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Preview: Jen and Derrick: Just Life

Team Teal



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



Updated: 2016-12-04T09:14:41.333-05:00

 




2016-11-30T11:06:26.786-05:00

Thanksgiving in Florida This year, we headed down to Florida to spend Thanksgiving with Jen's mom and Aunt Jane, who was in from England for the week. We had Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday evening instead of Thursday. Why, you might ask? So we could spend Thanksgiving day on the beach! It was 80 degrees, sunny, and the perfect day to enjoy the white sandy beaches of Anna Maria Island. Back at Grammy's house, Graham won his first game of Scrabble. And Russell and Graham worked on their Checkers skills. And of course, we all played in the pool. We think the boys racked up at least 3 hours a day while we were there, and they only got out because we told them they needed a break. The trip was really relaxing and a nice break from the cold in Michigan (which, we will remind you, we've actually only been dealing with for a few weeks thanks to a very warm fall). [...]




2016-11-17T17:26:44.972-05:00

At Graham's conference, his teacher shared math tests, spelling lists, journals, etc. But our favorite was his Mission Statement. 






2016-11-15T22:30:40.842-05:00

This Saturday, Graham's Jr. First Lego League team--self-named the Trans Lego Team -- had their exhibition at the high school. The FLL Jr. program is the beginning stages of the nationwide FIRST Robotics League, which teaches young people advanced programming skills in a creative and competitive atmosphere. For the young students, there is simple programming all based on an annual theme. This year's theme was "Bees," and their task was to use Legos to build a scene that showed a bee, their chosen predator animal (a bear), and the bee's habitat. In addition, they had to program one movable component.  Their team, coached by two team members' moms, was a terrific group of 1st and 2nd grade boys, several of whom were close friends before the season began. They met once a week after school and learned lots about teamwork, bees (including research in books and at a local nature center), programming, and patience! All of the teams in this FIRST Lego  League showcase their work at a massive exhibition in November. It is so special to have 1st graders through seniors in high school all displaying their robotics creations in one place. Here is their team's creation. The moving/programmed piece was a bee that was programmed to fly in a circle and make a buzzing noise. During the exhibition, the high-school-age Lego Robotics students ran activities for the younger kids. Here, the boys took turns adding body parts to one another's animal drawings. The idea was that by the end, there was a creative creature that couldn't have been invented without all 6 minds working together. It was a super cute idea.   Some kids named their final creatures things like "Stinky" and "Donkey Pig." Graham, currently immersed in a book based on Greek mythology, named his "Hellhound." We got some strange looks. Part of the exhibition includes the team presenting to a judge. They had practiced what to talk about at their last meeting, and they did a nice job with it. They talked about their design, their program, and what they learned. The judge was terrific at prompting the kids, and we were excited to hear how enthusiastic they all were about wanting to work together again next year. One of the neatest parts of the exhibition is the younger kids getting to see where Lego robotics can take them. This is a picture of what middle school Lego Robotics kids create! These robots shoot baskets, and Graham's team had been visited by this older group at one of their meetings. Needless to say, they thought the big kids were SO COOL! We wish we'd taken a good photo of the high school teams. They had a full-blown Battle Bots scenario set up in the gym. Below is a video clip from news coverage a year ago of what high school Robotics is all about. It is incredibly awesome to see what they know by the time they are in high school! allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/APQuqV2xuNs" width="560"> Each team receives recognition for something in their project, and Graham's team earned the "Master Programmers" award. They were so excited! Joining this team happened on a whim on the invitation from one of Graham's friends. We are so glad he joined, as it has given him a fantastic outlet for his creativity and love of Legos and programming, as well as a great place to spend time with some of his best buddies! [...]




2016-11-16T06:04:23.375-05:00

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2016-11-15T22:10:20.169-05:00

LEAVES! Lots and lots of leaves. This is round 2 of what we hope will only be 3 rounds.


In addition to being good for jumping in, it turns out leaves are good for reading in as well!






