Thursday, May 14, 2009

Beautiful Scenery & a Squeaky Wheel

While my parents were here, we headed to Heritage Square, thinking that the kids would enjoy some of the amusement rides as an early celebration of Evan's birthday. When we arrived, we found the rides still and quiet. We told an employee that the website had listed weekday hours for the rides. He told us that we were mistaken, but I insisted to him that the website had mislead us.

We browsed in a gift shop for a bit and had old-fashioned portraits taken of the kids together. As we waited for the pictures to be ready, the amusement park employee found James, conceding that the website information was incorrect, and giving him two free all-day passes for unlimited rides to use when the rides were indeed open. Sometimes it pays to "complain".

My dad proposed that we drive to Mount Evans. The road to the top is not open until Memorial Day, but we enjoyed the scenery at Echo Lake. Since Logan had fallen asleep in the van, my mom volunteered to sit with him (also because the altitude was affecting her) while we roamed around a bit.

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On the way home, we stopped in Idaho Springs to eat supper at Beau Jo's which makes gluten free pizzas!!! I ordered a gluten free Yukon, asking that they substitute black olives for the artichoke hearts. When the pizza arrived, they had indeed included black olives but had substituted mushrooms for the Canadian bacon!!! Mushrooms are not my favorite to put it mildly. My mom's pizza order was incorrect as well. Though I didn't want to point out a mistake again, I told the server. He resubmitted the GF order and was very apologetic that I had to wait, though it didn't bother me. Pizza is a rare treat for me. We received a discount on our bill due to the mistakes.

While the family waited for the pizza, James took the kids to see a train engine and this water wheel outside...


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On the way home, my dad asked to see the view from Lookout Mountain. (James and I were married on Lookout Mountain at the Boettcher Mansion.)


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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Visitors to Our Side

During the first weekend in May, my parent came to visit. They didn't just come to play, but also to work, serving our family and the church.

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My mom Margie is the administrator of our denomination's nursing home. She gave a three hour seminar at our church on caring for the elderly, specifically those suffering from Alzheimer's. The seminar was well-attended and, I might be biased, but she did a great job educating us about how to serve the elderly and their caretakers. Evan took this picture, and I noticed that my mom managed to escape the other pictures that were taken during their visit.


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My dad Bruce preached on Sunday and also served our family by building a planter in front of our porch, greatly improving the curb appeal of our house. The kids, especially Evan, enjoyed helping him with all of the digging, loading, hauling, unloading and building. They enjoyed the working as much as the playing of the week!


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My dad, ever the perfectionist, chipped part of the ledge off of the backs of the blocks on the corners in order to make them sit just right. He also glued down some of the layers to prevent shifting (or as he learned from building a planter at his church building back home: to prevent theft of blocks!)


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After my parents went back home, my dad's sister, my Aunt Beth came over and helped us begin to plant flowers in the new planter. Aunt Beth plants wonderful flower gardens each year, and she gave us step-by-step instructions to get us started. (Gardening is not my forte.)


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Aunt Beth helped us with the front rows of lobelia, pansies and violets (and two calla lilies at the back which are an experiment to see if they will thrive in the shade in Colorado).


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Logan enjoyed playing in the dirt while we worked. The poor guy had a rough day that day, falling down and smacking his mouth on the pavement, giving himself a fat lip and loose front teeth. :-(


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Matthew did a majority of the rest of the work, planting an assortment of begonias, impatiens, forget-me-nots, leadwort, columbine, dusty miller, and ferns. He demonstrated a knack for gardening. Aunt Beth also had him do some garden work at her house.


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Thank you to my mom and dad and aunt for all your help and hard work!
More pictures of the visit to come...


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Happy Moray's Day!

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I bet I'm the only mother in the history of the world to receive a Mother's Day card with a Moray Eel on the cover! That's love from the heart of a 12 year old son. On the inside he wrote, "I love you, because you make macaroni and cheese for me" which made me laugh. I actually rarely make mac 'n cheese. Recently when the boys were getting haircuts, Evan and I heard a radio commercial where a kid said the above quote, and we chuckled together.


