Saturday, January 16, 2016

Fall Camping just the boys

Nathan and Elliot headed north to do an overnight camping trip. Nathan has a friend who owns some property and generously has offered him a place to camp anytime. 

Mild 70 degree weather was a nice surprise this Autumn. The warmest October in a long long time. The day Nathan and Elliot hit the road and head a little further north the first snow of the year appeared. It was funny because it was sunny and still relatively warm in Zeeland but an hour away and it looked liked this. That is the unpredictability of living in Michigan. 

We had missed the colors when we went to the UP but they had finally arrived on this trip. 

We don't own enough land for Elliot to shoot his BB gun whenever he wants, this was a good opportunity for him to give it a try. 

The property is close to an elk herd. At night you can sometimes hear them.

Best part of camping, being cozy in the tent, reading comics and listening to the radio. 

Friday, January 15, 2016

Oh Canada..

Stratford Ontario is home to the Shakespearean lovin' community that is built around the business of the theater.  Nathan took me there on our first official date, we then honeymooned there and went back and celebrated our first wedding anniversary. Nathan had the idea of taking Jane to see The Sound of Music.  
We decided that just dad and daughter would go to the play, but the whole family would make the trip across the border. 

The Festival Theater is the largest venue in the city. 

It was rainy and cold on the day of the play.  But Elliot and I kept ourselves busy and spent some time at the local library. 

Inside the theater.  

Elliot fitting into Canadian life by wearing his Red Wings Hockey sweatshirt.  Tim Hortons in Canada French and English on menu. 

During our visit we went to a thrift store and Jane found an Anne of Green Gables doll still in the box for $3. We scored some Kinder chocolate eggs.  The kids miss those treats from our time in  in Hong Kong and they don't sell them in the US.
Elliot got some hockey cards for a $1. 

 Although a majority of the Canadians we come across in Ontario are similar to us Michiganders, parts of the city
do feel European in the way it looks and you can pretend you are across the ocean. 
Mom and son hanging out at the park. 

In total it takes about  5 1/2 hours to get to Stratford. We broke the trip up by staying over night at Port Huron.  Jane and monkey ready for the ride.
We have talked about returning with the kids  maybe in milder weather so we can explore more of the city and be there for more events.  We would like to get to Toronto to watch a baseball game maybe we will do one big Canada trip this year. 

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Frakenmuth 2015

On our way to Canada we made a stop at "Little Bavaria" Frakenmuth, Michigan.  

Is it  possible to visit Frakenmuth and not go to Bronners? I'm not sure it is.  Bronners calls itself the largest Christmas Store in the world, and once inside you can believe it. The store in it's advertising writes Christmas like CHRISTmas, indicating they are honoring who Christmas is really about.  One thing I find fascinating is the pictures of all the famous people who have come to visit the store, celebrities, governors , President etc.
I noticed this time pictures of the "real" Maria Von Trapp, this was fitting since we were traveling to Canada for Nathan and Jane to see The Sound of Music performed live on stage in Stratford.

Pictures from the kids first visit to Frakenmuth in 2007

I was hoping to get a Nativity set, but I couldn't decide on what I wanted for the price. We for sure left with ornaments. Jane got a special  "Domino" ornament in honor of the baby turtle we kept this summer.  Elliot a popcorn ornament,  his favorite "food."
Two hours later we officially wore the kids out and headed to Port Huron. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Herman Miller Halloween

Our actual Reformation Day  A.K.A Halloween was spent in Stratford, Ontario. The kids weren't sure how they felt about being out of the country at that time. We did learn on our trip that our Canadian neighbors celebrate it too.
 We aren't big supporters of Halloween with the emphasis on witchcraft and demons. However,  I understand the appeal to want to dress up and get candy. 
For a majority of their lives our kids have celebrated it at a church. I don't know when the Harvest Party alternative came about in the modern church, but it is here. Some churches use it as a time to share the gospel message.
 I have never been excited about the thought of taking my kids door to door around Halloween. The sometimes scary decorations were enough to keep me away and usually in Michigan it is freezing outside. The joke is you have to wear your snowsuit over your costume.
 It wasn't until after the kids were born that I learned that it is the same day the Martin Luther delivered his 95 theses. Reformation Day is recognized in our community, which is the headquarters for the Christian Reformed church.  The only way I ever suggested to the kids to really celebrate it was by them dressing up as Martin Luther, they haven't gone for it yet..  

