Thursday, May 30, 2013

One Year Blog Anniversary!

Today marks the 1 year anniversary of the creation of this blog on May 30, 2012!


I've had fun blogging over the past year and I hope you've had fun reading the blog.  This blog has grown from a couple of hundred page views during the first few months of the blog to 4,000+ page views a year later.  I look forward to making this upcoming year a great second year for this blog!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

End of Kindergarten

It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about my daughter heading off to her first day of kindergarten last August.  It's hard to believe that she just finished her last day of kindergarten last week!  It's amazing to me how quickly time goes by.  My wife has even told her that she's going to be 6 forever and that she can't grow any taller!

She had an amazing year of kindergarten.  She's able to read at a pretty high level for her age and told us everyday how much fun she had.  She had a great teacher and we did the things we needed to do as parents to encourage her learning.

I have a number of activities planned for her this summer to keep her educationally active.  If you're a parent of a child who has started summer break, I highly encourage you to develop a list of educationally activities to keep your kids active in learning.  It's easy to find fun activities that your kids won't even realize are helping them learn something new.  They'll just be happy to do something fun.  I'll continue to post our activities to this blog, but also do a Google search for summer activities.  You'll find tons of them for kids of all ages.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Balancing an Egg Myth

A common misconception is that you can balance an egg on its end, but only on the vernal equinox (first day of Spring).  I previously discussed this on this blog about a year ago in one of this blog's very first posts.  Each year I have my high school students prove this myth incorrect by balancing eggs on end...in May.  This year I have pictures.


As you can see, balancing an egg is relatively easy to do.  The first student accomplished the task in less than a minute.  Some eggs are easier to balance than others, but usually you can get an egg to balance with enough patient.  You can do this on any day of the year and any time as long as you have the patient to see the task to completion.  

If you are an especially patient person, it is possible to balance an egg on the narrow end.  


It took this student less than 5 minutes to balance the egg on the narrow end.  

I encourage you to do this task with your own children.  There's a very good chance they will be taught this myth (that you can only balance an egg on March 21/22) sometime during their school years.  Don't let this misconception stick with them.  Teach them the truth!


Monday, May 27, 2013

Farmer's Market Discovery #2: Frog

I mentioned in a previous blog post that we found a small pond full of tadpoles on our first visit to the Farmer's Market this year.  In our second visit we found a full sized frog.


I was impressed with the size of this frog.  I've seen a lot of frogs and toads in my life and this is right at the top of the list in terms of size.  Both of my daughters stared at it for awhile.  The frog just sat there staring straight ahead.  I'm not sure how my daughters would have reacted had the frog moved, but it would have been interesting to see.  

A few minutes later someone came over and picked the frog up in a net and returned it to the pond.  

Like I've said before, you never know what you'll find at a Farmer's Market.  

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Summer Reading Program

With school coming to a close this year it's important that all parents provide educational opportunities for their kids.  Summer is a time to have fun, but it's not a good idea to have a summer devoid of education.  I've mentioned summer camps/programs on this blog before, but here's a free activity that will keep your kids educationally active.

Check out the summer reading program at:

http://www.scholastic.com/reading

It's a summer reading program that lets you log your kids' reading minutes online.  Each week your child has a goal to meet and if he/she meets that goal an online "badge" is earned.  If your school is participating you can link your child's minutes to your school and help your school earn a prize.


My 6 year old started reading right away after we set her account up online.  She logged 45 minutes on the first day, giving her an excellent start on her 105 minute weekly goal.  

If nothing else, make sure your kids keep reading during the summer.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Farmer's Market Discovery #1: Tadpoles

On our first visit to the Farmer's Market this spring we stopped at an on-site man-made pond.  It didn't take long for my daughter's to spot all of the moving black "dots"  in the pond.  These "dots" were several hundred tadpoles.


This turned into a great opportunity to explain tadpoles to my daughters.  They thought it was cool when they learned that these are actually baby frogs.  Our plan is to check them out each week when we visit the Farmer's Market to watch them grow into full-sized frogs.  

With spring here, take advantage of the nice weather and take your kids out for walks at ponds, parks, or in our case, the Farmer's Market.  You never know what cool things you might find!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Garden Planting

After our first trip to the Farmer's Market this year I planted the garden with both of my daughters.  Planting a garden goes much quicker without kids, but with kids it's a great opportunity to teach them about a garden and explain the steps along the way.



