Sunday, January 28, 2007

Beauty in the Craziness

Based some emails I received I must have been in a pretty sour mood when I wrote that last update. There were lots of tough times just after our arrival and within our move, but a lot of joy as well. Of course Ian who has helped all of us out like I mentioned last time, but also many other wonderful things happened. Here are a few of the joyous moments I remember.

For the real story, you must of course consult


In the craziness there was much beauty. By craziness I mean the last two months of our lives. As you've probably read on Tamara's blog in addition to the general fun of moving, crazy work schedules, getting kids adjusted to new school, finding doctors, registering for a visa, etc. we've had head lice twice, Tamara broke her toe, and did I mention the work schedule?

This last week's weather would actually sum up the craziness in our lives and the range of emotions that come with such hectic.

Thursday (18 Jan) Hurricane "Kyrill", which pounded Europe killing I believe upwards of 50 people and knocking down 40 million trees in Germany with 25 million in North Rhine-Westphalia where we live. This knocked out the train I normally take to work for the entire week.

Tuesday (23 Jan) winter arrives. Up til now we have had very warm weather compared to averages. An extended Autumn so to say. Well anyway, I had to break out a 2nd coat so that I could stand at the bus stops (I was standing at a lot of bus stops for longer than usual due to that train not running all week).

Friday (26 Jan) the first snow came. In the afternoon, the kids played in the snow. The kids love the snow and so even though there was only a dusting they made the most of it. They made snowmen that were about 6 inches tall (15.24 cm - I'm in Europe now). By nightime it had snowed about an inch at our house.

Saturday (27 Jan) spring came again, or that extended Autumn I mentioned. Most of the snow had melted, kids were playing at the parks and many people were outside and life was back to "normal" again.

As I said in the beginning there was much beauty in all of the craziness of the last two or three months. Here is a quick list of a few of them:
- The kids prayers have been heartfelt. It is amazing to listen to and very moving.
- The kids speak German. For three years I have spoken to them in German and they have spoken English to me and so to hear them respond in German now is pretty cool.
- my parents visited us here in Germany. This was amazing, since my parents and I have shared a "Germany" connection all of our lives, but it was very enjoyable to share it with them here in this country. My parents first met in Germany and often told stories of their experiences here. They were both missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often referred to as the mormons) in the early 1960's.
- We got to visit the Christmas Market in Düsseldorf. Always a treat, and not just because of the great food.
- Ian was blessed - This will likely be our last child and so it was a special experience. Tamara has changed her mind before, which is why we have Ian by the way.
- Tamara and I celebrated a special anniversary together. We first met in Düsseldorf in January 1991. It was very cool to think about our lives together and to think about how great she has been for me over the years. She is a doll.
- By the way - our second meeting was in Hagen in December 1991. Our third meeting was at the alter (O.K., just kidding about that, but I don't want to bore you with the details, although they are quite interesting to me)
- Spencer was baptized. This was very cool. After I confirmed Spencer a member of the church he turned to me for what I expected would be a traditional handshake. Instead he jumped into my arms. That was cool.
- Me and the kids watched the Star Wars trilogies together and played like 100 hours of Lego Star Wars for ps2 over the Christmas holidays. That was a lot of fun.
- Spencer went to Toys R Us with grandma and bought a toy with a significant percentage of his Christmas/Birthday/allowance money - A plastic "hockey table" (like a Foosball table [Kicker in German] except the table is designed for hockey instead of soccer). The one he bought sits on top of a kitchen table to help you an imagine it's size. He bought it because he wanted to spend more time with me and knew how much I like hockey (did I mention the crazy work schedule). Despite the hockey table's size it is a lot of fun to play and very moving to see your son do something so touching.
- A very special Christmas.
- The congregation here helped us have a wonderful Christmas. They bought a significant gift for each child and gave us several small gifts for the children as well. And on Christmas Eve the Bishop of the congregation came up to me and handed me a "special delivery" from an anonymous donor. The Card contained 250 Euros - the cost of the Visas for Tamara and the kids (I had already payed for mine just after our arrival in September, but we hadn't gotten to everybody else's yet), and we had to pay for them just after Christmas.
- We were short on money and time and so our Christmas was going to be extra small. The gifts were of tremendous value to us and especially to our kids.
- The kids first Nikolaus. That is December 6th when kids receive a gift in their shoes. In Homberg the shoes were dropped off at local businesses a few days in advance and picked up on the 6th. It was very fun for the kids.
- Hannah's Christmas party was very nice. The greatest part was that the person playing Nikolaus was caught in traffic. So the teachers improvised and told this story about how Nikolaus hit traffic and a fallen tree in the road and gave updates during the evening about the status (even Nikolaus has a cell). It was so funny that when the person arrived I thought they had planned it to be that way. They said no. The person was really lost or caught in traffic or both. I told them they should do it that way every year.
- Hearing German Christmas Carols again was very nice.
- Hearing my dad bear his testimony in German. He spoke twice, once at Spencer's baptism and once in Sacrament meeting after Ian's blessing. The Presiding authority invited my Dad on an impromptu basis to share his testimony with the audience. It made the day complete for me.

