Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Christmas!

This Christmas, Brian and I are relaxing at home listening to "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens. It has been a quiet holiday so far - last night we went to the midnight service at Central Presbyterian downtown. This morning, we went to First CRC for the Christmas morning service, sang "Ere Zij God", and came home. I napped, went for a walk with Brian and Izzy, and relaxed in the livingroom by the fire while Brian cooked the Christmas Duck for dinner.

So many of my Christmas Pasts were so much busier. My Christmas Eve days were often spent in the car or van making the long trip from Belleville to Chatham, while my Christmas Eves were enjoyed at Grandma and Grandpa's apartment in the retirement home. Grandma got shorter every year we went to visit her. They had an air purifier near the front door that blew out strange smelling air. Grandma made fantastic apple sauce, but her tuna caserole often left a little to be desired (for a non-fish lover, at least). She always had smarties and rosettes on a silver tray on the coffee table. The old-school exercise bike in their bedroom was entertainment for hours. Grandma and Grandpa always had suspiciously similar wrapping paper as mom and dad. One year, Grandma gave me an awesome puppet in a cone. Marya later broke it in the car before we even got through Toronto. We spent hours every Christmas eve running down the halls of their apartment building, rubbing our slippers on the carpets and shocking eachother. I spent many Christmas eves sleeping at their apartment on the pull out couch (that now resides in my mom's basement), listening to Grandma and Grandpa do devotions and quietly talk in the kitchen in Dutch. Marya and I or David and I would pretend to be asleep until they retired to their room, and then we'd talk and giggle for hours in the quiet dark livingroom where the only other sound was the clock on the wall.

If I spent the night at Grandma's, we'd get up in the morning and eat breakfast and then, after putting on a special Christmas dress, all walk to church together. We would inevitably bump into aunts, uncles and cousins at church.

If I spent the night at Aunt Joanne's, we'd all find our various places - sometimes we'd all 6 of us sleep in the basement - one or two in Brian's room, one on the cot beside the pool table, and a few of us on the floor in the area normally decked with old school desks, comic books and a freakish stuffed clown. Sometimes we'd sleep upstairs - mom and dad would sleep in cousin Julie's room and I would sleep in the walk-in closet - a room just my size! Aunt Joanne often had a few presents for us, which was VERY exciting! One year I got a book about Little Bear, and one year I got a book about a young girl who travelled out west in the wagon trains with her family and pet hen. We always got to have brown sugar on our cereal at Aunt Joanne's. They had so many awesome toys in the hallway cupboard.

If I spent the night at Aunty Anne's, sometimes I'd sleep in the front room with Marya or David. The sheets on the beds had line drawings of stick figures literally laughing their heads off - their heads were defintely not attached to their heads. That was always an iffy room to sleep in - there was a door to the stairs to the attic in that room, and you never know what could be in the attic that might want to come down, or what isn't in the attic that might want to go up. Sometimes I'd sleep in cousin Karen's room - since it had a double bed I'd have to share the bed with someone else, but it was a very cozy room to sleep in. Often I'd sleep in the pool table room with one or more of the siblings and there were many, many dubious shadows in the room. The fabulous thing about sleeping at Aunty Anne's house was that she used to have a whole store selection of cereal for breakfast! (Cereal has played a very important role in my life, in case you can't tell.... :)

The best thing about being in Chatham for Christmas was the big family dinner that we would have: the Van Bredas, the DeVrieses, and the Dielemans (the Brouwer sisters and their families). So many people. So much good food. Fun games. Good singing. Noise. Talking. Laughing. Busyness. Good times.

I always thought that Christmas would be a very busy time once I got married. But, we no longer do the Brouwer sisters Christmas dinners and Grandma and Grandpa are both gone, so we no longer go to Chatham. We have no Christmas obligations on Brian's side of the family, and we just get together for my immediate family celebration. Sometimes I miss the three different gatherings (my family, Grandma & Grandpa, Aunts). But it's also nice to have some breathing room and catch up on much needed sleep.

However, every Christmas I do have those pangs in my heart to visit Chatham and the people there that I love. So many favourite memories in my life happened there.

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Livingroom Renovations

We've been busy here the past few weeks. A look at the photo below will show you what our livingroom looked like before we moved in, what we changed it to, and then the work that has been done in the past two weeks. It's not finished yet - the mantle is only primed, and the walls are mudded but not painted - but I do think that it's quite an improvement! I like it a lot. Thanks to Nick Vanderheide and Dan vanOosten for helping Brian and I do this!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Because it Made Me Cry.

