Saturday, February 28, 2009


Lord of the past, present, and future--
These worries, cares and fears,
I give them all to you.
Please fill me with your love
and grant me peace and rest.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Reading required

At first I was puzzled. Then I laughed.

Last week I offered my eleventh grade students an opportunity to earn extra credit. Some of them have whined about having to read Frankenstein. Since they obviously have an opinion about the subject, I asked them to write a persuasive essay about whether the novel Frankenstein should continue to be required reading.

Today I collected the essays (all four of them). When I came to one essay, a sheet of line paper three-quarters covered with scribbling, I read and re-read the first few sentences. My student had interpreted the prompt to ask whether Frankenstein should be required to learn to read. I laughed and laughed.

He supported his opinion that Frankenstein should learn to read by noting that if Frankenstein married, his wife would want him to know how to read. Also, if he had children he could help them to learn to read.

Before the students handed in their essays I had them write the three strongest aspect of their essay (from a list of seven possibilities including organization, conventions, presentation) on the top of their paper. I told them I would grade their essay according to the criteria they had noted. The student who placed Frankenstein in the remedial reading class can be thankful that he chose voice, presentation and sentence fluency rather than ideas or conventions. 

I was generous and gave him half of the possible points.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Naomi's amaryllis

For Christmas I gave my Sunday school students each an amaryllis bulb. Naomi planted her bulb and placed the pot near her desk in the schoolroom. Once it began to bloom, she transfered the plant to the dining room table for all of us to enjoy. On Sunday we wrapped it in plastic and took it to church to add a little color to the front of the building.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Happy birthday

~ Love you more than picnics ~

Monday, February 23, 2009


"I wish she had been wearing her seat-belt," someone said. She probably would have climbed from the vehicle, rather than being carried strapped to a backboard.

Libby watched through the kitchen window as a pickup truck hit a patch of ice on the road and the vehicle spun out of control to eventually lodge backward in the county drainage ditch. 

For the next hour we watched as the local volunteer fire department, followed by the EMTs and then the sherriff's deputy responded to the accident. Libby and Logan walked across the snow covered field to offer a blanket and Libby's account of the incident.

After minutes of preparation and consultation, the medical personnel managed to extract the driver after removing the back window of the pickup truck. Strapped to a backboard, she was transported to the hospital to receive treatment for what appeared to be a compound fracture to her leg.  

The tow trucks were just arriving as we left for church in the evening. We always buckle our seat-belts, usually out of habit, but yesterday it was more than just habit.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sticker stock

I don't remember asking the Lord specifically for stickers. I probably mentioned it, but it wasn't a major topic of conversation. 

In the back of my mind, I've been planning to buy stickers for the past month of so. I need them for a reward for a assignment I plan to give my Sunday school class. This week I even wrote the word "stickers" on my to-do list. I planned to order stickers online this weekend, since I didn't have the will-power to force myself to head to north of town toward the big stores and the mall.

I may not have specifically mentioned my need of stickers, but I specifically thanked God when my need was provided. After my seminar at SVSU on Friday, I rode along with Mom and most of the rest of the family to our favorite Amish stores in Clare. Our second stop was the ding-and-dent store, and as I waited near the check-out I spotted a box with the sign, "stickers $0.25."  

Immediately I began rooting through the cardboard box, pulling out packets of stickers of dogs, stars, hot rod cars, ice cream, American flags, ladybugs. I paid less for twenty packets of stickers than I would have paid for three packets at regular price.

Our next stop was the hardware store and I added three more packets of stickers (the price wasn't quite as good, but I wanted a few more stickers that would appeal to boys) and ten butterfly pencils to my collection. 

Unexpectedly, in a few minutes, without the effort of an extra trip to town or the added expense of postage, I had in my hands the stickers I need for Sunday school. 

I am often tempted to think that God has overlooked me--that somewhere in the portals of Heaven my needs have been buried under a stack of worthier or more urgent requests. That's when I need a reminder. Friday God provided stickers for Sunday school class, not just to meet my immediate need, but also to demonstrate that He is interested and involved in even the minutest details of my life. 

And my God will meet all your needs 
according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus
Philippians 4.19 NIV

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bean salad

Every Saturday Naomi prepares salad--gelatin and fruit, taco salad, coleslaw, broccoli salad, apple-grape salad, cottage cheese and tomatoes--for Sunday dinner. Last week she combined cans of beans with sugar and vinegar for bean salad (and the empty pimiento jar and lone kidney bean in the sink inspired "Big Deal").

