A Fun Loving Pastor Who Taught Me To Never Stop Cheering For God!

If you stay in one place for any length of time chances are good that at some point a friend, neighbor, co-worker, teacher or pastor, will leave your community and you will have to say goodbye, sending them off with well wishes and good speed. My family of three recently participated in a “water balloon” send off for one of our associate pastors who left our congregation to accept a call to serve at a church in West Hartford, CT.

COVID-19 made it impossible to hold a traditional send off but our church staff found a creative way to say goodbye. Pastor Reitz has a fun loving personality, enjoys a good joke and is known to ease awkward situations with a little bit of humor, so, it seemed fitting that our congregation had a send-off for him “water balloon style!” With water guns and water balloons in hand, church members drove through the parking lot drenching Pastor Reitz with water and best wishes. Pastor Reitz and his family will be dearly missed and we wish them the very best!

Fair Weather Fan– A Saint Louis Blues parade passed behind our house prior to our drive through send off for Pastor Reitz. It seemed appropriate, not because Pastor Reitz is a Blues hockey fan but it reminded me of a sermon Pastor Reitz gave shortly after the Saint Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019. The sermon touched me so deeply that I approached Pastor Reitz after the service and let him know how his words had resinated with me.

The Reitz family on the last Sunday they were together at Zion Lutheran.

I remember Pastor Reitz describing our city’s reaction to the Blues during the championship series. It seemed everyone had became a fan with households in every zip code tuning into the games! Blues banners and flags appeared on businesses and throughout neighborhoods. Stores sold out of Saint Louis Blues t-shirts and jerseys, making them impossible to keep in stock! There was no denying it, everyone in the St. Louis area was bleeding blue! Then Pastor Reitz questioned if these fans had always been Blues fans? Have the fans loyally stood by the team during the wins and the loses? Or were they being fair weather fans, only interested in the Blues when the team is playing well and abandoning them when they have a bad season?

Then Pastor Reitz asked us if we have ever been a fair weather fan to God? Have we ever turned away from God? This question hit me. Although I have never turned away from God, I have historically turned to Him more when I was struggling, suffering and in need of guidance. I have spent more time on my knees praying when I was experiencing a struggle than praying for thanks when everything in my life was going great. So in my own way I do turn away when the going is good. During that sermon I resolved to turn to the Lord during the good and the bad and the in-between. I was reminded that God never turns away from us! He loves us when we sin and forgives us of those sins when we ask for His forgiveness. He loves us when we win and when we lose. God is never a fair weather fan to His children.

Proverbs 3:5 happens to be my daughter’s memory verse for this week and I found it so appropriate.

Pastor Reitz and his family served Zion Lutheran Church for close to a decade. We pray for the Reitz family as they begin a new chapter serving the congregation at Bethany Lutheran Church in West Hartford, CT.

The Noteworthy Mommy Gets Her Daughter Ready For Kindergarten!

During my twenty-eight years in the field of education, seven glorious years were spent teaching kindergarten. I look back on that time with found memories and keep in touch with some of my former students who are now young adults beginning careers or parents sending their own children off to kindergarten!

This year I am sending my only child off to kindergarten and we commemorated this milestone with some special books, back to school traditions and activities.

Kindergarten Books- To prepare my daughter for her first day of kindergarten we read several kindergarten themed books. As a former kindergarten teacher, most are from my own collection and as I read them memories of my seven years laying the educational foundation for five and six year olds flooded back. The joy of preparing my classroom and filling it with new materials, the shiny waxed floors and freshly cleaned classroom, the anticipation of meeting my students and experiencing a new beginning with them was thrilling! Now it will be my daughter’s turn. The following books are some of my favorites.

Meet the Teacher– A week before school, we signed up for a private meet and greet with my daughter’s kindergarten teacher and kindergarten assistant. To avoid extra people in the school building, one adult was invited to join their child on this special tour of the kindergarten classroom. My daughter was excited to meet her teacher, Mrs. Reed and her kindergarten assistant, Mrs. Collins. My daughter found her cubby, practiced washing her hands properly, made a painted heart to hang in the classroom and read the book Kindergarten, Here I Come! with her teacher. My daughter got to take the book home so we could read it before the first day of school and inside the front cover was a handwritten note from Mrs. Reed. When I read the words “Jesus loves you and so do I,” any trepidation I had about sending my daughter to Zion Lutheran School for “face to face learning” was washed away. I felt confident that my husband and I had made the best decision for our family because I was reminded that along with Zion’s carefully thought out safety procedures and dedicated teachers and staff, Jesus would be lovingly watching over our daughter while she is at school.

