Category Archives: Projects

30 Days of Writing: Day 30

30 Days of Writing: Day 30

Today is day 30 of the 30 Days of Writing project. Thirty days ago, I wrote, “I’m considering doing this project.” But I didn’t really expect to complete it.

And now, here I am, 30 days later. I have filled most of a notebook, I have written an hour – or more – every day for thirty days.

Not only that, but, knowing I struggled to write at my normal wake-up time, within a few days of starting the 30 Days of Writing project, I started getting up at 5:30 or 6 a.m. – about two hours early. Until this writing project, I had never willingly gotten up that early. Never.

So, I’m proud of myself for doing this. (I so rarely say I’m proud of myself. It sounds awkward and boastful, though I don’t mean it that way.)

I can’t help but wonder… now what? Do I continue writing an hour each morning? Do I continue getting up early? Do I start another writing project? Do I plan one for April?

One thing I DO plan on doing is going back through my notebook, which has two months’ worth of writing in it. Find useful parts. Clean them up.

For now, though, this is enough.

I’ll allow myself the happiness of completing something I didn’t think I could.

Discovering Dinosaurs

Sometimes, an intense interest comes out of repeated exposure to something combined with the right timing.

Kai had a vague interest in dinosaurs off and on, but it really blossomed through a combination of factors: a dissolving “hatching” dinosaur egg seen at the science center, wanted, and received for Christmas, a viewing of Jurassic Park, a bit of creativity, books checked out from the library, a DVD of a mini-serious called Prehistoric Park (happened upon accidentally at the library), and a birthday gift of a set of dinosaurs.

So, Kai has been studying dinosaurs. And playing dinosaurs. And pretending to be a dinosaur.

Dinosaurs battling penguins.

January 7, 2014

Jurassic Park, the first.

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Note the “J” for “Jurassic Park.”

Kai's Jurassic Park January 3, 2014

Attempting to climb over a large hill/mountain.

January 24, 2014

….and being covered in lava.

January 24, 2014

“All the other dinosaurs turned on Ceratosaurus.”

January 24, 2014

More dinosaur battles.

January 22, 2014

Using what’s around him, including the cat’s string.

January 22, 2014

January 22, 2014

Jurassic Park, the second. On the paper, he’s drawn lines dividing it.

January 28, 2014

The water dinosaur is hanging out, just offshore.

January 28, 2014

The dinosaurs bust off the island.

January 28, 2014

He has learned so much from playing. He’s gotten better at identifying which dinosaur is which. The “T-Rex with the horn on his nose” became “the Ceratosaurus.” He pointed out that Ceratosaurus sounds like Triceratops and was, with minimal prompting, able to come up with what “cera” might mean. When protested the name of the Stegosaurus and the Plateosaurs (“Why is it called Stegosaurs when THAT is the one with the plates on it?”), we researched why it was called that.

Children learn so much through play. I doubt he’d have picked up so much without the freedom to play as he wanted with them.

And the dinosaurs are STILL running amuck around here…

Kai started work on a doll house (for his peg people)

After seeing one that somebody else made (protecting privacy by not mentioning who because it just occurred to me that I haven’t asked!), Kai has been wanting to make a doll house for his peg people for a week or two now. He’s been trying to find good cardboard to use and try to figure out what to make, how to make it, etc.

Finally, after a trip to Costco, he had a box he wanted to use. He got to work.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

He got frustrated by tape.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

Then, he started to get the hang of things.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

He decided to add a garage and was very overjoyed with the results.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

Parker-cat was less thrilled. He wanted the box for sitting.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

The bendy dolls move in.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

They came via car, by the way.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

“The peg people family collect cars and have their own airplane.” – Kai

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

Then, while I was doing dishes, he made a bookshelf.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

And had a massive use of tape. I think he was trying to build a roof.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

Eventually, he dug out some of my stencils and started decorating the box.

Kai, working on his doll house for his peg people

I don’t think he’s done. We need to find more cardboard to make the “floors” more stable. And he talked about building furniture after was done. I’ve also offered up scrapbooking paper I used to use for art purposes for him to use as wallpaper, flooring, etc. I’m not sure if he’s going to use them or not. That is, however, where he found the stencils.

I also made a Pinterest board of “DIY Doll Houses” to let him look at pictures for inspiration. If you’re interested, you can find it here.

