Thursday, October 31, 2013

My Kids and Sugar

Both of my kids usually have an afternoon snack.  Depending on what they've already eaten that day we often let them choose their snack.  Sometimes they choose fruit, other times granola bars or raisins, etc.  Sometimes they choose a sugary snack, which is okay from time to time.  They usually make reasonable choices, so it's not too often that we tell our daughters that they need to choose a different snack because they've already had too much sugar.  Here's a perfect example.

Last week my daughter got off the school bus and runs into the house.  Usually she has a snack of some form before doing her homework.  On this day, however, she comes to me and says "Daddy, I'm not having a snack today.  I had a brownie and cookie at school because someone had a birthday and brought snacks.  If I have another snack it will be too much sugar."  And off she went to change her clothes and get ready to do her homework.  I must say that I was a very proud father for the decision she made.  Neither my wife nor I are very picky about what our kids choose for snacks as long as they aren't always choosing sugary snacks.

Then there's the cupcake my 3 year old had the other night for dessert.  We made cupcakes a few days ago and needed to finish them up before they went bad.  There were 4 cupcakes left, so we all had a cupcake for dessert.  Here's what my 3 year old's cupcake looked like after she said she was finished.

Yep, she didn't eat any of the cake.  She simply licked off the frosting and called it good!  LOL!  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Parenting and Firstborns

Here's an interesting article regarding the differences in parenting style between firstborns and younger siblings.

Parents are Tougher on Firstborns

The gist of the article is that parents are tougher and more strict on their first child than they are on subsequent children.  I spent some time thinking about how my wife and I parent our two daughters.  I'm not sure that I'm more strict on my oldest, but there is definitely a difference in how we parent them.  A lot of this has to do with their personalities.  My 6 year old is shy yet very focused on her surroundings.  She has a type A personality that takes after me.  My 3 year old is the wild one.  She's more outgoing but also more prone to mood swings.  As a result, similar situations require different parenting methods.

Anyways, it's a very interesting article that I recommend you read.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Science of a Messy Child Car Seat

Every parent knows that kids continually make a mess of their surroundings.  If you're playing hide and seek with your child it's easy to find him/her because you simply follow the mess they make while hiding!  Okay, maybe that's an extreme, but you get my point.  The other day I pulled the child car seat out of my car to transfer to my kids' grandparent's car.  It's probably been well over a year since I've removed the car seat from my car.  Here's what I found when I removed the seat.

OMG!  What a mess!  How does one kid make a mess like this and how does all of that get UNDER the car seat!?!?!?!  I purchased this car in 2003.  It was a new vehicle at the time and I have no plans to ever trade it in.  I'm driving it until it dies.  Who wants to buy this? If you have kids, don't ever plan to put a car seat in a car you wish to keep nice because it will end up looking like this!  For crying out loud, look at those stains!  Milk stains, juice stains, soda least there are no vomit stains!!!  A bunch of wrappers, cheerios, other cereal pieces.  And then a crayon.  Yep, a crayon!  LOL!  All I can do as a parent is to look at this and laugh!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Believing in the Tooth Fairy

I think my 6 year old is suspicious about the existence of the tooth fairy.  The other day she lost a tooth and put it in her tooth holder by her bed for the tooth fairy to pick up.  My wife was working late that night and the kids were already in bed when she got home.  Being the amazing Dad that I am, I forgot to tell her about my daughter's lost tooth.  More importantly, I myself forgot about the lost tooth!

My 6 year old wakes up in the morning, checks her tooth holder, sees that the tooth is still there and there is no money, comes running into our bedroom to tell us that the tooth fairy didn't come.  The best part was the expression on her face.  The look she gave me with her hands on her hips made it very convincing to me that she wasn't mad at the tooth fairy, but she was mad at me because she thinks I'm the tooth fairy.  LOL!  She didn't come out and say she didn't believe in the tooth fairy, but her facial expression certainly implied it!

Friday, October 25, 2013

This Blog's History: Thunder and Lightning

There are many misconceptions regarding thunder and lightning.  What causes thunder?  What causes lightning?  Is it really true that if the number of seconds between the lightning strike and the thunder tells you how many miles away the storm is?  The answer to that last question is a no.  It's not as simple as that.  I discussed the misconceptions of thunder and lightning back on July 1, 2012.

