Camp- the final chapter

It has been a while since the last camp post, so why don’t I just wrap it up in one post?  Since we’re talking two days, I have a lot of photos this time.   The highlights of course were the games and instructionals.  But before we get to those, the themes for the last two days were the tongue and the hands/feet.  The tongue refers to what we say and the hands and feet refer to our actions.  If you’re keeping up with the key verses, here they are (can you match up the theme with the verse?):

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:29)

Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise,
but the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20)

The one heart lesson on Thursday night was the good news- the faithful heart.  After three nights of learning about the bad hearts it was refreshing to finally get to the one that hears the Word and takes action, letting it take root strongly in one’s heart.

The first game was Man Overboard against the Blue Shields.  Man Overboard is a running game where the kids have to follow the directions of where to go and what to do.  There are four sides to a ship, but for this large of a group we only used two- bow and stern.  Besides the two places to go, the one in charge can call things like octopus!, shark!, hit the deck!, and of course the title, man overboard!  There are more too.  When the kids hear this they have to do an action associated with the command.  See the photo section for two such actions.  Since this is a relatively short game for the allotted time, they played a couple of games and followed with a couple rounds of Simon Says.  The boys actually played this the night before before going on a hay ride at the end of the day, but not for a good reason- it was because several boys didn’t listen to directions.  It was a fun sort of reminder for them I think.  Our team rocked on these games.  The next morning the game was Bedlam against the Red Cross.  This was a more subjective game where the teams were given an action to do, like act like a particular animal or object (i.e., ice-cream truck), and whichever team did it best overall according to the leaders judging would win the points.  I have no idea who actually won this one.

Hey, did I skip a game?  Well, that’s because I saved the best for last.  Last time I mentioned Counselor Hunt was switched to Thursday.  This is quite a different game from the rest.  This annual game is where the counselors all hide somewhere in the camp and the kids, working in groups, have to find them.  Over the last four years, I have tamed a bit on this one.  The first couple times I played it I hid so well that almost no one found me.  Last year (or was it the year before?) I switched tactics to make it easier for the kids- I placed myself so that I was hidden from most directions, but visible if they looked from a certain angle.  Several found me of course, but that was the idea.  Another strategy some take with this game is to hide in plain sight.  That is, they will place themselves in a spot they can’t be missed like the middle of the road or reading a newspaper in front of a cabin.  They are so obvious that they must not be playing, or so most of the kids think.  This year I didn’t hide at all.  I was one of the runners, called viruses in this medical theme.  You can tell by the name that this is bad news for the kids.  Instead of hiding, I was one of about four who would chase the kids.  If caught, they would be marked and would have to have the virus “cured” before they could continue the game.  This was a very tiring job- no wonder the high school kids were usually the ones to do it!  I think I marked about five or six kids throughout the game, regrettably one of my own (hey, we had to play fair!).  I ran up to three from my cabin, and instead of running away like they all should have, one of them ran toward me, an excited look on his face that he “found” me. Doh! (visualize hand slapping face here).

There were of course four instructionals throughout the two days.  I won’t talk too much about most of them though for brevity sake.  On Thursday we had fishing and archery.  Yes, there were actual fish in the lake but they didn’t get to cook up what they caught- just catch and release.  I’m sure the kids weren’t too disappointed they didn’t get to clean, gut, and cook the fish…  Not much to say on archery- most kids were, let’s just say not quite Robin Hoods, so I will move on to riflery on Friday.   The kids from Iowa put us to shame here.  They were so practiced at shooting that when they ran out of targets to hit they shot ours!  These were actually pellet guns powered by air- no real bullets for this camp.  This was a new event this year and I was looking forward to it as I remembered my times at Boy Scout camp, though there we had to pay for each round we shot.  You can see what the rifles looked like below.  Rock climbing was the final event of the week for us.  All but one of the boys in my cabin gave it a try.  Again, a couple of pictures below.

