How Adoption Opened My Eyes

“We’re all different, but different is good,” my son said. He’d taken a seat on the couch between my husband and me and held his arm against mine.

At 7 years old, he does that far less frequently than he used to, but occasionally, he reminds himself — out loud for extra reassurance — that differences are to be celebrated.

“The world would be boring if everyone looked the same!” my daughter chimed in from the table where she was drawing one of her unique, fantastical pictures. At 5 years old, she is extremely confident with her beautiful, dark skin and curly hair. She embraced her physical qualities at a young age and hasn’t ever wavered in her certainty that she is absolutely, positively fabulous the way she is. She’s equally confident about her intelligence and her capabilities.

My son has similar conviction in his appearance and his character. He takes pride in his generosity and care for others. He feels a need to remain strong, but not so much that he’ll sacrifice his gentle heart.

Before I became a mom, I lived a pretty comfortable existence. I assumed that my husband and I would raise our kids similar to the way my mom and dad raised me. I have great parents and aside from the minor “I’ll never do that when I’m mom” notes, I figured I had a good grasp on how to proceed.

That was before I began educating myself on race and how people of color navigate the world differently in many circumstances. I’m a sponge when it comes to information, so once I began to understand how my privilege as a white individual dictated my life experiences, I knew that I’d have to parent differently. While some of the troubling issues that students of color experience in schools may not affect my kids as severely because of the schools they attend, the important fact remains that statistically, children of color aren’t always treated the same as white children.

In addition to navigating race, my husband and I are both aware of how traditional education affects children by gender. Over time, girls tend to “shrink” in the classroom while boys are inadvertently taught that emotions and feelings aren’t to be expressed. We don’t want those really special qualities that make them who they are — my son’s kindness or my daughter’s confidence, for example — to lessen.

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that we can talk all day long, and if we’re lucky our kids will retain a portion of what we say, but a lot of learning comes through our actions. So we choose our words carefully. We don’t single out descriptors for one child or the other. Both are strong, smart, funny, cute, interesting, loving, sweet, sensitive, kind, giving, serious…all of the things that people can be. Whether they’re expressing emotions and asserting themselves, they’re being who they are, not a “pushy girl” or a “sensitive boy.”

We buy books, toys and movies that features characters that reflect their appearances back to them. Hearing my son read a book and remark, “That boy has my eyes!” or my daughter happily point out, “Her hair is just like mine! I like it,” is significant.

Pink can be a boy’s favorite color and girls are just as strong as boys. Small, simple reminders go a long way. Today, my kids were playing Wii Bowling together.

“BOOM! You’re the lady!” my daughter exclaimed.

I looked up from my computer and smiled at her.

“What?” She asked. “I’m not going to say ‘you’re the man’ because ladies are just as good as men!”

After a brief, thoughtful pause, she added, “Maybe even better.”

So far, so good.

Me and my kids, Molley and Mattix.

Laura Willard is a law school grad who has successfully avoided using her education for eight years and counting. She’s a wife and an adoptive mom to kids who make her world go ’round. She’s an editor, writer, content curator, social media manager and sometimes blogger. She’s certain sarcasm is a language, so she’s totally bilingual. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

The Wake-Up Call

My son, Kai, will be 2 in August. A few nights ago, he woke up at 2:17 a.m. yelling “Momma! Momma!”

I stumbled into his room. Snatched him out of his crib. Pulled him close. “It’s okay,” I whispered. “It’s okay.”

He gave me a pat pat pat on my face. Then I felt his little arm stretch upwards and his little face push backwards. “Whoooosh!” he said. “I’m Su-per-man! It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s…Super Kai!

Uh huh. You couldn’t wait until it was light out to tell me that, kid?

It quickly became evident that I would not be going back to sleep. This was Super Kai, after all. We were up humming the Superman theme song, reading books, eating blackberries, pretending to fly.

That night, despite being totally exhausted, the mission of GoldieBlox was as clear as day to me.

See, the thing is, when I was a little girl, I wasn’t into sleep either. There were too many other things to do. Adventures to go on! Stories to read. Stories to write. Quests to dream up. Cleveland Indians games to watch. Baseball cards to collect (yes, girls like baseball. Some of us even know what OBP and RBI stands for. Wild!)

