Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Toddler Talk

Emma is now at that stage where she brings a smile to our face at least three or four times at each meal. She either says something so cute and unexpected or in such a funny way that we can't almost keep from laughing. In a funny way means she says something that is officially incorrect from a language perspective, but oh so cute. Hannah was very good at this a few years back and has passed on the torch quite well.

An example is this phrase: "Ian wants to get him shoes on." She doesn't know that the word his should be used in that case. And, it cracks me up every time.

The beautiful thing for me about Emma is that she is doing this in both languages (German and English). This is the first child to be raised fully with German and so when she speaks to me in German it is great. One German phrase that she says oh so cute is: "Weißt du!" (you know). I want to record it, but I'm not sure if I could capture with good sound quality a spontaneous "Weißt du!" from her with a microphone. The microphone might distract her. Anyway, it's a fun time with Emma's development now.

Monday, April 28, 2008

It's About Time!

Ian is 20 Months old. And Ian has only had 7 teeth. He has 4 up top and 3 on the bottom. It has been this way for a very long time. He was a late teether, even for my kids.

But this morning, I noticed that all that changed. FINALLY, his 4th bottom tooth has popped through. I can see and feel the little white bump. It is so cute. And then, I noticed one of his back top teeth also popped through. Still just very tiny, but it has made it was through the gums.

I can see on the bottom, he has two more in the back that are gonna pop any day. You watch, by his 2nd birthday, he will have a mouth full of teeth. I just have the feeling that they are all going to come in at the same time.

I can't wait!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hannah's First Gymnastics Meet

At the beginning of the year, Hannah joined a Girls Gymanstics Group. Gymnastics is something that Hannah has enjoyed since we lived in Wisconsin and used to go once a week with a group of kids from our church. At that point, Hannah was 4 and loved just running around and playing on all the equipment. It was an open play time and absolutely no structure.

So, joining a gymnastic Group where it was structured, I was thinking Hannah wouldn't groove on it so much. Boy was I wrong.

I have heard over the last 6 months how great Hannah is at Gymanstics from the Gymnastic Trainers. They love Hannah. And sometimes, I think the thing that sets Hannah a part from some of the other girls, is that Hannah has the passion and the drive to learn it. She can do things that some of the girls that have been in Gymnastics for a few years can't do. She learns fast and I have been so happy for her.

Gymnastics meets once a week for 1 1/2 hours. She loves Thursdays. And when the talk of a Gymnastics Meet came up, she was so excited. They started practicing on Saturdays as well. Hannah always made sure she was out the door for her 8am training.

I was a bit worried about how she would react to the Gymnastics Meet. Those of you who know Hannah know why I had concerns. Lots of people, looking at her. Will she perform? Will she shy up? What would she do?

Well, today, we found out. Check this video out. I have to say, it is a little blurry. For some stupid reason, I videod everything in Compact mode. Stinks because I can't go back and fix it.

They broke everything down by the year you were born. Those born in 1999 and 2000 went first. And then those in 2001 and 2002. And when they handed out the rankings for the girls, it was done by the year you were born. For 2001, there were 19 girls. Hannah came in 10th place. I was estactic for her. Her first Meet. And she learned a lot. And she participated in every event. She says she wants to stand on the podium next time. I want her to as well. {smiles}

It was a great day for Hannah and I think it did wonders for her self esteem!

Here are some pictures of her big day! In no particular order!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Ich bin three Jahre alt

Emma said this to our Haushaltshelferin (Nanny) when she was talking about her upcoming birthday and how old she would be. At the same time Emma was trying to make three with her fingers. After her first statement, which included English and German, Emma seemed to realize that the "German" Nanny would not understand the English word "three." By this time her fingers were making three and she restated her age while pointing to her fingers: "Ich bin so alt".

Interesting that she determines that a word doesn't fit in one language sometimes.

The phrases again in English and German again would be as follows:

1a) I am drei (3) years old.
1b) Ich bin three (3) Jahre alt.

2a) I am this old.
2b) Ich bin so alt.

