I would have to say that Music Clinic was an unqualified success.

Beth during a performance

Beth during a performance

This photo was taken during the morning church service on Saturday, but I don’t remember which song they were playing – maybe Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons. I do remember that all the songs sounded pretty good though.

The pianos were all on stage, with the band to the left, the kid’s choir in front of the stage, and the full choir to the right. The strings were down on the floor in front of the kid’s choir. There were a lot of musicians. This photo shows only about a quarter of the full choir.

Some of the musicians

Some of the musicians

After one performance, we sat at some tables located behind the choir where it was less crowded (but where we could still hear). Beth didn’t want me to take her picture, but I did anyhow.

She didn't want me to take her picture.

She didn't want me to take her picture.

It’s what Dad’s do.

After the morning service we had lunch, and then I had to help clean the kitchen again (which was great). Then we were free for the afternoon. I wanted to go for a hike, but couldn’t talk Beth into it. Yes, I could have made her hike with me, but it’s a lot less pleasant to hike with an unwilling companion. We went back to the hotel and she swam in the pool for an hour. Then we went to the room and I took a 20 minute nap. Not very exciting, I know.

Then it was time to head back to the school for supper and then a few more practice sessions (during which I helped clean the kitchen again). Beth went to her seat, and I went to the kitchen.

Pre-show excitement

Pre-show excitement

While I was in the kitchen, Va showed up. She found a seat, while I finished my assignment. By then the gym was packed and I had a hard time finding her. When I did, she was along the back wall and I had to climb over four elderly people to get to the seat she had saved for me.

I didn’t want to sit back there during Beth’s performances, so just before she went on, I clambered over the elderly again and got up to the stage for photo ops. I didn’t have the heart to climb over them again though, so I stood somewhere else with an even worse view, and waited for the Grand Finale (A Mighty Fortress, by Martin Luther). She had a piano part in that, and I took photos, but they don’t look much different from the ones I already posted.

After the performance, the three of us headed back to the hotel. I made a dessert run while the girls kicked back and relaxed. When I got back we shared the treat and then went to bed. I slept until 8:00. Va wanted to eat breakfast in Portland at the “Old Country Buffet” except it has some other name that I can’t remember up here. Hometown Buffet? I dunno. They used to have one in Manassas when we lived there, and they put out a pretty decent breakfast spread. Much better than your typical hotel continental breakfast. So we stopped there on the way home.

After breakfast we set out in a homeward direction. That’s when Beth had a bit of a meltdown. She was upset about something pretty minor and was crying as if someone had cut off her foot. I tried to give her some perspective and told her to think about the good things that happened to her this week instead of the bad things. I told her that’s what I was doing. Bad things happened to me while we were away (mop bucket), but I was choosing to think about the good things instead. She regained her composure, and I felt like I had done something right. I didn’t know how right until later.

The plan was to have another cardboard boat building session at the church at 1:00pm. We were running too late to go home and then come back to the church, but early enough that Beth and I were able to stop along route 4 and look for some geocaches. Va went on home.

At the first place we stopped to look for a cache, we saw someone at “ground zero” poking around some fallen logs. There was car parked there with e geocaching bumper sticker. I correctly assumed it was a geocacher. We introduced ourselves and then looked for the cache. Beth and I were not able to find it, and I don’t think the other cacher was able to either. But I did find something better:

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

I have been looking for skunk cabbage for a couple of years now, and this was the first time I had ever seen it. I recognized it immediately and called Beth over. “What is it?” she asked, so I told her “Take a whiff!” “Ewww!” It does smell rather like a skunk, but not nearly as strong. Peterson says it’s edible, but since I didn’t know what part was edible (or when) we left it alone. That’s a good thing too. When I got home I looked it up, and you’re supposed to let it dry out first, or its calcium oxalate crystals will cause some significant mouth pain. Maybe someday I’ll try it after properly drying it out first.

We stopped for two other caches, but only found one out of the three. Oh well. We got to the church right at 1:00 and found some Pathfinders already there waiting. So we did some boat construction. Both of the boats are coming along “swimmingly” as I like to say. That sounds like it might involve swimming, but it means “pretty good.”

I was too busy with the cardboard kayak to take any pictures. Which means I was doing too much of the work myself. 😦

The rest of the plan for the day was for Beth and I to go to our first Geocaching event, which was about a mile from the church. We met Bandyrooster there – a cacher that I have been corresponding with for a little while. She is a very friendly person, and it was great to meet her face-to-face. The three of us went caching for about two hours (I think – I was starting to tire by that point), and we found something like ten caches. Beth found one more than me, because we stopped at one I had found previously without her. Here’s a shot of Beth with Bandyrooster (aka, Marge).

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Penny was over the moon when we got home.

