This is a post I never imagined having to write. We have just experienced the hardest week and a half of our lives, after finding our oldest son dead last week. He had taken his life. Seth, known on this blog as Mr. Handyman, is sorely missed; he leaves a giant-sized hole in our family.

This is the last picture we have of Seth; a very typical sight. I spent more time teaching him, over the years, than any of the others.


Here is the obituary/eulogy I wrote to be read at the funeral:

Seth Andrew _______ was born on 14 December, 1999, at his family’s home near Hart, Michigan. In 2009, just before his 10th birthday, his family moved to New Zealand, ending up living in Cheviot for the rest of his life. He died on 5 October, 2016. He is survived by his parents, Gayle and Emma _______ , two sisters, Esther and Martha, five brothers, Simon, Elijah, James, Joseph, and Nathan, his grandparents, Marvin and Jeanette _______ from Ohio, Diane _______ from Michigan, and many aunts, uncles and cousins. He was preceded in death by his grandfather, James _______ , who died only a week after Seth was born.

Seth’s life, while only a short 16 years, was very eventful. He was born a month early, with complications during birth that should have taken his life then, except that God chose to perform a miracle and save his life at that time. We have seen God’s hand on his life ever since, as he had accident after accident that could have been quite serious, even fatal, yet he was never hurt seriously. Seth loved playing with his older sister and his younger brothers. Even though he was the oldest boy, he never led out very much when he was younger; he preferred to follow Simon’s lead until the past few years. Seth always loved working hard. The last two years we lived in Michigan, we built two barns on our property, and he loved being involved as much as an 8- or 9-year-old can be. He also learned how to mow lawn about that time, which he loved doing the rest of his life. We raised and butchered chickens and turkeys there, and raised produce to sell, and he was a great help with that work, although not always willingly—he was a typical child.

After we moved to New Zealand, Seth discovered the joys of working for people outside the family. He was thrilled the few times he was allowed to drive tractor for our landlord, and badly wanted to do that more. He helped farmers tail lambs a few times, and thoroughly enjoyed that, as well. Another job he did for awhile was to build houses with a local builder. Because he was still in school, he could only work part of the day, and it got too hard to keep up school and the job, so the job had to go by the wayside for awhile. There were several days, though, that he was was so keen to work that he rode his bicycle to Gore Bay, an entire hour’s drive, after he finished his schoolwork for the day, then worked all afternoon.

Schoolwork was never easy for Seth. Besides severe dyslexia, there was some brain damage from the difficult birth which affected his entire life. Despite working extremely hard for 10 years, he could still read only haltingly—but he was always ready and willing to read a verse or two at Bible Study or during our Family Worship time. He never seemed embarrassed by his struggle to read, but plowed his way through. Funnily, he was a fairly good speller, despite his reading problem. And, no matter how hard it was for him to read other books, he was able to read the Bible better than anything else. He loved stories, and spent hours listening to audio books. Some of his all-time favorites, which he listened to over and over, were The Heavenly Man, The Hiding Place, and God’s Smuggler.

Seth loved little children. He was thrilled when Martha entered our family, a girl after six boys in a row. He loved to get her dressed, and usually picked out her frilliest, girliest dresses. He loved to carry her around Cheviot and show her off. A number of times, he took her to visit older people in the community whom he loved. In return, she adored him; he was her favorite brother. He loved other people’s little children, too. The younger children in the two churches which we attend regularly seemed to love him, as well as his little cousins when he made a visit to America last year. He still often talked about reading stories to them.

Seth will be greatly missed; there is a huge hole in our family now. We have to trust that the God who brought Seth safely into the world earlier than we thought he should arrive is the God who has now taken him back sooner than we wanted. We know for a fact that God loves Seth even more than we do, and that whatever God does is good, and we are very thankful that Seth gave his heart to the Lord about a year and a half ago.

We will always especially remember two funny stories about Seth when he was younger. When he was about five years old, he badly wanted to wear his Daddy’s tool belt but he was still too small. One evening, he piled his plate high with lettuce salad, then asked, very hopefully, “Mommy, will this make me fat?” Several years later, one evening, we were taking care of our chickens out in the paddock, in Michigan. Seth stood over an electric wire that his cousin, John, used to take electricity out to his cows. The wire had been turned off, and Seth was bouncing it back and forth between his knees. Someone asked, “What if John turns that wire—” and just then John turned the wire on! Seth leaped clear of the wire. These stories always make us laugh.