The Kissing Hand Tradition- I always read The Kissing Hand to my kindergarten students and their parents during our “Meet the Teacher Night.” I also made and decorated heart shaped cookies for them to take home. I began this tradition with my daughter when she was a three year old heading off to preschool. CLICK HERE to read all about it. We continued the tradition this year with Nana and Pops joining us in baking and decorating homemade kissing hand cookies which we gave to my daughter’s teachers and administrators on the first day of school. CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade sugar cookie recipe and CLICK HERE for Nana’s homemade buttercream frosting recipe.

A Special ‘Twas the Night Before Kindergarten Poem- I was touched to receive this special poem written especially for my daughter by Auntie Jaime, a dear friend and my daughter’s honorary auntie. When I read the poem it brought back faded memories of when I was a kindergartener (43 years ago) and more vivid memories of my first day teaching kindergarten (24 years ago). As you read the following words I hope you are transported to a simpler time, not so long ago, when all children could safely go to school, hold hands with a new friend, learn without wearing a mask and freely play tag on the playground.

Whether you are home schooling, going back to school for face to face learning, engaging in virtual learning or participating in hybrid learning, I pray that you and your children have a safe and productive school year!

A Sunny Day Filled With Sunflowers and Sunflower Cookies

Last week my daughter and I took a field trip to Columbia Bottom Conservation Area, just outside of St. Louis, to see the sunflower fields.

The pictures we took simply can not capture the overwhelming peace and warmth that embraced me as we stood among these beautiful giants. In the middle of that field, on that perfect summer day, I knew God was gifting us with a tiny slice of heaven. For a few hours my daughter and I left the stress of the world behind and simply breathed in the beauty that surrounded us. As we explored, we observed bees and butterflies coming to the field for nourishment. We witnessed frogs hopping around our feet and discovered wooly caterpillars munching on young leaves in preparation for their own transformation. We were fascinated by the young sunflowers, rhythmically following the sun with precision and felt honored to be a spectator.

The Transformation of the Sunflower- The life cycle of the sunflower is one of nature’s many marvels. The fact that a mammoth flower grows from a tiny seed and provides food for a variety of insects during the two weeks it is in bloom is simply amazing! And it continues to be a food source when its brilliant yellow leaves wither to brown and its head droops and faces the earth. Sunflower seeds are a valuable food source for birds, chipmunks, squirrels, raccoons and even people!

Sunflower Cookies– When we returned home we made Cardinal Cookies, a peanut butter based cookie with sunflower seeds as a main ingredient! Named after the Cardinal songbird (who loves to eat sunflower seeds), this delicious treat is one my kindergarten class enjoyed when we visited Little Creek Nature Center on district field trips. CLICK HERE for the yummy recipe

The Sunflower House– While we snacked on our freshly baked Cardinal Cookies, we read The Sunflower House by Eve Bunting. This delightful book introduces the reader to the life cycle of a sunflower through the eyes of a boy who plants some sunflower seeds and plays in the sunflower field with his friend all summer long. It has always been a favorite book to read but after our visit to see the sunflowers, my daughter and I could make connections while we read and the story truly came to life!

2020- We Didn’t See That Coming!…Confessions of a Dance Mom

This year was my daughters second one dancing at the Performing Arts Centre (PAC). When COVID-19 closed the studio in March, the Davenport sisters immediately turned to virtual classes and a week later…PAC danced! When our county began to open up in May, the Davenport sisters strategically worked out a plan to keep everyone safe, re-opened the studio and…PAC danced! After weeks and weeks in isolation, dance class was the first place we returned and our hearts filled with joy and…we danced!

