Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First day of St. John preschool

After a lot of thought and consideration, we decided to hold Lincoln back for another year of preschool.  He is enrolled at St. John's Lutheran Preschool for five afternoons per week .  This is where he attended for a semester when he was 3 years old. 

Today was his first day, and he was so excited!  He insisted on riding bikes.  The church is only four blocks away, but it requires crossing a very busy 4th Street SW.  He arrived in style with his snazzy Agent P backpack.  He hardly gave a second glance before running into the classroom.

He had a great day and can't wait to go back!

P.S. I also had a fabulous free afternoon and can't wait for many more! ;)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

7 years + 10 months

Emily has also done a lot of growing up this month.  From swimming to riding a bike to attempting to braid her own hair, she is no longer a little girl.  She has also decided she is totally over Hello Kitty.  She was so excited to pick out a new backpack that was "more like my style".  It turns out her "style" is anything besides an animated character. :)  We ended up ordering one online that came just in time for the first day of school.  She likes panda bears and has recently changed her favorite color from green to blue.  

Emily prefers a "sporty" look and recently started wearing full elastic headbands.  She was super excited to pick out some new soccer gear.  She's going to try recreational soccer this fall.

Emily also lost two more teeth this month and is now sporting a "holey" smile.  She pulled both of them out by herself late at night and surprised us in the morning.

Emily's favorite books right now are the Dear America series and anything Encyclopedia Brown.  While Lincoln likes listening to the radio at night, Emily's current music of choice is Mannheim Steamroller Christmas CD's.

Shining selfie

This is what happens when someone is bored in the van and starts messing around with photo settings on the iPad.

Cousin fun

We spent the Saturday of Labor Day weekend in Waukee with Austin's family.  The cousins had fun playing with each other, going to the park and swimming with Grandpa & Grandma.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

First day of 2nd grade

The school year really sneaked up on us this year, but after attending the open house, Emily was super excited to go.  She set her alarm for 7:00am and was dressed to the shoes by 7:05am.  She was disappointed we couldn't ride bikes to school for the first day because it was raining, but excited about her new lunch bag and panda backpack.  Her assessment of the day after school: "It was awesome!"

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


We spent Emily's last official day of summer enjoying some time at the park.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

5 years + 3 months

Lincoln has grown up in a lot of ways this month.  He usually picks out his outfit and dresses himself, although there's a very good chance it will be a mismatch or something will be on backwards.  He has decided it's cool not to wear a shirt sometimes like Daddy.  He doesn't want to wear a rash guard with his swim trunks (which means his tummy and back are being exposed to the sun for the first time in his life).  He also likes sleeping shirtless.

Lincoln also insists on getting food out for himself.  He especially likes to make toast and run the microwave.

He has started listening to the radio (Life 101.9) at night instead of CD's.  You can always ask him what the weather will be!

Lincoln is also pretty much past Thomas the Train.  He doesn't play with his trains much anymore.  He doesn't care for his Thomas clothing or some of his other Thomas gear.  Of course, when the Thomas catalog came in the mail this month, he spent days circling and wanting to buy all sorts of things (Emily calculated that his wish list items totaled over $2,000!).  However, as soon as the catalog disappeared, so did his interest in Thomas again.

Friday, August 15, 2014

De Zoete Winkel

The kids got to spend a few days at Grandpa & Grandma Boote's while Austin & I attended and volunteered at the Global Leadership Summit at our church.  They had tons of fun going to the library and park, riding bikes, playing with cousins, helping on the farm and swimming.  They also got to take a trip to De Zoete Winkel "Frozen Sweets" frozen yogurt shop in Orange City.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Goodbye, cows

While back in my hometown for the funeral, we said another goodbye.  After milking cows for most of their lives and managing a very successful and well-respected dairy business, my dad and uncle have decided to sell the cows and transition into semi-retirement. 

Although we didn't live on the "home farm" growing up, I have many fond memories.  The most distinct is the summer I turned 16.  My job for those months was to do the morning milking of approximately 125 cows, bottle-feed approximately 20 calves and power-wash the parlor six mornings per week from 6:00-9:00am.  I gained so much respect for my dad and his vocation that summer.  My favorite part was helping pull calves.

Here are some other highlights of our goodbye tour:

The "shop" in the machine shed
No green tractors here!

