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Preview: Jen and Derrick: Just Life

Four Ducks

"Yes. Wait a minute... no." Our life in a nutshell.

Updated: 2018-03-12T21:06:14.621-04:00




Russ and Jonah

Graham, Zev, Oliver, Evan, Landon, and Michael


It's Time for the 2018 Art Show In his debut appearance, artist Russell showcased 4 pieces at the show This ceramic piece is titled The Taco Face of the Century. Russell was very proud of his artist statement that talks about his inspiration, Mom's delicious tacos. Mom was pretty happy with that. This was a water color piece Russell did that we also had made into some Christmas gifts. And this was one of  Russell's drawings.  Each student gets to choose one piece to have framed (and bought) to benefit the school's art program. This was Russell's selection, his favorite piece from this year, titled The Invasion of Zim. This year was Graham's last art show, as he will head to the middle school in the fall. Graham has really enjoyed the found sculpture studio this year.  This piece is called The Advertising Tower. This was a co-designed piece Graham did with Oliver called Big Ben.   This is a mosaic piece. Graham's absolute favorite art studio is the drawing studio. He has spent much of last year and this year really fascinated by drawing cartoons, some of his own creation but recently some of the more famous ones. He free-hands them all and does the final outlining and coloring with sharpies. This one of Bart Simpson is his second favorite.  Graham's framed piece has been a well-kept secret for about a month, Road Runner. He is most proud of the landscape and the hole that Road Runner is running over, which he says some people might also see as a shadow.  We're so proud of their creativity and hard-work. It was another fantastic art show! [...]


The last few weeks have been quite eventful. On Valentine's Day, Derrick had ACL reconstruction surgery to repair damage from a soccer injury that blew out his knee in the fall.  Derrick was extremely anxious before surgery but is doing very well. He has great range of motion and although the bruises are colorful, he actually has no pain in his knee, just where the bruises are. He'll have 4-6 weeks of physical therapy and should be feeling pretty much back-to-normal within two months, fingers crossed. Sadly, this does mean the end of Derrick's competitive soccer playing, so now he is looking for an impact-free sport to pick up.  We also enjoyed a visit from Grammy over Jen and the kids' long weekend for mid-winter break. This is a picture of the boys destroying Grammy at Uno! a fort under the dining room table  and a cute picture of Percy [...]


Russ celebrated his birthday with his buddies, playing dodgeball and soccer. They had a blast!

Top row: Zuhair, Austin, Preston, and Avi
Bottom row: Owen, Josh, and Jonah

Russ making a wish with Liam next to him

Happy Birthday!


Now we are 6!

Yes, that's snow on the ground behind Russ on his new skateboard. He just had to try it out!


Annual New Year's hotel weekend with the Teal-Von Erck-Tunison cousins


Martin Luther King, Jr. Day gave Jen and the boys the day off school. They took advantage of the Henry Ford Museum's free admission day to go down and see the bus on which Rosa Parks made history, as well as some of the other incredible exhibits the museum has to offer. [...]


For Christmas, Pops and Ama got us all tickets to see Cirque du Soleil: Crystal at the new Little Caesar's Arena. This is the set, which is nothing compared to the live show but gives you a sense of the immense production they put on.

We had a terrific time!

It was also fun to see the arena itself, which was new in 2017 and is home to the Detroit Red Wings. There's a neat cut-out to pose by, and the boys liked pretending they were on the Red Wings bench.


Graham and his buddy are both members of the school store this year, a position for which Graham has been excited since about Kindergarten. Friday was the very first school store this year, and Graham had the job of sorting all of the purchased items into baggies. It's a well-run business, and the kids who apply to be part of it take their jobs seriously! 


Pops and Ama got us some really fun Star Wars cookie cutters for Christmas. 
We had fun trying them out!


