it’s monday morning

It’s been so long since I’ve been here, my blog isn’t showing up on my “top sites” page.

This post is just about life and stuff.

We’re trying to plan something with the church kids on Palm Sunday and realizing staggered, 2-week-long, spring breaks are wreaking havoc on the church school. The charter school kids (ours and 3 other families) still have a week to go and are off until Palm Sunday. The city schools kids are in the middle of Spring Break. The neighboring district kids go back today.

Our middle and high school kids had one week overlapping, so we took it up with confirmation class. It was easier than figuring out an afternoon or evening to meet given band and sports schedules. Mostly they showed up. It was good. For a couple of them, the middle schoolers, I think it was a decent alternative to being home alone. When your mom is a professor with a different spring break and your dad is a dentist and your older brother has swimming practice every morning, maybe come down to church and pondering Big Questions, eating snacks, hanging out with other kids and interested grown-ups is okay. It was a good week. As ever, it felt as if there wasn’t enough time, but I think we did good work. We talked about The Story and their stories and where God is in their stories. They brought in songs for all of us to hear, and they drafted statements of faith. They will bring those to Session Wednesday night. We’ll have an Easter Vigil on Easter Saturday (they voted to spend the night) and they will be confirmed in Worship on Easter Sunday.

Wordgirl was the lector in church for the first time a couple of weeks ago. She and her grandma worked hard on the Psalm she read. She did a beautiful job. She asked me Saturday night, “Do I get to be up front again tomorrow?” I said that it wouldn’t be every week, but that it would happen again. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE having a child who is a Reader. It’s so great. She brings a book to the table and I get all verklempt. From the moment she was born, I knew that she was completely her own person, and she has never been a mini-me–too many of her dad’s qualities shine through–but this, this reading thing, this is THE thing for me, and I am glad she seems to be sharing it.

d-landWe finally took Shyguy to Disneyland for his long-awaited 4th birthday trip (he’ll be 5 on Good Friday). It was a good trip. The weather was nice and the lines were short. He especially loved the Buzz Lightyear ride and making a light saber (he now has 3 full size ones and various others). If we had taken him when he turned 4, he wouldn’t have even known about Star Wars. It would have all been about Mickey Mouse. I think. We bought So-Cal 3-day tickets, so we still have 2 to use before June 5.


Shyguy’s favorite preschool teacher left for a year teaching English in South Korea. He is taking it equitably. She has promised to FaceTime with him on his birthday so that she will be at his birthday party. He’s planning a big party with an elaborate sword fight as the main feature. (Photos from Ms. Carly’s going away party thrown pretty spontaneously by preschool parents. A couple months ago, I asked Ms. Carly if she would consider chairing the nurture committee. She said she really couldn’t say yes at this point. I wondered what was going on. Evidently, a lot.)

Wordgirl with her favorite preschool teacher. She is currently Shyguy's teacher, and he loves her a lot, too.

Wordgirl with her favorite preschool teacher. She is currently Shyguy’s teacher, and he loves her a lot, too.

Shyguy and Ms. Carly. She was never actually his teacher, but she is his friend.

Shyguy and Ms. Carly. She was never actually his teacher, but she is his friend.

Wordgirl and two of her school friends (church friend and her older cousin whom the girl child adores) are singing “Let It Go” at the school talent show on Friday. They have been working on it for weeks, and the school has actually had rehearsals every week. The older girl’s aunt is now in on the fun, practicing with them and giving them singing tips. It’s good stuff.

The family is preparing for a big Spring Break Road Trip, heading generally to Colorado, but with no specific plans yet. My Former Student now High School English Teacher friend gets married locally on Sunday the 30th, so we will stay for that and head out probably on Monday to return in time for Palm Sunday. All ideas are welcome. The kids are almost 5 and just turned 7.

We’re also trying to do some purging of stuff as a family Lenten discipline. We’re working on it. I need to get back to my part in it. Like now.

So. There has been and is much happening. I think it’s this thing we call life.

Posted in About Me, Church | 2 Comments

all the alleluias

In some more liturgical traditions, including our Presbyterian one, the “alleluia” (the Hebrew word meaning Praise the Lord) is “buried” during Lent to be brought out again with the risen Christ at Easter. We don’t sing or say (but mostly sing) Alleluia during Lent. We don’t use it at the end of the Confession and Assurance of Pardon (the place it most often shows up) or anywhere else.

Michelle, who writes at Quantum Theology, describes herself as “a mother of two, spouse of one, professor of chemistry, and faithful Roman Catholic.” She writes here about preparing for giving up the alleluia during Lent:

“Let’s see how many alleluias we can get in before Lent begins,” suggests my pastor as he pages through the breviary to pick a hymn to open Morning Prayer. I know what he means; I’m never as mindful of all the ways alleluia plays in my life as I am on the brink of Lent…

The essay, posted originally in, reflects on the vastness of the alleluia, all the times we use it, how important it is or could be in the Christian life.

