Early 2017 Update

Paula is still the Director of Teacher Education and I am still the Department Chair for special education, foundations, and technology (SEFT) with approximately 24 faculty in my department. So, we’re busy. The kids are plugging away in school. Ellie drives JD to school each day. JD is now taller than me by a few inches. We are going on college visits with Ellie and have more planned for spring break on the east coast. So far, she has really liked Cornell and the University of Michigan, but there are many more visits planned. We also saw a university in the NYC area that I will not name, but it was not an impressive campus visit and quickly fell out of consideration.

Ellie is the president of her junior class. JD is secretary of the freshman class. Ellie’s Odyssey of the Mind team is competing again this year. They’ve gone to the World Finals the past 3 years and they have 2 teams this year and both have already qualified for State (i.e., regionals > state > worlds). At least this year the world finals are located at Michigan State University, so it’s close. JD has skipped a year ahead in math. Both kids go to the #2 high school in Michigan and it’s an IB school, which they love.

This past summer, Paula and I presented at a conference in Bali and we took the kids. It was gorgeous.

Beach, Bali
Bali Beach Scene

Bali, waterfall
Bali Waterfall

I also presented at a conference in Ireland back in April. Of course, I made time to visit the Guinness headquarters as well:


I also made it out to the west coast to see the Cliffs of Moher (there are 30 people in this image, if you can believe that):

Cliffs of Moher, Ireland

JD and I went hiking in the Rockies during the summer of 2016.

Rocky, Rockies, RMNP
Rocky Mountains

And Paula and I had a quick business trip to St. Louis with a cool view from our hotel:

St. Louis, Arch

As you might be able to notice, my little photograph project from 2011 where I shot a photograph each day blossomed. I’ve entered some art competitions and done very well. I took second place at the 87th Annual Regional Exhibition at the Muskegon Art Museum. They had 725 art entries from watercolors to oils to sculptures and more. My photography took 2nd place overall. I have had 3 photographs hanging in the museum now. I have placed and have photographs featured in other shows as well. I really enjoy photography, but being a department chair has severely cut into my time to devote to photography, unfortunately. It’s still my escape from time to time when I need my head cleared. Here are some of my favorite images.

the end of the innocence

last night, JD started asking some probing questions. it quickly became clear that he no longer believed in Santa Claus and was going to have us admit it. come to find out, the boy hasn’t believed since Kindergarten. he just couldn’t believe that a giant bunny rabbit hopped from house to house with candy and stuff for kids all over the world. it seemed preposterous to him and he was just sure the bunny would have been arrested for breaking and entering. well, JD was in our bed and Ellie soon came in as well. all 4 of us on the bed with the dog. JD couldn’t contain himself any more and he just started laughing, which made me laugh. Ellie asked why we were laughing and then JD said it’s because my beard looks funny . . . and that made me laugh harder. and by this time everyone was laughing. eventually we turned to Ellie and asked her about her beliefs. she played along for a minute, thinking that she didn’t want to ruin it for JD. but eventually she let us know that she’s known for years. we all laughed a bunch more and the kid told stories about how i’d slipped up here and there (e.g., forgetting to do the tooth fairy once and coming back the next day, leaving toy packaging out in a bag for stuff in stockings, etc.).

eventually it was time for the kids to go to bed (it was about 10:30 when our session together ended). JD stayed in with Paula and Ellie went back to her bed — i went out to watch boxing. anyway, Paula said that JD then cried. why? because he just didn’t want to grow up. he’s having such a fun time being a kid and he doesn’t ever want to grow older. Paula explained that there is much fun in being able to make your own decisions and choosing your own destiny. i think part of this came on because the kids saw “Where the Wild Things Are” at the movie theater earlier that day . . . and JD cried during much of that movie as well. i think a lot of stuff was just hitting him all at once today. quite the overwhelming day, but he came through very well and the first thing he did today was jump up next to me on the couch and put his little arm around me and sigh with a little chuckle, “dad, that was fun last night, wasn’t it?” yes it was.