Our next challenge may very well be determining how to live normal everyday lives again. Wish us luck.

Monday, January 22, 2007

A Crazy Two Months

These last two months have been insane. All things seemed to converge at once. Just as one thing was starting to settle such as the paperwork for our new house (coordinating deposits, payments to the Rental Agent Company, getting registered with the city, etc.), the paperwork and documents for our new car ramped up it's intensity. As these storm began to ebb slightly a three week ordeal with port authorities in the Netherlands began, which is an entire story unto itself. I will only mention here that authorities searched our goods for about 7 hours and only by the grace of God did they stop searching and release our goods with no duties and in time for our move-in date. The authorities found some new clothes for Ian and some boxes of "unopened" cereal at about 4 hours in and decided to continue the search on another day.

This hectic time was naturally followed by moving in. Moving in is always a bit insane and after the third or fourth day of way too many boxes you always want to pull your hair out. For us, this normal mess was further complicated by three items: 1) the long time between packing our goods (May, June) and our move in date --> November 30th, 2) my work schedule which went from about 9 hours away from home to about 11 or 12 hours away from home just after our move-in, and 3) Christmas.

Christmas deserves an explanation. I love Christmas, but with the other two items, having three different Christmas parties for the kids on three different days, a congregation Christmas party on a fourth day, along with all of the usual preparations around the house, I felt like a bit of a scrooge. All events were amazing, but since I generally just wanted to fall over and even missed two of the kids Christmas parties due to work, it seemed only to add to the stress for me.

This brings me to my main point of this entry. I don't think we would have made it as a family if it weren't for our little Ian. You might think that a baby would add so much stress to the move that it would have been unbearable, but just the opposite was the case with Ian. When everything else was falling apart there was Ian needing some cereal in a bottle or needing to feed from mom. Those quiet moments brought a peace that we couldn't find all around us and brought us back to the core of why we are here on earth at all - to care for each other.

On top of that blessing, Ian is an amazingly happy child. He is always glad to see people. The nice moms and Grandmothers in our congregation who naturally say Hi to babies including Ian each Sunday, always stay and talk to Ian because he is so friendly. He lights up and smiles almost every time someone talks to him. He has done the same for our other children and for us. Everyone enjoys taking care of Ian. It is relaxing and enjoyable to be around him. Naturally he cries when he is hungry or uncomfortable, and the nursing is very hard on Tamara, but on the whole he has been a huge blessing during this move.

I will keep this short and wish all a happy new year. Thank you for your support and prayers.

For more details regarding the day to day events of our lives here in Germany, i.e., the real story, please check out Tamara's Blog. She has some great stuff, including photos, posted at this site: