Monday, September 28, 2009


From Jeff:
It took some time, but I have finally pulled ahead of April in one of our classes, Phonetics, thanks to a stellar performance on our last exam. Of course, she is leading in Grammar and we are about even in Lenguaje, but I must relish this potentially short-lived supremacy! Praise God she can't trill her "r's" yet!

The papers here are saying we are headed for water shortfalls beginning in January. Most areas are between 20% and 40% under the normal rainfall for June through September. This means April will not be able to take her normal 20 minute shower and I've decided to only take sponge baths to help out. I am beginning the search for a nurse to bath me. Really, though, the whole country suffers when it doesn't rain because so much of the infrastructure here is related to the agriculture industry. However, it has been raining for the past 5 hours, so maybe we could catch up a bit!

Prayer points: Our kids are having a bit of an adjustment to actually going to school. They need prayer in the area of forgetfulness. As in they forget their books, forget their homework, forget they need supplies for cooking class, forget they need to bring.... We would also appreciate prayer for our meeting with our 4 Costa Rican UB pastors. We are taking all of them out to dinner on Friday! And finally, that April would actually apply some of the knowledge we gained in our PeaceMaker Seminar (see below).

From April:
Jeff almost cried when I kicked his tail in grammar so I decided to back off a little. I don't want to destroy him this early in the trimester. Saturday we had an eclipse of some kind. It was cloudy, so it was hard to see exactly but it made a large ring around the sun. It looked like a rainbow in a circle. It was pretty cool.

Yesterday it was pretty hot. Ellie said, "It's always hot on Sundays, that's why they call it SUNday." Makes sense, doesn't it?

Today, I get to give my first piano lesson to a 14 yr.old. boy from La Carpio (the Nicaraguan slum). They call him Lapiz, which means pencil in English. He is a gifted musician but hasn't had any formal training. I am looking forward to it. Steve, the missionery in La Carpio, hopes that music could be Lapiz's ticket to a better future. It is exciting to see what God will do.

I told you Jeff and I attended the peacemaker seminar on conflict resolution. We learned some really good stuff. The lesson we both appreciated most was the one on confession. We learned how to apologize in meaningful ways like: 1. I'm sorry if you're hurt. 2. I'm sorry if I did something wrong. 3. I know I said something wrong, but what about what you did wrong? 4. I'm sorry you are so sensitive. Jeff and I are already experts in this area but it was good to be reminded. If you want to take advantage of this wisdom just make sure you use key words like if ,but, and maybe in your confession and you too can be on your way to a successful marriage.
Well, off to my piano lesson in Spanish! Adios

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Win Some, Lose Some

Well, after a miserable showing on a grammar quiz today, I fell a few percentage points behind April. She just had to score a 100. However, things should begin to even up a little since her private tutor, Maria, just returned to Nicaragua for a few weeks. Maria ran into a little trouble with immigration and could not extend her visa (she needed two letters she did not have at the time) so she needed to return to Nicaragua immediately (her current visa expired today). We are hoping she will be able to get another visa soon so she can come back. I have a feeling April is going to need her! So, I was sulking a little bit after getting smoked on that quiz only to receive the news that my final project for graduate school had been accepted and that I have officially completed my work for my master's degree in Pastoral Ministry. This comes 14 years after taking my first graduate school class! What a relief to finally finish! Then, after getting that news, I went to an appointment with an athletic trainer at the gym I joined the previous day. I had been walking every morning for the past 4 weeks, but my feet became really sore and the pain I felt this week made it easy to not get out of bed. So, I decided to join the gym 1 block from our house so I could ride a bike, do some boxing, lift some weights, and generally take the pressure off my feet. I didn't realize I was getting the complete package- the trainer took all sorts of measurements including measuring my fat levels from 4 different areas of my body. "Hey, buddy, I didn't sign up for this!" I really only wanted to ride a bike- instead I was informed that I really needed to move into the gym. Win some, lose some.

On a related note, on the way to school this morning Ellie complained about having a little pain in her legs. April asked what it was from. Ellie responded, "I think my bones are tangled." At least I don't have that problem.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


It is funny to post a blog about how much we love the internet only to lose it the next day. We are still waiting for it to be fixed. I´m typing from the school computer lab. We are fighting about whether or not to attend a seminar on conflict resolution. I let you know who wins.

Other news... Jeff and I are still neck in neck. We have three tests this week, so here is my chance to pull ahead. Maria needs to go back to Nicaragua. They denied her visa extension. She should be able to come back in October. Also, her grandfather passed away. It was a rough day.
Pray for her, please.

Speaking of praying, we could really use rain down here. If we don´t get some serious rain soon, we are looking at electrical shortages (most of the power is hydrolectric), water shortages, and price increases for food. They think it is already too late for Nicaragua and Guatamala. They probably won´t be able to plant at all. They are predicting famine for parts of both countries. So, for all of you working with Feed My Starving Children at home, you couldn´t have picked a better time. It is going to be desperately needed this year.