2016-11-02T10:18:06.176-04:00

Halloween 2016 This year, we had a pirate (Graham) and a viking (Russ). We had exceptionally warm weather this year, which made for lots of fun Halloween events. This was taken before we headed out for Trunk-or-Treat at church. Here is the camping-themed trunk of our friends Chris and Susanna, including spider dog Laila. We then had the annual Halloween bash at the kids' school. Here is Russ with Magda and Justina. And here's Graham with their little brother, Lesh. ] Then there was trick-or-treating on Halloween itself. We were invited to go with Oliver and his cousins, and we all had a blast! Here are the kids after trick-or-treating getting ready to trade with one another for their favorites. This worked out especially well with Graham, who got rid of almost all of his dairy-filled candy in exchange for some of his favorites, like Skittles. Another fun year! [...]




2016-10-23T12:29:25.119-04:00

Russ has had a busy two weeks at school. The local fire department came for their annual visit, and the kids clearly enjoyed climbing around in the firetruck and checking out the equipment. Apparently, his teacher also volunteered to put on all the gear and was shocked by how heavy it all was. Here's Russell playing dress-up with his friend Max. Meanwhile, Graham's class took their fall trip to the school nature center. They explored a variety of nuts and seeds. And they got to taste vegetables from the nature center garden. Graham's favorite was the radish! Derrick then accompanied Russell and his class on their fall trip to the school farm. Russell thought the goats were pretty funny. And he even got to milk one! The kids love their field trips, and though we've said it once, we'll say it again: we are so fortunate to have a farm and a nature center right inside the district!  [...]




2016-10-22T22:33:28.056-04:00

Russ is all about styling his hair ... wild style! And of course Bear Bear had to be in the picture. Russ said he forgot to smile, though.






2016-10-16T20:48:17.623-04:00

What does fall mean in Michigan? Apple picking! We had a pretty perfect day for it, too. We headed out to Erwin's Orchards right after Russ's gymnastics class and were done by the time the lunch crowds were rolling in.  The apple crop is not great this year, so we only had Golden Delicious or Jonagold apples to choose from, but we still managed to pick half a bushel (about 45 apples).  This was the first year that Russ could climb the trees by himself, and he really got up there! Graham was able to use his reach to get the apples from the very, very top of some of the trees! After apple picking, the boys enjoyed some time in the bounce houses set up near the orchards, and Graham tried the human version of Hungry, Hungry Hippos. Now it's time for apple pies and apple sauce! [...]




2016-10-15T20:20:21.187-04:00

The boys decided they wanted to do some artwork today. Russell covered every square inch of his paper with paint and ended up with a very colorful painting. Graham painted a vase with flowers.






2016-10-07T14:46:26.821-04:00

Graham after his Fun Run today at school






2016-09-27T17:58:33.418-04:00

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2016-09-27T14:44:00.005-04:00

This is Russ last week on National Pirate Day at school (yes, that's actually a thing). Russell has also started gymnastics, and he is loving it. Here he is on the parallel bars. And here he is trying to get himself into a perfectly straight plank against the wall. On Saturday, we were invited over to our friend Kasia and Lech's house. Their daughter, Magda, and Russ were in preschool together last year, and we hit it off with their family right away. By the end of the evening, the kids had reached silly level 100! And the dads were looking very dapper indeed. [...]




2016-09-27T19:38:56.570-04:00

A couple of action shots from Graham's soccer game last week







2016-09-21T14:23:44.819-04:00

We never understand why so many people say that the boys look "exactly alike." We think they actually don't look that similar. But then, when Jen picked them up from school yesterday, we realized the problem... keep in mind that they both dress themselves!


And they're even both carrying a little Star Wars notebook!





2016-09-09T20:08:40.601-04:00

First Day of School They were so excited to go to school that they left almost half an hour early! 4-year-old preschool 2nd grade   Graham and Benjamin are in the same class. He was pretty excited! And we know these two trouble makers! [...]




