Thursday, December 31, 2009

A few more Christmas pics

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Christmas is so fun and this year we got to spread Christmas out over a whole week!

Papa Noel

Papa Noel, aka Santa, finally made it to the Big House in Northwest Iowa.

Jon really wanted a camion (truck) and Papa Noel came through for him.

Maria desperately wanted a guitar

My three big boys always get Lego.

It just wouldn't be Christmas without Lego to put together.

Puppet Theater

This is the puppet theater, complete with velvet stage curtain, that my dad built for my nieces. Aunt Pat contributed the pictures. It turned out beautiful. All the kids thought it was great.

It even has storage "back stage" for the puppets.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back in Sioux Center

Winter travel is not for the timid. We did, however, make it "back east" to see our families for the holidays. With school in session through the 23rd and Maria's treatment scheduled for the 30th, we didn't have as much time for this visit as we might have liked. We did gain a bonus day, though, when school was cancelled on the 23rd so families would have a chance to travel before the big storm hit.

Jon Felipe had some blood work scheduled for the morning of the 23rd and as soon as that was done (for the record, he did not cry - he is very proud of himself for that), we headed out. It was slippery and rainy for the entire drive and we were exhausted by the time we got there, but we made it without mishap. We had family parties planned for the 25th and 26th, but nothing planned for the 24th as we had thought we would travel that day.

It was nice to have a free day. We helped my parents finish their Christmas preparations, played games, baked cookies, and had a relaxing day. After dinner, I made all the kids get back in the van and drive around looking at all the Christmas decorations. I love Christmas lights. One of the little things I have enjoyed about Sioux Center is the decorations the city put up. For two and a half miles down the main street, every light pole is decorated with a trio of large lighted snow flakes, a red banner, and garland. I love it.

On Sunday, we headed out to Michigan to see Dwight's family. It was a good thing we know that route by heart because it was snowing so hard along the lake that you couldn't see the highway. Not fun! We did enjoy the chance to visit with family. Monday was spent packing Colin up and moving him out. Then we drove back to Chicago to spend the night before heading back to Sioux Center on Tuesday morning. The drive across Iowa was clear and dry, so much nicer than the drive out.

We arrived back to about two feet of snow and large drifts. The snow in the trees is beautiful. Another beautiful thing, our landlord had plowed out our driveway for us so we could just pull right in and unload. As we were carrying all Colin's things in, I declared that no one else may move for at least five months. We have been moving stuff from place to place about every two months lately (flood in June, move to SC in August, move again in October, move Colin in December) and I am ready for a break.

We wish we had had time to see some of our friends, another day or two would have been about right, but we are thankful for the family we did see and for safe travel. Shortly after arriving back last night, Jon Felipe declared that he wanted to go back to Grandma and Grandpa's house. I think he's going to have to wait a bit for the next trip.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Family Gatherings - Dec. 25 & 26

Family picture '09

A slightly nicer picture except that Luke's eyes are closed.

I got this mixer for Christmas. I am so excited. The beautiful girls in this picture are my nieces.

My mother got a snuggie. Colin and Caitlyn looking very excited.

Jon Felipe waiting to open his gift. He was definitely excited. He was even thrilled about getting clothes.

We've been having a nice time spending time together, visiting with lots of family, and eating lots of yummy food.

Holiday Pictures

We had fun taking some pictures with Aunt Pat's new camera. Jon Felipe was not excited about having his photo taken.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas

Thank you all for following along as we go about the day-to-day adventures of our rather ordinary lives. Thanks, too, for your comments and e-mails. I love hearing from you.

Wishing you all the best for a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The VanTols

Monday, December 21, 2009

Dr. Z

It took me nearly three hours to drive home from Sioux Falls and I'm still a little shaky from the experience. An ice storm started just as we were leaving Sanford Children's. The roads were terrible, especially 29. It took more than an hour to drive 15 miles and there were cars in the ditch everywhere. Once we got to 18 and headed east the roads gradually improved. They were still icy and I was still a nervous wreck, but they weren't nearly as bad. Plus, the roads had been sanded or salted so cars weren't skidding off the road every few feet.

So, about the appointment: We really liked this doctor. He was very gregarious and spent a lot of time getting to know Jon Felipe a bit. The examining room had a large yellow school bus painted on the wall which Jon found very cool. Dr. Z's opinion is that this cluster of seizures was caused by one of two things. Most likely it was caused by the tetanus shot. In support of this, the seizures started a few hours after he got the shot and lasted for about the next 48 hours. This would mean the seizure on Monday was a coincidence.

The other option is that his shunt is failing. The doctor said that if we had come in last week, he would have sent us immediately for a CT scan, but since the seizures have stopped, he agreed to wait and see if they start again. He is going to contact the neurologist, though, and she may overrule that decision and request the scan. Dr. Z said that the shunt will likely fail eventually - Not good news! However, we don't need to worry about that just yet. I'm pretty sure it was the shot.

This storm may put a damper on our travel plans. I am not anxious to do that type of driving again soon, preferably not ever. Behind the ice storm, which wasn't suppose to hit quite this early, another blizzard is predicted. I love all of you back east and am looking forward to spending time with you, but I also want to keep everyone safe and that may mean postponing the first to ensure the second.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Random Pictures

These are some random pictures from this fall. Maria had to dress up as a cook for the medieval feast at school last week. The picture doesn't do justice to her costume, which was quite impressive. Thanks go to Regina and her daughters for providing many costume pieces to choose from. You can see our Christmas tree in the background. It turned out very nice thanks to my mom who mailed us a box full of ornaments that my kids had made for her over the years so we would have something to hang on the tree.

The next two are of the kids waiting for the bus right across the street from our house. This is a FFA (Future Farmers of America) field and it has now been harvested. We watch the sun rise over this field in the morning as we get ready for school.

The last picture is of Jon Felipe with his decorated gingerbread cookie. He also has one of these cool gingerbread hats that you see some of the other children wearing. He has been wearing his around the house all weekend. It was a very quiet weekend here. Saturday we had "a quiet day at home" and Jon Felipe even spent the whole day in his jammies. We played games, did puzzles, read books. It was very nice for all of us. The best part was JF was completely seizure-free all weekend!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Update - Friday

Jon Felipe had a great day today. He did not have any seizures. Plus, he was able to go to school for Gingerbread Day. When you are in second grade, some things are very important. Apparently Gingerbread Day is one of them. The staff sent me e-mails throughout the day so I would know things were going well and his teacher aide called me at the end of the day to let me know that it had been a good day.

