100 Years of Stories
In honor of its centennial, the Orange City Public Library initiated the 100 Years of Stories Project, interviewing community members and writing their stories.
A.J. Korver wanted to think of himself as a “renaissance artisan doing technological development.” In many ways, he is following in the footsteps of his father, who went into business after getting a fine arts degree. Initially, A.J. went to Northwestern College to pursue a fine arts degree as well. But like many college students, he didn’t have a clear vision of what he wanted to be doing.
Rather than continue in school, A.J. thought a semester off would be beneficial. He and his wife Abby decided to move to Kenya for three months. A.J.’s father had also spent some time in Africa while in college, and A.J. had been to Uganda on a mission trip the year before. While they were in Kenya, A.J. and Abby lived at a small school where Abby taught and A.J. built a playground.
A.J. is now in the Electrical Engineering program at Dordt College. Several things contributed to A.J.’s decision to go back to school for Electrical Engineering. When he returned from Kenya, he worked for a roofing company. From the top of a roof in the heat of summer, school started to look more appealing.
Around this same time, A.J. was also diagnosed with ADHD. He had always been very energetic and had struggled to pay attention in school, but people simply said, “He’s just free spirited, like his dad.” Getting medication turned his world around. As he describes ADHD, “It’s not the stereotypical, ‘Oh look, a squirrel!’ while talking; it’s like so many thoughts at once it’s almost anxiety-inducing.” The first time he took medication, not only could he focus on lectures, math, and conversations with people, he also felt empowered. He realized he could do things he never thought he could.
Growing up undiagnosed helped A.J. to develop his own coping mechanisms. It also ingrained his love of adrenaline-inducing activities such as rock climbing, unicycling, and paintball. In order to support his paintball hobby, when A.J. was a freshman in high school, he began buying and selling paintball equipment online. In college, A.J. developed a love of kiteboarding. He became part of the online kiteboarding community, and he realized many people didn’t want to deal with selling their equipment. A.J. started doing research and monitoring selling prices. He decided to start purchasing, repairing, and reselling kiteboards.
In 2013, A.J. expanded his online reselling. A.J.’s brother Christian works for a demolition company in Florida, which was throwing a lot of equipment away. Christian wanted to resell the equipment, so he founded the company Obsolete Industrial Equipment. In 2014 A.J. decided to incorporate a small company, VIU (a Dutch acronym for Obsolete Industrial Equipment). Christian buys the equipment and A.J. does everything else – hauling, cleaning, repairing, listing, and selling.
The business grew very quickly. For a while, A.J. was working 60 hours a week while still in school, but in August of last year, A.J. hired his first employee. Gradually, A.J. has hired three employees, working himself down to 5-10 hours a week. A.J. has his own ideas about how to be a business owner, and he is trying new ideas and new ways to relate to his employees, such as flexible hours, flexible job descriptions, and encouraging employees to discover their strengths.
A.J. is not sure how Electrical Engineering and having his own business will fit together in the future. One thing is for sure, though. He wants to be having fun doing it, and he has interests in a lot of different things – perhaps a true “renaissance artisan doing technological development.”
How does Abby respond to A.J.’s sometimes crazy endeavors? “I could see where she might get sick of ‘Honey, I’ve got this great idea. I’ll just take $2,000 and buy a bunch of kites and sell them.’” But Abby has been supportive of A.J.’s dreams.
The Burgs Part 1: Anton Burg
Anton Burg’s definition of hunger has been redefined over the past several years.
Anton spent the first nine years of his life in his home country, Russia. There was never enough food in Anton’s house. His father was a lumberjack and was away from home most of the time, but once in a while he would come home for a week and give the family some money from his job. Anton’s mother alternated between cooking for the army and being a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes Anton’s brothers sold scrap metal in order to have money for food, but when that was gone, they would be hungry for a week. Anton remembers a time when his brothers bought rice and his parents used it all up, leaving none for their children.
Anton’s siblings scrounged for food in other ways, as well. A few times, Anton’s brothers stole eggs from bird nests; sometimes trucks delivering to grocery stores had leftovers for people to take home; and once Anton’s brother even got into a shed that was full of stored food and took some. The family also had a neighbor who knew how poor they were, and occasionally Anton and his siblings went over to his house and ate there.
Because of his job, Anton’s father was away from home a lot. Anton was happy about this, as his father would get out his belt and whip Anton whenever he did something wrong. Although he says his mother was nice, Anton thinks “it wasn’t the best when she was a stay-at-home mom. She just slept and drank. She would hardly even talk to us because she slept most of the day and didn’t have a chance to.”
Anton still managed to find happy moments in his childhood. He remembers spending time with the two siblings closest to his age. They used to hang out with some of the military men in his hometown, who gave them wooden guns to play with. Anton and his siblings would sometimes jump from roof to roof of some garages, which he claims weren’t high enough off the ground to be dangerous.
However, life quickly changed for Anton’s family. Anton’s two oldest brothers were already in jail. The three youngest siblings went to a camp for three months. As they were making preparations to go back home, they were told they would not be going home after all, but rather to an orphanage. Anton went to a different orphanage than his brother and sister, but his caregiver Luba made sure he could still see his family members once in a while.
This is where Doug and Lisa Burg found Anton three years ago when they went to Russia to finalize his adoption. At the age of nine, Anton said goodbye to his family and his country.
In his three years in the United States, Anton has had a very different experience with food. When he comes home from school, he already knows he will have food to eat, and he never has to worry about going to bed hungry. His very definition of “hungry” has changed. His experiences in Russia have also shaped how he views food waste. Recently, Anton wrote an assignment for school about how school lunches should be changed because kids are throwing away so much food: “I’ve seen a lot of hungry people and I’ve been hungry myself; I know not to waste food.” Anton has come to appreciate the availability of food in a way many of us cannot.
When Art Cirulis was growing up in Latvia, all boys were expected to join the Red Youth organization. Because he did not join, Art was labeled as a resistant and was assigned to be deported to Siberia. Before that happened, the Germans took over the country and expelled the Russians.
In 1944 the Soviets once again took power in Latvia. As the Germans were leaving, they allowed anyone who wanted to go with them to get in the ships. However, the young male Latvians who went to Germany were forced to join the German army. As Art was in a German uniform at the end of the war the next year, he found himself in a prisoner of war camp.
Any POW who could prove a connection to somebody in Germany would be released to that person. The Germans established certain areas for former soldiers in Art’s situation, and he was relocated there.