2016-09-05T10:04:34.249-04:00

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2016-09-05T10:01:37.568-04:00

What better way to end a summer than with family?! We spent a short but wonderful weekend in Pittsburgh with Pops and Ama and all Jen's siblings with their families.  Here's Avery, Graham, Lauren, and Andy playing with a ball ramp. Here are the boys (Russ, Graham, Jack, and Andy) playing a hodge podge game of dinosaurs and trucks. Here's Avery being tickled by Erik. This is Ama bravely organizing painting crafts for Graham, Russ, and Andy. Emma had a hilarious and very sweet obsession with Avery. We figured maybe she thought Avery was like a live baby doll. Emma was very gentle with her! We went to North Park on Saturday for a picnic lunch, playing on the playgrounds, and some kayaking for Jen with Graham and Russ, Dave with Andy, and Paul with Jack. Back at the house, Pops and Ama had some awesome water toys outside. Lauren loved the inflatable giraffe. Most of the kids spent their time on the slip 'n slide, which was a big success! Of course there was time for food, too. Feeding 17 is no easy feat, but many hands make light(er) work. We grilled out and let the kids get messy on the deck. Pops had some time on Sunday to teach Graham how to play a strategy game from his childhood, L'Attaque (now called Stratego). Graham is hooked! It was a whirlwind two days, full of tons of fun. Can't wait to see everyone again! [...]




2016-08-23T09:59:16.973-04:00

We just got back from another terrific long weekend in Lexington for the Watson-Teal-Von Erck-Tunison reunion. We arrived mid-day Friday (having stopped at Belle Tire to have what turned out to be half a screwdriver removed from Derrick's tire) and met up with almost everyone at the cottage. While the Von Ercks rested after a morning at the beach, we headed down to Lake Huron for a couple of hours in the sun and sand. The lake was chilly, but not as cold as it sometimes is! Before dinner, all the kids headed down to the playground for some time together. Here's the crew, minus baby Charlotte; she'll be ready for this photo next year! The boys love being together, and it didn't take long before their shenanigans made their way to Grandma and Papa D's big bed. Feeding all 15 of us is becoming quite the enterprise. Isla was happy to help Aunt Jamie shuck corn, and Papa D made some delicious blackened salmon.  This might be a good time to note that while Derrick spent last year's reunion largely incapacitated due to a crushed big toe, Papa D took his turn this year with a knee injury. He was really sad to miss the beach trips! Here are most of the kids enjoying some "walking tacos" out on the back porch and the same crew having hamburgers and hotdogs in the kitchen. One night, Nancy and Daniel held down the fort after bedtime (that's 7 kids!) so that the siblings could go out. We went to the fairly new local microbrewery and had a blast hanging out! Here are the mobile kiddos and Grandma outside the General Store, where she treated them to their choice of goodies from the candy counter.  We really lucked out with the weather this weekend; though there were tornadoes in western Michigan, we had largely clear skies and warm weather while we were there, which meant lots of good beach time for the cousins. Miss Isla Mae Russ and Luke Stef, Isla, and Nancy Derrick decided to bury Graham at one point. This of course meant that he also ended up burying Russell, Flynn,  and Ashton. Steve, Jamie and Charlotte came down for a bit of beach time, too. Look at those adorable sunglasses! Grandma had planned a couple of neat crafts for the kids. The first was decorating paper bags that they then used to "trick-or-treat" from aunts, uncles, and grandparents for little goodies.  They also made trivets from ceramic tiles, napkins, and modge podge, and they strung beaded necklaces! What would a beach vacation be without smores and a bonfire? One night, we let our two stay up a bit late and roast marshmallows. They then got to sit up with their aunts and uncles, listening to stories around the fire. They thought that was pretty special! Of course there was plenty of time for Charlotte snuggles this weekend. She is such a mellow baby and did so well with all the commotion. Once the Von Ercks and Tunisons headed home on Sunday, we enjoyed one more day at the cottage. Monday morning was a bit chilly, so we took a walk out to the end of the pier. It's just so beautiful! And it was clear enough that Derrick and Graham could just make out windmills on the Canadian coast across the water. It did warm up as the day went on, so we spent one last day at the beach. Graham was particularly proud of the sand castle he built, which included two towers, a jail, a court, and a moat. And on Monday night, before we headed home, we enjoyed a delicious dinner out at Wind Jammers restaurant, right on the harb[...]