#2 said while pointing to her fingers making a three.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's Only Hair

Gardner is gone this weekend at a work weekend in Essen. It isn't far, but he doesn't come home either. And while he is gone, I went and got my hair cut.

So this is what I looked like when he left. This picture was taken on Hannah's birthday the end of February. My hair was long and I hated it. My hair is very thin and long just made it worse. But I never took the time to go get out and get it cut.

And this is what Gardner is coming home to. I know this next picture isn't very good. I tried taking it in the mirror in the bathroom. But we have no windows and half the light bulbs were out. And the flash bounces in the mirror.

So now I get to talk about the Salon and the differences I noticed while there versus in America.
The first thing I noticed when I walked in the door was the cigarette smoke smell and noticed the ash trays on the counters where everyone gets their hair cut. There were two hair stylists there and they were busy with other customers. They greeted me but didn't move from what they were doing. Then someone else came over to me and asked me if I wanted a coffee or a coke. Now that would never happen in America.
After waiting about half an hour, it was my turn. I told the stylist what I wanted done to my hair. (cut shorter with layers) She couldn't believe how much I was asking to cut off. But then sent me over to have my hair washed. After my hair was washed, she asked me again if I wanted my hair cut so much. And my answer was the same. Yes.
So, then she had her co-worker come over. As she cut my hair, she gave her co-worker my long hair that she cut off. In America, I would of donated my hair to "wigs for kids" or a similar place. Here, they don't do that. Instead, they wanted to keep my hair for experiments. An example she told me that I understood was like coloring hair.
This co-workers jobs were kind of interesting. She stood by and handed the stylist the hair spray, the blow dryer, did the washing, the sweeping afterwards. I thought it was strange that she handed everything to the stylist.
The thing that was the biggest shocker was how expensive a hair cut here was. My total was 42 Euros. Then I tipped another 5 Euros before I left. And on top of that, I paid my daughter 4 Euros for babysitting. That was an expensive 2 hours away.
Now I wonder what Gardner will say when he comes home tomorrow.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Ich kann das nicht "reachen"

Here is a concrete example of the changes the Nanny ushered into our lives. Emma started speaking more German. Now Emma will occasionally respond to me in German.

It actually brings a tear to my eye when she does. I've been speaking to her in German for almost three years now, and she has always answered in English (since she could talk). And now, with the same excitement that accompanies most of her actions, i.e., jumping up and down and smiling or laughing, she talks to me in German. It is sweet.

One funny phrase jumped out the other morning. I don't remember what she couldn't "reach", but there was something that she wanted and couldn't quite reach. What she said to me was "Ich kann das nicht 'reachen'", mixing an English word with German verb conjugation into the German sentence. By the time it registered, I was a already in the next room. Very cute.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

We Lost the Nanny

The house shoes (Hausschuhe) are gone, and with them the magic of our Nanny. The sad day has arrived sooner than we were hoping. In other words, the health insurance company has denied our request to extend the Nanny (Haushaltshilfe) due to Tamara's anemia.

But, we knew it would come to an end one day, and we learned some amazing things from the short time the Nanny was with us. This repeated the pattern that we saw when my mom stayed with us, and when the Relief Society (Frauenhilfsvereinigung or FHV in German) from our church helped us directly after Tamara's surgery. Our lives our much richer because of the service others have provided to us. One concrete example is that Spencer will be able to go to the movies next week with one of the families that helped us right after the surgery. Without that connection, he would not have been able to go.

That's the upside. Now to the day to day realities of dealing with Tamara's anemia. How did the kids respond to the lack-o-Nanny? How is Tamara doing? Find out in Episode 28 of our Living in Germany Podcast.

Click here for all of the posts on the Nanny.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A cause worth fighting for

Here is something I could really stand for in the democratic primary elections:

I'm not sure why I get bored at the end of an election. I just think everything has been said, and written about, and hashed out, etc. Just get down to business. Move the election up a week, because we can't take it any more!

