Friday, May 20, 2011


May 1997 -- May 2011

Good-bye faithful friend--we will miss you...

Fourteen years ago Laura and I traveled to Inwood, IA to see Laura's Uncle Jim and family.  Their puppy, Sadie had just had puppies and they wanted us to see them.  They were convinced that we needed a puppy, but Laura and I were in full agreement that although it would be nice to go see the puppies we didn't think it was a good time in our lives to have a puppy of our own.  Needless to say, that didn't hold up and we left that night with a puppy that they had already named Mookie.  Mookie was  a passive female dog that ended up being great with the kids.  Over the last fourteen years she kept adjusting to each new child and allowed them to "pet" her and play with her.  She got a little crabby when we would bring another baby home from the hospital, but would quickly get over it and accept the pulling of her hair from each new child.  The last couple of years she had slowed down a little and was less playful, but still a good-natured dog.  Unfortunately, the last couple of months Mookie began to deteriate quite significantly and in the last week she stopped eating altogether and became weaker and weaker.  Today we made the decision to put her to sleep.  Though there were many tears, all agreed that this was the best thing for our puppy.  It truly is amazing how much love a family can generate over the years for a puppy - she will be missed.  

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Antarctica and the Week Update

Last Friday we finished up our last unit--Antarctica.  We squished two weeks into one week so that we could be done before we went to Iowa on the 18th.  We studied and did experiments about ice shelves, glaciers, and icebergs.  We discussed again the differences between the North and South poles.  We learned about krill and what the Antarctic food chain looks like.  One of my favorite days was when we watched a DVD about Shackleton and then using latitude and longitude points plotted his intended journey and then his actual journey.  This was also helpful in learning all the major geography points like the Weddell and Ross Seas and Elephant and South Georgia Islands.   Since Antarctica doesn't have an official flag, the kids had fun designing their own using the information they had learned about Antarctica.  Needless to say we did not have an Antarctic meal as I wasn't sure how to find seal blubber. 

Some books we enjoyed:  Emperor Penguins by Elaine Landau; March of the Penguins, a book based on the movie; Explore Antarctica; How to Survive in Antarctica by Lucy Jane Bledsoe; Antarctica:  Journeys to the South Pole by Walter Dean Myers; and Frozen Secrets:  Antarctica Revealed by Sally Walker.  We also watched the Feature Films for Families movie Scamper and are still working through Mr. Popper's Penguins as a read-aloud.

The flags

Anna's Perky Penguin project

Yesterday the three oldest kids took their post test on countries and continents.  They just had maps in front of them and had to fill them in to the best of their ability.  I was surprised how well they did (especially Anna) without having the names of the countries in front of them.   Anyway, this marks the end of the school year for us.  We will continue with math through the summer, initiate a fun typing/keyboarding program, and Caleb will finish a literature guide that he didn't quite complete.   Now I it is my turn to study as I have a 20 credit home-study course I need to finish (start?) to renew my Iowa PT license by the end of July. 

Russ has been busy working on the front landscaping.  Wow, what a difference!  He isn't quite finished and may not finish until after our trip to Iowa.  I will  be sure to post before and after pictures. 

Helping dad

Taking a break

We enjoyed our visit to Antoine and Nicolene Therone last week Thursday.  She served an authentic South African dish which was absolutely delicious.  They have three girls; the oldest is five.  They speak Afrikaans at home as that is their first language, and although they have done absolutely no formal teaching of English with the girls, they speak and understand English almost flawlessly just from picking it up from neighbor friends.   It made me think of Lynn and Cory's kids being able to pick up Creole just from having the orphanage kids speak it all the time.   Nicolene is also fluent in Dutch.

We ended up not going to the Moerdyk's for Sunday dinner.  They called late Saturday night that he was heading to the ER due to heart symptoms.  They called early Sunday morning that he had been admitted for the evening and was having stress tests that morning.  I have not had a chance to call them to see how he turned out.  I will put that on my "to do" list this morning...