Oh, and I wanted to be Superman, too.

It had nothing to do with gender and everything to do with character and story. Superman? That guy is amazing and he can do amazing, wonderful things. He has incredible adventures. He has a strong moral compass. He deeply wants to help humanity. Did I mention the cape? Why wouldn’t boys AND girls want to be him? Why wouldn’t anyone?

And the real question is: Why aren’t there more girl characters that stir up imaginations so much that their fans wake up at 2:17 a.m. desperate to declare their identities?

Why aren’t there more female heroes who have their own amazing stories, powers, and motives? Why are the girls so often the sidekicks, or over-sexualized, or just plain lame? Why do girls have to live with these characters?

Why do the boys?

Why does Kai?

A friend of mine has a little boy and recently welcomed a baby girl. While reading books to her kids, she realized how few of her books have female leads. And how most of the lead characters who ARE female tend to be…animals. Huh. Are we so uncomfortable with girls at the center of the story that we have to make them puppies or ponies or pigs?

Our girls definitely deserve characters and stories where girls are the heroes. And you know what? So do our boys.

That’s where Goldie comes in.

And that’s why I’m here.

My family and I

DIY of the Week: Catapult

Here’s something for the knights (looking at you, Brienne of Tarth) among us: a catapult. You can make this with your GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine kit, or some basic craft supplies. Warning: do not fling your siblings, even in the unlikely event they can fit on the catapult.

You’ll need:

Items Needed to Build Your GoldieBlox Catapult.

Items Needed to Build Your GoldieBlox Catapult.

  • GoldieBlox Pegboard
  • GoldieBlox Ribbon (or any wide, study ribbon will do)
  • 4 Axles
  • Blox (2 for construction, a handful for launching)

OR:

Optional Items to Make a Catapult.

Optional Items to Make a Catapult.

  • Cardboard or Poster Board
  • Wide Ribbon (2 inches thick or there abouts)
  • Two Drinking Straws
  • Duct Tape
  • Mod Podge
  • Crafting Pom Poms / Cotton Balls / something light and fling-able

 

To make the GoldieBlox catapult:

Step 1: Flip your pegboard over so the foam side is down and plug two axles into the underside of the board. Make sure they are all the way to one edge, and at opposite ends from each other. Turn the pegboard over — you’ve  just created an incline for your catapult!

Insert Axels on the Underside of the Pegboard.

Insert Axels on the Underside of the Pegboard.

You've Created an Incline!

You’ve Created an Incline!

 

Step 2:  Take 2 more axles and place them in pegs, on the front side of the pegboard, about halfway up. Make sure they are in the same row, so your catapult is even. Place one block on each of these axles.

Insert Axels and Blox on the Front of the Pegboard.

Insert Axels and Blox on the Front of the Pegboard.

 

Step 3:  Drape the ribbon around the blox so that it makes a “U” in between them.

Drape the Ribbon Through the Axels to Create a 'U" Shape.

Drape the Ribbon Through the Axels to Create a ‘U” Shape.

 

Step 4: Put one of your blox into the “U” of the ribbon.

Place Your Blox into the "U" Shape.

Place Your Blox into the “U” Shape.

 

Step 5: Grab ahold of the ribbon ends, on the outside of the “U.” Pull both ends at the same time really fast, and watch the blox go flying!

Grab the Outsides of the Ribbon and Pull!

Grab the Outsides of the Ribbon and Pull!

 

You can make a catapult without a GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine kit, too – here’s how!

 Step 1: Cut your piece of poster board into a large square, or have your parents help you. The size doesn’t matter – it’s up to you!

Catapult 14

Carefully Cut a Piece of Cardboard for Your Base.

Step 2: Cut your drinking straws in half, or have your parents help you. You should now have four smaller straws. Put two of them to the side – we’ll need them later.

Cut Your Straws in Half.

Cut Your Straws in Half.

 

Step 3: Using your duct tape, tape two straws to one side of your square, about an inch in from the corners. These are the legs of your base.

On the Backside of Your Board, Tape Down 2 Straws.

On the Backside of Your Board, Tape Down 2 Straws.

 

Step 4: Flip your square over. You’ve made an incline plane for your catapult!

Catapult 17

You’ve Created an Incline!

