Thursday, April 28, 2011

The time has come...

Alright, I am finally going to do it. I am such a creature of habit and I really don't like change, but I am moving to the new blog! Yep, I am really going to do it now. No more new posts will be showing up here. When you get to the new blog, make sure you sign up to "follow by email" so that you will receive email notifications of new posts. I am not going to use the "disqus" commenting anymore, so the best way to receive follow up comments is to have a Gmail account.

Our new blog address is . So go check it out. There are already a few posts over there, and once I find the motivation I'll write something new.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter Weekend and the week after

I know, I know. I said I'd be switching blogs soon. I was waiting on a few things, and now I need to just finish up a few other things, and then it will be done!

In the meantime, I'll tell you about how we spent Easter. This year we were able to go with the Huisman family to DeMotte, Indiana. Now DeMotte holds a special place in my heart because I was born in Valparaiso, IN and spent the first 4 years of my life right outside of DeMotte in Roselawn. My dad was a pastor at a church in Roselawn, and my family stayed in touch with a lot of people in the DeMotte area, including my best friend's grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles-the Hubers!! We drove down on Saturday morning, arrived a little after 10, the kids ran around and played, then they headed out to Rachel's in-laws hobby farm to see the new baby goats. I don't have any pictures of that because I stayed back and took a nap! After they came back, we went to Rachel's brothers house to see their one day old kittens and fly a kite. The kids were so excited to see the little kitties. They were SO tiny. It was a windy day, so the kite flying was fun too. Then we headed back to Uncle Steve and Aunt Debbie's and ordered pizza. The kids watched a movie and went to bed and the adults played cards.

The next morning, our family headed to Roselawn for church, where we saw lots of familiar faces. Then it was back to the Hubers for a HUGE Easter dinner. We had lots of time to visit and the kids had lots of time to run around outside. Rachel and I went to her Uncle Mark's house to visit with more family. I just love being with all the Hubers. It's like they are family, and they've become that for Darin, Tyson and Jori too! We drove home later that afternoon and still managed to get the kids to bed at a decent time.

Tuesday night was a busy night for our family. First, we had Tyson's school Art Show. Actually, it was the district Art Show and his art was one of the pieces chosen from all the elementary schools, middle schools and high school. He was so excited! What made the night even more special was that we were able to see more Hubers! Uncle Bud and Aunt Bernice were actually in Michigan for Easter, so we didn't get to see them, but now they are here for the week, so they brought Jenna along to check out the Art Show. Tyson did such a great job and we are so proud of him! 
Tyson's "Masai"
After a quick tour through the rest of the Art Show, we headed back to the apartment. Then Darin and Tyson headed out to pick up our new laptop (yay!) and Jori and I headed to her school for Mom's Night Out! First we did some singing and dancing. One of the songs was called "Circle Round the Zero" and as soon as I heard it, I started reliving a moment from college that was so horrifying. I took a class called "Music in Community" and we learned all these little kids songs and this was one of the songs. The horrifying thing was that you stood in a circle, and then one person walked around the middle, and if they stopped in front of you, you had to act out the following "back back zero", which involved bumping butts, "side side zero", which was bumping your sides together and then a couple other things. I HATED that song, and everyone knew it and would purposefully stop in front of ME. Seriously, bumping behinds with people that I don't really know is not on my list of favorite things to do! After the singing time, we had ice cream sundaes. Then we made a cute little flower pot craft and that was it. My sweet girls said "Daddy date night was much more fun". Thanks Jori!

 We've had a fantastic few days. Make sure you go here to check out the rest of the pictures and I added some new videos here!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni

When we moved into our apartment, our friends Andy and Whitney brought us this meal. It was amazing. My mom was here at the time and she, Darin and I were all just stuffing our faces full of this deliciousness. I think Tyson ate at least a serving and Jori was not a fan. I think it was a little spicy for them, but the adults LOVED it. So, here is the recipe:

Sausage and Tomato Rigatoni

prep: 10 min.      total time: 30 min.

4    cups of rigatoni pasta (8oz.) uncooked (really any tube pasta will do; I usually use penne)
1    lb. Italian sausage cut into chunks
1    red onion, sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste (I use the whole small can because I like it a bit saucy)
1/4 cup Sun- Dried Tomato Dressing
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped (optional)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta as directed on package.
Meanwhile, brown sausage in a large nonstick skillet; drain. Stir in onions and tomato paste; cover. Cook 15 min. or until onions are tender and sausage is cooked through, stirring occasionally. Stir in dressing. Toss sausage mixture with pasta. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese.

YUM!!! I think I need to go grocery shopping soon!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Change is a coming

The time has come. I have been working on a new blog for a while and am ready to make the switch! This blog will still be available, but I am going to remove the link to the Picasa Pictures on the right hand side, and some other things including the links to other blogs. So, if you've been stalking them through my blog, you'd better write the web addresses down. I finally started making use of Google Reader, which pulls all the blogs I read into one place. (Thanks Michelle for teaching me all about it!) I won't make changes for a few more days in case there are things you want to jot down, but change is a coming!

