Archive for February, 2013

Moving Up to Boy Scouts

We have reached a much-anticipated milestone:  all three of our boys are in the same Boy Scout troop!  Luke has now officially graduated from Cub Scouts and has begun meeting with the older boys.  It is so nice to have one activity for all of them on the same night!  🙂

The Blue and Gold Banquet is the traditional time when 2nd year Webelos cross over into Boy Scouts, and this year’s banquet was just really nice.  It was short and to-the-point; just right in every way.  It was neat to see John lead Luke across the bridge to join his troop, and then it was just really touching to see those big boys surround the new scouts to change over their uniform and to welcome them into the troop.

So, Luke is one of the newest scouts in the troop.  He has many exciting adventures ahead!

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Isn’t this just a lovely instrument?!  Yes, this is my new cello, and I praise God for providing it for me just at the right time!  I have been saving money from teaching lessons, gifts, etc. for over a year to be able to buy my own instrument.  Well, about a week ago, it became apparent that the time to buy a cello had arrived, but it was before I had my goal amount of money saved.  I started doing some looking, and God directed me to just the right instrument! It was a brand-new “blemished”  cello that was marked down 50%!  I had never seen one of these types of instruments marked down this much, so I figured that it must have a major visual defect.  I was guaranteed that the “blemish” did not affect its sound or playability.  When I checked my account, I had exactly $10 more than I needed to buy the cello, so Dan told me to go for it.  Well, it came a couple of days ago, and, boy, was I surprised when I opened it up!  I couldn’t even find the “blemish!”  It is so minor, that it is not noticeable without really looking for it!  It plays perfectly, and I am so grateful that God gave me this instrument at this time.  I pray that He will use it for His praise and glory!

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Recently Cosette read a wonderful poem from her A Beka 6th Grade Language textbook. This poem, “The Butterfly and the Caterpillar” by Joseph Lauren, has had a special message for the Prairie Family during the last few weeks.

The Butterfly and the Caterpillar by Joseph Lauren

A butterfly, one summer morn,

Sat on a spray of blossoming thorn

And, as he sipped and drank his share

of honey from the flowered air,

Below, upon the garden wall,

A caterpillar chanced to crawl.

“Horrors!” the butterfly exclaimed,

“This must be stopped!  I am ashamed

That such as I should have to be

In the same world with such as he.

Preserve me from such hideous things!

Disgusting shape!  Where are his wings!

Fuzzy and gray!  Eater of clay!

Won’t someone take the worm away!”

The caterpillar hunched ahead,

But, as he munched a leaf, he said,

“Eight days ago, young butterfly,

You wormed about, the same as I.

Within a fortnight from today

Two wings will bear me far away

To brighter blooms and lovelier lures,

With colors that outrival yours.

So, flutter-flit, be not so proud;

Each caterpillar is endowed

With power to make him, by and by,

A blithe and brilliant butterfly.

While you, who scorn the common clay,

You, in your livery so gay,

And all the gaudy moths and millers,

Are only dressed-up caterpillars.”

This is a good reminder for all of us!

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Looney Tunes

The kids have recently discovered the fun of the old Looney Tunes cartoons. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Speedy Gonzales, Tweety, Sylvester, Road Runner, and Coyote have all become the latest Prairie Family Fad.  Cosette drew this picture of Marvin the Martian, and I thought it was pretty cute:

Marvin the Martianb

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If I counted correctly, there are 37 cars in this picture.  Thirty-Seven Cars!  I guess we’ve made a few of these things over the years….

We have learned a few things about making Pinewood Derby Cars.  After all, I think we’ve made all of the mistakes at least once!  🙂  The cars that are mounted on the display boards were from our first year.  Wow, those were bad cars!  They literally jumped the track on every race they ran!  We had no idea what to do when we made those cars, but that year was a good learning year. By the next year, we had ordered some books and had read some websites about how to make Pinewood Derby cars that would actually get to the end of the track!  Each year we added new steps to improve our cars and learned new decorating techniques.  So, in our later years our cars did decently–not always winning, but consistently doing all right.

