Saturday, August 31, 2013

She Did NOT Just Say That Out Loud!

So this is usually the time when I look back on the week and think of something witty to write about in order to entertain my family and friends.  And actually, I have so much fodder this week...I mean, I spent Wednesday morning talking to Freshmen and Sophomores about sex and relationships...and guess who is in the Freshman class this year? Yup! Kaitlyn.  It was AWESOME to see her completely mortified when I said the word "sex" out loud to a group of her peers...her friend Dorie turned especially pink, and she was like, "Mrs. VanHekken did NOT just say that out loud."  Even better was when I read the lyrics to "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke out loud.  You know it is every kid's dream to hear their mother read to their friends, "I know you want it.  I know you want it.  Must wanna get nasty. Go ahead get at me."  Oh, it was a beautiful thing.

Anyway, more than the excitement generated by my underclassmen relationship seminar, I wanted to take a more serious turn today and share with you a little bit about my friends Marc and Gretchen Driesenga.  Marc and I have taught English together for the past 2 years at WMC, and without a doubt I can say that he is one of the best teachers I have ever met (he did of course learn everything he knows from me....probably).  Anyway, Marc and Gretchen heard and heeded God's call on their lives and moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, Africa, to teach and minister at Haven of Peace Academy.  In July they packed up all of their belongings (except for the 552 crates of movies that they left in our basement),

Their crates...Our basement :)
got on a plane, and began a new chapter of life 1/2 way around the world....oh, and I forgot to mention that they have a 5, 2, and 8 month old! Marc and Gretchen are an incredible couple, and I just wanted to share their journey with all of you.  Chris and I support them financially knowing that every little bit is a part of growing God's kingdom, but I also know that they are still raising financial support as well.  Above all, they covet our prayers.  Even though you might not know them, I would encourage you to just lift them up in prayer...even if it's one of those "please bless that one couple that Jenn knows who moved to that one place somewhere in Africa."  I'd also encourage you to subscribe to their blog.  It's so interesting to hear about their life on the other side of the world...I know you will find so too. Click here to read their entire blog...and here is a little snippet from their latest:

I can honestly say that the first few days of school were not the same without Marc.  I didn't have anyone to make fun of students with, and I didn't get to throw down the gauntlet for who would win this year's Project Grace challenge (I would never brag...but last year my class beat his by $6.00!!! I personally think he moved just so he wouldn't have to face defeat again.)  But I know God has his hand on their lives, and anyway, we still have social media, so we'll just have to make fun of students via Twitter. And Facebook. And Instagram...and well really, I guess it's not really all that different after all!

Lots of Small Town Love from a Missing-and-praying-for-her-friends Small Town Girl

Sunday, August 25, 2013

On Being a Handraiser

So here's the truth, I'm a self-proclaimed hand-raiser.  Now, you either know exactly what I'm talking about, or you are completely lost in translation.  Let me explain, a hand-raiser is one of those people in church who gets so caught up in the music that their hands fly up in the air in worship; I'll just let you know right now that I am also a hip-swayer, a knee-bouncer, and a eye-closer during times of worship, but most of all I'm a hand-raiser - hey I figure if Taio Cruz can convince us to "throw our hands up in the air sometimes singing Ay-o, gotta let go..." then so can Jesus!

Anyway, not everyone understands the whole hand-raising thing, and that's the great thing about so many different churches, there are sprinkle-with-water baptizers and dunk-until-they-need-a-life-jacket baptizers, there are organ-and-hymnal worshipers and drum-and-guitar-and-occasionally-a-weird-African-instrument worshipers.  We're all noted by my Dominican mother who recently commented on a cousin's wedding...

Mom: "We (meaning her giant Dominican family consisting of 132 first cousins) didn't even know if there was going to be dancing (gasp!) because your cousin and his wife go to one of "those" churches.

Me: "One of those churches?"

Mom: "You know, they're kind of different, and we (meaning her giant Dominican family consisting of 132 first cousins) don't know anything but Catholic.

Please let me pause here.  No seriously.  I just need to pause, because what I didn't say but wanted to (and I would write this in capital letters, but it's too long and I would look like I'm yelling...which I'm not) is...

Do you not remember that you raised us in West Michigan, and we grew up going to that will-remain-nameless-but-fairly-charasmatic-church in which Molly Magee* would dance wildly down the center aisle, speak in tongues at the top of her lungs, be slain in the spirit and fall down backwards after which time the elders would come wrap her in white sheets and carry her out into the lobby??? Hmmm....

Anyway, it turns out my cousin's wedding wasn't all that extreme after all and everyone was relieved when they in fact did have dancing...of course they did, it was a Dominican wedding!!

Anyway, I may not be a speaking in tongues, slain-in-the-spirit kind of worshiper, but I'm definitely a hand-raiser, and with that I thought I'd share this little video with some fun, hand-raising humor (go ahead, it's only 2 minutes long) and don't worry, I'm not poking fun at anyone, I'm poking fun at myself (and you other hand-raisers out there)'s like being Dominican, if you're Dominican you can make fun of Dominicans...but if you are Guatemalen?  Oh no, don't you dare start making fun!!


