Monday, October 26, 2015

Mad Science Lab

We attended the Second Annual Camp-or-Treat event at Watkins Mill State Park this past weekend. 

The Camp-or-Treat is a weekend of Halloween fun at a local state park in our area. Festivities include a Costume Contest for many divisions: canine, children and adults. There is also a Spookiest Campsite Contest.  Last year we used costumes we had made for our trip to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party where we were crayons. We attempted to add a bit of scare to those costumes and made an Evil Crayon Factory. We were not scary, but we were creative. This year we had to find a way to bring some scare but not too much scare because this is a family event and there were lots of little kids. 

I have wanted to create a Mad Scientist Lab for a while now and this event provided us with the perfect opportunity to do so. The frame of our science lab came from two easy up tents. We used shower curtain liners purchased at a local dollar store as the walls. We found that if you taped them they held together better than any other method. So we used packing tape to tape the walls together.  

Photos we found on Google Images were printed on aged looking paper were hung up as well as a replica of the Elements Chart. We added spider webs here and there as well as some black creepy fabric. We also had access to a few black lights left over from our Glow Party. They really helped add a creepy feel to everything. 

A lot of the work for this science lab started weeks before the Camp-Or-Treat. We started saving glass and plastic jars to re-purpose.  Each jar held some creepy prop for the lab.You will see many of these things in our photos if you look hard enough! Here are five ideas for props: 

1. We purchased a bunch of animals that grow in water. We grew out critters in various jars. 

2. We also soaked raw eggs in vinegar for a few days. The vinegar dissolved the calcium shell leaving a rubberized membrane sack that held the raw egg. It was creepy to look at but even creepier to hold. Word of warning: the membrane can still break so be careful or you could end up with egg all over you! 

3.  Highlighters can be broken open and you can remove the foam saturated with highlight ink and place it in a jar of water. The water will turn neon from the highlighter ink.

4. Fake blood can be made by simply mixing water, powdered sugar, red food coloring, and a little bit of cocoa. Not only does it look like real blood, but it sure freaks people out when you take a swig of it!

5. Unicorn horn dust can be made by mixing glitter with sanding sugar.

I used every vintage looking box I could find just as props. My Momma had long ago provided me with old cheese molds. My friend Angie gave me a divided box she rescued from her uncles barn. We even used a devise from the turkey fryer because it looked evil. I would suggest if you are going to make a mad science lab, start by looking around your home for things you own that might look differently if used in a different way.

As guest visited our lab they were greeted by our skeleton, Bob, and his dog, Bones. We has four tables set up and each table has something creepy going on. At the first table we had the shell-less eggs along with a pan of baking soda. Guest could add a drop of a strange liquid (white vinegar) to the baking soda for a fizzling effect!

At the second table we held science experiments. We made "lava lamps" we added dish soap to a pan of milk and food coloring, and finally we made expanding elephant toothpaste by adding a yeast mixture to peroxide and dish soap.

The third table held our sensory boxes.  Guest were given the opportunity to stick their hands into a sensory box to experience a creepy touch. Some ideas we came up with:

1. Spider Eggs - We used Foam Modeling Beads. These were a big hit!
2. Maggots - Cooked Rice mixed with Olive Oil
3. Witches Skin - A simple tortilla
4. Ears - Apple Slices
5. Worms - Cooked Spaghetti
6. Ogre Snot - Green Slime
7. Witches Teeth - dried corn
8. Princess Heart - blanches and skinned tomato
9. Spider Legs - pipe cleaners

If I were to do anything differently, it would be the sensory boxes. The kids were able to see too easily into them. Seeing a box of dried corn interfered with the visual that they were teeth. 

Our fourth and final table was set up an an operating table. We had a skeleton hooked up to a machine we built out of cardboard boxes and various items we re-purposed from The Husband's tool bench. Sadly, this operation was not successful and our skeleton looks limp and life like. 

It was a fun night. Adults walked through, kids came back multiple times. Many people asked if we were science teachers! The Judges loved us. They awarded us FIRST PLACE in the campsite contest. Unfortunately, we miss read the agenda so we missed the awards ceremony.  We were very thankful that the judges brought us the award and PRIZE (three free nights of camping) they were sure to tell us we won by a landslide and they had high hopes for us next year!

I hope you enjoyed this post about our Mad Science Lab. We certainty enjoyed making it and hanging out in it for the night.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Future Arrived

Yesterday was Back To The Future Day.  Remember the movie trilogy from my teen years that had  Marty McFly take a DeLorean time machine to the future? To October 21, 2015 to be exact. 

I do not want to spend any time analyzing the predictions screen writers or movie makers made when they were making Back To The Future. I spent Back To The Future day just contemplating  the passing of time and thinking about my life thirty years ago and my life now. 

When the movies came out my my future was so unclear. Of course I was only a sophomore in high school. But still, I had no career aspirations, no plans to attend college. Little did I know then a few short years later as I put myself through college I would find a passion to help others and spend the next twenty-five years doing just that. 

I never saw myself as being married. Or having children. I never saw myself old enough to have a son in college, but here I am. In reflection,  my life is good. It is not without challenges; the occasional riff with the spouse, the difficult parenting moment, the tightening of the belt every now and then. But overall I have very little to complain about.                


There is a place in my life where time has nearly halted.  My great aunt owns the house and property that she was raised in with her parents (my great grandparents) and her siblings (one of whom was my maternal grandfather). Each year she host a fall gathering at the place we refer to as The Farm. 
Sure time has touched The Farm. None of us are immune to the effects of time, but so many things at The Farm have not changed. Every visit to The Farm causes us to slow down and remember a past that we desire to remain connected to.  