Over the past couple days, I have gotten calls and e-mails from the teachers and even the principal of Jon's school asking how he was doing. I even had several people stop in my office at Dordt today to ask whether Jon was doing better. Apparently their kids came home from school and said they needed to pray for Jon (and that they really hoped he would not have to miss Gingerbread Day). We are definitely feeling that the school community loves and cares about our son. What a blessing!

Last night we attended the Unity H.S. Christmas Concert. The concert ended with the Hallelujah Chorus. Jon Felipe truly loves music and really enjoyed the concert, but he was absolutely enthralled with this song. He really wanted an encore so he could hear it again. We have recordings of Handel's Messiah and will have to play them for him, although I doubt if a recording can have the same impact as hearing it in person. I am so glad he was able to attend with us despite the seizures (we sat in the balcony so any seizures wouldn't bother others, plus the view from the balcony is really great).

Thank you so much for your prayers! It has meant a lot to know that so many people were praying for us. I'll keep you posted on developments.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


These last few days have been really rough for Jon Felipe as his seizures have greatly increased for some unknown reason. He typically has about two seizures a month. So, when he had a seizure on Monday, we weren't very concerned. Then he had another seizure on Tuesday. Wednesday he had four seizures, include one that lasted almost four minutes. Today he had seven seizures. As you can see, we are moving in the wrong direction. Having so many seizures is scaring him and he spent the past two days glued to my side.

Many of you have let us know that you are praying for him and we are grateful. Please continue to uphold us in prayer. We do have an appointment with a neurologist on January 4. Our doctor tried to get us seen sooner in light of this increase in seizures, but was not successful. They did, however, make an appointment with another doctor at Sanford Children's in Sioux Falls for this coming Monday for us. This doctor is not a neurologist, but I have heard very good things about him and I'll be glad to have him on the team.

I'm concerned, but the docs are less so. He just had a physical on Tuesday so we know he is healthy. Seizures are not a new thing for him. These are just "break through" seizures. That is, these are happening despite the fact that he is taking a medication that he has had success with in the past. He is at the max dose of this med for his weight so the doc is not comfortable increasing his dose. It may be that we will have to add a second drug to his routine. At least, I am hoping it is an easy answer like that.

Dordt is finished for the semester so I can hang out with Jon Felipe as much as I want. I do have some grading to finish, but grades aren't due until next week. JF stayed home from school yesterday and today. We are really hoping he can make it to school tomorrow; however, I have to say that even if having so many seizures in class weren't an issue, he is so out of it from the seizures that I'm not sure how much he would learn. He and I spent the day today making the same four puzzles over and over and over. It was way more fun than grading exams.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shots - Part 2

Update: After consulting with the health department, a different shot was recommended and Jon Felipe and I drove up to Hull this afternoon to get it. JF was totally in favor of "let's just get this over with." He was very proud of himself; he didn't cry at all. Tonight he had another seizure, not sure if that is from the shot, the anxiety about the shot, or just because. He did have a seizure yesterday too. He has only gained a pound or two since this summer so I don't think that's it.


When you adopt a kid at age 7 from another country, you can't expect him to be completely up to date on the suggested schedule of vaccinations. After we got back to the U.S. with Jon Felipe, our pediatrician's office worked out a plan to bring him up to date on his shots. We moved through that schedule quite slowly as we were also dealing with poor seizure control and were in the process of switching meds, so we didn't want to complicate things too much. I honestly don't know if he finished that schedule or not.

Thus, when the school nurse called to say that it appeared he needed to get some shots, I was thinking she was could well be right. I called his doctor's office here and made an appointment. He needed a med check anyway and I told the nurse that he probably needed to get some shots while we were there, but I wasn't sure. I was told that they would check out the shot situation and let us know at our appointment. I'm guessing they didn't realize his shot record is a little different than most and didn't realize they really did need to take a little time to review it before we came in.

I had prepped Jon Felipe to expect shots. He was very nervous. His blood pressure was much higher than normal. He told me he was going to cry. I assured him that would be okay. I did promise McDonald's for lunch after our appointment. Unfortunately, no one had checked the chart beforehand, so we had to wait in nervous anticipation for about 30 minutes while they tried to figure out which shots he should get. Finally, we were told that he is now too old for most of the shots he hadn't gotten yet and the one he should still get has to be special ordered (he needs something different than the standard one because of his age). All that angst for nothing. We still hit McDonald's for lunch. We both earned it.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A Good Weekend

We had a fun and busy weekend. On Friday night we attended a great Christmas concert at Dordt. On Saturday night we attended the Dordt faculty/staff Christmas celebration. My division was in charge this year, so Dwight and I and the kids spent some time Saturday morning helping with the set up and decorating. The kids enjoyed helping and everything looked just lovely for the party Saturday evening. Of course, the kids stayed home while we went and enjoyed a nice evening with colleagues.

Maria also got to spend time with a new friend this weekend. Regina, the bringer of so many good things, introduced Maria to M on Monday night at the Christmas dessert night. The two girls were practically best friends from the moment they met. They are both 12, both in the sixth grade, both adopted. Maria tells me they like all the same things and dislike all the same things. They don't attend the same school, but M only lives a few blocks from here so the girls can still spend lots of time together outside of school.

Maria went over to M's house on Saturday afternoon and the two girls did whatever 12-year-old girls do. I'm sure it involved lots of giggling. They also went sledding as it was such a beautiful day. Maria ended up staying there for supper and going with their family that evening to a living nativity event in a nearby town. They were transported in a horse-drawn wagon to each stop. Maria loved the whole thing, but especially noted the inclusion of a live llama. I would like to think that this was because she was wondering about the likelihood of llamas being present at Christ's birth, but I'm pretty sure it was because she had never seen a live llama before.

We are still working out the church thing. It has been suggested that we spend about six weeks at each church and I think we are going to try that. Jacob says that whichever church we go to first will be the one we join as we won't want to leave after six weeks. We plan to start the extended visit thing after the Christmas break. I don't know yet which church we will start at. I'm guessing it might be hard to get consensus on that.

As usual, Jacob and Tony also came by to spend the evening with us. I love that they enjoy doing this. A colleague lent us a new game to try and it was a big hit. The game is Ticket to Ride. The maximum number of players is five and we had seven, but Maria and Jon Felipe were tired and not very interested in playing so that worked out. For the record, Tony and I tied for first place. We may get this as a family gift this Christmas. For those of you familiar with this game, do you prefer the original version or the one set in Europe?

Friday, December 11, 2009

Adoption Group

Last night, Dwight and I had a chance to go a meeting of the adoption support group at First Reformed Church. We learned about this group back in November when we went to a Sunday service there celebrating adoption. We weren't sure how the group worked, but last night was designed to provide information about resources for adoptive families and we figured we could always use a few more resources.

