Putting Animated gif’s into Video

The Big Girl decided to test out her animation by adding sound effects and creating a short video around it. With her usual flair for the creative, she added titles and credits. I love how much she enjoys this medium.

WARNING: The volume at the start with the theme music she chose is WAAAAYYYY too loud. Keep your volume low before playing but then after the music stops you will need to increase the volume to hear the cat’s voice. 

 

 

Working with Animation (gif files)

The big girl has been experimenting with making animated images. She says it is hard work because she has to draw each frame and then put it together. Here are two of her latest attempts.

This one is called “Singing Cat”:

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Click on the image to watch it play. It will open in a new window.

 

The other one features her favourite mob character from Minecraft. She called this one “Angry Enderman”.

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This one starts with a blank scene; click inside this box to watch it play. It will open in a new window.

Building Community for my Boy

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This past week I finally got around to checking out a local centre that provides programs and support for people with disabilities, including kids with autism. Through our government funding I would receive notices that they were holding day camps over spring break, and after-school programs starting each fall. I wasn’t sure that my little guy was ready for such things. I had assumptions about what these programs would look like which, in hindsight, were rather silly but understandable.

See, over the years I had gotten used to the fact that my son’s issues were beyond what your average gym coach, art teacher, or camp counsellor could manage. Enrolling him in such programs was out of the question once he got to an age where parents no longer participated in the class. The few times I tried were stressful for both him and myself. In the homeschooling community things were better because there were lots of adults around to supervise whenever we got together for classes, field trips, etc. However, as the kids got older and the other children required less parental supervision I found myself the lone parent following her child around while the others gathered together for social time. It sucked for me, and I don’t think he appreciated me hovering over him either. He was not being allowed the chance to experience life without his mother hanging around. And while I think that kids today spend far too much time away from parents, I do think its important that they have some opportunities to do things without siblings or parents around to gain confidence and a feeling of having something that is their own.

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This past year and a half we have built a great community of individuals on whom my son can depend. He works with these people one-on-one and they have given him the incredible gift of understanding and acceptance. It is wonderful for him to have people in his life who “get” him, who understand the issues he faces and who do not judge him or treat him like there is something wrong with him. This was a critical first step in his “Intervention Plan”. But I also wanted for him to be able to participate in group activities, to get out in the community and spend time with other children without me hanging around.

When the flyer for Spring Break camp arrived in the mail last week I felt like we might be ready to tackle this. My daughter, having gotten her diagnosis this past fall, was now eligible to participate and I thought with her there it would be less scary for my son. But I still worried about him. The days would be long, five in a row, and I worried that he’d get overstimulated. Would he be able to take the breaks he needed? What would happen if he started freaking out on the field trip bus? What if he hit someone? Would he come home a ball of stress?

So I called the centre to ask about the program and got introduced to an angel of a woman who runs the autism programs. Within a few minutes of speaking with her I knew that she “got” me, my life, my son. I was so excited that I ended up going down there to speak more with her in person. She showed me around the centre where the after-school programs are held (most days; they also often go out on field trips) and I was amazed. They had a “sensory room” where kids could unwind. The room seemed like it was designed for him. Mats for rolling around on the floor while movies were projected onto the walls, a big comfy sofa with pillows and weighted blankets, a “bouncy chair” built for big kids, a giant lava lamp, and dimmer switches on the lights.

Example of a sensory room. Soft lighting, lots of soft textures, and other equipment for sensory therapy.

Example of a sensory room. Soft lighting, lots of soft textures, and other equipment for sensory therapy.

And this is where my not-so-surprising surprise comes in. My first thought when I walked into that room was that it was tailor-made for my son, and how did they know this was what he would need? Well of course they would, it’s a program for autistic kids! As we finished the tour I knew that this was a place where my son could finally feel like a “normal” kid – able to go hang out with a bunch of other kids, go on field trips, bake cookies in their large kitchen, build Lego, make forts, etc…but where everybody understood him, his needs, and treated it all like it was normal and acceptable to be who he was. And without his mother following him around, or being in the shadow of his big sister. I was thrilled when she told me there was still room in the after-school program and invited him to participate in that week’s outing to a local school gymnasium.