The only things left to write about (I’ll probably come up with more once I post this!) are the campfire and going home.  Wednesday night the girls had a campfire while the boys went on a hayride, which, by the way, had no hay- just the cart.  Thursday reversed these roles.  The campfire was to serve a couple of purposes.  The obvious one was marshmallows for s’mores.  The other was to burn a list of fears we wrote up the night before as part of the lesson, signifying that we release these fears to God’s control.  Since we had to wait a day on this for our turn at the campfire, you can guess what happened.  Myself included.  I’ll just say that I found my list once I got home and unpacked.  Speaking of going home, that’s what we did Friday night.  Cleaned up the cabins, packed, and headed to the bus bus.  Once again I was grateful for the buses coming down Dorothy’s Hill so we didn’t have to climb it with our luggage.  All but one of my boys boarded the bus- we left one behind.  On purpose.  Are you curious?  Okay, he was staying for family camp.  His parents wouldn’t arrive until the next day, but he stayed with another dad who stayed behind with his own son.

In the end, our team was not victorious.  We came in a close second, still far ahead of third place.  There’s always next year. 🙂

Oh, one more thing- winning the cleanest boys’ cabin twice really messed me up for one of the things I wanted to do one of the days.  Lots of balloons was the key here, but I guess I will be saving them for next year now.  On Thursday we decided that since we would probably not be allowed to win two days in a row, we saved them for Friday.  On Friday, we were busy cleaning and packing.  Oh, well.  Enjoy the pics, and be sure to click on whatever catches your eye for larger versions.

Oh, no contact lenses were really lost as far as I know.  What?  You don’t read the pop-up tooltips when you hover over the pictures?  For shame! 😛

A wet, snowy journey home

It seems as if yesterday I skipped over Saturday morning, so I guess I will go back to it before skipping ahead to Sunday.  Saturday morning several of us met at Ritzy’s (did I get that right?) for breakfast.  For those who weren’t there, they somehow interpreted a party of 12 as a party of 20, so here were five tables put together in a C shape.  Most people sat together, but Jamiahsh and I kind of sat alone on the opposite side, though in my defense there was only one seat between C and I.  The eldest girls and their cousin Austin had some fun being little animals under the table.  The look on J’s face when he was caught unawares one time was priceless- sorry J! 😀

Following breakfast (oh yes, the food was good) L’s family bid farewell and headed out.  The rest of us headed back to C and L’s house.  The girls invited J and myself into their room to play with their pet rats.  Now, I never had rats growing up, but we did have hamsters, gerbils and guinea pigs at various times so I was familiar with rodent pets and didn’t freak like the preschool teacher mentioned in T’s blog.  I was happy when they didn’t relieve themselves on me during this playtime as often happens with rodents.  After we had enough of the rats, T took us into their closet and showed us some Viewmaster (R.I.P.) slides on the ceiling using their projector.  Call me old-fashioned, but I think the whole point of the Viewmaster was lost by using the projector, that of the images in 3D.  I think we went through their entire library.  Finally, T and S put on a puppet show for J and me, during which time I was called away and we finished organizing our fun activity- see previous blog entry.

So… Sunday rolled around and I got up and showered, then went to Mickey D’s for a small breakfast before church.  Too bad for me it was 10:28 and they had just closed breakfast.  I’m I the only one who thinks anything before 11AM should be considered breakfast?  I must be in the minority, else why would McD’s have changed to 10:30 so long ago and stuck with it?  So breakfastless, I headed to the house.  Fortunately I had bought a box of Crunch and Munch at the dollar store the previous day.  That worked.

We headed to their church, which I had to admit was pretty nice.  I’m not sure I liked their pastor’s preaching style, but that’s probably because I’m used to my own pastor constantly on the move while he gives his sermons.  I did enjoy the worship time though.  Following this service T, who had gone to children’s church was waiting for us- apparently grade school kids can be trusted to be let out on their own, or maybe their teachers were still watching, I don’t know.  The younger ones still needed to be retrieved from their rooms though.  After church, we headed to a hotel by the turnpike for brunch.  There was no waiting time to be seated as there were plenty of seats, but there was definitely some waiting to get the food.  I would have to rate this meal lower than Saturday’s breakfast unfortunately, but at least I could eat as much as I wanted since it was a buffet.

