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Preview: Jen and Derrick: Just Life

Four Ducks

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

Updated: 2017-08-17T07:05:55.045-04:00



Pittsburgh  August is flying by! It has been full of family, this weekend with Jen's side in Pittsburgh. All of her sibs except one were there with their families (Dave and Jenna are expecting baby #3 any day so they weren't able to join us). The first day was spent at the Pittsburgh Museum of Natural History. There was so much to see, and the kids really enjoyed it. The dinosaur exhibits were a huge hit. The dino on Graham's shirt is the same one on display behind him! There were lots of hands-on activities for kids of all ages, including microscopes to look at all kinds of natural surfaces up close. Graham and Russell looked at snake skins, coral, fur, and several other items. We all enjoyed lunch in the museum's cafe, and the highlight was definitely the Dippin' Dots ice cream. Avery loved it! We also got to experience a live-animal encounter. The museum has several animals for educational purposes, including a parrot, a constricting snake, a baby alligator, a chinchilla, and even this skunk! Back at Pops and Ama's, there was time for stories before bed. The next day, we went to the park in the morning. Everyone had fun, and Graham, Pops, and Derrick even played with the quoit, a game of catch with a rubber ring. After we spent some time at the pool in the afternoon, Jen and Kate and their kids had a full-out water balloon fight in the front yard. Even the dads got wet eventually. And then more reading time with Pops [...]


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On Thursday, Grammy arrived for her summer visit. She was really excited to see us and to see the new house and meet Percy. We started off with a walk on the nearby trail that goes for 40 miles start to finish! We just wanted to check out some of the birds and insects. We're so glad that the new house is near so many nature trails and lakes. When we arrived back at the house, our family of deer was hanging out in the backyard. One baby is very shy, but we got a good shot of this little one. On Saturday, we headed out to another new discovery: a beach just 15 minutes away on Cass Lake. It is a great find! Clear water, shallow a long way out so it's very warm, clean beach, and even kayak rental on the weekends.  Graham, Russ, and Grammy buried mom and dad's feet in the sand Then Grammy buried Graham, which didn't end well... and then Russell! We had a great dessert at our new local ice cream place that serves Haagen Dasz, Yummy! We also played lots of Uno, took Percy for several walks, watched a couple of movies, had sushi, and enjoyed our back deck. Grammy headed home on Sunday, but we'll see her again this winter. [...]


Swim Banquet

Russell won the "MVP for 6 and Under Boys" and was so surprised!


Today was the last meet of the 2017 swim season. Graham got to swim the 25M butterfly in A-finals and took 1 second off his best time of the season. He's in lane 2 (second from the right). Tomorrow the banquet so everyone can celebrate!

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Farm Camp


This week, both boys attended farm camp at the Bower's School Farm. They have been looking forward to this all summer, and it was a great success. We only have a few pictures, but you can read all about all the neat things Graham and Russell got to do during the week!  Among other things, Graham and Russell made nests out of clay, sticks, and leaves; washed and milked the goats and learned how to trim their feet and check their ears and eyes; brushed and rode a horse as well as listened to its heartbeat with a stethoscope; mucked out the stables; learned about the four stomachs of a cow; learned how to hold the chickens and also collected eggs; harvested food from the garden to make pickled cucumbers, zucchini bread, chamomile tea, roasted cauliflower and other fun recipes; sang songs; rode on the wagon; sheared the sheep and washed and dyed a small piece of wool; and pet the bunnies. How they fit it into five days is completely beyond us! Graham helped calm Flow as she was milked Garden kitchen Giving Franklin a bath Peeling an onion to make roasted cauliflower Horseback riding Helping to clean out the animal pens Checking out a caterpillar (Russ is in the blue shirt) [...]

