Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas Message

Merry Christmas to one and all. I hope that everyone enjoyed their celebrations as much as our family did.

Now since I'm sure you are all sitting on pins and needles, filled with anxiety about the happenings of our Christmas adventures, I will relate our entire holiday itinerary for your enjoyment and fullfillment.

Actually, I just have one small bit of interest about our Christmas Eve night. We started Chistmas Eve by going to our 7pm church candlelight service. We really enjoy our church. So much so, that two years ago, when our church needed new hymnals, we bought three of them and donated them to the church in memory of two of my grandfathers and one of Lady Di's grandfathers all of whom had passed in recent years. That was two years ago and we have yet to find one of those hymnals during service. It doesn't help that we always sit in one of two pews at the front of the church. But I still check the inside cover of the hymnals there just in case the ushers, for some reason, decide to rotate the stock every once in a while.

So back to our Christmas Eve service. It was much like past Chrismas Eve services. We sang carols and everyone got to light their little candles while singing Silent Night. This part is the kids' favorite and every year we recite the proper candle lighting procedure. Never tip a lighted candle! Then we view the reason for such a rule, a tiny spot of melted wax on the seat of the pew just in front of where Number One Son stands. This family tradition goes back about five years or so when N1S was less diligent about his flame.

Just as the service was wrapping up, Lady Di noticed that the 9pm service would feature a choir selection and a song by a quartet including a student home from college that we know to have a very good singing voice.

LD then said, "Oh we will have to come back for the 9pm service."

N1S and I both turned simultaneously and whispered with incredulity, "Not two churches in one night!"

Sweet Pea's face lit up because she would get a second chance to play with fire.

So we went home to relax a little before we returned to church. We couldn't even change out of our church clothes! The drive back to the church was a little grumbly from half of us. But N1S and I put on a happy Christmas face and made the best of it. Since we had already heard the sermon, we decided to sit closer to the middle of the congregation. We found a nice couple that we knew to sit with. We enjoyed the choir selection and were quite impressed with the quartet. As we waited for the ushers to start the candle lighting, I noticed the hymnals in front of us. I said, "What the heck.", and opened it. On the inside cover was placed an offical looking sticker stating, This hymnal donated in memory of Emery (Pete) Bell, my paternal grandfather.

I passed the open hymnal to Lady Di, who was so proud of herself for not tearing up during the 7pm candlelighting, and made her immediately well up with emotion and ask for a hanky. Then Sweet Pea saw her name (she is named after this grampa) and passed the hymnal down the pew to show the couple we were sitting next to.

What were the chances that we would attend a second church service, on Christmas Eve, and choose that particular pew to find one of our donated hymnals for the first time?

It made pastor's message about the importance of family even more meaningful.

With all the blessings we have been fortunate enough to enjoy, this warm Christmas message from our loved one will make this year one of our most memorable Christmas Eves.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Live Long and Decorate

Christmas is almost here. Are you ready? Have all of the cards been sent? Presents wrapped? Cookies made? And then eaten? And then made again?

Well, in order to save some time with this year's preparation, Number One Son volunteered to put up one of our Christmas trees. As you may remember from posts past, we usually decorate three Christmas trees. In early December, with Sweet Pea's help, I was able to assemble, light and decorate two of our trees but ran out of weekend for the last one. So as another busy Sunday night had us running Sweet Pea to volleyball practice, I offered N1S a project to keep him from thinking about the Wii time he had already spent.

"While we are gone, you can put up the tree to help me out.", I asked.

Surprisingly, he said OK.

On the drive back home, I wondered what kind of job N1S did. Would the small branches be on the bottom? Would anything break? How bad would the tree lean?

My fears, however, were unnecessary.

He did a pretty good job. It even looked like he started to shape a few of the branches. Like maybe about three. But then decided on the natural scraggly look with bare spots to show off the metal pole.
And just like any good assembly job, you always are left with a few spare parts right? I asked, "Wouldn't these three branches fit?"

Distractedly he answered from the couch, "Oh I don't know. They must have been extra."

I thanked him anyway for saving me time and effort this season. We decorated the trees the same way as last year. The only difference being that Sweet Pea did most of the kid tree decorating.

If you look closely you'll notice that Mr. Spock must have gotten a puppy from Santa this year to help him at his science station.

As did Dr. McCoy.

So boldly celebrate Christmas, where no one has celebrated before!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Sixth Grade Wilderness

Last month I was lucky enough to be chosen to chaperon N1S's sixth grade field trip to LLCC wilderness camp. N1S's three day, two night, sleeping in a dorm, in late November, in Minnesota with 100 other sixth graders, field trip. Was I chosen to chaperon or was I hoodwinked into it?

