Mineral Identification

Miss Em couldn’t wait to start this Gizmo. She had so much fun that she insisted on identifying all 26 samples. Later that day she went back and did some again on her own.

Minerals are identified using 5 characteristics: appearance (colour, shape, and lustre), density (mass divided by volume), hardness, streak test, and acid reaction.

Measure mass on the scale, and volume using water displacement. Divide to find density.

Measure mass on the scale, and volume using water displacement. Divide to find density.

Most samples did not leave a streak, but when they did the colour varied between samples.

Most samples did not leave a streak, but when they did the colour varied between samples.

She soon discovered that density and hardness were the most reliable indicators. She would search the answer table for minerals with the same numbers as those she measured. Then she would look at acid and streak tests (because most of the sample failed both tests it was rarely useful to start with these results). She found that appearance was the most variable: she would think it was pearly when it was metallic, for example. This led to a discussion about the difference between objective and subjective measurements.


More Genetic Inheritance Studies

I’ve dubbed them “Science Fridays”. This past week we continued working on genetic inheritance. Using Explore Learning’s Gizmos Miss Em bred chickens and mice, explored both dominant and co-dominant traits, and experimented with crossing for two traits.

Chicken feather colour is co-dominant.

Chicken feather colour is co-dominant.

Black fur is dominant. Red eyes are recessive.

Black fur is dominant. Red eyes are recessive.

Movie Trailer

Miss Em has been making movies for some time now. Yesterday she made her first movie trailer. Using a musical template, she added text and edited scenes from a “Let’s Play” type video that she and her brother are currently making for the Playstation Game, Tokyo Jungle. I thought she did a wonderful job. Love the names in the credits!


Last night the sky was clear, the moon was full (or close to it – it was hard to see behind the trees) and the stars were clear and bright. It was the perfect night to drag Miss Em outside for some stargazing. We saw Jupiter, looking bright and amazing. Aldebaran was on its left in the constellation Taurus, and the Pleiades on its right. In the constellation Orion we saw Betelgeuse and Rigel. I pointed out how stars twinkle and planets don’t. And also noted that Betelgeuse is a Red Supergiant, which is due to end its life cycle in a supernova…some time within the next million years or so!

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One door closes….


Last summer things were going so well with my husband’s business that we decided it was time to build our new house. We bought this land, with its tiny mobile home, with just such a plan in mind – it was only a question of when. I was thrilled when “when” turned into “now”.

So we hired a designer to come up with a plan, we interviewed builders, and in between all that I spent hours and hours researching building materials, floor plans, room dimensions, traffic patterns in our home, and went through reams of paper drawing and refining plans for my dream home. It was how I spent my “down time” and I got a great deal of joy and satisfaction out of the process.

But I knew all along that it was not yet a given. Life has a way of throwing things at you when you least expect it. Doors open, and you have to decide whether to go through them knowing you will close others if you do. Through all my pondering and talking and researching I constantly reminded myself that this might not happen, that it was definitely not a done deal. Certain things still had to happen, and while it seemed certain they would, you never count your chickens before they hatch. Nevertheless, the dream and the planning had become so much a part of my inner life (it is what I usually thought about when I lay in bed falling asleep) that I knew it might be difficult to let go if the need arose.

You can probably tell where I’m going with this by now…


For the last several weeks my husband’s business (of which he is one of four partners) has been beset with one issue after another. We still thought we would be able to pull off the build, we would just have to get more creative with the financing. Today we met with our financial advisor and he soon disavailed us of those notions. Turns out it will be more difficult than we thought. And based on what he told us, it really doesn’t make sense for us to do this just now.

The “problem” turns out to be one of those doors that open when you aren’t expecting it. And it turns out to be the good news to our good news/bad news scenario. Shortly after we moved here our single-mum neighbour (the only neighbour whose property adjoins ours) mentioned that when her teenaged daughter graduated she would sell her property and downsize. We let her know that we would be interested in buying the property from her when the time comes. We always assumed that we would buy the place as an investment property, rent out the cute little house and surrounding chicken coop and small barn to some crunchy, farm-oriented, local-food growing family, and use the rest of that land for ourselves. We would be effectively doubling our acreage with no change in our mortgage payments.