For each step we talked about why we were doing the step.  Steps included:

1.  Tilling the garden (during the week before planting).
2.  Digging holes a certain depth.
3.  Carefully taking the plant out of the holder and placing it into the ground.
4.  Counting steps between plants to allow enough room for them to grow. 
5.  Mixing organic fertilizer into the water.
6.  Watering the plants.
7.  Putting a small fence around the garden to keep out pesky rabbits (although not really sure this keeps the rabbits out).

It was a fun afternoon and the greatest joy a parent can have is watching their kids eat and enjoy the garden fresh produce a couple of months from now.  


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Farmer's Market

Take advantage of the spring weather and take your kids to a Farmer's Market.  A Farmer's Market is a great opportunity to explain to your kids where fresh produce comes from.  It's also a great opportunity to explain why buying local produce is a good thing to do whenever possible.  I've taken my kids to the Farmer's Market the last two weekends and my 6 year old has already picked out her favorite vendor.  Of course it's the vendor that sells baked goods.  LOL!  Cookies and brownies!  No wonder this is her favorite vendor.  We also bought all of our tomato and pepper plants for our garden and planted them the next day.


As a bonus, you never know what you'll find at the Farmer's Market.  More on this in future posts!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Fear of Water

It's amazing to me how two girls, with the same parents can be so different in so many ways.  I'm speaking of my two daughters, of course.  The oldest is 6 and the youngest is 2, closing in on 3.  We started swim lessons with my 6 year old when she was 3.  She was extremely tentative and clung to Mommy and Daddy with a death grip.  She's gotten a bit better, but is still very tentative and has this look of fear on her face whenever she gets near a pool.  We were in a pool not too long ago and even though she could touch the bottom with her whole head above the water, she freaked out when we let go of her.

My 2 year old, on the other hand, is fearless.  She'd climb on the edge and do a big jump into the water, over and over and over.  She kept telling me to scoot farther away from the ledge so she could jump farther.  She had a blast in the water during our last pool excursion.

I'm not sure what to do with our 6 year old.  I fully understand having a fear of something.  For most of my life I was deathly afraid of heights.  Even standing a few feet above the ground on a ladder would freak me out.  I'm a bit better now, but if you put me in the right situation with heights, I will clam up and freak out.

In hindsight we should have started parent-child swim lessons with my oldest daughter when she was younger.  We started my 2 year old when she was just 18 months.  I can't say that that is the reason for her comfort level in water, but it may have played a roll.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bowling for Free

I shared this last year and I'm sharing it again this year.  If you're looking for a fun summer activity to do on too hot days or rainy days, I highly recommend bowling.  There is a great program called Kids Bowl Free that is available at many bowling alleys across the country.  To check if your bowling alley is participating take a look at the following website.

Kids Bowl Free



From mid-April to the end of August, any child under 12 years of age is each given two free games of bowling every day that the bowling alley is open!  In addition, they offer $25 season bowling pass for up to 4 adults to bowl 2 games for free too.

This is my second year participating in the program.  It doesn't take long to recoup your $25.  We've been bowling twice this season so far and have already more than recouped our initial costs.  In our first outing, we had $35 worth of bowling, but only had to pay $5.  In our second outing with the grandparents, we had $53 worth of bowling but only had to pay $10.  Basically we pay for the shoes.  I bought my own pair of shoes relatively cheap, so I no longer have to pay a few bucks to rent a pair of crappy  bowling alley rental shoes.

If you're looking for something to do with your kids, I highly recommend bowling.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

School Space Book

The past weekend was "space week" in my daughter's kindergarten class.  On Monday of that week she brought home a book about space for beginning readers.


They also had a test/quiz on the book, shown below.


Being the geeky dad that I am, I fact checked the quiz.  Fortunately it checked out okay.  LOL!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Quality Camera

I used to think that a camera was a camera and that it was a waste of money to spend several hundred dollars or more on a camera.  My wife and I received our first digital camera about a decade ago as a wedding gift.  It was a great camera for its time, but still very basic in its functions.  It had a "sports" option to take action shots, but it never did a very good job.  It was also horrible in poor lighting.  We've been in the market for a new camera, but I was dead against spending a lot of money on one.  It didn't seem worthwhile to me.  Then I went camera shopping and that all changed.

