Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Blessings

Seth's nativity scene.  May I draw your attention to the three kings
on the right, a five-legged donkey, the angel in the sky, and Mary,
Joseph & Jesus in the stable.  He was very proud of this drawing
although he was a little concerned Jesus' head looked like an acorn.

Thursday, December 16, 2010


On Tuesday we were at the Meekhof's to sled; the only problem was there wasn't really any snow.  The ground was quite hard and frozen, however, and the hill fairly steep so some of the sleds actually worked.  The downside--the children's coats, snowpants and mittens looked as if they were worn sledding on frozen earth as opposed to snow.  The kids also had fun with the Wii, Nintendo, Legos, nerf guns and all sorts of things that boys (and girls) like to play with.

Even without snow for sledding, we enjoyed our afternoon at their home.  They have a beautiful older home in Lamont, MI.  Connie has her own little salon area in her home and cut the girls' hair which was a huge blessing!   While she cut hair we were able to exchange homeschool notes, stories of how we met our husbands, and just generally got to know each others families better.

We returned home and ate a quick supper and then I had to leave for the seminary wives  Bible study and cookie exchange.  The kids were so tired from the night before that Russ said all were in bed by 8:00 (including the two older boys!)   In the wives meeting we discussed the area of money and finances.  One of the wives began with a devotional on God's name, Jehovah Jirah--God will Provide.  She brought out that just as God provided a ram to take the place of Isaac, he has also provided a Lamb for our salvation.  And if we trust in a God who is willing to provide His own Son as the Lamb, shouldn't we also trust him to provide in the other areas of life? One of the discussion questions was to share a time when God had provided for you or your family.  I had so many examples I didn't know which one to share.  I decided to share God's most recent provision from last week when I had my mammogram.   Most insurances pay 100% of a screening mammogram, but a diagnostic mammogram goes toward your deductible.  We found this out last April when I had my first mammogram.   I had an area on the left that they wanted to keep an eye on so needed a 6 month repeat which is what I had last week.  I knew this one would also be diagnostic so we would again have to cover this larger expense.  We also knew I really needed to have it checked out and would worry about finances later.  Not only did the mammogram results come back normal, but I was told that a grant was in place for people like me who have high deductibles.  They informed me that they would bill my insurance and when it came back that it went to my deductible the grant would kick in and I wouldn't owe a dime.  Once again, God demonstrated that he loves to do "exceedingly, abundantly, above all we can ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Homeschool Update

Tonight the boys participated in the orchestra part of the West Michigan Homeschool Fine Arts Christmas concert.  The group actually has four orchestra groups--beginner, intermediate, advanced, and then the symphony orchestra.  Both boys are in advanced.  This concert featured band and chorale also so it was quite long.  I forgot my camera so didn't get any pictures of the boys in their cute tux shirts, bow ties and cummerbunds.  Of course we were in a hurry before the concert and didn't get one then either.  It was well after 9:00 when the concert finished, but we decided to treat the kids anyway and stopped at AppleBees for their 1/2 price appetizers after 9:00.  I guess that is one nice thing about homeschooling--you can decide everyone can sleep in a little more in the morning and just start school later!

In school we are working our way through Europe concentrating on three countries:  Norway, France, and Germany.  We finished Norway last week and are starting France this week.  We are enjoying several read alouds and other books as we work through Europe.  I think most were posted on the "What We are Reading" sidebar.  We read Snow Treasure which takes place in Norway during WWII, Annika's Secret Wish which takes place in Sweden (we also made our own Swedish pudding with a almond hidden in it), and now we are reading Rainbow Garden which takes place in England.  The boys have additional reading assignments including God's Smuggler and Hans Brinker.  Anna also read A Gift for Mama which takes place in Poland.  The older three also enjoy playing the Geography game together especially now that they have countries in North America, South America and Europe to identify.  I think they enjoy the challenge.  All can identify countries faster than I can!  They continue to plug away in math, English, science, and spelling as well.  A couple things I would like to add next semester are keyboarding and a more consistent current events time on Friday.   Lydia also continues through her Bible reader, learning the Jewish traditions and the books of the Bible.  She just started a math unit on telling time and we are looking at snow and ice in science--how applicable!  I am looking forward to a few weeks break over Christmas.  I have so enjoyed this semester teaching my kids and am grateful for the grace God has given me to teach them.  But I still need a break...

