Friday, December 26, 2008

Our Ninth Annual Christmas Drama--My Favorite Tradition

Gabriel tells Mary and then Joseph about their special baby, Jesus, God's Son!

A very young cousin, Mary and a very old cousin, Elizabeth are excited about their special babies.

King Herod is apparently quite happy to issue a decree ordering a census that will be very inconvenient for many people.

Mary and Joseph had a long, difficult journey not only because Mary was very pregnant but the donkey was a bit unruly and hard to manage. They finally made it. Whew!

Even though there was no room at the inn, Mary was thrilled to have found a place where she could relax for awhile.

We have a very sweet and tender Mary. She knew exactly how to care for her newborn baby Jesus.

Meanwhile, Morgan's piano solo told us about the friendly beasts that would be in the stable--a little later on during the play.

The night that Jesus was born, shepherds were very relaxed and enjoying funny stories together as they played with their sheep and staffs on the ground.

At first when the angel appeared, the shepherds were so afraid that their hair stood on end!

This sweet little angel appreciated the shepherds role in our play.

After the host of angels gave their wonderful message, glorifying God and singing, they flew away.

We don't quite know why the shepherds crawled to Bethlehem?

They took many friendly beasts with them to see the baby.

After worshipping and admiring the baby they left their friendly beasts and went away talking about the wonderful things they had seen--and heard.

Mary wondered about all the things told to her by the shepherds and also what she should do with all of the friendly beasts?

Magi from the east were quite surprised and awed by an incredible star that appeared.

The beautiful star they had seen in the east guided them to Bethlehem.

They saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

An angel warned the magi in a dream to return to their country by a different route. The angel also warned Joseph in a dream to take Mary and the baby to Egypt so that bad King Herod could not hurt the child. So then everyone left and that was the end of our play.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Help for a hurting family

“Matt & Shannon McNeil met at Taylor University (1994-1998) and have been married for 10 years. Unfortunately, within the last nine months they have received the devastating news that not one, but both of their children, Waverly (5) and Oliver (2), suffer from a terminal disease called Sanfilippo or MPS III.” The above information is quoted from this website:

This heartbreaking story (brought to my attention by my son, Andy) has been on my mind. We cannot remove their sorrow but we can encourage and pray for them. Perhaps even if you do not know Matt and Shannon, you will want to contribute to the fund that has been set up to share their financial burden.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another rite of passage

It is important to journal just a bit about the 7th and 8th grade choir concert that we attended this weekend or it could simply disappear from memory and that would be sad.

I spent the first whole song of the concert being impressed and trying to count the number of boys in the concert choir. It was amazing to me to see so many angelic looking boys singing and participating. I shifted in my seat and strained my neck trying to count the boys but the director kept me from seeing all of them at one time and I kept losing count. I was completely impressed that a choir program could attract that large sum of boys!

Between songs, I whispered to Aunt Kathi something like, “Isn’t that incredible that so many boys participate in this program?” That is when she scooped me. Kent and Steven had wanted to make sure that there was no doubt about why they were in concert choir. At their private school, in 7th and 8th grade you have options. You can be in choir, band or orchestra OR you can take a music appreciation class where you listen to Bach and other classical composers and take tests. After looking over the situation, Kent and Steven, and apparently many other 7th and 8th grade boys recognized that choir was the best option. However, they did not perform as if it were a compulsory function. They sounded, well, pretty good—I want to be careful not to overstate this.

Oh, and I had mentioned on another post that uniforms have not changed—the black pants and white shirts still work. I could not help but notice a distinct difference this time. Now all girls, each and every one have their blouses out. I asked Kathi if she thought old people like me could still tuck sometimes--like under a sweater. Nope, it just won’t do. So I discreetly, I think, untucked. For the record, I am done tucking.

Besides the large male population, there was something else that I really like about this group. They are teaching the kids about singing parts--soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Each Sunday as I stand next to or near the 14, 13 or 12 year old grandsons, I am conscious that when I harmonize, they may be thinking that I do not know the tune of the songs we are singing. I sometimes, sing more softly or struggle with the higher melody line because I don’t want my grandkids to say about me, “Bless her, she just can’t carry a tune.” (I did hear a similar comment--not by my grandkids--but it did scar me--about a man that was clearly singing tenor.) In my defense, long ago, before overhead screens, when I was just a girl in school, we were taught to harmonize. I sang alto in a girls trio coached by our music teacher--and we performed for groups like the Kiwanis and the Rotary. Attending the concert gave me a bit more confidence this week and I was so happy that I even harmonized while singing “Happy Birthday” around the Sunday dinner table although I probably was pushing it a bit to do that. It probably won't happen again for awhile.

The Jazz Band, however, is a select group. They audition and make/win a place in the group. This group was worth the price of admission. Okay, so tickets really weren’t required but this group really could charge something and people would come. The baritone sax was featured several times. I thought perhaps it would be nice to get to know that boy because I am sure there will be many someday that will boast, “I’ve known him since junior high!”