the great north part 2

on the way back from Canada, we stopped in Sault Ste Marie to spend the last of our Canadian money on lunch. then we drove down to St. Ignace, which is the northern point of the Mackinac Bridge (in the U.P.). we hopped on a ferry boat and minutes later arrived on Mackinac Island. we didn’t have a place to stay because i’d tried to find something affordable and could find nothing for the 4 of us for under $250/night. we checked into the Inn where we stayed 2 years ago and they had a room with 2 queens available that night for $140. we took it. we then rented bikes and rode around the 8 mile island. keep in mind, only bikes, horses, and walking are allowed on this island.

the kids were loving it. they both got bigger bikes than they have at home and they both also got bikes with 21 gears (neither have gears at home). this opened up a whole new world to the kids and they now both want a new gear bike quite badly. we spent that first day biking and shopping. the second day we again rented bikes and first headed over to play real miniature golf (not on a course like putt-putt, but on greens like real putting).

we had fun then exploring the interior of Mackinac Island using our bikes. beautiful place:

after a nice long second day on Mackinac Island we hopped on the boat and then headed to Petoskey in time to eat a late dinner with Paula’s parents who had driven up to meet us in Petoskey. we also explored the lake shore looking for Petoskey Stones.

the next morning we headed over to play actual miniature golf (i ended up two over par, fwiw and JD had a hole-in-one). and then we enjoyed the lake and a picnic and the sunset.

Lake Michigan
Lake Michigan

the next morning we headed of to Charlevoix, Michigan. what a pretty place. and the main road through town is a draw bridge. we arrived just in time to go over it and then see it open up for the parade of yachts.

we had lunch in Traverse City along the Grand Traverse Bay and then took the leisurely route home. a wonderful little get away for just over a week.

The Great North

we took off for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Friday, July 31st early in the morning. 5 hours later and we were pulling into Paradise, Michigan where we’d stay. we had lunch and then ventured off to see the Tahquamenon Falls. the upper falls are huge and the water looks like root beer because of the underlying soil. we hiked a bit and even rented a rowboat to explore an island between the two lower falls.

we had a great dinner of fresh fish from Lake Superior and then headed to our cabin. our cabin was rented when we arrived so we got upgraded to a big house right on Lake Superior. IT. WAS. GORGEOUS! we had a fire pit so we made S’mores and enjoyed the sound of waves crashing into the shore. very pleasant.

the next morning we woke up early and headed off to Canada, specifically Wawa, Ontario. this was our home base for the next many days. however, on the way we had to drive through the Lake Superior Provincial Park (we were there just two years ago, fwiw). we hiked down to see the ancient wall paintings. the hike was fairly difficult for the kids, particularly after having been in the car for the past 5 hours. but they did swell.

it was about a 20 minute drive to our next hiking trail this day. on the way, the rain starting coming down and boy did it ever pour. we had to pull over because i couldn’t see the road and many other vehicles were doing the same thing. however, the rain lasted for only 15 minutes and then it stopped. when we started down the next hiking trail, it was completely soaked and we had the trail completely to ourselves. did i note how wet it was? but it didn’t rain on us during this 2 hour hike so that was nice.

we had a nice dinner back in Wawa and got all checked into our room for the night. early to rise the next morning for a day filled with fun. we rented a canoe and canoed in the largest lake in the interior of the Provincial Park — Lake .

it looked like rain much of the cold morning (started at 49 degrees before getting into the high 50s). but we stayed dry and canoed and explored around bays and islands . . . we even found a private little island for our lunch spot, which the kids thought was really neat (as bears couldn’t get us out on the island).

we decided to do our big hike that afternoon around Orphan Lake. this is a 4 – 5 hour hike and it’s not easy. the trial takes you way up high over Lake Superior and Orphan Lake:

and then it drops down all the way to Lake Superior with some neat waterfall area along the way:

everyone was a trooper and we managed to complete the hike in about 4 hours even though we took an extended break to relax and play on a waterfall (or the huge boulders that made the waterfall).

the next day we set out to enjoy Wawa in the morning. the kids mined for precious stones and gems (and found some):

we then ate lunch and then rented a canoe from a place right on Lake Superior and headed up river to our own private waterfall.

after that, we decided to head back for another decent hike. and that’s when we saw this guy, who was fortunately more scared of us:

the hike we were on was the toughest yet as it was going up a HUGE incline to cliffs towering above Lake Superior. but the views made it worth it and the clouds were coming in low to make the view even better.

the next post will be about part 2 of our trip.

