Wednesday, July 27, 2011

How to Make a Wooden Sword

  • A sword-shaped piece of driftwood from Lake Michigan
  • A 4 inch circular tree branch cut in half with dad's help to make the grip area
  • Electrical tape to reinforce the grip area
  • An used piece of leather for the handle
  • A bit vision and imagination 
And you have the following...

Happy Birthday Caleb!


Hard to believe that fourteen years ago today at 11:17 pm our firstborn entered this world.  I remember having this overwhelming feeling of responsibility of caring for someone that was totally dependent on me.  I was reluctant to leave the "safety" of the hospital!   It truly has been a joy to parent this child and thank the Lord for blessing us with Caleb John.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

They All Finished!

What is summer without a library reading program?  The kids enjoyed filling out their sheets--they either had to read 20 books or 300 minutes (Caleb had a different requirement in the teen program).  They all received t-shirts, free personal pan pizza coupons, tickets to a Whitecaps baseball game, and tickets to a Griffins hockey game.  Guess we will be busy this fall!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Hollyhock Dolls

The hollyhocks are in full bloom and the girls are having fun making dolls just like Grandma B. taught them last summer.  At least I think this is is how she taught them since I don't know how to make them.  Anna just put them together like she had been doing it forever. 

Retaining Wall Before and After

Here are  a few before and after pictures of our retaining wall that Russ and the boys worked on this summer with lots of help from Jim Bleeker and his boys.  Most of the plants came from Russ' brother Philip.   The grass is growing slowly in the dirt areas but hope that will take off soon when it isn't quite so hot.  We have other painting issues that need attention--try not to look at that as that may be next summer's project. 

Before:  broken up pieces of cement right on top of each other with no "glue" to hold them together--not real stable.


Just a little bit of an idea of how many  cement block pieces were in the retaining walls and in our landscape.
Jim Bleeker also took a trailer load of cement block since it didn't all fit in this huge dumpster.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Here Kitty, Kitty??

This walked down our sidewalk and across the street around 7:30 one evening.  Lydia screamed our attention.  Literally.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Long Week

It has been a long week here without Russ or Anna.   Here are a few activities we kept ourselves busy with this week:

Monday we went to Big Rapids for Seth's dental appointment (see previous blog).  Lydia and Seth also had their first swim lesson at the Y that evening.

Tuesday afternoon we went to the Mol home again.  The kids again had fun wading and tubing in the creek, catching tadpoles and looking for tree frogs.  Nicolas also found a snapping turtle in the creek.  Rachel's husband was out of town, and Jennifer Penning's (another homeschool mom) husband was working late so we ordered pizza and ate dinner together before heading home.

Wednesday, Caleb and Nicolas had string lessons.  Rather than drop off, come home and pick up again, we found nearby parks to play in during lesson time.  We ran to a neighborhood garage sale after we got back home and bought a whole box of school stuff (three ring binders, construction paper, plastic paper protectors, tabs for a three ring binder, notecards, a few chapter books, stencils) for only $5.25.  That may be the best Back to School shopping I do!  The lady was a retiring teacher and only too happy to part with her stuff.  We ate a quick lunch and headed to the Meekhof pool.  We left her pool just in time to get to the Y for the second night of swim lessons.  Driving downtown was a little hairy on Wednesday because Betty Ford's body was arriving at the Ford Museum at the same time we needed to leave the Y (almost across the street from each other).  Lots of streets were closed and many people were lining the streets to watch the motorcade.  Following swim lessons we raced home to catch a bite to eat before heading to the Plymouth School baseball diamonds to play ball with the kids from the Free Reformed Church.  I pretty much fell into bed that night!

Thurs/Fri and Sat we stayed at home to try to catch up on chores.  We made a library run, cleaned the house, did lots of laundry, vacuumed out the van, prepared the soil and planted grass seed out front, sprayed for weeds, put sand in the sandbox, pulled weeds for Mrs. Tina (elderly lady across the street), scraped paint on the fence out front, and cut out our first harvest from the garden!  Caleb went to a birthday part for Frans Ude on Saturday afternoon.  Frans is from Nigeria and his dad is in seminary with Russ.   

On Friday our vacuum died.  It had been sick for a few weeks and I was hoping it would get better, but it was not to be.  So we took it in to the Vac Shack Friday afternoon and was told there would be no resurrection.   We were able to pick up a refurbished one so I can still clean.  Yeah. 

We didn't see much of Alexa and Aniaya this week.  I talked to Angie (their mom) briefly and she mentioned that one of the girls that was murdered last week was in Alexa's class in school   She sent them to her mom for a few days for a change of scenery as Alexa was pretty upset.   The two girls were over for a little while on Thursday night to make/eat pudgy pies on the fire pit with us. 

Today we plan to be in church twice and then it is Monday--everybody back at home day!

Meekhof pool

Lydia getting brave on the diving board at the Meekhof pool

Seth doing fancy jumps off the side

Connie Meekhof, taking a picture of me taking a picture of her.

The Meekhof boys cut up the old pool cover and made a giant slip and slide down the sledding hill.  This hill is fast when wet!