 

Step 5: Grab your other straws and your Mod Podge. Stick the straws about halfway up the square and four inches away from each other. (If you don’t have Mod Podge, you can mash some duct tape around the end of the straw and make an inelegant little duct tape platform, as we have).

Attach 2 Straws to the Front of your Board.

Attach 2 Straws to the Front of your Board.

 

Step 6: Drape your ribbon over the two straws so that it makes a “U” between them.

Make a "U" Shape with your Ribbon.

Make a U-Shape with your Ribbon.

 

Step 7: Put one of your pom poms/cotton balls into the “U” of the ribbon.

Place a Pom Pom or Cotton Ball in your Ribbon.

Place a Pom Pom or Cotton Ball in your Ribbon.

 

Step 8: Grab ahold of the ribbon ends, on the outside of the “U.” Pull both ends at the same time really fast, and watch the pom pom/cotton ball go flying!

Pull the Ends of your Ribbon to Launch your Pom Pom / Cotton Ball!

Pull the Ends of your Ribbon to Launch your Pom Pom / Cotton Ball!

 

 

Learning with Autism

Hi! I’m Anne, a Brand Director at GoldieBlox, I’m fortunate that my career is designing and engineering some pretty amazing products. At work, we often talk about being “Design Hackers” and finding new play patterns for kids. For today’s blog, I’m writing to talk about how I’ve learned to be a “Mommy Hacker,” to design and inspire the education of my children.

I have three children: Anya, age seven; Axel, age nine; and Ella, age thirteen. Our family looks like a lot of families around the world, not least because Axel is a child with Autism.

When we, as a culture, talk about Autism, we often talk about ways to cure, manage or alter the behaviors of Autism. We forget to mention the joys and the profound messages that this population of people brings to us. Among the many lessons motherhood has taught me, Axel’s Autism has transformed the way I think about learning, innovation, and education – honestly, I can’t think of anything, or anyone that has taught me as much as my son.

To keep it simple, for children on the Autism spectrum, behaviors that we find difficult or disruptive come from their systems being overwhelmed.

Often, the sensory input of a given situation is too much, and they act out. As the parent, we must  get creative and do whatever we need to do to help our kids calm down and feel at ease. I’ve learned to do this by joining my son where he’s at emotionally so that I may understand what is overwhelming him.

For example, Axel has a hard time in grocery stores – the lights, sounds, and the number of people combine to make the experience a sensory overload. If he indicates that the lights are too bright, we may try walking into the store backwards. In fact, we might go through the entire store backwards. Why not? Or if I pick up his clue that a smell is too much, we might hold a fragrant fruit like a peach close to our nose until we checkout.

These behaviors may look unusual to the average person, but we do it all with humor and laughter, hoping that onlookers understand there is a “Mommy Hacker” at work. Parenting a kid on the autism spectrum is full of this kind of ingenuity:

If the way we do things normally doesn’t work, how shall we do them instead?

I recently heard of a 2nd grade teacher who, upon finding that some of her students couldn’t concentrate while sitting still, set up a semi-circle of trampolines in the back of the room so kids could bounce while they learned. It helped the kids stay focused and they retained more of the lessons. And guess what? Science backs up this kind of ingenuity. It has been shown that some kids learn and retain information best while in motion.

About a year ago, I stumbled upon the “Horse Boy Method” while Axel was in a low point during the school year. In a nutshell, the method reduces stress and increases the learning potential of kids by creating positive connections through the engagement with animals, nature and movement. From this inspiration, my passion project is piloting a learning program called “Horse Boy Learning” at the Square Peg Foundation in Half Moon Bay, California.

For kids on the Autism spectrum, group educational lessons can be tough, especially ones with shared props or samples. They often want to touch, toss, or roll around in them. Although this kind of behavior is unacceptable by most “normal” standards, it’s their way of interacting with the world.

So what we have created at Square Peg is a living classroom and sensory teepee. The teepee is full of science related things that kids can manipulate, stick their hands in, and get up close and personal with. The teepee is full of things they can touch and toss and roll around in. I’m excited to see where it goes.

For all the struggles that come with having a kid on the Autism spectrum, I truly believe it’s a gift. Kids are here to teach us, just as we’re here to teach them. I never knew the kind of creativity, empathy, or ingenuity I was capable of before I had children. I am grateful to all my kids, but uniquely to my son for teaching me how to be a true “Mommy Hacker.”

