science fair

Project day!

Project day!

The science fair does not become mandatory until 3rd or 4th grade, but the younger kids are allowed to do a project if they wish. Wordgirl and Computerguy decided she wanted to do a project. I pretty much stayed out of the way (I’m on regular homework duty; he does the projects).

The school emphasizes in all the projects the kids do (they have a project of one kind or another about every month, but Science Fair is a bigger deal) that they need to be the kid’s work. It spelled out clearly in the science fair packet that parents may “consult,” but the work needs to be the kids’. These projects are clearly the kids’ work. They are not fancy, but they do experiments and they follow directions and they write them up.

We walked through and looked at projects and waited until the judging was done. Finally, they began bringing the winning projects out to the quad.

They brought out the winning projects.

They brought out the winning projects.

Wordgirl’s was among them. I texted Computerguy, who was probably going to come from work at the 3:30 prize-giving time, to come for sure. She followed directions; she wrote up her findings; she did a fine job. She told me, “I didn’t finish writing everything in my notebook.” I didn’t tell her than I hadn’t seen any other 2nd grade project WITH  notebook (though I did tell her later). We waited, and at 3:30 they began announcing the winners. Kinder, first, and then Second: 3rd, 2nd, and finally, 1st Place: Wordgirl! Yay for her.

So it was a successful foray into the world of science fairs. She learned a lot from doing it. We have ideas for what to do differently next time. She says she would have been glad to have done it even if she hadn’t won. And, Yay for Wordgirl! 1st place for second grade!

The Winners!

The Winners!

Posted in Church, The Kids | 1 Comment

ash wednesday riding onward

It’s Ash Wednesday
I should change the color of my blog
Purple for Lent
Tomorrow I’ll change it

It’s Ash Wednesday
February 18
My cousin’s birthday
I asked on Facebook
“Will you get ashes on your birthday
and write about it?”
But is it too much this year
a reflection on mortality on a birthday
with a mother ill on the other side of the country?
Is that asking too much?

It’s Ash Wednesday
a time to stop and reflect
But there was a birthday
(The girl child is 8)
and Valentine’s Day
(We watched A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a 14-year-old)
and boys with fevers
(staying home from school
on days when there are lectures to watch and chapters to read and “discussions” awaiting participation)
and piano lessons
and today a talent show rehearsal
and a birthday treat to bring to class
(fortune cookies because it’s almost Chinese New Year
because the school discourages the cupcakes
so carefully made and brought
a rule they don’t enforce
but my kids never eat them anyway)
and a science fair project due tomorrow
and dinner to be made for the youth group
breaking bread together before the service
(and what do I serve teenagers + advisors + small children + staff who will be there all day, can they eat, too?)
and who is serving at the stations?
Did I get that text? Not yet?
Will I serve or am I the expendable one?

It’s Ash Wednesday
How will I proceed?
Will I write more?
Will I walk more?
Will I eat less
(and drink less?)

Or will I get caught up in Science Fairs
and birthday parties
and talent shows
and watch it ebb away

It’s Ash Wednesday
and today I wrote this
It’s something.

Posted in About Me, Church, Family | 5 Comments

friday five: they say it’s your birthday

Birthdays are always fun, and we begin a spate of them here in February. The girl child turns 8 on the 16th, and then over the next 2 months, the whole carpool gang will turn 8 (and the Boy Child will turn 6), and the milestone for the 2nd graders is No More Boosters (unless the seatbelt doesn’t fit well). And except in Tennessee where we might visit this summer. They go to 9.

Today’s Friday Five. 3dogmom says:

In my family, February holds the most birthdays across the generations: my father, my grandmother, my brother and my son were all born this month. Throw in the presidents (and other friends) for good measure and there’s lots of celebrating going on! That got me thinking about birthday customs and traditions, and I’d love to hear about yours. For today’s FF share with us:

1) Are you a cake or pie person? What type do you savor on your big day?

I’ve done something like this before because I know I’ve said this before: Angel Food Cake with icing. My kids want brownies for their birthdays this year. They kind of pick at pieces of cake.

2) Growing up, did you have a favorite “birthday meal?” How about now?

Pot Roast. Fried Chicken. Steak. I guess I like a meat and potatoes kind of birthday. Turkey/Chicken tacos also work. Computerguy is a lasagna guy. The Girl Child is asking for shrimp and crab this year.

Wordgirl's 6th birthday: Art Party Rainbow Art Cake

Wordgirl’s 6th birthday: Art Party Rainbow Art Cake

3) What birthday traditions or rituals from younger days have followed you into adulthood?

