Monday, February 28, 2011

Saudi, Skunks, and Snowforts

We finished our unit on Saudi Arabia last week.  We still have a few books/read-alouds to finish up so will plug away with those as we continue our journey through Asia.  We learned quite a bit about Islam and the different culture in Saudi Arabia, and decided it would not be our favorite place to visit.   I read a book by Carmen Bin Laden which was quite interesting regarding life in Saudi.  I am thankful I am raising my girls in the U.S.!   In science we took a break from studying a particular biome and are finishing up a unit on pollution/conservation/global warming--basically man's impact on the environment.   In a few days we will start a study on mountains and specifically look at the Himalayas and Mt. Everest as we enter our new country study--India.  We also plan to do a small unit on tigers.  I am excited to learn more about India and will let you know in a few weeks what we all studied and what activities we did.

After several cold days it was nice to have warmer temps yesterday and today.  On top of the 8 inches we had last week Sunday we had another maybe 5-6 inches throughout the week.  This was great for "fixing" the snow forts that had almost melted the week Grandpa and Grandma were here.  Nicolas begged me to take some pictures of them so I went out this morning to take a few pictures.   The kids have spent hours outside helping each other with their forts.

  The fort is actually deeper than the walls indicate since Nicolas dug it down somewhat.

Nicolas made a table for his fort

Nicolas, sitting in the chair in his fort

Nothing too exciting about Seth's fort except the cool icicles.

Anna's fort.  She is proud of a slab of snow that is in the shape of Africa.

Other "exciting" happenings for the week:

-A skunk walked right by our back porch when I was letting Mookie out a few mornings ago.  I hollered for Russ and he tracked it a few houses down where it went under a porch.  It is still wandering the neighborhood because we often smell it at night and this morning Russ saw tracks again.  No skunk pictures here, but the kids wanted to show their cousins where Mookie and Smokey sleep in the home school room while we have school in the morning. Yes, Smokey actually sleeps in the bookshelf.   Oh, and did I mention there is a heat vent located in the wall right next to Mookie?  Smokey used to chase Mookie away so she could take over the coveted spot in front of the heat vent, but now that she found her own little nook and cranny things have been pretty quiet.


*Our street wasn't plowed until Wednesday morning.  It has been quite awhile (never?) since I have attempted to drive through 8 inches of snow with a mini-van.  I got stuck twice, both times with Nicolas, both times able to get myself out.  Nicolas told me "you just have to gun it, mom."   Lest you think I am just a bad driver or don't know how to "gun" it, Russ also got stuck, as did many neighbors.

*We saw lots of birds on our new bird feeder!  I managed to capture a few on film for dad to see.

*We (particularly me) had a few lessons in humility.  I won't go into detail, but suffice it to say it involved a the eye doctor, medicaid, and a disappointed little girl.

*As we have heard various reports of accidents, tragedy, and trials within our church family and among friends we are so grateful for the reminders in Isaiah which we are studying in BSF.  What a comfort it is to know that bad or good, everything is under God's control.  And if we are one of His, all that occurs is for our good, even if we cannot see it at the time.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Vegetables are Key

This blog post contains bathroom humor.  If that will offend you please stop reading and catch up with us on another day.  If you are intrigued...keep reading. 

Seth and Lydia both suffer from diarrhea on occasion.   They both hate having the runs (not that anybody enjoys it) because they end up with a sore bottom and often a toot isn't quite a toot and, well, then it gets a little messy.  I am convinced it is related to their unbalanced diet due to picky eating.   So, to encourage them to eat their vegetables I started the "it will keep you from getting the diarrhea" mantra.   Believe it or not this has worked to get them to eat better and prevent the runs.  They still have days/weeks, however, when it doesn't seem that important to them to eat well because it has been so long since they have had a "bout", and then "wham" the diarrhea hits again. 