As June approached and the dates of the annual recital inched closer, it seemed next to impossible to hold an event of such magnitude, let alone one that loved ones could safely attend. Would PAC even have a recital this year? How will they ever orchestrate such a production when auditoriums and theaters across the country are closed and there are social distancing protocols in place? Without fail, the Davenport sisters got to work and with a bit of creativity and tons of grit, PAC held their forty-sixth dance recital on June 20, 2020 and…PAC danced! Nothing can stop PAC from dancing, not even COVID-19!

Our sweet little dancer posing after her recital.
My daughter with her multi-talented teacher, Ms. Tracy Davenport.

How Did They Do It?– They constructed a stage in PAC’s parking lot, laid out a detailed seating diagram, to ensure safe social distancing, and held nine separate showtimes throughout the day that consisted of eleven numbers each. Each show was live-streamed on-line for those who couldn’t come in person.

The detailed seating chart.
Fans were handed out to keep everyone cool during the outdoor performance.

From the Noteworthy Dance Mom- As a second year dance mom I wasn’t alone in feeling nervous about the recital this year. COVID-19 made the recital challenging for everyone, even the experts! My daughter and her adorable class did a sweet tap routine to, “If I Knew You Were Comin’ I’d’ve Baked a Cake.” My daughter was fantastic and I’m so very proud of her. Having Ms. Tracy Davenport, PAC owner and artistic director extraordinaire, made for an amazing PS4 dance year! As a second year dance mom, I was faced with new costume challenges like attaching shoe bows and a hair piece. My prayers were answered when my mom and dad appeared at our doorstep, unannounced, just minutes before it was time to leave. Pops helped me style my daughter’s hair and successfully attached the head piece in just the right position. I am proud to say we survived our second dance recital, although it will go down in history as the one we didn’t see coming!

Pops styling my daughter’s hair for the recital.

A Beautiful Birthday Celebration…Days 72 and 73

Yesterday we celebrated my mother’s birthday. Birthdays are a big deal in our family and nothing was going to keep us from recognizing Nana’s special day, including COVID-19!

The pandemic caused Nana’s birthday celebration to look a bit different this year. Thanks to my daughter, Nana received a homemade gift made out of recyclables due to stores being closed and my daughter unable to shop for the perfect gift. When we went to pick up Nana’s birthday cake, we found our order waiting on a table outside the bakery and we simply picked it up with no human contact. Since Nana’s favorite restaurant was closed, Pops prepared an Italian feast for all of us to enjoy. And instead of blowing out the candles on her cake, Nana fanned them out with a homemade fan crafted by my daughter! This is defiantly a birthday to remember!

Nana extinguishes her birthday candles with a homemade fan, lovingly created by my daughter.

From drive-through graduations, birthday parades, virtual trivia nights and streaming church services, spring celebrations throughout our world have been altered due to the pandemic. New traditions are being established as we find creative ways to recognize these important life events. And through it all, nothing is stopping us from celebrating!

Now What?… Day 66

Our school year is over and summer vacation has officially started. As I sit here thinking about the days ahead, all that comes to mind is…Now What?

As states begin to open back up many uncertainties remain. And our media is no help as it is flooded with mixed messages and different opinions. Early on I thought once the stay at home order was lifted things would go back to “normal.” Now I know that transitioning out of isolation will be a gradual process. Through the transition we will need to continue to practice social distancing. Will we be required to wear masks? Hand sanitizers and extra hand washing will be imperative. So many unanswered questions remain… Will swimming pools open up for the summer? What will worship look like when our church reopens? Will we have VBS in person this year or will it be virtual? Will schools conduct professional development sessions and will I train teachers this summer? What will the 2020-2021 school year look like?

Among all of the unknowns, one thing is known, the pandemic is something we have never experienced before. As we transition back to “normal” we need to be accepting of others, allowing every person, every family, to enter back into society in a way that makes them feel comfortable. We shouldn’t judge others but focus instead, on what feels right for our family.

I continue to find comfort through God’s word and am reminded not to worry about tomorrow. Although COVID-19 has changed our world and the summer continues to hold many unknowns, we will get through this together.

Staying Connected Through a Birthday Visit, Fancy Surprises and a Virtual Concert…Day 63

During a time where we are socially disconnected, in many ways we are connecting even more! We are simply finding new ways to stay in touch and show we care. Today included a surprise birthday visit to a family friend, a heartwarming surprise package in the mail and a virtual live concert by a talented church friend.