Psalm 139
Alzheimer's Version

Listen, Dad,
God sees you, he knows what's happened,
he knows you.
He knows when you sit and when you sleep.
He knows your tangled thoughts; he knows them straight.
He knows when you're not here
and where you are when you're gone.
He knows your ways.
Before your words are lost before they get to your tongue,
he knows what you were about to say, what you meant.
He knows you.

There's nowhere you can go, Dad, where God won't go with you,
where God's Spirit won't comfort you, can't hold you.
As your light turns to night, even this darkness won't hide you.
God sees you clearly because because dark is light to him.
He'll go with you.
And he thinks of you, Dad,
The number of times, the many ways God cares for you,
if we tried to count them, would outnumber
sand on the beach.
So you can rest easy,
while I count.
I'm counting Mom's tears.
I'm counting the slights, the indignities, the affronts
to your pride.
I'm counting the frayed edges, the missing pieces of your
lost person.
But we'll get through this, Dad,
because when you awake - everyday and someday - you
will be with him.
And someday I too will awake with him, with you.

--Richard J. DeWaard

From the December 2008 Banner.

Birthday Celebration Invitation

This coming weekend is an exciting weekend. Why? We have the chance to celebrate the birthdays of Mr Brian vanOosten (29! on Saturday, the 13th) and Mr Brian Van Dooren (26 on Sunday, the 14th)! In honour of these two gentlemen, Laura Van Dooren and I would like to invite you to drop by, eat some food, drink some drinks, and wish the birthday boys the best as they enter a new year.

Where? Home of Brian and Jenn vanOosten. Let me know if you need an address or directions. Please go through the gate at the end of the driveway to the back door.

When? Drop by between 7pm and 10pm this coming Sunday, December 14th.

Hope to see you on Sunday!

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Saturday Night Concert

This photo is most of us on Saturday night at MacNab. I suspect that the photo was taken as we were filing in after the intermission, as there is a lack of Dr T on stage and most of the sopranos on the right hand side are missing. If I was on stage, my head would be poking out beside the tall guy (Art Smit) at the back right in front of the doorway.

The photo at the top of the post below is from Friday night's performance at Redeemer.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Handel's Messiah - Now and Then

December 5 & 6, 2008
Redeemer University College Auditorium
MacNab Presbyterian Church

This weekend, Brian and I had the opportunity to join 87 other members of the Redeemer University College Concert Choir and Alumni Choir to perform the quadrennial Messiah concert. Four years ago, Brian and I also sang, but he was with the Alumni and I was with the Concert Choir. Thus began our romance. :)

There are so many things to write about this year's performance that I have trouble finding a place to begin. Perhaps I shall start with last night. Wow. Last night, we had the opportunity to sing at MacNab Presbyterian down town (Dr T's home church). What an acoustic space! From the first go, the choir was bang on (well, as much as the Redeemer choir can be). There was about a three second echo in the church, which was awesome. Chris (since he's my colleague now, I'm allowed to call Dr T that) was thrilled with the first few choruses, and his joy was reflected in our voices. We were standing in a U shape which meant that I could hear every part as clear as a bell. It gave me chills. We nailed the Amen, though I had a hard time getting through the last few notes as a) I was losing my voice in a bad way and b) I was really choking up.

Also fantastic were the soloists. I would have to say that my favourite by far was Andrew Tees, baritone. He showed up at rehersal on Friday afternoon cracking jokes and dancing around the stage. He sang along with the other soloists as they rehearsed. He looked like a bit of a class-clown and had the aura of an NFL and NASCAR junkie - but when he opened his mouth and sang - wow. I believe I swooned. On Saturday evening as we were singing, he was facing my row and everytime the choir got up to sing he just looked as if it was the most exciting part of the evening. That was nice to see, as I couldn't actually see any of the audience from my back corner position.

The soloists all expressed that while it was perhaps not the most technichally brilliant performance (no surprise there), it was the most passionate Messiah that any of them had been a part of to date. To paraphrase them (I can't remember their exact words), between them they had been in hundreds of Messiah performances and not once had they heard a choir that was so committed to what they were singing. They could tell that we believed this was a real story that we were telling, and that we all believed in the story itself. The alto thanked us for helping her enter the season of advent.

The performance on Friday night at Redeemer wasn't brillant - it was certainly a good show and we mostly did a great job, but, as the bass soloist said, it's like singing into a pillow in the Redeemer Aud.