I hope that sometime in the next month or two I’ll be able to get back to posting, but I’m not going to hurry back to it. Life has been turned upside-down, and we’re reeling.

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Trip to Dunedin, Part 5—The Miscellaneous Pictures

How would you like to live on a road like this? Our friends do! We kept the van in first or second gear to go down it! 13-IMG_0497

I love the old buildings in Dunedin! Christchurch had them when we came here, but a lot came down in or since the earthquakes.


We still don’t know what the Chinese Gardens are like. It cost to get in, so we did free things instead.


Saturday morning we had to drive south of Dunedin to pick up a turkey Mr. Inventor bought to be the new father of his flock. This is the farm from which we bought it.


The boys were fascinated with the man’s junk pile!


Random scenery on the way back to the city.


In the Settler’s Museum. Mr. Handyman twisted his foot Saturday climbing Mount Cargill, so he was glad to rest awhile.


We walked a block or two in Dunedin after dark, and saw this amazing garden. There are two sets of stairs coming down the hill, making an X, with the flower bed in between. I think the flowers were pansies, and the green plants were celery!


There are a lot of stone fences around the area.


A couple more old houses I liked!


And a beautiful church.


I liked the bus stops, too. So much prettier than Christchurch’s glass and metal ones.


Inside the Settler’s Museum—trying to figure out how it was welded together!


I don’t know what this is; it’s on top of a hill between Oamaru and Dunedin.


This building is in Oamaru; I saw it on our way home.


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Trip to Dunedin, Part 4—Inside the Train Station

I have never seen mosaics like on the floors inside the Dunedin Train Station. This was the center of the lobby you walked into when you went through the main front door.


This is the landing of the staircase to the second floor,


…and the steps themselves.



The floor all the way around the top was like this:


Looking down from the balcony on the second floor: The top picture in this post is the center of that floor.


The walls around the main lobby are incredible, too!24-DSCF176425-DSCF176639-IMG_0553

And check out the iron work on the stairway railing!


The iron work was the same all the way around the balcony over the lobby.


The rest of the artwork was amazing, too.


I guess these three pictures should have gone with the last post, outside the station, but here they are. This is a close-up of the sculpture on top of the tower:


Even the doors are beautiful!


These plaques are on the inside of each of the pillars in front of the building. I’m guessing that the pictures represent the important or outstanding features of Dunedin.


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Trip to Dunedin, Part 3—Outside the Dunedin Train Station

The Dunedin Train Station is the most photographed building in New Zealand, the second most photographed building in the Southern Hemisphere (after the Sydney Opera House). I can understand why. We took so many pictures of it that I’m dividing them into two posts. It is an incredible piece of architecture. This station was completed in 1906. One hundred ten years ago, people built beautiful buildings!


The gardens in front of it are absolutely amazing, too, even this early in the spring, or late in the winter—whichever you choose!


This is the steps going down from the porch in front of the door.


I let Mr. Intellectual give us a sense of scale for one of the pillars.


This excursion train is still in use.


An end view of the building.


The other side of the building, the platform side.


Standing on the platform.52-IMG_0569

Coming up next…the incredible artwork built into the inside of the building.

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First Mowing of the Spring!

I think Esther actually took these pictures nearly a month ago. I only just looked at her memory card a week or so ago, though. I loved them, so decided to let you get a glimpse of my boys (and girl!). Mr. Imagination, wearing Mr. Inventor’s warm shirt, and Little Miss were watching the mowing.


Mr. Sweetie was trimming around the tires of herbs, with scissors.


Mr. Inventor


Mr. Handyman


Mr. Diligence—it goes faster with three mowers going simultaneously! That’s Mr. Imagination in the background with a toy mower.


I think they’ve mowed once since then. It’s so wonderful to have green grass!

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Trip to Dunedin Part 2—Climbing Mount Cargill

While we were in Dunedin (pronounced Doo-NEE-din, in case you wondered), we stayed with a family who live on Pine Hill, on the road to the Mount Cargill Lookout. Saturday afternoon they took us up to the top, and we hiked around for an hour or two. It was quite a strenuous walk for those of us who are terribly out of shape, but the scenery was worth it. The boys took the opportunity to practice rock climbing. This is Mr. Inventor.


We went to a rock outcropping that overlooks the city of Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. I hustled Mr. Inventor away from the edge with his little sister. It went straight down a long way there.