This is all to set the stage for the following story.  We were all sitting in our family room while I was reading a read-aloud to the kids.  Quite often they have something on the floor that they are playing with to keep their hands busy.  Seth all of a sudden jumps up and says he has to go "stinky" and could I please stop reading until he gets back.  No problem.  He runs to the bathroom right off the family room and like many typical four-year-olds does not shut the bathroom door.  It isn't long before we (who are quietly waiting for his return) hear this huge "explosion" from the bathroom.  The kids all look at me with wide eyes and start to snicker.  I, trying to be sensitive to the feelings of my youngest, shush them.   Then we hear a  little voice holler from the bathroom, "You shoulda made some broccoli!"   That is when I laughed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Grandpa and Grandma B's Visit

How we looked forward to this visit!  We miss them so much today, but are glad they had a safe trip home in questionable Michigan weather.  We had about 8 inches of snow here on Sunday.  Mom and Dad left just as it started snowing in Grand Rapids and had a rough first hour or so, but then the temperature warmed and the snow and sleet turned to rain.   We hope they enjoyed their visit as much we did.   

Wednesday we went to Uncle Clarence and Aunt Alyda to make stroopwaffles as Aunt Alyda wanted to learn how to do this.  Uncle Clarence had just come home from the hospital two days earlier so was a little weak, but enjoyed visiting with Dad.   We did not make all of them that morning, Mom and I finished them on Saturday afternoon.   Wednesday afternoon we decided if we wanted to do outdoor winter activities it had to be now because there would be very little snow left with the huge melt going on.  So we took Dad to Richmond Park to go sledding.  The kids also enjoyed feeding the ducks a few bread crusts.Wednesday night Scott and Becky Dibbet came over for dessert and fellowship.  The kids enjoyed playing together and the adults enjoyed visiting.  Thanks, Mom, for making the dessert while we were sledding!

Thursday we homeschooled in the morning and then just relaxed after a busy day.  Dad and I ran a few errands, specifically trying to find a place to fill our grill propane tank.  Russ appreciated the leg work, and now we know where to go the next time we need a fill!  Thursday night Dad and Russ and the kids went to Meijer to pick out a bird feeder.  The kids have wanted one since we moved here and I told them they needed to wait for Grandpa, our bird expert.  Dad put it up on Saturday, but we haven't seen any birds, yet.  Today it was quite cold and windy and we didn't see any birds out--I am sure they were seeking shelter from the biting wind. 

Friday morning Dad took us out to Wolfgang's for breakfast.  We had yummy pancakes and fried eggs and ate a lot of food!  My kids love breakfast foods, so this was a real treat for them.  That afternoon we went to a play entitled "Honest Abe" at the Gerald Ford Museum.  After the play we were able to go through the museum as well.  Russ met us here after his classes and was able to take in the museum before taking the youngest three home with him.  Then Dad and Mom and the two older boys and I walked across the street to the Grand Rapids Museum for the Bodies Revealed exhibit.  This was fascinating.  I wish I still taught kinesiology and could take my class for a tour! As you walk through the exhibit, you cannot help marveling at our wonderful Creator and Designer.  We truly are "fearfully and wonderfully made."  Friday night we met at the elementary school for the Bleeker gathering.  They celebrated the Jan/Feb birthdays for the grandchildren and even had a gift for Anna Grace!  

Saturday Mom and Dad were able to walk to their leader's meeting at the church where we attend BSF.   I made breakfast for them when they came home and visited while we also made some food for Sunday.  We  finished making the stroopwaffles and I was able to freeze a bunch for a treat later on!   The kids and I took Grandpa on a neighborhood walk in the afternoon as the sky was blue and the sun was shining.  The crisp air was so refreshing.  Hard to believe that they predicted nasty weather for Sunday.

Sunday we went to Harvest OPC for church in the a.m.  We knew the weather was going to be iffy because we were in a winter storm warning so hurried back home to eat.    Just as we finished our meal the snow started, but Mom and Dad were able to make it out and back home safely.  What a blessing; God is so gracious. 