Back at the house again, C and L pulled out their Office board game and we played.  Unfortunately, I learned that seeing every episode only once, including deleted scenes for seasons 2-4, did not mean in any way shape or form that I would remember the details.  I did manage to get three Dundies, though once by a complete guess and once because C pretty much gave the answer away (thanks!).  L won the day though, but even C earned more than me even though he took the harder (“regional manager”) questions while I barely managed the “assistant to the regional manager” ones.  Oh, well.  Finally, they had to do some cleaning for the meeting that night and I bid my farewell.  This, however, doesn’t end the post…

As most of my readers here are well aware, Sunday was a day of rain, starting after brunch.  For much of the trip driving was fine, but as it got later it stated coming down pretty hard.  The worst parts were the trucks- just approaching one would cause a torrent of water to be unleashed onto the windshield from their wheels.  Passing them was a nail-biting experience.  Remember- the speed limit for trucks is 15MPH less than for cars until Illinois.  Speaking of Illinois, when I got there- you think I’m going to say traffic, don’t you?  Well, traffic can be a hassle, but I lucked out.  While there were some traffic spots, for the most part it was fairly light for suburban Chicago.  Maybe people just weren’t driving because of the sleet.  That’s right- the rain turned into sleet and snow.  Wonderful.  No longer was it a nail-biting experience just to pass a truck- now just driving was problematic.  But as I said, traffic wasn’t bad at all and I did manage to make it home in one piece.  Next time I think I will check the weather report before I leave, even if it might mean having to leave earlier.

So, that was my weekend, how was yours? 😉

A video teaching weekend

Being that it’s been five days since my last post, I would suppose it’s time to write something again.  But what?  I suppose I can write about this weekend.  This post will actually go back a bit though, since earlier events pertain to this weekend.  For the most part the weekend was quite ordinary.  4th/5th grade ministry on Saturday night and Sunday morning, the service I went to at 8:00, er I mean 9:00 (sure felt like the earlier time for some reason…  You did set your clocks forward, right?), dodge-ball for gametime, yep- quite ordinary.  So let’s focus on the other stuff.

First off, back in January we started something which should have become regular.  As I make a video every year for my cabin at summer camp, I was asked to make some short videos for the regular service every few weeks.  Well, they handed me a camera back then to record the kids at various moments during the services I was there.  Another filled in for me at the third service.  Mission part one accomplished.  Part two would be editing, and that became the big problem.  They have a Mac set up at the church where they do their own editing using iMovie.  Now, if I had a job at the church this wouldn’t be a problem as I would just use this computer, but I don’t, so I could easily use mine instead.  Not so easy in fact.  First off, my computer is not a Mac (though I have experimented a bit with OSx86 to turn my computer into what’s known as a hackintosh by installing OSX to my external hard drive).  I quickly found out that the Firewire port on a Mac is not the same as an IEEE-1394 port on an HP (two names for the same thing, only “Firewire” is copyrighted by Apple) so the firewire cable they had didn’t work.  We tried a USB cable for the camera, but that required drivers my computer didn’t have, and I couldn’t find one on the web.  A few weeks went by, and we experimented in saving the videos on their Mac then transferring them to my computer.  Let’s just say slow and awkward.  The default format on the Mac of saving video is a format with the extension .dv.  I could save each video as .mp4 or try to find a program on my computer to convert the native .dv files.  Yeah, too much work.  So they look to get the right cable to go to my computer.  They find one at Radio Shack for $20 and one online for 50¢.  Which would you go with?  Well, they bought both, hoping to be able to return the overpriced Radio Shack one should the cheap one not work.  Last Wednesday, fingers crossed, we tried the cable.  Worked like a charm.  We finally got the video from the camera to my computer in a format my computer liked, mpeg-2.  So, Friday night I worked for a few hours to get that first 4-minute video done, and brought it with me Saturday night.  Popped in on the computer from my flash drive, which held both .wmv and .mpg versions of the video,  and we were ready to go.  Not so fast.  No audio cable from the computer to the sound board.  Sigh.  Well, I just played it in silence since the worship team was practicing anyway.  We left a message for the tech director to leave us the proper cable, and come Sunday morning they had one waiting.  Then, we had the computer taken away and replace with a different one because they needed the one elsewhere.  The one they gave us was not turned on and literally took 20 minutes to boot up, log in, and finish loading Windows.  Good thing I had the .wmv version as there was no way this computer would be able to handle MPEG-2.  In any event, mission completely accomplished.  Hopefully next time we will record a new video and do it again, minus the mishaps.  Ideally I will transfer the videos before I leave for the day.