Great Uncle Kevin's go-kart (they've never seen it actually run)

Riding the Kubota around the muddy yard

Feeding cows with Grandpa
Goodbye, cows.  Donsons Farm won't be the same without you!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Grandpa Vander Kooi

On Wednesday morning I got the phone call I had been expecting for months.  My beloved Grandpa Vander Kooi had passed away in the night.  He was almost 94 years old and had been in a nursing home for almost five years.  Although he never complained, his health had been in a steady decline for the last year.  I had said my goodbyes several times since Thanksgiving, so I was completely at peace.  My Facebook post was the following:  
Quietly praising God today that my beloved Grandpa Vander Kooi has finally heard those blessed words, "Well done, good and faithful servant." As I cherish the memories I will always stand in awe and gratitude at the amazing example he was of a life well lived. I hope he's playing golf with God today!

The visitation was Thursday night.  There was a family prayer service and interment Friday afternoon with a memorial service at night.  It was a bit of a whirlwind, but such a beautiful reminder of the amazing, humble, faithful, loyal, kind, selfless, giving servant my grandpa was.

The display honoring his life told the story of a young athlete, a patriotic WWII POW, a faithful husband, an honest business owner and a fun-filled grandpa.  For a more detailed look at some of the table items, including a summary of his POW experience, please see my sister's blog post here.  

These hands hold so many beautiful memories.  Four years ago, my sister did another blog post as a tribute to my grandpa on his 90th birthday.  It included so many of the memories I have.  Here is an excerpt:

Here are some of my favorite memories of Grandpa Jim:

  • Playing cards at the kitchen table on Sunday afternoons. We played "King's Corner" and "Golf" but I hated the game "Hearts", so I'd go to the back bedroom to watch Nickelodeon (or Wings on USA) whenever they played that game. 
  • On the drive home, sometimes he'd let us "drive". He'd do the gas and we'd steer the wheel. If we took the blue and white pickup home, we'd sit in the back on the wheel wells and used brooms to sweep the streets as we drove the few blocks home. Obviously this was before people got uptight about child restraint.
  • When Grandpa came to mow at our house on Saturday or in the summer, he'd ask us if we wanted to go out for "coffee" after he was done. He'd take us to the bowling alley where we would get to pick out 2 Little Debbie packages from under a special glass dome on the counter.  One of us would share a package with Grandpa and the other 2 sisters would share the other package. My favorite was the Chocolate Chip Cakes but I have many memories of Swiss Cake Rolls too! Such a simple act that meant so much to us!
  • Grandpa has thick white hair that is actually quite long if you comb it straight up! Which we did, using rubber bands to put it in all kinds of ponytails while he [pretended] to sleep in the chair.
  • He would sing a little tune called "Never on a Sunday, Sunday, Sunday, always on a Monday, Monday, Monday. Never on a Monday, Monday, Monday, Always on a Tuesday..." and would often fill a silence with a cheerful "doo-pee-doo".
  • In high school, I got to introduce him as the speaker at a Veteran's Day assembly at our school. Grandpa was a tail gunner in the Air Force during WWII and after his plane was shot down, he parachuted into enemy territory, was captured, and spent 1 year and 1 day as a Prisoner of War. He occasionally will give a talk about his experience and what it means to have freedom--not only in our country, but freedom in Christ. I sincerely appreciate the sacrifices he made and am proud of his service.
  • He owned a trucking business but sold it right after I was born to the parents of one of my classmates. I sincerely appreciate the fact that the company still bears my grandpa's name and I think it still gives him pride to see those trucks and that name.
  • He has lived a life of service to others that is worth following. In addition to mowing lawns, I know he did many things for widows in town, delivered bulletins to shut-ins, picked ladies up for church, played bingo at the nursing home, and brought people out for coffee who didn't have many friends. I'll never know all the things he did for people, but the ones I do know of made an impression on me of how going out of your way just a little can mean a lot for other people.
  • He likes watching sports--golf on TV and basketball in person. My grandma and him used to go to the High School Boys State Tournament every year and watched the games all week. They'd line up way early to get their special seats--half court line, in the balcony, just to the left of the door, about 2 rows up in the old Vets Auditorium.  He's also been a big follower of the Iowa Hawkeyes.
  • In his younger days, he played on the Hometown softball team called the "Orphans". They were called the Orphans because they didn't have a home field.  He enjoyed watching baseball and softball in later years and I enjoyed listening to his "field chatter" such as "Just a little bingo, that's all we need, just a little bingo."
  • He went to Northwestern College in Orange City back when it was a Junior College. He said he took a bus and paid $110 tuition, which he paid for by sweeping Zwemer Hall!  He played on the basketball team and the football team, although he said his year of college was the first time he'd ever played football.
  • During the Orange City Tulip Festival, they used to choose some young men to carry the queen. I think he said they literally carried her on some sort of contraption. Anyway, he was a member of the "court" that carried the queen.
  • Grandpa went to the public high school (the same one Adam and I graduated from, the one my grandma went to, as well as both my parents---can you tell why it's hard for me to let go of my alma mater pride?). His oldest brother went to the Christian High School, but he said once there got to be too many kids, they couldn't afford it, so the middle kids had to go to the free public school. Then, when they were out of the house and there was only one daughter left, she got to go to the Christian School. I personally think the middle kids got the best deal! :)
  • He used to tell the story that when my grandma was in commercial college in Mankato, he'd go up to visit her and there was a 5 cent movie theater and a 10 cent movie theater in town. He never saw the inside of the 10 cent theater. (Can you also tell where I get my frugal genes from?)
  • Grandpa had a huge garden in the backyard where I'm sure he grew all kinds of things, but the only ones I distinctly remember are the red potatoes and the raspberry bushes. Yum!  My BIL (who now lives in Grandpa's old house with my sister) is trying to get the garden going again. I hope we can find a way to get rid of those rabbits!
  • I distinctly remember watching my grandpa water ski behind my Uncle's boat on Storm Lake. Since he is 90 and I am 28, this means he had to have been around 70 when I witnessed this?!
  • Watching the love and care my grandpa showed my grandma in her last few years is something that has been a great witness to me. My grandparents started dating in high school and were married for almost 66 years before my grandma passed last September. His love for her was and is so evident to all of us.
 The full post can be found here.

