The Armstrong Archives (48): The Year in Retrospect

May 10, 1978   Dear family (by our blood or His) and friends,

Here it is May! Heavy grey clouds brought us scurrying home form the library this morning against a wind so stiff Aaron could hardly pedal his tricycle. “Is this spring, Mama? The one Daddy told us about?” Aaron asked me a little incredulously the other day. I guess by the calendar it is, but mentally I’m still drifting around somewhere back in March or April where the rainy cold seems more in place. (…Now hail is pelting the window!)

Somewhere back there I missed writing some letters too. Not mentally, mind you. I’ve composed dozens of letters in the past six months…carrying a load of diapers back from the laundry room, scraping spaghetti off the dinner plates, or drifting off to sleep. A few even materialized into a paragraph or two, but none made it to the press. November was a list of 32 adjectives beginning with ”t” to describe our tempestuous, theatrical, terrible two-year-old. Here’s a sample:

Truthful—“I need a spanking…with the rod.”

Tyrannical—“Don’t move; I’ll be right back.”

Thoughtful—“How’s it work?” “Where is heaven?”

Tardy—Ever try to hurry an uninterested performer on the potty chair?

Treacherous—“I didn’t hit Michael, Jerry did.” (Jerry is a favored doll.)

Tender—“I go shopping. Get new crib for Baby Jesus!”

Transcending— “Bye, bye poot (B.M. down the toilet)! Have a nice time.”

Teachable—“Take little bites, Daddy. Lean forward!” (Who’s teaching whom?)

Teasing—“What’s the deal, Banana Peel?”

Theological—“I want to go to heaven, and Mama, and Daddy, and Cup…” (his blanket)

Tactless—“Just gas! (He announced flatly after a loud lower eruption had momentarily stopped company conversation at the dinner table.)

And on and on. What a hilarious, frustrating, marvelous age.

By December things had cooled down. Michael had become a bonafide member of the family—Aaron forgot he was ever a newcomer, and Alan was waltzing around at night whispering sweet nothings in his tiny ears—and we were gearing up for winter. December’s letter began like this:

“It’s a little hard to get into the spirit of this letter (Christmas) with a misty, grey rain dripping away at the small stores of muddy snow left here and there along the edges of the sidewalks and parking lots outside the window. Aaron keeps reminding me that we’re going to visit Grandma and Grandpa for a ‘bacation’ in ‘just one week from tomorrow’ (which is no longer true, although it was four days ago when he learned how to say it), and Alan’s been counting the days for nearly a month until this very difficult quarter will be over.”

July through December was the most trying segment of medical school for Alan, a record that will hopefully not be broken until internship. It was a great relief to all of us when school ended for the Christmas holiday.

January and February’s letters never got off the ground. It seemed there was never a time when one (or four) of us didn’t have the flu, or a cold, or diarrhea, or the flu, or a cold, or __or__or something. Alan was doing pediatrics at Children’s Hospital, and our family seemed to be susceptible to all the viruses he dragged home, which was an experience he found to be fairly common among the families of his colleagues. A letter from those months would have been pretty dreary.

March was a fairly serious month, although Alan’s hours were better and there was hope that spring might bring relief from the 30X30 ft. crawling-the-walls-in-our-tiny-apartment syndrome. Alan was in the throes of planning his curriculum for the next year and trying to get some insights into where he wants to go and what he wants to be doing for the next “X” number of years. He loves surgery but hates the hours. What should he be doing with his life, anyway?…needing to decide questions he didn’t really feel prepared to answer…Wisely, he ended up pulling out only enough brothy info. to make the few decisions necessary for now and is still keeping the rest of the pot simmering on the back burners of his mind.

April. Blessed April. The snows had melted enough for a few tramps through the woods at Kensington Park to see the cowslips, hepatica, and bloodroots shooting purple, yellow, and white heads up through the half-rotten leavens of last fall. And dates! Alan took a psychiatry rotation and his schedule became almost unbearably reasonable: 8-5 M-F with no call and no weekends…and not even too much bookwork. We went to the symphony, to a ball game, to Canada, to Sunday school class parties and dinner parties; we had company in and went over to visit friends; he took me swimming, out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant, a Cuban restaurant, and to Greek Town. One Saturday he babysat all day so I could take our baby sitter out to lunch and later attend a baby shower. We did more fun things together than we’ve had time to do in the whole last 2 ½ years, and suddenly Detroit didn’t seem like such a dreary place to live after all!