I'm hoping that one of my readers will leave a comment testimonial for bean salad. I personally don't care for salads, except the lettuce kind, and I politely pass the bowl at Sunday dinner without sampling the combinations. But Sunday salads are the highlight of Julie's dinner, and I'm sharing this recipe for those of you who will appreciate a vinegary blend of five varieties of beans.

Bean Salad
2 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
1 can yellow beans, drained
1 can red kidney beans, drained
1 can green beans, drained
1 can garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
1 can lima beans, drained
1 jar pimientos, drained
1 onion, sliced
1 green pepper, diced

Combine vinegar and sugar in a sauce pan and bring to boil over medium heat. Remove from heat and let cool. In a bowl combine beans, pimientos, onion and pepper. Pour vinegar mixture over beans. Stir and marinate in the refrigerator overnight. To serve, drain liquid from beans (reserving the liquid to add to leftover salad).

Friday, February 20, 2009


           a vase

Thursday, February 19, 2009


After finishing a partially completed 3D puzzle of Notre Dame, Logan recognized the potential of the huge, old Cathedral. He renovated the building to serve as a parking structure for his farm equipment, machinery and trucks. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Girl party

Brother Duford thought Kendra was joking when she told him she enjoyed tea parties. Given the context of goat butchering when the conversation took place, Brother Duford's disbelief is understandable. But when nine of us girls met at the Bylers' house on Monday afternoon it was indeed for a tea party--a pink, girlie party, complete with heart-shaped party favors and plenty of chocolate.

Last year we began the tradition of holding a post-Valentine's Day party for ourselves. None of us were presented with chocolate and roses by dashing young gentlemen, so we bought treats for ourselves on clearance after the hooplah of the holiday passed. Then we asked ourselves out for a date.

Our tea was delightful and after a brief appearance by a young gentleman (don't crash our party, boy!), most of the Byler and Cook girls headed to town to shop for a present for our niece's birthday in July. On the way home the girls picked up a "chick flick" from the library, which they watched at our house after a brief group photo shoot. I missed most of the fifties musical, but from the uproarious laughter I heard in my bedroom, I can attest that the entertainment was a success.

Amanda serves mocha punch, while Kendra prepares to pour tea for her guests.

Rebekah received the doorprize--a stuffed dog with a rose in his mouth--after discovering a princess band-aid on the bottom of her chair.

Our dearly departed friends/sisters (and one brother/brother-in-law and niece) who now reside in Pennsylvania and were unable to join in the festivities.

Naomi waits for the rest of the girls to gather for a group photo.

The Forsee girls had to leave early, but the rest of us managed to pose for a fairly painless group portrait.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Rough day

"So glad it's Friday"
Friday, February 13
Photo credit: Naomi Cook

Monday, February 16, 2009

Big deal

Every Meal Becomes A Big Deal When You Add Pimientos

Sunday, February 15, 2009

When you have eaten

and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God 
for the good land he has given you. 
Deuteronomy 8:10 NIV

Saturday, February 14, 2009


The closely observed, often photographed, finally blooming amaryllis

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ups and downs

"How's teaching going?" 
I smile as I try to answer. It depends on the day, and sometimes the hour or even the minute you ask me. Student teaching is challenging. It's demanding. But it's also rewarding in its own crazy way. 

Here's a glance at yesterday...
1st hour--Prep with the math teacher. Learned that an issue from yesterday--a guardian who didn't think I should have given a student a detention because it would discourage him--was resolved. The teacher and principal both backed me, and after talking with the student the guardian agreed.
2nd hour--11th grade English. I collected study guides over four chapters in Frankenstein. We went to a computer lab and students completed a creative writing assignment they began yesterday, along with a short worksheet about the myth of Prometheus. I gave one student an alternative assignment due to personal issues.
3rd hour--8th grade math. I supervised as representatives from each group of students wrote the answer to an assigned volume problem from yesterday on the board. Then I passed out a worksheet and managed to work individually with a few students to correct their quizzes from last week. The student who received the detention yesterday was cooperative and had done his homework.
Lunch--in honor of Darwin the discussion in the teachers' lounge was unusually animated and focused on evolution. Two teachers proclaimed their disgust with anyone who believed in a literal six-day creation despite the abounding facts and logic that support evolution. I wasn't offended, though I was amused. At one point I turned to the woman sitting next to me and said, "I believe in the literal creation."
4th hour--11th grade English. I repeated the lesson from 2nd hour. At the start of the hour I met with four students, who were excused for a special band event, to explain their assignments. The printer in the computer lab broke several weeks ago and hasn't been replaced yet, so the students weren't able to print their assignments. I told them to save their document, print it at another time and turn it in on Friday. The girl who has been snobby, because she decided  several weeks ago that she doesn't like me, was polite and respectful today. 
5th hour--Prep. I organized papers and began writing the formal lesson plan for math tomorrow. The math teacher called to ask if I could watch her class while she made a phone call. It took longer than I expected and three of the students were absolutely rotten. I wrote down their names and mentioned it to the teacher when she returned. We will have to deal with it tomorrow.
6th hour--Publications. My host teacher supervised the yearbook staff today. After finishing the math lesson plan for tomorrow, I graded assignments and read creative writing pieces. Some of the students mimicked the language of Frankenstein and their pieces were fun to read. I also entered grades in the computer. Then I glanced over my lesson plans for Friday, organized my materials and decided to leave the rest of the grading for another time and not take any papers home with me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

