Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Sweet Shop

As a final project for November, we decided to put on a French Cafe.  We had desserts, pastries, coffee, soda and we invited the girls' friends, parents and teachers over for a good time.

I'll let the pictures do the speaking:

They say: YUM.

Thanks to Corner Bakery Cafe in Center City and Whipped Bakery in Northern Liberties for Donations!!

We had a lot of friends stop by:

At one point, a dance party broke out:

(Photo cred to Lucy)

After trying to dance (the Bachata, which is not French.... anyway...) I was told, "Miss, if my Grandmom saw you dancing like that, she would pray for you."

Part of the Sweet Shop was the Wall of Thanks (in honor of the upcoming holiday.)  Here's what some of the kids wrote:

At the end, we were pretty tired:

What a great afternoon with the kids- we even raised some money to help the Art House buy a new computer.

All in all, the girls worked really hard to decorate and come up with ideas for the shop.  They manned the stations and had a great time!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

What we need

Every year here at CSM Philly we go around to all of the sites which we serve at during the year and say "Thank you!"  Thank you for letting us volunteer here and thank you for being so kind to our groups.  Going on these visits has been one of my favorite parts with CSM so far.  We've heard awesome stories about how God has moved with the groups: kids loving puppet shows, summer staff getting the needed extra hands, "you helped us complete more tasks than we could have done ourselves."

Last week we visited a school/summer camp that has incredible amounts of corporate sponsors.  You walk into the building and wonder what they could possibly lack.  They have new everything from carpets to computers to sound recording equipment.  They have books and space for the kids to read.  They even have enough classrooms for each grade level to have their own space to sit, pack away their bookbags, and hang up their own artwork on the walls.

But when we talked with the volunteer coordinator and first grade teacher Ms. C, I realized why we go there.  "Your groups are so important," she told us.  She waved around at the fully equipped room and said, "These kids come back from the summer losing on average two grade levels of reading ability in the younger grades.  Each kid needs someone to sit down with them and read with them every day.  How can I do that?"

"With your groups, though," Ms. C said, "the parents have told me!  Their kids come back from the summer knowing more than when they came!  And that's because you all can sit down with them and read with them.  That's what we need; people to sit and read with them."

I remember one of the weeks I spent at this summer camp.  Each of the kids would pick their books and curl up in the hallway with their "Mentor" for the week and read.  I loved looking up and down that hallway watching the kids show off their skills to their mentor.  I remember the excitement on my kid's face when he saw me come back every day.

"On average, a family has one book at home.  One!"  Ms. C shook her head.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Fall Trip to the Farm, or, That Old Bill Cosby Show

I knew the day was going to be a good one from the start: we left on time.

After we'd packed 36 kids into an old school bus with holes in half the seats covered in tape, we took off down 6th street toward New Jersey, and the farm.

Halfway down we passed a group of people sitting outside the library.  They looked like they were waiting for someone to bring food to hand out.  Some of the kids started yelling, "Who are they?  What are they doing?"  And that's when I realized that these kids are the lucky ones of Philly.  They may not go to a very wealthy school, but it's still a private school, and they still have parents who have the means to put them in this after school program.

My thoughts were broken by sudden screams from behind me and the rest of the bus joining in.  "A horse, a horse!"  We were passing one of those scenic carriage rides and the kids were so excited.  My seat-mate started bragging, "I've seen a horse before, like a million times."   The girl behind us answered, "Oh yeah?  I've seen one like ten times."  My seat-mate retorted, "Yeah, so I wasn't scared at all, to see the horse." 

We passed two more carriages causing eruptions across the bus.  I turned to the teacher and asked if we even needed to go to the farm.  "Nope!"  She said.  "Ok that's good, let's go back!"  And she started waiving the bus driver back in jest.

Once we got over into New Jersey, just across the bridge, my seat-mate turned around and started telling the girl behind me, "We in New Jersey!  We in New Jersey! We in New Jersey!"  Apparently she wasn't hearing him.  "We in New Jersey!  We in New Jersey!  We in New Jersey!  WE IN NEW JERSEY!  WE IN NEW-"

I tap him on the shoulder.  "Do you know where we are?"

He looks at me with wide eyes and says with all sincerity, "We in New Jersey."

After that we tried to play some hand game but he couldn't remember all the steps.  A few minutes later he pops his head up and tries to see out the front of the bus.  "Do you know where we is?" he asks.

"New Jersey." 

"Oh!  Good."

Eventually we arrived at the farm, and that's how I found out for sure that this is a Christian after school program, because the whole bus erupted in a chorus of Hallelujah's.

As we waited to get on the hayride one of the kids asked me, "Are you from the farm?"  I should mention this was my first time with this particular group of kids; all my junior high girls abandoned me on their day off and opted for sleep instead.

