Thursday, July 30, 2015


Our church has a little garden, where the children plant and harvest tomatoes and cucumbers and even blueberries. There is honeysuckle and zinnias and a spectacular sunflower patch.
All of the sunflowers are taller than I am, but the one in the middle, the one that looks like Jack's beanstalk, is in a league of its own. I am 5 foot 8 inches and even on my tiptoes I can only reach half way up the plant!
Last night, after an evening thunderstorm, I went out to take a few pictures of the sunflowers. I ended up with 74. I think I have a slight obsession with sunflowers...

I'll admit, I have a serious case of sunflower love!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Rachel's Day in the City

Rachel had a dentist appointment yesterday. She loves to go to the dentist!
As far as dentists go, is a pretty swanky office. Every chair has it's own TV and DVD player with a long list of movie choices, there are a dozen toothpaste flavor options, and an entire bank of prize machines. And a game room!
And then there is the dentist. Dr. Mike is very handsome and incredibly nice and even has been known to sing along with Frozen while he works on your teeth. Rachel has a little crush on Dr. Mike. I know because she always dresses especially nice when it's dentist day and she speculates whether or not Dr. Mike will notice her outfit and accessories. He always does!

Since we had to go to the city anyway, Rachel and I decided to make a whole afternoon of it. Rachel's idea of a perfect day in the city includes lots of time outside being active, but the beastly heat index prevented anything outdoors. Rae is not much of a shopper and she doesn't get too excited about museums, but she is always ready for an adventure. So we visited some fun places we had never been to before.

The first stop was a salt water aquarium supply store. It was cool and dark and had the most amazing fish and corals and other sea creatures in it!
 The unicorn fish made us laugh!
You could find Nemo all over the place!

My favorite was the nudibranch. It was perhaps two inches long, brilliantly colored, and had some fabulous fringe-like decorations!
This was a pretty amazing shop!
Next, we stopped by a well known local institution that we had never actually tried...
I wish I had a picture of Rachel's face when she realized that I was taking her to a donut shop. She could not have been more shocked! Mom doesn't do donuts. That's a Dad thing. But we did indeed get donuts!
Rainbows in the Dark, Lemon Lift, and Maple Bacon. We split them all and chowed down. And we both agreed that the lemon was the best.
The shop was filled with all sorts of retro kitsch, and we had fun just looking at all the weird stuff inside.
Then it was time for the drum store!

Rae was quite impressed with the giant drumstick display and all the different kinds of drum sets.

Our next stop was a more practical one. Target. Rachel was not particularly happy because "Target isn't fun". That is until we got to the school supply section. The second grade school supply list includes pointed scissors, and she searched carefully until she found the perfect pair.
Rachel spotted a pet store and begged to go there to see the hamsters and lizards and all the other little critters.
Especially the birds. Rae loves birds.

Our last stop of the day was dinner at Rachel's very favorite restaurant. It's a Mongolian style create-your-own-noodle-bowl place where you can watch your dinner cooking on the giant griddle.
There is nothing that makes Rachel happier than a big plate of noodles! It was a perfect end to a perfect Rae Day.

Friday, July 24, 2015

VBS Tween Time

We have had Vacation Bible School this week - four long, active nights. Steve taught science to the 1st through 4th graders. Rachel was in the 2nd grade class. Katherine was in the Tweens crew. And I led the 5th and 6th graders. The Tweens. This was my second year to take on this group, and while I don't usually work with these ages, it has been fun to get to know them during VBS. Katherine has tolerated my presence in her class and I think secretly even enjoyed it. I have tried not to do anything too dorky and never mention that I am her mom, even though most of the kids know.

Our church combines with two others for VBS, so there are a LOT of kids. The curriculum for the Tweens was, well, babyish and kind of dumb. So the other leaders and I scrapped it and made our own activities, all revolving around food, and adding mission/service projects and field trips to plans. I promised the kids that there would be no puppets, no crafts, and no stupid songs. And they LOVED everything we did.

We started every evening with some play time. I hauled in toys from my classroom and our home game closet and just played. It was a good way to stay busy while everyone was arriving and well, just fun.

The first night, we had a volunteer from our local community food pantry come and talk to us about his work there. About the nearly 9,000 people they have served this year and the ton and a half of food he bought last week and about all the ways that people, even kids, can help stock the pantry.
Then we went "shopping" for food. Each team had $20 pretend dollars with which to fill their "shopping cart". Then we talked about what they had bought. Was it healthy stuff or mostly junk food? (Katherine and her partner had mostly healthy food and were the only team that actually "purchased" squash!) Would they have chosen different items if I had told them that this was all of the food they could have for a week?

Later, another speaker came and led an activity about what and how much people in other countries eat in a week's time. We found the countries on a world map and compared pictures and descriptions of the families and their food. Did they have a lot of food or only a little? How much money did they spend? Did they have mostly fresh fruits and vegetables or lots of packaged stuff? Did you even recognize the foods pictured? It was sobering to see the vast difference between what a family in California eats and what a family in Sudan has.

The second night, we took a field trip to a local farm. We visited their goats (grown for their angora fur) and learned about their honeybees. Then we headed out to the vast gardens.
This farm family raises all sorts of fruits and vegetables to sell at nearby farmer's markets tomatoes, potatoes, various squash, grapes, onions, pumpkins, and more. We had the chance to pick blackberries (from thornless canes!). The kids LOVED this!

Then we learned how the fruits and vegetables on the farm are preserved as jams, jellies, salsa, tomato sauce, relishes, pickles, and more.
We even tasted a "mystery" jam - tomato!
The farm was interesting and a whole lot of fun!

The third night, my friend Shirley came and talked to the kids about how she started the free community dinner at our church and how the idea has spread to other churches, so that there are free meals in town 5 days a week. Shirley has a way of drawing people in and making them feel special, even when she is supposed to be talking about herself. She had the kids identify their strengths, what the were good at, and then let them brainstorm ways they could use those strengths to help others. The kids were absolutely riveted!
Then we all headed to the kitchen to make salads for the next day's community dinner. Some of the kids had never "cooked" before and had no idea how to use kitchen tools, but were delighted to learn. Katherine, of course, was an old hand at this!

Later, we spent some time comparing food labels, a new concept for most of the kids. How much sugar is in your food item? How much fat? Protein? How big is a serving size? What are the main ingredients? Even though this was a pretty "school" sort of activity, the kids were interested.

The last night, we gathered up all of the canned goods we had collected and delivered it to the food pantry.
Another volunteer led us on a tour of the food pantry. It is tiny! All of the kids were amazed that so many people were served in such a small space.
The food pantry is in our church basement, which was also the site of that day's community dinner. Shirley was there, finishing up. She greeted the kids again and showed us a list of the 65 people who had eaten the salads we'd made.
The kids were so proud and excited about doing meaningful work to help others. This was way better than little kid VBS!
Once we got back to the VBS site, we had time for one more game. Groups of 5 kids were given a "magic tool" consisting of a rubber band with 5 strings attached and 6 plastic cups. The goal was to stack the cups into a pyramid without using their hands or any other body part. It required intensive team work and they loved it!

It has been a really long week and I am exhausted. But I had the chance to watch some kids learn about community and helping others and maybe even making wiser decisions. And I was able to watch my daughter interact with her peers, an opportunity that is becoming increasingly rare. I'd say Tween Time was totally worth it!

I love birthdays!

the ladybug cake

The Ladybug Sisters


Jie Jie and Mei Mei

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Peeking through the windows

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
Katherine and her toothless smile

Park Pictures

Park Pictures
The little one leads the way