A photo from a couple weeks ago when I was 31 weeks pregnant.
A photo from a couple weeks ago when I was 31 weeks pregnant.
Trying to find the perfect tree
Here she is! Meet our Christmas tree, Anna.
Christmas Benefit Recital
An early Christmas present
A White Christmas
I’ll post more of my “book” soon. It turns out Aaron has to help me with some formatting issues, thus slowing down the process.
Last year I started writing a book. Aaron had written “The Sneezing Christmas Tree” in 2011, and he made it look so easy. I discovered that what Aaron makes look easy is actually very difficult for most people. Writing a book, while juggling the needs of my family, was hard! Pretty much the only way I could do it was to not get enough sleep or to use my very limited out-of-the-house-without-kids time to write–which meant I wasn’t spending time with friends.
Nobody outside my family has read what I started, but I decided I might as well share it instead of just letting it sit on my computer. Since our experience on Martin Luther King Jr. Day last year sparked the idea of writing a book, I decided today would be a great day to share the beginning of my writing. I’ll post a little at a time over the next few weeks.
Playing tag in sub-zero weather probably wasn’t the best idea. The long-awaited January snow–the first real “snow” of the season–was falling beautifully outside. The previous winter had given us very few opportunities for playing in the snow, having been unseasonably warm. This winter started much the same–until January 21. The blanket of white perfection beckoned us.
The windchill was -6 degrees F. I’ve heard it said there’s no such thing as bad weather, just improper dressing. We weren’t about to let the cold keep us from having fun. We bundled warmly and started toward the backyard.
Knowing the drill, the girls made paths immediately. Soon we had a perfect course for playing tag, and the game began. For a few minutes we chased and giggled and fell in the snow.
“I know I’m a little out-of-shape,” I began, “but my lungs are really burning.”
“Yeah, mine, too,” said the girls.
“And my feet are frozen,” added Kayla. Her boots had fallen off a few times during the game.
Visions of hot chocolate danced through our heads as we left the extreme cold and returned to the comfort of our house. Soon we were sitting around the table with mugs of rich cocoa warming our hands.
I didn’t really plan what happened next. I just asked a question.
“Does anyone know what today is?”
“Flowery’s birthday!” the girls answered.
“That’s right. It is Flowery’s birthday.” Kayla, my oldest, pretends to be the mother of 16 children. And of course, a mother always remembers her child’s birthday.
“Do you know what else today is? I’ll give you a hint. It’s a holiday.”
Their guesses were cute–Valentine’s Day and Easter–but they didn’t know it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Oh yeah. I saw that on the calendar. What’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day?” asked Kayla.
This was the second time we had talked about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The first time happened on a warm fall afternoon more than two years ago. I still remember it clearly. Kayla, Madeline, and I sat together on the deck as they practiced writing and capitalizing the names of holidays. We started with the first holiday in January but never made it past Valentine’s Day. They had so many questions about the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
They were young then–six and four–so I didn’t expect them to remember everything we talked about. What mattered most was their curiosity and engagement in what we were doing. That same curiosity–that same passion for learning–was still there more than two years later.
Now eight and six, they had another sister joining the discussion. Savannah, four, no longer took an afternoon nap.
I pulled “American Heroes” from our bookshelf and began reading. Soon I needed a map.
Together we found places MLK Jr. lived and traveled. We discussed doctorate degrees, protest marches, and boycotting. We talked about police officers, nonviolent protesting, and Rosa Parks. We conversed about equality and not being judged by the color of our skin. We watched King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech and learned about the Nobel Peace Prize. We looked at pictures of the Lincoln Memorial and Washington Monument. The girls asked many questions, and Madeline wanted to know why someone would want to assassinate such a great man.
Over two days we discussed all this and more.
I never dreamed being a mom could be like this. Watching my children learn is one of my greatest passions in life. The joy is incredible, and keeping it to myself began to feel selfish.
I decided it was time to share my story.
Some pictures to enjoy from our fall adventures …
At Post Family Farm in Hudsonville:
(The most interesting way we’ve ever fed a goat):
Our annual trip to the pumpkin patch:
(A pumpkin growing inside a pumpkin):
Girls in costumes:
We’re expecting our fifth child at the end of March. I’m 18 weeks along and feeling quite well now. We had an ultrasound today and saw a healthy, sweet baby boy! I had a feeling this one was a boy, yet it’s still somewhat unbelievable we’re really going to have a son!
Our friends returned to our house in the wee hours of the morning on July 13th. A few hours later Marta and Marcos would be returning to Chicago so they could fly home to Spain, and Aaron, Kayla and I would take Maite and Ana to Mackinac Island. We knew a trip to Mackinac Island and back would make for a long day, but we still really wanted to go for it. And since Kayla doesn’t get cranky regardless of how little sleep she gets, we planned to take her along.
Kayla was so excited. She knew she would have to get up before 6 in the morning. To get enough sleep, she wanted to be in bed as close to 8 p.m. as possible. Try as she may, she just couldn’t fall asleep. She finally managed to get some sleep around 11 p.m., only to wake at 1:45 a.m. wide awake and unable to fall back asleep. (This is the second time this has happened to Kayla. It also happened the night before her first airplane ride when she was three, but that’s a story for another time.)
Aaron’s parents came over early in the morning to help. They would watch Madeline, Savannah and Sophia for the day and also drive Marta and Marcos to the train station in Kalamazoo.
Aaron, Kayla, Maite, Ana and I left shortly after 7. The drive to St. Ignace was pretty quiet while Maite and Ana caught up on sleep. (Kayla was still wide awake. The only time she ever sleeps during the day is if she’s very ill.)
We crossed the Mackinaw Bridge and took a ferry from St. Ignace. The weather was gorgeous–sunny and mid-70′s. A perfect day for visiting the island.
