Sunday, November 30, 2008

Be still

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him
Psalm 37:7 NIV

Saturday, November 29, 2008

A good day...

is when your pie crust works
I baked six pies Wednesday morning--four pumpkin and two blueberry. I took two pumpkin pies and a blueberry pie to the Thanksgiving dinner for International students at SVSU. The other pies were to take to Adrian along with pies and cake that Mom and Naomi baked. I am a fearless woman, at least that's what Joel's friend Chris told me after he ate a piece of pumpkin pie a few years ago. He said that some people are afraid of putting too many spices in their pie, but not me.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Glimpses of Thanksgiving

Uncle Paul carved the turkey, just like in one of Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms."

The girls and Mom helped clear the table and then Dad took a turn washing dishes while Naomi and I snapped photos.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I'm thankful for...

a happy, blessed time with family last year.
Left to right: My parents, Leon and Wendy, Logan, Naomi, me, Merv and Ruth Potteiger (our pastor and wife), Julie, Brian, Betsy, Libby, Grandpa and his friend Arlene Faulhaber, Aunt Carolyn, Aaron.

Two years ago, my family ate Thanksgiving dinner with our extended family in Adrian. We hadn't planned to celebrate the holiday together, but my Grandma (Dad's Mom) had exploratory surgery the day before Thanksgiving and we all gathered to be with her. The doctors weren't sure she would make it through surgery, but she did and while the rest of us ate turkey at her house, Dad kept Grandma company at the hospital. In the evening we gathered in her hospital room and sang with her. We brought her home the next Monday, with the help of Hospice, and we cared for her for the next six months until she passed away in May.

It was so good to sit around our table with family last Thanksgiving, instead of spending the weekend in hospital waiting rooms. On our table, beside each plate, we placed five kernels of corn to remind us of the starving time the Pilgrims experienced their first November in the New World. We passed around the bowl and each person placed a kernel of corn in the bowl and shared one thing he or she is thankful for. We were especially thankful to be celebrating Thanksgiving with my Grandpa (Mom's Dad).

Thanksgiving Day was the last time Grandpa left his house, except a trip to the doctor's office. Over the next few weeks we helped my aunt care for him with the aid of Hospice. He passed away in January.

My uncle and his family graciously invited us to spend Thanksgiving with them this year, for which we were all thankful. It's been difficult to imagine celebrating Thanksgiving and Christmas without grandparents. We have so many memories, both happy and sad. But God is good. From Adrian we plan to travel to Northern Indiana to visit friends for a few days.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Aaron removing the rim from a tractor tire.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Libby with Fatso's kid (left) and Little Man (right). Little Man is Libby's goat. Libby and Brian raised him last year after his mama, Bossy, died. Little Man had a broken leg--probably from Bossy kicking him when he tried to nurse and she had sore teats. His leg healed over the summer. He's now the biggest of last year's kids and Libby is training him to pull a cart. 

Fatso's kid chews on Libby's kerchief. 

This one is for those of you who found Snowy so handsome and attractive. He's still visiting our farm. He's not quite so stinky as he was when he first arrived. Libby tells me that he makes funny sounds and sticks out his tongue when he's after the girl goats. He was tied up on Saturday because one of last year's kids was in heat and Brian didn't want her to have kids.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Sewing roses

Libby sewed on the last button Saturday and completed her latest sewing project. She fashioned a dress with a full skirt out of a rose print and then added a vest of a coordinating green fabric. Libby discovered she enjoys sewing and has made most of her own clothes. Naomi's sewing skills have improved in the last few months and she's sewing her own outfits as well. Julie and Betsy will probably pull their sewing scissor and patterns out in a few weeks during the college break. And I will admire their work and give them button matching advice and be thankful that I'm not the one trying to follow pattern directions. 

Sunday, November 23, 2008


There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.
Hebrews 4:9

Saturday, November 22, 2008


By yesterday afternoon I was bored. The house was quiet--not just quieter than usual, but absolutely quiet. No one was talking or practicing the piano or singing or yelling or listening to a tape or talking on the phone. Julie and Aaron were working, Betsy was writing a paper on her laptop, Mom was sorting through piles of paper, and everyone else was lying around sleeping. I worked on homework and then worked on some more homework and then ate lunch (I was the only person in the house who had lunch yesterday) and worked on more homework. 

By the afternoon I had a lot of homework done and I was bored! I never remember our house being so quiet for so long. Since there was no one doing anything interesting for me to photograph, I resorted to still life of eggs and bananas. 

