Archive for January, 2010

People who know our family know that when one of us is having a particularly “sour” day, we refer to it as a Pickle Day.  Well, this Pinewood Derby car is definitely a Pickle Car.  Let me explain…

This afternoon is the annual Cub Scout Pinewood Derby for our group.  Because there is a family class for entries, we have all made cars this year.  Yes, the Prairie Family has 7 entries in the derby this year!  We have been busy cutting, sanding, painting, decorating, lubricating, aligning wheels, etc.  All of the cars have turned out very cute, and we can’t wait to race them today.  The car pictured in this entry, however, has been such a HEADACHE!

This car was originally going to be my car when we traced the pattern onto the block of wood.  When Dan was cutting out the shape, though, it cracked and had some problems, so he decided that he’d cut out another car for me and make this one his car.  So, he patched up the cracks, added the weights, and all looked good.  We even got it painted and decorated.  Then more problems started…..

After we got it all ready to go, the Pickle Car was too heavy.  This is not an uncommon problem because in order for the cars to do well racing, they have to be very close to the weight limit, but not over it.  So, Dan decided to unplug one of the holes that the weights were in to lighten it a little.  Well, the silly weight was kind of stuck in there, and when he was trying to get it out, the car cracked some more!  Now remember, this car was already painted!  Dan put more patching putty in the cracks, and I told him that after it had dried and could be sanded, I’d put a fresh coat of paint on it to cover up the putty.

That is only the BEGINNING of the story!  True to my word, yesterday morning I put on a new coat of shiny black paint–and it crackled.  Yes, for some unknown reason the entire car crackled.  Dan had already left town for a meeting, so I had to make a quick decision on my own how to try to remedy this situation.  So, yes, the day before the race I sanded the silly thing all the way back down to the wood and started over with primer and a new paint job!

Again, all looked good until I noticed a rough area on the top, and when I tried to smooth it out a little, I put a big scratch down the middle!  Instead of starting all over AGAIN, I sprayed a little paint on a paper plate and used a brush to touch up the area.

Last night we were finally ready to attach the wheels.  Now it is commonly known that the alignment of the wheels is really the most important speed factor for these little cars, so we were quite meticulous on all of our cars.  I noticed a difference in the Pickle Car right away:  one of the front tires just slid into the groove while the others had to be hammered.  That didn’t seem quite right, and it wasn’t! The axle groove that is already carved in the original block of wood when the kit is opened must not have been carved correctly.  So, we did our best to get that silly tire in, and tried multiple times to get it as level as possible so the car would track straight.  Because the axle was so loose in the groove, we got it where we wanted it and put glue on to hold it.

Believe it or not, this morning I went to check on the Pickle, and the tire would not move at all!  Glue had gotten into the tire hole and had secured it tightly to the axle!  Not cool!  So, we had to take that wheel off AGAIN, relubricate it, and try once more to get it all straight and flat.

After we got the car put back together, we weighed it–AGAIN–and it was way too light.  So, we added some weights to the bottom, and we are calling it good.  In fact, we are scared to touch the Pickle anymore lest it fall apart entirely!  😉

Wouldn’t it be ironic if the Pickle ended up winning the race??!!  We’ll find out later today!

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Well, John has reached a major milestone in 7th Grade A Beka Academy DVD Program 1 Homeschool:  he completed his science project!  (Yes, I am very happy!)  This project is really a big part of 7th grade science.  He began it in October and just completed it this week.  There were several components to this project including a research paper, a scientific experiment, a display, and an oral presentation.  John is, of course, our oldest son, so he gets the “privilege” of trying out all of these great things first!  By the time Kara works on one of these projects, it’ll be a piece of cake–yeah, right!

John’s project was about DNA.  The goal of his experiment was to determine if the amount of extractable DNA in fruits and vegetables increased with the number of chromosomes.  Sounds complicated, doesn’t it?!  Basically, he liquified 6 different fruits and veggies, and then using a process involving soap, rubbing alcohol, meat tenderizer, and other household items, he extracted the DNA from the liquid.  The DNA collected in a layer, and then he measured the depth of the layer.  This was not as easy at it sounds because sometimes the layers were pretty well defined, and other times the DNA “blobbed” making measuring pretty difficult.  He then charted the measurements with the number of chromosomes to see if there was any correlation between the two figures.