Members of the group had gathered together a large number of books related to adoption and different people in the group gave a little information about particular books they had found helpful. They talked about a variety of books, including books for parents, inspirational books, and children's books. Even just a few years ago when we adopted Maria, there weren't a lot of good children's books about being adopted. I was pleased to see so many really nice picture books about adoptive families.

I did hear about many books that I would like to read; maybe I'll have some time over Christmas break. They thoughtfully gave us a book list so it will be easy to go back and find the books I was interested in. I also hope to get a few of the children's books. We only had a couple and they were lost in the flood. Someone in the group also put together a resource page of helpful websites for adoption issues which I haven't even had a chance to look at yet.

The best part, though, was meeting all the people. There were families with a variety of adoption experiences: domestic, international, infant, older child, foster. One women held a tiny 10-day old baby, her 13th foster baby so far this year. One lovely woman comes to the group mainly to be a support to families adopting from Ethiopia. She is now retired, but spent most of her life as a missionary to Africa, mainly Sudan and Ethiopia. It was so fun to meet everyone and hear about their experiences. We are really looking forward to getting together with this group again next month.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Jon Felipe is using lots of English now and most of his conversation at home is a combination of English and Spanish. We still enjoy practicing our Spanish together, though. I usually say the word in Spanish and he tells me the meaning in English. He thinks this is a great game. In his class the other day, the teacher was reading a book that had some Spanish words and she asked the class if anyone knew what the word "rojo" meant. He responded immediately with "red." He never talks in class so everyone was doubly impressed. He was so pleased with his contribution and the positive class reaction, that he came home and told me all about it at great length.

He has also picked up some favorite English words and phrases. He seems to like how certain words sound and he says them often. A big favorite for the past couple months has been "Hallelujah." If anyone shares anything interesting or good that happened to them during the day, this is his usual response. Another word he particularly likes is "Hosanna." Instead of saying "No way Jose" he says "No way Hosanna." He has a friend named Jamaica and likes to say that word too (or maybe he just has a crush on Jamaica :-) His new favorite phrase to say when things don't go his way is, "Shoot a pickle." I have no idea where he picked that up, but it makes us smile every time he says it.

Another Felipe-ism is to say that something has been "Feliped." This isn't something Jon Felipe says, but something he does. He is so curious about everything and has to check everything out, but he's not terribly gentle or cautious and things just don't always survive his scrutiny. Having only one hand that works well doesn't help either. So, if something in our house breaks or gets destroyed under mysterious circumstances, we say it has been Feliped. If you ask him, he always admits to the deed and sincerely says "sorry," but that doesn't necessarily stop him from checking out the next interesting thing he comes across.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


It is blizzarding here. The wind is battering against our little house, whistling and moaning and rattling all the windows. It is amazing how loud it is. When everyone got home from school, there was a small snow drift in the living room because the front door doesn't fit quite right. Dwight soon made some adjustments and now only a little bit of snow gets through, forming a tiny hill just inside the door. After the blizzard quits, he plans to get some materials and see if he can make the door fit better.

The schools had a two hour early dismissal today because of the weather and a two hour late start is planned for tomorrow. The kids are very excited about that. Unfortunately, a lot of sports activities and Christmas events also got cancelled. Some of my students were hoping I might have to cancel class if the weather is bad tomorrow and were disappointed to learn that I live close enough to walk to school. Like most colleges where many of the students live on campus, I've been told that Dordt never cancels class for weather.

An Iowa blizzard seems very different from a Michigan blizzard. It is very, very cold here and the force of the wind is amazing. Because of the open fields across from our house, snow drifted over the street stranding several cars. Fortunately, just as I was suggesting that we go out and help all these poor unfortunate people, someone with a snow plow came by and cleared the road. There were enough stranded people that they had plenty of pushers available and they all were able to get on their way without us having to put on our boots and brave the elements.

After such a long, mild autumn, I was unprepared for this sudden plunge into arctic weather. Everyone warned me that it was coming, but I guess I hoped that this year would be the exception. It does make me a little worried about making the drive back "home" for Christmas. It also makes me think maybe I should start looking for jobs in places like Albuquerque or maybe Hawaii.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


I love Sundays. We pick up Jacob and Tony for church in the morning. Usually they go back to their dorm after church and then come by us again in the evening. We have dinner together, often homemade pizza, and spend time together. Lately we've been playing games. Last week we taught Tony how to play Five Crowns. This is a great family card game, in case anyone is looking for fun gift ideas. The past two weeks, Luke has won every game.

We still haven't picked a church. We have visited a lot of churches. The problem is too many choices. They are all great churches and we would probably be happy in any of them. We've sort of narrowed it down to two, based on very unscientific decision making. One is a very young church, meets in the high school two blocks from our house, and is more contemporary. About half the congregation seems to be Dordt students, so I don't know how many actual members there are. Luke knows some kids at this church and has attended their youth group.

The other is a little more traditional, still uses the organ. Maria and Jon already have lots of friends in this congregation. A large contingent of Dordt profs go here, so I know lots of people. We always have lots of people to talk to after church so it "feels" friendlier. On the other hand, I already know lots of people in this church so we wouldn't get to meet a lot of new people if we joined this church. Both churches have small groups, which I think would be a good way for Dwight and I to get connected, and both have Sunday School and typical church programs for the kids.

Choices, choices. Any advice on choosing a church?

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Oxford Project

The Oxford Project took place in a little town in eastern Iowa. Just under 700 people lived in Oxford at the time the project began in 1984 and Peter Feldstein, an art professor at the University of Iowa, decided he would photograph each of them during the course of that summer. He set up his camera in an empty storefront in the center of town and waited for everyone to come to him. Surprisingly, they all did. He was able to photograph all but about about a dozen members of the population. His goal was to make a straightforward record of the people of this little American town. Everyone in town was photographed in the same way, whether they were rich or poor, young or old. He only took one shot of each person.

These are all casual portraits. No one is dressed up. Everyone just dropped in when they had time. Some brought their pets, which included not just dogs but also a raccoon and a lion. Some held babies. One held a sack of groceries. After he was finished, he put on an exhibition of the photographs in the Oxford American Legion Hall and then he filed the negatives away and didn't think about them much until 21 years later when he decided to follow up on that project. Over the next two years, he rephotographed as many of the original group as he could. Some had moved away and more than 100 had died, but most were still living in the same place. He also brought along Stephen Bloom, another University of Iowa professor, to record some of their stories.

