Tag Archives: The Handy Helpers books

A Rocky Start: Chapter Sixteen

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Monday afternoon, the girls found Gus sitting in a chair in the lobby of the senior center. “Why did the elephant paint his toenails red?” he asked when he saw them come in.

“I don’t know,” Laura said, taking the bait. “Why did the elephant paint his toenails red?”

“So he could hide in the strawberry patch.” Gus laughed.

“That’s a good one, Gus,” Amber said, smiling.

“Yeah.” Melissa laughed. “Very funny.”

“What are you girls up to today?” Gus wanted to know.

“We’re here to check the schedule just like we do every Monday,” Laura explained.

“What are you doing hanging around here?” Amber asked Gus.

“Watching for pretty girls,” was Gus’s answer.

“Have you seen any?” Amber asked.

“Yeah.” Gus smiled. “Three beautiful girls just walked through the door.”

“Where?” Amber looked around.

“He means us, silly,” Melissa said, fluffing out her hair. “You’re sweet, Gus.”

“See you later,” Amber said, and then added, “alligator.”

“After ’while, crocodile,” Gus answered back.

 

Walt was just putting the schedule up on the bulletin board when the girls walked up. “We’re giving you a week off,” Walt announced. “You worked pretty hard last week. We think you deserve a break.”

“That’s really nice,” Laura said. “But we like working here.”

“There’s more,” Walt continued. “On Saturday, we’re having an appreciation lunch for you and the boys. Where are they, by the way?”

“Oh, they’ll be a little late,” Amber said. “They stayed after school for something.”

“Could you let them know about the luncheon? It’ll be at noon on Saturday.”

“Sure, we’ll let them know,” Laura assured him.

“Okay, spill the beans,” Laura turned to Amber after Walt left. “Why are the boys staying after school?”

“They’re probably waiting for Spike. He had to serve detention,” Amber said with a grin. “Ms. McGuire asked me to see her after school. When I walked in the room, I saw Spike sitting at his desk with his head down.”

“Why, what did he do?” Laura wanted to know more.

“What I heard was that he was pretending to be Ms. McGuire. You know that act he does,” Melissa chimed in.

“Yeah, I’ve seen him do that,” Laura said. “That’s why he got detention?”

“He was clapping his hands and saying, ‘Now class, settle down. Settle down. I have some great news. You’re going to get to do fifty pages of homework tonight. Isn’t that exciting?’ He didn’t see Ms. McGuire come in with two other teachers. She probably would have laughed it off, but I guess she didn’t want the other teachers to think she was a pushover, so she gave him detention.”

“What about Chris and Logan?” Laura asked. “Why aren’t they here?”

“They probably waited for Spike,” Amber said. “They’ll all show up together. They’re like the three musketeers.”

“Don’t you mean the three stooges?” Melissa laughed.

Even though they knew their names were not on the schedule, the girls walked over to the bulletin board and looked at it anyway. “I’ve got a great idea,” Melissa said excitedly as she looked down the list of jobs. “Watch this.” Melissa pulled a pencil out of her book bag and wrote something on one of the empty lines on the schedule. When she was finished, Amber and Laura saw that she had written “Three Handy Guys” next to the assignment to clean the restrooms, and then she had checked the box for Tuesday.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Laura said. “We’re going to get in trouble.”

“It’s just a joke, right?” Amber asked. “You’re going to erase it, aren’t you?”

“I am going to erase it after the guys see it,” Melissa said. “Don’t be chicken. This is going to be fun. Just wait and see what happens tomorrow.” Melissa pulled her two friends into a doorway where they wouldn’t be seen. “We’ll wait here until the boys come.”

A few minutes later, they watched from their hiding place as the Three Handy Guys came through the front door and headed for the bulletin board.

“Clean the restrooms?” Chris said with surprise. “We’ve never had that job before.”

“How hard could it be?” Spike reassured him. “We can handle that with no problem. I know where all the cleaning supplies are.”

Just then, Walt came out of his office. “Did the girls tell you about Saturday?” he asked.

“No, we haven’t seen them,” Logan said. “What’s happening Saturday?”

“We’re having an appreciation lunch for all of you,” Walt told them. “Be here at noon and enjoy a feast.”

“Thanks,” they all said. “We will.”

The girls watched as the boys left. Then Melissa took her pencil from her book bag again and carefully erased “Three Handy Guys” from the schedule.

 

“Ask me what happened in school today,” Amber said with excitement that night at the dinner table. “Go ahead, ask me. You aren’t going to believe it!”

“Okay, Fred, tell us what happened in school today,” John said with a chuckle. “You look like you’re about to explode.”

“You remember that big math assignment we had to do?” Amber asked her family.

“The one I helped you with?” Kyle said smugly. “Let me guess, you got a passing grade on it.”

“Well, I did,” Amber went on, “But that’s not it. In math today, Ms. McGuire told us what happened to that assignment. She took it home on Friday so she could grade the papers. On Sunday morning, she was looking out in her backyard. There was a lot of white stuff all over her yard. When she went to see what it was, she found our math papers in shreds. Her dog had dragged them out through his doggy door. He was in the backyard with some of our papers in his front paws. He was chewing on them like they were a T-bone steak. Ms. McGuire said that she never believed students who said their dog ate their homework, but now she does. After school, she told me she was giving me credit for the homework Domino ate.”

“Do you have to do the big assignment over again?” Mary asked with concern.

“No, I don’t.” Amber smiled proudly. “Fortunately, Ms. McGuire had already graded the papers and recorded the scores. She said that anyone who had at least 75 percent on the homework would not have to do it again. Anyone who had less than that was going to have to do it again anyway. I got an 88, so I’m fine.”

“Good going, sis.” Kyle patted her on the back.

“That’s quite a story,” John said. “I wonder if her dog is Domino’s brother.”

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Fifteen Continued

Amber

Sunday morning, Amber realized she hadn’t checked on the bird family for a while. When she looked out the window, she was disappointed to see that the nest was empty.

“I didn’t even get a chance to say good-bye,” she groaned to her family at breakfast.

“That’s the way children are,” her father said, pretending to be serious. “You dedicate yourself to feeding and sheltering them, and as soon as they get out on their own, they move away and forget all about you.”

“I’ll never do that.” Amber hugged her dad around the neck from behind his chair. “I’m going to stay right here in Bluesky for the rest of my life.”

“I wouldn’t plan so far ahead,” Mary warned. “Things change, even in Bluesky.”

Amber was wishing that she could avoid going to church that Sunday morning. She was convinced that the boys were responsible for everything that had happened at the senior center. After all, they started it. And she was feeling that her own actions were justified. She hadn’t told her friends that she was the one who cut the holes in the bags of shredding, and she didn’t see any reason why they needed to know. As far as they were concerned, it was them against the Three Handy Guys. Going to church might just cloud her thinking with talk about loving your enemies. She didn’t see how she could be expected to love those three guys after what they had done.

Pretending to be sick was an option Amber considered only briefly. She knew better than to try it. That was a lesson she learned when she was seven. Kyle had warned her to never try to fool their mother by pretending to be sick, but Amber still had to find out for herself the hard way. A book report was due, and Amber hadn’t even finished reading the book, let alone write the book report. She thought about asking her teacher, Mrs. Bennett, for more time, but she was afraid her teacher would figure out that she had put off reading the book until it was too late to finish it before the book report was due. Mrs. Bennett might even tell her mother. Then she’d be in more trouble. Staying home from school seemed like the perfect answer. It would give her time to finish reading and write her report. Her teacher would never know.