Beth took a bath and went to bed shortly after that, and I stayed up as long as I could keep my eyelids propped open. Then I headed up too, and found this two-page note on my pillow.

Dear Daddy,
Thank you for bringing me to Music Clinic. I really had a fun time. Thank you for letting me swim at the hotel. Thanks for buying me Twistables. I love my new hair ties. Thank you for paying the Music Clinic fee, the hotel fee, and other payments for me. Also Thank you, for letting me have some free time in the hallways. I really enjoyed it. I really don’t have anything to offer you except for a really big hug and a kiss. Plus, of course this note.

Thank you for taking me Geocaching afterwards with you. That was so much fun. Please accept my full apologies about how I reacted in the car.



That’s what I call payoff. I don’t think she’ll know just how fully this paid for all that money, time, and effort, until she has kids of her own.. It brings tears to my eyes to even type this. I count it as one of the best “fatherhood” events I have ever experienced. Sweetheart, you have repaid me in full.


I took the Pathfinders camping this weekend, and tried something new that worked out remarkably well. First let me describe the problem this scheme has solved.

When I first started leading in Pathfinders, upon arrival at a camp site, I would survey the situation, figure out what should be done first, and then assign a kid or two to carry it out. Then I’d figure out what else needed to be done and assign another kid or two. This would be repeated until everyone was busy with an assignment. Then I’d see kids having trouble with their assignment, and I’d jump in to help. In no time at all, I would become absorbed in the task at hand and not notice that the other kids were horsing around instead of discharging their duties.

So I started carrying a clipboard around to prevent myself from fully engaging in the task. This forced me to tell the kids how to do something rather than jumping in and doing it. Except that it didn’t always work. As I gave my attention to one group of kids, another group would finish (or abandon) their task, and I wouldn’t notice until the horsing around started again.

The beginnings of my new scheme were exercised two weeks ago when we camped at Bar Harbor, ME. I made up a list of tasks ahead of time and assigned kids (and adults) to each task. That worked better, but it was still imperfect as the kids had no incentive to execute. But it was useful, because I got a nice list of tasks out of it. As we set up camp, I ended up adding a few tasks that I was unable to think of ahead of time. I wrote them down.

Before we camped last weekend, I turned that list of tasks into a dozen cards. Each card had a title and a somewhat detailed description of the task. The twelve tasks were divided into three groups, A, B, and C. The A tasks needed to be done first, followed by the B tasks, etc. Each card also had a number of points printed on it. Difficult or unpleasant tasks were worth more points than easy, fast, or fun tasks.

Then I divided the kids into four teams. Each team had an adult mentor, and a mix of kids (teens, and younger ones). The idea was that the teens should be able to teach and direct the younger ones. If they had questions, they had an adult mentor to turn to.

The team with the most points was to be dismissed to eat first at every meal, followed by the team with the second highest point total, etc. The team with the fewest points was dismissed last, but even then, they weren’t really “last” because the staff receives that designation (with myself being the very last).

Before we started, I had them all pitch their own tents and stow their sleeping bags & luggage in them. As they finished that, they were to assemble at the trailer. When their whole team was finished, they could choose a task A card. When they finished their A task to their mentor’s satisfaction, they could choose a B task, and so forth. When they finished their C task, they could choose another C task if one was available (and if they wanted more points).

This worked like a charm. For the first time ever, I had kids coming to me to get set-up tasks. They worked quickly, efficiently, and without complaint. Cool.

One idea I had and abandoned was that each kid would choose a task of his own. If a task needed four people, they would have to wait for four people to choose that task. I am convinced that the team approach was way better. First, I only had to remember the order of four teams rather than the order of 20 kids. Second, they had the opportunity to develop teamwork. Third, they knew that if they slacked off, their whole team would eat last. Peer pressure can be a wonderful thing.

I did end up adding one more incentive. On our weekend campouts, we typically eat six meals (Friday supper through Sunday lunch). Since I had already divided them into four fairly balanced teams, I decided that the two teams with the most points would get kitchen duty once, while the other two teams would get two shifts. That’s not even a horrible punishment, because in the past I would divide them into three teams and everyone would get two shifts.

I was also careful to remind team four that they were indeed not last to eat, because they were still eating before the staff did. Plus we’re always careful to have enough food, so no one goes hungry on these trips.

After we had finished setting up camp, the adults there remarked on how smoothly everything had gone. They were pleased that they had to do no prodding or cajoling. I must say that I was pretty pleased as well.

This morning as Beth and I were getting ready to leave for school, she asked me to put her hair in a pony tail. So I did. But as I did so, I noticed little flecks of stuff in her hair. Dandruff? Maybe. Lice? MAYBE! AAAAAHHHH!

Va rendered an opinion. We Googled. It looked like the nits in the nets, so I decided to take her to the doctor instead of to school. Va had an audit for the church finances (she’s the treasurer), so she couldn’t take Beth in. So that fell to me.