I was glad I decided at the last minute to say a word about him at the memorial service.  Here is the approximate text:
The last couple days have brought so many beautiful reminders of the type of person my grandpa was.  The word that has been with me is "legacy."  So many people these days are only concerned with their own comfort in the here and now and rarely stop to think about how their actions will impact others or the future.  My grandpa was not one of those people.  Through his constant and consistent positive attitude, humility, kindness, and wit, he made a difference in the life of everyone he came into contact with. 
He was a picture of faithfulness to God, to his country and to his family.  The most impacting of these to me was his tireless, unfailing devotion to my grandma--especially during her final years at Pleasant Acres Nursing Home.  This was again exemplified by my mom as she faithfully cared for my grandpa--especially since my grandma passed away five years ago.  It is something my kids have observed and noted.  That is the true definition of legacy.  I pray that I can honor both God and my grandpa by continuing his legacy.
I will always be grateful for the time I had with my grandpa.  As I told him one of the last times I saw him, "I can't wait to hang out with you in heaven!"

Tuesday, August 5, 2014


After another unsuccessful attempt at swimming lessons last winter at the W, I was lucky to find a private teacher able to get some lessons in at the municipal pool before it closed for the season.  Emily has become so much braver and more comfortable in the water.  By the end of four lessons, she had passed the equivalent of two levels and was doing multiple strokes.  She also started going down the water slide.  I was so proud!  Lincoln also did well and passed another level.  He is still very hesitant about getting his head wet or putting his face in the water, but he loves floating around in a ring in the big pool or splashing around the kiddie pool.  I no longer feel like I have to hover over either of them.  There are some videos from an afternoon at the pool in the August play list.

National Night Out

Today the kids & I enjoyed the activities and food at Kohlmann Park for National Night Out.  The free event is sponsored by the Waverly Police Department.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Emily rides a bike!

We have struggled for three summers to get Emily to ride a bike without training wheels.  She had determined that she couldn't do it and would either purposely crash or just flat out refuse to try.  We had even acquired a small bike with the pedals removed to act as a balance bike to learn on.  Finally, this afternoon I told her I'd buy her a Razor scooter if she learned to ride without training wheels.  She thought about it and then got out the balance bike.  Within an hour, she asked to have the training wheels removed from her bike and started cruising up and down the hospital parking lot.  Who'd a thunk?!?  Here is the video proof...

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

7 years + 9 months

Emily comes up with all kinds of big ideas.  This month she wanted to put together a big backyard carnival and invite four families.  She made tickets and thought of rides and booths.  [Un]fortunately, she got distracted by RAGBRAI.

