Thirteen County Life Lesson

Sorry to be late with this post, hopefully faithful readers. I have been in a rush since mid March and am just now coming up for some air.  I’ve been working with our school’s spring fundraiser,  two field trips in two days, my birthday and Easter weekend with Friday and Monday out of school – not to mention the usual craziness that comes with school winding down. I guess I’m through whining so I’ll get to the post.

The 500+ entries
The 500+ entries

Danger Boy, Ninja Cat and I took a trip to Oxford for the Region VII Science and Engineering Fair recently. They took their projects that I wrote about in Of Bridges and Craters. Both had won first place in their respective categories at school and they were excited to represent their school against the 500+ entries that also decided to show up at Tad Smith Coliseum that day.

We really had a good time. We talked off and on about what was expected of them, what the judges were likely going to ask and how to act/react when the decisions came down. So when we got there, found their gifted Gifted class teacher and their spots, they were as well prepared as they could be for whatever happened. Last year, I was allowed to sit with Ninja Cat as his ‘aide’ of sorts because of his high functioning Autism. But this year, we decided that we should let him sit there on his own. After all, he’s grown by a whole year and he, along with the 500+, had an electronic device to keep him occupied until the judge came to see his project. But we were close to the floor just in case anything did go wrong and he needed someone.

Danger Boy at the Science Fair
Danger Boy at the Science Fair

Next was just to sit and wait for two and a half hours while all the projects were judged by not one but two judges. Ninja Cat said three came by to see him. After that was a long lunch break. So, we decide to go to the main cafeteria on campus. We talked about what college is and an overview of how it works. Danger Boy was wondering how he would get from our house to Ole Miss and back every day. (It’s just over an hour drive.) Then I told him that you live on campus in that situation. That took him by surprise.Then he decided he wants to go to Ole Miss for college, so I can come visit him on weekends as he put it.

We get back to see if any of our students were in the running for the overall medals. Unfortunately they are not; but, that gives us time to enjoy the student/adult version of Family Feud. They did a survey of 100 children that were participating in the fair for the questions and did multiple rounds for lots of people to have a chance to play and for the judges to get a chance to judge the projects up for the overall awards. Danger Boy really wanted us to do it; and, gratefully we were picked. We decided to sit in the same chair on or respective sides so we could go against each other. Our question was “Name an animal that flies.” He beat me on the buzz in; but, I beat him on the answer. Long story short (I know, too late.), we both were surprised that dragon was the number one answer.

After the Family Feud, they were ready to announce the winners. Again long story short, Ninja Cat won 4th place for his project on bridge design and Danger Boy missed the ribbons. Neither child was happy with his result. That’s when the consoling started by not just me but his amazingly gifted Gifted class teacher. However, neither child was consolable right then. So we left right after their lower grade division was complete citing over-stimulation for Ninja Cat.

Ninja Cat at the Science Fair
Ninja Cat at the Science Fair

It took until the next day for them to be able to come to terms with their results. Ninja Cat did say the next morning he had fun doing the science fair and already has ideas in his head on how to improve for next year. Danger Boy is still in the planning stages. But that’s 10 months away, which doesn’t even place it on my radar. I let them plan anyway. It’ll be good for them to learn forethought.

What are some science fair projects you have done/seen in the past that blew you away? I’ll pas them along to Danger Boy and Ninja Cat.

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This Mom’s Loft: Spring Break Edition

Yes, this past week was Spring Break here in the Loft – nine days (counting the two weekends) of no school and getting ready for the final push to the end of the year. I had been waiting for this week to come almost since Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January. Heck, I’d been waiting since Presidents’ Day in February. We didn’t have that day off as planned because we had to make up our one snow day so far this year. We all needed the break; and we have taken full advantage.

The way I ‘do’ Spring Break is similar to the way I ‘do’ summer break. We have a theme to each day of the week, which I got from Pinterest and both Ninja Cat and Danger Boy like knowing what to expect each day. We have Make Something Monday, Time to Read Tuesday, What’s Cooking Wednesday, Thoughtful Thursday and Something Fun Friday.

Most of our days started out like a Saturday, me in bed until all of 7:45 with Danger Boy up and taking Bucky out for his morning duties. Ninja Cat wasn’t usually too far behind and then we had breakfast. We all would tinker on electronics until 9 or 9:30 then they dressed and brushed while I got some house work started (laundry or dishes). They would join me for a bit then it was time to get on with the theme of the day.

Monday

Monday we went to the Games Workshop Bunker close to us. Yes, we are a geeky family and we are getting our boys into painting figurines. We had dropped by there a week before after Ninja Cat’s best friend’s birthday party at Sky Zone and they really seemed to enjoy themselves, so I thought why not expose them to a little hands on time. So, we proceeded to carry an old box on unpainted figures, some paint that I had to bring back from near desiccation and a few brushes. James, the manager there is amazing! He was so good with both boys and handling the couple of customers that came in while we were there. He let them sit at a table while he demonstrated several techniques of painting. They sat, enraptured.

