I’m not sure what it is about rainy afternoons that turns children into antsy, climbing-the-walls creatures. By mid-afternoon on Monday, I was ready to climb the walls with them, my restlessness brought on mostly from listening to their whining, arguing and just general discontent. We needed to do something! And not just read books, or play with toys or watch a video… those weren’t going to cut it. Not on this day of Rainy Day Blues. No, we had to do something special.
So, I dug into our craft closet and dug out one of Thomas’ Christmas presents – a Smithsonian Science set from his grandmother. It included the makings of three different science projects – I decided we would create the loved-by-children-everywhere volcano. Now, I assumed from looking at the cover and reading the contents that it included a “formed” volcano, and that all we had to do was paint it, and some ingredients and then, voila! Instant entertainment.
I was wrong.
After hyping the children up about our volcano, and giving them the impression that after a quick paint job we’d be creating lava flows in no time, we took the box out to the kitchen and opened it up. Instead of a pre-formed volcano, I found two circles of cardboard, a plastic tube with spikes on the top, some string, paint and then two balls of plaster of paris tape – yup, the same stuff they use to cast your broken arm or leg. That was our volcano. Apparently, we were building it from scratch.
Alright, not a big deal. We’re no stranger to messes in our house! I told the children the new plan, that we were going to build the volcano ourselves, to which announcement they cheered. We covered the table in newspaper and got to work. After turning the cardboard, plastic tube and string into a base, we started slowly adding the pieces of plaster. Painstakingly slow. And, as it turns out, I was the only one willing to get my hands dirty – since both Thomas and Ashley have quite an aversion to getting anything sticky on their hands. So, Thomas cut the pieces of dry plaster, and I soaked them and added them to our volcano. Ashley cheered us on.
Finally, almost an hour later, the volcano was completed. Well, I should say the volcano was formed, but still wet. The instructions clearly stated not to try and paint (or use) the volcano until the plaster was perfectly dry. What they didn’t mention was how long the drying process would take. We dug out the hair dryer and blew hot air on the thing for a good fifteen minutes. The children were getting antsy. “How much longer Mommy? I want to paint it!” I told them we had to give it time to dry, so we would take a break, watch a movie and come back and paint it before supper.
An hour later, the thing was still damp. We dug out the hair dryer again and attacked it for probably another fifteen to twenty minutes. The questions were turning more into impatient whines, “Mommy, I want to paint it, NOW! It doesn’t need to dry!” So much for a quick, rainy day project that would cure the whinies. It was nearing supper time. I told Thomas to take a turn holding the dryer, which he thought was great fun – for all of thirty seconds.
We ate our supper on the living room floor that night, as the table was still covered in wet, dirty newspaper and a damp-plaster volcano. The children, had given up. They had come to the conclusion that their mother was a liar, and there was not going to be a volcano that day. They had stopped whining and moved on to indifference. I however, was determined that we were going to have a volcanic explosion, come… well you know the saying.
After supper, I attacked that volcano with a vengeance, the hair dryer on full heat, held a mere inch from the surface. Slowly the plaster turned from a damp grey, to a dry white. Finally, hours after we started, the volcano was ready to paint. The children ran into the room with renewed excitement and faith that they might actually get to “make a volcano”.
We painted fast, dabbing the paint on with sponges. Knowing bedtime was fast approaching, we whipped out the hair dryer yet again, to help speed up the paint drying process. The children’s excitement was mounting, and my husband tried to keep them contained while I desperately dug around in my cupboards looking for baking powder, soda, vinegar and food coloring.
My husband, honoring the hours of work we had put into this “simple” project, held the video camera, finger ready to press the record button. We poured in the powders and coloring, and finally… the vinegar. At long last – success! We had a volcanic eruption of red lava trailing it’s way down the side of our very brown and green volcano, pooling onto the bath towels we had laid on the table. “Again, again!” the children cried, over and over.
In the end we made the volcano erupt countless times. I went through half of a large bottle of vinegar and countless scoops of soda, and bedtime was missed by a good thirty minutes. Simple, rainy day fun at it’s best.