A few of the cars really stand out with good memories.  The first car in the top row with the lightning bolt on it was our first car that ran decently.  We decided it must be the lightning bolt sticker that made the difference on that one!  LOL! The 7th car on the top row is our Purple Bomb.  That crazy car is a random rocket! It makes no sense whatsoever, but that year we had an extra car body cut out that we decided to finish for fun.  We used some leftover paint, a few colorful stickers, and just stuck on some wheels.  This haphazard method worked out, though, because it has won official and unofficial races in several different settings.

John’s “paint splat” car (next to last car on the top row) is one of the cutest and most unique cars.  The gold car right in the middle of the picture with a flower sticker on the front was Cosette’s random winner.  That car flew in every race it ran.  The Cub Scouts couldn’t believe it–a girl’s car was the fastest car that year!   The most notable thing about Brock’s cars is that he doesn’t like decorations.  “After all,” he says, “they are racing, not entering a beauty contest!”  So, for Brock, it’s all about speed!  Luke had two winning cars–the junk food car and the igloo car on the front row.  I think my favorite car of Kara’s is the little brown car with the rainbow hearts.  She made it when she was four years old, and I think it is just a precious little racer!

So, now the Prairie Family cars will be put away.  Maybe they will come out for an occasional VBS or a legacy Pinewood race, but mostly they will be saved to hand down to another generation of racers someday.  We are considering looking into the “Big Boy” version of racing with the CO2 cars.  We’ll see, they just may join the growing collection in a year or so!

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2013 Pinewood Derby

We reached a milestone this year: we raced in our last (?) Cub Scout Pinewood Derby.  I put a question mark by that because I guess you never know what the future may hold.  Maybe we’ll enter in family class or something in the years to come, but this was our last year with an official Cub Scout.  Can you believe it?!  Luke is ready to move up into Boy Scouts with John and Brock, so this is the end of an era!

The Pinewood Derby really sneaked up on us this year.  We knew it was coming and everything, but somehow we almost waited too long to start on the cars. Yes, one week prior to the race we had not even cut out our blocks of wood, and I really had my doubts that we could pull it off.  Dan thought it was important to do the best we could to get them finished, though, since this was Luke’s last year.  So, we put in some marathon days and all of the kids ended up getting their cars finished in time.

Luke was the only one of the kids that had a real idea of what he wanted his car to look like when we started the whole process:  he wanted his car to look like an igloo with penguins.  (He has had a love for penguins for many years!) The rest of them just came together as we looked at what decorating supplies we had on hand, and actually I think they came out pretty cute!  John’s car was quite creative.  He made stickers out of pictures of cell phones he found on the internet and stuck them on his car in the color pattern of a stop light.  It made quite a unique design.  Brock, as usual, wanted minimal decorations, but since he had painted his car gold, he just decorated it to look like a gold bar.  Cosette has been going through a Disney Princess phase, so she decorated her car accordingly.  Of course, Luke’s came out as planned–an igloo with penguins. Kara used sparkly duct tape and sock monkey stickers to make a very unusual, attention-getting car!

The actual race went pretty well.  Luke’s car came in first in his class, so he was happy about that.  The rest of the cars did decently in their respective races as well.

As we were putting away this last batch of cars, I decided to take pictures of all of our cars that we have made during our Cub Scout years.  That will be the subject of my next entry.

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It’s hard to believe that we are nearing the end of our third year as Trailblazers with American Heritage Girls!  It has been a very good experience for all of us, and, Lord willing, we are looking forward to many more years to come.

Kara and Cosette are both ready to advance a level in AHG.  Cosette is finishing up her Explorer level award, and Kara is finishing up her Tenderheart level award.  There are a variety of requirements for these achievements, but mostly it has to do with finishing merit badges, completing service hours, and participating in special events.  The girls have completed everything except the last part which is a board of review with a group of ladies who will discuss what they have been doing and learning in AHG.  We have that set up for the first week of March, so pretty soon that will be checked off too!