Gone fishing

so, last week we drove over to Minnesota for a wedding (Sean’s cousin) and decided to head up to our friend Daryl’s cabin in northern Minnesota. the cabin is on Ten Mile Lake and Ten Mile is one of the prettiest and clearest lakes in Minnesota.

ten mile lake
ten mile lake

Daryl’s daughter and son-in-law, Kelsey and Brady, were also there. they helped us jet ski and enjoy the lake. but Daryl took us fishing and boy did we ever fish. i caught a nearly 17″ small mouth bass, which was the biggie fish of the trip (helped me convince my kids i knew what i was doing). we ended up keeping nearly 30 rock bass for a very nice grilled fish and veggie dinner.

fish dinner
fish dinner

fishing was definitely the highlight of the trip for the kids. JD didn’t think he’d ever caught a fish before so he was absolutely delighted to catch his first fish just hanging out and fishing from the deck shortly after we arrived. here he is right before catching his first fish (hanging out with Daryl’s dog):

a boy, a dog and a lake
a boy, a dog and a lake

and once JD caught a fish he had also caught the fever for fishing. JD and Ellie both loved it and they could have fished all day and night for life. in fact, here is JD late into the night fishing from the boat followed by Ellie hanging out on the boat with Daryl’s dog:

night fishing
night fishing

Ellie fishing
Ellie fishing

and since i posted 2 photos of JD, Ellie was mighty proud of the Sun Fish she caught:

Sun Fish
Sun Fish

just as a reminder, you can click the photos link at the top of this page to view all of our family photos at any time. i keep the photos much more updated than this blog, for what it’s worth.

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.

Cruising along

well, the kids are nearing the end of the school year and they’re doing quite well. since Odyssey of the Mind has ended the kids finally have a bit more free time. they are both taking piano lessons and also tennis lessons. we’ve been playing lacrosse in the front yard quite a bit and we have had some great games of horse on the driveway. it’s great to get outside to enjoy the weather this spring. they are both reading like crazy and i am pretty sure J.D. knows everything about Star Wars that was every written or even imagined.

we are starting to plan some of our vacation stuff this for this summer and i think we’ll be heading back up to Mackinac Island and then on up into Canada to explore the north shores of Lake Superior. i am pretty sure we’ll find moose this summer. fingers crossed.

it’s happening

we’ve become soccer moms . . . and it’s not even soccer season. our kids are busy all of the time. both kids are on the school’s Odyssey of the Mind team. JD is on the K-2nd grade team and Ellie is on the 3rd – 5th grade team. Ellie’s group even meets twice a week for a few hours. i guess this is serious stuff. additionally, Ellie is in the school play (Peter Pan is the play). when she’s not acting in the school play then she is in an acting class through the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre. both kids are taking piano lessons. and JD is also doing a lego class and a science class through our local parks and recreation department. whew! add homework every night and we are feeling like we’re always on the go.

home again, home again

well, we made it home on Wednesday. we woke up in Paris at 5:30 AM (that’s 10:30 PM in Chicago). we landed in Chicago at 1:30 PM and by the time we got through customs and picked our car up at Paula’s parents and then drove home it was 9:00 at night. for those of you who aren’t mathematicians, that is nearly 22 hours. none of us slept on the plane but the kids managed to fall asleep on the drive from Chicago to our house. Paula and i watched the presidential debate and then we had to fall asleep so we didn’t have a chance to go through mail or check phone messages as we’d been up for 24 hours straight.