Tuesday

For Time to Read Tuesday, we spent some time at the library (duh!) after a very enjoyable lunch with Hubby at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. Ninja Cat is currently obsessed with Big Nate books, so he picked out two of those and nearly finished one while Danger Boy and I picked out Geronimo Stilton, comic books and even The Adventures of Tom Sawyer for him to read. Then once we got home, and after a little more house work, we spent some time reading until it was time to get dinner ready.

Wednesday

What’s Cooking Wednesday found us making a picnic lunch and taking it to a park near my best friend ‘Eeyore’.  She, her little village, and we all needed some time outside. So the four of us (yes, we took Bucky) got our Vitamin D the natural way that day.

Thursday

Thursday was probably our busiest day. It’s usually Thoughtful Thursday, where we do something nice for someone else whether we know them or not. But, this Thursday brought about quite a few Scout oriented things. We went to a local radio station and toured how the voices get from the booths to our car and met some really nice people. Ninja Cat and Danger Boy were … enthusiastic. They especially liked the snack machine. That’s three dollars I’ll never get back. But it was worth it to me for them to have such a great time there.

We talked about what they learned on the way home, changed clothes and went to Panera Bread for a nice lunch and some time for them to play chess. We sampled things off their new menu (tortellini alfredo and penne Bolognese), both of which were very good. Lastly, we made sure to write our thank you notes to our host at Clear Channel. It was Thoughtful Thursday after all.

Friday

My boys always like Fridays. It’s Something Fun Friday. We went to Shelby Farms Park (yes, we took Bucky) with the same friend we met Wednesday. But this time was a little different. On the way, Ninja Cat got sick, yeah physically sick. I was in the process of turning around until he said getting sick made him feel better and he still wanted to go. So we went. So we ate (except for Ninja Cat). So we blew bubbles. So we sat in the grass and drew what we saw around us. So we went home and I let them gorge on video games until Hubby came home early. His boss was amazing and let him go home at 3:00 with the edict “It’s too pretty outside to work.” I love his new job.

I want ideas for this summer or even next Spring Break. What did you do/are you going to do for Spring Break this year?

Of Bridges and Craters

Danger Boy's crater

Okay, so, recently Ninja Cat and Danger Boy had their Science Fair at school.  Fortunately for me this project is science rather than language arts, meaning they were ready to hit the ground running and get their projects accomplished. It’s a pretty big deal to both of them, too. Last year, Ninja Cat won in his category at school, got to go to Oxford  for regional fair, won in his category there and even earned himself an article in the local paper r his accomplishments – magnified by his high functioning autism. Danger Boy, I thought, did an awesome job on his project; but, he wasn’t as lucky. It’s safe to say each of them felt they had something to prove at this year’s fair, be it wanting to go back and repeating a win or getting vindication that he was equally capable as his brother.

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We spent a few hours going through a couple of websites that I love to use sciencebuddies.org and education.com.  Science Buddies is strictly a website for science projects. I love this site because it not only lets you browse projects by subject or grade, it also has a personality type quiz and the answers are a list of projects based on the likes and dislikes of the student. And Education.com is a whole playground of information/worksheets/activities for toddlers all the way through high school. I’ve used their reading comprehension sheets as well as multiplication sheets to supplement Ninja Cat and Danger Boy when they have had trouble with certain topics and math facts. So, going through both websites, we finally came to decisions on what their respective topics would be. Ninja Cat decided to test the strength of three bridge designs. We even came up with a pun of a name for it, ‘“Truss” me I know bridges, “Arch” you glad?’ Danger Boy decided to see if the weight of a falling object would change the size of the crater it made. His title we couldn’t seem to make a ‘punny’ but it ended up being ‘Greater Craters: Does weight change the size of its crater?’

2013-01-24_12-45-43_624Then it became a matter of getting their materials together, actually doing the projects and writing it all down. Because you know to quote Adam Savage, “The only difference between science and screwing around is writing it down.” That was so very true in our house the three days we spent working on these projects. Ninja Cat had a ball building his control bridge and two test bridges out of popsicle sticks and hot glue, at least until he burned himself a time or two. Then, he had to take a break before he was ready to tackle it again. Danger Boy’s project consisted of a lot of plaster of paris and disposable cake tins. We mixed the plaster of paris in the tins, then the smaller batch and raced out to the garage before either batch got too hard to use. We then dropped the small batch into the tin and, after it dried, measured the crater.  By then Ninja Cat was ready to finish his bridges and test them with the weights.

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Then it came to writing it all down and making up the boards. they did a great job of  working on the report and getting the boards built. Fortunately, all this work paid off as they each won in their category (Ninja Cat for Engineering, Math and Science and Danger Boy for Earth, Space and Environmental Sciences). So now we get to go to Oxford for the region VII fair March 21 and spend the day. I’m so proud of the work they did on this project. I hope Oxford is a great experience for them.

