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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Make your own Lava Lamp

I’d like to say thanks to Chasing Cheerios, which is where I first heard about this project. For full instructions, check out Steve Spangler Science.com.

Today Bruce(7), Jenna(3) and I made homemade lava lamps. It was great follow up to our oil spill experiment from last week.


  • glass or plastic bottles with a lid (I used mason jars)
  • food coloring
  • cheap cooking oil
  • Alka-seltzer tablets


  • Fill your jar with about half oil and half water,
  • Add 10 drops of food coloring, or maybe a little less.
  • Then add a little bit of Alka-Seltzer tablet. Don’t add too much or your whole jar might explode!!!
  • Close the lid and watch what happens.

Talking Points for Children

  • Do the oil and water mix?
  • Does the food coloring mix with the water?
  • Does the food coloring mix with the oil?
  • What happens when you drop in the Alka-seltzer tablets?
  • What happens when you close the lid?
  • What do the bubbles do?

Facebook can drive you crazy

Maybe it should have been “Your bat on Facebook”?

Here’s my I Brake for Moms column on the Weekly Herald this week.  Sadly, there are only three issues left before the Weekly Herald closes down, but you can still follow I Brake for Moms online, and perhaps in the Daily Herald too someday.

Bruce Bardsley, Vampire Slayer

I’m sorry if today’s commentary is not very insightful. I’ve spent the past few hours supervising a seven year old with a pocket knife.

My son Bruce(7) is really into whittling right now. Our whole back patio is littered with wood shavings, and we now have a huge selection of stakes for____???? Okay, I don’t really know what the intended purpose of these spikes are, but if vampires ever come to Edmonds we will be ready.

The picture you see before you represents several hours worth of work, and one “finger carving merit badge”. It’s just another example of how intensity comes to our family naturally and to the point of craziness.

On a random side note, for those of you who didn’t know “Bruce” is not actually my son’s real name. So I’m a little curious if now that I’ve titled a blog post “Bruce Bardsley”, if that name will be Googleible.

Sad News for Edmonds, Lynnwood, and Mountlake Terrace

My regular Teaching My Baby to Read readers already know this, but for the past three months I have been writing a column called “I Brake for Moms” in our local paper, The Weekly Herald. Sadly, this newspaper will be closing as of August 29th. (Full article here.) At present, “I Brake for Moms” will continue on Herald.Net. Maybe someday in the future I’ll be back in print in The Daily Herald, which would be a really exciting opportunity.

For my national and international blog readers who never got to see The Weekly Herald in hard copy, please let me tell you what a meaningful addition it has been to our community. Each week the paper highlighted people in the cities of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace who might have gone unnoticed, and shared the inspiring things they do every day. I don’t mean to sound trite, but The Weekly Herald was/is a paper with a lot of heart.

I still have oodles of column ideas floating around my head. “Help! My Daughter Likes Barbie” is just itching to get out. If you are interested in continuing to be an “I Brake for Moms” reader, please add: http://www.heraldnet.com/section/blog5205 to your roster.

Thank you for reading.

Oil Spill Experiment

For week three of my A STEM Summer, we did a chemical engineering experiement about oil spills. The best part was, we had all of the needed materials in our house already. The full directions are right here, but that page is full of typos and weird writing errors. I’m not sure what was going on with that, but the instructions still worked just fine.


  • a glass bowl
  • water
  • cooking oil
  • cotton balls
  • cheese cloth
  • a hiking sock

First, a word about cheesecloth. Why the heck did I happen to have cheesecloth on hand? Well, it all goes back to a time period when my husband was into yogurt making, but that’s another story… 😉

If you don’t have cheesecloth on hand, you could probably use a rag or a paper towel.


Put some water and oil in a bowl and then let your kids try to sop up the oil using the different materials. Some helpful teaching tips would be to make sure each kid has his or her own bowl (less fighting that way) and have a plate ready to catch all the gross remains.

The polypropylene hiking sock really does turn out to be the clear winner. I’m not sure if my kids understand that the reason is because polypropylene and oil are both composed of carbon and hydrogen and therefore attract each other. But Bruce and Jenna definitely understand how hard it is to clean up oil, and why oil spills are so devastating to the environment.

I can’t be the only mom who has thought about The Man in the Yellow Hat…

My “I Brake for Moms” column in the Weekly Herald this week.

A Picture Book akin to “The Einstein Syndrome”

My kids and I read a really interesting book from the library today by local author Robin Cruise. It’s called Bartleby Speaks, and includes lively illustrations by Kevin Hawkes. Anyone who has ever read The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late by Thomas Sowell, will immediately recognize the similarities.

I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about the plot line of the book. It’s about a little boy named Bartleby who doesn’t speak at all until his third birthday, and then utters a complete phrase. It is implied that Bartleby will turn out to be neuro typical, and that in fact, his brilliant and creative family was just too noisy to really every listen to him. Both the author and the illustrator mention in the dedication and bios that they too were late talkers who turned out just fine.

I know children like Bartleby; late talkers who turned to be neuro typical. I can understand how a book like Bartleby Speaks would be really comforting to their parents. Plus, the book is well written and engaging.

