Category Archives: Family News

Lost Days of 2011 — Vacationing in Fort Clark, Texas

Continuing my ‘Lost Days of 2011′ series, here is another memory that went unchronicled last year. I don’t know what I was thinking, to leave this vacation out!

Perhaps one of the hardest things for my mother-in-law to do last year, was to host us all at Fort Clark without her husband. Mamie has this idea that Bill was ‘the fun one’ and it was a big step for her to let us all come back to Texas in the Summer of 2011, with Grandad having died in February.

Still, how could it be Summer without a week or two in Texas? So many of our best and happiest memories are rooted in that place — we were thrilled that Mamie agreed to let us all come.

David and Sarah, beating the Texas heat with a shared water bottle

With the seven of us, Dan and his three, Aunt Stephanie, Jenn and Logan, and David R. thrown in for good measure, it was a large, silly crowd. Mamie was a very good sport to put up with us all, and to be ‘the fun one’ in her own right.

"Houston, we have a negative on escape velocity."

As usual, we spent many days at the football-field length pool, playing games and making ice-cream pilgrimages to Pico’s in the evenings. But we also went bowling, launched water balloons, and geocached as well. It was a fun-filled visit, with lots of cousin-time and opportunity to rest and relax.

Aunt Stephanie is very intentional about connecting with each of our kids -- she is a Great Aunt!

It was strange to be there without Grandad. I tried to go for lots of golf-cart rides, and I even read a couple of Louis L’Amour books (just to get into the spirit of the thing) but we very much missed his larger-than-life, boisterous Grandad-in-vacation-mode persona.

We tried to 'round up the usual suspects', but all we found were these people.

We missed having Phil and Emily there, but it was good to have some time with Jenn and Logan. One of the best things about Fort Clark is that you seem to have plenty of time there — the slow pace demanded by the heat is a welcome change from our busy lives.

Logan was well-loved by all his cousins, and Jenn's kindness and sense of humor were greatly appreciated.

Thanks to Aunt Kate and Uncle Jerry, who let us stay at their house, we had plenty of room to sleep and play games. They have been so kind to us, over the years, and I often worry that we are not sufficiently thankful. This year, I had the idea that we could each write a thank-you note to them each day — it turned into quite a pile of mail. I hope we didn’t irritate them more than we communicated our thanks.

Kathy never quite gets enough time with her family.

As a parent, I get a lot of enjoyment out of seeing my children interact with their cousins. There is something particularly special and precious about a close relationship with a cousin — that bond of blood seems to establish a level of trust that isn’t found in any other relationship.

Only their mothers can tell them apart.

Truly, an unforgettable Summer vacation. Thank you, Mamie, for letting us visit you at Fort Clark. Thank you for being brave and doing it without Bill.


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Come Home, Beloved Children

My world traveling children shall soon be on their way home. Poor David (age 7) is having a difficult time waiting.

Mom, I just can’t go for two weeks without my big brother, he moaned, draping himself across the arm of my chair this afternoon. It’s much, much too long. I’m desperately missing him.

Sarah refused to sleep in her room alone. I’m too scared to sleep by myself, Mommy. She spent nearly the entire portion of Joshua and Rachel’s absence in Daniel and David’s room. Lately she has taken to counting the days until their return on the calendar. She gives us frequent updates, which are vigorously analyzed by her older brothers.

You can’t count TODAY. Today is already happening and so you have to start with tomorrow.
No, I think you count today because today isn’t over.

come home soon!

Amidst all of the eager anticipation, Tim and I got the news that Air Norway was on strike. Well, isn’t that an unpleasant pickle. After much scurrying about, the travelers had a Plan B. Instead of flying out of Norway, they will take a 9 hour train ride to Oslo and then catch their flight to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt to DC and from DC to Seattle. My goodness, won’t they be a weary bunch.

we'll wait all night for your return

We are eager to hug them and have them back under our own roof. A tremendous thanks to Mark and Elizabeth, the ever gracious and beloved aunt and uncle, who hosted our intrepid explorers and provided a wonderful vacation for them. And, of course, another overwhelming thank you to Grandma and Grandpa, without whom this entire adventure would not have been possible.

We are incredibly blessed with dear, dear family!

And Thursday night our family will be whole again.

Project 366 – Day 142

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Happy Birthday, David!