Shyguy's 5th Birthday: Plants Vs. Zombies: Zombies on the Roof

Shyguy’s 5th Birthday: Plants Vs. Zombies: Zombies on the Roof








I can’t think of any particular rituals other than the standard ones. Cake. Dinner. Celebration. Computerguy would decorate his own cake for his birthday, and he has brought that forward, helping the kids decorate their birthday cakes (or brownies this year, I guess).

4) What’s the most memorable gift or celebration you ever received for your birthday?

When I was 21, my parents threw me a surprise party with people from college, from church, and family. They totally pulled it off. My birthday is always near (or on) Mother’s Day, so they had the party on Mother’s Day. I came to their house from church expecting to celebrate Mother’s Day (I had stopped to buy a card–‘cuz that’s the way I roll–so I was slow getting there). As I pulled into the driveway everyone gathered around the front door in spite of my mom trying to tell them I would come through the garage. I came through the garage and looked over at all my friends huddled around the front door waiting to surprise me. We were all surprised.

5) How do you like to celebrate others on their day?

For friends, lunch out sometime in the vicinity of their birthday.

If you play the Friday Five on your blog, please share the link in the comments so we can read your responses and show some nonbirthday love! Unless, of course, it IS your birthday today, in which case we want to make a fuss.

Posted in About Me, Family, Friday Five | 1 Comment

is seminary for you?

The last time I went to Glorieta–a Baptist conference center in the mountains of New Mexico–for college week, I think I had just finished my credential year. Since I had my degree and knew I would be a teacher (I must have even already had my job lined up), I was thinking about Master’s Degrees. Since I had always been interested in theology, I went to a presentation called “Is Seminary for You” put on by the seminary folks. I thought, I could go to seminary for my Master’s and learn as a lay person. I don’t have to get a Master’s in English. It might be fun and interesting and think how good it would be to have educated lay leaders.

I wasn’t thinking about full-time Christian ministry because I had no interest in being a children’s ministry director or women’s ministry director or missionary and, well, Southern Baptist. Those were the options. I never seriously considered becoming a preacher because, well, Southern Baptist. I’m a girl. Even beyond that, I’m an introvert and I’m not an evangelist, and that pretty much ruled out being a leader in the churches I knew.

So. I went to this presentation and almost the first thing the presenter said was “If you don’t plan to go into full-time Christian service then we don’t have a place for you at our seminary.” Alrighty then. And that was that. I started teaching high school English, got a Master’s in English Education, and that (along with a few other things) spurred me on to the Master’s and Ph.D. in English.

And then I found the Presbyterians and suddenly worship leadership looked different.

Worship in our church incorporates everything that drew me to English as a discipline (words, thematic choices, tone, atmosphere, creation), but, you know, with, in, through, and about the trinitarian God with Jesus at the center of it all. Liturgical pieces matched the scripture went with the hymns gave insight into the sermon and were echoed in the prayer. I was amazed and intrigued and wanted to do THAT. In fact, I’d wanted to do THAT most of my life but had never known it actually existed.

Working with the kids to put together Youth Sunday has been a highlight for me.

Working with the kids to put together Youth Sunday has been a highlight for me.

Eventually I asked if I could try it, and, among many other things, ended up working on pieces of liturgy and putting together the occasional bulletin. With the incredibly smart, thoughtful, and creative Pastor Sandy Tice (the RevDoc) as mentor and teacher, and a world of resources on the interwebz (I’m looking at you, RevGals and Pals), I began to learn in the doing. I did a lay internship, and then another one, and then got to create my own (minimally funded, minimal hours) staff position.

While I think I could learn most of what I will ever need to know from books and from Sandy and from reading blogs and from occasional interchanges with people like Kristin and Elizabeth, I never stopped wondering about seminary. I have a graduate degree. I have two small children. It wasn’t time to go off to seminary; however, checking options, I discovered that Austin Theological Seminary was offering an online Certificate in Ministry. It is comprised of the basic courses one needs to be a Presbyterian lay pastor (Commissioned Ruling Elder). I don’t know that that is a goal for me (though should the opportunity present itself…) but the classes looked like they were just what I had been looking for, the program wouldn’t break the bank, and I could do it on my own time in my own way, (and wouldn’t it be worthwhile to have educated lay leaders?). So I signed up. I’ve taken 3 classes, and they’ve all been worth my time. It’s fun. It’s also kind of fun to be in classes again (My spouse suggests I just like being in school. He may have a point. I’ve spent more years in school than not in my life.)

Up this term: Reading the Bible Theologically and Pastoral Care and Leadership. It will be a challenging quarter and I wish they had spread the “required” classes out a bit more over the year, but I’m looking forward to both of them.