Mr. Imagination


Mr. Diligence


Everyone posed for a picture on top of the rock.


Looking north along the coast. It was an incredibly clear day, and we were all thankful for very little wind—they said that was quite unusual.


That rocky point in the middle is where we took the picture of everyone.


Climbing up the rocks.


Entrance to the Otago Harbour


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Book Review—Front Window and Hartfield Mysteries series

I am loving the fact that my favorite author is a prolific writer. Her fourth book for the year is publishing this week! Because this is the fourth book in a series, I “had” to read the first three, of course, so I’ve had a fairly steady diet of Chautona Havig lately. I’m not tired of them yet!

You can preorder the Kindle version of Front Window right now; it will be delivered on September 29. If you do preorder, be sure to ask Chautona for the bonus story. I can’t wait to read that—it’s going to be fun! I may have to reread the book, though, since the bonus gives more information to help solve the mystery. Go here to find out how to get the bonus.

I really enjoyed Front Window. It was really hard to put it down—sometimes it’s pretty frustrating to only be able to read for a couple of minutes at a time, although it’s good discipline.

There have been a lot of changes in Alexa’s life. She has switched houses again, and her relationship with Joe is better than ever. She is also enjoying having Aunt Faye in Fairbury. However, Aunt Faye has found the perfect way to disturb a honeymoon. When things start disappearing from the retirement apartments Aunt Faye is living in, and the police don’t seem alarmed or helpful, how can Aunt Faye prove that one of the residents isn’t stealing the items? Things go from bad to worse over the next few weeks. Aunt Faye just isn’t impressed the how the police are investigating the string of crimes, and she lets Joe and the rest of the force know in no uncertain terms.

This is definitely not just a mystery story. There is so much else included! Ask my children about the time Mom was laughing out loud in the bathroom—the Christmas gift scene is hilarious! There are several other very funny scenes as well, and some serious ones. Aunt Faye, though never married, has some extremely good advice and observations. For example, “I decided that if I had to act a fool to get a fellow’s attention, then I didn’t want it.” I also loved, “I always despised those arrogant kids who set themselves up as authorities when God gave them perfectly good ones in parents.”

For those who love mysteries, this is a good one. You will be kept guessing at the identity of the thief until nearly the end of the story. I appreciated the Christian values portrayed in it, although there wasn’t nearly as much about Alexa’s and Joe’s faith in this story as in some others by Chautona Havig. I’m still not convinced that I want to read very many murder mysteries, but I don’t mind reading hers.

I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

WARNING: A couple of the characters say a mildly bad word when under great stress.

I also wrote a review of the entire series, for those who are interested:

Murder mysteries? Not my cup of tea—usually. I prefer books that have sage advice woven throughout, books that make me really think about things. The Hartfield Mysteries, however, do that.

Alexa Hartfield is an author living in the small town of Fairbury, near Rockland. Her specialty is murder mysteries. She lives alone and likes her life that way. To most people, she appears eccentric; most of her clothing appears to be from other eras, from medieval times to the 1980s. Her comfortable life is suddenly shaken up when, in the first book, Manuscript for Murder, people start dying. The strange thing is that they are being killed in exactly the way she’s writing about in her current book! What is going on? Joe, the policeman who comes to her rescue a few times, ends up a frequent visitor, but she is certainly not interested in romance—and neither is he.

Crime of Fashion involves a new business which Alexa becomes involved in—but odd things happen there, too, and tragedy strikes close to home for her. After that is all resolved, she goes to California for her biannual visit to her parents (in the author’s hometown!) in Two O’clock Slump. She anticipates the usual stressful visit, with her extremely religious parents trying to get her to repent of something that happened when she was a teenager, but then a man is found dead in the next motel room to hers, which was supposedly empty. During the investigation, she must flee. I had a hard time with this book; you don’t find out until one of the last two or three chapters who the villain is, and it’s very hard to put the book down at that point.

Front Window picks up soon after Two O’clock Slump ends; one of the main characters is Alexa’s Aunt Faye. We met her in the last book, but she really shines in this one. She has moved from California to Fairbury in the interval between the two books, into a retirement apartment. While Alexa is away from home, Aunt Faye finds the perfect excuse to annoy her greatly—someone is stealing things from the residents! The police are convinced that the thief is someone who lives in the complex, but Aunt Faye doesn’t believe that. Can she find a way to prove her point?

