Summer in Grand Rapids

Ellie is now 15 and driving on a learner’s permit. JD is growing like crazy this year (left Paula in the dust). Paula is now the Director of Teacher Education in our College of Education. I am now the Department Chair for Special Education, Foundations, and Ed. Technology (SEFT). We’re a long way from moving to Michigan 15 years ago with a little 3 month old.

Long winter

We just experienced a very harsh winter. The first order of business this spring is to get a garage built before the next winter. Heh.

house, winter
Our House in Winter

New House

Well, we’ve gone and done it . . . after years of remodeling our home, we decided to move into another fixer upper. Sigh. The new home is in a historic district just outside of downtown Grand Rapids.
P.S. Anyone looking for a 4 bedroom home in East Grand Rapids? ;~)

March update

Okay, March Madness is in full effect. I am still trying to get the kids excited about KU basketball. They sort of follow the Jayhawks, but not enough to watch. Hmmm. In due time, I suppose.

Ellie and JD are busy playing tennis. Ellie just finished being in the school play (Sleeping Beauty) and she was a narrator. JD is getting ready to start lacrosse.

Our house is in disarray as our kitchen is being remodeled . . . I mean really, really remodeled. Our old kitchen and dining room have been combined into a very large kitchen. The old formal living room is now 1/2 formal living room and 1/2 formal dining room. It was a large room so it looks natural with the new look. And, the kitchen cabinets and flooring and new walls and openings are all in place. We’re just waiting on tile, backsplash, some lighting, countertops . . . and appliances, which come tomorrow.

I am leaving for 3 weeks to South Africa near Cape Town to work with some GVSU students who will be teacher assisting in township schools. We’ll also spend about 10 days touring the country along the Indian Ocean to see elephants and much more. Should be loads of fun. Be sure to check back for photos of the trip and of our kitchen.

I have been taking a photo each day and there are bunches of the kitchen in various stages. You can access our photos using the link at the top.

OM State Finals

quick follow up . . . Ellie’s Odyssey of the Mind team finished 4th at the State Finals this year. Kudos to the team for improving over last year.

quick update

both kids have been elected to the student council by their classmates. actually, JD tied so he and another child will each represent their class 1/2 of the year. academically the kids are getting off to a great start. in fact, JD had his teacher stop by our house the other day to tell him that he had aced a spelling pre-test. he didn’t have to take the regular spelling test like all of the other kids. this was the first time this has happened this year. JD’s teacher said he is breezing through the math tests they’ve had thus far and that he’s already at a much higher level of math.

Ellie has a wonderful teacher who is really pushing the kids to be much more cognizant of their roles in the learning process. Ellie’s writing is improving by leaps and bounds and i thought it was already great. she was also the first student in her class to take an Accelerated Reader (AR) test over an AR book, which means she read the book and was ready for the test before the other students. she just took the NCLB tests these past 2 weeks (called the MEAP in Michigan), so we’ll see how she compares to last year — when she took the test the day after we returned from Europe. Ellie was also selected to be a crossing guard when the 5th graders had a camp a few weeks ago. Ellie even patrolled the corner by our house so she got to help JD across the street. finally, Ellie also made the choir, so she practices for that early before school a few days a week.

the kids have their Halloween costumes. Paula was in San Fransisco so i took charge and helped the kids order costumes online. i’ll get the photos posted shortly after Halloween so stay tuned.

School is out

the end of the year came and went and now we’re enjoying summer vacation. on the last day of school, Ellie’s teacher gave everyone an award for this and that. Ellie earned a best behaved award. after everyone got the award, the teacher then gave a final award . . . he talked it up as the person who is a great students and who is always ready to learn and encourage others to do the same. he said it was a teacher’s pet award as well and he said a few other complimentary things. while he was describing this student the other students in the class started pointing at Ellie. sure enough, the award went to Ellie. i was there and i couldn’t have been more happy for Ellie. a great finish to 3rd grade.

as we were packing everything up, we ran by Ellie’s class to grab the last little bit. JD’s teacher was talking to Ellie’s teacher (Mr. Keller) and i made a joke to Ellie’s teacher and said that JD just wants to skip 2nd grade and jump right into Mr. Keller’s 3rd grade. without missing a beat, JD’s teacher said, “and he could probably do that just fine.” a fine end to the year — a year where the kids missed the first month and 1/2 of school while traveling through Europe.

Paula is reading some book all about the foods we eat. she’s decided that we eat too much processed foods and she’s making changes. sweets are gone and all purchases are now healthy. we have a garden outside that is our biggest yet and we’re growing all sorts of veggies and herbs, etc. Paula is getting Vegetarian Times and i have to admit that some of the recipes are pretty darn good. that being said, Paula made veggie sloppy joes not too long ago and JD was so excited when he heard “sloppy joe’s” . . . when he got the dinner table and saw that it was actually veggie sloppy joe’s he started crying. it was too cute. he couldn’t be more meat and potatoes, but that doesn’t stop Paula as she just keeps making the good food and JD sighs and eventually his hunger wins out and he’ll try stuff and realize it’s at least edible and sometimes even decent. hopefully his taste buds mature a bit or this new healthy diet is going to really be difficult for the boy.

happy new year

Grandma and grandpa Cook are here and we all stayed up past midnight. Ellie went to a New Year’s Eve party and stayed all night. we were all a bit tired today, but the big news is that JD lost his second tooth. both teeth have been lost on a holiday now, so that made him pretty darn happy.

our Christmas was very nice. we were here in East Grand Rapids and had grandma and grandpa Mehochko here on X-mas morning. the kids both volunteered to be in the Christmas Pageant at church. they were 2 of the 5 narrators and were both the youngest narrators, so JD was well behind everyone else in age. but that didn’t stop them from going up to the pulpit and reading their pieces with nice and loud voices. very nicely done.

