Friday, June 22, 2012

Quick Takes Friday

I am kid-free for NINE days!  It is really strange for the house to be so quiet...I think I'll be able to keep myself occupied enough, but it is sad not to have my girls home.  They are visiting my parents in the mountains.  They were supposed to be up there for a week, but hubby had to bow out of the Knights of Columbus meeting he was supposed to be at because of FIL.  About a month ago, he had an appendetomy, then they were going to biopsy a mass on his liver a week later (and one of the doctors who had no bedside manner told him he had cancer before the biopsy.)  THEN, after we found out the mass was just a cluster of blood vessels, he got an infection from his surgery, and had to have another more major surgery to deal with that - which basically means that hubby and BIL have to run the farm mostly on their own for about 5 more weeks.  MIL had a doctor's appointment in the front range yesterday, so my mom met us and took the girls a few days early.

The girls will be going to day camp at the YMCA next week every day.  So, I sent up stuff that they could work on to keep the girls busy.  I sent up their at home summer reading program charts, their PINs for, and girl scout badges that Eva could work on.  Well, my mom and the girls left at about 4pm, and had a 30 min drive to mom's house.  MIL did quite a bit of shopping and had a 3 hour drive home.  By the time I got home (9:30 PM or so) my mom had posted on facebook that Eva had planned a hike, packed food for the hike, went on the hike and identified 12 animals (and even more plants) with field guides.  Now, to earn the badge there are 5 steps, and it looks like they finished 4 of the 5 before I got mom is going to be EXHAUSTED by the time I pick them up if that's what she does immediately after getting them to her house.  I would have let them play with toys and outside for the evening - maybe taken a walk - but not planned and exectured a whole hike!

Summer reading program - the girls always love doing the summer reading program at the library in the summer.  I liked the program in our old town better (it won tons of awards for the summer reading programs over the years), but it worked out that the girls were going to miss 3 out of 4 of the events, plus our library will only allow you to count books checked out from their library for the program.  Plus, they have a limit on how many books you can check out and have a drawing based on how often you check out books during the program, which is way better for kids in town who can go to the library every day.  We are lucky to get there once a week!  So, I decided that I could do a summer reading program for my girls.  I set rules, set incentives, and MIL agreed to do snacks and crafts (the girls' favorite part).  So, they get a sticker on their chart for every 30 minutes of reading alone, reading out loud, or listening to someone read (so, if Eva reads for 30 minutes to Charlotte, they both get a sticker) and they get a sticker for every hour or so of an audiobook (I basically let them have a sticker per CD or part).  Eva can get a bonus sticker for each chapter book she finishes, and Charlotte can get an extra sticker for each 30 minutes of speech work.  At 10 stickers, they get ice cream at our local subway.  15 additional stickers will get them a ticket to our local movie theater.  20 more stickers after that, they get a trip to the outdoor pool with waterslides that is an hour away.  25 more stickers after that, and they get to pick out a book at our local bookstore.  I'll run the program until we start school.  So far, the girls have mostly listened to Black Beauty - but we only started on Monday, and we finished the book on the drive yesterday.

The first two weeks of June the girls had swimming lessons.  In my scheduling this summer, it worked out that they couldn't do either session at our local pool, so I ended up taking them across the state line to the next town over for swim lessons.  Eva, who took at least 3 years to pass level 1 swimming passed level 2 in one week, and started on level 3 for one week.  Charlotte passed level 1 in one week.  Charlotte has done swimming lessons for a couple years with a friend's son - and she was going to take him to our town for lessons, but I talked her into brining him to the same lessons we were doing - and both of us were really impressed with the lessons, and think we will probably do them again next year.  Since we both live in the boonies, it doesn't make a lot of mileage difference - either way we both have long drives every day.

Things I am going to do while having no kids around: hubby is going to take down the flourescent light boxes in our living room and replace them, so I will be painting the ceiling.  I bought some yarn and got out my crochet hooks...I haven't crocheted anything since Eva was a toddler...and I picked up a free pattern for a scarf that I am going to try to make for my secret sister in my Bible study group.  I plan to go through the bookshelves and get rid of some twaddle books.  Our bathroom closet needs a cleanout, so I'll do that and use my label maker to show where things are supposed to go.  I got suckered into working on the family cookbook, and I am doing most of the editing - so I'll spend quite a bit of time at MILs house working on that.  I have a couple of doctor's appointments to go to.  Hubby thought maybe we'd have a date night.  We will have our EPIC church history study at our house this weekend, and I'll have bible study next week (not at our house, thankfully!).  Plus, I always have a big stack of books that I want to read if I have spare time.  I also expect that hubby and I will watch several of the movies recorded on our DVR from the last free movie channel preview, since we won't have to wait until girls are in bed.

Midway though my last take, the girls called to say hi.  I haven't talked to them since they left with my mom, since I wasn't home til after bedtime.  Besides the hike, they have gone to the YMCA to make sure everything was okay for next week's day camp, went to the thrift store my mom volunteers at and bought Eva a bike without training wheels, so my dad is going to try to teach her to ride without training wheels (she is fairly convinced that she can't do it - and since we have no pavement to speak of for a good 5 miles -and that's a highway, I'll admit I've been a slacker about it.  They are making pizzas for lunch, then plan to go to the park, the library, and to play mini-golf tonight.  I'm tired just hearing about what they have planned today.

Can't think of anything more right now, so I guess I stop there.

More quick takes at Conversion Diary!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

WOW! Wonders of Water - A Brownie Journey Review

Well, it has been a long time since I posted anything, and a number of months since I reviewed the Daisy  Flower Garden Journey, but since I have a little time this morning (before heading to a Girl Scout camp fundraiser!) I'll take a stab at what I did like and didn't like about the Wonders of Water Journey.

