We held two competitive events on campus yesterday. The first began at 11:30, when several of our staff squared off in our annual chili/non-chili cooking contest. Three recipes gained a ribbon and bragging rights, but everyone on campus was a winner when we got to sample many tasty efforts. I had 11:30 mass, and by the time I reached the tables at noon the early lunch crowd had polished off the top three pots. But the others I sampled were hearty on a cold day and quite delicious. Human resources pulled out some colorful piñatas and recorded fiesta music set a fun tone. We laughed about the Kleenex on the table for runny noses and the bottles of antacids for those who found the samples to hot. It gave staff from different areas on campus the chance to mingle in a way that doesn’t happen often enough.
Then at 1:00 the real drama began as the top six spellers in each grade (determined by an earlier competition in their classrooms) participated in the annual Spelling Bee. Fr. Anthony and I were the word givers, and alternated between the grades. Some words I was glad when the students asked for a definition, because that enlightened me too! A few of the matches ended quickly. When it got down to the final two in 7th and 8th grade the rounds went on a long time. When one of the students had a chance to win, it seemed they would miss the second word and give their opponent another chance. The winners now advance to the regional competition in Mitchell.
I was at the Hogebach Home (high school girls’ home) last evening when the phone rang. Trinity answered the phone and once she hung up, broke into Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus.” What happened? – because of dangerous cold and wind chill, Chamberlain Public schools called for a 2 hour late start. Almost every high school kid I know would rejoice with a couple extra hours to sleep in. How cold was it? When the William Home (4th-5th) grade girls walked home from the Rec Center after swimming, their hair was frozen in the time it took to walk 2 blocks.
Since our kids live on campus, and the snow isn’t deep enough to cause problems, we pressed on with our regular school day today. Recess was indoors. When we get a long stretch of cold I notice the students getting cabin fever, but our weather has had enough ups and downs that they haven’t had to stay inside for more than a couple of days.
We’re working on budgets and had to submit our list of planned capital expenses for fiscal year 2014. Because our staff have so many good ideas for improvements, our wish list is always quite long. Then we have to prioritize and decide what we can afford, what our facilities crew has time to get done, and what is most pressing, especially where safety and preventative maintenance are concerned. Our costliest projects will be the next phase of our campus drainage upgrade, and the tuck pointing of several of our large older brick buildings. Perhaps the ones I’m happiest to see are the remodeling of the last two homes on our list, Afra (1st-3rd girls) and Raphael (1st– 3rd boys). I know the houseparents who live with the children in those two homes have been envious of the improvements we’ve made to all the other homes, and excitedly await similar upgrades and improvements.