Kayla and Me:
The Grand Hotel:
We arrived on Mackinac Island and took in all the sights and sounds: tourists, horses, bicycles, fudge and more. We found a spot for lunch and then rented bikes so we could tour the island.
Kayla and Me:
Aaron and Kayla:
Ana and Maite:
As we rode around the island, we found stone stacking was very popular.
We biked the 8 miles around the island, stopping occasionally for a short hike. We were pretty tired, but we still wanted to do a little more biking in the interior of the island. Aaron took us up steep hills away from the crowds, and after that we returned our bikes and relaxed with shopping, fudge and dinner. It was at dinner that Kayla first showed signs of tiredness.
We took the 7:00 ferry back to St. Ignace and started for home. It was a long drive for Aaron and me–he drove, and I worked at keeping him awake. Maite and Ana were able to sleep a bit more, and eventually, around 10 p.m., Kayla fell asleep. She had been awake for 20 hours.
The next morning we took Maite and Ana to our church, Cornerstone. We met up with our fiends Bethany and John, who would be joining us for lunch after church. Bethany studied in Seville, Spain when she was in college and speaks Spanish very well. She was really looking forward to meeting our Spanish friends, and we all had such a nice time together.
Later Sunday afternoon we just relaxed in the yard while the girls played in the sprinkler.
Ana and Sophie (with treats given to us by our neighbors):
The following day Maite and Ana drove to Grand Haven to enjoy the town and the beach. And on Tuesday, our last full day together, we returned their rental car, had dinner at a restaurant and shopped at the mall. We had wanted to go to downtown Grand Rapids or visit a park that night, but the heat and humidity made us all uncomfortable. We opted for air conditioning instead.
Early the next morning we said our good-byes, and Aaron drove Maite and Ana to the train station.
What a special time. What special memories. It truly was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Earlier this year I found out that my penpal who lives in Spain was planning to come to the US to travel and visit our family! And she wasn’t just coming alone but also bringing her sister, her sister’s boyfriend and her cousin as well. We were thrilled with the opportunity to host them during their visit.
Aaron and I picked up Maite, Marta, Marcos and Ana in Chicago on July 1. We talked as we drove home and stopped for food at Buffalo Wild Wings. Spaniards typically don’t eat dinner until about 9 p.m., so this was their first experience with an early dinner. And Spanish cuisine is not known for spicy foods. They opted for the milder side of the menu and very much enjoyed their chicken wings.
We arrived home after 9 p.m. It was a cool evening, so we lit candles and sat on the deck. Our girls came home from Grandma & Grandpa’s house, and our Spanish friends presented us with many gifts they had brought.
All of us except Aaron
The gifts they brought
The next morning I made pancakes and bacon. Then after a light lunch of wraps, Madeline and I took them to the Grand Rapids Art Museum and MadCap Coffee. My mom stayed home to watch the other three girls and prepare a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberry sauce, apple pie, pumpkin pie and ice cream.
Madeline at the art museum
One of our favorite piece of art: paper folded & shaped in such a way that silhouettes of various faces appeared
After dinner we drove two vehicles to Summersweet Orchard in Caledonia for cherry picking! With ten of us picking, it didn’t take long to fill up our buckets. Together we picked 41 pounds of cherries! We ate cherries for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next week and also shared many with friends and family. Some of those cherries would be used by Grandma Kerr for cherry pies on the 4th of July.
Marcos serving as a ladder for Savannah
Maite & My girls
On July 3 we had a simple breakfast, and then Aaron took the group to pick up their rental car. I made homemade pizzas for lunch. Our original plan was to have a picnic around 5 p.m. and then hike to the beach at Saugatuck Dunes State Park. Since we didn’t eat pizza until about 3:30 p.m., we definitely didn’t feel like a picnic at 5! So we hiked to the beach first, enjoying some time swimming, playing in the sand and dune climbing. We hiked back through the woods and had a picnic, complete with Spanish tortilla de patatas, around 9:30 p.m.–the latest picnic I’ve ever had! We enjoyed having Aaron’s parents join us on this adventure.
Marcos helping with pizza
Picnic at Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Early the next morning, our friends started their travels to New York, Boston, Niagara Falls and Toronto. But in just one week, they would be back for more adventures with the Kerr Family!
We’ve had gorgeous spring weather here in Grand Rapids lately! Most days have been in the low 70′s, though we’ve had a few days that have reached 80 and some days in the 60′s. This past Tuesday evening, April 30, we spent some time enjoying the Frederik Meijer Gardens.
Who doesn’t love the classic book Green Eggs & Ham? Even Sophie loves it. I found a recipe for Green Egg & Ham on 100 Days of Real Food and wanted to make it for the girls. Basically you combine eggs, milk, spinach, chopped onion, salt and pepper in the blender and then scramble them in a frying pan. In addition to a Creamsicle Green Smoothie, it made for a perfect St. Patrick’s Day breakfast.
(I used natural turkey instead of ham.)
Lesson learned: Don’t give a green smoothie to a toddler recovering from a stomach virus, even if she really wants it. It didn’t settle well in Sophie’s tummy.
Kayla was sweet this morning. She helped Sophie get ready for our annual St. Patrick’s Day photo.
She even picked out Sophie’s outfit, dressed her, helped her brush her teeth, and combed her hair.
You’ll notice Sophie is wearing a different outfit for the photo below. The aforementioned stomach virus was the cause of the outfit change. Poor thing. Hope she’s feeling better soon.
Love these girls.
At the end of January our family had a chance to visit The Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City for the first time (thanks to a great Groupon deal). Our girls had such a great time, though poor Sophie got really tired out! Overall it was a great experience, and we’d love to go again sometime.
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