     As we were having discussions on less candy this year, Nathan brought up that his company- Herman Miller has a Halloween celebration for families. Nathan is a safety and code engineer. 
The timing of the work celebration was perfect. Various departments decorate their work stations and provide candy and treats for the kids.   
When we walked in, the kids eyes got big with all the candy just in dad's department. One station had a 3D printer making a skull, some displayed pumpkins that must have been part of an office contest.
The kids and I sat on all the chairs and sofas.
 Herman Miller has some well designed furniture that is quite comfortable. 

The employees can rent a quiet room out.  Elliot ( Indiana Jones) is demonstrating how to relax after having a stressful meeting.  

If I saw the chairs in the store, I don't think I would be drawn to the way they look. But once I sat on the famous
Eames lounge, I decided it was more comfortable than  my bed and would like it. Retail around $5500

 Probably one of the biggest candy hauls they have ever had.

It was a fun way for the kids to see where dad goes everyday. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Jane is 12- way back in September 2015- last year.

I told Jane if she wanted a party she could plan it herself, at her age she knows better than I, what her friends and her would like to do for entertainment.
Five minutes after I give this speech, I am on pinterest looking up tween birthday parties.
The idea we both liked the best was the auction. 
Give kids fake money to bid on items. You introduce the items one at a time and they have to decide how much of their money they want to spend on it, without knowing what comes next. 
Powerpuff and Tangled theme Birthday party.
This is her third birthday party that had some part of it to do with Tangled.
She also came up with a pass the parcel game herself. She first played this in Hong Kong ( it is a British based game) and although a "kiddy" game it is one of her favorites.

Hannah, Lexi, Sophie(twin #1) - Emma ( twin#2) Berea
Jane is the youngest of the bunch,
Camp- out sleepover in the yard. All of them are homeschoolers like herself. 

Uncle Shane calls her captain. 
At 12 -Jane is fun loving, kind hearted, thoughtful. 
She is taller than her mom and is quickly becoming a young lady.  

As a seventh grader she isn't suppose to attend children's church anymore and I remember the first Sunday we showed up, she had to decide to work the four -year old class with Nathan and I or go to the "big" church. I was shocked when she chose going to the service.
 Our church facility is large, it houses a school, has classrooms, a gym  and is attended by 3,000 people. I wasn't sure she even knew how to get to the sanctuary from the nursery. I was nervous for her. We thought she would turn around and come back and work the classroom with us. She didn't. We speculated that she might have decided to sit in the foyer and look at her phone. A phone that has no phone plan attached to it, so I couldn't text her to ask . She returned after service and reported she did in fact sit through the whole service.
Jane mentioned it was intimidating and was worried at first no one was going to sit by her in the balcony, but eventually people filled it in.  She even took notes. 
Since that time she has opted to work nursery with us on the off weeks, but I was proud she was willing to at least try it and brave it on her own.  I tell that story because it reflects a spirit in her I admire. Of course independence and doing things "my way" are frustrating tendencies, but we all have our faults.  Time and again I have witnessed  her stepping out and try something new. The actions of her friends do no always dictate what she decides to do, she will go it alone. Not a common characteristic of all middle school girls.
The time is going fast.  Thanks for making me a mother Jane Autumn- you're great!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

Upper Peninsula 2015

The Upper Peninsula is a popular place visit year round for many reasons. One reason people travel in the Autumn is to view the beautiful colors of changing leaves.  Nathan wanted to get back to Fayette State Park this year before the winter. We planned a fall U.P trip with some hopes of seeing a color display. We soon realized the warm weather of October meant the leaves would change later in the season.  It wasn't the focus of our trip, so the disappointment was easily dismissed by us.
 The waitress at one of the restaurants said that people will book bus tours up to a year in advance specifically to see the colors,  they have to make a good guess at when they peak will be. Come to early like us and it is still green, come too late and the leaves will be gone.

First stop was in Mackinaw City.  A visit to Mcgulpin lighthouse, it had an informative video about shipwrecks on the great lakes and the many lives that have been lost to the treacherous winter storms. 
 In usage 1896-1906. The shore was a lot closer before and it eventually became obsolete.

 a bit windy that day. 

