Archive for February, 2012

Orchestra Concert

Our next orchestra concert is coming up on February 26 at 3:30.  This is an exciting event for the Prairie Family because this will be the first concert that John and Cosette will be participating in!  🙂  It sure has been fun having them come to the rehearsals, and they are both doing very well keeping up with it all. We have their outfits all ready to go, and they are looking forward to it.

This concert is going to be unique because we have a mezzo soprano opera singer joining us for several pieces.  Now, I must admit that I was kind of skeptical about all of this because I am not really an opera fan.  The singer has come to some rehearsals, though, and she is absolutely wonderful to listen to! The kids have enjoyed working with her too, so this has been a good experience.  Our songs are a little more on the serious side for this concert since we do have the guest singer, but I think the audience will enjoy it.  Some of the songs that we will be doing are New World Symphony, Sabre Dance, Unfinished Symphony, Habanera from Carmen, the Battle Hymn of the Republic, and medleys from The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, and West Side Story.

Our orchestra will have one more concert in the spring before our season is finished, and although it will be nice to have a break for awhile, we will miss it during the summer!

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Valentine Cupcakes

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Well, after our struggle to make our cars that I wrote about in the last entry, the day for the actual 2012 Cub Scout Pinewood Derby arrived.  This year’s race was a little different for the Prairie Family because Dan is the Cub Master this year, and was, therefore, “in charge” of this great event.  That means that all of us had jobs to do, and we even got my parents to help out too!

Dan was out of town on business for the last couple of days before the race, so it was up to me to pull together some of the last minute details–like prizes.  Fortunately, I found some editable online certificates for the winners in each group as well as quite a collection of other prizes to give out for artistic winners.  Dan recruited my mom and my girls to help judge the cars for their craftsmanship, while my Dad helped monitor the end of the race track and verify the winning cars.  John and Brock helped set the cars for each race.  So, we were running for the whole race and really didn’t even get to see how our cars did!  LOL!

It is always interesting to see how our cars run.  I’m sure many people think we are hyper-competitive, but, to be honest, we really only compete against ourselves.  We like experimenting with this-and-that to try to improve our cars from year-to-year, but really we don’t concentrate too much on how they compete with the other family’s cars.  It never ceases to surprise us which cars do well, and which ones lag behind.  We really expected my car to be the big loser this year because we ended up putting unmatched and unprepped tires on it.  (I told why in the last entry.)  The rest of the cars had all had the same preparation steps applied to them, so there was no predicting how they would run.

We were glad that Luke’s car did well.  After all, he is the actual Cub Scout!  🙂 His car came in 1st in the Webelos 1 class, and we were happy for that.  But we were also happy for his buddy.  This friend has always struggled with his cars and has gotten discouraged over the years seeing his cars come in near the end.  This year, though was different for him!  His car was right up there with Luke’s car and ended up placing 2nd!  This was a real victory for this boy, and he and Luke were both such good sports through all of the heats of the race.

John, Brock, Cosette, and Kara all had their cars in the Youth Open Class.  They all ran fairly well.  John’s car came in 2nd; Brock’s car tied for 3rd; Cosette’s car was a close 4th; and Kara’s car came in 5th.  After all of the trouble we had had with Cosette’s car, it was good to see it run decently.  It still was not done with it’s surprises, though, which I will get to in a little bit!

Dan and I raced our cars in the Adult Open Class.  Dan’s car came in 4th, and for some unknown reason, my car came in 1st!  That was a real shocker since we seriously expected it to not do very well!  I guess that means that all of the work that we do to prep the tires really doesn’t accomplish much?! Strange…………

Now what was really weird was what happened after all of the other scouts left.  Like I said, we like to see how our cars run against each other, so we raced all of the Prairie Family cars just to see which one was fastest.  Believe it or not, Cosette’s car came in 1st–it beat mine, and John’s and Brock’s!  That doesn’t make any sense considering that it had raced John’s car and Brock’s car in the Youth Open class and had not beaten them then!  We tried it several times, and, sure enough, Cosette’s car won the Prairie Family races every time! Again, we don’t know why this is so.  I told Cosette that maybe her car was shy and got stage fright when it raced in Open Class and then just let it all out when all of the spectators were gone!  🙂

So, in many ways this year’s race is a mystery to us.  I don’t know that we learned very much that will be helpful in making our cars next year.

Here are a couple of videos of the race.  The first one is of the Webelos 1 cars racing, and the second is the Adult Open Class cars racing.

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There is an easy way of doing things, and there is a difficult way of doing things.  And then there is the Prairie Family way of doing things:  the hardest way possible!  This is a general principle in our house, and nothing proves it to be more true than when we make our annual set of pinewood derby cars!

This year we cut back a little.  Last year we ended up making 11 cars by the time we made all of our usual mistakes.  We only had 7 cars for 2012.  Yes, we are really slacking off!  Ugh! I would say, though, that we have our method down.  That doesn’t mean that it always goes smoothly or that it accomplishes much, but we do have a method.  Other families can make their cars the night before the race, and their cars look nice and run well.  Not us.  No, we spend DAYS and DAYS on these silly things, and sometimes they run well, and sometimes they don’t.

