Last weekend, our family bought a piano. We came across a great deal, and decided to go ahead and buy it even though we hadn't planned for that in our monthly budget...and we hadn't even been looking for a piano.
This was one of those moments when I can clearly say that God worked this all out for us in a matter of hours.
Our family already has a piano. My parents bought a beautifully sounding, rebuilt piano for my mom when I was probably in upper elementary school. Years later, my mom fell in love with a different piano, bought it, and gave me her "old" piano.
If my family already has a piano in our living room, why did we buy a second piano?
Here's the L-O-N-G explanation of why we unexpectedly went ahead and purchased a second piano last weekend.
Several decades ago, my widowed grandmother married "Whitey", a nearly-blind musician, and piano tuner/rebuilder. I was around seven or eight at the time. "Whitey" (not his real name...but his nickname by which he always went) had the whitest hair I'd ever seen...and the pinkest skin. He was actually albino. I've never seen an albino person since he passed away, but he was truly albino. I remember that one winter, he grew out his beard to match Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and they could have been twins. No kidding. And my dad, that year, grew a thick beard and looked just like Abraham Lincoln. They got quite the stares from others when they went out to the store together once.
Because Whitey was albino, he was legally blind. He could see the television if he had a large screen (for back then) and sat closely to the TV. He read the newspaper and magazines with a large magnifying glass. Even as a child, this was how he lived. He couldn't legally drive because of his poor vision, so my grandmother drove him around for years to his piano tuning jobs. If it was a quick tuning job, she waited in the car or in the person's home. If it was a more lengthy repair job, she would drop him off and pick him up later.
I cannot say that I know a lot about tuning pianos or rebuilding pianos. I actually know very, very little. But, Whitey did show me what to look for when purchasing a piano: felts and hammers all in good condition, not eaten up by moths; strings firm and secure; no evidence of mice or rats in the piano casing; keys not sticking; block in good condition and not cracked; etc.
He would frequently pick up pianos at garage sales for sometimes as low as $25 - $100 back then. Once he had the piano home, he would rebuild it if it needed a lot of work. Then, he would resell the pianos, easily recouping his costs in supplies and time, and make a decent profit. After all, pianos were his livelihood.
Even this last weekend, I didn't understand how much pianos cost, until I spoke with my parents about how much they have paid for used pianos over the years. But, when I played the keys on a piano at our church's garage sale last weekend, I knew that the price they had listed for the piano ($300) was a steal!
I am pretty fussy about pianos. The sound and touch or feel of the keys are pretty important to me. I don't care if it is a baby grand or a school model or an upright. I'm looking for the touch and feel of the keys; how responsive they are, the clarity of the sound, etc.
Most people are only concerned with the "look" of the piano cabinet or casing. This is really not all that important to me. Sure, it would be wonderful to find an inexpensive piano that not only sounded great but looked great, too, but that hasn't happened to me yet! As long as the piano hasn't been through a fire or a flood, I'm not all that concerned about the "look" of the wood.
I was excited about the piano at the church garage sale when I saw it on Thursday, two days before the sale began. The sale benefits groups of people from our church who travel to the Philippines and work in ministry there, so we save up the items we want to give away or donate, and take them down for this garage sale every summer.
I knew from past experience that Elmer probably wouldn't be interested in buying the piano for Brittany. After all, we didn't have any place at all to store it in our home. One piano plus two large fish tanks take up all of the wall space in our living room.
I placed an "ad" for the piano on our local homeschooling Yahoo group, so that maybe another family in our county would have the opportunity to get a decent piano for a great price. Even though the front of the wood case of the piano had some big scratches, it also came with a very decent matching wood piano bench...and benches are usually very hard to find with pianos, especially matching ones.
I suggested that if a family was interested in buying the piano, they should go down to the church the following day, on Friday, before the sale, and pay for it and make arrangements to move it to their own home.
On Friday morning, I was speaking with my mom on the phone. I told her about the piano. She said the words I never thought I would hear her say:
"That's a great price! If you would like to store the piano at our house, so Brittany can have it in her own home in a few more years, we will let you store it here."
I was shocked. The last thing my parents need is a second piano taking up wall space.
But she offered.
My response was, "Elmer will never say 'yes' to buying a second piano."
My mom responded, "It wouldn't hurt to ask him. Tell him how expensive good pianos are."
I got off of the phone and prayed about it. After mulling the situation over, and discussing it with Brittany, and praying some more, it was around 11 a.m. I decided to call my husband and ask him about buying another piano.
When I reached him on his work cell phone, I said, "You're not going to believe this, but I have found an excellent piano in almost perfect condition - inside - that I think I could buy for Brittany for around $275...and guess what? My mom said that she would store it at her house for us."
I expected there to be dead air. Silence. Or, an instant "no."
Instead, he said, "This is a really great deal? You think it is worth it?"
And those wonderful words..."Yes, go ahead and drive down to the church and make them an offer."
I put down the phone and couldn't believe what I had just heard. My husband is not a stingy man at all, but both of us have always lived fairly frugally and rarely make spur-of-the-moment financial decisions.
