Monday, January 31, 2011

Anna is 9 today!

Nine years ago today, Anna Grace was born while 4-5" of snow fell in Sioux Center.   My first girl and my biggest baby at 8.0#.    How different it was and still is to have a girl after two boys, but what a joy!

Anna started her day with her favorite breakfast--fried eggs over easy with hash browns.   I made her a cup of mint hot chocolate with whipped cream and crushed Andes mints on top, something she has begged me to make all winter.  I had gotten up at 6:00 to do my Meijer shopping for the week and take advantage of all the sales and couldn't resist picking up an inexpensive, but springy bunch of flowers for my birthday girl.  We set them on the home school table and surprised her when she came to start her school day.  After school, lunch and piano lessons she opened her gifts while we skyped Grandpa and Grandma Bleeker.  She requested "dirt" cups instead of cake and ice cream so we enjoyed that for an afternoon snack.   Anna requested fettuccine with alfredo sauce, her favorite fruit salad, and lettuce salads for her birthday meal.  Always nice for a mom to have requests--wish they would do that more often!  Here are a few pictures of her day.

Anna's favorite flower in the bunch

Clock radio for her bedroom from Grandpa and Grandma B

Thanks Uncle Bryan and Aunt Becca!

PJs from mom and dad--how practical...

Dirt cups for birthday dessert.
Notice all the pictures of flowers?
I think they just look so bright and
springy which is uplifting
when they are predicting 8-14 inches of snow!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Week of Jan 24

Russ started a new semester on Tuesday.  He jumped right in with a Hebrew exam in Hebrew II Tuesday morning.  He also has Anthropology with Dr. Beeke, Homiletics: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament with Dr. Murray,  a class called Leadership, also with Dr. Murray, and Theology of John Calvin with Dr. VanDoodewaard.  He has Practice Preaching on Tues and Wednesday afternoons.  He had this class last semester, but just sat in and gave comments to those who preached.  This semester he actually prepares a sermon and preaches.  I think he does this February 8--he is the first one on the docket.   All these classes only give him 12 credits (these were the only in-classroom classes offered that counted towards his MDiv), so he will do a couple of classes independently late spring, early summer.  Dr. Bilkes is on sabbatical this semester.

The kids and I had a pretty routine week.  We started our unit on Africa, specifically studying Kenya and the grasslands/savanna.  The rest of the week included BSF on Mon night,  music lessons on Mon and Tues, Wed morning orchestra, some ice skating next door and sledding at the Meekhof's on Wednesday afternoon (yes, they had snow on their hill this time!), and a little running and BB at the "Y".  Last night (Friday) we were invited along with all PRTS faculty and students to Dr. Murray's home.    That was quite a crew to fit into their beautiful home.  The kids had their lunch first, then went outside to sled on a hill right behind their house.  The outside lights in the backyard lit the hill so it was pretty safe in the dark.  The Murray kids had built ramps and things into the hill for a more exciting sledding experience.  While all the kids were outside, the adults enjoyed a snack/lunch and a more organized discussion time.  I had made caramel corn and lemon bars to share.  Everyone brought a little something and they had so much food it was ridiculous. 

I took this picture on Sunday afternoon.  The sun/sky were so beautiful, maybe because we see it so little in the winter.  We did not see the sun the rest of the week.  It is interesting that Sunday was very cold and the rest of the week has been warmer--in the 20s.  So we don't see the sun much, but we do have warmer temps because of that. 

I will end with a few Sethisms for the week, some cute, some not as cute.

He smothers my face with kisses.  "Wow, buddy, what are all those kisses for?"  "You are so beautiful.  You just...look good." 

Prayer:  Heavenly Father, you are the sweetest God.  Thank you for being more faithful than we are...and you still like us.

When questioned by his daddy on his lack of obedience:  "Dad!  God remote controls us!  We just don't have batteries."  This was said very earnestly with arms outstretched. 

On another day when again questioned by his daddy on his lack of obedience:  "Dad!  You are not my boss!"  This one didn't go over as well as the previous one. 