All in all, it was a great weekend. Having the experience of knowing the piece and not having to have my head buried in the score and worry that I'll screw up the whole evening really freed me up to listen, relax, enjoy, and worship. I look forward to next time. I'd love to sing the Messiah for Easter, sometime.

December 3 & 4, 2004
Redeemer University College Auditorim
Centenary United Church

Below is a blog that I posted on December 5th, 2004.
This past week scared me, though, in terms of both the rehearsals and the performances. It wasn't so much the singing that I was scared of; it was the fact that half the songs I was singing, despite enormous amounts of time practicing on my own, I didn't know. My fears were embodied and brought to fulfillment in Friday night's performance. Due to my lack of knowing the pieces, I wasn't able to watch Dr T as well as I should have been, and I take a huge chunk of the responsibility of the Alto problems. I freely admit to messing up on my favourite pieces, "The Lord Gave the Word," and many other pieces. One thing that I will admit: the hallelujah chorus gave me chills. It was worth going through Friday night in order to sing that chorus the way that we did. The Amen, as most know, did not go so well. I don't know that there's much more to say besides the comment that was passed around at The Brassie on Friday night: "What a train wreck!"
All day on Saturday, the Amen was not far from my mind. While getting ready for the performance that night, I must have listened to the recording of it ten times, not singing along with but feeling it. It sounds like a cliche, I'm quite aware of that. However, the sound that I was left with after Friday was not encouraging, and I needed to replace what was there. From the very beginning of the Saturday performance, I was excited. I could hear every single part of the choir: I felt as if I was a part of the choir, singing the choruses together, as opposed to Friday night when it felt (to me) as if we were all singing (some) of the choruses on our own, en masse. I had fun, and I could feel the presence of God among our choir, in the choruses and in the solos. Elation is the only word that would be fit to describe what consumed me a quarter of the way into the Amen. Well, elation, thankfulness and praise would be more accurate. I wasn't crying by the end, but my entire body shook as we sang the final measures, our director doubled over in tears. I have never been more thankful for the opportunity to be in choir.
This year is the first year that the Christmas concert has actually been performed twice, and in my opinion (and knowedge) this is the first year that the second performance has been so needed. I realize that a majority of the audience on Friday night won't have realized that we absolutely butchered the Amen of the Messiah as few have done before. However, if that was the last note of choir for the semester, I shudder to think of how it would have affected our coming semester. As it stands now, there is not a choir member who did not put his heart and soul into what we did this weekend, and there is not a member who did not experience the gift that God gave us last night. That performance has already touched how the choir will come together to sing next semester, both on tour and in concert. Thanks be to God! Amen!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It makes me SO happy that there is snow on the ground today. It makes me even more happy that I'm taking the day off work tomorrow to do some Christmas baking!! How is it not December yet? Speaking of December, on the 3rd we get to go pick out a Christmas tree. It will have to be a fairly little one this year because of the drop ceiling, but that's ok. As long as it's real.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Some Early Christmas Cheer

Don't judge me. The hat and collar were at the Dollar Store, $1 for the set. How could I not?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

This is My Childhood

Today's Special

Join In!

Fred Penner

Sharon, Lois & Bram

Fraggle Rock


The Littlest Hobo

My Secret Identity

Bill Nye: The Science Guy

Under the Umbrella Tree

Mr Dressup

The Friendly Giant

The Polka Dot Door

Harriet's Magic Hats


Saturday Night at the Movies

A Different World

The Cosby Show

Full House

Who's the Boss?

The Wonder Years

Empty Nest

Murphy Brown

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A Day's Entertainment

The Project:

The End Product:

The Verdict:
This project was much easier than the slippers. The instructions were fairly clear, although they missed a few steps that I had to figure out for myself. I like the fabric, and it seems to me to have turned out exactly as it was supposed to. I'm bringing it over to Rachel (mother of Joshua Peter) this evening, so we'll see if it works like it's supposed to as well! I think that this pattern is a keeper.
The Modifications:
I didn't make many modifications to this pattern - I chose to use a light cotton so the baby won't get too warm and sleepy under the blanket (I've heard that can be a problem). On the back of each of the bottom corners of the blanket/cover/apron I sewed in an 8"x8" square of terry cloth for times when a spit cloth isn't readily available. I would have liked to have sewn in a pocket or two of the contrasting fabric on the front and back of the blanket/cover/apron but alas, the pattern was correct in the amount of contrasting fabric I needed and I had no leftovers.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Night's Entertainment