And P.S...I'm definitely a "schoolroom" :)

Lots of filled-with-the-spirit, Sunday morning, Small town love,

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Apparently those aren't highlights

 Growing Old

This whole "getting older" thing is frankly a bit out of control.  I'm going to be honest here...people usually think I'm younger than what I actually am...especially my students who often can't believe I'm the same age as their parents (except for that one kid...who said he thought I was 45...but it's ok, I failed him.)  Anyway, I can honestly say that I've been let down lately by the number of times that I have NOT gotten carded.  Seriously, you're supposed to card anyone who looks under 40...and darn it, I look younger than 40! I think. At the very least, Shirley at the grocery store should be asking me for my ID because if I was going to buy alcohol underage I would have the perfect cover - what underage drinker brings two kids to the grocery store with her with her who call her mom every 10 seconds (which is what happens in the grocery line...usually accompanied by "can I have some gum/tictacs/candy/this movie/this magazine)" and if I were only 19 and the cashier asked for my ID, I would give her a haggard look and say, I'm sorry, I left it at home, but obviously I need this 6-pack of Zima because my kids are driving me crazy," and she would nod sympathetically and completely understand...this is why I should be carded...I could be a 19 year old completely pulling the wool over Shirley's eyes in the checkout line...CARD ME!

Possibly Shirley is not willing to card me because of the streaks of gray that have started decorating my hairline.  The first time I saw them I thought they were highlights from the sun - silvery little streaks that I got without even investing in Sun-In...and then I realized that they weren't highlights...they were GRAY HAIRS!  Or maybe Shirley has noticed my old-lady bunions - seriously, it's like I turned 36 and my feet decided to launch a rebellion against cute shoes.  I used to toddle around on heels all day long, but all of a sudden my feet have grown these rebellious little knobs that are like, "fit me into an Aerosole or die!!!" I'm remembering the 70 year old wedding planner that worked with Chris and I when we got married; she had a wanky second toe that curled freakishly over her big toe, I was incredibly grateful not to have been endowed with her foot issues - alas, I spoke to soon.  I had no idea that feet get mad at you for wearing heels your whole life and decide to fight back.  I'm sorry...I don't do ugly shoes...I AM DOMINICAN.

It wouldn't be so bad if it were these two little superficial things, but it's kind of a wake up call when your doctor begins using the phrase, "At your age."  Let me give you an example from earlier this summer:

"At your age, we want to be more aware of the risks for breast cancer, therefore we are ordering a mammogram."  A mammogram?? I remember my mom's 1st mammogram - those are for old people, not cool, young people like me!!

And, "Your blood tests show that you are Vitamin D deficient and at a risk for osteoporosis." I'm sorry, what? Osteoporosis is what causes little old ladies to have a hunchback - I'm not at risk for that, my back wouldn't dare hunch on me!!

Or, also told to me by a doctor this summer, "I know that you have coached gymnastics your whole life, but at your age, you need to be more careful of the strain you put on your joints." I'm sorry...what?? At my age?  I thought I was just hitting my prime...that's what the magazine's say, but apparently not, apparently I'm hitting the "at your age" age, which came a lot faster than I thought it would.

Anyway, there is still a bit of silver lining (aside from those in my hair).  Yesterday Kaitlyn was updating me about an episode of Toddlers and Tiara's (of course), and our conversation went like this:

Kaitlyn: "Yeah, there was this crazy mom, not, you know, a cute mom like you."
Me: "I'm sorry...did you just call me a cute mom??"
Kaitlyn: "Yeah, and then they were interviewing her..."
Me: "Wait, like a cute mom, like I look cute?"
Kaitlyn: "Mom! I'm trying to tell you a story!"
Me: "Chris, did you hear that? Kaitlyn called me a cute mom!"
Kaitlyn: "Oh my gosh, stop."

Kaitlyn and I being "cute"

So anyway, I may be looking slightly older than 21, and I may have gray hairs and old person feet, and I may have to take it easy in my old age because of my hunchback, but really, all that matters is that my teenage daughter thinks I'm a cute mom, and that's good enough for me...well until next month...which is my birthday...and I'm hoping for botox as a know, just to be a cute mom a little bit longer.

Lot's of gray and wrinkled small-town love.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Small Town Weekend

Seriously, one of the best weekends ever in which there was a whole lotta nothin' goin' on...but the best kind of nothin' - you guests, no cookouts, no beach parties, no family birthday parties...boring? maybe...but relaxing? H-E-Double Hockey Sticks yeah!

 So here's the lowdown...

1. I finished The Paris Wife, which I loved and I hated at the same time.  It made me want to read more Hemingway...sort of, but not really.  Right...that's how I feel too, not sure what to think.

2. Watched Little Buddy golf a round at his grandparents...well, not really a round, more like 6 & 1/2 holes...he got bored after glad we invested in those clubs for him.

3. Set up an appointment for Leo to get declawed...this was our last roll of toilet paper which created a mad scramble to Walgreens for an emergency weekend supply before this week's weekly shopping.