P. S.  Mouse count is now at 5.  Ugh!

Monday, January 24, 2011

6:50 PM Monday

5:30 PM Chili and cinnamon rolls

4:45 PM 1st Lesson

4:00 PM Monday

3:30 PM Monday School's Done!

3:00 PM Monday

2:15 PM Monday

1:45 PM Monday

12:34 PM Monday

11:16 AM Monday

11:00 AM Monday

10:44 AM Monday

10:35 AM Monday

9:05 AM Monday

8:08AM Monday

7:53 AM Monday

Sunday, January 23, 2011


 Nicolas is probably the lowest maintenance child we have.  He is almost always in a good mood and is rarely bored.  He does bug us to play Settlers of Catan all the time, but other than that he is usually doing school work, reading a book, creating with Legos, setting up some elaborate Lego village or Playmobil castle, playing a game with his siblings, helping me in the kitchen, or outside making snowballs.   One thing that makes Nicolas Nicolas is his love of animals.  It is no wonder that he loved the Redwall series and Erin Hunter's Warrior series.  It is also not surprising that one of his favorite Narnia characters is Reepicheep.  He was busy the other morning fiddling with stuffed animals, and the above picture is what he came up with.  His own version of Reepicheep.  I thought it was pretty creative and cute--he even has the silver ring and feather.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Guten Morgen!

We finished our unit on Europe and our most recent study of Germany with our own Oktoberfest last night.  We cooked brats and sauerkraut and made German potato pancakes.  We also had baked beans (not sure how German they are.)

No German meal is complete without beer--root beer that is:)

After our meal we gathered in front of the fireplace for movie night.  We wanted to watch the Sound of Music, but both copies were out at the library.  We settled for the Return of Nanny McPhee.  After the movie we had our dessert--a German cake mix that I found at the food pantry.

It was a poppy seed cake with whipped cream and marzipan as the frosting.  Anything with a little almond in it is good for me!  It came with a stencil of Handel to put on top with a dusting of cocoa.  We listened to a little of Handel's water music while we ate dessert.    Dad granted the kids permission to sleep in front of the fire last night.  I thought that meant sleeping bags, etc.  Russ actually went and got three of the kids mattresses from upstairs to throw down, Caleb slept on the couch, and Nicolas slept, well, I'm not sure how he slept in that mess of bean bag, pillow, and blankets.  While they were all snuggled in, I read a few chapters from Hans Brinker.  I think Lydia was asleep before I finished and Seth was well on his way.   They actually slept until after 8:30 this morning.

Boy and his cat...

I think all the kids would agree that the evening was "wunderbar!"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Oh for a book and a shady nook...

Or a book and a comfortable chair, cozy blanket, and warm fire...but that doesn't rhyme.  We love books.  We love to read books, we love to buy books, and we love to browse through books at bookstores, the library, or online. Anyone who helped us move knows that we like books--we don't even have enough bookshelf space for all of them.  We think maybe we should get rid of a few, but which ones?  So we keep them all.   Neither Russ or I will ever be e-reader or kindle people.  We both like the smell and feel of a book in our hands.  We sometimes wonder if we are strange in our compulsion to buy books and line our bookshelves.  But then I found some of these quotes and realized we are not as strange as I thought.  Maybe some of you can identify with some of them.  

 Where is human nature so weak as in a bookstore?
 - Henry Ward Beecher

Wear the old coat and buy the new book.
 - Austin Phelps

Oh for a book and a shady nook…
  - John Wilson (1785 – 1854)

Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal.   - Lenore Hershey 

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. - Anna Quindlen    

Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
  - Sir Richard Steele

“TV.” If kids are entertained by two letters, imagine the fun they’ll have with twenty-six. Open your child’s imagination. Open a book.
  - Author Unknown

Books are not made for furniture, but there is nothing else that so beautifully furnishes a house.  - Henry Ward Beecher

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.
  - Mark Twain

The function of a good book is to stand like a signpost guiding the reader to the Truth and the Life.
  - A.W. Tozer