Amber stood in front of the mirror for ten minutes practicing her “sick face.” Finally, she thought she was convincing enough to go downstairs. Walking up to her mother in the kitchen, Amber held one hand over her mouth and gagged a little. With the other hand, she held her stomach. “I don’t feel good,” she said in a sad little voice.

Mary put her hand to Amber’s forehead. “You don’t feel hot,” Mary said. “Maybe you’ll feel better after you eat breakfast.”

At the words “eat breakfast,” Amber ran to the bathroom and made noises as if she was throwing up. “I don’t think I can eat breakfast,” she said when she came back into the kitchen. “I think I should stay home today.”

“Okay,” Mary said after a moment of thought. “Go upstairs and put on your pajamas. I’ll be right up.”

Amber was sitting on the edge of her bed in her pajamas when her mother came into the room. “I called the office to say I wouldn’t be in,” Mary said. “Let’s get you into bed.”

“I didn’t think you would have to miss work.” Amber sounded worried. “I . . . I can stay home by myself.”

“That’s not going to happen,” Mary assured her. “Now lie down. I’ll turn out the lights, and you just rest.”

“Can I read my book?” Amber asked.

“Oh, no, you’re sick,” Mary said seriously. “You need lots of sleep so you can get well. Now close your eyes. I’ll take your book so you won’t be tempted to read. You need complete rest.”

After a few hours, Amber was feeling very hungry. Much to her relief, her mom came in with a tray of food.

“Do you think you could eat a little now?” Mary asked.

“I think so,” Amber said weakly. “At least I can try. What is it?”

“Milk toast,” Mary announced. “It’s just what the doctor ordered.”

“He did?” Amber said, amazed.

“That’s just an expression,” Mary explained. “It means this is the perfect thing for you to eat while you’re sick.”

Amber stared at the soggy bread floating in warm milk. “Yuck,” she said after her mother left. She poked at it with her spoon and then put the spoon down on the tray. By the time her mother returned, the milk was cool and the bread had turned to mush.

“You didn’t eat much,” Mary said. “I guess you’re still not feeling well. A little more sleep will fix you up.”

An hour later, Mary returned with a glass of warm green Jell-O. “Still can’t eat?” Mary asked when Amber put the Jell-O down without taking a sip. “Not that,” Amber said, pointing toward the Jell-O.

Mary started out of the room. “Mom.” Amber’s voice shook. “I  . . . I have something to tell you.”

“Let me guess.” Mary laughed. “You’re not really sick.”

“How did you know?” Amber asked.

“Kyle tried the same thing when he was about your age. I was sure he had warned you.”

“He did,” Amber said. “But I thought I would be better at it than he was.”

“Why didn’t you want to go to school today?” Mary asked. “I’m sure you must have had a very good reason.”

“I have a book report that’s due today. I didn’t get it finished. I thought I could finish it while I was home sick. Then I could take it to school tomorrow.”

“I guess it didn’t exactly work out as you had planned.” Mary laughed.

“No, it didn’t,” Amber sighed. “I would still like to finish my book report, though.”

“I hope you learned something from this experience.” Mary laughed again.

“I sure did,” Amber said. “I learned that pretending to be sick doesn’t work with a mom like you.”

“I was hoping you learned something like ‘Honesty is the best policy,’” Mary pointed out.

“I did,” Amber said. “I really did. I’ll never try that again.”

“Here’s your book,” Mary said. “Happy reading.”

“Mom,” Amber called as her mother started out the door. “Can I have something to eat?”

“Of course,” Mary said. “You must be really hungry. How about a nice peanut butter and jelly sandwich?”

“Thanks,” Amber said with a sigh of relief.

The next day, Amber proudly handed her book report to Mrs. Bennett.

“Wow,” Mrs. Bennett said. “You’re turning it in two days early.”

“What?” Amber asked, confused. “I thought the book reports were due yesterday.”

“Don’t you remember?” Mrs. Bennett reminded her. “I extended the deadline to Friday. You still have two more days. I hope that wasn’t why you were absent yesterday.”

Amber slid into her seat without saying another word.

 

Much to Amber’s relief, the topic of the day at church was stewardship. The Sunday sermon was the annual financial report and a plea for an increase in the weekly offerings. Pledge cards were passed out, and church members were asked to pray about how much to pledge. “Please be as generous as God has been to you,” Pastor Evans reminded them.

The Sunday school lesson had also been about stewardship. Their Sunday school teacher, Mr. Moore, told them that God gave us dominion over our environment. That meant that we have a responsibility to use God’s gifts wisely. It was obvious to Amber that even God agreed she was justified in being angry at the boys. She was thinking that she had been worrying for no reason until Mrs. Snow came in just as the class was ending.

“I have a little gift for each of you,” Mrs. Snow announced. Then she handed scripture cards to the members of the Sunday school class. She had hand-printed scriptures on the cards and stamped them with pictures of flowers and birds that she had colored with colored pencils. Everyone made comments about how beautiful the cards were and thanked Mrs. Snow.

Amber read the scripture written on her card. It was from Romans 12:21: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” She looked across the table at Chris, who read his card and shoved it in his jacket pocket.

Elizabeth Sawyer, who was sitting on Amber’s right, handed her card to Amber. “Isn’t it gorgeous?” she gushed. “I’m going to keep it in my Bible.” The scripture read, “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice in it and be glad. Psalms 118: 24.”

“What does your card say?” Elizabeth asked Melissa, who was seated on the other side of Amber.

“Here,” Melissa said, handing Elizabeth the card. “Read it yourself.”

Elizabeth read the card out loud. “‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through him. Colossians 3:17.’ Isn’t that beautiful? Don’t you just love it?”

“Yeah,” Melissa said. “It was really nice of Mrs. Snow to give me that card.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Fifteen

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For once, the Happy Helpers arrived at the senior center ahead of Three Handy Guys for their Saturday assignments. Bob showed the girls what needed to be done in the kitchen. Everything had to be wiped down and cleaned because a health inspector was coming on Monday. Bob explained that the senior center had to get a good rating from the Health Department in order to continue serving meals. He really needed the girls to do their best to get things especially spotless. He asked Laura to help him wipe down everything in the kitchen. Melissa and Amber were given the job of folding up the tables and chairs so that they could sweep and mop the entire floor.

The two girls had nearly finished getting the tables and chairs out of the way when the Three Handy Guys arrived. They were jostling each other and laughing at something as they made their way through the dining room to the door that went to the back side of the building.

“Having fun?” Spike laughed as he watched the girls struggling to fold up the last table. “Come outside when you’re done, and you can help us have some real fun.”

“That’s okay,” Melissa shot back. “We like doing this.”

“Sure you do.” Spike laughed again. “We can tell by the smiles on your faces.”

“Would you like some help with the tables?” Logan offered.

“We’ve almost got it done,” Amber said. “But thanks anyway.”

“Boys,” a man called from the doorway.

Everyone turned to see Walt walking toward them.

“I need to talk to you for a minute.” Walt had a serious look on his face.

“I wonder what they did.” Melissa watched the boys as they followed Walt through the doorway.

