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Archive for September, 2009

Boy Scout Court of Honor



Last night John’s Boy Scout troop had a Court of Honor to give the boys the awards that they have earned during the past few months.  John moved up in rank to Second Class.  He is actually very close to completing the First Class requirements and should get that advancement at the next Court of Honor scheduled in February.  He also got the Totin’ Chip and Historical Trails patches along with two of the required Eagle scout merit badges, First Aid and Citizenship in the Nation,  and two optional merit badges, pets and painting.

We are continuing to work on Boy Scout requirements, but it does slow down during the school year.  Like I said, John is currently working towards the First Class rank while he is completing another Eagle required merit badge, Personal Fitness.

Brock will move up into this same Boy Scout troop in February.  I look forward to seeing him work his way through the ranks as well!

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A couple of weeks ago, the girls helped me to make Wagon Wheel Chili as part of Caravan.  I based what we did on a recipe in Taste of Home’s Fun Food on p. 88.  It was so easy and yummy!  We also made “Mini Subs” to go with the chili, and those were also a big hit.  Mini Subs are simply sandwiches made on hot dog buns with favorite sub sandwich toppings.  Here is a Smilebox of the chili recipe:

Click to play this Smilebox recipe: Wagon Wheel Chili
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Today Brock finished his mammal poster for his 5th grade science class.  He had a lot of fun making it because he loves our guinea pigs so much!  He enjoyed being able to put pictures of our pets on his poster.  He still needs to put together an oral report for school, but he will also give a three minute presentation about his poster and his pets for Webelos next week.

I finally bought a paper cutter for projects like this.  I’m sure I’ll wonder why I didn’t get one sooner!  It sure makes cutting straight edges easier, and makes for a nicer final product.

Cosette is getting ready to begin her third grade animal notebook, so that paper cutter will definitely be put to good use soon!

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Three years ago Huang Min Cui from Huangshan, Anhui Province, China, became my daughter.  We changed her name to Kara Joy Mincui O’Brien because “Kara” means “pure,” and we were confident that God was bringing our family pure joy when He saw fit to bless us with her.  He has truly done that, and I praise Him today for the honor of being this precious child’s forever Mommy.

We love you dearly, Kara, and can’t wait to see how God works through you–He already has in so many ways!

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: Three Years of Blessing
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A New Fad



Last May, I gave John a set of Speed Stacks for his birthday, and, believe it or not, they just got put aside and never even opened–until this past weekend.  My brother and his wife were visiting and brought a couple more sets of stacking cups with mats and timers for the kids.  Well, this spurred them all on to watch the DVD to learn how to do this fun activity.

So, for the last few days, my living room has been taken over by stacking cups!  The kids are being nice helping each other learn tricks to go faster, and, of course, there are many friendly competitions going on too!  All five of the kids have been sucked in by this latest fad, and actually I kind of hope that it is one that will last awhile.

Of course, they are absolute beginners, but they have been having a lot of fun practicing the fundamentals of this sport.  Here is a video of Brock–I think he is getting the hang of it:

When the kids get more proficient in the days to come, I will post more videos of the cup-stacking progress.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow: The New Fad
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Kara had a couple more Scriptures to say before the end of her grading period later this week, so here they are:

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Wanted: Digital Camera Advice

I have never been terribly happy with my digital camera.  It’s ok, I guess, but it is somewhat disappointing.  The auto-focus is slow and often does not get the pictures in focus at all, and the pictures are consistently too dark.  So, I find myself taking a lot of shots just because I know most of them won’t work out.  I literally have to edit every picture on my camera before they are usable.

So, I am beginning to consider getting a different camera.  I want a good, functional camera, but it does not need to be fancy.  I basically want a good, dependable point-and-shoot with video capabilities.  I really don’t know enough about digital cameras to make a smart decision, so I am asking my readers for advice.  Do you have any brands or models to recommend (or stay away from)?  What features should I be looking for?  Any help would be appreciated.  Please leave your suggestions as comments, and I will take all of them into consideration.  Thanks in advance!

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A few years ago, my mom and I teamed up to get A Beka’s music theory/flutophone course and the appropriate musical instruments for my nieces so they could get some exposure to reading musical notation.  At that time, I was able to get a set of 5 flutophones for a very low price.  I gave my nieces some, and kept the rest for the future.  Well, the future has arrived!

I had considered using the flutophones in Caravan, but the curriculum is just too advanced for Kara at this time.  Cosette wanted to try it out, though, so I told her that she could use hers, and we’ll save Kara’s for when she is older.  So, this week Cosette has started learning to play this simple musical instrument.  She has a big advantage since she already knows how to read music from her piano and violin lessons.  It is not going to take her very long to be able to play this, but she is having fun trying out a different kind of instrument.

It seems like this week has seen an increase in special school projects.  Brock is continuing to work on his Guinea Pig Poster, and he should be finishing that this weekend.  One of the requirements for that project is incorporating the mammal’s tracks on the poster.  I discovered that trying to find guinea pig tracks to print off of the internet is not easy!  But, as I thought about it, I decided it was not worth wasting a lot of time searching the web considering we have two live specimens in our basement!  So today Brock and I worked together to make impressions of our guinea pigs’ feet in some Model Magic.  I think putting these on the poster will actually be pretty cute!