I think I might be going back to the regular comment system. If you have a gmail account, you can check a box to receive follow up comments if you so desire. Just make sure that you are logged in before you publish your comment and the option will be made available to you. You will need to sign up to receive the new blog by email and I also added a feature where you can subscribe to comments, but that means you'll be getting all the comments sent to you. I might add disqus to the new blog, but we'll see. I know, you all care so much about all these details!

So, I will send out a post soon with the new blog address!

Pasta with white sauce

Rachel just gave me this recipe yesterday afternoon and I made it last night for dinner. Jori refused to even try it, which ended up being good for the rest of us because we finished the whole pan.

Pasta with White Sauce

8 oz pasta
4 cloves garlic or 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 cup butter melted
1/3 cup dry white wine
1/4 tsp pepper
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Cook pasta. Mix everything else up EXCEPT the cheese in a skillet. Drain pasta and add to this mixture, then add cheese immediately, stir together well and serve. 

It was really, really good, but Darin was a little grossed out by how much butter was in it. So I think next time I will try to make it with 1/2 the butter and more wine (unless someone has a better idea!). Rachel said they used to put the little tiny shrimp in it. I think peas or artichokes would also have tasted great. I chopped the garlic with a knife, so there were some bigger pieces, but they were all soft and squishy and delish because they had cooked down in the butter and wine. Mmmm. Enjoy!

Corn Tortillas

Here is a recipe that Darin's dad used to make. We actually had these tortillas when we were in Sioux Center. As I said in that post, I am not a huge fan of corn tortillas, but they were still good. Here is the recipe from LaShawn. She writes recipes like I do, with lots of substitutions and suggestions : )

Dad’s Taco Shells

3 eggs (I use just the whites to make it healthier)
1 ½ cup milk (I maybe add another tablespoon to make up for the egg yolks, but I do not measure that out just add a tiny bit)
1 cup flour (I do ½ white flour ½ whole wheat flour, and I have even done all whole wheat flour)
1 tsp salt ( do NOT forget this, they do not taste the same at all without it!!!!
½ cup cornmeal
1 tbls butter ( I just put a big dab of spray butter in, I never measure it just guess about 1 tbls)

Mix all together (I use a wire wisk, it seams to mix it the best).  Put a little butter on a frying pan (I just use pam to cut fat again).  Take 1/3 cup measuring cup and pour into hot pan, (I usually put the burner on medium and let it get warm before you start).  Right after you put the batter in take the pan and move it around so that it makes a shell.  Let it fry for a couple minutes before turning it over.  (You probably have a couple of bad ones before you get the hang of it, when I used to make them the first one never turned out, now that I do it all the time it is easier.) 

Thanks for showing us how to make these when we came LaShawn!

Spring Break 2011

We just spent such a fun week with Darin's family. We left Michigan on Friday around 4, stopped at a hotel overnight and arrived in Edgerton around 2:30 on Saturday. The kids were so excited to be there that they both jumped out of the van while we were still pulling into the driveway. Safe? No, but it was fun to see how excited they were. Darin's sister Daci and her family came over from Luverne and stayed for dinner and to watch the final 4 games. Tyson and Jori were so excited to see some of their cousins. We had homemade pizza for dinner.

On Sunday we had church and then enjoyed a fun day filled with lots of family. Daci and her family came back after church and LaShawn, Kyle and the kids came from Sioux Center. Evan and Jordan couldn't make it for lunch, but eventually we were all together. It is crazy how much noise 9 kids can make. Thankfully they played outside for most of the day and everyone seemed to get along. Later that afternoon Darin's aunts and uncles on his dad's side came over to visit, so the house was even more full of family. It was fun to catch up with everyone. I always love having the big family get togethers because I didn't grow up with a lot of family around, so I just think it is so special to have aunts and uncles and cousins near by. We are especially thankful that Darin's Grandpa and Grandma Van are still right in Edgerton.

Now lets see if I can keep the rest of the week straight! On Monday I think Karen and I went to Tally Ho for coffee and met up with Heidi. That afternoon Darin and I went to Sioux Falls to spend some time with Evan and Jordan. It was so nice to be able to sit and talk with them, eat a great dinner and play some really fun games (Ticket to Ride and Blockus). Monday night was the college basketball final, so we stayed and watched the game with them. I did not really watch the game, but I am sure most of you knew that!

On Tuesday Daci and Zach came to hang out while the kids were in school. We walked to the library and the kids had so much fun. The Edgerton Library might just be the best library ever. I would have loved to check out a bunch of books from there. There was a play house for the kids, a magnetic wall, some foam/goo stuff to play with and just so many books. Princess books, Fancy Nancy, dentist books, Star Wars, and movies-all for free! After the library we headed to Katie's Closet, a kids consignment store. I found a pair of shoes for Jori that are exactly like a pair that Jenna has, so she was excited about that. Then Darin and I met with his Uncle Randy, who is also our investment advisor. I ate all the good candy out of the candy dish while Darin and Randy did all the talking. Then it was back home for lunch. Tuesday night is family night at the Pizza Ranch, so of course we headed there for dinner. No trip to Edgerton would be complete without a stop at the Pizza Ranch!

