Caterpillars and butterflies

This summer we ordered caterpillars to live in our butterfly habitat. They came in a little cup with lots of food. The directions said to leave them in the cup until they formed chrysalises and then move them to the habitat. We decided to let them live a better life in the habitat directly. The kids picked some branches and we put the food cup in and let the caterpillars roam.


The first step of the transformation is noticeable when the caterpillars attach to something and hang down in a J shape.


I used a high-tech tracking system to monitor their progress. :)

After 17 days in the habitat we had our first butterfly! These are painted lady butterflies that are drab on the underside and brightly colored on top.


Can you see the drab colored butterfly?


It’s hard to take pictures through the habitat walls. The camera just wants to focus on the netting, not what’s inside. Plus, of course, we have clutter in the background as well.


Three of the butterflies hatched in one day. We had a houseful of kids who enjoyed the process and eagerly prepared some butterfly food (sugar water) for them.

Three butterflies hatched the first day and a fourth hatched the next day. One caterpillar never fully completed the chrysalis transformation and one chrysalis fell and didn’t survive the butterfly transformation, so of the six caterpillars we started with we ended up with four butterflies.

We left them for a few days for our trip to Franklin and when we returned they were actively trying to fly in the habitat, despite the dried leaves and sticks in the way. We decided to let them free!


We took the habitat out on the front porch and opened the top.


Fly away little flutter-byes.

The first three butterflies flew away, one at at time, over the course of the first five minutes. We waited awhile on the last butterfly, but it didn’t fly away. After awhile we just left it on the porch. Then we put fresh branches in the habitat and put the butterfly food back, right near the top, hoping to tempt it up to the opening. Didn’t work. Eventually Eve just picked it up with her hands and blew it away. Success!


Overall a fun experience. I was thinking, later, that if I were a real sciency teacher/mom I should have made the kids keep a science journal with observations and predictions and whatnot. Instead we just ignored the directions and did what we wanted to with them. Great example to set. :) But we had fun and that’s important to. Maybe we’ll do it again next summer with more precision. Or not.

Sciency fun

We are trying to cram as much fun into these last two weeks as possible.  Balanced, of course, with as much “no plans” time as possible too.  It makes for tricky scheduling!

Yesterday we had to get out of the house and I was feeling a bit cranky, so I suggested we start our day with a trip to King Arthur Flour.  No objections from the kids!  They were even happier when I let them get anything they wanted.  Eve asked if she could have a cupcake (at 9am) and they were huge and beautiful and I said sure.  She decided on a whoopie pie instead, while Lex and I both got blueberry scones.

After the kids ran around like wild ones for a few minutes we headed up the street to the science museum. The place was packed, but we all had fun.

dino sketching

Eve brought her notebook to make some sketches.

sue sketch

A T-Rex named Sue.


A “What’s hot? What’s not?” selfie.


Lex took Jupiter for a spin.


We went to a Discovery Lab session on volcanic rocks. The lady kept talking about “frozen lava” and it drove me crazy. My kids knew more about the rocks than she did. I think she was new. She clearly had some learning to do. :) Lex left part way through, but Eve stayed for the whole thing. She showed them basalt, pumice, granite, and obsidian. Eve did some sketching. :)


Lex spent most of his time in the Tinkering Lab. The project was to make parts for a pinball machine. They had a bunch of homemade pinball machines set up (six, maybe) and lots of supplies for the kids to make their own components to add. Then the kids could put them in and test them out. It was lots of fun.

pinball machine

Here is one of the machines with Lex’s additions (the red and green parts).

eves part

Eve made an intricate decoration with a red flag on top for the pinball machine.

lexs part

Lex made a ramp and landing zone.

outdoor sketching p1

While Lex continued tinkering, Eve and I went to the top so she could do another sketch. She propped her clipboard on the railing and it almost fell off! Well, it did fall off, but on the inside, not the outside. This is her face when describing what could have happened!

outdoor sketching p2

She decided to be safe and hold the clipboard in her arm while sketching. I thought that was a much better idea.

Everyone was having fun but we had to head home for their final piano lesson of the summer. Then a little rest, a little dinner, and off to karate where they got belt test invitations! The belt test is next week and they are very excited, and ready!

Electric Fruits and Veggies

While I had to work today (so… many… parent/teacher conferences!) Alan was home with the kids and they did all sorts of fun things with Daddy! First they went to vote, then they went out to lunch and the grocery store (where Eve spent all her money on Easter junk), and then they came home and did some science!

