Thursday, October 8, 2009

Preparing for the Vegetable Race

Several years ago we were on a Disney cruise where they held a vegetable derby. It was similar to a pinewood derby except that everyone had to make their own cars out of carrots and potatoes.


Last year Stephanie was on the ward activities committee and suggested we do that for an activity. Everybody made their own cars out of whatever vegetable or fruit you brought in. You even had to make the wheels (toothpick axles were provided). It was a lot of fun and I'm proud to say that the Smith family held it's own during that competition - taking 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and "best of show". Sweet revenge from my pinewood derby years.


Maysen's birthday is coming up this week and she decided that she wanted to have a vegetable derby at her party. Tonight we started working on the track.





We have a bunch of lumber that we scavenged from my neighbor when he moved out. (It used to be the frames for a spray-tanning booth that they had in their basement as a side business.) Glad we were able to put it to good use.


Here is a picture of our 5 cars from last year's ward competition:


Cars of Stephanie, Mike, Maysen, Jorja and Stockton from last year

The first place car is Stepanie's yucca-root on the left. Note that sweet 3 wheel design - not a bad piece of work. It kept the front wheel from falling off.


In other news, I officially launched my new business today and put up my new website hoping to lure in customers. I'm teaching classes about movie making - stuff like camera moves, scriptwriting, storyboarding, special effects, etc. For those interested, check out http://www.moviemakerz.net/. I'll be launching a parallel business shortly, teaching video game creation and robotics for kids.

Fingers crossed!

Friday, September 18, 2009

One McCoraline, hold the meatballs, please...

Jorja wanted to see Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs today, so after the kids came home from school I took the girls to the theater. I was proud of my perfect theater timing - not too early, but early enough to beat the huge line that formed after we got there.


Things were great until I got to the front of the line and asked for tickets. "Sorry, we're not showing that movie today due to technical difficulties." What? That's a new one for me. I asked when they would be showing it, and was told that they might get a digital protector tomorrow to be able to show it. Hmmm.

So, Maysen and I led a sad Jorja across the street to McDonalds to get ice cream. They decided that the trip wasn't a complete waste. Jorja got a big vanilla cone and Maysen and I split a mint Oreo McFlurry.


On the way home, we stopped at the WalMart parking lot for a visit to the RedBox. We were glad to see that they had Coraline, which we'd been wanting to see for a while.


Pretty groovy show! Freaky groovy. Plus, it was only a dollar. Too bad it wasn't Monday or we could have used a free Monday code. (Did I mention I like free stuff?) It was better watching a flick in our basement theater anyway. Where else can your two year old dump out bags of popcorn and jump on a big air mattress during a show. Guess I'll be cleaning that up tomorrow...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Dragon Wings

Maysen has decided that she wants to be a dragon for halloween. (surprise). A couple of years ago I showed her these cool wings that someone made and suggested we make some. At the time she passed on the idea, but that was mostly because she didn't want to have to open/close/flap them by having her arms tied to them. She, being my daughter, wanted them to open/close/flap by themselves via some sort of remote control.

So this year, we're going to give that a try. Our wings will be slightly scaled down so that we can make the frame out of those big paint stirring sticks they give out at home depot. (Free stuff is cool!) These should actually be a good size for her.

Today we started putting the different pieces together for the first wing - mostly just roughing out the idea. One of these wings will be hooked to each side of a backpack type thing that we'll make out of PVC pipe or a padded scrap of plywood, which will be strapped to her back.

This is what one of the wings looks like closed...



...and this is what it looks like when opened...




(It reminds me of one of those extend-o-glove thingies they punch each other with in cartoons.)

We'll cover this skeleton with some kind of stretchy fabric. To make it open and close on it's own, we're going to made what is called an air muscle, as described here or here. I think we'll only need one, and by stringing it between the two wings it should open them both when it contracts. We'll find out next week when we give it a try! It means we'll be strapping a paintball tank of air on her back, wiring it up, and letting her open and close the wings with the press of a button.

We're excited to be making them, and I figure it will be a good thing to show/use in the robotics classes I'm hoping to teach soon. Watch for updates soon...














Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Sponge Hockey Makes Cleaning Fun

Yes, it has been far too long since I've posted on MTWD. The kids and I have been doing a lot of fun stuff, but I've just been too lazy to document it. Shame on me! However, today we had way too much fun for me to keep to myself.