On Wednesday morning I had a massage. It was awesome. I would have gladly laid there for more than an hour, but we had big plans for our day. We were heading out to Luverne to visit Daci, Justin, Brooklynn (once she was out of school), Makenna and Zach. We hadn't seen the new addition they added to their house last summer, so it was fun to get a tour and check things out! After lunch, Darin and the kids went back to the farm with Justin. They had such a good time. They saw calves, went to a pig farm (and smelled like it too!), and helped Justin out doing a few things. The girls and Zach came home after an hour or so, but Darin and Tyson went back to the farm and Tyson's favorite moments were watching Justin "put his hand up two cows butts" and riding the four wheeler. He kept talking about those two things over and over again! We left Luverne around 5, met up with Darin's mom for a kid hand-off, then headed to Sioux Falls to meet up with some of Darin's old classmates for dinner. Darin had a great time catching up with his friends and I enjoyed getting to meet some new people and also see some old friends (Hi VanderPols).
 On Thursday we headed to Sioux Center to spend the day with LaShawn and the kids. We met up in Rock Valley, Iowa to do a little shopping first. I was excited to go to Rock Valley because my Grandma Brouwer used to live their and my Uncle Faynor and Aunt Jane still do live there. Darin and I took the kids to the cemetery and after a bit of searching and a phone call to my mom, we found my Grandma and Grandpa's headstone. It was super windy out so we only stopped for a minute. Then we met up with the others at the consignment stores. They were all really big and overwhelming. It was fun to look around and I found a few cute t-shirts for Tyson, including a Chicago Cubs shirt! After shopping, we followed LaShawn back to their new house. It was fun seeing their new place and Tyson and Jori were excited to see so many toys. We had lunch, then LaShawn picked Kaden up from school early so he and Tyson could play together. This went well for about 45 minutes, but then something happened involving a rope and it was all downhill from there : ) Thankfully Jori and Nevaeh were getting along great and we tried to just ignore the boys. We stayed for dinner and LaShawn showed us how to make homemade corn tortillas. Jori thought they were pancakes, but she is our picky eater. I prefer flour tortillas instead of corn, but they were good. I know that tortillas are hard to come by in South Africa, so it will be nice to have a way to make them when we are there. We headed back to Edgerton after dinner and managed to get the kids to bed before 8.
 Friday was a busy day. Heidi came over for coffee, Grandpa took Tyson out to breakfast, Daci stopped over for a while,and we packed up all of our stuff. Somewhere in there Tyson and Jori got to open their stocking stuffers from this past Christmas. They got the neatest things. Grandma Karen took a bunch of Jori's too small (but still loved) clothes home with her a couple weeks ago and made a quilt, a purse and a bunch of clothes for Jori's doll Charity out of them. SO cute and special. Tyson got a lot of cool new doctor stuff including a real stethoscope and blood pressure cuff. Needless to say, both kids were really happy! We had plans to get together with Darin's grandpa and grandma, but after waiting for them for an hour, we finally called and found out they were waiting for us to come to their house. Just a slight miscommunication! So Grandpa and Grandma Van came over and we were blessed to be able to spend a little more time with them. We had to cut our visit short because we needed to get to Sioux Falls for family pictures. I was not looking forward to this as pictures always stress me out, but the picture taking went great. It was a bit chilly outside, but I am really excited to see the pictures and will be sure to put some up on our blog. After pictures, we brought the kids to a friend of LaShawn (8 kids in all) and then the adults went out to dinner at Carnaval Brazilian Grill. It was such a fun place to eat. There was a huge salad bar, but the best part was they brought slabs of meat on skewers right to your table, then sliced off however much you wanted. I think we were all on protein overload by the end of the night. We picked up the kids and headed back for our last sleep in Edgerton.

Saturday morning came and we all got up and got ready then headed off to stay at a hotel for the night about 3 hours from Edgerton. We all stopped at a McDonald's for lunch, then the women went shopping for a while and the guys took the kids to the hotel to swim. Then the women went to the hotel to take over kid duty and the guys headed to Minneapolis to watch a Twins game. All the kids had a great time swimming and eating pizza and playing together. I am so thankful our kids have so many cousins to play with. I just think it is so special for them. Once the kids were sleeping, we hung out in Jordan and Evan's room and just talked. Then LaShawn and Karen headed out to get us some ice cream and right after they got back, the guys returned from their game. Then we all split up and went to bed, knowing that Sunday morning was getting closer and closer.

Sunday morning we woke up, had breakfast and then started to say goodbye to Darin's family. His dad had to leave early for a business trip, so we said goodbye to him. The kids all ran outside to say one more goodbye to Grandpa Rick. Then we all squeezed into a hotel room and Grandma Karen prayed for us as we were getting ready to leave and not see each other for a long while. Then the tears started. I don't think any of us wanted to actually say goodbye, but it had to be done. Tyson kept going around saying "why is everyone crying", I actually didn't cry, but I think I had just steeled myself that this was going to be a hard morning and knew we just had to do it. As we were driving away, Jori started crying and was kept turning around saying "I want to see Grandma" and that is when I started crying, but then we started talking about how great it is that we can still call each other and send letters and skype and the tears stopped. There were a few times throughout our 9 hour drive home that one of the kids would say "I miss everyone", but they really handled it well.

