Being Too Busy is Really Being Greedy

Spring Fun

Spring Fun

Mrs.  Brainiac back with the answer to last week’s math problem. Last week, we discussed how Jolene Brainiac has been nagging Mrs. Brainiac to post her Friday blog updates. “Come on, Mom. It’s not that hard to share some creative thoughts about Maker Space and science projects, maybe something about turning failure into success or how to engage kids’ natural curiosity about science by providing meaningful activities that spark enthusiasm about learning.”

Blah, blah, blah, Brainiac Jolene.

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

The common denominator is “H” which stands for Husband Brainiac Jerry. So, even though I freed up a great deal of time by eliminating a bunch of other activities, I still have the Head Brainiac around. So, we have been traveling, working on Brain Brigade projects, bike riding and pretty much just having a good old time.

I hope this explains why I was too busy to post my blog. I was having Too Much Fun.

The blog wasn’t the only area of my responsibilities that was neglected due to having Too Much Fun. I forgot to empty the kitchen compost container and it sort of took on a life of its own.

Compost Fun

Compost Fun

So how do we get away from all this talk of being too busy and overwhelmed by all our activities and responsibilities? How do we slow down and smell the roses?

Part of the problem is we need to “learn to say no.” We all know that already but yet we continue to say “yes.” Let’s delve into that. Why is it so hard to say “no” when someone asks for help with a project, or to volunteer for an activity or even just to meet up with the girls and have coffee? We say “yes” and then spend the next week complaining or stressing that we should have said no. We even say, “I need to learn to say “no.””

Revelation coming: We don’t say “no” because we really do want to do whatever it was! True! We want to do those things, whether volunteering for a worthy cause or visiting with friends. What we don’t want to do is spend our valuable time doing these things. Confused?

Let me say that again. We actually do want to volunteer at the local charity fundraiser. But we want to sit around and watch TV or read a book more than we want to work at the fundraiser. And, you can’t have it all.

The reason you can’t say “no” is because it’s stuff that matters. So, we need to “learn to say no to the things we want to do.” Not all of them, but enough that we can de-stress and relax a bit.

It’s sort of like wanting too many things (being greedy). I think we can probably agree that it’s okay to want things, a nice car, decent home, a meal out once in a while. But can we all agree that we shouldn’t get everything we want? If we get everything we want, we would have nothing to look forward to. We already have it all. It’s GREEDY.

It’s the same thing with wanting to do all the activities that are available to you (again, being greedy). So go ahead and do some volunteering, read some books, hang out with friends or family. But realize that sometimes you have to say “no” to the things you want to do in the interest of getting to ENJOY the other things you are doing. Don’t be GREEDY.

And right now, I’m enjoying writing this blog. And I said “no” to something else I wanted to do (which was making myself a snack). And next time I tell you I’m too busy, feel free to tell me to quit being greedy.

Florida Fun

Florida Fun


Maker Monday: When Life Gives you Lemons…Make a Fire?

Do you remember when I told you that my family is crazy…I mean full of creativity and collaboration? We often spur each other on to try new things. To be curious. To work hard on solving problems. To dig for answers. Well, my dad’s birthday rolled around and we had a family party that involved lemons. Zinc nails. Copper nails. Wire. And fire. Well…let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The question: Can you really start a fire from a lemon?


Spreading like wildfire {ha! pun intended!} around social media was a video of NorthSurvival (as it turns out this is a hoax! He makes advertising money from this video.). NorthSurvival demonstrates how to use a lemon and some other odds and ends to start a fire. My sister, Amanda, showed up to the birthday party with a bag full of fun to test this method out. She and her family had started the experiment earlier in the day but couldn’t get it to work, so she brought in more of the {crazies} family members to give it a whirl.

First you’ll need a lemon, zinc nails, copper or brass nails or brads, wire, insulated wire, toilet paper, and steel wool. I know. You’re already wondering how you’re going to find these items when you’re in a desperate survival situation. Trust me, you’re not going to need them. You’ll be better off digging up a battery and giving it a shot. {Side note: I haven’t tried the battery trick yet, but when I do, you’ll be the first to see my results!}

Lemon Lemon1

You can watch the video for the details on how to build it.

We tried. And we tried. And we tried some more. We switched out the copper nails with brass brads (because it looked like that might be what he was using). We tried different wire, different conductors, longer wire, shorter wire, more toilet paper and steel wool, less steel wool and toilet paper. We tried using a new lemon. We rotated through the family. It sat on the table and family members hovered over this mess for hours trying to ignite the toilet paper. We did measure 0.5 volts using a voltmeter, but it wasn’t nearly enough to get a fire started.


After hours of work on this, I finally decided to turn to the trusty internet I scoured websites looking for people who were successful in this method. I found not a single person who had tried it and reported failure. I read comments. I read websites. I found one website that listed it on the very bottom of ways to start a fire…but I don’t think they actually tried it.

And then Mrs. Brainiac on the hunt finally found a video explaining that NorthSurvival was a hoax! See the video below. Next time we’ll light the birthday candles with matches.

If you want to try an easy hands-on project using electricity that actually works, check out our Light Up 3D Washington Monument! There’s no hoax here!

Friday Follies: Lego Love

Legos®. Those colorful, creative little bricks that kids love to tinker with. It takes grit and persistence to build a project out of these little guys. It’s all the stuff kids enjoy. Problem solving, trial and error, risk taking. They use their own special engineering design process, they make mistakes, have failures that set them back and then, success! Tada! You made a robot. Or a tractor. Or something that looks awesome even though I have no idea what it is. The important thing is that you know what it is. And what it does.