Actually, I didn't go camera shopping.  My in-laws were visiting and they went camera shopping.  We went too.  My two year old fell asleep so I was just sitting in a chair holding her.  My wife was checking out the high end cameras with her parents and came over to tell me I should look at them.  Fine, I thought, but there's no way we're buying one.

When my two year old woke up I went to check out the camera and was simply amazed at what it could do.  I'm stingy with money, but I forked over the money to buy this camera and I have no regrets.  After using it for 2+ months now I'm so glad that we invested in it.  It does a fantastic job with action shots and does great with low level lighting.

I don't have it in front of me right now, but it's a Canon and although it's not a top of the line Canon, it's an expensive Canon, at least for me.  Despite the high cost, I highly recommend any parent out there to save up and buy a good camera.  My 6 year old plays soccer and we've gotten several amazing action shots that we never would have gotten with our old camera.  Plus we have the lenses to do a deep zoom which we couldn't do with our old camera.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Splinters and Kids

That long, loud scream you heard the other week was my 6 year old screaming with every ounce of strength as we struggled to remove a small wood splinter from the bottom of her foot.  This is her first splinter and it was not pleasant.  The timing of the splinter couldn't have been worse as it happened about 15 minutes before we needed to leave for her soccer game.  Fortunately Grandma and Grandpa were visiting for the week so we had 4 adults to hold her down and get the splinter out.  We were all amazed at her leg strength and it took me wrapped around her legs to hold them still enough for Grandma to pull the splinter out with a pair of tweezers.

Once the splinter was removed she was okay, but wow, did she scream loud!  I'm just glad the neighbors didn't call child protective services on us!

I wish I had advice to offer, but the only thing I can say is hold her son/daughter tight and be prepared for them to scream louder than they've ever screamed in their entire life!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Month to Month Blog Stats

I started this blog at the end of May 2012.  As I close in on the 1 year anniversary I took a look at the increase/decrease in page views on a month to month basis.  I'm happy to report that there is a general trend upward, as seen in the graph below.


I wish I could explain the big jump in page views this past January, but I can't.  I have no clue why page views spike and then dropped back down in February.  I'm just happy to see the number of page views continue to steadily grow.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Great Wall of China Seen from Space?

There is a common saying that the Great Wall of China is the only man made object on Earth visible from the surface of the Moon.  Is this true?  Unfortunately no.  It's another common misconception.  The Great Wall of China is almost invisible by man in a spacecraft orbiting the Earth, let alone from the surface of the Moon!


The Great Wall of China is long, but it isn't very wide.  There are many other, wider objects on Earth.  If the Great Wall of China is seen, then shouldn't wider objects be seen as well?  This is just another hole into the claim that the Great Wall is visible from space to the naked eye.  

For further details and pictures, check out NASA's debunking of this claim.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Happy Mother's Day

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mom's out there.  I realize this is a day late, but I usually don't post on Sundays.  Plus the kids and I were busy with Mother's Day in our house.  We didn't really do too much other than relax.  Kids and I went out for an hour to plant the garden to give Mommy some quiet time.  Then it was an afternoon of relaxing on the couch and watching a movie.

Note:  If you ever want to see your kids go crazy in public, take them to Bath and Body Works to shop for Mommy's Mother's Day gift.  They were all over that store smelling every flavor of lotion, soap, and perfume spray.  Finally I just had to say, stop smelling and just choose something!!!  LOL!  I'm just thankful they didn't knock something down and break it!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Do Heavier Objects Fall Faster Than Lighter Objects?

Do heavier objects fall faster than lighter objects?  The answer is no.  An object falls to the ground due to the force of gravity (Earth's) acting on it.  The force of gravity is set up by the mass of the Earth, so unless you can change the mass of the Earth, the force of gravity remains the same for all objects.  This is an easily testable question.

Take two objects and drop them at the same time from the same height.  Observe which hits the ground first.  In the absence of outside forces, both objects, regardless of mass or weight, strike the ground at exactly the same time.  Easy, right?  Okay, then why does this misconception exist?

The key words above are "in the absence of outside forces".  If I take a hammer and a feather and drop them from my roof at the same time, it is very clear that the hammer strikes the ground first, well before the feather hits the ground.  In this example, there is an outside force, mainly air resistance.  The force of gravity pulling the two objects down is the same, but there is a greater frictional force (air resistance) pushing the feather back up.  Therefore, the feather takes much longer to strike the ground.


