulged up in the middle."  I'd like to think their lack of excitement was due to fevers and not to a boring experiment.
Oh well, you melt some, you freeze some.

Happy science, everyone.

Linked up at:
Hip Homeschool Moms

Monday, February 16, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #6

Did you all have a nice Valentine's Day?  We did, although we didn't celebrate in the traditional way.  Instead of a romantic date with just my husband, we took the whole family along to an extended family get-together to celebrate my dad's 60th birthday.  We were supposed to go ice skating before eating pizza together, but when the temperature sank below zero we all chickened out and skipped straight to the pizza part.  We had a lot of fun and nobody complained too loudly at the lack of frostbitten toes!

While the extremely cold temperatures were not very kind to outdoor ice skating enthusiasts,  they were very conducive to last week's science experiment, which involved the very complicated process of freezing a liquid (water) into a solid (ice).  To make it a little more interesting we used three different shapes of glass containers to see what effect the shape of the container had on freezing time.  We poured 1.5 cups of tap water each into a tall and skinny glass vase, 
a medium-sized Pyrex measuring bowl,
and a large but shallow cake pan.
Then we made predictions about which container would freeze first.  
Ian actually put some thought into his predictions, noting that "the more water that actually touched the cold air the faster it would freeze."  The other three kids just randomly guessed (or copied) their predictions.
At 3:15 in the afternoon we put the bowls outside on the front porch, and started checking every 30 minutes.  After an hour we got our first bit of ice in the cake pan (much rejoicing by Ian at his "win"), and after two and three-quarter hours the first container - the cake pan - was frozen solid (much more rejoicing by Ian at his "victory").  We finally suspended the experiment at bedtime (7pm) with two containers frozen solid and one (the measuring bowl) only mostly frozen.

I wish I would have gotten a picture of the kids checking their ice, but I didn't.  You'll have to imagine four children, several wearing SHORTS, insisting on checking their ice outdoors every thirty minutes without putting socks or shoes or coats on.  "Why, Mom?  It isn't that cold out here!"

Happy freezing in the "not cold", everyone!

Monday, February 9, 2015

No More Cribs

In family life there are some pretty big moments.  There is the "everyone sleeps through the night" moment and the "no more diapers" moment.  Then comes "everyone eats what they are given without complaining" and "everyone brushes their teeth without spreading toothpaste around the whole bathroom."  We have reached some of these moments in our house, and over the weekend we chalked up one more: the "no more cribs" moment.  The little man, Cam, was finally released from his worn out old crib and transitioned into a toddler bed.
 It was painless, actually.  He didn't get out of bed once - not even the next morning when it was time to get out of bed.  He still called and screamed in the regular way.  I'm hoping that doesn't last long.
There is more to this story, however, because that toddler bed had been in use in the girls' bedroom.  So, that bedroom went from this in the morning:
 to this slightly blurrier version in the evening:
 We had two very happy little girls ensconced in their own set of bunk beds.  Oh, and Blair finally had enough room for ALL of her stuffed animals AND herself.  That's saying something!
And don't worry, Ian wasn't left out.  He didn't get a new bed, but we rearranged the boys' room so that it felt new.
When the day finally ended, we celebrated the "all the kids are asleep in their own beds before midnight" moment.  The celebration lasted about two minutes before we fell asleep in the couch watching TV.

Happy "Big Moments" everyone!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Weekly Science Experiment #5

One of the topics I know you are supposed to cover in early elementary science is the "States of Matter" (you know - solid, liquid, and gas), as well as the transitions between those states (you know - freezing, melting, vaporizing, and condensing).  Earlier this week we had a fairly large snowfall, so it seemed that even the weather was hinting that it might be an ideal time to explore the solid-melting-to-liquid concept.  At first I thought I would just bring some snow inside and let it melt, which qualifies as observational science since it is testable and repeatable and all that, but it seemed only slightly more exciting then observing paint dry.  Thanks to Pinterest, I found an idea on the blog "Totally Tots" with a little more excitement to it.

First, we prepared four bowls.  Tuesday was "write microscopically day" at our house, so if your vision is not 20/10 the labels read (from left to right, top to bottom) "plain snow," "with water", "with sugar," and "with salt."  We wanted to see if adding things to the snow affected how quickly it melted.

Then we collected some fresh power and the kids made their predictions as to which bowl would liquefy first.  In case you were concerned, the kids are pointing here, not flashing grade school gang signs.  "With salt" and "with water" were the most popular choices.
For the next step, we added the snow to the bowls and mixed it up a bit.  This is where our methodology broke down a little.  My goal was to put the same amount of snow - two cups - into each bowl, but when you have four kids involved who vary quite a bit in age, precise and equal measurements are not to be had, so some bowls got a lot of snow and some got quite a bit less.  I suspect this had a big impact on our results.
Finally, we set the timer for five minutes and began our observations.  Nothing happened for a long time, but when your afternoon is broken into five-minute intervals time goes really fast (and NOTHING else gets done).  Eventually, at one hour, the first bowl of snow was completely melted.  This was the bowl the kids had predicted because they know about snow plows and salt trucks cleaning the roads.  Five minutes later the bowl with the sugar added was finished.  Another twenty-five minutes passed before the "plain snow" completed the solid-to-liquid process, and then another fifteen minutes after that the final bowl "with water" was totally melted.
Overall I would say it was a fairly successful experiment because now the kids are pretty clear on how snow melts to water when the temperature is above the freezing point and also that factors affect the melting process.  However, if there ever is a next time for this experiment I will set the timer for a longer interval and use much less snow.

Happy wintertime science, everyone.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Snow is a Project Too

In the history of this blog, I have declared several things to be "projects" even though they are outside the realm of your typical sewing-knitting-drawing-writing-decorating blog.  For example, I have declared "camping" to be a project, because it follows the project timeline: collect supplies and set-up, lots of fun "doing", and then a whole lot more time cleaning up.  So, based on those criteria, I hereby declare SNOW to be a project (and I don't mean shoveling it - that is just work).

I've had lots of practice with this project in the last few days, because we just got the biggest snowstorm of the season - a snowfall of roughly 8 inches.  Here is how it generally goes:
1) Children announce they wish to go outside.  Children inform mom that they can't find mittens, boots, snow pants, coats and other necessary items.  Mom suggests kids look in the closets, bins, and shelves where those articles are always stored.  Miraculous appearances and discoveries of said articles.  Mom helps put boots on the correct feet, insuring that snow pants are pulled down over the boots.  Mom helps put on mittens, hats, and scarves.  Mom untangles at least two zippers.  Children go out the front door.

2) Big fun outside, blissful silence inside.
3A) The real project begins to get underway because smaller children get angry when they lose a boot in the snow and demand that their mother walk out into the snow to rescue them 
and other small children purposely take off their hats and mittens and get snow in their boots and on their hands and get thoroughly chilled and then throw temper tantrums about it.
 3B) The project finally ends when all the wet clothes, mittens, and boots have been retrieved from the odd corners they migrate too (despite repeated gentle requests to "keep them on the entry rug!") and hung up to dry, so that they will be ready for next time.
But of course that was just too easy - you have to start all over again now!  And look, it's snowing again.

Happy winter, everyone.