Kid-friendly science with Grandpa

We made a quick trip to Wisconsin last month for my dad’s 60th birthday and one of the highlights was a visit to his lab. Jax was thrilled to help with some experiments and is still talking about them. My dad also gave us some ideas of experiments we can do ourselves with common household staples, so the fun continues!

Animal GalleryLooking at a very large crab on display in the halls of the biology building.


Experiment #1: Dry Ice. What happens to it in water? Is the smokey stuff hot or cold?IMG_5695

Adding warm water made even more vapor.



IMG_5638Watching the stirring machine.

Jax left the lab with his very own flask and a couple of plastic test tubes. Here are some experiments we’ve been able to do right here in our kitchen:

Fizzy Whizzy!: Add vinegar to baking soda and watch what happens.
Which one floats?: Pour olive oil into a flask and then add water. Which liquid is on top? Put the top on, flip it over, and see if it stays that way. This was a huge hit, and got Jax thinking about other liquids to try. He is thinking like a scientist!

This board on Pinterest has many more exciting and elaborate experiments to try, too.


Jax, at age three and three-quarters

Jax likes to reminisce with us about when he was three. “Remember, when I was three? and we went to their house?” or, “Remember, when I was three, and I was crying because I wanted a different water cup? That was so silly.” His fourth birthday isn’t until September, but he’ll proudly tell you that he is no longer three, but three and three-quarters. So sophisticated and mature. Jax in Door County, Wisconsin, July 2, 2012 What follows are some Jax sayings from this sweet age we never want to forget.

Tonight at dinner Jax was blowing bubbles in his milk while Seth and I were talking (or maybe trying to keep Ben in his seat. I can’t remember). After a bit he looked at us with his half-smile smirk and said “I think I should probably be in trouble by now.”

Last week, while Seth was getting Jax dressed in a button-down shirt:
Seth [smiling jokingly]: I won’t do your top button so you don’t look like a nerd.
Jax: What’s a nerd?
Seth: Someone who spends so much time on the computer that they forget how to dress themselves
Jax: Daddy, YOU are a nerd!

Jax loves to be precise about vocabulary:
Me (to Jax): Daddy’s working
Jax: No, he’s BLOGGING

Foreign languages are a big deal around here, and while we listen to French songs and have “French day” (less often than I hope to), Jax has invented his own language, Glurm. It seems to consist of English words with the beginning consonant replaced by “gl.” Thankfully we’ve picked it up pretty quickly.

Other interests of the moment are swimming, painting, and drawing roller coasters. And any activity involving glue. Today he glued buttons and wooden beads onto a piece of cardboard, making them into shapes, such as binoculars. Clay has also been an exciting recent discovery: while Jax’s paintings are still very much about experimenting with the media, his clay creations are pretty complex representations of real things (submarine, lamb, rainbow) or of his imaginary inventions.

Jax is the sweetest big brother, too. Ben does a lot of head bumping and Jax always runs straight for the freezer to get him some ice. Often in the morning Jax will ask for Ben and want to hug him. They play rough, too, and Jax rolls his baby all around the carpet, Ben laughing the whole time. Well, until it gets too rough. Ben wants to do everything his brother does, and we’re proud of them both!

Hello, my name is

Life is crazy right now. Two kids, teaching a class, midterms sitting on my nightstand, waiting to be graded… I have masses of admiration for my parents and in-laws, who raised three kids with both parents working full time. Babies become toddlers, and toddlers become little children with personality and new talents and it’s hard to escape all the clichés of parenting (it goes by so fast!). And so, I’ve been wanting to document this time in our lives ?? and blog more about it ?? but have needed someone to guide me a tad in the process. Nothing ever gets done without deadlines, as a wise professor told me once, as I embarked on writing my dissertation.

So I’m going to take a cue from one of my favorite photo publishing sites, Paper Coterie, and follow them for the month of April. Who knows if I’ll keep up on time, but I have every intention of posting something for each of the days’ themes (even if I post late). The overarching theme? Me. I usually shy away from such ego-centric stuff (ug, the bratty “it’s all about me” attitude we pass on to our children in this culture…). But I think of the approach as simply one of sharing, documenting, and remembering.

So voilà. Today’s subject is My Home:

This is the gallery wall I’m slowly putting together in our stairway. I love it because I’ve had a lot of the frames and artwork since our city days. Most of the photos are newer ones of our wedding and kids, but I also still have a photo I took of my sisters in 1994 (?), an assignment in my photography class in high school. There is a lovely little photo of my granny and her two sisters that my sister Monica had copied and framed for all the girls one year for Christmas (it’s the top-right one in this picture). On the left is a photo of Jax and Ben that I had taken at a department photo studio. Matching 70s shirts for a 70s kind of activity. The charcoal drawing on the left was done by the father of one of my best friends growing up. He was an art teacher and gave this piece to my family as a thank-you for taking my friend on a vacation with us. When we got the house, my parents gave it to me and I’m so happy to have it.

