Thursday, June 30, 2011

Another Trip to the Blandford Nature Center

I love this place, I really do.  And it is not just me, the kids love it, too.  Nicolas wanted to finish up his leaf project but needed a few more leaves.  Blandford was the only place we knew (besides the Heritage Village in Sioux Center which was just a little too far for a day trip) where trees are labeled so you know what kind of leaf you have.   We left late morning, hiked trails, picked a few leaves, ate a picnic lunch, and explored the General Store goodies before coming back home.  Russ couldn't join us as he was busy being a "movie star."  PRTS is making a new promotional/informational video and Russ was asked to participate in the classroom shots and also in interviews.  We missed him, but I know we will go back again.  The kids are already planning the next trip!

Not sure what photography faux pas I made to have everything tinted green...

This picture was for Nicolas--he has an incredible eye for finding frogs!

Monday, June 27, 2011

They Hatched!

The little house finch eggs hatched Friday morning.  One egg still has not hatched so not sure if it will or not.  The baby birds are extremely tiny--maybe the size of a quarter when they are all balled up.  We try to stay off the porch because mama bird flies away right away and sits on the wires in front of the house then flits to the tree all the time chirping at us.  The cowbird egg?  No idea what happened to it.  But you may want to ask Uncle Andy...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Camping with the Olsen Family

Renee and Andy and family arrived late Tuesday night.  On Wednesday we went to a campground on Lake Wabasis (about 30 minutes away).  Renee and Andy rented a rustic cabin (no cooking facilities, bathroom or running water) and we tented.  Unfortunately, it was cold and rainy the entire time we were there (Wednesday through Fri a.m.).  As I was reading through Ann Voskamp's book, One Thousand Gifts, I decided it would be good for me to put in writing all things I was grateful for on this trip, since we did not have ideal conditions.:)  Here is that list...

  • Cousins who enjoy each other's company
  • A tent that didn't leak through an entire night of rain until 6:00AM
  • Sand, mud, clay, and gooey marshmallows are all washable
  • Bug spray
  • A husband who has the patience to fish with 10 kids
  • Hot chocolate, hot coffee, hot soup and hot showers
  • Breaks in the rain that allowed us to roast hot dogs, smores, hobo dinners, and pudgy pies over a campfire
  • Sounds of the lake from the tent at night
  • Rain doesn't hurt, burn, itch, or make you melt
  • A sense of humor--why was it so ridiculously funny when in the middle of the night Russ and I both woke up realizing the air mattress we were sleeping on was no longer holding air?
  • Dry firewood
  • Making memories
  • 10 kids who enjoy playing games together
  • The sound of rain on the tent while we were cozy and dry
  • A perfectly roasted mallow on top of milk chocolate, squeezed between two grahams
  • The entertaining drama of our Lydie Brie-Brie when she spotted a water snake while fishing.  It got even better several minutes later when the snake came to shore, picked up a small dead perch, and slithered off into the tall grass.
  • Chubby little boy hands that still like to hold mine when we go "exploring"
  • The call of a cardinal early in the morning
  • The sound of 10 kids chatter and laughter
  • A good book that brings me back to the Word, shows me how to be grateful, find joy and grace, and see God in the "everyday and the "not so great"

Olsen's dog, Jasmine.


Karissa and Kristina

Katherine again



Playing in clay

Watching the kids on the beach in the pouring rain.

Even rain doesn't stop the kids from playing on the beach.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Michigan Strawberry Pickin'

June just isn't June without picking your own strawberries.  We have lots of places to choose from here in West Michigan, so we just chose the one the was least expensive.  The strawberries were not as sweet as those at Gettings Garden, but they still made great jam and pie!

We found a friend at the strawberry patch.

A Visit to the Mol Family

On Monday a home school family we met from the Free Reformed Church invited us to their little acreage.  They have a creek running through their backyard that the kids had fun wading and riding the tubes down.  They also had a pool in the backyard that was not set up yet, and had lots of tadpoles and frogs.  Any ideas who hovered around the pool with a net to see what he could catch?  Hint:  The same child also carried a kitten around while catching tadpoles.   The Mol family also own several acres of wooded land and a have made a dirt path through the wood for the kids to ride the 4-wheeler on.  The 4-wheeler was in the shop for repairs.  Nicolas was disappointed; mom was not.

We had a fun afternoon connecting with another family.  We left Russ at home, working on the landscaping.  He heard back from Bruce K. regarding his construction job and found that priorities have shifted and therefore is not needing Russ right now. So, Russ will continue to pick away at his work at home, learn Hebrew and work on the other two classes he is doing.  