Now it’s May. Right now Aaron is singing sweetly to himself, playing in his bedroom, and Michael is crawling around at my feet. Aaron is in the transition between the fierce independence of the two and the desire to please of the three. From week to week there is a noticeable increase in the pleasure and decrease in the pain associated with his appearance on the scene. Michael is right in one of the golden ages of babyhood too. He gets around pretty well and is usually very content. He thinks I live in the kitchen, and whenever he tires and wants a little attention, he crawls into the kitchen to get me (regardless of where I really am). He has also begun sleeping thorough the night lately and has started to share sleeping quarters with Aaron. Right now he’s meandered into the kitchen to inspect a sack of trash I got out to take to the trash room. I think he wants a little attention. Even though he was sitting by me in the bedroom, when he got bored, it was off to the kitchen to get “Ma, Ma!” And, Aaron’s at my sleeve, “Can I type, Mom? Huh? I wanna type. Huh, Ma, can I type?” One of the “t’s” on my list was tiring, another was trying. He is a real challenge to mother, and a real blessing. We thank the Lord every day for our two little guys.

“Ouch, Mike, what are you doing?” Michael is affectionately pulling on Aaron’s face. It’s clearly time to quit typing, even though it seems to me I just got started. Happy summer.

Love, Us

Our Scrumptious German Dinner: Do Unto Others…

StrawberriesWhen you have a house full, someone’s always hungry, Ame wanting tomato and it seems like there’s always a team in the midst of either making, Dan feeding chicken to Aiden serving, DSCN4842 or cleaning up! DSCN5158Oh, and taking care of the little ones. DSCN5153Keeping the kids happily occupied DSCN5159so the parents can get the food prepared DSCN5157might actually be the most challenging job of all… IMG_3356 especially since kids seem to get hungry about every two hoursDSCN5163(like some fathers I know…Alan didn’t say Jonathan ate like a shrew when he was little without cause 🙂 ). Ham Dinner  copyWe tried to serve lots of traditional American food IMG_3293& discovered some real hits: German children don’t eat corn on the cob. They eat it already cut off…but the kids loved chewing corn off the cobs for themselves! IMG_3220We roasted hotdogs and toasted marshmallows, and we discovered that Smores copy“smores” aren’t common in Europe, but still Europeans like s’more too! Pirate foodSamuel also really loved our “pirate food” (which he explained is anything you can eat with your hands…like a pirate)! DSCN5165Linda’s family brought some special ingredients from Germany to our home too, DSCN5173and one day they prepared us an unforgettably delicious German dinner! IMG_3357And, I do mean “one day,” because it took most of the day IMG_3359to make enough extraordinary food to feed all fifteen of us. IMG_3354Also, according to their generous hospitality, IMG_3360there was more than enough of everything that anyone could possibly want.IMG_3358For instance, Linda master-minded not just one cookie-sheet-sized apple strudel IMG_3367 but two! (And, yes, they had both been devoured by the next day.) IMG_3361While some of the adults “slaved away” tirelessly in the kitchen, Kieren babysittingothers kept the children busy (and safe 🙂 ). IMG_3362Mid afternoon, there was even quite a lovely swim time to cool down.IMG_3363Aunt Brianna and Samuel put together another high chair for us. IMG_3366And, Aiden oversaw his big brother’s workmanship IMG_3365(under Uncle “Dole”‘s watchful eye). IMG_3370Finally even the watched pots had all boiled (or simmered, as some recipes necessitated), IMG_3369and it was time to serve up all the marvelous dishes! DSCN5175Uncle Johannes carved the roast beef. DSCN5178The masterpiece was complete: all hot and done perfectly at the same moment/1DSCN5177Our family is very informal and generally eats buffet style, which is so simple! DSCN5180It saves dishes, makes serving a snap…and if you want more of anything at DSCN5181anytime, it’s just so easy to get yourself more whenever you please. 🙂 DSCN5183We waited until after the children were fed and put to bed before enjoying our DSCN5184dessert and tea. The apple strudel and ice cream were “to die of” delicious (as Alan would say). Thank you, dear ones! We loved every bite.