If you place the hammer and feather in a vacuum (a sealed tube with all of the air pumped out) and tip the vacuum upside down, gravity is the only force acting on the objects and they fall at exactly the same rate and hit the bottom of the vacuum tube at the same time.  

I encourage you to check out the YouTube video of this experiment on the Moon.  The Moon lacks an atmosphere and is essentially a vacuum.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Step Count Stats

Yep, here's a post that focuses on my geeky side.  I'm been wearing a step counter everyday for about 3-4 months.  I've tracked my step count in Excel and generated a graph showing the 7 day average, 14 day average, and 30 day average.


If the graph isn't clear, the red dots mark the 7 day average, the purple x's mark the 14 day average, and the blue diamonds mark the 30 day average.  There's more noise and day to day variations in the lower day averages.  My goal is to average 10,000+ steps per day.  Back in February and early march I was below 10,000, but with the weather getting better I've been spending more time outside and my numbers are now approaching an average of 12,000 steps per day.

If you don't have a step counter, I encourage you to get one.  They are relatively cheap.  You can get good ones for around $20 or less.  Having the counter on me at all times keeps me aware of my activity as the day progress.  If I'm having a lazy morning, I know I need to pick up my activity in the afternoon and/or evening. The counter is a greater motivational tool to help me stay more active.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Take a Walk

With the weather turning nicer I encourage all parents to take advantage of the spring weather, before it gets too hot, to take your kids out for a walk.  You never know what you might encounter on a walk.  This past weekend my two daughters and I went for a neighborhood walk.  There are a couple of ponds nearby so we set out for those.  We encountered several geese that refused to eat our bread.  That disappointed us because that's what the bread was for!

In one pond we saw several dead fish sitting on the 'shore'.  We had a lot of rain a few days before and the pond flooded and a few fish flooded out with the water.  I had to explain what happened to the fish because both of my daughters were very curious.  My little one wanted to carry one with her, but I had to convince her that the dead fish were best left where we found them!

At one of the ponds is a drainage pipe that drains water away if the pond level gets too high.  With all of the recent rain the pond was too high and water was draining into the pipe.  The pipe is close to the shore, so we grabbed dandelions and threw them at the pipe.  It was cool watching them slowly get closer to the pipe and then swoop right in!  It was a game to see who could get their dandelion into the pipe first!

Take advantage of the weather while it's nice and go on an adventure.  You never know what you or your kids will find.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Comet ISON

Coming up later this year is a potentially bright comet.  This is Comet ISON, discovered in late 2012.  This is a sun-grazing comet, meaning that it will pass close to the Sun.  As it closes in on the Sun, the comet will flare up and become bright in the sky.  There's the possibility that the Sun's gravity will break this comet into pieces.  If that happens, it won't be nearly as bright.  If it stays together as one clump, we could be in store for a very bright, naked eye comet later this year.


The comet will begin to brighten into a naked eye object in October of this year and become its brightest at the end of November to early December.  For more information check out the following link.


This article states that the comet could be as bright as Venus at its brightest in the sky.  That's pretty impressive.  Other sources, however, suggest that if conditions are perfect, in a best case scenario, the comet could be as bright as the full moon in the sky!  Now that's bright!

Mark this one on your calendar.  I'll post reminders to take a look at this comet later this year.  This is an excellent astronomy observing opportunity for you and your child(ren).  It's not often a bright naked eye comet is visible in the night sky.  Don't pass up this opportunity.  

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Flying a Kite

With the spring weather now in full force, it's a great time to take your kids out to a park or field to fly a kite.  We took advantage of a relatively windy day a week or so ago and flew a couple of kites that the kids received this past Christmas.  It wasn't a perfect day for flying kites because the wind would die down every once in awhile, but we still had a blast.



Kite flying is an excellent time to share with your sons and daughters the kite flying skills you learned as a kid.  There are certain steps that you need to take to get the kite up in the air.  There are certain other steps to take to keep the kite in the air.  You don't need a Ph.D. to share science with your kids. 

I will warn you, however, that if you let your kids fly the kite by themselves, be prepared to chase it down!  My 6 year old let go of the handle once and we had to run across the yard to catch it.  Fortunately my wife reached it before we lost the kite for good!  It was a good laugh afterwards!