As we have been preparing for these boards of review, we have been looking back at some of the things that we have done during the past three years, and it is kind of surprising to see just how much the girls have done!  Both of the girls have completed these merit badges at their respective levels:  7 C’s of History, Stick Shifts and Safety Belts, Music Performance, Fishing, Bible Basics, Sign Language, Computer Fun, and Internet Adventure.  They will soon be completing World Heritage and Photography.  We’ve participated in many special events.  Some of our favorites have been going to a Chinese Acrobatic show, joining the Norton AHG troop for a Princess Party sleep-over, and going with a local Boy Scout troop on a day trip to some museums and historical sites. Kara has completed nearly 60 hours of service projects, and Cosette has completed 112 hours.  These projects have ranged from helping with VBS to volunteering at the Genesis Food Bank to assembling Operation Christmas Child boxes.

All of these activities together have been helping the girls to fulfill the AHG mission of building women of integrity through service to God, family, community, and country.  I sincerely appreciate AHG’s strong moral and biblical stands and pray that God will continue to use them to guide another generation of women into positions of service.

One of the requirements for Kara’s rank advancement was to make a poster about AHG to display in a public place.  She worked very hard on her poster (shown in this entry’s picture), and I think it came out very nicely.  It highlighted the mission of AHG and featured some pictures of the girls doing activities that related to each segment of the mission.  Kara wanted to have a slideshow version of her poster to put on this blog, so here it is:

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AHG Collage

The girls have been enjoying working on the Photography merit badge for American Heritage Girls.  We have actually been working through a digital photography unit study  in addition to the regular badge requirements, and we are all certainly learning a lot about the history of photography as well as techniques to improve our photography skills through this process.   For one of their first projects, they were supposed to take a picture of an object at varying times of day so they could compare how the changing light affects their pictures.   After we got the pictures taken, I helped the girls to put them into slide shows.  They are both very creative, and I think their presentations came out very cute.  Here they are:

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John’s 10th Grade Science project was rather complicated, but the results ended up being quite interesting!  For this investigation, John was testing how feeding worms a variety of different materials affected the nutritious qualities of the soil.

This project involved a long process of feeding worms in different buckets different foods:  crushed leaves, crushed egg shell, “worm chow” (a product used in raising composting worms), and a combination of the three foods.  John sent in initial samples of the soils to get a baseline measurement before beginning his procedure.  Then every day the worms were fed or watered,  and observations were made of each bucket.  After several weeks of this, we had the wonderful job of sifting through the dirt to sort out the worms to count and weigh, and then we took the various soils and sent them back into a soil lab to have the nutrients retested.

Of course, several obstacles appeared during the course of this project.  John started the experiment with the buckets in our basement, but that soon led to rather unpleasant issues.  First, mold grew in some of the buckets, which wasn’t very helpful for my allergies!  That was tolerable, however, compared to the little critters that started hatching from the buckets!  Yes, we quickly learned that God has nature pretty well balanced, and it is not easy to replicate His natural balances in a “controlled” setting!  LOL!  I had no idea how delicate the balance of food, water, and worms is to the presence of mold and grossness!  🙂  Anyway, we changed course half-way through the experiment and moved the buckets to the garage where the winter temperatures took care of the bug and mold issues but left the worms to do their thing.  So, we didn’t follow our planned procedures exactly, but practicality and health safety issues do come into play sometimes!

It was interesting when we took the soil out of the various buckets.  For each bucket with worms, there was a control bucket without worms.  The buckets without worms had very compact soil that kind of just fell out like sand castles. The buckets with worms, however, had much looser soil.  It was also notable that even though each bucket began with 150 worms, they all ended up around 40-50 worms each.  After discussing possible reasons, we wonder if maybe that has more to do with the size of the buckets rather than what we were feeding the worms.  I guess that would make another good investigation someday (if we ever decide to tackle worms again!)

So, the soil samples were sent to a soils lab for analysis, and there were lots of mixed results.  That’s another thing that’s complicated about doing experiments with living creatures:  it’s hard to really isolate what is going on without a multitude of trials because of the complexity involved in just being alive!  There was one very clear result in all of the buckets, though.  In every case, the presence of earthworms dramatically improved the nitrogen levels in the soil.

So, what did we really learn from this project?  Mostly that God really does have a mighty hand on His creation.  He knows exactly what is needed for life to exist and to flourish–that includes human, animal, and plant life.  Even simple little creatures that we rarely think about like earthworms play an important role in the whole of nature.  I would suspect that our world would be very different without these little critters–perhaps life might not even be possible without them.  We truly have an amazing Creator who deserves our heart-felt praise.

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