Did you know that “The Golden Rule” (“Do unto to others as you would have them do unto you”) is not actually a verse that can be found in the Bible? Still, I believe it is a golden rule, and I couldn’t help but think of it as I sat at the table that night, enjoying all the love and hard work that went into preparing our scrumptious German dinner. Hard work is fun when it’s done for and with people you love. In fact, all of life becomes a joy when it’s a labor of love. Thank God for the joy of giving and receiving love!

“A new commandment I give you, That you love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34).

Hoffmaster Park: Red Flags Aren’t Always ALL Bad

DSCN3942Jonathan took Gerlinde to Hoffmaster Park when she first visited America five  DSCN5552years ago, and so it was a special joy to return last weekend with Amélie in tow DSCN5558and another “bun in the oven” (as we sometimes refer to pregnancies here). 🙂 DSCN5554It was a sweltering hot, sunny day, and there were oodles of people at the beach. DSCN3950But, there was a red flag flying: high waves, and a strong sideways current. 😦DSCN5566The recommendation was no swimming, but it hadn’t seemed to stop anybody. DSCN5565Stephen had brought his kite to fly,  but the water was so warmDSCN5569  and the waves were so high that we all felt a little like we were back in Hawaii…DSCN5574or maybe Daytona Beach, only NO sharks, NO rocks, & NO salt to sting our eyes.DSCN5561Alan hadn’t brought down his swim suit and was content to walk the beach.DSCN5578He also very graciously watched Amélie so the rest of us could play in the waves. DSCN5597We were very careful not to go out into water that was any more than waist deepDSCN5595 so that we wouldn’t get caught in a rip tide DSCN5594 (which can be deadly if you’re in over your head). DSCN5596We played until we were exhausted but never did get too cold! It was awesome! DSCN5581Baby Amélie had just as much fun as we did, but she just played along the shore DSCN5585and learned a little bit DSCN5590about how to negotiate water and waves. DSCN5601She also had her own tiny pool for play beside a grand village of sand castles  DSCN5600(although she wasn’t sure about all the “mess” of sand on her hands at times).DSCN5608Of course, that didn’t stop her from grabbing feathers and getting all sandy! Through her clumsiness, some castles got smushed, but that’s how you learn. DSCN5610Finally, hunger began to call and it was time to fly out of Hoffmaster Park. DSCN5612Happily, the Whippy-Dip is just down the road, and a great favorite, not only  with us, but with lots of folks! (We met Gary and Linda R. there with their kids, DSCN5617but I got so busy chatting that didn’t think to take a picture!)DSCN5620 At any rate, Linda played with Amélie at the park while we ordered supper. DSCN5623The Whippy-Dip has great deals on hotdogs, burgers, fries, onion rings, drinks…DSCN5625combos for $4-5ish and very popular fun food for hungry bunnies of all ages! DSCN5628And, if you’re really famished from swimming, they have super ice cream treats!! DSCN5618The Whippy-Dip is also famous for their “weather rock” to help you understand DSCN5619current weather conditions. They make it all seem so obvious and simple, huh? 🙂 DSCN5642Well, we drove home as the sun was dipping low on the horizon behind us. DSCN5636 I got to thinking about red flags, hazardous conditions, crumbling castles,  learning to understand the obvious… and how we can’t a know what lies ahead. DSCN5639Often it’s much easier to see life looking  backwards, in retrospect.

Today I received word that someone I love dearly has seen a red flag waving. Conditions are rough, rip tides are out there, beware. But, does that mean “don’t swim,” or does it mean “be careful and wise about how you swim”? I am praying for wisdom and courage for this loved one and for each of us. May we be careful and prayerful as we move forward in life, but I pray that if we choose to swim, we will do so with great caution and take pleasure in it, even when we get tumbled by the waves. Maybe our sand castles will crumble, but God can help us build again…and build better. I was meditating on Psalms 120-124 this morning and was especially taken with the phrase, “The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.” He doesn’t promise us fame, fortune, or worldly success, but He does preserve us from evil and keep our souls if we will trust him. And, when we come to the end of life and all has been said and done, I think that will be worth more than all the fame in the world! DSCN5647“I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from which comes my help. My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not suffer your foot to be moved: he that keeps you will not slumber…The LORD shall preserve you from all evil: he shall preserve your soul. The LORD shall preserve your going out, and your coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.” (Psalm 121:1-3;7-8)