By late afternoon the invalids had enough strength to sit or lie on the couches in the living room and talk. Dad collected data and found a correlation between the type of cake we ate Wednesday night at friends' houses and who became ill (Mom, Aaron and I had caramel cake and none of us were sick; the others had chocolate cake and five out of seven were down for the day). I'm skeptical of the chocolate cake theory, but it showed Dad was on the mend since he could talk about food and was analyzing data. 

This morning everyone's up and around with no further casualties.

Friday, November 21, 2008

5 up, 5 down

Cook homeschool is closed today due to the flu. All four students hung their heads over the toilet some time early this morning. Dad is staying home from work--having taken up residence on one of the sofas. So far Mom, Aaron, Julie and Betsy and I have been spared--spared to clean toilets, tend animals, and heat up soup. I was especially sincere this morning when I asked the Lord to bless my bowl of cereal to my good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Goat barn

After five years, the goat barn has a foundation. The next job is to set the multi-sided building on its cement base.

Betsy and Brian learned carpentry as they constructed the building five years ago as a home for Brain's two goats and Betsy's sheep. They planned to pour a foundation after the building was complete, and that task became a necessity when the bottom boards began to rot. 

This year Brian began work on a proper foundation. First he moved the goat barn a few feet from its original location so that he could begin digging the hole. He began building forms before he left for Bible school. Calculating the dimensions for the forms was difficult and involved a lesson or two in geometry. Dad and Logan worked on the forms while Brian was at Bible school and Brian completed them when he returned home. 

The cement truck arrived Tuesday morning and Brian, Libby, Logan and Aaron guided the wet cement into the forms. Now the cement has to cure before the building is set on its new foundation and the goats take possession of their home again.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chicken in the pot

Saturday morning in the grayness of November dawn, Brian, Libby and Logan chased and caught twenty-one squawking chickens. Brian hooked the livestock trailer behind our fifteen passenger van, and later Dad, Mom and some of the children hauled the chickens to Rosebush, Michigan. The Shrock family, who recently came out of the Amish, agreed to butcher our chickens for us again this year. Libby wanted to learn the process, so she stayed to help while the rest of the family returned home.

A few hours later, Mr. Shrock with a daughter and two sons delivered the chickens and Libby to our house. Mr. Shrock was eager for an excuse to practice his driving, since he has his learner's permit and was able to arrange for their former driver to ride along. His daughter told him that he drove like an Amish man.

We had chicken and potatoes for dinner Saturday and chicken and rice soup on Monday evening. The chickens were a little tough. We should have had them butchered earlier, but we didn't have freezer space. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The pavement was clear when I left SVSU yesterday evening. My headlights caught a skiff of snow swirling ahead of me every once in awhile, but otherwise the road was dry. By the time I reached Freeland, I told myself to pay attention. There was snow on the road and the slush on either side of the tire tracks threatened to hijack my car. A few miles from home the slush was replaced with ice. I reached the stoplight half a mile from our house just as it turned yellow. When I touched the brakes my car, Ebenezer, started the hokey-pokey. I decided it was safer to slip through a "pink" light than to try to stop too quickly. It was a "Thank you Jesus" moment when I pulled safely into the driveway.

Logan's snow plow

Monday, November 17, 2008

Indian Cemetery

Dad chose country roads on our drive yesterday afternoon from our church, Bethel Brethren in Christ Church in Merrill, to the Wesleyan Holiness Church in St. Louis. Rather than rush home to gobble our lunch and then leave again, we opted for peanutbutter and jelly sandwiches in the van on our way to an afternoon concert and preaching by a quartet from God's Bible School. It was on our leisurely drive through the middle of Michigan's mitten that we discovered Bethany Indian Cemetery.

In 1845 German Lutherans crossed the ocean to establish the community of Frankenmuth, now "Michigan's Little Bavaria". More settlers followed the original fifteen and established the St. Lorenz church in Frankenmuth and a mission for the Chippewa called Bethany near St. Louis. The cemetery is all that remains of the mission which closed in 1859 when the Chippewa moved to a reservation near Mt. Pleasant. The front of the plot is lined with markers etched with the words, "Indian Child." The sacrifice of one missionary is represented by the graves of his wife and infant child.

Living with Jesus. A History of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saint Lorenz by John G. Deterding

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Prayer request

My parents' hands

If I could, I would cut November 26 to January 21st from the calendar with a pair of scissors and pretend those days don't exist this year. My memories of the past two Thanksgivings and Christmases are intertwined with grandparents dying--first my Grandma Cook and then Grandpa Nelson. I don't have any grandparents left and I don't know how our family will survive the holidays. Please pray that God will drench us with His love the next few weeks so that we can truly love each other.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Birthday Trip

For the past twenty years, our family has celebrated birthdays with trips, mostly to museums in Michigan though we've ventured as far as John Deere headquarters in Illinois. Dad and Mom plan the excursions and when we pull out of the driveway in the van, most of us don't know our destination. 