Last night we hosted the Van Brugges and Ian Macleod.  What a crazy day it was!  The furnace/AC guy finally came Friday, but went home sick after dismantling everything.  We were unable to run our furnace over the weekend and as the weather turned quite cold, so did the house!  We woke up yesterday morning and it was only 58 degrees  in the house.   The plumber came to move some pipes so I did not have water most of the morning.  Then the kids had piano and violin lessons, so I didn't really start much preparation for our guests including cleaning, making salads, and even showering (I was able to make two triple-berry pies) until 3:30 that afternoon.   My house wasn't what I wanted it to be before I have guests, but you know, we had a wonderful time anyway.  I think I see a lesson here...

Today will be another marathon as we get ready to go to Iowa for a couple of weeks.  We plan to stop at Russ' parents on Wed/Thurs night.  I think we will make a quick jaunt to Des Moines while in Glidden to see our niece Brooke run at the state track meet.  We plan to be at my parents sometime on Friday and will go to the Tulip Festival on Friday or Saturday.  Russ then plans to use the next week to shingle the Steggerda's home and prepare a talk for the OCCS 8th Grade Graduation.  We will relax over Memorial Day weekend and plan to overlap at least a day with the Grimms who hope to return from Haiti on the 31st.   The kids have a piano recital back in GR on June 4 so hope to be back in time for that.   Please pray for safe travel!

First Year of Seminary Completed!

For some reason this didn't post last week Wednesday, so here it is almost a week late:

Russ officially finished his first year of seminary today.  He had final exams last week and all his course work was due at midnight last Friday, but he still had two practice preaching sessions to attend.  These were ones that had been postponed due to Dr. Murray being ill.   Hebrew III course/translation work will all be done this summer and he also is signed up to take two one credit classes on his own.  We have still not heard about the internship although Russ has been in contact with Pastor Dale regarding this.  We are waiting to hear back from him to find out what the session decided.   Another student at the seminary has some construction work here in GR for Russ to do, as well.  Russ could probably be busy all summer just on our yard!  Currently he is working on our landscaping out front, our retaining wall along the driveway, getting a garden plot ready, and opening up the ceiling in our garage for the plumbing and heating guys. 

Earlier this spring we did have someone else come out to give us a quote on AC for the house (Sears came out last fall).  He found that the furnace in the garage for the addition not only violated codes several ways it also had a cracked heat exchanger.  The entire furnace would need to be replaced (or fixed if able).  After more measuring and looking around and doing a few load/unit calculations (or whatever they do) he told us that the furnace for the main area of the house (only a few years old) could heat the entire house and if we wanted we could just connect the ductwork and get rid of the additional furnace.  The same was true for AC--he could install a unit that would work for the entire house.  So, they installed the AC without connecting the ductwork as they wanted the city inspector to look at it first.  The inspector came out this morning and found everything up to "code" (we didn't show him the garage).  So now Russ is opening up the ductwork area in the garage so the AC guys can come tomorrow to connect the ducts.  The other problem is that there are exposed pipes in the garage that will need to be insulated, etc.  Dave Bleeker's brother-in-law does insulating work so hopefully he will be able to come out and help Russ with that.   The good news is that all of this work (AC installation, connecting ductwork, bringing the house "up to code") is going to cost less than what Sears wanted to install just air conditioning. 

The kids have been busy with their schoolwork too.  We are trying to finish up this week so that we can be done before we leave for Iowa on the 18th.   So far we have really enjoyed My Father's World curriculum.  Hope it goes as well next year!