We didn't do much with Saudi Arabia in home school last week as we did a mini-unit on Abraham Lincoln to prepare for the play.  I found some fun activities for the girls on a home school website that were based on the book "Abe Lincoln:  the Boy Who Loved Books."  (Thanks, Heather!)  Nicolas read a book on Abe Lincoln and helped Anna with her Lincoln fact sheet.  Caleb actually did a mini-report on Gerald Ford instead.  I enjoyed his new found knowledge as we walked through the museum together.  Grandpa and Grandma brought some fun treats for the kids which entertained all of us. The ball on the rope puzzle made us laugh as Grandpa worked so hard on it Tuesday night even threatening to get the scissors, while Anna just calmly separates the ball and string the next morning.    We all had oodles of fun finding the objects in the Find It tube.  One thing was left undone when Grandpa and Grandma left:  finding out the date on the penny.   Russ found it, though, several hours after they left and we called to let them know.  But just in case they aren't quite sure I'll post the picture, too.  

"I am the Lord and there is no other..."

This video of RC Sproul reminded me of what we have been studying in Isaiah at BSF.   

Isaiah 45:5 "I am the Lord and there is no other; apart from me there is no God"

Isaiah 43:11 "I , even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior."

And as I learned tonight in the BSF lecture, we are nothing but broken pieces of worthless pottery.  Who are we to question God's way of salvation? (Isaiah 45:9)  As RC Sproul says elsewhere, rather than wonder why God didn't provide more than one way of salvation, we should wonder that he provided even one way!  May God give us grace to be bold witnesses to the uniqueness of His Son in an ever-increasing pluralistic society

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Our Africa/Kenya Unit

Of all our units up to this point, I think this was my favorite.  We had so much fun with Africa and Kenya!  Here is a listing of a few things we did.

--Checked out the Zoo Tycoon computer game from the library and created zoos entirely with African animals and even one zoo that was entirely with grassland/savanna critters.

--Watched the Lion King and made note of all the Swahili phrases and the savanna animals.

--Made savanna dioramas.


They used cut-out animals for most of their animals.  Nicolas wanted to make his own female lions so he drew those by hand.  He was pretty proud of his "hunting females"!
Seth's-- Lydia opted not to make one:)

--The boys each did a country summary report on Kenya in power point form and even added African music in the background slide show.  (Wonder how they did that...)

--Learned lots of Swahili words and phrases including the chorus to "Jesus Loves Me".

--Made clay animals and painted them.  We had some trouble with the clay being heavy so we made just the "bust" of some animals, flags and other things as well.

Anna:  Africa, zebra, meerkat, Masai necklace, Kenya flag, Bible, "K" for Kenya, baboon head and elephant in middle

Nicolas:  Lion head and lion

Lydia:  female lion, Kenya, elephant head, Kenya flag

Seth:  lake, stone, umbrella, elephant, flag, and little man

Caleb:  safari binoculars, warthog and meerkat heads and Kenya relief map. 

--Had Lauren, a Calvin College student whose mom is in my BSF class, show us pictures of her recent trip to Kenya.   We were wondering what to make for our "Kenyan" meal and she was able to give us suggestions--samosa or chapati.  We made samosa which is basically ground beef seasoned with masala wrapped in phyllo dough or egg roll wrappers and deep fat fried.  They were so good!  I think Seth even ate six of them.  Nicolas commented that he loves food that is deep fat fried.  Think he is on to something? Makes you wonder if we will eat anything as long as it is deep fat fried.   We also made a tapioca pudding with pineapple that was tasty.


--Chose a few animals to study in more depth.  We watched a video on lions and Anna did some extra research on giraffes.

These are the areas Anna did more research on. 