John is continuing to work on his 7th grade science research project.  He is currently in the phase of putting together his bibliography and note cards for his research paper.  I have been impressed with how A Beka Academy is stepping him through this major project.  They do a little each day giving guidance at every point.  I think John’s project will be quite interesting when it is finished.

Cosette also has a project starting this week.  She will be doing the third grade animal notebook.  This activity involves putting together a scrap book of the different categories of animals.  This will be her first project like this, and I know that she will enjoy it.

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This week the girls and I started back with our weekly Caravan meetings.  We had taken off most of the summer, but since the boys are getting back into scouts, it was time for the girls to start up again too.

We still have a couple of badges to earn from our first book, and then we will be beginning the Quester handbooks.  The merit badges for this level look like a lot of fun:  camping, field trip, environment, the Bible, stewardship, missions, bike safety, crafts, God made me, cooking, flag, music, Child of the King, party planning, and good sport.

I always personalize our program by adding in extra activities.  This year we are going to do some of the requirements for the Fun for the Family program published by the Boy Scouts of America.  This is a neat curriculum for the whole family that contains “a series of activities and requirements designed to strengthen families and to develop good character skills among family members.”  The activities are divided into five categories, and there are both badges and pins that the girls can earn.  This program can actually be used for several years, so depending on how it goes, we might just keep with it for awhile.

This week we looked through some of the suggested activities for the “Shaping Your Family Identity” badge for the Family Fun program, and the girls picked out which ones they would like to do this year.  The first one is going to be a lot of fun.  We are going to make a “Name Book.”  This book will have separate pages for each member of our family that tells about the meaning of their names and other special things about each one.  We will work on the cover for the next meeting.  I have found some interesting things about our family name, and even this site where we can design our own family Coat of Arms.  So, this project will take us a few weeks, but it will be fun.

I also do cooking activities quite often for Caravan, and this week was no exception.  This week I adapted a recipe out of a Taste of Home magazine for a dessert quesadilla that was quite easy and yummy.  In fact, I wonder if it might work for a camping recipe….  Anyway, I will post a Smilebox of the recipe.  There are no specific amounts for the ingredients since it is all done to taste.

As a side note:  it looks like this year I will be helping with Luke’s Wolf Scout group.  It should be interesting because I will need to take the girls with me when we go.  I am working with a great lady, though, so I think it will go well.  I’m sure there will be posts about that in the future.

Click to play this Smilebox recipe: Caravan Quesadillas
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Back in an earlier entry of The Prairie Family Chronicles dated June 9, 2008, I wrote a book review of  Mandie and the Secret Tunnel .  We enjoyed this book, and continued reading the first eight books in the Mandie series.  I knew at the time that we read the book, that a movie was being made of this first Mandie book, and we have excitedly awaited its completion and release.  Well, the movie has been finished and will be officially released on September 22, 2009.  We received a copy to review and were able to watch it last night.

I must say that this movie is absolutely fantastic!  Like the book, it is a little confusing at the beginning, but that is what sets up the mystery of the rest of the story.  It is about a young girl in 1899 whose father dies leaving her with a mother and sister who do not love her.  She believes that she truly belongs nowhere and to no one, and eventually a group of Cherokee friends tell her about an uncle that she did not know she had and help her run away to his house.  When she arrives there, she sadly discovers that her uncle is dead, and then the real mystery begins.

Mandie’s uncle was a very wealthy man whose only relative was Mandie’s father.  The keeper of the estate believes that Mandie’s father, who is also now deceased, may be listed in her uncle’s will as the inheritor of the estate.  This, of course, would mean that Mandie, who had been completely impoverished up to this point, would inherit the family’s wealth.  The only problem is that the will is hidden and no one can find it.  A search of the estate ensues during which Mandie uncovers family secrets that ultimately lead her to a surprise  discovery that she has an unexpected family who not only wants her, but loves her as well.

This movie is very well done.  The music and scenery are stunning, and the acting is professional.  The lead role of Mandie is played by Lexi Johnson who also played the part of Circus in the Sugar Creek Gang DVD series.  She is a very beautiful and talented actress and her portrayal of Mandie really brings the character to life.  Mandie is an excellent role model for my daughters because she is feminine, but strong.    Dean Jones, who acted in several old Disney movies, plays the part of the estate keeper.  I love his character!  He is loving and funny, and all of my kids enjoyed his performance.  The housekeepers are played by Gezell Fleming and Brandi Nicole Feemster.  They are fantastic in their roles and the charming nature of their characters in the book series comes through in the movie.

This full-length feature film will be released soon and is available for preorder on Amazon at this link as well as on the movie’s website at http://mandiemovies.com/ .  I highly recommend this movie that the whole family will enjoy, and hope that future Mandie movies are being planned!

Enjoy this trailer of Mandie and the Secret Tunnel:

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