Our Eagle-Scout-Level-of-Mothering Summer Project

It’s summer…8 weeks into summer, to be exact. We’re getting a little squirrelly.

This child’s summertime obsession has been dominoes.

Not playing dominos, mind you; playing with dominoes. This would be called “building domino tracks” to the initiated. And, oh my friends, we are not just in the club. We are the freaking Grand Poobahs of the Domino Track Club, Local Lodge #85.

I remember the days long ago when Jack went through a construction vehicle phase. Never did I think I’d know the difference between an excavator and a backhoe loader, between a jackhammer and a tamper. And who’d have ever thought a cherry-picker could send us looping back around the block for another look?

That obsession with dump trucks was nothing compared to our current one with dominoes.

We’ve seen every YouTube video on the subject. My vocabulary has expanded to include things such as fallbacks, towers and switchbacks.

It’s off the chain.

[Now, before we continue the story, let me remind you that we are eight weeks into summer break. Eight weeks, people. We are hitting the wall here.]

Jack and Tuck are gone during the days this week from 9-2. Which means, obviously, that I spend about 4.5 hours a day building domino tracks and knocking them over with Theo, which differs only slightly from the other 8 hours a day we spend building domino tracks in the fact that we have no brothers here to assist us.

By Tuesday, I was going bananas. So I decided we needed some bigger dominoes–for his upcoming Domino Track themed birthday party, you know. (Yes, seriously. Still trying to figure out how we’re going to pull that one off.)

A few Google searches planted the seeds. So off to Home Depot we went.

After some insanely complicated math (I’m a writer, not a wizard, you know), we pulled our boards: three 10 foot 1″x4″ ones.

These don’t fit in a cart.

They don’t even come close.

By the way, the only folks at Home Depot first thing in the morning are the hardcore, legitimate builders. They use all those huge rolling flatbed carts.


Next, after dodging multiple forklifts and half of the construction work force in Atlanta, we made it to the Cutting Center. Danger, Will Robinson.

We pushed our way into the line and stood there like we knew what we were doing. The good news is that when you are at Home Depot at the crack of dawn with your not-quite-5-year old, it’s obvious you are knee-deep in a Mother-Son project–which makes you look like SuperMom, even if you haven’t showered in 2 days, have dark circles under your eyes and are wearing unmatching workout clothes. Score one, Mom.

A regular domino is 2″ by 3″. After nearly melting my brain, I figured out that we could expand that size to 4″ by 6″ on our 10 foot board and get a yield (see that mathy term?) of 20 dominoes per board. We just needed the Super-Radial-Arm-Saw-Jedi-Master to cut each board at 6″ increments. Super-Radial-Arm-Saw-Jedi-Master then informed me that the first 3 cuts were free; after that, each cut would cost $.50.

Too. Much. Math.

Radial-Arm-Saw-Jedi-Master saw that calculating the cost of that was about to make my head explode, so he just started cutting.

And then he told us that he wasn’t going to charge us. You gotta love tough guys who are softies at heart.

Let’s pause here for a quick grammar lesson. IT’S is the contraction; ITS is the possessive. Just saying.

“The saw blade should return to it’s original position and at that time push the STOP button.” 

Hey, they do math; I do English. 


Somehow we ended up with 53 dominoes, not 60, but who’s counting? (Not “whose” counting, btw.) We also have 2 dominoes that are bigger than the rest, so maybe calling him the Radial-Arm-Saw-Jedi-Master is a bit of an exaggeration.

Seeing as we’ve just recently moved, we have a cabinet stocked to the gills with paint samples that doubled nicely as colors for giant dominoes.

My assistant pulled all 53 pieces of wood from the back of the car.

We then decided we needed to sand the edges since most of them had splintery shards poking out of them. Quality Control (a.k.a. Theo) decided this step was a bit tedious about 6 minutes into it, so he took his break back in the air conditioned house and set up tiny dominoes while the Project Manager completed the job.

It was indeed tedious.

Next step:  painting.

Luckily, we have about 700 empty boxes just lying around. We spread one on the driveway, laid the wooden slabs on top of it, and began to paint.

We were ambitious out of the gate: we picked our 10 favorite color samples and were going to paint 5 dominoes with each color.

But the native got restless about 15 minutes into this segment of the project. Thus, we have several giant dominoes who maintained their natural state. They are our hippie dominoes.

Thankfully, it was about 93 degrees yesterday, so the painted dominoes dried pretty quickly.

We added a spray-coating of clear something-or-other to make them shiny. This helped them aesthetically; they went from being a weirdo’s collection of painted slabs of wood to a weirdo’s collection of shiny, giant [mostly] colored outdoor dominoes.

We are shiny. Pigeons dream about us. 

I must admit:  these things rock the planet.

They are way easier to stack than the smaller dominoes. They also fall slower so in the event of a bobble it’s possible to stop it mid-fall without losing one’s entire track. This also prevents the younger sect from pitching temper tantrums which is crucial to the older sect’s sanity.

The boards were $15.36, the sandpaper was $5.47 and the clear glossy stuff was $3.76, bringing the total cost of the project to less than $25. (Of course, having 18 leftover cans of paint samples saved us a ton–or cost us a ton–however you want to look at it.)

In the end, this was a project well worth doing. I even got to tell Theo about the fabulous stilts my Popster built for me when I was a little kid. I’d pay good money to have a picture of them here with me. They weighed more than I did. But that afternoon spent with my Daddy hammering and nailing wood together after our trip to Handy Andy is one of my most beloved memories of growing up. I can only hope Theo will remember our project just as fondly.

We just spent our entire morning outside building tracks.

Click here to see his amazing video of these babies in action—>The Domino Master hopes you enjoy his video.

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