Saturday, June 25, 2011

Slow life day and potty training success???

I called it a slow life day because we didn't do much today.  My little star even slept about ten minutes longer than I this morning.  He slept until 7:35 am!!  That might be because it was close to 10 pm before he went to sleep last night.  He just didn't really seem tired and he was... sitting on the potty and letting me get work done.  And he had taken a nap at playcare.

In the morning I took him to the farmers market and let my husband sleep.  I took him in underwear and didn't bring the potty because I don't know anywhere with a bathroom very close by that I could take him.  Why underwear?  Because I've decide he has no choice anymore.  He WILL learn this potty thing.  Also, although he's been somewhat refusing to go, I have lately been able to convince him to go.  And he's been staying dry for long periods of time.  At playcare on Friday his teacher said he stayed dry from 9 am until sometime past  3 pm.   I didn't even know this was possible for him. In the past three hours was the maximum.  Anyway, today he seemed to be able to stay dry, including while he was eating, and he used the potty with a little convincing.  So I was encouraged today.

After the farmers market we came home and my husband made us waffles for lunch.  Then I thought I'd never get my little star to nap so I took him on a stroller ride.  He did not fall asleep.  Maybe he didn't need one?   Afterwards "we" played upstairs for a while, me dozing on some pillows.

And then he had a melt down.  We have this kneeling chair that can spin, and for the first time he got it into a place where it could spin and got on top of it.  Only it wouldn't spin because of course you have to push off something to make it spin.  Newton's law of action and reaction.  This law of physics provoked ongoing whining complaining frustrated shouting and crying.  Oh, well, I figured so learning is frustrating, so I let him whine about it, until my husband came upstairs and complained about the noise (Our house is that small). Yes, I did explain how he needed to push on something.  Even when he learned to do it, that somehow did not solve the problem for him.

From then on it was meltdown and hysteria all evening.  I thought, maybe he just needs to use the potty, so after dinner I convinced him to go... and he peed just like that.  No sitting and playing to relax enough.

This peeing right away was good, but he was still hysterical, wild happy or wild upset.  My husband finally took him outside, where he did well enough.  When we came in he wanted to finish eating something I'd given him from the garden  before using the potty. Eating it in the garden is the only way he actually eats greens most of the time.  So he finished, and I said it was potty time.  He just went right there- I didn't have to convince him.  He sat down on the potty and peed just like that, and then he was done.    

So I'm hoping he's learned to hold it more and pee on demand?  If so, he still has to learn other toilets, telling me when to go or at least not fussing.... well, we have a long way to go.  I'm hoping he shows this progress tomorrow.

He was asleep before I even finished singing to him.  I like it when he gets to bed early when he doesn't take a nap, but I really don't like the meltdown all evening when he doesn't take a nap.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Visit to a child play space

I took my little star to the new children's museum in Mansfield today.  The day was questionable in terms of weather; it rained on and off all day- which meant that taking him somewhere to play outside was not the greatest idea.  Also I wanted to do some "research".  I knew two people who had gone to the museum, and I saw it a few weeks before it opened, and one mom (with baby and 2.5 year old) loved it; the other one was concerned about safety and cleanliness for her 18 month old.

Now bear in mind that I am going to be EXTRA critical since I do see this place, as competition to some degree.  It's not major competition since our science play space and their museum are really meant mainly for local use, but I do want to make sure ours is different... and better!

So we went.  My son had a great time, so it was a good experience.  However, my son is 3.5.  I can see the concerns for a younger child who'd likely to put everything in his mouth.  And the floor... well, they really need to refinish it.  Its a wooden floor with all sorts of pain and gunk on it.  It looks terrible.  Some things don't look totally clean.  I think they were working so hard to get it opened that they never really had time to completely clean it before they did, so now it just gets spot cleaning, and some corners are missed.  But they did get it open and its kids are enjoying it.

The mom also was concerned about the planting boxes.  You see they have a really cool concept- dirt like stuff in boxes with gardening implements, pots, fake flowers.  My son loved it.  However, they used a rubber mulch material that I really can't imagine is exactly safe for kids in terms of degrading into powder... and who knows whats in it.  The mom who was concerned worried that her kids threw it all over the floor... well yes, kids do do that and it was a mess.  I'm not so sure another material would be an improvement.  I could see improving the set up to contain it in the space slightly better, but... some things are just messy.  They had done a nice job by setting up two different tables of different heights.  It would have been nice to have a shelf /table nearby for potting.  My son kept trying to put the pots on the ledge and shovel the mulch into them.  Of course they were not very stable there.