Thunder and Lightning

If you missed reading it, click the link and read it now.  My original Thunder and Lightning post is the most viewed post on this blog, coming in with 3,580 page views as of this morning.  It has a commanding lead over the next most viewed post which comes in at 2,700 page views.

Thunder and lightning is a likely topic your kids will bring up with you.  As a result, it's important to know the truth and pass along the correct information to them.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Take Your Kids to a Movie

Never underestimate the power of taking your kids to the movie theater.  We don't make it to the movie theater often because it's an expensive activity, especially when popcorn and soda are involved, but when we do go, we splurge on popcorn and soda and make a big event out of it.  The other day I had the opportunity to take my 3 year old on a Daddy/daughter date.  My 6 year old was at another event with my wife.  I took my 3 year old out to dinner and then we went to see Cloudy with Meatballs 2, an excellent choice!

The best part of going to the movies is that my daughters will cuddle up next to my wife or I.  Who knows how long this will last, but we are definitely taking advantage of that.  Nothing beats cuddling with your daughter and watching a movie with popcorn.  Yeah, it sucks to dish out $10 a ticket (a bit less for a matinee) and another $20 for popcorn and pop, but as long as it's a once in a while activity, it's well worth it!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

State of Education

I encourage all parents to read the following news article.  It's short!

This is a big part of what is wrong in education today.  Here is a student who wants to take the SAT on a certain date to qualify for early college admission deadlines.  However, if the student takes the SAT on this day and misses a cheer-leading event, the cheer-leading team will suspend her for 3 weeks.  And worst of all school administration is backing up the cheer-leading team!!! such a bad way!

I can understand this coming from a cheer-leading coach since a lot of coaches at high schools don't always have the best educational interests for the students, but the principal?  The superintendent?  Give me a break!

I really hope my daughters never encounter a horrible situation like this.  I can guarantee that their Daddy will stand up for their rights as students!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Writing Secret Messages

Looking for a cool science activity for you and your kids?  Try writing secret messages using lemon juice!  The setup is very easy.  Pour a small bowl of lemon juice, dip a Q-tip into the juice, and use the Q-tip to write a message on a standard piece of white paper.  Let the lemon juice dry.  When it dries you'll be able to tell something is there because the paper will crinkle but you won't be able to read it.

Here's my 6 year old's secret message.  Again, you can tell something is there, but it's really hard to tell what it says.  My 3 year old created a secret message too, but it was basically one big blob of lemon juice!  :-)

Once the paper is dry, heat it up.  I tried using a candle to start, but that didn't work very well.  Next I used the stove burner, but you have to be very careful to not light the paper on fire!  This activity definitely requires parental supervision.  After heating the paper, here is what we found.

Pretty cool!  See the oven mitt on my hand?  Yep, it got a bit warm holding the paper above the burner!

Monday, October 21, 2013

Learning About a Surge Protector

We recently bought a new TV for the bedroom but were short on surge protectors so I had to go to the store to buy one.

My three year old was with me and when we got home she wanted to open the package to see what was inside.  I took her to the bedroom with me and explained that this was a surge protector and that it protects the TV from electricity surges.  I told her we don't want the TV to break, so we plug the TV into this thing and plug this thing into the wall.  She then looked up at me, smiled, said "Ok Daddy!", and then ran off into the other room.  LOL!

Friday, October 18, 2013

This Day in This Blog's History: Does the Moon Have Gravity?

I've decided to start a weekly Friday theme that I've titled "This Day in This Blog's History".  Each Friday there will be a post summing up a prior science misconception that I've discussed on this blog.  Today's This Day in This Blog's History....does the Moon have gravity?

To sum it up, there's a misconception that the Moon has no gravity.  However, that is completely false.  Any object with mass has gravity, including you and me.  It's just a matter of how small that gravity is.  On the Moon it's about 6 times weaker than gravity on Earth, but it's not zero.

For full details read the original blog post.

Does the Moon Have Gravity?

NASA's Website Back!

