Chronicles of the O'Brien Family Adventures...

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World of Science Homeschool Classes

It was a fun start to the World of Science homeschool science classes. Aidan attended "Cauldron Brew"; a chemistry lab where they explored a thirty degree melting metal, made bouncy balls and discussed substances that changed upon combination or under the duress of other environmental factors such as heat. It was very cool and Aidan really enjoyed himself. 

Summer watched the Dr Agar Halloween Science Show that included cool pyrotechnics and other magical experiments to awe the senses. 

Meanwhile, Cai and I played and enjoyed the various exhibits and play areas. It had been a few months since we visited the World of Science - which is a long time when you are only two - so it was newly exciting for him. 

Our ride home was the best, kids all picked up and played out, as they eagerly shared everything they learned and did for the day. Their excitement was contagious. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Three Generations of Ladies Learning Code

Hearing about the Ladies Learning Code mother-daughter workshop this month, I knew we had to do it! I cancelled our other plans and immediately signed Summer and I up. She was overjoyed, as she had been long wanting to build business websites. This introductory course was a great starting place. And it's always so exhilarating learning something new! 

My mom, who already has coded a pretty stellar website, decided to join us. She's self-taught and figured this was a great chance to get some questions answered and develop her knowledge further. So it turned into a three generations of ladies learning code workshop. At least for us. 

We brought our own laptops. The day was six hours during which we learned what html and css was and how to use them. The final couple of hours we built our own webpages using the free program Thimble, getting help as needed. 

Summer built a fabulous website showcasing the horror books she's planning on writing. For the past couple of weeks she's been pouring over her titles (I think she has a list of forty or so books so far). The first book she began writing at first on paper but soon switched to her computer. 

Summer was incredibly quick to pick up on coding. At one time or another she helped both mom and I. And despite looking bored at one point in the day, she wanted to stay the longest and we were the last to leave. The first thing she did after coming home was set back up the laptop to keep working on her webpage and she kept on it all night until we had a family movie night. 

And it was so empowering to learn the basics of programming, a whole other language, not to mention fun. I definitely plan on taking some follow up classes! Aidan of course is interested too and I learned that I could have brought him along, despite the iniative being primarily geared to women (with the goal of increasing the presence of women in this otherwise male dominated field). 

Monday, October 13, 2014


I'm What began as a simple toilet purchase became an exploration of growth and learning and reaching a little deeper into the pocketbook; as the toilet was deemed unplaceable because of a surprise underneath the floor. Rot. And plenty of it. 

After discussion with a couple knowledgeable men around us, Sean decided to tackle the new construction himself. He was reluctant and unsure, but the guidance through texts and facetime gave him what he needed to plow forward. He began with the purchase of a reciprocating saw and started to chop up the floor. 

There were many layers to our floor. Several layers of tile and Lino, amounting in an entire inch of levels above the bottom floor boards. If it weren't for our bathtub also sitting on top of it all, we would have torn up the whole room. But removing a bathtub was beyond the scope of where we wanted to take this project. 

The initial square wasn't large enough, so Sean took it further, all the way to the back wall. There was a layer of completely rotted plywood that Sean gutted; it looked like a layer of dirt sandwiched between Lino. 

The tough part done, Sean rebuilt sturdy subflooring to fit perfectly into his excised square. To finish it off, we purchased more of the same vinyl tiles Sean placed in our front entry hall last year. We had some left over, saving on how much we needed to purchase. 

After the floor was in place, we called back our plumber to recut the hole he needed in the floor and replace the top part of the stack. He installed the toilet too, as the service was free with the purchase of the toilet in the first place. 

Our new bathroom! Slowly lavender is fading from our bathroom. Redoing our sink and vanity will be a third step in our bathroom upgrades. For now, I'm thrilled to have a toilet that's not older than I am and can flush toilet paper with reliable success. Wahoo! It's the simple joys of life... 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Haunted Pumpkin Festival

The Haunted Pumpkin Festival and corn maze are annual family events for us. This year, we attended on thanksgiving sunday. The day was warm but a crisp and strong wind kept us bundled for the first half of the day. By the afternoon we were striped back to our shirts. 

It was fun to watch Cai explore and have fun at the various treasures at Prairie Gardens. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Musical Theatre

This week has been a doozy of busyness in our household as the kids have been attending a Musical Theatre workshop for four hours a day. The experience was thrilling for them and lots of fun. They memorized lines and songs to the musical Newsies, all in preparation for a final performance for family and friends at the end of the week. 

They made new friends, developed skills and even learned new things about themselves. The final show was remarkably polished for one week's worth of work. Sean and I were much impressed. 

Sean took the day off work to see the performance (as it was in the afternoon) and we celebrated with Marble Slab ice cream (note to self: toddlers do not, I repeat do not, need to try bright blue cotton candy ice cream) and watching the Newsies movie before the kids headed off to grandma's house for a sleepover. 

On top of the theatrical experience and learning and growth, the subject matter touched nicely on industrial history: we discussed the evolution of unions, what scabs were and how children were - and in some places still are - used for cheap labor. Then of course the door was open for a discussion on homelessness as well! 

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Autumn Treasures

This has been such a spectacularly beautiful fall! The weather has been reminiscent of the most perfect days of summer while the trees have been basking in all their autumnal glory. No strong winds have driven the colorful leaves prematurely from the trees and most days we don't even need so much as a sweater. 

Last weekend my mom suggested we meet at Hawrelak park. Having not celebrated her birthday yet, my mind thought quick and with a "sure!" I began to organize an impromptu party. Gathering snacks and drinks, plates and utensils, napkins and a table cloth, we headed out to pick up a cake and additional trays of food. Arriving at Hawrelak I was pleased by how much space was open. It wasn't busy, despite the beautiful fall sunday. We quickly found a lovely picnic spot amongst the trees and set up the party. 

After we enjoyed our time altogether picnicking, we fed the geese by hand and mom and Doug took pictures of us around the lake. 


Last cello class I brought Summer with me to adventure down in the river valley. The previous class I had journeyed along paths between the trees down to the riverbank by myself and I knew Summer would enjoy it with me. 

We had such a lovely time together, and were surprised to find a fun treasure on the river bank. 

The swing was big enough for me to swing too, high and sturdy. It was bliss to swing on, looking out at the flowing river and gently setting sun. Moments like these feel like the very definition of happiness. 

We are so blessed with our beautiful lives. We know what is important in life: family and love and time spent together, with laughter and joy and nature all around us. Life is good!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Physics: Newton's Second and Third Law of Motion

Whizzing balloons and apples dropped from heights onto a knife make for a fun morning of physics exploration, as we discuss Newton's Second and Third Laws of motion. 

It's marvelous to watch the kids "get" it, helped through the physical examples.

There was a whirling jet car too. Although it was supposed to go straight, it spun around in circles instead. We got the idea. 

And by the end, they both learned their first physics equation: Force equals mass times acceleration or F = ma.