School Projects

Fun Projects

Monday, September 1, 2014

Success in the End

 Last week I posted about my aborted attempt to do the "Annual Stepping Stone Project".  I'm still not certain how I so terribly under-estimated my supply purchase, but I think I'll blame the kids: they distracted me at a critical mathematical moment.  It is at least a good working theory, since it takes the blame away from me.  Anyway, last week the two boys and I made their stepping stones while the girls watched.  Smallest son absolutely refused to stretch out his fingers and squash them into the mud, so before he had time to think about it I grabbed his foot and stomped that into the cement.  He will never trust his mother again.
 Still, I got a good print and eventually Cam recovered enough to push in the decorative stones (without getting his fingers dirty).
After 8 times, Ian could probably do this project on his own now.  He waited patiently for the mold to be filled, made a perfect hand print, carefully wrote in his name and age, and then neatly added his decorative pieces.  It is a sign that there is hope for his future.
 After a week of waiting (and hoping, and asking about trips to Hobby Lobby, and reminding) the girls finally got their turn.  They had fun - except for when Cam tried to "help".
Everything went smoothly this time around, and a new set of stones has been added to my garden border - just in time for the end of the gardening season.
Happy Labor Day (and stepping stone making), everyone!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oh Bother

Well, we are back from our family vacation to Yellowstone and I really should be back on track, but I'm not.  I'm getting that "SUMMER IS ALMOST OVER AND WE NEVER DID......" feeling; not to mention feeling a little stressed that I still have a bit of preparation to do so that I will be ready to start school next Tuesday.  Sigh.....this happens every August, so you'd think I'd have some list or other prepared to handle it, but I don't.

Today, the plan was to do our annual "Make Stepping Stones" project and then play in the pool and eat popsicles and try to stay cool during the first heat wave of the summer.  Well, first it was foggy, then rainy, then looked like rainy all morning.  We couldn't make the stepping stones or play in the pool because of the lightening.  Finally, after nap time, the weather cleared up and we headed out to do our project.  It was then that I realized I had made a big mistake: I had incorrectly remembered the sizes of my stepping stone molds and consequently under-estimated the amount of cement mix I need - by half.  Uffda.  So, we decided to let the boys make their stepping stones today (Because Cam, the baby, was very impatient and a boy) and the girls would make theirs when I got more mix.  I'll share all the pictures then.  If you still want to see stepping stone pictures, you can look at the projects from the last few years here, here, and here.

Happy end of summer, everyone.

Monday, August 4, 2014

June and July Ponding

August is here! Can you believe it?  We leave on our road trip to Yellowstone National Park and other points West on the morning of the third day from now (I know that sounds a bit like I am talking out of Lord of the Rings, but really it is how I am trying to stay sane while being asked constantly "WHEN ARE WE GOING CAMPING???").  Between preparing for the trip and spending a lot of time with family this past weekend, there hasn't been a lot of projecting going on.  However, I do have two months of pond visits to review, so prepare to see a lot of cattails.  Before we do that, though, you have to protect yourselves from the mosquitoes because they have been so bad this summer I am almost convinced they will fly through the screen at you!
Week 24 - Early June - all the plants were growing very fast.  Week by week we tried to figure out which person the cattails had grown taller than - first Cam, then Brynn, eventually Mommy and even Daddy.
Week 25 - we had a lot of rain, so the pond was overflowing. 
My usually dry vantage point for taking pictures was well underwater:
And this was also the week we discovered that the pond contains leeches (or blood-suckers if you prefer).  Thankfully we did not discover this by going wading!
Frogs are much friendlier.
Week 26
Missed Week 27 due to Independence Day activities
Week 28
This is the week that the mosquitoes got really bad.  Despite uncomfortably warm skin-coverage AND large doses of bug spray, our observational period lasted about two minutes, because I actually inhaled a mosquito.  The kids tried to be good sports but it really was miserable.
Week 29 - there's a kid in this photo - can you see him?
There he is!
Week 30 - the weather was drier in July, so the pond water level is getting lower and lower and the kids are venturing out onto the mud a bit further each week.
Week 31 - the water is almost gone, there are frogs everywhere, but a lot fewer mosquitoes, so today's visit to the pond lasted a bit longer then the past few.
 Despite her best efforts, I managed to keep Blair from dunking herself in the muck.  That girl!
Happy August everyone!  I'll see you again in a few weeks, when I am recovered from our "vacation."

Monday, July 28, 2014

Vacation Tee Shirt Saga

You know how when you have had a big event planned for a long time, and you feel like you have all the time in the world to get ready for it (like Christmas) and then suddenly the big thing is only a week and a half away and there isn't much time at all?  Well, that's what happened to me again this summer, and the big thing is our road trip out to Yellowstone National Park.  So, this weekend I started assembling my lists: things to pack, things to do before leaving, things that need to be ready for when we get back, things that need to go on other lists that I haven't thought of yet......

