Fun with Exploding Halloween Bombs

I was on Pinterest for work yesterday and came across some fun activities for kids. I followed the links and got lost in a maze of blogs by mothers who are obviously much more awesome than I am. Some had really easy, fun ideas, including this post on Bubbling Boos and Popping Pumpkins.

I’ve read about exploding chalk paints before, but never tried them. I decided that we should do it. So we made three bombs, a ghost, a pumpkin and a zombie that sort of turned into Frankenstein.

Halloween bombs

The concept is simple. You add cornstarch, vinegar and coloring to zipper bags and shake. Then you put baking soda in a piece of toilet paper and fold it up, carefully insert it into the bag, keeping it away from the liquid and seal the bag up again. You shake it hard and toss it on the ground. Here’s what happens.

exploding chalk bomb

First, it puffs up bigger and bigger. This causes kids to scream and run backwards, shouting, “It’s gonna blow!”

Halloween chalk bomb

Then it pops! Gooey guts everywhere. It’s more of an ooze than an explosion, as in, there is no paint flying all over the place.

Ghost and Zombie bombs

This provides a LOT of excitement.

exploding sidewalk chalk bombs

Dominic couldn’t wait for the pumpkin to explode, he started batting it all over until it popped!

fun Halloween bombs

Afterward, the boys played for a while in the fizzing good. (you can see we made one more pumpkin bomb with the last of the vinegar.)

Overall, this was a very simple activity to do and we had a lot of fun with it! The kids were busy for a while afterward, mucking around in the goop and then washing it all down the drain. Which led to a water fight, but anyway.

The original instructions didn’t include amounts, but I used about half a cup of vinegar in each bag, plus 3-4 tablespoons of cornstarch. I also used food coloring, which I do NOT suggest. Use liquid watercolors or tempera since the food coloring stained the concrete a little. It will eventually come off, but in the meantime, we have green and orange stains. I used about a tablespoon and a half for the baking soda and that worked just fine.

Simplifying My Life: Time4Learning

It’s hard to work at home and homeschool and finding balance has been a bit of a challenge for me. However, about halfway through the year this year, I decided to try Time4Learning, an online curriculum for all grades. Since my boys are a tad obsessed with computers, I figured it might be a good way to get them the basics and then we could do other things on the side to reinforce the lessons.

Time4Learning covers all the main subjects, Language Arts, Math, Science and Social Studies. For older grades, they also have Art, but my boys are still too young for it. The interface is very easy to work with and Dorian is able to navigate by himself quite easily. You, as the parent, can set the amount of time the student has to work before they can use the playground, a section of the site that lets kids play mostly educational games. You can also set the playground time and it automatically switches off when the time is up.

Now that we have been using the site for several months, I figured I’d give a review of it.

Pros

  • Tracking. Everything is tracked, from lessons the child has done to their quiz scores. This means you can print the records out and have transcripts for each year of school.
  • Planning. You plan out the school year by entering dates and the system will let you know how many lessons in each subject need to be done on a weekly basis.
  • Flexibility. You decide which subjects your child studies and whether this is a full time curriculum or just a supplemental one. If you just want to brush up on Math skills, you can easily do this.
  • Clear explanations. One of the things I like best about this curriculum is that they have videos and characters to explain things to kids. They are shown the explanation again if they have trouble with one of the questions.
  • Challenging. The stuff that Dorian is learning in Grade 2 is fairly advanced and it really challenges him to learn and pay attention, instead of just cruising, which he tends to do. However, you can also access one level above and one below the grade your child is studying at. So, if they are lacking some of the basics while in Grade 3, you can jump back to lessons in Grade 2. Or, if they need more stimulation, try Grade 4 lessons. This worked well for us in Science and Social Studies, since I had Dorian go back and do Grade 1 before doing the Grade 2 lessons. He finished both grades fairly quickly as they have fewer lessons.
  • Rewards. Many of the questions are done like games, so kids get rewarded for doing well. It’s still learning, but it’s fun! Also, once the kid has done their schoolwork, they can go play in the Playground!
  • Quizzes. I like that there are periodic tests to see how well kids are doing. Dorian has had to redo a couple of lessons because he did poorly on quizzes, showing me that he hadn’t properly learned everything.