I have a terrible memory. Oh, I can remember inane and unimportant things like the names of movie stars and their hit films or short stories I read in high school, but real memories, you know, events that actually happened to me, elude me.

I hold only little pieces of my childhood in my memory. Even then, many of the recollections come from pictures stored in photo albums and slide shows. I don’t know that I remember the actual occurrence or just the picture of the activity.

Tim tells the children elaborate tales of his youth; times he went camping with his family, places he explored as a child and teenager, insightful lessons he learned along the way. The children, eager for more glimpses into the ancient past, look over at me, ready to hear my childhood anecdotes.

I look back at them blankly.

I never knew I had a poor memory. It was something I discovered as an adult, about the time my kids asked me to tell them a story from my past.

I had a wonderful childhood and a rich, full life. I just can’t remember it.

Today is my youngest son’s birthday. David is seven years old. By now I’m an experienced mom, I know what happens: these precious little ones grow up! They change, mature, and blossom into young adults.

birthday boy

My sister-in-law, Elizabeth, blessed our family with this Birthday Hat.

I guess our days are too full of living to hold all of the precious moments of our days in my finite brain. I keep trying to get an upgrade on memory storage and brain power but the shipping costs are out of this world.

I don’t want to forget the sweetness of today. I don’t want to forget what my children are like at this point in their lives. Joshua is fourteen. I barely remember what he was like as a brand new 7 year old.

birthday breakfast

Butterscotch pancakes for the birthday breakfast. Yum!

And you all tease me for taking so many pictures. I need them to bolster my pathetic memory. I wonder if we will have perfect retention in heaven. Will we be able to look back and clearly remember all that we did during our life time? Can I request the Good Parts Only version? Maybe the glories of heaven will so outshine anything that occurred during our brief time here on this earth, that we won’t need to waste time on old memories.

Happy Birthday David!!

You are my beloved youngest son. You have an incredibly bright smile and sweet spirit. I treasure your ready hugs and cheerful personality. Several times a day you enthusiastically run over to me for a hug me or kiss on the cheek. You let me hold and snuggle you. You do a wonderful job of making me feel loved and appreciated. You love presents and are thankful for everything from little treats to a homemade meal.

let's blow them out!

On Friday you were upset because you didn’t have your “speedy” tennis shoes. You were gloomy and worried about running and playing in shoes that were too loose. You LOVE to zoom about at top speed. You have a wonderful daddy who drove out of his way to bring you your special shoes.

You are quickly becoming an excellent reader. Some days you fuss about all the school you have to do, and other times you rush through your work, laughing at how simple it is. You play easily with all of your siblings. You and Sarah are buddies and she adores you. You and Daniel can often be found playing computer games together or sitting on the floor with Legos, marbles or Playmobil. You and Joshua are great friends. Neither age or size difference seems to matter in your relationship and you were very dismayed that he was going to be out of town on your birthday. You and Rachel enjoy all manner of creative games. At the pool this week you played a game involving a slave and his master.

I try not to ask too many questions.

let's light those candles!

Rachel lit the candles for our second round of Happy Birthday To You!.

I’m afraid my memory is poor. You are going to grow up and ask me what type of a little boy you were. You’ll want to know what books you read, where you sat in the car, what types of games you played, and how much you were loved.

we love David

Forgive me for forgetting so many of the little details. With all my heart, I want you to know that you were a cherished six year old and will most certainly be a treasured seven year old. I’ll do my best to photograph, journal and blog your life so our memories of these sweet times will be carefully preserved and venerated.

Project 365 – Day 47

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Merry Christmas to Me!

It’s important to create a little suspense and anticipation on the blog. Keep people hungry (and that’s a difficult thing during the holidays) for more.

Here’s a little clue about my new present.

give a girl a big stick

Obviously this picture creates more questions than it answers:

  • Tim and Kathy’s folks are a little stingy and got her a new hat and scarf for Christmas.
  • Kathy’s tastes are simple and she is “thrilled, tickled, delighted and excited” about winter wear.
  • Kathy needs a haircut and some time at the salon
  • Tim went all out and carved Kathy a new walking stick for the holidays

Perhaps this is a better clue (this is fun, right?), the hint is not what’s IN the picture but the picture ITSELF.

Did you guess?
I know, this is killing you.
Okay, you’re bored silly and wish I would just get on with the blog and post some other cute pictures (preferably of the children).