We have also been busy meeting/getting to know people.  I am not very outgoing and most of the time would rather just stay at home with my chickies where it is safe, but have found blessings by stepping outside my comfort zone.  I met Sue Ng at a BSF seminar a few weeks ago.   Her husband is a pastor in Hong Kong and they are in GR for a time of sabbatical.   Her husband returned to Hong Kong in January, and she will follow later this summer.  She stayed so their two girls (10 and 8) can finish the school year.  Last Friday afternoon we enjoyed spending time at their apartment hearing about life in Hong Kong and the challenges with legalizing a new church.  We also discussed the difficulties of living on a limited budget and plugging the kids into various programs because the sheer number of options is overwhelming.  It was fun to swap ideas, websites, etc.    On Monday I took Biliana and Martha, two ladies from Malawi, to the bookstore at the Homeschool Building.  I had them over for coffee several weeks ago and they showed quite a bit of interest in my homeschool curriculum, especially the areas of English/grammer, phonics, and writing.   Their husbands both just graduated this year and they will return to Malawi early in June.  To thank me for my hospitality, they invited me to visit them in Malawi.  I would love to take them up on that offer some day.  Tomorrow night we are visiting the home of Antoine and Nicoline Theron.  Antoine is a seminary student from South Africa.  They have three little girls.  Russ knows Antoine from classes, and I know Nicoline from the seminary wives meetings, but we have never gotten together to visit more personally.  Nicoline is also a physcial therapist so I imagine we will have some other common ground to talk about!  On Sunday we have been invited to dinner by a family at the Free Reformed Church, and Monday we are going to have Ian McLeod for a meal.  Ian has agreed to housesit for us while we are in Iowa as he isn't returning to Scotland until mid-June.    Besides all that we have the challenges of "hosting" unchurched neighborkids almost every day.  We have had to deal with issues of lying and unfortunately even stealing.  We pray for much wisdom to deal with these situations with loving firmness, so they understand it is the behavior, not them that we are rejecting.   It has been a learning experience for us all.  Here is a humerous exchange where I put my foot in my mouth:

                   Russ and I are out on the driveway spray painting pretty pastel colored easter eggs a
                   dark brown color for our Russian egg decorating.  Aniah (5 year old neighbor girl with a 
                   black father and white mother) asks for a drink so I go in the house with her.  On our way 
                   back outside, she asks "Why are you spraying those eggs?" I, thinking she is asking     
                   because we are taking pretty pastel eggs and painting them brown say, "We are painting
                   them ugly brown because we are going to decorate them later."  Aniah responds, "Brown
                   isn't ugly, my dad is really brown."  Russ heard the entire exchange and found it quite
                   amusing.  I tried to save face by agreeing that brown indeed is beautiful...

We are finally enjoying consistent spring weather.  I am looking forward to planting flowers and a garden once we have the ground ready for planting.   The only problem with spring is my allergies.  They are worse here than they ever were in Iowa which I contribute to the sheer number of trees in Michigan.  We also have two pear trees and an apple tree in full blossom which may also be a factor.

Since it has been so damp and rainy this spring, Nicolas has been able to find some new friends--toads (we still have the slugs).  The kids have befriended a couple, but we hear several of them especially at night.  It really sounds like the swamp/softball area at Big Sand.  In fact, if I have my window open at night I can almost hear the boats of the night fisherman coming back in...

Sunday, May 8, 2011


On Friday we finished our Australian unit which included New Zealand and Oceania (the islands around Australia).  The corresponding science unit was on coral reefs, specifically looking at the Great Barrier Reef.   Places we studied included the Outback, Ayers Rock, Sydney Opera House, and the Sydney Harbour Bridge.  For animals we studied marsupials including kangaroos (did you know that it is not uncommon for mommy kangaroos to be pregnant with one joey, have one in the pouch and a preschooler by her side?  I wonder if we spent more time educating the female kangaroos...), koalas (which are not bears), wombats (which have some of the driest poop in the mammal kingdom--all of us are still wondering why this was included in a kid's book on marsupials), and opossums.  We also looked at kookaburras and dingos.    We learned some Aussie lingo and studied the history of the Australian flag.  The boys again completed a country summary sheet learning a little more of the history of Australia including the native Australians, the Aborigines. 

For our Australian meal we made Aussie meat pies, kiwi fruit salad, strawberry spinach salad, and Pavlova for dessert.  Since Meijer was fresh out of kangaroo meat we had to use ground beef for our meat pies.  

We read lots of different books about the coral reef and the animals we studied.  We also enjoyed The Pumpkin Runner by Marsha Arnold, Are We There Yet? by Alison Lester and Outback Adventures and Great Barrier Reef Adventures both by Jim Cromarty.  While Grandma was here we also watched an educational DVD on the Great Barrier Reef.  A little too many "millions of years", but otherwise great pictures and informative (what I saw of it anyway--I have to admit to nodding off for a bit of it.)  The kids had also planned to watch Finding Nemo, but since the weather was so nice last week they never got around to it.  I am sure we will watch it on our way home to Iowa.  Along with the movie Spirit, it is Seth's favorite and both are watched without fail on our trips to and from Iowa. 

