For a Quick Reference

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A night full of science

Earlier this month we had a grand learning adventure to attend University of Texas' outreach program called Hot Science, Cool Talks. It's a free guest lecture series where various science professors share a 90-minute lecture aimed at students k-12, with an interactive science fair before the lecture.

To attend this event, we boarded the train and Nathan joined us along the way to the downtown area. We hopped on a bus and rode to campus (this was our first time taking a public bus...that was adventurous as well! We met such interesting people there and enjoyed delightful conversations.)

The fair itself was filled with dozens of science experiments hosted by college students from the science department. There were so many fun and engaging ways to learn tonight! We had such a grand time, and the kids were literally running from one table to the next, eager to see what fascinating principles were being demonstrated. (If you don't want to see the following list of their favorite stations, then skip to the end of this post.)

Here they made models of molecules and learned about the properties of water.

One of their favorite stations was the liquid nitrogen table where students froze bananas or carnations in liquid nitrogen and crumbled them into dust. 

Here we learned about acid rain and how the carbon dioxide in the air changes acidity in water. They blew into red cabbage juice to watch the color change as the pH changed. 

More fun experiments dealt with gasses being released by seltzer tablets. They enjoyed watching their balloons fill up with trapped air. 

At the face painting booth the children were allowed to pick a molecule for their body art. Water was the popular molecule of the evening. 

Daniel learned about water conductivity, and how water contaminants affect the electrical properties of water.

Here Matthew is making polymers in a color of his choice. They loved this one, of course. Ooblek is such a fun experiment to create. 

Daniel really loved playing with super-chilled ice crystals. Here he is pouring a chilled solution on a seed crystal and the liquid is turning into a solid the moment it hits the seed crystal. It's such a fun experience. We have also done this at home with super-chilled water bottles. Their favorite experiment using this method is to super-chill bottled rootbeer, and turn it into a slushie. 

Matthew enjoyed this experiment, which trapped the gases released by dry ice. A piece of dry ice was put into a medical glove, and the glove was tied shut. They loved learning about the properties of dry ice and stayed at this station pretty long. 

Another popular table of the evening was this one demonstrating the chemical properties of different minerals. Students dropped on various liquids (water, vinegar, hydrochloric acid) onto various minerals and discussing the reactions when the acids bubbled and released the trapped gasses in the rocks. Daniel loved this station and had to be almost dragged away. 

I loved seeing my children get so interested in science. They had so many high-quality discussions with the college students and learned more in one hour here than I think they would learn in a week reading just a textbook. The hands-on nature of everything made science come alive in meaningful ways. This was definitely one of our favorite field trips. Ever. 

The guest lecturer tonight was one of UT's most popular professors, Dr. Laude. His lecture hall was PACKED beyond capacity, with people sitting in the aisles and standing in the back. They opened another auditorium to accommodate the extra guests, and that room was filled as well. Luckily for us, Nathan was willing to save our seats for an hour before the lecture while I took the kids around to the science fair exhibits. We had a great view of everything.

Tonight's presentation was all about chemistry, and I never would have guessed I would enjoy it so much. Dr. Laude was funny, engaging and full of information. For part of the evening, he exploded a variety of elements and taught the chemistry behind the reaction.

He taught the chemical reactions using students and audience members for each molecule, so the stage was often filled with human-sized reactions taking place before us. It really helped the children understand the principles that were being taught.

Nathan and I were laughing in delight almost constantly though-out the lecture, and it was easy to see why he would be a popular teacher.

His presentation was filled with creative visual aids to illustrate the concepts he taught, which engaged the children very well. Here is an illustration used for a discussion of calories. To show the energy held in a calorie, he lit tortilla chips on fire.

To end the evening, his last chemical experiment was to create ice cream onstage with liquid nitrogen. His assistants made enough to feed the entire audience several servings of ice cream, so the children were delighted with this end to the evening.

We had SUCH a lovely time and can hardly wait for next month when we will get to attend the next Hot Science, Cool Talks event. I dearly love events like this where we can create family memories and be learning more about our fascinating world. Tonight I was feeling very thankful that we lived close to a university and could partake in their programs.

On the bus ride home I was asking the children what their favorite parts of the evening were. They all claimed to love every bit of it, except Joseph. His favorite part was the train ride, which he described to anyone around him who would listen.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Back to School Feast

Last year we totally missed this tradition, so this year I needed to make it a priority. I'm not the type that enjoys cooking or planning events, but for some reason I really got into this project. My soul needed a creative outlet that was fun and simple. Sometimes when I begin a painting, I get too perfectionist about the details or color quality. As a result, the painting experience is stressful instead of fun. So. This feast was going to be a fun way I could express my creativity, and it wouldn't matter if I botched it all up.