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Card by Matthew


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Card by Sophie


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Miss Ponytail


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Picture by Evan


Friday, May 01, 2009

Logan Sings

Logan usually will not "perform" for the camera, but I caught him this time...



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Logan-Speak

I am a busy hard worker man. (3/31/09)

Bye, Uncle Rich! Have a later! (3/29/09)

I drew a picture of Matthew. It is scary! (3/28/09)

James: Logan, what did you get after your haircut?
Logan: I got a popper (lollipop) which was not good for me. (3/13/09)

Logan, with a blanket on his head: I am a scary princess! (3/13/09)

Logan, thumbing through the novel My Antonia: This is a book about a man's breakfast.
Melissa: What did he eat for breakfast?
Logan: Lunch. (3/10/09)

Melissa catches sight of a coyote standing in a field. James pulls the van to the curb so that the kids can see.
Melissa: I'm pointing out a coyote to you.
Logan: Don't point it out! It's a nice coyote! (3/8/09)

Logan, calling back to Evan and Matthew sitting behind him in the van: "Are you okay? Are you comfortable?" (2/15/09)

Evan, watching Logan scrape his face with a Lego block: What are you doing, Logan?
Logan: I'm shaving. (2/5/09)

Logan, lying down on the floor mat at the front door: I'm going to lie down for a libble-it. This is a reason for a nap.
Melissa: Do you want to take a nap in your bed?
Logan: No, this is a reason for a nap. [Loose Translation: This is instead of a nap.] (1/31/09)

libble-it = "little bit"

Logan: This is mines!
Melissa: Yes it is.
Logan: Don't say that!
Melissa: Logan, I was agreeing with you.
Logan: It is not green! (1/10/09)

Olivia (2 yrs. old) did talk to me. She didn't listen to me, but she did talk to me. (12/29/08)

Logan: Mommy’s fat leg!
Melissa: Logan, don’t say that. Call it a skinny leg”
Logan: No! I can’t say that! (12/08)

Logan: Matthew, stop laughing! I telled you to not.
Melissa: Logan, why don't you laugh with him.
Logan: I'm too tired to laugh. (12/21/08)

Gazing into my eyes: I see Logan in your eyes! (12/16/08)

One-ee-and-a-two-ee-and-a! One-ee-and-a-two-ee-and-a! (12/3/08)

Wadding up a a dish towel and cradling it in his arms: Hi Molly! How are you, Molly? [Molly is my cousin's baby.] (12/2/08)

I want to go straight to bed. (11/16/08)

Logan, looking at a picture of horses: Horses do not have tails.
Melissa: Yes, horses have tails. See the tail behind the horse in this picture?
Logan: That is not a tail.
Melissa: What is it?
Logan: Feathers (11/9/08)

Melissa to Sophie: Play your review piece, "Go Tell Aunt Rhody."
Logan: I want to talk to Aunt Rhody! I want to talk to Aunt Rhody! (11/6/08)



Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Feverish Festival

As my previous post explains, Evan and Matthew were disqualified from competing in our own city piano festival, but all three of the older kids were able to compete last week in a different county competition.

Evan was due to compete in the Junior Division on Thursday evening. Ominously, he started complaining of a headache and backache in the morning, then soon a high fever with muscle aches and chills followed. Via Facebook & phone calls, we asked many people to pray for him. After dosing him with Tylenol, he played through his pieces and didn't appear to be slowed down by the medication, though he still felt sick. We decided that if he could handle walking around (unlike last year when he won first place but got the flu in time for the final recital), he would go and do his best. My normal mode of operation would be to keep my kids at home when contagious, but since they had spent nine months preparing for this festival, we decided to have them participate.