Penguinville… and Spiders.

The other day, Kai sat down and started to work on making spiders (he has been interested in them lately) out of Playfoam. I’m linking to the specific brand because we’ve had this stuff since Christmas (gift from Kai’s grandparents) and, while we do nothing to preserve it, it’s still really soft and easy to play with almost ten months later. It gets stored in a plastic bin, but that’s IT. The whole box is right around $15 right now and it gives you TONS.

The Playfoam gets pulled out from time to time. Kai started off making spiders (he counted all the legs and informed me that three eights is twenty-four), but then he moved on to making what he called “Penguinville” at the south pole in Antarctica.

September 21, 2013

Black Widow up close:

September 21, 2013

Working on Penguinville.

September 21, 2013

He insisted on making these videos.


Anyway, this was a great way to spend our Saturday evening. After a long day of running around doing errands, it was nice to just unwind and have fun.

September 21, 2013

Kai’s Salmon Project

In June 2013, our homeschool group decided to go to the Hiram M Chittenden Locks.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

This helped Kai become very interested in salmon. He wanted to learn all about salmon, particularly sockeye salmon. We returned to the locks several times over the next few months, watched several documentaries about salmon, and read a ton of books about salmon. Kai looked up pictures of salmon to print out and put on his bulletin board. He studied the life cycle of salmon and found out about a lot of the challenges that threaten salmon.

July 2013

Kai studied salmon in-depth. One of the questions that was harder for him to get an answer to was why salmon turned pink. He asked several people, tried to look up the answer, but most sources had no idea. However, his friend’s mother works for the locks and she was able to tell him that salmon turn pink because they eat lots of krill. She also gave him, her boys, and another homeschooler an extra special tour of the locks.

August 1, 2013

At the locks, he was able to look closely at pre-served salmon eggs and he looked at live salmon in the viewing rooms at the fish ladder.

At the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks in Ballard (Seattle)

Kai thinks, “It’s good that they can change to being in salt water and fresh water.”

He discovered that only the males get big humps and big hooked noses. That after salmon spawn, they die. They stop eating when they start migrating and use all their energy to reproduce.

July 2013

He decorated a bag for the library and a lot of what he did on the bag related to salmon: he drew rocks for them to lay their eggs in, several different stages of salmon (including eggs, fry, smolt, and adult salmon).

July 2013

Kai said his favorite part about learning about salmon was when he was at the locks with his friends and they learned about salmon and the locks together. When asked what he thought the neatest thing about salmon was, he said, “That they get big humps on their backs and hooked jaws.”

Kai studied salmon fairly in-depth from June through the beginning of August 2013.

Week 3 of Mystery Class (Journey North)

Kai and I have been working on a project that I heard about over on Life on a Canadian Island. She’s got a WONDERFUL post on her (older) blog telling you all about how to get started. The project, “Mystery Class”, involves tracking daylight at your home city and ten other mystery locations, along with receiving clues at/from the website, to attempt to locate ten mystery locations.

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

We’re using the graph slightly different than they typically do on the Mystery Class website, but I like this way better, especially for younger kids (Kai is five).

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

While we’ve been doing this project, Joe and I have been reading books to Kai about seasonal changes, daylight, time, etc. We’ve talked about geography, including the north and south poles, the Equator, and the hemispheres.

Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

Kai says the string in the middle is the equator.


Now that we’re up to three weeks of data, Kai’s been able to see some patterns. He can see that light has been steadily increasing or decreasing but that, in some areas, though it is consistent, there is very little change.

Today, I challenged him to see if he could predict, based on what he knew, what hemisphere each site belonged in, based solely on light changes. He knows that we live in the northern hemisphere, that we’re steadily getting more daylight each week, and that everything that is also getting more light each day should be in the same hemisphere. He also knows that seasons in the southern hemisphere are opposite ours and so that means the light should be decreasing each day. Using all of this knowledge, he picked out which ones he thinks belong in the northern hemisphere and which ones he thinks belong in the southern hemisphere. He picked out where he thinks they belong by himself. The only thing I had to help him with were the ones that did not have much change in light one way or another and all I did for those was help him look closer (I did not provide the answer for him).

So, here are Kai’s predictions.


Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

Aside from home, he thinks numbers 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, and 10 are all in the north.


Working on the Mystery Class (Journey North) Project

He thinks numbers 2, 4, 6, and 8 are all in the south.

