Friday, April 18, 2014

Dad's Book of Awesome

I like to get my hands dirty with my kids, and as such, I'm always on the lookout for new things to do. The Internets offer a lot of options, but many of them are "crafting" or stuff you can color, cut, and paste, which isn't always what I'm looking for. Enter "Dad's Book of Awesome Science Experiments" by Mike Adamick. This book is so much more than the random Pinterest finds, and each science experiment included comes with perspective. It's not just a "how to," but a "how, when, and why to." 

Mike is funny and engaging. From taking corners a little too fast in your car, to blowing up a balloon with a banana to taking your pulse with a marshmallow, he presents chemistry, physics and other sciencey properties in a highly accessible way. This book is really about opening your children's eyes to the science all around them, and finding teaching moments in every day life. You can stumble through these things on your own, or you can get a little help from a guy who's been there before, and wrote the book on it.

That said, Mike sent me a copy of his book to review, and my kids were all too happy to help me take full advantage of it by taking a few pages out for a spin!

The first thing we set out to try was making our own rock candy, because what kid won't jump at the chance to get more candy? We opened up the book, gathered the ingredients and set to work getting things going. A little sugar, water, some pipe cleaners and a weeks worth of patience was sure to guarantee us some delicious candy that the kids could enjoy.

Unfortunately, something went wrong and we grew no candy at all.

While a setback to inducing sugar comas, this turn of events also allowed me to explain a major principle of science; that it is a process. In other words, science is observing, predicting, testing, and making sense of those observations. Science is problem solving, organizing, recognizing cause and effect. And that is exactly what we got the opportunity to do.

After making our sugar solution and setting it aside to await our delicious rock candy, we predicted that in a week we would have sugar crystals hanging to our pipe cleaners. We spent the next several days observing our setup, and when things didn't work out, we tried to make sense of what we needed to change to achieve our desired result.

It turns out, that we didn't use the right ratio of sugar to water, and so we're trying again. This time, I have wooden skewers instead of pipe cleaners and we'll use a 2-1 sugar to water ratio instead of 1-1 in an attempt to create a more saturated solution for the candy to build from. However, since we had to run the experiment a second time, the results are not yet in. I'll be sure to post an update once we have candy to eat.

In the meantime, I thought for sure the kids would want the Mentos and Diet Cola rocket, but instead they begged to make a Baking Soda Volcano. How could I say "no"? (Mentos eventually would make an appearance, as they could not put the book down.)

I remember building a baking soda volcano for my fifth grade science fair experiment. My teacher was leery to allow it and ultimately told me to be careful with it, as baking soda and vinegar can be not only explosive, but quite a pain to clean up after. With a warning like that though, how could I resist making it my own! Long story short, baking soda mixed with vinegar handled by a 10 year-old can, in fact be a pain to clean up after, and our classroom smelled like vinegar for several weeks after the science fair was over.

Politely posing for a photo when all they want is to get started!

Of course, we started by gathering ingredients inside. Vinegar, baking soda, red food coloring, a vase and some string (not pictured: toilet paper to wrap the soda in). Also, there is coffee on the table. That is just for me, because who would do science with kids without being fully caffeinated?

Building a volcano

After we gathered all of our ingredients, we stepped outside, grabbed a shovel, and began to form a dirt mound around our volcano vase. As I mentioned earlier, baking soda and vinegar can get messy if you're not careful, so we chose to keep the mess outside for ease of cleanup. As for burying a vase in dirt, I'm sure the person in your house who receives flowers would miss it if you broke it, so do be careful.

Once we had a realistic looking volcanic mound, we couldn't just have it go off without considering the ecosystem around it, so the kids had to dig out their favorite toy horses and set them up as though they were fleeing from the erupting mess of magma. Seriously, no detail was overlooked!

So fun, we even had friends join in!

Now that everything was set, it was time to get serious. A funnel helped get all of the vinegar into the vase without sloshing any down the side of our mountain prematurely. We then referred back to Dad's Book of Awesome Science Experiments for the details on how to add our catalyst. Mike suggested wrapping the baking soda in toilet paper and tying a string around it to lower it into the vinegar. Unfortunately, we found that the neck of our vase was too narrow to make this a good option, and we wrapped a tighter roll of soda and simply dropped it in. Almost instantly we started to see results.

It's erupting!

Soon the chemical reaction had run its course and the eruption was over. This was not, however the end. I splashed some more vinegar in, rolled another baking soda wrap and handed it to the second kid to drop in.

Another explosion.

We did it a third time, this time skipping the TP, as we were noticing that it clogged up the neck of the vase a little. I took the baking soda box straight to the mouth of the volcano and carefully poured it in. After five or six "eruptions" we had to call it a day, but it was clear that the kids loved getting their hands on some real science, and that their horses needed to run for their lives!

Mt. St. Vinegar, blowing it's top.