4. Got crafty...if you consider using chalk crafty...but I did make a double line on the "M" and the "U" of menu which makes it a bit fancy.  My kids were in awe...seriously, Little Buddy asked, "are you going to do this every week??" Followed by a suspicious, "What happens on Saturday and Sunday?" No worries bud, Jimmie Johns is on speed dial.

5. Returned books to the library where I failed to park within the lines, but in my defense, this bumper guard clearly shows that it's the library's fault and not mine...seriously, how many people have to nail this corner before they widen the spaces in the parking garage...incidentally, I also found out that no, you cannot return books from another local library to the current library where you originally checked out the book...apparently my library card record shows I have been doing all summer...and apparently they charge for it...but my balance is currently at $9.54, and you don't have to pay until it's over $10.00, so...I'll just wait.

6. And finally, I watched Baby Girl do wall splits in order to practice her scorpion for cheer.  This just happens to be a picture in which she slightly lost her balance and fell (not hard of course...I mean, not too hard) face first into the stairwell.  I of course went to help her after I cursed the fact that I had only taken a pic and not a video...better luck next time (for her of course, not me).

Anyway, that was my weekend, and it was wonderful! Hope yours was too!

Southern Sunflowers and Coffee Beans
Link up to Logan here
Sami's Shenanigans 
Link up to Sami here

Friday, August 9, 2013

One Man's Trash...

So this week I stopped by an estate sale that was recommended to me by one of my colleagues...she felt that there was some clothing there that was "just my style." After rummaging through lace tablecloths (not my style), and thick-soled sandals (not my style), I came across a pair of Miss Me jeans for $25.00 + 1/3 off (I don't teach math, otherwise I would have given you a more accurate price).  Anyway, the jeans were in great shape...and after being led into the back yard to use the homeowner's fishing trailer (we were in Fruitport) as a dressing room...I decided to buy them.  Carson found a 1966 blue and yellow license plate for $8.00 (plus 1/3 off) that he wanted, and I headed to the check out line with both items to do a little negotiating...which I am bad at.  It went like this...

Me: Would you take $20.00 for both of these items?
Seller: These are $100.00 jeans
Me: Aren't they on sale for $25.00 + 1/3 off?
Seller: Yes
Me: Is the license plate also 1/3 off?
Seller: Yes
Me: Would $20.00 work for both items together
Seller: No, that comes to $22.11
Me: I'm not sure I have 11 cents
Seller: I'll give you a deal and take $22.00
Me: Ummm...Ok (awkwardly fumbling through my wallet for $22.00)

So here's the way that I see it...I am the world's worst negotiator - getting an 11 cent deal really doesn't count in the world of business...and therefore I will stick to teaching English.  This whole situation reminded me of a similar one down in Florida, so I thought I'd flash it back for you on this Friday morning, and share a Florida Chick post from 2009...enjoy!

Oh, and by the way, I would totally post a picture of the Miss Me jeans, but that would mean taking a selfie in the bathroom mirror, and I'm just not sure that I'm really up for making a fish face in front of my toilet...not happenin' today folks!

Lots of Small Town, Bargain Hunting Love,

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

I Would Work For...

So it's Wednesday,  I know you are all sitting around doing NOTHING but waiting for me to link up with E, Myself, and I for midweek confessions...but actually, I'm throwing out a curveball and linking up with Erin at Living in Yellow this week for "I would work for..."  Basically if WMC ran out of money (seriously, it's a private school...this is totally possible) what reimbursement would have me coming in day after day without a paycheck...and honestly, this is pretty much a confessional anyway...

1. The "accidental" death of Sallie Mae.  Seriously, she's a witch with a capital B.  Before you freak out on me, of course I'm not trying to order a hit on anyone...I'm Dominican, not Sicilian!  And seriously, she's not a person...she's the ginormous corporation that feels the need to constantly remind me every. single. month. that I got my education degree from a private college...and for some reason she feels like I need to pay her back in full...ugh. I hate her...and if any of you Sicilians out there know how to get rid of her...seriously, hook a girl up.

2. A laundry folder/bathroom cleaner.  This is usually Kaitlyn's job, but since she's off nannying this week (and making enough money to get Sallie off my back, might I add), my laundry is just sitting in the basket getting wrinkles.  I don't know what it is about folding laundry that I can't handle...seriously, I could just pop in front of Honey Boo Boo for an hour and get those babies folded up...but I. just. can't.   My Dominican mom doesn't understand this..."You need a nice lady like my Crucita, to come in and take care of your house for you."  Yes mom, I do, but THIS IS AMERICA, and if Crucita were working here pretty soon INS would show up, and pretty much that's why I have a teenage daughter instead.

This basket of laundry has been sitting in the basement for a FULL WEEK.
 3. Non-curly hair.  I realize that I've previously discussed the misconceptions surrounding curly hair (it has so much's so must wake up with beachy waves) but seriously, I'm about sick of the messy bun that I have been wearing for the past 6 months, and I'm even more sick of looking like Mufasa every time I take it down.  I remember the good old days when Sarah Frego and I would stay up until 2 in the morning giving her a Clairol home perm (and to be honest, I'm not sure that was even a great choice back in the 80s) but seriously, curly hair is not for the faint of heart...or for me.  Give me a lifetime supply of Brazilian blowouts and I will give you a lifetime of devotion in return.

