Tag Archive: school

Kelley as Auntie Em (center)

Anyone that knows me, knows that when things get weird, I’m apt to look up and say “Auntie Em, Auntie Em.” Mainly because I would feel pretty damn stupid clicking my heels. Neither of which proves to be very effective. Things still get weird.

That said, wouldn’t you figure that my granddaughter, Kelley Strockbine, would play Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz at her school, Homestead Elementary on Saturday, May 5. Encore Kids is a company that teaches acting to elementary students in schools which lack the resources.

Kelley also played one of the Lullaby League Munchkins and part of an Ensemble. All the kids did a very good job. The sound could have been louder, but everyone got the gist of it. After all, we’ve heard the story. It was a cute interpretation.

The Lion was a substitute from another school. The girl that played the lion at Homestead woke up with appendicitis and had to be rushed to the hospital. By show time at 4:30 p.m. (I understood why it was that late on a Saturday, but still wasn’t real pleased), she no longer had her appendix and was doing well.

As I said, it was a cute interpretation of the Wizard of Oz. All the children did a very good job. And kudos to Encore Kids for helping to keep arts in the elementary schools.

Cast of Oz

Peace be with you.

VBS BandI played in the Vacation Bible School (VBS) band week before last, and we wrapped it up at the 11 a.m. service on Sunday. Christ UMC in Farmers Branch is like most churches. We get packaged VBS kits, with scripts, ideas for decorations, crafts, and games, cds and corresponding music charts. Then we decorate the church ourselves and add our own unique touches. I don’t know about other churches, but we usually decorate most of the church – immersing the congregation in the concept.

This year it was Cave Quest VBS. The church became one big cave. My son, Cameron, built a cave in the sanctuary, replacing the pulpit, made of pvc pipe and other materials. VBS began on Sunday and ended on Thursday – with the wrap up on Sunday. It is a grueling VBS Caveweek for the volunteers, who have to show up early. It’s the same with the band, except that they might have a little more down time. Although practicing for half an hour before VBS (an hour and a half on the first Sunday), starting off at full tilt for an hour, then down time for an hour and a half before cranking it up again for half an hour can take it’s own toll.

I picked up the cd and charts a week early to run through the songs ahead of time. Just to avoid surprises when practice starts. There were not many surprises. VBS songs usually follow a pattern, which includes no slow songs. Oddly enough, there were two slower songs this year.

But my point is that the band plays these songs day after day for five days – six if you include the Sunday VBS Service. The theme song is played at least six times each night. Other key songs or catchier songs get played at least three times each night. The band shows up the Wednesday evening before to run through the songs we’ll play first – and the most in some cases. Then we arrive early on Sunday and each consecutive night to learn new songs.

Some of the songs are fun to play, so the repetition is not all that tough. But some of them get on your nerves night after night. Jokes and camaraderie help to keep it fun. Then some songs you just don’t like playing.

Regardless, I find that I develop an attachment to the songs. Less so the ones that got on my nerves, but an attachment nonetheless. After all, I spent two weeks with them. And when you play in a band, and the sound is  right, you hate for it to end. It’s like when you spent two weeks in camp when you were a teenager and you met friends that were very special during the camp, but then you never really saw them again (the songs, not the band members).

It needs to be mentioned that despite the grueling schedule, the repetition of the songs, and any problems that arose, there were fun times along the way. All the volunteers simply adjusted to sudden changes and did what needed to be done to carry on with VBS. Sunday school classes and Bible study groups brought light food for the volunteers each night. But above all, seeing the children happy and pumped, having fun and learning valuable life lessons, made the problems seem rather trivial.

Peace be with you.



Dressed up, Hair down b I picked up my granddaughter, Kelley, from school last week and we stopped by McDonalds on the way home. I wanted some tea and since Kelley hadn’t had a chance to eat her snack, I thought I would get her a happy meal for a treat as well as a smoothie for Cyndy. We were getting back in the car when Kelley spotted a dead bird between the sidewalk and the street.

“I’m sad because I see a dead bird,” she said, and I turned around to see the bird as I opened the door.

“It is a dead bird isn’t it?”

“I’m sad when nature dies,” she said as she climbed into her car seat. “I already named that bird one time,” as I buckled her in.

I said “oh really,” as I shut the door, and walked around the car.

“I’m sad for Enchilada,” Kelley said as I got in the car and started the engine.

“Oh, yeah?”

“That’s what I named her.”

“Oh, okay.”