This weekend was also a time I got to teach again, finally.  I last taught in December.  I taught a lesson on stuff.  No, I am not being general.  The theme of the year is living like a Christian, so this week was about having and wanting stuff, whatever that stuff is to you being video games, stuffed animals, trading cards, or whatever.  The start of James chapter 5 tells us a bit of God’s feeling on this topic:

1Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you. 2Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten. 3Your gold and silver have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have laid up treasure in the last days. 4Behold, the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, are crying out against you, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. 5You have lived on the earth in luxury and in self-indulgence. You have fattened your hearts in a day of slaughter. 6You have condemned and murdered the righteous person. He does not resist you.
(James 5:1-6 ESV)

Stuff- not so bad.  Love of stuff- watch out.  It is not wrong to be rich of course, but if your heart is with your money or things, then that’s a problem.  After all, Jesus Himself said you can’t serve two masters.  If you serve money, you will not be able to serve God at the same time.  I showed them some pictures of way overdoing collecting stuff (here and here for example), and I acted out a person on the phone trying to get something no matter what it took, even hurting someone to get it. I thought my teaching went fairly well, though still a few minutes long.  There was a video at the start (not the one I put together) that I should have ended earlier than I did.

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Busy, busy

The last day or so has been a bit busy.  Part of it was me wasting time on Hamsterball, a clone of the 80’s hit arcade game Marble Madness, and part was preparations for church this weekend.  I have been wasting a lot of time on Hamsterball.  Those who remember Marble Madness will remember that the game uses a trackball.  The player would madly roll that trackball to guide his or her marble downhill (in one case uphill!) to the exit, encountering many an obstacle on the way down.  Two players could even play at the same time, adding to the madness.  Hamsterball plays a great tribute to this game, but it looks like the two player game is limited to either a one-on-one battle to knock the other off a platform, or playing just one board at a time instead of an entire tournament.  Actually, the battle part can be up to four players- one-on-one-on-one-on-one, as it were.  Instead of a marble, the wonder of current technology allowed the programmers to turn it into a hamster ball, with the hamster dutifully running in the ball as it moves.  You can play in resolutions of 640×480 up to 1280×1024, in a window or fullscreen.  Unfortunately, fullscreen for me means the game is stretched to fill my widescreen display making the ball look flat.  When windowed, the game displays a correct aspect ratio fortunately.  In lieu of a trackball, I have tried to play this game using a mouse, the track-pad on this oversized laptop, and an analog Saitek game controller.  The game controller works the best for my purposes, but I still would like to get an arcade-style trackball at some point.  I missed out on buying one for $50 back when I could afford one.  The game itself starts with ideas from Marble Madness and takes off from there.  Besides the classic enemies like an enemy ball and disappearing floors, you will encounter fans, saws, giant hammers and mousetraps, and much more.  Remember the world on Marble Madness where your marble goes up ramps instead of down?  Well, add sideways to this game in a world where the gravity changes depending on where your ball is on the screen.  Here are some pictures from the game (click for larger size).  You can also find a bunch of videos on Youtube:


The business with church involved the 4th/5th grade ministry and children’s drama.  I had a script to finish memorizing for the rehearsal which started at 3:30.  In addition, for the review game, Jeopardy, for 4th/5th grade I made some cards to draw for the categories and point values.  Sure, we could have let the students pick for themselves, but when there are 30-50 kids in the room, with half of them (two teams) having to agree that would have caused the game to drag.  One of the pastors used a die to decide in the past, but where’s the fun in that when we could have the kids draw from a box cool-looking cards instead?  On top of that it was rewards weekend.  As such I had to call about ten kids in my small groups to remind them to bring their reward sheets with them.  Most of them did, but a couple still forgot or couldn’t find them.

An odd thing happened this weekend.  There was a guest pastor from California, and for some reason on Saturday night he thought the service was two hours (it’s really 1½ hours) and so we were wondering in kids ministry what was going on when 6:45 rolled around, then 6:50 and the parents still weren’t there to pick up the kids.  I learned the next day of what happened.  The pastor was corrected and had to shorten his message by a half-hour otherwise chaos would have ensued between the two morning services as people for the second service arrived to a full parking lot because the first service hadn’t left yet 😯 . In the end, everything worked out well.  The review game was only its usual chaos, the drama went well- if not always perfect- for the three services, and the kids were too fully engaged in the room games Saturday night to care that their parents hadn’t arrived yet (I do feel for the other classrooms though that didn’t have carpetball, four-square, and air hockey).

What a blast!