Book lovers will understand me, and they will know too that part of the pleasure of a library lies in its very existence.
  - Jan Morris

Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one."
 - Augustine Birrell

A room without books is like a body without a soul.
  - Cicero

No furniture so charming as books.
  - Rev. Sydney Smith

Tell me what you read and I’ll tell you who you are is true enough, but I’d know you better if you told me what you reread.
  - Fran├žois Mauriac

When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.
  - Desiderius Erasmus

God be thanked for books! they are the voices of the distant and the dead, and make us heirs of the spiritual life of past ages.
  - W.E. Channing

A blessed companion is a book – a book that, fitly chosen, is a lifelong friend… a book that, at a touch, pours its heart into our own.
  - Douglas Jerrold

A book is a garden, an orchard, a storehouse, a party, a company by the way, a counsellor, a multitude of counsellors.
  - Henry Ward Beecher 

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be -
I had a mother who read to me.
  - Strickland Gillilan

Thursday, January 20, 2011

This and That

We haven't had that big snow, yet.  We did have a few inches on the ground Tuesday morning and it snowed a few inches again tonight.  On Monday night it snowed a little on our walk to BSF, and we walked home in freezing rain.  The snow Tuesday morning was very wet--great for snowballs, snowmen and snowforts.  We delayed starting school an hour and all went outside to help clear the driveway/sidewalks and play in the snow.

I think he is sad because Frosty doesn't have a nose yet

Anna's snow bunny
Ready for a snowball fight!

Tonight I walked to the church in the snow again to attend the BSF "Personal Evaluation" seminar.  I have always wanted to attend more of the BSF seminars, but it was always so far to drive to justify another night/day away from home.  I hope to take advantage of the close proximity of the church to attend a few more this spring.  The seminar was shortened due to the weather, but that was fine.  The snow stopped, but the wind has picked up and the temperature is dropping.  We told the kids to do outside things today and we can to the Y tomorrow because it is supposed to be cold and windy.  Due to the drop in temperature, I am glad we didn't commit to ice skating with the Free Reformed Church homeschool group.   I did meet with the moms of this group on Tuesday night.  They opened with a devotional and then just talked about homeschool concerns and plans for upcoming ideas to do as a group.  They have a volunteer to teach an art class at the church one day a month and I think we may do that.  They also have plans to attend some plays, go to a farm that produces maple syrup in March, visit a taxidermist, and have a track and field day in the spring.   Most of their concerns were about keeping the kids on task and finishing their work.    Sure, I often need to encourage them to finish up before we can ________ (go sledding, go ice skating, watch a video, go to the Y, play a game, etc.).  I do not, however, have to take meals away from them or add extra work both of which seem counterproductive.  I guess we all have our styles.  I do wonder if being in school has helped the kids be more task-oriented.  If they are free from distraction they usually do pretty good.   The other problem they talked about was a lack of independence with doing their work.  I also do not see this as a problem with my kids.  They would rather have me give them their stack of books with instructions and go off on their own to do their work.  Even Lydia likes to be independent when able.   "This is how you do your math.  Do these four pages and come find me if you run into problems."  With reading and phonics I need to be with her to listen, but she does her worksheets independently.  I think this may also be a carry over from school.  I wonder if Seth will be different if I homeschool him from the beginning?    Overall, I think the kids are doing great with the homeschooling.  I am wishing I had more time for some things and more creativity with others.  Maybe all classroom teachers feel this way as well.  

We picked up a round roast from the food pantry last week and I had been wondering how to fix this tougher cut of meat.  I normally cook a chuck roast for a nice tender roast (my mom taught me well:).  Anyway, I found this recipe on for cooking a round roast.  It had 4 1/2 stars in 600-some reviews so thought I would try it even though it sounded a little different.  You preheat your oven to 500, then turn it down to 475 when you put the roast in uncovered.  You cook it for 7 minutes a pound (28 minutes for ours) then turn the oven off and let the roast set in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.  At two hours I got a little antsy (potatoes and veggies were on the stove and what if the meat wasn't done?) so took a peek at the roast.  The oven was cold by now and so was the roast.  The inside was way too pink for the likes of this family, so what do you do?  Well, we sliced it up and Russ fired up the grill and we grilled most of the red/pink out of it.  It was still tougher than a chuck roast, but it wasn't too bad.  We all had a good laugh but did enjoy the meal. 

