Wester Update

Last updated: December 28, 2007

This page contains the latest info on our family:

How the kids  are doing, how JoAnn and I are handling being parents, etc...

December 28, 2007:

Ok, so now two more years have passed.  Time seems to accelerate as we get older...

Andrew is now two and is the center of attention in the family. And if he isn't, he works to become the center.  He is cute, funny, and he knows it, which is a dangerous combination.   Right now, his vocabulary has been accelerating like crazy.   With new words popping up everyday.  But one of his favorite saying is "I funny".  Otherwise, he has fun playing with his brother and sisters and trying to act 3 years older than he is.

Alex is now 3 1/2 and has really been coming into his own lately.  After following Amber around like a shadow for a couple years, he has started to show his creative and independent side.  He likes to sing, build with legos, play with cars and balls, and just use his imagination while playing with his brother and sisters.

Amber is now 5 and is the mother hen of the group.  She likes to be the boss when the kids play house, or Dora, or whatever they dream-up, but is also very loving with her brothers and sister.  Amber is in kindergarten this year at the Westerminster Academy (our home school).  She loves doing her school work and even likes her teacher! Amber has been taking gymnastic lessons this year also.  She is still a little timid on some of the equipment, but is very flexible (she is like a rag doll on some stretches).

Ashley is 7 and in second grade.  She enjoys reading and doing puzzles.  Every year that passes, we see less and less impact of her premature birth.  She continually improves on her balance and walking. This year Ashley had an eye surgery on one eye to clear up a calcium build-up.  It was fairly minor and she did well with it.  Ashley is also doing well with her school, as she is reading and doing double digit addition and subtraction.   Ashley and Amber are also enjoying learning about flying animals (first birds, now bats) in science.  

JoAnn has been busy (to say the least) with taking care of the tribe at home.  She also sets up the curriculum for both Amber and Ashley.  She does enjoy getting out with the other home school mothers.  And she still likes to do Creative Memories scrapbooks when she gets the time (which was about 2 years ago).

Barry has also been busy at work and home.  He was promoted to Principle Engineer and now has 5 software engineers reporting to him.  His team does all the software development for our GM HVAC products, which means over 1 million units every year.  He has also traveled to Detroit and Korea giving technical presentations in the attempt to get more GM business.  At home, the kids keep him busy.  He teaches science on Thursday nights and instigates general silliness.  At church, Barry has been working as Deacon and Treasurer for Calvary Baptist Church in Winona, MN.

With time passing so quickly, we generally fight to make time to enjoy each other as a family.  This past year, we purchased a Wenonah canoe and found that all 6 of us enjoy taking canoe rides.  The kids normally only last about 90 minutes, but they do enjoy watching the birds and various animals we find on the backwaters of the Mississippi.  We also like to take time to swim at the YMCA on Friday nights.


December 13, 2005:

WOW! My head is spinning.  Last I updated this, we were expecting our third child.  Time has gone by in a blink!  

Well, I guess I should start where I left off.  On March 26th 2004, we had a baby boy.  Alexander Christian was born at 8lbs and 21 inches long.  Both Ashley and Amber thought he was cute, but noisy!  Both enjoyed being big sisters and helped mommy as much as they could.  Alex grew to a big boy.  He was the quickest of our children to start eating solid foods and to quit eating baby foods. Right now he runs around the house tailing his big sisters, trying to do everything they do and more.  Alex is a very helpful lad.  He likes to set the table.  He will pick up toys before he is told to. And He loves to put away the groceries.

Then sometime after Alex was born, Barry decided to take a job in Winona, MN.  This would help us move farther from Chicago-land (don't ask about the traffic or the urban-sprawl).  But it would also move us between our parents (3-4 hour drives instead of 7-8 hours).  We ended up settling on the Wisconsin side of the river, just north of Fountain City. We have a nice house in the country with 1 acre of land.  We were sad to leave our church and Motorola, but were excited about the future.  I took a job with TRW Automotive.  I now make Heating, Ventilation and A/C (HVAC) units for automobiles.  When you press that A/C button, there is a lot that happens before the LED turns on!

In the past year working at TRW, I've been promoted from Senior Software Engineer to Lead Engineer.  I am now in charge for the software development of one of our biggest customers.  Its been quite a switch, but I'm enjoying it.  TRW has also had me fly to Germany to be part of a presentation to an European auto maker to try to win more business.  I have also flown to Canada to support our customer at their manufacturing site.