Posted in About Me, Church | 3 Comments

a few things

oliver bat suitThe kids have discovered Wild Kratts. They watch it, play it on the computer, and engage in hours of imaginative play based on it. Them saying “Activate Creature Power” reminds me of a couple other siblings saying “Wonder Twins Powers, Activate.” The boy child especially offers the most amazing and specific facts about various animals. It was a good find. (Photo of ShyGuy in Bat Suit from Wild Kratts website.)

I have been deeply involved in all the preparations for Advent and Christmas at church, more so than the last two years where I’ve had discrete tasks (i.e. Children’s Pageant). It made it particularly wrenching to leave to the in-laws for Christmas Eve and the First Sunday after Christmas.

The kids have one more week off. They’ll spend it in Arizona with my folks, I’ll join them On Thursday if all goes as planned.

3 kings cakeSince they’ll be in Arizona on Epiphany, and since gooey cinnamon rolls had been a little scarce this season, we made cinnamon (as opposed to fruity) 3 Kings Cake yesterday for New Years. I used the roll dough from the AllRecipe version of “Clone of a Cinnabon” and the instructions from the Betty Crocker Quick Mardi Gras King Cake. It turned out well, with a nice gooey center. I may have made the icing too runny, but it’s a minor problem. Wordgirl found the coin when we had it for breakfast this morning. (Betty Crocker’s is prettier, but this was yummy.)

Happy New Year! Hoping I will revive the blog more regularly this year. I’m in one of my periodic moments of wondering what I really want to do with it.

Posted in About Me, The Kids | 1 Comment

friday five: the advent of advent


MaryBeth offers this contemplative Friday Five:


Advent is coming. I tell you this, not to panic you, but as a quiet invitation.

This time of year can be so busy with planning for Advent and Christmas, for those who work in churches and we who live close to them. Today, I invite you to sit quietly…as Mary sits in the photo above…and consider five things about Advent. They might be images, practices, hymns, anything you like. Just let the thoughts wash over you. Be peaceful with them. Be blessed with them.

“O Come O Come Emmanuel”
(I once tried to make an Advent playlist from music I already owned and had available on my computer. Out of 12 songs, 6 of them are versions of “O Come.” It’s THAT song, and it’s hard to find Advent music on a bunch of Contemporary Christian Music Christmas Albums.)




(Advent is the liturgical season that has been embraced by some evangelical churches. In elementary school in the missionary community in Taiwan the Finnish Lutherans brought us the Advent Wreath. In high school, the Baptist church lit an Advent Wreath. It gave me a taste and sparked a desire for and interest in Liturgy and the Liturgical Year. After college, my roommates and I would decorate the apartment and sing Christmas Carols and have an Advent wreath.)

Posted in About Me, Friday Five | 4 Comments

let them lead

20140907_103544Instead of a Rally Day service where grown-ups encourage kids and acknowledge church school teachers as we begin our church program year, this year we gave the day over to the kids. I prepared the liturgy and–with help–worked with the kids.

When I started thinking about the service, I thought I would do something that emphasized children. A Samuel story or Joseph or David. Maybe the boy having the fish for the feeding of the 5000; however, it was a communion service, and I had the John Bell refrain stuck in my head: “God bless to us our bread / and give food to all those who are hungry / and hunger for justice to those who are fed. / God bless to us our bread. / Bendice Señor nuestro pan…”

I decided to let go of kids playing kids or telling a story about kids and let them remind us of what it means to ask for bread and justice.

If you work with kids and don’t have John Bell and Alison Adam’s Sing with the World album, you might be missing out. We began the service with a 6th grader playing his saxophone for the prelude. Then the kids processed in with the cross, a pitcher of water which the young person poured into the baptismal font, and the bread and cup which the brother and sister placed on the communion table. The kids sang “Come all you people, come and praise your maker.” Originally we were going to do this with shakers (and have done in the past), but with only 3 weeks and one of them labor day weekend to practice, I let that one go. It was fine. Then one child led the Call to Worship and the kids sang “Cantad al Señor” first verse in Spanish and English and the congregation joined in the 2nd and 3rd in English. Another child led the Prayer of Confession.

Elijah and the Widow of Zarapheth.

Elijah and the Widow of Zarapheth.

Using a narrator and character parts, all reading more or less readers theatre style with minimal costuming, 3 groups of kids did 3 scripture readings that dealt with bread or justice: Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath (feed the man of God and you will have bread for yourselves), Jesus and the Canaanite Woman (Why shouldn’t you heal my daughter even though I am a foreigner?), and following directly on that in Matthew, the lesser-known feeding of the 4000 (Jesus gives thanks and breaks the bread, as will be echoed in the communion liturgy that would follow). After each reading, the kids gathered around the microphones and sang the refrain: “God bless to us our bread…”

Our only 3rd grader receives his Bible.