We took the quick hayride out to the field to pick some sweet potatoes and popping corn.  One girl I didn't know came up to me and asked me if she could borrow my scarf.  I told her I didn't have a scarf.  She then proceeded to tell me that she remembers her Grandmother who used to sit and knit scarves.  "But she died," she said.  "Oh, I'm sorry!"  "In 1985."  "Oh, I'm- wait... how do you remember- nevermind."

The same girl ended up borrowing my gloves with the spider logo on the back.  She really liked them.  I went to help her off the climbing rocks before we left and she said, "Excuse me, can you help me down Ms, Ms..."

"You borrow my gloves, but you don't remember my name?"  I laugh.

"Ms...." she thinks really hard and then looks down at her hands.  "Ms. Spiderman?"

"Close enough."

The kids had such a great time running around picking corn, jumping off slides and riding in the hayride.  The teachers even had fun, especially since we got to pick our own sweet potatoes.  The kids were so good and listened so well to one of the farm hands explain how to make flour and apple cider.

Oh, and we saw a teepee:

And one more because I can't help myself, these kids are so cute!
"You 47?"  One kid asks as they wait in line behind me.
This was getting bad for my self esteem, and I didn't feel like explaining the concept of "lower", so I asked the other kids how old they thought I was:
"Ok, let's go."

We took a sleepy ride back home on the warm bus but we woke the teachers up in time to get the kids back inside for snack before dismissal.

All in all, a fantastic day.

Thanks for reading.

With love,
Ms. Spiderman

Thursday, November 3, 2011

DON'T EAT THE PEPPERS: Another afternoon on the block


When I got home today I was greeted by one of the young kids on the street.  I was carrying a branch of peppers that I had been given as a gift/decoration and the kid asked if he could have one.  But, he wanted me to try one first to see if it was spicy.  I took a bite off the bottom of a pepper and, in spite of seeing my almost instant reaction to the fire occuring in my face, he tried one, too.

So after about five minutes in the kitchen steadying myself on the counter and trying not to throw up I finally made it back outside with a bottle of water for us to share.  He seemed to have handled it better than I did, though, and soon we were all playing tag and running races.  One of the Dads watching the kids would yell out when a car turned down our street.  Some of the older kids tried to see how close they could get to me without getting tagged; I seemed to be "it" a lot...

In any case, I post this as a warning to all of you starry-eyed "Oh that looks like a delicious little red pepper" potential eaters, because I believe in passing on knowledge and I believe in keeping your tastebuds:
The Fresno chili pepper a cultivar of Capsicum annuum, with bell peppers and other chili peppers. It is similar to the Jalapeño pepper but it is significantly hotter (2500-10000 Scoville units) increasing in heat as it ripens.*


*And they were REALLY ripe.  Oh, and thanks to wikipedia for this quote.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Reader Appreciation: The Best Part

1 Corinthians says that love is kind, endures all things, believes all things.  Part of me thinks that 1 Corinthians 13 is written in response to the question, "But wait, what is love, anyway?"

Well, Love is the best part.

Love is helping a friend complete his lifelong dream of running up the Rocky steps: "You know, this is the best thing I'm doing here, and it didn't even cost any money."

Love is the moment when you finish a friend's sentence.

Love is watching someone you love watch someone they love and making you love the person they love because you love them and they love you.

Love is watching the snow fall, cover over the mud, and highlight the colors of the earth.

Love is the moment you say, "I hope you know that you don't have to do that for me [I love you as you are.]"

Love is realizing that you've been on the phone for an hour.

Love is a warm meal on a cold day being shared in a friendly place to anyone that's hungry.

Love is the last night Jesus spent with his twelve best friends sharing a deeply meaningful (and delicious!) meal and then encouraging them for five chapters

Love is community:

Love is sitting in Babycakes with friends on a chilly fall evening sharing laughs and music.

Love is realizing that my nightstand drawer is brimming with notes of encouragement from my friends and family.

Love is because He loved us first.

Love is sharing encouraging words written by 50 students with a 72 year-old-woman so focused on serving Jesus that she often forgets herself.  When she finished reading she wiped a tear from her eye and said, "I feel so precious."

And in the greatest act of love, the Greatest of These became the Least of These so that everyone may be encouraged.

So, love is encouragement to the precious!  And so, I am filled with love because I am surrounded by people who have stuck by me, who have listened to me and encouraged me to follow my passions, who have wanted my happiness, who have allowed me to love them, who have told me that I can write, who have told me that I am funny, who have listened to me talk about goodness only knows what; you have made me know that I am loved- and precious.  May I do the same.

Here is the least I can express:
Thank you.