Monday, December 31, 2007


Comfort! Rejoice! Hallelujah! Amen! ... and we got to sing it all in the Chicago Opera House with thousands of others! Handel's "Messiah" is truly a faithful and incredibly beautiful telling of the tidings of comfort and joy that we delight in as Christians. We are so grateful for the hand of the Lord on the life of George Frederic Handel as he composed this masterpiece... and we're very grateful for the opportunity to sing it every year.

This is a group of us that attended - mostly from our church, but a few other friends joined us as well for the train ride and pizza afterwards!

Ah, yes! The train ride! The train schedule worked out so much better for our group this year, and I think everyone enjoyed every minute of the ride!

Josh and Abbey smiling 'cause they can't wait to start singing... or maybe just smiling 'cause that's what they're always doing these days! We're just under 8 weeks until the big day!

Mom and Joanna

Pizza time! There were about 50 of us that went to Giordano's afterwards - we passed the tenor soloist on the street and almost invited him to join us! It was the first time that we really liked the tenor soloist. They've brought the same soprano back each year and she's great. The bass and alto/counter-tenor have been different every year. We enjoyed the new conductor this year - not that the regular conductor was bad, though! But back to dinner...


Josiah and Calvin

Chicago at night

All aboard!

Here's a short video clip of the first several seconds of the encore! It's not well focused, and my hand is a little shaky after clapping for several minutes! Yes, we were sitting in the first few rows, and yes, as you can tell I was sitting between the alto and soprano sections... And I stopped videoing because I had to sing the rest of the encore - and, of course, my hands had to be free to clap again afterwards! :-) Hallelujah!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

'Twas the week after Christmas...

Oh, how wonderful it has been to sit back and relax some over these past few days. We've feasted, we've rested, we've read, we've sung and played music, we've put puzzles together and built model boats, we've received letters, cards, and pictures from friends - old and new, we've talked, we've laughed, we've rejoiced and celebrated! AND, our house is clean and quiet today. Although, two small bicycles in the middle of the kitchen floor indicate that it is only quiet temporarily. Caroline and William are here with us today, and the other C's and W are on their way over, so it will soon be a louder happy day!

Like I mentioned before, our wash machine broke and we discovered yesterday that it was truly beyond repair. Oh, it could have been repaired, but for the same price as buying a new machine... so Dad bought a new machine! The old one was well used during its years in our home! Today they delivered the new one - but we can't quite use it yet as the dryer... well, anyway, they said they'd call us when that part comes in.

I'm taking an intermission from the project I'm supposed to be working on to catch up on a couple of things - including this blog. I'm working on the 2007 Year End slide show for our church. Wow! We've gotten a lot of pictures from a few of the families and I'm putting off the final sorting and cutting and organizing work. But at least I have them all (or most all of them) in one place now! While I'm not crazy about the time it takes to put it together, it is amazing to look back over the pictures and see what a very full year it has been for us and for the families in our church. Of course, most of the pictures are of us all having fun together - but there are also the pictures from the finalization of the Strand's adoption, a few baptisms, helping out the Geaschel family during their hospital stay and finally welcoming baby Karina home! Praise the Lord for 2007!

Ah - the other C's and W have just arrived! Got to run!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Good Tidings of Great Joy!

Caroline Joy, Christmas afternoon, 2007

Family Gatherings

On back-to-back Saturdays during this past month, we enjoyed Christmas gatherings with our extended family. The first Saturday we got together with Dad's mother's side of the family - aunts, uncles and cousins. The above picture shows most of us who were there. This year, each branch of the family brought a slide show summary of their year, so we were able to catch up with the big events of the year. Almost everyone from that family still lives in the Chicago suburbs, so getting everyone together in one place is a lot easier than on the other side of the family...

Mom's family is scattered from Maine, to Florida, to California - and her extended family fills in other coastal states as well. We had a wonderful time gathering with them this past summer. For Christmas, however, we were only able to get Mom's brother's family here. Uncle George lives less than an hour away - when the weather is good. But when it is snowing heavily (like it was the day they came!) it took them nearly 1 1/2 hours! We're so glad they came anyway! We had fun eating, talking, eating (that's mostly what we did - but we're Italian, you know), looking through a bunch of Uncle George's pictures from his recent trip to Italy (with some others from Mom's family), playing ping-pong, and eating some more. Yes, that is the famous chocolate fountain in the picture above. Of course, by the time the desserts came out we were already filled up with hors d'oeuvres, pasta, eggplant, chicken... Mmmmmmm.

Traditions are wonderful things, and they are best when shared with family - Those special people who are always there and always will be. What a blessing! We love you all!