Tell us your story, what are your “Parent Hacks”?

Living classroom at Square Peg Ranch. Axel is shown with his teacher, Ashley Morris.

Living classroom at Square Peg Ranch. Axel is shown with his teacher, Ashley Morris.

DIY of the Week: Color Changing Carnations

Here’s a simple, fun experiment you can do to teach your kids about how plants use water! All you need are some white carnations, a clear glass or vase, and some food dye, and you’ve got yourself a colorful at-home science lesson.

What You Will Need:

Items Needed for the Project.

Items Needed for the Project.

  • Fresh, White Carnations
  • Plastic or Glass, Cups, Vases or Jars
  • Food Coloring
  • Scissors

 

Step 1: Fill your cups with cold water.

Fill a Cup with Cold Water.

Fill a Cup with Cold Water.

 

Step 2: Place a few drops of the desired color into each cup  (you can experiment with the number of drops for a deeper color and more vibrant flowers).

Drop Food Coloring into the Glasses.

Drop Food Coloring into the Glasses.

 

Step 3: Trim the carnation stems, so you have a fresh cut. An angled cut is the best — this helps the flowers pick up water more quickly, so you can see results even sooner.

Trim the Carnations.

Trim the Carnations.

 

Step 4:  Set the carnation(s) into the cups. In a couple of hours, you’ll start to see some new colors appear in your white flowers. After a day, those colors should be vibrant!

NCM_2211

 

You can also experiment with splitting the stem of the carnations into two and placing each in a different colored cup.  The result is pretty fun!

“I’m Not An Engineer. How Do I Walk The Walk?”

At every event I attend, no matter how big or small, I get asked the same thing. It’s universal, and universally beautiful in its way; parent after parent, teacher after teacher, comes up to me and asks, “I’m not an engineer. How do I walk the walk?”

What they mean is, “How can I help my kid think about these things differently? How do I support them? How can I make a difference?”

Here’s a not-so-secret: I’m not an engineer either. I went to the school of hard knocks and got my degree in Rainmaking, but I could not have told you what an incline plane was a year ago. (It’s a ramp. Seriously).  I am here to tell you that walking the walk is not all that difficult. Most of the things we can do to support our kids are hidden in plain sight; they’re the kind of things that, when said out loud, feel so obvious.  In life and engineering, simplicity is king. So here we go:

A Very Important And Obvious List of Things You Can Do To “Walk The Walk”

1. Don’t default to male pronouns.

See what I mean? Obvious. Using a mix of pronouns in the way you talk about jobs and careers is the most basic thing you can do to support your kids in an understanding that anybody can do any dang thing they want. It’s a way of framing their thinking – by talking about engineers, architects, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, doctors, and whoever with female pronouns, you help undo the myth that women can’t or shouldn’t be these things.

Example:
Your kid: “I met a fire fighter at school today!”
You: “Great! What did she teach you?”

Tah-da!

2. Call it like you see it.

Parents basically become wallpaper, especially to our young kids. What we do is basic and ongoing background noise to their own inner lives, but we can and should totally use this as a way to describe the world to them in what might be the most influential way possible. So when you see a Female Police Officer, say, “Hey, check out that Female Police Officer! Isn’t her job cool?”

Sometimes people point out that by remarking on a woman doing a stereotypically male job, we as parents are making the fact that she’s doing that job an anomaly. I disagree. The world does enough of pointing out that women are supposed to be anomalies; by not saying anything, you’re letting the world do that work without correcting it. But by pointing out women doing cool and gender-role-defying things, and saying them as if it’s no big deal (“Isn’t her job cool?” instead of “Isn’t the fact that she’s doing that job cool?”) does the opposite.

 3. Seek out role models, and be one yourself

Out of necessity, my mother, a public school teacher and single mom, used to fix the roof, paint the house, replace the toilet, and snake the drain – she never said anything about it, but her doing these things provided an important role model for me. My mother could do these things herself; so could I.

And I do – but when there’s something I can’t manage (read: I already tried and made it worse), I do my best to find a woman to come in and do it for me. This is shockingly easy. The Internet is a beautiful, beautiful thing.  Female plumbers, electricians, painters… all at your fingertips (http://www.yelp.com/biz/womens-plumbing-repair-oakland).