Dec. 30th brought family Christmas to our house. We spent the day with Derrick's side of the family, and it was so nice to have everyone together again. It seemed as though we barely saw the kids at all, which is fun in some ways but also a little sad that they're already so independent that they disappear for hours together! There was much silliness going on in the basement. Here's Ashton, Graham, and Luke eating dinner at the counter, with Charlotte inspecting the dog crate in the background and Daniel and Rick looking on. Russ, Isla, and Flynn had dinner at the kitchen table. It was a free-for-all for the grown-ups, who found various spots to enjoy their food.  Here are Nancy and Stef getting their goodies. The price for opening presents was one picture with all the cousins, and given the reward, they seemed happy to comply.  from left: Flynn, Charlotte, Luke, Graham, Isla, Russ, and Ashton All Charlotte really wanted for Christmas was a dog crate to call her own! On Dec 31st, in what is becoming a tradition, we went down to Crossroads to serve lunch in the only soup kitchen open on Sundays in Detroit. This was Russ's first year serving, and he was so excited to get to join in, as Graham has talked about it a lot the last few years. Russ did a great job handing out lemonade and coffee, as well as taking finished lunch bags to the counter.  Graham spent all four hours making and handing out lemonade and coffee. Crossroads is one of Graham's favorite places to work, and he again said what a great time he had. It was exciting to spend a day at Crossroads with all four of us there. A great day all around. We are now all back home, quietly awaiting the arrival of 2018.  We wish you a very happy New Year! [...]


 Merry Christmas!  By 8:00 in the morning, having sugared up on candy brought by Santa, both boys were already knee deep in building their Lego sets.  After playing with his toys from Santa all morning, Percy decided that Christmas is simply exhausting!  Snooch, on the other hand, continued to hunt for left-over food all day. We're pretty sure he had some baked brie, ham, and maybe even rumaki at some point today. As is our tradition, we had fancy dinner in our pajamas. We enjoyed a delicious meal thanks to our new and amazing oven.  Over the course of the day, we skyped with a lot of our family, more to come tomorrow. The boys built Legos, played with new toys, and tried a new video game, and then all four of us watched the Christmas episode of Dr. Who. A wonderful Christmas all around, and we are thankful for it! [...]


With our kitchen project done, we were finally able to decorate for Christmas, with ONE day to spare! This year it was Graham's turn to put the star on the top of the tree. Derrick could barely hold him up there! We also found some time to bake our annual Christmas cookies and mince pies, a fitting way to break in our new counter tops and oven. Derrick spent his day finishing the last of the painting in the kitchen.  Percy thought he would "help." It started to snow around noon, and Percy was spellbound. After church and dinner, it was Russell's turn to put baby Jesus in the manger.  And then we all cozied up in our bed so Derrick could read How the Grinch Stole Christmas. He's THE BEST at reading that Christmas favorite! And now we are headed to bed, a very full tree awaiting the kiddos in the morning. [...]


This was what our kitchen looked like on November 8th. Here it is at the end of demo day, on November 9th! Along the way, Derrick gave the boys the chance to paint the kitchen floor. They decided they wanted their names forever imprinted in our house. And here we are, on December 24th, just in time for our first Christmas here. [...]


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Today Graham said goodbye-for-now to his friend Benjamin, who is moving back to Germany. We hope to see him again sometime soon. The boys had a fun last day together, including posing inside the moving truck.


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8 inches on the ground means snow day for us!


Believe it or not, Jen has had two more trips since our last post. One was a special trip to England over Thanksgiving to give thanks for her granddad's life. He died in September, but we had a chance to bring lots and lots of people together at the end of November to celebrate wonderful memories. There were cousins, old friends and neighbors, former colleagues and students, and other friends who gathered at the Tonbridge School chapel for a beautiful service. (Tonbridge school is where Jen's grandparents both taught as well as ran a boy's boarding house.) Jen, Kate, Dave, Tim, and Meg were all together with Gigi and Sarah-Jane for the weekend (Alison was at home with baby Neilan).  Meanwhile, Derrick and the boys celebrated Thanksgiving back in Michigan with Derrick's side of the family, at his mom and Daniel's house. Jen's second trip was for a conference in Baltimore, but Alison and Erik just happen to live an hour away, so of course Jen took advantage to meet Neilan and hang out with Avery for a bit. This big girl had just turned two the week before. Time flies! [...]