Well, we have to go to learn to get along... see ya... love ya.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We Love The Internet!

I haven't really mentioned how much we love having high speed internet in our home. Well, we do! We have been able to download the latest season of Psych and Monk, we can check our emails every day, we can "blog", and our kids can find fun stuff like Bernard Bear. Follow the link to check out one of our favorite Bernard sketches.

Death to the Invaders!

Today is a national holiday meaning we don't have classes, so the kids had a little sleepover last night. I woke up at 5:15 but refused to get out of bed until after 6! The kids were all hungry so I went to the kitchen to make breakfast- 8 bowls of cereal for them, a nice hot bowl of oatmeal for me. I put the water on the stove and poured all the cereal. I yelled for April (she refused to rise before 6:30) and she and the kids began eating their cereal. I opened the cupboard to get my packets of oatmeal out of the box (we bought a mega pack at PriceSmart) and as I pulled the packets out a cockroach jumped from the box. I acted as if someone had just pulled a gun on me as I tossed the box to the floor. It was a scene out of a horror film (at least for me as I hate horror films) as 10 more cockroaches poured from the box. I yelled for a shoe, April tossed me a flip-flop, and I went on a killing spree. After about 5 minutes, 10 cockroaches lay dead on the kitchen floor battlefield. It really was shocking to see them because we just had the kitchen sprayed for cockroaches 3 days ago. Evidently they had all congregated in the oatmeal box to avoid death. Unfortunately for them, I'm trying to eat better and decided to eat oatmeal today!

At a place like language school, you would expect to meet some interesting people. I mentioned in a previous post that Camden's basketball coach, Trish Wegman, is the daughter of Bill Wegman, a 10-year veteran of Major League Baseball. Well, another pretty, single, young lady named Kim goes to church in Houston with Troy Aikman (former QB of the Cowboys), Ross Perot, and George W and Laura Bush! So, with all these stories about famous connections floating around, we had to share some of our own. April said that her dad shot the biggest buck in Clare County, and that she played piano for Dan Quayle, and the owners of Jay's Sporting Goods go to our church! That shut them all up right away.

Camden had his first basketball practice last night. I'm not bragging or anything, but he is in 6th grade and made the high school varsity team. I don't think he'll start, but he made the team. (Of course, there are only 10 kids trying out for the team!) On the way home from practice, he told me it was the hardest 2 hours of his life. I watched the last 20 minutes of practice. It was pretty intense as Coach Wegman made the team run suicides if one player was lazy during their scrimmage. Camden did win a game of "lightning" and looked pretty good out there.

Well, since this is "Independence Day" in Costa Rica, we need to get ready to go to a parade. Oh, we did get some test scores back from our Phonetics class. April pulled into an overall tie with Jeff as both did very well on their test. Our next opportunities to shine are Thursday (Conversation Class) and Friday (Grammar). May the force be with me!

Friday, September 11, 2009

2 Weeks Down, 13 To Go!

We have now finished two weeks of school and we're still seemingly sane. Next week, we'll begin to see with clarity how April and I are doing as we have a couple of exams, including a big one in Gramatica. Yesterday, we went to La Carpio, the place we mentioned in our last article. For those of you that have been to Nicaragua, it reminded me of the slums near the market in Masaya. Kids are kids, however, and we had a fun time with them. The center is pretty cool- it has a very small gym (think smaller than the foyer at Browns), a kitchen, a small computer lab with 10 computers, and another room for meetings and less strenuous activities. April was able to do a little piano tutoring with a young man who plays mostly by ear and goes by the name, "Pencil." Our contact person is a man known as "La-Low" though his real name is Steve. He came and picked us up in a microbus similar to the one we have in Nicaragua. We packed 16 people into the van and off we went. I'm sure we'll write more about La Carpio in the weeks to come.

Comings and Goings:

Camden is pretty excited about his sports. He is signed up to play basketball for Sojourn Academy. There are just 6 high school boys on the team, so they opened it up for junior high boys as well. Cam is one of 5 junior high boys on the team. It will be pretty funny to see him play amongst the giants. His coach is a sweet, single, 6' tall young lady named Trish who happens to be the daughter of Bill Wegman, a 10 year veteran of the Major Leagues (Dan/Matt, airfare is only $300 to visit). Speaking of baseball, Cam and I get to play for 3 hours every Saturday morning with a group of kids and adults. It was a blast last week! We are looking forward to tomorrow.

Mason has made some pretty cool friends. One of them, Skyler, is staying over tonight. They both love Yuh-gi-oh and Pokemon and any other topic that covers swords, fighting, fantasy, or Ebay.