The gateway sign has been repainted but it has been welcoming us to The Farm for years. So has the wooden gate. The house itself has been standing for decades. My Great Aunt tells us how the kitchen area is "new". Her parents had it delivered on a flat bed trailer and added it to the house.

My Great Aunt has left the home very much as it was the day her mother passed in the early 1980's. The home has electricity but no running water.  There is no television. There is a radio. There is no indoor bathroom. There is an outhouse a few feet out the back door. There are a lot of  animals at The Farm. Many of them are plastic. But you never know when you will be visited by the real ones during your visit. 

My Great Aunt still drives out to The Farm and spends time there. When she is there she cooks on this antique stove. It does not run on gas or electric. It is an old wood burning stove. Can you image how difficult it is to regulate your oven when it runs off fire? Besides a little dust, it is in great shape.  The kitchen is in the "new" part of the house.

As much as I think The Farm is just as it was, I realize that is not true. During my last visit, I noticed small things; cobwebs where there use to be none, or dust collecting in the corner, or a ceiling sagging in need of repair. The comparison to my own life does not escape me. I too sag in places I never sagged. I have cobwebs in my memories.  There is dust collecting in parts of my life that I have put on hold for other things.

Every direction you turn at The Farm you notice a simpler life. Not necessarily an easier life but maybe a quieter one. I already mentioned there was never a TV in this home but there was certainly never a telephone and cell service remains hit or miss. After a visit here, I always think I need to slow my own life down. It never happens but the reminder remains. 

If you do sit quietly, pondering the last thirty years of your life, you might find one of those real wild animals sharing the same space as you. The Short Chic and I found this frog. We were quiet and respectful of his space so he allowed us to join him. He surely wasn't around when Marty McFly jumped into that DeLorean.  But who knows, maybe his ancestors have lived in my Great Grandparents pond for generations.

I thought I would go the entire post not analyzing the predictions for the future that were made in the film but I have to comment on just one. The film predicted the Cubs would beat a team from Miami (when there was no baseball team in Miami when Back To The Future was filmed) to win The World Series. Baseball fans and science fiction fans have both found it thrilling that the Chicago Cubs were in post season play just as the film predicted. Sadly, on Back To The Future Day the Chicago Cubs lost four games straight to the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.

If all you broken hearted Cubs fan need a team to cheer next, might I suggest our Kansas City Royals. I know the movie makers did not predict they would win The World Series but ironically, the last time the Royals won a World Series was in 1985. The same year Marty McFly went to the future.

Monday, October 19, 2015

I Found Myself A Cheerleader

One of my favorite questions to ask young children is "What do you want to be when they grow up?" Their responses are so honest, simple and telling. When The Short Chic was little she wanted to be three things when she grew up, "A fisher-girl, a cheerleader, and a pilot." I still giggle at her selection. 

Multiple events lead us to providing The Short Chic with an opportunity to be a cheerleader this fall. One of those was The Boy leaving for college. I needed a distraction from how much I missed him and since cheer required a three day a week commitment, it sounded about perfect.  We selected a competitive football league that also has a strong cheer component. Our chosen team has ten different youth football divisions ranging from K-2 flag football though 8th Grade Tackle. The Short Chic is a flag cheerleader.

We have been pretty impressed with the organization and structure of the team we have selected, The Northland Chiefs. We have practiced twice a week since the beginning of August and have had games every Saturday this fall.  Watching our child gain mastery over new skills is really a a proud parenting moment for The Husband and I. Our last game is nearing and then we will hopefully find ourselves playing in some post season play.

This past weekend was The Northland Chiefs homecoming game. Being newbies to this process, The Husband and I learned quickly how big a production homecoming is to this team. The organizers really want the kids to be honored for their hard work and feel special on this day!

We started our day out at 6:45 a.m. with a homecoming parade. Each football team and cheer squad had a float in the parade. The Husband volunteered us to pull a trailer in the parade. It was forecasted to be below 40 degrees the morning of our parade but thankfully Mother Nature was nice to us and it was not that cold. 

We were told that someone would be decorating the float for us but we went ahead and made some simple decorations. A piece of fencing became a black and red "NLC" sign made out of solo cups. We also purchased inexpensive plastic table cloths from the dollar store and cut them to create a fringe skirting around the trailer. I wanted to make a PVC Goal Post or do a balloon arch but The Husband enforced some editing and said no. It all worked out because the volunteer for decoration brought balloons and an awesome paper banner. 

We followed a six or so mile parade route to our home field with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even siblings lining the route. Normally when you are in a parade you throw candy out to the parade watchers. In this parade, several parade watchers threw candy at the football players and cheerleaders in the parade. 

Once we arrived at the park, the entire entryway to the football field was lined with cheer posters for every player and cheerleader. Many veteran parents had warned me about making a homemade poster. They said, "the wind rips them apart," "the rain destroys them." I was advised to purchase a vinyl poster that would with stand the unpredictable fall weather. So, I did. Then the crafty DIY'er in me  screamed in revolt! So I added the stress of a homemade cheer poster to my pre-homecoming schedule. Thankfully for this newbie mom, the fall weather was perfect and in the end, The Short Chic had two posters. One professionally done and one crafted with love by her mom. 

The kids loved the posters. All day I would see kids looking at their posters, taking time to find their friends or teammates.  Even the parents had a great time checking out all the cheer/fan posters. 

The organization is heavily dependent upon volunteers. The Husband has volunteered to be a part of the chain game several weeks. He has also made his "world famous" sausage gravy to be served at early morning games. He even volunteered me to make breakfast burritos.  This en-devour has been a positive experience for us and The Short Chic. We have found ourselves a cheerleader. She has fulfilled a dream.    

Homecoming came and went. It was a long, exhausting day. All that remains are the memories.  Oh, and the photo booth film strip. We have that to make us laugh for some time!