Things I liked:
-The girls were challenged to use less water - a good goal.
-Incorporating science into the journey - making rainbows.
-Using tea to teach about the phases of water - solid, liquid and gas.
-Girls learned about the scarcity of clean water and how that affects girls worldwide.

Things I didn't like:
-The journey takes so long, and so little is actually accomplished.
-Most of the games and activities were pretty lame.
-The girl's book was pretty much impossible to use in meetings - the girls had enough school before meetings and didn't want to sit around and read.  Plus, one of my brownies was just learning to speak English, so it was doubly hard to do reading as a group.
-All of the suggested projects are exceedingly lame

Things I did:
The journeys seem like okay jumping off points, but are just full of politically correct garbage and just aren't that much fun.  My brownies chose Wonders of Water out of the three journeys, which I will admit, surprised me!

To ramp up the science in the journey, I added in the following experiments
-Diffusion experiment: we put in food coloring to still water to see how it moved through the water, then we put the food coloring into stirred water to see the difference.
-Homemade hydrogen experiment: we used 9-volt batteries, salt water, and copper wire, which I had on hand because this is an experiment that Eva did for Chemistry this year.  Before this experiment, I had the girls build water molecules with a molecular model set I had at home, so that they got the idea that water is made of hydrogen and oxygen.
-Ooblek experiment: This was the favorite (and the most messy) of the experiments.  We only made a small amount because I was working with the amount of cornstarch we had on hand.

For our project, we raised money for a water project.  In several months we should get a picture and GPS coordinates of the project we helped to fund.  We did this by putting out change collection jars around our small town.  To do this, the girls had to write letters to local business owners asking to put jars in their businesses.  I also wrote up a quick letter to the editor, and set up this website through charity:water, the organization I found to work with.  I did suggest this project when it came time to choose, but I had all the girls make suggestions as well - they voted and chose the fundraising.  I just don't think it occurred to them, since all the journey ideas in the book are so...well, stupid is the word I'd use for them!  The book suggests the following: Shut off that faucet!; Stop that leak!; Choose a broom, not a hose!; Ban bottles!; Grow water smart plants! - all basically have the girls making educational posters, doing skits or writing to local government.  So, we set a goal of raising $200, but it took longer than I expected to get permission to put up jars (particularly in the school!) so, we raised just over $100.  Still not bad for our small troop in our small town.

The BEST thing that we did came about unexpectedly.  I was trying to get the last of our troop's cookies sold at a community event, and our boss (not sure what her title is, but works for Girl Scouts and keeps track of the area leaders) was there trying to recruit more volunteers (which is always an uphill battle!)  A woman I know pretty well from church came by and was talking to us, and we mentioned the journeys, and that the brownies were doing the Wonders of Water journey this year.  Well, she works for the government dealing with water, and she offered to come in and do an educational talk about aquifers, because we live over and get all our water from the Ogallala Aquifer.  So, for our final (and possibly most memorable) meeting, she came in, talked about aquifers and water in general, and then led the girls in making Ice Cream Aquifers

Overall, I am not sure that I would do another Brownie Journey.  The Daisy ones are nice because they give the Daisies something else to do once they have earned their petals, but with the new Girl's Guide to Girl Scouting for Brownies, I think the journeys are too much to deal with when you can actually be earning badges.  It took us the majority of the year to earn the four patches for the WOW! Journey, and it took us 2-3 sessions to earn two patches out of the new Girl's Guide - painting and first aid.

For painting, it took 1 1/2 meetings - the first meeting, I took in our Child Size Masterpiece cards for the get inspired step - the girls went through the cards and found four paintings that they liked, then we discussed why they liked them.  Next,  I put down a disposable table cloth and put out both watercolors and tempura paints and brushes.  I brought in a couple of objects to serve as still life inspiration, and gave the girls the option of painting them, or painting an outdoor landscape.  I didn't offer the portrait option, because I could see how badly that could get us off track if they decided to paint each other.  Finally, I had them paint a mood - this was hard for some of them, since it could be abstract, but in the end, all the girls came up with something - some were far less abstract than others.  Most of the girls chose happy (their other options were calm or angry).  The next  session, I put down another disposable table cloth (I know, it's terrible - but it was what I could handle cleanup-wise!) and had the girls paint without brushes - they used sponges, fabric, beads, ping pong balls, fake flowers and leaves and their hands.  They did not want to stop painting with objects, but I eventually got them to move to painting a mural together.  They painted based on the theme "Girl Scout Fun", and after the mural dried, we displayed it at our bridging ceremony.

For first aid, I had a good friend who is in nursing school come in, and she brought a classmate to help her out.  Best speakers ever!  They researched what the girls were supposed to know, brought supplies for each of them to make a first aid kit, and got through pretty much all the info in one meeting (we reviewed the next meeting and worked on putting together a camp first aid kit.)  They covered what an emergency is, calling 911, what to do if someone is having trouble breathing, how to deal with cuts, burns, the importance of hand washing, and just a ton of other information.  They made it fun and informative, and each girl made a first aid kit with gauze pads and tape, bandages, hand sanitizer, a pad and pencil filled with emergency contact information, a bandanna (for dealing with burns or applying pressure to wounds), and a pack of tissues (I may be forgetting some things in the kit!)  Best deal ever for me, I just kept the girls on track as much as I could, and gave them both boxes of cookies for helping us out.  They even travelled an hour each way to talk to the girls.  It was awesome.

In closing (because I'm supposed to be in town shortly), the WOW! Journey was okay, not terrible, not great - but I am WAY happier with the Girl's Guide instead.