Many times I've referred readers to NASA's website for specific information regarding various missions.  Starting October 1 and continuing through the end of October 16, NASA's website was down due to the government shutdown.  Fortunately the shutdown is over and NASA is back up and running.  So get out there and show your kids NASA's website and get them interested in space missions!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Women and Science

A must read article from the New York Times on the lack of women in science.

I have no clue what field my daughters will be interested in as they grow up, but I want to make sure that I'm taking the steps that lets them know that science, engineering, and math are always open options regardless of their gender.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Discovering the Ingredients in a Can of Soda

Ever wonder what is in that can of soda you're drinking?  Here's a cool science experiment you can do with your kids to directly see what is in the soda.  When you look at the back of the can you can read the ingredients, but seeing the ingredients provides a much better understanding of the soda's contents.

For example, when you look at the back of a Sprite can, you'll see something similar to the above image.  The first ingredient is carbonated water, the primary ingredient in soda.  Then comes high fructose corn syrup.  In the nutrition facts table you see that this can of Sprite contains 38 grams of sugar.  So what does 38 grams of sugar look like?  It's easy to figure out.  Take a can of soda and pour it into a small saucepan.  Place the saucepan on a stove burner and bring the liquid to a boil.

Let the soda boil for a few minutes until all of the liquid boils away.  What is left is a brown syrupy mix.  That's the sugar that was in the soda.  

Mmmm...yummy.  :-)  Makes you think twice about drinking that can of soda!  Anyways, a great experiment to teach your kids about what is inside a can of soda.  You can also do this with fruit juice.  Try it with fruit juice, orange juice, etc., and see what you come up with!

Oh yeah, if you are feeling especially adventurous, dump cold water in the syrupy mix.  It will very quickly cool down to a hard clump that you can't remove from the pan!  The only way to easily get it out is to reheat the syrup back into a liquid.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Flu Vaccine Season

October is here which means it is time to get you and your kids the flu vaccine.  I took my daughters in to the local clinic last week and within 30 minutes we were all vaccinated for the season.

There are a lot of rumors floating around about the flu vaccine and other vaccins in general.  First of all, vaccines do NOT cause autism.  That is a nasty rumor that is affecting the lives of too many kids in this country.  Learn the truth!  Here's what the CDC has to say on this issue.

A lot of people ignore getting their flu vaccine because it isn't always 100% effective and it takes time out of a busy schedule to get it taken care of.  This is the wrong attitude to have.  The flu kills many Americans every year!  According to the CDC anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 die from the flu each year in the U.S. alone.  Many of these are young children and the elderly, but healthy adults can die from the flu too.  Let's put this in perspective.  The worst terrorist attack in the U.S. killed 3,000 - 4,000 people in 2001.  Think about all of the precautions we've put in place to never let that happen again.  Yet we don't do the same for the flu and the flu kills at least this many every single year!!!

There are a few rare exceptions for those who shouldn't get the flu vaccine, but those are rare exceptions.  If you are wondering if you fit in this category, the answer is probably no, but you can get a better answer here.

Moral of this story?  Suck it up and get your flu vaccine.  Most places have the nasal mist for kids so they don't even have to get the shot.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Nature at a Football Game

This past weekend my 6 year old and I went to a local football game.  She enjoys going to the game even if she isn't all that interested in paying attention to the game.  Usually something else grabs her attention.  In this particular game she found a ladybug and spend a good 15-20 minutes watching it crawl on a spoon.  :-)

Every once in a while it would fly off and land on the bench, at which point she would scoop it back up with the spoon.  As a parent it was quite entertaining to watch!

Moral of this story?  Encourage your kids to explore and not be afraid of nature.  You never know what they might find that they think is cool!

Friday, October 11, 2013

History Friday

I'm calling today "History Friday".  Why?  I thought I'd take a look at the very first science misconception post on this blog back on May 30, 2012.  The honor of being the first science misconception post goes to the Balancing an Egg on the Equinox Myth.

If you haven't, I encourage you to go back to this post and read it.  Too often schools teach kids that eggs can balance on their end, but only on the first day of spring or the first day of fall (the two equinoxes).  The truth?  You can balance an egg on its end on any day of the year as long as you have a little bit of patience.  In fact, on any day you can balance an egg on the small/skinny end if you have even more patience.  Don't believe me?  Try it yourself!

