Dear family:

I canít believe that it has been so long since Iíve written. Itís that time of year again when our weekends include many activities outside the home, and I keep intending to write and just donít fit it in.

The weather in these parts is very unpredictable. Weíve had more than one day in the mid-80s, breaking records, and yet it has now become very cool again Ė quite literally overnight. For Ben that makes getting dressed a little complicated, as "the rules" about what to wear seem to fluctuate daily (and it doesnít help that his clothes from last summer are a little small now). This morning he put on a short-sleeved tee shirt, and I said he needed to wear long sleeves. "These ARE long sleeves," he replied, "The guy just cut them off!" He might have potential as a lawyer.

That makes me think of another funny conversation. One day he mentioned that he would like to have three daughters when he grows up. I said, "Thatís just like Uncle John. He has three girls." "Not THOSE girls!" he responded with horror.

Ben is going to be my Don Juan, I can see it. He has a long-term commitment to Sarah Plowman, but he has a few others in the wings as well. Whenever I go out on an errand, he greets me so charmingly upon my return with the words, "I sure did miss you." (spoken coyly, not reproachfully)

These days he has something of a fixation on a book by one of our favorite illustrators, Peter Spier. The book is called Bored Ė Nothing to Do and it is about twin brothers who decide to construct an airplane out of odds and ends around the house. They end up having a successful flight (and a spanking for their efforts, to boot). Ben loves this book and has studied it carefully. He is convinced that when we go to the farm next he will find a propeller and then he will make a plane, too. Clearly the adventure is worth the spanking.

Unfortunately, the closest he has come to getting off the ground was the day when he disengaged the emergency brake in our Escort before getting out of the car. I didnít notice it at the time, but when Stephen opened the passenger door a little later, the car began to coast downhill. Stephenís instinct of self-preservation got him out of the car, but the door was left open and the car came to a rude halt when the door rammed into a street sign. This ended up being an expensive repair, and an annoying one since the whole event was rather dumb. We kept reminding ourselves to be grateful that no one was hurt. The silver lining to this incident, though, was that we were able to get two seat belts in the van repaired. Earlier research into this had been very discouraging Ė we were told we would have to take it back to the shop that customized it (in Illinois!). Almost as an afterthought I asked about it again when we dropped off the Escort, and the end of the story is that we found someone who fixed them in five minutes for only five dollars!

Daniel was home for Spring Break in March, and it was a joy to have him here as he was a big help. Our computers are now doing almost everything the way they are supposed to. I have a fond memory of taking him out to lunch and having the opportunity to get caught up on his life and plans without any interruptions. At this point he is likely going to remain in Baltimore for the summer. He would like to get a jump start on the demanding junior year course load and take a course at Hopkins and also get a university job. He will be moving into an apartment, as most upperclassmen do, and his roommates will also be in Baltimore for the summer. He looked into taking the course at Lehigh, but the tuition for Lehighís summer courses is more than double Hopkinsí. However, he did come home for Easter weekend because he had a job interview in Horsham. If they make an attractive offer, he make take that route. We shall see. Itís sad for all of us to think of him being gone all summer. Peter particularly will miss his "wheels".

Peter has been busy. Once again I proudly report that he made the high honor roll for the third quarter. He is the favorite ball boy for the girlsí soccer team, and it looks like he will play for his old coach, Trajano Bastidas on a boysí spring team. His current coach has invited him to come back after college and be an assistant coach. His school had an overnight retreat last week, and Peter came home with a deer tick embedded in his upper thigh. I wasnít able to get all of it out, so the doctor wanted to start him on a course of antibiotics to be safe. I have become a full-time nag to get him to take this medicine. At the same time the doctor wanted him to take medication for his persistent rhinitis, and to confirm the cause with an allergy specialist, but Peter refuses to be bothered.