So, thank you Mike for the chance to review this book, my kids have certainly caught the science bug! But as they are currently begging me to not only conduct another experiment from this book, but to make bows and arrows from that other book you wrote, it's time for me to sign off for now!


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Stuff My Kids Say XI

Godzilla: "You just don't get kids. You don't get us... No. You. Don't..."

Seems I got told, though I think this will hurt more when he's 15 and saying the same.

However, it really begs the question, what is it I don't get? There is a lot of things that change from the time you are 5 to the time you are 35, but I didn't think I had lost touch just yet! Not only that, but while my parents had "My Generation", my generation had "Parents Just Don't Understand". So... you know... I get it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another Spring; Another Challenge

If I may be so bold as to borrow a famous line:

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;
That somewhere is right here - today I got my bike back out.

Up until Monday, my bike still hung from the ceiling of the garage where I put it away last October. My bike shorts (not spandex shorts, I'm not that into biking, but regular athletic shorts) still rested in my drawer. My helmet remained on its hook, waiting to be used again.

But on Monday they had their chance.

For the first time this year, the sun came out and gave us a 60 degree day. For the first time in 2014 I mounted my bike, earbuds blasting music by The Baseball Project, and set off for a ride. And as I rode, it struck me that it was opening day. Opening Day 2014 and I was setting out for my first ride since the last game of last years World Series in October. I won't get into how depressing that could be that winter lasts five solid months here. I won't mention how frustrating it is that I haven't worked out since the RedSox won their last game.

Instead, I moved on to figure out how I can re-motivate, and I didn't have to look far.

Opening Day.

World Series.

Lets play too.

So, I'm challenging myself (and you, if you think you can) to put in 162 workouts in the next 214 days.

162 workouts between the first pitch in March and the last out in October.

Perhaps this was not the best thought out challenge, because 162 in 214 comes out to about five workouts a week. But while I'm taking a hard stance on the number, I'm playing it cool with the type.

So take a bike ride. Go on a run. Walk around the block. Even pull the kids in the wagon up the block 20 times. Whatever it is, just get out and get moving.

Then head over to Daily Mile and record it.

See how you do.

I dare you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Becoming Christopher Nolan

With all the buzz over the Lego Movie out right now, how would you like to make your own Lego movie? A year or two ago, I downloaded an app called "Lego Movie Maker," and ever since, my kids and I have been having fun making stop motion movies whenever the mood strikes.
You see, they're really into playing with my iPod.

And being creative with Lego bricks.

But mostly they're into playing with my iPod.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the Time of "Leopardchauns" - and Other Mythical Stories

Godzilla: "Dad, Leprechauns are just a myth...

They lived long ago but now they're just a myth. They lived in the time of cavemen and they were animals...

They were as fast as leopards, and that's why they're called leopardchauns...

Do you want to know how they died? There was a big earthquake..."

And that is where I could no longer keep up, as he started stringing his thoughts together much faster. I would record him telling his tale if he weren't so camera shy, but as soon as I pull it out - no matter how stealthily - he clams up and I lose the story altogether. So, I take to jotting them down like this, catching what I can, or trying to remember exactly how he said it all once he's wrapped it up.

What really struck me about this story was the panic that set in when he first told me that leprechauns were merely mythical. I thought we were on the verge of having the Santa talk. Godzilla is five, and we haven't even had doubts or questions about it yet, and I thought if he had the leprechaun thing figured out, he might connect the dots.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Stuff My Kids Say X

Godzilla: "Dad, I know how the dinosaurs died. All the pterodactyls got together and used their beaks to crack the earth's crust. When it cracked, it made volcanoes..."

The story continued for neigh on 20 minutes, waxing poetic about Brontosaur, Mega Crocs, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. We cover all grounds, from archaeologists to oceanographers, and prehistoric sharks evolving into today's great whites. All of it is laced in fact, all of it incredibly detailed, if not fantastical. And he is passionate in his story-telling. He speaks with the authority of someone four, maybe five times his age. And I am in awe from start to finish. When he summarily rejected my theory that flying dinosaurs probably couldn't crack through the earth's crust, I knew he meant business.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The One Where my Daughter Starts to Breastfeed

I saw my 9 year old "breastfeeding" over the weekend, and I nearly broke down in tears. 

Please don't judge me just yet, its not what you think.

I fully support breastfeeding. I have read the pamphlets, watched the videos, talked with the doctors, and helped my wife as she has nursed each of our babies. Breastfeeding is simply the best, most natural way for babies to feed. It provides lots of benefits for both mom and baby. I want my children to reap the benefits of breast feeding, and I want them as they grow to see it as a natural healthy part of the care of a baby.

So, lets discuss the events of the weekend. I recognize that there are two pars o this story: my daughters actions, and my reaction. Lets start with her actions, with a little background.