A Day of Science, Fun and Eco-Discoveries wtih Bill Nye the Science Guy


With the schoolyear just about wrapped up and summer around the corner, our weekends seem to be getting crammed with festivals, recitals, lessons, and last-day-of-this-and-that-session-parties. But when you've got the chance -- thanks to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog and the Activeion Cleaning Solutions company -- to visit San Jose's Tech Museum, watch an IMAX movie and meet Bill Nye the Science Guy all in the same day, you find a way to make room in your schedule for it. And all those other events? Insignificant little blips on the calendar that can be rescheduled or forgotten.
After all, who can pass up the chance to meet Bill Nye? Not my kids. It's a scientifically proven fact that kids love Bill Nye. He's On TV. He's funny. He wears a cute bow tie and lab coat. He does cool experiments. Only Bill Nye can make a topic as mundane as housecleaning and soap seem interesting (do you know that if you rub some soap on the edge of a small sliver of wood and place it in water, it'll take off like it was a motorboat? It has something to do with surface tension.). He's the perfect person to lead our budding scientists in some fun science experiments. And only Bill Nye can explain the science behind a product without turning it into a product plug.


The second reason why the event didn't feel like a product plug is that the product in question -- Activeion, a chemical-free, eco-friendly cleaning system -- is actually so cool that I'd still be interested in it even if Bill Nye hadn't been the one to explain to us how it works. Would you believe that they've found a way to make ordinary tap water behave like a cleaning solution? To put it simply, they introduce a tiny electric charge into the water so that dirt and germs attach themselves to the water in the same way that they would attach themselves to soap or detergent.

It's the kind of thing you have to see to believe, so Activeion generously gave each of the SV Mom bloggers that attended an activeion spray bottle to take home. Yup, far-out science has entered my cleaning closet! We tried it out and it looks like a winner -- stay tuned for a review of Activeion on Bonggamom Finds, including a video of Jammy spraying some of activeion's cleaning solution, aka tap water, straight into his mouth.



The fun didn't stop, even after we posed for photos with Bill and reconnected with fellow SV Mom bloggers over lunch. The whole afternoon was devoted to the science of fun as we explored the rest of the San Jose Tech Museum. I came close to tossing the contents of my stomach into Jammy's lap after just 15 minutes of watching astronauts and starts spinning around in space at the IMAX movie. They say the large-screen, surround-sound IMAX experience might be too intense for toddlers, but it looked like all the little kids in the theater were fine; any screams of terror were drowned out by my nausea-induced moans.

Nausea aside, we all enjoyed our first visit to the Tech Museum. I had always heard that this museum was best suited for older kids, so I was pleasantly surprised at how many exhibits could hold the attention of toddlers and preschoolers. I especially loved the exhibits that we could access at home later on, using the barcode on our museum tickets, like this thermal family photograph....


.... and this photo of us voicing our views on transplanting pigs' organs into humans. It's nothing that we couldn't have done at home using the simplest photo editing software, but it's so much more fun when you're doing it at the museum.


Thanks to Activeion and the Silicon Valley Moms blog for making it all happen!

Books


The bookshelf in our kids' bedroom is filled with lots of well-loved books. It's bursting at the seams, but we wouldn't have it any other way.

Size Matters

Being a twin must be a mixed blessing; on the one hand, you always have a playmate, but on the other hand people are always comparing you to your twin, which can make for some intense competition. 3Po and Jammy are best friends, but they also fight constantly, and are always trying to out-do the other. Alfie and I like to stress that each of our kids are good at different things. Still, the competition continues....

3Po: No Jammy, that's not right!
Jammy: Yes it is.
3Po: No, it's not, and I know it. I have 1 inch more brain than you, because I'm 1 inch taller.

You can't really argue with that, but Jammy was unfazed. His reply: Yes, but our heads are the same size.

Reincarnations

When I first opened Comfort Food, the SV Moms' Book Club novel for May, I was expecting, well, comfort food. Recipes. Mouth-watering descriptions. Beautiful photos. But what struck me most about the book was not food. It was how so many of the characters in the book experienced some serious life transformations throughout the course of the story. I love how 2 of the main characters, Gus and Oliver, led completely different lives before they got into the cooking scene. And it reminded me of Alfie, myself, and all the other lives we've led.

Alfie grew up in England, in a working class village where you could count the number of college graduates in one hand. Alfie didn't grow up expecting to earn a degree. He drove wine trucks and worked as a mechanic and constantly bores me with has many fond memories of putting together combine harvester engines. He discovered computer engineering many years later and entered college at the ripe old age of twenty-four. When we visit his hometown and see some of his old friends and hangouts, he often says it feels like he's looking back at someone else's life.