Another surprise happened after we moved here.  Suddenly, we found out we were pregnant again!  I don't think either of us were ready for this one (Alex is only 20 months older than the baby), but we are adjusting rapidly.  God gives grace when its needed.  So on December 9, 2005, Andrew William was born at 8lbs, 8oz and 20.5 inches long.  In fact, mother and baby just came home yesterday.  Ashley and Amber were very excited.  Amber is such a mother-hen.  She just loves to caress and kiss Andrew.  Ashley just loves to sit and watch him.  Alex wasn't too sure about it all in the hospital.  He wanted nothing to do with Mommy (attached to wires and all those machines).  He checked out the baby once or twice, but wasn't too sure.  Once home, however, he sneaks kisses when we aren't looking and likes to sit and watch Andrew with his sisters.  He also likes to watch Andrew eat and will sit next to mommy when she feeds him.

For the last year and a half, JoAnn has been home-schooling Ashley.  Last year was pre-school (pretty easy) and this year is kindergarten.  I've been impressed by the progress Ashley has made in her reading and writing.  She can count to one hundred (and probably more if I had the patience) and can write all of her Upper-case letters.  She has also shown a big jump in her ability to draw.  Want to challenge her? Give her a maze and step back.  I love watching her think her way through those mazes in the newspaper or activity books.  At a restaurant once, I saw her finish the placemat maze in about 20 seconds.  I was a-MAZE-d to say the least (sorry for the pun). Ashley has also been seeing a special doctor for her legs and has braces that she wears.  She also goes to Physical Therapy every other week.  Her walking, running and jumping has improved greatly these last 6 months.

Amber loves to do everything Ashley does.  So for home schooling this year, she has done about 80% of everything Ashley has done.  Her handwriting looks like she is destined to be a doctor (well not that bad), but that's pretty good for a 3-year old!  Amber is going to make a good mother someday.   She loves to play mommy or doctor with her teddy bear (which she recently named Andrew).  She always tries to be a mother-hen to Alex, although he is getting close to her height and weight, so it normally doesn't work. :)  She and Ashley love to run around playing games; hide-and-go seek and kids UNO are favorites.  She is also a couch potato.  She loves to watch Mickey Mouse and Rocky & Bullwinkle (hmmm... those sound like her Dad's favorites).  Both Ashley and Amber are excited to see the snow outside.  They have been waiting since July!  The first snowflake that they saw come down, they wanted their boots and mittens on so they could go outside.

And finally there is JoAnn.  What can I say about a woman that not only gives birth to 4 kids in less than 6 years, but cooks, cleans, and teaches home school?  I think each year that passes teaches her that she has more strength than she thought.  Our life here would not be the same without her. 

As many of you know, having four kids leaves little time for either of us to do much for hobbies.  Life is pretty much our hobby.  In this past year, we have enjoyed our vacation at Camp Fairwood, going to an apple farm, playing out in our backyard, planting a garden, and just enjoying spending time as a family.

One other note to remind us of how we are getting older... JoAnn and I celebrated our 10th anniversary this past year.  We were able to get away to a B&B for a long weekend down near Dodge, WI.  We were able to go see a Shakespeare play in an outdoor amphitheater and tour Taliesen (Frank Lloyd Wright's home).  


September 4, 2003:

Seems like I'm getting into a every-6-month habit of updating my website here.  I know that Jessica would like it done much more often, but its difficult squeezing in that much time.

It has been a very busy summer, but an enjoyable one.  We started off the summer by leading 10 teens in a mission trip to Muskegon, Michigan.  We helped out Pastor Joe Hill at Henry Street Baptist Church by doing some yard work, painting, and going door-to-door to over 500 homes in one week.  It was good experience for all of us.

We also did a lot of work on our yard.  After having our backyard flood for the second year, we put in some drainage tile to fix that problem.  Then we had our driveway paved and put a fence around our back yard.  Its so nice now to just let our dog, Scooter, run free in the backyard.  The first time, I think he wasn't sure if he was going to be yelled at for walking around without his leash on.  I'm sure once the squirrels start burying acorns in the yard, he will be fired up and ready to chase!

We also went on a family vacation this year.  We went to Camp Fairwood's family camp.  It was very relaxing a peaceful.  All the meals were prepared for us (and much better than cafeteria food, too).  We had babysitters to give JoAnn and I a break everyday.  There were activities for the kids and some for adults and some for both together.  Ashley really liked the barrel train rides and the trip to the farm.  Amber enjoyed it so much that she fell asleep twice in her highchair.