Since the daughter is due to graduate this year, and since buying an investment property is a different financial kettle of fish than buying a residential property, our meeting today included a discussion of how best to go about making that happen. Turns out that by far the best scenario for us would be to rent out OUR current house and move into the one next door. When we compared option 1 (build a house on this site, buy next door as an investment and rent it out), with option 2 (buy next door, move in, and rent out current house) it was a no-brainer. I don’t want to publish details about our personal financial situation; suffice it to say that it would be irresponsible and foolhardy for us to go with option 1 when we added up all the potential benefits of option 2. As much as I didn’t want to let go of my custom dream home, even I could see that there was no decision to be made. Option 2 won by a landslide.


I’m now having to process the fact that we won’t be building a custom home any time soon. I can’t say that I’m shocked, because I knew all along this could happen. I suppose it’s like losing something that you kinda thought you were going to lose anyway. There is still a grieving process, but it isn’t accompanied by shock and disbelief. Writing this post is a big part of it for me, as I’m very much a verbal processor.

And of course, I’m trying to keep this in perspective. This is as “first world problem” as it gets and I don’t want to overemphasize its relative importance in my life. Every day when I walk my dog through the forest next door, smell the fresh moist air, and hear the birds and ravens calling I feel like I already have everything I need. Life is Good. And it’s good Right Now. I don’t forget that, and I don’t want to come across as feeling sorry for myself or anything like that. I’m just one of those people who need a Plan; I’m always looking forward to the next step. But I’m also quite flexible, and easily able to embrace change. I just need time for the new idea to sink it, and then I’m off and running.

That means transferring dreams of floor plans and building materials to new dreams about what living on the other property will look like. There are outbuildings to paint (a small barn, a chicken coop) and new gardens to be planted. Renovations to the house will cost considerably less than building a new one. And then there are the opportunities that open up now that we aren’t committing to an expensive build. In the last year we’ve gone from one horse-crazy homemaker (that would be me) to a family where everybody is taking riding lessons and we knew that eventually horses would be in our future. Shelving our plans to build a house opens up the possibility of getting horses sooner than originally planned. If there is anything that can get me over the idea of a custom home, it’s the idea of having horses.


So that’s Life. You think you know where you are headed next, and then an opportunity falls in your lap and changes everything. Even the “bad” stuff that’s been happening at my husband’s business has resulted in some exciting opportunities opening up for him. It’s really true what they say about one door closing and another one opening. I think that’s actually what makes life interesting. So here’s to the future. Whatever may happen, I’ve already got all the things that are really important. The rest is just icing on the cake.


Occupational Therapy Game

Our Occupational Therapist comes every other week and spends 2 hours with each child separately. She plays games with them, using a variation on Floor Time Therapy for older kids. The games are chosen for specific skills they require, whether that be fine motor skills, turn taking, imagination, etc.

Miss Em has great fine motor skills, probably due to all her years of drawing. This task plays on her love of drawing, and also introduces visual-spatial puzzles. Needless to say she excels at these sorts of tasks! And she was particularly happy with this one, which has as its subject one of her favourite animals: a black and white cat.

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Sewing Project

Miss Em wants to learn how to sew. Seeing as I just bought my first machine this year, and a rather fancy one too, I felt up to the challenge.

She wants a stuffed cat, not the easiest thing to start with as a first project but she is determined! We found a pattern that included dolls and a dog, but the cat alone takes such a small amount of fabric that it plus all the notions came to less than $20. My kind of project!

She cut out the pattern pieces herself with no assistance from me, and even remembered later how many duplicates we needed (the smaller pieces don’t have that written right on the piece. She helped me pin the pattern pieces to the fabric and has begun cutting it out. I’ll post more pictures as we progress.

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