--Read lots of good books for this unit: Lions at Lunchtime; Jambo Means Hello; Mama Miti; Owen and Mzee; various Kenyan folk tale books; biography on David Livingstone; Facing the Lion:  Growing Up Maasai on the African Savanna; For You are a Kenyan Child; and Kuntai: a Masai Child.

--Grew our own grass for a few "grasslands" science experiments.  We also studied the Baobab tree, Mt. Kenya,  Great Rift Valley, Maasai Mara Reserve, and Lake Victoria.

--Sang the East Africa Geography song (this is the one Kenya is in), but listened to all of the Africa geography songs and played our geography game with all the countries of Africa.

--We finished up our unit by going to the Watoto Children's Choir concert in Holland, MI this afternoon.  We enjoyed the concert immensely.  It initiated discussion with the kids on a topic we hadn't really talked about--the huge HIV/AIDS problem in Africa.  We didn't go into much detail on what the disease is as much as the  fall-out surrounding the disease.  The Van Brugge family from the seminary also attended the concert and we were able to chat with them a little afterward.  As it was about 5:45, we decided to find a Chinese restaurant and treat the kids (I know, the Chinese doesn't quite fit into the African theme).    

So, we depart Kenya and take off Monday for Asia.   We hope Monday morning we will be stamping our passports in Saudi Arabia!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Not Quite Ready?

One of the seminary professor's wife has a little girl who is just a little less than a year older than Seth (maybe 10 months older).  She is already reading and Rebecca is going through a first grade curriculum with her.  I just mentioned to her that I am not doing anything formal with Seth.  At times he seems to want to, but he can't seem to even get his letter names down.  At church one night she gave me three books from the Explode the Code series.  These books actually go before the main books--a sort of primer series. She thought they may help him learn his letter names.   So, last week I thought I would start them with Seth to see how he would do.  We spent several minutes each day on the letter "f".  There were various activities with the sound it makes, recognizing the letter, and tracing and writing the letter.  At the end of the week he could recognize the letter we learned, but when I asked him the name of this letter he was just shooting in the dark.   "L?"  "G!"  "A?"     Um, no, that is "F", "e-e-e-f-f-f-f".  "F" for "frustrating".    I wonder if Mrs. Starkenburg is wanting to move to Grand Rapids?

I know all pistons are firing, though, as noted by his questions/observations in the last week.    As we pulled into the mall parking lot he observed, "God didn't make everything.  People planted these trees and built these buildings and made these roads."     Or, earlier this week, when after reading the book of Jonah  with the truth that no one can hide from God he declared,  "You can hide from God.  You can hide from God in the trees."  I was intrigued so questioned, "In the trees?"  "Uh-huh, God couldn't find Adam and Eve.  He asked 'Where are you?'"  Four seems a little young to be questioning biblical truths...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


The kids rediscovered the dress-up tubs downstairs a few days ago.   Nicolas made a "pirate ship" out of chairs and blankets and even equipped it with a rotating telescope (a music stand and a map cylinder).   They all found a stuffed animal or some sort of sidekick to dress-up too.  They have had a few days of lots of great pretend play with maps, telescopes, etc.  I think part of this was inspired by Disney's version of Swiss Family Robinson.  Caleb informed us that no pirates are ever talked about in the book, so Disney just added that story line for more excitement.  At any rate, the kids loved the movie and as you see below, Nicolas made his own tree house out of Legos that I thought was pretty creative.  Here are a few pictures of the pirates and their sidekicks.  (Caleb helped them come up with ideas, but didn't dress-up himself).

She Follows Me

Last night I met with the seminary wives and we discussed the chapter on discipling other women in the book One With a Shepherd.  We talked about different discipleship/mentoring opportunities that pastor's wives are currently doing, what they would like to do, and what others have done in the past and would like to do again.  As most of us are mothers, we kept coming back to our major area of discipleship--our own homes.   This poem was in the book and I really appreciated it so thought I would share.  The ladies there last night agree that this is good for mothers and grandmothers alike!

