Sunday, November 23, 2008

Winter is Here - Winter Tires coming Monday

Friday and Saturday were great days for weather. Not for our health, but I'll get to in a future post.

Friday night late it started snowing - really snowing. It stuck to the ground and everything. I love the smell in the air when it is snowing. With the shift in weather came quite a bit of wind. With this came damage to the electrical wires that power the trains. This resulted in delays. So at 9:30 p.m., when my train was 15 minutes late, it meant I would miss the 9:50 bus and have to wait until the 10:50 bus or have Tamara pick me up. I called Tamara and told I might need here. I would call her back after the train started moving.

Then a miracle occurred. A neighbor (the dad of Hannah's best friend) was also in the train and he had a car at the trainstation in our city. He offered to take me home. Wow, that was great. I called Tamara and told her to stay at home.

On the wy home the neighbor said he hoped we would make it home as he still has his summer tires on his car. In Germany there is law regarding tires. In winter you must have winter weather tires (or all weather tires) otherwise in an accident, the fault will be yours.

We did make it home, but I remembered that we also still have our summer tires on our vehicle. Saturday morning I made an appointment - for Monday, and hoped it wouldn't snow too much.

The next morning there were a few snow flurries, but nothing really stuck. I was grateful for that because of the summer tires. Hannah, Ian and I ran some errands in Ratingen while Tamara, Shantal, and Spencer went to visit schools. Starting with the fifth grade (next fall), there are four type of schools students can attend - weiterfürhende Schulen is what the Germans usually say. I'll have to post about that later as well.

Anyway, walking around with Hannah and Emma was also great. The weather stayed cold, but it was sunny by that point. That is nice weather. There is a crispness in the air that makes me feel alive.

In the afternoon, the weather held - sunny and cold. This meant I could drive to our friends house and help them move. I took the seats out of the mini-van, vacummed (it was a bad one this time around) and was off. We met the missionaries there who helped carry the bigger stuff. The boyfried of my friend was not in great condition and I also can't lift too much. So it was nice to have the missionaries there. It was great to be out helping someone and working on such a great day. We got everything moved in two trips and had a nice dinner with my friend. Unfortunately, by that point my stomach was not too happy with me (later post) and I couldn't eat too much.

That is the weather that I miss the most - sunny.

So Persuasive

For a little guy, Ian is very persuasive. He is able to get what he wants, express himself, get excited, etc. The amazing part is that he does this all with no words.

He has said words (mama, emma for instance) a few times, but mostly he just sticks to his favorite word - uhuh! He then uses intonation and pointing to help everyone else understand what he wants. But it is quite amazing how far he gets with just that one word expressed in different tones, with emphasis on different syllables, etc.

We are wondering when he'll start expressing himself with words. Maybe when he goes to Kindergarten (pre-school in english). Tamara got some good news recently. Ian will go to Kindergarten for a trial visit or visits (I can't remember if it's only one) in January. If the visit works out well, then Ian can go once or twice a week. Next fall he'll be able to go full time.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Spencer On Another Bus Adventure

Well Spencer, young and very brave Spencer went on a journey today. A journey to the Orthodontist - all by himself. Here are the cold hard facts >

By Car
23,9 km (14 miles)
20 Minuten (approximately)
1 gallon of gas (approximately)
4.50 EURO - (round trip) price of one gallon of gas in Germany

By Public Transportation --> Spencer's mode of transportation
By One Bus, One Train, and some walking
5 minute walk
12 minute bus ride
wait for train (10-20 minutes)
26 minute commuter train ride
8 minute walk
51 minutes total

1.30 EURO - Child bus/train fare (round trip)
1.00 EURO - french fries* near the orthodontist

*this was planned, not sure if Spencer stopped for the fries. But they are very yummy and less expensive then elsewhere.

Tamara can tell you more, but it sounds like he got their early - because with the train it was either early or late, not right on time. The Orthodontist saw him early and he was able to get home early.

Last Saturday I showed him the aforementioned route and had him lead the way from the train station to the Orthodontist's office. He did just fine (and it was night time). We noted some of the markers along the way, e.g., gas station on the right, turn at this sign. And we gave Spencer a cell phone for the trip in case anything happened.