Winter Blast 2009 that is.  Meh- this post is two days late I know. I just didn’t feel like doing a second post on Sunday, and I did start this yesterday but I really didn’t have the time I needed to write the whole thing between work and small group.  Anyway, back to the post.  Friday night through Saturday night had a mini-camp known also known as a winter retreat, titled Winter Blast.  While older kids will be going to a bonafide camp for two days instead of just one in the coming weeks, we packed that time into just 24 hours right at the church.  It helped that we didn’t need to burn eight hours getting them there and back.  It also helped the parents’ budgets since those buses cost money, and so do the extra meals.

Friday evening:  I arrived at about 5:30 and headed into a pre-retreat meeting for the leaders.  We were provided with a small meal and information on the weekend including check-in instructions and the entire schedule for the retreat.  As you can see below the schedule was quite packed and the kids were kept busy:

Daily Schedule
Game Schedule

Once check-in started I took my post handing out T-shirts.  From the beginning there was a problem- the actual sizes, and what the parents based their pick on, were the real sizes of youth medium, youth large, and youth extra large.  As it turned out, youth xl wasn’t available so they went with adult medium instead.  So the sizes we had were M, L, and um- M.  Adding to the confusion were the tickets they gave the parents to pick up the shirts.  They said simply small, medium, and large.  I’m not sure why this ended up being confusing for me as all I had to do was take the tickets at face value and hand out the three sizes according to what was on the tickets.  Probably many of the parents who told me that no, this wasn’t the right size.  I know because of their confusion the tickets were eventually dropped and I was told to go with the sizes printed on their name tags which were the actual sizes.  It was a breeze from there, except we ran out of some of the sizes, and ended up with a bunch of extra youth medium shirts.  In my opinion these shirts, at least the child sizes were smaller than they said but not being a parent I don’t know that for sure.

Enough with the T-shirts.  That just went way too long.  So after that, the retreat was officially underway.  After a brief introduction we went outside to play the first games.  This was Friday night- anyone remember the weather report for Chicago/Midwest?  An arctic front was moving in.  The temperature hadn’t dropped much yet, but that wind was just biting.  Not enough to keep us from having fun, but cold just the same.  After my team lost both games (we switched halfway through- everyone played both games) we went in for pizza.  There was a lot of it.  I think they had at least three or four pizzas left over, and when I say pizzas I don’t mean some dinky 14-inch- I mean a large tray about 16×32 or bigger.  We certainly got our fill.

Next up was the lesson, which started with some up-front games.  This is how each session started.  These games required one or two kids from each team come up to the front and participate in some quick contest.  Over the three sessions we had games including fast-eating contests with gelatin, whipped cream, and baby food; a singing game; and a mummy game (wrap the contestant with toilet paper).  My team won a couple of them, but the results were generally spread out.  I don’t think any team dominated.  Following the up front games were worship (three or four songs), a short drama involving Private Prepared and Private Slacker (guess which one was the positive model? 🙂 ), a lesson from Ephesians chapter 6 (armor of God- hence the military theme you saw on the game schedule), and a small group time.  We went up to our “cabins” for small group time (classrooms really).  The first one we spent together, three of us leaders and nine kids in my room.  For Saturday’s small groups we split into three groups with three kids each.  In these groups we tried to solidify the lesson in their minds and talk about how they could apply it in their own lives.  We also talked to each of them about where they were in their spiritual walks.

With the Friday session over, it was time to go to bed.  We were running late so the optional video was canceled.  One of the boys went behind something to change into his PJs.  A couple others saw this and walked over to him.  Big mistake on their parts.  We learned from this that he doesn’t wear underwear under his PJs to bed.  I really didn’t need to know this fact.  At least I don’t need to pour bleach into my eyes or anything like that to destroy the image like those other two kids.  😯   The interesting thing is I had that boy in my cabin over the summer and either I never discovered this about him, or it is something that changed since then.  Hmm.    Well, it was time for lights out.  As usual when more than one or two kids are put in a room together, it took some time to get them to be quiet and go to sleep.  At least there were only nine of them- last year we had a larger room with about 30 kids.