I didn’t read Michelle’s post until last night, but we had the same thought. On the way to church yesterday Wordgirl and I found all the versions of Alleluia/Hallelujah I could on my (borrowed) ipod and we played and sang them in the car.

Computerguy is amenable to most of what happens at church, but he is surprisingly scornful of this one liturgical moment. “It’s just a word,” he says. The church kids fuss at each other if one starts singing “Halle Halle Halle,” a perennial favorite, during Lent, and he thinks that’s ridiculous. “Let them sing. I can’t believe they do that.” When I forward to the next song if a Hallelujah comes on my shuffle during Lent, he rolls his eyes and mutters.

I like the practice. As with other kinds of fasts, it makes the thing all the more meaningful when we bring it back. It helps us actually think about the word and how we use it. When we haven’t heard it for 40 days and then on Easter the first words we hear are: “Alleluia, Christ is risen; he is risen indeed.” Wow.

The RevDoc said to the children yesterday that Alleluia is a happy word, and Lent is a time we think about some of the things that aren’t as happy and remember that God is with us even so. Or something like that.

Michelle says later in her post (emphais mine):

I am struck by the thought that if alleluia is truly our song, we might consider responding to everything that happens with that one word, “alleluia” — praise the Lord. Chanting it with passion. Humming it in the ordinary. Spitting it out through clenched teeth. Crying it aloud in joy. Howling it in our worst grief.  Holding it in expectant silence through Lent’s desert. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.

lentlogoSo on Transfiguration Sunday when we celebrate the mountaintop and the glowing Jesus before he comes down and turns toward Jerusalem and the inevitable cross, we end the service by visibly changing the atmosphere from light to dark. Someone changes the paraments (cloths on the pulpit and lectern) from white to purple, puts a purple sash on the cross, drapes the communion table with a purple cloth. The pastors remove their white stoles and replace them with purple ones. One person carries the Alleluia banner out while someone else brings in a purple “watch and pray” banner as we sing “watch and pray,” the Taizé chorus. We so often use so many words; this is worship made visible.

She usually busies herself with other things at the end of the service, but yesterday Wordgirl was sitting nestled against her dad, intently watching what was happening on the chancel. I wondered if he saw anything different this year as he sat with her.

(Lent graphic courtesy of Crystal Cloud Graphics)

Posted in About Me, Church, The Kids | 1 Comment


The RevDoc is leading a retreat this weekend. Our guest preacher is the pastor of the Lutheran Mission in the city. He is wonderful. He and the RevDoc have found kindred spirits (soul friends? I think they each pastor the other) in one another, and they would do much for each other. Hence, he preaches for us several times a year.

The arrangements were made months ago, and then his father died and the memorial service was today. He was given the opportunity to back out, but chose not to do so. We are being careful because of that.

The woman who was asked to be lector (lay reader) is a newer member of our congregation who has been lector previously exactly once. She works at the Mission with the guest preacher; for that reason she was asked.

So. I will also be on the chancel, making sure we are covered. I have no scripted parts of the service; no call to worship or scripture reading. Because his circumstances are unusual, I am doing all the “pastoral” parts except the sermon, the extemporaneous bits: the welcome, the time with the children, the prayers of the people (pastoral prayer). I have the TwC mostly figured out. I will work on the other parts in the morning.

So I will represent. Mostly, I hope, I will represent the Christ we all serve, and I will also represent the First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino as someone the session has entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of being the face of the church, the one who can say welcome–whoever you are, wherever you are–to this gathering of God’s people. Welcome, let us enter in to worship together.

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birthday valentine

partyWe went around and around about the girl child’s birthday this year (Age 7 on Sunday). We told her she couldn’t have a big party, that we had done that the last two years, and we weren’t going to do it every year. She could invite a friend and go do something or we would have a family gathering. She decided she wanted to invite several friends and go to SkyTown. We didn’t want to mess around with SkyTown food and who would she invite and who did or didn’t have passes. It also became clear that the best day for the celebration was probably Friday, Valentine’s Day. We asked if she would settle for a movie night with basically the same small group of friends and if she would be okay with siblings being invited, too.

The closest friends were heading out of town for the 3-day-weekend, but we invited 3 church families and 1 friend from last year and told the folks they could leave all the kids to eat pizza and watch movies while they went out out for V-Day.

They all took us up on it, even the ones who said they never celebrated Valentine’s Day. We had 11 kids including our own, ages 2-11 with one kid in each family age 6. The kids played,  opened presents, ate pizza and nuggets, watched The Rescuers (Wordgirl’s choice; our hope was it was obscure enough that not many of them would have seen it. That didn’t quite work, but it was okay.), ate cake, and played some more.