Total Savings
3.20 EURO
Spencer Happy b/c he did something hard on his own
Sisters Happy b/c they didn't have to babysit
Mom happy b/c she didn't have stress from Spencer while at the Orthodontists office
Orthodontist happy b/c she has a nervous respectful child rather than one who is waiting for mom to save him

It was a big step for Spencer and I'm excited for him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Braces - ouch

Well it has happened. Shantal needs braces. It looks like the payment plan is pretty good for the basic service. The Orthodontist would, however, like us to purchase the advanced service plan, which includes items such as: more frequent x-rays and cleanings, sealants on the teeth, a permanent retainer afterwards (lower teeth), fancier self healing bands, and something else I'm not remembering now.

550 € over 3 years for the basic plan - paid in all cases (with or without the fancy plan and apparently reimbursed after successful completion of the treatment).
30 €/month for 4 years for the fancy plan (total 1,440 €) - not reimbursed.

And, we've got 2 more kids coming.

Oh, and we still have to talk Shantal into the whole affair. Who knows how that will turn out. I showed Shantal and Spencer how to ride the train down to the Orthodontists office on Saturday.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shantal speaks with an American Accent

Shantal has had a much different experience with the German language when compared to the other children. She knew English really well and loved English before we moved to Germany. She had just started the 3rd grade in America when we left in 2006.

At any rate, she now speaks German flawlessly I would say. She speaks German with a very nice German accent and does well in the German school system.

The other day she was speaking German with an American accent for fun, to make fun of the typical American accent. I'm not even sure how she learned to do this - I'm guessing that she learned it listening to new missionaries in our congregation speak German, or mom and dad speak German - our accents are still noticeably English. She did it quite well, which caught me off guard - because thought I only adults would be able to do such a thing. Very impressive.

Anyway, I found it quite amusing and I recalled sitting in church one Sunday when a new missionary introduced himself. Shantal and I just chuckled a bit as we listened to his strong American accent come through in his German.

Monday, November 10, 2008

That's right, or?

Emma has picked up a habit in her English that comes straight out of the German language.

German: Das stimmt, oder?
Emma's English: That's right, or?
Real American English (as I recall it being spoken): That's right, isn't it?

That is one of Emma's cute little habits in her speech. I hardly notice them anymore.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


I just read some articles on KSL related to the passage of proposition 8 in California. There have been some very strong reactions from the gay community to the Latter-day Saints (LDS) support of this proposition. It's times like these when I wonder what the future holds.

It reminds me of my mother singing in a LDS women's group trying to rally people to vote against the equal rights amendment. I was young at the time and didn't know why she was doing what she did, but I remember being impressed that she was so involved.

Bishop Wester expresses solidarity with LDS Church over Prop. 8 is one article that struck me. It is nice to see churches rallying together to support such a cause.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Great Family Home Evening

For family home evening last night I read to our children from the autobiography of Margaret McNeil Ballard, a mormon pioneer, and my great, great maternal grandmother. I read this after looking for an article in the Friend magazine and finding an article about Margaret Mceil. I thought to myself, I know that name and I have the full autobiography, why not just read from that. The kids were still and calm as I read. It was awe inspiring to to read the story of "mormon" life from 150 years ago, especially as a family trying to live a latter-day saint life today. Here is one excerpt.

The first ten years of my childhood was spent in Tranent but because of being a "Mormon" I was not permitted to attend the schools and so was entirely deprived of schooling while in the old country. During pioneering there was little opportunity of education. During those ten years our family enjoyed the association of the Elders and Saints. My father was President of the Edinburgh Conference for a number of years and we were always glad to receive them. Many times I went to bed hungry in order to give my meal to the visiting Elders.
On April 17th, 1856 we left Liverpool for America.

We feed the elders in our home frequently, but do not have to go hungry because of this service. But, the children probably have fewer toys because of our service in the church.

Later while crossing the plains as a 13 year old Margaret was soley in charge of the family cow - milking, feeding and driving across the plains. Despite being deprived of schooling in her youth she taught herself to read later in life.

When looking for further information for the kids today I found the following on-line at Heritage Gateways:

I also discovered that we are only 13 hours away (not counting ferry time) from her birth place in Scotland. I'd say it's definitely worth the trip and there is most definitely a youth hostel in the area somewhere.

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