A Birthday Visit and Fancy Nancy– Perhaps one of the most enjoyable things we have done during the quarantine is dropping off surprises to teachers, family members and friends. Today we surprised a family friend with a special birthday card. This eleven year old didn’t want a birthday parade, so we recognized her special day with a short outdoor visit. I’m sure this will be a birthday she will never forget! We were treated to laughs and a bag full of “Fancy Nancy” books to take home! If you have a young child in your home I encourage you to check out the character, “Fancy Nancy,” a French loving six-year with a fancy wardrobe and an even fancier vocabulary! In her world of fancy things, “Fancy Nancy” celebrates the things that make us unique and different. CLICK HERE to visit a website filled with fancy fun!

A Generous Surprise– My daughter was excited to receive a spring craft packet in the mail from Katelynne, a mommy blogger, who is also know as The Disguised Super Mom. CLICK HERE to check out her website. What a generous surprise! We can’t thank you enough! 

 Virtual Concert– I filled a wine glass with some liquid therapy, sat on my comfy couch and experienced my first virtual concert with “Live at the Library With Bethany Coad.” Bethany is an extremely talented contemporary folk singer/songwriter who also happens to be a member of my Zion Lutheran Church family. It was a relaxing hour of fabulous music, storytelling and escapism. Her original songs took me on a delightful journey and for a few minutes I forgot about social distancing, disappointment and the pandemic. I could relate to the peppy tongue and cheek “Lincolntown” as I have made the laborious drive from St. Louis to Chicago too many times to count! I also enjoyed the beautiful ballad titled “Lewis and Clark.” Her newest song, “A Place Where Time Stands Still,” conjured up happy memories of playing concerts, dining with family and attending festivals and parades along our historic main street in what has become my daughter’s hometown, St. Charles, MO. If you missed the concert, no worries, it was recorded. CLICK HERE to listen to Bethany Coad’s virtual concert at the library.

 

 

What Are You Watching? (The Shows That Helped Me Through the Quarantine)… Day 56

During this time of isolation many people have asked for binge worthy viewing suggestions to get them through the quarantine. I have a five year old so much of my screen time, if any, has been filled with cartoons like “My Little Pony,” “Llama, Llama,” and “PJ Masks.”

Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist– There is one show that I began watching during the pandemic that I simply can’t get enough of. It’s a quirky little show filled with immense talent, popular music, emotion and a love triangle! This extraordinary show is “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist.” The series is a comedy-drama about a young women named Zoey who can hear the inner most thoughts and desires of the people around her through song and musical numbers. The viewers get to know the people in Zoey’s life through these musical messages. You may be thinking, “this show’s not for me,” but I encourage you to give it a chance. After the second episode I became a fan.

Although “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” won’t become a mainstream classic, spending years upon years in syndication, it was there for me when I needed an escape. This little show got me to think outside of myself and made me forget COVID-19 and all of life’s new challenges for a few minutes at the end of the day. This feel-good show, with musical numbers, also contains an emotionally charged storyline that made me care about the characters on the screen. The series gave me something to look forward to on days that seemed never ending. And that’s why this Noteworthy Mommy hopes this extraordinary show, with plenty of heart, gets renewed for a second season!

All Rise– This courtroom drama about a newly appointed judge who pushes expectations and boundaries, premiered in the fall and I began watching shortly after. This series gives the viewer a look at the personal lives of the judges, lawyers and clerks, who fight for justice for the people of Los Angeles in an often flawed legal process.

When COVID-19 shut down television studios, “All Rise,” filmed a creative episode virtually. Titled “Dancing at Los Angeles,” we find our beloved characters experiencing a mandatory shelter-in-place order. Through Zoom like screens, the viewers get to see how the characters are coping with isolation, their lives being affected by COVID-19 much like ours. We find a clerk, who after being furloughed, takes on a part time job as a Shipt Shopper, see a daughter worrying about the health and safety of her high risk mother and view two friends having a virtual happy hour with wine in hand at the end of the day. We see characters spending more time in their kitchens, finding lost letters while cleaning out closets and navigating relationships while social distancing. Some are passing their time by exercising while others experience sleepless nights. That’s where the on-line nighttime DJ comes in. With his music and commentary, he weaves the story line together. Images of a desolate Los Angeles reminds us how our major cities, once bustling with people, now contain empty streets during the pandemic. As the characters make an attempt to conduct a bench trial virtually, we are reminded of the adaptations those fortunate enough to work from home have made during this time. Being the first drama series to be produced remotely, with actors filming everything from their own homes, this episode is historic in many ways.

