School Projects

Fun Projects

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Birthday Cake Pinterest Style

This past weekend we celebrated Cameron's first birthday.  He's survived despite his siblings for a year now, and it seemed like a good time to celebrate with some cake.  I like to make fun cakes for my kids' birthdays, so when I saw this one all over Pinterest it seemed like the way to go:
True to form, I saw the idea and figured I could wing it.  It never even occurred to me that you might need special bakeware to make the dot parts of the cake.  When Saturday morning arrived, Brynnie and I got down to the serious business of cake making.  She was very excited.  It was at this point that I actually read the instructions on this blog and discovered that I was supposed to have a cake pop pan.  Well, I wasn't about to run out to the store and buy a new pan, so I came up with my own substandard method.
First, we mixed up a white cake mix and divided it into fourths.
I've never used gel food coloring before, but the colors were so bright that I think it is what I will be using from now on.
Second, we made mini-muffins.  This was my substandard substitute for cake pops.  In the end it worked out okay, but the polka dots were more muffin-shaped then perfectly round.  You win some, you lose some. We baked them just until they were set and then let them cool completely.
Third, we made the cake layers.  Brynn spooned a little bit of white cake batter into the bottom of the round pans, and then we arranged the different colored muffins in a random pattern.  Next, we spooned the rest of the batter over each muffin, so they were all covered.  Once the layers were baked and cooled, we frosted the whole thing.  From the outside the cake looked pretty ordinary.
Inside, though, the polka dots were a fun surprise.
Cameron was very pleased with how the cake tasted and made a perfectly delightful mess.  We finally got a kid who ate his 1 year birthday cake - all the others wouldn't touch theirs.
Happy Birthday, Little Man.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Living Room Update

Spring break (spring being a relative term) is over and we are trying to get back on schedule.  It's always a bit tricky getting going again after the kids have some time off from their normal routine, but I have something to look at the helps get rid of a little of my post-vacation grumpiness.  Here's the story:
Back a few months now, we gutted and re-did the middle portion of our house.  Shortly before the new carpet was scheduled to be installed, my brother-in-law was putting on the base trim.  Since we weren't planning on using a base shoe (the little extra piece that is attached to the trim right at floor level), he called the carpet people and asked if he needed to leave a gap, and if so how much.  The person he talked to said "3/4 inch" and there was no doubt in that person's mind - I could overhear the conversation.  So, my BIL followed instructions, and did a lovely job with the trim.  Then, the carpet guys came and put in the carpet, and guess what?  That gap was WAY too big.  Thanks for NOTHING Home Depot.  As you can see from the pictures, there is a fairly obvious gap.
We couldn't take all that trim off and re-install it - there would be nail holes and broken pieces and any number of other problems - and there wasn't technically anything wrong with the carpet installation, so the only solution was to go and buy and stain and install a base shoe to cover the gap.
This weekend Aaron finished installing the last piece (as well as the last of the window casings).  Doesn't that look so much better?
It really does make me more cheerful to see the project moving another step closer to completion.  All that is left to do is put the temporary linoleum floor in the entryway, hang the curtain rods, and put up a few more things on the wall.  I can't wait to see it finished.  I also can't wait for summer break.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Spring Break Project Day

It's spring break at our house, and the change of pace has been very enjoyable, but Project Day is Project Day and not to be missed under any circumstances!  This week Grammie the Art Teacher instructed the kids to make a picture about their favorite book, using cut and torn construction paper to make the shapes.
Here we have a story (title unknown) about a pony in Iceland.
This princess illustrated Laura Ingalls.
You might notice these two girls match.  They got their mothers to help them coordinate their outfits over the phone, so that no one would be "shy."
Princess #2 did the "Boxcar Children"
This week was extra fun because we celebrated Grammie the Art Teacher's birthday with donuts.  There is nothing quite like a donut break, is there?
After every crumb of donut and every colored sprinkle was eaten, we finished up the morning with some singing.  First we practiced some Sunday School songs and then we moved on to patriotic songs and action songs and silly songs and a few that are just plain noisy.  The class MAY have been a little bit rowdier then usual, but I'm sure the donuts had nothing to do with that.
Happy Spring Break, everyone.  I hope yours has warmer weather then ours!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bedtime Chain Reaction

When you have only one child, each stage of development and each transition to "something new" requires a three step plan: 
1) Deep thought and mental preparation for the parents
2) Lots of motivational and encouraging speech directed at the child
3) The Perfect Moment to implement the change

That all changes when child number two, child number three, and child number four arrive on the scene.  With each subsequent child the plan condenses into a shorter and shorter period until step one no longer exists and step two consists of "You'll like it.  Stop crying!"  Even the Perfect Moment morphs into "Quick, we have a chance right now!"