New tractor

I was home long enough Tuesday afternoon--between school and a seminar at the University--to witness the long anticipated tractor swap. Aaron and Brian arranged to exchanged the MF 1155 and some cash for a Deutz Allis 6250 loader tractor. I snapped a few photos on my way out the driveway to my meeting and when I returned Brian informed me that Joel needed pictures of the tractor. 

But my plan for the evening included a shower and bed, and no one offered a big enough bribe for me to rearrange my schedule. Brian managed to snap a few pictures in the dark to pacify Joel. 

Yesterday evening I took a break from my to-do list activities to transfer my photos to the computer and upload one to my blog. I'm sure I will be required to do another tractor photo shoot, but at least this photo should help to redeem my reputation as the somewhat reluctant tractor photographer. 

(For those of you non-tractor connoisseurs, please notice the blue sky in the photo. I'd almost forgotten that the sky could have color in Michigan). 

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Dad points out an aspect of the architecture of Aaron's house, during lunch break Saturday afternoon.

There's plenty of room to entertain in Aaron's house, especially since there are no interior walls at the moment. Saturday afternoon we balanced a sheet of plywood between two sawhorses and set pizza, breadsticks, salad and pop on the makeshift table. 

We turned over five gallon buckets to use as chairs. Aaron as head of the house, claimed the only real chair--a folding lawn chair. 

Clean-up after the meal was easy. Logan burned the paper plates and pizza boxes in the wood stove and the crew with hammers and crow bars literally pulled up the dining room floor. 

Over due for a trip to the landfill, the dumpster in Aaron's yard is overflowing with waste from the remodeling project. 

The previous owners installed new boards beside the old ones, after lack of eaves on the house cause the boards under the floor to rot.  

Betsy and Brian (not pictured) helped Aaron pry up the floor in the dining room. 

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lesson plan

An 11th grade student who is not studying Frankenstein

Saturday morning I spewed forth a week's worth of the formal lesson plans required by the University as part of my student teaching experience. This is my lesson plan for Monday when my supervisor comes to observe 4th hour. I think this is another post my siblings will categorize as "boring." So please don't feel compelled to read the entire multi-page document, unless, of course, you are enthralled with Frankenstein and lesson plans.

Class British Literature, 11th grade
Content Focus Frankenstein Chapters V-VI

Content Standards
CE 3.2 Read and respond to classic and contemporary fiction, literary non-fiction, and expository text, from a variety of literary genres representing many time periods and authors (e.g. myth, epic, folklore, drama, poetry, autobiography, novels, short stories, philosophical pieces, science fiction, fantasy, young adult literature, creative non-fiction, hypertext fiction). 

The purpose of this lesson is for students to begin to visualize the story of Frankenstein.

Special Needs Approach
Students may access additional resources, such as study guides and audio versions of the book ( to aid their comprehension of the novel. 

  • Copy of Frankenstein for each student
  • Copy of Chapter VII-X study guide for each student
  • Frankenstein: The Making of a Monster movie
  • Blank paper for students to use for drawing
Performance Objective
Each student will create a picture of Frankenstein's monster, using at least five specific references from the text to guide them in their rendition. 

Begin the class with 5-10 minutes of silent reading of books of students' choice. Have students place completed study guides on their desks to be checked. While students are reading, walk around the room and check students' study guides. After 5-10 minutes, have students respond to the prompt, "Create an alternative title for you book" on their reading cards.

Instructional Method
Ask students to summarize what happened in chapters V and VI. Review study guide questions. Ask if students have any questions. Point out foreshadowing on page 35 with Victor's dream of Elizabeth. Talk about the cause of Frankenstein's illness. What might be the diagnosis today? Talk about Victor's family members (father, Elizabeth, Ernst, William, Justine). Discuss Frankenstein's new pursuit of language study. Point out the quote from the "Rime of the Ancient Mariner." Tell students that we will read the poem tomorrow and they need to bring their textbooks to class.

