Lisa started in the local public school, but the class size was huge and classroom management took most of the teacher’s time and energy.  We moved her to a wonderful Lutheran Parochial school with creative teachers, a good ethnic mix of students and a class size that allowed our children to thrive.  When his turn came, Micah joined Lisa there.  We got to know the teachers well, so our poor kids could not get away with anything.  As is often so in a small school, sometimes the relationships were challenging, but the faculty was positive and affirming.   When it came time for Lisa to go to high school, a new Lutheran High had opened just a few years before.  Because of the geography of the situation, Micah moved to a large nearby Catholic school while Lisa attended the Lutheran High.  When the Lutheran high moved to a different building, Lisa’s round trip commute was 27 miles of city and Interstate driving. 

Both of the kids did very well in school.  Lisa was the first female Valedictorian at the Lutheran High, and Micah was the Lutheran at a Catholic School who was chosen to give the student address at the 8th Grade Graduation.  The kids were in endless sports activities.  Both played soccer especially well.  We got to know the families of the other kids, especially when they were in their elementary years.  Mary Ann was at every game, embarrassing the kids with her cheering them on (occasionally disagreeing with the officials’ calls — we actually got a yellow card at one soccer game).

Mary Ann volunteered at the school, especially the Lutheran Parochial School.  Her creativity made her popular with all the teachers.  She always loved most volunteering at the school library.  We provided the summer home for the rabbit and the chicken that had been a part of the learning experience in the classroom during the school year.  There was the requisite Gerbil and later, Hermit Crab. 

Mary Ann was a remarkable cook.  She learned well from her Mother and moved on from there.  As much as I loved my Mom and her cooking, there is no question that Mary Ann was a better cook.  She cooked great meals, but on occasion there would be some disapproval of the meal by one of the children, who shall remain nameless.  “This is what we are having.  If you don’t like it, make your own food.”  So he did!  Oops. 

I would hesitate to even begin to calculate the number of boxes of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese that were eaten in those years.   Lisa had her moments too.  Mary Ann shaped it differently and called it Lisa loaf, but I don’t think Lisa ever really fell for that.  Both kids refused to eat any meat that had any visible evidence it had ever been a living being — no bones allowed.  Mary Ann did have a mental block when it came to boiling eggs.  We were at Leonard’s Restaurant when she remembered.  I left the family there, rushed back to the house and arrived some time after the eggs had exploded all over the kitchen and the pan was ruined.  We lost at least three or four pans over the years — they were never salvagable after an egg explosion.  The smell was frightening.

The ice cream obsession was just a given from day one.  Desserts of any sort were a regular addition to our days. 

MaryAnn worked part time after the kids were settled in full days in school.  There was the Midwest Health Congress.  That one demanded her staying at the hotel in Kansas City where the conference was held once a year.   I, of course, had full responsibility for the kids during those few days.   I learned tons about what it means to have 24 hour responsibility for the kids.   I didn’t realize how much having primary responsibility for the kids care, 24/7, differed from having the freedom to move in and out, leaving the primary role to the other parent much of the time.   We did have one really fun way to deal with the challenge of mealtimes while she was gone.  I asked the kids to write down menu’s for the three or four days.  We made two grocery lists that would provide the needed ingredients.  Then we went to the store, each one had her/his own shopping cart and list, and each one went out on his/her own.  When we gathered at the register, the amount of food we bought was at least twice what we would normally get, but it was worth it for the learning experience and the entertainment value. 

One of the places Mary Ann worked for quite a while was called the Living Center.  The focus was providing support for families, Family Enrichment workshops, along with all sorts of other programs to help keep families healthy.  Since we still had one car at that time, I drove her to work in the morning and picked her up in the afternoon, right after picking up the kids from school.

After dropping her off, the ritual two or three times a week was for me to stop and the nearby McDonald’s for coffee.  I had begun working at Spiritual Formation, seeking times of reflection and meditation.  I decided to try an experiment.  I would bring in my Bible and a meditative reading (usually by an author named Ed Hayes).  I would locate a spot in the middle of the McDonald’s, drink the coffee, read the next segment of the Bible, which I was reading through at that time.  I would then read the same devotion however many days I stopped there that week. 

This McDonald’s was in a mid-town location, near the art district.  There were people of all types.  There were young and old, affluent business folks and street people, handicapped and healthy, many dads getting something for their little ones before taking them to daycare.  There was ethnic variety in all the groupings just listed.   The time spent in that spot tuning in to the life of the those gathered in my peripheral vision, took the message of the Scriptures, the message of the written meditation and shaped my understanding of the message my life was about.  If the Gospel did not have meaning in that setting, it did not have meaning anywhere.  It did!  I could write many paragraphs about the people I saw there.   That is for another time.  (I have written abouto the McDonald’s experience somewhere in earlier posts.)

Next, the thriving ministry during those years and the exploding controversy in the national church body’s impact on it. 

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