Take tonight, for example.  We have known for a while that Brynn had outgrown her toddler bed and needed a "big girl bed."  With Brynn out of the toddler bed, Blair could have it and vacate the crib.  With Blair out of the crib, Cam could upgrade from the pack and play.  In the past, when Ian made each of those changes(crib to toddler bed to big bed), we made them gradually.  The new bed was set up.  Maybe he napped on it for a few days first.  Then he made the final change, after we had pumped it up as something "Big Boys Do" for a whole day.  We followed "the plan."  With the younger three, we chucked the plan out the window and went with the new plan: NOW.
Brynn got her twin bed:
Blair got her toddler bed:
And Cam got his spacious new crib:
All in one night, with almost no preparation or motivation.
If you want my advice, skip the three step plan, because the kids are all asleep and the new Now Plan works just fine.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Nap Time, Pipe Cleaners, and Quiet

 Did anybody else have a little trouble adjusting to Daylight Savings Time this year?  March just seems so early for that change.  At our house the grumpiness associated with changing schedules occurred on Monday rather then Sunday, so when afternoon nap-time for the little ones finally arrived, I did not want ANYTHING to interrupt it.  My big kids, however, had other ideas and my dreams of a peaceful afternoon were quickly turning into nightmares.  I had to think of something before disaster struck and the little kids woke up crabbier then ever.

My fall-back for such situations is to do a project, so I dragged Ian and Brynn into the kitchen (the room farthest from the nappers) and asked a very dangerous question: "So, what do you wanna do?"  I was so desperate to keep them quiet that I would have allowed almost anything, but to my joy and surprise they both answered "Shamrocks!" and were promptly shushed.  I thought I was in the clear, until I discovered that my beloved first-born son had already used up all of the green paper in the house.  I almost panicked until a package of pipe cleaners fell on my foot.  Given the situation, I decided I could work with pipe cleaners.
 I did a little experimenting, and came up with a workable design.  I was forced to use black because the kids had grabbed all the green before I got a chance.  I wasn't gonna fight them for any, because they grabbed quietly, and that was the whole goal.
 Brynn needed some help with the twisting and bending, but Ian was determined to do it himself.
 Once all the green pipe cleaners were used up, the kids moved on to other colors and even combinations of colors.  I know that blue and red shamrocks are not traditional St. Patrick's Day colors, but I was very willing to sacrifice authenticity for silence.  When they eventually tired of  bending pipe cleaners into shamrock shapes, we strung them on a green string and hung them in our front window.  Just in time for the end of nap time.
 Happy St. Patrick's Day!
And in case you want to know how to make your own silence preserving pipe cleaner shamrocks, here is my method:
Supplies - 4 pipe cleaners

Step 1: Bend the ends of the pipe cleaner together and twist, creating a one-inch tail.  Form the loop of the pipe cleaner into a heart shape.  Repeat two times.
 Step 2: Arrange the heart shapes with one heart up, one to the left, and one to the right, with the tails forming a cross.
Step 3: Slide the remaining pipe-cleaner behind all the crossed tails and through the point of the upper heart.
 Step 4: Fold the pipe cleaner down over the tails and pinch it tight.  Then twist the "stem" pipe cleaner tightly, incorporating the tails of the three hearts until they are held tightly together.
 Step 5: Reshape your three leaves, if necessary, and voila - a shamrock.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Irish Chalkboard

The Valentine's Day chalkboard came down, and a traditional Irish blessing in honor of St. Patrick's Day went up.

I first encountered this poem in a wedding card, and although I am not typically poetically inclined, I haven't forgotten it.  Here is the full text:
"May the road rise up to meet you, 
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rains fall soft upon your fields,
and until we meet again may God hold you in the palm of His hand."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Paper Weaving

Another Tuesday, another Project Day.  This week the project was paper weaving, and after a quick demonstration the kids went to work with a will.
Some had a few projects with technique.
Some had bigger problems with scissors and cutting.
But in spite of these difficulties they all turned out some very colorful and creative weavings.

Monday, March 4, 2013

If You Are Lucky, You'll Find a Four-Leaf Clover

Source: via Dana on Pinterest

Well, we haven't caught a leprechaun yet (see this post), but the traps are baited for the night and we'll see if we get lucky in the morning.  Speaking of good fortune, did you know that the phrase "Luck of the Irish" is not necessarily about good luck?  Apparently the phrase was intended to be ironic, because the history of the Irish people has been more unlucky then lucky (Potato Famine, conquests by the Danes and the English, and political and religious upheaval to name a few difficulties).  So be careful the next time you claim to have the "luck of the Irish" because it might come back to haunt you.  If you believe in such things, you have a better chance at luck if you can find a four-leaf clover.

With a foot of snow on the ground here in Wisconsin, it is unlikely that we'll find any clover, let alone a four-leaf variety, so we decided to green up the inside of our house with some shamrocks of our own making.  We went old-school, with some fan-folded paper and a design that stretched from one fold to the other.
It took some fast talking on my part, but I managed to convince the kids to limit their color palette to the green family. 
Then they decorated in whatever way they wanted.
I enjoy seeing their different personalities expressed, even in a simple project like decorating green shamrocks.

We've also read a little bit more about the history of St. Patrick's Day and we learned some interesting tidbits about shamrocks.  One interesting fact was that while many people these days wear green clothing on St. Patrick's Day, the "wearing o' the green" traditionally meant that you were wearing shamrocks in your lapel (and at times this was illegal) .  We also learned that while shamrocks are a symbol for all things Irish, they hold special significance on St. Patrick's Day because it is said that St. Paddy himself used the shamrock to teach the pagan Irish about the Trinity.  One leaf symbolized God the Father, one leaf stood for Jesus, and the third leaf was for the Holy Spirit.  Together the three leaves made one plant, just as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are united as One God.  The kids were fascinated by this idea, and it lead to a lovely spiritual discussion about missionaries and God and talking about Jesus.  I'd say that's the best kind of ending for any project ever!