One comment on German versus US political processes. In Germany, I don't usually know there was an election until it already happened. That is how low key they seem to be. Maybe I'm not plugged into the right newspapers, or websites, but I just seem to miss the lead up to the elections. It's a little too surprising for me thus far. But the US process is too long I'd say.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Enough Already

When I saw an article on Obama on Yahoo today I remembered that the democratic primaries aren't over. This is how I usually feel at the end of any political race in America. I just want it to be over.

The people who made this cartoon 7 months ago hit the nail on the head, and I still enjoy the cartoon, I just wish the primary election were over.

Friday, April 11, 2008

President Uchtdorf Video

Living in Germany and belonging to Mormon faith (Latter-day Saints) has some advantages and some challenges. One great advantage right now is being able to hear President Uchtdorf preach in German. This weekend, for instance, his talk at the priesthood session was transmitted in German, pre-recorded by President Uchtdorf. I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoyed hearing him preach in German, and have since found a site that contains links to German information about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Kirche Jesus Christi der Heiligen der letzten Tage).

The site includes a link to President Uchtdorf's sermon at the German wide Conference. The entire conference is also available on the German LDS site.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Secret Love

It's good that Tamara is so observant and was able to speak to the kids about their new found secret loves. I guess this means we are coming of age as parents. Definitely scary.

I am very glad the kids have each other in the same class (especially since the class stays together for another 15 months). That way they don't have to go through the whole ordeal alone. It's hard to figure out how to deal with all of those emotions as a young kiddo. Hopefully we can help them talk about their feelings more openly over time. Or, maybe we should strive to supress all those feelings, send Shantal to an all girls catholic school starting in the 5th grade (she's in the 3rd now), and find some sort of academy for Spencer?

Actually, the best approach is probably (in addition to lots of prayer), remaining calm and being excited for them. Telling them that all emotions have a place and a time. We have also told what we termed the "mommy and daddy story" each week at our Family Night. We should probably start that back up and emphasize the positive that comes from being committed to one another for a lifetime, and how important it is to make good friends at this stage in their life.

I still remember my first puppy love. I don't recall if we kissed, or anything like that. I think we really started being interested in each other in the 5th grade, but I'd have to ask my parents. It's weird what I remember and what I don't. For instance, I remember her dad's beard. A beard with no mustache. I always thought that was a bit of an odd look. But, I don't remember much of what me and my sweet puppy love did together during our relationship.

On parenting, I have one uncle who would openly ask his kids - "did you kiss him/her on your date tonight." He was kind of like one of the teenagers and was excited for the outcome. I think he may have extracted more information from his kids that way, and obviously trusted them to make good decisions. They were all high school/college age by then, but he seemed to be an old pro at it. That's what I was trying to get at above - be excited and open about their feelings. They probably aren't planning any grave life altering action at this point, and being open and excited for their discovery will probably help them express their feelings and come to terms with them.

No matter what, this is obviously a tough subject that will keep us busy with Shantal and Spencer for the next 10-15 years. Did you calculate the target marriage date there?

One note on the timing of these feelings. I would say the timing is not unexpected. In school, the kids read a coming of age, discovering the other sex book in school just prior to spring break - Ben liebt Anna (Ben loves Anna). The hero and heroine discover their interest in one another and end up spending time together, including an afternoon together in her bedroom. This leads to them laying down together on her bed, which results in them experiencing "weird" feelings. They later go swimming together in the buff at a family picnic. Again, they both feel those "weird" feelings, this time after seeing the other 3rd-4th grade person naked. After falling in love in school and having some fun together over the summer Anna, the heroine, returns to her native Poland for a tragic ending to the young love.

According to Shantal and the homework assignments we saw coming home from school (reading comprehension assignments), they didn't get so far in the book that the kids were swimming naked, but we need to follow-up.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Quick Update from Spencer

Here are a few quick items from Spencer.

By the way, he is struggling with listening to his own voice on the podcast - he thinks he sounds funny. That's a normal reaction the first time you hear your own recorded voice played back, but he doesn't realize that. So, let him know how much you enjoy his podcast and what you would love to hear from him.

Here are the jokes from HaHaHa.de (with translations) Spencer told on the show. The rhyming is important, which results in some gruesome situations (one boy stuck in the folding chair in a burning theater for instance). Have you ever read the original Grimm Brothers fairy tales. They are also gruesome. Evil step sister's foot doesn't fit in the slipper, no problem, just chop off some toes. That didn't make the cut in the Disney screenplay.

Alle Kinder sitzen im Riesenrad, nur nicht ... Klaus, der fiel raus

All the children are sitting in the ferris wheel, except for ... Klaus, he fell out.

Alle Kinder rennen aus dem brennenden Kino, ... nur nicht Abdul, der klemmt im Klappstuhl

All the children are running out of the burning movie theater, ... except for Abdul, he's stuck in the folding chair.

Alle Kinder spielen mit dem Holzbein, nur ... nicht Heinz, denn es ist seins

All the children are playing with a wooden leg, ... except for Heinz, because, well it's his.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


When Spencer turned 3 (at least, I think it was then!), He received wooden train set for his birthday. This train set is usually in his bedroom and barely gets used because of Ian's nap schedule. Plus, let's face it.....Spencer is older and into different things. Although, he will never give up his train set. That is his afterall.

Anyway, This is something that Ian just loves. Anytime he can get into the room, he starts playing with these trains. And since the Nanny has been here, she has built a small train with Ian a few times.

Today I mentioned bringing the big container (which is wooden, on wheels, has a string for pulling and actually has Spencer's name on it) down into the living room to keep Ian busy and happy. And it was a place that they could pull out all the train tracks, which they did!

What turned into keeping Ian happy, turned into a fun kid event for all of them. I couldn't believe how much fun they were all having. Here are just a few pictures I got of them playing with something that is old and yet so new.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Kids and Secrets

Spencer and Shantal came home from school today and they immediately went into the bathroom together. I saw them and Spencer says, we need to have a private conversation. I get them to come to the table to eat and they are continuing their whispering. No one wants to tell me what the secret is. But I start guessing. They kept it pretty quiet most of the day but finally at dinner, I asked Shantal what the secret was about Spencer and Bianca and she ran into Spencer telling him I knew but she didn't tell me. So come to find out, I am right.

The secret was that Spencer likes a girl in his class. And upon further investigation, this girl likes him too. It is Shantal's best friend, Bianca.

Now we have to remember, Spencer is 9 and in 3rd Grade. And as I talked to him tonight before bed, we had to whisper. Because you see, this is still a secret. He doesn't want anyone to know. But I asked him what he liked about her. He doesn't know. I asked him what he wants to do with her. he didn't know that either. I was blunt and asked if he wanted to hold or hand or kiss her. I got the...YUCK look. Whew, all is right with the world. He still isn't interested in kissing girls. But I am afraid that is not far behind.

But wait, the story gets better. Come to find out Shantal also had a secret.

During one of the breaks at school today, this boy, named Mattias from Sweden, asked Shantal if she wanted to jump rope or swing on the swings together during break. They ended up swinging. And this boy told her during the swinging that he liked her. And that he really likes it when she wears skirts to school.

So of course, I had to have a talk with Shantal before she went to bed. She isn't sure if she likes him or not. But I think she is really liking the attention from him. And she says that he is always doing nice things for her.

And I have to say, this is a first for our family. And my goodness, it happened to two of my kids on the same day!

Oh my, what is happening in the third grade this spring?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Will We Lose the Nanny?

That is the question that occupies our minds these days. The Nanny is officially requested (by the doctor) and officially approved (by the health insurance company) through the 9th of April.

Because Tamara's blood levels have not improved (in fact they got worse) after the surgery, we have asked for an extension. This has to be requested by the doctor and approved by the health insurance.

