all new site

you may not have noticed this, but i’ve been moving to a new server these past many days. i have upgraded things and added new features. the photos link above now goes to my Flickr photo sharing site. the link goes to my family photos, but you can also view other photos i’ve taken while you’re there (only if you’re really bored). heh.

but i’ve also added a new feature for photos. if i want to add an image to this blog i can still do that, or i can add a link that looks like this (notice the dashed underline under that?). that means you can move your mouse over it and get a preview of a photo. click it to visit the actual photo. pretty nifty, eh? stay tuned for more changes to this site as i get the updates all installed, etc.

i also have blog entries from 2000 – 2003 that were made before blogs were blogs. in other words, i just had a blog that was a blog before the term blog emerged. anyway, i have those family stories to add to this site, which will soon show up in the archives. i have a bunch of errors i am noticing as well, so i’ll get that fixed soon (e.g., some images aren’t appearing any more).


so, the kids have been playing soccer for about 5 weeks now. they’ve both improved dramatically since week 1. actually, ellie has shown great improvement and JD still seems a bit lackadaisical at times . . . that is, until this past weekend. JD hasn’t scored a goal all year even though his team has literally averaged winning by about 12 – 1. his league plays 6 on 6 on a smaller field and they don’t use a goalie. his team has 12 players as do the other teams and they split and use 2 fields so there are no subs — they each play the whole game. JD is pretty active when the ball comes to him, but he wasn’t being very aggressive much of the season. i noticed the same thing with Ellie early on. so, i took them aside and had a few special soccer sessions where we focused entirely on being aggressive. i demonstrated to them how they should be aggressive without breaking the rules. i explained that i don’t care if they lose or if they play poorly as long as they’re trying and and as long as they’re being aggressive.

Ellie took this message to heart. she quickly became the best girl on her team and really started competing hard against the boys. she won’t back down from anything. i’ve also noticed that she’s getting faster. in a game two weeks ago, she stopped a drive by the other team and took off the other direction. while dribbling the ball, she beat everyone on the other team down about 1/2 of the field until she reached the defenders waiting for her. i was quite surprised with this burst of speed. anyway, she’s being aggressive. so much so that the other day at practice i saw them playing a game. now, i am spending the practice playing with JD, but i did noticed Ellie and a boy bump into each other and the boy went flying down and i could tell that Ellie leaned into it. she kept right on playing and her coach ran over and gave her a big high five. afterwards i asked her about it and she said, “i actually knocked 6 boys down tonight, but i only meant to knock 5 down. the other one was an accident.” heh. i again explained that she should make sure she’s not looking like she’s doing it intentionally. we’ll see. but her team won their first game this past weekend — 2 to 0. the two goals were actually their first goals on the season, so they were quite happy.

my mom and Bill were up visiting for JD’s birthday (as was Amber and Dave and AJ on Saturday afternoon through Sunday). JD and Ellie got along great with their little cousin, AJ.


a great time was had by all. JD turned 6 on Saturday and he also had a soccer game that morning. i had talked to him about being aggressive, but i also told him that he should make it a goal to score a goal. i figured this would help to give him more of a purpose out there. he took it to heart. his team won 13 – 2, but JD scored 2 of his team’s goals. the first came when a teammate shot an errant attempt at the goal, which got deflected to the left side of the goal box where JD booted it into the upper corner of the smaller goal. Ellie and i had to leave with much of the 4th quarter left in JD’s game since i had to get her to her game, but apparently JD scored a pretty spectacular goal midway into the 4th. the ball was on JD’s team’s side of the field and someone kicked it just past midfield. JD beat everyone to the ball and kicked it hard towards the open net — keep in mind these nets are only about 5′ across so this is a small target. the ball skidded across the grass with the other team chasing it down, but it tricked into the net just ahead of the defenders for JD’s second goal of the game. he was quite happy with his performance on his 6th b-day.