Friday, December 21, 2007

'Twas the weekend before Christmas...

This picture was taken less than a week ago when we got our second major snow storm of the month and we were very excited at the thought of maybe really having a white Christmas this year... but, it looks like our weekend-before-Christmas thaw might be a reality once again. We've been dripping steadily for the last couple of days and they are predicting rain for this weekend. But who knows? Maybe it will be just a couple of degrees cooler than they are anticipating and we'll get some more of that white stuff again in time! It sure is a good thing there is more to Christmas than snow!

There's been lots of Christmas baking and cooking going on around here as we prepare to feast with friends and family. Some of that feasting and celebrating has already happened as we gathered with Dad's cousins, aunts and uncles on December 8th, and with Mom's brother and family on the 15th, and had a special celebration with our church this past Sunday afternoon. More on those later. In the mean time here are a few of the non-event news items around here.

It's a good thing that some of the partying is over (aside from a caroling party tonight, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah tomorrow, and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) because our wash machine broke this afternoon and leaked water all over the floor. No more laundry for awhile, but hopefully we'll be able to get the parts we need in spite of it being a holiday weekend and get it fixed soon!

Jonathan is on Christmas break from RVC for almost a whole month! He's excited about that and so are we. But he is even more excited about the fact that just yesterday he got his grades for the semester (about a week late due to weather) and they were straight A's - and that's for a 19 credit semester! They were mainly music-related courses, but also included economics and public speaking. Way to go, bro!

Jeremy's work van needs its windshield replaced - due to another animal encounter. I don't know that we can claim the kill this time, though, as Luke VH was the driver when the windshield collided with the turkey. Yup, you read that right. It wasn't a deer or a cow this time. A turkey. Sadly, they were driving over a bridge at the time and the turkey went over the side, so they were unable to bring it home for dinner. But they did get a few feathers...

I don't know that there is much else of general interest to mention. Josiah is finishing up Suzuki cello book 6, and Joanna is working on a Dvorák violin sonata. Wedding plans continue to progress as the big day is now - well, Joshua isn't home right now so I'd have to count to know exactly how many days it is, but it's about 9 weeks away! We are all looking forward to that date as Josh isn't good for much else around here anymore. :-) But neither were Jeanine or Jeremy, so I guess we'll survive it once again! Oh, don't get me wrong, that's not the only reason we're looking forward to the wedding! We are very much enjoying observing yet another case of twitterpation, and we love having Abbey around!

But I've got to sign off here and go get dinner on and prepare food for tomorrow's trip into Chicago! Have a great evening!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A Victorian Christmas

Friday was a full day of celebrating and telling again the beautiful story of Christ's birth! In the early afternoon, we headed to a local Christian retirement center for their chapel service. There we met with a few other families from our church and told - through scripture and song - the story of our Savior. It was a very special time and everyone involved did a wonderful job!

After arriving home from the retirement center, we raced around the house to change into Victorian era garments put a quick dinner together, and head up to Jeanine and Nathan's for their town's annual Victorian Christmas. Don't Joanna and Jonathan look sharp?

Some of us had been enlisted to participate in the evening's events as carolers, and others demonstrated a few Victorian dances in the center of town.

The town truly goes all out for this event and really does give the whole place a very Victorian-ish feel! People all around, but with a festive and not overcrowded feel. Every store along the quaint center of town was open and decorated and selling (or giving away) hot cider, hot cocoa, eggnog, cookies, baked potatoes...

There were popcorn stands and chestnuts roasting... carolers... the Salvation Army Band... a man riding around town in dog sled...

...oh yes... and fireworks! Winston was mesmerized!

The lady coordinating everything handed Josh this coat to wear for the evening, and gave Abbey a lovely fur shawl to wear over her dress - but it smelled pretty bad! :-) Oh, and I nearly forgot the parade! About a dozen horse drawn carriages all decked out with greens and bells paraded down the center of town - twice. First time all was very stately, the second time was in double time! All in all, it was a fun, cold, evening, in a delightful celebratory atmosphere - all within a block or two of N&J's home, so we could drop in and thaw our toes when needed!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Monday, December 03, 2007

December is Here!

Ah, yes! The joys of December... lots of ice... lots of warm fires...

lots of lovely decorations... lots of music...

lots of cookies... lots of fun!

She's 3!

Last Friday we spent some time over at Jeremy and Sara's house celebrating the third birthday of the oldest grandchild - Caroline Joy!

She is truly a joy to us all!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

We're home!