The little drummer, too, was a delight to watch! He was all over the place and his mouth was contorted in concentration and effort. It was a very physical performance! Unfortunately, you can see from this video that I had difficulty watching him as much as I would have liked due to a large head in front of me.

The glimpses that I got were great. Okay, so I couldn’t help but remember when my son, Brad, and son Andy’s friend, Ken, played drums in jazz band. Those were good memories. I remembered how their mouths always worked when they were concentrating as well. And I will just say, they were soooo cute!

And my grandkids—only on a blog that they do not read can I loudly proclaim, “They were adorable.”

Ahhh junior high concerts, they do bring out the best.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The reason for that happy ringing in my ears

What is not to love about a 5th grade band performance? I never played a band instrument and so know little about the intricacies of the various horns. However, one of my sons had a short career as a trumpet and tuba player in 6th grade so I have had a bit of introduction to band concerts. The sounds are amazing and often original and a bit freestyle. The kids are proud and look sort of virtuous (not quite angelic--as evidenced by the fingers being held up behind David during this photo) dressed in their white shirts and black pants or skirts. There is something reassuring about a uniform that has not changed in 50 years since I attended my sister’s concerts when she played a saxophone.

It is not easy to get sound out of a trumpet. I appreciate the complexity. I have read about lip buzzing how you have to first of all flap your lips, then begin to buzz your lips, do slides, and slur some simple tunes. All of this helps with lip vibration and this is just for warm ups. I remember that this was challenging for Andy when he had braces which is why he was switched to the tuba or at least that is what I was told.

This I do know. It is a good idea to sit close enough to be able to see your child/grandchild and have them see you. It is also wise not to sit too close. It has nothing to do with the interesting sounds. It has to do with emptying spit. I remember admonishing my sixth grader—“Don’t do that!” —just one of my prolific times of giving advice before I understood the details. Really though, it still seems disgusting if you think about it very long. I am surprised that some entrepreneur has not invented a better plan. Ewwww! Hubby and I had a perfect view but not of all of the particulars.

Grandpa and I went half way up the bleachers—not a pretty sight but we made it. I think I heard others around us sigh in relief as we settled in. I am well aware of bleacher peril. A little girl sitting beside me, half way through the concert, stood up and one whole leg disappeared down the bleachers but astute and attentive parents quickly reached and pulled her back up as if nothing had occurred. I had the feeling that it was just a routine move.

I forgot my camera but had my phone with me. Thus we have a few scratchy photos that do not do justice to the quality of the evening.

It was a great concert. I recognized all of the songs. It was brief and to the point. There was not any fundraising. David did well and looked very handsome. We were proud.

It was snowing up quite a storm and we did not fall as we carefully made our way to our car. Life is good, very good.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I am sure that even Dorothy Hamill had to start somewhere like this. . .

We were privileged to attend Morgan’s ice skating program this weekend. It is a recital of sorts with students showcasing what they have learned in their lessons. All four of the grandparents were able to attend and were entertained and inspired. Although there were a few spectacular moments, it was mostly less than stellar. It was nonetheless impressive! I believe all of the young skaters could skate backwards and do little jumps. Many could do bigger jumps and twirls and spins—some were smooth and beautiful.

Morgan performed well in her first show. She had a beautiful smile and looked like she was enjoying herself. I was impressed by the choreography and the efforts involved in teaching maybe one hundred little novice skaters where and how to move. Even without the skates, it would have been quite a feat!

Grandma P raised a little girl and knows about these things. I had better take some notes for future events.

What a great generational picture!

Grandpas were proud of their little girl as well.

That the Christmas on Ice program was inspiring to more than just me, was evidenced when my hubby remarked on the way home, “I used to be a pretty good skater. I think that it might be fun to try it again.”

To which I, the previous go-for-it partner now with a yet-to-be-completely-healed broken leg, less than supportively replied, “You aren’t serious, are you?”

Secretly, though, I understood where he was coming from because during the performance, I found myself wondering if there were any skate classes for grandmas. Imagining that for a moment or two made me lose my concentration on the program and made me chuckle. For one thing, the costumes would definitely need to be modified as well as the choreography and the music. Perhaps some of us grandmas would never get to the point where we actually could wear skates. I remember seeing these walker like contraptions on the ice one time for newbie skaters. And then imagine the grandmas trying to take a bow. Oh dear. But I digress. . .

Thanks, Morgan, for a perfectly delightful evening!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

I should have just asked Jon Yates of the Chicago Tribune . . .

My printer stopped working. Well, actually it was not my printer, it was the communication between my printer and my PC. The printer was doing just fine until I needed to replace the yellow color cartridge. I have done that dozens of times. This time when I tried to print again, I got a message telling me to replace the yellow cartridge.

