Lego Mindstorms: Banner Print3r Bot

This is a repost of our Lego Mindstorms: Banner Print3r Bot build. I wanted to make it more clear and added a few more tips and pictures. I hope it helps out anyone building this right now!


Since the Lego Mindcub3r took so long to build and get working, the kids played with it for more than a few days. It wasn’t until last week that we decided it was time to take the Mindcub3r apart and build a new bot to play with. Josh gave us a few options, and I decided we would try the Banner Print3r bot.

The Banner Print3r bot can draw or write on a cash register/calculator paper roll using a standard Sharpie marker. If you have a washable marker though that works as well as and is the same size as a Sharpie, I’d recommend using that.  We didn’t have any cash register paper rolls and I didn’t feel like taking all the kids to Staples, so I ordered a 12-pack off Amazon. At first, I thought I had bought too much paper, but it ended up being a good thing. We are already using our second cash register paper roll!

Since this is a monster post (1500 words!), I am going to place the rest of it under a read more.

Continue reading


Paver Snowmen/Gingerbread Men

A republish from last year. This was a fun project to do, and getting out last years project brings back good memories. 


The only place I was able to find the correct shaped pavers was Home Depot.  The pavers were only 67 cents each so they make for a cheap project.  I also bought a can of white and light brown spray paint.  We had all of the materials we used for decorating on hand.

First we put the paver on a box in the drive way and spray painted them white for snowmen and brown for gingerbread.  The pavers were already sort of brown, but were unevenly colored.  They needed to be painted for a better look.

The spray paint dried within minutes and we were able to decorate our pavers.  We used acrylic paint, googly eyes, pipe cleaners, cotton balls, and ribbons.  I was also able to fashion some hats out of scrap wood.  Each child was able to decorate in their own way.

Our 11 year old’s snowmen and gingerbread man
Our 8 year old’s gingerbread and snowman
Our 6 year old’s snowman, alien, and cyclops. I could see myself making something like this as a child.
IMG_1853 (1)
Our 4 year old is really into black. Not a traditional snowman color.

These were easy and quick decorations that we will be using as decorations for family.  I also learned that the combination of gorilla glue and acrylic paint is VERY hard to clean off your hands.




Lego Adventures Series 1: The Race

We want to incorporate more creative writing into our kids’ homeschooling, so Josh and I decided to have our boys write or create a Lego Adventure every week based on a theme that we give them. We love what they do with the Lego Mindstorms, but we know how important writing and creative thinking will be later on when they are in college and then in the workforce. Writing is one of their weaknesses, and what better way to strengthen their writing skills than by letting them play with Legos?

This week’s theme is The Race. It could be any kind of race, not limited to just vehicles or race cars. They were to build a scene out of Legos and then write a story based on that scene. All four of our school-age children built a scene, but since Rhys (our kindergartener) doesn’t know how to read yet, we didn’t require him to write a story.

We also want to get our kids more involved in the blog. I think that since they know this is going on the Internet, they will work pretty hard on these Lego Adventures!


First, we have Rhys’ race scene. He thinks linearly so his race is in one line on the baseplate. I LOVE his little cat though! Isn’t it cute?



Somehow, Ian wrote two stories to go with his race scene. His scene was rather elaborate, but he is still working on his writing skills. I did not make any corrections so his stories may be difficult to understand.

I will post his original story and then his second story.


Ian is scared the big race is coming. The best racers are coming to race. You can be 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. 2 Zanes are winning. Ninjas are coming. The big race is starting.ianrace2

Since Zane destroyed the ghost mech so he destroyed the ninjacopter so he built this. He’s Airjitzu now thouh. It’s been a long time since rebooted.ianrace3

then he combinded them to the ghost copter! then he added a simble (symbol).ianrace4

Now He’s Fighting. Airjitzu Zane flyer came to help. Zane was flying in the ninjacopter the (then) it brock. Then ghost mech fell on it. Then he went to fight. he won


Matthias built a different kind of race: an eating contest!

The Eating Contest

by Matthias


Today is the day of the eating contest. The participants are Matthias, the Mandalorian, and Cole. They will be eating two loaves of bread, three apples, three carrots, two pizzas, one chicken leg, a hamburger, a fish, and a bun. The prize will be a slurpee.


Matthias started first and devoured his two loaves of bread.


Then he slowly ate the two pizzas.


After that Matthias ate his chicken leg. He took a sip of his coffee then gobbled his hamburger. Then he ate his fish.

“Ugh.”, said Matthias. He was full. He just could not eat any more.


So then the Mandalorian started. He likes bread so he ate it fast. So he moved on to round 2.


Then he ate his chicken leg. But when he ate his fish he threw up because he is allergic.

Cole started next. He devoured all his food except for the bun.


So Cole won the eating contest and he won the slurpee.



Corran’s story is reminiscent of a Mario Kart race. I also laughed through most of it because it was hilarious. In a good way.

The Race

by Corran


On the day of the big race, Pig Guy was scared. He would be racing against the best racers in Lego Town, like the Silence and Minion-with-a-hot-dog-in-his-hand-riding-on-a-pig. At least he had his trusty apple. Oh, and a new, fast motorcycle. The racers would have to race around a track around Lego Town, through the beach, and then back to where they started.