“No idea,” Amber mumbled as she folded up the last chair and put it on the storage rack.

“I’ll sweep, and you can mop,” Melissa suggested, returning from the storage closet with the broom and dustpan.

“That’s fine with me,” Amber said. She took a bucket out of the storage closet, added floor cleaner, and filled the bucket with water.

Melissa started sweeping the far section of the dining room. As she finished a section, Amber came in behind her and mopped the area. When she had finished sweeping the entire floor, Melissa walked toward the kitchen to empty the bucket she had been using to collect the dirt as she swept it up.

Amber continued to mop the rest of the floor. Behind her she heard boys talking and turned to see the Three Handy Guys walking across the clean floor. They were all dripping wet, and their shoes were leaving muddy footprints.

“What are you doing?” Amber shouted.

“You missed some over here.” Spike pointed to the muddy prints and laughed. “You sure don’t know how to mop a floor.”

“She’s a girl,” Chris chimed in. “What do you expect?”

“We’d show you how it’s done,” Logan added. “But you girls think you can do anything better than we can.”

“That floor was perfectly clean!” Melissa shrieked. “You messed it up on purpose!”

“Bingo!” Spike said snidely. “Give the girl a Kewpie doll.”

“That’s what you get for cutting holes in the plastic bags after we did all that shredding,” Logan said with anger in his voice.

“We know it was you,” Chris added. “No one else would have done it.”

“I have no idea what you are talking about,” Melissa said. “Do you?” she asked Amber.

“No.” Amber shook her head. “No idea at all.”

“You’re trying to get us kicked out so you can take over,” Spike stormed. “But you won’t get away with it!”

The boys continued across the floor, leaving more footprints as they went and even shaking water and mud from their pants. Amber followed behind, mopping up as best as she could.

“You’d better go get some fresh water,” Melissa suggested. “You’re just smearing the mud around.”

Amber carried the bucket full of muddy water into the kitchen. Bob had the back door open so that he could take out the trash. Through the door, Amber saw the van, sparkling clean and white. She looked at the bucket in her hands and back at the van. Before she knew what she was doing, the muddy water was splashed all over the van.

“I can’t believe you did that!” Laura gasped.

“I can,” Melissa said. “You should have heard how those boys talked to us.”

“You mean Spike?” Laura asked.

“I mean all three of them,” Melissa continued. “They accused us of cutting holes in the bags with the shredded paper. Can you imagine?”

“Why would they think we would do that?” Laura looked from Melissa to Amber.

“They think we’re trying to take over,” Melissa told her. “That we’re intentionally trying to get them in trouble!”

“We’d better get the floor clean before Bob comes back,” Amber pointed out. “We might get in trouble if he sees this muddy floor. It would be our word against the boys. Bob might not believe us.”

Melissa and Laura grabbed mops and helped Amber clean up the mud. They were just closing the door on the storage room when Bob came into the dining area.

“Wow!” he exclaimed. “You girls did a really nice job. Everything is so clean and shiny. I’m sure we’ll get an A rating from the Health Department.”

The girls turned to look at him, but didn’t say anything. “Here,” he said, handing them each a paper bag. “I can’t do much to say thanks, but at least I can give you lunch. It’s a beautiful day. Why don’t you eat your lunch outside on a picnic table?”

Laura chose a picnic table in the shade and sat down. Amber and Melissa followed her and sat across the table. They started unpacking the lunch bags. Each one contained a turkey-and-cheese sandwich, some carrot sticks, a bag of chips, and two cookies. There was also a small container of juice.

“Can you believe those guys?” Melissa said between bites of her sandwich.

“I wonder what made them so mad,” Laura mused. “I can believe something like that from Spike, but Chris and Logan are usually pretty nice.”

“They probably cut holes in the bags themselves,” Melissa suggested, “and tried to blame it on us. When that didn’t work, they got mad.”

“Maybe,” Laura said, still doubtful. “What do you think, Amber?”

“That sounds logical,” Amber agreed with Melissa. “Logan and Chris would probably go along with any idea Spike came up with. They believe anything he says.”

“Do you think they planned it from the start?” Laura asked. “I mean hiding the spoons and the brooms?”

“I’m sure of it!” Melissa said firmly. “Then when we spoiled their fun by using those old brooms, they threw rocks and dirt all over the walkway so it looked like we didn’t sweep it at all.”

“They didn’t like it when we were assigned to do the shredding,” Amber pointed out, “so when they saw their chance, they spread the shredding all over the copy room.”

“We can’t let them get away with this!” Melissa smashed her juice carton with her fist. “We need to teach them a lesson.”

“I don’t know about that,” Laura said nervously, “We could get into more trouble.”

“Not if we’re careful,” Melissa assured her.

“What do you have in mind?” Amber leaned toward Melissa.

“I don’t exactly know, but give me time. I’ll come up with a perfect plan.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

Good Advice from Gus

rheddens_order_delivered_jpgIn Red, White, and Bloopers!  Spike plans a prank to get even with his sister’s boyfriend Todd, who is a bully. Though Todd is the intended target of Spike’s prank, it is the mayor who becomes the victim. Spike is ordered to do community service. Fortunately for Spike, the judge assigns Gus to supervise his community service.

Spike knows that Gus is disappointed in him. He is prepared to receive what he calls “the big lecture,” like the one his parents gave him. To his surprise, Gus doesn’t give him a lecture. Here is their conversation:

“I told you I wasn’t going to give you a lecture”–Gus smiled–“and I’m not. But I would like to share something with you.” Gus took a small Bible from his back pocket and opened it. Then he handed it to Spike. “Read Romans twelve twenty-one. Read it out loud.”

Spike took the book from Gus’s outstretched hand and located the passage. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

“Do you have any thoughts on the meaning of that scripture?” Gus asked.

“Forgive instead of trying to get even. Is that what it means?”

“That’s pretty close,” Gus said.

“So you want me to forgive Todd and forget about revenge?”

“You’ll have to decide for yourself when you’re ready to forgive Todd. But I’m going to ask you to do something–something I think will make a big difference.”

“That’s the kind of thing my parents say just before they tell me to do something I don’t want to do.”

“I want you to promise to pray for Todd every day for a week. I’m not talking about a sissy prayer like ‘God bless Todd.’ I’m taking about a big-man prayer. I want you to ask God to bless Todd, to grant him good health and happiness. Ask God to look with favor on Todd and take care of all his needs.”

“Can I ask God to give Todd what he deserves?”

“Only if you’re asking God to give you what you deserve as well.”

“Okay,” Spike said after thinking about it for a while. “I’ll try what you said, but I don’t think it will make any difference. I don’t think Todd will ever change.”

“Let’s just wait and see what happens,” was all Gus said.

Of course, Gus wasn’t trying to change Todd. He was trying to change Spike. Later, Spike tells Gus that it is not easy to pray for someone and hate them at the same time. Spike begins to see Todd as a person, not as a bully. When he gives Todd a chance, Todd comes through to help in a tough situation. Through the process, Todd and Spike become friends.

Most of us realize that hatred and revenge are destructive behaviors–and yet, we engage in them anyway. We even justify what we are doing by saying, as Spike did, that the other person needs to be taught a lesson. When we spend hours ranting and raving or plotting against someone, we give that person great power over us. It is not they who are suffering, but us. We are the ones who are miserable, as the person we are angry with goes on in ignorant bliss.