Tim and my parents decided taking 11 thousand pictures this past year, give or take a thousand, proved I really was interested in photography. They put their heads (and cash) together and treated me to a wonderful new camera.

A fancy, schmancy new digital SLR camera by Nikon.

I picked up the “fancy, schmancy” name from Cindy who also received a new camera for Christmas. Mine is a Nikon D40X – the name alone sounds cool and impressive.

Tim got a fantastic deal and then went back and convinced the sellers to drop the price even further (he threw around the words price matching and Nutella, it’s a powerful combination).

I was totally surprised and amazed. Now I can take “real” pictures and turn this blog into something truly special.

Oh, the pressure is on now.

I am still learning about all the different settings and options. We took around 400 pictures between 1 pm Christmas day and 6 pm Wednesday. At that rate we’d hit something like 73K pictures in the upcoming year.


It’s a good thing I have one of these on hand. Nothing like a nice, little external hard drive to store your photos.

Joshua, Tim and I had a great time using the action function of the new camera to take some shots of the kids sledding this morning.

sarah's gonna sledwait for melet me fix my hair firstoh yeah, this is fun

I’d love to hear from other Nikon photographers – share your comments, tips, favorite lens, books, etc. I want to learn everything!! I think I need to add the Nikon D40X field guide to my Amazon wish list.

Now to find the perfect camera bag. This one in chocolate brown by Jill*e is gorgeous but seems a wee bit pricey.

Happy shooting!
Project 365 – Day 360

Thanks, Carl, for encouraging Tim to consider this camera.

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Twelve Things I Love About Rachel

My oldest daughter recently celebrated her 12th birthday, and Kathy asked me, “Aren’t you going to write a post about Rachel for her birthday?”

Talk about time flying. It seems only yesterday she was 11 …

One of our many traditions is that, on each child’s birthday, Kathy and I nostalgically reminisce about the actual day of that child’s birth. Rachel’s birth-day is memorable in terms of weather (a very cold Michigan day), in terms of inconvenient timing (born at 4:50 am during a snowstorm), in terms of worry for me (Kathy lost a lot of blood at her birth), and in terms of the joy of having a first daughter. The kids never seem to tire of hearing the story each year — of course, I try to liven it up with snide comments and family jokes.

As important as the birthday is, what happens after that seems much more significant, which is why it is no trouble at all for me to come up with a list about my beloved daughter:

Twelve things I love about Rachel …

  1. She has a quick wit, and a clever and quirky sense of humor
  2. Rachel loves to laugh, and has the rare sense of timing necessary to maximize the humor of a remark. Her wry but soft-spoken comments often have me straining to hear what she says, not wanting to miss out, even if I am the one being roasted. She often fires an amusing Parthian shot, just as she exits a room — leaving her victims ruefully shaking their heads in admiration of her verbal prowess.

    waiting for the mail

  3. She believes in Justice
  4. If there is anyone who is most like me in my love for justice, it is Rachel. She carefully watches the ebb and flow of family relationships and is quick to point out any improper favoritism (or lack thereof), especially among her siblings. Holding unflinchingly to personal integrity, she knows the difference between fairness and justice and seeks to order her own conduct according to the highest standards.

    princess in purple

  5. She is kind to David and Sarah
  6. Reading books tirelessly or playing with them, Rachel enjoys her youngest two siblings and cares for them graciously, sharing her time and toys unstintingly. In spite of Sarah’s tendency to use her sister’s things without permission, Rachel is patient and almost unfailingly kind to her little sister, even to the extent of giving her little jobs so she’ll feel useful. Last night, as I went to bed, I ran into Sarah, heading into the bathroom with a plastic cup. “Rachel makes me get her a glass of water every night,” she informed me cheerfully. “Yeah,” observed a gently sarcastic voice from the top bunk. “Every night she climbs up and begs me, asking if she can go get water for me; so sure enough, I ‘make‘ her do it.” Rachel has earned the trust and loyalty of her smallest siblings, and is storing up great treasure in heaven for herself through her consistent kindness to them.

    sarah and rachel

  7. She is generous
  8. Buying gifts for her siblings or sharing her stuffed animals, Rachel does not cling tightly to possessions over relationships. Last year when I bought some gifts for a missionary family of our acquaintance, I put them all on the table and allowed the children to ‘buy’ them from me, so that they could give the gifts in their own name. Rachel did not disappoint me, but dug deep into her bank to purchase a number of the gifts. She carefully tithes on her income, and (like her Mom) is open-handed with kind words and encouragement.

