We got back from our trip to KY last night around 7:30 pm. I didn’t get much of a look at our neighbor’s fire damage, and it was not terribly obvious from the road as we pulled in. I think it was a backyard event.

And now that we’re back, things really kick into high gear.
Progress was made on the school remodelling project, but much remains to be done. I went there tonight and did a little, and will return again tomorrow evening as well. School starts in 11 days, so this is becoming ever-more urgent.

As part of the school expansion, the kindergarten class will meet in Va’s kindergarten Sabbath School room (there will be two kindergartens – the Monday-Friday version, and the Saturday version). In order to help them share the same space, but still have independent programs, I have offered to build a contraption so that the two kindergartens can both have bulletin boards in the same place (but not at the same time). There will be a panel behind which one of them will get lowered as the other is raised. It should be pretty easy to change from one to the other, as they will weigh about the same. Right now the design is in my head, but I need to translate that into wood.

I also have to change Va’s felt board so that it will be easy to move from one room to another. I built it in a hurry six years ago, and it’s a little on the flimsy side. I need to build a new, sturdy base and put it on casters. That design is also in my head (though not in as much detail yet), and like the bulletin board contraption, needs to be translated to wood.

I still need to set up the computer lab for the school, which means relocating the terminal server and running network cables to the workstations. They also want a workstation in the kindergarten room.

And did I mention that Pathfinder Honors Week is next week? Yup. As the director, I’ll have to be there each night for that too, though I am only teaching on one of them.

It is a little overwhelming.

Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)

Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum)

Today when it was time for Sabbath School to start I didn’t have any kids in my class yet. So I stepped outside to check for this little beauty, Forked Bluecurls (Trichostema dichotomum). In the past it has not bloomed until August (or I haven’t noticed it doing so), so even though it’s what I was looking for, I was a bit surprised to see it.

The only photos of this species they have at the Wikimedia Commons are ones I have submitted in the past couple of years. The problem with them is that the background is too busy. The first ocuple of shots I took today also had the busy background (gravel on the ground, brick behind), so I decided to make an artificial backdrop. I went back into my classroom and found a scrap of cloth in the closet (leftover puppet-makin’s) and something to drape it over. I think it came out much better this time. I uploaded it to the Commons, so there’s a hi-res, uncropped version there.

I also tried using a black canvass bag and a piece of poster board, and though those made better backdrops, this one was still the best shot of the flower itself. When I zoom way in on this shot, I can see transparent little pollen grains. It’s pretty cool.

This will only stay in bloom for a couple of weeks, and then it’ll be another year. I don’t know of another stand of them anywhere either, but I sure would like to have a bunch at my house.

After a little while, one of my students showed up and that was the end of the photo shoot. I did invite her out to see the bloom, and we found another like it, plus one that had dropped to the ground. We picked it up and pressed it so she can take it home preserved next week.

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens) about to bloom

Trailing arbutus (Epigaea repens)

The trailing arbutus is almost ready to open. This one is growing in the woods along the south side of the house. The outdoor hyacinths are ready to open too, but to my knowledge, they haven’t yet.

I spent the evening writing some code to run a quiz game tomorrow during Sabbath School. I call the game “Who Wants to be a Kingdom Heir”, and it’s based pretty closely on the “Millionaire” game. I only came up with one set of questions though, because only one kid has qualified to play so far.

I did take some significant departures from the TV version, not least of which is the million dollar prize. I don’t have a million dollars, so instead, I will be giving them T-shirts. Which I have not yet made. There are only 10 questions, not 15, because it’s hard to write that many. I always take the questions from what ever we’ve been studying, and that’s kind of the point. To get them to study and pay attention. It worked when I did it 8 years ago, and I suspect it might work again now.

Since there are fewer questions, they only get two life lines. One of them is “ask your classmates” and the other is “look it up”.

In “ask your classmates” I put the question to the rest of the kids and have them raise their hands for the answer they think is right. When I did this before, the kids would always go with what Jonathan and David answered, and ignore what the rest of the class said. They knew the lessons.

For “Look it up” they get thirty seconds with their Bible. These are best used when the question is for them to complete the memory verse, especially since I list the scriptural reference in the question.

If they get five right, they get to choose a prize from the (currently non-existent) basket. If they get all ten right, they also get the T-shirt. This is a big deal to 10-13 year-olds.