Right around the time Alfie was graduating with his engineering degree, I was starting out on my life as a dancer. Yup, many of the people I hang out with these days don't know that I used to dance. I was a member of Powerdance, which was run by Douglas Nierras, one of the most respected dancers and choreographers in the Philippines. As backup dancers for many of the top pop acts in Manila, and I got to appear in lots of concerts, TV shows and commercials. I was a cheerleader in highschool and danced throughout college. I also taught beginning jazz and led the dance troupe for my college club. Then I graduated from college, entered graduate studies at Stanford, and that part of my life ended.


Just a couple of days ago a friend sent me a YouTube link to an old commercial that I appeared in during my dancing days. Everyone in the commercial is from Powerdance; I'm the girl who opens a red umbrella near the end (at 1 minute and 22 seconds into the commercial, to be exact).



Looking at these clips 20 years later, I do feel like I'm watching someone else. I still love to dance, but it's not a big part in my life anymore. Sometimes I feel sad that I can't be that person, but with three kids I don't have the time or energy to devote to dance class five nights a week! I'm happy I got a chance to do it, but when I think of all the subsequent chapters in my life -- as grad student, career girl and parent -- I realize it's all a natural progression. Change is good, and I'm happy to be where I am now.

And speaking of now, I think it might be time to start thinking about change. The twins are entering kindergarten, I'll have some time on my hands. They're growing up and starting to need me less and less. So I'm starting to ask myself again, What do I want to do? I could probably go back into software marketing, and if we really needed the money I'd call up one of my old colleagues in a second. But that's not where my heart lies. What's my next reincarnation? I think I know the answer, and if you're reading this little ol' blog of mine, you can probably take a guess as well. Here's to reinventing oneself -- and may your next life be as fulfilling (or more) than your previous ones!

Plastic

It looks like just a big sheet of plastic, but with the help of a hair dryer, presto! It's now a hot air balloon. It didn't soar to great heights and only stayed afloat for a couple of minutes -- just high enough and long enough to make our boys' eyes grow big with wonder.



For more plastic, click here.

Wordless Wednesday: No you have not accidentally swallowed magic mushrooms



This is one of my favorite exhibits in the San Francisco Exploratorium. It's a door (you can see the door handle in the lower right-hand corner) painted with a moving illusion pattern (This one is "Rotating Snakes" by Akiyoshi Kitaoka). It's really the most bizarre thing; you have to move forward and squash your nose against the door (or computer monitor, for those of you reading this post) to make sure it's not really moving. I'd love to put this on our front door this Halloween to freak people out!

Painted

I love painting children's faces. I'm by no means an expert; I stick to simple cartoon images and swirls. I only use facepaint and a brush and a smidgeon of glitter, I can't do fancier designs that require sponges, stencils, jewels or airbrushing tools. But kids don't seem to care. Even a simple heart or rainbow on their cheek brings out huge smiles. Some kids don't like being touched in the face and others can't sit still long enough to paint a detailed design, but fortunately my kids love it, and I can spend ages painting lots of fun designs on their faces.

I've done a couple of birthday parties for family and for charity, and I always have as much fun as the kids whose faces I paint. Parents sometimes tell me it's such a shame that such pretty art inevitably gets smudged away. But I don't mind. That's why it's facepaint. It just means that I get another blank canvas to paint on all over again.

For more painted things, click here.

Smoked salmon rolls

Our love affair with lavash bread continues; last week it took the form of a smoked salmon roll. Just grab a square of lavash bread and spread the whole thing with cream cheese. Squeeze the juice from a wedge of lemon onto some smoked salmon and place the salmon on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle capers and thinly sliced raw onions (you might just want to skip this ingredient if you plan to take this to school or the office) on top, then add a leaf of lettuce. Roll it all up, slice it down the middle, and tear into that smoky goodness. My kids can't get enough of it!

The Alzheimer's Project

As a writer for the Silicon Valley Moms Blog, I've been privileged to meet some great women like Elizabeth Edwards and Maria Shriver. Last week I had the opportunity to interact with Maria Shriver again on a conference call as she spoke about her latest undertaking, The Alzheimer's Project, a 4-part documentary that premiered on HBO last night. The mini-series aims to educate people about the true face of Alzheimer's disease

The subject is close to Maria's heart as her father, Sarge Shriver, suffers from Alzheimer's. She has written a book on how to talk to children whose grandparents are suffering from the disease, "What's happening to Grandpa?". She's an executive producer of this series and she's narrating the second part (airing tonight on HBO at 7:30PM), "Grandpa, do you know Who I Am?".