It’s Mrs. Brainiac back for some Friday Fun! Today, she will share some Lego® love. Note that Jerry Brainiac loves Legos®, Mrs. Brainiac’s relationship with Legos® is ambivalent.

The most fun thing about creating with Legos® is actually a secret. A secret that only adults know. The odds of a budding Lego engineer reading this blog are slim to none so I feel confident I can reveal that secret here. Ready? Kids don’t know that when they are having fun with Legos® it’s actually a learning experience. Yes, just like school. And kids like learning. And math. And science. Yes, kids like math and science if it masquerades as fun.

Kids don’t know that it takes grit and persistence to build a project out of Legos®. They don’t know they are using problem solving, trial and error, risk taking. They don’t know they are using an engineering design process.  They don’t even realize that they’re making mistakes, learning from them and that’s why they successfully complete a project. They think they are just “playing with Legos®.”

Bonus “fun” is making a robot out of Legos® and then programming it to function. Make it go frontward and backward or speed up or turn. When a kid has “fun” programming Legos®, it’s possible that when that kid grows up, he or she might get a “fun” job programming computers. And that’s the secret some adults don’t know. You can have fun at work if you do something you enjoy that challenges you and offers variety and keeps your brain exercising.

But Legos® aren’t always fun. Jerry Brainiac has thousands of Legos. These Legos are all over Mrs. Brainiac’s house. Mrs. Brainiac doesn’t wear shoes in the house. You see where this is going.

Sometimes Mrs. Brainiac helps Jerry Brainiac at school events. Hundreds of kids attend and they learn to make and program Lego® robots. Thousands of Legos® and hundreds of kids. Kids with colds during the winter. Billions of germs on the thousands of Legos®. Mrs. Brainiac didn’t have Legos® when she was a little girl and doesn’t understand the attraction. All she thinks about are the germs. But she helps the kids anyway. Sometimes the kids have to show Mrs. Brainiac how to put them together right. And that’s good because you retain more information when you teach it to others. So teaching Mrs. Brainiac how to build Legos® helps you retain information. You’re welcome, kids.

Now let’s program the Lego® robots. The program uses pictures instead of words so kids that don’t read well can still do great programming. Once a little boy fresh from China was visiting and he picked up programming right away even though he didn’t know any English at all. So if a child is struggling with reading or language barriers, gaining some success and confidence from programming Legos® can be a good thing.

Computer Programmer!

Computer Programmer!

If Mrs. Brainiac can find educational value in Legos® then EVERYONE should be able to. So, get the kids going and have some fun with Legos®.  Your brain will thank you. And when your child grows up to be an engineer, you may thank Mrs. Brainiac for sacrificing the soles of her feet to the Lego® brick gods.


Friday Follies: We’re taking on 3D Projects!


Collaborating to make foam rockets!

I love collaborating with my dad on our projects because he encourages my own risk taking and creativity. Case in point, we’ve been crazy for our LED projects. First we created two different Christmas holiday cards (1, 2). Then we thought, “What if we make a Valentine’s card?” So we upped our LED game and created a pop-up and light-up valentine. I love the challenge of creating a pattern and wiring it to form something completely unique.

Because the pop-up valentine card wasn’t quite enough, I decided to push the boundaries.


So I decided to attempt 3D paper projects that light up with LEDs!

We’re in the prototype phase of our first 3D project and I can’t wait to show it to you. It will be debuted at the Wisconsin Parents Association Conference in May. We will be attending this show and giving away 250 of these light up 3D marvels. I cannot wait! {If you check back, I’m pretty sure we’ll be posting the finished project once it’s ready!}

Our family is full of collaborators. It’s one of the things that really makes our family unique. And fun. And crazy. Really crazy. We tend to be all in. Maybe a bit obsessive.

But when we get together, ideas are exchanged and we are off! Late last year we hosted a fundraiser for a little boy who was an orphan in China, he was *finally* paired with a family {one of my three sisters hosted him for one month in 2014}. His family was selected and he was on the fast track home. We wanted to help out, so we decided to throw together a fundraiser. In three weeks. We skyped. We texted. We emailed. We phone conferenced. We. Went. To. Work.


Perfect excuse for some chalkboard advertising!

Actually, we obsessed.

But three weeks after the initial meeting – we threw a huge party and raised almost $2,000 for Daniel to come home to his new family.

What I loved about our project is that we had the initial idea and quick work gave us a donated location from Jessica. We had exceptional organization from Sue and Amanda. We didn’t miss a single detail because Kendra watched to make sure we didn’t drop the ball. I offered up my design skills for advertising. We all chipped in to create additional products for sale {the men included! Shout out to the men in our lives who put up with us and even encourage our wild ideas.}.


Photo booth at the Pajama Party with Santa! The answer is YES. {I already know your question.} I told you already. WE GO ALL OUT. So that meant wearing *matching* elf pajamas. In public. For the children, of course.

Little Daniel made it home about two weeks ago to a home with big sisters, a mom and dad, and dogs! He loves dogs! We plan to visit the whole family later this summer {on a full family trip}.


Daniel and me just doing a little selfie!

Although we build our products with the classic classroom or homeschool lesson in mind, we really develop products because we love to explore and learn more. We do hands on learning in all facets of life. We believe your family would enjoy doing the same.