2016-08-23T09:43:08.213-04:00

On Sunday, Grammy arrived for a visit from Florida. We had a busy 4 days full of all sorts of activities. On Sunday night, Grammy treated us to sushi at our favorite local restaurant, Yotsuba.  The boys were great, but you can't take these two anywhere! Another important food outing was to take Grammy to our favorite bakery, Bake Station Too. Grammy got to meet our favorite bakers, and everyone enjoyed a morning donut outside. On Monday, we headed over to a place that has an outdoor climbing wall and trampolines. Russell ending up deciding he'd rather not try it, so Graham and Jen had a go instead.  From there, were went to play miniature golf. It was a place we hadn't been before, and we really liked their course. In fact, we ended up going to play again on Wednesday morning! During the Monday game, all four of us got a hole-in-one! Tuesday was rainy, and we decided to head to Ann Arbor to the Hands-On Children's Museum. We've been meaning to go for years but never got around to it. Graham really liked a coding machine, where the lights were used as code and could be seen by a similar station across the room to enable coded conversations. Russell loved this magnetic liquid machine. The mercury would form into shapes depending on where you positioned the magnets. They also had a bubble machine, which you could use to form a bubble all around yourself. They had an ambulance, which Russell was very eager to drive and a smaller-scale climbing wall, which was perfect for Russell. There were really a lot of exhibits there, and we spent a good part of the day investigating and playing, Once we were home, the boys decided to do an experiment after Graham had been playing with his Magic Science kit. The experiment, using items from the pantry, turned into a cooking experiment. The boys decided it would be a cookie, so they had to decorate them, of course. And then everyone was obliged to taste one after dinner. The ingredients included cumin, paprika, black pepper, coriander, whole peanuts, bread, flour, egg, baking soda, baking powder, and more! Graham then decided he wanted to make a website where he could show off his recipes. Here it is! [...]




2016-08-14T06:54:45.741-04:00

We had a great visit with cousin Charlotte (and her parents) today! Jamie and Steve brought her over to hang out for the afternoon, and it was so nice to see them and catch up. 


Charlotte is such a smiley baby!


tummy time


The visit was so exhausting that she just couldn't keep her eyes open anymore.






2016-08-12T07:07:48.344-04:00

Since we got back from England, life has been pretty relaxed around here. Jen and the boys spend almost every day at the pool, which is a great perk since the weather has been beastly hot. But it also means we've sort of forgotten to take pictures lately. Here are a few random ones from the last two weeks.

Here's Russ in his uniform. He often comes out of his room like this first thing in the morning, recently also wearing his new, bright orange gym shoes.


We've also recently seen a bit more of the deer that live in the woods behind the house. Early in the spring, we saw mom with three babies, and the other afternoon, this little one decided to rest right in our neighbor's back yard. So cute!


And Graham has been devouring the set of Roald Dahl books given to him and Russell by Jen's Aunt Jane. It's great to have him on another series so we can space out the library trips a bit more again.






2016-08-01T17:05:17.736-04:00

It is officially the end of swim team season at our club, and we are so proud of our swimmer! This was a terrific experience for him all around. And although we were very impressed with all the swimming, we've been most pleased by how confident Graham has become and how proud he is of his efforts. A HUGE shout-out goes to Russell, who endured practices every day and long, long swim meets without being able to go in the pool. He is SUPER excited to join his brother in the water next summer.

Here's Graham at his last meet, at which he had to swim butterfly for the first and last time, but at which he also got to compete on a relay doing the 50m freestyle (his favorite, but double his normal distance).


And here are the boys enjoying the end-of-season banquet.