Baseball with the FRC kids

Our first harvest

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Door to Door Salesman

We were just finishing up meal devotions at noon earlier this week when the doorbell rang.   On the front porch stood a young, short, wiry, black man wearing plaid shorts and a mismatched plaid shirt.  I saw his black bag with some product in it, realized he was selling something, and knew my answer would be "no".  He had so much energy and talked so fast, though, the kids and I couldn't help but watch as he went through his spiel for the overpriced cleaning solution he was selling.  He cleaned a window, a piece of carpet on the front porch, rust on the patio, and mildew on the fence all the while giving his sales pitch.  As a sort of stall tactic and to ease the "no", I decided to ask him about himself.  I found out that JV (as his friends call him) was 26, grew up in Chicago and moved to Atlanta when his neighborhood in Chicago became too dangerous.  He went to a job training school in Texas and became a welder.  While at the job training school he met a girl and became the father of two children.  He decided welding was not for him because he liked to be around people so he took this sales job based in Atlanta going door to door.   His team takes the Greyhound bus from city to city for usually a two week period of time; he just came from Detroit and was heading to Cincinnati from Grand Rapids.   JV told me his selling quota is 12 bottles of cleaning solution a day, but gave me a mischievous smile and said he's a pretty good salesman and can sometimes sell 14-15/day.  If he sells 10 a day he considers it a good day because then he makes $100/day. 

To make a long story short, my plan backfired, and, well, I found myself with an overpriced bottle of cleaning solution.   I spent the rest of the afternoon regretting my purchase and lack of backbone.

Fast forward a few days.  I am sitting on the couch reading emails when Lydia comes and sits on the arm of the couch.  She leans in towards me and starts to play with my hair. 



"Did you buy that cleaning stuff the other day because you felt sorry for him?"

"Um, maybe, uh, yeah."

She smiles shyly and then gives me a huge hug and a kiss on the cheek before running off to play.

And suddenly I regretted my purchase just a little bit less.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Empty Nest

Our house finch fledglings flew out of the next last weekend when we took the plant down to water it.  All that was left was the unhatched egg.   I'm just grateful my nest is still full and all my chicks and fledglings are at home.  Actually, I am missing one since Anna is at Phantom Ranch Camp near Milwaukee, WI for a week with her cousin Katherine (Renee and Andy's).  Russ is back in Iowa shingling for my Dad.  Will be nice when we are all under the same roof again--next week Mon

Monday, July 11, 2011

Big Rapids

We just made our third visit in three weeks to Big Rapids, MI.  The closest dental clinic that accepts our kids' dental insurance is an hour away in Big Rapids.  They would only schedule two of the kids at a time so we needed to make three trips.  The city (town)? of Big Rapids is on the Muskegon River and very close to Cran-Hill Ranch where lots of RCA kids have gone to camp or worked as counselors.    After our dental visits we decided to eat  picnic lunches by the river and explore a little bit.  Have I mentioned that we love being outdoors hiking, wading, exploring, and just enjoying all that God has created?  We even enjoy meeting new people like the old fisherman we met who loved to tell us stories.

Today Nicolas found a soft shell turtle. I know, I thought the same thing, "I've heard of a soft shell taco, but a soft shell turtle?  Nope."  The kids told me that they had one at the nature center, but I must have missed the name of it.   Nice to know they actually read the names and descriptions of the animals:)  I forgot my camera today so couldn't take a picture of it, though.  I know it surprises all of you that Nicolas was actually looking for frogs and toads when he came upon the turtle.  Anyway, the kids all made it through their dental exams without cavities, Yeah!  And the clinic was willing to make an exception next time and have all the kids come on one day.  Yeah!

The kids were excited that the park was like Kinderspielen

On the bridge over the river.  Click on the picture to see it a little bigger.
Lots of people tubing and kayaking on the river.

Homeschool Picnic

One of the homeschool moms from the Free Reformed Church organized a picnic at a great park in Granville for those of us who regularly attend group activities.  The idea was to discuss activities and field trips for the next school year.  But, well, no one really was ready to discuss school so we just enjoyed watching the kids play and talked about what was keeping our families busy this summer.

Some of the homeschool kids

One of the girls brought her pet rat and Lydia fell in love with it.  The face is cute, but the tail...I just can't get past the tail.

Weston Kleyn in the orange shirt enjoys being with Nicolas.  He came to our house after the picnic for a sleepover.

Oops!  Needed to save the ball from the creek.  The Mol family lives pretty close to this park and this is the same creek that runs in their backyard that the kids played in a few weeks ago.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Tragedy in GR

Some of you have probably heard the national news reports of the killings that occurred last week in Grand Rapids.  We were blissfully unaware of all the drama that was going on in NE Grand Rapids that afternoon and evening.  Evidently the the bodies of those that were murdered (the killer's wife, 12-year old daughter, wife's parents, former girlfriend, the former girlfriend's sister and her 10 year old daughter) were found around 3:30-4:00 in the afternoon.  What followed was a manhunt/chase that took the killer and police downtown and only a few miles from our neighborhood.  Probably around 8:00ish he broke into an apartment and took hostages until approximately 11:30 when he took his own life.   We wondered that evening around suppertime why a helicopter kept circling so low around our area.  We also wondered why when Russ and I went for a walk a little after 7:00pm a black fella on a bike came zooming past saying "Better be careful, -------- gonna shoot you."  Russ insisted this is what the man said; I insisted that it didn't make any sense.  In retrospect, Russ was correct and in fact, at that time spike strips to slow down or catch the killer were being set up on the very street we were walking on just a few miles down.  Yikes!

Even though shootings/killings are going to be more common in a city like Grand Rapids vs the NW Iowa  towns that we are used too, this was the largest single killing in GR history and a huge tragedy for the GR community.  The neighborhoods where this all took place are not that different from our own, and one of the little girls that was killed isn't that much different from the two girls down the street that are over almost every day to play.  Please pray for the families and the city of GR as they try to make sense of and heal from this tragedy.   May it lead a few or even many to the true Comforter.