Sunday, July 15, 2012


 A few years ago, my brother Wally bought a GPS device so that he could take our nieces and nephews out geocaching (a real-world, outdoor treasure hunting game using GPS-enabled devices) whenever they were together and wanted an adventure. I'd never heard of it before and honestly haven't met many people since who are into it, but it was one of those things I mentally stowed away so that when I had kids who were old enough to do it, I'd look into it....and here we are!

Last week I randomly felt inspired to look into how we could make it happen on a limited budget.  At first I tried downloading a free app on my phone, but it just wasn't wanting to work for me so I came across this REI blog post and decided to get the cheapest, simplest one they recommend: the Geomate Jr.  Nathan and I talked it up to Zoe a bit during the week and decided to head out this morning for our first expedition.  After some fumbling and frustration, Nathan figured out a system for us and we spent the whole morning (and then some!) looking for one.  We had 4 or 5 strike outs before we finally scored one and in the process had one of the best family days we've had in a long time.  We were really hot and tired but managed to explore this place in a totally new way for us:  ripping jeans while hopping fences (that would  be me) and climbing huge tree stumps (Nathan and Zoe).   Zoe rode her bike the whole time and although complained quite often (it was really very hot and sunny), was also a complete trooper and willing and enthusiastic team member.  Owen rode along happily in the trailer and despite looking totally overheated, hardly protested at all.  He even helped look for caches whenever we stopped, turning over rocks here and there and saying "Nope!"

All in all a great little investment that I think will give us many family adventures.  Nathan has some ideas that will hopefully make the next outing a little less challenging because honestly, if it's that hard every time I don't think we'll be able to keep the kids on board but even without actually finding the cache at the end (the one we found ended up being only about a half mile from our house!) it was all worthwhile--give it a try!

Other than a bunch of food and water, this is basically what we brought:  A few treasures to possibly use to exchange for an item from the cache we hoped to find, and the Geomate Jr.

We planned to let Zoe lead the way, so she started off with the Geomate in her basket.  Soon after we started, Daddy figured out how to use the damn thing and officially became navigator.

How do you use this thing??

One of many water breaks.  That's our navigator up there in the red shirt.
Our first attempt...

We looked under and behind a whole lot of rocks today...


This happened a lot

"Let's look over here, Owen!"


Our second attempt (where I ripped my jeans)

This was when our camera ran out of batteries, so this normally obsessed picture taker was forced to just take it all in and (heaven forbid) try and just remember the experience and live in the moment.  It was nice to be forced to do so....I do wish I had a picture of Nathan and Zoe searching that huge tree trunk on the creek bank but I'm also glad I was able to really be present in the moment.  Anyway, lucky for us we have great camera phones so we could capture this:

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mad Scientist Party!

We had another very successful Art Group/Young Scientists get together this afternoon.  It was actually more on the Young Scientists side of things (next month we'll have an end of summer paint extravaganza to balance things out) because we had 5 separate (messy) experiments for the kids (and parents) to mess around with.  Everyone had a blast and we got a ton of thank you's and "this is so fun!" comments.  I overheard a little girl chatting with her dad as they walked away and she was excitedly saying "Do you know what the BEST part was?"  Then, when I went to our community garden plot to water, I saw the mother of one of the kids who came and she thanked me because her kids loved it so much.  Their dad had been the one to take them though, so they had obviously still been talking about it when their mom got home from work!

Anyway, here are some pictures of the Mad Scientist Party!

Color Mixing Station
We filled some clear bowls with vinegar (if you want to do this experiment alone, you can use water.  We used vinegar so they could use the color they created at another of our stations) and added primary food colors to them.  When the kids came in, we told them to grab a smock, a pair of goggles, a dropper and a test tube and start mixing colors.  We filled 2 beakers with clear vinegar so when they were happy with a color they could add more liquid without changing the color.  We told them to put the caps on their test tubes to save for another station.

Make your own GAK
(For  instructions please see this link to The Artful Parent)
Although the kids had a blast with this too, we realized it would serve them better (and make our lives less frazzled) if we made signs with pictures showing how to do each step.  We did the measuring and pouring with them, but if we do it again we'll make signs and let them do it themselves.  Actually we decided we'll make similar signs for each station next time and also print out instructions for people to take home with them.

Mixing Baking Soda and Vinegar
We had the last 3 stations sort of mushed together outside because they all involved mixing baking soda and vinegar and watching the reaction.  First we gave them a little tray with some baking soda in it and told them to add the colored vinegar from their test tube however they wanted to see what would happen (inspired by Preschool Alphabet).  Most of the kids wanted to do it over and over again.

We also gave them a plastic bottle and told them to put some baking soda in it.  Then they got a balloon, put some vinegar right into the balloon, stretched the opening of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle and tipped the balloon up, letting the vinegar pour into the bottle.  (I could have sworn I pinned this on Pinterest but couldn't find it, so I'm not sure where I originally saw this...)  The balloon blows right up and stays that way!

Lastly, we gave them a paper towel with some baking soda on it and told them to fold it up like a little packet.  Then, we put some vinegar in a ziplock bag and told them to put the packet in.  We quickly sealed the bag and shook it up.  It blows the bag up until it bursts open.  A lot of our bags had holes in them so we had a lot of duds, but we had luck with some.  (Just be sure to either throw the bag before it pops or hold it away from faces)  Anyway, this idea came from All Things Beautiful...

It was a great party--wish you all could have joined us!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

4th of July

I never got around to posting pictures from our fun little 4th of July adventure this year so here you go!  Nathan read somewhere that Nederland, CO (a mountain town about a half hour west of us) was having a parade and festival and since we love Nederland, parades and festivals (and free admission!) it was a no-brainer.  It was very....quaint, but just about the perfect kind of day for our little family...

The Parade

Peas in a pod

He doesn't look excited but these days he's reserving his excitement for after whatever exciting thing has moved along


Main Street (I don't know the actual name of the street, but this just seems to be the main one so...)
Walking to the Festival
We walked along a beautiful little pedestrian trail along this was short but so picturesque
Zoe is getting so tall these days...that coupled with her new haircut caused me to watch in wonder as she walked along that day...all I could think was "We've got ourselves a little Ramona Quimby."
Playing in Barker Reservoir
(at least I think that's the name of it!)

We found the festival but it was really, really small so we kept walking on to the reservoir to play in the water and see if there was anything else going on around town...

Love this one...

She ended up getting completely soaked to her neck.  She was having a blast...I kept  warning her that we didn't have a towel or change of clothes but she didn't care!

Since we were right there, of course we HAD to stop in at the Carousel of Happiness.  Always a, fun and just can't go wrong.  Poor Owen had mixed feelings though..when the carousel first started he was giggling and yelling "WOOOAH!!!" but then about halfway through he started crying, poor guy.  Oh well, luckily it's a short ride and he was happy to watch from the benches when Zoe took one last ride all by herself (she didn't even need me to help her get unbuckled to climb down...times sure have changed quickly)
Waiting  our turn

Still okay

Great day!