They also had a nice apple tree thing where kids could stick up fake apples with velcro. Of course they also had baskets, a wheel barrow and a wagon.  Well, two kids had already confiscated the apple in the wheelbarrow and wagon when my son wanted to play.  However they were willing to share and he enjoyed the basket.  I think you could have had pictures of apples for the kids to match the colors or some numbers to count.  The space was over the same old wooden floor, and the apples were always dropping on it.  They looked worse for wear and I don't think they will last long.  Perhaps beanbags or a soft floor would have worked better.

They had a grocery store with little carts, toy cash registers, and a scale.  My son loved it- he spent a lot of time "weighing the food" and using the cash register. They had a lot of "food" including a lot of packaged goods that were shrink wrapped empty boxes. The mom who was critical didn't like the whole shrink wrap idea- and I can see why- for her kid probably wanted to chew it or take it off.  It worked for my older kid. I think filling the boxes with something to give them weight would be a good idea.  I thought it was nice that they had lots of different kinds of food including fruits and vegetables.  They even had grocer's aprons and paper shopping bags.

My son's unexpectedly enjoyed the "vet" area. Once I showed him what a vet might do, he enjoyed putting the stuffed animals in the carrier, giving them shots, examining them with the stethoscope and the flashlight.  I saw some older kids putting on lab coats, writing down stuff, really play acting.  Then my son didn't want to go into the "doctors' office", so we didn't go, but it was actually pretty cool- they had  incubators with toy dolls, a scale, and examining equipment including an x-ray display light.

Somehow, I was just not surprised that his favorite seemed to be the science lab.  They had some balances there including a three beam, but they were either locked or broken.  That was annoying.  The also had some science stuff like rocks and magnifying glass, and magnets, but they were in boxes kind of where kids wouldn't tend to look for them.  I thought they should be out, ready to go.  Of course what my son got into was the chemistry bench.  They had alls sorts of graduated cylinders (plastic), measuring cups and spoons, funnels, and colored water.  Too much fun.  He turned out to be much better at pouring than I had expected.  Unfortunately whenever there was another kids there wasn't really enough water or it wasn't set up well for two kids to really enjoy it at the same time without getting in each other's way.  Also once they mixed the colors... well there were not any refills until a volunteer could come.  They hadn't left out supplies even for parents.  The kids made a mess (as expected). I think they must go through a lot of paper towels.  They didn't rags or towels.  Somehow I think it could have been set up better- maybe the counter should have a drip catcher or the floor...  in any case it was nice to see how it was implemented to give me ideas- and to find that even colored water with cool containers was fun.  It does give kids a chance to get familiar with the equipment.

My son ignored the stage and costumes, but I saw other kids enjoying themselves.  He also wasn't really into the bank.  I think it was more for older kids.

didn't go in the padded baby room, but I saw other kids enjoying it.  It was a shoe free area. It's not very big, but I don't know how much space you really need... except that that space was really more appropriate for the 18month old in terms of cleanliness and safety.

They also had these little toddler car things- my son still fits and likes them occasionally, so I noticed at the end he was getting in the car to take him between areas.  I thought Oh no, is this what he's learning at home- you get in the car to go from one place to the other.  Because we do do that a lot.  We don't always do that- if its available locally we walk or bike unless its on the way and we are already in the car.  The car happens a lot because a lot of things are not available locally and we are often on the way.  I wish we were teaching him better.  I liked how they had enough space for kids to move around - in the cars (they have to pedal) or pushing the wheelbarrow or pulling the wagons.  Although my son wasn't really active, he was on his feet all morning.  They are building a tree house climbing things there.  I hope our space has lots of ways for kids to be active.

They also had a few tables set up in the middle for people to bring in food or eat.

At the entrance they also had a little lounge with a lego table that included legos, Duplo and mega-blocks.  For some reason they were all in their containers, so it didn't look that inviting until I showed my son what he could do. He did like it, and I introduced him to little legos.  He can do them a little bit, and liked them.  Funny thing was, the chairs were the wrong size (like normal adult size), so the kids couldn't really sit at them normally to use the table since it was too low.  Kid size stuff is really expensive.

So all in all.... yes there are some things they could be doing better- and they are easy to see if you go in there with your kid and watch kids play.   I think the space focuses best on preschool and primary school rather than toddler age. They had a little reading area with books, but no board books. I hope when we get a space I will be vigilant about making changes if they are helpful. But my son had a lot of fun- we stayed until I knew he needed a nap, and I think it was good for him to go somewhere new, see some new things, do lots of pretend play with me and also by himself with me watching.  I hope we can make a place that allows that here- and focuses a bit more on active play (though they are planning a climbing wall in Mansfield) and science so it will be different. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Helping out

My little star was a good helper today.

