Thursday, January 5, 2017

Happy 2017! I just wanted to post here that I've started a weekly blog for the year, which you can find at:

Friday, December 23, 2016

You are scheduled to read a very long Christmas blog. If you feel as though you’ve come upon this in error, or if you need extended time, please raise your hand now.

Last Saturday I administered an ACT test at Greg’s school, which involves five hours of me explaining the rules and then staring at the wall as they take the tests. (My favorite rule is the ban of all tobacco products--the explanation of which goes on for quite some time--as if a student would be dangling a cigarette from his mouth at 8 am in a classroom.) Anywho, during my staring time, I was able to read a wide range of quotes Greg’s co-worker has covering the walls of his room. I picked out some of the more applicable ones to share with you now:

We leak what we love. –Bob Goff

If we leak what we love, Kate is leaking love. She cannot get enough of her parents (understandable) and tells us she loves us every time she sees us. I don’t know what to make of this, honestly. When I go away for a night or five, she hands me a note and a picture so I don’t forget what she looks like. She kissed a rock and gave it to me so that I can remember her always. Unfortunately for her, I’m not sentimental and I hate clutter, so I may have kept the rock for a week, then thrown it outside. While Kate does not show the same amount of affection towards her sister, she is a caring, thoughtful sister and friend. Kate is displaying some pre-teen tendencies including emotions, fast talking, maturity, and more emotions (Elia calls them “her-mones.”) She is in middle school now, has her own assigned laptop, listens to a great deal of music, reads 1-2 books a week,  loves to create hair styles on her mannequin head and to make movies or music videos…sometimes of her parents dancing which she then shares with non-family members. We are embracing her fun, loving nature and her love of us which will never change.

What does Elia leak? Not a love of stuff or money…she still literally throws money around as if it were a scratch piece of paper (when the girls opened their bank accounts last summer they scraped together all their cash. Kate had $102; Elia, $13.) She does not love her own room (she still begs Kate to let her sleep on her floor). She does seem to have an affinity for organizing people, cuddling with her mom (sheesh, am I popular?), knitting, Harry Potter, journaling and writing plays, lists and notes. To see how she keeps her backpack and room you’d think she’s really carefree, but she doesn’t like to make mistakes (apparently she doesn’t think leaving an apple in her bag for weeks is a mistake) and wants to get things right! Elia is super excited to turn ten in April; you see, in our house you find out who your tooth fairy is at 8, and how babies are made at 10. She had a pretty good idea of her tooth fairy (I got sloppy) but we’ll see about the other. She is determined, thoughtful, and shows a great deal of empathy for others.

Our calling is not so much choosing as it is listening. –John Ortberg

Greg is in the groove of life. Sometimes it’s not as deep as others, but he is enjoying his 16th year teaching. If you ever need someone to volunteer his time, ask Greg, though not right now cause he’s heading up the HC Film Club (they watch movies at our house), Anime Club, The Focus (a student-lead news show), and open mic nights…and that’s just at school. At church he’s taken over my Sunday school class (I no longer love that) and teaches Children’s Worship. Maybe Greg is listening too well. But he’s quite content, doesn’t get much sleep, and is using his gifts.

Because Greg likes to renovate a three-season porch everywhere we live, he was able to complete this project at our present home, turning an otherwise useless hot tub room into our dining room. (Pictures to follow.)

I recently took the Strength Finder quiz at work, and it revealed my top strength is empathy. This surprised no one but my family. (Apparently I don’t take wimpiness well.) I was able to travel for work three times this year, my first business trip to Florida (yay!) in February, a trip to Brown County in the spring, and Pennsylvania in the fall. I’m not sure I’m as good as a “listener” as Greg is—figuratively speaking of course (though I find people do mumble an awful lot!) but am constantly reminding myself to be open to new callings, big and small. (Not as small as Sunday school, mind you.)

What would men be without women? Scarce, sir…mighty scarce. –Mark Twain

Greg is surrounded by women. Bless his heart. Oh, we had a male, house-trained bunny, Bublé (as in Michael Bublé) for a month, but sadly I got tired of caring for his endeavors, so we passed him on to a good home. So Greg puts up with the community’s emotions, plays Kate’s games (in a recent round of M.A.S.H. it was revealed that he’s destined to have 100 children and be homeless), and tries enforcing a less-to-no television rule. (Good luck, Buddy, especially when season two of Fuller House comes out!) Every time one of the girls says something inappropriate at the dinner table Greg yells, “We need a boy!” But he is adored, especially by Molly (the cat), who sleeps on his clothes, in his closet, and on his side of the bed.

