Finn’s Geology Party

DSC00469Each day in the past month since Finn’s birthday, I’ve looked at the large papier-mâché boulder still out on the patio and felt the burden of what I haven’t done: post party pictures. 

Of rocks. Lots of rocks. Big ones and little ones, colorful ones and black and gray ones, real ones and pretend ones.

Outside the front door, Finn welcomed guests for his geology party with hand-painted pictures of limestone, pyrite, obsidian, aluminum, scoria, graphite, crysocolla, and turquoise.

And an exploding volcano, of course.

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Inside, we hung a lava rock banner — thanks to a couple of my students who offered their artistic skills after school.

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And then there were the real rocks.

Some waited in buckets for the kids;…

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…others were just on display, both outside…
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girls at party table
…and inside:
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Although everyone laughed at me, I even made rock napkin holders. They were a cute idea, but not very practical, as the heavy stones wouldn’t remain facing upwards. It was a shame, considering the amount of time I spent cleaning the rocks and then gluing them to little rings I made out of pipe cleaners. Ah, well. Maybe I’ll use them again sometime???
 Not likely.
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But our geology library… what could be more practical? It included some of Finn’s own heavily-used books as well as others I purchased as party favors — to hopefully be read again and again. We had rock and mineral guides, pop-ups about volcanoes, books about gems, minerals, rock collecting, the rock cycle, and the study of geology in general. Among them were National Geographic books, Magic School Bus books, and Let’s-Read-and-Find-Out Science books. My favorite of them all, though, was the poetically written and beautifully illustrated A Rock is Lively.

  DSC00439DSC00454 We had rocks on the food table, too. Well, the edible kind. My igneous rock cookies were pretty authentic looking, and tasted somewhat better than actual rocks might. I think.

DSC00446   The Earth’s Crust pudding didn’t turn out quite as well, however, since the layers didn’t stack properly. But I couldn’t stop staring at the colorful chocolate pebbles on top.

DSC00445   People definitely dug into the strata lasagna and sedimentary sandwiches…

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…and they shoveled down the quartz and geode salad:

DSC00448  But the “fruit-rock cave” was the sight to behold. My sister Sunshine, who used to co-own a vegan raw foods restaurant on South Beach, is a master carver. She created a fruit dino for last year’s paleontology party and a fruit robot the year before that. This year, she became a jeweler: watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew, and pomegranate gems overflowed like treasure from inside of a sweet cave lit by tiny, battery-operated tea-lights:

DSC00441 My metamorphic rock garden was pretty convincing, I think, but the spinach parmesan balls and purple, red, and white fingerling potatoes looked more like everyday river rocks than colorful gems:

DSC00441_2Most of the action, though, wasn’t inside at the table, but outside. First, we discussed the difference between sedimentary and metamorphic rocks with a little playdoh activity:

play-doh Finn with play-doh

Then we moved into igneous territory and erupted a  volcano. Or struggled to, anyway. Despite the many hours of work Keith put into building one out of chicken wire, papier-mâché, and paint, it sat dormant at first… until he made a couple of adjustments and we finally saw some lava and ash clouds:

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After the eruption, each child received a magnifying glass and a bucket filled with rocks buried in sand. Two at a time, they poured their buckets into handmade sifters and ran them through water to uncover finds such as banded amethyst, quartz points, red carnelian, black onyx, petrified wood, and pyrite.

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Once the kids separated and cleaned their rocks and minerals, they began their closer scientific study. First they compared their specimens to those in a 3D touchable rock display I put together, looking for matches. Then they filled out their identification charts.

DSC00453DSC00506DSC00510DSC00508When finished, the young geologists ran off to other adventures.

They climbed a bigger but definitely dormant volcano,…

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…they tossed around a huge boulder until it cracked,…

skye and summer w boulder

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…and they decorated rocks at the craft table with their own artistic touches.

IMG_0783 I thought it was going to be impossible to get them all back together for cake, but the truth is that whenever my sister Ilianna and her husband Brian do the baking, it’s always a pièce de résistance! For Finn’s second birthday, it was a bright red fire truck; for his fourth, the sun’s entire solar system; for his fifth, a two-and-a half-foot WALL-E robot; last year it was a fossilized but roaring dinosaur. This time, who could resist running to see this incredible sedimentary masterpiece?

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It was quite a challenge to neatly slice through the thick piles of sweet strata, but with the proper tools and lots of precision, we chiseled through layer upon layer of vanilla, red velvet, and spiced cake, chocolate brownie, butterscotch frosting, oreo crumbles, sugar wafer cookies, and I’m not sure what else. It was the funniest, strangest, most unique combination of flavors — a special compression of so many different things that came together over time and through hard work to form something solid, something fascinating, something new. It was like the party itself, a composite of colorful ideas and effort. It was like Finn, growing inch by inch more multi-faceted each year. It was like parenting, growing sweeter and more complicated every moment — like layers upon layers of gem-filled rock.

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