Geocaching 11.22.15: Sunday Morning Treasure Hunt

Meilee and Shen sign the log in a geocache.
Meilee and Shen sign the log from our second geocache. I love everything about this shot: seeing my kids engaged in an activity that stretches their skills and sensibilities is awesome.

I took the kids geocaching and we’re hooked.

I’d heard about it a while back, but just hadn’t made the time for it. This weekend, I downloaded the Geocaching app, watched several of the orientation videos and enlisted the kids to go on a treasure-hunting adventure.

For the uninitiated, Geocaching is “the world’s largest treasure hunt.” It involves looking for hidden boxes that are cleverly hidden at coordinates throughout the world. Once you find the boxes or containers, you sign the log book, return the cache to its hiding place and move on. There is a culture, community and etiquette involved and it doesn’t take long to pick up the basics. Some of the geocaches also contain trinkets, toys and “trackables” and you can add something or trade – as long as you follow the protocol.

The kids and I started with two caches located in our neighborhood. Sunday was chilly but gloriously sunny. Shen was the navigator and Meilee was in charge of documenting the adventure with her point-and-shoot camera and with notes in her field journal (which came with her National Geographic Kids subscription).


on the trail
It took a few minutes for the kids to understand how to manage the compass embedded in the Geocaching app.
Through the branches
Sometimes, you have to search in areas off the trail or path.
Geocaches come in many shapes and sizes. This was was magnetic, so we knew we had look for magnetic surfaces. The fence got in the way, so we had to walk all the around it.
We found our way around the fence and started looking in the nooks and crannies of the guard rail.
We finally found the geocache. It was tiny and, according to other geocachers, an “easy find.” I guess it’s all relative. For our first geocache, we did pretty well.

Opening the cache:

The geocache
There were two tiny scrolls in the tube. We took turns signing our names.
Meilee signed her name.
Log 2
Shen signed his name and practiced writing the date.
Geocache 2
We chose a second geocache in our neighborhood. The location is hidden in a ravine. You’d never know it was there, but what a gift to be able to have a beautiful oasis amidst all the homes. A cat joined us in our search.
Urban woods
Meilee took over navigating and Shen had the camera for this round.
Meilee misread the compass and lead us to a search area opposite of where should have been. But it was a great (low-consequence) lesson to learn.
The Cat
We eventually realized we were in the wrong area and found our way to right hiding place. The cat was even more curious about our activities.
Found 2
This geocache contained a couple of trinkets. We added a few plastic spider rings leftover from Halloween.
We found it
Success again! Sometimes, people don’t find the geocache, so they will record it as “DNF” – did not find. On this day, we were two for two!

Kickstarter: Poppy 3D and iPhone

Shen is viewing a 3D movie through a Poppy device.
Shen is viewing a 3D movie through a Poppy device.

My friend Ethan Lowry and his co-developer, Joe Heitzeberg, launched a Kickstarter project for the Poppy, a device that turns your iPhone into a 3D camera. I backed the project at the $39 level and received my Poppy right after Christmas. The concept is reminiscent of the View-Master, which we all have probably played with as children. (The initial fundraising goal for Poppy was $40,000, but the project ultimately raised more than $190,000.) Poppy uses optics to create the 3D effect. You slip your iPhone into the slot and flip the front optics box and start shooting photos or video using the Poppy app. It’s an ingenious and affordable device that I thought would offer us a fun way to collaborate and create.





After Poppy started shipping, Ethan and Joe sent an email to all the Kickstarter backers inviting them to submit Poppy photos and videos for a chance to win another device. I had just purchased the Animation Studio kit, a box that transforms into a miniature set for a stop-motion movie, as a project for the kids. I thought it might be fun to use the Poppy to make a 3D stop-motion movie. Meilee and I had made a stop-motion movie in the past using Legos and the Stop Motion Studio iPhone app, but we certainly had not shot anything in 3D.

Animation Studio is a fold-out box that serves as a miniature movie set. The kit includes different backgrounds, a how-to book, and cut-out characters and props.

We decided to create a simple story using two Christmas ornaments and a gingerbread cookie. We shot it using the Poppy and then created the movie with the Stop Motion Studio app. Meilee proudly claims that she did the actual eating of the cookie. I ended up rendering two versions. In the original, the titles are hard to read and the pace is a little too fast. The second version has cleaner titles and a slightly slower pace. You can watch them as is to get a sense of the plot, but it’s best viewed through a Poppy, of course.

Version 1:

Version 2:

On New Year’s Day, we went to the beach near our house and shot this short movie about beach combing.

DIY Tiger Mom #FAIL


I bought inexpensive pedometers for the kids with the intention of recording the number of steps they take in a day for the following reasons:

  1. To teach the kids about tracking data over a period of time. (Science)
  2. To teach the kids about averages. (Math)
  3. To inspire a little healthy competition between the two of them and with themselves… (Determination/ambition/persistence)
  4. In order to to keep them from sitting still too long. An “active” person takes 10,000 steps per day. (Exercise)
  5. Because I track my data (sleep, exercise, heart rate, calories burned) with my Basis watch, I want my kids to share in this experience in a simpler way.

We’ve had the pedometers for five days. They have not worn them consistently (all day, every day, at the same time). And, somehow this afternoon, Meilee lost hers in the house. Or maybe outside. I don’t know.

The reason I even attempted this “project” was that before my husband accidentally put his pedometer in the washing machine, the kids would fight over who got to wear daddy’s pedometer. I thought I could shape that interest into a learning experience.

If this missing pedometer turns up, maybe we’ll try again.