I have not failed! I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.  –Thomas Edison

I think it’s imperative to allow my children to see me try at something and fail. Which is why I’ve done it a few times this year. I tell them it’s not about the end result always, it’s that we try. I’m proud that Elia tried out for a club at school. We’re keeping her first rejection letter. She also recently tried out for an acting role in the 4th grade musical, and said that though she’ll probably cry if she doesn’t get a call-back, she’ll be comforted if she can sleep on Kate’s floor and if I can buy her something. Good lessons.

Greg’s new thing is to burn food. He’s what I like to call “a burner.” Popcorn, eggs, pizza. All well done. Maybe if he wasn’t head of so many clubs he’d have more time to focus on what he’s doing. Recently Greg was telling us about the new Uuni 2S, a $300 portable pizza oven which heats up to 930 degrees and cooks a pizza in 90 seconds flat.  I think he was serious in wanting it (he normally is), to which I retorted, “What, so you can burn things faster?!” I’m a very witty person.

A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.  –Bernard Meltzer

Greg and I will be celebrating 14 years of marriage this month! I said to him the other day that we hadn’t fought in a long time. To which he said, “Well, what would we fight about?!” We stared at each other for a beat then at the same time said, “money/time management/car repairs.” So, yeah, those are still viable options, but I think my point was that we’ve gotten good at this marriage thing. That, and the cars have not needed a complete overhaul this year.

Three o’clock is always too late or too early for anything you want to do.  –Jean-Paul Sartre

Ok, I can see the point Jean-Paul was trying to make (don’t use time as an excuse), but there actually are instances where three o’clock is too late to do something. Let me give you an example.  It was mid-day on a Saturday, and my family was coming over for dinner at five to celebrate my dad’s 70th birthday. I’m cleaning and putting groceries away, and Greg decides it’s a good time to take the faucet off our kitchen sink. (We’d just purchased a new one you see—more mid-century modern.) “This won’t take long,” he assures me, then proceeds to struggle with bolts and do-dads under the sink until 4:45. Do you know how hard it is to cook a meal for nine people with no sink? Well, now I do.

Greg began his own film production company, Schemper Productions, LLC. He did one house film for a realtor friend of ours, then school began and it’s been shelved until next summer. This was neither late nor early, but launched Greg’s new motto of “investing in himself” this year. I’m not sure what the dividends are on Greg, but if anyone wants to get in on the ground floor…

I think it was about five o’clock on the Friday before Labor Day when Greg decided he was going to re-roof the garage. The good thing about this late timing was that a few friends didn’t have time to make plans to leave town in time to escape helping him in 80 degree heat and 99 percent humidity. Suckers!

I’m broken and (s)he doesn’t seem to mind.  –Father Joe

Elia began a list of regrets in her life. I think I’m responsible for most of them, as they include moving, Molly not being able to have babies, Bublé no longer being a member of our family, and the hot tub being gone. See…she’s a writer!

We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.  –George Bernard Shaw

Greg created a sled run along the side of our house (which I lovingly refer to as “the death ride”).  He cut down some small trees one afternoon (around 3 o’clock) and padded the sides with logs and leaves which forethought had kept us from raking this fall. Greg also moved a pottery wheel into our basement and bought 50 pounds of clay for our children to explore with. When I was away in Pennsylvania, he and Elia collected moss and were fashioning a miniature house on our kitchen counter for a week. Greg is a dreamer and explorer, which makes him an excellent teacher and father to our dreamers and explorers. Oh, I like to play too, it just needs to be more organized. Like the 40th birthday party my friend and I did end up throwing for ourselves last year at a distillery. We each sang some solos, Greg and I sang “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” only with me singing the male part (just to mix things up a bit), and then I handed the mic over to Greg, who dedicated “Thinking Out Loud” to the birthday girls. Since Greg doesn’t want a big deal made of his 40th birthday (in January), I asked if he’d mind if I threw myself a big 41st birthday party. Too much? We’ll see…

Boy, it’s really hard to look at a tower of my shame.  –Elia Schemper

This was not on the classroom wall, but it stuck in my mind all the same. You see, Elia decided she was going to start charging herself change for every time she sinned. After she’d done this a day or two she was stacking the change and, well, you get the picture. I find that confidence is a roller coaster in our home, and most of the time the girls are on the upswing. For Elia’s Sunday school program everyone was to bring a wrapped gift and write their “gifts” on the box. Elia grabbed the marker from my hand and didn’t stop writing for five minutes: acting, dancing, singing…you  name it. We were driving to Grand Rapids for Thanksgiving and overheard Kate say, “Elia, we’re two of the most creative people in the world, we should be able to come up with something to do in the car!” After I finished laughing, Greg said, “I’m not sure you’re even the two most creative people in this car!” We’re trying to pull them down a bit. How did this happen? I mean, Kate I can see, because she was our first child and we over-shot…for the first year we clapped every time she farted. (We no longer do this.)

