Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Blessings and Challenges


  • It has been a blessing not to work the last few weekends.  Two Saturdays ago I was able to attend the Cornerstone URC Women's Conference with Martha Peace.  Her talk paralleled her book Attitudes of the Heart.  I was blessed by her messages and also convicted that the call to holiness in a Christian's life is hard work, and some of those attitudes that we need to cultivate (gentle and quiet spirit, love, gratitude, etc) we don't really labor over.  Many everyday life situations don't lend themselves to these attitudes, so to work on these would require as the Puritans would say, "holy sweat". 
  • Just this past Saturday I was asked by the FRC youth group to participate in their "mall hunt" activity.  They selected four individuals to disguise themselves and "hide" in the mall for the youth group kids to find.  After much anxiety (I really am not good at this type of thing) I followed advice from others and decided to only slightly disguise myself.  By making yourself look ridiculous you stand out even more.  So, I straightened my hair, wore make-up, dressed in a business suit, and put on fashion glasses.  I looked different enough that you probably would have to take a second look, but "normal" enough to blend in.  As I came out from the bathroom in my "disguise" I said, "I look more like..." and just as I was saying, "my cousin Maria", Russ said, "your Aunt Joanne."  How funny is that!?  One of the youth group girls told Anna the next day that "your mom looked really pretty yesterday."  If you connect all those if/then logic dots I think that is a complement to Maria and Aunt Joanne!  We won't even consider what that means for me every other day...  Anyway, it was a blessing to connect with the youth in the church and despite having to be in the mall on a busy Saturday for two hours it was fun.
  • Since the boys both received Division I ratings on their solos at District they were able to move on to State.  Last Saturday morning (after BSF and before the mall activity) the boys played their solos (violin and cello) at State.  Both received Division I ratings.   Russ and I consider it a blessing to see some rewards for all those lessons!

  • This year's track season has been a huge challenge.  Not only have we had only a handful of days where the temperatures have been above freezing, but when we do have a warmer day the roads/sidewalks are incredibly messy (2-3" puddles!).  I have forbidden the boys from wearing anything white to track practice!  All those little dots of mud/oil/slush just don't come out of clothes very well.   As of yesterday, the track had only one lane open all the way around.   Athletes could probably run a 200m workout on the track.  But since we had over an inch of snow last night and it is snowing on and off today who knows when it will be clear enough to use!  For now we have been using the parking lot which is not only messy and dangerous, but provides a pretty hard "injury-producing" surface.  Russ said even the radio weatherman was a little "short and clipped" in his forecast report.  "Current temp 26.  High today 28.  Low tonight 10.  Normal lows for this year 30.  Yes, our high today is lower than the normal low."  Since we had so much snow, maybe this extremely slow melt is a blessing?  Otherwise, all our basements and roads would be flooded? 
  • Caleb had running clothes stolen at school this week.  This is extremely frustrating since both were expensive items and there was really nothing he could have done about it.  He had a quartet gig over the noon hour on Monday so quickly ran from his college class back to the locker room at NorthPointe to change into his all-black quartet "concert" dress.  Evidently, NP does not clean out the lockers each year so there are no open lockers with locks on them. So he just left his duffle bag with this track clothes inside unlocked in the locker room and realized when he dressed for track later that day he was missing his Under Armour shirt (a necessity this cold spring!) and Adidas pants.  He was planning to address it with administration today so will see how that goes.   
  • Russ officiated his first funeral today.  A 21 year old woman from the church in Kalamazoo was in a car accident and sustained a severe head injury.   The family was faced with hard end-of-life decisions that made this especially difficult.  It is no surprise to realize that pastoral ministry is no different than many other professions in that schooling or seminary training can not always completely prepare someone for the "real" world.  I learned in PT school how to treat a patient with a hip fracture, but then I began working in the "real" world and found it was never that easy since the hip fracture patient would probably be an amputee with dementia (or something like that).  I guess this was just a taste of what is to come.  This week I happened to read this passage in Surprised by Oxford by Carolyn Weber and it kind of resonated with our experience these last few weeks:

I initially thought pastors just married and buried.  But now I began to realize that they weathered the trenches.  Drinking, drugs, disorders, divorce, debt, despair--they saw it all, and yet they aimed in spite of their own struggles, to remain confidants of the darkest secrets, upholders of families, hubs of social wheels.  All the spokes circled around them madly, while they learned to be still.  To be present.  To give both momentum and stability.  A lot like parenting, I imagined.  I had never before equated shepherding with love, or soldiering with pastoring.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Crochet, Cookies, and ... Hockey

I couldn't think of a "C" word to go with hockey.  Maybe "Canada's National Sport"?  

Crochet:  This winter I experimented with a few new patterns for birthday gifts for all those nieces we have!  I made two of the little purse, one a little bigger than the other.  The one pictured is the one I gave Alexandra and it is pretty small, just big enough for a little notebook and mini-pen and maybe you can slide in some church candy.  I made a slightly larger one for Nora.  I have always wanted to try my hand at amigurumi and found some cute patterns here.  My creations are far from perfect, so don't look too close.  

Cookies:  The girls have an American Girl baking book complete with cookie cutters and lots of ideas how to decorate those cookies.  After many days of begging, we finally rolled out sugar cookie dough and made pretty little prom dresses.  Even Seth enjoyed this!  The idea of rolling out dough, cutting, baking it, making frosting, etc always seems so daunting that I put it off as long as I can.  When I see how much fun they have decorating, I always wonder again, "What took me so long?"