Last week I had an amazing experience at the Prayer and Life workshop I’m in. For the week prior to our class, we were instructed to write down anyone or anything that was causing us distress or had ever caused us distress in our lives. I wrote pages and pages. At first I wrote the big things, but then I wrote about little things as well. For the entire week, I poured out my heart onto paper. At our class, we offered our pages of misery as a holocaust to our Lord. As the pages burned we sang: “Change my heart, Oh God, make it ever true. Change my heart, oh God, may I be like You.” Then we raised our hands and prayed the “Our Father.” Finally we hugged each other, singing, “Shalom.”

I don’t know what I expected to happen, but the next morning I felt what I can only describe as a profound silence. I had never experienced such quietness in my head. This must be what it means to be in total peace, I thought. This week is our Great Week of Peace. So far, the peace is continuing. Sometimes negative thoughts creep in, but they seem removed from me, like they happened to someone else. I don’t know how long the peace will last, but I’m becoming sort of addicted to it. I hope it will continue as long as I live.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Fourteen

Image1-17_edited-1          The Happy Helpers raced each other to the senior center after school on Monday. Just as they were parking their bikes, the Three Handy Guys came riding up.

“Are you here to check the work schedule?” Logan asked.

“That’s why we’re here,” Amber said. “How about you?”

“We do that every Monday,” Chris replied. “We like to know what we’ll be doing.”

The kids pushed around the bulletin board to see what they had been assigned.

“It looks like we’re doing the shredding this week,” Spike crowed. “I heard Mrs. Snow say that you girls are too slow at it.”

“We would have gotten more done if someone hadn’t made a mess in the copy room,” Amber accused.

“Is that what happened?” Spike asked innocently. “That’s too bad.”

“It looks like you’re doing KP this Saturday,” Chris groaned. “Too bad.”

“What’s KP?” Melissa asked.

“That’s kitchen police,” Logan told her. “It means you have to help clean the kitchen. It’s the job we don’t like.”

“Because it’s girl’s work?” Laura asked.

“Because it’s dirty work,” Chris groaned again. “You’ll see.”

“We’re washing the van,” Spike bragged. “That’s the most fun job ’cause you can get wet.”

Just as the junior volunteers were leaving, Walt came out of his office. “Can you girls come in here for a minute?” He motioned toward his office.

“Uh-oh.” Spike grinned. “It looks like someone’s in trouble.”

The girls walked slowly to Walt’s office and sat down in the chairs he pointed to.

“What happened on Saturday?” Walt asked. “Why didn’t you sweep the walkways?”

“We did,” Amber said, obviously concerned. “We swept all of them. They looked really nice when we left.”

“What did you use for brooms?” Walt wanted to know.

“We used the brooms we found in the shed,” Laura said.

“That’s strange,” Walt continued, “because we found the brooms stuck behind the vending machine.”

“We used three old brooms we found in the shed,” Melissa explained. “It took us a long time with those brooms, but every bit of the walkway was swept clean.”

“Let’s go look at the walkways,” Walt suggested. “And you tell me if they look swept.”

He led the girls outside where they were shocked to see the walkways littered with dirt, rocks, leaves, and other debris.

“Maybe there was a dust storm,” Melissa offered.

“There was hardly any wind Saturday or Sunday,” Walt said. “I don’t think there was a dust storm just here at the senior center.”

“We’re telling you the truth,” Amber pleaded. “We really did sweep it.”

“Well, I wanted to tell you girls we couldn’t use you as volunteers,” Walt said. “But Mrs. Snow defended you and asked me to let you have another chance. So if you can sweep the walkways this afternoon, we’ll forget about what happened. If you mess up again though, it’s three strikes and you’re out.”

“We can do that,” Laura said with assurance. “And if we have the push brooms, we can do it much faster.”

The Happy Helpers went to the shed where they quickly located the brooms. In no time, they had the sidewalks swept. Just to make sure there weren’t any more surprises, they brought Walt out to check over their work.

“Now that’s what I call a clean walkway!” Walt exclaimed. “Thanks for doing such a good job.”

Amber returned to the senior center after school on Tuesday. She wanted to talk to Mrs. Snow about what happened. When she walked by the copy room, she saw the Three Handy Guys busy with the shredding. They didn’t notice her, and she didn’t say anything.

“Hello there, Amber,” Mrs. Snow said as Amber walked into her office. “What can I do for you?”

“I just wanted to let you know that we really did sweep the walkways on Saturday. I think that Logan, Chris, and Spike threw rocks and dirt up on the sidewalk after we left.”

“That’s a serious accusation,” Mrs. Snow said. “Those boys have been helping out here for a long time, and they have never caused any trouble. I’m disappointed that you would try to blame them for your mistake.”

“I’m not blaming them for my mistake,” Amber defended. “But I don’t want to take the blame for something we didn’t do.”

“We all have to learn to take responsibility for our own actions. If you girls forgot to show up last Saturday, you should own up to it,” Mrs. Snow said seriously. “Why don’t you think about that for a while, and we’ll talk about it again later?”

“Bye,” Amber said with a sigh. She walked back down the hallway toward the copy room. The boys had finished their work and left the bags of shredding on the floor by the door. Amber noticed a pair of scissors on the table. Before she had time to talk herself out of it, Amber turned one of the bags over and cut a large hole in the bottom. She did the same thing with the other three bags. Then she left the bags upright, as she had found them.

Riding home on her bike, Amber thought about returning to the senior center and telling Mrs. Snow what she had done. But she didn’t think she could face having her say that she was disappointed again. Maybe she would even take her name off the list of volunteers. The knot in the pit of Amber’s stomach grew larger as she decided there was nothing she could do. It’s because of my ADHD, Amber reasoned to herself. Sometimes I act impulsively. I can’t help it. It’s not really my fault.

“You’re awfully quiet,” Mary said to Amber at dinner. “Are you feeling okay?”

“I’m fine,” Amber assured her. “I have a big math assignment that’s due on Friday. Can I be excused so I can get to work on it?”

“Doing your homework without being reminded.” Mary smiled, “That’s a pleasant surprise.”

At least Amber hadn’t lied to her mother about the homework. She did have an important math assignment. Ms. McGuire had told the class that the assignment would help them prepare for the fourth-grade math test they would be taking in a few weeks. Anyone who didn’t complete the assignment would face serious consequences, including several days of after-school detention to finish the work.

Amber did her best to concentrate on her homework, but it seemed like every noise distracted her—the television downstairs, her family talking, even the birds outside her window. After about twenty minutes, she realized she had only finished one problem. Amber remembered a trick her teacher taught her in third grade. Digging in her desk drawer, she found her timer. After setting the time for one hour, Amber went back to work. If she could make herself concentrate for one hour, she should be able to get at least two pages done.

Kyle walked by her room just as the timer went off. “How’s it going, sis?”

“Okay, I think,” Amber said, looking at the work she had finished. “I have three pages done! I can’t believe it!”

“Want me to check them for you?” Kyle asked. Without waiting for an answer, Kyle took the math pages from her and scanned them. “I don’t see any glaring errors. It looks like you are doing them right.”

“Thanks,” Amber said, pleased with herself. “I’m kind of tired. I think I’ll go to bed early.”

