iExperience – iFail – iGrow

one. step. at. a. time.



Project Garden

Since I can remember, I grew up around family members that have a strong green thumb.  My Grandparents always planted a huge garden every year.  Although I’m sure they had a tough year here or there, I like to think they always produced an amazing garden consistently.  From their garden our entire family would make pasta sauce from the bushels of tomatoes they produced.   I can also remember always looking forward to the raw snap peas they would give us.  They were always so sweet and delicious!

The green thumb didn’t stop with them.  On a slightly smaller scale, my Father, my late uncle, and my father in law, have all produced successful gardens.  Now the question is, did that green thumb gene carry over to my wife and I?  We’ll soon find out!

For a few years now, my wife and I have gone back and forth on whether or not we should get a garden started.  This year we finally decided to take on the task.  Although we are probably late to the game this season in getting started, we’re not letting that diminish our excitement and the fun we’ll get to have with the kids!

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We started this past week by breaking out the seed packs we had and thankfully we had nine envelopes of seeds.  Why am I thankful?  It was put best by my daughter when she counted each packet and divided them up saying, “everyone has the same amount, we each get three packets!”  It’s imperative that everyone gets their fair share!  Lord help us if one more person got one more packet than the other!

Before we planted the little seedlings, I was busy expanding my skills using the software called Sketchup to draw up plans for our garden.  I’ve used the software before, for other projects, and it gives you spot on measurements to know you’ll get things exactly right.  I also like it for producing a bill of materials.  The initial garden layout I designed was more than we wanted to invest in a tiny garden.  The software made it easy to adjust the plans and recalculate the measurements easily.



From the plans, you can see that there really isn’t a great deal to the garden.  What it helped conceptualize was the measurements we were after, buying the least amount of wood necessary for the project, and also figuring out how much dirt we needed to fill the unit.  I was able to take all those figures and do some pricing across three major stores: Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Menard’s.  Pretty basic stuff, right?  You can see from the table below that Menard’s had the best prices.  The beauty of all this is that my calculated price was actually three dollars higher and it landed up costing me $85 instead of the projected $88!

Part Size Need Pcs. Qty Length HD Cost Lowes Cost Menard’s Cost
Posts 4×4 5 ft 4 1 4 x 4 x 8 ft 8.57 8.57 7.37
Trim 1 x 3 1/2 10 ft 8 1 1″ x 4″ x 12′ 5.97 5.97 4.57
Rails 2 x 4 25 ft 2 in 4 4 2 x 4 x 8 13.48 13.88 14.68
Planks 2 x 8 54′ 8 8 2 x 6 x 8 68.56 69.36 62.16
96.58 97.78 88.78

There is also another great benefit to having this all planned out, help from my daughter!  Her and I set out to Menard’s together to buy the materials.  She had never been to Menard’s before but really liked how big the store was and all the various items they had for a hardware store.  The only real complaint she had was in some areas they had staircases to climb to look at more merchandise.  However, all the staircases we walked by suggested that for the safety of children, they were not allowed to go up.  She really wanted to go up.

After giving the staff the list of boards I needed, we were headed to the yard to pick up all the wood.  It really reminded me of how my dad and I used to go to Carter Lumber and drive through the yard to pick up wood.  It brought back some fun memories!

The next day after purchasing the materials, we laid everything out in the garage and got to work.  I let my daughter do all the measuring.  It was fun to watch her take interest in it but she was constantly worried that she wouldn’t measure it right.  I kept reminding her to do her best and I would double check all her measurements.  She was comforted by the fact that I told her we could just flip the board over and measure again if we needed.  I also reminded her that she was using a pencil, so markings could easily be erased.  After she was done measuring and the fact that I can’t let her use the saw just yet, she wandered off to play while I ran through all the cuts.  She would later join me for assembly.

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Unlike the measuring task, she had no problem accepting the challenge to use the drill.  I helped her start the first several screws, but after that, she really got the hang of it and only needed me to help her find the middle of the board.  She’s a natural!