And that wraps up our fabulous week. Saying goodbye was not so fun, but we are so thankful for the time we could spend with everyone and the memories that were made. (Don't forget to check out the rest of our pictures over here and you can check out a few videos from our week over here. Once you are over at YouTube, you can subscribe and there is a box you can check to receive email updates when new videos are posted!)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

New pIctures

You can head over to our new Picasa site (the link is in the post below) and see pictures of all we've been up to this month. I will admit that most of the pictures have already been posted on our blog, but there might be a few new ones!

I can't believe that we are wrapping up 2 months in this apartment already! The kids have been missing our house a lot, especially our nice street and the path where they could ride their bikes for hours and hours. There really isn't a great place for them to play out here unless we are with them, and until the thermometer starts inching closer to 60, I really don't have much desire to be out there with them! Thankfully their daddy doesn't mind the cold. Darin and I really haven't talked about our house at all. The other night I did have myself a little cry while I laid in bed, just thinking about different things in our house and how it was our HOME. This is just a temporary resting place until we get on a big plane and head overseas. Then we will be in another temporary home, albeit a much bigger and awesomer resting place than this, but are we ever going to feel at home again? (and yes, I know that this world is not our home, and while I do need to be keeping that at the forefront of my mind more often, there are many other people who have written much more eloquent posts about this very topic. I should know. I read a lot of blogs.)

We will be heading for Minnesota on Friday and spending just over a week there. We'll be getting back home on the 10th. The next day will be April 11, exactly 2 months before we leave. Wow! In some way these last 2 months have gone by so slowly and in other ways they have just flown. I am guessing that our last 2 months in the states are going to go by a lot faster as we have already been putting lots of get togethers on the calendar, as well as a few good-bye parties : ( That's the part I'm not really ready to think about, but soon enough I'll have to. I can't stay in denial forever, and if I did, I know I'd miss out on some really beautiful moments.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Videos and Pictures

Oops, I need to add some links for where you can find out pictures and videos. We started a new Picasa account (to go along with a new blog!), so you can see the pictures of Jori's field trip here and check out some recent videos here. I will have links to both of these on our new blog. I am just not quite ready to make the switch!

Jori's 3rd field trip-Pell's Greenhouse!

On Wednesday, Grandma Karen took Jori on her 3rd class field trip. I went with her to an apple orchard this fall and Darin took her to the fire station. It was a cold day for a field trip, but thankfully it was nice and warm in the greenhouse. I won't be able to give you too much information on the pictures because I wasn't there, and when I ask Jori she says "It's a flower" or some other vague statement : )

I will put up the rest of the pictures in Picasa. Thankfully Grandma Karen took a lot! Jori got to plant a flower all by herself and take it home. She is so proud of it and likes to talk to it and wants to water it all the time. We shall see how long this flower survives...

Jori did say that they saw lots of flowers, and that there were big hoses that almost sprayed the kids! She loves going on field trips and it was extra special that Grandma was here to go on this one with her!

Grandma Karen's visit

We just had a wonderful visit with Grandma Karen. She and her friend Heidi came up from Edgerton on Saturday and left again on Wednesday evening. Grandma Van drove up with them, but she stayed in Kalamazoo with Darin's aunt and uncle. Thankfully we'll get to see her in less than 2 weeks when we head to Edgerton ourselves.

We packed a lot of fun into a few days, and of course, I did not take very many pictures! I'll have my camera charged and ready to go when we are in Edgerton. Right after they arrived on Saturday we headed out to Tyson's Bible Club carnival. Our family had already been to his school carnival that morning, so it was special that Grandma could come along for carnival #2. The kids got to play a lot of games and we all had some yummy snacks. We headed home around 4, stopped for some groceries, had pizza, then the adults headed to our church to watch a performance of the musical, "The Boyfriend". It was fun seeing so many familiar faces from church up on stage strutting their stuff. Heidi's brother in law was in the play and his hair was hilarious. Wish I had a picture, but just imagine a crazy conductor with hair sticking out all over his head. Good times.

Sunday we headed to church, then the kids both enjoyed a day of playing with Grandma Karen. I think I read most of the day and I don't know what Darin did : ) Jori loved having Grandma color with her and read books and Tyson and Grandma had lots of fun with Legos! I think they went outside for a while too. Sunday night we headed back to church, then it was bed time for the kids and time for the rest of us to watch The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss. On Monday Grandma took the kids to school, which is always so special for them. Then we headed to the mall until it was time to get Jori from school, then it was off to Rachel's for lunch. I know that Rachel is already sad knowing that Karen won't be heading to Michigan to visit with us as they have also become friends. There is just something really special about that! After lunch and getting little Reid down for a nap, Rachel and I left the kids with Grandma and headed out to get me some new glasses! I had tried (unsuccessfully) to pick out new frames on my own, but this time Rachel was along to tell me what looked good. I quickly found out she was no help : ) I am only half kidding, and she knows it. We tried to pick something out at Goodwill Optical, but we were both clueless, so we headed to WalMart. The lady who helped us was great. She was quick to say "No" when she didn't like how something looked on me. Finally we figured out that due to my small head size I needed to be looking in the "youth" section. It was fun to be out without any kids and actually accomplish something that I needed to get done! We headed back to Rachel's and hung out til Tyson walked over there from school, then we headed back home for French Toast. I think Heidi and Karen were both happy to be introduced to our fancy dinner!