“Good night,” Kyle said.

“Good night.” Amber yawned. “Thanks for helping.”

As Amber got dressed for bed, she started thinking about what happened at the senior center. Before she turned out the light, she picked up the little spider plant she had brought home from Doris Duncan’s.

“You’re lucky you’re a plant,” she said. “All you do is sit here and grow. You can’t mess up like people do. I wish I could trade places with you right now.”

Amber was surprised to find Melissa at her front door as she was leaving for school on Friday morning. She had her hair piled up in curls on the top of her head. Amber couldn’t help but notice the boots that came to her knees and the six bracelets that sparkled on her arms. A wide silver belt went around her white flowing blouse, and a large necklace dangled around her neck over the top of a scarf.

“Did you stop by so we could ride to school together?” Amber asked.

“Yeah.” Melissa seemed distracted. “But first I need your help with something. Do you still have some of those fish we got out of the pond? I have a plastic container, and I need to put some fish in it.”

“I think so,” Amber said. “We can go out and look.”

The two girls went through the sliding door to Amber’s backyard. Swimming around in the pool were a few little fish. Melissa squatted down next to the pool and tried to scoop up some fish. At first all she got was water, but on her fourth try, she had a tiny fish in her container.

“That’ll have to do,” Melissa said.

“What do you need it for?” Amber asked.

“I have to give my report today,” Melissa reminded her. “I didn’t have much time to work on it. I had that big math assignment to do.”

“I’ve got mine right here.” Amber pointed to her book bag. “I didn’t leave it anywhere that Domino could get to it.”

The girls had to hurry to get to school. They arrived just as the first bell was ringing. As they took their seats in the classroom, Ms. McGuire started recapping some of the highlights of their career unit. She talked about the guests who had come to speak and some of the reports that had been given by students.

“Today is the last day for our career unit,” Ms. McGuire said. “We have two reports left. First we will hear from Chris Bishop and then from Melissa Peterson.”

When Ms. McGuire finished speaking, she motioned for Chris to come forward. He talked about different groups of people who work in construction, such as carpenters, bricklayers, and roofers. Then he talked about the job of the contractor and how he has to take the plans that have been drawn by the architect and build the house the way it was designed. “It is the contractor’s job to see that everyone else does what he is supposed to do,” Chris said.

Chris told the class about the different ways a person could be trained for construction jobs, such as learning on the job or going to college. At the end of his talk, he showed the class some of the buildings he had constructed from Popsicle sticks. Amber thought one of them would make a nice house for her bird family.

After Chris sat down, Ms. McGuire called on Melissa, who came forward somewhat hesitantly. “My report is on marine biology. Marine biologists study fish and other animals that live in water. They have to know a lot about science. The best part of their job is when they get to swim with the dolphins. Dolphins are mammals, not fish. That means they breathe air like we do. Some day I’m going to go to SeaWorld and swim with the dolphins. This is a fish I got out of the pond. I don’t really know what kind of fish it is.” Melissa held up the plastic container with the tiny fish inside. “That’s my report,” she said as she returned to her seat.

Amber saw Ms. McGuire write down a grade for Melissa. She was pretty sure it wasn’t an A or a B, or even a C.

“I shouldn’t have put it off until the last minute,” Melissa admitted at lunch. “It seemed like I had lots of time, and then all of a sudden it was here. Besides, I had all that math to do. Do you think Ms. McGuire will flunk me?”

“I think maybe you flunked yourself,” Laura said sadly.

“Maybe you should have spent more time on your report and less time planning your outfit,” Amber added with a sigh.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

 

A Rocky Start: Chapter Thirteen

Amber

Amber was feeling stressed when she went down to breakfast Friday morning. Her mother must have known she would be, because she was busy making chocolate chip pancakes, Amber’s favorite.

“Today’s the big day,” Mary said as Amber came into the kitchen.

“I know,” Amber said. “I’ll be glad when it’s over. Aren’t you going to work today?”

“No,” Mary said. “I’m taking today off.”

“Why?” Amber asked.

“I just want a day off,” Mary said cheerfully. “I’m entitled to a day off now and then.”

When she had finished her pancakes, Amber went back upstairs to get her book bag. She took a quick peek out the window to check on her bird family. Only two of the babies were in the nest. Amber was worried until she spotted another baby on a lower branch. “I guess you can fly now,” she said to the baby birds. “You’ll be flying away soon, won’t you?”

Amber arrived at school a little early. She went to her classroom and deposited a canvas bag in the back of the room. Then she went to meet Laura and Melissa on the playground.

“Are you ready for your career report?” Laura asked.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Amber said with a sigh. “I thought you were lucky, Melissa, because you get to give yours on the last day, but I don’t think I would want this hanging over my head until then.”

“I haven’t really started on mine yet,” Melissa admitted. “But I still have plenty of time.”

“Don’t wait until the last minute,” Laura warned.

“I won’t,” Melissa said. “I’ll be ready.”

When Ms. McGuire called Amber’s name, she went nervously to the back of the classroom. There she retrieved her canvas bag. On it were the words “US Mail.” As she walked up the isle, she removed envelopes from the canvas bag and handed them, randomly, to some of the students. When she reached the front of the class, she noticed that her mother had come into the classroom and had taken an empty seat near the door. Amber tried to relax a little before beginning her report. She asked the first student, Samantha, to open the envelope. From the envelope, Samantha took a piece of paper. Amber asked her to please read what it said on the paper.

“The US Post Office handles about 177 billion pieces of mail each year,” the student read.

Then she asked the next student, Derrick, who read, “The US Post Office employs about six hundred thousand workers.”

The next student, named Bobby, opened his envelope and read, “The US Post Office does not receive any money from taxes. It operates on the money collected from selling postage stamps.”

When all the envelopes had been opened and read, Amber began her report. “Mail carriers deliver mail by walking a route or by driving a vehicle. The longest route is 176 miles and has 174 mailboxes. The shortest route is only two miles long and has 640 mailboxes. Mail is even delivered to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

“To be a mail carrier, you have to be eighteen years old. You can apply at the post office. Then you will have to take a test. The better you do on the test, the closer you will be to the top of the list. When there is a job opening, three names are chosen from the top of the list. Those people have to pass a physical. One person will be chosen for the job.

“I wanted to bring something to show you, like everyone else did when they gave their reports. I decided to bring a real, live mail carrier. So here she is. This is my friend Betty Jenkins. She delivered the mail for thirty years in Kansas.”

With that, Betty came forward. “I’m glad Amber invited me to come here today, and I was so excited when she told me she was going to do her report on mail carriers. Some people call it snail mail because it is much slower than e-mail. But if you get a birthday card that has money or a gift card in it, you’ll be glad it came by US Mail. Amber asked me what I liked best about my job, and I told her it was meeting the people on my route. They were always glad to see me, even when I delivered bills or bad news.”

When Betty finished talking, she asked if anyone had questions. Students asked her about being chased by dogs and delivering mail in bad weather. As Betty was talking, Amber looked at Ms. McGuire, who gave her two thumbs-up to say she had done a good job.

As Amber took her seat and Betty left the classroom, Ms. McGuire introduced Amber’s mother.

“Mrs. Snyder is an insurance agent,” she said. “I asked her to speak to you today about her career.”