Santa was good to the kids this year, but the kids have been good kids all year so it was well deserved. this was the first year that the kids didn’t send Santa a letter and instead opted to just use email. Paula received a Wii Fit and she’s finally using the Wii for the first time. actually, we are all using the Fit. it provides us with a Wii Fit age and apparently JD and i are equal in Fit age. the boy is a bit out of shape. i think it has more to do with his lack of coordination. i don’t think 7 year olds are the target audience of the Wii Fit. heh. but it has us all moving a lot so that can’t be bad.

Happy new year everyone!

Bruges Belgium

day 37 (10/8)
we took off for Bruges in Belgium today and arrived in time for lunch. Paula and i both ordered a big ol Belgian beer and i also ordered a waffle along with my lunch. the kids even tried some local foods. Bruges is an incredible city as the city center is well preserved and looks like something out of the Renaissance period with a moat around it and the old castle-like buildings, etc. very neat.

we parked at the train station just outside of town and they provide you with a free bus ticket into the city center and back for parking there, which is cool. better yet, our total parking bill was $2, so we effectively parked and road public transportation today for fifty cents a person. can’t beat that. Ellie has been wanting a horse-drawn carriage ride for some time, so we found one here in Bruges and took that right after lunch. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed seeing the town from the carriage and the ride overall. we then set about walking around the town on the old cobblestone roads. this place is ancient and is just very cool. everywhere you turn is picturesque. i have added a bunch of photos to our site so you should check them out if you haven’t lately as the new ones are being added fairly often (including some new ones from Amsterdam just now added). here’s one from the main market square:

we left Bruges in the late afternoon and headed for France. we’re staying about an hour from Paris. i picked a hotel with English television (1 channel — BBC) so that i could watch the presidential debate. doh. it was last night (and we watched it from Amsterdam at 3:00 AM). so we didn’t even turn the television on here as the kids were too busy doing homework tonight. math, math, math.

Austria!

day 27 (9/28)
we had a slow morning in Lazise and got on the road about 10:45 AM headed towards Austria — so long Italy! i had a place reserved at a youth hostel in Innsbruck, but it was still expensive, so i set the GPS to take us to a smaller town about 20 minutes away and up higher in the Alps. we got there and this place was everything you’d expect from a village in the Alps. some of the people are even dressed like the stereotype. well, come to find out there was a festival and parade going on so that explained that. in any regard, the GPS had me turn onto a dirt road in the village. i was leery because of the weirdness this GPS has already taken us through, but i followed it. well, this wasn’t a driving road; it was a hiking path and the path does go right to the hotel i had identified. but the path got more narrow and more narrow. just imagine me on the side of a mountain on a hiking path that is smaller than the car and i come across a meadow (slanted because this is the Alps). i pull out into the grass going up hill so that i can complete my turn going down hill. it works and i make it back out without incident. whew. the hotel is closed for the summer. apparently this is a ski resort town and you can see slopes all around. the people at the closed hotel (more like a bed and breakfast building) send me towards the center of town for lodging. i get there and a parade is going on so i can’t drive to the hotel. i have the kids and paula go watch the parade of horses and horse drawn carriages and people dressed up traditionally, etc. — pretty neat stuff and i find a hotel. this is a 4-star hotel with a multi room apartment available for us and this place has all of the extras like a sauna, massages, hot bath (in a half barrel thing) and all that jazz. AND, it’s well under $200/night. i have been pricing places in Innsbruck and this village is way, way cheaper. whew!

we decide to eat lunch at our hotel. keep in mind that none of the hotels in this town are giant like in the USA; rather, these are just 15 or so bedroom buildings. we explore the town and the many shops and look for a playground. the kids buy some rocks at a rock shop and we find a single playground thing which satisfies the kids for now. we also discover an incredible indoor swimming pool. we plan to go back tomorrow for JD’s birthday. this pool has giant boulders in it and you can climb up on the rocks and jump or dive into the pool. should be a thrill. stay tuned for that. in the meantime, Paula came across a playground and mini golf place. so we headed off and played on the playground — not too shabby. then we had dinner. JD got wienersnitzel and fries and loved it. Ellie had spaghetti. Paula had something with potatoes and beef or something. i had sauerkraut and a bacon dumpling thing after having goulash for lunch. i don’t think i’d have ever grown tired of Italian food, but it’s nice to have variety again and i am trying the most traditional Austrian foods . . . and they’re good thus far. cheers for now.

updated photos from Lazise are now available here.