I sat next to the kids' piano teacher during the competition to hear her whispered feedback between numbers. Since Evan played second to last out of nine contestants, James stayed with him outside the room until nearly his turn. I was on pins-and-needles until Evan was done playing. To my great relief and joy, he played beautifully! Knowing his music well, I was aware of one brief "wrong turn" he took after a repeated theme, but he fixed it so seamlessly that I doubt anyone but his teacher, Evan, and myself would have known. (The judges had so many details to juggle that unless one was staring intently at the music at that moment, they might not have caught on to his cover-up. I will be very curious to read their comments...) After hearing everyone play, I thought (in my limited piano knowledge) that only two of the contestants could possibly place above him. However, his teacher knew more about the nuances of the pieces than I did and had a different opinion.

[If you haven't listened to his pieces and would like to, the video I took of him at home turned out better than the video at the actual contest.]

James took Evan home right after his division, but I stayed and listened to the Intermediate Division. The kids' piano teacher had one student (also homeschooled) playing in the division. I video-taped him as well, because I had heard his exquisite playing the day before:



The next morning, we received a phone call that Evan was a finalist. I had forgotten that only the first place winner would be told the actual place received before the final concert (in order to prepare to perform). Hours later his piano teacher called and informed me that Evan had won first place! I don't think I've ever experienced such an exciting shock in my life. His teacher was incredulous that I was surprised and informed me that his score was ten points higher than the second place score! The news that her intermediate student also won first place added to the euphoria...my euphoria, that is. Evan lay sick on the couch and only managed a wan smile in response to the good news.

After getting off of the phone, Matthew told me that his back hurt, which progressed into the climbing fever, chills and aches for him...and that night he and Sophie were to compete.

That evening Matthew and Sophie made it to the competition though the camera was left behind. Both of the kids played beautifully as well! Sophie performed with children up through age nine, along with Lucy, a six-year old friend from our church, who was the youngest child to ever compete in that festival. Matthew played in the 10 & 11 year old division.

Since I left my camera at home, I'm posting video I took at home earlier. If you listen, please turn the volume down a bit. I do have to say that they both played better at the contest, with steadier tempos and more contrast in dynamics...





Matthew and Sophie also won first place in their divisions, and Lucy won 2nd place!

But wait! There's more! Sophie got sick the day of the final concert, meaning that all three of our kids performed with fevers. What a roller-coaster experience!

We are so thankful for the prayers of many for our kids through this experience and for the Lord's blessing upon them in challenging circumstances.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Piano Politics

The spring piano competition season has been quite the roller coaster ride this year, adding some drama to our family life. In addition to the county piano festival that the kids are eligible to participate in due to the residence of their piano teacher, I entered Matthew and Evan in the piano festival of the city/county in which we reside. Since the boys had enough pieces prepared, I thought it would be good for them to gain more performance experience and learn from a broader base of judges.

In January, I received the application and rules for our city/county contest and we followed the rules to a "t". When the contest president received the applications, she emailed me saying, "I don't know how you were supposed to know this", but multiple movements of a Sonatina were not allowed and Matthew would be disqualified. She explained that a child the previous year had been disqualified after the second round of competition (in which he was the front runner). She also wrote "thank goodness it wasn't my student" (and by the way, her student went on to win.)

I replied to the president's email, questioning why that particular "rule" concerning multiple movements was not in writing a year after a student had been disqualified on that basis, and I requested that the committee review that rule before deciding to cut one of the movements from Matthew's program. In the presidents' reply, she expressed ignorance as to why that rule was not in writing and agreed to discuss it with the committee.

Weeks later, after the committee met, Evan & Matthew's piano teacher received a phone call from a piano festival committee member, saying that not only would Matthew be disqualified, but Evan would be as well, because according to their previously undisclosed classification list of composers, he was playing pieces by two Romantic period composers (breaking the rule that the contestant must play pieces from different periods of music). The boys' piano teacher was not allowed to contest the decision and was told that our money would not be refunded, because the rules specified no refunds "in black-and-white".

In regards to Evan's questioned pieces, in addition to a piece by a modern composer, he was to play Tarantella by Albert Pieczonka, a Romantic composer, and a Sea Piece by Edward MacDowell, a composer whose life bridged both the Romantic and Impressionistic Periods. The height of the Impressionistic period began in 1860 and MacDowell's Sea Pieces were composed in 1898. There is an entire book written about MacDowell, the fifth chapter of which is "The Impressionist", discussing his Sea Pieces.