4. Vera Bradley.  Not the bags, the woman.  No, I'm just kidding, the bags (is there actually a woman named Vera Bradley?? Totally researching that after I finish writing this).  So, I'm not really a florally type of person...I'm kind of like clean lines, solid colors...I'm not even shabby chic...I'm more like Pottery Barn...which is why I can't quite figure out my obsession with Vera bags - they're a bit old lady-y and that in itself makes me cringe...I'm not even 40 yet, people!! The crazy thing is that  I LOOOOVE my school bag, and my hipster, and my phone case, and I would totally not be opposed to adding ipad case and wallet to that list.  This presents a problem because SALLIE MAE keeps getting in my way of investing everything I have into a Vera-printed luggage set...I hate her!  I would draw the line at Vera PJ's though...floral school bag = good, floral nightgown = Chris would KILL ME.

Christmas 2012...Thanks, Mom!
And Finally,

5. I think it's completely safe to acknowledge that I would totally work for selfish ambition and vain conceit.  Seriously...get me ahead in life? I'm there.  Which is apparently not an acceptable reason to work (Phil 2:3, NIV) and therefore I have pretty much decided that working without pay is probably not on my radar. I'll stick to a paycheck, give Sallie her monthly "Thank you for giving me the money to eventually get myself a job in order to pay you back" check in the mail, hug my daughter as she folds the laundry, and continue adding Vera bags to my Christmas wishlist.  That being said, the next time my mom comes to the States for a visit, she better as heck bring Crucita with her!! For real!!

Lots of Small Town Love,

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Why I don't watch the news...

...Basically because I find it much less interesting than Toddler's and Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo.  That being said, I was basically challenged in my principles this week when my mom called me out on this whole issue.  She's visiting from the Dominican Republic (here's a map just in case you were like "The Whatican Rewhat?")

This is where my mom is from, and where my parents live now.  It's a small island in the Caribbean that shares space with Haiti...but don't bring that up to Dominicans...they're kind of sensitive about it.
Anyway, my mom was visiting this weekend from the Dominican Republic and we had ourselves the following conversation:

Mom: So what about that Detroit situation
Me: You mean that they're winning (which is obviously the reply of any true Tiger's fan)
Mom: (after an awkward pause) No, I mean the bankruptcy
Me: Do you mean the steroid use?

Sidenote...we were totally on two different pages...

Mom: (exasperatedly) No, I mean that Detroit declared bankruptcy
Me: What does that mean?
Mom: Never mind.

Apparently it was a big deal on Dominican news last week, but the only thing I was aware of was that Jhonny (yes, I spelled it correctly...I'm an English teacher, remember??) was about to be suspended for PEDs...probably why the city's going bankrupt.  

Here's the deal, it's not that I specifically have anything against the news, I just don't feel any specific need to sit down and watch it.  I have a very full summer schedule of Pinterest and blogging to keep up with, and if I'm going to sit down and watch T.V, it's either going to be a show about someone getting brutally murdered (Castle), a show with real people whose life choices I can judge (T&T, HBB), or a baseball game whose announcers provide light background noise as I scroll through Pinterest.  

There are benefits to watching the news however...for example, it makes you smarter than your 9 year-old-son, like when your mom asks, "So who is the governor of Michigan now?" and you say "Jennifer Granholm," and your son says, "Rick Snyder."  If you're not from Michigan, I'm not going to tell you which one of us was right...but it was probably the one who just finished a 3rd grade social studies unit on Michigan, and not the one who eligible to vote...but maybe not, you decide.  

And it also makes you sound really smart when you watch Jeopardy.  See, here's what happened, I took my mom to my grandparents' house yesterday, and my grandpa began to discuss the "issue in Yemen."  Hmmm...obviously you already know that I had no idea what he was talking about.  So he told me all about the unrest, the threats from Al-Quaeda, the travel warnings, and the ambassador who was assassinated in Libya...and herein lies the exciting we were watching Jeopardy last night (which was before The Bachelorette...another show in which I frequently judge the poor choices of real-life people) Alec Trebec asked which Middle Eastern country's ambassador had been assassinated during the summer of which I yelled loudly "LIBYA!!" and to which my son responded, "Wow mom, you are so smart!"  And I was like, "Yeah, I know. I watch the news."

And that's the thing, maybe I don't watch the news, and maybe I don't always know what is going on in the world, but as long as Carson thinks I'm the smartest person he knows, that's all that matters to me...oh, and I'm a lot less stressed out too...I turned on the news to watch it with my mom this morning, and the first report I saw was about the risk of Alzheimer's Disease in women who didn't breast feed...which of ME.  Seriously, between the "issue in Yemen," and my apparent risk of Alzheimer's Disease, I'll take reality T.V. anyday!