Jersey Junction and Reed’s Lake: Father Knows Best

Do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream? Alan’s favorite is vanilla, and my favorite is usually whatever I haven’t tried before…or something with chocolate. DSCN5378The other night, Daniel and Brianna invited us all out for ice cream after dinner.  DSCN5380Jersey Junction is an old fashion ice cream parlor in East GR’s Gaslight Village, DSCN5381but it is such a popular spot for ice cream that Alan and I decided to take the DSCN5384kids for stroller rides while the rest of the family waited in the long line. DSCN5390The kids were angels while they waited (truly!), & their patience was rewarded… DSCN5394except for Baby Aiden, who had to be content chewing on Suzzana’s shoulder. DSCN5395Amélie and Samuel sat more quietly than I think I’ve ever seem them sit before!DSCN5397We all thought the ice cream at Jersey Junction was great, down to the last lick. DSCN5403Amélie hardly moved a muscle until she’s downed every last bite in her little cup,DSCN5404but Samuel—after due consideration—decided that his papa’s might be better. DSCN5408Aiden also thought that he deserved a little taste, but he’s sadly still too little. 😦 DSCN5406Samuel is a lucky boy to have parents who are so self-sacrificing, and I also think DSCN5402it’s quite a compliment that little ones think whatever daddy has is best! DSCN5412After the ice cream, Uncle Dan and Aunt Brianna invited us to go for a walk DSCN5418in John Collins Park along the bank of Reeds Lake.DSCN5417During the summer, they show open-air children’s films on some Friday nights. DSCN5424However, our little ones were most interested DSCN5420 in playing with Uncle “De-ann” and Aunt “Branna” Ducks; mallard and domesticand watching the ducks. DSCN5485It was such a peaceful evening! Migrating Birds  copyFlocks of birds were stretching their wings, reminding us that fall is approaching. DSCN5450Amélie found a little flower, DSCN5458Grandpa & Nana took a stroll, and Samuel watched the boats with Aunt Branna. DSCN5464Meanwhile, the young parents took a much needed rest with “Uncle Teve.” DSCN5490As the sun faded away, Happy Feet Two began to play. However, it was way past DSCN5496  the kids’ bedtime, and so we only watched for a few minutes before Papa DSCN5501wisely decided it was time to go home. As my pastor always says, it’s betterDSCN5495 to stop while everybody is still having fun. It was a very special evening, DSCN5507and we even made it home without anybody melting down! 🙂 DSCN5458

Johannes asked about Alan’s tee shirt. It says, “HE <“is greater than” i: “He is greater than I.” Not only does “father know best” when it comes to Johannes taking care of his young sons, “Father knows best” when it comes to God taking care of his children too, because He is greater and wiser than we are. Thank you, Father, for taking such good care of us, for your great sacrifice of love in sending Christ to die for us, and for giving us so many good things day by day. Help us to always trust you, even if we’re still having fun when it’s getting very late and You know it’s time to take us home.

“Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statues alway, even unto the end” (Psalm 119:111-112).