They have been talking about doing this experiment for a few days now and I encouraged Alan to have the kids write up the experiment. Get some academics in there! He thought it was a great idea. I also asked him to write up this blog post, but he was less excited about that. :)

The experiment was to test the level of electricity generated by citrus fruits, and they decided to compare to non-citrus things as well. I would love to give more details, but I really don’t know them, so I’ll have to let the photos do the talking. When I left this morning I said, “I’ll leave the camera here on the counter, just in case you guys need it today!” They clearly picked up on my hint!

This looks yummy!

This looks yummy!

See the little bulb lit up?

See the little bulb lit up?

There seems to be some good energy in that orange!

Some 9v cells make it brighter!

Eve's notes

Eve’s notes

Lex's notes

Lex’s notes

The back side of Lex's notes.

The back side of Lex’s notes.


A few videos from the past week…

Last weekend Alan made oobleck with the kids. They all loved it. :)

During the week while I was at orientation and Alan was home with the kids, Lex decided to make a top-secret surprise. He spent a full day in the office with a Top-Secret Work in Progress sign (I should have taken a picture of his cute sign!) hanging on the office door. One morning he emerged with this:

I had the camera on the wrong setting which is why that video is all orange. I paused it for a second and switched settings. Here’s the rest.

That’s what we’ve been up to around here. That and so much more! One more day at home then three of us are off to school!

Science and Technology

Saturday night Lex went to bed with a plan for Sunday. He wanted to build a DNA strand (or many, as he tends to do) out of clay. He woke up Sunday with the additional plan to build a set of simple machines. I called the day Science Sunday.

He got started with the DNA strand, knowing that it would take time to dry before painting.


DNA in clay

While the clay dried, he went to work on building his simple machines – a lever, a pulley, a inclined plane, and a wheel and axle. I asked what he planned to do with them and he thought maybe he’d start a science store. Ambitious.

hard at work

Lex is hard at work, making an inclined plane at 7am.

all smiles

All smiles! Proud little guy.

I went out for a run (ha! a walk, really) and came home to find him writing a book about DNA. Eve was writing a book called “The Day of Dogs.” They were both hard at work!

[I’ll take a picture of the book later. It’s pretty cool.]

Our neighbor came over a bit later and distracted them from their work, then another neighbor came over and that was the end of Science Sunday. Later Lex tried to paint his DNA model, but it fell apart and he got frustrated so he grabbed the iPad and gave himself some quiet times…

Which leads me to my latest musings on technology. It’s really hard to balance how much is good or too much. I feel like they’ve had a lot of media lately, but for the most part it’s all educational. Starfall, Garageband (educational?), What Ifs, etc. He had a lot of information in his head about DNA from a BrainPop video he watched. When he started asking me questions about DNA I debated about whether or not to grab a computer and do some researching with him. Educational, yes, but still screen time and still very easy to get lost in the computer.

This morning he decided to work on his Mindcuber program (reprogramming it to “solve” the cube in a checkerboard pattern) and he spent the entire morning working on it. He was thinking hard, I’m sure, but still he sat in front of a computer for hours. I finally had him turn it off at lunch time and come outside for awhile. He didn’t object, much, but after lunch when he went back to work on his DNA project he asked about watching the BrainPop video again and I was again torn between education and screen time.

This afternoon he decided he wants to create a weekly science show. Each week will be a different theme. He even made up a science calendar as an addition to the show.

making a calendar

I suggested he just use the penguin one, but he preferred to make a science one instead.


He started with January. :)

We spent the evening discussing logistics of a weekly vlog (video blog). He wants to do a puppet show with a host and a different guest each week. This week the guest is Mrs. DNA. More on that later.

Sounds cool, right? It also sounds like he’ll be spending all of his time on the computer! Oh, the balance. If he was just asking to play Mine Craft or Angry Birds all day long it would be an easy no, but these requests are harder.

Life with a smart boy!

Stay tuned for Lex to launch his own blog and/or YouTube channel. I’ll keep ya posted.

My geeky kids

Today I am thankful for my geeky kids. While others are playing video games and chugging diet coke, mine are conducting science experiments on liquid densitys and building everything out of paper and Legos. Some may call them deprived (What? Can kids survive today without video games and cable TV?!?), but I call them geniuses!! Maybe I’m just a little biased.

science rocks

Science rocks!


See those brains at work?!


Eve put a lot of things in her glass.


The neighbor came over and they all got a little crazy with their additions. They both ended up with pretty full cups and I think the experiment went from learning to just plain silly.