Our only 3rd grader receives his Bible.

After the scripture readings, the pastor gathered the children and called up any who hadn’t participated and talked about what they had done and what it meant to lead worship and gave our solo 3rd grader his 3rd grade Bible.

(In case anyone missed it, the embodying of the scripture by the children and the “Time with Children” in which the Pastor spoke to what the children had done were, in fact, the “Proclamation of the Word” in accordance with the Book of Order (NFoG). I was told afterword that we were out of order because there must be a sermon to have communion in the PC(USA). Yes. There must be the Proclamation of the Word. If you didn’t have eyes to see or ears to hear, I’m so sorry.*)

20140907_110501After the Time with Children, the kids made their way to the choir loft except one solemn boy who stood behind the communion table with a stole around his neck and handed the communion elements to the pastor as she spoke the sacred words and broke the bread and poured the cup.

20140907_110843As communion was served, the children sang again “God bless to us our bread…” this time including a prayer over the music and the Spanish words. The organist played the recorder and our music guy played the piano. When they had finished, the organist continued playing and the kids re-entered the sanctuary to join the line for communion and then find seats with their families.

I am often serving communion, but I had asked not to so that I could see to the children. Therefore, I was able to join the line with my daughter and receive with her. I serve her, but I don’t usually receive with her, and I am usually served by my partner rather than the pastor. There is nothing more sacred about being served by the pastor. It is the Lord’s table; not the pastor’s table. But she is my friend and my mentor as well as my pastor, and I let myself stand in her line because I usually don’t. It was a holy moment for me, watching her serve my daughter and then serve me.

And that was it. The boy who played the saxophone led the congregation in the prayer after communion, the closing hymn was “Jesus Loves Me” to bring the service full circle, the pastor pronounced the benediction, and we left.

People loved it. It was amazing. The thing people kept saying was that the kids weren’t cutesy and they weren’t performing. They had a sacred task and they fulfilled it.

We had three weeks. My kids were the only 2 who were there all three weeks, and the boy child didn’t participate in the end. So we had three weeks and different kids every week, including a kid who came with the neighbor on the first week, I gave her a part, and we didn’t see her again until the actual service when she came and brought her family. I was terrified Saturday afternoon. But Sunday morning as they all showed up early to rehearse, I was able to let myself relax and let the Holy Spirit in and they (the kids and the Spirit) pulled it off. I am thankful that we have parents who work with their kids and a music volunteer who makes practice CDs for the kids (Those practice CDs save us. Our carpool makes up about half the kids and they listen to and sing with it every day driving home from school whichever car they are in).

It was incredible. I have a script and an order of worship I’d be happy to share if anyone is interested, but when I prepared it, I did what I have done with the Christmas Pageants the last couple of years, I started with our kids and who they are and what they can do and with a song I wanted to use and I shaped it from there.

Also, we did this in lieu of a Big Pageant this year. In December, we’ll be doing an Instant Pageant, giving families a break in the overwhelming Holiday Season.

*For the Presbyterians among us who wonder about the woman  who told me I was wrong, here’s what the current Book of Order states:

Whenever the Lord’s Supper is observed, it shall be preceded by the reading and the proclamation of the Word.

The Book of Order talks about preaching and then it has a section on “Other Forms of Proclamation.” The above, does not say “preached;” it says “proclaimed,” and it gives a variety of ways to proclaim:

The Word is also proclaimed through song in anthems and solos based on scriptural texts, in cantatas and oratorios which tell the biblical story, in psalms and canticles, and in hymns, spirituals, and spiritual songs which present the truth of the biblical faith. Song in worship may also express the response of the people to the Word read, sung, enacted, or proclaimed. Drama and dance, poetry and pageant, indeed, most other human art forms are also expressions through which the people of God have proclaimed and responded to the Word. Those entrusted with the proclamation of the Word through art forms should exercise care that the gospel is faithfully presented in ways through which the people of God may receive and respond.

Pretty sure the people of God received and responded (and actually the Time with Children was a sermon, but it didn’t have to be). I was angry because the woman “went to Former Pastor and asked him” to make sure she was right and I was wrong before she came to me. That’s a pretty big breach of order in a Presbyterian church, and he has dinged me on other things that he has called “wrong” that are simply a difference in practice, always when the current pastor has given her endorsement to what I am doing. So. Let it go. Everyone else knew the Scripture was Proclaimed.

Posted in Church | 6 Comments