We got there at 8:00, but there was not doctor there. They also told me “No walk-ins today.” What kind of a policy is THAT? But they worked us in at 10:45 anyhow. I went back home and did some work from there, but that’s not easy for me, as I don’t do well out of my normal work environment.

I looked and saw that there is a geocache hidden near the doctor’s office, so I snagged the coordinates, and we left early enough to give us 15 minutes to hunt for it. But that wasn’t enough. My GPS just quits updating when you slow down. And I always slow down when I get close. Bummer.

Anyhow, the doc confirmed my suspicion and called in a prescription to our pharmacy. I called Va. Since the prescription was phoned in to Concord (which is where she was), Beth and I drove in and met Va for lunch. Then I went to the drug store. They won’t have the prescription until tomorrow. “What time?” I asked. “Usually by 3:00pm.” Groan. Beth can’t go back to school until she has been treated with this stuff (it’s like cream rinse), so she’s going to miss a second day. I called Va. She was on her way home again because she needed some more documentation for the audit. So I asked her to meet me again and get Beth, which she did. Then I went to work.

But my laptop was still at home. I do have a second computer in my office, but again, I don’t do well outside my normal environment. So I did some reading.

I left work at my normal time, which left me with just enough daylight to look for another geocache. I found this one with no problem. It’s about time. I’ve now looked for six and have found only two of them. That’s a flunking grade in most any school. Maybe I’ll get better at this as time goes on.

Today at lunch I went outside my office once again and made yet another attempt to find a geocache that I do not doubt is hidden there. Only I can’t find it.

I did find that my Tomtom will let me see my lat/long in gory detail, so I don’t really need the Offroad Navigator I installed on it yesterday. It has the added benefit of showing me how many satellites it’s receiving, how strong the signals from it are, and where each thinks I am. It takes an average of these (perhaps a weighted average, giving more weight to the ones with stronger signals) to decide where to tell me I am.

And even with that, when I get close to the cache, it just quits updating. But I haven’t given up yet.

After work I went to Sears and returned the timer I bought for the washing machine. Ka-ching! Got that money back, and I am ever-so-delighted about it. I still had to pay for shipping it here though, but that’s an order of magnitude less than the timer, so I’ll not complain. It was my own incompetence that led me down that path anyhow.

Tonight was much more pleasant here at the house than last night was. Two of my kids were getting a bit sassy with me yesterday. David raised his voice at me to the point where Penny climbed up on the couch with Beth (which she only does when she is scared). He was having trouble solving a math problem, and I told him how to solve it – but he didn’t believe me. Once he calmed down, he recognized that I am indeed a mathematical genius and he should never doubt my assertions. He had just never thought about the solution to his problem in the (much simpler) terms with which I phrased it.

Then it was time for Beth to practice the piano. She kept insisting she “needed my help” when I know that all she really wanted was to delay practice. Whine, whine, whine. I told her to quit whining. She whined some more. I took away TV privileges. She responded by whining. I told her to quit whining or I would keep taking away privileges. She whined. No computer. Whine. No TV tomorrow. Whine. No chocolate milk at bedtime. Whine. Bedtime now (it was only 6:00pm). That was the end of the whining. She was asleep before 7:00.

Tonight was a stark contrast to that sorry scene. Everyone was all smiles. No angry voices. No whining (even during piano practice). So maybe they learned a lesson yesterday. I hope they don’t forget it too soon.

Penny is crazy. This afternoon, I suggested that we go for a walk down to Sandogardy Pond. All three of my kids took me up on this, which is rather unusual. We took Penny with us.

The snow has been receding at a breakneck pace, but there are still plenty of patches of it, and it’s still a foot deep here and there. But I think there is more bare ground now than snow-covered. We got to the pond, and saw that it was still frozen over, though it’s melted at the edges. No way would I venture out there now.

I went to the edge of the pond to see if I could find anything in bloom, but I found nothing. So far, the only blossoms are still those crocuses in Concord. While I was crouched down looking into the water, Penny came splashing in. She flopped right in the water and started drinking. Need I remind you of the snow? Or mention that this is ice water? Didn’t seem to bother her in the least.

Penny taking an ice bath

Penny taking an ice bath

Then she picked up the stick she had brought with her and ambled on out. She shook herself dry, and was ready to chase that stick some more.

We walked through the forest-cum-field on the way there and on the way back. It really looks like a scene of total devastation with shattered tree trunks and branches scattered everywhere. I guess the branches are 6 inches deep over most of the area. It makes for a challenging hike.

Beth expressed concern that we were going to get lost in the vastness of the place, but I scoffed, telling her that I thought I was more than capable of leading us through a field without getting lost. We could, after all, see the roads on all three sides.