View short segments from the Frankenstein movie ("Myths," "Alchemy"). Discuss the movie. Tell students that we will talk more about Prometheus later in the week.

Guided Practice
Tell students to open their books to page 35 and re-read the description of the monster. Instruct students to draw a picture of the monster, referring to the description in the text. They must include at least five quotes of the description of the monster to support their rendition of the monster. Challenge students to draw the monster as Mary Shelley envisioned it, not as it is portrayed in movie rendition (i.e. the monster is not green). Collect pictures of the monster at the end of class.

Students may spend the rest of class time silently reading Frankenstein and completing the corresponding study guide questions. Pass out the VII-X study guide and inform students that it is due on Tuesday.

Ask if any student would like to share his/her drawing with the class. Remind students to bring their textbooks to class on Tuesday.

Collect the drawings of the monster to see if they correspond to the description in the text (and not the movie versions).
Re-teaching Have students get in small groups to discuss the differences between the movie renditions of Frankenstein and the description in the text.
Independent Practice Have students finish reading chapters V-VI and complete the study guide.
Extension Activity Continue reading with chapter VII.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Daily food

For health and strength,
and daily food,
we praise Thy Name, O Lord.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Middle name

While cleaning at Grandpa's house, Mom discovered stacks of papers Grandma saved. She gave me a a pile of pictures and construction paper cards.  As I leafed through the collection of my early artwork, I remembered the day that I learned I had a middle name...

I slipped down from the chair at Grandma's dining-room table, where I had filled a sheet of construction paper with my first name and other "words," and paper in hand, went to find my Mom to have her read it to me. I was disappointed when she told me she couldn't read what I had written. My scribbling looked just as genuine as the loops and curves she made on paper.

Mom did point out one shape. "This looks like an 'e' that's in your middle name," she said. She showed me how to form the letters, L-e-e. I hadn't even known I had a middle name. I not only learned I had a middle name, I started to learn how to write it.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Denim quilt

My brothers sleep under quilts pieced together from their old blue jeans. During the past few years my Mom has cut and sewed thousands of squares of fabric into denim quilts for my brothers and friends. Once Mom's friends learned about her project, they donated their sons' worn-out jeans. Mom usually has a quilt in progress--whether its a pile of half-cut-up jeans, a stack of denim squares, or a quilt top stretched out on the dining room floor. 

Her most recent accomplishment is a combination of denim and brown calico fabric that she plans to donate to the Mennonite Central Committee Sale in northern Michigan this summer. Mom pieced a solid denim quilt for the sale a couple of years ago, but this time she decided to alternate the blue with brown. Most of the brown calico squares in the quilt are from scraps of material from Julie's dresses, jumpers and skirts.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


reflected in a picture frame

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


At the moment, the most positive description of the place is "potential." Aaron closed on a house--a tiny, three bedroom, bungalow a few miles west of our farm--last week. The house, which was built in the fifties, was repossessed by the bank. As Dad put it, Aaron purchased it for the price of a good, used car.

Aaron gained his carpentry skills and most of his tools from Grandpa Nelson, who was a carpenter by trade. Aaron provided the energy and Grandpa provided the knowledge as they worked together on an addition to our house Aaron's freshman year in high school.  

The reason the floor was squishy.

Libby likes houses to be clean. Soon after she walked through the door, she found a broom.

Just a few of the tools and supplies for the job.

 A composite view of the inside of the house.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Four weeks done

Last week was a successful week of student teaching--not because I didn't experience frustration or difficulty, but because I survived. I more than survived, because I learned. 

Here are a couple of the learning experiences disguised as difficulties:
  • On Wednesday one of the teachers informed me that the math teacher was home with a sick daughter. Her sub plans included a review lesson with the option that I could begin teaching the next section instead of reviewing the surface area of cylinders and prisms. I didn't have a formal lesson plan prepared, but since I had first hour prep I scratched out a few notes and the answers to some problems and taught a lesson on the surface area of square pyramids to the second and third hour classes. The teacher was home sick on Thursday also, but this time I was prepared with a lesson plan.
  • Thursday night I tossed in bed with a fever and aches and soar throat. Friday morning I called in sick. Despite how miserable I felt, I was able to write lesson plans. Between naps and breaks to sip juice, I was pleased with the amount I was able to accomplish. I'm home again today--hoping to have enough strength to return tomorrow.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Purpose of light

...that they may see your good deeds 
and praise your Father in heaven. 
Matthew 5:16 NIV