Oh Canada!

we took a great little vacation up into Ontario, Canada over the past week. we specifically visited Lake Superior Provincial Park, which is on the northeastern shores of the lake. we were hoping to spot some moose, but they didn’t cooperate. so we settled on some beautiful hiking and other wildlife. last summer we visited Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado. Northern Ontario had much the same feel with a very rugged terrain.

we decided to try some fairly intensive trails. we went on one trail around Trapper’s Lake that is designed to take 90 minutes. with a 5 and 7 year old, the time estimates should be thrown out of the window. this trail was not hard for Paula and me, but we could easily jump over a mud puddle to a stump sticking up an inch over the water that was 2 feet away. for JD and Ellie, this became a huge challenge. Paula and i had to really work hard to help them stay on course without falling in water, mud and muck. but, they did just fine. while we were in the park, we saw very few people. some trails (like Trapper’s trail) had no other people on them. we also took a long hike a long the Sand River. the hike took us over 3 hours, but we got to see 3 beautiful waterfalls along the way. we took another hike to Orphan Lake. we ended up on a cliff about 50 meters above the lake, which is about 100 meters above Lake Superior. from our vantage point, you could see both lakes and the view was just stunning. in fact, i have some photos you can view from our trip by clicking on photos above (or here). the Orphan Lake photo is a bit crooked, but Lake Superior can be seen in the background and it looks like hazy mountains or something far in the distance.

perhaps the funniest moment came from JD. i have to tell you, this little guy was having a heck of a time on trails. he fell more often than he wanted, that’s for sure and he made it a point to complain about falling. on one particularly flat part of a trail, he was overheard saying, “this trail is soooo easy. easy peezy peezy peezy pee” and just then he wiped out and scraped his elbow — also bursting into tears and crying. i don’t make it a practice to laugh when one of my kids gets hurt, but this episode was just too hard to keep my face straight. he won’t let us tell this story to anyone . . . yet, so keep this between us for now. ;~)

on the way back to the USA, we crossed over the 50 year old Mackinac bridge. it’s 5 miles long connecting Michigan’s upper peninsula with the lower one. we then took a high speed ferry boat to Mackinac Island. Mackinac Island is pretty nifty as there are no vehicles allowed on the island. everyone either walks, rides bikes, or takes a horse drawn carriage. very neat. we stayed right downtown and had vies of Lake Huron and the bay with a neat lighthouse. we decided to rent bicycles on the days we were on the island. and, on our last day, we decided to bike around the whole island. this is an 8 mile bike ride and we did it with ease. after our long hikes, the bike ride was barely a challenge. the joke on the island is that they workder collect 10,000 pounds of horse manure each day. the island also produces 10,000 pounds of fudge each day . . . draw your own conclusions. here’s a photo i took from mainstreet this past Tuesday:

everyone had a wonderful time and it was hard to return, but we managed. if things go well, we’ll be living in Italy at this time next year, so more good times are ahead.


today was our 10 year anniversary. Paula and i hired a sitter and hit the town for a nice dinner and good conversation. it’s hard to believe we’ve been married for 10 years, but as i think back i can’t believe how much our lives have changed, most notably with Ellie and JD, but much else. 10 years ago i was finishing a Master’s degree and working at the KU Center for Research on Learning. Paula was working on her Ph.D. through the Center for Research on Learning (so, that likely explains how we met, eh?). We were renting a neat greenish house on Massachusetts Street not far from downtown. We soon bought a house on Cranley Street on the SE side of Lawrence. neither of us had any idea we’d end up in Michigan doing what we’re doing and here we are starting our 8th year at GVSU. that just blows my mind.

here’s to the next 10 years! CHEERS!

July 2007

we just returned from a trip to Kansas and Illinois. i took my camera along, but only ended up taking a few photos (doh!). but, i did find a new plugin to use with my photo editing software that allows me to export edited photos directly into photo album. so, i have some updated photos from July 2007 you can view at the Photos link above. check them out . . . i also added a new big flash with my camera so they photos look particularly good. ;~)

New Photos

if you click the photos link at the top, you can view our photos from April 1st, 2007. also, Paula just added a new blog entry below this one so check it out as well.

Early Spring Ramblings . . .

(Note: this is Paula’s post; not Sean’s)

This semester has been my busiest so far. I can’t believe months have gone by since my last post, but this is the case. I know this is an ancient reference, but Ellie did get the cowboy boots for school shoes and she has just about worn them out. Fashion is definitely an interest for her and something she uses to express herself. I’m already worried about the teenage years. I picture my little sweetheart with multiple piercings and at least two or three tattoos. Maybe it won’t be that bad! And, certainly there are worse things. She is planning for her 7th birthday. She plans to have a science and engineering party this year. We’re going to build kaleidoscopes and make structures with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. Should be interesting. Hmm, I’m starting to imagine an alternative-type engineer. Do they make tie-dyed pocket protectors? Gee, she’ll fit in well.