Karis and Ellie are also having friends over tonight. They frequently spend time with the neighbor girls, Mary Esther and Scarlet, who happen to have a mom named Audrey. This confused Ellie because she had thought her Aunt Audrey was a different woman. We confirmed that fact with her.

Thanks to all of you for your thoughts and prayers and for reading and commenting on our blog. For those of you in Michigan/Pennsylvania, this helps us feel connected to you even though you are far away.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

April Deals A Crushing Blow

The oral verb quiz is over and April won this battle. She was perfect on all 9 verbs that she was given, while Jeff partially blew it on one of his 9. April 100, Jeff 93. The big verb exam is next Friday. It will be both written and oral. On a side note, we are so thankful for opportunities we are seeing to get involved in ministry here. Tomorrow, April and I will be traveling to La Carpio, a "village" of Nicaraguan immigrants (some legal, many not) just outside of San Jose. We are going with a group of fellow students to work with a community center there. We will be working mostly with kids; planning activities, playing sports, sharing stories, making crafts, etc. You can watch a video on La Carpio that a student from last trimester made by following this link- We are planning on going there every Thursday afternoon. Then, on Saturday, I get to give my first seminar to pastors and leaders of our 4 Costa Rican UB churches. You can be praying for us as we seek to get involved in ministry here. And you can pray that I find time to study so I can crush April on next Friday's exam!!!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Jeff Pulls Into The Lead

We got our first quiz scores back and Jeff has a commanding lead in the grade race, 5.00 to 4.75! This quiz was on the alphabet. We have a much bigger quiz tomorrow- one that covers over 125 verbs. April has been studying like crazy. I may have to pull an all-nighter. Results will be published here...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Weekend Buzz

We had a most interesting weekend! Friday night, we took a couple to PriceSmart (Sam's Club) so they could check the place out. We decided to walk the 2 miles to the store even though it had started raining. We took our umbrellas and headed out. It soon began to rain as if someone had a thousand hoses all pointed at you. We took a break in a "Lowe's" type store, then continued on toward our destination. By the time we reached PriceSmart, we were hungry so we walked to the mall next door because it has a food court that includes Taco Bell. We finally made it to PriceSmart, did our shopping, bought pizzas for our kids, and returned home. Marv and Anita are really great people. We had fun discussing churchy stuff with them- they have a pentacostal background.

Saturday morning, Camden and I headed to a run-down baseball field (think Sandlot) because we were told people show up to practice. People did, in fact, show up to play baseball! We had a group of about 8 adults and 14 kids practice and play for about 2 hours. Then, some more adults came, so we had another hour of batting practice. It really was a lot of fun. One of the local "coaches" is trying to form a league for kids. Camden is pretty excited. Then, Saturday night we played dominoes with our neighbors, Charlie and Audrey Leckie. They have four kids, too, so we enjoy getting together to let the kids play. We also learned that Audrey was actually a Spanish major in college, a fact she has been reluctant to disclose up until now.

Sunday morning we went to one of our 4 United Brethren churches in Costa Rica. We had met Pastor Eric and his wife, Iris, the week before but had no idea what kind of church they pastored. We thought it would be typical of our other UB churches in Latin America. Well, it wasn't. The facility was beautiful and large (it probably could hold 200 people or more), they had a worship team that could actually sing really well, they had a projector/computer with powerpoint of the songs, and the music was not too loud! The service lasted almost 2 hours, but it was fun to be there. We sang songs we recognized like Open the Eyes of My Heart, Ancient of Days, and The Power of Your Love, plus other songs we didn't recognize but enjoyed anyways. We also took communion. They kept us for lunch and we had a meatball soup that was really good (this was a surprise because "soup" and "good" usually don't appear in the same sentence from our Latino experience!). We got home at around 2:30 and began preparing for an evening on the town with a relative of April's named Bill, someone we had not had the privilege of meeting or spending time with previously. No amount of preparation could have prepared us for the events of this first encounter! Let's just say that we had a nice dinner, met some interesting people, had stimulating and sometimes eye-opening conversation, and made it home safely 3 hours later. It was fun! Bill is definitely a person with much life-experience and many colorful stories. He's broken every finger and knuckle on both hands at least 5 times each from various encounters over the years. We are anxiously awaiting our next invitation to dinner.