The Big Move


After almost a year of thinking about it, we have finally moved. We loved our house and neighborhood where we were, but we were tired of spending all our time in the car, Derrick commuting a long way to work, the kids not being near their school friends, and generally feeling disconnected from the community of friends we've built where the kids go to school. After a long and tiring six weeks, we are so happy to be in our new home! Here is a little chronicle of the process. Part 1: The packing We packed over the course of a month, and with every box, the house became more and more chaotic. By the last week, we had sort of given up on organization as there were simply no other places to put things! This did of course mean that we ended up with our fair share of "miscellaneous" boxes, always a joy to unpack on the other end. The kids and the pets were basically delirious by the end and very eager to just have it all done with. Thankfully, we did spend a few days in Holland (see our earlier post), which gave us all some greatly-appreciated time away. Part II: Closing The day we closed on the new house was a particularly exciting one. The purchasing process was not as smooth as it could have been, so we were extremely glad that it all went through in the end.  Here we are outside the new house that same evening! On our first night of ownership, we picnicked with lawn chairs in the living room for dinner! Part III: Moving and Painting Over the course of two days and with the help of Derrick's parents, we moved all of the boxes ourselves. We were so involved that we didn't even take any pictures!  Unfortunately, we also discovered that we had to rip out all of the carpeting in the upstairs, which Derrick somehow accomplished in just 6 hours, including painting all of the floors with Kilz! Once the new carpet was in, it was definitely worth it. It looked (and smelled) a thousand times better! The day after we got back from Holland, the moving truck arrived. Even though we had moved all the boxes ourselves, it still took 8 hours from one end to the other.  And, as is typical of our family, we spent that first weekend doing almost nothing but unpacking. Derrick painted BOTH boys' rooms in 12 hours the day after we moved in, and by the look of their rooms, you'd think they'd lived there all their lives already. Another certain someone who owned the house the minute he set foot inside: Snooch Part IV: Making It Our Home The last unpacking step: parking BOTH cars in the garage! And now we get to settle in and relax. We've met several neighbors, and they're all incredibly nice. Jen actually taught one of the boys next door, and Graham and Russell already think that he and his brother are pretty much the coolest kids they've ever met. We have two friendly dogs nearby who have both met Mr. P successfully. And today, our good friends who moved in three blocks away about a month ago came over to play. Tonight was our first movie night in the new house as well: Buddy's pizza, kettle corn, root beer floats, and The Phantom Menace (Russ's first Star Wars movie). We closed on our old house mid-week, and although we have so many wonderful memories there, we know we'll be happy here as well.  [...]


We try to make it to Lakeranch Resort in Holland, Michigan every couple of years. We were here in 2015, so we decided to spend a few days here again this summer. As it turned out, the timing seemed less than ideal, since we closed on the new house 3 days before we left, and the furniture moved ONE DAY after we got back. But, it was a really good break, for the kids especially, from all the boxes and craziness of moving. This year, we booked a unit we haven't stayed in before, and it is definitely our new favorite. It is right on the end, facing the docks, and there are two bedrooms, including bunk beds for the kids. This was our view from our little patio, and our picture window looked straight out onto the docks as well. Of course, the main attraction at Lakeranch is the pool.  Within an hour of arrival, the boys were already right at home. Here's the famous window that faces the street. For dinner on our first night, we headed into town to our favorite pizza place, Crust54, which also makes vegan deep dish. Graham says it's his favorite pizza EVER. The fountain was also on downtown, so the boys got wet, again, after dinner. Day two began with the pool, of course. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> And then we headed to the beach! It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and the boys spent hours digging an enormous hole and making "food" for us in their sandy kitchen. We also got to see this huge container ship come in through the port and cruise all the way up to the steel mill.  On our way back, we stopped at the General Store for some sweet treats, a favorite tradition. Back at Lakeranch, we found these four baby birds in the gazebo rafters, and the boys got to watch the mama bird digging up worms to feed her babies. We had dinner out at the picnic tables and enjoyed a relaxing evening watching the boats from the docks. Graham decided he would like to own this one! It was a perfect evening for sitting on the dock. Unfortunately, this is what we woke up to on day three: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="" width="560"> So, we planned a fun morning at a nearby bounce house. Thankfully, it cleared up enough to swim after lunch time. Then we hit the Dune Dogz Stand for snow cones and the general store for some souvenirs. And by the time 4:00 rolled around, it was all sunshine again. Although we had planned to go into town for dinner, we decided to get beachfront concession food and let the kids play at the beach for their last night. The waves were great, and Graham loved trying to get the best of them. Russell wanted to get buried in the sand and spent lots of time building sand creations. Another amazing vacation in Holland. See you again soon, Lakeranch! [...]


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4th of July Parade


We are so proud of our two swimmers! This was the first meet in which BOTH of them swam. They both swam the 8&Under 25M freestyle, and Graham also swam the 8&Under 25M backstroke. Russ didn't have to hold the wall or lane line at all. He's SO PROUD and is excited for his next home meet!