Tomorrow we are meeting with another homeschool family that we met through BSF.  Connie has five active boys ages 11-2.  She invited us to sled on a hill right by their house.  I just hope it is a little warmer than it was today or it will be a short sledding excursion.  Connie insisted we come for lunch so we will get as much school work done as we can in the morning and finish later in the afternoon.  I also have a seminary wives book study tomorrow night with a cookie exchange.   We are kind of starting the week running, but after tomorrow it should be calm so we can pack for our trip back to Iowa for Christmas!

I'll try to remember my camera tomorrow and post some sledding pictures...

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Seth just says the cutest (and sometimes profound!) things.  I am probably the only one that thinks that he is a hoot, but humor me and take time to read this post. 

His prayers are my favorite.  I love to listen to him pray because I never know what he is going to say.  I am left wondering what is going on in that cute little head.  I only recently started writing some of these down because I didn't want to forget them.

"Thank you for being a truer God than us."

"Help us to hate sin and our enemies and love our Christ."  We've talked to him about Matthew 5:44-45 since that prayer and hopefully cleared up the 'hate our enemies' part.

"Keep our teeth healthy"  I never thought about praying for my kids' dental health--thanks, Seth.

"Love our neighbors and God the Jesus, and hate our enemies"  Okay, maybe we need a review.

"Help our neighbors to be nice to us; that they won't chase us"  They haven't chased us yet, so this prayer must be working.

"Thank you for taking care of Mr. Pete in heaven"

"Help us to love God most...and money."  Okay, another verse that we need to talk to him about.  Maybe if we make progress on Matthew 5:44,45 we can go further in the Sermon on the Mount and work on Matthew 6:24 as well.

"Keep us healthy so we don't die when we are kids"  Amen, Sethie, Amen.

Other sayings/conversations that have amused me:

It always makes me smile to hear him ask if he can "log-off" or if someone can help him "log-in" to webkinz.  I didn't even know what that meant when I was 24 let alone 4!

S:  "I can't get up, my tonsils won't let me because they are tired."
M: "Your tonsils?"
S:  "Uh-huh, my tonsils...  Mom what are tonsils?"

Seth stood up on his chair after supper Friday night with his arms stretched out "Hey, everybody!  Are you thinkin' what I'm thinkin'?  MOVIE NIGHT!!

"Mom, you're a genius!"  (for buying Life cereal)

Laying in bed with Seth singing Silent Night at his request:
   M:  "Round yon virgin mother and child"
   S:  "No, you can't say rounyon.  That's not right."
   M:  "Well, what is it then?"
    S:  "I don't know, but try it again, mom"
It didn't go any better the 2nd or 3rd time and he got really frustrated with me (I even tried to sing Away in a Manger instead).  Then the next day we were listening to carols on the radio and Silent Night came on.  I didn't even realize that Seth was listening when he came up to me and said "They said 'rounyon' too mom, so I guess you can sing that."  Whew.  What does 'yon' mean anyway?

Laying in bed with Seth at night after watching Ramona and Beezus:
  S:   "I can't stop thinking about their cat died"
  M:  "I'm sorry sweetie, I know that was sad."
  S:   "No, not that.  I just want to know what they did with the cat food."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Christmas at Meijer Garden

 Last night Meta Moerdyk invited us to Meijer Gardens for their well-known Christmas display.  Everything was so beautiful and well-done.   Throughout the buildings they have several Christmas trees decorated for different countries.  Since we have been learning about different countries this year, the kids enjoyed seeing trees decorated according to cultures and traditions we studied.  We also enjoyed learning new things about countries and their traditions.   Here were the favorites:   Anna--Ukraine (she liked the spider webby look), Seth--Ireland (he liked finding the 12 days of Christmas ornaments), Caleb and I liked them all, Nicolas--Germany (he liked looking for the hidden pickle ornament),   Lydia--not sure, Russ unfortunately stayed home and studied so he doesn't have a favorite.

Seth also loved the electric train and trolleys that ran throughout several displays of older Grand Rapids buildings made with all natural materials (leaves, barks, seeds, etc).