Amber’s mom smiled at her as she walked to the front of the classroom. “Selling insurance may not sound like a glamorous job,” she began, “but there is more to it than just a bunch of paperwork. Insurance agents help families prepare for emergencies and plan for the future. We work closely with our clients to show them ways to best meet their needs. In doing this, we build relationships that last for many years.”

Mary explained to the class about the requirements for becoming an insurance agent. She said that college was not necessary, but many agents have a business or finance degree. She told them that in order to be an agent, you had to pass a state test, just like a lawyer does.

“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to speak to my class today?” Amber asked her mom when she got home.

“Ms. McGuire asked me not to,” Mary said. “She thought it would make you nervous. I asked her to let me speak on the same day that you were giving your report so I could find out what your report was about. You did a very nice job.”

“Ms. McGuire told me later that I got an A on my report.”

“I’m not surprised,” Mary said. “It was a wonderful report, and having Betty Jenkins come to school was brilliant.”

“Betty helped me a lot,” Amber said. “But having her come was my idea.”

Even though the boys had told them not to come to the senior center until ten o’clock, the girls decided to show up at nine. It was a good thing they did because the Three Handy Guys were finished with the mowing and were planning to do the sweeping themselves. Spike was especially surprised to see the girls there so early and gave them a sheepish grin. Once again, Hank was there with his video camera. As the girls walked over, he began putting it away in its case.

“Hi, Hank,” Melissa called to him. “Did you get more video for your documentary?”

“Yes, I did,” Hank said. “I want to show what good work you kids do.”

The Happy Helpers went to the garden shed where Walt had told them they would find three push brooms. They looked around in the shed for about ten minutes without locating the brooms. Behind the door, they saw some lines of dirt that looked like they could have been left by brooms that had been leaning up against the wall. They also noticed a handprint on the wall behind the place where the brooms might have been.

“That handprint looks too small to be Walt’s,” Laura said.

“But it’s not too small to be Spike’s,” Amber added.

“He probably took the brooms so we couldn’t use them,” Melissa said. “There are three old brooms back there. We could use those.”

“It’ll take us longer,” Laura sighed. “But at least we’ll get the sweeping done.”

“That’ll be a shock for Spike,” Amber added. “He won’t get the best of us this time.”

The Happy Helpers carried their brooms out toward the walkways, just as the Three Handy Guys were pushing the mowers toward the garden shed.

“Nice brooms.” Spike laughed. “Did you fly in on those?”

“We wouldn’t have to use these if you hadn’t taken the push brooms,” Amber accused.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Spike said innocently. Chris and Logan looked at him, but he just shrugged.

The girls ignored them all and started sweeping the walkways. The edges of the brooms were uneven, and lots of the straw was missing. That meant that they had to sweep the same area over and over. It took them more than an hour to complete the job. But when they were finished, they stood back and admired their work.

“The walkways look great!” Laura said. “We swept away every rock and piece of grass.”

“Walt should be happy with what we did today,” Amber said proudly. “It was a lot of work with those old brooms, but we did it.”

“We can do anything those boys can do,” Melissa touted. “We just proved that.”

As they returned the brooms to the garden shed, the girls noticed Spike leaning against the wall.

“Do you think he heard us?” Laura asked as they got on their bikes.

“Who cares,” Melissa replied smugly.

The girls had to go to their own homes for lunch, but they agreed to meet at the pond at one o’clock. Laura was already there when Amber rode up on her bike.

“You gave a great report yesterday,” Laura said as they waited for Melissa.

“Thanks.” Amber smiled shyly. “I had a lot of help from Betty Jenkins.”

“She’s so nice,” Laura added. “I’m glad we met her.”

“She told me she misses her granddaughters,” Amber said. “We’re sort of taking their place, I think.”

“Anything interesting in the pond?” Melissa asked as she caught up with her friends.

“We just got here,” Laura told her. “We haven’t looked at the pond yet.”           In spite of the spring rain showers, the pond was smaller than it had been the last time they were there. The girls were able to stand on rocks that had been submerged before. Now they could look into deeper parts of the pond. Amber had brought some Ziploc bags to hold any life-forms they wanted to take home for “research.” They spotted some tadpoles that had grown legs and some that were already tiny frogs. There were some other small fish they couldn’t identify. The girls filled the bags with what they could catch.

“What’s that?” Melissa asked, pointing to a yellowish-brown insect that had two long, skinny legs.

“I don’t know,” Laura said. “It looks like it’s swimming on its back.”

“Maybe we can catch it.” Amber grabbed one of the bags and waded into the pond. She made several swipes at the bug, but it was too fast for her. Finally, she gave up and climbed out of the pond.

Back at Amber’s house, the girls deposited their specimens in Amber’s little swimming pool. Then they headed for home.

“I heard you did a great job on your report,” Kyle said at dinner. He had gotten home too late from his away baseball game to hear about it Friday night.

“She was spectacular!” Mary said. “I was so proud of you, Amber.”

“You were a good guest speaker,” Amber said. “I was proud of you too.”

“Then I didn’t embarrass you?” Mary asked.

“No, but I was a little worried when I saw you there.” Amber laughed. “I thought maybe I was in trouble or something.”

“Fred, you worry too much,” John told her. “We’re all proud of you.”

“Find anything interesting at the pond?” Kyle changed the subject.

“We did see this funny-looking bug,” Amber said. “It was sort of light brown with two long legs. I tried to catch it, but it was too fast.”

“Did it swim on its back?” Kyle asked.

“Yes, it did.”

“That’s a backswimmer,” Kyle told her. “It’s a good thing you didn’t catch it. It would sting you like a giant mosquito.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

A Rocky Start: Chapter Twelve Continued

Image1-17_edited-1After school, the girls raced each other to the senior center. As usual, Melissa beat them, her longer legs giving her the advantage. Mrs. Snow showed the Happy Helpers the copy room where the shredder was located. She demonstrated how to use the shredder and stressed the importance of following the safety rules. Then she indicated several boxes that were stacked nearby.

“I don’t expect you to do all of this today,” Mrs. Snow said. “Just do what you can. When the shredder canister is full, the shredder will automatically shut off. Unplug the shredder, take out the full bag, and replace it with a new bag. Plug the shredder back in, and you’ll be ready to go again. You can stack the full bags over there.”

The girls took turns operating the shredder. One of them stacked the papers near the shredder. Another person would hand the papers a few at a time to the person feeding them into the shredder. When the container was full, they would open the door under the shredder and take out the full bag as Mrs. Snow had instructed.

“What if we were shredding money?” Melissa giggled. “Would you keep some?”

“Of course not,” Laura said, pretending to be shocked. “My dad’s a banker. Can you imagine if I was arrested for stealing from the Federal Reserve?”

“Well, it’s not money,” Amber said. “So I don’t think we have to worry about getting caught stealing money.”

“What if there are some secret documents?” Melissa continued. “Maybe we could be spies.”

“Well, we’re not,” Laura insisted. “Anyway, this just looks like a bunch of old invoices. They don’t even have names on them.”

“I’m only trying to make it more fun,” Melissa defended herself.

“Virtue is its own reward,” Laura said.

“What does that mean?” Amber asked.

“I’m not sure,” Laura told her. “I heard it in church. I think it means that doing what’s right makes you feel good, and that’s all the payment you need.”

Hank stuck his head in the door. “Mind if I videotape a little? I’m making a documentary about the senior center.”