He kept saying he wanted me to vacuum, and the house needed it so I got out our carpet sweeper. We use a carpet sweeper rather than a loud vacuum cleaner because... I like it better- its quiet and doesn't use electricity.  However, I do use a small, and rather loud, dust buster thing to get in the corners. My little star gets all excited  in a happy way and runs away when I use it.

After cleaning up in one room and vacuuming, I told him I really couldn't vacuum the living room unless he moved his toys.  So he grudgingly moved them about a foot.  I explained to him that they had to move off the floor.  He moved them another foot.  I vacuumed the clear area, and by then he wanted to help so I gave him the sweeper.  The cool thing about the device is that the handle is made of four poles.  I took off the middle two poles and put back on the top handle, thus the sweeper was now toddler size.

I began doing cooking and let my little star occupy himself.  Later I noticed all the toys... and everything else were in fact off the floor and he was actually sweeping it somewhat effectively. In the past he's not been strong enough to do it effectively.  Then he took the sweeper upstairs to his room and cleaned off an area in there too... not too effectively, but its the effort that counts.

I also tried to keep him dry today.  This involved making him go to the potty at the right time. He protested more and more as the day went on- but except in one case that I didn't make him go, he did stay dry.  In the case that I didn't make him go, I had decided to mow the lawn and thus was not supervising him very carefully.

As I was mowing I noticed at one point that he had "disappeared" and I fervently hoped he had gone inside.  He had.  When I got in he had put all the things that go in with his diapers (clothes we wash him with, cloth diapers, and wet underwear) in the washing machine.  He had put his wet underwear in too of course.

Earlier in the day he had put all the dirty clothes in the washer, but I hadn't run because it wasn't full.  I had explained to him that we didn't mixe the dirty diapers and things with the clothing.    He'd actually paid attention-  he had taken all the clothing out of the washer and put in a basket before putting the diapers and wet underwear in.  I wasn't too pleased about the wet underwear (though I wasn't surprised), but I was pleased about him helping with the laundry. I also told him to wash his hands with soap immediately.

I was telling my dad about how my little star had helped doing these things today and he said he hoped it wasn't just a phase.  Well, it probably is, but I'm going to enjoy it.  

Saturday, June 18, 2011


We made whirligigs this morning this morning to publicize our science play space idea at our "maker's market".  The reason we have a maker's market, as I understand it, is because our farmer's market only wanted food to be sold there.  So, for example, you can't sell homemade soap or crafts.

An enterprising soap maker got permission to have the maker's market across the street from the farmers market.  What should I say about this?  Where I come from our crafts and food are all together in a nice jumbled mix, and I don't see any problem with it.

However, I have no idea of the history of why they are separate here.  Maybe there is no ill will in it. I have seen a great improvement in the farmer's market in our five years here, and the makers are newcomers.  I do see a role for regulating the markets: There should  be regulation to assure that the food is local and that baked goods are safe. When we first came we used to find that the quality of the food or seedlings was spotty, but there is a lot more selection there now than there was when where first came.  We buy a lot less there now because my garden seems to produce enough or we get it from a very high quality farmer who sets up here in the village on Fridays.

The Makers market has very few rules, and they were happy for us to set up a table there. Its too bad a lot of people don't bother crossing the street from the farmers market, but we did attract some people.  Some of them were from the moms group- I had told them we would be set up there.  It was kind of a good thing we didn't get too many kids at once because even though I had spent some time testing the activity, some parts of it still went slowly.  Most of the reason is because I didn't have exactly the right materials.

The easiest way to make a whirligig is to use a button and yarn.  We wanted to use some type of disk kids could decorate, but it had to be heavy enough.  We figured out how to make that happen, but poking the holes and cutting the card stock did take a bit of time.

I made whirligigs when I was a kid, but it took a grandparent to remind me how to spin it well.  A whirligig is kind of like a horizontal yoyo.  You put a disk on a loop of string strung through two holes, and twist it up. Then you pull it out and in- if you are good enough you can get it spinning back and forth very fast.

I thought how nice it was that this was a toy the grandparents were the experts with and could enjoy showing the kids.  I wondered if there were more activities like this that had some nice cross-generational attributes.

I had a great helper who seemed more adept at the poking holes and the cutting aspect of the project.  She just graduated from the college in chemistry.  We discussed the physics of the toy and came up with something about potential, kinetic and rotational energy, but in most cases we talked with the kids and parents about how to make the toy, and about the science play space we want to create.   Personally, I don't mind explaining the science, but for me the important thing is getting the kids to play, experiment and tinker with stuff.