She Follows Me

A little girl who follows me
A careful mom I want to be,
A little woman follows me;
I do not dare to go astray
For fear she'll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape her eyes.
What e'er she sees me do she tries
Like me, she says she's going to be--
That little girl who follows me.
I must remember as I go
Through summer suns and winter snows,
I am building for the years to be--
That little girl that follows me.
                 --Author Unknown

Friday, February 4, 2011


We love all the Bible story books and devotionals that Starr Meade has written.  We recently finished God's Mighty Acts in Salvation which was a study of Galatians and now started God's Mighty Acts in Creation.  Here is a sampling from one of the introductory devotionals

Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit around it and pluck blackberries.
                             Elizabeth Barrett Browning (from "Aurora Leigh")

 "Earth is full of things that constantly remind us of God.  The Bible uses many illustrations from creation.  God is a rock.  Jesus is a vine.  It isn't that God looks around at what he has made, thinking, Hmm.  What could I use to illustrate my holiness?  I know!  I'll use light!  Rather, God created the light as something he would use to help us understand his perfect, sinless nature.  God built into the universe many such things to help us know him better." 

The devotional continues by reminding us that all creation should cause us to stop and take notice of God, because everything in it reveals something of God to us.  Some people see it and "take off their shoes" and "the rest" see in creation only what is in it for them.  Creation never leads them to worship because they don't "see" God and his attributes in what he has made.  

 The end of each devotional has a section entitled "As for me and my house..." which includes additional scripture passages, prayer suggestions, ideas for activities, or just questions to think about.   The night we read this was the night of the big blizzard.  The kids were instructed to look outside and see what they could about God in nature.  They came up with the following:  "Snow is white and pure just like God."  "God cleanses us white as snow."  "Wind reminds us of the Holy Spirit which is said to be like the wind."  "The wind also reminds us of God's power."  How awesome if we could be reminded to do this every day!  Then we tried to think just off the top of our heads how many things God's Word uses from nature to describe or illustrate a truth.  Our list included water, rock, sheep, shepherd, hills, grass, flowers, eagle, trees, fruit, branch, stump, stars, sand, yeast, mustard seed, wheat and chaff, and many more.

 You can read this entire devotional entry and several others if you click on "Look inside" on Amazon.  I promise you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Big One!

Well, we finally got the storm that dropped 10-14 inches of snow.  The one major difference between this snow and all the others we have had (besides the obvious snow total amount) was the wind.  We felt like we were back in Iowa.  The snow began in earnest about 6:00 last night with strong winds.  It certainly was a blizzard.  The wind died down somewhat by morning, but it continued to snow another 2-4 inches this morning.  I am writing this at noon and the plow has still not been on our road.  Only those with pickups or 4-wheel drive have been brave enough to venture on the road.  PRTS cancelled classes today and I noticed that all other schools are closed including Calvin College.   Unfortunately for the kids, we are still plugging away today.  Everyone usually has less schoolwork on Wednesday (the boys usually have orchestra), so we were done in plenty of time.  We did get a late start as we all went outside to help clear snow.  Right now Anna, Lydia, and Seth are playing school and Russ and the boys are playing Settlers of Catan.  We are planning to watch Swiss Family Robinson later this afternoon.  Caleb had to read the book for  his literature unit and one of his writing assignments is to watch the Disney movie and compare the movie with the book.  Our neighbor, Brian, said he was planning to clear the ice rink, so skating may be on the docket this afternoon as well. 

I am including a few pictures of our morning.  I realized a didn't get a picture of Seth, but he was right out there shoveling with us.   The first picture I took on Sunday, the sun was shining again!
Sunday, when the sun shone again
Anna made her own sledding hill down into the driveway

Clearing the driveway

A better picture of Anna's sledding hill

Lydia sweeping the front porch

Nicolas "emptying" out his fort

Caleb shoveled the back porch