late July musings

so, Ellie and i were hanging out down on the floor with Ziggy the other day and we started laughing. and then we laughed harder . . . and harder. i think we laughed for 5 minutes straight. in fact, we laughed so hard that Ellie nearly started crying because her throat started hurting. and the first thing she said when we finally regained our composure??? “dad, can you write about this on” ta da!

both kids are attending camp this week. Ellie is attending a National Writing Project camp on the Grand Valley State University’s Holland Campus. she goes for 1/2 days this week and is working on writing her memoir along with some other creative writing. i plan to film her reading some of her writing at their performance so stay tuned for that.

JD is at Camp Manitou-Lin. he attended last year as well. every morning he jumps on a bus at 7:40 AM and returns home at 5:20 PM. in between, he rides horses, kayaks, and generally does camp things. fun stuff. we have a big parent night planned tonight and the campers will put on a performance so i’ll film that and post it soon as well.

new authors coming

so JD informed me that he wants to start writing articles for . . . and Ellie wants to write some as well. this means that we should start seeing more activity around here in the very near future. i’ll make sure i keep them to their promise. in the meantime, here’s the latest photo i have of the two kids sharing a laugh.

kids laughing

winter is upon us

i have a photo posted from the first day of school below a little ways and i figured i should show another photo of the kids getting ready to go to school, but this time in December. brrrrr.

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.

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.

1st day of school

today was the first day of school for the kids. Ellie is in 4th grade and JD is in 2nd grade. here are some of the photos from their first day:

leaving home
leaving home

JD at his locker
JD at his locker
JD in his 2nd grade classroom
JD in his 2nd grade classroom
Ellie at her locker
Ellie at her locker
Ellie in her 4th grade classroom
Ellie in her 4th grade classroom

Summer camp

it’s that time of year . . . time for kids to rush off to camp. and that’s just exactly what Ellie and JD did this whole past week. Camp Manitou-Lin, which is about 1/2 hour south of us was the all day home to our kids. Each morning the kids would jump on a bus at our local middle school at 7:40 AM and then we’d pick them up back at the middle school at 5:20 PM. long days.

Ellie spent her week at a horse camp. She learned all about horse safety and how to ride. She spent much of her day riding horses as well. Her horse was named Trusty.

JD attended the regular day camp. His best friend Robert and classmate Cooper were also attending this day camp. Apparently, Paula had written on JD’s information page that JD was a serious kid. Thursday night was parent night. When we met JD’s counselors the first thing the gal said to me is, “serious kid? was that some sort of joke? seriously? he was the silliest kid we had this week. i mean, just look at him!” we turned to look at JD and this is what we saw:

JD had learned how to split one of those helicopter things from trees and stick it to his nose . . . and boy did it stick.

On Thursday night the kids were all allowed to spend the night at the camp. Ellie decided she didn’t want to sleep in the barn (horse campers had to sleep in a barn). But JD made the decision to stay at the camp and sleep on the floor of a lodge cabin in his sleeping bag. they had a campfire and s’mores and sang songs and had a grand ol time.

they can’t wait to go back next year.

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.


the snow has been falling and falling lately . . . with no respite in sight. most of it is lake effect so we’re feeling like a snowy Seattle. but, when you have a 7 and 8 year old the snow can mean only one thing — sledding. we hit the slopes down the street yesterday and had quite a bit of fun. we built a jump on the hill and Ellie tested it, but it wasn’t sturdy enough at first as she mostly plowed right through.


so, Ellie used her engineering passion to watch JD going over the jump and then tried to perfect things. the end result was some major air time like this for JD:


the kids are finally fully adjusted back to school. they’re keeping busy with homework and playing lacrosse, which they started right after we got back to the states. lacrosse is one of the sports that is available for boys in girls in East Grand Rapids schools so that’s quite different from where Paula and i grew up.

over Thanksgiving we decided to drive to Junction City, Kansas and surprise my mom and Bill. i called them when we were on the road and gave them about an 8 hour warning. normally i wouldn’t do that, but when grandma knows her grandkids are coming i am guessing that the surprise was well worth it. and they came through with some wonderful food and conversation. we saw Paula’s parents on the way down and we also managed to stop by and see Daryl Mellard and his friend Lisa, from Boise State. Daryl served a great dinner and the kids enjoyed playing his new Wii and showing Daryl how it works.

my father is now going through chemo and radiation for his throat cancer. things are going much better now than we ever expected more than a month ago. he’s staying in Denver full time now so Barry, my brother, is handling the tidbits that need to be handled. thanks Barry!