When the horn sounded to call the racers to the starting positions, he went to get his motorcycle to his position. The light was red then turned green, and everybody was off! The first portion of the race was easy, just three laps around the park.


Pig Guy’s motorcycle was pretty fast, but the ninja’s car was right behind!


In the meanwhile, Minion-with-a-hot-dog-in-his-hand-riding-on-a-pig’s pig had wandered somewhere to find some carrots, so he was out of the race. The AT-AT driver’s AT-AT was kind of slow, but it could shoot lasers. The Silence had a fast Speedor, and he could shoot lightning. The ninjas were, well, a car full of ninjas.

As Pig Guy was about to round into the park, the Silence tried to bump him! Pig Guy’s motorcycle jumped over the curb and into a thorn-bush. As Pig Guy crawled out of the bush and dragged his motorcycle back on the road, the Silence finished his three laps around the park. Pig Guy would have to drive very fast to catch up. When he started driving again, he looked at his fuel gauge. It was almost empty! Pig Guy had forgotten to fill up his fuel tank. Just when his motorcycle was about to give out, he noticed a hose hanging off the AT-AT in front of him. When he took it and stuck into his motorcycle, he stole the AT-AT’s fuel!


Now he was back in the race.

The next part of the race was over the old bridge. Pig Guy had almost caught up with the ninjas, but the Silence was still far ahead. When Pig Guy started to drive across the bridge, it started to rock. The ninjas slowed down so that they wouldn’t fall off, and Pig Guy was able to catch up with them! He plucked a thorn out of his arm, and leaned over to stick it into the ninjas’ tire. When it popped, the ninjas flew off the bridge! Now it was just Pig Guy and the Silence.

For the final section of the race, they had to race across the Beach. It was starting to get dark, and Pig Guy couldn’t see very well. He could see crabs scuttling across the sand. In the distance, he could see the Silence. Suddenly the Silence got stuck on a stretch of wet sand! Now Pig Guy could catch up! As Pig Guy came next to the Silence, the Silence blasted him with lightning! Then he pulled away from Pig Guy. Pig Guy couldn’t see very well from the lightning. Coming up soon he could see the finishing line. If he didn’t do something then the Silence would win. Pulling his arm back, he threw his apple as hard as he could. It knocked the Silence off his Speedor, and Pig Guy was able to zoom by him. He had won!


Note: I know Pig Guy cheated to win the race, but that is literally what Mario Kart is like!


If you read this whole post, thanks so much for reading! My boys had fun creating these for us. I’m sure your kids will too!


Lego Mindstorms: Wack3m Robot

Update: Lego May have taken down the Lego mindstorms robot gallery so the programs are no longer available there.

For the longest time, I could not figure out where the programming for the robots on the Lego Mindstorms website were! I feel very silly now, but in case there is anyone else out there who could easily find the build instructions on the website but did not know where to download that particular robot’s program, here is how to find the programs for the “official” Lego Mindstorms robots.


To access the programs for the Mindstorms robots, download the EV3 Programming software under the Downloads tab. I tried using the app for accessing the programs, but I did not see a way to look at the “extra” robots on the app, only the 5 that come with the Mindstorms kit.


Once you have downloaded the software and opened it, the screen will look something like this. On the screen are the 5 starter robots. If you look at the 3 tabs near the bottom of the screen, one tab says MORE ROBOTS. Click that to change the options at the bottom of the screen.


It was like a revelation once I clicked that MORE ROBOTS tab. Two of the robots we had built were there: the PRINT3R bot and EV3D4. For this build, we went with the WACK3M bot. It’s an arcade-style bot that lets you play whack-a-mole.


Once you click on WACK3M, the screen changes to the Mindstorms programming environment. This particular build had onscreen instructions for actually building the robot and even let you run a few short programs to test your robot in the middle of your build, just to make sure you have each part running correctly.


In the above pic, Thias is building one  of the units for the WACK3M bot using the Mindstorms software. Usually, he builds them using the iPad, but I think this way might have been quite a bit easier.


In the upper right corner, you click the arrows to take you through each page of instructions.


Once you are done with your build, you can look at the programming. This one was working as is of course, so my kids went straight to playing.



The two-tired “wand” Thias is holding acts as your hammer for the game. All my kids loved the hammer and kept using it NOT as a hammer for the game.


Here is a pic of the completed bot. This was a pretty smooth build and my boys had few issues with it. They weren’t quite as fascinated with it as they were with the MindCub3r bot though. They did like that it told them their scores related to their reaction times.

All my kids were able to play with this bot though, so that made it a good build for multiple ages to try. They were all so crowded around it that I never got a good video of it working!



First Day of School!



Yesterday was our first day of school! It went pretty well as first days go, even though there were the usual questions such as “Mommy, where are my ____?” or “I can’t find _______.” Sometimes, I had more than one child asking me for help. This is our third year homeschooling but it is my first year homeschooling four children. As I expected, my kindergartener needed the most help. He even threw a fit ten minutes before his last class ended because, “He didn’t want to do school anymore.” Ha!