Each year it seems that we have at least one car that is a “pickle.”  This year was no exception to that although it took a while to show itself.  It ended up being Cosette’s car.  She had planned on having a ladybug car ever since last year’s race.  We had thought through the process of doing a cute paint job and thought we had it all figured out.  Unfortunately, sometimes plans don’t work out in the real world like we expect.  She and I worked together on that ladybug, but the paint just wouldn’t work.  It smudged, smeared, and just made a mess!  So, Dan came to the rescue and sanded her car back down to the bare wood to start all over again.  Because the race was approaching quickly, we decided to scrap the ladybug plan and do something easier.  Cosette is really into cupcakes, so she decided to make a cupcake-themed car.

So, back to the beginning we went with primer, PINK paint, acrylic sealer, and the whole nine yards.  We used some cupcake stickers for the main decorations, but then we added a rick-rack stripe on the side with a cake decorator’s bag at the top of it to make it look like it was squeezing out the rick-rack.  It ended up being pretty cute, but our troubles had only begun…..

For some unknown reason, we just couldn’t get the wheels on Cosette’s little car!  We put them on, tried rolling it, saw that it went crooked, took them off, put them back on, etc.  We had used graphite to lubricate the wheels, and while we were working with the car, the graphite got EVERYWHERE!  Her cute cupcake car was a complete MESS!  Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy. We finally got the wheels on, and then when we put the glue on to hold the axles, it got onto the tires.  Yes, you guessed it:  we had to start over AGAIN on those silly wheels!  We pulled them off, and washed them off.  Well, since they were no longer lubricated, I thought it might be best just to use the tires originally planned for my car on Cosette’s car.  After all, they were all polished and lubricated.  So, my tires went on her car, and my car ended up with two of her old tires and two random tires that had no prepping at all.

That was STILL not the end of the story, though.  That cupcake car was just a mess!  Graphite was everywhere!  I told Cosette not to worry, and that we’d figure out some way of working it out.  What I didn’t know was that she went and prayed that God would help us fix her cupcake car.  At that very moment (I am not exaggerating), an idea popped into my head:  how do I get pencil marks off of the walls?  With Magic Erasers!  Pencil is, after all, graphite also!  So, I carefully tried washing off some of the graphite with one of those Magic Erasers, and….it worked!  Unfortunately, some of the stickers and all of the white rick-rack were beyond hope, though.  So, Cosette and I carefully peeled off those parts, washed the graphite off of the pink car and replaced the decorations the day before the race.  She was absolutely delighted that God had answered her prayer and had helped me know how to fix her problems!  Thank you, Lord!

So, the lessons learned this year:  problems can be fixed with a little creativity, patience, and prayer; there is value in craftsmanship, not just speed; don’t use light-colored paint because the graphite makes a real mess!  🙂

So, how did the cars do?  That will be the subject of my next entry.

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9th Grade Science Project 2012

One of John’s major school projects for this year is complete!  Yea!  Each year, A Beka Academy students in grades 7-12 put together a science project that involves several steps.  There is a background information research paper, an investigation, analyzing of the investigation, and sharing the project through a display and oral presentation.  These projects are always very involved and take many months to complete, so it feels like we have won a major battle when they are finally finished!

Choosing a project seems to be one of the hardest steps to completing this massive assignment–especially for John.  A topic that is interesting is very important because the student has to invest so much time into it.  This year, John really wanted to do something with probability and statistics, but he wanted to do something useful with it.  After agonizing over picking just the right subject, he decided to combine his interest in probability with his interest in meteorology, and he ended up with a very interesting project.  Basically, he designed an  experiment to test the accuracy of weather forecasting, and then spent many weeks gathering data to test his hypothesis.

His investigation involved comparing 5-day, 3-day, and 1-day weather forecasts to the actual weather.  There is a weather station at Dan’s work site, so he had access to pretty accurate and detailed statistics for each day.  He compiled all of his data in a spreadsheet, and this proved to be quite a tedious project!  To keep his variables controlled, he had to record his data at the same time each day from September through January.  Yes, that meant that if we were gone (like to the State Fair or visiting family for the holiday), he had to arrange for someone to record his data for him or figure out a way to do it otherwise. Fortunately, he is a very dedicated individual, and he managed to keep up with his daily record-keeping.

Once his data was collected, he compared the forecasts to the actual weather to see how accurate the forecasts were for each time period.  The results mostly supported his hypothesis that the 1-day forecasts should be the most accurate, but, like most investigations, this wasn’t 100% true.  What was really interesting, though, was to realize just how little precipitation the Prairie had during that time frame.  There almost wasn’t enough precipitation for those months to have conclusive support of anything!  The temperature forecasts, however, did give the data that he needed.

After the information was gathered, Dan helped John figure out how to sort through the results, analyze them, and make graphs.  Having an economist for a Dad sure can be handy!

Then came another tedious part: putting together the display.  Artsy-craftsy things really aren’t John’s cup-of-tea, but I think he did a pretty good job anyway.  He then organized his project into an oral presentation, and did a wonderful job.

So, one more science project is done.  Many, many more yet to go…….

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