Saturday, June 30, 2012

Counting to 13 in Luxembourgish

Are they saying the numbers correctly?  Beats me. But it's cute.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Same but Different: #1

Some things here are just familiar enough to give you a strange sort of feeling, almost like you're living in some sort of parallel universe instead of a different country.  I'm assuming everyone who's traveled abroad knows the feeling.  It's one matter for something to be completely different than what you're used to, but for some reason it's the slight differences that often catch my eye, induce double takes, and make me smile.

I'm calling this post #1, because if I remember to take pictures (and I can be somewhat unobtrusive in doing so), I'll try to post more.

The Magic Treehouse early reader chapter book series is very popular in the US.  Love the German title. 
Waldo's long-lost French twin brother, one would assume. 
Notebook aisle...
every last one has "graph paper."  I'm curious to find out how kids learn to make letters, space letters, determine how tall a capital vs. lower case letter is, etc.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Laundry Update

Because you're aching to know.

we got one
We decided to go for the dryer.  I think the clincher was when I realized it could fit next to the bathtub, and I wouldn't have to put it in the cellar.  But you'll see that the plug is hanging out the side.  That's because the nearest outlet is on the opposite wall, in an odd position above the mirror.

well, hello there
Originally I thought we'd run an extension cord up the wall, across the next wall, and onto this wall.  But then I realized, why don't we just plug it in when we need it, instead of putting a bunch of holes in our concrete walls?  I'm still going to hang clothes out to dry when I can.  I'm mainly interested in drying sheets and duvets and blankets in here.  So now I can use the same extension cord for the dryer on my vacuum and steam mop whenever I need them.  Does that seem weird?  Well, it feels totally "us" so take that for what it's worth!

There's another reason a dryer is key to my laundry system, though.  Awhile back I decided that we'd each have one set of sheets and one towel, plus one set of each for guests.  This way, I don't need to store any spare sheets and towels.  It's a minimalist thing, I guess.  I simply wash the towels and put them right back on the bar the same day - same with sheets.  When they wear out, I get new ones.  If there's an "emergency," we improvise.  I love this system and was not ready to give it up.  But you've gotta have a dryer to make it work, or you can end up stuck without sheets for a couple days while they dry!

The drying is still not incredibly efficient - you have to empty the condenser frequently (sometimes a couple times mid-load!), but luckily the bathtub's right there.  And it can take a few hours to dry a large load.  But I feel much better having one around.

So now you know.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pharoah's Visit

Pharoah and her two biggest fans
Pharoah was my very first friend when I moved to Salem in the middle of high school (and I'm forever grateful to her!)  After graduation she moved to the east coast for college and has been living there until she very recently moved just a couple miles away from us in Oregon!  Very exciting, but then of course we left.  Fortunately, she is in Europe quite a bit for work, so she hoped over on the train from Zurich, Switzerland this weekend to visit.

She is great with the kids, and they definitely milked that for all it was worth!
oh, how pleased James is with the milking!
coloring while Pete got in some piano time at a church friend's house.  again, James is pleased.
But thankfully there were other activities available besides babysitting - she was actually here on the most happening weekend in Luxembourg - the celebration of National Day and the Grand Duke's birthday.  I suppose you could compare it to the 4th of July in the states but with more general "partying."  Pharoah and I braved the city on Friday night but quickly retreated home after dinner, as it was loud, packed, and the fireworks, though allegedly impressive, didn't begin until midnight.

Saturday, we headed into the city center by the canyon route, and encountered a street fair with all sorts of free activities for kids.
the normally serene path packed out with families
the hillside the kids like to climb on this walk
view from near the top

The kids tried their hand at a couple games before we moved on through.  Next year we'll probably try more.
Luxembourgish air hockey?
Luxembourgish Tilt-a-Whirl? (Daphne inside)

continuing the walk to the Grund near Pete's office
Pharoah just left this afternoon, and that's our last visitor until September when Pete's parents come.  We'll miss you, Pharoah, please come back soon!
bus stop buddies
Oh, and I should mention one last milestone from the weekend...

James conquered his first Luxembourgish giant tube slide!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Lux Life

Last post had no pictures, so this time I'll share just a few snapshots of daily life.

With goofy captions.  I am turning into my dad.
discussing the finer points of grocery shopping?

a "Mom, take a picture! This will be cute!" moment
our apartment elevator.  hoping the excitement will wear off soon so we can save electricity.  we live one floor up for goodness sake.
meeting daddy for lunch in town
aw man, they suckered us into ice cream again!?
busin' it.
chocolate cake by the palace.  yes, we live on cake and ice cream here.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

School Update: Almost 3 weeks in

I want to share how the kids are doing at school but I'm having a difficult time explaining it.  The main reasons are:

1. I'm not there.  I don't know what actually happens.  All I get is what I hear through the mental processors and then vocabularies of a 4 and 6 year old who don't yet understand the school culture or the language being spoken around them.  I'm just not sure how accurate that can possibly be.