Anyway, I think we learned a lot about how to do whirligigs and had a good time.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Permissions and snakes and poison ivy

So after I changed the blog- that is I took down previous posts, I never got any more readers.  Now, usually I get some random hits.  I mean, maybe they don't really want to read my blog, but usually somebody hits it by mistake.  Well, really, nobody was hitting it.  I checked my settings.  No, it really is open to anybody.

I wrote some more posts.  No hits.

I checked the settings again.  It seems open.  I checked all the menus and finally found that I had somehow forgotten to give anybody permission to read the thing!  Whoops.

One of the settings was for posting from your phone.  I'm not doing that, but I did take an interesting picture on my phone this week.  Up until now I only had one picture on my phone.  Its a cute, slightly outdated picture of my little star.  I don't really know how to use the phone that well or what do do with any pictures I might take.

I was out walking with my little star- luckily he was in the stroller- when we saw this enormous snake in the road.  It was bigger than a garter snake, and it lay there still with its head raised.  It was black, long, but not thick.  We watched it from a distance for quite a while.  I know most snakes are harmless and most that I see are garter snakes- in fact I kind of assume that any snake I see is a garter snake.  This one was clearly not a garter snake, and there are poisonous snakes in Ohio.  I don't know a thing about identifying snakes- we rarely see them.  So I took a picture on my phone.  We watched the snake for a long time before it lazily crossed the road and headed off into the woods.  The way it moved was really quite interesting to watch.

I looked on the internet and I'm pretty sure we saw a harmless black rat snake.

I'm also trying to teach my little star to identify poison ivy.  We spent a while with "is this poison ivy?  Let's count the leaves- one two three."  If I can teach him to avoid three leaved plants that will be fine.  He's quite good at counting to three now.  I've also instituted the "if it's not mowed grass, there is probably poison ivy there."  So far this statement has been true.

Oh yes, the beauty of rural ohio. 

Shopping, playcare, and potty training

I'm still not sure why I spent two mornings this week shopping.  I wasn't even buying food! On Wednesday I had a short meeting with someone about the science play space, and then I thought, oh, I'll go buy some balloons and maybe other things for my projects.  So I went to the Dollar Tree.  I've never been there.  Its right next to Kroger where I usually shop.  I used to shop at a Dollar store sometimes in Ithaca after Woolworths closed and before we finally got CVS on the commons.  My problem with dollar stores is partly that they sell junk- I mean do you expect high quality for a dollar?  On the other hand, my junky $1 laundry basket that I bought almost fifteen years ago is only just starting to break.  My other problem is that sometimes you just buy too much because it seems so cheap.

So anyway, I went in to our local store and was immediately mesmerized by all the stuff.  I don't know why that is.  Its not like I've never seen stuff before.  Perhaps it was the jumble of stuff in a small space?  Perhaps its because I haven't been to a store other than a grocery store in quite a while.  I found myself just taking note of each item I might possibly need or buy some day as if amassing strategic information that I expected to be useful.  Maybe its because I get excited when I can find something locally outside of Walmart.  Maybe I was excited because I didn't have my little star with me and felt I could slow down.

So, slow down, I did.  I also managed to buy some random things like new socks for me and my son.  I finally found the round balloons as opposed to the rectangle and water balloons.  When I got home (morning was gone by then!) I found that just like in the past, I was unable to blow them up even after a lot of stretching.   The idea was that you can figure out your lung capacity if you blow up a balloon and calculate the volume of air you blew in.  Well, it doesn't work if you can't get the balloon to expand at all.

So, I tried the more complicated set up that included an upside down coke bottle in a basin of water, and a straw.  It worked surprisingly easily.  I still wasn't quite clear on the physics that allowed water to be at a higher level in the bottle than in the basin.  Perhaps over time they would equilibrate.

So that was my first shopping trip.  By today I realized I needed a few more things for the science play activity we are putting on tomorrow.  One of them might be buttons.. or cardboard, and maybe my string wasn't that good.  It was time to check out our new craft store.  Oh, that place was dangerous.  Really dangerous.  So much fun stuff.  They had a really nice selection, and some of it wasn't even low quality.  Of course I had to check it out shelf by shelf.  We won't say how much money I departed with.  I mean, I finally bought us some masking tape, duct tape (it actually said DUCK tape!), and normal scotch tape that I'd been wishing we had for a while.  We'd been talking about not having small muffin tins, and they had one there...