U-Pick Blueberries: Be Sure to Ask the Right Questions

DSCN3937Do you like picking your own fruit? We’ve had a long-standing tradition in our IMG_4514family of picking our own…what ever’s in season, from strawberries in June to apples in September, and everything in between! When Alan and I were first married, we always picked blueberries in the U.P. (Michigan’s Upper Peninsula) with our parents. There the berries grow on tiny bushes about a foot high on the forest floors, under the jack pines and along the roadways…where ever they can find enough sunshine to flourish. You have to squat, bend, or crawl along, and the berries are small but bursting with flavor.Nancy Stec's pies Every berry is precious because you feel like you’re on a treasure hunt. Here are some pies my friend Nancy made this month from her stash of U.P. berries. Alan picking berriesOur kids were amazed when we moved down to the lower peninsula and they Picking blueberries copy discovered that blueberries can grow on bushes that towered above their heads! DSCN3936Cultivated blueberries are typically milder in flavor but they are very sweet. IMG_4489They are plump, plentiful, and prized by humanoids of all ages! IMG_4554So, even though Alan’s hair has turned grey and we’re training in the next Picking blueberriesgeneration of pickers, we still love to pick blueberries every August! IMG_4519This summer we’d already gone twice and brought home literally gallons of DSCN3940blueberries. Once we went with Stephen and Joel, but after eating them fresh for DSCN3938days, and making blueberry buckle and pies and pancakesIMG_4493 and…well, we ran out of berries and had to go back for more so we’d have someDSCN3931 to eat fresh again and then be able  to freeze some for this winter! DSCN4035However, we never seem to tire of blueberries, and so for Camp J., I decided it DSCN5363would be fun to take Gerlinde’s family to pick, especially since Johannes’ family DSCN5365 has been living in Norway, and they are used to the little berries like we have in DSCN5367the U.P. So, I called and asked a local farm if they still had berries. To my delight, Duneback BlueberriesDunneback Farm said they still had berries, so we rushed right out to pick! DSCN5374

Sadly, when we arrived with our buckets, we were informed that they had blueberries for sale, but not to pick. 😦 It reminded me of the first time I invited some new friends (Van and Anita) to go apple picking. I called the orchard at just this time—the last week of August—and asked for the orchard’s hours. However, when we arrived the following week to pick, they weren’t open when we came…because the hours changed after Labor Day. So, I realized that you can’t just ask simple questions like, “When are you open?” and “Do you still have fruit?” You have to ask complete, very specific questions, like, “Do you still have fruit that I can pick?” and “What will your hours be on Sept. 6?” IMG_4480Not being able to pick fruit is a small disappointment, but missing out on the fruit of the Spirit and going to heaven would be monumental. To believe in heaven and God are good things, but just believing in God is not enough to get you to heaven. “You believe there is one God; you do well: the devils also believe, and tremble” (James 2:19). Do you also know Jesus Christ, who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)? I hope no one reaches the gates of heaven only to find that they are shut out because they failed to ask the right questions and believe the truth.

Rise Up, My Love (47): A Tender Call to Rise Up and Come

DSCF0530Song of Solomon 2:10 “Rise up, my love, my fair one…” Ever tender, ever compassionate, ever praising. Oh, that husbands could go before their wives through every trial and lead them gently on with such encouraging reassurances…that husbands could learn to make requests in the context of such matchless love! “My love,” the apple of my eye, my one and only.  “My fair one,” you who belong to me, and whom I find uniquely beautiful.  Only a wife whose heart was made of stone could refuse to follow a husband who called her with such tenderness and depth of commitment.

“Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.” He comes to her in love and appeals to her for a response of faith. “Come away.”  Simple words, but what is this that our beloved is really asking?  He is asking his bride to leave all the comforts and securities of home—every lavish physical support he has so abundantly provided for her. He is asking that she leave the gifts to accompany the giver, to give up all physical securities and trust him alone to meet her needs, to give up all her own pursuits and pleasures in order to find fulfillment in fellowship with him.

This is the resurrection life to which the Lord so eagerly and tenderly calls us!  He calls us to come away with him, away from an attachment to the things of this world, away from our physical securities and comforts, away from our own pursuits and pleasures.  He calls us, by faith, to rise up and come away— to find in him our peace and rest, and to learn that truly, truly, at his right hand “there are pleasures for ever more” (Psalm 16:11)! He calls us to “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” so that we might say with Paul, “I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ” (Philippians 3:8).  He calls us to know the fellowship of his sufferings, to live the life of his death, and to share in the glory of his resurrected life (Philippians 3:10-11).

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).  This is the call of our beloved!  “Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away.”

The Armstrong Archives (47): Psychiatry is “The Best!”

Saturday, April 8, 1978 This has been one busy week but sure fun! Monday we ate dinner at our Sunday school teachers’ home. The husband is a retired army colonel who’s just lived and worked everywhere—Vietnam, Paris, the Pentagon, Korea, the hills of West Virginia… His wife is a real “Southern Belle” from Virginia. [She was “Miss Virginia” one year!] They are just delightful! Very wise and very funny.

