Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!! I have a feeling 2004 is going to be a great year! While I’m not a huge fan of unsolicited advice, I have some to share. If you are inclined to make resolutions at this time of the year, I suggest you add, “get a flu shot” to your list. I realize this won’t be necessary until late fall, early winter, so place it at the bottom of the list, but don’t forget it. I am the only member of my immediate family who got one this year and the only one to have avoided being very sick over the holidays. Seriously, the other three were very sick and I got an annoying little cold. Next November 1, the four of us are going en masse to the docs, sleeves rolled up, and ready.

We were excited about Christmas this year, as the kids are the age where they ‘get’ Santa and are excited about any present they receive. Santa came to our house early to accommodate our travel schedule. Unfortunately, Josh woke up with a 103 temp. He wasn’t quite as excited as we had anticipated. He needed help opening his presents. Ellie was thrilled. She loved all of her presents and marveled at how well Santa knows her because he got everything on the list including a pink bathrobe. She was sure Mrs. Claus must have picked that out. Josh liked his presents, but needed a rest between each one. He got the two busses he had been talking about for the previous two months. His bathrobe is blue, his favorite color. (Tonight the bathrobes were fireman/woman uniforms. They put fires out all over the house and even rescued a cat from the top of a bar stool.) All in all, our Christmas was a great time, but poor Josh was whipped by the time naptime came around. Josh is not the type of kid who can rest even when he’s sick. It’s just not in him. Ellie, on the other hand, can rest and needs to rest even when she’s not sick. Hmm, wonder which parent each of the kids takes after in this characteristic??
Sean’s flu hit as Josh was starting to get healthy. In the midst of this, I accidentally colored my hair red/orange. That’s another story for another time, but is relevant because I had to get it fixed while Sean was feeling really bad. I came home to find Sean in bed sleeping, the kids having a little snack and watching some TV. Ellie informed me that Daddy had been in bed for a long time, but they were fine. Time is not something Ellie has total mastery of, so I’m sure she exaggerated it a bit; still it was strange to see my toddlers alone in the family room eating and watching TV.
At this time, we were supposed to be in Kansas celebrating Christmas with Grandma and Grandpa and preparing for the event of the season, Ashley (Mellard) and Charlie’s wedding. Ellie was the flower girl and had what she called a “gorgeous dress” to wear. Josh and Sean felt better in time for us to get down there on the 22nd. Unfortunately, Ellie woke up on the 23rd with a fever and the flu. She was very sick and didn’t really feel completely better until about the 3rd of January. I feel bad that we passed the flu on Grandma and Grandpa Cook and Aunt Amber. I have a feeling that given the choice between seeing the kids and getting the flu or not seeing the kids and staying healthy, they would have stocked up on Tylenol anyway, but still it’s quite a price to pay.
On the morning of the wedding (27th), Ellie woke up and immediately started to cry. “I’m still sick!” she said. She was determined though and managed to get a bath. After a nap, she asked me to fix her hair for the wedding. When I was finished, she needed another nap, and that’s when we decided she couldn’t do it. Luckily, Ashley had made arrangements with a substitute flower girl who did a fantastic job, so all was well. My parents had come down for the wedding (really to see Ellie walk down the aisle in that fancy dress and visit with the Mellards, – neither of which they got to do because she was so sick) and stayed with the kids so we could be at the ceremony. As we were leaving, Ellie started to cry again, “Can’t I just go and watch?” Poor kid, she had been practicing for this one, and was so looking forward to dancing at the party afterward. The wedding was beautiful. I love weddings, and this one was very special! When we got back to the hotel, the phone rang. The bride and groom and the bride’s parents (Daryl and Ellen) had decided to make a special trip to our room to see Ellie. Have to admit, I had a few tears in my eyes after that one. Ellie wasn’t much for conversation, but once we were home, she said, “Mom, I’m sorry I wasn’t in the wedding.” I told her it was okay. I would take her to get her picture taken in the dress, and we would watch the movie and celebrate with the Mellards next time we were at their house. Then she said, “Ashley gave me a special present anyway, and mom, she looked like a real princess.” She really did too!
We celebrated Christmas with my family over the New Year holiday. The kids were excited to see their cousins but were still not quite themselves health wise. They voluntarily went to bed around nine o’clock. Did I mention the value of a flu shot earlier?? Still, we had fun. I think Sean was the only one in the house who actually saw 2004 arrive. He was giddy over having received an air compressor as a gift and couldn’t sleep. Seriously, Sean has wanted one for a long time. The rest of us were in desperate need of some sleep and were saving our excitement for the next morning.
Ellie and Josh are back at their “school” now. Ellie started in a new classroom. The first couple days were shaky, but she’s happy now. After about the third day of tears, and “I don’t want to go” we told Ellie she needed to have a ‘no-cry day.’ We told her we knew it was tough starting in a new place with new teachers, but she was missing out on a lot of fun choosing to cry instead of playing with her friends. We promised her a trip to the Children’s Museum if she could make it a whole day without tears. When I picked her up that day, she told me she did it, no tears. She also told me that no-cry days are a lot more fun than cry days and that if it was okay with me, she would make every day a no-cry day. So far, she has. Interestingly, the kids didn’t want to go to the museum. Sean was going to take them, and according to Ellie, “When we go to the museum with Daddy he just goes zip, zip, zip through it, so we would rather stay home and play.” Of course Sean denies that, but Ellie shook her head and gave him the suspicious eye. She’s taken to saying, “whatever” a lot lately, but missed this opportunity to use it.
Josh is having a great time back at school. Josh is not quite as much of a conformer as Ellie. I never worry about Ellie getting in trouble. She just has a knack for avoiding that sort of thing. Josh sometimes seems to seek it out. I fully expect to get a call someday where a teacher says, “We don’t normally use corporal punishment, but…” Contrary to my expectations, we hear what a great kid Josh is. This is good. I think part of his success is that he loves his teachers. When asked what his favorite part of Whistle Stop is, Josh doesn’t hesitate to answer, “Speranta.” Speranta is his lead teacher, and he adores her. His second and third favorite parts are Phyllis and Ruth – two more teachers. He has special friends too. Lately we have been hearing about all the kisses he’s getting from the girls. Yes, my son seems to have a way with the ladies. He also loves the snow. Josh is well-suited for Michigan. He has never done well with heat and loves snow. He dives into it, rolls around, doesn’t seem to be bothered by how cold it is. “Ooh cold” he’ll say, laughing and licking the snow off of his mittens. Next year he’ll be old enough to ski; I hope he likes this too.
This little journal entry has turned into a bit of a novella. I keep getting side-tracked by the Missouri/Syracuse game. Missouri is losing again. It really is hard to take your eyes off of a sinking ship.
2003 turned out to be pretty darn good. Our friend Brian Gunnett plowed his own driveway last week!! If that’s not enough to make our year, not sure what is. Here’s hoping Sean’s cousin Tara experiences the same results with her cancer treatment. Our kids continue to bring us joy beyond our wildest dreams. Sean and I consider ourselves two of the luckiest people in the entire world. Thanks to you, our family and friends, for putting us in that place.