The favorite of all may have been the 24 foot bronze horse outside.  Evidently this is one of only two such horses in the world; the other is in Milan, Italy.  Apparently Leonardo de Vinci had sketches of several horses in his sketch book and actually sculpted a similar horse out of clay.  He intended to have it made out of bronze,  but a war happened and not only did it not get "bronzed" it was completely destroyed.  Several years ago an art lover who heard this story raised money to have a bronze "Leonardo" horse made in Italy. Fred Meijer heard about this and was able to use the same mold to make this horse that stands in Meijer Gardens.   This picture was taken in the daytime but we saw it at night with the lights shining on it which was also quite neat.  I need to get a picture with one of the kids standing by it so you can get an idea of how big this horse is!


The horses and carriages that were giving rides throughout the grounds also added to the ambiance of the night!

I would love to go back and take pictures of some of the more intricate and interesting ornaments on the trees.  Just showing a picture of the trees doesn't do the experience justice.  I think Russ may want to go next week since he is done with school...?!?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Winter is Here!

Wednesday we had our first real snowfall in Michigan.  Seth ran around the house early Wednesday morning waking everyone up, "It's Christmas!  Christmas is here!"   I think we ended up with 5-6 inches.  Much of it melted on the ground/driveway as the temps were fairly warm.  The kids did enjoy playing outside especially since it was not that cold.   The snow was beautiful coming down--big slow flakes.  Not so beautiful to drive in, however.  Thankfully, we had no problems getting to and from the homeschool building for orchestra.  The meteorologists in this area predict 80-90 inches of snow this winter, most falling in Jan-March.  Isn't that something to look forward to?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Let Thanksgiving Overflow...

We enjoyed our short trip home for Thanksgiving and spending time with both sides of the family.  We have many blessings to be thankful for, not the least of which is family. As we spent time catching up on each others lives and reminiscing on the past it was humbling to see how God has worked and is continuing to work in each of our families.  We missed Cory and Lynn and family but are thankful they are doing well in Haiti. 
We didn't start back to school until today which was a very good thing.  (I am learning to relax a little about the homeschooling...)  We used Tuesday as an unpacking, catch up on wash, Mookie haircut, library, food pantry, grocery shopping day.  Wednesday the boys (actually just Caleb as Nicolas was home with the stomach flu) had orchestra.  School on orchestra day is always a little tricky so we just decided to start today.  I was all gung-ho but the kids had a little trouble attending and getting into the groove.  I mentioned this to Russ when he came home from school today and he said that I sounded like a teacher.  He noticed when he taught that students always had trouble coming back from a break and getting back into a routine.  I have empathy for all those teachers out there, and my classroom is quite small!
Here are a few pictures of the Herman clan:
Dad and Carol
The grandkids with Grandpa and Grandma.  The two on either end of the back row, Claire and Bradley, are Carol's grandchildren.  Her son Vey and his wife Pam who live Indiana have joined us at Dayton Oaks for the last several years.
The grandchildren

Mara with her boyfriend Skyler.  Mara is the oldest grandchild and a freshman at Dakota Wesleyan this year.
Doesn't this look like trouble?  These are Nathan's two boys on the left and Renee's youngest on the right.
Lydia with Kaylan, Philip and Pam's little foster child.
Straws and connectors--the kids have tons of fun with these

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Week Update

The weather today was quite a change from the last two days here in Michigan.  Sunday and Monday the temps were in the 50s and 60s, and today in the 30s and quite windy.  Yesterday just seemed strange--60 degrees, rainy with Nov?  Well, today felt a little more "normal" for this time of year.

Russ is looking forward to a Thanksgiving break.  I am afraid he will be up most of the night finishing a 15-20 page paper that is due tomorrow.  He spent the last two Saturdays at the Calvin library, so we are looking forward to spending time with him!  He has a week of regular class the week after Thanksgiving and then a week of finals.  (I think I have that right.)  I think I will be doing a fair amount of driving on this trip so Russ can study and catch up on sleep!

We continue to plug away in homeschooling, now starting our unit on Europe.  Lydia is not technically on the same unit curriculum as the older three, although we all enjoy the read-alouds and activities of each other's units.  Lydia's curriculum spends quite a bit of time exploring the Jewish culture--looking at their calendar, religious holidays, customs, foods, etc.  On Saturday night we had our own Jewish "Sabbath" at supper time.  We decided to have it on Saturday night instead of Friday night so we could use it to prepare for our Lord's Day.  I think it is fascinating that everything that is said and done has special meaning:  why two candles are lit, why the woman lights the candles, why there are two loaves of  challah, and why the goblet of wine (or grape juice) is overflowing or filled to the brim just to name a few.  Of course, the blessings also have significant meaning.   We had trouble finding challah, so we just had small french bread loaves.  Today at the food pantry they had boxes and boxes of bread from a fairly expensive bakery and wouldn't you know they had a loaf of challah.   Nicolas grabbed it because he just had to show the other kids that they really do make this bread!   Anyway, the activities can be quite a bit of work, but so much fun and so worth the extra time when you know they have learned something because you hear them talking about it later.