Cons

  • It’s not for everyone. Dorian does extremely well on Time4Learning. Dante did not do well. We tried it for a month (you get a free trial for 30 days), but it just wasn’t clicking for Dante and he was getting frustrated. He learns best right now with more active methods. However, this seems to be the best way for Dorian to learn.
  • It’s not free. You pay $20 a month for the site, which is a little pricey, but still cheaper than sending him to school . . . or buying more expensive curriculum. If you have a second child, there is a discount for their account.
  • The planner is still a work in progress. While the planner has recently been updated and is much nicer, it still shows the original plan you come up with. If you end up taking time off, your planner is not accurate anymore.
  • You still need to do offline work. Sometimes, you have to print out a page of work for the kids to do. This is a bit of a pain and I could do without it, but it is good for them to work with a pen and paper, too.
  • Skipping doesn’t work. You get a check on each lesson as you complete it. Unfortunately, if you decide to skip a lesson, the system will always jump back to that one and you have to manually find where you actually are. This means you have to go through all the lessons, even if you don’t really want to.

So far, this has proven to be an excellent solution for us. It allows me to focus on Dante’s learning or work while Dorian is getting school done. I’m always in the same room, so I can help him if he does get bogged down, which rarely happens. Dorian really seems to enjoy learning this way and I rarely hear complaints, which is amazing, since he detests having to interrupt his playing to get an education. :)

Also, since studying online, he’s boosted his reading skills quite a bit and is now reading at a Grade 2 level, which we weren’t sure he would be able to do just a few months ago. Definitely an improvement.

If you’re interested in trying out Time4Learning, they have a 30 day free trial, which you can access here. If you do decide to sign up, I’d appreciate it if you put my name (Genesis Davies) in the referral section, but it’s not mandatory.

Vocabulary Explosion

Dominic is officially 20 months old today and while he has learned a few physical things, it’s his vocabulary that is really growing right now. Some of the new words we’ve seen just in the past couple of weeks:

- Pasta
- ‘tatoes (potatoes)
- Paper
- Pen
- Red, blue, yellow
- Picture
- Car/Carro (some words he uses both languages, others he only says in one language)
- Bath
- Kick
- Dorian (until recently, he called both brothers “Dante”)
- Go

He is also very much into counting, though he usually starts with 2. He can count to 4 and loves to march around, chanting “One, two, one, two.”

On top of all that, this little guy is getting pretty bold. He’s certain he’s a big boy now and he does EVERYTHING his big brothers do. Including scale a ladder to the top of an 8 foot wall. Gah. I looked out the window in time to see his beaming face pop over the wall when he was supposedly playing in the dirt with his brothers. Nearly had a heart attack . . . but he’s in good company since Dante did the same thing (same wall even) at this age.

He can also pull a stool up to the counter or sink and climb up and get into things. And he uses this all the time! He did it to help me make salad for Thanksgiving and yesterday to “Wash dishes” which was more about throwing water around the kitchen than washing.

We are often surprised by how much he understands. The other day, Irving was doing something with a knife and it didn’t work and I said, “That’s why I use a fork.” A couple of minutes later, Dominic started screaming because his arm was stuck in the cutlery drawer. He’d opened the drawer a bit, pulled himself up enough to get his arm in and then fallen back down, trapping his hand. I got him out and scolded him for getting into the drawer. “You don’t need a spoon, stop climbing up.”

He promptly had a fit and kept pointing at the drawer and screaming. Finally, I realized that he’d been going for a fork. I pulled it out and he grabbed it and gave it to Irving so he could get the job done properly. Oops.

Being Friends with Expats

I’ve never been a terribly social person, but when I came to Guatemala and lived in a house shared with 11 other people, I kind of got used to having people around all the time. I hung out with them, played board games late into the night, cooked with them and went to parties with them. It was fun.

Since I taught English and studied Spanish and bartended, I also met a lot of people outside my household and made many, many incredible friends over the first few years I was here.

But here’s the thing about making friends as an expat. They leave. Everyone leaves at some point. My best friend from Korea? She headed home just before I met Irving. We wrote back and forth all the time until one day her email didn’t work and that was the end of that. My roomie from Holland, the one who was closer to me than any other friend in my life? She left after a tiff with her girlfriend and I never saw or heard from her again.

My friend who married a Guatemalan and had a baby at the same time I did went back to Australia and we are still in touch, but just barely. She was my life raft in those early days of living up the mountain, dealing with a newborn with a colostomy and stressing out over the future filled with surgeries and who knows what for my precious little boy. With her, I could discuss naps and baby food and not be told that wind would make my baby sick or that I was killing him by feeding him avocado. When our little ones were just over a year old, she and her husband moved back to Australia.

After that, I didn’t really want friends anymore. I was tired of the heartache when they left. Of the promises to stay in touch that were never kept, for one reason or another. Of not having anyone to talk to when that special someone was gone. So I stopped talking to foreigners and I stayed in my little bubble of concrete with my two babies and lived my life very quietly. It probably didn’t help that I was dealing with postpartum depression from both pregnancies at that point.