October wrap-up

Sean has been prodding and prodding, so here I am writing another long-overdue journal entry. So much has happened!! We have had some great visits with Steven, Kristen, and Isabel Garrison, my parents and family, Sean’s mom and step dad, and Pat and Jim Dinelli. We had intended to get back to Minnesota this summer to visit the Mellards, Berrys, Brett Godsey, and especially Sean’s Grandma Laura, but summer was so very busy. We did make it to Kansas for a week of work/fun combination. We all so love Lawrence (If you go, do try to stay at the Mellard Bed and Breakfast. The hospitality is world-class). Just this past week, the college basketball season started – for those of you who don’t keep track of that sort of thing – and we have been fondly remembering seasons, late nights, and games from the past. During my five years in Lawrence, I was able to go to at least one game a year. While I don’t really miss the live games, I do occasionally find it weird not be surrounded by Jayhawk fanatics. In any given parking lot, no matter how crowded, our kids can pick out our car because as Ellie will tell you, “It’s the only one with a Jayhawk sticker, and we cheer for KU;” to which Josh adds, “Go KU!” Can you imagine, the only car with a Jayhawk sticker!! I mention this because as happy as we are here, we still miss our Kansas friends and family even though a bunch of them don’t live in Lawrence anymore either.
We had a GREAT time with the Garrisons!! Isabel is absolutely adorable. The kids had a great time. Ellie proclaimed Kristen, “my favorite mommy friend.” That girl has great taste!! I am only disappointed that we couldn’t talk them into moving up here. The house on the corner of our block is for sale if you all change your mind. We’re hoping that the Berry’s will visit us soon, and I suppose if the Garrisons don’t want the house, the Berrys could buy it.
While we’re on the topic of friends, I want to mention our friends the Gunnetts who were our neighbors in the first neighborhood. Many of you know that Brian Gunnett was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a very aggressive form of cancer. Sean and I were shocked by the news. The Gunnetts had been over for dinner shortly before the diagnosis, and in a million years no one could have predicted this. As of right now, he is responding really well to treatment, so things look good. I have to say Brian’s illness and the communications we, and many other people have had with them since then, has affected my life in ways I hadn’t expected. I want to thank all of you have prayed for Brian and his family, asked about his status, and offered words of encouragement!! We also recently learned that Sean’s cousin Tara had a relapse of her cancer and is back in the hospital for treatment. We’re praying for her as well. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m tired of cancer and ready for it to be permanently eradicated. Sean and I have made a commitment to focus the bulk of our charitable donations to cancer research and support. We want it gone.
The kids are excited about Halloween. I promise to fill you in on that wonderful event. Frankly, Halloween has been my least favorite of the so-called holidays. This might stem from my teaching days when the kids seemed to get weirder and weirder as the day approached and then came to school for two or three with sugar overload. I’m hoping that Halloween through toddler eyes will change my tainted view of the day.

Picnic fun

Sunday was a fun day for the Lancasters. We didn’t have any dinner pans, so Ellie decided we should go on a picnic…and, that’s just what we decided to do. We grabbed a blanket and switched the car seats over to daddy’s car…put the top down and headed off to Reed’s lake — Reed’s lake is our local little lake, I dropped the kids and Paula off to find a picnic location and I zoomed over to the store and bought the supplies…just the necessary things (e.g., chocolate marshmallow pumpkins, etc.). We had our little picnic and then headed down by the water to see the ducks and look for fish. Lotsa fun was had by all. Rather than describe the details, I have already added the photos to the site so you can go and see the details for yourself (just click on “Our Photos” in the menu).

Trip to Kansas

Well, I am just now getting around to posting about our trip to Kansas two weeks ago. We had a wonderful time. And (drum roll please)… we flew. Yep, some special drugs and having the kids along helped me to get beyond my fear of flying. Great flights both ways helped (read: no turbulence and/or weird sounds). We arrived in Kansas on July 15 and immediately grabbed our rental SUV (Jeep). Paula had a conference in Kansas City on Wednesday morning so we headed to the Mellards for the evening. We spent a few days with the Mellards and then headed off to Junction city to see my family. The kids actually went to JC a day earlier and had loads of fun.
Paula and I were able to see most of our old KU buddies at a CRL function on Wednesday evening. That was also Paula’s birthday so we left a little early and met Ashley Mellard and her fiance for dinner and chats at Free State Brewery. Fun times.
In Junction City, we spent time with my family…all of them in the area. In fact, we also had the pleasure of seeing Peter and Barbie and their kids who were in from Colorado. More Fun times.
These trips always make me want to go house shopping and move back to Lawrence. What a great place it is. I taught two online classes this summer (my first) and was able to work almost every day from my home office. Perhaps some day we can live anyway and still “attend” work.
I will try and get Paula to add more to the story…