I actually really enjoyed making the decorations. For a budget-friendly way to make things look special, I made paper buntings to spread across our dining hutch and fireplace mantle. Scrapbook paper was on sale this week, so it only cost a couple of dollars to make three large buntings. I simply love the colors! I adore anything bright and cheerful!

For the pomp poms, I bought some tulle and followed some easy tutorials online. These were pretty easy to make, and I love the way they look. I chose colors that would work well for future birthday parties so I can re-use these several times. If I use them for a boy party, the pink poms will just stay hidden in their bag. Blue, yellow, and white are pretty boyish colors, so they'd be fine decor. I chose the particular shade of turquoise blue to match Sarah's favorite color, so I can use these for her parties as well. Sweet.

The crowns were so fun to make, and the kids were so excited to see their special crowns waiting for them at the dinner table. This year there was a lot of glitter...that was the funnest part for me. I may have an unhealthy obsession with glitter...maybe because I do glitter tattoos? I pulled out the tattoo supplies and let the kids pick their own glitter colors, which they thought was really fun. (Although when there are 100 colors to choose from, sometimes it gets tricky. I have a dozen shades of red, but which one is the best red? Some are slightly orange, or slightly pink or slightly purple. Matt agonized over them a bit, trying to pick out the most true red color.)

Nathan cooked up a storm all day and created the most amazing food for our feast. It was such a delight to the senses! He made several plates of delicious appetizers to start the meal of with a bang. This is what he made: Mushroom and pepper mini-quiche, crostini from a homemade baguette with roasted swiss, tomato, and fresh basil; open-face cucumber sandwiches on homemade wheat bread, and sweet-and-spicy jalapeno bites with cream cheese. Delish!


The main meal itself was tantalizing. Glazed carrots, duchess potatoes, chicken cordon bleu with a mornay sauce, and roasted brussel sprouts in a balsamic reduction sauce. Yummers! What a feast! I'm so thankful for a husband who enjoys cooking! What a blessing he is!

Dessert was a delightfully tart lemon cake topped with a citrus glaze and fresh strawberries.

During dinner we talked about our goals for the upcoming school year, and introduced our family theme for the year. We hope to memorize it and recite it each week as part of our Family Home Evening routine. This year our theme is from the book of Matthew: 

Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father, which is in heaven. 

We talked about their priceless individual worth, and reminded them that they are a child of God full of talents and potential. We reminded them that everyone else they meet is also a child of God, and should be treated with respect and love. 

I hope our children will remember this tradition as time goes by. I try to create a strong family identity that they will always carry with them. 

This week we had a conversation about family identities, and I asked how we could describe our family. This is what we came up with:

The Kingsley family is 
happy to serve the Lord, 
loves to learn, 
enjoys good food, and 
creates fun family memories.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Last glimpses of summer, Goodbye August

School started this week, but before I can post about all that excitement, I need to wrap up our summer.

Here are some glimpses of our August experiences:

We've enjoyed swimming at our neighborhood pool with friends. The pool is planted in the middle of a large neighborhood park that no one really visits, since it's nestled deep in the country. It's always very quiet and peaceful. The pool is under several ancient oak trees, so there is always plenty of shade for these hot summer days. We pack along snacks and spend hours enjoying the company of our good friends. I am so grateful for the blessing of good friends, the type of friends that always inspire us to improve. It's such a treasured friendship!

Sarah and Matthew and Daniel have spent many days this summer building up biking stamina. Each day they eagerly packed sunscreen, ice water, snacks, and my cell phone into a bag and would head to the park. Sarah's goal was to ride 10 miles per day, and she met that goal almost every day for the last 2 weeks of summer. She was quite proud of her accomplishment.

Each week Nathan has been teaching the Big Kids an electronics class. He's always been blessed with a gift for teaching well, and I love listening in on the lessons.

He teaches them a simple concept about electricity each week then they play with a hands-on illustration of the concept. Earlier when they learned about magnetic fields and electron movement, he let them experiment with a huge tub of iron filings and magnets to explore the direction and power of magnetic fields.

This month they built a motor together after learning the principles of electricity generation with magnets. They really enjoyed playing with the motor afterwards. I LOVE the fact that they get to learn such neat subjects from their dad! What neat memories.

