Fun With Chemistry

Recently all kinds of interesting things have been delivered to our door for Dave, resulting in all kinds of fun chemistry experiments. Mostly these involve fire. In this matter I feel that Dave has an excellent understanding of our children’s interests, but let’s be honest, here — this also reflects his interests.

The pictures below are from lighting off some experimental bits of rocket candy. This is a simple concoction, made with sugar, that burns with impressive heat and very little ash. If packed into a PVC pipe, it can also burn for quite a while.

There have also been experiments with thermite, made of two not-very-flammable components that, when combined, produce something that burns hot enough to melt metal. Dave did a couple of experiments with some tinfoil and springs from our (sadly defunct) trampoline. He wasn’t able to weld the springs together (or at least, they broke apart again easily), but he really toasted that tinfoil.


Crystal Mining

I’ve had a crystal mining kit floating around for months now. The idea behind this kit is to give kids the fun and excitement of excavation, but with a guaranteed payoff at the end (unlike in the real world). The main feature of the kit is a chunk of sandy plaster in which is embedded a bunch of stones — quartz, amethyst, jasper, etc.

So the other day, when we were home sick from school, I pulled it out and let the kids at it. The kit came with a little scraping tool and a brush for excavation, but I’d already gotten out a rock hammer in order to break it apart so everyone could have their own little piece, and the boys quickly decided that was a much more effective tool. It was only after they were happily demolishing the plaster that I read the enclosed instructions. This informed me that the point of the kit was the give kids the experience of real excavation, that finding and removing the stones would be slow and tedious work, and that the entire project might take hours or days to complete.

I looked over at Ryan, currently using the rock hammer to smash the plaster to bits, and at Nathan, who’d abandoned his kit-authorized tool for a metal knife and was prying his fifth stone out.

Ok, so we didn’t do it the way we were apparently supposed to. But we came out with a handful of crystals (mostly quartz), and it was a good half an hour of demolition and treasure hunting.

Mica’s Voice

A few excepts from conversations with a two-year-old:

  • Somewhere Mica picked up the phrase “because it/you/he/she was very naughty.” She uses this constantly: “Mica, why are you flushing the toilet again?” “Because it’s very naughty.” For the record, we never use the term “naughty” in our house — but I did read Peter Rabbit to her. (But Peter, who was very naughty, ran straight away to Mr. McGregor’s garden, and squeezed under the gate!)
  • “Can’t catch me!” she likes to sing out, while edging away, looking over her shoulder. She’ll repeat this multiple times if required, until someone chases her.
  • Nathan and Ryan frequently talk about Mica being “cute” or “adorable,” and she has picked up this terminology. Virtually anything she likes is “so cute!” Sometimes when she’s feeling particularly affectionate, she’ll throw her arms around my neck and say “You’re so cute!”
  • Just as sweet is when she leans close to my ear and whispers to me, “Whisper, whisper.” Then she’ll lean back again, give me a delighted smile, and exclaim “I whispered to you!”
  • Driving home from an errand with Dave, she noticed a green light and said, “Green means go!” “And what does red mean?” Dave asked her. “Go faster!” she said.

On a side note, Mica now kills the enemy spider. Cognitive development!


This Easter my aunt sent me an idea for making marbled eggs, and it looked so cool that I had to try it out. I ended up doing the craft only with Mica, because it was a beautiful evening and the boys decided to play outside instead. Mica, on the other hand, was fascinated by the sight of a pan filled with shaving cream, and when I began adding colors to it — oh my goodness, that looked like fun.

Originally the spatula was intended to smooth out the shaving cream, to create a nice flat surface for marbling colors together, but Mica was having none of that. As soon as I put the spatula down she grabbed it up, and began to stir and mix, smear shaving cream on herself, and generally have a good time. Eventually she got the idea that one should occasionally plop an egg into the mixture, which she was fine with. Notice that I have few pictures of this activity; my hands were busy.

The final eggs were pretty cool, and I think that everyone had fun. Mica went straight from the table to the bath — always a sign of a good craft.

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All Good Things

Years ago, Dave did a beautiful job of installing trellises for our espaliered fruit trees in the front yard. This was not a simple task, especially since (being Dave) he insisted on getting them all lined up precisely. They have looked beautiful ever since.

But this winter, some impressive winds and the moisture that saturates the ground for ten months out of the year worked together, and showed us that even pressure-treated wood can only last so long. Three of the beds have now lost a post, eaten away at ground level.

It’s unfortunate that two of the three beds held apple trees, because of all the fruit trees, the apples are the wobbliest. The plums and cherries support themselves pretty well, the pears are still just getting started, and the apricot is a wild, half-tamed beast that not only doesn’t need support, it refuses to submit to structure. But three of the apple trees in the affected beds have either snapped off at the base or been too weak to hold themselves up.

C’est la vie. We have pulled out the downed wood and the broken trees, and are now debating on how to move forward.



I love this time of year! There have been occasional Winter-Is-Over days lately (interspersed with plenty of Just-Kidding days), and I’ve been out pulling weeds, belatedly pruning, and planting some seeds. I think it says something about human nature that dreaming about future harvests is almost as enjoyable as actually harvesting.