Ann Arbor

Paula finally jumps into the fray…

We had a very exciting weekend a few weeks back (I am just now getting this posted). Friday afternoon I took Ellie and Josh to Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor is Michigan’s version of Lawrence. It’s a great town — home of U of M, but we like it best because Kate Johnson, Ellie and Josh’s former night-time babysitter lives there. Kate is getting married in November and has asked Ellie to be a flower girl. Ann Arbor is two hours away, so I decided to drive over on Friday and spend the night. Kate talked me in to taking both kids. Josh was in an interesting mood on the way down. We have a VCR in the car which he likes to think is his own. He is somewhat obsessed with it. He picks the movie to be watched and then holds the next two tapes in his hands. This day his attention span was very short. About every ten minutes he wanted a new movie. After the third movie, I told him he had to watch the whole thing. Ellie agreed. It was a Thomas train. She likes Thomas and especially likes the “Little Engines” performed by a children’s choir at the end of the movie. Josh was mad and proceeded to yell at me in his own little way, for the twenty minutes. I finally told him he would need a road side time-out and started to slow the car down. Miraculously he decided that Thomas the train wasn’t so bad after all. Why it took me twenty minutes to figure this out is a question I am still asking myself.
Kate met us at the hotel and had gifts for the kids. Josh has a tough time remembering Kate, but Ellie requires a whole 45 seconds to warm up to her. We had dinner at Applebees. We like this restaurant because Ellie can get her favorite vegetable broccoli as a side, Josh can get his chicken and fries, and everyone gets a cookie. After dinner we went to Kate and Chris’s apartment to play with Dexter the dog. The kids were so wound up. They fed Dexter and played ball with him. Josh shared a water bottle with him. Then Josh decided to show off his tackling skills. He tackled Ellie about a dozen times before she had enough and walloped him. Somehow they managed to find all this extremely funny. I’m not sure I’ve seen them this wild and know that my description doesn’t come close to describing their behavior.
The next day was really fun. Ellie and Josh were terrific at breakfast. We ate in the hotel, and they were great. Kate joined us. After breakfast we headed to Kate’s parents’ house, and then off to the dress store. Ellie thoroughly enjoyed trying on her dresses. She had three different ones on, and each time she would twirl around grinning and batting her eyes. The fact that Josh had his nose a little pushed out of shape became obvious when he started knocking things over and stomping his feet. Finally it was time to go. Josh slept for the entire two hours while Ellie lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes. Good thing too because Ellie and Josh were hosting a cousins sleep over the rest of the weekend!!

Early July

Well, we’ve been busy the past week or so. I bought a new car last week — a convertible VW bug. It’s black with tan leather interior. For my birthday on the 2nd, the kids got me a VW baseball cap (it’s plain with the little VW logo). Pretty nifty. So far, Ellie and Joshua are not too keen on riding with the top down. Ellie doesn’t like how it messes up her hair. They’ll come around. 😉

We had a nice 4th of July. We had brats and grilled chicken and blew bubbles and played with sparklers. Actually, Ellie twirled the sparklers and Joshua watched. Ellie burned herself with the sparklers (you knew it would happen) and we cut the fireworks short. She had just finished twirling one and it went out. Ellie stuck it in the cup of water we had and then reached back to move it and it was still hot. The end of the sparklers.

We made reservations to fly to Kansas in a few weeks. Should be a nice trip and flying (as much as I hate flying) has to be better than 14 hours tucked in the minivan with bathroom breaks every 12 miles. We’ll spend some time in Lawrence and in Junction City so it should be a busy 5 days. We’re looking forward to it.

Oh yeah, I added some recent photos so check them out. I have more photos taken today today, but I have a lot of papers to grade for the online class I am teaching so who knows when they’ll be added as well???

Here we go

If you are looking for the older files that were recently here, they can be found by clicking on Old Files (if i’ve added that yet). [EDIT from 2006 — I have incorporated all old files into this new site, so you merely need to check the archives] We are living in our new house, but have much work ahead of us. Paula has already painted two rooms and removed all of the yucky wallpaper. I’ve replaced outlet covers and light switches. We were fortunate enough to have grandma and grandpa Cook here last week and grandpa did some major fixing up (e.g., new ceiling panels, recessed lighting, resizing built in entertianment center, adding outlets, etc)…and, grandma watched the kids. Very fun times were had by all. We expect to see grandma and grandpa Mehochko this weekend, so the good times will just keep right on rolling. Stay tuned!
(again, this was from May 2 and I’ve just carried it over to the new site)
Sample Link

New house

We signed the paperwork on the new house today…We are now the proud owners of two houses — egads!