Concerning our entry fees, we did get our money back, no thanks to the president of the association. I'll leave it at that.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Stem Cell Debate Is Dead"

Here is a startling admission on television. Dr. Mehmet Oz (Professor of Cardiac Surgery at Columbia University) posits on Oprah that "the stem cell debate is dead." He explains that embryonic stem cells are difficult to control and result in cancer, while on the other hand, scientists have made 10 yrs. worth of advancement in the past year in causing skin cells to change into pluripotent stem cells which have proven to be much more effective and reliable. (Indeed adult stem cell research has already successfully treated at least 73 diseases!)



h/t: Vital Signs blog

I say "startling admission", because while the problems with embryonic stem cells have been known for quite some time, the truth has not made its way into the mainstream media. Yet Dr. Oz announces it on Oprah, sitting next to one of the most vocal proponents of embryonic stem cell research! In light of this, why did Oprah-approved President Obama rescind the 2007 executive order promoting adult stem cell research? Now federal funds are solely going to embryonic stem cell research. So much for keeping politics out of science! Dr. Oz said that a treatment for Parkinson's could be developed within ten years. Will President Obama's revocation of federal funds for studying adult stem cells slow down the research?

Related Article: Why Embryonic Stem Cells Are Obsolete

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

My Grandfather's Clock

Uncle Rich plays a death and dying song for the younger set...

**Updating to explain: Uncle Rich enjoys singing cowboy or bluegrass songs which often have the theme of either people or horses dying, or at least, love dying. I asked him if he knew "My Grandfather's Clock", one of Logan's current favorites, and of course he did, considering the content!**



And another enjoyable version (don't turn it off right away)...



Saturday, March 28, 2009

Citizenship

2009 so far, has been a Twilight Zone type of year in regards to politics. There are so many stupid and downright wicked policies becoming law that my head reels everyday when I read the news.

First let me point out that God is Sovereign and in control over all the nations of the earth. I should not fret when wicked men succeed, because fretting leads only to evil. I need to commit my way to the Lord and wait on Him, for "the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble." (Read Psalm 37) And praise be to God, I belong to a kingdom that can never be shaken! (Hebrews 12:28) These truths stand out as an anchor for my soul in times of trouble.

Though my ultimate citizenship is heaven, I do have certain responsibilities as a citizen of the country in which God has placed me. Though increasingly in name only, this nation is a republic. The government is to be limited and is to protect the liberties of the people. We have a Constitution that is supposedly the law of the land, but it is getting increasingly ignored and trampled. I realize that the degradation of the Constitution began long before 2009, but I'm not willing to see it completely slip from our collective fingers without a struggle. The struggle always needs to begin on my knees, but can still involve raising my voice, and taking action as allowed a citizen.

This is what I'm contemplating today...

Apparently many of our current lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have never read, or have forgotten the 13th Amendment of the Constitution which states: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

I say that because this morning, I read the text of: H.R. 1444 which seeks to establish a Congressional Commission on Civil Service, including the Duty to determine "Whether a workable, fair, and reasonable mandatory service requirement for all able young
people could be developed, and how such a requirement could be implemented in a manner that would strengthen the social fabric of the Nation and overcome civic challenges by bringing together people from diverse economic, ethnic, and educational backgrounds."

Our blind leaders have already passed the GIVE/SERVE Acts, which in these economically troubled times pours $6 billion dollars into getting government more involved in national service. The mandatory aspect of it was taken out of the Senate version of the bill, but is coming up again in H.R. 1444.

These days, many people, including a majority of our current political leaders think that people exist to serve the state, instead of the state existing to serve the people. If our lawmakers are willing to consider enslaving our chidren to the state in even the smallest degree, it is another sign that this nation is on a slippery slope to fascism.

This oxymoronic idea of "mandatory volunteerism" threatens inalienable rights given by God and outlined in the Constitution of the United States. In this idea are the seeds of slavery.