The Project:

The End Product:

The Verdict:

I won't make the matching slipper. While it's a cute design, the pattern is not very user friendly (perhaps it is more so for more advanced sewers), it is incredibly time consuming, and it involves sewing the sole on by hand (I loathe hand-sewing - that's probably why I never excelled at cross-stitch when growing up). Also, although this was a size 7 pattern, the slipper ended up just a few centimetres too short for my foot (even with using smaller - than - called - for seam allowances). My elasticized heel didn't work, either - rather than cinching the material, the elastic was pulled tight to the shape of the heel and made not a lick of difference.

The pattern called for quilting-quality cotton; I used flannel for the outside and a terry cloth weave. The sole called for felted wool - I just used a section of felt left over from Sunday School lessons.

Welcome, little Nathan Ezekiel Ennema

Nathan Ezekiel Ennema was born last week at only 28.5 weeks. He weighed 3lb 3oz, and in spite of his early arrival, he is a pretty healthy little guy. Nathan is cousin to Joshua Peter Speelman, pictured below. Please keep Nathan, his parents, Rob and Karen, and his nurses in your prayers over the next weeks as Nathan grows and continues to develop into a little man.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Joshua Peter Speelman

This little man belongs to Rachel (Breimer) and Marty Speelman, very dear friends of ours. He's a handsome little man.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

It's a small world after all

A Municipal bylaw inspector came by our house today to check out our questions of drainage (see post on the pond in our back yard). I contacted the city to see if they could check a few things out for us - namely, did the city actually approve all the plans that now drain water into our yard, or can we blame someone for the water issues and have a helping hand paying for our back yard renos in the spring. The answer he gave was not positive. That sucks. However, it just so happens that the inspection officer's mother used to own our house 10 years ago, so he used to trim the trees in the front and the back and he is well aware of the pond issues that we have. He was very nice to me, and promised to do a bit of digging around in the zoning office to see if he just can't help us a bit. I thought that was nice of him. And he was pretty keen on taking a look around a property he used to take care of. Apparently we have much better neighbours now than his mom did 10 years ago - even with the hotboxing of the shed!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Because Apparently the Whole World is Not on Facebook...

Brian's project yesterday: Build two veggie gardens and level our porch area.
This is our future main veggie garden:

This porch needs to be leveled so it no longer slopes towards the house. The plan: remove all concrete slabs, level the porch with screenings, and lay a small path for us to walk from the side of the house to the back stairs. (The porch itself is a project for next spring.)

This is going to be our zucchini / squash / pumpkin garden. Since those plants have a habit of taking over the world, we're going to put them in a place where their growth can be constantly monitored and kept under control.

Hard at work. I don't know what they're doing, but I'm pretty sure they're working.

Marty looks so professional. He probably knows what he's doing.

Taken this morning: Our new veggie garden. Future home of many many cherry tomatoes, regular tomatoes, green beans, peppers, cucumbers, etc.

Our back porch: Not really finished. I think they're going to work on it again on Friday evening. (Check out the frost on the roof!)

Our zucchini / squash / pumpkin garden.

Izzy turned 4 years old on Wednesday. Marty was the only person who loved her enough to buy her a present.

That tall thing is the Behemoth at Canada's Wonderland. It's the scariest ride I've ever done in my life.

Or it was, at least, until I did this ride: The Xtreme Sky Flyer. It's a giant swing. People get clipped onto cables with hooks on their backs, and get pulled up to those posts at the far side. Those posts are 170 ft in the air.

That's Shanna and I. Hanging 170 ft in the air. Eeep. It still makes me dizzy just looking at the pictures.

This is our livingroom. It's actually functional now. Wow. Never thought I'd see the day!

This is Rachel at her surprise baby shower. I don't think she was too surprised.

As one of the shower activities, we decorated onsies so that Rach would have something to remember each of the shower participants. I got the idea from shower pictures that someone else had posted on Facebook.

Here are the newly decorated personalized onsies.

My gift for Rach. I was particularly proud of the slipper with the duck on it.