The Masked Singer– Perhaps the most frivolous of  shows is“The Masked Singer.” With a majority of season 3 airing during the isolation, this is a show my daughter and I can enjoy together. A singing game show where celebrities disguise themselves under elaborate costumes with big ridiculous heads, it is the perfect cure to another day spent in isolation. This season is filled with the unimaginable. Seeing Sarah Palin unmasked as the technicolor bear who sang Sir Mix-a-Lots, “Baby Got Back,” will either make you laugh out loud or make you shake your head in disbelief at what our world has succumb to.

THE MASKED SINGER

What are your favorite shows to watch? Have you gotten interested in a new series?Leave your comments below. I promise not to judge. I hope you are being thoroughly entertained as you find something that helps you escape from the world (if only for 60 minutes) during this time of uncertainty.

 

Tasty Tuesday With Pizza and a “Soup Opera,” (Week of the Young Child).. Day 43

Today is Tasty Tuesday! This fun, food themed day is about more than cheese and crust! When we cook with our children we incorporate math, literacy skills and science, while teaching them about good nutrition.

Pizza– My daughter and I made pizza for lunch. She topped her pizza to look like a funny face complete with pepperoni eyes, ears, and mouth, and dressed with cheese hair. My little one doesn’t like cooked cheese so that’s why her pizza face only had a wee bit of cheese hair. In keeping with the pizza theme we read one of our favorite books, The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza written by Philemon Sturges. A modern twist the classic tale, this retelling has our mouth watering every time! CLICK HERE to read The Little Red Hen Makes a Pizza.

Jesus Feeds 5,000– We read the Bible story about Jesus feeding 5,000 men with just five loaves of bread and two fish. The story validates that God provides miracles when we trust in Him. CLICK HERE to watch an animated version of the story. After watching and discussing the story we traced my daughter’s hand and made a collage with Goldfish to remind us of God’s miracle.

I Can’t Eat the SOUP!– We really enjoyed watching the “soup opera,” I Can‘t Eat the Soup! by the extremely talented children’s performer, Jim Gill. A few summers ago we were lucky to see Jim Gill in concert at our local library. After watching several different versions on line, we enjoyed acting the “soup opera” out ourselves! CLICK HERE to watch the most recent version of I Can’t Eat the Soup! and CLICK HERE to watch one complete with a symphony orchestra!

What’s Behind the Picture? Documenting Our Time in Isolation…Day 40

A photo captures a single moment in time, a framed slice of reality shot by the photographer. A good photograph can conjure emotion, take the viewer to places he or she has never seen or create a memory for the future. Photographs are wordless ways to share and document life but they never tell the whole story. As you view my blog and the photos embedded within, note that the photos I choose to share simply capture fleeting seconds during hours of isolation. Our days during this pandemic are far from picture perfect, filled with a storm of emotions represented by the good, the bad and the ugly. Along with the struggle, fear, disappointment, frustration and anger, God has blessed us with beautiful moments of tenderness, love, joy and laughter. When all of this is over the carefree moments that brought us closer together as a family, a community, and a nation are the memories I want to remember.

The Many Faces of Lillian Clare– I took Easter pictures of my little one in our backyard and got a variety of facial expressions!

Showing Love for Curious George?- Although this photo shows a smiling little girl sitting next to my beloved childhood friend, Curious George, the introduction was anything but cordial. When she saw my vintage Curious George she refused to hold him, let alone hug him! To get this adorable photo I had to bribe her with candy!

In Isolation– Taken moments before virtual circle time (with her preschool class), this picture shows the frustration, uncertainty and disappointment we have all experienced during the pandemic. My little one finds comfort cuddling with her favorite blanket, affectionately named Nae Nae.