“That’s fine with us,” the girls all said. Melissa fluffed out her hair and posed, but Amber and Laura just kept on shredding.

When the Happy Helpers had nearly finished with all the papers in one of the boxes and had two bags full of shredded paper, they decided to take a break and get some sodas from the machine.

They were only gone for about ten minutes, but when they returned, they found the shredded paper all over the copy room.

“What happened here?” Amber shrieked in shock.

“I don’t know!” Laura threw up her hands.

“It wasn’t like that when we left,” Melissa added. “It looks like the bags exploded all over the place!”

The girls went to work collecting up all the shredded paper and putting it back in the bags that were lying empty on the floor. It took them about a half hour to clean up the mess, which didn’t leave them any time to do more shredding.

“Mrs. Snow is going to think we messed around and didn’t get much done,” Amber said with worry in her voice.

“Do you think we should tell her?” Laura asked.

“I wouldn’t suggest that,” Melissa said. “She might think we did it ourselves. We’d better try to figure out who is doing this. Maybe we can catch them in the act.”

As the girls were passing the recreation room, they saw the Three Handy Guys. They were all doubled over in laughter.

“You’re the ones!” Amber said accusingly.

“We’re the ones what?” Logan asked innocently.

“You made the mess in the copy room while we were getting drinks.” Melissa pointed her finger at them. “That’s why you’re laughing.”

“We’re laughing because Gus told us a funny joke,” Chris said.

“Yeah, right,” Amber said with disgust.

“He did,” Logan assured them. “Want to hear it?”

“We’re not in a funny mood,” Laura fumed. “I don’t know why you’re trying to make us look bad, but leave us alone!”

With that, the girls stormed out of the recreation room.

“You probably didn’t know how to use the shredder and blew it up!” Spike yelled after them.

Wednesday, the Happy Helpers rode their bikes to Doris Duncan’s right after school. Doris was obviously feeling better, though she was still using her cane. They followed the same routine as the previous Wednesday, carrying the plants one by one to the sink and returning them to their places once they were watered. When they were finished, the girls reminded Doris that she had promised to help them take some cuttings.

“I have some jars here,” Doris said. “After you take cuttings from the plants you like, we’ll put them in some water in these jars. Then they’ll have to stay here for a few weeks until they have roots. After that we’ll plant them in some little pots that I have.”

“I was hoping I could take my plant home today,” Melissa said, disappointed.

“We could cut some babies off of this spider plant.” Doris pointed to a plant with long, skinny light-green leaves. There were thin shoots coming out of the plant, and at the end of the shoots were tiny plants that looked just like the big one.

“The plant had babies?” Amber said with surprise.

“That’s just what we call them,” Doris explained. “The mother plant grows stalks, and tiny new plants grow at the end of the stalks. That’s where the flowers grow.”

“Can we have a baby plant?” Laura asked.

“We can cut some babies off the stalks and put them in pots of soil,” Doris continued. “If you promise to keep the soil moist when you take them home, you’ll have a good chance of growing a spider plant of your own.”

Doris helped the girls choose their babies. She had them put three little plants in each pot, just in case one might not survive. Then she showed them how to mist the soil.

After that, Doris took cuttings from some of the other plants and showed the girls how to put them in the jars of water. Then they placed them on a shelf under a window in her laundry room.

“It will take a few weeks for them to root,” Doris explained. “Then you can plant them in pots as well.”

Doris invited the girls to sit down at the kitchen table. She brought out a tray with cut-up pieces of fruit and different kinds of cheeses. While they were enjoying their snack, they chatted about the Easter luncheon.

“What’s the deal with Gus?” Melissa asked.

“What do you mean?” Doris looked confused.

“Gus is always at the senior center when we go there,” Laura explained. “Doesn’t he have a family or other things to do?”

“That’s kind of a sad story,” Doris began. “Gus and his wife, Barbara, were one of the first couples to move to Bluesky. They moved here from Ohio, I think. Gus and Babs, as everyone called her, were very outgoing and made friends with everyone in town. Their only son had been killed in Vietnam, so it was just the two of them. They were really the ones who got the senior center started. Gus went to all the businesses and organizations in Bluesky and even some in Marshallville to talk about donating money for the senior center. Babs kind of worked behind the scenes, making phone calls and keeping records. It took three years, but finally, the senior center was a reality.”

“What happened to Babs?” Amber asked.

“She died of cancer two years ago,” Doris continued. “Gus was really lost without her. I guess the senior center is what keeps him going. That’s why he’s there so much.”

“He’s a great guy,” Melissa said. “He always makes us laugh.”

“Since he doesn’t have a family of his own,” Amber said. “Maybe we can be his family.”

“I’m sure he thinks of you that way,” Doris said. “Everyone he meets becomes his family.”

 

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

 

 

 

A Rocky Start: Chapter Twelve

Image1-17_edited-1This ought to be good, Amber thought as Spike walked to the front of the class to give his career report. As usual, he had used plenty of gel in his hair. But instead of a spike, it was twisted around in a style she had seen on members of some boy bands. She wondered if one of Spike’s sisters had done it for him. On his T-shirt was a quote from Neil Armstrong that read, “We come in peace for all mankind.”

Amber hated to admit it, but Spike actually did a good job on his career report. He talked about some of the earlier astronauts, like John Glenn who was the first man to orbit the earth and Neil Armstrong who walked on the moon. Then he told about the space shuttle and the International Space Station. Spike said that to be an astronaut, you have to be good at math and science. You have to go to college and also get training as a pilot. You have to work for NASA for five years to be considered for the astronaut program. Finally, he showed some of the things he got on a trip to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including a pen that can write upside down and at zero gravity.

At the end of his report, he took a bow, which brought applause from his classmates. Spike continued to bow, and the class continued to applaud until Ms. McGuire said, “Thank you, Michael. You can sit down now.”

After school on Monday, the Happy Helpers headed for the senior center to see what jobs Mrs. Snow had assigned them for the coming week. This time, their names did appear on the list for Tuesday and Saturday. On Tuesday, they were assigned to shred papers, and on Saturday, their job would be sweeping the walkways. Mrs. Snow came out of her office when she heard them talking.           “Hi, girls,” she said. “Are those work assignments all right?”

“They’re fine with us,” Amber answered for everyone.

“I was a little concerned about asking you to do something during the school week,” Mrs. Snow continued. “Are you sure your parents won’t mind?”

“We’ll be home in time to get our homework done,” Laura assured her. “We’re going to help Doris Duncan with her plants after school on Wednesday, so tomorrow is a perfect day to come and help out here.”

“Shredding sounds like fun,” Melissa said. “Do you have lots of papers that need shredding?”

“Actually, we do,” Mrs. Snow said. “Some of the businesses in town pay us to do their shredding. So you’ll be helping to raise money for the center.”

When the girls left Mrs. Snow’s office, they saw the Three Handy Guys checking the assignment list. Spike had his fingers on the Happy Helper flyer, but pulled them away quickly when he saw the girls.

“It looks like you’ll be working here two days this week,” Logan said. “We’re just working on Saturday.”

“We usually do the shredding.” Spike sounded upset.

Melissa glared at Spike, who looked away. “I guess Mrs. Snow knows quality when she sees it,” Melissa said.