He couldn’t wait to go, and when I came to pick him up he didn’t want to go home. I was reminded of how he much loved preschool (it was a nightmare for the rest of us). I was thrilled for him. On the way home I asked him what we should call the program (saying “it’s time to go to after-school care” doesn’t sound right, especially since he doesn’t go to school) and he said “It’s like school, but without all the bullshit”. I had to laugh. I suppose in a way this is like school in that there is a group of kids and planned activities and adults who are there to help out. But nobody was pushing academics on him or forcing him to do things he couldn’t handle. So we decided to call it “Fun School”.

He’ll be going every Wednesday and then during Spring Break he will go for the whole week. By then he will be completely comfortable with the staff and the other kids, they will know him, and I feel great about all of it. They also run summer programs. I see this place as a whole new community having opened up for my boy and I am so happy for him. My goal for him was always to expand his world and this week we took a huge step in that direction.

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Quilting Project: “South Pacific”

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I call this quilt “South Pacific”. I made it for my mother as a Christmas present. She was away for two months over the holidays (in the South Pacific, coincidentally) so I haven’t had a chance to give it to her yet.

This is the second bed-sized quilt I’ve made since I learned to quilt. My first quilt was made from a simple block pattern I got online, with the squares arranged neatly in rows. This second quilt was based on a pattern too, but involved more modifications and creative input.

I started with a jelly roll of batik fabrics. My mother spent much of her life in the South Pacific (New Zealand) and Southeast Asia (Hong Kong and Singapore) so I knew when I bought them that my project would go to her. I stated with a Stacked Coin quilt design and modified it by using both horizontal and vertical sashing. I spent quite some time putting together blocks of four or five strips, testing out various colour combinations, and working on the finished dimensions. Then when the blocks were made I spent a lot of time moving them around on a white sheet until I was happy with the layout and colour placement. Finally, I had to audition the quilting designs.

The quilting for the blocks was easy. I chose a pattern of free flowing, roughly parallel lines to create the idea of ocean waves. But I got stuck on the sashing. I auditioned many different designs by making test “quilt sandwiches” using scraps leftover from piecing the top. Finally one day I was hit with inspiration. Leah Day, whose Free Motion Quilting Project blog was what got me into quilting in the first place, posted a new design she called Spiral Ornaments. I thought it looked perfect for sashing, then was hit with the idea to use seashells instead of spirals. I tested it out and loved it.

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I chose a wine-coloured batik for the quilt trim, which went well with the fabrics (Note: the sashing and border is a pale sea green colour but it doesn’t show up well in these photos). I also chose a lovely batik fabric for the backing. It was quite expensive but by the time I realized that I had chosen it and had it cut. It did teach me a lesson about quilting though – budget is an important consideration! Making a quilt with scraps sounds very frugal, but a bed-size quilt can use up a lot of fabric for the backing. I’ve become much more careful with fabric purchases now.

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Finally, when the quilt was done, I played around with making labels. For the title I used free motion quilting to “write” the words in fabric. Inspired by other labels I’ve seen, I also sewed an element from the quilt design onto the label (a seashell). When writing my name and the date I found it hard to stay even and within the margins so instead I used my machine, which has an alphabet stitch.

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There were definitely mistakes made in this quilt, but they are likely only going to be noticed by me. I’m really proud of this quilt. It’s far from perfect, but it was made with lots of love and creativity, and I can’t wait to give it to my mum.

What I learned from FlyLady

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This is only the third post in my FlyLady series, but it will probably be my last. I feel I have hit an equilibrium with my housework and have maintained it long enough to say “I’m done”. At least for now.

I should start by saying that I consider my FlyLady program to have been a success. The morning routine I developed is still practised virtually every day and the result is that for months now I’ve enjoyed having clean bathrooms without having to spend hours scrubbing and getting soaking wet. I no longer worry when guests or babysitters come over that they will have to use the bathroom and I’ll die of shame. I no longer spend half the day cleaning said bathrooms when I know someone is coming to visit. Thanks to FlyLady’s “Swish and Swipe” system, I spend a couple minutes each morning wiping down surfaces and that’s pretty much it. I’ve also adapted this to the shower – I keep an extra towel in there and after I’m done I use the towel to wipe down the shower stall and fixtures. It takes a couple extra minutes but it’s so worth it as cleaning the shower was my second least favourite job, after cleaning the toilets.

Thanks to my morning routine I also enjoy walking into a neat and tidy master bedroom throughout the day. And I’m on top of my laundry since I get a load going pretty much every day, too. No more running out of clean sheets, towels, or underwear. I’ve learned that wearing “lace up shoes” helps me get through the day comfortably, and with a bounce in my step.And

Finally, most of the time I wake up to a clean kitchen and I’m willing to go to more effort than I used to to make that happen.