We celebrated my birthday on Friday since that day fit everyone's schedule. The first stop was the Woolen Mill in Frankenmuth to pick up Betsy's wool quilt battings. From there we drove south and passed the Oink Joint Diner (Sorry, we didn't stop for pictures.) 

We arrived at the Flint Institute of Art in the early afternoon. We'd been to the museum twice before on previous birthday trips, but it was renovated since our last visit. It was brighter with colored walls and not so much ancient Chinese pottery.

We went through the counting routine with the lady at the cash register--how many under eighteen, how many college students and how many adults--with just one mix-up. (I remember the Fredrick Meijer Gardens in Grand Rapids--by the time we all made it in to see the display I wasn't sure the lady could even count anymore.) We clipped on our yellow museum passes and Dad and I snapped on our photo permit badges. 

The first exhibit was a collection of Mexican art, some pieces two or three thousand years old, on loan from a museum in Oklahoma. We also saw displays of lithograms, glass paper weights, American paintings and Euorpean tapestries. The last part of the museum was divided by content--masks from Africa were in an orange room, the native American beaded tobacco pouch was in the golden yellow room, while the carved polar bear from arctic region was displayed in an icy blue-gray room. 

My brothers acted maturely--they didn't complain, though they were bored. My Dad, an engineer, is a logical/mathematical guy, not endowed with much artistic creativity. Art museums aren't his thing, but he knows I enjoy them, and he did have a good time collecting data about the different pieces of art. He was the one we waited for through the museum, because he read every information card on the walls. 

On the way home, we stopped at TSC for cat food and other farm necessities (it's not a complete birthday trip unless you stop for tractor parts or farm supplies). We picked up Aaron at home and headed to the Old Country Buffet in Saginaw. 

I positioned myself where I could watch the self-serve ice cream machine. Once I saw a little kid lick the ice cream right from the machine, but this time I only saw people swish their beverages on the floor as they returned to their seats (Wonder no more about why the floor is so sticky--obviously it's impossible for some people to walk and hold their cups level.) 

My favorite part of the Old Country Buffet is the ice cream machine. I love twirling ice cream in bowls and shutting the machine off at just the right time to make a little curl at the top. After I served my siblings ice cream, we waddled next door to the Christian bookstore before we finally returned home.

Brian and Logan reminded Dad of the lumberyard--
lots of bored feet and slumber.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Even in a ten person household there are still times when everyone else is too busy to pose for a portrait.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Aaron, Brian and Betsy returned last Monday night from Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Aaron and Brian attended the week-long Bible school hosted by Charity Fellowship. Betsy flew out for the weekend to join them.

Brian is a homebody and it was his first time away for that long without the rest of the family. Tuesday he talked and talked and talked. One of the girls said, "I don't think Brian has talked that much before in his life." I agreed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cake mathematics

We ate warm carrot cake with melted cream cheese frosting for my birthday. When Naomi asked what kind of cake I would like, I didn't consider mud cake, though Naomi concocted such a confection this summer for her play bakery (photo above). 

When I was younger I reasoned that smaller families ate more birthday cake. One cake mix makes the same size cake no matter the size of your family. Therefore I concluded that children in smaller families ate more cake because they had more leftovers.

Dad set up a math problem for me in which we hypothetically examined the cake consumption of two families--a family with four members and a larger family with eight members--through a year. A cake was baked for each member's birthday. We assumed that the cakes were the same size and divided evening among family members.

Family A (four member)
At each birthday each member receives a quarter of the cake. At the end of the year, each member has consumed the equivalent of an entire cake. 

Family B (eight members)
At each birthday each member receives an eighth of the cake. At the end of the year each member consumed the equivalent of an entire cake. 

Conclusion: Each person received the same amount of cake, no matter how it was initially divided.