After the war, the United States government passed the Displaced Persons Act, granting permanent residency to certain Europeans who could not return to their homeland. After four months in the German displacement camp, Art was placed in Sioux Falls, South Dakota: the First Baptist Church sponsored him and Sioux Falls College gave him a place as a student.
When he arrived in the United States, Art did not speak English. He was given a big stack of books and spent long nights translating his texts into Latvian. “After a while I found out if I put my Latvian Bible next to the English and read from one to another, I could learn very quickly.” Within six months, Art was able to communicate.
Then one day Art was called in to the school office and was told that he had to pay his own way through college. The school gave him a job doing janitorial work, but that wasn’t enough. Art got a job in downtown Sioux Falls at the candy factory Fenns Ice Cream. He worked through the night, returning to campus around breakfast time to shovel the sidewalks during the winter. Even with two jobs and working through the summer, Art still owed $500 when he graduated. He didn’t get his diploma until two years later when he finally paid it off.
After graduation, Art went to Cleveland, where he eventually got a master’s degree and a teaching certificate in music. He taught music in Burke, South Dakota, for a few years before settling in Watertown, South Dakota. There, Art spent almost 30 years building an orchestra program in five elementary schools, a junior high, and a high school.
Art has lead choirs and orchestras and taught all the string instruments, but his real love is the violin. Although Art’s father’s hands were calloused by farm work, he would still get out his violin at Christmastime. When Art picked up his father’s violin at age seven, his fingers very quickly learned where to go. Although his family moved too frequently for Art to be able to study violin formally, he taught himself. “I learned if I knew how to sing a song, I could easily find the fingerings on the violin; it came naturally.”
When Anita, one of Art’s four daughters, convinced him to move to Orange City in 2009, Art continued to play violin in church services and at nursing homes.
As his father and sister before him, Art began to write poetry. He first wrote in Latvian, but finding that they did not translate well when his daughters wanted to know what the poems said, he began to write poetry in English. These poems are being compiled into a book which will be called Another Tongue.
Another tongue was given me
that I may see
which one I love the most —
the one I lost,
or this, which still today
in what I say
is somewhat slow.
I miss the one
which as a child
I used to speak.
so gentle, mild,
and now I speak
When Bob Rohrs was 19 years old, he was drafted into the army. After a year of training, he and his battalion were deployed to Vietnam.
After three weeks on a troop ship and one year in Vietnam, Bob returned to the United States with a Purple Heart and a Silver Star. He received the Purple Heart after he was hit with shrapnel during a battle. He was awarded the Silver Star for “gallantry in action ” during an attack by the People’s Liberation Armed Forces.
The soldiers who returned to the United States with Bob had no official debriefing. Bob flew into Oakdale, California, in November of 1967, had a physical, got his last paycheck, and then returned to his family farm in Alton, Iowa. Although there wasn’t much ceremony in Bob’s return, the city of Alton gave Bob a much warmer welcome than the protestors at the airport in California had. Bob was featured in the Alton Democrat and the Alton Jaycees gave him a plaque with the inscription, “Outstanding Service to Our Country.”
Bob tried to pick up where he left off – he returned to his job working for the county bridge crew. Two months later, Bob met Bev Kleinhesselink through a coworker of his, Bev’s cousin Al Feenstra. A year later, they were married.
Although Bob’s draft obligated him to 6 years of service (2 years active, 2 years stand-by, 2 years inactive), his only other duty was a two-week summer training camp in his third year. In December of 1971, Bob received his certificate of honorable discharge. He became a member of the American Legion, first in Alton and later in Orange City.
About 18 years ago, Bob and Bev started attending the annual reunions that members of his battalion host. The reunions have taken place in cities all over the country and usually consist of a ceremony, a banquet, and a visit to the local Vietnam War Memorial and army base.
“When we first found out about the reunions, I didn’t know if it would be good closure or bad,” Bev says. But Bob finds that it helps a little to be able to connect with the experiences of his past and find support in those who went through it with him.
Every year, the Spalding Catholic Middle School hosts the Veterans Recognition Program – a ceremony that recognizes area veterans in honor of Veteran’s Day. Bob attended a similar ceremony in Orange City a few years ago, and walked away with both grand prizes: an afghan and a quilt, handmade and donated by a local Orange City woman.
In 2007, the “America and the Vietnam War” history class, led by Dr. Doug Carlson, initiated the Northwest Iowa Vietnam Veterans Oral History Project. Students in the class were connected with first-hand experience of the war by interviewing local Vietnam Veterans. Bob was among those interviewed – the audio and transcript of his interview and many other local veterans can be found at http://projects.library.nwciowa.edu/vietnam/default.asp.
Although Bob says that talking about his experience in the war helps a little, it is still difficult for him to talk about, and what is even more difficult is watching war movies which try to portray what for him was real action. “You don’t forget what happened over there through the rest of your life,” Bev says. “You can never be the same, not with what Bob went through.”
*Information about Bob’s experience in Vietnam was found in his Northwest Iowa Vietnam Veterans Oral History Project interview http://projects.library.nwciowa.edu/vietnam/transcriptions/bobrohrs.pdf
Carrie Krohn has always loved to race.
During the Presidential Physical Fitness Test in elementary school, “I was always really happy if I could beat the boys.”
Carrie has not stopped running, nor has she lost her competitive nature. She ran through college, she runs as the assistant cross country and track coach at Northwestern College, and she runs marathons.
After finishing her first full marathon and realizing that her time qualified her for the Boston marathon, Carrie knew that she couldn’t pass up an opportunity that many try for unsuccessfully. Since the Boson marathon would be less than a year later, Carrie had to spend a few weeks convincing her husband Chris this was a good idea.
They went together to Boston, where Carrie joined the 25,000 other marathon runners. The participants were bused to Hopkinton, a nearby small town, where they waited around at the school’s football field and parking lots. The runners were released in waves depending on their seed time. Along the way, hundreds of thousands of spectators cheered Carrie and the marathoners on as they ran the 26.2 miles back to Boston. “It was an athletic experience I’ve never had before and probably will never have again.”
Carrie has now run five marathons – the most recent one being this past May – and over 30 half-marathons and 20Ks (12.4 miles).
Chris has always been supportive of Carrie’s running. They met at Northwestern College when Chris, an athletic training student, was assigned to the track team. Although Chris ran cross country and track in high school and was the girls track coach at MOC-Floyd Valley High School for several years, running is not Chris’s passion. When Carrie is training, Chris will often bike along, and sometimes they go to Adams Nature Preserve in McCook Lake, South Dakota. When her children Alyssa and Brentyn were younger and couldn’t be left home, they had to bike along, too.
Alyssa is now on the high school cross country and track teams, but Carrie’s passion for running did not spread to Brentyn, who prefers to play baseball and work. Carrie hopes that she has set an example for her children: “I hope it has taught my kids how to pursue goals and that fitness isn’t just something you do when you’re in junior high and high school; it’s important for life, and for quality of life as you get older.”
Although Carrie knows running will not be everyone’s first choice of exercise, she finds that running fits her personality. It provides her a challenge, allows her alone time to think, and teaches life lessons about perseverance and working through difficult situations. “Undergirding it all is that I get a lot of joy from running.” Although Carrie always knew there was a deeper reason for running, Dale Thompson, Carrie’s college cross country and track coach, put her “on the path to be able to think in those terms.” Dale has become a mentor and friend to Carrie and has inspired much of her philosophy of running.
Spending so many hours running gives Carrie a lot of time to think: “Running affords an opportunity to let the creative side of me develop.” Sometimes, when the weather is particularly lovely or the leaves are changing, poems or stories come to mind while Carrie runs. A few years ago, “Autumn Harrier,” a poem she wrote after watching the Northwestern cross country team compete at the Adams Nature Preserve, was published in the Cross Country Journal.
In the movie Chariots of Fire, Eric Liddel says, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.” Carrie also feels that running allows her to maintain the tempo God gave her: “I’m no Olympian, but I do think that I was gifted to run, so when I do it, I hope that I’m honoring God with it.”
While co-advising a Spring Service Project through Northwestern, Carrie heard Rick Clark say that he was a disciple of Christ disguised as a Spanish professor. Carrie believes her running allows her to be a disciple in disguise.
Dan and Nancy Landegent
Not only has Nancy Landegent donned a Dutch costume every year of her life – she has also been part the Tulip Festival night show for 39 years. She grew up watching her father act on stage, and eventually got the nerve to audition herself. After a few years of acting, Nancy also became part of the Production Committee. Every member of the committee was in charge of a different section of the show: lights, set, costumes, publicity, etc. Being part of the committee helped Nancy understand the ins and outs of putting a show together, allowing her to eventually succeed as a director and producer, as well as an actor. As she had no formal training in theater production, Nancy had to teach herself. Even now, after directing 8 shows, Nancy says it doesn’t come easy. “I have to work almost all year just to get it all down on paper.” The hard work pays off, though; the show always turns out well.
Dan Landegent first came to Orange City when he attended Northwestern College, following in the footsteps of his parents and his brothers. When Dan moved back to Orange City in 1998, someone got wind of his artistic abilities and asked Dan to help with the set for The Music Man. Seeing that Dan knew what he was doing, he was given more and more responsibility until eventually he was put in charge of set design.
As he is an artist rather than a builder, Dan would envision the show and then collaborate to figure out how to make it happen. When it came to painting scenes on a backdrop, however, Dan did everything himself. Each canvas is about 12’x30’. When painting on such a large scale, Dan starts with little paintings and holds cutout people in front. Once he’s sure it will work, he will “quadrant it off, grid it up, and start drawing it” – on his hands and knees. As Nancy says, “Not everyone can do that, so it’s nice our community has someone like Dan.”
However, once the night show was moved to the Unity Knight Center two years ago, Dan’s job was cut: the new venue doesn’t have the right equipment to hang backdrops. Rather than drop his involvement in the night show, Dan has found new roles: in 2013, he played the accordion part in Fiddler on the Roof and this year he will be playing the piano part for Mary Poppins.
Although they didn’t formally meet each other until almost 20 years later in their church bell choir, Dan and Nancy were both in Brigadoon in 1982 when Dan was a student at NWC.
Since then, Dan and Nancy have collaborated in the night show in various ways. In years when Nancy has directed, Dan has gotten out the Lego people, giving them initials to designate characters, and they will walk through the whole show together to figure out entrances and movements. This year, since Nancy has a small role on stage, she has helped Dan play the piano part during rehearsal for the very difficult Mary Poppins music. Nancy took a lot of pressure off of Dan when he was the only musician playing for rehearsals: “She was literally my right hand.”
Being involved in the night show requires dedication and sacrifice. Occasionally when too few people have auditioned, the producer has to start making phone calls. Nancy has often heard people say, “I would love to, but it takes so much time away from my family.” Dan and Nancy find that they have a unique situation. They don’t have children, and they are both involved in the night show. They go to rehearsals together, collaborate on the shows, and help distract each other to take a break from it all.
Dan and Nancy say that the day after the show has finished, everything stops abruptly. They don’t miss it, they don’t think about it, the songs are out of their heads. “Two weeks later it feels like it happened months ago. We move on to another part of our life; now we can pull the weeds out of our garden.”
Dan Mulder’s career started when he was seven years old, digging weeds out of the greens on the golf courses his parents managed in Dyersville and Manchester, Iowa. Every year he learned a few more tasks, and by the time he was 13, he was doing everything on the golf course.
Although Dan never had formal training at a turf school, he has worked every aspect of golf course maintenance and management. He has learned by networking, taking online classes and attending seminars, and making mistakes.
After managing several golf courses in Iowa, Dan accepted a position at Sioux Golf Country Club in Alton in 1991. In 1993, the course was name 9-Hole Course of the Year by the Iowa Golf Association.
Four years later, plans for opening a golf course in Orange City were developing, and Dan became the Superintendent for Landsmeer Golf Club, later becoming the General Manager as well.
As Superintendent, Dan runs the day to day operations of the course, making decisions on how it’s maintained and proposing projects to the board. As General Manager, Dan is responsible for the clubhouse operations. Dan often starts at 5:00 am and puts in long days even in the winter.
Dan’s job is extremely busy, but it is made easier because he has a great staff. Their hard work and commitment has paid off. In 2008 Landsmeer was named the 18-Hole Course of the Year by the Iowa Golf Association. In 2009 Landsmeer was named the #1 Municipal Golf Course in the State of Iowa by Golf Digest.
However, the work has not always been easy. In April of 1995, three months before Landsmeer Golf Club was scheduled to open, Dan started having chest pains. When he went in to the doctor, he only lasted about a minute on the stress test, and after further testing, the doctors decided to put three stints in his heart.
Dan “made some big lifestyle changes after that.” Dan started walking a bit more, then suddenly decided to a run a 5K. He hasn’t stopped running since. He now runs almost every day and participates in several half-marathons every year. “That part of my health has been fantastic since then. I take care of myself.”
Then in January of 2014, Dan went in for a PSA test and was diagnosed with stage 3 prostate cancer. “Looking back, I probably made a mistake thinking more about the golf course than myself; I put it off a couple months more than I should have.” At the end of May, Dan went to the Mayo Clinic for surgery. They succeeded in removing the cancer, and Dan started his six weeks of recuperation. Doctor’s orders prevented him from doing much out at the golf course during its busiest time, but fortunately the rest of the staff stepped up.
Although he wasn’t sure he’d be able to finish the race, Dan asked his daughter Dea to run a half-marathon with him in October of that year. They were determined to participate even if they had to walk to the finish line. Although Dea was constantly checking in on him, not only was Dan able to keep running the whole race, his time was the second-best he’s ever run.
Running has become a family affair. Dan’s wife Dawn has been his biggest supporter and caregiver. When Dan is training, Dawn makes sure he is hydrated by delivering water every two miles. Dan’s son Jay has also started running, and they hope to get the whole family together at a race soon.
Dan’s health problems have not diminished his service to Landsmeer Golf Club. A few years ago, Dan was nominated for and received the Distinguished Service Award from the Iowa Golf Course Superintendents Association. Besides having met the usual criteria of being involved with the local, state, and national association and promoting the golf industry, Dan also makes sure all feel welcome at the course. “I make a point to talk to the regulars; I introduce myself to the out-of-towners. It’s important that they feel comfortable and welcome when they come.”
Dorothy Weiss met her husband Ray when she was nine years old.
It was 1945 and her family had just moved from Michigan to California. Ray was Dorothy’s brother’s Sunday school teacher, and he would come over to their house. “I gave her piggy back rides,” Ray remembers.
After a year, Dorothy’s family moved back to Michigan, where she spent the rest of her childhood. A number of years later, Dorothy attended Hope College to study English and Elementary Education. Her first day there, the doorbell rang and she was told someone was there to see her. At the door was her “old buddy Ray.”
He was a senior in seminary, and she was a freshman in college. “Everybody told me I was robbing the cradle, and everyone asked her, ‘Why are you going with that old man?’” Ray remembers.
A couple years later, Ray and Dorothy were married. They lived and worked in three different countries in the Middle East, for which they learned Arabic: Iraq; Lebanon, where they worked at the Beirut College for Women; and Bahrain, where they lived from 1963-1970. In Bahrain, Ray was the pastor of an Arabic-speaking church and Dorothy taught English and Bible classes at an Arabic-speaking elementary school. Eventually, Dorothy became the principal of the school, turning it into a middle school also by adding grades.
One day, she got a call from the American Navy. They had a big shipment of books and wondered if she would like them. “Well, I didn’t know what they were, but I thought I better not turn it down.” The Navy came with a big truck and, unsure of how to unload it, opened a window to an unused classroom and just tipped all the books in.
With the help of a Navy wife, Dorothy sorted through the large pile of books. Neither of them had a Dewey Decimal book, so they created Arabic and English catalogs according to what they remembered of the Dewey Decimal System. Dorothy always wondered whether they had gotten things wrong in their catalogs.
When Ray was hired as chaplain at Northwestern College in Orange City in 1970, Dorothy decided to take library science courses at Northwestern.
Before she had finished her classes, she received a call from the Orange City Public Library, asking if she would consider becoming their new library director. She later found out that Art Hilkema, director of Northwestern’s Ramaker Library at the time, had recommended her for the position.
“I really had to think through that because I thought, ‘I can’t do that.’ And they told me, ‘You go ahead and you do it,’ so that’s what happened.”
When Dorothy first started, the library was in the basement of the City Hall. Plans were underway to build the first separate library building, which was completed in 1972. Ray spent day after day hauling books from the City Hall to the new building, along with other community members. To make the process easier, they pushed the books out the windows of the basement.
At that time, all library materials were cataloged using the Card Catalog System. Dorothy was interested in having the card catalog automated. After attending training sessions and requesting funds from local businesses, she and the library started the painstaking process of entering every item in the library into an online catalog, again with the help of community members. The library would now be one of the first in the area to check books out with a barcode and scanner.
Dorothy very much enjoyed her years as library director and working with the library board. In 1998, Ray decided to retire from his position as professor of religion at Northwestern. Dorothy thought, “I guess I’d better retire too, so we can do things together.” And so, after serving as library director for over 26 years, Dorothy informed the board that she was going to retire.
The legacy that continues after Dorothy retired is that the Orange City Public Library is a progressive and service-oriented library. For 26 years, Dorothy was an impetus for moving the library forward, helping form it into the excellent and multi-faceted community gathering place that it is today.
Gustavo Vazquez has two native languages. He spent the first 9 years of his life growing up in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, attending a British-American bilingual school. “People sometimes ask ‘What’s your mother tongue?’ I don’t know, they’re both equally my languages.”
When his family moved to South Sioux City when he was 9, Gus was fairly well prepared to be immersed in the American school system. He was in the ESL program for about a year, but then they decided he no longer needed it. “I made friends with the white kids in South Sioux City, probably because my English was on par with everyone else’s.”
Halfway through 8th grade, Gus and his family moved to Orange City. It wasn’t long before Gus met Amanda Karssen, whom he would later marry.
Gus and Amanda now have two children, Elena Luisa, 8, and Noah Paul, 3. Gus and Amanda wanted to choose names for their children that could be easily pronounced in both Spanish and English. Their middle names come from each side of their family: Luisa is Gus’s aunt and Paul is Amanda’s father.
Although they are considered to be a Hispanic household for the census, neither Gus nor Amanda would use the term “Hispanic” to describe their household. Gus speaks Spanish whenever he’s with his parents, but at home, they speak only English.
Gus wishes that Elena and Noah spoke Spanish. They both participated in the Español for Boys & Girls Spanish class that the Orange City Arts Council hosted this summer, but that is only a start. Gus and Amanda hope there will be more Spanish opportunities in the area, like the bilingual schools Gus attended in Mexico.