Last week, Jen hopped a flight to the city of Blues and BBQ: Memphis, TN. She stayed for three nights for a conference, and although most of her time was spent in conference rooms, she had about an hour each day to explore. Jen got to stay at the famous Peabody hotel, famous because it was the place to be in days gone by. It was opened in 1869 and still boasts some neat memorabilia, including Francis Scott Key's piano. It is also home to the very adorable Peabody ducks, who spend their day in the lobby fountain and their evenings in the duck palace on the roof of the hotel. Here's Jen on the rooftop of the hotel, with the Mississippi Rover behind her. Sunset on the Mississippi is pretty spectacular, and although it was chilly, you'll notice it was just warm enough to not wear a coat. That was a welcome change from the chilly November weather in Michigan. Jen also really enjoyed all of the murals around the city. These are three she particularly enjoyed. Jen spent her last afternoon squeezing in a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum, housed in the Lorraine Motel, outside of which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. The museum includes a spectacular collection of photographs from the 1960s, as well as a wide range of interactive exhibits and original artifacts. Although Jen said she could have spent a whole day there, she was glad for the hour and a half she could fit in. [...]


Sushi night with the James family for Carrie's birthday!


Graham did the First Lego League Jr team this year again, and in large part, the team members stayed the same. FLL Jr. now has over 11,000 teams around the world, and this year's theme was Aqua Adventure. Today was the Exhibition, in which each team has to present their model to two reviewers. Graham's team, the Aquacons, created a water cleaning plant, complete with a motorized purifying element. They learned a lot about clean water this season, including getting to practice filtering real water through a charcoal and soil filter. They did a great job explaining their Lego invention to the reviewers and earned the "Innovation in Design" award. We are especially thankful for Coach Leigh and Coach Ahmed for their endless patience with this group of 2nd and 3rd grade boys! Next year, due to the age group, Oliver, Graham, and Isaac will move on together and pick up three other new members to form a fourth grade team while Nikhil and Yahia lead the 3rd grade team.

The FLL Jr exhibition is held the same day as the high school robotics exhibition, so another fun part of the day is getting to watch Battle Bots. This year, teams formed alliances and competed against one another. Robots had to be able to pass gears up to a person on a raised platform, shoot whiffle balls into a "net," and grab a rope that then hoisted the bots up to a final target. We all love watching the incredible design and programming skills of the high school robotics teams. This year, we noticed there were even teams from Canada at our exhibition!


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As most people know, our boys like to draw. Graham sketched this dark and creepy drawing the week of Halloween. Russell was given the task of disguising a turkey so he (the turkey, not Russ) could avoid being eaten for Thanksgiving. He disguised his turkey as Lord Vader. He even wrote at the top "The force is strong with this turkey." This weekend was the last fall soccer game for both boys. Here is a photo of Russ and his team (including Coach Derrick) after they got their trophies. Russ had so much fun this fall and really developed some good skills, including a nice heel-toe move, and Derrick and Chris are looking forward to coaching together again in the spring. After Russell's game, we had a lot of rain. But we also got this incredible full, double rainbow right out front! Look in the upper right corner to see the second rainbow. Sunday was Graham's last game. Unfortunately, thunder and lightning meant they called the game in the 3rd quarter; however, Graham scored two goals, his 2nd and 3rd of the season. He was so excited. He has grown so much this season, especially in playing offense, which seems to really fit him right now. Check out the videos to see one of his goals (he's #6 in the blue, wearing glasses). After the game, the team and families headed out for a bite to eat. Here's Graham with his teammates, also three very close friends: Dominik, Evan, and Brady. [...]


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