Well, that's all for today, lots of Small Town Love,


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Lessons learned at the Carnival

The thing about a carnival is that really, it's just a small town version of a county fair...minus the pie-eating contest and heifer competition (which my kids would totally win now that they know what a heifer is!).  For those of you who make your home in South Florida and are completely confused by both the term "carnival" and "county fair," that's ok, just think Hollywood Beach. On a Holiday. In February. After 2am...yes, that is the general atmosphere of one of our little carnivalitas up here in the north. Today, in fact, for most Grand Haven-ers (yes, that is an official term. I'm an English teacher. I would know) today is simultaneously sad (why can't the elephant ear vendor just keep his little trailer here all summer?!) and completely and thoroughly exciting (no more out of town drivers. Or bikini-wearing street-revelers.  Seriously...modest is hottest people!)  It was a great week however, with carnival games, carnival rides, cookouts, and fireworks...and I'm excited to share with you the top three things that I've learned this week...

I don't know these people...I just wanted you to see the Carnival lights
1.  When going to a carnival (or county fair, or Hollywood Beach) dress your children in bright colors.  I learned this accidentally, and even though my kids are old enough to kind of run around on their own...I mean, it's not like I wasn't "around" just maybe not "around" you know?  Anyway, it made it easy to look up on the crazy-spinny Remix and think..."Oh, there's my kid in the bright orange shirt, is he crying or laughing? Laugh...oh, nope...not laughing."  It's also beneficial to make sure that said shirts have a "Jesus" slogan or logo on them.  It's a good reminder that should a ride become too intense, it's still important to watch your language (Darn, this is scary = good.  Oh sh$% = bad). Not that my children would ever use that seriously...they wouldn't...however, it's also a good reminder for the mother who is wandering around with those children-in-Jesus-shirts to also watch her language when her children go on rides which twirl them around like ragdolls (Lord, please protect them = good. Oh sh$% = bad.)

Carson on the "ReMix" in his bright orange "SonShine VBS" t-shirt

Kaitlyn in her neon yellow "Jesus Rocks!" t-shirt

2.  Speaking of...the next thing that I learned is to fully immerse your children in prayer before heading to the carnival (or county fair, or Hollywood Beach).  Because those rides are SKETCH.  Seriously, they are put together in 12 hours by a crew of traveling carnies (their word, not mine...I think.  I'm not sure if that's it?) Who are quite possibly gypsies (again, is this derogatory? I don't think so...right?) and I've seen gypsies on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (same channel as Toddlers in Tiaras and Honey Boo Boo) and they are crazy.  Not to mention that these rides are SET UP ON PALLETS.  Like, the same pallets that are used in many Pinterest DIY projects.  So, if you're a good mom like me, you just buy the wristband and pray that the screws don't come flying loose while your child is hanging upside down.

This is the ride Freak-Out...on a pallet.
 3. And finally, I learned not to leave your undergarments lying around at the carnival (or county fair, or Hollywood Beach) because someone will undoubtably find it and turn it into a piece of sculptural artwork.  Now, I'm not quite sure how this bra ended up on Washington Street in the first place, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Beer Tent might have had something to do with it...just sayin'

Someone's left-behind bra wrapped artfully around a broomstick
Anyway, it's been a whirlwind of a week.  I caught up with many long-lost friends, we played water squirting games, we walked...and walked...and walked...which is good because I also shared a basket of fries with Carson, and the walking made me feel less guilty about it.  So now that the tourists are gone and the streets are empty, the fam and I are going to head back down to the waterfront tonight for a little Small Town Worship on the Waterfront...and thank God for an awesome place to live...even if people leave their bras around on the sidewalks.

Hope your weekend was great...I'd love to hear about your Carnival adventures as well!

Lots of Small Town Love,


Friday, August 2, 2013

Down on the Farm

So today we shed our "Big City" ways and headed up north for a day at the farm...and by "Big City" I actually mean "Small Town"...and by "Farm" I mean the air-conditioned ice cream shop at Country Dairy...just kidding, we didn't actually stop for ice cream until after we toured the down-home workings of the farm.  Lucky for me, I just happen to have an "in" with the owners (who says teaching doesn't have it's perks...I mean, except for the summers off...and Spring Break...but that's besides the point).  

Anyway, Riley (or "my favorite student ever" as he so kindly labeled himself in my phone when I had my back turned) was generous enough to take me and the kiddos on a private farm tour...which included coversations about cow insemination (did you know cow semen is worth thousands of dollars??), the difference between heifers and bulls (because similar to the "you can make pickles here if you need a refresher on kids had no idea that cows and bulls had *ahem* differences), and finally the fact that why yes, you can actually grow the ground. It was quite a learning moment for my children and I to learn that no, it doesn't actually just "come in bundles." Good to know.

Riley showing Carson one of the tractors
Anyway, we finished our time at the Dairy with what were without a doubt the best ice cream cones ever (Mom's Cookie Dough for Kaitlyn and Blue Moo for Carson) and a visit the Country Dairy store for the most amazing chocolate milk in the world, and a package of blue cheese brats (sausages, not kids with bad attitudes) which Chris officially declared "the best brats I've ever eaten in my life." Animal husbandry conversations aside, the Dairy tour and treats were great!