Beth and Jonathan making their way through the bush

Beth and Jonathan making their way through the bush

That said, the place is totally unrecognizable, and in spite of my navigational prowess, I misjudged the distance we had walked. We went a bit too far and had to turn around to hit where the trail used to be, leading to the road. I guess we could have just cut west and made our way to the road, but that would have led us through people’s backyards. I didn’t want to do that, so we did double back. I can’t believe I got us “lost” in a field. Maybe that will teach me to boast!

I finished making a knife sheath tonight.

Leather knife sheath

Leather knife sheath

I was working on writing answers to the Leather Craft – Advanced honor for my Wikibook project, and one of the requirements can be met by making a knife sheath. I didn’t really have a knife that needed a sheath though. Steak knives? No. Pocket knives? No. Utility knives? Nope. I asked my friend Warran (a Pathfinder staff member) if he had a hunting knife that could use a new sheath, and he allowed that he might. So he brought it to me Sunday, and I made this sheath. That was the last thing I needed to do to finish the answers to that honor.

I have still not earned that honor though, as it also requires that six items be made, and in my entire life, I can think of five things I’ve made. Maybe I’ll knock it out soon though, who knows.

This morning Va needed to get up at 5:30 so she could get to school early so they could leave for Boston and visit the New England Aquarium. What I didn’t fully appreciate when she told me that was that she was also expecting that I would set the alarm. Instead we woke up at 6:30, and there was plenty of rushing around after that. Va and Beth ate breakfast in transit. She was not expecting to enjoy the aquarium, and she pretty much got what she expected. The kids enjoyed it though, so I don’t think she’s sorry she went. Her cell phone battery died sometime during the day too, so she couldn’t call me to let me know when she’d be home.

I scored some cardboard from work for our cardboard boat. Manufacturing has some huge brand-new, never-been-used boxes, that they expect they will never use. Cardboard boat-building seemed like the best fate, so I got three of them. They said I could have more if I needed them, and I expect I will. I dropped them off at church before I went home.

When I got home David told me that Jonathan had come down with a serious case of the pukes. I feel bad for him, but what can I do? I’m just glad he doesn’t whine and cry when he gets sick (he never did, even as a baby).

I guess that’s about all that’s worth writing about tonight, and then some!

Tonight I left work a little early to meet Va at the church. Piano lessons were still in progress, so we chatted with Michelle for a while. As we were talking, I realized that I had scored a piece of ancient networking equipment from work (legitimately!) This is an 8-port 10baseT hub (not a switch). These things are so old you can’t even buy them anymore, but it is perfectly adequate for my needs. It will only move 10 megabits per second, but our Internet connection is only 1.6 megabits per second, so this will be able to keep up just fine. I’m going to use the 24-port 10/100 switch (which has three times as many ports and can move ten times as many bits per second) as a K12LTSP-only network. But I digress. I didn’t hook it up though, because I still need a couple of patch cables. Maybe I’ll stop by Circuit City and see if they have any left (going-out-of-business sale).

When the piano lesson ended, Va and I sprung into action and started sorting through the backdrops. We have a series of backdrops that will cover about 100 feet of walls. We had to sort through them so that we could hang them in the correct order. Then we started to hang them from the ceiling with some hooks.

While we were doing that, it started to snow. Heavily. We’re forecast to receive 2-4″ of snow tonight. It was making Va nervous, so we didn’t hang around too long. We got on the road and headed home before it got too bad outside.

I took Beth with me and drove directly to the Pizza Hut in Tilton, while Va went on home. I picked up our dinner, and then we came home and partook.

With the snow storm on my mind, I asked a question I had thought of this morning. “Has anyone seen the handle that fell of the snowblower? I laid it on top of the garbage can in the garage.” Jonathan’s eyes widened to saucer proportions. “That fell in the trash can.” Bummer. Today was trash day, so my master clutch handle is now gone forever.

I’m thinking I’ll hafta rig up a second clutch handle like I did with the drive clutch (maybe I’ll get another caulk gun as a parts donor). This one will be mounted on the right handle bar (the other one’s on the left). I think I’ll have to hold it in for the clutch the engage, meaning the Beast will gain a heretofore lacking safety feature: a deadman. The dream is that if I let go, the master clutch will disengage and the Beast will come to a halt all by its own self. It will be better than before.

Before the master clutch handle broke off and took a one-way trip to the dump, if I were to let go of the Beast while it was running, it would just charge straight ahead. It would have chewed through the garage door, then ground both cars to shards, and dug its way through the back wall, perhaps stopping when it ran into the Merrimack river about a mile to the west.

But that repair job is not going to happen before this snow falls. I’m going to have to jury rig something up so I can clear the driveway in the morning. But I’m pretty sure the cob-job will also feature a deadman. We’ll see.