Monday, May 6, 2013

The Earth's Tilt and Seasons

About seven months ago I wrote about the cause of Earth's Seasons.  As a short recap, Earth's seasons are not due to Earth's distance from the Sun.  Earth's seasons are a result of Earth's 23.5 degree tilt.  When the Earth is tilted toward the Sun, we have summer.  When the Earth is tilted away from the Sun, we have winter.  I'm always very wary of the use of the words 'toward' and 'away'.  The use of these words still focuses on distance.  It's not the distance that gives us seasons, it's energy.  When the Earth is tilted toward the Sun, that side of the Earth receives more direct sunlight (more energy) and temperature increases.

It always bugs me books skip the direct sunlight/energy part of this explanation.  My daughter's Science Encyclopedia book leaves this out.


I'm glad to see that the picture shows Earth revolving around the Sun in the correct direction, but I wish a line was added in the description to specifically point out more direct sunlight and/or energy.  Simply stating toward and away from the Sun keeps the focus on distance and continues to push the misconception of seasons being caused by distance.  

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Copycatting

One thing I've learned as a parent of two children is that the youngest is always trying to take after the oldest.  Sometimes this is good.  My 2 year old wants to do everything that my 6 year old does.  This includes riding a bike, playing soccer, brushing her teeth, and reading books to name just a few.  This hasn't carried over to "going potty" without a diaper, but what can you do?  You win some, you lose some.



The other night my 6 year old was struggling with a cough.  We gave her a some cough suppressant to help calm her cough down and allow her to fall asleep.  Our 2 year old saw us giving her the cough syrup and proceeds to give us the worst fake cough ever followed by saying "I have a cough too.  I need some medicine."  The whole time she had a big smile on her face!

Sorry little one, Mommy and Daddy are seeing straight through your fakery!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Moon Revolution Direction

In what direction does the Moon revolve around the Earth?  Pretty much everything in the solar system revolves around the Sun in the counter-clockwise direction and rotates on its own axis in the counter-clockwise direction.  The Moon is no exception to this rule.  This is the result of the original motion of gas in the solar nebula that formed the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.  There are a few exceptions such as Venus (slow clockwise rotation), Uranus (tipped on its side), and a few moons in the outer solar system.  These exceptions are most likely due to collisions early on in the solar system.

A while back I mentioned the Science Encyclopedia book my 6 year old brought home in her monthly book order.  It's a great book with a few excellent ideas for science experiments, but unfortunately I've found a mistake.  There's a full page on the Moon which is full of amazing pictures and useful information, but there's a picture showing the Moon revolving around the Earth in the wrong direction!!!



Looking at the picture, you can see that the red arrows depict the Moon revolving around the Earth in the clockwise direction!  The wrong direction!  The Moon revolves around the Earth in the counter-clockwise direction!

This just goes to show you that good science books for kids can make a mistake or two.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Do Dinosaurs Spit?

Do dinosaurs spit?  First of all, why am I asking this question?  The other night we asked our two year old why her bed was sticky from chapstick.  She has a tendency to grab a tube of chapstick and spread it all around in her bed and on her dolls.  Very annoying, I know.  At dinner the other day we asked her why her bed was sticky with chapstick?  She launched into some long story that ended with dinosaurs spitting in her bed!  How could we, as parents, deny her claim of spitting dinosaurs?  She said it with such confidence that it left both my wife and I speechless!

I did a quick search on the web for spitting dinosaurs and didn't find much.  There are dinosaurs in the movie Jurassic Park that spit poison, but apparently there is little to no evidence that any dinosaurs had poisonous saliva.  I found this Scientific American article that has further details on this topic.

Do Dinosaurs Spit Poison?

I don't know where my daughter came up with the idea of spitting dinosaurs, but it made for a humorous moment at the dinner table!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Physics Pharie

Have you ever heard of the Physics Pharie?  Me neither until this past week when the following was given to me.


I didn't know a Physics Pharie existed, but I guess you learn something new everyday!  This was handed to me as part of a Rube Goldberg project (more on this in the coming days/weeks) my high school physics students completed.  

Not sure how the Physics Pharie came up, but as long as students are having fun with physics, I could care less!  I'm keeping this in my office as memento/reminder of the fun/cool things my students think up.