We said goodbye to Riley and continued our Down Home afternoon by heading over to Lewis's petting zoo (Kaitlyn was quite possibly the oldest kid there...and probably had the most fun.)  The highlight of the day had to be the moment when Carson said, "Look mom, that animal has a Joey!" ...and Kaitlyn and I proceeded to inspect a wallaby as he licked and nurtured what seemed to quite possibly to be a baby? In it's front pouch? We seriously stared at this for about 5 minutes before Mr. Wallaby decided to make things clear by letting go of said "baby" which ended up being not a baby at all, but his GIANT TESTICLES. I kid you not. Giant.  Coming in at a close second for "moment of the day" was when Carson said, "Look, they have bouncing pillows...just like on Honey Boo Boo!"  Which of course, comes on right after Toddler's and Tiaras...we city folks obviously have high standards when it comes to what we watch on T.V.

The "Honey Boo Boo" style bouncing pillow

Anyway, it was a lovely day away from the bright lights, big city (which are more accurately streetlights that flicker on at dusk), and it was nice to come home to our small-town house cats and enjoy our chocolate milk and ice cream...straight from the containers of course...because that's how we do it in the city.

Lots of farm-girl love,


For more info on Country Dairy, here's a link to their website.
And here's one for Lewis Farms.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Midweek Confessions

Well friends,

It's that time again.  The middle of the week when I hook up with e, myself and I to let you know everything that is REALLY going on in my life so that you can feel just a little bit better about yours.

Here we go:

1. Currently I have a blister on my lip.  I burned it.  While trying to sneak a bite of too-hot, full-gluten cinnamon roll.  I think that God was like, "Girl, I love you but you know you can't eat that!" BAM. Blister. 

2. The blister is only slightly less humiliating than the fact that yesterday I spent about 1/2 an hour digging through the trash can...not the one under the sink (all you Dutch folks know what I'm talking about), the one on the curb. The big blue one. With all of our trash from the past two weeks (because remember, Chris was out of town last week and I wasn't about to move the trash to the curb - that's a boy's job!) Anyway, I accidentally threw away a $100 Visa gift card, and as I looked at that big blue can on the curb, I just couldn't bear to think that the card might be in there...sure enough, a few layers past the wads of used paper towel, bags from the bathroom garbage (no way I was opening those), one decayed chicken carcass, and 15 gaggy dry-heaves later, there it was...$100 Visa card!  Hallelujah!  And then I spent it. On Kaitlyn.  Seriously, that girl should have been out there digging through the trash with me.  Here's her new comforter that we ordered from IKEA with the Visa card:

3. Finally, I have spent two hours today watching Toddlers in Tiaras...and by watching I mean emotionally investing myself in the lives of spray-tanned and hair-teased 7 year olds.  I caught myself saying, "Doesn't that mom know this is full-glitz? That second-hand dress is not going to cut it!" and "What exactly is going on with her hair, it looks like a rat's nest!" before catching myself and deciding to be polite and judge these women inside my head rather than out.  And this then leads me to my true midweek confession.

4. It's not just that I like Toddlers and Tiaras because of the drama and the sass and the moms who are trying to relive their  glory days...but because...wait for it...I WAS ONE OF THEM.  Okay, not a glitzy seven year old beauty queen, but I was the second runner up in Miss Teen Grand Rapids my junior year of high school.  That's right. 2nd runner up. Just 2 spots behind 1st place (and in all honesty that 1st place girl was 6 feet tall and looked like a man). Just to prove how awesome it was, here's a little photo gem for you...

Seriously, didn't I know about tanning in the 90s?? Geesh!

Anyway, that's my week so far.  As you can see, it's been painful (the blister), stressful (the garbage incident) and emotional (reliving my glory days).  But that's the real deal...and hopefully it's made you a feel a little bit better about your day/week/life (choose only one, please).  Hopefully you've had a great week with no need for confession...but if not, you know where I am...I'd love to hear about it!

 Cheers from a second-runner-up Small Town Girl

P.S. For those of you who have asked how you can follow my blog more easily...check out the "follow by email" spot on the right hand side of my blog and leave your email.  You'll get an update each time there's a new post.  Just a thought :)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Small-town Saturday

"Ain't nobody celebrate a festival like those that live in a small town." - Me

Ok, so that quote really isn't from anyone famous, but it's pretty darn accurate.  Small towns take their celebrations seriously, none more than Grand Haven and it's famous Coast Guard Festival.  As this weekend is the kick-off to a week full of carnival rides, caramel corn, concerts, and crazy tourists, I thought I would start off by sharing how we spent our opening day weekend...

Grand Haven, Michigan...Home Sweet Home

1. The Coast Guard Run - no, I'm just kidding.  It started at 7:30 and it's 3.2 miles...both of which are beyond my scope of interest.  But some people ran, and I'm sure they had fun...but it was running. For 3.2 miles. So probably not.

2. The Farmer's Market - This really is where we began our morning.  It's lovely, with its flowers and fruits and veggies.  I was tempted by the blueberries which are perfectly in season...but of course, in true VanHekken fashion, we only made two the VanderMill booth to get 1/2 dozen freshly baked donuts (Sidenote: we also stopped here because our darling friend Sam works here and texted us at 6:30 AM to let us know he would be at the farmer's market today.  6:30. AM. Anyway, 1/2 dozen VanderMill donuts and a gluten-free strawberry and banana muffin...which was delicious by the way...but probably not as delicious as the donuts...and we were done with the market.  Sorry fruits and veggies, that's not really how we roll.