Of course the buttons didn't work- my string would not fit through them.  I'd had to buy an assortment when I really just wanted BIG buttons, so that was not completely unexpected.  I'm sure my son will enjoy them sometime. I never did find the perfect string, so I figured I'd use what I had from the grocery store.  The card stock I found on sale had to be tweaked a bit to work, but it was a lot easier to work with than cardboard.  You see the project requires circular disks.  I found a circular cutter- kind of like a compass with a utility knife.  I bought the cheap one, probably not the greatest decision.  It works better on the card stock.  Until I saw it on the shelf I had no idea such a device existed.  I'm still not positive that scissors are faster, but I have to admit it makes a great circle.

After going to the grocery store as well- in search of string, and some groceries, I wasted ANOTHER morning shopping.  The worst part was, when I got it together to go to the gym with enough time to lift weights before I had to pick my son up from play care, I realized the gym is only open from 11-1 on Fridays.  I'd missed that. Its not open again until Monday when I would have gone anyway.  Now I'll be weak again.

As I was picking up my son on the early side it rained so I can't mow  the lawn.
About picking up my son... I was not happy about missing the gym, but I figured this way I get to eat ice cream with my husband and his students and pick up my son early.  I wanted to do this because his regular lead teacher had the day off.  I really don't feel as good about the other teachers.  I think my son is safe, but I don't think they pay as much attention to his needs.

I was also a bit surprised this morning when I dropped him off and the teacher said they were going to have popcorn and a movie.  Is this why I send him to play care?!  To watch a movie- I don't even let him watch movies.  So I was concerned and mentioned that we only let him watch stuff for 10-15 minutes, and that is quite rare. I was actually concerned that the content might scare him since he's not used to anything very dramatic.  The teacher said they were studying sports this week, so they thought it fit in to watch sports and eat popcorn.  I have to send my kid to playcare for this!!  I really want him learning to be a fan?  He should be playing sports not watching them!

So I said to myself that he was getting cultural education- I mean we are not watching sports at home.  The teacher said actually they were watching a dinosaur animation where there was problem solving because the sports videos were rated PG.  Thank goodness.  Are there not documentaries on sports or something?  The teacher also said it would only be one of the activities the kids could choose to do during that time.  I figured he'd love the movie and sit there in a TV coma.

I also asked about the popcorn- I thought there was some sort of choking risk or something.  She said it was allowed for preschoolers.  I figured she'd know best and that she (unlike me) is trained in CPR and mouth to mouth.  And actually I'd be quite happy to give my little star popcorn- its really not bad for you if you don't smother it with crap.

Apparently he liked the popcorn- though I'm guess it was smothered with crap because he said it was yellow, and that it was salty.  His teacher said he only watched the movie for five minutes and then went to eat the popcorn at the table, while the other kids watched for half an hour.  That really does surprise me.  I wonder what was up with that video.  I mean he loves videos- at least the very few he's seen.  He actually asked to see the "over the rainbow" video I had showed him before we went to a wizard of oz themed activity last weekend.  I found judy garland singing it in the movie on utube.  I let him see it again, and then he asked to see it again.

Ah... another incentive.  I suggested that once he was potty trained there were a lot of things on the computer he might like to see... like sesame street.  I'm not sure he really understood what I was offering.  Still I only let him see Judy Garland once.  I really don't want the continual asking for videos that I hear other parents complain about- though if it helps him to get potty trained...

So I did try to pick up my son early from play care.  I checked where they are supposed to post the lesson plans for I was curious- what is this sports thing- I mean what else is going on?  I only recently learned where the lesson plans were posted- its kind of hard to see, and last time I checked it was an old plan.  Well, again it was a two week old plan that was posted. No help there.

I spoke to one of the teachers who told me about the movie and popcorn when I asked.  She also said my son had an peeing accident before lunch.  No surprise there.  He still won't use the toilet there- ever.  I remember I had a whole conversation with the teachers this morning about how I sent him with underwear, but if he doesn't pee  by after lunch just put him in a diaper.  Every day lately he has one pair of underwear, and when it gets wet they put him in a diaper.  I only send him in underwear if he's already pooped in the potty.  Nobody wants poopy underwear.  I kind of assume the other two teachers- who work with the lead teacher understood this because for the most part he's been in diapers and has NEVER used the toilet at playcare.

Now his lead teacher did ask if I'd leave him an extra pair of underwear so he could wear it if he ever did use the toilet there.  I also leave him exactly ONE extra pair of pants, and I threw in a pair of shorts just in case.  When I arrived early he was wearing shorts.  These shorts have been sitting there for a long time, and are a hand me down, so I wasn't quite clear about the color.  Anyway, he was playing somewhat happily in the sandbox, and didn't want to get up.  I sat down with him for a bit.  I noticed that it looked like he might be wet, but figured that was not possible because I stupidly assumed he was wearing a diaper.  I also noticed he wasn't moving much... kind of like he does when he's wet.  He also just refused to be done playing, yet wasn't really playing much after a few minutes.  Still I assumed he was wearing a diaper- I mean he'd already wet his pants once, and it was almost  5 pm.