Ellie’s sixth year has been a great one. She has had a fantastic experience with first grade (thank you Ms. Heiler!!) and has grown in so many ways. She’s a reading and writing fool. And, she’s a great thinker. I have a book about teaching philosophy to kids, and she’s always asking me to ask her questions from that book. We’ve had great discussions about the meaning of love, the value of individuality, and what it really means to be a friend. The other night in the car we were talking about how love brings joy and that money can never really make you happy. I told her how much I agreed with one of her statements and she said, “well mom, when I get a little older, you can call me the wise one.” I just thoroughly enjoy her company.

Her and JD have been getting along great lately too. They have their moments but for the most part are good siblings. JD really knows how to get under her skin though and he does it in such a stealth way. She’ll be working on something and he’ll walk by whispering, “mess up, mess up, mess up.” It makes her so mad! Other times, he draws her pictures and brings her special treats, so I guess it all evens out.

JD has taken a big interest in math. He sits up in his loft at night and on many evenings when I check on him, he’s flipping through some flashcards Santa left in his stocking. On many of the addition facts, he’s faster than Ellie, another things that upsets her. He’s interested in reading too but not quite as much as math. He did complain recently that the preschool teachers haven’t taught him to read yet. He assumed that would be part of the curriculum! He’s also starting to really enjoy his two sports of choice, basketball and tennis. He’d play everyday if he could and has enrolled in three sessions of basketball class. I think it’s so cute, but can’t let him know that as he’s quite serious about his mad skills.

JD and Robert are still best of friends. Robert is a great kid and pretty hard to beat as friends go. JD hasn’t found many boys, if any at all who meet friendship standards as set by Robert. They are very much like brothers and a lot of fun to have around. They even let Ellie join in, which works for her, because their play is so enjoyable.

As great as the school year has been for the kids, I think we’re all looking forward to the summer. I know I am. We all tend to slow down to enjoy the best season of the year! I will try to write more often and share specific stories. In the meantime, enjoy the spring. There is something energizing in the return of the birds, the popping of the early spring flowers, and the opportunity to open windows for some fresh air.

Ellie losing teeth

Ellie has now lost 2 teeth. she lost her very first tooth on Christmas Eve, so that meant Santa and the Tooth Fairy visited that night. Very cool. She lost her second tooth two days ago. here is a photo of her without the two bottom teeth (click photo for a larger version):


January update and much to update

wow, i am sorry that i cannot get Paula involved more with this site. surely she would help fill some gaps. instead, all is left to me <sigh> (let’s not talk about chores around the house . . . i am trying to look good here).

we had terrific holiday season. we had x-mas here in EGR. JD received an air hockey table from Santa, which provided our early highlights and continues to provide some heated battles. we also spent some time in Illinois with Paula’s family. one day, we all drove down to Springfield and visited the Abraham Lincoln presidential museum and also his home. the kids asked a lot of questions and a good time was had by all. we returned for new years and had grandma and grandpa Cook visit along with Amber and Dave and AJ. more good times.

shortly into the new year, President Ford died and his funeral was right here in East Grand Rapids. so, i took the kids a few blocks over to see the motorcade. Ellie saw a bunch of friends and the kids played with other kids while we waited. the streets were lined with folks. JD got excited as the motorcade approached . . . and quickly passed. JD blurted out loudly, “that’s the worstest parade ever!” heh heh.

just over 1 week ago, we visited Disney World. wow! WOW! i had no clue it was so easy to spend money and not realize you were spending it. WOW! that being said, we had an awesome time. well, except for the day Paula spent sick in the hotel room. Paula’s parents and here brother Chris and his family were also along. Chris and his wife Jenn also spent a day sick, so grandma and grandpa and I got a lot of individual time with the kids. we stayed in the Disney Wilderness Lodge. i am not sure about other lodging but this has to be one of the best. our room had a view of the nightly fireworks at Magic Kingdom and we were just across the lake from the Magic Kingdom. though, the boat was a bit slower than a quick 2 minute bus shuttle. in fact, we had a direct bus shuttle to all of the parks, so that was very nice. here are some photos from Disney (click on any image to get a larger version):







one of the neatest things we experienced was a Disney Magical Moment. we were in a long line to take a crowded raft over to Tom Sawyer’s Island when an employee came up to us and said, “how would you folks like a special experience?” we went along and they had a private raft waiting for us. the 4 of us along with 4 disney employees. they made JD and Ellie the Sheriffs of Tom Sawyer Island and they gave us a raft ride all around Tom Sawyer’s Island with a guided tour along the way. When it was all done they dropped us off at Tom’s Sawyer’s Island and presented us with a coupon to ride Big Thunder Mountain immediately without standing in the 80 minute line:


An awesome experience and the kids were just thrilled. in fact, Big Thunder Mountain was our favorite ride; though, JD might have liked Buzz Lightyear a bit more.