On to another day. Lex got a pen light from Grandpa and was thrilled! That same day he also discovered a use for the breast pocket on his PJs. :)


Nerd alert! :)

After quiet time I asked him if he was going to draw Transformers all afternoon, as he had all morning. He replied with, “Actually, I might spend the rest of the day building a Lego stationery case so I don’t have to put all of this in my pocket.” This amuses me on many levels. One, because he said “stationery case” instead of pencil box or something more basic. And two, because he said “so I don’t have to,” as though there was any good reason that he DID have to carry a pen, a pencil, a pen light, and two pins in/on his PJ pocket. Like those were necessary tools for a Saturday afternoon and his day would just be easier if he had a Lego stationery case. Funny boy. He ended up drawing Transformers all day anyway. I guess the stationery kit will have to be a project for another day.

Capillary action

We have a new science experiment on our table. We’ve been monitoring it for several days now and enjoying the changing colors.

We started with four bowls of water and two empty bowls (gotta keep things evenly divisible by two when you have two kids :) ) Each kid got to chose two colors and put a few drops of food coloring into two bowls of water. Then the rolled up paper towels and made bridges between the cups of colored water and the empty cups.

in the beginning

The theory was that the water would wick up the paper towels and back down the other side, filling the empty bowls. Each empty bowl had two paper towel bridges coming in to it, so there would also be some coloring mixing as a beautiful side effect.

We watched it closely while we had afternoon snack. Within an hour or so the color was making good progress. For some reason we don’t understand the yellow wicked much faster than the other two colors.



By the end of dinner the yellows had started dripping into the empty bowls, and creeping up the dry end of the other paper towel bridges!


The next morning all of the colors had made it over their bridges and were dripping into the middle bowls, creating lovely shades of orange and green.

12hrs p1

12hrs p2

12hrs p3

Lex filled each of the water bowls up evenly, but somewhere along the way between the sink and the table some water spilled out of one of them (the yellow bowl across from the blue). As the water levels tried to level out, some of the green water started working it’s way up the yellow bridge!

Saturday evening, about 24hrs after we started the project, it looked like this.


This afternoon, nearing 48hrs since we started the experiment, the green hasn’t yet made it to the yellow. The wicking action is slowing down. I wonder if the paper towels get saturated? I’m just guessing at the science behind all of this because I’m too lazy to look it up (ok, I did a quick Wikipedia search for the basics). Maybe we’ll leave it for another day or so. Eventually things have to get cleaned up around here.



For now I’m just enjoying the beautiful experiment/table decoration. Especially considering the rest of my table decorations consist of two candles we haven’t used in ages, two vases of dead flowers (which will be freshed up at our trip to the farm tomorrow) and an empty yogurt cup with a dead flower and a (likely also dead) little worm Eve brought home yesterday.

Hooray for colorful science!

Monday Morning Science

Lex got a book for his birthday (from me!) called Science Rocks and he has been happily reading it ever since. Towards the end of last week he decided to try a few experiments. Unfortunately we don’t have most of the “common household items” that the experiments need, like empty 2 liter bottles and plastic hosing. Today he found one that we did have all the supplies first and he was thrilled! At 7:00am we were doing scientific experiments!

lining up the cups

Today’s experiment was about color separation. Or water wicking. I didn’t read the book.

four cups

They each drew a big dot on strips of coffee filters, put the ends of the filters into water, and watched as the water wicked up the filter and brought the colors along with it.


Lex got great color separation with the colors he chose! Eve’s orange and pink didn’t do as well. (this picture was taken by Lex)

Last week they tried to make a hydrolic lift but we had too many substitute parts and the painters tape didn’t hold up to the water and the whole thing just didn’t work out.


This is Lex’s hydrolic lift. It leaked water every step of the way. :(


This is how it was supposed to look!


Eve’s experiment is the one in front. She is less interested in directions and instead chose to make up her experiment as she went along. She had a very elaborate story which I can’t really remember. It involved a generator (not show) which would spin fast and generate steam and… something. It all sounded scientific and quite plausible, as long as you didn’t listen very closely. :)

funny face

Funny girl!


Eve has actually been in “scientist” mode for quite awhile. Before Lex even got out the book she was talking about conducting experiments. This particular “experiment” started by mixing food ingredients (marshmallows, graham crackers, butter) and was shaping up to be quite a tasty experiment, but then she started adding rocks and balloons and more expensive food items, so I had to cut her off and send her outside. This is what she came back with. I’m still not sure what the purpose of the experiment was as her hypothesis kept changing. :)