Reviving a neglected blog

There are times when certain things in life need to take a bit of a break, and this blog was one of them this past year. I’ve always enjoyed writing on here, but it had become just another thing I felt I had to do, and so I made the decision to just give it up for a while.

A lot has happened since I posted last time back in March. Among other things, we finished up homeschooling in May, had an amazing trip to visit cousin Eva in Vienna in August, and the girls started at a Christian school in September.¬†They have now been at Hawthorne Christian Academy for almost half a year, and it was one of the best decision we’ve made for our family yet. HCA is an amazing school with caring teachers who when they say they aim for excellence¬†actually deliver that too. The academics are good, the music I’ve seen coming out of there impressive, but best of all these are teachers whose love for the Lord shine through how they teach and interact with the students and parents. We are glad for the change, despite the half hour drive each way and the drastically reduced number of hours for free play.

My time has freed up a good bit, and I’ve started swimming about 3 mornings a week. It’s great to be able to exercise regularly and doing an exercise I actually enjoy. Other than that, there’s always plenty to do around the home to just keep things ticking along smoothly, and I recently started doing substitute teaching at the kids’ school. I’m looking forward to doing a bit more of that when they need me.

The girls and I aren’t the only ones who have had a change — Ben changed jobs in March and started working for Compass, a real estate brokerage with a focus on technology. He started as a full-time programmer but two months in the team needed some extra managers and he’s now in that role, leading a team of seven software developers. Compass is growing really fast (over 100 software engineers now, and hoping to double that in 2019). His team’s building software to help real estate agents manage their contacts, clients, and leads. Here’s a fun video he was roped into recently (password “compass”).

I hope to do some catch-up here on the blog over the next few weeks. In the meantime, here’s our Christmas photo, which is our most recent family photo.

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Time travel into the past: July 2017

Life’s been happening by the spade full around here, and blogging has been severely neglected, sorry. Here’s an attempt at rectifying that!

Back in July last year… hmmm, let’s see if the photos can remind me that far back!

There was the joy of growing veggies in the backyard,

IMG_20170627_094726102IMG_20170627_094747088 a great visit from Ben’s dad and a picnic table built by him and Ben,

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and many pool days, including a fun 4th of July celebration at my friend Kelly’s house that involved a crazy greased watermelon game. It’s kind of like rugby but with a watermelon slickly greased with Crisco, and in the water!

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Marica went off to a 5-night sleep-over summer camp with her friend Willow, and loved it,

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and while Marica was at camp and Laurelin at preschool, I took Esther for a fun mom and daughter pedicure, which was a real nice treat!

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There were also plenty of park days,

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beautiful sunsets,

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a fun picnic with a sister church out on Long Island,

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and plenty of hilarity — that is dirt she sat in outside while playing with mud, not poop, I promise! Why my kids seem to think that playing with dirt in white clothing is okay is beyond me. See also the crazy sister in the background about to do a roly-poly on the tile floor. Did I mention hilarity? :-)

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A little time travel into the past: March

There used to be a time I blogged several times a week. Then it turned into twice a week, then once a week, then once every two weeks, then… whenever I happen to write a blog post. I suspect the latter frequency is the way it will continue, and so far nobody seems to mind.

In this time travel journey little blog series, we travel back as far as March of this year, when I grew another year older and crept a little further into my thirties. I like it here much better than my twenties. Most of the time, anyway. Marica made me a delicious pecan pie. We must have done something more than eat pie to celebrate the occasion, it’s just that what we did escapes my memory now. That’s one of the downsides of getting older, I’m told.

 

Lauren, who had boarded with us in the past, were engaged to be married, and I hosted a bridal shower for her. That was a first for me, and fun!

There was also a lovely day where the girls and I met Shannon in the city, where she took them to a marionette theater for a show, giving me and Ben some time to grab a quick bite to eat at Dominique Ansel, the bakery that invented the cronut. Yes, we had a cronut, and yes, it’s delicious! Then I joined Shannon and the girls at Alice’s Tea Cup for a delightful lunch. What a treat!

General update

An update written by Ben for a change. After all, Franci has written almost all of the posts on this blog. As it happens, the last one Ben wrote was almost a year ago.

Ben is busy with various things. Both being a dad by night (and evening) and a computer programmer by day. Ben is also an elder at church, helping lead services, organize various things, and helping out with various pastoral issues.

Change, they say, is as good as a holiday. Coordinating people and tasks has crept back into his job description — he recently moved to a new team within TripAdvisor and is managing three software developers. Content Management Systems (CMS) is what we’re tasked to build. Companies within TripAdvisor will be able to use this unified system to to easily produce hotel- and travel-related pages and websites. Commuting to work (an hour each way) can be tiring, but I use the time to read, or to write blog posts like this one.