Blog Posting Schedule

If you're a regular reader of this blog then you've noticed the recent change in the posting schedule.  Up until about a month ago new blog entries were posted on Mondays through Saturdays with nothing new posted on Sundays.  I don't always get around to posting on the weekend, so I've cut out Saturday updates.  This blog will be updated Mondays through Fridays, barring special circumstances.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


This past week I pulled out my old chess board from the back of the closet and sat down with my 6 year old and taught her how to play chess.  When you're talking about strategy and developing critical thinking skills, you can't beat chess.  Chess is nothing but strategy and critical thinking!

I wasn't sure how she'd like the game, but she loves it!  She's asked several times to play (and we have) since that first day.  Granted, she's not very good, but she's only 6 and has just started playing.  What I've done thus far is to play a couple of games where I help her along and then we play a game where I tell her that I'm not going to say anything about her moves.  For these games she's completely in charge of making her own moves.  During these games I don't let up on her either.  I play to win.  Again, I win, and win early, but this is only 1 game out of every 3 or 4.  The other games I help her with her moves and point out different moves she can make and the potential consequences of those moves.  So far so good!  

I was probably a year or two older when I first started playing chess, but she's at an age where she can begin to learn the game.  Plus it's a blast teaching her a game that I played as a kid!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How Loud is Too Loud?

Anybody who is a parent has probably told their kids to turn the TV down or to turn the music down.  Usually it's because we, as parents, are annoyed by the noise and not necessarily that the noise is too loud and damaging to the ears.  So how do you know how loud too loud is?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders website has a set of guidelines to follow to avoid damage to your ears.  For example, exposure to a 110 decibel sound for more than 1 minute can cause permanent hearing loss.  At 85 decibels prolonged exposure to any noise can cause gradual hearing loss.  So how do you know if a sound has reached this level?  Here's a handy table from the website above to help guide you.

How Loud is too Loud?
DecibelsSound Source
Ambulance siren
Chain saw, Rock concert
Personal stereo system at maximum level
Wood shop, Snowmobile
Power mower
Heavy city traffic
Normal conversation
Refrigerator humming
Whispered voice
Threshold of normal hearing

I recently heard on one of my science podcasts that anytime you have to raise your voice for someone to hear you (as a result of background noise), the background noise has approached levels that long term exposure could cause gradual hearing loss.  Interesting.  Makes me wonder about potential hearing loss I've experienced whenever I've raised my voice to talk to my wife to overcome the whining and crying from my girls.  LOL!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Convos with a 2 Year Old

Need a bit of humor to start your day?  Check out "Convos with My 2 Year Old" on YouTube.  The "my" does NOT refer to my daughter.  This is someone else's daughter, but it's hilarious.  It is a series of videos that involve a mom and dad and their 2 year old.  Their 2 year old, however, is played by another adult.  Funny stuff.  Here's the link to the first episode.

What makes it funny is that most parents have likely had these very same conversations with their 2 year old!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Quick Auto Mechanics Lesson

The other day I had the opportunity to teach both of my daughters their very first auto mechanics lesson.  Now, to be clear, I know very little about fixing a car.  I can do a few simple things on my own, but that's about it.  Given the number of computer components in cars today it's hard to do much work on a car by yourself.  Unless you are highly trained or have the proper equipment, there's little you can do on your own.  One thing you can do on your own is fill the windshield fluid.

While driving home the other day I noticed I was out of windshield fluid.  Later in the evening when both of my girls were around I took them out to the garage and showed them how to add this fluid.  They both thought it was cool to see what it looked like under the hood of my car.  Then they got a kick out of watching me test that everything was working okay.  The whole process took about 5 minutes, but it was good opportunity for my girls to get a basic lesson in car maintenance.  