As usual, Maria was warm and friendly, answering all our questions with clarity and passion. Here are some excerpts from the conversation (or as much as I could scribble of it with the kids screaming and running around in the next room):

Q: As mothers choose to have children later in life, does this affect their chances of getting the disease? Does this have anything to do with the link between Down's Syndrome and Alzheimers?
A: There does not appear to be a relation between Alzheimer's and having kids at a later age, but there is a link between Down's Syndrome and Alzheimers. The documentary does not cover this topic, but if this is a concern, then you should do some research (try the Alzheimer's Association) and speak with your healthcare provider.

Q: Is there a genetic or hereditary link for Alzheimer's? What is the science behind the predictability of this disease?
A: There are so many factors, but there is a genetic link for early onset of the disease. If you have a parent who had Alzheimer's at an early age, go to your doctor and ask for an expert in dementia, say you have a family history of early onset Alzheimer's and ask about testing for genes or markers for Alzheimer's.

Q: Bloggers have become a force in the media. What can we as bloggers do to bring more attention and funding to the issue?
A: We can lobby local representatives, congressmen and senators to allocate more research money to the issue. We can join Alzheimer's support groups. We can share our stories and put a young face to the disease -- because make no mistake about it, this is a young person's disease. Alzheimer's affects everyone in a family, with respect to the lifestyle changes and costs associated with the disease. Seventy percent of Alzheimer's patients are cared for at home, and 70% of caregivers are women, often providing unpaid care. Together we can drive the pressure to find a cure.

Maria has inspired many of the writers of the Silicon Valley Moms Blog to write about the Alzheimer's Project and their own personal experiences with Alzheimer's. You can read their stories here. And I'll definitely be watching tonight's episode!

Cooking with Alfie


Today the blogosphere celebrated National Moms Nite Out, and what a special night it was for this mom! Alfie and the kids cooked dinner -- his signature dish, pasta with sauce (okay, it's actually his only dish; other than frying eggs or sausages or tomatoes, he pretty much leaves the cooking to me).

1/2 box spaghetti, cooked and drained
1 clove garlic, minced
1 medium onion, minced
2 medium tomatoes, cubed
1/4 lb. chicken or canned tuna, cooked and flaked
1/2 jar red pasta sauce (we used Ragu Old World Style Margherita)
salt, pepper, oregano, basil

1) Sautee garlic and onion until the onion is semi-translucent.
2) Add tomatoes, chicken and sauce, and simmer on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
3) Add spices to taste.
4) Do not empty the whole jar of oregano into the mixture.
5) Do not cough into the mixture.
6) Do not touch flames, hot pans, or hot stove.

Oops, those last 3 steps were added for the benefit of my kids. They're usually banned from getting within arm's reach of the stove (precisely for those reasons), so they were delighted to be allowed to lean over the stove and shake all kinds of condiments into the sauce.

And what do you know, they made a delicious pasta dinner!

Here's the video of my family's culinary feat for all to enjoy. Hey Emeril, eat your heart out -- try making pasta with 3 kids beside you!


What to make for a bakesale when the cupboard is bare


The Pea announced on Tuesday afternoon that her class was holding a bake sale the next day. I promised to contribute. Lesson of the day: when a bake sale is sprung on you with absolutely no warning, if you commit to supplying said bake sale with baked goods, then make sure you have the proper ingredients or be willing to haul your ass to the grocery store to get them. Alas, I did neither, so I was forced to improvise.
She wanted me to make a blueberry coffeecake. Sorry, kid, no blueberries. What about brownies? No, she said; too ordinary, everyone's going to do that. Caramel turtle brownies? No caramels. And it turns out, eggs -- so no baked goods at all. Marshmallow Krispy treats on a stick? Cute idea, but no marshmallows. Finally, I pulled one out of thin air -- popcorn balls! Just popcorn, corn syrup (which miraculously appeared in the cupboard) and sugar. I even found a recipe online for Jello Popcorn Balls and used up the very last box of Jello. Et voila, I presented The Pea with nine sticky, neon pink popcorn balls on a stick.
They were a hit.
I am so the MacGyver of bake sales.

Speak Now for Kids


Change is a-comin', people, change is a-comin'. And no area in the US needs change more than the healthcare system. Despite its shortcomings, I am personally for universal healthcare. I can see that it's probably a long way away, given the paranoia over socialism in this country and the entrenched interests of the giant insurance companies. But surely, people, we can agree to insure children?

Congress is drafting legislation right now that will impact health care for all Americans. One of the things I like best about President Obama's ambitious healthcare plan is the mandate to cover all children. But with everything else going on -- the financial crisis, the situation in Pakistan, Sarah Jessica Parker's twin babies -- there's always a danger that the issue could fall off the table. And that's where we come in. It's up to We the People to make sure that Congress knows how important this is!