Tuesday morning we went to Signatures for coffee. Always a nice treat. Then Karen took lunch over to Tyson at school. He convinced Grandma that he not only needed the McDonald's she brought, but also needed to have hot lunch : ) He took Grandma back to his classroom and she was able to sit in on a discussion about tornadoes and even told the kids about a tornado that hit close to Edgerton several years ago. So fun for Tyson to have those special memories. He was very proud to have a guest at lunch and kept poking kids to get their attention then pointing at his Grandma as if to say "check out who's sitting with me!". Love it. After Karen got back from that, we headed out to the mall again and found some cute outfits for all the girls to wear for some pictures that will be taken when we are in Edgerton. We headed back in time to get Tyson off the bus, then hung out til dinner time. Once the kids were in bed, Rachel came over and hung out while we watched "The Biggest Loser" and ate ice cream. A perfect combination!

On Wednesday morning, I had Bible Study. Grandma walked Tyson to the bus stop, then dropped me off at church and headed off with Jori for a field trip! They went to a greenhouse. I will do a separate post with pictures about that fun adventure. Wednesday afternoon we went out to Jimmy John's for lunch (yum!), then came back home and had Jori try on a bunch of clothes. Once Tyson was home, I finally took a few pictures and some videos. I know, total slacker.
The kids chose the stuff they wanted to have in this picture.
3 elephants in a row-Jori, Grandma and Tyson

Then we headed to Holland to have dinner at Crazy Horse for Grandma's birthday. It was special to be able to celebrate her day with her. After dinner, she and Heidi took off to pick up Grandma Van and we headed home. Right when we got in the van the kids both said "I miss Grandma already". It was wonderful to remind them that we will get to see Grandma again in 10 days, but also bittersweet knowing that we have lots of goodbyes coming up! Can't dwell on the sad part of it.

We had a wonderful time together. Thank you, Grandma, for making the trip out to see us. We love you and are excited to see you in less than 2 weeks!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cheddar Chicken Bites

Last night I tried out a new recipe. This was the first time in a long time that Darin said "You could make that again sometime". Based on those words from my husband,Tyson giving it two thumbs up and Jori actually finishing the serving we put on her plate with minimal complaints, I declare this recipe a keeper.

Cheddar Chicken Bites

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 cups (3 oz) Cheez-It cheddar crackers
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/4 pound chicken tenders
1/2 cup Dijon mustard

1. Put rack in lower 1/3 of oven; preheat to 475. Brush a baking pan with olive oil.
2. Pulse crackers in a food processor. Transfer to a bowl and stir in pepper.
3. Toss tenders in mustard then dredge it in crumbs.
4. Arrange on oiled pan. Bake, turning once, until golden brown, 15 minutes.

As always, I made a few changes. I used Meijer brand crackers, and we all know Cheez-Its are better. They just are. These were ok for baking, but plain-yuck! I didn't measure the crackers or the mustard or the chicken for that matter and it all turned out just fine. Just make what you need for your family. We ended up baking these for closer to 20 minutes. Flip them over carefully so the coating doesn't come off the chicken. We had these with salad and Darin and I both added some of the chicken to our salad and it was pretty good. The kids liked dipping them in ranch dressing. The Dijon mustard is a little spicy, but I think plain mustard would taste gross. Maybe you could make them with honey mustard.


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Up and Down, Up and Down

I feel like I am on a roller coaster these days. Life is good, even great for a while. I feel happy, at peace, ready for what the future holds and then BAM! Just like that I am down again. For the past couple days I've felt things shifting and sensed that the downward spiral was about to begin. Today I am feeling it in full. I have a pretty good hunch that my mood swings are tied to the calendar, and not for the reason you are probably thinking. This has less to do with my cycle and more to do with the dates on the calendar. Today is March 9. In two days it will be the 11th, which means that we will have exactly 3 months left here in the states. My mind has latched on to that fact and can't seem to let go of it.

It probably doesn't help that I decided to sort through our spare room today. Darin's mom is coming in a couple weeks and then the week after that we are heading out to Minnesota to spend time with the whole family, so I really need to make some final decisions about what we want to store and what we'll be getting rid of. This afternoon I was sorting through a box of stuff I've been saving for the kids-pictures, baby books, progress reports from school, papers and projects, special toys... It just made me sad. So I moved on to another box of stuff and that made me sad too.

I feel like I am on this tightrope, trying to balance the excitement of going with the heartache of leaving. It is exciting to be moving to South Africa (just ask anyone!). Yesterday Jori and I looked through pictures from 2008 and I felt myself wanting to be back there, with the people we met and the new things we saw and did. I remembered why Darin and I wanted to go back in the first place. Then Jori says "I miss our old house. I miss how it smells and I miss my room" and my heart aches and I want to have our old life back. I don't want to be that person that is moving in three months. I want to be signing Jori up for kindergarten and figuring out which Vacation Bible Schools the kids can go to, and volunteering to help at Arts Camp with my friends.