Friday, October 4, 2013

World Space Week

Today, October 4, 2013, marks the beginning of World Space Week (October 4 - October 10, 2013)!  I'll admit that I had no idea this was World Space Week until yesterday when I was looking through my 6 year old's Scholastic book order form and saw it advertised.  World Space Week was declared in 1999 with the first official celebration in 2000.  According to Wikipedia:

"The choice of dates was based on recognition of two important dates in space history: the launch of the first human-made Earth satellite, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957; and the signing of the Outer Space Treaty on October 10, 1967."

World Space Week is the largest annual space event in the world!  Cool!

So what can you do to celebrate this event with your kids?  Here are a few ideas I came up with.

1.  Go to a local planetarium.
2.  Visit a space and/or science museum.
3.  Go out at night and look at the stars.
4.  Ask your kids to find the Moon.  (Okay, difficult this week given that New Moon is today, but that just increases the challenge!)
5.  Visit the NASA website. (Uh...maybe not since it's currently shut down due to the U.S. government shutdown!)
6.  Read a space book with your kids.
7.  Search the web for pictures of the planets.

There are many more that you can come up with, but this week is a great week to do something space related!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Farmer's Market Discover #3: Butterfly Chrysalis

I've posted before about the wonders of nature you can discover at a local farmer's market.  This year my daughter's have discovered tadpoles and a large frog while visiting the farmer's market.  On our latest trip we discovered a butterfly chrysalis.  This was a great opportunity to explain to both of our daughters how butterflies are born.  Here's the picture of the butterfly chrysalis we found.

On the other side of this wall was an old butterfly chrysalis where the butterfly and already broken free some time before.

All that was left was the very outer shell of the chrysalis.

When you think of a farmer's market you think about getting fresh produce that is locally grown.  This is great, but there can be so much more to a farmer's market if you simply open your eyes and look around.  Encourage your sons and daughters to look around and notice the nature that is right in front of their eyes!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Wasp Trap

Readers of this blog are aware that I have a bit of a wasp problem at my house right now.  The nest is inside the overhang of my roof and I can't easily access it, nor can I even see it.  With a ladder and some time messing around I can probably get to it, but I'm not really interested in messing with it with a bunch of wasps flying around.  :-)  At the moment I'm trying to reduce the wasp numbers with hopes of getting up in the overhang soon.  Both of my daughters have been a tremendous help building and re-baiting the wasp traps.  They also love checking them out to see how many wasps there are.  So here are our traps.

The trap is very simple.  You take an empty two liter soda bottle.  Cut off the top, invert it, and shove it into the big part of the bottle.  The nozzle is facing downward now.  Next fill the bottle with the bait.  I use water mixed with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar and fill it about a 1/4 full.  Then I line just the nozzle with maple syrup.  Finally I spread just a bit of vegetable oil along the inside above a the nozzle to make it more slippery for the wasps.  Change your bait every day!

We've been going 2+ weeks now and filling the bottles with 30 - 40 wasps each day before emptying them.  Here's the evidence.

This has been a great science experiment to do with my daughters.  They love checking the traps and re-baiting them.  They ask everyday if they can help!  The next step is to eventually get up and dig out the nest.  Given the number of wasps we've killed, the size of the nest terrifies me a bit!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

My Daughter's Science Experiment Completed

About a week ago my 6 year old developed a procedure for her own science 'experiment'.  Her procedure was the following.

1.  Mix hot water with cold water.
2.  Add some vinegar.
3.  Add some syrup (the type that goes on pancakes).
4.  Add some salt.
5.  Add some milk.
6.  Add some sugar.
7.  Mix it all together and see what happens.

Here is our pictures of supplies all ready to go.

Then she started mixing things together in the order of her choosing.  She added the sugar to the water first.

Adding the milk is always cool because it spreads out throughout the water in a cloud.

Food coloring gives it a nice colorful 'glow'!  

Then add some baking soda which is cool to watch as it mixes with the liquid.  Add a few more drops of food coloring and you get a nice swirl pattern.

There you go.  That's my daughter's science experiment.  I let her do everything in the order that she wanted.  I was careful not to let her mix vinegar and baking soda since that creates a reaction that can make a mess if you're not careful.  It was really neat watching her excitement as she got to decide what to do and in what order.  It was very cool watching her think through what to do next and asking her why she was doing the steps in this particular order.  Give it a try in your home!