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.

Just A Picture


Taken on a recent walk with kids in the snow. One of the apple trees in the nearby abandoned orchard apparently doesn’t like to shed its apples, and has become a natural winter bird feeder.

New Year’s Eve Family Meeting

We’ve pulled off our second annual New Year’s Eve family meeting. Honestly, I think I’m the only one who really cares about these — it feels so nice and like everything is wrapped up. But I served dessert at it, so everyone came.

And actually, everyone seemed to enjoy the part where we walked through the highlights of last year. I had prepared by opening up a bunch of tabs to blog posts describing fun things we’ve done, and did a little presentation to kick things off. I heard multiple variations of “Oh yeah, that was fun!” as we worked out way through.

Our list for this year is fairly short, and mostly consists of “we should do that again” items, with a few other things thrown in. (For example, we got a metal detector for Christmas, and I floated the question “where can we imagine using this?”) None of the kids are old enough to do much in the way of planning yet. At this stage, I consider us to be building the habit of the meeting more than anything.

Quiet At Home

This year, for the first time in my life, I did not do Thanksgiving at my Dad’s house.

We have been sick, with a long, lingering, unpleasant illness. To be fair, it wasn’t nearly so long or lingering for the kids; they recovered within a week. Dave and I are clearly neither so young nor so resilient. When we hit Wednesday and still felt about as terrible as we had for the last five days, I knew it was time to call it.

Which is too bad but better than going to Dad’s house, being miserable all weekend, and leaving the illness behind with them so they could be miserable for weeks as well. Such is life.


In an effort to make some kind of Thanksgiving-ish gesture, I hit the store yesterday morning. I was hoping for a chunk of turkey to cook, but no luck; instead we had a festive pork loin, baked with apples and rosemary and a scattering of cranberries. For dessert I made Crazy Cake, the simplest chocolate cake ever devised, with fall leaf sprinkles on top. I won’t say it’s a typical Thanksgiving feast, but it was easy and different and still gave me time to lie down with Mica for a while midday.


Mica joined into the low-key festivity by asking to wear a dress, and Dave carbonated some of our homemade apple cider for a special treat. And that’s about it.

Just A Picture


Our bedtime reading and snuggling time is one of the boys’ favorite times of day. (Picture by Ryan.)

Family Game Night

Some weeks ago I floated an idea that I’ve had on hold for a while: that of Family Game Night, one night a week where we get to take turns choosing games and all play together. Somewhat to my surprise, the response was immediately and universally in favor. I should have foreseen that, actually, for while I was thinking of board games, the boys naturally thought of their favorite computer games. They’ve loved the rare family gaming sessions we’ve had in the past, so much so that for Nathan’s birthday, our special treat for him was that we all played Minecraft together.

For Nathan’s and Ryan’s first turns, they both chose Garry’s Mod, a sandbox game I’d previously resisted installing on my computer. They took great delight in introducing me to some of its features and displaying their far superior skills. For my turn, I chose to open up a great big box we’ve had in the garage for years labeled “Games and Puzzles” and search through it to see what we’ve been missing. We ended up doing two jigsaw puzzles from my childhood together, and finished the evening by playing musical instruments together and then dancing to the Hamster Dance song.

Dave’s turn consisted of setting us up in a Minecraft world, in Survival mode, and trying to play as a team. This was actually a very fun kind of family bonding, where we had to work with the inclinations and limitations of each family member. Ryan, for example, would volunteer for/be tasked with gathering wood — but a quick glance at his screen a few minutes later would find him chasing down sheep. Dave preferred the methodical work of mining, while I liked working on building up our above-ground resources, and Nathan eventually added four more stories to our house.

We’ll see how things progress going forward. Personally I’d just as soon skip the Garry’s Mod — the motion of it makes me a little sick — but the deal is that we all play, even when the game isn’t what we’d prefer.

Week Of Christmas: The Finale

For years I’ve pursued a policy of gradual present opening. In other words, I count the kids’ gifts as Christmas draws near, and for every day up to and including Christmas Eve, they’re allowed to open one gift. If I’ve timed it right they open their last gift on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day is all about the stockings. This spreads out the Christmas joy and means that each gift gets a chance to be the center of attention for a day.


In theory this practice should lessen the impact of Christmas Day, and I suppose in a way it might; but there seems to be something magical about stockings and the small, individually wrapped things they contain.


Speaking of which, I completed Mica’s stocking on Christmas Eve, which means that she gets a stocking at an earlier age than either of the boys did. This either means that I’m getting more organized as I go along here, or that occasionally the stars line up despite me — sort of an “even a stopped clock is right twice a day” concept.



For its inaugural use, Mica’s stocking contained a little chocolate, but was mostly filled with the blocks from a toy train set that we received years ago from my dad. I rotated it out of active toy duty a while ago, as the boys had seemed to lose interest, so it was new to her. It had also been gone long enough that both boys felt it necessary to take a turn with it.


The boys’ stockings held a great deal more chocolate, a candy cane (specifically requested this year), some legos, and a few other sundries that I’d picked up. Honestly, I think filling the stockings may be one of my favorite parts of Christmas.