After watching "Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension" Emily has been making plans to make a sequel called "Across the 3rd Dimension."  She has cast herself as the ultra-cool Candace from the 2nd Dimension.

Who knows what she'll come up with next?!?


It's hard to believe, but I have never been to Adventureland in Altoona, IA, so I was excited to join most of Austin's family for a fun day.  The weather was absolutely perfect.  It took Emily a little while to warm up and figure things out, but she had a great time.  She even went on the log ride and a lot of water slides!  Lincoln talked big about going on roller coasters, but stuck to the kiddie rides and the lazy river with me.  His favorite ride of the day was the bumper cars.  A huge thanks to Grandpa & Grandma Lorenzen for a fun day filled with great memories!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Bremer County Fair

It's one of our favorite times of the year--the Bremer County Fair!  Now that the kids are older, it's even easier to stroll the two blocks to the fairgrounds and check out what happens to be going on.  It was an absolutely perfect week of weather.  The kids & I went five out of the seven days--sometimes more than once/day.  We spent four hours there on Tuesday alone.  We hit the food stands, completed the Clover Kids scavenger hunt, watched part of the dairy show, ate ice cream twice (Emily got popcorn from the Democratic Party booth 3x), watched several different demonstrations, attended the 4-H carnival, and of course, looked at all the animals.  The kids (especially Lincoln) desperately wanted to go on the midway rides on Tuesday, but I wouldn't let them since we were going to Adventrueland the very next day where everything would be bigger, better, cleaner and safer.  I'll probably let them take a little of their own money to waste when they show Andjelka around this weekend. :)
Petting Zoo
Make-a-frame workshop

Garden stand

Every year we seem to have an overabundance of something out of our garden.  This year it's raspberries and cucumbers.  I picked 21 giant cucumbers from our five hills last night.  I tried giving a bunch away.  Then I let the kids set up a table on the lawn to sell them.  They made $10.00 in 45 minutes before Lincoln started bawling as they fought over a "Minnesota" state quarter.  At that point I decided to shut 'er down for the day.  Emily is now scheming about other things to sell.  ;)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

First 4-H project

Since Emily was a Clover Kid this year, she was able to take a project to the fair.  I didn't know exactly what to expect for her, but I was in 4-H for seven years, so I knew how to do a proper 4-H project.  We'd been trying to think of something for months, but it finally dawned on me to just let her take the "Upcycle Dolls" she had already made.  Emily picked some of her favorites, and I offered some suggestions to improve the display she had already made for the library.  She included some of her origami objects, and I got to play with my Cricut machine. :)

This was the final result:

I found out a write-up (i.e. goal card) is optional for Clover Kids, but I had Emily do one anyway complete with inserted pictures.  It was the first time she had typed up anything, and she did a great job!  She explained what upcycling is, talked about Camp Invention, mentioned her donation of items to the Upcycle Fair at the library (hello, citizenship!), cited the web site she used for origami instructions and listed two things she learned: It's cheaper and more fun to make things yourself, and it helps the environment to use things you might just throw away.  Then we did a practice session talking to a judge with me playing the role of the judge and Austin as an audience.

The "judging" itself was kind of a letdown.   It turns out a Clover Kids project is just a show-and-tell with the judge who sweetly says, "Boy, you've been busy!  What do we have here?  You did a great job!"  There were no deeper questions, and the judge hardly even glanced at the write-up.  The kids just get a participation ribbon and some coupons for the fair.  Afterwards, Emily remarked, "Boy, Mom, yours took a lot longer!"

Overall, it was a great experience, though.  I think Emily got a feel for what it's like to do a 4-H project, and she was very excited about having her stuff on display.  We're proud of our Clover Explorer!

Solar cars

A friend had informed me about the American Solar Challenge race that was scheduled to pass right through Waverly this weekend.  Teams of college students build solar cars that compete in week-long, cross-country races.  This year's race was from Austin, TX to Minneapolis, MN.  I followed the Iowa State PrISUm car online from Omaha to Marshalltown.  I thought we would miss them in person, but as we were driving home from church, we passed the team from Montreal.  Then we passed the ISU car halfway to Waverly.  We parked at the corner where they had to turn onto Bremer Avenue so we could take a picture.  Not something you see every day!  The ISU team ended up finishing 3rd in the competition.

Team car from Montreal
ISU car on Hwy 218
ISU turning onto Bremer Ave.
Heading to a 3rd place finish