Stockton wanted to invent a way to make cleaning fun. He had an idea to attach sponges on the bottom of our shoes and skate around on soapy water. I really didn't think it would work, but Publix was having a 3-sponges-for-a-dollar sale, so I figured why not.


With a little hot glue and some old shoes, we were in business.




I put a mix of classical piano, Nintendo soundtracks, and Charlie Brown Christmas CDs in the CD changer and cranked up the ice-skating tunes. The next step was to dip the sponge skates in a tub of soapy water.






Then we gave the skating a try. Wow! It worked a heckuva lot better than I thought it possibly could. We had a blast - skating, twirling, jumping and falling. Stockton loved pointing out that the floor was getting clean and that he didn't mind a bit!






The other kids were anxious to try. We didn't have enough sponge skates for everyone, but we took turns.





Even Steph got into the act! What grace! What style!


She is no match for my moves though...

Preston had a blast slipping around in his clothes too.
My favorite part came when I was trying to soak up a bit of the soap suds with a mop. The mop gave a nice hockey feel and really let you lean into the skates. We added a puck and ended up playing hockey for another half hour or so.



I believe I will need to pick up an extra mop and some more sponges next time I'm out. I'm pretty sure the kids will be asking for a rematch soon.


In the meantime, please enjoy a glimpse of this new form of performance art. Bonus points if you can name where the music comes from...




Saturday, May 9, 2009

Saturdays and S'mores

Someone get me an almanac, because I believe today was the longest Saturday on record. We crammed a lot of stuff into one day - even though we spent most of it at home. Much of it I shall not write about since it involves a mother's day surprise.

This morning we had our Wii party - a monthly ritual at our house. The highlight of my entire week came as I was tucking Maysen into the big cushy recliner with a giant pink, boofy blanket and positioning her perfectly centered in front of the giant 8 foot movie screen which glowed with Mario Kart goodness: she looked at me and said "Dad, I love you....you are so cool." It was exactly what I needed after being both mom and dad for the week.
Tonight we roasted marshmellows and made s'mores and hot chocolate out on the deck.

For those that are curious, this is what a perfectly put together s'more looks like as it's being gently squeezed so that the chocolate and marshmellow blend together in melted naughtiness.


Stockton's not much for a marshmellow roast, but he humored me with the occasional visit to the fire and a quick pose for the camera.



Marshmellow roasting is of course the highest expression of the outdoor cooking art form.


I planned to throw a steak on for dinner as well, but couldn't wait and had one for lunch with corn on the cob and a big mug of root beer.



Maysen doesn't mess around when it comes to marshmellow roasting. She is deadly serious about her craft.



Everyone knows that smoke follows beauty
Stockton and I ran down earlier in the day to Men's Wearhouse to pick up my suit and try on Stockton's Tux jacket for John and Cassie's wedding. I had taken my suit in for the "free" alterations since I have lost 30 pounds since I bought it.



Stockton wasn't very excited about going to the suit store, but he really seemed to enjoy trying on the jacket and checking himself out in front of the mirror. He could use a haircut though.


Jorja, Maysen, Preston and I spent an hour outside today hunting more worms for their garden. Those girls like it so much that I think we're going to build a worm composter and let them hunt worms for one of their chores.
And now, with the kids finally asleep, we have reached the part of the evening where Mike rushes off to embark on a cleaning marathon since his wife will be home in less than 10 hours.....

Friday, May 8, 2009

Raingutter Gardening

Steph is out of town in Utah this week for her brother's wedding, so it's been just me and the kids.

Today we made a raingutter garden. We had tried making a garden in the yard a couple of years ago, but as hot and miserable as it gets here, it was hard to get out and go all the way down to take a look how things were going.

So this time, I bought a $5 raingutter and some mounting brackets and screwed the gutter to the bottom of the railing on one side of the deck.


The girls took turns hauling buckets of our nice, dark dirt we had mixed up for the last garden and filled the gutter. They had an absolute blast!

We divided the garden mostly between Maysen and Jorja, though I have a small area on each of the two ends. If we get anything to grow, we may add a few more gutters along the other edges of the deck and add a second row near the tops of the railings. We decided to start with the gutter down low so that peas and things can climb up the rails. We can easily attach some kind of climbing net for them there if we need to.