Low and behold, after all the sketching, planning, adjustments, shopping, and assembling, we landed up with a perfect result.  Maybe I’m speaking too soon!  So far, these are all the elements that we have control over.  The real test will be seeing our little seedlings begin to sprout in their pods and then be transplanted to their new grounds!  Now I know we won’t be producing enough tomato plants to make tomato sauce for the entire family, but we’ll produce enough to enjoy some salads and BLT’s!

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Baby Doll Bunk Bed – Part 2

We moved on to the next phase of the project, the remaining assembly!  If you read part 1, we were just getting the assembly started.  Although we had to wait a few days to continue on, we finally found a night that worked!


With the bed assembled, my wife got to join in the fun and help my daughter with making the actual bedding.  To do that, they hopped in the car and headed to Jo-Ann Fabrics to let my daughter pick out her own fabric.



It was a toss up between some rainbow powered dog bone pattern, or what I referred to as the bambi print.  So as I sat eating lunch with my older son, a text came in asking us which we preferred.  My son immediately voted for the rainbow explosion, while I thought the bambi print was more suitable.  There was no response to let us know which one she choose, but when she arrived home, we learned she agreed with her dad’s choice!

I thought she was going to be super excited to get started on the sewing right away, I was mistaken.  It wasn’t until the next day that my wife pulled out the sewing machine and the two of them began the process.

My daughter jumped in and wasn’t afraid to give it a go!  Since she likes doing a lot of art projects, she is no stranger to scissors.  However, I thought she might be a little intimidated by the sewing machine, I know I am!  My wife got everything setup and in place, and my daughter looked as if she had done this before!  She’s a natural!

I was very impressed by my wife, not because she knows how to sew and I don’t, but because she took the idea further than I expected.  My initial thought was that they would just construct some pillows that would act as a mattress for the dolls to lay on.  That’s where I was wrong!  Once they had the mattresses sewn, my wife suggested that they also make small pillows, along with some sheets!  I believe my daughter was also surprised because she seemed excited at the suggestion!

Now what my wife and I didn’t know, is that the joke was on us!  As fast as my daughter was excited at the thought of the sheets and pillows, she was also quick to be done with this portion of the project.  A friend rang the doorbell and invited her to come out and play, so she immediately dropped the project and bolted out the door.  I’m not sure if she just wasn’t interested anymore or she was just itching to get some fresh air!  Needless to say, my wife was a good sport and finished up the remaining sewing.

You may be asking at this point, where is the info or measurements used to create the mattresses, pillows, and sheets?  I wish I could answer that too!  I would have to ask my wife how I translate sewing to text, because like I said before, I don’t sew!  Other than the obvious, she measured the inside of the bed frame and worked from that.  I can’t tell you what type of stitch they used or what settings to configure on the sewing machine.  It’s just not a skill I possess! Maybe my wife can teach me one day!  Or even my daughter at this point!  She knows more about sewing than me!

For the last couple nights the baby dolls have had a much better rest!  I haven’t heard as much crying coming from my daughters room, unless it’s my daughter doing the crying!  Even though the bedding portion of the project is complete, we’re still not finished.  The final step will be to paint the bed frame.  What color you may ask?  Pink of course.  Plain and simple.  This was probably by far the easiest decision that was made on this project!

Once again, stay tuned and I’ll share the final phase of the project so you can see the end result!  Hopefully it will inspire you do want to build, sew, and paint your very own as well!


Baby Doll Bunk Bed – Part 1

Several weeks ago, my daughter and I were out shopping.  She was on a mission to exchange all $32 she had on a gift card, with some kind of toy(s)!  If there is one thing she is determined to do, it is to spend money and every last penny at that!  Unfortunately, I can remember being just like her!

As we walked through the store and perused the toy isles, we undoubtedly landed at the baby doll section.  Even though she has plenty of baby dolls to run her very own baby doll daycare, she always needs just one more!  As she looked, she began to settle on one item that included two tiny baby dolls that were accompanied by a miniature bunk bed and I believe two miniature rocking horses as well.  If memory serves me correctly, the package deal was going to cost around $26.

