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Archive for August, 2012

The Prairie Family loves this song!  We sing it to each other many times each week.  Its message is a good reminder about keeping things in perspective.

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This summer Brock and Cosette participated in the Jr. High level summer reading program activity classes.  This year, the kids worked in groups to make stop motion animation video clips.  The library just posted their group’s video on You Tube, and I think it looks pretty good!  (I know I am a bit biased, though!)

By the way, the red blob is supposed to be an explosion–Brock wanted me to make sure that everyone knew that it is supposed to represent flames blowing up the robot.  Also, there is no sound since they ran out of time to add it before their sessions were finished.

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This was our family’s second year to help with the annual End-of-Summer Gem Lions’ Club BBQ. This is that organization’s main fund-raiser for the year, and they use the money for several community projects.  I had no idea until we went last year what a big deal it is.  Gem is just a little tiny community on the Prairie, but people from all over the area pack the place out each year for good food, games, and live entertainment.  There are usually several hundred attendees, and this year was no exception to that.

The boys’ scout troop (assisted by my American Heritage Girls) helps to serve the drinks at this event.  It usually goes pretty smoothly until the big crowds hit about mid-way through the BBQ.  That is when all hands on deck have to be at maximum production to keep up with it all!  It is a fun time, though, and the kids really look forward to it.  It’s a good service, and it’s a neat way to meet people too.

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Last weekend the kids participated in the annual Youth Outdoor Skills Day.  We had attended last year and had loved it so much, that they were really looking forward to participating again this year.

There were five different activities to take part in:  Orienteering, Muzzle Loading, Shotguns, Trapping, and Archery.  I personally think that one of the most informative sessions was the orienteering. The boys have had a little bit of experience using compasses, topographical maps, etc. through Scouts, but we had just never really understood it until this Outdoor Skills Day. The guy who lead that session was very sharp on his topic and took the kids step-by-step through the process of using those compasses properly.  I just hope that we can remember all that we learned that day–setting up activity stations to locate using orienteering skills would be an ideal activity for camps in the future!

The kids all enjoyed the muzzle loading guns.  The shot guns, however, were a little overwhelming for the younger ones.  Last year Cosette really struggled with them, and I wasn’t sure what she’d do this year, but she jumped right in there and discovered that she is just physically a lot bigger and stronger than she was last summer.  I encouraged Luke and Kara to keep that in mind.  They both tried the big shotguns, but weren’t overly impressed, but I told them that they should try it again in the future when their bodies are strong enough to handle them.

We enjoyed the trapping session again this year.  It was lead by the same guy as last year, but he sure is interesting!  He shows the kids different kinds of traps and trapping techniques, and has all kinds of neat stories and pictures to share.  Trapping is just not a common activity in our area, but I do see how it could be an enjoyable hobby.

Archery is always a favorite with the Prairie Family Kids.  The  men who led this session were really good about explaining safety and technique, which was helpful.  I talked to them about what kinds of equipment would be good to use for a starting hobbiest, so we’ll see where that heads in the future.

The day started out cool, but by that last session, it was plenty warm, and we were all pretty well worn out.  Cosette was happy, though, that at the end of the day her name was drawn to win a spotting scope–kind of a cool prize!

We really appreciate the people who put on this special event each year.  I know it is a ton of work, but it is something that my kids really look forward to and gain from.

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In a previous entry, I mentioned that I had managed to sort through and organize my nightmare of a music room.  I am so happy with the results, that I decided to post a slideshow.  Hopefully, it will stay this way.  This project is not finished, however.  Next summer I want to put in some new storage for our violins and repaint the room.  Anyway, this room is one of the most-used places in our house, so it sure feels good having it fixed up!

Now, a story about my piano:

I love my piano.  No, it is not new.  In fact, I bought it sometime after Dan and I were married, but before we had John.  During that time, I continued working as an accompanist in the music department of the public school, and we saved the money to buy the best piano we could afford.  I had decided that I wanted a digital piano, mostly because we were still moving from place-to-place, and a digital piano is definitely more portable than an acoustic.  So, I went on a digital piano search, starting, of course, with the major (and expensive) name-brands.