Fortunately, John has a Dad who is an economist and works with charts, trends, and the like all of the time.  Dan helped John analyze the data, and then John and I worked together to make the display according to the directions given to us by A Beka.  It was quite the process…..

So, what were the results?  John determined from his experiments that there was a very slight correlation between the number of chromosomes and the amount of extractable DNA, but this correlation was so slight that it is statistically insignificant.  In order to be conclusive, the experiment would have to be conducted many, many times and measured with highly sophisticated equipment that we just simply do not have access to in our house!  😉

So that’s one science project down, and, if my figuring is right, we should have 29 more to go….. Yes, all five kids will have these kind of projects each year from 7th grade through 12th grade. That means that we will be doing science projects every year until 2022!  There will be a few years where 4 out of 5 kids will all be doing them.  What will that be like???  Our house is going to look like a laboratory!

I am going to add a slideshow of John’s project along with a video of him doing his oral presentation.  He worked very hard on this project, and I am proud of him for sticking with it and doing such a great job! (By the way, the sound on the video will probably need to be turned up.  The room we were using had a lot of echoes.  Sorry about that!)

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: DNA Extraction Project
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Ugh!  I am SO behind on my blogging again!  We have been extremely busy the last couple of weeks.  This time of year always gets so hectic with school and scouting projects.  John’s science project is nearly finished, and he will be giving his oral report to Brock’s Webelos group tomorrow night.  The pine car derby is Saturday, so we have all been working on cars.  Those silly things sure take up a lot of time!  Hopefully things will slow down a little in the next week or so, and then I will try to catch up my blog with what all has been going on.

In the mean time, the kids have all had memory verses due, so here is our video installment for January 2010:

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The weather this week has been a little warmer, and the house has actually gotten hot at times.  It has been so warm in the house, in fact, that the kids have asked me if they can get out some short sleeved shirts.  I should have known which shirts the girls would get out first: their matching purple V-necks.

Believe it or not, I did not pick out these matching shirts on purpose.  Kara’s came in a box of hand-me-downs from my cousin’s family a couple of years ago.  Last fall, I found the bigger one for Cosette in a local second-hand store.  Cosette couldn’t believe it when I showed her a shirt like Kara’s but in her size!  Unfortunately, though, the weather hasn’t been exactly conducive for wearing these shirts since I got Cosette’s, so they eagerly took advantage of our warm house to try out being twins!

The girls actually came to me to take their picture three times before they were satisfied that they were twins.  In the first picture, Kara forgot to put on her glasses, so she didn’t match with Cosette.  Then Cosette decided to put on her flip-flops which required a change of shoes for Kara too.  Then they thought it would be fun to put on their matching bunny ears.  I noticed in our final picture that the girls are even holding their hands the same–that wasn’t even planned!  They sure had fun with their matching shirts.  I am sure they will be worn a lot when the weather warms up this spring!

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A Very Helpful Tool

OK–I’ll admit it: I have never been the world’s greatest housekeeper! I have never let the housework get completely out of hand, but I have only been doing what I have to, if you know what I mean. After all, there are so many other things that I want and need to do, it’s always easy to find a way out of doing housework! 😉

This has bothered me recently, and I wanted to find something that would help me in this area. Well, I did, and I really don’t even remember how I found out about it.  I think it might have been advertised on an email list I belong to or something. Anyway, it is a printable checklist for every week that is available from Motivated Moms.  A sample of the Full Sized Motivated Mom’s Chore Planner that I have been using is available at this link.  It is available for download for a very reasonable price of $8, and believe me, it is well worth it!

This checklist has a section of daily chores to mark off each day and then a few other cleaning jobs listed under each day’s date.  Now, I must admit that I haven’t been doing EVERY single job EVERY single day for several reasons.  First of all, the checklist should be personalized to each household’s needs.  Also, some things just don’t really need to be done every day.  So, I use the checklists as a guideline, and even though this is only my second week using them, I am already seeing a difference in the overall neatness/cleanliness of my home.  Dan even noticed a difference, but he had no idea why!  He thought that the house was seeming cleaner because we got a new area rug in the living room!  🙂

So, each day I am doing most of the daily chores, and several of the other miscellaneous jobs listed for each day.  These little things really add up, and you know what?  I am actually having fun doing it!  I usually tackle my list after school and before I start cooking supper, and it’s rather enjoyable checking things off of my list!