As I looked at the item more and more and realizing that regardless of all these toys being over priced for the quality you get, I felt she could make her money go further.  I also believed that she would quickly shove the new toys into a corner once we got past day three with the toys at home.  I convinced her to look at two items she could buy for essentially the same price and would probably play with more.  I also used the opportunity to promise her that we could build a much better bunk bed and she wouldn’t have to pay a dime for it!  With that, she was sold, and now daddy and her had a project!  Oh, and we did leave with the other two items I suggested!


Since we celebrated Easter a day earlier and the actual Easter day was a glorious one weather wise, we busted out the table saw and the free pallet wood I had and got to work.  I asked my daughter to start by drawing out her idea.  I wanted her to see how the project needed to start, it needed a plan.  Although she likes to draw, this task was quickly turning into frustration, so we turned to the good ol’ Internet to find something that worked.  We settled on the following project from

With the plan in place and after I got some initial pallet pieces squared and cut down to size, we measured out the various pieces we needed.  She would measure and I would cut.

One interesting tid-bit about my daughter, you may think the project took two days because she is wearing two different outfits in them.  Not the case.  My daughter has a tendency to increase the laundry chore a bit in our household.  During the time I was cutting the measured pieces, she decided some new clothing was in order!


Next, she loved using the wood glue.  Mostly it was because of the fact that when it dried on her finger she could peel it off.  As she began putting glue on, I explained to her that I would let her use the air nailer next.  She was intimidated by the thought of using the tool, but after she shot in the first few nails, she enjoyed it!

I requested that she avoid shooting me with a nail but I don’t think she made any guarantees!  Thankfully I didn’t feel any metal enter my fingers.  She enjoyed the air nailer so much that when she started sanding the first section of the frame while I started to arrange the second end piece, she asked me not to do the nailing so that she could.  I can’t say that I didn’t have a smile on my face watching her enjoy the process!


It was fun listening to her try another new aspect to the project.  She was being introduced to a lot of new tools and sanding was becoming a quick favorite as well.  After she sanded for just a few seconds, she would rub her hand along the wood and say, “it’s so smooth!”

I am really hoping that she is really enjoying the benefit to building things and seeing the result of her hard work.  Ok, really I just want her to have fun and be proud of what she built!


She started to see how the bed was coming together as we connected both bed frame ends.  We were only able to connect a few more pieces before it was time to call it quits for the day, but I could tell she was loving what she had learned.

At this point the bunk bed is only half way done. But in the few hours that we spent on this project, I’ve truly enjoyed watching my daughter get excited about using new tools, seeing her work become a reality, and anticipating working on it again. So stay tuned fort part 2 of the project where I’ll share the finished project!

In the mean time, please share any projects you may have worked on with your kids, I’d love to hear about them! It might inspire our next project!

Tetherball Project

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It all started when my oldest son entered first grade.  Before first grade the playground at school was just a bunch of swings, monkey bars, and the occasional game of tag.  First grade would change all that.

In first grade, a mysterious pole appeared protruding from the ground.  This pole towered over him casting a tall slender shadow.  To further his attention on this skinny towering object, a thin rope with a ball at the end appeared as well.  Like a cat being curious about a ball of yarn, this boy was entering a whole new world of entertainment.

My son quickly became a fan of tetherball by learning and playing the game with friends at school.  I began noticing him talking about it more and telling me about how he won some rounds against kids older than him.  His interest in the game became even more evident when he would ask me to take him up to school to play tetherball with me on the weekend.  One of his classroom teachers also expressed how he swings his arms in the classroom pretending to play tetherball.  As a parent I should probably have been worried, but his teacher said that even though this was occurring he was paying attention.  The teacher only knew this because she would as a question, and even though he appeared to be in a deep game of “air” tetherball, he could answer her questions.

As his seventh birthday approached, my wife and I began to wonder what we could get him.  Aside from the typical toys we knew he would like, we knew we couldn’t go wrong with a tetherball set.

Tire Tetherball Set

We began searching the Internet and pricing different sets.  Most sets were of the type that involved a tire, a pole, and some cement.  Essentially, you fill the tire with cement, stick a pole in the middle, add a ball and rope and wa-la, you have a tetherball set.  However, we didn’t want this setup.  Although this version of the tetherball set could be moved to various locations around the yard, we felt it could potentially fall over easily.  Let’s be honest, between his bother and him, you know someone is eventually going to try and climb the thing!  They’re boys!