Of course, life isn't hypothetical. From my more mature view, I can see advantages of large families (in our problem we assume all cakes were the same size, but last night my cake was 11x14". That's bigger than the typical 9x13" cake). The advantages aren't limited to cake consumption though. Nothing beats younger siblings who are more excited about your birthday than you are. Logan was so pleased with the present he bought me that I had to open it before lunch. Naomi created a birthday card for me, complete with a sketch of me wearing the hat she hates. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A year ago

This was my birthday morning greeting from God last year as I stood on the side of the mountain in New Holland, Pennsylvania. I watched morning wake the valley below, and breathed the moist morning air. It was a busy weekend of too many people recycling stuffy air on a three-day trip to visit my siblings at the Charity Youth Bible School. Those few moments alone Sunday morning on the mountain revived my spirit and assured me that God cared for me and remembered my birthday.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Johnny Jump-ups

I took this bouquet of Johnny Jump-ups and one Pansy to church yesterday. I was pleased to find flowers in our garden in November. These volunteer Johnny Jump-ups thrive on cool weather. They grow near the ground, and thus survived the frost that caused the rest of the garden to droop. 


Kendra and Caleb

Our church gathered for fellowship at the Bylers' home Friday evening. The last activity of the evening was modified apple bobbing. Amanda had apples ready with strings tied to their stems and David hung them, two at a time, from the doorway. The goal was to bite the apple. It's difficult to chomp on a swinging apple without using your hands but a few talented (and large mouthed) individuals managed to do it. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008


"I knew you were going to come out and take my picture," Libby said as she hauled her five-gallon buckets back to the barn after feeding and watering her chickens. She is such a cute farm girl in her pink vest and blue scarf.

Since Brian has been at Bible school in Pennsylvania this week, Libby has been feeding and tending his horses, cow, and goats in addition to her chickens. Dad helps her with the evening chores after he returns home from work. Thankfully Brian dried up his goats before he left. Otherwise Libby would be milking every morning and evening.  

Friday, November 7, 2008


Naomi and I love picnics. In the summer we eat lunch outside nearly every day, usually on the front porch. It's not often warm enough to eat outside in November, so we took advantage of the sunshine yesterday. Libby, Logan and Naomi completed their morning jobs by ten o'clock and we celebrated with hot dogs, chips and mini donuts that Logan chose at the corner gas station/party store. 

We ate lunch on our second story deck on the back of the house. It was warmer there, on the south side of the house with the sun reflecting off the white siding. It was our first time to use the table and umbrella that we picked up for free by the side of the road this summer. Some of my siblings act embarrassed by road-side scavenging, but Mom and I congratulated ourselves on our find.

Logan arranging lawn chairs on the deck.

Naomi devouring her hot dog.

Thursday, November 6, 2008


Hebrews 13.3

Pray for our brothers and sisters 
who are being persecuted for their faith

For more information visit Voice of the Martyrs

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

New Camera

After my camera malfunctioned once in May I asked God to provide me with a new camera. Dad bought my Konica Minolta DiMAGE Z6 three years ago for my birthday and it has been my nearly constant companion since. It's been a valuable tool and I've shot thousands of photos. It began exhibiting signs in the past months that reminded me that it would not last forever. So I prayed and began looking at cameras (Side note: Don't look at cameras unless you plan to purchase one. When I first searched on the Internet I was just looking to see what was available. By the time I closed the browser I was thinking about which camera and accessories I wanted to buy).  

God abundantly blessed our blueberry harvest this year and I earned enough to stash some money in my savings account and purchase a camera. On Friday a Canon Rebel XSi arrived. Now I'm praying that my wimpy wrists will adjust to a bigger camera. Here is a sample of the photos I've shot. I'm still experimenting with the settings and discovering new features.

If you look closely you can see spittle on Logan's lip. I'm glad to have a brother young enough to drive tiny tractors across the carpet while producing tractor sounds. Soon he will join his brothers in driving the big ones across the field.

My niece

Julie is always willing to pose for me

Abstract art

Dad's blue-eyed beauties

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day

Election day is a time to meet neighbors. At ten thirty when Mom and I arrived at the township hall, the line stretched to the door. As usual, there was no line for the other precinct. Still, our line moved at a reasonable pace. Along with electing officials from president to township clerk, we voted on two Michigan proposals--one to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes and the other concerning embryonic stem cell research. 

Endue with the spirit of wisdom 
those to whom in thy Name 
we entrust the authority of government, 
that there may be justice and peace at home, 
and that, through obedience to thy law, 
we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth.
"Prayer for Our Country," Book of Common Prayers

Monday, November 3, 2008

Time to cry

The movers are coming this week to Joel and Judith's apartment. They will pack their belongings in boxes and load the boxes and Ford Focus in a semi-truck to haul to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Joel begins his new job, designing combine headers, next week.

I am excited for my brother. Since he was a little boy Joel has dreamed of farm machinery. But I'm sorry for myself--ten hours is a long, long, long drive.