Cut River Bridge is one of only two cantilever bridges built in the USA. I didn't know what that meant before visiting. A cantilever is a structure that projects horizontally into space, supported on only one end.
It was special for us to visit because the Cut River Bridge was always the stopping point for Grandpa and Grandma Roman when they would visit the UP. Grandpa would run up and down the ravine, it was just something he did. In recent conversations he has mentioned he would like one more trip to the bridge but isn't sure he will get there.  

a troll that lives under the bridge. 

Where to stay? As the kids get bigger we have found the standard two double bed offerings at most hotels has become less comfortable.  The sleeping habits of children who never have to share bed, usually result in a knee to the back or stretching out to the grown up side. We have sometimes had the kids share a bed but that usually resulted in arguing and wasn't worth it to us. 

 We sometimes bring an air mattress or our thermarest pads.  It is always a luxury when a room offers  an extra pull out couch, or something else that will work as an extra bed. 
The Northshore Motor Inn was a nice motel and we found it up to date and comfortable.  It had a daybed set up in the corner, Jane immediately took to it and made it cozy. 

We eventually reached Fayette State Park

Fayette was once one of the Upper Peninsula's most productive iron-smelting operations. Fayette grew up around two blast furnaces, a large dock, and several charcoal kilns, following the post-Civil War need for iron. Nearly 500 residents—many immigrating from Canada, the British Isles, and northern Europe—lived in and near the town that existed to make pig iron. During 24 years of operation Fayette's blast furnaces produced a total of 229,288 tons of iron. It is now a living museum with reconstructed houses and buildings demonstrating life there in the early 19th century. 

Fayette had decorated for Halloween and we were missing a fall celebration by one day.  The kids did get some popcorn, a free showing of  Frakenweenie was happening in one of the buildings.  The funniest decoration was the out house that was automated and would open periodically. 

"It smells like something died in here. "

The weather was crisp but not too frigid and it was a relaxing time to visit and we did manage to get some nice photos. Three deer walked through the site shortly before dark a perfect way to end our visit. 


Friday, January 1, 2016

Summer Fun

One of the main reasons I blog is to keep a record of our lives.  I have hopes of returning to scrapbooking, but I'm not sure I will get back to it like I once did.  I do want the stories put down to memory that go with the pictures. Stories that reflect our emotions and thoughts at the time, or sometimes just to give an explanation of what happened. Even with the best memory I will not be able to give an account of all the details.  The idea is for me to take what I do here and eventually create a hard copy of it somewhere. Time is passing me faster than my record keeping after 3 and half years I'm still working on the Hong Kong scrapbook.  It is about making it a priority, we have time in our life for anything if we make it.   My first resolution for the New Year is to catch up.
Car Show downtown Zeeland. 
The waves at the beach this day were so rough it popped Elliot's tube.

Found this game at Out of the box. Not sure it's worth $30 but might have to get it a go some day. 

Zeelmania craft time.  Downtown Zeeland.
I grew this tomato in a container on the porch. I didn't kill it! I also grew a pepper. One step closer to gardening. 

 She compared this soup to miso it is a Korean dish. 
Chinese lessons with Jane's tutor Nini are always fun when they include a cooking lesson.  The Yuan Xiao she said is something made at special times, similar to family reunions or celebrations. 

The Knickerbocker Theater in Holland. This was a free family movie night. 

Our church had a skate night. Sophia and Ava Hyatt with Jane before the Hokey Pokey. 

Visiting Dutch Village with the Staals. Elliot rode a carousel and a Ferris wheel. 

The Staals invited us to their cottage on Lake Michigan over the 4th of July. 
Big Ticket Festival 2015. Terrie and I brought the kids. Toby Mac was a  good show, all of us were dancing and singing. 
(lower right) is the new favorite with the kids. 

Sweeney Brother Reunion.  Graham, Glen, Garrett and Grant.  A bitter-sweet reunion this year since it is the first once since Uncle Greg's sudden passing. 

Another reunion. It has been decades that all of my siblings have been in one place at the same time. Jennifer the oldest is on the right of dad Dewey Sr ( mom is hiding in the back) . Chas, and Dewey Jr.
I had this on facebook and I think my favorite comment was, "Sarah all those people look like you."  I always felt that I resembled my brother the most. 

The coolest dude 

Lake Michigan fun! 

Elliot and Aaron showing their concert style.  Kindred spirits with their long-sleeves and pants during the heat of summer.