...and Hockey:  Last week we went to our first Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game.  Another home school family from church had extra tickets to a Wednesday night game and invited us to join them.  We enjoyed the game and the time of fellowship, and the boys all came home with hockey pucks that they were giving away.  Too bad we don't skate well enough to play a great game of hockey.

After working three weekends in a row, I am happy to be off for several Saturdays.    This weekend I am planning to attend the Hudsonville URC women's conference on Friday night and Saturday.  The speaker this year is Martha Peace.  I am planning to attend with an older lady from our church, but also found out last night at the MWI meeting that many seminary wives are also planning to attend.    Russ and I won't see much of each other since he plans to leave Saturday for London, ON as he is preaching at the FRC there on Sunday.  

Our elderly neighbor called us last night to tell us she was moving out of her home this weekend into an apartment.  She says she just can't do steps anymore and even fell a few weeks ago.   We will miss having her across the street and will have to make sure we visit her in the new apartment.   She is not planning on selling her home right away and has asked Caleb to mow her lawn this summer.  He can add that to his growing list of mowing jobs...

And...track season started on Monday.  Hard to believe with so much snow on the ground and the below freezing temps.  What a nightmare for the track coach (Russ).  Guess he will just have to be have more creative practices.  Tomorrow...soccer in the snow!

Homeschool Weeks 18-24

I can't believe over seven weeks have gone by since I last gave a home school update!  This may be a long post, so you may just want to scroll down and look at the pictures.

In history we began week eighteen with the Revolutionary War.   We read how the discontent in the colonies grew until the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord.  We studied the important events and places of the war including:  The Battle of Bunker Hill, the Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin's trip to France to acquire their assistance, Valley Forge, and the surrender of Cornwallis.

Other people we studied in more depth included:  Patrick Henry, Paul Revere, Samuel Adams, John Adams (also his time in France and as ambassador to George III), Benjamin Rush, Thomas Jefferson, Benedict Arnold, John Witherspoon, John Muhlenberg, and John Jay.  

We saw how the new country's beginning was a little rocky until the U.S. Constitution was written and agreed upon.  There were still many who were not happy until the Bill of Rights was added several years later.  We watched the Schoolhouse Rock version of the preamble of the constitution and learned what each of the phrases meant through the help of the book, We the Kids.  The kids also completed a worksheet and watched a short video to help them understand the branches of our government and how they check and balance each other.  

Of course, we studied George Washington in more depth, including his time as general and as the first President of the United States.  

Activities for the Revolutionary War unit:    We made yummy hasty pudding (Lydia really liked this and still asks me to make it), read the "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" by Longfellow and tried to find which things were historically accurate and which were not, made paper quilts with scrapbook paper (I thought the needle and thread thing with three kids would just be too much!), and made silhouette portraits that were popular in the time of George Washington.

The kids laugh about Seth's square head.  He had such a rooster tail the morning that we did these that I just traced it right in!

After this we "left" the United States and went back to Europe to see what else was happening in the world at this time.   Captain Cook founded Botany Bay in Australia without realizing he had found another continent and the French Revolution began with the storming of the Bastille.   We studied the Reign of Terror in France and the end of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  We then traveled to Russia and learned more about Catherine the Great.  

Activities:  I made Baked Russian Manyick a popular Russian dessert that is quite tasty and we cut out paper dolls of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI.  

Louis XVI complete with a removable head.  Sick, I know, but that kind of thing intrigues a 7-year old boy.

In week 24 we studied how the world was progressing in terms of science and inventions.  This included Robert Fulton and the steam engine, Eli Whitney and the cotton gin, the rise of new factories and the idea of "interchangeable parts,"  Noah Webster and his dictionary, and Dr. Jenner and the smallpox vaccination.

During this time we also began a study of the fifty states and the presidents.  This year we have just a brief overview of the states in the order they join the union and will continue to study them in more depth next year, memorizing their capitals and geographic locations.   We are filling out little booklets on interesting facts of all the presidents that we can eventually compile into a bigger book.   This year we will only complete the pages of the presidents up until 1850 and plan to continue this project next school year.  

In our botany unit we studied flowers, pollination, different types of fruit and various ways seeds are dispersed (wind, animal, water, human, mechanical), leaves and photosynthesis, and roots.  The kids also classified leaves (simple or compound, venation, shape, and margin) using Caleb's old leaf collection.  On one extremely cold snow day we went to Meijer Gardens to see some of the plant characteristics that we had been studying.  I think this was when Caleb was in Guatemala.
The kids were especially intrigued with the carnivorous plants

Because it was a snow day, Nicolas was able to join us!

Dissected flower

Our read aloud during this time was about William Carey, missionary to India.  He lived at exactly the the same time period we had been studying so it was fascinating to see how political events around the world impacted travel and missions at that time.  

Both Lydia and Seth finished their book units.  Lydia made a diorama of Misty and Phantom and Seth still has a few projects he plans to finish up with mom and dad's help.  Stay tuned for those...

Lydia was so excited big brother Caleb had a snow day and was willing to help her with the diorama.  

"Leather" covered Indian word dictionary of words used in Sign of the Beaver

Last, but not least, we are now on chapter 4 of our memorization of the book of James.  Chapters 1 & 2 go pretty well, chapter 3 is a little shaky at the end, and we are just into the first few verses of chapter 4.    I review it in my head as I fall asleep at night.  It is the only way I can keep up with the kids!