We pulled out of the parking lot and headed for our house. As we were nearing the train tracks that cross the road, the lights began to flash as the barriers came down. I have not counted train cars for quite some time – they do not run as often as they have in the past – but it was the first time I had waited on a train with Kelley, so it was fun – again – to count the cars. There were two engines in front, 133 cars, and three engines on the back. Kelley was counting with me until there were about eighty cars.

We hadn’t been at our house long before her dad came to pick her up. I was telling him about counting the train cars when Kelley piped in.

“I was helping him count until my mouth got tired,” she told her dad.

That is why I love being a grandfather. I enjoyed being a father, too. But as a father, I had to use those moments as teaching moments, and inject a sense of reality, to a childish degree. As a grandfather, I still have a responsibility, yet I also have the chance to indulge in the weirdness of a child’s mind – and my own.

As Hunter S. Thompson used to say – and I have a t-shirt – “when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.” And five year old girls – or boys for that matter – are really good at weird.

Peace be with you.

The month of August was the most boring part of the summer when I was growing up. And, judging from my daughter and now my sons, it has not changed a whole lot – except for school beginning before Labor Day, rather than after. Were it not for football workouts, the tension would be unbearable. Even with cell phones, Facebook, email, and so on, the circle of close friends is smaller during the summer than during the school year. Partially because some of those friends are only close friends when you see each other at school. After school, they are not so close.

The only technological device I had was a transistor radio (not complaining – just explaining). There was as yet no such thing as FM radio. Since the few close friends I had during the summer planned their vacations for August, I was forced to resort to my “B” list. You know, the friends that I could put up with if I had to. But B list friends could lead you to do things you would not ordinarily do.

One particular August, hot as usual, I was stuck with a B list friend. He lived next door and I think his name was Jeffrey. He was a little younger than I was, which was partly why he was on the B list. Across the dirt alley behind our homes was a fairly large park without many trees.

Part of the park doubled as the schoolyard for the elementary school on the left as we walked out the back gate. A creek ran along the other side of the park across from the school. The alley where we were standing formed the eastern border of the park and ended on the right at the creek which was the northern border. A few houses to the left, the dirt alley ended when a side street between two houses became the drive behind the school.

The back of the cafeteria was at that corner of the building. There was a short stairway leading up to the kitchen door about a hundred feet from the corner. The door was only used for the kitchen personnel and smaller deliveries. The truck delivery door was to the right, between the stairway and the end of the building.

Jeffrey and I were walking through the parking lot from the alley, bored as always in August. We noticed a wooden “door” of sorts in the side of the building under the floor of the cafeteria four feet past the stairwell. An open lock hung in the latch of the door. We took out the lock, opened the door, and crawled through the 3′ x 3′ space, finding ourselves under the cafeteria. I worked my way through the pipes to where I figured the cafeteria was and found another door above me in the floor.

Surprisingly, that door was unlocked as well.  We climbed up into the middle of the kitchen. We headed straight for the refrigerator. Jeffrey and I helped ourselves to canned fruit,  olives, and pickles. Maybe a few slices of cheese – they were not individually wrapped then. After we had a snack, there was not much else to do. We had no interest in any other part of the school and we were not completely sure no one else was there.

Getting out was a little different than getting in – we did not know if anyone would be looking. But we made it out without incident and walked away quickly. We revisited the kitchen a few times that August – all without incident. I noticed after school began that the custodian had fastened the lock.

I have no doubt Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn engaged in the same type of questionable activity – the mischievous behavior of bored children. But I do not know how much guilt they felt. As for myself, I did not think about it too much, but I knew deep down that I was sinning at the time. Which made it worse that I did it anyway. I probably rationalized the actions by thinking that no one was hurt.

Yet it was a crime (albeit a misdemeanor) and a sin. Ironically, since I lived on the edge  of the schoolyard/park, I always went home for lunch. I was saved the feeling of regret when returning to the scene of the crime. Other than a cursory view from the kitchen, I never saw the cafeteria – just the kitchen and under the floor.

I could not be legally prosecuted now. The statute of limitations on school cafeteria theft of produce and condiments has surely expired. But God knows. It may be low on my list of sins in order of importance, but it is still on the list. Just another one of the things I continue to ask God’s forgiveness for, and that I have in common with Tom Sawyer.

Peace be with you.

* –  Tom Sawyer was one of the first books I read growing up. Things I Have in Common with Tom Sawyer is a series of posts about the activities of prepubescent and adolescent youth – mostly mine. Times when I was in a “Tom Sawyer” frame of mind. Read the first post here.

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