“We’re mowing the lawns on Saturday,” Logan continued. “We usually start about eight o’clock, and we’re finished at about ten. You might as well wait until then to come and sweep the walkways.”

“Yeah,” Chris added. “There’s no sense sweeping them before we’ve finished mowing. We usually sweep them ourselves when we’re done.”

“Thanks for letting us know,” Laura said. “That way we won’t try to get here so early.”

“Yeah,” Spike added. “You can get some beauty sleep.” He glared back at Melissa.

Laura’s dad came to speak to the class on Tuesday. Amber was surprised that Laura hadn’t said anything about it. But when she looked at Laura, she realized that Laura was just as surprised as she was.

Mr. Thomas talked about the many career opportunities in banking. He said that some of the entry-level jobs didn’t require college, but having a degree in business or banking would be needed if you wanted to advance to a better job. When he was finished, Ms. McGuire asked if there were any questions.

“Do you own the bank, or do you just work there?” Melissa asked.

“I work for the bank,” Mr. Thomas responded. “I’m a personal banker. That means I help our customers with their financial needs. The bank is owned by a large corporation, not by one individual.”

“What do you do with the old, worn-out money?” Spike asked. “Do you ever give it away?”

“Very funny, Michael.” Ms. McGuire glared at Spike.

“No, that’s actually a good question,” Mr. Thomas said. “I’d like to answer it. The old worn-out money is collected by the banks and exchanged for new bills at the Federal Reserve Bank. Then the old money is shredded. If you visit a Federal Reserve Bank, for example the one in San Francisco, you can get a bag of shredded money as a souvenir. So in a way, Michael, it is given away. Which bills do you think wear out first?”

Several students raised their hands, but Mr. Thomas called on a boy name Steven.

“The one-dollar bill,” Steven said.

“That’s a good guess,” Mr. Thomas told him. “But that’s not it. Any other guesses?”

“The hundred-dollar bill,” a boy named Kenneth suggested.

“Not too many people carry those around with them.” Mr. Thomas smiled. “Actually, it’s the fives and tens. They are used the most and have to be replaced more often.”

Ms. McGuire thanked Mr. Thomas again. He touched Laura on the shoulder as he was leaving.

“Did you know your dad was coming here today?” Amber asked Laura at lunch.

“He never said a word. I was totally shocked.”

“He probably didn’t want you to get nervous,” Amber added. “That’s why he didn’t tell you.”

“He was really interesting,” Melissa said. “You’re lucky to have a rich dad.”

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

The Most Important Lesson, by Amber Nicole Snyder

AmberMy name is Amber Nicole Snyder. I’m in the fifth grade at Bluesky Elementary school. My teacher, Mr. Eller, asked our class to write about an important lesson we learned. This is my story.

Last year my friends and I started a group to help at the senior center. We called our group the Happy Helpers. I liked helping people and it was fun getting to know the seniors. We did what we were supposed to do at the senior center, but things kept going wrong. We were getting blamed for things we didn’t do. I thought it was because of the boys who also helped at the senior center. I thought they were making it look like we messed up. I started doing things to make them look bad. What I learned was that the things I did hurt the seniors I wanted to help. But that’s not the most important lesson I learned.

The people at the senior center gave me a second chance to do the right thing. They forgave me for what I did. I learned that people forgive each other because of love. I learned that God forgives us too because he loves us so much. But that is not the most important lesson  I learned.

Even though I was given a second chance, I still felt bad about what I did. My dad said that I had to forgive myself. That was what God wanted me to do. Everybody else forgave me and God forgave me, but I still had to forgive myself. Otherwise, that was like saying to my friends, “I don’t accept your forgiveness.” It was like saying to God, “I don’t accept your forgiveness.” That’s why I forgave myself and went back to being a helper at the senior center. That was the most important lesson I learned.

The Handy Helpers book series is available at Amazon

 

A Rocky Start: Chapter Eleven Continued

Amber

 

When Amber woke up Easter morning, her first thoughts were the baby birds. To her relief, she found them safely in their nest. Both parents were sitting on branches nearby. Amber noticed that the babies were covered with fluffy down feathers. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they would be learning to fly.

 

The church pews were packed with people attending the Easter service. The Snyders were not able to sit in their usual place, but were forced to squeeze in next to a family with two small children. It was an unusually warm spring day, and the ceiling fans were not adequate enough to keep the church cool. Amber did her best to pay attention to what Pastor Evans was saying, but her mind kept going back to Saturday’s events. She had never thought that she would enjoy being around older people like that. Already she had made so many friends at the senior center. They were all so nice.

In the afternoon, Amber and her family took a picnic lunch to the park. It seemed like everyone in Bluesky was there. An Easter egg hunt was underway in a grassy area. Some clubs had set up booths for the kids. There was a fishpond, a beanbag toss, and balloon darts. In one area, kids were throwing water balloons and spraying each other with water guns. Amber decided to stay away from that area, at least for a while. She didn’t want to spend the afternoon trying to get dry.

Amber started looking around for some of her friends. She knew that Laura was going to Phoenix for Easter. She hadn’t seen Chris in church, so she thought he was probably out of town as well. Just then, she spotted Melissa by the booths. As she got closer, Amber noticed that Spike was with her.

“I’ve been looking for you,” Amber said as she walked up to Melissa.

“I’m glad you found me,” Melissa said, although Amber thought she didn’t sound like she meant it.

“Hi,” Spike said. He was wearing a shirt that read, “Here I am! What are your other two wishes?”

“Hi,” Amber said back, waving her hand vaguely.

“Spike is trying to win me one of those stuffed dogs,” Melissa said. “He’s pretty good at darts.”

“That’s nice,” Amber said, trying to sound bored.

After watching them for a few minutes, Amber wandered away. She bought some popcorn from a vendor and sat down on a bench near the pond. She ate the popcorn slowly, occasionally throwing a piece to some ducks on the pond.

“Nice day, isn’t it?” Amber looked up to see Logan standing next to the bench.

“Really nice,” she agreed.

“Are you having a good time?” Logan asked.

“Sort of,” Amber said. “But there’s nobody here to hang out with.”

“Why not?” Logan asked.

“Laura’s in Phoenix for Easter, and Melissa’s at the dart game with Spike,” Amber said.

Amber moved over so Logan could sit down on the bench. Then she offered him some popcorn.

“No thanks,” he said. “I just had lunch.”

The two sat in silence for a few minutes, and then Amber started telling Logan about the orioles that had been nesting in her tree. She was surprised to learn that Logan knew quite a bit about birds. He told her the names of some of the birds that were nearby, and Amber started asking him the names of all the birds.

“I don’t know them all,” he said, “But my dad is a bird-watcher. I used to go out with him sometimes. It was really fun to see how many we could identify.”

“You don’t do that anymore?” Amber asked.

“He’s pretty busy. He’s an airplane pilot, which means he’s out of town a lot.”

Just then, Melissa came stomping toward the pond and plopped herself on the bench on the other side of Amber.

“What’s wrong?” Amber asked. “Didn’t Spike win the stuffed dog for you?”

“He won the stuffed dog,” Melissa said, obviously upset. “But he gave it to Brenda Davis.”

“Why did he do that?” Amber asked.

“Who knows why Spike does anything,” Melissa continued. “Anyway, I told him my other two wishes were that he would drop dead and that I would never have to see him again!”

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