This setup should work out nicely for us, since the garden will be visible from the main living area and it will be easy for the girls to go out to work without having to trudge all the way out and down into the yard.

Jorja went to the store with me to get seeds. She happily planted flowers and peas in her areas, and let me put carrots, and radishes next to her. Maysen planted flowers and strawberries. We really wanted to find some strawberry plants, but there was none to be seen. So, we bought a carton of strawberries from the grocery store and buried about 6 of those. We have no idea if those will actually grow, but it's worth a try.

(Perhaps my lovely wife could figure out a way to bring/send some strawberry starts from Utah? I bet she could weasel some from my brother's yard. Hmm.....)


Maysen let me plant tomatoes and peppers in my area next to hers.


When the seeds were planted, Maysen and Jorja went on a great worm hunt. I don't know how they found so many, but apparently they are good at finding them in the back yard under the leaves. They put 25 or 30 of them into the garden to help take care of it.

Each of them had their favorite worms...but I don't seem to recall what they named them at the moment.



It was very cute to watch them working together, sifting through the dirt to find their new worm friends and placing them carefully in their new homes.


I believe Jorja is holding "lightning" in this picture....



So one might ask what Preston was doing during all this time. I believe I'll let the pictures do the talking...






About this time we headed in for the tub.... (after getting mud out of Preston's mouth)
In case you can't read Preston's shirt, it says: "Mischief is my business, and business is GOOD!". How fitting!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

AFV

Each Sunday, our kids enjoy watching America's Funniest Home Videos together as a family. Amazing that nineteen years after that show first aired it's still funny to watch a guy getting whacked in the crotch.



Stockton has been begging me to film him doing "crazy stuff" that we can upload to the AFV Web site and hopefully be picked for the show. Here are some of his attempts today...




video


video

video

video

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Pinewood Derby Car Stands

Jorja was so excited about her derby car the other day and couldn't wait to make a stand for it so she could display it proudly. She helped me find plans for making a stand online.


I cut the boards but she had fun sanding, drilling and screwing it together.




Next week she wants to paint the stand a nice shiny blue.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Slot Cars

A couple of years ago, Santa Claus brought the kids a slot car set for Christmas. At the time, they were a little young to appreciate it, but they have recently rediscovered it.


Stockton, Preston and I spent some time together building some pretty cool tracks and racing slot cars. Preston was pretty cute racing, watching, and being an obstacle for the cars.

video

One of these days we might try to hook up some proximity sensors above the lanes and program a microcontroller to count the laps and lap times for the cars, showing them on a little LCD screen. That would be a pretty cool project, and I should have all the parts we'd need...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Super Blooper

Stockton's cub scout pack had their pinewood derby today. I was proud of Stockton, Jorja and Maysen for working hard on their cars this week!

After the derby, we raced all our family's cars on the track. Out of our group, Jorja's Super Blooper car was the fastest...



It was fun watching Stockton's races during the derby. He did pretty well and made it to the semi-finals. Here is his car racing against the Mach 4 car from Speed Racer and Sponge Bob Square Pants' boat...



Way to go Stockton!


Pretty nice looking car, Stockton... Jorja wants to make a stand like this next week for her car.

My batmobile did pretty well. It looked good, but I was too chicken to fire off the rocket motor with all the people away. We wouldn't want anyone getting hurt....





Friday, March 20, 2009

Derby Days

Each night this week the kids and I worked on our pinewood derby cars. Tomorrow is the big day!

Jorja did a great job polishing her axles today. She was so cute working the drill press.

Here are some more pictures from the week of sanding and painting...






Here are the finished cars. Maysen's is the burgundy one, mine is the batmobile, Jorja's is the white Super Blooper and Stockton's is the red one with flames.



OK, I'll admit that the batmobile does have a few tricks up it's sleeves. Besides the working headlights and tail lights, it also has a remotely controlled rocket motor hiding in the back.



I made a similar rocket car a couple of years ago. It took off like mad and smashed into the cinderblock wall of the church. I'm not sure if I'll really fire this one off or not - I'd hate to see if smashed into bits, but we'll see...