We all know that our first exposure to anything or anyone sticks with us; these first impressions become our internal archetypes. The word “Pediatrician”, to me, will forever conjure up the image of Dr. Pulford; a sweet and wickedly funny man that soothed broken skin and hurt feelings with lollipops and knock-knock jokes.  To my kids, this word is connected to a hilarious and endlessly capable woman named Joy.  Similarly, though “engineer” always meant “pale, nerdy white guy” to me, my kids picture their Mama and her buddy, Debbie. Go figure

4. Let them own what they do and who they are.

For instance: when they hand you a drawing, say “you’re an amazing artist!”

When they build a bridge out of the random junk they find under their beds, say “You’re an engineer!”  Ask them to tell you about what they made, and why they made it. The words “tell me more about that” are surprisingly effective.

On top of this, watch your adjectives. Tell your daughters that they’re funny and smart, strong and courageous; tell your boys that they’re beautiful and kind, creative and loving. Arm yourself with a vocabulary that defies the things that the world will tell them about themselves, and they’ll understand that they can be all those things, and they’re all wonderful. After a recent lice-induced haircut (ugh), my 7 year old son started a sentence with the words “Now that my hair isn’t as silky and luxurious as it used to be…”

These things sink in, folks. They really do.

5. Don’t be afraid of overcorrecting.

You know how if you speak too softly, the wisdom around training your voice is to be much louder than you think is appropriate? It’s because there’s a gap between how you hear yourself and how the world hears you; what seems like an overcorrect to you won’t seem that way to the rest of the world. And the rest of the world is so full of messages around what girls and boys can and can’t be, what they are and aren’t.

Last Saturday night, I attended the closing ceremonies for my boys’ little league teams. After the raffles and ice cream, awards and trophies, the league erected a pop-up screen, and set up a projector. The sun went down, kids gathered on the lawn in the outfield, and they played a movie called “The Sand Lot.”

This is a movie about 5 boys that love baseball. Real Americana, right down to the scene where one boy hurls the worst insult possible to a member of the opposing team: “You throw like a girl.”

The kids sprawled around field around me giggled and moved on, but my blood boiled.  In the car on the way home, I pointed this injustice out to my boys..  I don’t want to be a kill joy, but COME ON.  They were one step ahead of me: “Yeah! That must have made Liliah feel mad, because she’s REALLY good!” Liliah, of course, is a hardcore slugger in the league, pink cleats and all.

So be vocal: call it like you see it.  The world will bring them back to center.

DIY of the Week: Marshmallow Shooter

Summer’s here! School’s out! Camp doesn’t last forever! So here’s something awesome to do when you’d like a fun, simple activity that can be a pretty awesome game. Today we made a marshmallow shooter! This requires minimal assembly and offered endless amounts of entertainment. We even made a game for further challenge, but the distance alone you get from these puppies will amaze both young and young and heart. Team Goldie sure had a blast!

What You Will Need:

Items Needed to Build A Marshmallow Shooter

Items Needed to Build A Marshmallow Shooter

  • Plastic, Disposable Cups
  • Balloons (metallic latex balloons seem to have the greatest stretch factor)
  • A Bag of Mini Marshmallows
  • Scissors
  • Rubber Band

 

Step 1:  Tie a knot in the balloon.

Tie a Knot in the Deflated  Balloon.

Tie a Knot in the Deflated Balloon.

 

Step 2: Snip off the rounded part of the balloon.

Carefully Cut the Rounded End Off of the Balloon.

Carefully Cut the Rounded End Off of the Balloon.

 

Step 3.  Carefully cut the end off of the cup.

With an Adults Help, Cut the Bottom Off of a Plastic Cup.

With an Adult’s Help, Cut the Bottom Off of a Plastic Cup.

 

Step 4. Stretch the balloon over the cup. We found this easiest to do over the lip of the cup, which offered more stability. Secure the balloon with a rubber band.

Stretch Balloon Over Lip of Cup and Secure with a Rubber Band.

Stretch Balloon Over Lip of Cup and Secure with a Rubber Band.