I am hoping that once the 11th comes and goes, things will be on the upswing and these sad feelings will go away for a few weeks. I guess I'll soon find out!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All is well here in Hudsonville. March 1 has rolled around, which means I need to start working in our spare room. That is probably why I am sitting here at the computer instead. Procrastination is the name of the game. I did just have to share a few pictures from last week and then I promise to go in the spare room and at least move a few piles around.

Lately the kids have been getting up earlier than usual, like right around 6 in the morning. Little bodies can only handle so many early mornings before they crash. And when their bodies decide to crash, it can happen anywhere.
Sleeping Beauty
Sweet Jori was playing in her room and I realized I hadn't heard her in a while. I went to check on her and found her sleeping on our full length mirror. We still haven't been able to figure out why she was on the mirror in the first place, but whatever she was doing ended up in a little nap!

On Saturday, Darin headed outside with the kids to play in the snow. I am so thankful that he is enjoys being with the kids and doing fun things with them. I was enjoying some quiet time inside until I was called out to look at what had kept them all so busy.
Hiding out in their snow tunnels
Darin was very sore after digging a tunnel for each kid. He even put in a little passageway so they could pass things back and forth. Sadly it snowed more during the night and when we headed to church Sunday morning, we could no longer see the holes as the snow plows had come through and piled more snow on top of them. It was fun while it lasted and I am pretty sure Tyson and Jori could encourage their daddy to go out and build them each a new tunnel this weekend : )

Guess I'd better get to work, although the package of Double Stuf Oreos in the kitchen is calling my name...

Monday, February 28, 2011


Just over a year ago, I posted some breakfast for dinner recipes. Tonight I made the last recipe from that post and it was so good I just had to post it again! I did make a couple changes this time around, not necessarily for the better, but more for to save a little time and money! Usually cutting corners leads to a horrible outcome, but not this time! First, I used regular old white bread and it was very fresh/soft. Second, I did not buy whipping cream, so I used half and half to make the syrup. It still tasted delicious, it just didn't get very thick. I only made 1/2 a batch as I wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, and I did not have enough sugar in the house for a full batch. Third, we had Redi Whip in the house, so we used that instead of making whipped cream. Finally, I only used two eggs and guessed on the half and half because I wasn't planning on making a full batch. The version below is the best, but what we had tonight was so good, I wish I had made more than 8 pieces! 

French Toast with Vanilla Cream Syrup
You will need French bread, half and half, eggs, sugar, vanilla, corn syrup (dark or light), whipping cream and berries

For the bread:
Cut French bread 1/2 inch thick
combine 1 1/3 cup half and half, 4 eggs, 1 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla

Dip the bread in this mixture. Don't let it soak up too much or your bread will be soggy, but make sure it is wet through. Cook in a pan or griddle. (I made 1/2 a batch-about 6 pieces-one night and made more of this mixture for the rest of the bread the next day)

Serve with Vanilla Cream Syrup
Stir together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup corn syrup (recipe calls for light, I only had dark and it was fine) and 1/2 cup whipping cream over medium heat and simmer until melted. Remove from stove, add 1 tsp vanilla. Cool, then whip until thickened.

If you want, you can make Whipped Cream using some of your remaining whipping cream. I Googled "How to make whipped cream with whipping cream" and it said to use a metal bowl and put the bowl and whipping cream in the freezer for a while, so I did. Then I whipped the cream with my mixer for a minute or so until it started looking thick. Then I added some sugar and vanilla, then whipped it again. It looked right and tasted good, so I must have done something right!

This might seem like a lot of work, but it really isn't, especially if you make it how we did tonight, and it is just so good. Don't forget the strawberries!!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The haps

We have been living in our new digs for almost a month now. Hard to believe it's already been that long! On the plus side, living in a smaller space has not been near as stressful as I thought it would be. On the downside, having one month down means we only have a little over 3 left here in Hudsonville. I try not to think about it too much, but time is definitely ticking away. (Tami, if you ever get around to reading this, just know that as soon as I wrote that last sentence I immediately thought of DC Talk and Palm Springs.)

February has been a pretty busy month for us. My mom was here at the beginning of the month, the big blizzard meant the kids were around more than usual, we've had small group, cadets, nights out with friends, playdates and more. Here are a few pictures of some of the things we've been up to.