Ashley has just started her preschool class for the year.  She is only 3, but is going to school for her developmental delays.  She is still delayed in speech and walking/jumping/running.  She has made incredible progress in talking this summer.  Its nice having little conversations with her now, as she responds so much more than last spring.  Her walking is coming along.  She has just started running and jumping (with help), which she would never do before.  Balance is still an issue, but is getting better.  She can currently count to 12 and knows her ABCs, so we started working on addition and reading with her.  Ok, so we tell her that if she has one apple and we give her another apple, how many does she have?  And we are trying to get her to recognize her name, as well as knowing what the sounds that go with the letters.  But its a start.

Amber has been learning like crazy.  She recently learned to crawl.  She still scoots on her butt most of the time, but has started to crawl a bit.  The reason she knows how to crawl is because she knows how to climb stairs. Just yesterday, she crawled up to the second floor with minimal assistance from me.  That was 4 stairs with help and 9 on her own.  She also talks and babbles a mile a minute!  She knows dada, duck, mama, and sounds like she tries to say Ashley and Scooter.  Right now cows go "ooooo."  She loves seeing the cows that come by our yard once or twice a day.  She loves to read and does a really good job with not tearing the pages of her books. Everyday, when I'm at work, the best part of my day is coming home to both of my little girls screaming for daddy.

And of course the big news is that JoAnn is pregnant!  We weren't planning for another one this soon, but he will be a welcome addition.  No, I don't know that the baby will be a boy, I just use "he" instead of "it".  The due date is currently in the middle of April, but I'm sure that will change a bit when JoAnn has her ultrasound.


February 13, 2003:

Seems like yesterday I was just getting used to being a father and now I have two kids.  Time sure does fly.  Raising kids has to be life's greatest joy (remind me I said that when they are teens).  Not every single event is a pleasant one, but the whole experience is just so amazing.  This has to be why God chose the Father-Son relationship to describe what Jesus did on the cross.  A father watching his son be executed shows the love He truly has for us.

Well, Ashley is walking most of the time now.  I just love watching her play on the floor, stand up and walk across the room.  Her balance is still a little off, but she no longer has to concentrate so much to remain balanced.  She currently knows every letter of the alphabet, loves to watch "Bear in the Big Blue House" and generally make noise any way she can.  We are working on potty training right now, but it is difficult, since it doesn't bother her to be wet.  We have seen some progress, though.  

Amber is showing us how difficult we had it with teaching Ashley.  She sits like a pro and rolls over a the drop of a hat.  With Ashley it took some time and lots of coaching before she could do those things.  Amber is still a Pillsbury-dough girl, but is starting to thin out.  She loves her Johnny-jumper and sits in her entertainment ring for quite a while.  She is eating rice, oatmeal, and various fruits and veggies.  Sweet potatoes and peaches seem to go down fast.  

In the little free time we have, JoAnn and I have been serving as leaders in our church's youth group.  It has been very enjoyable to encourage their spiritual growth and development while trying to help them through the pitfalls of teen life.  We don't see our youth group as an entertainment center for teens in our church, but we encourage teens to take part in church service.  We already have led a Sunday Night Service (teens led singing, offering, and preaching) and are working on a short term mission trip for this summer.

Other than that, we have been working on making our house a home.  God has provided us a beautiful house overlooking Silver Lake just two miles from our church.  It is nice to be able to live in the community that your church is serving (we lived 15 miles away at our last house).  It is a new house, but there are lots of "customizing" needed to make it our house.  So far things have been going well.


August 10, 2002:

Ok, so it has been a while since I wrote an update, but we have been quite busy to say the least!  I have to confess that I didn't give you all the news back in December, since we knew JoAnn was pregnant at that time.  We just didn't want to tell people yet.  Now, eight months later, our second daughter, Amber Jo Wester has been born!  She weighed 7lbs 4 oz and was 19.5 inches at birth.  The moment she got out, she screamed her head off.  For the first 15-20 minutes, she cried and cried.  She finally calmed down after they had weighed her and brought her into JoAnn's room and I held her for a 5 minutes or so.  But we know her lungs are fine! ;)  After Amber's first foray in the outside world, she has seemed to settle in quite well.  She has been a pretty quiet baby, content to lay and look around when she is awake, whether in her crib or with someone holding her.  She also has a head of very dark hair.  JoAnn and I are trying to figure out where that comes from, since neither of us have dark hair.