Gus finds it is difficult for him to maintain his Hispanic heritage. He came to the United States with the tools he needed to enter and finish school. He came as a child, which helped him assimilate quickly. However, as a result of these things, he has lost some of his sense of heritage. “That’s why things like Hispanic Heritage Month are important, or cultural celebrations,” Amanda says. “To remind you who your family is, where you come from, to teach your children about their heritage.”
Gus and Amanda want to make sure their kids understand their heritage. For now this means reading books in Spanish, watching documentaries about Mexico, or learning from abuelo (grandfather). They will continue to find new ways to help their kids understand their roots more deeply as they grow older.
Aside from this, there are a few other ways in which Gus manages to preserve his heritage. His family lives in Orange City, and they speak in Spanish, even when the grandchildren are present. Gus has found that being bilingual has been very helpful, particularly in his jobs. For example, he is currently on staff as one of the interpreters at the Orange City Area Health System, where he enjoys helping patients who are unsure of how they will be able to communicate in that setting.
Another way Gus maintains his heritage is by cooking Mexican food at home, such as tinga de pollo, huaraches, chile verde, and flan. “We make quesadillas morning, noon, and night,” Amanda says. Food is strongly linked to culture; Gus hopes that his children will like the food that he likes and has grown up eating.
Although Gus doesn’t necessarily feel the need to do more “Mexican” things, he does still feel a connection to his home country. “Do I think of Mexico as ‘home’? Not really. But when the Mexican anthem plays, I feel proud. I feel proud on Mexican Independence Day. I’m proud to be Mexican.”
Although Helen has spent all but about 10 years of her life in Orange City, one of the memories that sticks out most strongly for her took place in Georgia. When her husband Pete enlisted and did dentistry work at Fort Benning, Helen worked in the military library. There she supervised library workers – both African-American and white – a few years after the Civil Rights Act was passed.
Not only did the other workers have to get used to Helen’s Midwestern accent, they also had to get used to her forward way of thinking for that time. The white women she was supervising were resentful that their African-American colleagues were at the same or better level than them and wanted to have a separate coffee break before the African-Americans. Helen firmly enforced a 10:00 coffee break for all workers, and eventually the tension turned into friendliness.
When Helen came back to Orange City, she was hired at Ramaker Library, was the librarian for Unity Christian High School for 20 years, and worked at the Orange City Public library, where she remained until her resignation in 2008. She oversaw the relocation of box after box of carefully ordered library materials when the new building was being constructed and welcomed many new families with a tour of the library and explanation of library services.
At the library, Hele
n was able to use both of her degrees – Elementary Education and Library Science – when the local schools assigned social studies projects. Helen believes in the power of starting habits at a young age, so she would explain how to cite resources to the students who came in looking for research books. She was glad to be able to collaborate with the schools, because if children use the library at a young age, they would be more likely to use it when they were older.
Helen resigned from the library regretfully when she and Pete had three elderly parents in the nursing home. Helen may not work in a library anymore, but she still can’t help but reorganize the shelves while she’s browsing for books. Helen’s mission at the library was – and still is – to make the community aware that the library is for everyone.
When Hilda Sanchez was 17, she did not want to move to the United States. She was happy with her life in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. But in 2002, she and her four half-brothers got their papers in order and moved to Fontana, California, to join her father, Gumaro, her step-mother, Maria, and her three older siblings.
After Hilda had been there for four months, Gumaro and Maria moved to Orange City, so Hilda and her oldest brother rented a room in their uncle’s house. While in Fontana, she met Omar, the father of her son David. When David was 18 months old, Gumaro and Maria extended an invitation to come and live with them since she and Omar were experiencing problems.
Omar and Hilda wanted to try to make the relationship work; they didn’t want to have a separated family, like their parents. But as David, now 3, was starting to notice the fighting, she decided to try living with Gumaro and Maria until she got her feet on the ground.
For a while, Hilda worked two jobs: full-time for AdvancePierre Foods and part-time for the Pioneer Home. She didn’t have a car yet, so she walked everywhere, even in the winter. David was about to go into kindergarten, and she decided it was too much and ended her part-time job at the Pioneer Home.
For almost a year, she rented a room in her father’s house. She and David stayed in this room, and eventually, her older brother Silverio as well. There wasn’t enough room for their belongings, and Hilda started thinking about buying a house. “I didn’t know anything about credit or bills or anything like that, so I started asking my friends questions.” Bertha Martinez gave her a lot of advice, getting her connected with Betty Ferrell from Northwest Realty. Betty was patient with Hilda, whose English was very slow at that time. She helped Hilda find the right house, and Nora Mulder helped secure a loan.
That same year, Hilda met her boyfriend Eduardo. They were both working at AdvancePierre Foods. She was careful not to introduce her son David to Eddie, who lives in Remsen, until she was sure their relationship would probably work. Now David sees Eddie as a father-figure and realizes that Eddie cares for him like he is his own child. “We say we are a family, we are together.”
Hilda started learning English for the first time when she moved to California, but she didn’t really see the need because everyone there spoke Spanish. When David was born, she realized that not everyone in the hospitals spoke Spanish. The need for her to learn English was even more obvious when she moved to Orange City.
When AdvancePierre Foods closed in 2012, the employees were given two options: be transferred to Oklahoma or have their costs covered for going back to school. Hilda started attending all the English classes she could and taking GED classes in Spanish through Northwest Iowa Community College (NCC). At the same time, she was studying for the citizenship test and going through the arduous process of application. In November, she finally gained her citizenship. Upon her graduation from NCC in December, she was featured in an article in the Sioux City Journal for her accomplishment.
Hilda started applying for jobs. The Prairie Ridge Care Center called her, offering not only a job, but free CNA training as well. Hilda started taking classes again, this time in English. She spent a lot of time studying, memorizing difficult words she couldn’t pronounce. Eddie helped her study, and she also continued her English studies with a tutor at the Orange City Public Library to prepare for the exams. “Even when I didn’t believe in myself, other people believed in me, and I did it.”
After becoming a CNA, Hilda worked at Prairie Ridge for about a year. She especially enjoyed the relationships with her coworkers and the residents there. Now, at her job at BoDeans Baking Group in Le Mars, Hilda feels she can comfortably speak in English to everyone throughout her shift.
Even though Hilda still has a lot of challenges in her life, she refuses to be limited by her circumstances. Hilda pushes herself to always become better.