The side-by-side pictures spanning 20-plus years are interesting, but it's the stories that are compelling, revealing. Many dreamed of higher education, few had the opportunity to pursue it. A few found religion, a few more lost it, most profess a strong faith. Many live within a few blocks of where they grew up, some right next door. Several served in various wars and came back worse for the experience. Quite a few long term relationships started at the local bar or at the Sale Barn. A few marriages fell apart, most stood the test of time. The stories are arranged by connections, so families are grouped together, someone mentioned in one person's story will likely have their own pictures and story featured a page or two later.

The pictures and stories have been published in The Oxford Project by Peter Feldstein and Stephen G. Bloom. I was able to check it out from Dordt's library. I've been told that the project was mentioned on NPR, so perhaps you'll be able to find a copy in your local library. If you get a chance, check it out. I think you'll find it interesting.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


We made the big trip to Michigan for Thanksgiving. It is a long drive (just over 12 hours without stops), but we had a great trip. We picked the kids up from school just before lunch and managed to drive 2/3 of the way there, stopping for the night in Peru, Illinois. The next morning, we drove the last 4 hours to Dwight's parents' house in Muskegon, arriving just in time for Thanksgiving dinner. Dwight's brother and sister-in-law and their three kids had arrived from Massachusetts during the wee hours of the morning and Colin met us there as well, so we were all able to sit down and enjoy a wonderful meal together.

Dwight's parents moved to a condo recently and there was plenty of room for both of our families to stay there with them. It felt a little like summertime when we all go camping together. Grandpa made his famous pancakes for breakfast and he and Grandma made sure everyone was well fed the whole time. The kids got along well and we all had a nice time visiting together. We played games, the big kids read books to the little kids, the girls put on a dance show for us. Dwight's oldest brother and his family live in the area, so they were able to come visit each day. We did miss his sister and her family as they weren't able to make the trip in. I can only think it would have been even more fun if they had been able to join us.

On Friday, we had a couple hours to go to Holland and look up a few friends. All our children were able to spend some time visiting with at least one friend. Dwight and I mostly spent time dropping each one off at their friends' houses and then starting over and picking them all up again. In between, we did go to Ottawa Beach for a bit, but we didn't last long as it was really cold on the beach. We also got a chance to talk for a few minutes with a couple of our friends. There were so many more people that we would have liked to see and the kids most definitely had many more people on their "must see" list, but we saw as many people as we could with the limited time we had.

It was nice to be able to go to Holland and see some friends, but it also made me feel sad. The kids all enjoyed seeing their friends, but leaving made them feel sad again too. Maria's teacher, also a transplant from Michigan, warned her that this would happen. At the end of the afternoon, we returned to Muskegon where we enjoyed homemade pizza and family time. Dwight, Brett, and Rocky entertained us with stories about all the outrageous things they did together as children. I laughed so hard, I cried. It was exactly the right way to end that day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sioux Falls

Yesterday Jon Felipe and I drove to Sioux Falls to get his new brace. Dwight took him in about two weeks ago to get all the measurements and assessments done. His old brace cracked shortly after we moved here and we have been repairing it with duct tape while we waited for all the appointments and insurance to be in place.

It had been cloudy all day, but just as we were leaving the sun came out. Northwest Iowa is really lovely country. The landscape is gently rolling so as you come up to the top of a hill, this panorama of fields and houses and barns and silos opens up in front of you. Even with the harvest season over, it is beautiful. The closer you get to the border with South Dakota, the more pronounced the hills become and there are more trees and woods. Once you cross over the Big Sioux River, the landscape turns to farmland again, but it just isn't as lovely as northwest Iowa.

As we drove along, Jon Felipe entertained me by singing all the songs he knew. Then he began making up a song. He really loves to sing. His song, in a combination of English and Spanish, was all about how awesome God is and named many things that show how awesome God is, such as that God makes the sun come up each day. What beautiful words to hear from this little boy who only came home to us the Christmas before last.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

All School Program

Tonight we attended the all school program at Ireton Christian School. The program led off with a performance by the fifth grade band, all three members. The sound was a bit thin, but at least we can be thankful that they all play different instruments. Then the middle school band performed, followed by the all school musical.

This school only has 64 students in grades k - 8, so every middle schooler had a role in the performance and every kid was in the choir. The 1st and 2nd graders did a darling number. I did note that if Jon Felipe attended this school, it would increase the size of the second grade class by 20% as there are only 4 students in second grade. Still, he loved the musical and was pretty sure he would enjoy attending Ireton Christian.

The only downside to the night was the stink. It was the worst odor I have smelled since we moved to Iowa. I must admit that the smell has been worse in town lately too, but there is no comparison. The smell in Ireton was eye-watering, chokingly bad. People were commenting on it as we walked into the school and someone said the farmers had been hauling manure today. Whatever the cause, I was glad we live in town. Jon Felipe pointed out that it isn't stinky at his school, only at Dad's.

Dwight is hoping that some of it dissipates over night as he has playground duty tomorrow. I suggested that perhaps they would have indoor recess because it smelled too bad to go outside, but he assured me that wouldn't happen. He said the kids don't even notice the odor. I just cannot imagine how that could be possible.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

What's in a Name?

Dordt recently hosted Hug A Linguist Days. We had guest speakers and activities to highlight the work that linguists do. I found it all very interesting, but then again I took a bunch of classes in linguistics when I studied Teaching English as a Second Language so it was "right up my alley" so to speak. One of the speakers in the series mentioned the importance people attach to their given names. This got me thinking about naming in general, and the renaming of older adopted kids specifically.

When we adopted Maria, the task of naming her was pretty easy. Her given name was Maria, it's a name I've always liked, we never considered changing it. She did not, however, have a middle name. I've never had the chance to name a daughter so we generated a few middle name options and talked about it with the kids. Finally, we chose to give her my first name as her middle name. I've always liked my name and the two names sound nice together. It felt like we were giving her a name that was special to us as well as keeping her birth name. So, Maria became Maria Kathleen which we often shorten to Maria K, also known to her friends as Maria the Great.

Naming Jon Felipe was a little more complicated. His given name was Juan Felipe, but we were told that in the orphanage he was just called Felipe, never Juan. In discussing the name situation with our social worker, she told us that older children will often ask what their new parents will name them. So, we wanted to give him a name that was special from us, but we also wanted to respect the name his birth family gave him. We finally decided to name him Jonathan Felipe.

We really like the name Jonathan which means gift from God, something our Jonathan truly is. We call him Jon Felipe or just Felipe. He is very attached to the name Felipe and I think it would have been hard on him to lose this piece of his identity. His favorite music CD is one with Bible songs that puts his name, Felipe, into the songs. He listens to this over and over and over. I think he must also have some recollection of having been called Juan Felipe since Jon Felipe seems to feel familiar to him. He also really likes that the name Jonathan can be found in the Bible and the stories about David and Jonathan are currently his favorites.

What importance do you attach to your name? Would you change it if you could? My adopted children had been given lovely names at birth, which made our job so much easier. I've talked with people who have given their children entirely new names upon adoption and others who think it was wrong for us to change Jon Felipe's name at all. I'm pretty much in the camp of making those decisions on a situation specific basis. What would you do?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Roundup

This past weekend was nice, a slightly slower pace than the past several weekends. We got a few more boxes unpacked and got things a little more organized, but also took time for a walk, a bike ride, some reading, the kids had friends over. I did little things like organize my spices. Did you know that more spices begin with C than any other letter? Well, that is true in my kitchen anyway.

On Friday, we attended the performance of Arsenic and Old Lace at Sioux Center High School. George and Regina's daughter Kaleigh played the role of Elaine. She did a great job, playing the role with the perfect balance of spunk and naivete. It is a funny play and the actors hammed it up. Jon Felipe laughed and laughed every time Teddy went charging up the stairs. We all enjoyed it and look forward to future productions.

Saturday evening we went to the staff-board potluck at Ireton Christian School. Earlier in the year, Dwight attended the staff-board dinner at Sanborn Christian without us as there was also a family function at Dordt that night. He was pleased that we were attending this event with him. He is at Ireton four days a week and has really enjoyed working there. Unfortunately, when we walked in we quickly learned that this was not a family affair. The invitation was for staff and spouses. Who knew you could hold a potluck in northwest Iowa and not invite the family?

All was not lost, though. After the kids ate, the principal took them over to his house to play with his kids. They had a great time and Luke assured us that they were exceedingly well behaved the whole night. Plus, with everyone bringing a hot and a cold dish, there was plenty of food so it didn't matter that they ate with us. There were whole dishes left over that didn't even have one spoonful taken from them. Jon Felipe has already started asking when we will get to eat at Dad's school again. My answer, "Probably never." It was an honest mistake on Dwight's part, he had even told people that he was bringing his family and no one corrected his mistake, but it was still embarrassing.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Check Up

Yesterday I brought Maria over to the medical clinic for a quick check up. She has a very itchy rash and instead of getting better, it seems to be spreading and getting worse. Also, she still has not totally gotten back on top of things, strength-wise, after her bout with the flu back in early October. I just wanted a quick check to make sure there was nothing else going on and to get some help with clearing up this rash.

We saw the on call doctor for the day. He has been at the Sioux Center medical clinic for over 30 years and was very gregarious. He also was very knowledgeable about Myasthenia Gravis, which was a nice bonus. He assured me that Maria's rash was just eczema and gave us a prescription for a cream to treat it. He also told me that, given all Maria's health complications, he would expect it to take up to 12 weeks for her to fully recover from that virus so not to be too concerned about that either.

Then the doctor took me by surprise with his next question. He looked up from his notes and asked me, "Are you saved and do you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?" I so did not expect that particular question at that particular moment. I did manage to quickly give a response in the affirmative. Dwight has suggested that that would have been a good time to trot out a few lines from the philosophy I've been reading for new faculty orientation, maybe drop in a comment or two about Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. Of course, none of that came back to me in that moment. Then the good doctor, reassured of the fact of my salvation, proceeded to lecture me on the topic of evolution. It was an interesting office visit.

We have noticed that most of Northwest Iowa is overtly Christian. Everywhere you go, you hear Christian music playing - in the grocery store, at the bank, in government offices. The gas station downtown is closed on Sundays, but every square inch of their lot is used for parking cars for the church next door during Sunday services. Most people assume that since I work at Dordt and have in fact worked in Christian education for nearly a quarter of a century now, I am a Christian. I guess this doc just wanted to make sure.

Friday, November 13, 2009


Dwight teaches art at Sanborn Christian School on Wednesday afternoons. The great coincidence is Sanborn school has a big cookie sale on the second Wednesday of every month. All the ingredients are donated and an army of moms, grandmas, and grandpas decends on the school kitchen to make these wonderful cookies. There are about five choices, but our favorites are the chocolate chip and the monster cookies, which are made with M&Ms. They pack the cookies into empty ice cream buckets. After you eat your cookies, you return the buckets to be reused so even the packaging costs the school nothing. This is a great fund raiser for this little school as they fill and sell hundreds of these buckets each time. So, once a month Dwight comes home from work with a couple buckets of homemade cookies still warm from the oven. What could be better than that!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pumpkin Carving

The kids went over to George and Regina's house to carve pumpkins with their family on Halloween. They just sent me these pictures so I thought I'd share them with you. George and Regina and their girls have been such a blessing to us since we moved here. George is actually my father's cousin, but we are about the same age. Growing up, we saw each other often at my grandmother's house. In addition to frequent family gatherings at Grandma's house, both our families usually ended up there on Sundays after church. In this town where everyone is related to everyone else, Regina and I take particular joy in telling people that we are cousins. My kids love hanging out with their kids. The other day, they came for supper and after they left, Jacob suggested we get together again soon since everyone had such a good time.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adoption Sunday

Today was a day for celebrating adoption. With this in mind, we chose to attend First Reformed Church this morning. They had a special service this morning that was a celebration of adoption as well as highlighting the plight of the many, many orphans around the world still waiting for their forever families. This is the church that hosts the after school Kid Zone program that I wrote about a few weeks ago. It is a large church and this morning it felt like everyone in Sioux Center was there. A very nice family even gave up their spot in a pew so that my family would have a place to sit.

First Reformed has a large adoption ministry and there were many families in church with adopted children. As part of their ministry, which includes support groups and a prayer ministry, they have launched a grant program that helps raise money toward the cost of adoption, both domestic and international. At the end of the service they asked the families that had been helped by Katelyn's fund to come forward. I can't even tell you how many families went forward, they filled the front of the sanctuary. It was a beautiful thing. The fund helps families from all over the country, not just those from this church.

This evening we invited George and Regina and their girls over for our own adoption celebration. For both of our adoptions, we traveled to their countries in November (and returned home in December) so it felt like a good time to celebrate. We made Romanian sausages (mititei) from a favorite recipe and a traditional dish called mamaliga that is very similar to polenta. It is a big favorite of Maria's. For the Colombian portion of the meal, we had Colombian hot dogs (which must be served topped with crushed potato chips) and three milk cake (torte tres leches). Regina brought vegetables. Everything turned out great and we really had a fun evening. Regina's girls have already asked if I would make them torte tres leches for their birthdays.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Happy Birthday Colin

My oldest child turned 21 today. Surely I'm not old enough for that to happen.