Anyhow, the webpage looks just like it was coded by an engineer instead of a graphic designer. I should have tossed in a database, but instead, I just hard-coded the questions and answers right there in an array in the php script. It will be easy to modify, but I really ought to have a database in the future. I also ought to add graphics to show them how many questions have been asked and what life lines are available, but… not tonight.

More and more species of flowering plants are blooming every day now. It’s hard to keep up with them. Today it was tulips, periwinkle, birch trees, sugar maples, and a couple I have not yet identified. I went for a quick walk after lunch today and took several pictures. But I didn’t have a lot of time to dally around, because we have a lot to do in the office. I went for my walk anyhow because it helps to clear my head and keep me awake after lunch.

When I got home I took Penny outside and looked around the property for more blooms. Comptonia peregrina (sweetfern) is blooming right now. That’s not a fern at all, actually, which is why is can bloom in the first place. Ferns do not have flowers, nor do they have seeds. Rather, they produce spores. They also have a pretty interesting (i.e., non-traditional) life cycle. They produce male and female gametes which grow large enough to easily see with the naked eye. In humans (et al), gametes are the sperm and egg cells. But with ferns, these can exist independently for some time. Eventually, they get together and form a new plant. I don’t remember how exactly they do this, but I do recall that it involves water.

Anyhow, sweetfern is not a fern at all. The leaves are very fragrant and can be used as the basis for an herbal tea. If you are so inclined. In my study of edible wild plants, I found that MOST of them are great for making herbal teas. So if you’re ever stranded in the wilderness and want a tea-like drink, you’re in luck. Wintergreen, yarrow, goldenrod, and a whole slew of other plants fall into this category. You might still be hungry, but your tea cravings are sure to be satisfied.

Tomorrow promises to be busy. Va and Jonathan are heading to Vermont to take four seminars towards their Master Guide class (that’s a Pathfinder thing). I’m going to teach one of the seminars, but I have duties at church, so I won’t show up there until the afternoon. I’ll take Beth with me, but leave David at home to tend the dog. I have asked Cheryl to take my Juniors Sabbath School class, and I’m going to teach Va’s kindergarten class. I’ve never taught that age group, so this should be fun.

Church was not postponed this morning, so right after breakfast, I went outside to crank up the snowblower. I broke a shear pin and didn’t have another on hand, but that only cuts its effectiveness in half rather than to zero. I didn’t blow out the turn-around, figuring I would do that after I replaced the shear pin.

Then I took a shower and went to church. In Sabbath School we were reading Jeremiah 38, where Jeremiah is thrown into a cistern. A Cushite protests his incarceration and is given permission to lift him out. So he gets some rope, some old clothes, and 30 men. He throws the clothes down to Jeremiah and instructs him to use them as padding on the rope. Then he slips a loop under his arms and they haul him out.

So I thought it would be cool to reenact that story. I brought some rope and some old clothes (but I didn’t have thirty men). I lifted a ceiling tile and tossed the rope over a girder, then I tied a bowline and tucked it all back up into the ceiling and replaced the tile before any of the kids arrived. When we got to that part of the story I moved the ceiling tile again and produced the rope. The kids took turns letting me hoist them up about six inches or so. I think they really enjoyed it.

Several children in our church are home-schooled, and they presented a Christmas play for our church service today. They did an excellent job too. It really felt Christmassy today too, because I could see the snow still coming down during their play.

We drove on home. I had some lunch. I took a nap. Before I went for my nap I told Beth to wake me at 3:00, and she did. I was thinking we’d hike down to Sandogardy Pond, but I sure didn’t feel like doing that when she woke me up. So I told her to wake me at 3:30. And she did.

I got up then, and we went outside and did a little sledding. The sled refused to pick up any speed though. I guess the snow just wasn’t right for it. It was about a foot deep and it was real fluffy and dry. Penny chased snowballs.

After that, we had a bit of supper, and then the kids and I went back to the church for a Christmas social. Not a whole lot of people showed up, but enough did to make for an enjoyable evening. David beat all the kids at chess. Jonathan played his first ever game of Clue. I learned a game called… uh… Phase 10? We ate lots of popcorn, fruit salad, cookies, and brownies too. We stayed long enough to help clean up, and then I went to Home Depot to pick up some shear pins. Only I couldn’t remember what size to get. I took two guesses and bought them both. I’ll return whichever one is wrong, but that will wait for tomorrow.