So, I highly recommend this resource.  We’ll see how it goes for the long run, but it sure is helping my housekeeping to be more organized for now!

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This past Sunday evening, our church had a family bowling party.  It was SO much FUN!  We had never taken the kids bowling before–well, I guess Brock had bowled once at a friend’s birthday party.  So, we were pretty much beginners, if you know what I mean!

The kids absolutely loved bowling and want to go back soon.  Our pastor had the neatest bowling aid for young kids that really helped Kara.  It was a ramp-like thing that she could line up where she wanted it, put her ball on the top, and then roll the ball down the ramp.  That worked really well for her–otherwise, those balls were just too heavy!  Her Sunday School friend, who is 2 years old, actually got a strike using that thing, and ended up getting the high score for the night!

It was a great time of fellowship.  We have such a neat church.  I can’t even begin to describe how much we appreciate the people there.  We are truly blessed.

Here is a picture of Luke and Kara taking advantage of the pizza portion of our party:


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Here we are:  half-way through our school year, just returning from Christmas break.  It was good to take several days off from school.  I’ll admit it, we were barely hanging in there right before Christmas!  The kids and I had lost a lot of focus and were in great need of a change of pace for a few days.

The break (both from school and of my fingers 🙂 ) gave me time to evaluate where we are and think about where we are going.  I determined to refocus my own priorities and am challenging the kids to buckle down on their studies now that we are back in school.  This includes setting aside unnecessary distractions until our work is done, and putting our full energy into the tasks God has given us.

Really, home schooling and parenting  are  my greatest responsibilities and privileges. They are truly missions given to me by God, and I need to treat them as such.  They are worthy of my concentration, devotion, and best effort.

So, as I thought about my life over the Christmas break, renewing my own commitment to our school was one area that I wanted to address in my own life.  I have a couple of other areas that I am taking specific steps to work on as well, but those will be discussed in future entries.

John’s DNA science project is in its final phases.  We will be working on his display and he will be putting together his oral presentation during the next few days.  We have all learned a lot!  I told him that if he’ll get his presentation well-polished, I’ll try to make a video of him explaining his work to put on this blog soon.

My fingers are doing SO much better!  This week I have seen nothing short of miraculous progress!  I went back to the clinic for a check up this week on it, and the nurse practitioner said that unless problems develop, I don’t need to come back.  The fingers are healing well, they just need time to heal completely.  I am able to do most tasks normally now, which is a major improvement from just a few days ago.  I can even type with both hands and play my violin again!  Yes, my fingers do still hurt from time-to-time, but they flex well, and the swelling has gone down considerably.  Isn’t God’s ability to heal absolutely amazing?!

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Christmas Break

We’ve all been having a nice break from school.  That being said, however, the kids agreed with me today that it will be good to get back to work next week!

Of course, the kids have spent a lot of time just messing around with their new Christmas gifts.  John and I worked on his science project too and got the experimenting finished.  Now he’ll be ready to analyze his data and prepare the display when we resume science class.

The kids have enjoyed playing board games over the holiday.  Uno Spin and The Settlers of Catan have been favorites.  It’s nice to have a non-techno activity from time-to-time!  They’ve also made a variety of crafts including a “house” for their new Webkinz Zumbuddies.

I have been working on my VERY LONG to-do list, but my progress has been slowed down considerably by my broken fingers.  I am doing much better, but it still has been an issue on getting things accomplished.  When I first get up in the mornings, the fingers are stiff, sore, and swollen, but by the end of the day they look pretty good.  It’s a cycle that may or may not continue for awhile….

This weekend will be a busy one.  It’s church dinner week, so the kids and I are going to try making the snowman cookies like we did last January again.  It has been a special request that I think we can accomodate!

Click to play this Smilebox collage: Christmas Break 2009
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