Jami Van Muyden: The Crazy Coupon Lady of OC
Jami Van Muyden has experienced instability nearly her whole life. She grew up in a separated family feeling misunderstood and neglected. When she was 16, Jami had her daughter Kaylinn, who was diagnosed with the second rarest brain disorder, Schizencephaly. Three weeks after Kaylinn was born, Jami got into a car accident, breaking the C6 disk in her neck and chipping several vertebrae. That same year, Jami was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder.
Despite being a young mother and having a serious car accident in the midst of her diagnosis, Jami graduated from high school a year early with a full year of college credits under her belt. She moved to Le Mars with her daughter and went to Briar Cliff for Mass Communications.
However, the stress of working, taking classes, and caring for a special needs daughter was too much for Jami. In March of 2010, she made an attempt on her life, was kicked out of school, and lost custody of her daughter as well as the will to do anything. Kaylinn went to Jami’s mother, and Jami began the process of rehabilitation so she could get her daughter back.
In June of that year, Jami met her future husband Josh. He helped Jami rehabilitate, and throughout that year, Jami slowly gained certain custody rights back. It wasn’t long before Josh proposed. The wedding was set for December 13, 2010. Jami regained full custody of Kaylinn on December 10, 2010.
However, Jami’s newfound stability was not yet permanent. Josh brought two children to the marriage, Austin and Syerah. Jami went back to school, but again the stress of working, taking classes, and now being a mother of three was too much for Jami, and she lost her job and was again kicked out of school.
Jami and her family were “trying to survive off of one income and it just wasn’t working.” Rather than living paycheck to paycheck, Jami’s family was living from paycheck to five days before the next paycheck. They sometimes didn’t know if they would have enough money for milk.
In 2013, Jami decided to start couponing. She began by creating a back stock – essentially, Jami was stocking up on things as they were on sale. “It was a slow process and I was still spending money, but 1. not as much and 2. once the money was spent, I was done spending. I have shampoo and body wash to last for 5 years.”
What started as a way to make Josh’s paycheck last longer slowly grew into Jami’s website “The Crazy Coupon Lady of OC.” Jami wanted to share the deals she was finding with other people who needed to save money and shop smarter. Now she teaches classes about couponing – she has hosted classes at libraries, schools, and individuals’ houses.
Jami and Josh now have four children – 2 years ago, their son Oliver was born. Looking back, Jami sees her husband Josh as the best part of her story. Josh has been there to pick Jami up and push her forward. He has been her rock for the past four years – before she met him, she didn’t have anyone in her life who gave her that kind of stability.
Check out Jami’s website! http://crazycouponladyofoc.com/
Ever since Joseph Tolsma was able to ride a bike by himself, he has been spending time alone in nature. He would tell his parents he was “going to the pool” and take his bike to the Puddle Jumper Trail, where he crossed under the bridge toward Dunlop Pond. Around the trail and down by the river, he built a teepee out of sticks where he sat for hours, just looking at bugs and flowers and trees. Joseph’s ability to have a secret spot in the woods where he could be alone in nature was the single most important aspect of his play as a kid.
Another place where Joseph has learned about what nature gives is in his family’s garden. “It might just be in my head, but having to put work in to get the food out, knowing that you grew something and it’s on your plate, makes it taste better.”
When Joseph’s family moved to Germany for a year while he was in sixth grade, he saw an example of “an entire country trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle on a grand scale.” In Heidelberg, families often have five different bins for their houses. The city collects compost in large brown trash buckets, and families sort their waste into metal, glass, plastic, and paper recycling.
In high school, Joseph and his church youth group spent two years working with a group called New Vision to build solar panels in Orange City and Alton. These panels provide power for a few local churches, but Joseph sees them as more of a symbol to remind people about their responsibility to the earth. He believes Christians have an especially important role in the developing story of how, as a society, we are going to deal with climate change. “I can’t read the Gospel without seeing a really direct call for creation care. Over the last few years we’ve learned that climate change affects the poor more than anybody. My actions are affecting the poor.”
During his sophomore year at Northwestern College, Joseph and two of his friends showed a documentary called Chasing Ice, which follows the story of a photographer who used time-lapse cameras to document glacial change. Having convinced a biology professor to offer extra credit for attending the screening, Joseph was pleased to find that about 30 people showed up to watch. This event allowed Joseph to network with students who might be interested in joining the Creation Care Club. They now have about 12 students interested in becoming members. His goal is to form a sustainable group that will outlast his graduation that could hold the college and the community accountable for thinking about sustainability and creation care.
Adding to his work with the Creation Care Club, Joseph started working for Young Evangelicals for Climate Action this summer. Joseph will be brainstorming ways to raise awareness in his community and on campus and move towards sustainability.
Joseph acknowledges that not everyone believes in climate change. “To me it doesn’t matter if climate change is real or not; we should make changes just in case.” Although change is painful and takes some sacrifice, these changes don’t need to be sudden and drastic. A starting place is simply to try being mindful of sustainability throughout the day. “This whole idea of creation care, sustainability, is so deeply rooted in the fiber of my being that it’s a filter that I see the world through.” Joseph can’t help but pick up a piece of trash he sees on the ground, and he tries to walk or bike instead of driving. “I can’t get a Styrofoam cup after church because I bring my sustainability with me. Little things like that – if a lot of people do them – go a really long way.”
Joseph hasn’t stopped going to his spot at Dunlop Pond. Spending time in nature has been incredibly important for Joseph ever since he was young, and he hopes that in the future all kids can have a place to learn about what nature gives and how to protect it. In the meantime, Joseph will be doing whatever he can to help.
Julia Huisman began learning to play the piano before she could read.
She started some accompanying already in grade school, and she soon become known as “the piano player.” Being a pianist has always been part of her identity, and she has always been thankful for that.
Some pianists would dread the pressure of accompanying students, but Julia enjoys the challenge of covering up mistakes and supporting musicians.
She accompanied choirs and students throughout high school and college most notably the Dordt College Chorale and Concert Choir; she accompanied a vocal trio for many years; she accompanied her own kids when they performed; and she recently served as the staff accompanist at Northwestern College.
Although she can sight read just about anything, Julia has never liked to memorize. She had a terrible experience at a piano contest when she was 15 years old: she lost her spot and could not get back into it. This experience influenced her decision to major in organ performance when she attended Dordt College. “Organists don’t have to memorize their music.”
Julia’s exposure to the organ began when her grandfather, who was a pastor, sat and listened to records of organ music. When Julia was young, her father once broke a window by playing an organ recording too loudly. In 7th grade, Julia’s piano teacher, Joyce Bloemendaal, introduced her to the organ, and by 8th grade she had started playing organ in church. “I’ve been playing organ in church longer than I’ve been driving. It’s kind of crazy to think about it that way.”