Our almost-empty bag of VanderMill cinnamon donuts

3. The Children's Parade - We headed from the Farmer's Market to the parade, which I'm sure is actually designed by dentists in order to draw in customers...seriously, the amount of candy that was chucked out of fire trucks could cause decay enough to leave every dentist in town busy for the rest of the year.  We hooked up with some friends to watch the various church groups, schools, and the Home Depot pom pom girls march through the streets, but really, the highlight was the local horse group who brought a donkey with them...the donkey, in apparent donkey fashion, stopped directly in front of us and for a solid 5 minutes refused to move.  The first minute was funny...and then it just wasn't.  It did however make me want to step into the street and say to the handler, "Hey, can you please just move your a$$?"  But A.) I would NEVER use that kind of language, and B.) I think he was probably using worse language in his mind already, so it really wouldn't have helped.

Patiently awaiting an onslaught of candy

The stubborn-as-a-mule parade moment
4. Baseball - After the parade we headed to a friend's house for a little family lunch followed by sandlot-style baseball.  We had an assortment of kids and dad's playing a variety of positions, and I like to think that I played the role of Wendy Peppercorn to Chris's Squints pretty well.  (Please tell me that you understand the reference...if not, go RIGHT NOW to a video store to rent The Sandlot.  Seriously. Right Now.  Anyway, it was very quaint, and even the dads played...which was great...until today, when I will have to slather icy hot all over Chris's non-16-year-old shoulder.

Carson pretending he's Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez

5. Friends and Pickles - Finally, we finished the day with a good ole small town cookout.  Burgers on the grill with friends, the Tiger's game on in the background, and homemade pickles.  Yes.  Homemade.  They were amazing, however, it did bring out a new understanding of how un-vegetabled my kids are:

Kaitlyn: You MADE Pickles?
My friend Amy: Yes, haven't you ever made pickles?
Carson: You can MAKE Pickles?
Amy: Yes, try one
Kaitlyn: Oh my gosh, I didn't know you could MAKE pickles!
Our friend Sam (who texted at 6:30 in the morning): Where did you think pickles came from? The ground?
Yes, that is the end of the conversation, because obviously my kids thought pickles came from the ground, and me, well being born and raised in Holland, Michigan, I just assumed that they came from the Heinz Pickle Factory on 17th street.

Amy's soon-to-be-famous homemade pickles

6. Sunday - Our small-town Saturday has continued with a small-town Sunday - church, the Car Show, a slow stroll through The Bookman, where I was the only one even remotely interested in purchasing a book, and brunch at the Morningstar...each of us declaring that ours was possibly the best thing we have ever eaten in our ENTIRE LIVES!  (Although, Kaitlyn did order the lemon poppyseed pancakes stuffed with fresh blueberries and topped with homemade raspberry sauce, which I secretly think were the best...but I'm definitely not telling her.) Here's a link to their menu, just so you can see how awesome it truly is!

Best moment of the day - Chris and Carson enjoying the car show
 Now we're home for a Tiger's game, a nap and a book (just me, of course) and we'll probably wrap things up with an evening on the boardwalk for Worship on the Waterfront.  It's a chilly but grand start to Coast Guard Week...and I fully expect that in the next week there will be a blog post about "People who wear things at small-town festivals that they totally shouldn't."  But until then, enjoy the rest of your weekend...I know I'm enjoying mine!

Lots of Love,

Small Town Girl

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flashback Friday

Today's chilly weather has me wrapped in a blanket finishing "Gone Girl" by Gillian Flynn - have you read it? If not, DO...and when you hit page 221 let me know so that we can gasp loudly together and hysterically discuss the crazy...and I mean CRAZY plot twist that I almost didn't see coming (but I do watch "Castle" regularly so I almost saw it coming).  Since I'm determined to finish my book this afternoon, I thought that instead of blogging today, I would let you read a previously written post from EXACTLY 5 years ago...the last time that it was this stinkin cold in July!  Oh...and I hope you like the new took me 2 full hours to put together...2 hours in which I could've finished my book! Ugh! Anyway, enjoy...

Happy Reading!

Small Town Girl

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Midweek Confessions

Thanks to the blog E, Myself, and I, I have learned about Midweek Confessions.  A fun little way to share the parts of my life with you that I otherwise would keep totally secret.  For example:

1. I only wash my hair once a week (sometimes one and a half if it starts getting those gross, white flakes in it).  Those of you longing for curly hair...please stop.  No one is born with beachy waves...those are man-made, God-made curly hair is more like a cotton ball, teased with a comb, and doused with glue.   Therefore I either have to spend 45 minutes with a blow-dryer (not would take away from my Pinterest time) or scrunch it with handfuls of mousse which usually works, but sometimes leaves me with a half-curly, half-awkwardly wavy head.  My solution: Wash, air-dry, wear in a messy bun (so glad they are finally cool!) and repeat one week later.