Even though I am not formally teaching Seth, it is fun to see how much he picks up from our read-alouds and from the DVDs and activities the older kids do.  From the pictures below you can see that he really enjoyed the  coral reef unit!

Coral reef diorama

Seth's diorama

One of my personal favorites:  Seth's drawing of the coral reef.  Note the three scuba divers swimming toward the red octopus, staying above the large shark.  The coral is on the bottom along with a lobster and a clown fish.  I think it's worth clicking on the picture for a closer look.  (Ignore the planets on the left side of the paper--at least that's what he told me they were) 

Mother's Day Blessings

The Shepherd leads those with young not to be Hallmark versions of perfection, but rather persevering versions of humility. Grace stands in the gaps.

                                                                                   Quote from Ann Voskamp

Wishing God's richest blessings to all those mothers who read this with a special blessing to my own wonderful godly mother.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Monday Morning Blues II?

We are a little blue here today as Grandma flew back home this morning.  We enjoyed having her here so much, but missed Grandpa.  The Lord willing, we will be in Iowa in a few weeks to see everyone, though!  We pretty much kept up our routine last week: homeschooling in the morning, practicing instruments, doing chores, etc.    Thursday night Mom wanted to take us out to eat.  We left a little early to explore a few thrift shops before enjoying a meal at Arnies.  I was able to pick up several nice summer tops and capris for Anna and am relieved to have been able to restock her drawers/closet inexpensively.   Friday afternoon we took Mom to the GR Public Museum.  We had just been there with Bryan and Becca, but took in the planetarium and rode the carousel this time.   The kids not only  enjoyed showing Grandma some of their favorite exhibits from the last visit, but also had fun discovering some things we hadn't seen on the last visit.  We hope to go back some time with Grandpa and see a little more!  Saturday Mom had her BSF leader's meeting and as soon as she came home I took off for the "Leading Others" seminar.  Russ and all the boys went to the elementary school for the derby car race in the morning.  Nicolas had been working on a pine derby car for a few weeks.  This was his first experience and his car did pretty well, but he learned a few things and has lots of ideas for next year.  Saturday afternoon Mom used her membership and took me to Sam's Club.  It was fun just to browse without kids.  We ordered pizza for supper, the kids went to bed early and we enjoyed a quiet evening visiting.  Sunday a.m. we went to the FRC.  Dr. Murray was supposed to preach, but was unable to due to his medical issues that occurred earlier in the week. Rev. Pronk from Canada preached instead.   You can read more about Dr. Murray's serious health issue here.   Sydney VR and a friend from Calvin joined us for Sunday dinner.  It was such a beautiful day that we enjoyed eating our dessert and visiting on the back porch in the sun!  Sunday night we worshipped at Harvest hearing a good sermon on John 12:20-26  by Pastor Dale.  While Mom was here we also watched a few episodes of Foyle's War that I checked out from the library.

A few more museum pictures:
This slug picture was for Nicolas who is still pampering several of them.

Anna wanted this picture since we are studying marsupials in our Australia unit

A real mummy

Grandma figured out that we can insert a quarter to hear the coinola play!

On the bridge outside the museum

The carousel part of the museum from the bridge.

Rooting for big brother Nicolas' car.

Russ was extremely busy last week and will be again this week.  He is officially done with his first year of seminary on Friday of this week.  He took a very difficult Hebrew exam this morning and now has two sermons and a twenty-five page paper to write, as well as other exams to study for.    We still have not heard regarding the internship for this summer.  Russ has been in contact with Pastor Dale on a couple of occasions and the session just has not made a decision regarding how they want to proceed with this summer.  So, we wait...  Last week Russ and I went for a walk and he mentioned his frustration at being in a "holding pattern".  He does not have his name on a list for pulpit supply here, he is not teaching Sunday school, and he is not optimistic about the internship.  He is really wanting to be preaching or teaching.   In BSF last Monday, my teaching leader talked about being in God's "waiting room".  All of the family feels a little bit that way, as it is hard to really settle in not knowing where we will be in four years.  But I think my dear husband feels this more profoundly and I know he would appreciate prayers as he waits for God's leading for this summer.  Hebrew continues through the summer and he will also work on a couple more courses/credits, however, he feels a strong need to provide for his family preferably while practicing the gifts God has given him.