If you want a clean Christian mystery series, check out the Hartfield Mysteries. Just be careful when you get engrossed in them, or you may find meals being put on the table late—and you may well find yourself annoying the people around you as you hoot with laughter at some of the situations described. I hear that my children heard me laughing hard a couple of times in one day as I read Front Window! Mystery and humor aside, I really enjoyed watching Alexa grow and change in her relationships with other people, especially Joe, and the community in general. The only thing I did not appreciate about the books was the character who married a divorced woman; I take Matthew 5:32 literally.

WARNING: There is at least one murder in each book, not graphically described but there all the same. In Front Window, the police chief is mentioned as swearing a time or two.

The book titles are Esther’s affiliate links. By clicking on them to buy the books from Amazon, you’ll help support her website, with no extra cost to you.

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Trip to Dunedin, Part 1—The Trip South

We took a trip to Dunedin, a large city near the south end of this island, a week ago. We left here fairly early Friday morning, and drove till it was nearly dark that evening, with just a few stops. This first picture shows the typical landscape in the Canterbury Plains, south of Christchurch. Mr. Diligence, who sits in the front of the van between his daddy and I, was getting bored, so he borrowed my camera. What this doesn’t show, which is very hard to pick up with the camera but very spectacular in real life, is the snow-capped mountains off to the west. The covering of snow this time of year makes them look a lot taller than they look in the summer, somehow. They look like they just rise suddenly out of the flat plains. 05-IMG_0480

Esther was able, with her good camera, to get a picture that gives an idea of what we saw. This is taken from the bridge over the Rakaia River, which is 1.6 kilometers (1 mile) long. The structure you see is the railroad bridge.08-DSCF1670

Late in the afternoon, we stopped for half an hour to take a break and enjoy the sea, at Shag Point. This first picture was taken as we drove along the sea; the rest were taken when we stopped. The cliff went nearly straight down, probably 50 feet! Esther and I, and Mr. Diligence who had a headache, stayed at the top; the rest went down a steep path to the sea.


Mr. Inventor and Mr. Intellectual walking along the beach.


Mr. Diligence wishing he felt better, and getting as close to the edge as Mom will let him.


Mr. Sweetie and Mr. Handyman, with Little Miss. Thankfully, he didn’t slip like Mr. Inventor did as he came around that point!11-IMG_0494

Daddy and Little Miss.


Mr. Inventor and Mr. Intellectual discovered a structure of some sort!


Mr. Imagination and Mr. Sweetie


Daddy with Little Miss


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Daffodils—and a Winter Storm!

Last Sunday afternoon on our way home from church we took a few minutes to drive through the Domain, the public land, to see the daffodils. They were sure gorgeous!2-IMG_04593-IMG_04624-IMG_0463

Then, Wednesday, a storm arrived from the south. As the weather forecast I saw put it, the wind was coming “straight off the Antarctic ice shelf”. It sure felt like it! All day Thursday, we had alternating rain, hail, and sunshine. I took these pictures less than a minute after one squall started—the hail turned the ground white that fast!6-IMG_0468

After dark, when another hail storm went through, Mr. Diligence went out and scraped ice off Mr. Inventor’s trailer. He brought it in the house and built this sculpture. Mr. Sweetie called it the Tower of Babel.7-IMG_04708-IMG_04719-IMG_0472

I wanted to clarify something from the post about hitting water in the well. Mr. Inventor did not find the design he used for a “drill” anywhere; he thought it up himself. He did watch YouTube and got several other ideas, but hasn’t tried any of them yet.

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Back in March, I wrote about our boys’ project of digging a well by hand. They got down 2.9 meters, and then lost momentum. It rained, and we were concerned about the ground softening up and caving in. They didn’t do any more with the well until today. Mr. Inventor has been agitating for us buying a posthole driller to finish the well, rather than digging farther by hand. It sounded like a good idea, but we never got around to it. He started working on building his own. He cut a circle out of a flat piece of iron, and cut a slit in it and bent the metal to make a sort of screw, but that didn’t work. He watched a few YouTube videos for ideas, then cut up a small old propane tank and attached that to a handle. It worked well to drill through the clay at the bottom of the well, and they hadn’t gone far when water started seeping in! They are drilling through gravel and sand now, and it’s looking really promising.1-IMG_06352-IMG_06363-IMG_06374-IMG_0640

Does it look a bit safer now, than when they were digging by hand at the bottom?

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