Michael’s growing by leaps and bound now. He popped out his first tooth, can roll both ways, and is up on hands and knees rocking back and forth, lunging, and trying so hard to crawl!5200 Anthony Wayne Dr.[“This is 5200 Anthony Wayne Drive.”I must have taught Aaron to say our address just in case he ever got lost, although he never did.] Aaron’s in his glory now that the weather’s finally warm enough for us to get outside some. He rides his tricycle all over campus while I push Michael in the stroller. It’s still cold and rainy some days, but yesterday was in the 60°s, and we were out two hours.

Psychiatry has really been a good, easy rotation for Alan, and he’s even become social again. We’re starting to have friends over and do stuff together. It almost feels like the “good old days” before we had kids and medical school. I love it. Of course, as a result I have less time to get my work done, but I’d rather play than work anyway!Tree HouseWednesday, April 19, 1978 [Enclosed is “A Tree House too”…Aaron made two today. He always selects his own titles…]

Just a note to say we’re still surviving. It’s been cold here, 50°s with cloudy/sunshiny weather. Last Saturday we all went to Kensington Park and just had a marvelous time tramping through the woods. We brought the wagon for the boys; Michael slept a lot, but Aaron ran most of the time and had a ball.Beethoven[“I’m making Beethoven for my Grandpa Lou” I wrote explanations on most of the pictures for my parents] Thursday night Alan took me to hear Haydn’s Creation at the Detroit Symphony. Really a spectacular performance. We’ll have to take you two with us sometime; you’d really enjoy it, I’m sure.

Tomorrow we’re going to a Tigers’ ball game. As you can see, we have really been making use of Alan’s four-week psychiatry rotation! Unfortunately, it will be over Friday. It has certainly been a wonderful break and so nice that Alan has had enough energy to do some fun things!

There are a few glimmers of Aaron’s approaching three. Some days he is so sweet and helpful! Today he was all set to fix my sewing machine. He wondered why I was sewing by hand. When I told him my machine wasn’t working, he went to get his toolbox and said he would fix it if I’d get it out! The funny thing was, he really thought he could and was a little hurt that I didn’t let him try. [I was afraid he’d just be frustrated and even more disappointed if he did try and couldn’t fix it.]

Glad to talk to you last night. My lack of letters is strictly my fault. We love you so dearly that nothing short of murder could offend us for more than ten minutes. We always thoroughly enjoy going home, and you have both consistently overextended yourselves with kindnesses when we’re there. Please don’t even consider that you might be the reason I don’t write! It’s predictably 1) somebody’s been sick, 2) our schedule has become overly full for some reason, or 3) I’m overtired and under-organized (usually due to one the first two reasons).

Michael cut his second tooth and is starting to creep forward a little. He is really changing fast now. He’s still full of laughter and good humor, and Aaron enjoys him more every day. SpringTuesday, April 25, 1978 Last Saturday was a beautiful, sunny day and Alan woke up singing, “Aaron, where would you like to go today?” Aaron responded immediately, “To Grandma’s house!!”

If we’d had a three-day weekend, I’m sure we would have come, but there won’t be any of those until June. We did go to Mt. Pleasant on Sunday though for their yearly reunion called “Family Day” at our old church. (You came with us once. It coincides with the Sugar Bush Festival and the all-you-can-eat pancake dinner at Shepherd.) We always have such a marvelous time and wish we could find such a warm fellowship here in Detroit.

Yesterday Aaron had a little asthma, but he seems all right today. Traveling always seems to set him off. I’ve had a cold for the past several days too. We have sure had our share of sickness this winter. I am thankful it’s all been just simple, non-serious, cold bugs, though. [Alan thought it was most likely from his rotations through pediatrics and other exposures in the hospital system…his first year with so much direct contact.]

Saturday night we went to a Sunday school party “progressive dinner” (where you all ride on a bus to different homes for all the different courses) and a volley ball game, and Thursday night we had company for dinner. So, our social life is still existent and lots of fun.

Michael’s pounding on the organ and Aaron’s playing with his cars. Alan’s doing neurology at Detroit General (Hospital) this month. Sorry we can’t get home every month like we used to, but know that we’d LOVE to have you visit any time you can make it!

Love, A,K,A,M

[As we just said goodbye to Johannes’ family with his two wee boys, it reminds me so much of this time 35 years ago when we had two small sons! Time flies, but God’s love and grace remains constant. Great is His faithfulness!]