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Father's Day 2011

God created parenting, especially fatherhood, to reveal
to children and to all of us the Fatherhood of God and
 his strong and tender care.
                                                John Piper

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Who said summer was relaxing?

This week was the official start of "summer" in Grand Rapids.  Most schools finished on the 9th or 10th last week, so school kids were on summer break as of Monday of this week.  We really noticed this with the number of kids around the neighborhood all week.

The kids started summer music lessons this week.  Lydia would like to start piano lessons this summer, as well, so she will join them next week.  Their piano teacher recommended rotating the older three for lessons each week so we only have to pay for three lessons each week instead of four.  Nicolas continues with cello on Tuesdays and Caleb has violin on Wednesday mornings.   Nicolas had his first cello recital on Wednesday night.  He gets so nervous, but he did a great job and sounded wonderful on his new 3/4 cello (thanks to the wonderful couple who donated this to him!) 

Both older boys had soccer camp this week.  This camp at NorthPointe HS did not require a huge time commitment, nor was it very expensive. We've officially sent in an application and financial aid request to NorthPointe HS for Caleb next year.  On Thursday of this week we met with the principal and guidance counselor for an interview.  Now we have lots of paperwork to complete to make it official.   We found out from the principal that they may be looking for a track coach next spring...hmmm...wonder who would be interested in that?  They are also looking for a full-time math teacher (probably too much of a time commitment?) and math tutors.   Since the HS is right next to the seminary, I think Russ might be interested in helping out with the tutoring thing.

Russ called Bruce Kuiper regarding construction work this summer and met him at the job site Monday afternoon.   An old Latvian Catholic church and the surrounding buildings have been purchased for inner city ministry work and now have to be renovated  for apartments, etc.  Russ started the job on Tuesday.  That afternoon while he was working in the apartment area right next door, a large fire broke out in the church.  All were evacuated and Russ has not yet been called back to work. You can read more about the fire and watch some video including one of a short interview with Bruce here.   Our 90 year neighbor, Tina, who lives across the street (Bryan and Becca met her at Lake Michigan) is a Latvian Catholic.  Russ asked her yesterday when he went over to fix her basement handrail if this was her church.  She affirmed that this indeed was where she worshipped every Sunday for many years. 

We have also taken advantage of the beautiful weather.  Connie Meekhof  (BSF home school friend) invited us to their in ground pool on Monday afternoon and our neighbors invited us to their above ground pool Tuesday.  Both pools were pretty cold yet, but kids can always find fun in a pool, right?

A little scared in the pool, so spends most of his time watching.

All the kids signed up for the library reading program on Monday.   Nothing says summer more than the library reading program!  We haven't kept track of minutes or books read for over a year so this will be good for the kids.  Now if we can just keep track of everyone's recording sheets...

We bought a wooden playset from Craigslist on Thursday. We have constantly been looking but they go pretty fast. Russ was just pricing making one himself when he found this one. It was a steal of a deal if you consider the time and money you need to put into making one.  The kids are enjoying having a "tree fort" again. 

We are enjoying watching our garden come up and grow.   It has also been fun to explore all the overgrown vegetation in the yard and find treasures like hidden rose bushes and other flowers.   We noticed a house finch made a nest in our hanging plant. Glad I took the plant down to water it that day.   If you look at the picture you'll notice one egg that does not match--the cowbird egg.  Cowbirds do not make their own nests, nor care for their own young.  They lay eggs in other nests and let the "adopted" parent feed their young.   Usually,  the cowbird hatches first and steals all the food from the other birds when they hatch.

What else have we done this week?  Russ took the boys fishing early Friday morning.  The girls and Seth worked on an outdoor nature scavenger hunt that I put together for them. We enjoyed our portable fire pit a few times--making pudgy pies with apple and blueberry pie filling and smores.   Russ continues to work on Hebrew and construction projects around the house.  I finished 10 of the 20 home study credits I need to renew my Iowa PT license in August.  I also plugged away at a handbook for seminary families that I am putting together with one other seminary wife.  We are part of a committee and this was our project.  The project is ending up being a much larger, time consuming project than what either of us signed up for.  I think it will be pretty nice when it is done and hope the incoming families appreciate it--I know I would have liked something like this the first few months I was here!

Taking a break from biking to eat pudgy pies.

Alexa and Anaiya--neighbor girls.