Our newest addition to help with homeschool organization is this locker unit that we found at Homegoods. The boys (and my baby girl) love it and actually put away all their school books and supplies in it when they are finished with classes.

I wanted to give my youngest homeschooler a lot of references during his class, so I put together this bulletin board with a calendar (which is also helpful to my older boys! They no longer ask me what the date is.) and put up this set of manuscript letters for when he begins writing.

Since we do not have a dedicated homeschool room, I scatter the kids around the living area to keep them from distracting each other. My 7th grader is at the dining table by himself. He may eventually get a desk in the office area if I can ever get it cleaned up enough for two people to sit in!

My 4th grader and 2nd grader sit at a folding table in front of the fireplace, facing away from the TV. So far, they’ve been doing well! No excessive messing around or talking. Hopefully, it will stay that way.

My kindergartener is at the TV and his baby sister tags along to watch his classes with him. He only has 3 classes, so he is done by noon.

For after school fun, I put together an after school box with coloring books and crafts. We also have board games out, a small chalkboard, and an electronics discovery kit called Snap Circuits. So far, they’ve played with the chalkboard and the Snap Circuits.

We use BJU Press streaming video for our main curriculum. It has worked well for us for the past two years!



And There Goes Summer…


This is going to be one of my mish-mash posts I’m afraid! It’ll have a little bit of homeschooling and remodeling. I thought that you, our dear readers, deserve an explanation for why we haven’t been posting too many pictures of our food or garden harvests or homeschooling or homesteading!

We have been spending most of the summer prepping for remodeling our garage into a master bedroom suite. And not prepping as in preparing for us to do it ourselves! Well, we will be doing part of it ourselves, but the major construction part we are hiring out to a company that has greatly impressed us so far. Before we could even agree to the remodeling agreement though, we had to come up with money for it! That was an adventure in itself. Josh ended up having to remodel the entire bathtub area in our single full bathroom in about two weeks. We took a lot of pictures of that (Josh put an album up of that experience on Facebook) but haven’t been able to post about it yet.

I am also preparing to homeschool four of my kids this coming year. I am hoping to start the day after Labor Day. My youngest boy starts kindergarten. My oldest boy will be in 7th grade! I will be using all videos with them again this year, but we are hoping to move to perhaps only half videos next school year. Homeschooling four kids takes up a lot of space. I think I might need more than two homeschool-dedicated bookcases! I’ve also learned this year that the 3-ring binder is definitely a homeschooling mom’s best friend. I don’t seem to have enough of them!

I also have two more posts partially drafted about Comic-Con and the San Diego County Fair. They are both old news now, but since both happen every year, they might still be helpful for next year’s events!

So our major remodeling project begins October 3rd hopefully. We will definitely be posting about that experience here. I am not quite sure how the remodeling and homeschooling will work together. I have a feeling that most of our homeschooling will be happening at Grandma’s and Lola’s houses. The major work should be done by January, but since Josh and I are taking care of installing most of the finishes (flooring, bathroom fixtures and vanity, painting), we probably won’t really be done until the end of February.

I do know that it is a given that the next 6 months will be very busy, so there may be a lot of these little mish-mash posts for a little while.

If any of you have hints for living through a major remodel (fortunately, it won’t really affect our kitchen or current single bathroom. Mostly we will be dealing with just noise, dust, and our driveway being full of materials), we will gladly take them to heart!  Thank  you so much to all of you who take the time to read our blog! We appreciate all of you!

– Lynn

Raspberry Pi

My summer project for the boys and me came in the mail yesterday: a Raspberry Pi. It’s a tiny computer (motherboard) that you can use to teach programming to kids. It also has many real-world uses. My real-world use for it will be to replace our huge computer tower that we have by our TV with this tiny computer.

We use the computer tower to access the internet through our living room TV, which is how my youngest child watches homeschool videos. We don’t really use the hard drive part of the tower, so I’d like to move the whole tower to a computer desk where it can be used as a computer instead of a media center. This credit card-sized motherboard can sit on a shelf  and be our media center instead. Bonus: more space in the entertainment center!

Before I do that though, I’m going to let my kids play with it first. I borrowed a book from the library called Adventures in Raspberry Pi.

I’m going to have either Corran or Thias (or both!) program through the book. The main programming language used is Python. Corran has already had a taste of Python and says it is a little bit harder than Java. That is okay. I think once he sees what he can do with this little computer, he will be excited!

I ordered our Raspberry Pi 3 Model B through Amazon for about $40.


I had seen pictures of the motherboard online but nothing prepares you to see it in person. It is tiny!


Four USB ports (we plan to use two of them for a mouse and keyboard) and Ethernet. There is built-in wireless but it is still useful to have the option for a wired connection.


Full-size HDMI port for hooking up a monitor or a TV.


Audio/visual connection and a camera interface (For the Raspberry camera).



The micro SD card slot is on the underside of the motherboard.

I think the Raspberry Pi also has some applications in robotics and possibly with our Lego Mindstorms robot. We are going to start with the programming part first and then go on from there. If I am able to use it as our living room media center, then we will probably need to buy another one or two to use for other applications!