Until next time...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cockroaches and Irregular Verbs

Last night, I dreamed of cockroaches and irregular verbs. Nice, huh? Our house had been sprayed for cockroaches before we came, but we have killed 6 or 7 in the last 2 days. There is nothing like reaching for silverware and having a cockroach scury around in the drawer. Yuck! Funny, I didn't see any staying in a dorm in Nicaragua, but here, in a nice house in San Jose, we see them all the time. I have decided I really appreciate Michigan! If cold and snow equals no cockroaches, I think it is a pretty even trade.
Jeff and I are studying verbs this weekend. We have a test on Wednesday of over 100 regular and irregular verbs. For those of you who didn't take a foreign language, let me explain a little. In English we conjugate our verbs like this:
I say
You say
He/She says
We say
They say

See how the verb only changes for the third person (he says)? Well in Spanish it goes like this:
(Hablar: to speak)

Yo hablo
Tu hablas
El/Ella habla
Nosotros hablamos
Vosotros hablais (Vosotros means you plural if you are in a formal situation.)
Ellos hablan

You see how the ending changes for each pronoun? That is how you conjugate regular verbs ending in AR. (Hablar: to speak, Bailar: to dance,etc.) Now, add to that verbs that end in ER or IR (Comprender: to comprehender, Servir: to serve). They have different endings. Those are only the regular verbs. Then just like in English, you learn one rule and 10 exceptions. There are a ton of verbs that don't follow that pattern. For our test on Wednesday, we have to know over 100 hundres verbs, what they mean, and how to conjugate them! Luckily, I have Maria to help me!

Speaking of Maria.... We told you that Juan Pavon's daughter, Maria, was coming to stay with us from Nicaragua. She has been here almost a week. She is so wonderful. Ellie and Karis smother her and she actually seems to enjoy it, or she's a really good actress! We went to the fruit market the other day and Maria asked some questions for me in Spanish. Ellie looked at her in surprise and said, "Wow, Maria, you're really good at Spanish!" It was pretty funny.

We rented The Sound of Music the other night for Maria. She had never seen it and I always sing "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" We had a girl's night. It was so much fun. I loved watching all three girls, Maria, Karis, and Ellie, see it for the first time. Maria has such a wonderful innocence about her. I don't know how to describe it exactly, but you probably know what I mean. For most of our American teenagers, nothing is new, nothing is exciting. We know what is going to happen in almost every movie. There is so little that can surprise us. You know how it is to watch your children really enjoy something for the first time? That's how is was to watch a movie with Maria.

The kids are enjoying school. Everyone loves their teachers. Camden is playing soccer. Karis and Camden are doing gymnastics. Mason has a good friend already. So life is good.

Love to you all and keep praying, especially on Wednesday!


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Time sure is flying by! My head is spinning a bit from all the Spanish intake that it has had over the past 3 days. I just finished my homework and began trying to memorize some irregular verbs-April made up some flashcards, so I figured I might as well use them! It seems as though I can't fit everything that I want to do into a single day-time just evaporates! Three days into our schooling, I can really understand why it is strongly recommended that students hire an "empleada" (housekeeper). We have no time for much of anything outside of going to class, studying, and involving our kids in activities. Our empleada started on Tuesday and has been a huge blessing so far. She is from Nicaragua, has four children and is a single mom, so the work we are giving her helps to provide for her family. She will be working for us 4 days a week, 7 hours each day. She arrives at 8:30 and basically takes care of just about everything. She makes an enormous amount of food for lunch (around 1:15) which we will then heat up again for dinner (around 6). She leaves us at 3:30, with the laundry done, the floors clean, the dishes done, and the groceries bought. I really don't know how working moms get anything done around the house. Those of you in that situation must be amazing! Language learning is very stressful and emloying an empleada helps with much of the household stress. We are very fortunate to have an empleada! We felt a little strange about having a maid because we've never even considered it at any other time in our lives. When we got here we were given a piece of paper with some questions to answer about whether or not we needed one. The resulting answer was "you absolutely need to hire an empleada." Still not quite sure, we thought we would consider getting a little help. After consulting with Grettel, she encouraged us to hire one for a variety of reasons including helping out a single mom who needs an income (the institute sets the rates- about $300 per month!). So, we did and we now understand why. Well, I must get back to my irregular verbs. I must do better than April. Until next time...

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Primeras Clases

Our first days of school are now behind us!!! The kids had a blast going to school for the first time on Monday and April and I had our first day of classes on Tuesday. My head is about to explode! The good news is that though our teachers only spoke in Spanish, I understood everything they said. I had absolutely no problems understanding them because they spoke slowly and enunciated clearly. The bad news is that I think I will have exhausted my knowledge of Spanish in about a week. It is very tiring concentrating for hours in another language. April and I are in the same Grammar class for two hours and we have the same teachers for our other subjects, Phonetics and Conversation, though we have those classes at different times. It is exciting for us to get started. In addition to our Spanish language acquisition, we also have realized we need to pick up "Southern" as well, since most of our classmates are from south of the Mason-Dixon line. We experienced our first chapel session on Tuesday and found it to be really great. We sang some familiar songs, learned "Open the Eyes of My Heart" in Spanish, and listened to a really great speaker. He dressed in camo and used some hunting illustrations. We kind of felt at home. Tonight, I get to play some basketball and April gets to finish "The Sound of Music" with Maria. Until next time...