I just had the worst nightmare…it was like a orror story! What? Do you pronounce the “h” in English?  –Kate Schemper

Kate does a lot of reading inside her head. I guess she’s officially considered bi-lingual (Spanish) and is now in a “maintenance program.”

So I was going to the bathroom at school, and I thought to myself, did I pull down my pants as I was walking into the bathroom? I hope I at least waited until the door was closed!  I mean, there were no cameras…we’ll just say that I did.  –Elia Schemper

I have no comment on this.

Comparison is the thief of joy.  –Theodore Roosevelt

I can see where this would normally be true, but I have one instance in which comparison brought us a lot of joy. Not sure if you’ve heard, but we were on the cover a magazine this year. Oh yes. South Shore Neighbors, a hyper-local magazine about (white) Hollanders. We’re the March cover family. It wasn’t until the issue came out and I was reading it out loud in the car (on the way to parent teacher conferences) that we realized what hillbillies we sounded like. We were laughing so hard we were crying. As if that weren’t enough, a week later we received Lakeside Living, the north side magazine. So, same month, both families of four. Here’s how we stacked up:

Article Title:
Us: “The Schempers: Local Life, Global View”
Them:  “The Wilderers: German Family Receives Warm Holland Welcome”
Okay, apples to apples…

Places Lived:
Us:  Ontario (Canada), Liberia and Nigeria (Africa), Michigan, Iowa, and California.
Them: Johannesburg (South Africa), Erlangen and Munich (Germany), Shanghai (China), Jakarta (Indonesia), Bangkok (Thailand), Colorado, and Michigan.
Oh, crap.

Us:  Sarah holds a degree in communications from Dordt College in Iowa. “I work as a resident program coordinator (activities) thanks for the explanation, Sarah at Freedom Village Holland Retirement, where I plan day trips, activities, speakers, and book weekly entertainment,” she explained. This position plays to Sarah’s strengths. She explained, “As sad as it may sound, I really like organizing stuff!” She laughed….In her spare time, Sarah writes a family blog, that she updates annually, for family and friends. I’m sorry, did you just say “annually?”
Them:  After earning her Master of Science in social science and business studies from the University of Bamberg in Germany, she continued with a Ph.D. in international management which is completed at the University of Oldenburg in Germany…Currently Mirka serves as the vice president and general manager of the Separation Technologies Segment of Evoqua Water Technologies. The Holland location is one of Evoqua’s largest manufacturing facilities that builds equipment for multiple Evoqua business segments, and ships these globally. Come again?

Us: An honorary child is the family cat, Molly, “Who Greg says I love too much,” Sarah joked. “Greg taught her to raise her paw when she’s asking for food, and still if she’s asking for something she’ll do this.”
Them: The Wilderer family has two dogs, Lilly and Ginger. “Lilly is two years old; we rescued her from the Humane Society in Colorado Springs,” Andy shared. “She is a German Shepard/American Eskimo/Chow mix.” Though shy at first, Lilly quickly warms up to people, giving them lots of love and kisses. …Their second dog, Ginger, joined the family at the end of January. “Ginger was just born in November 2015 in Montana,” the couple explained. “She is a Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.” …Andy has started his training to become a dog trainer. He shared, “I volunteered with a dog rescue non-profit in Colorado Springs, that recues ‘problem dogs’ from death row, fosters them, trains them and helps place them in forever homes.” Did I mention our cat can lift her paw?