the whole family woke up between 4 and 4:30 AM and we were wide awake. that’s 10:00 AM in Paris, so that was really sleeping in. it’s taking a while still to get used to the new time zone as we woke up at 6:00 AM today (the next day). JD and Ellie wanted to go to school so 4 hours after we woke up we headed off to the first day of school — wearing jackets. heh. we got to school a little early and checked in at the office and then found their lockers. their classrooms are far apart, but somehow they ended up having lockers just across the hall from each other. how cute. we saw their teachers and then they started school so Paula and i left. after school, we greeted the kids out front and they both reported good days back. Ellie spent nearly the whole day taking the NCLB test in reading. she also took a reading placement test for her teacher that others had previously taken. she received her score that day. if you’re curious, she was in the 98 percentile, which is extremely good and she’s reading on a 5th or 6th grade level. it’s so interesting to compare Ellie and JD. they’re both our kids, but they have completely opposite strengths. Ellie excels in reading while JD is extremely talented in math.

a funny thing happened after the kids got home. JD went to the bathroom and then opened the door and asked for help as he didn’t know how to flush the toilet. i think all of the toilets we’d used in Europe had the flusher as a button you push on top of the tank. he didn’t even see the flusher lever on the side of the tank. we all got a good laugh out of this one.

some friends of ours dropped by a care package that included dinner, so we didn’t have to bother with that on that first full day back. but what we did bother ourselves with was heading down to the Honda dealer and buying an ’09 Honda Civic Hybrid. we were going to buy a Fit, but i said to the salesman when we walked in that i’d prefer a Civic Hybrid but i don’t have time to wait on a waiting list as i am without a car. that’s when he said that they’d received one late the previous day. we walked out and it was pretty darker gray color. i said we’d take it without a test drive. just then another couple and salesperson walked out to see it. our guy told them we’d just bought it. whew. now Paula and i can park in the close parking lot at work as they have many spaces set aside for hybrid vehicles. hee hee.

after school, we went over and picked Ziggy up. he was so happy to see us. he’s now being perfect. i think he thinks we must have left him because he did something wrong so now he’s trying to be the perfect dog. i’ll just let him continue thinking that.

as i noted, today we woke up closer to 6:00 AM. i walked the kids to school as Paula was getting ready to help take kids on a field trip. Ellie and JD were still being treated like celebrities when their friends saw them. i imagine next week will be back to normal. i hope anyway.

last day in Paris

day 43 (10/14)
last day. well, today was our last full day in Paris and in Europe. right after breakfast, we walked across the street and walked past a phone booth. JD’s shoe (sandal) came off and he stopped to put it back on. as he was doing so, the little old lady who apparently lives in the phone booth came running out and gently pushed JD and yelled at him. this surprised JD as he didn’t see her coming. Paula then yelled at the woman who then ran back to her phone booth and picked up the phone and started dialing 3 numbers at random. she listened and then probably got a recording as she started banging the phone against the wall of the booth. JD was amused by this so the shock of being pushed wore off quickly. we moved on, but this made quite the impression on JD and Ellie. we walked around for a few hours while my mom and Bill headed off to a Pere-Lachaise cemetery (largest in Paris and most visited with many famous people).

just before lunch, we met up with my mom and Bill and they then to the Science museum with the kids. unfortunately, the children’s wing of the Science museum was closed so that didn’t go so well. Paula and i headed to the end of the 1 metro La Defense where we ended up in a giant shopping mall. we found a great cafe for lunch and then shopped. i bought a book for the plane tomorrow and another wool sweater. Paula found nothing, which has been par for the course. she just can’t find stuff on sale like i can.

we headed back and walked around our hotel and then we all got together and went for dinner. we ate at the same place as last night. the food was great all around and we had some nice desserts as well. Paula and i walked around some more after dinner and got lost with no map, but then pulled out the trust ol iPhone and had it show us right where we were using Google maps. viola! we were found and no longer lost. whew. our alarms are set for 5:30 AM to catch our 9 hour flight. gulp!