We also had a family at the hotel hand us their FastPasses (6 of them). These were immediate fast passes. Everyone who goes to Disney can use their ticket as a fast pass for big rides. you stick your ticket in and it allows you to return an hour later to move to the front of the line. however, the FastPasses these folks handed us were instant — meaning we didn’t have to wait an hour. this is huge at a place like Disney with young kids. this made our experience that much better.

We visited Magic Kingdom, Disney MGM Studios, Animal Kingdom, and even Epcot. we weren’t sure the kids would like Epcot, but they loved visiting the various foreign countries and learning about the countries and trying the foods . . . particularly trying the foods. Good times all around . . . until our flight home, that is. we ended up being severely delayed in Chicago and had to sit on our plane nearly two hours being de-iced and waiting. and we landed in GR to a runway that was completely packed with snow. talk about scary. but we made it and we’re now back in the swing of things.

Notes and photos

well, it’s been too long. Ellie has her first loose tooth . . . actually, she has 4 loose teeth right now with 2 getting pretty close (bottom front). JD has been growing up fast as well. we just had a parent-teacher conference with JD’s teachers and she told me that JD is excellent in every category except for 2. he isn’t a great artist and he doesn’t know how to resolve conflict very well; however, she said that every kid in the class needs work on this and that they won’t master it at this age anyway. his report card had about 50 categories JD was doing terrific in all of them. in fact, JD is the only kid in the class who can count to 100 . . . and he has counted past 700 before giving up. the teacher had to stop him. heh heh. he is also reading small words, though i think i mentioned that previously. he should be ready for kindergarten next year.

i took the kids to ohio about 2 weeks ago. we went down to aunt Amber’s (Am and Dave and AJ) and my mom and Bill drove up as well. even uncle Barry flew in for the weekend. we had a lot of fun and took time to visit the children’s museum where we had a ball. here’s the kids with their grandmother (doing some experiment with sound):
Grandma Kids

here is the kids with their grandma and grandpa:
Grandparents Cook Kids

and here are the 3 grandkids (AJ is their cousin):
Grandkids Ohio
on halloween, we collected a lot of candy, but Ellie’s feet started to hurt. she went as Dorothy from the wizard of oz (she was born in kansas, which made it an even better costume). unfortunately, the ruby red slippers weren’t very comfy:
Ellie Dorothy Oz

JD went as batman as shown here:
Jd Batman

and finally, here are the kid just hanging out at the children’s museum in Columbus, Ohio:
Kids Ohio
you should be able to click on any photo to see a larger version.

we are leaving for kansas early next week to hand out for Thanksgiving. should be fun.

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so, we like to give our kids a rich mixture of experiences in life. our local parks and recreation department is pretty good about providing classes and sports that are quite varied giving everyone something to enjoy. this fall, we found a fencing class offered for kids ages 4 – 6. perfect for our kids.

the class started about 3 weeks ago. JD has loved going to the class and last week Ellie was nearly ready to quit. things all changed this past Tuesday. you see, JD and Ellie were chosen to fence against each other. JD jumped up enthusiastically because he was just sure that he was ready to turn pro. anyway, before talking about the results, here’s a few photos of the class (click a photo to see a larger version):

Ellie in action against another little guy

Ellie In Action Small

and here’s JD striking another young guy

Jd Strike Blur Small

so anyway, this week they went head-to-head for all of the marbles. the match started off fairly equally. each child went for a strike and the strike occurred at the same time. no points are awarded when both kids strike and score at the same time. this happened about 3 or 4 times and then Ellie figured out that she should try and block the incoming strike, which she did. JD was blocked away and before he could get his foil back into action Ellie had managed to strike JD in the chest. ONE to nothing, Ellie. the next round, they both appeared to strike at the same time again and JD started to back up to get back into the on guard position; however, the instructor/judge hadn’t stopped things and Ellie quickly realized this and struck JD. TWO to nothing. JD managed to score on the next exchange to keep the match close, but that was all the scoring JD could manage. Ellie scored the remaining 3 points and won the match 5 to 1.

when we arrived home, i helped Ellie out of the car and said something encouraging to her. JD obviously heard me praising her fencing skills and burst into tears. obviously, losing to his sister was emotionally draining.

Ellie now loves fencing and it’ll take a little work to convince JD not to quit. but, he’s enjoyed playing with the sword (foil) and the other equipment enough that i am pretty sure he’ll be back. plus, this was a nice way to demonstrate to him the importance of playing defense in addition to the offense.

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