I took off work early today. I’m leading a group of Pathfinders on a backpacking trip tomorrow after church, and I needed a few supplies. My sons will be joining us, and the forecast is for rain. So I bought them each a rain suit. I also bought a little food for either the trip or for the pantry at home: Spanish rice, instant mashed potatoes, etc. I let the boys pick out what they wanted to eat on the trip, then I picked something out for myself. I repackaged mine into ziplock bags (food packaging is designed to catch the eye at the grocery store, not fit nicely in a backpack). I also bought some pancake mix – the kind that comes in a jug (just add water, shake, and pour). I still have a spatula in my backpack, and I also packed BUTTER this time (unlike when Beth and I went in August).

I’m also planning to take Penny, so I packed some dog food in my pack as well. The boys will be sharing a tent, and I’ll see if I can get Penny to come into mine to keep ME warm(er).

We’re going to hike three miles from the parking lot to a tent site, setup camp, cook some dinner, spend the night, cook some breakfast (pancakes!) and then depending on the weather, either take a hike or head back home.

So after I bought the rain suits and food, I went on home. I helped clean the house, ate some supper, and then took Beth and David to the Amazing Adventure evangelism series. At the end, Brian handed out some commitment cards and pencils. Beth checked all three boxes: I want to give my life to Jesus, I want to be baptized, and I want to talk to the pastor about being baptized. Then she filled in her name, address, and phone number. I think she’s still a little too young to be baptized, but my mind could possibly be changed. Jonathan was nine years old when he was baptized,and Beth will be seven in a little more than two months. David still hasn’t been baptized, and I haven’t asked him if he checked any boxes on his card.

I missed the beginning of the program tonight though, because I was busy changing over the Cradle Roll Sabbath School room (Cradle Roll is for the 0-3 year-old crowd). Yes, I set them up for the Christmas program. Usually, we do a different program each quarter, but we always start the fourth quarter a month late. Early October is just too early for Christmas! Sean helped me take down the backdrop and haul out the moose (we have a life-sized model of a moose!) Last quarter’s program was about the forest, so the moose made a decent prop. Once the moose was out, I set up the manger and put up the Christmas backdrop.

Va and I painted that backdrop a couple of years ago. It depicts shepherds watching their flocks by night under the stars. I installed a string of white Christmas lights on it by cutting tiny holes in the canvas, poking the bulbs through, and then duct taping the cord down securely to the back of the canvas. I tested it, and all the lights still work. Hooray!

I felt out of place a little at church today. Since I was supposed to be off on a camping trip, I had lined up substitutes to handle all my normal duties. I didn’t want to barge in on my Juniors Sabbath School class, as I thought that would have put a crimp on my substitute. She had worked hard to prepare the lesson, so I thought it best to let her go ahead and teach it without interference. Instead, I went to Va’s Sabbath School class. It was a nice change of pace, but even there, I think my presence interfered more than it helped. Beth is in that class, and my attendance there threw her off a little.

I talked to Paul today too. He is the head Pathfinder in our conference, and he attends church in Concord (unless he’s visiting another church, which is not infrequent and comes with his duties). He said that back in the 70’s when they had rain like we were forecast to get this weekend, Molly Stark State Park (where we were to camp) did experience some flooding, and the road connecting it to civilization washed out, stranding all campers. Also, ony six clubs indicated an intent to attend, making it even easier to cancel. The ones who were not attending cited the weather as the deciding factor.

Jessica brought the bread she had gotten from her employer (Panera) for the campout and offered it to anyone who wanted some. There was enough for everyone, and it was enthusiastically received. I think there was still enough left that Ken probably got to take the leftovers home for his cows.

When we got home we ate some of that bread. I had a couple of sandwiches. Then I took a nap for an hour and worked writing answers to the Bible Marking honor on the Wikibooks project. When I finished that, I worked on the Advanced version too. Actually, last night I finished off the ADRA series of honors as well, so it has been a productive weekend on the Wiki project.

Since I’m not camping this weekend, I figured I would head over to the school tomorrow and start running cable for the computer network. Maybe I’ll get enough done so that the student PC’s can access the AV computer, and maybe I’ll get the terminal server installed on that as well. That might be over-ambitious, as it’s a lot of work to do all that. We’ll just hafta see how it goes.