Happy Birthday Colin!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fall Festival

I received an e-mail this afternoon from Maria's teacher reminding me that Maria needed to be at Dordt tonight for a concert. I e-mailed her back and asked if the sixth graders were attending a concert together. Turns out that Maria was in the concert tonight. It was the SCCS fall music festival. When school started, we opted to have Maria quit orchestra in order to have more time for educational support. I didn't realize that the result of that decision was simply that we traded orchestra for choir. Maria loves to sing and I'm glad she has this opportunity, I just wish we knew about it sooner.

I e-mailed the teacher back and asked if there was anything specific that Maria needed to wear and was told she should wear Sunday clothes. Less than an hour before the concert was to start, Maria informed me that she needed to wear black pants and a white shirt. I showed her the teacher's e-mail, but she was adamant about needing to wear black pants and a white shirt. A flurry of searching ensued. The first couple white shirts I came up with were way too small, barely reaching her belly button. We finally settled for a white t-shirt plucked fresh from the dryer and black pants that were only a little too short.

Slightly frazzled, we set off for the auditorium and arrived at the last minute only to discover that the teacher was right and Maria was wrong (you guessed that already, didn't you). There was Maria in her too short pants and her white t-shirt among all her classmates in their Sunday finery. Sigh. Meanwhile, the rest of us settled into the pew for the long haul. You likely remember the joy of elementary school band or orchestra concerts (five variations on the song Bingo, anyone?). Put both together, add a few choirs, and mix in hanging onto a wiggly Jon Felipe the whole time and you have a good picture of our evening. It was a long night.

The fifth and sixth grade choir were near the end. Maria struggled with the stairs up to the stage and fell. Someone hauled her back up and she made it to her spot behind the piano where we could barely see her. She did sing well and clearly knew her part so it all turned out okay. As we were walking out of the auditorium, another parent told me that his daughter comes home from school every day with stories about Jon Felipe. I told him I didn't want to know. Good thing tomorrow is Friday.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Random Thoughts 2

Here are some random thoughts tonight:

1. Jacob's friend Tony grew up in a small town in South Dakota of just over 600 people. He attended the public high school where he only had 8 people in his graduating class. The amazing thing is that the school split those 8 students into two English classes of 4 and 4, one honors and one regular. I didn't know such small public schools still existed, plus splitting the class is just crazy when it is so small to begin with.

2. Several people have asked if this was the most expensive rental we considered. It was middle of the road. There was a place that was a bit cheaper, but we decided not to go with it for a number of reasons, including that it really was too small. There was another place that was the same rent as this and one that was more. We are happy that we chose this one.

3. I love my job. I love what I am doing and I love where I am doing it. I met with my dean today to go over my midterm evaluations and I told her the same thing. I have a great department. There are no weak links, everyone does a great job. There are also no prima donnas. I could not ask for a better team to work with. As an added bonus, we all like each other. What a blessing!

4. Even though I like my job and am pretty certain moving here was the right thing for our family, I am still missing the people "back home." I really appreciate that you all still send me e-mails, leave comments here, and generally let me know you're still out there. It helps a lot.

5. There is nothing in Sioux Center to measure up to Providence Church's Wednesday g@p. Enough said.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Story of the Big House

Finding this house was totally a God thing. We just happened on it while we were out for a bike ride one afternoon. There was a small "For Rent" sign out front and we called right away about renting it (remember, our options had been really limited so we didn't waste any time). I don't know why we even rode down this particular street, it isn't on our usual bike path route.

A couple things we really like about our new house:
The refrigerator has an ice maker
Having a garbage disposal and a dishwasher
More than one bathroom
We can open the oven even if someone is sitting at the kitchen table
We can all fit in the kitchen to eat a meal, even if the kids have a friend over

This house does have an interesting history, though. It was built by a local builder "on spec." He obviously intended it to be high-end and included lots of expensive details like ceramic tile, laminate flooring, a gas fireplace, and nice appliances. Unfortunately, some of the work that he tried to do himself, he should have contracted out instead. So, we have lots of lovely upgrades, but they don't all work. For example, we have a whole house vacuum, but it doesn't work. There is a very nice filtration system for the water, but it is hooked up wrong. There is a nice jacuzzi type tub, but the water heater can only supply enough water to fill it about 1/3 full. Yesterday, Dwight went to run the garbage disposal in the kitchen and it fell off the sink. (It is now firmly reattached.) Even the doorbell doesn't work.

However, a buyer was found and the new owners moved in. They only lived here one month, so the story goes. They were apparently frustrated by the number things not done properly and arguments ensued on who should pay for repairs. They finally simply moved out and the builder was left with the house. This being a small town, word quickly got around and he was unable to find another buyer. He finally let the house go back to the bank and our landlord purchased it from the bank as an investment. He has spent the past several weeks working on many of the repairs that needed to be made. When we moved in, he said that he expected us to find more things wrong and just to call him when it happened (although Dwight did just fix the garbage disposal himself).

When we decided to rent the place, lots of people warned us off. They didn't want us to get stuck with all the problems and we had to keep reminding people that we weren't buying it, just renting it. So, we get to live in a really nice place that has plenty of room and is essentially brand new and the landlord gets to deal with the repairs. Our landlord is really nice and we keep running into him at places like church and the SCCS soup supper. I know it could turn out that he won't follow through on fixing things, but we've had no indication so far that we should be worried about that. We are feeling blessed to be able to live here and enjoy this beautiful house. Next time you are traveling through northwest Iowa, you'll have to stop in for a visit.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hallelujah Party

The Bridge, a CRC church plant here in Sioux Center, puts on a big Hallelujah Party for Halloween. Attending is definitely the thing to do. The party is held in the rec center at Dordt College and I think pretty much every family in the city was there. For the party, they set up lots of carnival games all the way around the track and they recruit college kids to volunteer to staff the games. Jacob was one of the volunteers tonight. The kids go around and play the games and win tickets which they can exchange for little toys and candy. Even with so many kids attending, there were enough things to do that we never had to wait in line more than a couple minutes for a game or activity.