Russ is gearing up to start his classes next week.  He is working hard on reviewing his Hebrew vocab and making a booklist for the bookstore.  That will make quite a dent in the budget.  Hard to believe we have all these books that we could possibly need more... Russ loves it, though.  Can't ever have enough books. 
More on that in the next blog...

Saturday, January 15, 2011


As I have mentioned on several posts, we have not had any "big" snows here in Grand Rapids, just 1-3 inches here and there.  We had been told before we moved about the huge amounts of snow we would have and just haven't seen it yet.   I noticed this article in the Saturday paper today that I thought was interesting.  I think I was also drawn to this article since Caleb has been studying weather and weather patterns in science.

Feeling out of the wintry weather action, Grand Rapids?  We may not be forgotten for long with a snowfall pattern shift on the way.  "Grand Rapids is kind of getting nickel and dimed--a little bit of snow here and there, and nothing too drastic at one time," said John Kowaleski a Grand Rapids meteorologist for the national Weather Service.  "But there's a jet stream shift coming, and we could potentially be back in the storm path for the rest of winter."  Until now, a northwest jet stream has been pushing storms south to the Ohio Valley, rather than on a usual Great lakes path.  Those north winds also blew lake effect snows toward the south end of Lake Michigan.  Just 21.5 inches of snow has fallen so far in Grand Rapids, short of the 32-inch average for mid-January.  Muskegon tallied 32 inches, short of its 54-inch average.  South Bend, Ind, meanwhile got hit recently with 28 inches in one storm.  Its season total is 70 inches--nearly average.  It snowed 6 inches in Atlanta, 20 times its normal.  "The jet stream is in the process of shifting now.  There's a big high pressure over Alaska, and it's shoving everything over.  These shifts usually last--it's hard to say how long--but for a month, anyway." Kowaleski said.  The region may reap results beginning Monday night and Tuesday:  the forecast calls for up to 6 inches of snow.  "this storm is on a different path--a widespread snow for all of southern Michigan--and it's looking pretty healthy," Kowaleski said. 

So, we'll see if we get more "big" snows now.  I know the kids would like it, not that it would give them a snow day or anything:)

Friday, January 14, 2011

School Day 82

We enjoyed another full week here in Grand Rapids.  We started our study of Germany, the last country we will cover in Europe before moving to Africa.  Caleb continues to plug along in algebra, his study of weather in science, study of synonyms, antonyms, etc in grammar, and descriptive writing for his Writing Strands.  Nicolas also continues to make progress in his studies--dividing, multiplying, adding fractions in math, descriptive writing in his Writing Strands book also, and most recently adjectives in his English book.  Anna just finished learning the cursive alphabet so we are working on reviewing the letters each day and then writing in cursive for certain school assignments.  She is working on borrowing with subtraction and most recently had to memorize a cute poem for English.  Lydia continues to work through several phonics rules expanding the number of words she can read daily.  She is making progress in her Bible reader and has the cutest Bible notebook with illustrations of all the Bible stories she has read.  She just finished a unit on fractions which finishes up all the math units she has this year.  Now we can go back and start over, reviewing and reinforcing and also expanding on concepts that she has mastered.  We are still reading Hans Brinker as a read aloud and mom is trying to come up with a fun activity to do after we finish reading the book.  I have a few ideas, but am open to suggestions...

We were all happy to be back in BSF Monday night.  What a contrast in chapters between Isaiah 34 and 35!  The major gist of my teaching leader's lecture was that we are all born on the Highway to Hell (chap 34).  How to we get to the Highway to Heaven (chap 35), she asks?  You have to meet Jesus.  He meets you as you are travelling down the road and tells you that you need to change highways because at the end of this highway you have to pay a toll for all the sins you have committed during this drive.   Now on His highway there is also a toll, but He already paid it for us.  The only catch?  He is the only one who knows the way, so we have to move over and let Him take the wheel.   I know--makes you want to break out in song, "Jesus, Take the Wheel," doesn't it?  