I have to mention the science fair. Peter worked for about a month on a project for his school science fair. About three weeks into the project he decided that his plan was too ambitious, and he needed a new project which required less Java programming knowledge. He had been working through a 700 page book, teaching himself Java. In the end he did it on Cellular Automata and Conwayís Game of Life. I can truthfully say that I have heard of these, because someone did a project on this at Danielís Math camp a couple of years ago, but donít ask me to explain it. While Peter invested himself in the substance of his project, he gave little thought to its presentation. Forty-five minutes before the judging was to begin I was at Staples buying a display board! Dr. Alan Pense was one of the judges for this affair; there were almost as many judges as entries. Peter won a first prize blue ribbon. This is not the same thing as winning first place, for those of you out of touch with self-esteem initiatives. There is a Superior First Prize, an Excellent First Prize, and then the regular run-of-the-mill first prize that Peter won. It does mean that he gets to go on to the Regional competition. They allow students to continue to work on their projects, but now that Spring is here, I get the impression that Peter intends to leave well enough alone.

Back in the fall, when the school was looking for parental volunteers for various things, I offered to substitute teach in history or English if they needed me. A few weeks ago I got a call saying the English teacher was called for jury duty, and would I go in. As it turned out, she was dismissed, but they decided to put me in for the history/world view/accounting teacher. This gave me a great opportunity to see the school from the inside. The only class in which I was obviously over my head was the one on Marxian vs. Skinnerian psychology. It has been more than twenty years since I studied that stuff, and I was trying to speed read the text while simultaneously leading a discussion on the topic. I was much more in my element talking about the Irish potato famine, which I had coincidentally read up on for Masterís Academy in the fall. David has also substituted for the chemistry and biology teachers, doing a seminar on ethical issues in genetics which generated a lot of positive discussion, according to Peter. I was called in again today, and I can just hear you all guffaw when I tell you I was the gym teacher! Fortunately, I had only girls classes, and so I had a great day doing six periods of power walking! I ended each class with a little Bible lesson, a la Nana. While the school has its share of scoundrels and wastrels, the overall atmosphere is friendly and constructive and I really enjoyed feeling a part of things.

As you have gathered, Masterís Academy finished at the end of March, which is the only reason I am free to do some of these other things. The students did a great job and I especially liked teaching my literature elective. They were a great bunch of kids. The art work was impressive, and Christopher was selected as one of the top four for his scratch art drawing. I am going to see if I can have it made into notecards, so you may see it in that form. I agreed to teach another year, but have been suffering buyerís remorse (if thatís the right expression) ever since because it has felt like an old fashioned summer vacation to not be preparing lessons each week. Christopher arranged with David, who travels to NJ on Thursdays, that when MAFA was completed for the year, David would drop him off at the Philadelphia Art Museum. He has gone three weeks now, and having completed his tour of the art museum, is planning to move over to the Franklin Institute for a couple of weeks and then round things out with a few weeks at the zoo. I was a little apprehensive about this arrangement, but so far it has gone without a hitch and Christopher is having a grand time.

After a brief hiatus, Christopherís babysitting job at the Kricks has begun again. They rescued our seedlings, which were languishing without sufficient sunlight. Now the seedlings are ready to plant and we just may have enough parsley to keep the guinea pigs happy. Much of Christopherís time is spent in juggling the competing demands of his guinea pigs for larger roaming grounds and treats, and my demands for keeping the natives in line. He has been a traveling zoo for Benís nursery school; just this week we took our 14 pound rabbit, Cinderella, in to nursery school. Chris is also laboring under a pretty heavy school course load (the largest burden being French, only slightly edging out Algebra). He has come under the tutelage of Jim Femister in the area of graphic design, and Jim is supplying him with books, homework, and even tests. His new skills have been put to work right away, as David had him design a flyer that he uses at missions conferences, and Christopher has redesigned the layout for our church bulletin. Tomorrow he has a book discussion group at the library, and then the Kricks are taking him to Lehighís International Fair. What with his increased social life (primarily with the Plowman sisters) Christopher doesnít have as much time for reading anymore!