After working on the project today, Kai wanted to make a video. He combined some of what he’s learned working on this with part of what he’s learned about the solar system. We had a few inaccuracies, which we talked about afterwards, but he has the overall concepts. I’d rather he get the concepts than the numbers, so I’m not complaining!

This was taken in one shot, no practice, no working together on what he was going to talk about beforehand. (In completely related news, I think I’m going to have to get a tripod one of these days. Sorry about any camera shake.)

Minecraft Cakes!

For Kai’s birthday, Joe and I wanted to do a Minecraft cake for him, because Kai loves Minecraft. (For those of you who have not yet heard about Minecraft, you can find out about it here.)This proved to be more difficult than we had imagined.

First, we needed supplies. We’re gluten-free, so that is even more challenging than normal. We ended up going to Fred Meyer, to Joann’s, and to a local cake decorating store. Now, this cake decorating store? I love what you can get there, but it’s like walking into a hoarding cache of cake supplies. Everything was so difficult to find. We ended up getting the dye we needed (both black and white), then had to head back to Joann’s (we’d seen some Colorburst Bits that we wanted to get). After the running-around craziness was done, it was time to actually bake.

We made two cakes, one colored grey (stone), the other chocolate (dirt). We also mixed in some color bits to the grey (for diamond or lapis lazuli, redstone, and chocolate sprinkles for coal), to make cupcakes.


Then, Joe got to work cutting.

Joe, making the cake

My husband, by the way, is very meticulous. Very.
Organized cake station


So, he built this cake, glued together with jam.

Cake, before disaster

BUT (dun dun dun)… we forgot the frosting. (Ugh.) So, he tried using the only frosting we had in the house: pecan frosting (a la german chocolate cake frosting).


Actually, this was good, in a way, though. Because we thought we’d try the cake.


It was soooooo sweet we could not eat it. JAM IS TOO SWEET.

Not to be deterred, we pressed forward. More cake making. Different plan: we would make a twice-baked cake so that the stone would be nestled inside the chocolate cake.

Once again, Joe cut the grey cake. I put in the pan, poured chocolate cake batter over it, and baked it.


Attempt two

And this is what it looked like after the twice baking.


After it was cooled, it got frosted with green (grass, you know). And a creeper face.
Kai's Cake (actual day of)

And this is what the inside looked like.Inside cake

So, that was the first cake. It worked well! Kai was happy. YAY!It's a hit

Kai was so happy with it, in fact, that for the (family) party on Saturday, he told me he wanted lots of Minecraft-related things on his cake. We compromised. Creeper face and a skeleton face. And even though I think it looks horrible, Kai loved it. And that’s what matters.

Cake for the party.

Oh, and by the way, for those of you keeping track, that’s NINE boxes of cake mix in all (one chocolate, one vanilla for the first, two chocolate and one vanilla for the other two). (And, yes, we used mixes because, you know, gluten-free cake is a lot of work to do from scratch and we were more concerned about the outside. We’d tried the cake mixes before and knew they worked well.)

If you’re going to double-bake a cake like this, I suggest slightly underbaking the first cake, so it doesn’t dry out. I noticed a difference from the first one to the second one, but neither was particularly bad.

The Minecraft cake was not a lie. But, now, we’re pretty done with cake for a while.

Finished The Solar System Map And Videos

We finished the solar system map yesterday. Kai couldn’t be more pleased.

Kai and his solar system.

We also finished up the videos.






The asteroid belt:





Why does Mercury have so many craters?



He had a blast doing this and has learned so much!

As a side note: I think, since he wants to make more videos about other things, that we’ll have to find a way to get a better camera set-up. And a tripod. I’m not sure what we can do right now, but, hopefully, in the future, we’ll be able to do something “better”, video-wise, with less camera shake, at least.

Working On A “Solar System” Project

We’ve been working on a project about the solar system. This has been mostly Kai-led. And he’s pretty happy about it.

First, the Solar System “map”. Still not quite finished.

20130102 Solar System Project (1)

20130102 Solar System Project (22)

20130102 Kai And His Solar System Map - not yet completed (1)

Then, he ALSO wanted to make a set of videos about the solar system. This was his first one, which is basically an intro video.

There should be a link on the side to the playlist. I’ll post all of the videos once he’s done with the project.