As Mom mentioned, most of us have been out in New England for the last week or so for Vision Forum's Faith and Freedom Tour. As of 4:09am yesterday, we are back home safe and sound!
We survived the snow, ice, rain, travel, bus rides, food preparation, late nights, early mornings, wind, and cold... and not only survived, but enjoyed every second of it! Praise the Lord for His many blessings! What a privilege it has been to attend (and work on) these tours for the last 10 years.

As you may know, our responsibility on the tour is to make sure that the 150+ attendees are fed lunch during the week. Usually by the end of the week, the secret as to when and where we are preparing these lunches manages to leak out and we often get a few extra volunteers stopping by to help (as pictured above). Thanks, guys!


Oh, and the buses! Can't forget to mention them! We had a couple of the same drivers as we've had in the past and enjoyed their service again. For those of you who've been with us before - they were a couple of the good drivers that we got again, not the ones that got us lost and sick...

The tour group was made up of almost entirely first-timers, this year. But there were also a few families that returned!

And, as usual, the 3rd floor lobby was a popular place to be during the evenings!

Although this was our 11th tour in 10 years, we did still manage to come home with a bunch of pictures, stories, and - yes - inspiration. We came home with yet more stories that illustrate the providence of God, more heroes to emulate, more respect for our pilgrim and patriot forebears, more for which to give thanks, more excitement about what God is doing today, and more zeal to stay the course and carry on the work of the Kingdom! Praise the Lord for His faithfulness! I don't have time right now to post a bunch of pictures and stories from the week here, but click here to view an album of about 90 of our pictures from the week!

Monday, November 26, 2007


As many of you know this past week most of our family has been in Plymouth, MA serving meals during the VF Faith & Freedom Tour. What a blessing the tour has been!

A couple of us needed to stay back in Illinois due to responsibilities/commitments/classes.

The house is so much quieter than usual. I, Maggie, actually had time to read a few articles and part of a book! I woke up this morning thinking about one of the articles I read. It is entitled, Music is not "Nice" by Andrew Pudewa. Excellent article.

Here's one of the many things to think about from his article, "In 1925, mass-produced electronic recordings became possible, a development which profoundly changed the relationship of man to music. As the great Hungarian composer and music educator Zoltan Kodaly predicted: we changed from being a race of music producers to being a society of music consumers. A hundred years ago, if you wanted to experience music you either had to create it yourself or get very close to someone who could..."

Mr. Pudewa goes on to explain the powerful transformational effects that music has on the individual and society, and states that we usually ignore this effect at our own peril. He goes on to explain the research that has been done and how learning to play an instrument, and even just listening to different kinds of music can have significant effects-both positive and negative on our attitudes, behavior, and mental capacity.

He also underscores the importance of music training in children, stating that it should be a core part of a child's early education and should continue throughout the school-age years. Whether or not a child determines to quit as a teenager, all that time and money is not lost, he is better for it- in many tangible ways.

I am very grateful that my parents exposed us children to great music at a very young age, and they sacrificed much to have us trained in music. It was a wonderful experience that helped mold each one of us.

The Psalms command/encourage/exhort us to praise the Lord with our voices and our instruments. Let us do just that! Are we just listening to others sing and raise their voices in praise? Or, do we actually do it ourselves. (Are we producers or consumers?)

And another question to ask is - In worship, do we sing and/or play music to please us?
Or, do we sing and/or play music to please the Lord?

Andrew Pudewa concludes his article with, "Music isn't just something 'nice;' it has a profound effect on individuals and on society, and will contribute to either the building up of a Christian culture, or speeding its further destruction. We must choose wisely."

Friday, November 16, 2007

Autumn Joys

There have been so many joys this autumn.

First and foremost has been the September birth of
Nathan & Jeanine's third child, Camille Idelette.

Isn't she beautiful! She's also so very sweet natured.

...and then, there are "the four". . . !
Life is always hopping when they are around!! :-)

A couple of weeks ago we had a celebration at our house. There were games, all the chili you could eat, singing around the campfire, birthday cake and more desserts than you can possibly eat!
Here's a glimpse at some of the fun we had...
(thanks Yens, for sharing your pictures with us!)

Above is Joanna with little Maggie.

Spectators! What could they be watching??

It's Joshua and Stuart! Yes, they're jumping rope for the obstacle course!

And so is Jonathan! What grace!

One more time around guys... don't fall over!
(Joe & Dustin)

Time for some birthday cake(s).
Blowing out the candles are Dustin Webb, Joshua Erber, and Solomon Hirst!

Autumn would just not be autumn without friends sitting around the campfire...

Time for the campfire and . . .


...Hey! Did you see all those stars??

Keeping warm by the campfire.

And here's a couple that really enjoys campfires!

You never know what'll happen around a campfire, right Abbey?? ;-)

Thank God for autumn!