My problem is, that I am also the family member of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder. When I read this story to my daughter, I could almost feel the blood leave my stomach and go to my hand and feet. My body was physiologically going into a “fight or flight” response, because the thought of a two and a half year old not talking one single word makes me panic. It was a conditioned, involuntary response on my part, as someone who loves many people with Autism.

But I also sincerely believe that the author and illustrator had 100% pure intentions in writing this story. I don’t think they were trying to say that a real child who may or may not have ASD isn’t talking because their family is too noisy.  I would have liked to see some sort of parents note linking up to Autism Speaks at the end of it, but I am still giving this book 4 stars.

Art on Mondays, Day 5

Full confession. My A STEM Summer right now is looking more like AAAAAA! That’s because our family has been hitting the trails, spending time in the backyard, and trying to escape the heat because it is finally hot. None of us are use to 90 degree heat, but maybe it will be good for my tomatoes.

The Bardsley men climbed Mt. Si last week when it was still cooler. We are all pretty impressed for Bruce(7) hiking the whole 8 miles without one complaint! When they got to the top, my husband harnessed Bruce up and he even climbed the “haystack”.  I’m glad I wasn’t there to freak out!

It was fitting then, that our latest 123 I Can Paint art lesson had to do with painting mountains. It was also a big “a ha” moment for Jenna(3) because she happened upon making pink paint for the first time, and was very proud of herself.

Here’s Jenna’s work. She’s 3.

Here’s Bruce’s work. He’s 7. Can you see how much he is improving?

Here’s my result. Whoo hoo! I finally seem to be teaching these kids something about art even though I don’t know what the heck I am doing.

Finally, I wanted to share this fabulous front page article from the Sunday Herald yesterday about plans to expand North Cascades National Park. It’s too bad that my days of writing letters to the editor are over! My father-in-law was president of the North Cascades Conservation Council for 17 years, and so all of us Bardsleys are really excited for the public to know more about how beautiful North Cascades National park is, and why it is worth protecting.

Elizabeth Gaskell is my new Jane Austen

Have you seen North and South? Not the Civil War miniseries from the 1980s, but the 2006 BBC production of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel about the Industrial Revolution? I watched it on Netflix last week, and was totally blown away. Why have I never heard of Elizabeth Gaskell before? I think I like North and South even more than Pride and Prejudice. That means a whole darn lot coming from me. As soon as I finished watching the last episode I started reading the book from the library. It was published in 1855 as a serial in Dickens’ magazine Household Words. Here’s a clip from YouTube:

For those of you Classical Education mothers out there, here’s a relevant passage from Gaskell’s book. John Thornton, the self-made man and manufacturer, who as an adult is trying to gain an education says this:

“That is true, — I had blundered along it at school; I dare say, I was even considered a pretty fair classic in those days, though my Latin and Greek have slipt away from me since. But I ask you, what preparation they were for such a life as I had to lead? None at all. Utterly none at all. On the point of education, any man who can read and write starts fair with me in the amount of really useful knowledge that I had at that time.” (p 86)

What was so thought provoking to me about North and South is that it is a Victorian book about the middle class. Gaskell poses major questions like: “What does it mean to be middle class? Does having money make you middle class? Does having an education make you middle class? If the only thing that places you in the middle class is money, and then you lose your money, are you still in the middle class? ” It is also heavily implied that an education is something that can never be taken away from you.

In modern terms, you could rephrase these questions into: “Why not just give kids an education in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. These are the things they need to know to get a good job and make money. Why bother with history and literature at all!” (Just to be clear, that is certainly not my opinion.)

The most prominent plot point in North and South is of course the mill worker strike. That was a very timely book for me to be reading last week. Thankfully, my brother in law is back at work!

So blog readers, check North and South out from the library or watch the miniseries, and please share your thoughts!

Jenna’s North Cascades National Park Book

Here’s our latest homemade book. It took so much “whine” to get everyone to the top of Thunder Knob that I think my husband and I could start our own vineyard. But the view was worth it!  For more on the why and how of homemade books, please click here.  P.S.  Check out the original Cascade Farm Organic farm stand we stopped at on the way home.

Jenna’s North Cascades

National Park Book

Jenna went to

North Cascades

National Park

Jenna climbed

Thunder Knob.

Jenna rode in

Daddy’s backpack.

There were pretty trees.

There was moss.

There was a bridge.

Jenna hiked and hiked.

Bruce carried his own backpack.

Jenna ate lunch at the top.

Jenna got ice cream

on the way home.

Ice Cream in a Coffee Can

My A STEM Summer is plodding on, although I’m really behind in my blog posts about it. For Week #3, we did a chemistry and made ice cream in a coffee cam. Full directions here.

Calling this a “chemistry” experiment might be a bit of a stretch, but we did talk about why you need to add rock salt to the ice. Ice cream freezes at 27 degrees. If you just had ice, it would only be 32 degrees. Adding salt creates a brine solution that absorbs heat and makes the ice solution a lot colder. Duh! I should have tested this theory with a thermometer. That would have made this experiment even better.

Would what was highly successful 30 years ago, still work today with this generation’s paranoia?

I would like to publicly point out that the play group my mom formed for me (at 3 or 4) was awesome!  But I think it is interesting that what was highly successful 30 years ago doesn’t work in quite the same way with my generation’s paranoia.  Even serving a two year old crackers can become controversial.

Here is my latest I Brake for Moms column in The Weekly Herald.