Around 9, all the parents came to pick them up. The interesting thing to me at that point was that both parents came to pick up each set of kids. Even the couples who poo-pooed Valentine’s Day, even the couples where only one parent dropped off, even the couples who stayed home and watched movies and weren’t out together anyway came together to pick up the kids. It was lovely.

So our girl had a low-key but fun and exciting party and 4 couples had Valentine’s Day, whatever that meant to them. Obviously, in the end, it meant something. As for Computerguy and I, we were happy to host the kids, and we got two nights out last week.

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confirmation composition

If you were asking confirmation students (grades 8-12, boys and girls) to think/write about their lives without being overtly spiritual about it at first go, what would you ask? How would you write the prompt? This can’t be too onerous, but it should be thoughtful. We will be trying to help them see the God part as we go along, but we want to get them thinking.

I’m thinking maybe break your life into 3? 4? 7? (they seem young for a whole 7) segments, title each segment, and then write a few sentences about one significant event in that segment…

There could also be a list of prompts from which to choose: favorite teacher/coach/friend and why; a time you won something; a time you lost something; a pet and what you learned; a church activity that was memorable; etc.

There a many ways to do this. Any thoughts? What would you ask? (Kristin? Meg?)

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what we’ve been doing

Life moves on apace. I started with a new title at church: Associate for Worship. Among other things, I picked up the church newsletter and gave up website updating. I’m off Session and no longer chair of the nurture committee, but I’m still coordinating children’s church school.

Wordgirl has had her first real Disney Movie experience/obsession with Frozen. She and two of her friends are practicing “Let It Go” constantly for the talent show auditions this Thursday. I took her and her friends to see the sing-along version on Saturday. Nothing but fun! She turns 7 in twelve days.

Shyguy is planning an elaborate battle for his birthday party in April, when he will turn 5. He wants a Star Wars party, but a sword fight. He wants to invite the big kids who spend more time with us because they are the car pool set and who watch over him and will battle nicely. He’s not so interested in his preschool classmates.

Our local small time miniature golf/bumper boat/arcade amusement park has been struggling somewhat. They have beefed up the water park side, adding water slides. Last year, they turned the building into a trampoline park. They have a 24 square big trampoline, a big dodgeball trampoline, a pit one can dive or flip or jump into, an American Gladiator style jousting pit, and a climbing wall. They are trying to make the place work, and they have some good deals. We had Wordgirl’s soccer party there, and then went back for another Thursday deal: 4 jumpers x 1 hr + a pizza and pitcher of lemonade for $20. Great deal. (And it turns out that an hour is PLENTY of jumping time.)

photo 1 skytownAt Christmastime they were offering deals on water park season passes and threw in 3 months at the trampoline park for $10. We got them for the whole family, and our kids’ school/church friends got them for their kids. It’s been a lot of fun and a good workout. We’ve tried to go 2 to 3 times a week, and I make myself jump at least 15 minutes each time we go. Shyguy likes the sword fighting video game even more than jumping, but he really likes jumping into the pit.

Posted in About Me, The Kids | 4 Comments


2009 J Family Reunion

2009 J Family Reunion

When we arrived in Taiwan in 1980, jet lagged, our friends whom we had known Stateside and who had been instrumental in bringing us to Taiwan, and who had met the plane, before taking us the several hour drive to their home, took us to meet another family. I don’t remember much about that meeting, but I remember it happening, and that’s where the story begins. 33 years of friendship and laughter, visits and meals, family reunions and Facebook posts later, I am flummoxed, and suddenly made vulnerable, by the sudden death of their mom.

The parents still lived in Taiwan, coming home each summer to see their 30+ grandkids. For the 30 years since we left Taiwan, they stayed with us sometimes, or we went to visit them wherever they were. My brother even visited them back in Taiwan. I realized yesterday, when the word hospice was used on Facebook and I wanted to tell Computerguy that someone I cared about was dying, that even he had met them over dinner one night.

dollThe last time I saw them in person was at their family reunion in 2009. My parents and I took 2-year-old Wordgirl and infant Shyguy and drove across country to see various friends and family. It was a delightful time. Wordgirl still has the doll she made with the other little ones. My parents have seen them since then, including at the first wedding of a grand (their kids were slightly older and married much younger than I). These weren’t people from my past I talked about sometimes, they are real and close.

One child had flown to Taiwan to be with them a week or so ago; two were in airplanes on their way; and one was waiting for a passport. There was no miracle of “holding on to say goodbye.” There was no time. It is a sudden blow. I feel for my friends, the 4 Js. And I read their status updates and see their love and their grief and the peace they have in Christ. It is enough. For now.

Posted in About Me, Family | 1 Comment