We took Ellie and Joshua over to the new house tonight so they could run around and see the future surroundings. Josh and Ellie spent a lot of time playing the piano while Paula starting stripping the wallpaper and adding new contact paper in the cabinets. I took measurements and stuff guys are supposed to do. 😉

Adventures

Sunday has yet to arrive, and we have already had a great weekend. We picked the kids up early on Friday and went to the beach. Poor Josh was cutting his two top teeth. I think the water and the noise provided more stimulation than he could handle. He was content to play on the beach towel. On top of his discomfort, Ellie was a little confused on beach etiquette and dumped a bucket of sand on Josh and me instead of water. He was not amused, and she was perplexed by the reaction. Josh was not interested in even standing in the water, but seemed to enjoy watching everything from a distance. On the other hand, I was thrilled with Ellie’s enthusiasm for the lake. She didn’t mind being knocked over by the waves. In fact, the faster they came, the louder she squealed. Her and Sean went deeper than I would have probably ventured and came out laughing. I’ve always loved the water, so am excited that she likes it so much too.

Today, we went to a great park near our house. It has a huge wooden climbing apparatus and lots of swings. Josh and I played on the swings while Sean and Ellie climbed, found tunnels, and worked up a sweat. The park also has some trails through wooded areas. Ellie is intrigued by jungles and forests, so this was perfect for her. I see many of my own characteristics in Ellie, but here is a distinct difference. Ellie walks so slowly!!! She strolls, meanders, shuffles. Our walk through the forest lasted quite some time. Her and Sean seemed well-paced for each other. They enjoyed throwing rocks into the stream and picking up sticks. Josh and I pushed on ahead. He is still confined to a stroller and needs to keep moving. Regradless of the pace, both kids enjoyed the hike. We’re fortunate to have all this great, free, accessible entertainment so close. I was raised an outdoor kid; I hope Ellie and Josh continue to enjoy it as much as they do now. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Daddy time

well, paula went away to do some consulting this past week (monday until wednesday late at night). i had the kids all by myself monday evening and we had a wonderful time. i also have more respect for people who have even more kids and have to do things by themselves. wow! paula’s father and niece (molly) came up on tuesday to help since i taugth paula’s class (every day from 1 – 4) and i also taught my own class from 6 – 9pm on tuesdays. i couldn’t watch the kids obviously. molly, grandpa, and ellie went to the children’s museum and the zoo on wednesday. fun times were had by all.

we spent the evening at marshall fields in their little gourmet cafe. i honestly think this is our favorite place to have dinner in all of grand rapids (metro area of over 1 million people). perhaps we should have our heads checked, but it is never crowded, has a good selection of neato foods, and has lots of room to spread out and be noisy with the kids. can’t beat it.

paula had a birthday this past tuesday while she was in kansas. we are going to have our little family birthday party for her tomorrow. i am even thinking of baking her a cake. perhaps i’ll wise up and go out and buy one instead. i’ll keep you informed. ellie thinks that the two of us will be able to make a cake…i wonder how long i can continue to make her think i have any sort of kitchen skills whatsoever??? heh…i make a mean buttered toast. 😉

Notes from Paula

We had a great weekend! Yesterday we wore the kids out with shopping and beach time. Both kids loved the beach. Ellie was not remotely intimidated by the water. She jumped right in. Josh was a little more hesitant and sat at the shore line, half in – half out. Today was much quieter. Ellie, Josh, and Sean all took naps at the same time – nice and peaceful for me. Both kids seemed to want to hang around the house and especially hang around Mommy. This is only interesting because tomorrow I leave for two days in Kansas. The kids seem to know when I will be gone and are very clingly and needy the day before. One of them will no doubt have a fever tomorrow. Of course I am racked with guilt over being gone from them for more than a usual work day! I keep a separate journal for them in which I write little notes about once a month or so; however, I always write the night before I leave for one of these trips. My fears of being gone from the kids are an equal mix of worrying about them missing me and worrying about them not missing me!! I love parenthood; it’s such an adventure.

Josh and Ellie are interacting more and more. Today Josh spent most of the morning terrorizing her by pulling her hair and basically trying to steal every toy she picked up. She works very hard to move away from him rather than throwing a tantrum. In the afternoon, they played together for about ten minutes. She talked him through some pretend game she was playing and he was so delighted to be included, he sat without grabbing a curl the entire time. She also gave him considerable encouragement as he tried to walk, clapping, cheering, and even throwing in a “Good job Josh.” They’re such a joy!! I miss them already and even though I haven’t left yet, I can’t wait to get back.