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These are the things I have changed and I’ve stuck with. But what I haven’t done has also taught me something about priorities and choices. For example, I don’t do Zone Cleaning or Daily Missions. I’ve discovered that a tidy house is what really matters to me; deep cleaning? not so much. Oh sure, I’d love it if there weren’t so many dust bunnies floating around on the floor, or if the surfaces were always dust-free. But the truth is I only have so much time in my life right now and I’ve come to a place of peace with how much of that I spend cleaning. One day when my kids are grown and out of the house I’ll have more time to do deep cleaning. But as the saying goes, when I’m lying on my deathbed I am quite sure I’ll be grateful for all the time I’ve spent with my kids and doing hobbies I love like riding or quilting, and will not feel grateful for having exchanged that for a shining home. When I walk around my house these days I get pleasure from tidiness and neatness. Clean surfaces, things in their place (and the clean bathrooms mentioned above!), these give me a sense of peace. If I don’t feel the need to take that further than I don’t see any reason to do so.

I no longer visit the FlyLady website, nor receive her emails. I would recommend this program to anybody looking to get a grip on their time management and wanting to find a better balance between housework and other stuff. But I think it’s also important to know how far you need to go, and not feel like a failure if you don’t do the whole program. I definitely feel I got a lot out of doing this, and may even revisit it again when we move to a new home. Perhaps when I’m in a nicer home I will feel motivated to “kick it up a notch”. At least I’ll know exactly where to go to accomplish that.

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Math Progress

We use an online Math curriculum called Dreambox Learning. Here are some of the things the Little Guy has been working on recently.

In the Forest Maze game the learner has to move the elf through the maze to the exit door by selecting cards to change direction and move around the board. The image below shows the lowest level. As the kids move up through the ten levels they can use 3 cards per move, they become limited in the number of moves they are allowed to use, there are mushrooms to collect before reaching the door, and there are obstacles to avoid such as a moving Troll. This exercise falls under “Problem Solving” and is considered an elementary introduction to programming. He has finished all 10 levels now for this game.

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Another lesson is called “find the missing addend”. The program presents the learner with a ten-square containing some number of blue beads. The learner is told to make a certain number, must fill in the ten-square with green beads to do so, and then show how many green beads were added. In the example shown below, the learner was instructed to make 10. He finds this exercise very easy, but it’s good practice to familiarize him with this particular tool (the program uses many such tools to teach numerical concepts).

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I’ll be honest: he doesn’t like doing this work. But it’s good for him, and he is rewarded by getting one-on-one play time with Mama when he is done. For our last session we played a game of Mario Party 8, a video board game.

 

Science Friday: exploring Density

This week we used a Gizmo to explore Density.

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We were able to calculate density by dividing the weight in grams by the volume of liquid (in mL) displaced by the object when it is placed in the graduated cylinder. She already knew how to do this from the Mineral Identification experiments we’d performed previously. We then recorded the densities of various items from the shelves and also noted in which liquids they sank or floated (or sank slowly). The drop down menu above the large beaker allowed us to choose between water, oil, gasoline, seawater, and corn syrup.

When we had recorded these data for a few items I asked her to see if she noticed a pattern. This is the “observation” part of the scientific method. She noticed that objects with high density sank in all liquids, whereas objects with low density floated in all liquids or in some of the liquids. I then asked her to make predictions – hypotheses – and test them.

We had already determined that the gold nugget, with a density of 19.3, sank in all liquids; the chess piece, with a density of 0.5, floated in all liquids; and the egg, with a density of 1.0 floated in corn syrup and saltwater but sank in water, gas, and oil. She found that the golf ball floated in corn syrup but sank in all the other liquids so she hypothesized that its density would be greater than 1 but much less than 19. When measured it was 1.25.

Next she dropped each crown into all of the liquids. Both crowns sank in all the liquids tested, so she hypothesized that their densities would be equal. However, when she measured them she found that while both crowns displaced 100 mL of water, they had different weights. The density of crown 1 was 8.4 and crown 2 was 19.3. From these observations she then hypothesized that anything with a density greater than 8 would sink in all the liquids. She used the rock to test her hypothesis: it sank in everything as predicted. However, its density was 4.

She finished by doing the quiz associated with the lesson and scored 5/5.