Later, when I started this blog, I got a lot of emails from people who wanted to move to Guatemala and were looking for help. I met with them, we formed a mother’s group and had our mommy brunches and playdates. I didn’t let myself get too close, though, and eventually it all fell apart. At this point, I have no contact with those people and I don’t really miss it.

What I’ve come to realize over the years is that it’s not necessary to be friends forever with everyone. People come and go. They are in our lives for a season and then they leave and that’s okay. It’s the time that they are here that matters. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for Jung-Ha, Katae, Julie, Miguel, and all the others who have come and gone in my life. I’m grateful I had the chance to know them and care for them and to share that piece of my life with them.

These days, I know more people. A wonderful couple moving here from the US (the ones who shared Thanksgiving with us) and some other blog readers who come and go from time to time. Maybe we won’t all be fast friends, maybe we will be for a while. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I am getting the chance to meet new people and expand my horizons and enjoy their company while it lasts.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 66

I was taking a shower when I heard the boys outside.
Dante: “Dominic, don’t touch that black worm!”
Me: worried it might be something dangerous “Are you sure it’s a worm? Does it have legs?”
Dante: “No, it has googly eyes and it’s black.”
Me: “Oh, does it have pokies? Is it fuzzy?”
Dante: “No, it’s like a worm with a shell, except it has no shell. I guess he’s off to buy a shell because his old one got dirty.”
Me: “Ah, a slug. Slugs don’t have shells.”
Dante: “Oh, my goodness, he can put his eyes inside his body! He’s going to get a shell, Mama. To the shell store.”
***************************************************************
Dominic had a fever and was fussy.
Me: “Where does it hurt? Where’s the owie?”
Dominic: points to his ear. “Eye.”
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Dorian: seeing a trailer for Resident Evil on TV (main character’s name is Alice) “But she’s the WRONG Alice!” said in a British accent.
***************************************************************
I was away all morning and Dominic hugged me when I came home.
Me: “Did you miss me?”
Dominic: “Si! Mama go!”
***************************************************************
Dominic: holding out an icy hand “SO cold!”
***************************************************************
Dante: “Tell me about what happens during a heart attack, Mama.”
I explained it to him and he asked for more details. 
Me: “Why do you want to know all this?”
Dante: “I’m worried that we might have a heart attack and die.”
Me: “Well, it’s not very usual for kids to have heart attacks, it’s usually older people and adults who don’t eat healthy food.”
Dante: “Oh, so I can’t die? Great!”
***************************************************************
Irving let me sleep in this morning, but I woke to Dominic bouncing on me, no sign of his papa around.
Dominic: “Papa go potty!”
***************************************************************
Dorian: “You know, I was thinking and I think God maybe comes from another dimension. Maybe he came through a portal from the other dimension to make us.”
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Happy Thanksgiving!

Today is Thanksgiving in Canada. We had our celebration yesterday, like many Canadians, and we enjoyed it with some new friends. It was a lot of fun! We’ve never had guests for Thanksgiving before, so it was a nice addition.

This year, we had a whole lot of food! I made two pies, pumkin and lime. Here are a few shots of the other food that we enjoyed. I’ll add links to the recipes as I get them up on Gourmet Mama.

Lemon Roasted Asparagus

Shredded Brussels Sprouts

Butter Rolls

Caponada

Tangy Potato Salad

Paprika Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cauliflower

Herb Butter Turkey

Check Your Shoes for Gusanos

poisonous caterpillarsWhen I was little, we used to catch those fuzzy black and orange caterpillars that look like some kind of elongated pompom. We played with them all the time. When I first moved to Guatemala, I was hiking with my Spanish teacher and saw a fuzzy black caterpillar. She told me, “Don’t touch that! It’s a fever worm (gusano de fiebre).

I laughed of course, because back then, I hadn’t learned yet that half the bugs here that LOOK like innocent North American bugs are actually dangerous or unpleasant. But she was serious! She told me horror stories of small children ending up in the hospital because they touched a fuzzy caterpillar. I was skeptical.

Fast forward a couple of years and I shoved my foot int my shoe without looking and felt a sharp sting. I jerked my foot out, tipped the shoe up and out fell a cute little black caterpillar, fuzzy and adorable. My foot throbbed and then the swelling started. For about three days, the foot ached.

Irving had an even worse reaction a few years ago, where his entire hand turned red and was very swollen for nearly a week. Apparently, it depends on the person as to how bad the reaction is.

This time of year seems to be when you find these caterpillars in the house. They like to climb inside clothes, so if you hang stuff outside, you can expect to find them in sleeves, etc. They also like shoes and beds, so check before you slip your feet in or before you go to bed!

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