It was fun to see all the kids, and even some adults, in their costumes and everyone was having a great time. Our kids had a blast. Jon Felipe wore his black shirt with the bones on it so he looked like a skeleton. He also wore his Colombia hat (costumes are more about having fun than being logical). Maria was pretty worn out from all the activities of the week and so she chose not to try to wear a costume. She really didn't want to stay home and miss the fun, but she was fighting her MG the whole time and even though we only stayed an hour, she was struggling with walking by the end. Even so, she seemed to enjoy the party and she can rest up tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Soup Supper

I tell my students that they have to let kids know about the hidden curriculum. This is stuff like "Teacher A is unhappy if you turn your work in late" and "Teacher B doesn't mind so much about assignments being late, but really gets upset if you are late to class." Most kids figure it out on their own. Some need a little more help. I felt like someone needed to clue me in on the hidden curriculum tonight at the soup supper, starting with how to get in the school. All the doors we have ever used to enter the building were locked. We did eventually find the open door in the back of the building and enjoyed our meal. As Maria and Jon Felipe ran around with friends and we did our gig busing tables, we also got to know a few more people at SCCS and had a few good laughs. Still, it's going to take awhile to get this all figured out.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birthday Cake and Beautiful Music

Jon Felipe turned 9 today. We spread the birthday celebration out over the course of the day to keep it from being too overwhelming. This morning he opened the package from my parents. After school, he opened the cards he got in the mail from Dwight's parents and from our friends the Swarts. After dinner, Jacob and Tony came over for cake and he opened his presents from us. These included a new Sponge Bob toothbrush, a hat and mittens, and a DVD of High School Musical 3. He also got to wear the birthday hat all day at school and pass out birthday candy. He had a wonderful day.

To bake the cake, I borrowed a mixer from Regina who lives just a few blocks away. In Holland, we would borrow a mixer from the Pikaarts, but we couldn't convince them to move to Iowa with us. As Jon and I were walking back home last night with the mixer, we were talking about his upcoming birthday celebration. He told me that they don't have birthdays in Colombia. Since we participated in a couple birthday celebrations while we were in Colombia, I'm assuming that they did not celebrate birthdays in the orphanage. Obviously, with so many children to care for, this would be difficult to do. Jon Felipe didn't seem upset that they didn't celebrate birthdays, but he has certainly enjoyed celebrating his birthday here.

After the birthday cake, it was off to Luke's orchestra concert. All the music groups sounded really good, but in my opinion the orchestra was particularly good. The best part was that when we were waiting for the concert to begin, I saw Luke talking animatedly to another boy in the orchestra. Most days, when Luke leaves for school in the morning, I encourage him to try to talk with at least one person during the day. Some days he gets this out of the way by talking with someone on the bus, occasionally he will talk with someone during break, many times he comes home and says, "I just couldn't do it today." He isn't unhappy at school, it is just that starting a conversation with someone he doesn't really know is difficult for him. So, I enjoyed watching him talk with a classmate as much as I enjoyed the concert.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Walking to Work

Dwight's van had to go in for repairs last week (something with brakes and tie rods and other complicated things). Parts needed to be ordered and then the wrong ones came and we had to wait for new ones to be delivered; thus, I've been doing a lot of walking to work so Dwight can use my car. Even from the new house, it is only a fifteen minute walk. Yesterday, with Maria home sick, I walked to the college to teach my morning class, came home to check on her and get her lunch, walked back to teach my afternoon classes, and then walked home for a total of about an hour of walking. It was a pleasant day for walking and I can certainly use the exercise, plus it was definitely more enjoyable than spending that hour grading papers.

This morning, though, the weather wasn't nearly as nice. When I came in from getting the kids on the bus, I mentioned that, while it wasn't exactly raining, it was "misting heavily" as my friend from Seattle would say. I expected my dear husband to respond by offering to drop me off at work. Instead he said, "Here's an umbrella." Chivalry in Sioux Center, Iowa, is dead! By the time he figured out the proper response and offered to drive me to school, it had stopped raining and I was able to walk. I really do enjoy the walk, although I could do without having to lug a heavy laptop back and forth.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Jon Felipe is using more and more English at home. He is receiving intensive speech therapy at school and this shows. He speaks slowly and tries to enunciate the words. His most recent phrase is "I can't help it," except that he says "I can help." He still leaves endings off words and has a hard time with certain sounds, but his speech is definitely clearer. One of his great joys is that he is a champion burper. When he lets go with a good one and we respond with parently admonition, he grins and says, "I can help."

I am so proud of the progress he is making, but I don't want to lose the Spanish either. He and I still talk in Spanish as much as I can. I still try out all my new vocabulary on him and he still makes faces at me and gives me a hard time when I get it wrong. Tonight he was teasing me and deliberately saying the opposite of the words I was trying to practice. Goofy kid, I've got another big test tomorrow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

New House

This is the view across the street from "The Big House" where we now live. To the north of these fields, there are fields of soybeans. To the south is Open Space Park which extends all the way to Dordt. We do have neighbors on either side of us and behind us, several of whom we know already as they also work at Dordt. You'll have to wait for pictures of the inside until we are a little more unpacked. Suffice it to say, though, that I have been hanging around Calvinists long enough that I'm pretty sure I don't deserve to live in such a nice house.
We only moved about 8 blocks, so our phone number is the same. Our new address is:
1163 7th Ave.
Sioux Center, IA 51250

Birthday Countdown

It is just three days until Jon Felipe's birthday. He has been counting down for the last six weeks. We plan to have Tony and Jacob come by to share cake with us. I have a cake mix ready to go, although I will have to find someone to borrow a mixer from. Now that we are moved to the new place, though, we even have room for everyone to stand in the same room with the birthday boy and sing and watch him blow out the candles. What a blessing!

Life has been pretty exciting for Jon Felipe lately. Last week he was special student of the week in his class. His two favorite things about being special student of the week were getting to sit in the big yellow chair during story time and getting to pray at lunch. Praying at lunch was particularly special for him. He was so pleased that his class prays at lunch time in his new school. Obviously, his teachers couldn't do that last year at his school. He often asks me why this is so and I just do not have a good enough grasp of Spanish nor does he have a good enough grasp of English for me to be able to explain why Christian teachers in public schools cannot pray aloud in class.

Today is a special day too because we get to eat dinner at Kid Zone. We got to do this last month too. They have invited a small group of families to stay and share a meal once a month. They provide all the food and fun, we just get to enjoy. The idea is to help build community with the families. We had a great time last time and are looking forward to a fun evening again, plus the food was delicious. Jon Felipe just loves these types of events, so he has also been counting the days until we get to eat at Kid Zone again.

Actually, counting the days until any event is one of Jon Felipe's "hobbies." So, we count the number of days until we get to go to church. As soon as the service ends, he always lets me know that it is seven days until we get to go to "iglesia" again. On Fridays, he comes home and checks the number of days until he can go to "escuela" (school) again. If any other special event is happening, he will gladly keep track of the days for you. Doing this makes him happy, plus he is top notch at counting backwards.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The VanTols Move to the Big House

After I wrote about our two rental options, a couple more places opened up and we actually had about four places to choose from. We went and looked at them all and weighed our options and all the pros and cons, but then I got sick and then the kids got sick and we just never got around to deciding. After a couple weeks, the landlord from the place we liked best called and asked if we would consider renting his place if he lowered the rent. Of course, we said that would help! So, we got the place we really wanted at a reasonable rent.

