I have 15 straight days of vacation time marked on my calendar in December and January — but they're for my kids.

I have 15 straight days of vacation time marked on my calendar in December and January — but they're for my kids.

Yes, beginning on Monday, they get to enjoy their Christmas and New Year's break from school. That's great for them, but a little trying for me, since I work mainly from my home office.

Luckily, I have a few mom tricks up my sleeve. I plan to keep them entertained, at least for a little while, with some craft projects that also provide a dose of science.

The first project is making paper snowflakes that actually resemble real snowflakes, not the squares peppered with random snips that usually get Scotch-taped to windows. To make a more realistic snowflake, remember that most have six evenly spaced points radiating from the center.

Here's how to make a six-pointed snowflake. Put an upside-down bowl on a piece of paper and trace out a circle. Cut out the circle and fold it in half. Then take that half-circle and fold it into thirds. You should end up with a triangle that has a point for a top and a curve for a base. The pointy tip will become the center of your snowflake.

Visit the California Institute of Technology's snowflake science website at www.snowcrystals.com to find pictures of snowflakes to serve as inspiration. There's also interesting information there about how snowflake crystals grow into hexagonal shapes around tiny dust particles, then begin sprouting their signature six arms.

Taking your folded paper triangle, sketch the silhouette of half an arm on each of the triangle's two straight edges, remembering that the arms need to be radiating away from the triangle's pointed tip.

Finally, cut around your sketch marks and then unfold your snowflake. I like to flatten freshly cut snowflakes in heavy books, then tape on thread and hang them from ceilings, window sills and ceiling fans.

The second craft project that combines science with art involves making construction paper or felt bird ornaments.

Construction paper is, of course, easier for kids or adults who don't have rudimentary sewing skills.

Start by gathering images of common winter birds in Oregon from field guides or off the Internet. Some common backyard birds are Oregon juncos, chickadees, house finches or purple finches, scrub jays, spotted towhees and flickers. The more complicated the feather pattern, the more difficult the bird ornament will be to make, so I would recommend starting out with an Oregon junco or a chickadee, especially if you are working in felt.

Make a silhouette of the bird you choose using its most common feather color. For example, I made a chickadee and started with gray felt. Then cut out other colored layers to go on top of the base color. For my chickadee, I added black and white for its head, then a tan patch for its tummy area. To make it more three-dimensional, I added a gray wing as the top layer.

If you made a construction paper bird, just tape on a loop of silver or gold-colored embroidery thread and your ornament is ready to hang.

For a felt bird, cut another silhouette in your base color, sew it partially onto the backside of your felt bird, leaving a hole to stuff in some cotton fluff. Stuff it, sew up the hole, sew on a loop, and your little bird is ready to take its place on your Christmas tree.

Reach reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or vlaldous@yahoo.com.