Tonight we had an "extra" seminary wives meeting at the HNRC church.  Mrs. Vander Zwaag  showed us how to make 5 minute artisan bread in the church kitchen, and then we were able to ask the pastor's wives questions regarding hospitality.  I found it to be extremely informative, practical and helpful--I even took notes!   Sometimes I think I have so much to learn about being a pastor's wife and I know the Lord is giving these women and these four years to me as part of my "training" as well. 

Tomorrow we take off for Thanksgiving, going as far as Dekalb, IL to Renee and Andy's.  Then we head to Dayton, IA until Sat AM.  After that we will be in Sioux Center until Monday AM when we will head back to Grand Rapids.  Please pray for safe travel and good traveling weather.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Our South America/Brazil Unit

The last three weeks we have been studying South America with an emphasis on Brazil.   Along with that we have been studying the rain forest for science.  The kids secretly put together a large rain forest mural, labeling the layers of the forest (emergent, canopy, understory, floor) and gave a presentation to Russ when he got home from school today.  They also graphed the difference in monthly rainfall in Michigan and the rain forest in the Amazon area in Brazil.  The best part of the project was listening to them work on the project from the other room.  It was so cute to hear the excitement in their voices as they planned what they would draw, how they would color it, and all their other ideas.  This, truly, is when homeschooling is fun.  Then I can forget that I had a 7 foot mural on the floor of my dining room all week (put away discreetly when dad came home at night) with rain forest books, colored pencils, and crayons all over the place.   I can shut my eyes to the other "clutter" caused by homeschooling:  the pumpkin seeds growing on the kitchen window sill, the world map hanging on the living room wall, geography game pieces strewn over the family room floor, and math flash cards scattered in various places throughout the house.

Just to show the size of their mural.  Caleb, Nicolas, and Anna each took a 1/3.
Caleb's third

Anna's third

Nicolas' third
Kids insisted I post some closeups of their favorite animals.  This is one of Nicolas'.

Nicolas' gorilla family.  All animals drawn are rain forest animals, not necessarily Amazon rain forest animals (or so I was told!)
Anna's sloth

Anna's gorilla
Caleb's tapir, capybara, backside of an okapi.  Note Seth's peacock in the bottom corner and his tiger near the okapi's backside.

Caleb's spider monkey tree

A better shot of Caleb's tapirs, capybara and ibis in the water hole
We always try to end a unit making and eating a recipe from the country we have studied.  Tonight we had Abacate Batido or Whipped Avocado Dessert.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Caleb's violin studio

The weekend I was back in Iowa, Caleb had a "studio" on Saturday with Betsy Van Zytfeld's string students.  This is basically a recital, but just for students--no parents allowed!  He enjoyed the Saturday and meeting her other students.  Thought I would just share a picture of that afternoon.

This is a picture of a picture, so it is not real clear, but you can still find Caleb in the back.  Betsy's son is the cello player in the back.  His name is Calvin and he and Caleb seemed to connect pretty well.  Betsy said Calvin told her he wished they lived closer to each other. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Week in review

I know it has been awhile since I have posted anything.  This week has been a "recovery" week for me.  For those reading that are not family members, I should explain that I flew home last weekend to say good-bye to my sister and family who left for Haiti on Tuesday.  Cory and Lynn, Kester, Elizabeth and Alexandra will be working with Mission Haiti with a focus on improving existing ministries and working towards offering higher education, especially in the area of Bible and ministry training.  They will plan to take their first furlough this summer.  This will be quite an adjustment for them and my family would appreciate prayers on their behalf.  I am sure they would love it if you would follow their adventures on their blog:

Although it was wonderful to be back in Iowa (all my siblings were home!) it was hard to leave Russ and the kids behind.   When Russ picked me up from the airport, he got out of the van to put my luggage in the back.  We were both at the back of the van and all of a sudden we see this little boy scrambling to get out of his car seat to open the door.  He couldn't move fast enough to get to the sidewalk.  He just ran to me, jumped in my arms, and gave me a hug that only Sethie can give.  It is good to be missed!