Another week Nathan brought home a bag full of old hard drives that were being discarded at work. The kids eagerly explored them as they dismantled each one piece by piece. As each new part was revealed, Nathan taught them what it was and how it worked. They were so interested with the design and function of each part. They really enjoyed harvesting out the most fascinating pieces and begged him to bring home more.

They collected all the powerful hard drive magnets and combined them with scrap wood to create a large marble run that mounts on the fridge. I'll post pictures of it later.

Our Destination Imagination team is up and running again. We started meeting a couple weeks before school started. This year our team named themselves the Fire Phoenixes, and they've chosen to compete in the service-based challenge for the first time. They are to design and carry out a service project that meets a community need. So they decided to do a fundraiser for the Liberty Hill Public Library to help raise funds for a new building. Their fundraiser is a community event they call the Fairy Tale Fest, and we are in the planning stages right now. Sarah and Matthew appeared before the Park Board to answer questions from board members and get approval for the event.

They'll be learning a lot this year about community relations and marketing as they work on this project. It'll be an adventure full of new experiences!

We also had a month filled with doctor's appointments for Sarah, which usually means an hour of driving each way to the downtown office. We pack a picnic lunch and make a day of it. The specialists are located less than a mile from the Children's Museum, so we spent a few afternoons playing and exploring the Thinkery when her appointments were over.

This is a really fun Water Piano, where each water spout plays a different note when you block the hole. Sarah and Matthew worked together to play Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. It's VERY messy and we always get drenched playing this thing, but it's irresistible.

We relished the last few days of summer, lazily drifting on the tire swing with good books for companions or quietly sitting in the pasture petting goats who are eager for a good rub. There was a flurry of activity hunting down the last school supplies on our lists, meeting new teachers, and preparing for a new school year. The three Big Kids are all attending a charter school this year, called Founder's Classical Academy. It's located in a different town and is quite a long drive to reach, but I'm very hopeful that it will be a good year for them. (Except I'm very skeptical about any benefit from learning Latin- I think dead languages aren't useful unless one majors in Ancient Texts or a few Fine Arts majors, which is highly unlikely anyway. I'd much rather they learned a living language like Spanish, German, or Mandarin. But Latin? When will they EVER use that? End rant.)

We also enjoyed our traditional Back-To-School feast the night before the first day of school, and I'll post about that next. It's rather like a  holiday in our house, and it was such fun to prepare for it!

Tonight after the kids were in bed I sang hymns to them for a lullaby. The house was still as they listened to my voice, and I enjoyed singing for them very much. They took turns requesting their favorite hymns, then I picked some of my personal favorites. It was such a wonderful way to end the day, and I love inviting the Spirit into my home with uplifting music. I cherish the feeling of peace it brings, and welcome it.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Honey Harvest

For Family Home Evening this week we learned how to harvest honey from our beehives. We don't actually own the bees (I"m WAY too frightened of them to make that an option). They belong to a friend who needed a spot of property to keep them. This was a wild colony (which in these parts of the country means they were Africanized or 'Killer' Bees. Fun, right?) that was caught and put into a hive with a domestic queen. These little bees liked to have plenty of personal space around their hive (get close and they'd attack you), so our pasture was a good place for them to live while the queen worked on raising calmer, domesticated brood.

We've had them on our property for over a year, and now it's harvest time. Our friend collected the frames full of honey and invited us over to help harvest it. What a fun night this was. First we were treated to a fascinating presentation about bees, where we learned all about hive behavior and bee anatomy. Then we got busy.

The boys helped steady the heavy frames of honey while Jared sliced off the wax caps with a heated electric knife.

Then he loaded the frames into a huge centrifuge and let the children take turns spinning the handle to extract the honey. (This brought back memories of visiting my Grandpa Tucker's honey house in Wyoming, where his tools for processing honey were all carefully stashed and collecting dust after decades of sitting idle. My Grandpa had died long before I was born, but his honey tools were still there.)

They were fascinated to watch the honey whip out of the honeycomb. We successfully learned the trick to doing this fast enough to extract the honey but gently enough to prevent the honeycomb from breaking away. Everyone took a turn spinning the handle and we were mesmerized watching the honey slide out of the honeycomb.

After a bit of work, we were able to pour the honey through the filter and collect it in a honey jar. Boy-howdy is this stuff delicious! Raw honey, fresh from the fields, made from Texas wildflowers.

It was such a memorable Family Home Evening and we really enjoyed learning together. Jared was a great teacher and we loved visiting his farm.