So next day, after about 3-4 hours of sleep, I woke up to a couple of the kids talking about a half-hour before wake-up call.  That was it for me- no going back to sleep so I got up.  Bathroom and teeth-brushing aside, it was time for breakfast.  Why do they brush their teeth before breakfast anyway?  Eating will just dirty them up again.  Personally, I choose to take care of my teeth after breakfast so they are fresh until midmorning snack or lunch.  For the most part breakfast wasn’t bad, though the sausage patties left something to be desired.  The head of the kitchen studied under a world-famous chef, but when the source isn’t good no chef can do anything about it.  Following breakfast was another session and another set of games.  This time I thought my team won one of the games, but I found out later I was wrong.  A pair of leaders had been playing on our side and apparently we got penalized for it as they were too good.  Oh, well.  Fair is fair.  Lunch consisted of hot dogs, fries, and peas & corn.  Then they brought in ice cream bars much to the delight of the kids.  Afternoon was much the same as the morning, and I know we won at least one of the games.  The temperature, by the way, I think was lower than the night before for our games, but without the icy wind so it actually felt a lot better.  After the games was free time.  Sort of free anyway.  Since there was a 5:00 service at the church the kids were confined to only a few areas: the gym for dodge-ball and beachball volley ball, the cafe area for board games and crafts, and the junior high room for things like 4-square, air hockey, and carpetball.  They had another area briefly to watch a video, but that was done shortly after the start of the service as the younger kids needed it.

Dinner time with linguini and meatballs followed, with a wrap-up ceremony with the parents to end the time.  That’s where, to my changine, I found out our team came in fourth place.  Well, my teams had first place last year and second place for the last two summers, so I could accept this though it left me wondering as I thought the Saturday games went well for us.  When I asked, that’s when I found out about the penalties for the one game.  Better luck next time, eh?  So all in all, I had a good time with this and will continue to do it as long as I’m working with this ministry.  Well, time to wrap this post up I guess.  I know I skipped over some things like unpacking and packing and the group photo (taken from the roof!), but this post is long enough, don’t you think? 😛

Has it really been that long?

Well, it’s been awhile since my last work-related post.  I finally got season 4 of The Office from my library and have been watching it.  For those who don’t remember back that far 😛 , Ryan, who was the temp at the Scranton, PA office is now Michael’s boss, and is trying to make many changes to the company to bring it more up to date with the times.  Oh, and he is making Michael’s life miserable.  I watched the first five episodes so far, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the first few were 40+ minutes.  I thought at first these were two-part episodes combined into one, but apparently they are actually extended versions of the original episodes.  There are supposed to be five of them out of the fourteen episodes on the DVD set and I saw four of them.  The fifth episode was the normal 20+ minute length.  I am guessing the season finale will be the fifth extended episode.

Anyway, on to work.  Today was a difficult day with a pleasant ending.  I substituted for 3rd-grade ELL at the school that made the local paper a few months ago for its supersized 3rd grade classes with 30+ students per class.  As far as that went, I prepared myself for it.  It turned out to have 24 students- 23 after today as it was one student’s last day.  For some reason that student is transferring to another school in the same district.  To any who didn’t catch it, this was an ELL class, which I’m guessing is why the class was a normal size.  I bring up ELL because while I prepared myself for a supersized class, I forgot to prepare myself for ELL kids.  Fortunately most of them understood English to a point, and there was an assistant who spent most of the day in the class to translate when there were difficulties in understanding.  However, the behavior in a few of the kids was just off the wall.  As I have mentioned in the past, ELL kids can be challenging when it comes to behavior, and these kids were no exception.  Again, I think this is due to us being to soft in this country as compared to other countries like Mexico.  And I especially am more easygoing than other teachers.  I would like to think I have gained better management habits, but I know I am still kind of a soft teacher, at least when I am in a good mood.

In the end, I did make sure to point out the kids I had a problem with in the note to the teacher, so something will happen I’m sure.  So what was the pleasant end?  Well, a 4th-grader from my church is apparently a student at that school.  As I was lining up the kids for dismissal, he spotted me.  A few years ago I had a student who showed some major excitement when he recognized me when I subbed in his class, with a very excited, “Hey! I know you!!”  Well, that boy’s record for excitement was just broken today by this other boy.   He shouted to everyone who could hear, “Hey, you go to my church!!” which was repeated a few times, once to his teacher.  When I failed to come up with his name right away, he happily offered it, not disappointed at all like a few others I have run into.  I should remind you that I am not that great with names at all and this year I lead a fifth-grade small group so he isn’t in it.  Tomorrow night I will make sure to give him some extra attention.