We've been having lots of play dates with Jenna and JJ. We want to soak up as much time with them as we can. Last night we even got to have Reid over at our apartment. Tyson and Jori were thrilled to babysit their favorite little guy. Jori and JJ get to spend the most time together, but Jori and Jenna are a close second. This leaves poor Tyson feeling a bit left out. It's harder to get him together with the others because he is in school an hour later than Jenna, so it doesn't work out quite as nicely, but we'll keep trying. Jenna and JJ both think apartment living is pretty neat. I am guessing they'd be less inclined to think so if they lived here full time!
Jenna did Jori's hair
Lovely, don't you agree?
 Last week we met up with Sarah, Josiah and Miles at Playworld. They had a great time and spent 3 hours running around, climbing, jumping, bouncing and more. I didn't have my camera along, but did take a couple pictures when we got home to show how "played out" the kids were.
Rosy cheeks
Our little sweaty Betty. She looked like she had just taken a shower!  
 A couple nights ago, Jori and Darin went to Daddy Date night at her school. They had a great time together. There were games, crafts and snacks, a perfect night for daddy and his girl.
So excited to go!
Games in the gym
Our sweet girl
Tyson has been keeping busy with school, although he did have winter break on Friday and Monday. We went to Playworld on Friday and on Monday I drove him to Crazy Horse in Holland so he and Darin could go out to lunch all by themselves.

One thing I have NOT been doing is any kind of sorting or packing. I have given myself until March 1 to get started with all of that, so hold me to it!

Cookie Pie

During one of my recent blog stalking adventures, I came across a link to Our Best Bites, which was showcasing the following recipe. Once I saw it, I knew I had to have it. I did not take any pictures, but you can head over to their site to see some if you'd like.

Here's the recipe:
 Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust, homemade or store-bought.
2 large eggs
1/2 C flour
1/2 C white granulated sugar
1/2 C packed brown sugar
3/4 C real butter,
softened (1 1/2 sticks)
1 C chocolate chips (semi-sweet or dark works best, you might find milk too sweet)
1 C chopped pecans (you are welcome to make it without nuts)

Vanilla ice cream, or sweetened whipped cream for serving (a must!  I prefer ice cream)
optional: chocolate sauce (honestly, doesn't really need chocolate sauce, but it looks pretty!)

Preheat oven to 325° F.

Beat eggs in large mixer bowl on high speed until foamy. Beat in flour, granulated sugar and brown sugar. Beat in butter. Stir in morsels and nuts. Spoon into pie shell.

Bake for 55 to 60 minutes or until knife inserted halfway between edge and center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack or serve slightly warmed.  Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

 Yum! It was so good. You have to make sure you let it cool enough so that it doesn't just fall apart, but warm enough to be like a cookie right from the oven. Mmmm. I actually liked it better the second day after it has cooled completely. It was like a chewy gooey cookie bar. This is the kind of dessert you want to make when you will have company to share it with. Do not attempt to eat a whole cookie pie on your own. One slice is about equal to 5 or 6 cookies : ) I was pleased to discover that even without a mixer, my cookie pie turned out wonderfully. Just made my arm a little sore!


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Leaving behind my flannel sheets

As each day ticks by and we get closer to our departure, I find myself looking at everything with a discerning eye. Should we pack that? Will I miss that if I sell it? Are the kids really going to play with all these toys and read all these books? How heavy are those shoes? And most recently, do we really need to take our flannel sheets?

Today is the first time I thought about leaving those sheets. I mean, they are nice and warm. They would keep us cozy during those winter nights out on the farm. Darin can mock me all he wants, but below freezing at night with no heat!?! Come on people, that is cold! If you know me, you know I do not like to be cold. Give me sunshine and warmth any day. Flip flops year round? I'm in!

We were driving around and I was giving Darin some reasons why I think we'll be leaving the sheets behind. First, I really want to buy one of those heated mattress pads with separate heating zones, so I can keep my tootsies nice and toasty and the rest of my body cool. Second, the washing machine we'll be using is small and there is no dryer. Flannel sheets are kind of bulky and totally heavy when wet. Out at the farm, we'll most likely be falling into bed with dirty feet and less than perfectly clean bodies and our sheets will need to be washed often. Washing and air drying flannel doesn't sound very fun to me.

Tonight I watched something that made the whole issue of taking or leaving flannel sheets so much more to me. If I haven't mentioned it before, I am a blog stalker. That means I read lots of blogs of people that I do not even know. Strange? Maybe, but it's what I do. Tonight as I was stalking reading blogs I took the time to watch the following videos of a family that went to Uganda to bring home their son and daughter. Here is part one and here is part two. While I was watching these videos, I was reminded of why we wanted to move to South Africa back in 2008. We had made connections to people that were doing good in their communities and we wanted to get involved with these local organizations because we felt we had gifts and talents that God could use to help them and help others as well. Not that we are so great or so capable, but tonight I was reminded that we both felt like God was calling us to do more than live out our days in Hudsonville, Michigan wrapped up in our flannel sheets! I want to feel that way again.

I confess that over these last few months of waiting and anticipating and a whole lot of other -ings, I have been focused on the wrong things. I have lost sight  of where God has called us to go and why. In fact, it isn't so much losing sight of it, but I haven't even been searching for His vision. I have been caught up in where we'll live, worrying myself about what school will best fit out kids, what church we'll go to, how often Darin will need to be at work and how we can somehow figure out these things and then triangulate the perfect location for us to live based on these places we need to get to. I've left no room for what God might have in store for us. None at all.