Finally I pulled him up.  He was wet.  He was wearing underwear- it was wet, his shoes and socks were wet and he wouldn't walk.  Then when I went to change him, I found he also had poop in his underwear- who knows how long that had been there.  I was NOT pleased.  Not only did nobody notice he was wet, but they shouldn't have put him in underwear to begin with...or if they did, they should be watching him carefully.  At least they could have mentioned to me that he was wearing it!  I always have to tell them.    I really felt bad for him too (though I was too annoyed at him for doing it to tell him that)  because he's just not comfortable using the toilet there yet, and I felt like they left him no option other than pooping in his underwear.

I think next time his lead teacher isn't there I should just put him in a diaper..or just not send him that day.

Something like this always seems to happen without the lead teacher.  Last time she wasn't there I came in and he was just sitting on the playground rubbing his eyes miserably getting more sand and sunscreen in them.  None of the teachers had thought to help him out and get his face washed.

Long enough post?  I didn't have much to say until I started.

Science play fun tip-  You can make this great pH indicator with a purple cabbage.  Just process it up and add some water.  Strain out the cabbage.  The water was this excellent purple blue color.  It turned bright blue with a base (baking soda), and pink with vinegar.  It was SOO cool.  I've known about this for ages, but it was so much more cool in practice.  Try it out!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Entropy, more on 3.5 years old, and more on snow peas

I just had this interesting conversation about entropy with my husband that I may or may not be repeating accurately.

He said he was frustrated that people (ie high school chemistry teachers) always discuss entropy in terms of order/disorder.  Umm that's how I learned it...  He mentioned that perhaps they should be using information theory and information states for the problem they were dealing with.  Oh.. yeah, I think I learned something about that in physics in the courses I took here at the college.  So, what followed was a long conversation that kind of blew my mind.  I mean, I always knew it was "more complicated" than order/disorder, and I even have learned how to calculate it.

My husband drags out this example where it seemed like something was more disordered but yet more ordered at the same time depending on how you defined order with both definitions making complete sense, but completely contradictory...

So how am  I supposed to explain this entropy thing if anybody asks me without using the disorder/order thing?  Information states didn't even seem to cover the example he'd just given me.   So he explained it in a way that made sense.  He said, use the concept of constraints.  The more constraints there are, the less entropy.   For molecules (he's a chemist), he explained, the biggest constraint is temperature.  The higher the temperature, the less constraints (molecules move around more with the random thermal vibrations).  At low temperatures, removing a constraint (a little heat) can have a big effect.  At higher temperatures, adding a little more heat won't have as big an effect.

He mentioned his textbook (Zumdahl) had a great metaphor that will make sense to most people who are not chemists.  He said imagine you are  a poor college student and you only have a hundred dollars.  Somebody gives you a thousand dollars.  It makes a big difference.  Suddenly you have less constraints.   On the other hand suppose you are a billionaire, and somebody gives you a thousand dollars.  It probably won't change your life much or remove any constraints.

I love enlightening conversations with my man :)

My little one has also done some interesting things today.
We've had some highs and lows in the potty training.  The high was he used his potty in a restaurant bathroom and kept his underwear dry.  The low was... well, worse than not keeping underwear dry, but I caught him right away and we were at home so at least it wasn't too horrible to clean up.

Some other good things today though.  Without any prompting, I notice my little star had brought an empty basket in to the laundry room and was opening the drier.  I figured he was rotating the drum- he likes to that with the washer.  Then I noticed he was taking something out.  Wow, he was taking out the clean clothes and putting them in the basket for me!  How exciting actual useful help without any prompting.  Its not even a job I've ever asked him to do before.  See, they really do learn by example and imitation.

Another nice thing I noticed was that when I was singing him to sleep (OK, it didn't put him to sleep), he joined in with me on part of one of the songs.  He knows the songs, and will finish it for you if you stop, but he will NEVER sing with us.  I was so excited that he joined with me for a little bit.

So, I was proud of myself for knowing that little star will fall asleep on a car ride.  I deliberately scheduled some errands, and he compliantly fell asleep.  Unfortunately, it was a hot day, so when I was finished and parked at home in the shade under the tree with the windows open, I knew it was going to get hot in there.  He had a short nap.  I guess the car only solves the problem in cooler weather.