As a citizen, I have the duty to stand up for the Constitution. However, I realize, as a Christian, that those rights are actually a blessing from God, and I and my family eventually might have to lay down those "rights," suffering for the sake of Christ, and entrusting ourselves to Him who judges justly. I praise God that all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose! (Romans 8: 28)

Baby Steps:

Red Envelope Campaign

If you are on Facebook, click here: Great Tea Bag Mailing Campaign

Tax Day Tea Party

Good Reading:

Non-Homeschool Related Testing


The Gift of Suffering, Part II



Friday, February 27, 2009

Our Newest Adventure in Music

In December our piano technician heard a snippet of Evan's playing when he arrived to tune our spinet piano. He informed me that Evan had "outgrown" the light action of our spinet, and that we should begin looking for a grand piano to replace it.

Skeptical, I asked the kids' piano teacher if she agreed that the kids were outgrowing our instrument. She explained that pianists need to learn how to play all kinds of pianos due to the unpredictability of instruments available in performance settings and that she would be happy with whatever piano her students' families could afford. That being said, she relayed an incident where a judge told a senior student that he could tell that the student played on a small piano at home, limiting her playing on the performance grand. "Our" piano teacher then told me that, due to financial problems, a friend of hers wanted to sell a Kawai grand piano for half of its appraised price and was willing to take monthly payments towards its purchase.

For over a month I mulled over the thought of purchasing a used grand and prayed about it. I wondered if it would be wise to spend money on an instrument during worsening economic conditions, if the piano would even fit in our house, and if owning such a luxury would be pretentious. On the other hand, I considered the fact that, at twelve years of age, Evan was already playing high school level repertoire with Matthew and Sophie close behind in ability. Though Evan had entered the middle school years when many kids quit practicing, he exhibited no waning of desire to play. I concluded that a grand might be an investment in the kids' continuing music studies.

Finally, we had our piano tech evaluate the Kawai grand for sale. At first, he was amazed at the condition of the piano, considering that it was manufactured in 1982. Often pianos of that age have sustained a great deal of wear-and-tear or neglect. However, this piano had been well maintained over the years and played lightly. The tech had nothing negative to say... until he crawled under the instrument. He was dismayed to see a large crack between the outer body of the piano and the inner rim which should have been glued seamlessly to match. The crack had already traveled around to the opposite side of the body.

He sadly informed us that the crack had most likely been developing since it traveled from the manufacturer in the humid climate of Japan to the arid climate of Colorado. If the crack had been caught right away, it could have been repaired, but he doubted there would be any hope of remedy for such a large gap. He explained that when it separated further, the outer shell would buckle. Surprisingly, the crack had not yet affected the sound of the grand, though in his experience even minor cracks of that nature caused a piano so affected to buzz. In parting, he told us that he could not extend any hope for the piano and recommended against purchase.

Though the impending demise of such a beautiful instrument was bad news, I was thankful to have the decision against its purchase decided for our family. However, when the piano tech informed the owner of the crack and the consequences of such a flaw, she initially decided that, since she couldn't find a buyer who would buy a piano in such condition, her only choice was to trash it.

When I heard of the owner's decision, I thought it was a crying shame to dispose of the piano when it continued to produce a beautiful sound. James and I discussed the situation, praying about it, and then came up with a tentative plan to salvage some use out of the piano. We told the piano owner that we would be willing to make monthly payments, as long as the piano retained its playability, up to a cap in the amount (since the piano did not have long term worth) at which point we would own it and would dispose of it when it failed. The owner accepted our offer with relief that she would get at least some compensation for the piano, and we moved the 6'2" grand into our living room.

Sophie insisted that she would miss the light touch of the spinet and wished that she could keep it...until she actually spent time practicing on the Kawai. Now all the kids exclusively play the grand and the spinet awaits a new home. Though I will miss the lovely little piano that has served us well, I'm thrilled to hear the soaring range of the grand, and I love to see the satisfied smile on Evan's face when he plays the dramatic sections in his pieces. I'm thankful that we can play a part in the redemption, however temporary, of a quality instrument.