After 30 frustrating minutes of:

  • rebooting my computer,

  • unplugging and replugging my power supply cord from both the printer and the wall,

  • printing a test page,

  • aligning the printheads,

  • cleaning the printheads,

  • and printing a diagnostic page,

I thought perhaps I should uninstall and reinstall the printer so I got my software CD and began. I was immediately frightened by a scary message that basically said, “Are you sure you want to remove these drivers because it may remove drivers that your computer needs to operate?” I quickly clicked on “Cancel”.

I attempted to get Online Live Chat help.
After waiting 20 minutes, I emailed my problem instead and received an autoreply that I would get an email to help with my problem in 24 hours.

Twenty-four hours is a very long time when there are Christmas cards to print and envelopes to address so I went to another source:
Fixya. Once there, I found that 15 other users since February 20, 2008 had the same problem. No answers had been provided. Nevertheless, I posted my problem and continued to search for answers.

First, I did a new printer search. I found one on sale for $74.99 (after the mail-in rebate) at Office Depot. Though tempted, I remembered our decision to try to spend less this season. My own printer has not yet even celebrated its one year adoption day with me. I decided to wait for my email—which I checked every five or ten minutes for a whole day.

When the email came, it was as helpful as a deaf and blind seeing eye dog.

I had already done the suggested fixes—reboot, unplug, and clean the contacts.

Persevering out of nescessity, I tried the Online Live Chat help again and this time within a few minutes,I got a most encouraging response. Sabrina answered my SOS, "Hello, how can I help you?"

I believe that I succinctly described my problem including the name of my printer and serial number.

Since Sabrina did not immediately respond, I wrote another note explaining the steps that I had already tried.

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

Since Sabrina did not immediately respond, I told her that I had the printer software CD for Vista and asked Sabrina to help me uninstall and reinstall my printer. I told her that I was afraid to try that on my own.

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

After some time elapsed, I inquired, “Sabrina, are you still there?”

Sabrina responded, “Yes, we will have an answer shortly but first I need to ask you a few questions.”

I responded, “Great! I am ready.”

Sabrina then asked, “What type of printer do you have?
I responded.

Sabrina: “What is the serial number?”
I responded and waited.

Sabrina then continued with many further redundant questions—one at a time. “Where did you purchase the printer? When? etc.

I gave that information and then reminded Sabrina that I had given this information at the beginning of the conversation.

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

This type of conversation continued for more than one hour!
Sabrina needed to know if I had tried to reboot, unplug, clean, etc. one question at a time.

Occasionally, I would say “Please, check our conversation. I have already responded to this information.”

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

Eventually, she insisted that I unplug and replug the printer—from the wall and the printer.

I took a brief break and put laundry in the washing machine. I was quite certain nothing different would happen since the last time I unplugged. When I returned, I replyed, "Done. Nothing changed."

Sabrina asked, “Did you replace the yellow cartridge, today?”
I replied, “Yes.” It actually had been the day before by that time but I did not think that I was being dishonest.

We proceeded--at least I think you can call it that. I needed to give information about when and where the cartridge was purchased and the date on the cartridge. I gave all of that information plus anticipated a few more questions and threw in those answers.

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

Sabrina asked me to run another test page. Which I did and texted the information back to her.

Sabrina replied—she really did, “That is great news. There is nothing wrong with your printer.”

Briefly I hallucinated. In living color, I had visions of me as Susan's dog, Amber, chasing its tail. Then I saw me as Grif's hamster running in its wheel. I was exhausted and glad that no one was around to hear me cry.

I begged and would have gotten prostrate if it would have helped, “Will you pleeeeeeze help me try to uninstall and reinstall my printer.”

Sabrina then asked, “Do you have a printer software CD for Vista?”

My reply was more gracious than it would have been in person but she must have not needed body language to understand my desperation, “Yes! Please note that I already told you that twice during our lengthy conversation and pleeeze do not ask for any serial numbers on the CD or where I purchased the printer and if the CD came with the printer!”

Sabrina graciously replied, “Thank you for that additional information.”

Sabrina did help me and this could be important to someone else. She told me to “Insert the CD, right click the CD in My Computer. Then choose Open/util/ccc/Uninstal L3.bat." Frequently I needed to give permission for the uninstall to continue. The whole process took but a brief 15 minutes.

I said , "Thank you and Good-bye, Sabrina.”

Then I disconnected quickly before she could respond, "Thank you for that additional information."

I rebooted my computer. Thankfully I soon heard the start up chime.

I took the CD out and inserted it again and ran the install. I waited with baited breath as I sent the command to print a trial page. And it worked! The printer literally purred in coorperation.

After finally getting "my problem" solved, I felt responsible to go to Fixit and tell other users the solution. Within minutes, I received an email saying, “An answer has been posted for your problem.” It was the answer that I had posted. I promptly removed my name from further email notices. “I need no additional information. Thank you.”

Monday, December 1, 2008

Snowy days, ready or not . . .

Ready for . . .

Family times by the fireplace

Lighted deck trees

A beekeeping holiday

Cardinals, chickadees, nutcracrackers and sapsuckers

Christmas mail

Not ready for . . .

My turn at the snowblower

A chainsaw project