As most of you know, Brian and I have a very strict couch rule with Izzy - no couch unless she's in her doggy bed on the couch. Well, one evening Brian had pushed the doggy bed to the end of the couch (he was taking a nap). The next day, Izzy tried her darndest to get into that bed so she wouldn't be kicked off the couch:

This was my latest transformation (mid September):

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Brave Act for the Year

Xtreme Skyflyer is Canada's largest free-fall swing. On Xtreme Skyflyer riders control their own ride experience by pulling the rip cord and initiating a 170-foot power flight that takes riders through a breathtaking pendulum swing, soaring a mere six feet above the ground! Drawing its inspiration from skydiving, riders will experience weightlessness and speeds of more than 100km/hr.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Amaryllis Campaign '08 - Huntington Society of Canada

Many of you will remember that last year I sold Amaryllis bulbs to raise money for the Huntington Society of Canada. This year I will be selling them again, so please read the following and send me an email if you would like to purchase any and how many you would like to purchase. Please forward this post to anyone who may be interested. Thank you.

Huntington's disease is a fatal neurodegenerative disorder. It progressively destroys both mind and body, eventually taking away the ability to speak, walk, and even eat without help. Huntington disease is also a disease of families. Every child of a person with HD has a 50 % risk of inheriting the disease. One in every 1,000 Canadians are touched by HD, whether they have the disease themselves, look after someone who does, or have a friend or relative with HD. Currently there is no cure for Huntington's. However, with recent research discoveries we've never had more reason for optimism. It's been a very exciting year!

You may or may not be aware that my dad was diagnosed with Huntington's about 15 years ago and is now in the final stages of the disease. Although only 59, he has been living in nursing homes for the past several years. He is confined to a wheelchair, has not been able to feed himself for more than three years now, and his voice and all he has to say is locked up, unable to get through his uncontrollable mouth and throat muscles. This, of course, means that myself and my siblings are all at risk of inheriting the disease. There are also a few other families in the Redeemer / Hamilton community who have had Huntington's diagnosed in their family, as well.

Every year in the fall, the Huntington Society of Canada sells beautiful "Orange Sovereign" amaryllis bulbs in kits for $12/each that include soil, a pot, and the bulb, to help raise money for research into cures for this disease and others that share similar neurological roots (Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, etc.) Last year, this community helped me raise over $1,400 for the Huntington Society of Canada in only a few short weeks. I would love to beat that this year.

The kits, once purchased, can be stored in a cool, dry place until planted and tend to bloom 6-8 weeks after planting. The flowers are a beautiful bright orange, and they really do make great gifts.

If you purchased a bulb last year and enjoyed it, I would encourage you to buy an extra this year to share with a friend. I have placed a large order this year (based on the overwhelming response of last year) which is scheduled to arrive on November 6th - enough time to plant and have blooms by Christmas and not too far away from Christmas to store the bulb in a cool place until given at Christmas as a gift.

Please consider supporting the Huntington Society by ordering one or more of the kits as gifts or flowers to liven up your office space! Words cannot express how much each vote of support means to those of us affected. If buying flowers is not your "thing", we would really appreciate your prayers for those affected as well as for the scientists who are busy researching a cure.

For more information on Huntington's Disease or the Huntington Society of Canada, please visit

Why the Amaryllis?

The amaryllis is the signature plant of the Huntington Society of Canada. It represents the vitality of our organization, and the hope that we will soon find a cure. With your help, we will win the fight against Huntington disease. The Orange Souvereign is a top quality premium grade 26-28 centimetre bulb. Its tall, green stalks are topped by an exotic burst of orange blooms. These bulbs are specially imported from Holland in limited quantities.

A young man with Huntington's Disease recently posted the following on an HD Facebook support group:

I find myself understanding what my father meant about the silent scream.
It feels like no matter how hard you try no one understands what this world is like.
Your body is changing, your mind is slower, your balance is off, and your emotions are wild.
You're not in control of yourself anymore.
No one hears you.
No one understands you.
People dissociate with you.
People are afraid to learn more.
You are stuck and you're screaming "God, help me!"
Can anyone hear me?

Thank you for your support,

Jenn vanOosten

Now that you know a little, know more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

When it rains, it floods.

This is our back yard. It's not large by small town standards but here in Hamilton, we're quite pleased with the amount of space that we have. The majority of our greenery is what might be considered "weeds", though there is some grass back there.

Our backyard has a little problem, though. When it rains, it floods. It doesn't have to rain a lot before the water pours out of the parkinglot behind our back fence, runs along the side of our yard and then settles in the middle of our yard. Not only does this mean that we can't use our backyard after it rains (unless we were looking to swim) but in order to cut the grass, we have to wait 7 or so days after the rain has stopped for the sun to come and dry up all the rain.