Due to flight issues on the way out, I ended up getting into Sioux Falls quite late on Friday night, and I needed to get up quite early Monday morning to make my 6:40AM flight.   That combined with several late night chatting sessions wiped me out.   I played catch up most of the week, both with sleep and homeschooling!  I felt like a zombie on Monday night at BSF and was quite disoriented at the seminary wives meeting on Tuesday night.  I think I finally felt like myself on Thursday.  Thankfully, the weather was beautiful this week--in the 60s every day.  We spent quite a bit of time outside--at the park or the Nature Center.  Today was cooler, however, and rained in the afternoon.

Russ is entering a busy time, so we don't expect to see him much the next several days.  He is working pretty hard to stay on top of Hebrew, so when a paper is due it is really tough to fit it all in.  He seems to enjoy where he is at and what he is studying (he had better!) so that helps. 

We had our Honda in to be serviced by a fella that goes to the Free Reformed church.  He was recommended by several people as he is quite reasonable/fair in his pricing and does good work.  He told Russ that the axles on the Honda were shot and that it appears to be "drinking" oil.  He recommended not taking the van out of town and keeping an eye out for another vehicle.  So, Russ and I are trying to decide whether now is a good time to just get a newer reliable vehicle to replace the Pontiac Montana (150,000 miles) and use the Montana as a second vehicle.  We have been looking but haven't found anything yet.

Today we just received confirmation that we are able to qualify for a heavily discounted membership at the YMCA.  That is an answer to prayer as this will give the kids and I an "out" this winter.   The city provides so many opportunities for fun things, but unfortunately we are finding that they may not fit into our budget.  So we will try to choose our activities wisely and take advantage of discounts when available.

So that is the news of the week.  We continue to "settle in" here in Michigan.  Sethie said this week that he has two houses.  "This house is Sethie's house and there is a Sethie house in Orange City.  But I still like the Sethie house in Orange City better."   I think this is the sentiment for all the kids, but we continue to adjust.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Full Weekend

We had a great weekend here in Grand Rapids.  Lots to keep us busy so we did not get too homesick (weekends are the hardest!).  Friday night we made the hour trip to Lansing to share a meal and fellowship with Kevin and Trisha DeYoung and family.  So fun to see how their family has grown as they just had Ian when they left OC.  We did recommit on the arranged marriage between Lydia and Ian.  Lydia did ask the other night what would happen if she married someone she thought was a Christian and he turned out not to be and was unkind.   Sometimes arranged marriages don't seem all that bad...

Saturday we worked hard in the morning to get some things done around the house and catch up on our instrument practicing.  Then we were invited by Dr. VanDoodewaard and his wife Rebecca to their place for soup and sandwiches before heading to the John Ball zoo.  They have two sweet kids, Anna who just turned 5 and Matthew who was just 2.  We had wonderful fellowship and lots of fun at the zoo.  It definitely wasn't the Henry Doorly Zoo, but I think it satisfied the annual fall zoo trip tradition.

Rebecca taught the kids how to blow into acorn caps to make a whistle

Caleb working on his whistle

Lydia makes a new friend

Taking a picture with John Ball.  Lydia kind of blends in but she's there!

The pelicans were harassing the ducks which was amusing to watch.

Aren't wood ducks beautiful?  My picture does not do this one justice.

Komodo dragon.  Take a look at that tongue!

Lydia's checking out a bear skin--head and claws.  What a brave Brie-Brie!

Bored grizzly bear.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Last Dandelion?

Seth picked this dandelion for me on Wednesday--the day it was warm and sunny.  I am sure it will be the last dandelion for the season.  But I started to think, how many more times will someone come in the house with their chubby fingers around a bunch of the yellow flowers saying, "Mommy, I picked some pretty flowers for you!"  My baby is growing up and I know I will miss the innocence of the child who thinks dandelions are pretty flowers.  I like having a little one that still counts to eleventeen.  I love having a little one who brings me play food to eat.  Who has an imaginary friend, Sally, and who thinks I am the "absolutely best mommy ever."  (After our day yesterday I know that is not true, but it is still nice to hear!)  So, I am resolved to be okay with crayons, markers, rescue heroes, cars, playmobil, legos, dress-up, Barbies, polly pockets, books etc. scattered over the floor.  I am okay with hand prints, spilled milk, tracked in dirt and sand.  Because all too soon I know they will all be grown up...