I couldn't have said it better myself!

2. Yesterday I ate 1/2 a box of Cheez-its...the Chipotle Zinger ones...I couldn't help it, they were amazing!  I, however, have a gluten sensitivity (which is the doctor's way of saying "I have no idea why you have so many stomach problems, why don't you join the bandwagon and avoid gluten.")And I fully know that eating Cheez-its will wrack my insides...but do I care?  Apparently not yesterday, because like Eve, I knew the consequences of changing my diet, but I was fully ready to accept my fate.  And like that darned apple, those cheez-its were fabulous...the whole 1/2 box.  And I spent the rest of the evening regretting my fateful choice...but it was kind of worth it...I mean, they were amazing!

These are currently 2 for $5.00 at I have another box in the cupboard.
3. Speaking of yesterday, I had a slight suspicion that one of my cats might have peed in the basement...disgusting, I know.  I love my kitties, but seriously...why is their pee so foul.  Of course, instead of searching for the offending spot, I did what any excellent homemaker would do and Febreezed the heck out of the carpet and couches.  Problem solved.

It's highly likely that Leo was the offender.  Yes...we dress up our cats...don't judge.

4. Finally, Chris was out of town last night, but I figured why waste a perfectly good glass of I drank...alone.  If that's not depressing enough, I sent the kids to bed and had a second glass. ALONE. ON A TUESDAY.  Where is my self-control!! Oh, that's right, it's buried deep in a 1/2 eaten box of Chipotle Zing Cheez-its and camouflaged by a healthy dose of Febreeze!

This is not the wine I had last night...obviously Chris is home in this picture...and, I was too busy actually drinking the wine to stop and take a photo of it.

Anyway, that's the real happenings in my small town life this week.  I'd love to hear about yours...and I judgment! (You know you can trust that statement from a girl who cleans with Febreeze).

Small Town Girl <3>

Monday, July 22, 2013


I love Pinterest.  Especially in the summer when I'm not working...Pinterest is like my best friend.  Need a pick me up? Check out the "Funny" tab.  Not sure what to wear? Check out "women's fashions." Bored? Browse through "Everything."  And therein lies the dilemma...half the time I look at stuff on the Pinterest everything board and think "What was that person thinking?!"  And I desperately want to pin each horrible and ridiculous pin I find...but I'm too afraid that my Pinterest followers will see it and think that I actually like the ridiculous pin and secretly judge me the way that I judge the original pinner.  That being said, what better way to share of few of my least favorite pin-fads from the past week...

1.The dress-like-a-Disney-character fad:
Ok, I like Disney just as much as the next guy (well, probably not as much...but close).  But for the life of me, I can't figure out why I would want to model my next outfit off of a fictional character living in the woods...I mean, she only wears primary colors:

And although Snow White seems to be the most popular option, if she's not exactly your style, no worries.  There are options for EVERY. CHARACTER. OUT. THERE! Check it out:

Want to feel like a mermaid? A chinese revolutionary? A frog-kisser? No problem, Pinterest has the outfit for you.  And if princesses aren't really your thing, no worries. You can even dress like Flynn Rider:
Or Mickey Mouse:
Now I apologize to any of you who look to Disney for your style choice...I'm not really judging...but kind of. But while we're on the subject of cartoon characters, can I just introduce my next least favorite Pinterest pin idea...

2. The I-love-cartoons-so-much-that-I-got-one-tattooed-on-my-arm craze.
Really.  Please know, this is not about tattoos.  I like tattoos. I have tattoos (yes, plural.  If you don't know about the second one, you probably don't really need to.)  I don't even have a problem with visible tattoos...but can I just make one teeny-tiny suggestion...if you are going to get a tattoo, please consider location and subject matter carefully.  Just because you love "A Charlie Brown Christmas" doesn't necessarily mean that you need to permanently ink yourself with a Snoopy or Woodstock picture.

Unless of course you are going into illustrating.  But honestly, a cartoon character on your forearm? What if (and again, I say this without judgment) you one day outgrow cartoons?  I mean, don't get me wrong, it probably won't happen, but let's say when your, oh I don't know...OUT OF COLLEGE?  Just sayin'. And finally, my last irritating pin of the week...

3. This picture:

Be honest, what do you notice the most about this picture.  I'm sure you are much more pure of heart than I am, but really, all I could see was the girl on top flipping me off...let's be honest, she could have totally used her pointer finger for this picture...and seriously, I was so focused on her finger, that I never even noticed the caption, which read "Oooh...arm bangles"  Arm bangles? What arm bangles?  I was so busy being annoyed by the top girl's middle finger that I didn't even notice the bangles...admit didn't either.

Well, I guess that's all for today, I have to get back to scrolling through Pinterest, which, by the way should have less of the above and much more of the following:


Ryan Gosling Memes!! (I just had to ask my 13 year old what a meme was...this is it...I think)

And, of course, CUTE CAT PICS!! Awwww....

I mean, the recipes, and outfits, and workout ideas are nice too...

Have a great day!!

Small Town Girl <3 br="">