I've been tied down by more than flannel sheets. I've been trying to drag my whole life out to South Africa. How can I replicate the school experience that my kids would have here, out there? How can I find a church to meet our needs, be it kids programs, a Bible study for me (Beth Moore to be specific), or a worship service that is similar to what we experience at our church? Is it going to be more fun/relaxing/easy to live outside the city or out in the country? Where can I go and what can I do to find people like me to be friends with?

Our church recently wrapped up a year long series on how this life we are living is not about us. I am not the main character in the story, God is. He is the author and He is also the one the whole story is about. And here, for the last 10 months, I've been making it all about me. No wonder it's been such a struggle. Almost as bad as wrestling wet flannel sheets onto a laundry line.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A look ahead

When we went to South Africa in 2008, we had the privilege to stay in an amazing house right across from Tshepo Ya Bana, the children's home run by Mark and Chris Harding. The house we stayed in belonged to their son and daughter, who both had homes in the city and used this property as a vacation home. I believe I already mentioned this in an earlier post, but when we head overseas in June, we will be going back to this same house. I thought I would share some pictures that we took in 2008 so you can see (or remember) where we'll be living for the first few months of our upcoming adventure.

Standing in the "front" door
Kitchen and laundry room (that's a wash machine under the counter)
Living room
Sitting room, looking into Tyson's room
Sliders in the sitting room
Tyson's room
Straight ahead, our room; to the right, Jori's room
I can't believe Jori was small enough that we had her in a crib!
Our bedroom
Master bath with gigantic tub
These pictures show the parts of the house that we used most often. There was also a huge loft area off of Jori's room and another loft area over the living room. There were also two other bedrooms and a bathroom off of the kitchen. Let's not forget about the great outdoors! We spent a LOT of time outside and ate a lot of meals out there too.
Can't believe how little these two were!
Our favorite place to sit
Walking to shut the gate
Swing Amos made for the kids
We really did love the time we spent at this house. I think we might try to get Internet hooked up this time around as it was tough not being able to communicate with people unless we went to town or across the road, which were not the most convenient options.

Hope you enjoyed the look back. I know that seeing these pictures does make me more excited to go back. If you want to see more pictures of our time in South Africa, you can click where it says "view my gallery" on the right side of my blog.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A look back to October 2010

So this weekend I had the privilege of getting together with some of my college friends in Lansing. First we stopped over at Amy's house to spend some time loving on sweet baby Nora, then we headed to Grand Traverse Pie Co. for dinner and dessert. A good time was had by all!

We do a lot of talking while we are together about all sorts of topics and I just had to share about my new tech savvy-ness. When the subject of my blog came up, these dear friends reminded me that I had somehow never posted anything about our 10 year college reunion, which took place in October! Fail.

So, without further ado, I present reunion weekend 2010!

On Friday night we had our 10 year reunion. I am just going to say it was pathetic. Seriously sad. If our group from First Rooks (plus husbands) hadn't been there, I think the number of attendees would have shrunk by a third. If all former residents of RVD had not attended, the total number would have probably shrunk by half. I guess our old dorm just had a lot of spirit! We've all agreed that we would be better off skipping the next reunion and using the money to go out for a fabulous meal instead. That being said, it was fun to catch up with people that I hadn't seen since we graduated and being with my girls is always fun.
Amy, Pauline, Michelle, Kara, Sarah and me
Best college roomie EVER!!
The happy parents to be
On Saturday, we had a baby shower for Amy. We didn't know at that time that sweet Nora would be showing up a little over a month later, instead of 3 months later when she was due! (She's a red head. Need I say more?) It was so fun to be able to sit and talk and eat (cheesecake bars!!!) and share together.
Me, Amy, Kara, Tracey, Pauline, Jenny, Julie, Sarah and Michelle (we missed you Lisa!)

See the cute little onesies behind us? Sarah had the great idea to get a little crafty instead of playing the typical baby shower games. It was so fun! She had all the fabric laid out, a few patterns we could follow, and all the stuff to stick the appliques on the onesies. Fun! That night, those of us who were available went out to dinner. I think we just wanted to soak up as much time together as possible!

On Sunday we gathered together with our families and went to Frog Hollow Park. It was so much fun seeing the kids play together. They were running around, playing soccer, eating cookies and just having a good time.
Tyson hanging around
Grace (Pauline's) and Jori
Kate and Maria (Jenny's)
Kids playing soccer with Greg. Check out his mini-mi, Christopher, right in front of him.
Simon and Jack (Michelle's)
Fenced in parks are the best!
The whole gang!

Keegan (Kara's), Miles (Sarah's),Christopher, Gracie and James (up front with stripes-Pauline's), Tyson, Tate (Kara's), Jori, Jack and Liam (in black, Michelle's), Kate and Maria (Jenny's), and Josiah (Sarah's)
And they're done

It was a wonderful weekend. Who knew when we first arrived on campus in 1996 that over 14 years later most of us would still be living in the Grand Rapids area. Who knew we'd still be staying in contact enough to be truly invested in each others lives? I am so thankful that God saw fit to put a group of girls from all over the continent, three from Michigan (none from GR), one from California, another from Washington, one from Indiana, two from Ohio, one from Pennsylvania and of course a lovable Canadian and that all these years later our friendships continue to grow!