The forecast for those three days was 20 to 30 degrees F with a chance for snow each day. The A group of sixth graders that went two weeks earlier had temps in the 60's with sunshine.

Despite the cool weather, we still had a lot of fun and weren't really that uncomfortable.

We started our adventure with a two hour bus ride. As bus rides go, this one started out fairly civilized. Halfway through we visited a rest stop to stretch our legs. That only proved to wake up the louder kids in the back of the bus who started 'singing' Christmas carols. The closer we got to the campground, the louder the singing became. The crooning had crescendoed to shouting by the time we reached our destination.

When the bus stopped, one of the teachers cleverly chose six volunteers to help unload the suitcases and bags from the trailer. It was surprising how many of the 'best' singers were chosen for such an honor.

Once unpacked, we were directed to the mess hall where KP was explained. I tried to bring some of the KP excitement home with me but N1S must have lost it on the bus.
Here are our table mates from table nine. The rockinest table at camp! Everyone said so.

For two and a half days we were scheduled from 8am to 9pm. We went on a bog hike. Yes, that's a hike through the bog. Not a swamp, and not a wetland. We learned that those are totally different. With the snow it was a pretty hike though.

This was where our guide got us lost in the bog. Apparently, she hadn't been on bog duty for a while and the new snow made the multiple trails confusing. She ended up calling for backup and one of the staff members back at camp rang the school bell to point us in the right direction home.

One of the activities that all the kids were buzzing about was archery. Quite a few arrows hit their targets, many more ended up in the woods.
I was just glad N1S loaded the pointy end away.

The kids also got to make a wilderness lunch. They had to gather their own wood, light their own fire and roast their own hot dogs. I think by the time the sticks got stacked and the birch bark lit, the kids were so hungry they only warmed their hot dogs in the smoke of their fire.

I think they are either waiting for someone to make a decision or for the fire to start itself.

For the last night we were there, the camp hosted a rendezvous. This was to demonstrate how pioneer trappers and traders would get together and celebrate with games like arm wrestling and tug of war standing on stumps. Just when the volume of the room had reached its peak with squealing and shouting sixth graders, the staff introduced leg wrestling. The parents in the room quickly exited to spare themselves the gruesome outcome of such an idea.

Luckily, no one lost a tooth or an eye and the rendezvous was a success in getting the kids all riled up before lights out.

On the last morning of our last day the staff hosted an orienteering race. Kids used a compass to find their way to checkpoints in the woods and race back to base with their card checked.

N1S placed second in his group. You can hum the theme song from 'Chariots Of Fire' if you want to.

Despite the cold weather, I think N1S had a fun time. And despite having to keep one hundred plus sixth graders from doing anything that would get on the local news, I think the parents had a good time too. N1S and I both got to meet and interact with new friends. And I am very proud of N1S for using good judgement and good friendship skills for his first overnight camp.

Yo, peace out y'all!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Is The School Haunted?

A few months ago, Lady Di was nice enough to accompany her mother to the Mayo Clinic while she underwent some tests. This required an overnight stay for Lady Di, leaving me in charge of the kids.

First thing on the list was to let the kids talk me into going out to the Chinese Buffet for supper. As we sat in our booth enjoying our sweet and sour whatevers, a dad and his son sat in the booth next to us. Number One Son said, "Don't look, but that kid is kinda strange. He goes to my school."

And any parent of an Aspergers kid will know, that the act of N1S calling someone else strange is like Twitter calling Facebook a big waste of time.

So I looked.

"That's not a nice thing to say about someone.", I answered.

"He's always acting like a dinosaur in school, but I guess he's a nice kid.", N1S amended.

Then N1S got up and went over to talk to the kid which was a nice thing to do. It was great to see him use skills he has learned in his friendship groups at school. Aspergers kids usually have difficulty interpreting social cues, which makes initiating and maintaining friendships a challenge. Perhaps a kid who acts like a dinosaur in sixth grade could also use an extra friend to say hi at the buffet.

While N1S was gone, Sweet Pea turned to me and said, "I bet that kid likes to scare people."

"I suppose that's what dinosaurs do, huh.", I concurred.

"He probably hides somewhere and jumps out to scare people.", SP offered.

"Why do you think he does that?", I queried.

"Because he's the ghost of N1S's school.", was SP's answer.

After thinking for a minute, I realized what SP meant. I then explained that N1S said that the kid goes to his school, he's not the ghost of his school.

It seems that social cues aren't the only things that get misinterpreted in our family.

Stuff About Me

My photo
I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.