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These two have so much fun together, it's ridiculous!


Graham swam in the timed heat (most competitive) for both 8 and under 25M Backstroke and 8 and under 25M Freestyle today. He won the Backstroke and placed 3rd in the Freestyle, coming in right behind his own two teammates. It was a lot of fun to watch!

He's lane 4 (count from the right of the screen). He's behind for the first half and then pulls ahead.

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He's lane 6, at the far left of the screen.

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Happy Father's Day 2017!


Jen has been working with her closest friend Carrie (center) for 17 years, and now Carrie is headed to Ann Arbor public schools for a new job opportunity. This was a great last-day lunch pic taken during the last week of school with a couple of their colleagues.  

Last day of school fun for Russell's class

Last day of school fun for Graham and Benjamin


Ridiculous? Yes. But SO CUTE!

Graham has been begging for weeks to have a lemonade stand, and since it was supposed to hit 90 degrees today, we gave in. They were so excited! They sold two full pitchers of lemonade and made $5 a piece in two hours. Not bad!


Spring Soccer 2017


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Today was Graham's very first piano recital. His teacher, Mr. Nick," had each student choose two of his or her best pieces to play in front of an audience of parents, siblings, and grandparents. Although he was a bit nervous at first, Graham did a terrific job. Be sure to check out the video to hear him play "It's Halloween" and "Horse Sense."

Russell's Preschool Graduation


It's hard to believe, but Russell is done with preschool and headed to Kindergarten. His graduation was bittersweet; on the one hand, he is so incredibly excited for next year, but on the other, this is a farewell for us to the extended family we have known for seven years.  We are so proud of Russell and all he has learned these past five years. 

The lovely Mrs. Adams, beloved by our entire family! 

And a final preschool picture with the dynamic duo. Liam is headed off to Kindergarten in another school next year, so this too was a bittersweet moment.


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For Tim 60-something-th birthday, Meg decided to surprise him with a weekend away at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort in Pennsylvania, with all his kids and grand kids there as well. This was the night of the birthday dinner, complete with all of us singing happy birthday and devouring a delicious chocolate cake.  Russ with Emma and Kate Sarah-Jane also flew in from England for the weekend to surprise her big brother! Emma feeding a chicken finger to her baby doll Jack and Jen Jenna, Graham, and Meg Meg and Alison Russell and Jack Erik, Dave, and Lauren Kate, Emma, and Tim Nemacolin is a family resort, and they have no end of fun activities for all ages. Graham and Russell both enjoyed the lower ropes course. It was Russell's first! Graham, as you may know, is a big fan of rock climbing. This was easily the tallest wall he's climbed to date. And with a bit of exhaustion relief from his belayer, he made it all the way to the bell. BOTH boys also decided they liked the sound of a jump from a 60-foot platform. Graham went first, and once Russell saw him do it, he had to try as well. So, then they both went. It was a bit of a heart-stopper for his parents to watch, but the kids were secured in strong harnesses. They really loved it! The weather was a bit cool this weekend, but thankfully, Nemacolin sports a great indoor kids pool, where all the cousins enjoyed splashing around together. Emma, the fish The tower of Russam, or perhaps Grahell They also had a very neat classic car mini museum, which Tim, Meg, Jen, and Graham enjoyed one afternoon while the other kids were resting. This was Graham's favorite. Graham, Avery, and Alison Andy, Graham, Russell, and Lauren More fun times at bowling with Sarah-Jane, Alison, and Avery Here's a picture of the main resort. We actually stayed in townhouses on the same property, but this gives you a sense of what Nemacolin is like! Kate and Jen riding the awesome shuttle... you could call from anywhere in the resort to be picked up and taken anywhere else in the resort. Meg and Russ Andy, Lauren, and Dave This was the back deck off one of the townhouses. We were all right next to one another, so it made chit chat very easy, even when little ones were sleeping. Surprise attack! We had SO MUCH FUN and were so glad to celebrate Pops' birthday together [...]


Celebrating after Russell's music concert!


Russ has been so excited to join the swim team this year, and he made it through his first practice on Monday. His coach is great, being very patient with the group of younger kids who can't make it the full 25 yards in one go just yet. Russ was all smiles when he got out of the pool!

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Russ's spring music concert

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