Hopefully faithful readers, what do you do to help keep your kids engaged in educational activities? I’d love to know.

Of Mice and Ninjas

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord … ” This verse from Colossians is one that we should all bear in mind no matter our circumstance – whether it’s an outside the home job, working inside the home, being at school, whatever. And this is a verse that came to me too late recently while Danger Boy and Ninja Cat and I were working on their Reading Fair boards.

What is Reading Fair, you may ask. Go ahead you may ask? I’m glad you asked. Reading Fair is a cross between a book report and a science fair project. Each child took a book that they like (supposedly one they have read, more on that later), and build a poster style presentation on it using certain criteria. It has to have things like the title (obviously), publisher and published date, plot summary, setting, mood and things like that.

So when my boys decided they wanted to do one, I figured it would be a good chance to let them take on a project mostly on their own.  It wasn’t required for a grade, it was strictly extra credit. And they are pretty creative, so I thought this would a simple, easy project they could accomplish with little intervention from me.

I was wrong.

Cover of "Night of the Ninjas"
Cover of Night of the Ninjas

First of all, they procrastinated. That doesn’t surprise me. They are kids, boys and do take after their mother. Second, apparently after being out of school for a week or so they forgot how to use a computer to type a simple word document. This surprises me a little more, I told them I would do the font changes for them if they needed the help, but they didn’t even want to type. Third, Ninja Cat didn’t even read the book. It was a Magic Tree House book. I was surprised that he picked it because his current hyperfocus in books is Vordak the Incomprehensible: How to Grow Up and Rule the World. But, his brother gave him Night of the Ninjas for Christmas. So he wanted to do that instead after I bought a black board. I’m just glad Vordak’s favorite color and a ninja’s favorite color is black. He did get the book read in 30 minutes (no kidding). So we were able to proceed with his eventual dictation.

Cover of "A Christmas Tale (Geronimo Stil...
Cover of A Christmas Tale (Geronimo Stilton)

Danger Boy had his book read – Geronimo Stilton: A Christmas Tale. But he didn’t seem to be interested in decorating his board beyond the necessary elements. I should say the one thing he did do beyond is that at the end of the book there is a list of ways to say Merry Christmas in different languages. So again, I took dictation and manipulated the font to the desired format and let him go.

Then it was off to the actual design. Then things got interesting. Danger Boy threw his pieces on the board, some with glue some with tape, drew a small Geronimo Stilton on there and was done. Image

Ninja Cat took a little more time because he ended up doing his version of the cover in chalk on his board. We had been on a Spotlight (the name of the gifted program at school) field trip recently to an art center where they worked with chalk and he really enjoyed it So he got some for Christmas and decided this was a great place to use them. Image

I guess all of this is to say that the biggest thing gained out of this for them is hopefully some time management and project skills. They are in third grade after all. And I left the design and construction of the boards totally up to them.  The biggest thing I gained is that we need to talk about that Colossians verse before we get in too deep on our science fair projects – which they’re doing research on as we speak, by they way. More to come on that.

What are some ways you help/did help your younger children learn time management/project skills? I’d love to hear fresh ideas.

Here We Go

Here is the first posting for This Mom’s Loft. So I’m going to let you, who I hope to be faithful readers, know what is going to be posted in this blog. Just like anyone, I’m not a one dimensional person, so This Mom’s Loft isn’t going to be a one dimensional blog. I have a family, here named Husband/Hubby, twin sons Danger Boy and Ninja Cat and our trusty dog, Bucky. I’m a SAHM and volunteer at the kids’ school when I’m not keeping up with the housework. I also enjoy my Christian walk and both participate in and lead Bible and subject studies when time allows. And the list goes on and on. So I guess what you will be seeing out this blog will be things like:

My Christian Life – The most important thing in my life. So I’ll post things I am learning and observations I make about it.
My family – We function and we have a great time doing it. So you will hear about our endeavors and misadventures, I’ll also write about children’s education, nutrition, literacy. Not from any educated mindset mind you. Just from a mom’s perspective.
Autism – Ninja Cat is a high functioning autistic, so I’ll be posting things I learn from him and re-post things I read from trusted sources.
Geekdom – Yes, we are a family of geeks. We trend toward gaming (video and board games) and medieval things. But we also have room for Star Wars and Legos and science and … you get the picture.
Cooking – I enjoy cooking. It’s almost therapeutic. I’m trying to teach myself to cook healthier and lose 30 pounds. I also plan to do some cookbook reviews from time to time.
General thoughts on life – There may be a current event that strikes me to write about. Who knows.

So that’s just a little about me and my world. What’s going on in yours? I’d love to get to know my readers. Leave me a comment below, k?