Another... I was proud of myself for letting my snow peas get a little more ripe before I picked them so they would be sweeter.  Well, they were sweeter but somehow... well sweeter I guess isn't always better.  They seemed to have lost other flavors and my husband said he didn't like it as much.  I think I have to agree.  I guess I learned even more.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

slow life gardening and 3.5 years old.

Yes, more slow living.  I dug up the last bit of my garden.. well the last bit I plan to completely dig up.  I amended it generously with lime and compost (yes, this is newsworthy as I often don't have one or the other of these).  It was really hot and late so I didn't actually transplant the seedlings into it.  I'd have to water first, and then I'd probably decide I had to water the whole garden- which would take a long time.  It did rain yesterday, but not very much.  Noon on a hot day is just not the best time to water a garden.  Also I had free lunch with my husband's science buddies if I just showed up.

I did manage to put in some potatoes. This morning I noticed these little shoots poking out of the box.  I thought I had already planted my sprouted potatoes- those were in a shopping bag I completely forgot to eat.  The ones I found today were in the box, and I had decided a while back that they were too sprouted to eat, but of course I forgot about them.

Anyway, to get my lunch, I put off harvesting snow peas and strawberries.  I'll probably have to fight with the mosquitoes for them later.  I thought I knew when to harvest snow peas, but last year we bought some that I thought were CLEARLY over ripe... except they were the sweetest ones I've ever eaten.  So, to my horror I thought, maybe I've been harvesting them too early all these years.  Despite that insight I harvested snow peas last week knowing they were probably not as ripe as they could be.  They were OK, and I was glad to have them, but I've been letting the rest of them age a bit.  After all, we have plenty of lettuce to eat still.

I was thinking that maybe I'd skip free lunch, and get my stuff done, but usually when I finally go I enjoy talking to people.  I wasn't in the mood, but I figured I would be once I got there.  Turns out... well, I wasn't really in the mood, and didn't have any great conversations.  Still the food was nice, so I can't complain.

I did just have an excellent conversation with a college student who might be instrumental in getting college support/partnership/involvement for my science play space project.  I see possibilities opening up.  These are possibilities I think we all envision, but a way to make them happen is what is opening up.  So I am excited about this.

About my little star... well, he's been in a kind of crappy mood lately- everything is a drama, and I think maybe he's coming down with something... or growing or ... well, I'm really hoping on a potty training developing moment.  Despite crappiest mood ever, he managed to keep his underwear dry all afternoon- an afternoon that included a trip to the bank, the supermarket, and a long nap in the car seat.  Admittedly I had to convince him to use the potty, but he did DO it.  I'm sure hoping this isn't an aberration.

On the other hand, he woke up at 4:45 this morning, and I had to convince him to go back to sleep.  Then he got up at 5:30 am!  He's slept at least until 6 for the past six months or so.  Well, maybe it won't be so shocking if he does that on our trip next month.   Oh... and he had a messy diaper.  Perhaps that is because I SURE was NOT getting up with him before 6 am when I had finally just gotten almost asleep again.   And yes, he's a in a great mood today. (How can you write in a sarcastic tone?)  I hope he makes it to nap time in play care.

I hope 3.5 years hasn't somehow transitioned into something like being 2.5 years.  2.5 years was pretty awful, but got better close to three years.  We've got to have a better trip to Ithaca than we had last year!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Formal Gardens, science play, and other stuff

Oh yes, blogging. Its been awhile.  Have I been busy... well sort of.  Not really.  I've just been spending that "free time" reading the new york times or on face book.  It has been nice weather, so the garden and lawn account for some.  I've been doing fun stuff with my little star.  The weather is good so I feel obligated to do stuff outside with him.

This weekend we got to the Schnormeier gardens twice.  It's only open once a year, and I'd never seen it. This year its free, but last year apparently admission money went to a good cause.  I think its reasonable for them to ask, but I never heard about in any previous year.  What is it?  Well a local rich guy (retired CEO of Jeldwen) constructed this garden in "asian" style.  Its got pretty lily ponds, rocks, waterfalls, teahouses, a bridges... well its pretty pleasant in a kind of manicured sort of way that seems rather out of place here in rural ohio.

I was sort of shocked at how my son responded to the waterfalls- he thought they were the greatest thing on earth.  I thought they were well, not quite as dramatic or nice as natural waterfalls (though pleasant all the same)- my husband said that my attitude was snotty and he's right.  I apologize.  The gardens were really pleasant and a nice change from rural ohio.  It made me realize how privileged I am to have grown up in the Fingerlakes where natural bubbling brooks, and water falling and gorges are just normal scenery that do not require bringing in and constructing rocks and noisy pumps.  I was sad that my son does not enjoy the same privilege- and I'm sure he will enjoy our visit to Ithaca later this summer.  We'll make sure he gets to see lots of natural waterfalls.