 

Step 6: Load a mini marshmallow into the launcher. We got the best distance with one marshmallow vs. a handful in the launcher at one time. Additionally, it helped to drop the marshmallow directly into the pocket created by the balloon knot. This gives the marshmallow a nice seat as it prepares to launch into space!

Load a Mini Marshmallow into the Shooter.

Load a Mini Marshmallow into the Shooter.

 

Step 7: LAUNCH! These little shooters don’t need much brawn to get those marshmallows flying high. We have a tendency to want to pull back as hard as we can to get the most force out of our launch, but too much pull can cause your creation to come undone. To avoid frustration, a simple tug at the knot is all you need.

Let it Fly!

Let it Fly!

 

 

Optional Marshmallow Launcher Game:

Mallow 9

While we’re sure there are boundless games that could be created from this simple launcher, we’d like to share one we created here at GoldieBlox headquarters.

What You Will Need:

Targets

  • GoldieBlox Pegboard
  • GoldieBlox Axles
  • GoldieBlox Blox
  • Pipe cleaner

 

Step 1: Insert a few axles into the pegboard. Attach blox to the end of each axle. To make a taller target, add another axle.

Inset Axels and Blox into the Pegboard.

Inset Axels and Blox into the Pegboard.

 

Step 2: String a pipe cleaner through the holes of one of your blox. Create various sized rings and secure the pipe cleaner with a knot. To make the ring stand up, make sure the knot is within the block (you might have to play with it a bit to make sure it stands up, but stand up it will).

Pipe Cleaners Inserted into the Blox and Made into Circles.

Pipe Cleaners Inserted into the Blox and Made into Circles.

 

Step 3: Step back and try to shoot your marshmallow through one of the rings. You can assign points to the rings for extra competition.

Hoops 3

Try to Shoot the Marshmallows Through the Rings!

We’d love to hear how you improved our game or came up with your own. Feel free to post pictures to our Facebook page! 

 

We Are Born With an Engineer Inside of Us

My wife, Yelena, and I had our first child last year.  Since the moment she arrived, our daughter, Katya (aka “Katinka,” no relation to the dolphin), keeps providing a constant stream of reminders that we are each born with a spark of creativity and curiosity.  That spark manifests itself a little differently from person-to-person, but turns each of us into little engineers.

As soon as we can focus our newborn eyes, we mentally catalogue our environment and start on the long path of discovering and understanding the world around us.  Early on, we’re scanning everything (and everyone) in our field of vision, eating, & giving some very broad feedback to our parents in cries, coos, and diapers. However, after a few months we have our legs under us, and crawling becomes the order of the day. Once we’re mobile, all of the observation that we’ve packed into our budding minds since birth becomes our roadmap for exploration of everything within our tiny grasp.  Like a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis, this is when we change from observant little scientists to pint-sized engineers.

Katya has been crawling for the past 6 ½ months.  It has been amazing to see how interacting with people, our pet cats, toys, and anything else within her grasp has helped to shape a personality on her own terms.  Sure, the stream of toys, coasters, board books, and the contents of the laundry basket that we accidentally left on the floor that she leaves in her wake seem random, but tangible learning is happening within this wake.  She yells into paper towel tubes and notices that her voice is amplified.  She knows that big pots make different noises than small pots when you bang on them with a spoon.  She realizes that beds, coffee tables, and my pant legs are all ways to pull herself to a standing position.  She’s also using her little pushcart like my grandmother used her walker.  She knows that the pushcart keeps her stable when trying out that walking on your feet thing that Mama and Daddy use to move around.  Her brain is constantly engineering solutions to getting around our house and devising new ways to play.  We, in turn, also occasionally discover that even the best designed child-proofing devices are no match for Katya’s growing knowledge of what’s possible.

Despite how awesome it is to be a new parent, one of the biggest tests of daddyhood is ensuring that I’m a guardian of my little engineer’s creative spark.  There are times after a long day at work when it’s a challenge to really want to encourage Katya’s digging through the toybox or playing with our multi-toned cookware, because I also realize the requisite cleanup required after she’s done. I counter this by reminding myself, “I get to take things apart, cut, drill, scribble notes on things, and generally make a mess of our design shop for a living.”  (OMG!  Tangible learning is part of my job!  Yay!)  Maybe my creative spark is reminding me what it was like to be my kid’s age?  It’s fun to think about it that way.  It makes all the great parts about parenting seem that much better.