Dad visited us recently, on the way to the International Conference of Reformed Churches (ICRC) in Toronto. Dad is very handy with wood, as you probably know, so he helped me build this picnic table (the pajama-clad girls appeared afterwards):

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Esther is growing in stature (and good will with God and man). Every day she gets up at about 6:45am, sneaks down the stairs, and plays with Lego or reads quietly in the lounge. Enthusiastic about any craft, she’s often making cards, pictures, or whatever else. “Emotional” is a good word to sum up her reaction to various things — much more so than either of the other kids, which can be both good and bad. Esther was also very stoked to have a few days recently when she had Mum all to herself for the morning — one of these mornings she got a special trip with Mum to the nail salon:

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Franci has a bit of a lighter (or different) load right now as our homeschoolers are taking a break. For a few weeks more she’ll be catching up on various tasks, sorting and tidying rooms, reading, etc. Franci has been keeping busy (outside of the usual family busyness) with serving at church in various capacities: Fellowship Meal (organizing our once-a-month church shared lunch), Sunday School, and catching up with and mentoring some women. Fruit and veggies have also featured of late: she bought 10kg of very ripe blueberries and made lots of jam, pies, etc; and she signed up to a veggie co-op through which we get a good quantity of veggies every week. For a photo, here’s one of her carrying Laurelin’s 4th birthday cake:

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Going to go camping in early September! Goal is for me to take a couple of days off work on either side of Labour weekend, go into the mountains (a couple of hours away), and set up tent. Good for the whole family to get away, and the kids are definitely looking forward to it.

Hannah and Peter were here recently and stayed a couple of nights when they drove Lydia and Andrew here from Lancaster, PA. How nice it was to catch up with both couples again. Hopefully Lydia and Andrew had a good time! His first time in the States, and I don’t think Lydia’s been back for many years either. Heading into the city on a bus, they caught the subway from the bus terminal down to JFK airport, where they flew back to Australia.

I can safely say that we’ve had a hot early summer, though the last couple of weeks have been a lot more mild. In the early part of July, Franci and the girls went regularly to a nearby friend’s pool and made good use of that. Inside it’s generally cool enough thanks to air conditioning, especially at my work where they seem to like making it feel like a fridge.

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Jetsetter was the TripAdvisor team that I was on, and jetsetting is what we’ll be doing (God willing) in late December and January when we fly to New Zealand for a trip in their summer. Just like last time, I’ll be going for about two weeks, and Franci and the girls will be staying on for several extra weeks. Joyful we are as we look forward to seeing family and friends again in person.

Kicking around a rough plan, Franci and I, for our family to head back to New Zealand to live (for good?) in the year 2020 Anno Domino. Kids will be a bit older then, and our hope is to visit South Africa and Namibia (where Franci was born and grew up, respectively) on our way back.

Laurelin is our most stubborn descendant. Laughs a lot, and causes plenty of laughter, too. Life will be good to her, we think, if she overcomes the sinful childish aspects of this stubbornness and turns it into determination (that’s what we’re working towards, in any case). Lately she’s had a break from preschool — during the school year she attends a local preschool three mornings a week, giving Franci a break and an opportunity to focus on homeschooling the other two. Laurelin recently turned four:

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Marica went to a five-day summer camp recently with a friend from homeschooling circles. Mostly outdoor activities, it was a Christian-run camp, and she had a blast. My update on her wouldn’t be complete without mentioning that apart from being our most outdoor-loving girl, she’s also our biggest bookworm, reading half a dozen thick books per week is not uncommon. More good books needed — please send title suggestions our way!

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Never one to shy away from geekdom, I’ve written a couple of technical articles about nerdy projects I’ve done recently. Naturally you can view those on my website, if you’re interested: a pentomino puzzle solver, toy Python-to-assembly compiler, and tiny Git client.

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The 12 pentominoes (18 with their mirror images)

Outdoors stuff tends to happen more in summer, so there have been lots of trips to the park, lots of playing outside in the sprinkler, and we hope to make it to the beach at least once.

Pulled pork is a favourite around here. Partly because there’s a nearby Southern BBQ place where we sometimes eat or get takeaway. Passionate about their food, we often get juicy barbequed brisket, pulled pork, and spicy baked beans — yum! Perhaps if you visit we’ll take you there?

Quite a bit of the time we’re too busy: mostly self-inflicated, partly a reflection of our involvement at church or with visitors, and with homeschooling things. Quiet is nice sometimes, and we’re trying to carve out enough of that here and there.

Reading aloud is something I really enjoy doing with and for the older two girls. Rarely do we go a week without at least several nights of reading another chapter in our book. Right now we’re about half way through N. D. Wilson’s A Door Before, a prequel to both his 100 Cupboards and his Ashtown Burials books. Really it’s a bit too intense for my taste, but we love his strong and realistic characters, his moral outlook, and his desire to bring solid fantasy from British to American soil.

Seafood festivals are a lot of fun: a Reformed church over on Long Island recently hosted one. Sun, seafood (lobsters, clams), salad, and sports were the order of the day — including a no-hands watermelon eating competition which I tried my hand at:

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Trees are a wonderful thing. Three or four weeks ago we planted a small (1.5 metre high) dogwood tree in our back yard. The soil that we dug out for the roots was probably the hardest, stoniest soil I’ve ever dealt with.

Unbroken is a great movie that Franci and I watched recently. Unusually good for a Hollywood blockbuster, it’s a war story that you should definitely watch (not to mention read about its fascinating hero Louis Zamperini).

Violin and guitar are the two new instruments that Esther and Marica will be learning this coming school year (aside from piano, which they have to take). Very rewarding to be part of a homeschooling group where the kids can learn quality music at reasonable prices.

We had a good time recently with Franci’s sister Angelique, who was here with her son Tyson for a visit in June. Went in to the city a couple of times, but mostly stayed local and did quieter things with the kids.

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Xylophones (well, glockenspiels really, but that doesn’t start with X) are another instrument that Franci will be using in the homeschool co-op music class that she’ll be teaching this coming year.

Yesterday evening we had our pastor and his wife around for dinner. You always know it’ll be a fabulous time with those two (and it was).

Zero more paragraphs to go after this one. Zank you for listening. Zon’t forget to comment if you have comments or questions!