Archive for March, 2011

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Back in 2008, I wrote an entry about Kara’s desire to learn to play the piano. She is a very determined girl, and I knew that if she wanted to play the piano, she would figure out a way to do so with her special hands. Unfortunately, some people have been skeptical about that and have even been so unkind as to say so to her, but I can tell you that Kara has never had any problems doing anything that any other kid her age can do.  In that post, I embedded a video of a young lady who is a concert pianist who not only has more issues with her hands than does Kara, but who also has mental challenges that Kara does not face.

Well, I must be honest in saying that we were not able to continue the piano lessons after a few months in 2008, but it had absolutely nothing to do with Kara’s hands, or ability to play, for that matter.  She was just too little to learn to read musical notation at that point in her life.  It was such a struggle for her that I decided it would be best to put the lessons aside until she was older. This past Christmas, Kara again asked me if she could try piano again, and since she has made so much progress in learning to read the printed word, I thought that she very possibly could be ready to read musical notation as well. So, she did start back up, and it has been soooo much easier this time!  She is doing extremely well and has not had any issues yet with her hands.  I know that the day will come when she will have to figure out her “own way” as the left hand chords get more involved, but I know that she can do it.

Anyway, today my sister-in-law shared another video with me that proves that with determination, playing the piano is achievable regardless of the obstacles that must be overcome.  This video is of a Chinese girl who plays beautifully despite the fact that she has no fingers on her right hand.  By the way, for those who don’t play the piano, the right hand usually plays the more technically difficult melody–so this girl is absolutely amazing!

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This is what I found in my bathroom this afternoon:

Oh, the Strange Things I Find Around the House!

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Our family really enjoys read-aloud time.  We started reading long chapter books many years ago, and it has just become part of our nightly routine.  I have struggled from time-to-time to try to pick appropriate, quality books, and often search the internet for suggestions.  I have decided to make a conscious effort to write reviews of the books that we read as a family in case others are also looking for similar suggestions.

We just finished up a wonderful book called Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher.  I had been looking for this book because there is a humorous chapter from it in one of our A Beka readers.  We always get such a laugh when we read that selection, that I figured that the whole book would be a good read-aloud choice.  I was delighted when I found out that Understood Betsy is one of the books that can be downloaded onto Kindle for free at this link.

This book is about a girl who lives in the early 1900’s.  Betsy had been raised by her aunt to be quite a spoiled, sheltered child who was completely self-centered.  Because of her aunt’s illness, Betsy moves to another household where her life changes dramatically.  She is not very impressed with her new home at first.  She was appalled by the simple, country life of her new family, and had no idea how to do the simplest of household chores.  As time goes on, however, Betsy learns that she can do many things that she didn’t think she could do, and that this simple life was actually fun.  In the process, she gets her focus off of herself and onto loving and serving others.  By the end of the book, Betsy’s life has completely transformed, and when given the opportunity to return to her spoiled ways, she chooses to remain in her simple, country home.

There was only one thing that kind of bothered me as we read this book, but it ended up resolving itself within a chapter or two.  Betsy meets a boy who is raggedy and neglected.  She and her friends come up with a plan to help this boy by trying to “fix him up” to be “desirable” in hopes that a man will adopt him.  As an adoptive parent, this kind-of bothered me.  I definitely did not want our adopted daughter to get the idea that we adopted her simply because she was “cute” and “fancy” enough.  We openly discussed this issue and explained to all of our kids that every child is worthy of a loving home, no matter how “cute” or “homely” one is.  What was interesting in Understood Betsy, however, is that even though Betsy and her friends did make nice clothes to “fix up” this boy, his step-father ruined the clothes.  It wasn’t until the boy was back to his bedraggled self that he was adopted into a new home.  I was pleased with that–it’s not outward appearance that makes one worthy.

Other than that, the book was very humorous and enjoyable.  Many chapters had my kids laughing out loud.  We especially enjoyed one of the final chapters in which Betsy and her Aunt are discussing her future.  They both don’t want to hurt each others’ feelings, so they beat around the bush to an almost ridiculous degree!  Isn’t that how things often go?!  This book is very clean–something that is very much appreciated by the Prairie Family.