Samuel’s Third Birthday: Don’t Foget the Blessing!

IMG_3623In Germany, the birthday boy gets to do especially fun things all day long,  IMG_3636(which is often also true in America too, I might add), IMG_3612 so Samuel got to open a couple of presents right after breakfast. IMG_3604Amélie approved!IMG_3634 He loved his new pajamas and the police helicopter! IMG_3641His papa drew him a “helicopter landing pad” while we cleared away the dishes, DSCN5202and then we were off to the park for a morning of fun! DSCN5220Pauline was a bit feverish and tired, so she stayed at home to nap, DSCN5228but Samuel was really, DSCN5231really DSCN5233excited about being a big boy, now that he’s THREE…DSCN5238and he really, DSCN5276really loved spending so much time just with his daddy DSCN5316while Mama took care of Baby Aiden DSCN5205and Cousin Amélie played nearby.DSCN5268There were lots of toys for digging in the sand, and lots of sand to throw! DSCN5222There was a “motorcycle” DSCN5258and lots of funny toys to share! DSCN5302Daddy got played right out,DSCN5207but Aiden wasn’t a bit tired! DSCN5216Neither was Amélie! DSCN5219I think Amélie would have been happy to swing almost forever…DSCN5310and Samuel and Amé were in their glory to have Johannes swing the kids SO HIGH (as only dads can really seem to do)! After they had been “swung out,” DSCN5332they met a little friend on the merry-go-round who was also three! DSCN5343Finally, they got hungry enough to be ready to go home for lunch. Good thing, because I think their parents must have also built up a good appetite from working so hard playing all morning! 🙂DSCN5356One last toy to enjoy…a lamp post! I love how kids can play with anything. IMG_3662After lunch, while the other children took a nap, Samuel got to play in the pool before settling down with a new Curious George book to “study” during his quiet time. Being a “big boy,” he doesn’t really nap anymore, but his parents needed a rest. (This is also true in America!) IMG_3667Samuel also got to skype with his grandparents in Germany. Very special!! 🙂 IMG_3680After nap time it was time to don the party hats & become construction workers. IMG_3688Suzanna made a delicious white cake with M’n’M’s inside and oreo cookie dirt. IMG_3722It took about 7-8 hard blows for Samuel to get all the candles out, but it was worth it! The cake really was very delicious!IMG_3771Oh, and he got such wonderful presents! IMG_3779We wished Aunt Karin, Uncle Jon, Grandma and Grosspapa could have been here to, but we are sending you this picture with our love! IMG_3798After Grandpa returned home from work, we had a pizza party as our final treat. IMG_3804Grandpa and Nana felt like it was their birthday too, with the beautiful flowers, candy, teas, and gifts that Gerlinde’s family gave them. IMG_3808We all felt very sad to have to put Kieren’s family on a train heading west this morning. Camp “J” will not be the same without them.

IMG_3230But, I want to tell one last wee tale about Samuel. At one meal while they were visiting, in the midst of all the hubbub, Samuel must not have heard our family prayer before we ate (as we were all standing around the kitchen together but needed to eat in two different rooms), so when he got seated he would not touch his food, insisting that we must not forget the blessing! I was so touched by that! In the midst of our busy, happy lives…I hope we never forget to recognize and appreciate the multitude of blessings that our dear heavenly Father showers on us! Life is always hard…when you’re little and teething or being potty-trained, when you’re a teenager with acne and feeling socially awkward, when you’re a young adult trying to develop a career and looking for a spouse, when you’re young parents with children who wake you up at all hours of the night, and when you’re older and dealing with the problems of aging and losing friends… life—even the best and happiest of lives—is always hard! But, let’s never forget to count our blessings too! God is gracious and good. “He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great…The heaven, even the heavens, are the LORD’s: but the earth has he given to the children of men…We will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 115:13,16,18)