Meanwhile Stephen has been playing soccer on an intramural team and finishing up merit activities for his Awana club. Last weekend was the Awana Grand Prix, a pinewood derby event, in which the clubbers design and race small wooden cars. Our kids are always outclassed in this event, but at least we have learned how to keep the wheels fastened on. Just today Stephen needed to do a "patriotic craft project" having something to do with our state. I figured the simplest thing would be to draw a copy of the state flag. Then we actually found a picture of the state flag, and whoever designed it clearly intended to make it impossible to counterfeit. So we had to find a neighbor with a color printer so we could download it off the Internet, and the craft project went by the wayside. I have decided that teachers who assign projects have no idea how much collective time goes into fulfilling them Ė either that, or they are sadists.

Our doorbell is always ringing with someone who wants to play with Stephen. I think he feels almost hunted down, at times. But he is a happy kid and is zooming through his Calvert lessons so he can afford the time to play. His favorite part of the day is our read-aloud time after lunch. We have been reading through the missionary biographies that Nana and Poppa sent, but now are taking a break from that and reading the autobiography of a blind boy in an Indian orphanage, Vedi.

I should give some space to David. The ministry at Lehigh is going great guns. We have had at least one new person at every Bible study. This past week was especially lively (I Cor. 14) and several students said, "I just love this Bible study!" There is a relentlessness to Davidís schedule, as he is preparing several studies each week, leading the leadership team, teaching in NJ one day a week, numerous missions conferences or presbytery on the weekends, and the increased number of students means that many more he meets with individually on campus. He had to pull an all-nighter to get our taxes filed on time. Of course, some of it is simply fun. Every Friday night the students have some social or community service activity Ė for instance, tonight they are out bowling. Last week they had a clever scavenger hunt written by one of the students which involved solving riddles using Scripture verses, and then scavenging the items. I was at home baking stuff for the Awana Grand Prix the following day when the team David was on showed up at the door needing some items that they figured we might have (a lily, for one). I was carried off back to Lehigh as one of the items, a "fair maiden", though there was some discussion about whether I qualified (as a maiden, not the fair part).

Being involved with the students has its drawbacks. Three of our original core are graduating this year. It is very hard to say goodby when they have been so crucial to launching this ministry. Others have serious issues that burden our hearts. One of next yearís leaders is having to cope with the imminent death of his father from cancer Ė just as he is approaching finals and it is complicated by the fact that he is an only child and his parents are divorced, so he feels like his fatherís only family.

There are always lots of things going on. Weíve been to a vocal recital by one of the Lehigh students, a spaghetti dinner and play at the high school, and who knows what else. We had a lovely Easter at the Plowmanís home. Ben found the same eggs multiple times because he didnít notice we were recycling them.

On Thursday Ben and I had the treat of going to watch my nephew Aaron in his track meet at Easton High School. Ben took along a toy camera and diligently recorded the event in between doing somersaults down the embankment on this picture-oerfect day. Uncle David ended up being the real photography hero, though. One race was very close, and the judges called it for Easton. The Parkland contingent protested, and then Aaron suggested that they review his fatherís videotape of the event. So Davidís camera was taken to the judges, and after watching it, they reversed their decision and called the race for Parkland. This increased Davidís sense of obligation to tape the rest of the races, so that he very nearly ran out of battery power when it came to the final relay Ė Aaronís main event. It all had a happy ending, including, of course, that Parkland won the meet and Aaron won the relay.

Well, Peterís physics class is due to arrive back at the school now after spending the day at Great Adventure (learning about the physics of roller coasters) and I must go and pick him up. I am also picking up the German student who is staying with the MacDonaldís for three weeks. He comes from Saarlouis, as did the exchange student who lived with my family for a year. Life does have its cycles, doesnít it?



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