U.K. Trip 2016: An Adventurous Drive to Wales

2016-07-26T20:19:32.872-04:00

Back in February, we booked flights for an 11 day vacation in the U.K. The kids and Derrick hadn't been in 3 years, and we were eager to see Jen's family.  We also decided that it would be nice to spend a few days in Cardiff, Wales (where Jen's grandma was born and raised) before heading to England.  After looking at dozens of accommodations in Wales, Jen found a beautiful cottage on a farm outside Cardiff in the Vale of Glamorgan. What she did not realize was that this cottage was so rural that the road on which it sits is called "Unnamed Road" by GPS. It's located in a village called Peterston-Super-Ely, whose population is 800! This meant that after landing in London, Derrick (driving a Mitsubishi Outlander on the other side of the road) got to try to navigate some absurdly tiny "streets" while recovering from jet lag.  In retrospect, this may not have been the best idea. But we carried on, and we were just 10 minutes from the cottage when a truck coming the other way forced Derrick to hug his side of the road and come smack up against something metal on the roadside. We heard the tire pop, and the low pressure light went on right away. Keep in mind that it was 4:00pm on a Friday in a tiny Welsh village, and we had no working cell phone. We drove about 500 yards on the flat to a parking lot, and Jen got out to explore.  It turned out that the building was the Pendoylan Church in Wales Primary School, and there were a few teachers just packing up for the day. One lovely woman stayed for 30 minutes while we used her classroom phone to call for a tow truck. She even made the boys paper airplanes! We ended up having to get towed to the town of Bridgend, where a tire store open for another 30 minutes was able to replace our flat tire. Again, the tow truck driver and garage went out of their way to help us (even taking us to the local grocery store to get a few things to feed our hungry boys some dinner), and we were blown away by how kind everyone was. By 8:00pm, very tired and extremely frazzled, we finally made it to the cottage. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/s9XfZT4VCcM" width="560"> Thankfully a few remaining hours of daylight allowed us to appreciate just how beautiful our surroundings were. Uwch-y-Lllyn (the cottage) is part of a larger farmhouse in which the owners live. It backs to their farmland, full of sheep, ducks, geese, dogs, and lots and lots of horses. In the morning, the kids jumped right in and got to exploring. The family owns two dogs. Millie--we couldn't believe she shared our sweet girl's name--is their Labrador, and Meg is their Welsh Sheepdog. We did also get to meet Millie's mom, Ruby. The boys loved walking the trails with the dogs and petting the horses. allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/tu7EOaMLk9U" width="560"> [...]



The Dr. Who Experience and Cardiff Bay

2016-07-26T20:04:19.648-04:00

Our first full day in Wales was cool and cloudy, so we thought an indoor excursion would fit best. We drove the 20 minutes or so to Cardiff Bay to go to the Dr. Who Experience (we are huge fans of the series). Here are Jen and the boys outside this custom-made building for the exhibit. Just inside the doors, we saw a weeping angel statue waiting to greet us, which only served to make everyone more excited. The first part of the adventure takes visitors on a special effects journey on a simulated adventure with The Doctor. The kids got to try driving the Tardis, and Graham found a crystal to save us all from some alien spider creatures!  After the adventure, you get to go through to the museum, which showcases the actual set pieces and costumes used on the show. Here are Graham and Russ with some Daleks, a deadly robot race that is trying to exterminate everything in the galaxy. The costumes were probably the most impressive part of the whole experience. They are so intricate and beautiful in their design, and we spent a lot of time looking at all the costumes they've displayed. They had a few larger pieces, which were set up as a part of a whole set. It was fascinating being able to walk around and get a sense of what the actors feel and see during filming. They had several iterations of the Tardis interior (Dr. Who's ship). Graham is standing by one of the old consoles from the 70s, Russ by one from the 80s, and then both boys by the most recently used interior model. Here are the boys controlling a Dalek from the inside. This is the outside of Dr. Who's ship, the Tardis. It's bigger on the inside. After seeing the Doctor Who Experience, it was just a short walk to Cardiff Bay, which is full of shops, restaurants, boats, a carousel, and more. Despite the cool weather, it seemed silly to not get ice cream. The boys rode the carousel. And then they climbed around on some old cannons. The view from Cardiff Bay is really quite stunning. It's not captured as well as we'd like in this photo since it was overcast, but it's really a beautiful spot.  Our day in Cardiff Bay was jam-packed, and we were glad to get back to the cottage to unwind. [...]