Tuesday night I had the seminary wives meeting.  We continued our chapter discussion on finances, this time focusing on unity with our spouse, stewardship and integrity with finances.   I volunteered to bring goodies, so came a little early to set up a table, etc.  We start at 7:30, and when 7:20 rolled around and no one was there, I started getting a little nervous.  Mary Beeke (leader) never showed up, and then Shonna Murray came in late to tell us that Mary was ill and asked another seminary wife to lead the discussion.  Shonna left to do something for Mary so we had no current pastor wife there which was unusual.  But the discussion and fellowship was good.  I am always so blessed by spending time with those from other cultures.  I realize how much I take for granted and how spoiled I am in my American lifestyle. 

Thursday night we made a trek to the YMCA to swim.  Caleb and I ran/walked a couple of miles on the track first.  The kids (and mom and dad) are a little frustrated with all the pool rules.  We have been there several times and are still getting called out for violating silly rules.  The kids are almost afraid to go or do anything in the pool!  I am sure we can learn something from the frustration, however. 

Today we were able to spend most of the afternoon outside.  We started out sledding and then came home to skate on the neighbor's ice rink.  I went in and whipped up a batch of cookies and hot chocolate and brought those out to the kids.  We were able to talk more with our neighbor Brian today.  We asked if there was anything we could do to help with the rink, and he responded, "Just don't call the police tonight.   I am having my Winterfest party and it could get pretty loud."   Okay...  So, he stops by in August right after we move in to bring us a jar of salsa and warn us of his Labor Day party.  Now, he is bending over backward to make sure the kids use his rink, skates, hockey equip etc., and is having a Winterfest party.  I definitely think he is trying to get on our good side!  His son, who is probably in his 20s and sometimes lives there said that they were pretty nervous when a "family" moved in next door.  First the house sat empty for a long time.  Then it was bought as a rental and became a party house for Calvin College boys (as indicated by the number of cans and bottles emptied out from under the porch, the decoration of the rec room downstairs, and empty beer cans in the water tank behind the toilet), then it was empty for quite awhile again.  So, imagine their dismay when it is bought by a family who moved because the dad is attending seminary!   I don't think calling the police would do much for witnessing to him,  so we will surprise him at how cooperative we can be.   I am pretty sure that does not include attending his party although we were invited "after your kids are in bed."  I noticed he had frozen sled forms with funnels attached hanging from his tree--for some interesting drinking fun?  I am so ignorant.

We also had a new refrigerator delivered this afternoon.  When we arrived home from Iowa after Christmas, we found out that the fridge freezer had stopped working effectively.  We had noticed before we left that things were soft and we thought we had fixed the problem, but evidently did not.  We did need to throw several things away.  Thankfully, we kept our meat, applesauce, and other stuff in the deep freeze downstairs.  This fridge had trouble keeping things cold in the summer as well,  so I don't think it is too much of a loss.  Nothing special about this fridge, just newer, more efficient and working!   Although I did linger a little at the side by sides with water in the door...sigh...maybe at a different time in our life.  See, there I go with my American "wants" again.  

Better go put the kids to bed.  They are quite tired from their outdoor fun (so are mom and dad)!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A Cat's Life

This is Smokey's new favorite spot in the evening.  What happened to the cat that only slept outside or in the garage?  I guess Mom and Dad got soft...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


                                                   How many patterns can Anna wear?
Our next door neighbor turned his backyard into a skating rink and invited us to use it anytime as long as the kids were supervised.  He had lots of skates in his back porch area so with that and the purchase of some used skates we were all able to spend time this afternoon improving our skating skills.   I know I have mentioned this several times, but because the winter temps are in general warmer here than in NW Iowa it is so much more enjoyable to do the outdoor winter activities.  No frozen fingers or toes, just red cheeks and noses and wet snow clothes.