Meijer Garden Party: Daddy’s Watching Over You

IMG_3398Tammy had the bright idea to organize a party at Meijer Garden yesterday. IMG_3388 Amélie approved! 🙂 IMG_3383It was sunny and almost 90°, so the perfect weather to play in fountains IMG_3414 and have a tea party at the children’s park. IMG_3403Two of Linda’s closest friends from her time living her were able to come with IMG_3422 their children, so it was triple fun with all the kids running around. IMG_3427At one point, their was a wee disagreement between Polly and Amélie, so Kieren IMG_3408 called to his daughter. Polly immediately looked around but couldn’t see him.   I IMG_3431 was very impressed that she had even heard his voice, and really delighted when she stopped fussing and went to find him. “She knows Daddy’s watching!” Kieren commented to me. Oh that I might be as responsive to my Father’s voice. IMG_3436 Here are Linda and Amélie looking down on us from the tree house high above!IMG_3462 Their is a lovely sand pit in another area of the children’s park with lots of toys. IMG_3453Samuel loved being able to move big piles of sand! IMG_3487All the pathways are lined with beautiful flower bedsIMG_3467and whimsical topiaries IMG_3490to delight the hearts of children. IMG_3471With a little imagination, you can find yourself inside a beaver dam, IMG_3511or soaring like an eagle from his tree house…IMG_3502or even carrying on a conversation with a giant bull frog! IMG_3533The grand finale was a wonderful time of splashing and floating boats IMG_3535along the “Great Lakes” while all the doting parents stood by to make sure IMG_3542everyone was safe, good, and having a wonderful time! Eventually all the clothes IMG_3552came off down to diapers, and the men wore the children’s hats for safe keeping. IMG_3575As I watched the children playing, I couldn’t help but think about how carefree  IMG_3591 they were, because their parents were watching out for them, IMG_3561 attentive to their  every need. IMG_3582Not everyone is blessed with a good father here on earth. But, God is good, and He offers to be our heavenly Father. A good father is such a picture of our heavenly Father, who watches over us so tenderly, calls to us when we’re about to do something we shouldn’t, and will keeps us out of trouble if we will listen. IMG_3584 He will even wrap us up in his big, strong arms and protect us from ourselves! IMG_3595He carries us and feeds us…IMG_3597and He even knows when we’re tired and need to go home.

Wishing for a good Father? He’s watching over you right now, so just ask!

“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness” (Isaiah 41:10).

Four Little Monkeys at the Zoo

DSCN4847Time for a trip to the zoo, & our little monkeys decided to help us pack the trunk! DSCN4848Trying to get 4 toddlers spanning 9 time zones awake at the same time is hard,  DSCN4861so by the time we arrived, it was already time for a picnic lunch! (Have you ever DSCN4863 noticed how parents of toddlers never have a moment’s rest at meal time?) DSCN4853The gulls and Canada geese were very eager to share our lunch with us! DSCN4865Okay, time to see the animals. Amélie studied the map so we’d know where to go. DSCN4869Even Baby Aiden was very interested in checking out the animals, DSCN4876although I think Samuel (who turns three tomorrow) was the most fascinated. DSCN4878Zoos were just made for little monkeys. 🙂 DSCN4877The wallabies didn’t mind the heat, DSCN4919but many of the animals were sleeping in the shade. DSCN4901 Still we found lots of fun things to do, DSCN4914like this kid-sized wooden train. DSCN4936The petting zoo is always a favorite with the toddling crowd.DSCN4950Catching the goats and sheep isn’t hard,DSCN4926but meeting them face to face is a bit intimidating! DSCN4974The zoo provides brushes so the children can groom the goats, DSCN4991and the sheep seem to have almost unending patience for being touched and pet.DSCN5005Another highlight was feeding the budgies. DSCN5016Anyone can go in to the bird house for free,DSCN5011 but for $1.00 you can buy a little stick with millet that the birds just love to eat! DSCN5025If you hold the stick straight and are very quiet, DSCN5033the budgies will climb right out onto your stick! (Samuel was very, very still!) 🙂 DSCN5090You have to be 2 to ride the camels, so only Samuel and his papa got to ride. DSCN4890Still, I don’t think any of our little monkeys lacked for attention or fun! DSCN5096Finally, Baby Aiden was sound asleep and the girls were getting tired. DSCN5102But, Samuel had fun to the very end! DSCN5122Despite the folk lore, I don’t think our little monkeys evolved from monkeys.DSCN5126I believe our four little monkeys are of human descent & precious gifts from God!

“Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3).