Brittany screamed with excitement when I told her about it. I also warned her, though, that someone else might have already come by the church and made them an offer on the piano.
She knew that if it wasn't the Lord's will to have the piano, it wouldn't be available.
Well...no one had come by to purchase it! So, I wrote the check on the spot - for $275.
You may think that this is a lot of money to pay for something that is "used." For something that isn't in pristine condition.
Let me share with you what I know about prices for pianos. I don't have a lot of experience in pricing pianos, but I have learned a little bit after this weekend.
When my parents were living in New Zealand, my mom wanted to buy a piano for their home. She loves to play the piano! They found a used piano that wasn't in very good condition, but was still playable, for between $300-$400.
This was back in the 1960s.
When I was around five years old and we were living in Texas, they wanted to buy a piano so my mom could begin teaching my twin sister and I to play the piano. (The piano from New Zealand wasn't shipped back to the States - too expensive.) I think we bought our piano at a second hand store or Salvation Army or something like that, and I don't remember how much it was, but it wasn't cheap.
After my grandpa rebuilt the piano I currently own, my mom bought it from him for around $1500-$1800. It isn't a fancy piano, but it is a Baldwin that really holds its tune well and has a wonderful touch and feel to it. Thirty years later, it has still never needed any additional work done on it. Of course, I have always kept the piano on an interior wall, and have kept it tuned every year or two.
My mom gave me my piano when she found another piano she fell in love with; my parents paid around $1500 for it.
They also bought a piano for my sister from my grandfather, before he died. I don't know how much that one cost, but it was in a similar price range.
A couple of years ago, we were at a friend's home, and she was showing us the new "used" piano that they had recently purchased for their daughter. While it had a nicely carved "outside", I was very surprised to hear the price they had paid for it, and to hear the sound of it. I thought it sounded horribly, even though they had purchased it from a piano dealership in our community. It had a cracked block that was held together with bungee cords, of all things. When I played it briefly, I had to stop. I couldn't stand the sound of it! And they had paid almost $1000 for the piano. The salesman assured them that a cracked block really wasn't that big of a deal.
I disagree, but I didn't say anything to my friend about it. I have just always felt badly that they were ripped off at that purchase.
Brittany's "new" piano is made by Baldwin, has that same wonderful touch and sound that I love, and only needs a tiny bit of work done to it. We examined it thoroughly, and we will hire the local piano tuner to come out in the next few weeks and tune it plus make any minor repairs that he deems are necessary.
Sometimes, even while living frugally, a snap decision must be made in order to save a lot of money.
Brittany and Kelsi thought at first that $275 was a LOT of money to pay for a used piano. However, when they began hearing how much my parents have paid over the years for various pianos, my girls agreed that this was a worthwhile investment to withdraw money from our savings account and purchase the piano.
And Elmer? He just shook his head as my parents relayed how much decent pianos cost. He was very, very happy that we found this piano. He knows he's going to need the extra money he just saved to pay for two daughters' weddings some day. So he was happy to have me write that check last Friday, and easily save him at least $1000.
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Here is a very small sampling of the kinds of books that are offered for free download. You'll notice that most of the books are what people refer to as "the classics", although not all of them would be classified in this way.
The list of books is very extensive! Most of the books I've seen on the site tonight are geared for the upper elementary through adult level, so you won't find Dr. Suess books here.
Now that both of my children are in the junior high school and high school years, I appreciate having free resources for their age group. So many free sites are geared for the younger ages, so this is perfect for where we are at right now...and for the next few years until the girls graduate from high school.
Maybe your child's weakest mode of learning is "audio."
One of my child's greatest learning strengths is AUDIO. The other daughter's weakest learning mode is AUDIO.
Of course, our two children are opposites when it comes to learning styles. They are opposite in almost everything, although sometimes outside observers don't see this. I just know that God has such a great sense of humor when He gifts our children in the way that He does!
What should you do if your child's weakest learning mode is AUDIO?
I'm not an audiologist, and when I was teaching in the public school system, I didn't even have time to think about how to help children improve their audio skills.
So, the advice I'm offering here is just what I did with my daughter who is very weak with audio skills...or WAS very weak with her listening skills. She has much improved this very weak area of her life now!
For our older daughter, sitting quietly and focusing on a story with us was a very natural trait of hers. God has blessed her with the ability to focus and listen.
We weren't sure what to do with our youngest in this area. Since our goal for both girls was to teach them to sit still and focus each evening while reading the Bible together and looking at children's stories, we knew that our youngest wouldn't be allowed to be "excluded" from this family time.
With our oldest, we just enjoyed having her sit with us, soaking in all that we shared with her. With Brittany, our youngest, we had her sit with us for more limited amounts of time, during very short, age-appropriate Bible stories and Christian books each evening.
As Brittany grew, we gradually lengthened the amount of time we expected her to sit on our laps or at our sides and watch and "read" with us. I would say that we expected her to sit with us for about 2 minutes for each year of age that she was. This seemed to be a worthwhile goal, one that we decided was obtainable for her.