Jon has been asking for days when we get to move to "The big house." The new place is has so much more space than the little house we were renting! Today was finally moving day. Many, many people came and helped us move. Lots of people from my department as well as some of Jacob's professors and a few people I didn't even know. Joe, the man moving into our house, helped us move too. He has people coming out to visit him at the end of next week and he really wanted to be moved in to his new house before they came. Our landlord kindly let us move in a week early to accommodate Joe's move next week.

A friend from my department came and helped me pack the kitchen yesterday. It was so nice to have help with this task, but it made me really miss all my friends back in Holland who came and helped me pack my kitchen for the move here. Regina helped me unpack my kitchen (for the second time in as many months) and also made lunch for everyone who helped. Everything is moved over. Now we have lots of unpacking to do. I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Dinner at Tulipanes

My friend Socorro took me out to dinner tonight. There is an excellent Latin American restaurant in town and she wanted to be the one to introduce me to it. (Socorro is also my Spanish instructor.) We spoke Spanish for all the ordering, but I confess that the rest of our conversation was in English. The food was wonderful and I enjoyed spending time getting to know a new friend. Although I hadn't shared with Socorro that I had been feeling down, it was a great pick-me-up on this rainy Wednesday.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday Oct 20

I haven't posted anything for awhile because I have been struggling with feeling a bit down and I didn't really want to write about negative things. I'm not sure why I've been down, things are still going really well here. I still like the work I am doing, Dwight still enjoys his work, the kids are happy. I think it is combination of all this illness going around and having to move again.

It seems like I just cannot get everyone healthy. I was sick for what felt like a long time, then Jon Felipe got really sick, then Maria picked up something and now she is sick again. She was home from school yesterday and today. She'll have her treatment tomorrow which will hopefully help perk her up and help her kick this latest bout of the crud. Is it just me, or does it seem like illness is hitting harder this fall than usual?

Plus we have to move again. We have been so busy with work and taking care of sick kids that thinking of packing everything up AGAIN is rather overwhelming. The sale of our house in Holland hasn't happened so we don't have closure on that either. We didn't unpack a lot of stuff, but we did unpack some stuff and just thinking of packing up the kitchen again seems like a big job.

On top of all this, Jon Felipe has been having more seizures. We realized he was still having them at night so we got a baby monitor and put it in his room so we would hear him. Sure enough, he is still having seizures at night. Then today he had his first one at school. He is "student of the week" so during story time he gets to sit in the special chair at the front of the class. Of course, that means that when he had the seizure today during story time, he was front and center. On the plus side, the special chair is a sling type chair so he didn't fall out of it when he had the seizure. The teacher tells me, though, that the students were very calm when he was having the seizure. The nurse had explained to the class about seizures and I guess she must have done a good job because the teacher said the kids handled it really well.

So instead of doing any more school work, I'm going to go take a hot shower and then go to bed and read some frivolous fiction for awhile. And maybe have some ice cream. With chocolate sauce. And whipped cream. In bed.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Snowy Morning

Today we woke to another dusting of snow. As you can see, we are not quite ready for winter weather yet. I did receive an e-mail from the school informing me that children are expected to wear boots on snowy days. Obviously, this never occurred to me! Of course, this notification necessitated a quick excursion after school to try to find children's snow boots (all our boots were lost in the flood). As I'm sure you are aware, the shelves were picked bare. We were able to get something for Jon Felipe at Walmart, but nothing has been found yet for Maria.
The little girl with the umbrella in this picture is Claudia and she is in kindergarten. She is a very sweet little girl and we always chat, usually in Spanish, while waiting for the bus. There are other children on our bus stop, but some of them didn't ride the bus this morning. There is still a lot of illness going around Sioux Center.

The snow on the trees was just beautiful and I enjoyed looking at it, while standing inside with a hot cup of tea. It did warm up this afternoon and all the snow melted once again. This wet weather has come at a tough time for the farmers. Friday night we saw them out in the fields working long after dark to try to finishing harvesting before the rain and snow started.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Snow and Charlotte's Web

This picture is from Jon Felipe's class celebration of Charlotte's Web. As you can see, he is happy at Sioux Center Christian School. This morning, he was so excited to wake up to a dusting of snow. He loved playing outside in the snow until the sun melted it all. I'm glad it was a Saturday so he could enjoy it.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Orange City

Dwight and I went on a date tonight. George had recommended The Hatchery as a good place to get a burger and so we went there. The Hatchery is a little place in an old brick building off the square in Orange City. Eating there is like what I imagine eating at your neighborhood pub to be like. There can't have been more than ten tables in the whole place and most of them were pushed together for larger groups of people. The food was good and we enjoyed the leisurely atmosphere. Then we walked around the downtown area in Orange City, which is much more Dutch and kitchy than Holland, Michigan. There are lots of false store fronts in the Dutch gable style. There are Dutch bakeries, Dutch goods for sale, and an impressive looking meat market with signs in Dutch for various delicacies. The park in the center of the square is littered with windmills. I'm sure it is all quite lovely in the spring when the tulips are blooming. Tonight it was pretty much deserted and everything was closed. It was a pleasant night for a walk, though, and we enjoyed our evening.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tami Tango Trio

Tonight we went to a concert by the Tami Tango Trio. This group from Argentina is touring in the U.S. and has been making presentations on the folk music history of Argentina to music and Spanish classes at Dordt. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert. The musicians were fabulous, especially the woman playing the piano. It is amazing to me that a person's fingers can move that quickly. Jon Felipe's insistence that we sit in the front row ensured we had a good view of the performance. I also really enjoyed watching the dancers. They perform all those intricate dance steps without once trodding on their partner's foot. They also changed outfits and shoes between every dance number. The mind boggles at the amount of luggage they must have brought with them. It was a fun evening and we capped it off with a bedtime snack of ice cream after we got home.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Down Syndrome Awareness Month

As October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, I thought I would mention a new reality show out of the U.K. that highlights DS. It is about the lives of five young people who are housemates together in Brighton, England. Four of the young people have DS and one has William's Syndrome. So far, five episodes have been released. While I do not necessarily agree with all the decisions that have been made as regards the lifestyle of these young people, I do appreciate that they are living a life that is similar to that of their peers. It is a fun show and you will laugh, especially if you know anyone with DS. If you want to get the flavor of the show, I suggest watching episode one. Episode three is the funniest one so far, but since it includes brief scenes of the Lady Boys of Bangkok, I would have to rate it PG-13. So, if you have some time on your hands, check it out and let me know what you think.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Maria's Braids

Maria let me braid her hair yesterday. Doesn't it look cute? She very rarely lets me do that sort of thing.