7 months

Ben turned seven months old on Valentine’s Day. I have seen so many montages of weekly or monthly baby photos in fun chairs and thought, I’m going to do that with this one! That way, you can really see the growth when comparing to the size of the chair. And I have a favorite chair that I thought would be awesome for the projects. Such plans are not conducive to over a month away in California, however, or to a house that is often messy, or to a mother that usually remembers to take the photos after the sun has set. But I’m sure my sweet Ben will not mind. Here is a more eclectic montage of the last 7 months:

2 Weeks

3 Weeks

1 Month

2 Months

3 Months

4 Months

5 Months

6 Months

7 Months

“Playing Bedtime”: Jax loves to take care of his little brother.

2011 in 50 pictures

{Click on any photo to see the full image}

Benjamin Lee is here!

Allons enfants de la patrie… a new révolutionnaire has arrived! Benjamin Lee was born on Bastille Day, July 14, weighing in at 8 pounds even. He is named after my grandfather, Lealon, who married my grandmother on Bastille Day in 1950.

Halloween Festivities & Kid Crafts

We’re getting excited for trick-or-treating tonight! But the festivities have been going on for a couple of weeks. Highlights:

Halloween fun at friend Vivian’s second birthday.

Pumpkin-carving party last Saturday

A ghost craft Jax and I did last night:

I asked if he wanted to glue black “eyes” on, and he enthusiastically asked for several, attaching them to the bottom.

Jax made this cute spiderweb at preschool.

The two of us made this bat last night. Tracing around his hands is something Jax loves to do, and he practiced cutting to make the border.


We had a wonderful time celebrating Jax’s second birthday at Muscoot Farm. Over a dozen other kids along with their parents joined in the fun. Since my talented sister, Monica, was in town, as well as my mom, the baker extraordinaire, we went a little crazy with the crafts and decor. Some people go to the gym or watch movies. Us? we stay up until midnight gluing felt to make a farm scene and devising ways of creating frosting of varying shades of brown “dirt.” Poor Jax.

Here are the craftastic highlights!

The invitation (created in minutes on using a July 4th template):

First, we had a craft table set up where the kids glued fuzzy balls of various colors to sheep silhouettes cut out of cereal boxes. We also had paper glasses to embellish with feathers.

Then it was time for the pre-lunch hayride!

We kept lunch simple by ordering party heros from the local Italian deli. Twelve feet of sandwich, three feet each of four kinds. Even 40 people couldn’t get through half of the sandwich slices. Now we know.

{Sources: animal plates, recycled plastic plates, wooden silverware, recycled napkins}

The cake:

Yes, there is a huge problem of scale here. Where you see the little tractor was supposed to be a wooden “2” in place of a candle. I forgot the number and we had to improvise. Cake Wrecks here we come!

We tried to have many activity options for all the kids. In addition to the craft table, I made a farm scene out of felt, with removable animals the kids could rearrange.

Of course, we also had a mini farmer’s market. It turned out to be a hit with the kids to grab a market bag and “shop”:

I made the canvas market bags out of a drop-cloth I bought at the hardware store and some ribbon from the craft store. I made 16 in all, but with one drop cloth probably could have made another 16. They are really, really easy to make using these instructions. The most time-consuming part was attaching the handles, and I think that was because I went overboard reinforcing them. I would estimate they took about 8-10 minutes each.

Inside each favor bag was a little wooden tractor from Etsy seller TnTWoods, which is based in Wisconsin and wonderful to work with (we created a custom order of 16 toy tractors.)

Highlights from the festivities:

…and a very happy birthday boy!

Party Planning for our Toddler

In these couple of semi-less-hectic weeks before the semester begins I’ve decided to plan Jax’s second birthday party. Last year’s theme worked out well for a baby who was mainly interested in things that moved and were brightly colored. This year, Jax has provided us with so much inspiration, since he is old enough to express his likes/obsessions. So what is he into these days?

~Farm animals: The noises they make, the hay and grass they eat, the fields they hang out in.

~Barns: He is exceptionally excited about the barn-shaped tool shed our neighbors have in their backyard.

~Gumby: Who would’ve thought? We tried to make it to age 2 without any TV, but I know I’m not the only parent who’s had to accept that The Plan doesn’t always work out in reality. Sometimes keeping the kid safely away from boiling water and hot oil in the kitchen takes priority. Why Gumby though? Of all the kid shows on Hulu, this is the one that stuck. “I want to watch Gumby and Pokey” is the evening dinner-prep hour request.

~The Farmer’s Market: For the past couple of weeks, every other sentence that comes out of Jax’s mouth is “I going the farmer’s market.” Literally. He’ll be playing with his firetruck and have the little fireman say “I going the farmer’s market. See you ater.” He’ll have the baby pig tell the daddy pig that he’s “going the farmer’s market.” When asked for specifics, Jax tells us he’s going to get cucumbers and tomatoes. It’s crazy sweet.

~Garbage Trucks: This has been an obsession since April, when Grandpa Ron took Jax out onto the balcony of their Florida condo to see the garbage truck collect the garbage. His passion for “wabage” and garbage trucks hasn’t waned. When we go out for ice cream, I swear the most exciting part for him is throwing away everybody’s napkins.

~Tractors: When we were in Ohio in June Jax got to play with Seth’s matchbox cars from when he was growing up. There is a tractor in the collection and it’s a favorite. Keeping it in my purse has made certain outings a tad more manageable.

So given these interests, and the fact that there will be other children there with parents who may not have introduced them to Gumby yet, and who may not find it socially acceptable to spend two hours pretending to throw away napkins, can you guess what the theme will be?