Why am I pushing for this? I haven't seen Tamara this happy and upbeat in a long time. I hope our lifesaver will be able to be extended. Check out Episode 26 of our Living in Germany podcast for the update:

Here's our little reminder that the Nanny is here and still able to work a bit of magic for us. It's not Mary Poppin's umbrella, but our reminder that the Nanny is here. The question now is will she be able to stay with us:

First Day on the Job!

Wow, I remember so many emotions running through my mind as I spent my first day in the company's office here in Düsseldorf, Germany.

I was back in Germany, which we had waited so long to do. I was starting anew at the company I'd been working at for almost 10 years. And I was reminded of my first days on the job in Denver so many years before. I also recalled my first opportunity to live in Germany as an LDS Missionary just after the Fall of the Berlin Wall and during the first years of the German Reunification. The office building is to the west of Düsseldorf and overlooks the Rhine, reminding me of the great rivers I grew up with (the Missouri & Mississippi rivers). It was a beautiful day and wonderful to be back in Germany.

Wonderful, that is, until I had to enter my password to get on the network. I had entered the same password just days before in the U.S. But when I entered my password and got a failed response. I re-entered with the same result - failed. I quickly asked a colleague who to call as I knew I would be locked out on the third attempt. I hadn't forgotten that on the hop over the pond.

I Re-started the PC and tried again. Same result. The network support team then provided the following ingenious suggestion. They were talking with my colleague and said: have him type his "password" into a word document. The result was something like this:
Expected Password: ZhgPig#7 (i.e., what I thought I was typing)
What I actually typed: YhgPig§7

I was typing on the German keyboard, as if it were an American keyboard. I don't remember exactly what letters I swapped, but the above is a good example of differences in key location between the English and German keyboards.

I was back to reality and spent the next several hours battling the keyboard on my first assignment, updating my resume and skill set profile for the European office.

This first day has turned out to be typical of my experience in the international workplace over the last 18 months. I enjoy working in Germany in international business. I feel comfortable in the work environment and am glad we made the move. But, man I sure mess some things up because I don't always know the lay of the land. I don't always know the rules for handling certain situations. But I struggle through and learn and improve. I plan to continue sharing some of the experiences I've had. I hope others will enjoy.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Torn between two Countries

Looking at our tax bill here in Germany recently made us realize that we are torn between our two countries --> our home in America, and our current home in Germany.

The watered down version of our conversation:
Honey do you realize that we pay in
Germany = roughly 20% of our income in taxes
America = < 2% of our income in taxes

Why did we pay lower taxes in America? Because we owned a house and could deduct the interest paid on the mortgage from our taxes.

Conclusion: buy a house in Germany and save a huge pile of cash each year.

Yea, but wait a minute, wouldn't that mean we are staying here (in Germany) for a long time? Can we sell a house again? This is naturally possible, but would we sell said house with a loss, with a gain? What are the up front costs, upkeep, would our mortgage be lower than our current rent? Lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh my.

Final conclusion: which country do we really want?

Reality check from dad a few days later. He is replacing his water heater (I told him about all the benefits of oil heating - just kidding) and may require major repairs to a skylight - ouch!

Maybe a tax adviser would be a simpler alternative. No matter what we decide, the fundamental question remains - which country do we want. We have chosen Germany for the time being. Will we want that same country in 5 years, 10 years, etc.? Lions, and tigers, and bears, Oh my.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hallo Zusammen

literally translated hallo zusammen means hello together. In the northern states one might say hi everyone. In the south one might perhaps say hi ya'll.

I learned this valuable phrase on my first day in the office here in Germany. Me and another new colleague were taken around the office by the H.R. representative. We walked into a room there were several people in the room. She said simply: hi everyone (hallo zusammen).

I was thinking, what a practical phrase and making a mental note to myself to remember it, but was also a bit shocked, because bothering an entire room of workers might be deemed disruptive in the U.S.

I have since come to find out that it is normal and expected for a person entering a room to greet those already in the room. This makes the phrase even more practical than I first thought: Hallo zusammen, or Tschüß zusammen (goodbye everyone) can be used for groups. One can commonly say Guten Morgen (good morning) when entering the office in the morning.

March 2007