While Brittany would sit on our lap or next to us on the couch, one of us would gently rub her back, or give her a back scratch. She has always been a very tactile and "hands on" learner. A gentle back scratch or back rub has almost always enabled her to meet our goal of having her sit still and quiet and remain focused.
This is very common with kinesthetic, hands-on learners. More than often, these are boys, but occasionally, you'll see girls like this. That's our Brittany, and we just love her dearly!
Brittany was included in our home educating just because she was a member of our family. When she saw big sister doing fun things like coloring, cutting and pasting, etc. during Kelsi's Kindergarten and first grade years, Brittany wanted to be right there in the middle of the action. I found that if Brittany kept her hands busy, her mind would be engaged as well.
Sometimes, I would read stories to the girls while Kelsi worked on kindergarten skills...and Brittany would scribble as a three-year-old.
As Brittany became used to hearing stories, and her attention began to slightly lengthen, I could tell that she still didn't really like listening to stories. She would tell me that she really preferred to look at pictures in the books or watch stories on television, which we greatly limited (the television, not the books!). Even at age 8, she would prefer to read picture books instead of chapter books, though she was a very solid, advanced reader by age 8.
I began to check out audio CDs from our local library. I would pick out age-appropriate stories for both girls, and once or twice each week during breakfast, I would put in a CD for us to enjoy. Now, since Brittany was still quite young (age 2-4) and sitting in a booster seat, she was "trapped" a bit at the table while she ate, being able to get tactile stimulation from moving her arms and legs and eating at the same time.
At first, I would check out those audio CDs that also included a paperback version of the story. I'd spread it out on the table and turn the pages as the story progressed. This helped Brittany to focus what she was listening to with what she was seeing on the pages of the book.
Over time, as she grew to be five or six years of age, I began to check out some audio stories that no longer came with accompanying books. It took her a little while to transition to those stand-alone audio stories, but because she was at the breakfast table and still had the freedom to wiggle her arms and legs (and eat food - her favorite!), this worked for her.
When she was five, I also began having her help big sister Kelsi fold the family's laundry. Brittany was not thrilled about such an adventure, after she got over the excitement of learning how to fold clothes. Even though this is the only weekly chore that I pay my children to do around the house, money was not a motivator for her to enjoy folding laundry. After all, it was WORK.
So, to help prevent any squabbles or too much silliness while folding clothes, which would greatly slow them down, I began turning on audio stories from chapter books. Yes, Brittany was too young for listening to an entire chapter - but again, she was in a position where she needed to stay there for an extended length of time, and she was still able to move around and touch things, which provided a tactile stimulus once again, something she really needed.
Something wonderful happened with Brittany over the next couple of years. She began to really enjoy listening to audio stories on CD!
I was thrilled! I was SO grateful that the Lord enabled me to see this desire to move and be engaged in one of my children while she did her best to learn to listen!
We have continued bringing home audio CDs from the library and downloading free stories for the girls to enjoy while folding clothes 1-2 times per week.
In fact, if they can't agree on something they'd like to listen to while folding laundry, or we haven't had the chance to run to the library that week, they have a hard time concealing their disappointment...they want something to listen to while doing their chores! They will listen to music while they fold clothes, but that isn't their first choice. That makes me smile!
Brittany's audio skills will never be the best form of learning for her. However, at age 10 she is able to handle the challenge of sitting still and listening to the pastor at church, or a lecture on PBS, or a documentary on Netflix.
Of course, she still scoots close, turns her back away from me, and gives me her special look which means, "I'm ready for a back scratch, Mom!"
What kinds of things have you done to improve your children's listening skills?
How about throwing together three very unlikely characters:
Storm, a dealer in art and antiques, who has just been fired by her grandfather in order to protect her life;
Harry, a professional treasure hunter who has just been released from jail in the Caribbean;
and Emma, a United States government lawyer who changes sides midstream to join Interpol.
After various people in the art antiquities business are murdered, these three characters begin attempting to not only solve a whole host of mysteries surrounding those deaths (including Storm's grandfather), but they also throw themselves wholeheartedly into seeking the last treasure that Storm's grandfather ever investigated.
If I hadn't studied those time periods with my children, recently, I wouldn't have enjoyed this book as much as I did.
But don't be afraid to read this if you know nothing or very little about the middle ages and the renaissance. As you read, go to the computer and google a few topics such as Constantine, Constantinople, and a few other key terms and locations in this story, and you'll be set. It will only take you a few minutes to do this as you come across certain locations or people in the story, and you'll be glad that you did.
This is one of my favorite historical fiction books I've read in the last few years, and even if historical fiction isn't your favorite genre, the mystery and suspense, along with a touch of romance, will be enough to pull almost any reader in.
Hi! I'm Julieanne!
You'll find me in the kitchen
trying new Trim Healthy Mama recipes, loving God, and carrying out that love as I bless my husband and teen daughters.
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