It's always saddened me that this part of Ohio, while pleasant, does not have the dramatic scenery that I grew up with.  It also doesn't have the Cornell Plantations, which is the closest thing to this garden I can think of.  The plantations has gardens, which I know take a lot of maintenance, but somehow they look more natural.  They are more full of things (perhaps just more mature) so there are not areas that you can tell somebody had to spray a lot of herbicide to keep it weed free.  They just use a ton of mulch.

I recently saw pictures of the Ithaca's community parade, and I ... well its just hard to picture some of the stuff happening here, and that makes me sad and wish I were there.  I saw a new logo which I think sums it up the bleeding heart liberal that I seem to be aspire to be.  Ithaca's logo has always been (at least in my memory), "Ithaca's GORGES" a pun on its natural beauty.  The new logo I notices was "Ithaca's Generous", which as I see it, says it all.  In Ithaca there are tons of groups dedicated to helping others.  There are here too.   But the political ambiance is so different.  Here our school levy didn't pass.  Here we have an extreme republican governor.  I was trying to think of the words to describe the difference, but I'm falling short.

Anyway, back to why we went to the gardens twice:
So I took my son the the playground, and was planning to take him to the grocery store afterward, but I forgot my wallet.  Oops.  I had been planning to take him to the gardens in the afternoon... so he could fall asleep on the way.  So we went after the play ground.  We had to park in the middle of nowhere- I couldn't believe how many cars were there.  So we had to walk a long ways and down a big hill to get there.  Needless to say we didn't get very far before I suggested we go back- my little star was tired and didn't quite make it back up the hill.   And yes, he did fall asleep on the way to the grocery store in the afternoon... after refusing to even go upstairs for quiet time.  I stopped the car in the shade and let him nap.  I read a book.

So, that's why we had to go back to the gardens today.  He really wanted to see those waterfalls again.  We walked a long way, and he did really well.  I didn't have to carry him at all; we got to see most all of it.

Yesterday I did an event for the science play space, but it was rather disappointingly attended.  I don't feel that this was exactly our fault- this was an event we did because a performing arts group had suggested we do it after their program, and their attendance was so low I was glad I'd brought my son. (He was one of three kids).  By the way, the program was pretty good.  Some kids are missing out.  Still, it was a beautiful day, so who wants to be inside?  Well, we still have the stuff and ideas for another event, so all is not lost.  And for me, well, my kid got to do the fun stuff.

We also had a table the night before at the first friday thing.  I wasn't there, but I'm guessing that was much more attended.  Luckily one of the organizers decided to answer my emails at the end of the week.

When my little star is in playcare I've been gardening, going to the gym, mowing, getting a teeny bit of work writing done on science experiments, thinking (a bit unsuccessfully) about dinner... and then I go pick him up.  Did I mention, he's going to bed really late (like 9:00 if he's had a nap?)  This late bedtime cuts down on time for other stuff, and I've been getting to bed really late.

My experiments and other fun science:
Did you know its incredibly easy to show the earth's magnetic field with a magnet, a needle, a bowl of water and styrofoam?  I was amazed.

Or that you can siphon water with a DRY paper towel (admittedly it takes several days).  It works a bit faster with a wet one.

If you try to grow sugar crystals and leave your solution out to grow it will attract ants?  Maybe salt crystals would be a better option.

Put drops of food coloring in a shallow saucer of milk and add a drop of soap- wow, enjoy the pretty colors!

Sugar cubes are hard to find in Central OH, but our local convenience store carries them...apparently I am not the first to use them for a science experiment.

I always thought it was exaggeration to say that the washing machine ate your socks.  I thought it meant you lost them in the process.  I mean small child socks are really small.
If your fancy front loading washing machine suddenly has strange codes and won't open, suggest to your plumber husband that it might be fixable. (I didn't actually say anything, he just looked into it)  In fact with a little research he figured out how to clean the trap on the drain pipe of it, and lo an behold, at least two socks that were not exactly intact, a penny, a tack,... well, it really did eat the socks!  Thank you my sweet man for fixing it!!!

Little Star is unfortunately not potty trained yet.  I thought we were making progress this week, but all that remains is that he does actually seem to WANT to wear underwear.  But he still will not use the potty away from home, and its still a negotiation to get him even to sit on it a lot of the time.  And he won't ask.

OK, one more thought, I came across a business that sets up dinner dates in Chicago.  They set you up with a random group of people (actually not sure if its random).  How cool, a way to meet new people.  It will be decades before we get something like that around here.

OK, I WILL get to bed before 11 pm.  I will. I will.