Us: The Schemper family finds themselves traveling a fair amount, much of the time to visit loved ones. Since they lived in California for four years before moving to Michigan, they made the long journey to Michigan several times to see family. In addition, the family has attended extended family reunions in both Georgia and Iowa and even had three weddings in quick succession. Said Greg, “All three of my brothers got married within 14 months several years ago (one in Denver, one in Los Angeles, and one in Grand Rapids) so that was a busy year! Iowa you say? I think Ginger has traveled more than you have this year!
Them: This international family has lived and traveled all over the world, but they said their passion lately has been exploring the United States, especially their new home state of Michigan. Traveling in their RV, the Wilderers have discovered destination from coast to coast, and their latest endeavor has been seeing as many National Park sites as possible. “We have visited over 70 sites in 14 states,” Andy shared. “I like to collect the passport stamps and the kids are collecting Junior Ranger badges.” Of course they are.

Family fun:
Us: This bunch loves nothing more than hanging out together, whether it’s in the form of a planned activity or a spontaneous event that creates lifelong memories. “We try to implement a  Friday-Forced-Family-Fun Night (Kate is the enforcer),” Sarah explained. “Usually it includes games of some sort, and ends with an episode or two of one of our favorite shows, Dick Van Dyke. Thankfully the kids enjoy the same classics we do, so far!” This organized mom shared that the unplanned family moments seem to make the best stories. “Like when I put the girls in each other’s flower girl dresses accidentally, and didn’t find out until afterwards!” she laughed. “Or during one family fun night when we explored our new back yard after a recent rain, and most of us got stuck in the mud.” What a bunch of kooks!
Them:  In keeping with their love of exploration, the Wilderers shared an unforgettable experience they recently had as a family. “Last year, our special vacation was a hiking trip to Isle Royale National Park,” Mirka said. One of the most remote national parks, getting there is half of the excitement. “It took us about 11 hours driving 600 miles before we arrived in Copper Harbor,” Andy described. “From there we took the Isle Royal Queen IV for another three and a half hours across Lake Superior.” …The Family carried everything they needed with them on their excursion—food, water and shelter—and hiked a total of 24 miles in four days. “This does not seem like a lot, but with the rough trails and a four and eight-year-old, it was quite an adventure!” Andy said. In addition to visiting the national parks, this four-some loves to ski, bike, kayak and walk Michigan’s beaches. There’s a beach in Holland?

On our house (they, for some reason, didn’t talk for a paragraph about their house.):
Us: “The house has many build-ins like a whole house intercom/entertainment system, heat fans in the bathroom, built in desks, bed frame and furniture in several rooms,” I’m sorry, but it sounds like you’re bragging that you have furniture in several rooms …“while our kids were so sad to give up our old house (mostly because of the pool), it’s been fun for them to be able to play in the front yard for a change…” Yes, because the mud is in the backyard.

So there you have it…If only I could make this stuff up! Our only solace is that no one receives both magazines, so the comparison has been lost on them. Until today, that is.

It’s all about relationships and simply sharing life. What we are doing now—just doing this—and being open and available to others around us.  –William Paul Young, The Shack

Who knew I had so much to say! And I haven’t even started on politics! (I’ll abstain, as it’s Christmas and I don’t feel very Christmas-sy when I’m ranting.) Seems like every year there are losses and much sadness. Life seems precarious at best…but we continue to walk with each other through the good times and the hard times, and rest in the assurance that God holds us “in the palm of His hands.”

The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.  –Nelson Henderson

Go plant some trees!

Merry Christmas Everyone! With lots of love, Sarah, Greg, Kate & Elia Schemper.

Well, Elia did not get a call-back. But she’s been sleeping well--on Kate’s floor with her new over-sized stuffed bear named “Cookie.” Fuller House (season two) was a huge hit—it comes highly recommended by the smaller people in our house. (Not Molly, she could take it or leave it. And she’s not a person, I guess.) And…at the end of January I’ll be changing jobs. I’ll be the Guest Services Manager at The Beach House, a 8-unit rental/fractional ownership resort near the state park in Holland! As hard as it will be to leave Freedom Village, I am excited about this opportunity! Check us out for your future vacation rental needs… I hear the service there is delightful!

Greg took the girls to the Harry Potter midnight launch party (The Cursed Child)

Schemper cousins!
view from the kitchen before...

the new dining room!
80's girls for Halloween 
Greg tried on a new suit...looked great, but couldn't sit down 

See, she's like people!

Buble (before I gave him away, obviously)

the "suckers," bless their hearts!

Molly Ann

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

I look like an angel! Oh, and this is my newest nephew Landon James.

Our new house! No windows in front, all windows in back.

Greg reading to the girls. They're on the 4th Harry Potter book.

Elia, Sarah & Kate

On the train to Chicago!

Sarah selfie
Greg selfie

Kate selfie (oh dear!)

Elia selfie