Expecting that cementing a pole in the ground would be cheaper and safer, we choose the more permanent setup.  A few Google searches turned up a few possibilities, but some of the poles appeared to fragile, while others were just to expensive for our taste.  One in ground set cost around $200, and that was before shipping.

I did some shopping around and called a few custom shops that deal with long steel poles.  I quickly found out that a 21′ pole would run me about $140.  One of the two shops I called mentioned that their pipe wasn’t galvanized, so it would be an additional cost to get it dipped.  I decided to stop in at our local Home Depot and Lowes hardware stores and landed up settling on Home Depot’s product.

Here are the list of materials we purchased:

Item Quantity Cost
1 1/2″ RIGID COUPLING 1 $5
10′ 1 1/2″(Outside Diameter) Galvanized Conduit Pipe 2 $36 per pipe
Quickcrete Cememt Bag 3 $5 per bag
10′ 1 1/4″ (Outside Diameter) EMT Galvanized Conduit Pipe 1 $9.50
Stainless Steel Spring Link 1 $5
Eyebolt w/Nut 1 $2
1′ Rebar 2 $1 each
Tetherball Kit 1 $15

If you are questioning why we bought two 10′ poles for $36, that wasn’t by design.  Home Depot requires you to buy the entire 10′ pole and then they’ll cut it to size.  Unfortunately, in my case I wanted a 38″ section to be cemented in the ground, so I had to buy two sections and just eat the cost.  However, buying two poles at $36 was still cheaper than buying one 21′ section for $140!

So with about $125 invested and after he opened the actual packaged tetherball on his birthday, we waited for the rain to let up so we could start the project!

The first phase of the project involved drilling two holes through the 38″ piece of pipe that would be cemented in the ground.  This allowed for two pieces of 1′ rebar to be inserted through the pole.  The holes were drilled in a manner so that they created an X like pattern and would offer stability to the pole.

Once those were set and ready to go, the tedious job of digging the 36″ deep hole with approximately a 6″ radius, began.  The 36″ hole depth will prevent any ice from forming under the pole and pushing it up.  Digging this deep is what’s known as being below the frost line.

If you plan to create your own tetherball in-ground setup, I highly recommend a post hole digger.  Although I got the job done with my shovel, maybe spending the $25 on a post hole digger would have been worth it.  I only talked myself out of the purchase because I felt I wouldn’t get my use out of one past this project.

Once the hole was at it’s desired depth, I added some gravel to the base of the hole.  This will allow for water to drain more easily and act as another safe guard and allow water to drain more easily.

Of course, we couldn’t pass up having some fun before filling the hole.  My daughter stuck one leg in the hole just to get an idea how deep 36″ really is.  Let’s just say she needed my help to get back out!


With my daughter out of the hole, we set the 38″ section of pipe in place.  Checking that the pipe was level on several sides, we began to pour the Quickcrete concrete mix in the hole.  It was amazing how much stability the dry concrete powder offered when it filled in around the pipe.  I was afraid the pipe would still move, but it didn’t.  From there we added the necessary gallon of water per 5o pound (1 bag) of Quickcrete.


Even though the concrete is supposed to set within 20 minutes, we gave it about 48 hours before attaching the 10′ section of pole that would act as the actual tetherball pole.  We then attached the coupling, inserted the 1 1/4″ 10′ pole to provide further stability (in case they decide to climb the pole one day), and then put the 10′ section over top of the 1 1/4″, acting like a sleeve.

spring linkWe put the finishing touches on by attaching the tetherball rope to the stainless steel spring link and then attached that to the eyebolt at the top of the pole.  Before I could even step back and even begin to admire the work we had done, the kids were already playing their first game of tetherball!

It’s amazing to see that in the first few days of having the set, my son hasn’t thought twice about his video game system!  I don’t expect this trend to last forever, but one thing I do know is that it was worth the investment to have him do something he loves and be active, rather than hearing him say, “I have nothing to do, can I play XBox?”  In addition, although my daughter doesn’t talk about playing at school like he does, I’ve caught her enjoying the set as well!

Leave some comments below!  I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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