I was surprised to find that I really didn’t like any of the fancy, expensive pianos.  The organ, flute, string, etc. sounds were ok, but I just didn’t like the reproduced piano sounds.  They all sounded tinny to me.  And since I was mainly looking for a good piano sound, I got pretty discouraged.  And then…

I found it!  It was not an expensive, name-brand digital piano.  In fact, it was a Technics Digital Ensemble PR305.  I had never heard of Technics until I found this piano, but learned that it was a division of Panasonic.  It was the first digital piano that sounded “right” to me, and we bought the best model available at that time.

We have never regretted that.  I use all of the features on a very regular basis. Yes, we usually play it like a piano, but I have recorded multi-track, multi-instrument CD’s with it, have used its rhythms for scale practice, and often record accompaniments that the kids and I can practice with on solos.  It has been wonderful, and it has lasted.

AND THEN…

Last spring, the piano started to have a rattle in it.  I opened it up and tried to find the source of the rattle, and it definitely came from the area around one of the speakers.  I couldn’t do anything about it, though, because that part just was not accessible to a novice like me.  I wondered what we would do.  Could it be repaired?  Was it doomed?  I started looking at replacement options, and again I just wasn’t pleased with anything I saw.  Oh, there are certainly fancy things out there these days, but they all still sound “tinny” to me on the piano settings.

So, I started to try to figure out if it could be repaired.  I called the original company that sold me the piano, and they referred me to some repair technicians.  When I started making those calls, though, I got very discouraged. Technics no longer makes pianos.  In fact, they haven’t for many, many years. So, they all said that they could not possibly work on my piano.  After all, if it needed a part, they couldn’t get it.

I was just about to give up hope when I finally got in touch with someone who was willing to take a look at my old piano.  He said he didn’t know when he’d be in my area, and had no idea if he could fix it or not.  I told him that was all right, but that we sure would appreciate at least having him look at it.  To be honest, I had convinced myself that it was beyond hope and that it would be many, many weeks before he could come anyway.

I was surprised when he called me just a few days later!  He had come to my town on some other jobs and had time to come take a look at my piano.  He opened it all up, and discovered just what I had discovered:  the speakers were the source of the rattling.  He showed me where the material that suspends the actual speaker had deteriorated over time, and that although only one speaker was rattling, the other was just about to begin.  He told me the same thing about Technics, but said he would try putting Clavinova speakers in as a replacement.  It worked, and it worked beautifully!  He told me that he expects that piano to last many more years now.  If anything gives out, he thinks it will be the disk drive.  In fact, he is surprised that it still works considering how much we use it!

So, my piano has a new life, and we are so glad!  It might not be the newest thing in the world, but we love it and don’t want to get rid of it any time soon.

That being said, I have recently become aware of the fact that it might be good to get a regular, acoustic piano some day.  My kids have all grown up on my Technics, and digital pianos just have a different touch than acoustic pianos do.  (In fact, each acoustic piano has its own touch as well.)  Generally, though, the touch is more firm on the acoustic, and sometimes when my kids play the acoustic piano at church, it just doesn’t respond like they expect.  So, maybe an acoustic is in our future…..but I have no idea where we would put it!

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This summer John and Brock worked very hard to complete all of the requirements for the merit badges that they took at Merit Badge University.  Some of them were finished during the actual classes, but all of their badges had several prerequisites that had to be signed off before the sessions.

Both of the boys had chosen the Eagle-Required Communication badge for one of their focuses.  As part of that badge, the boys needed to plan and lead a Court of Honor for their troop.  I was very proud that they did such a good job of this in August.  Getting up in front of people to lead something like this is not easy, but they both did so and the whole ceremony went smoothly.

John completed the Communication badge, but he also received the Robotics badge.  This one is a relatively new badge for BSA, and no one in our troop had gotten it before, so everyone was excited to see what it looked like and to hear about John’s experiences at the class building and programming robots.

Brock also completed the Communication badge.  In addition, he finished the Citizenship in the Community and Woodworking badges.  We had quite an interesting time with the Citizenship badge.  We got to do all kinds of interesting things like attending county commissioner meetings about this summer’s fire ban and following up by meeting with our county’s emergency management coordinator about compliance.  So, two out of three of Brock’s badges were Eagle-required, and he is making good advancement progress.

Speaking of Advancement, both of the boys are getting very close to moving up a rank.  Hopefully by the troop’s next Court of Honor, John will advance to a Life Scout, and Brock will advance to a 1st Class Scout.  They each have a few loose ends to tie up to achieve those goals, but they made great progress towards that this summer!  Congrats, guys!

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