Speak Now for Kids is a grassroots movement to ensure that children's needs are included in health care reform. It's sponsored by the National Association of Children’s Hospitals (N.A.C.H.)and it's a movement that I'm happy to speak out for.

So how can you speak out? Visit Speak Now for Kids:

1) Learn about the campaign.
2) Tell Congress that you are a champion for children's needs in healthcare reform.
3) Spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, your blog or email.


Check it out: if my kids can Speak Out for Kids, then so can you.

video

Speaking of Twitter, you can learn more about the campaign and tweet with a representative from the National Association of Children's Hospitals on Wednesday, May 6th, from 9 to 10 p.m. EST. ResourcefulMom is hosting a #SpeakNowforKids SiteWarming Party -- click here to RSVP.

The Soap Nazi

Last Friday the boys and I dropped The Pea off at a birthday party. The party was held at a quaint little soap shop, full of dainty sweet-smelling soaps. On the way out we passed by a basket filled with small bits of soap and the sign "Free, take one". I knew the boys were bummed at not being invited to the party (tough luck, kids) so I told them to choose a piece. 3Po and Jammy had been quarreling, so when Jammy grabbed the biggest chunk, 3Po immediately tried to block him, saying in his best commanding voice,

No soap for you!

I couldn't help laughing. Maybe love of Seinfeld reruns is hereditary.

The latest Bad Mommy

I don't know why I didn't catch the story of Madlyn Primoff (mom who kicked her 2 bickering tweens out of the car -- and drove off) earlier. Maybe I was too preoccupied with my review blog and catching up with my Savvy Source posts. Maybe I was still a bit spaced out from all the medications I've been gulping down over the past two weeks. Or maybe I was just busy dealing with my own kids.

The kids have been pretty wild lately, arguing like crazy, making unbelievable messes and dawdling at bedtime. Which is pretty normal for kids, I guess. But when Alfie and I call them on it, they have begun ignoring us. Maybe it's because they've been sick, and in the hopes of giving their immune systems a rest we've kept them on a fairly tight leash, limiting active outdoor play and keeping them home from afterschool lessons. Or, because as parents we try to pick our battles, and we've been tolerating this particular battle for too long.

On Thursday, 3Po refused to cross the parking lot with me to get to the car, then dancing across like he was in a meadow full of daisies. The other 2 weren't much better. So I blew up. In the car I raved about not listening to me and safety and . For good measure I threatened to leave them on the curb the next time they tuned me out. I calmed down, of course, and I thought the kids had dismissed the incident as another of mama's rants. I was horrified to see that when we got home, 3Po greeted his daddy and promptly burst into tears. What I said had really stuck in his mind and he really was afraid I'd leave him next time. Boy did I feel guilty -- what kind of monster would say that to a 5-year old?

So hearing about Madlyn's story the next day really resonated with me. I'm not sure what I feel -- validation that I'm not the only parents who has threatened to leave their kids behind, amazement that Madlyn actually acted on her impulse, relief that some other mother is this week's Bad Mother instead of me? Maybe all of the above.

And I remembered my own childhood Madlyn Primoff experience. My sister and I were about the same age as Madlyn's kids, and we were fighting in the front seat of the car (shocking, I know, it was the 70's and we were living in Manila, you saw this kind of thing all the time). My mother stopped the car, reached over, opened the door and forced us out. Her anger was more frightening to us than getting out would be -- until she closed the door. She actually began to pully away. We started crying and banging on the door, and she immediately stopped and opened the door to let us in. I don't think she actually would have left us, but at that split second, even at age 10 and 11, we weren't so sure. That experience hasn't scarred me or anything; it's actually a funny memory now. I don't resent my mom in any way for doing it because I'm sure we deserved it -- my sister and I were notorious for our all-out catfights. but now that I'm reliving this memory as a parent, I'm wondering if my mother ever felt the kind of guilt that I do when I remember 3Po wailing his fright out in his daddy's arms.

I apologized to 3Po, held him tight, and told him I would never, ever do such a thing, but I still feel bad. It doesn't matter whether I meant it or not because he took it seriously. And if he were old enough to know I was bluffing, there would be no point in making the threat. So forget about that feeling of relief -- I'm this week's Bad Mother too.

Walking

For this week's Photo Hunt I'm taking a, um, walk down memory lane, to our Yosemite vacation last March. Yosemite is one of my favorite places in the world, and there is nothing more pleasant than hiking on one of the many trails, amidst towering trees and breathtaking scenery.

For more walks, click here.