Also, since our new arrival was on her way, we decided back in January that we needed to put our old house up for sale.  It sold in three weeks!  To the first couple to look at it!  So we hurriedly rushed around and found a new house that we can call home.  We moved into it at the end of March.  The new house is much bigger (over twice the size) and has a bigger lawn.  We also have about 40 acres of land (not ours) beside and behind us that is unoccupied, so it is much more country-ish than our last house.  JoAnn started setting up the "nest" as soon as we moved in.  Both Ashley and Scooter enjoy this house much better also, since Ashley gets to climb stairs and have a special play room.  Scooter likes the circular nature of the first floor, so we can race around and around it.  The extra wild-life (squirrels, raccoons, deer, woodchucks) have also given Scooter something else to bark at. :{

Ashley is doing well also.  We suddenly have a jabber-box on our hands.  She can count to 10 and knows her ABCs (well, A, B, and C anyway).  She knows the name of just about all her toys, pictures in books and things around the house.  I'm always amazed that I'll be playing with her and she will say something and I'll just think "When did she learn that?!?"  We are still working on my favorite word: sphigmamometer, however.  Too bad we don't have one around the house.  She also knows what many animals say: cow says moo, horse says neigh, bear says grrrr, and Curly (from the 3 Stooges) says "Hey Moe!"  Well, she is my child after all. :)

Ashley is not walking yet, but does stand up on her own and has taken a step or two.  She has therapy in a pool where the therapist gets her to walk in waist deep water, so she gains confidence in her balance.  It has worked well so far,  but the last three weeks the pool has been emptied (something broke) so that kind of set her back.  She is still a very loving child that isn't afraid of anything (except walking).  She will go to just about anyone (something that makes me a little afraid) and loves to explore her world.  She loves to figure out how to take something apart.  She has a huge curiosity (something else that makes me afraid), but being an engineer, I guess that partially comes from me.

JoAnn has been busy incubating a baby all Spring and Summer.  You may be wondering why we were able to keep Amber inside so much longer than with Ashley.  Well, JoAnn had a surgery that basically ties her cervix nearly shut and gives it some strength to stay closed as Amber grew.  Her cervix just wasn't strong enough to hold as Ashley got bigger, so she delivered prematurely.  This time, she was also a little more limited in what she could do compared to other pregnant women.  Due to these limitations, we asked my niece Stephanie to come live with us for the summer.  She has been a big help with house work and carrying Ashley around, filling in where JoAnn couldn't and giving JoAnn some needed rest.  Those two things wrapped in a healthy dose of prayer helped us last until Amber was ready.

And me? Well, I started working with the Youth Group in our church this summer.  We have been working on developing spiritual gifts of our teens.  We started with getting a few of the boys to teach a message on Wednesday nights.  We have one girl that wants to help teach Sunday School for the first and second graders in the fall.  We also decided that we are going to have the Youth Group run the fifth Sunday night service in September.  That should be interesting. ;)  We also have been playing Ultimate Frisbee (or just "Ultimate" for you die-hards) on Thursday nights.  We have been getting a pretty good turn-out with quite a few adults joining the group, too.  I think I've lost 5 pounds running around, so that's good for me. 

Well, that's all I can think of for now and I'll try not to let 8 months go by for next time.  Thank you again for your prayers for both Ashley and Amber.


December 30, 2001:

Wow, we are already at the end of the year and what a year it has been.  We looked at some video of Ashley from last year.  She was so small!  She pretty much stayed on the floor where we left her.  Now its amazing if we can keep her in one room.  Turn your head and she has all the pots, pans, Tupperware all over the kitchen floor.  I believe she will become a professional cymbal player as she seems to like playing our metal pan lids.  I think JoAnn has gone through a bottle of Tylenol a day.  

Ashley is not walking yet, but creeps along the furniture with no problem.  It didn't take long for her to learn to transfer from the couch, to the table and back.  No, it won't be too long before she is walking all over the place.

She has also become a little jabber-box.  She loves to talk.  We loves to learn new words, too.  She will sit in our laps as we read books and repeat some words after.  Her favorite words are light, lion, star, scooter (our dog), book, mama, and dada.  She really likes to say "L" words.  Its funny to watch her get ready to say an "L" word.  She opens her mouth and flattens her tongue against the roof of her mouth very slow and deliberate.  Its pretty cute.

She now has 10 teeth.  Two of them molars.  She may have more, but it is too dangerous to stick your finger in her mouth to check.

Ashley had fun at Christmas.  It took a couple of presents, but she figured out how to rip open the wrapping paper with no problems. Actually, she was catching on a little too early.  She was trying to open any and all presents long before Christmas.

One bad part about Christmas, was that Ashley got her first cold (more than a runny nose anyway).  She has been (and still is) coughing and running a fever all week.  Just a normal cold, but a bad one.  She took it pretty well, anyway.  Not whiny or complaining, just a real trooper.

Other than that, she is pretty much the same as any other little toddler.  Intensely curious, active, learning a mile-a-minute.  Thanks for your prayers.


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