This week I was was in middle school only one, which was just an okay day in Spanish, with two 8th grade, two 7th grade, one 6th grade, and a 7th/8th combined class (which I thought kind of strange for a Spanish class).  The other days were strictly elementary.  The music class was a highlight of my week.  Normally these can be difficult classes behaviorally, but it was a rather pleasant day.  The teacher left plans that were clearly meant for the Friday before break with some of the classes having a Christmas-y theme, but since that turned into a snow day she apparently thought it would be just fine for the day after break.  Three of the classes watched part of the Nutcracker while coloring Nutcracker pictures.  It was in one of these classes I ran into a rare occurance- an Albino.  Okay, that term was politically incorrect.  I guess I should say he was albinistic.  I joked with him having hair blonder than mine was at his age (I had very light blond hair once- it has since become almost gray.  Yes I have some grey hairs now, but most of it is still blond when looked at closely.  It was pointed out to me that he had a vision problem which is often an effect of the condition and when I looked at his eyes a certain way I noticed some red which I think may also be common, though seeing red in pupils apparently is not.

Well, time to head back to Scranton, PA- I only have a week on this DVD set.  Later!

EDIT: Whoops, forgot the title!

The Real Christmas part 1

Well, this being the last weekend before Christmas it is time to start talking about what’s been going on in Christ’s house, eh?  At least the particular earthly house of His that I visit on a regular basis- I can’t speak for any of the thousands and thousands of other ones around the world.  Aside from advent, which began at the beginning of the month, the real show began last weekend.  At the, er, other branch of this house that I attend.  That is to say, the worship service including the choir was on tour with two stops.  I did not take part in the choir last weekend as I am also involved in children’s ministry and I needed to be at my usual place.  That was okay because although the other church is larger, the stage is smaller so not all the members of the choir would fit.

Since I wasn’t there I’ll just skip ahead to this weekend.  We sang three choir pieces, all of which had to be memorized, and five worship songs, which the entire congregation sings.  One of the songs was from a previous year so I more or less had it memorized already, meaning only two songs for me to work on for the last month.  One of the interesting things to note about this choir is the altos seriously outnumber the sopranos and the tenors outnumber the basses.  The women of course outnumber the men.  Now I couldn’t do anything about the altos vs. the sopranos, but as a lyric baritone (tenor II) I dutifully stepped down to the bass part.  This wasn’t at all unfamiliar territory since I had sung baritone in choir for years before my tenor range opened up.  The choir songs were The Night that Christ was Born, a strange up-tempo rendition of Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Light of the World.  Now I said that we did one of these songs before so I knew it (the first one I listed), but really we did two of them before.  The other one though had a very different choir part so the choir part (most choir songs we do are solos/duets with choir background) was new.  I lasted for the Saturday night service and the first Sunday service.  After that my voice started going- the upper range.  I just don’t have the endurance I should.  I should exercise my vocal muscles more.  Well, I should exercise all my muscles more, but that’s going a bit off topic here… 😛

Following two of the choir performances I rushed to serve in the 4th/5th grade room, where I made it for the lesson and small group time (the important part).  While past years have often meant a video during this weekend and cookies, we had a real lesson this year instead of the video (still had cookies at the end- yum).  It was on patience.  Zechariah and Elizabeth had to wait several decades for a child before God finally gave them one.  The Bible says they were “righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord” and so their childlessness wasn’t due to sin in one of their lives.  Eventually, God gave them the son they had waited for all of their lives into their sixties.  Naturally since it was customary to name the son after the father he would have had his father’s name, only Zechariah the Baptist isn’t a name we know.  Rather, God had them name their son John of course.  In fact, these were the first words out of Zechariah’s mouth after God allowed him to speak again (his disbelief over having a child at his age earned him the inability to speak until John was born- good thing he wasn’t in a choir, at least that we know of! 🙂 ).  So in small groups then we talked about how patient they, as 10- and 11-year-olds, tended to be.  They got to rate themselves and talk about what kinds of things makes them impatient.  Waiting for big gifts like video game systems topped the list, but there were other things like healing.  Two of my kids are actually going through cancer in ther families- an uncle and a mom.  Big ouch on the mom.  If anyone wants to add these two to their prayer lists their names are Daniel (mom) and Matt (uncle- currently not responding well to treatment I understand).  This while my pastor and associate pastor are both being treated for prostate cancer… 🙁

Christmas part 2 coming later following Christmas Eve service.