For Julia, music is an avenue into worship. When she plays organ in church, she tries to choose music that fits the service, that can reinforce the message of the day.
Since there is often an edge of nerves during the service, Julia finds that her practice time is also a time of worship. “I’ll sit at the organ bench and cry sometimes when I’m practicing, out of gratitude. Thankful that I have this gift that can be given back in praise to God.”
Julia also plays keyboard with her church’s praise team, so she appreciates the entire spectrum of music used in worship: “One Sunday I’m playing keyboard with the electric guitar and drums, and the next Sunday I’m playing a Psalm on the organ.”
Julia tries to reserve one Sunday a month without any musical commitments, so that she can worship alongside the body of believers, without the responsibility of leading in worship.
Julia’s husband Lyle is also a musician. He is a vocalist and played trumpet for many years. Julia’s two children – Ashley, 24, and Jordan, 21 – have inherited some of their parents’ musicality. Ashley played flute through college, and Jordan currently plays trumpet in the Dordt College Concert Band.
Julia understands the value of playing music and starting at a young age. Not only are there positive effects on how your mind develops, but music helps round out your life. She finds that it is very valuable “for people who don’t have any background in music to be able to have even the simplest enjoyment of a concert.”
Julia fosters this enjoyment of music in part by teaching private piano lessons. She has always had a small studio, alongside her full time work. She encourages kids to see the value in learning piano. “Music is a part of you that can’t be taken away. You can’t be taken out of the game and put on the bench. You always have that gift, even if it means you just sit down and play for enjoyment. It’s yours for a lifetime.”
Pat Hansen is in her 42nd year of teaching history.
Having graduated from Mankato State University with history and education majors, sociology and physical education minors, and a coaching endorsement, Pat began her teaching career at South Junior High in Fort Dodge, Iowa. She was teaching World Affairs to 150 9th graders each semester, coaching 75 7th grade girls’ basketball players, and earning $7,300 a year. For a while, she even served as athletic director because they needed someone.
At that time, Central Avenue divided northern and southern Fort Dodge, and North Junior High was an all-white school. The school was forced to integrate in the mid-1970s, while Pat was working at the already-integrated South Junior High.
In 1984, after 21 years of teaching at Fort Dodge, Pat moved to Orange City, thinking she was going to teach 8th grade American History at MOC-Floyd Valley. Unbeknownst to her, they had already filled that position, so they assigned her to 6th grade History. After five years, she moved to 10th grade American History, where she has been ever since.
Although teaching is a lot of work, Pat loves her job. “If I didn’t have to correct papers until late at night, I’d probably teach forever.” She tells her student teachers that they shouldn’t become teachers if they don’t want to work and be a role model 24/7. “A lot of people don’t see teaching as a profession; they see it as a job. For me, it’s a profession, and I’m very proud of it.”
One of Pat’s favorite memories from her years of teaching comes from a project in which she paired students with World War II veterans so they could interview them and write their stories.
Pat was leery at first about the pairing of one particular student, who sometimes got into trouble, with a veteran. “She was so moved by his story of being a POW that she couldn’t stop talking about him and his story for days.” Although Pat did not find out until later, this student continued to visit the veteran occasionally even after the assignment was finished, and they became friends.
When the veteran passed away the following year, Pat went to the visitation with her student. On a display table was a book, open to the story she had written about him. His children knew who she was, because he had told them about the girl who came back to talk to him. Moments like these demonstrate how important it is for students to make personal connections with history. “I can’t teach history that way out of a textbook.”
Pat sees history as a story and an opportunity to learn from our mistakes. “History is a story of people, a story of our lives. So for me, that’s the way I want to teach it, and that’s the way I want the kids to learn it.” She sees history as the most important class for making students think about what they believe and whether they should go along with the status quo.
Pat is constantly updating her curriculum to incorporate current events. There are always connections between past and current events, and she wants her students to see those connections and make their own conclusions. For her, the best days are when the class gets into arguments or has speculative discussions. “If you split a molecule, it has to come out a certain way. History doesn’t have to.”
Pat doesn’t care if the students agree or disagree, as long as they can back up what they say. She exposes them to different perspectives as they try to understand the world and how they might they might learn from the past to make a better future.
“I can’t make kids love history, but I hope I can make them realize its importance.”
Phyllis Vander Werff
From teaching English in Japan to studying under esteemed theologian Kennith Cragg in Jerusalem, Phyllis Vander Werff has been all over the world, striving to follow God’s call in her life.
While she was attending Hope College, Phyllis met Lyle Vander Werff, who was a student across the street at Western Seminary. Before they met, they had both contacted the Reformed Church of America (RCA) to indicate their interest in mission work abroad. Their first placement was at the Clover Hill Reformed Church in New Jersey. After they had been married 3 years, they received a call from the RCA to join a ministry in Kuwait.
They did not have long to gather their belongings and their thoughts. Phyllis, Lyle, and their 1-year-old son David took a ship from New York to London, and the five days on the ocean gave them time to mentally prepare for their sudden transition and to read about the country that would be their new home.
The RCA mission in Kuwait began in 1909 when three RCA missionaries were allowed into the country for medical work. In 1911, land was purchased to build a hospital, and in 1929 the building for The Church of Christ in Kuwait was dedicated. 32 years later, Phyllis and Lyle joined The Church of Christ in its effort to expand its ministry.
Lyle and Phyllis helped start an English-speaking congregation, adding to the Arab congregation, the two Indian congregations, and the Orthodox congregation already in place. People from all over the world were coming to Kuwait at this time because of the oil. “The importance of an English-speaking congregation was that you had Christians going out into every walk of life in Kuwait, whereas a handful of missionaries couldn’t do that, couldn’t be everywhere. [The English-speaking church] nourished Christians who would go out in their everyday lives to reach out.”
When they first arrived in Kuwait, Lyle and Phyllis had to adjust to a new living situation. Rather than scooping snow after the winter storms of the Midwest, they had to scoop sand out of their inner courtyard after sand storms. It rained one time in the three years they were in Kuwait. The one air conditioner unit in their bedroom fought the 120-degree daytime temperatures. Their water, which was kept in a tank on the roof of their house, was so hot that it was unusable – they needed to run water into the bathroom and let it cool before they could use it for bathing.