But don't worry, this post isn't about lists of things to do, it's a post about one thing I managed to get done for our trip, despite a number of setbacks along the way.  So, here's the story:  
I thought it would be fun for the kids to have themed tee shirts for this trip.  Since my husband keeps track of our kids in public by counting them, I thought that putting their number in the birth order on the back would be a helpful element for him, while on the front I would put a little reminder of their chosen "Thing I Really Want to See in Yellowstone."  My plan was to create stencils to set on top of the shirts and then use bleach in a spray-bottle to give the area that was uncovered by the stencil a sort of tie-dye affect.  It seemed simple enough.  Turns out it wasn't.  Here's my first effort:
Even a little bleach goes a long way, and simply setting a stencil on top of the shirt did not stop the bleach from bleeding through underneath.  I re-thought my method a bit - mostly using significantly less bleach - but the results still weren't great.
At about this point I realized that I was either going to have to spend a lot more money on this project or I was going to have to work with what I had.  The lower price tag and lower labor convinced me that option number two was superior and I pulled out my Sharpies to solve my problems.  Thankfully my Sharpie collection contained markers that almost perfectly matched each of the four tee shirts, and I simply colored over the bleached out parts of the numbers.
For the front part of the tee shirt I gave up on the idea of stencils altogether.  I just sprayed it with bleach (in a couple of stages so that I didn't overdue it again) and then wrote out the words with Sharpies.
The tee shirts turned out totally different from my original vision, but that didn't seem to worry the children at all.  They are all getting more and more excited about our trip!
From left to right: "I want to see the Upper and Lower Falls", "Yellowstone Valley", "Old Faithful", and "Bears".
And now I better get back to those lists!
Happy road tripping everyone!

Friday, July 25, 2014

The First Lemonade Stand

Summer is just flying by, isn't it?  This week, the kids talked me into having a lemonade stand in our front yard.  It was their first step into the business world and they were hoping to earn "tons and tons of money" so that they could each buy a camera before we leave for vacation to Yellowstone National Park in about two weeks.  
First, we made signs (I wrote them so that potential customers could actually read them and then the kids pumped them up with color).
Then they set up shop at the end of our driveway.  

We live on a fairly busy road, so I was hopeful that we'd get a drive-through customer or two, but after the first hour of selling the only customer was me and the kids were rather disappointed.  However, things perked up after that with a few cars stopping, some bicyclists pausing in their journey, and all our generous neighbors walking up and even tipping.  At the end of the day, after waving and smiling for almost three and a half hours, they decided they were hungry enough for supper to close up shop.  Grandpa Steve and Mrs. Ore arrived just in time to get the last cups of lukewarm lemonade and round out the money-making part of the venture at about $10!  That's big money to little kids!
Happy lemonade drinking and summertime relaxing everyone!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Weekend Treat-Making

Pinterest has such delightful looking recipes, doesn't it?  I've made quite a few of them myself, and they have all turned out just fine.  This weekend, however, I experienced my first "Pin-saster."  Here is the story: I went to Aldi and found strawberries for a really good price, so I bought a lot.  Then I needed to figure out what to do with them, besides make jam that my kids won't eat, so I turned to Pinterest.  Up popped a number of recipes for "Oven-Dried Strawberries" with lovely pictures that looked like candy/fruit snacks:
Image found here
The recipes were all pretty similar: Bake for three hours at 210 degrees.  Friends, the smell was delightful!!!!  I was very nearly drooling by the time the dried berries came out of the oven.  Sadly, they looked nothing like the pictures - they looked like this:
And they weren't dry either - they were just softer and maybe a bit jelly-ish.  They did taste good to me, although opinions among the rest of the clan were mixed, so it is unlikely I will ever waste three hours on that one again.

To comfort ourselves after that botched treat, we made something else yummy over the weekend.  The girls had great fun making their first batch of Monkey Bread.  It turned out just as sticky and tasty as you could hope for.
Cam like his with his first very own mug of coffee.....
which two minutes after this picture was taken ended up dumped into his breakfast cereal.
You win some, you lose some.

Happy baking and treat-making, everyone!

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Project At the End of the Camping Trip

This past weekend we spent camping in southeastern Iowa - Lacey-Koesaqua State Park to be exact.  "But Dana," you say, "camping isn't a project.  Camping is an adventure.  Camping is fun.  Camping is RELAXING.  Camping is not a project."  To which I would kindly respond: "You are wrong.  Camping is most definitely a project."  Still, if you persist in your notion that camping is a project, then you can scroll through the photos of the camping trip until you get to the end and find the photos of the project at the end of the camping trip.
 On Saturday we visited the Civil War Battlefield of Athens, Missouri.  We even got a private tour!  Then we had lunch in their lovely picnic shelter (Camping lunches are projects - see?  I told you so.)
Next it was on to a Burlington Bees Minor League Baseball Game.  (Note: taking children to baseball games counts as a project - think of all the bathroom trips).  The game ended up getting called due to rain, after a VERY impressive lightening show.  There was a lot of rain (even a tornado warning), but thankfully our tent stayed nice and dry.
The next morning we had breakfast in the soggy campsite, and then began to put all the damp stuff back in the van (see, yet ANOTHER project).
Then we squeezed in a quick walk in the woods before hitting the road for home.
And now we have reached the portion of the posts that all you skeptics will have to acknowledge is a real project: Cleaning Up After the Camping Trip.
Tent parts and sleeping bags need to be dried and aired out.
Other damp paraphernalia also needs to be de-mudded, de-bugged and dried out.
And, of course, there are piles and piles of laundry to wash, dry and put away.
But, as consolation for all this projecting, I discovered that my raspberries bushes are just starting to produce, so I took a little snack break before writing this blog post.
Happy camping, everyone!