  9. She is a good friend
  10. Rachel is a soft-hearted girl, and she doesn’t enjoy sarcasm that hurts, or comments that really put others down. She is also somewhat of a thoughtful and solitary girl, often preferring to be alone, yet she seems to thrive (like her mama), on good girl friends. One thing I know: when she has a good friend, she knows how to keep them. Rachel is loyal and true and sweet and fun, and almost always thinks of the needs of her friends ahead of her own.

    birthday girls

  11. She loves music
  12. Last summer I won an iPod Shuffle, and I immediately thought to give it to Rachel. Ever since she was a little girl, she has always been the first to learn the lyrics to a new song, and has spent many a happy hour singing along in the car or in her room. As she leads worship in the children’s program at church or listens to the Christian radio station, it is exciting to see how her love for music draws her along in her love for Jesus. She is a little more of a hard-rocker than others in our home, but not obnoxiously so; she pushes us to listen to new music and stretch our ears a bit.

  13. She loves to serve at AWANA
  14. This year Rachel was invited to serve as a helper in the Cubbies AWANA class, teaching three- and four-year-old children in our church’s Wednesday night program. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that my daughter would enjoy the prospect of trying out her spiritual giftedness (teaching? service? evangelism?) at church. So far, we hear nothing but good things from the adult teachers, who are already campaigning for Rachel to help them again next year, in spite of the temptation of the Middle School program.

    sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters

  15. She has a soft spot in her heart for animals
  16. Even before she could talk, Rachel clearly loved animals, especially kittens and cats. That deep, abiding love has continued, fueled perhaps by our staunch resistance to the idea of having a dog or cat as a pet. Rachel’s advocacy has been the reason for our adoption of both guinea pigs, in spite of the sorrowful demise of Martin, our family’s first pet. One day I was trying to reassure her: “When you grow up, you can have a cat of your own, or even more than one!” Rachel countered with her own assessment. “It is true that I love animals now, but what if I grow up and don’t care about them the same way any more? I should have a pet now, just in case.” It is hard to argue with such logic.

  17. She is cheerful
  18. When we named her, we chose ‘Joy’ as Rachel’s middle name, in contravention of our intent to use middle names to honor family members. At the time, we were focused on our joy, but Rachel has made that name her own, in the cheerful and joyful way she relates to our family. She truly takes after her mother in that, for which I (and her future husband, should the Lord bless her in that way) are very grateful.

    journals from posie

  19. She knows her Bible
  20. Throughout the years, Rachel has paid careful attention to her Bible lessons at home and at church, and understands her Bible remarkably well, for a person her age. Her ability to interpret the scriptures and her knowledge of God’s character are the envy of many of her instructors. It is a delight to my soul to hear her explaining spiritual truths to her younger brothers.

  21. She loves Jesus
  22. As the apostle says in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Throughout her life, it has given us great joy to know that Rachel gave her heart to Jesus at an early age. Like every other Believer, she struggles with the invisible nature of God, and she recently confided to me, “Sometimes I don’t feel very close to Jesus.” But she prays and she reads her Bible and she walks in righteousness, growing in grace and in favor with God.

  23. She asks hard questions and thinks deeply
  24. Of all the children, Rachel has always been the one to ask ‘thorny’ questions. I remember picking blackberries when she was three, and how she got a thorn in her finger even after she prayed that she would be protected from the prickers. “Why does God let bad things happen, Daddy?” she asked. Just tonight, she engaged Kathy in a long discussion about why people take drugs. “Did you ever take drugs, Mom?” Rachel is never afraid of being too direct. Joshua loves using Rachel to ask the questions, when he is curious but too reserved to ask.

The other day, Kathy was shopping with her two girls, and the checkout cashier commented on their resemblance to my wife: “You have Two Mini Me’s there,” she laughed. Not to in any way minimize her uniqueness as a person, but I think one of the nicest things I can say about my daughter is that she reminds me of my beloved wife.

rachel is so beautiful

Not a bad start to your life, sweet Rachel. :)

I love you!

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