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Making and enjoying swords weren’t the only things that Brock got done this weekend!  🙂 The local Lion’s club was having a ham and bean feed this weekend to raise money for some scholarships, and they asked our Boy Scout troop to help with this fundraiser.  Brock and several of his buddies did a great job helping with the event.  I must admit that he was less than thrilled before the ham and bean feed, but after it was over, he kept telling me that he really had a great time there.  I took the other four kids to the feed for lunch, and we got the “gold service” treatment from our special waiter.  Actually, all of the attendees got the gold service treatment!  The boys were so good about helping people carry their food to the tables, getting drinks, serving dessert, clearing away trash, etc., and they did it with happy, smiling faces.

Tomorrow night there is  another neat Boy Scout service opportunity that John and Brock both plan on participating in.  The United States Army Jazz Ambassadors are having a concert and has asked the boys’ troop to participate as color guards for a flag ceremony.  That should be a great experience for them, and we are looking forward to it!

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Brock’s Swords

My kids love swords.  Let me repeat that:  my kids LOVE swords!  🙂  It all started a few years ago when Brock decided that he wanted a Nerf sword for his birthday.  Even though I thought that the interest-level for this gift would not be very great, I needed good gift ideas, so I got him a couple of them.  Boy, was I surprised! Those silly swords where the biggest hit (no pun intended!) of that birthday!  Not only that, they have continued to be used on nearly a daily basis since that time.  They show lots of wear, but they are definitely favorite items in our house.

Several months ago I found a website called Warfare by Duct Tape that had instructions for a variety of Medieval weaponry using basic materials.  The instructions didn’t cost very much, so I downloaded and printed them off.  I really thought the kids would take to this like crazy, but for some reason, they looked through the booklet, noticed some of their suggested rules for “battles,” and went back to Nerf swords.

Recently, however, Brock remembered these instructions and wandered if I still had them.  I got out the notebook, and Brock was convinced that he could make a sword if we got him the materials he needed:  duct tape, PVC pipe, and PVC pipe insulation.  He was so determined that he said he’d spend his own money to get the stuff.  Last Friday, Dan took Brock to a local store where they got all of the materials, and I helped Brock make his sword.  (Actually he did most of it by himself!)  After he made a successful sword, he decided to try to make a dagger using his own made-up design.

So, there have been a lot of “battles” over the last few days, and the rest of the kids all want to make swords/daggers too.  What’s really cool is that there are all sorts of colors and designs of duct tape these days, so they can personalize them however they want.  We have made the agreement with them, though, that if they want to make their own “weapons,” they too will have to buy their own materials.

Who would have thought that something as simple as swords, daggers, shields, etc. would provide so many hours of entertainment?! We learned long ago, however, that the first rule of engagement is to remove all glasses from the participants.  We have had SO MANY glasses bent up in these battles!   I have learned to be a glasses-adjuster from many incidents, but they are getting better about remembering to take them off which makes me happy!  🙂

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Last night we had a very productive American Heritage Girls meeting and knocked out several requirements for the badges that we are working on. The girls started making their hat projects on the knitting looms, and they are catching right on!  Hopefully they will pick their looms up during the week so we can see real progress soon.

We love the Trailblazer program (the lone scouting approach to AHG) and are completely satisfied with it.  That being said, however, word is starting to spread about this wonderful organization, and I have families contact me regularly to inquire about what we are doing and if there is an organized troop in our area.  I always tell them that I have considered the troop approach, but haven’t gone much past that because it requires finding an organization willing to charter the troop as well as several families willing to send their girls (and volunteer to help!).  I also add that if they are truly interested in AHG, they could also apply to participate in the Trailblazer program, and that we could get our Trailblazers together for activities from time-to-time even without a troop. There hasn’t been any other families that I know of that have actually done that yet–I think the cost and responsibility of the program is the main deterrent. Many parents just think having a troop would be easier.  I had another serious family contact me this weekend, so I told them that I would at least get the materials on how to start a troop so that I can intelligently tell them about the requirements and the process to get started.

I know there would be advantages to having a troop.  It would give social/leadership opportunities for the girls, and there is no question that the skills, hobbies, and values of AHG would greatly benefit any girl that would participate.  It would be a wonderful opportunity for ministry.  That being said, it would require more organization, finances, leaders, etc., and I know from working with Cub Scouts that those things can be challenging.

On the other hand, we are completely happy as Trailblazers as well.  We enjoy participating in the organization and can still kind of “do our own thing,” which is nice too.  So, I am seeking God’s direction in this area.  I am willing to do what He wants–in His time and in His way.  If He wants a troop, I know He will open the appropriate doors.  If not, we will be content continuing on as Trailblazers. Either way, we are blessed to be part of this great organization!

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