Our great summer: Science and reading

Mad Science at the Prairie Commons County Library.

Mad Science at the Prairie Commons County Library.

This summer our kids had more science and library activities than ever before.

In June, Vogt Elementary held a weeklong “Scary Science” camp at the school. Each day there was a scary theme, like making a mummy or eating bugs. The girls were surprisingly thrilled to be eating crickets, insisting that I try one. “They’re good, they’re really good!” they both kept exclaiming.

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Return to Washington

Every so often, Yoli needs to renew her Bolivian papers: her passport, her national ID, etc. Unfortunately for us, this work can only be done in Washington D.C.

That’s not exactly convenient for us, so we always try to turn it into a weeklong adventure.

The kids stand in front of the actual castle set, from the Neighborhood of Make Believe on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The King Friday puppet is a replica.

The kids stand in front of the actual castle set, from the Neighborhood of Make Believe on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. The King Friday puppet is a replica.

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Remembering Benjamin Israel

Higher education had a term for folks like Benjamin Israel: “nontraditional student.” That applied to him in so many ways.

Benjamin died Monday morning. I wanted to share a little bit about his impact.

I first met Benjamin when I worked at UMSL’s student newspaper, The Current. Unlike the rest of us, he was older, with many years of journalism experience under his belt.

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The space explorers fight over an asteroid

Usually I tell Josie and Joseph bedtime stories which star two space explorers named Josie and Joseph.

Tonight I decided to change it up. They laughed so hard as I told this story that I figured I’d share it with you, too.

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Merry Christmas from Ferguson

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What does one write in a Christmas newsletter after your little town has suffered civil unrest and become the center of international attention?

I’m not really sure, but here goes.

The first seven months of the year were memorable.

In April, for example, Yoli and I dropped off the kids for their AWANA class at church and decided to get away for a quick date night. We got a mocha latte and a snack and decided to walk along a trail at Creve Coeur Lake. We rounded the corner of the lake and just kept going. After all, how long could it take to make it back? But as the sun went down and bikers and joggers disappeared, we realized belatedly just how long a route it was. Our romantic walk became a race against time to get back to church that we will never forget.

In May, Yoli’s parents came to visit us. It was Don Hector and Dona Lucila’s second visit to St. Louis. They got to see the kids’ final days of school, Jadzia’s violin concert and the kids’ dance recital. We visited new places like the Science Center, the World Chess Hall of Fame and the Magic House. And we had a grand time seeing classic cars in old St. Charles (except the part where Joseph threw up all over everywhere).

In July we headed south to visit friends in Houston and family in San Antonio. It was cool to get a tour of my dad’s new business, called “City Plating.” We played putt-putt golf with mom and dad, the kids found frogs near Nan’s pool, we swam in the Guadalupe River (and so did my iPhone), we spent a morning at Kiddie Park. It was a great few weeks.

And then came August. Michael Brown was shot on Saturday, Aug. 9. That weekend was intense and surreal: I designed the front page of the Post-Dispatch each night, while watching on TV as my town convulsed with anger.
In those early days our family felt so sad and uncertain. What was happening? Many times we had difficult conversations with our kids. We prayed for the Browns, we prayed for justice, we prayed for peace.

I attended city council meetings and residents-only town halls. I learned of the cycle of tickets, warrants, and arrests driven by poverty. My eyes were opened to injustices I had been ignorant of.

It has been a long four months. The struggle in Ferguson has gone global. “Ferguson” is now a hashtag, a symbol known worldwide. Many people think they know our town, but they don’t. There is a resolve here to turn this tragedy into something good. To reform — and to rebuild, as we did after the Good Friday tornado in 2011.

I once heard a resident cite Esther 4:14, saying she believed Ferguson had been chosen for just such a time as this.

It’s hard to imagine a bright future. Yet we agree with her. God can bring change.

Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.

Josh and Yoli celebrate their anniversary at the Corner Coffeehouse in Ferguson.

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Ferguson Sunday Parkways

Just as I began my drive to work, I noticed they were having Ferguson Sunday Parkways just down Darst from our house. This is one of many fun events Ferguson holds in different neighborhoods throughout the year.

I had forgotten it was coming up, and that it was so close to home. So, I called Yoli and let her know.

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Ferguson’s children: Our voice

Jadzia and her Vogt classmates pose for a photo in the bandshell at January-Wabash Park after the concert.

Jadzia and her Vogt schoolmates pose for a photo in the bandshell at January-Wabash Park after the concert.

Drums. Singing. Shakespeare. MLK.

What a great afternoon we had enjoying the artistry of Jadzia and other Ferguson kids!

The event was designed as a response to recent events in Ferguson and throughout St. Louis. Students from across the Ferguson-Florissant school district and neighboring districts sang, acted, and spoke in order to bring peace, joy and love through the arts.

Jadzia and a number of her Vogt schoolmates participated. Here is a video I made of some of the highlights:

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Second Ferguson DOJ town hall meeting

Ferguson residents line up outside First Baptist Church waiting to attend the second DOJ town hall meeting.

Ferguson residents line up outside First Baptist Church waiting to attend the second DOJ town hall meeting.

Tuesday night, the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service held its second town hall meeting in Ferguson.

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First Ferguson DOJ town hall meeting

Ferguson residents line up outside Wellspring Church waiting to attend the first DOJ town hall meeting.

Ferguson residents line up outside Wellspring Church waiting to attend the first DOJ town hall meeting.

Monday night, the Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service held its first town hall meeting in Ferguson.

The town hall meetings were closed to everyone but Ferguson residents. The media were not allowed. Though I am employed at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I am also a Ferguson resident. I wanted to attend a town hall and I was allowed to.

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The space explorers meet the Borg

Borg and waffles

On nights when I am home from work, I tell the kids stories before bed. Because they are divided among two rooms, I usually tell two stories.

The first story is for Josie and Joseph, and usually involves me making up something about the two of them as “space explorers,” visiting new planets or meeting aliens or trying to escape from black holes.

The second story is for Jadzia and Ludi, who prefer to have an improv-style story in which they each pick a character for the story (like “a good dragon” and “a bad lamp”) and I have to make up the rest.

Occasionally, though, the older girls will overhear the younger kids’ story and ask me to repeat it for them. Tonight was one such night.

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