Katya & Yelena visiting daddy at work

DIY of the Week: Bottle Rocket

Looking for something cool to do this summer while your kids are home from school? Check out this fun and easy bottle rocket that you can make using stuff you probably already have in your kitchen cabinet!

** This is an activity for outdoors in a spacious area. **

To make a simple bottle rocket you will need the following:

What you will need.

What you’ll need (or, possibly, the contents of our under-the-sink cabinet).

Bill of Materials:

  • An empty water bottle
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Toilet paper
  • A cork

Step 1: Poor about 1 inch of vinegar into the empty water bottle.

Vinegar

Pour vinegar into the empty water bottle.

Step 2: Pour a small amount of baking soda (about the size of a quarter) onto 2 squares of toilet paper. Fold the ends into the middle and roll shut, creating a time release capsule. When you drop this into the water bottle (don’t do this quite yet!), it’ll take a few seconds to begin to react, giving you time to set up your rocket and move away from the launch site so you don’t get bonked in the face with a bottle rocket.

Pour a small amount of baking soda onto the toilet paper.

Pour a small amount of baking soda onto the toilet paper.

Step 3: Outside, in a spacious area, drop the paper and baking soda wrap into the bottle. IMMEDIATELY cap with the cork. Stand the bottle on the cork and step back.

Step 4: BLAST OFF! Wait and watch. As the paper dissolves in the water, it slowly releases the baking soda, creating a chemical reaction that releases the gas that will power the rocket. You can click here to learn more about chemical reactions! Allow time for the paper to unravel mix the two ingredients, and stand well back from the bottle. On our first try, we thought we had mis-measured and caused a dud reaction, but to our surprise, it went off as we were going to reach for the bottle.

Check out a video of a bottle rocket launch on our Instagram! And of course we’d love to see your results — post pictures and video on our Facebook page.

 

Why All Moms Are Engineers (Yes, You Too)

All mothers are innovators. It’s part of the job description. The trick is learning to see ourselves that way. My personal “a-ha” came when I realized that, despite my lack of an engineering degree, I’m definitely an engineer.

I was crippled by insecurity when I came on-board at GoldieBlox. Amazing, talented, brilliant people from all over the world were reaching out to support us on our journey to inspire girls to embrace their true potential. I was surrounded by greatness, and I found myself stifling my voice. See, I didn’t graduate from Stanford or Harvard. I’ve never written a best-selling book. My code-writing days ended after I dabbled in BASIC in 3rd grade. I felt like an imposter in this world.

It took me almost a year to recognize that my natural inclination toward invention gave me all the street cred I need, and that my practical experience as a mother made me even more powerful. Granted, rigging my blow-dryer up above the diaper changing table isn’t quite the same as a tour of duty at the D School, but the white noise and warm air sure kept my newborn from screaming. Talk about user-centric design! I realized that these “mom-hacks” are life’s original engineering courses, no diploma offered or required.

Civil Engineering? I build a mean pillow fort. Mechanical Engineering? You should see the makeshift kid barrier I construct in the hallway on Christmas Eve. I installed a toilet by myself when I was 39 weeks pregnant. I had to; I broke the old one the day before when I was putting in new floor tiles.

So many women, moms in particular, don’t give ourselves due credit. We downplay our efforts, chalking them up to necessity; another day in the life of a mother, just doing what needs to be done. I think this undermines the real ingenuity and innovation that comes with being a parent. And I’d like for us to change the way we talk about it. Let’s encourage each other to recognize that we are so much more than the title we have at work, more than our appointed positions at the PTA. We are more than just another cog in the well oiled family machine that, quite often, we build ourselves.

I’ve learned not to limit myself by the confines of my professional experience. I’ve broadened my scope to include all of my strengths, the things that enrich the lives of the people I love, add color to my days, and magic to my work.

Ask me what I do for a living, and I’ll tell you about my awesome gig at GoldieBlox. Ask me simply what I do, and I’m likely to tell you I’m a writer, though I’ve never been published. I’m a photographer, though I’ve never been featured in a gallery. I’m a teacher, a psychologist, and a plumber. I’m a mother, and I’m an innovator.

I am all of these things, and I know I’m not alone.

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