Because of the intense heat, Lyle and Phyllis left Kuwait every summer and stayed in different countries. Over their three years in Kuwait, they spent one month each in India, Lebanon, and Jerusalem. “When we went to Beirut, [Lebanon,] I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Kuwait was just flat sand. In Beirut, there was the Mediterranean Sea, mountains, and everything was green. Our eyes could hardly take it!”
After their three years in Kuwait, Lyle and Phyllis relocated to Edinburgh, Scotland, where Lyle completed his PhD. Before he had defended his thesis, Lyle was hired by Northwestern College to teach in the Bible department. Lyle eventually became the Director of International Programs at Northwestern, a job which took him and Phyllis to many different countries. They traveled extensively in the Pacific Rim, even living and teaching short term. The connections Northwestern has with its sister colleges in the Pacific Rim – including Baiko Gakuin University in Japan — were a product of Lyle’s efforts to build relationships.
Phyllis’s cultural experiences weren’t limited to traveling. While in Orange City, she and Lyle worked with international students, opening their home to them. “We had students in our home constantly, living with us. 2 or 3 Sundays a month, there were international students around our table. Our home became a haven for them.”
Phyllis’s years in Kuwait shaped how she would approach the rest of her life. “My experience in Kuwait helped me form a worldview. I hadn’t been out of my state before I married Lyle; since then I’ve been all over the world.” She has been encouraged to know that people all over the world are joined together in God’s mission.
The Burgs Part 2: Sera Burg
Sera Burg has learned to adapt to change.
While growing up in Harar, Ethiopia, Sera’s family moved frequently, and her family demographics changed several times. Sera has two half-sisters and a half-brother. All four of them have a different father – Sera never met her father. One of her sisters went to live with a relative. After Sera’s youngest sister was put in an orphanage, Sera’s mother left, and Sera and her brother Ben lived with their grandmother.
In many ways, life was simpler in Harar. The houses that Sera lived in were made of mud and sticks and leaves. The raised mud bed, covered with a blanket or thin mattress, was reserved for her grandmother. The children slept on the floor. In order to cook, shower, and wash clothes, Sera made the long trek to the nearest pump to collect water. The water was then heated with coal, food was cooked over an open fire, and clothes were hand washed in a tub and hung to dry.
Because there wasn’t enough money, Sera’s grandmother decided to put Ben in an orphanage and sent Sera to live with and work for a lady who ran a bar. Her tasks were to help during opening hours, to clean after closing hours, and to wash her employer’s clothes.
After a while, Sera went back to live with her grandmother, but once again there was not enough money. Sera’s grandmother wanted her to go the orphanage where Ben was. However, that orphanage wouldn’t accept Sera because she was too old, so her grandmother changed her age.
Their mother came once to try to pull them out, but was unsuccessful. They never saw her again. While Sera and Ben were at this orphanage, their grandmother could come visit. But when they were moved to an orphanage in the capital, Addis Ababa, she only came one time, right before they were adopted.
When Ben was three and Sera was “seven,” they received a photo album with pictures of their adoptive family. Sera was excited to be adopted because she didn’t want to spend her life in an orphanage.
When Sera joined her adoptive family in 2009, she had some adjusting to do. She was not used to having older siblings, and she’d never had a father. Sera didn’t know anything other than being without a father until she came to live with the Burgs. Now she knows “it’s really, really great to have dad.” Sera has now been living in the same house with the same family for five and a half years.
There have been other adjustments, as Sera has settled into her life in Orange City. Here, Sera has easy access to water, changing the way she washes her clothes and her body. Sera can now get a ride across town rather than having to walk everywhere. But there is something lost in these changes – the activities and chores of her life in Harar were communal. They were an opportunity to make friends and get to know neighbors better. They brought the community closer together.
Although Sera is happy with her new life in Orange City, she really misses parts of her life in Ethiopia. The food, the smells and spices, and the weather are all very different there. But most of all, she misses her friends and family. Sometimes she wishes that she could go back, or that her original family could come here. Even as she continues to thrive with her new family in Orange City, Sera’s life in Ethiopia is part of her heritage, and it will never leave her.
Todd Diehl is a stay-at-home dad. Kassandra (13), Kyle (11), and Kristopher (9) have grown up always having at least one parent available to them.
As Todd describes it, Kassie has him wrapped around her finger. Kyle is the athlete – he wants to play, not talk. Todd has the most interesting conversations with Kris, who has learned some of Todd’s cheek.
Todd used to write a blog focused on being a stay-at-home dad, documenting the funny things his family managed to get into. Blogging was a way for Todd to record and share what was happening with friends and family. “A lot of times something funny or cute happens, and a week later you can’t remember the details.” Although Todd doesn’t blog anymore, he still puts all the funny conversations with Kris he deems worthy on Facebook.
Todd’s wife Stacy often works long hours at Therapy Health Services where she is an occupational therapist. Having Todd stay at home with the kids takes a lot of pressure off of Stacy – she doesn’t have to worry about feeding the kids when she gets home from work, and Todd is available to run errands that are inconvenient with Stacy’s work schedule.
Todd and Stacy have developed a system that works for them. Stacy takes care of Cub Scouts and Girl Scouts, religious classes, and youth group. Todd takes care of Kassie’s dance, any and all sports, homework, and keeping the house in order.
Todd also does about 95% of the cooking. Todd’s interest in cooking started when he was young. He picked information up through osmosis in the family kitchen, and when he was in college, he sometimes helped a couple friends who owned bar & grilles. The kitchen is a place where Todd can be creative and explore new things. Fortunately, his family responds well to his experiments – he’s figured out what he can and can’t get away with.
Kassie and Kris are both starting to want to help Todd with the cooking. Todd thinks giving the kids chores has helped them learn responsibility. They’re all responsible for keeping the house picked up and vacuumed and the kitchen and bathroom cleaned. Last year, Kyle started doing all of the mowing, under Todd’s supervision.
Having a parent around more often also helps teach responsibility, as the kids feel more accountable. They know they have to check in with dad and do their chores and homework before they can go out and play. As Todd says, “You can’t shortcut it when you’ve got a parent around who can spot check you at any moment.”
When Todd tells people he is a stay-at-home dad, he gets mixed responses. Many people are very supportive, but others aren’t quite sure how to respond, since it’s not a traditional role. But other than when all three kids drive him up the wall at the same time, Todd has never questioned his decision to stay at home with his kids. “I think I’m doing what every parent kind of wishes they could do.”