2. Someday the kids will probably look back on this and read it, and I don't want to describe the experience inaccurately or in a way that will embarrass them (too much. Yes, I'm aware that being embarrassing to my kids is inevitable). It's all very vague and foggy due to #1, and then my own subjective and emotional interpretation is layered on top of that.

3. Things are so up and down that if I blog about it today, it might be completely different if I were to blog about it tomorrow!

But I'll stick to some basic "facts" as I see them.

1. They really do play ALL the time.  There seem to be a few basic academic activities (calendar, weather, letter sounds, simple math) and a few structured activities, but a huge chunk is free play, and outdoor free play whenever possible.  A big focus is on large motor skills (including dance) which I think is very different than the US.

2. The teachers are telling me that things are going well overall and they are glad to have the kids in their classes.

3. Academics: There was some question initially as to whether it would be appropriate for Daphne do another year in pre-primary to gain more language skills before moving to 1st grade in the fall.  But it sounds like she is advanced enough in reading and writing in English that it will be okay for her to continue, even though she will still be far behind in speaking/understanding Luxembourgish.  The German alphabet and letter sounds are similar enough to English that the teacher thinks she will adjust quickly enough when reading and writing kicks in next year.   Unless parents have been working on reading at home with their kids, all they really know before entering 1st grade is the basic letter sounds, but not how to read words.  James has 2 more years to learn Luxembourgish before the real "academics" begin for him, so that adjustment should be fine.

4. Speaking: They are learning a few Luxembourgish words/phrases in isolation and their accents sound cool.  It's great fun to hear them.  They can sing a few lines of songs they sing at school, but there tend to be big sections of humming and "blank, blank, blank" if they attempt the complete song.  You hear so much about how "kids this age pick up language so quickly" that you can start thinking it will be instantaneous, but it's still going to be a long process before they understand and then speak.  And I do think the teachers "cheat" and speak to my kids in English maybe more than they should!  I have witnessed it at pick-up and drop off time, anyway.

5. Socialization: All things considered--that they came at the very end of the year, all the other kids already have their friendships established, they don't speak the language, and they are the only Americans (and I think the only Americans in the whole elementary school), I'd say they are adjusting well.  James appears to be doing fine socially (either that or he's not aware that he's not!)  There's a little girl that seems to be his "best friend" and he's mentioned several other "friends."  I think he was a bit of a puzzlement to his teachers at first - he's so mellow and subdued and on his own schedule - observing a long time before participating - but I think they're starting to figure him out.  There are still many difficult days (I'd say more so for Daphne, since the kids are older and I think know how to be "mean" and exclusive when they want to be, and in turn, because she has more awareness of this than a 4 year old does.)  There are a couple girls that seem to have warmed up to her a bit, and she proudly shares with us about these sorts of small victories.  Fortunately, Daphne is a positive, resilient sort and we're hoping that will continue to carry her though and past the rough days.  I know there are many more to come.

6. There are days when it's very difficult and even heart-breaking for me/us as parents and I wonder if we're putting them through "unnecessary hardship."  At the same time, it does continue to feel like the "right choice" to give immersion a try.  There will be disappointment and heart-break no matter where we live, it's called being a parent.  We continue to trust, hope, and pray.

Anyway, I'll wrap up or I'll never get this posted.  I hope I've shed some (mildly accurate) light on the experience so far.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Sometime soon I hope to share a bit about how the kids are adjusting to school here.  It's up-and-down, personal, and emotional, so I'm not quite sure yet how to frame it for the blog.  For now, however, I will share how the kids are adjusting to getting to and from school.  The short answer: not well.  And specifically, not well for a certain little blonde 4-year-old.  I've already hinted at this, right?  It's been tougher than we thought it would be.

Nana got a taste of the action last week
However, the boy is at least partially justified in his malaise.  He has gone from a total of 4 hours of school per week (and just two days per week) back in Oregon, to about 22 hours per week here.  Even Daphne was only attending roughly 13 hours per week in half-day kindergarten in Oregon.  And, both were attending just the afternoon sessions of their schools, whereas here school begins every day at 8am. And, we walk to and from school, 5 blocks each way (5 blocks for a pint-sized legs is longer than it might seem).  And, we do that a total of 16 times each week (2 separate sessions of school on M-W-F).  And, it's often in the driving rain (when it rains here, it's usually short, but it rains hard). And, it's not like we're walking to get ice cream 16 times a week.  We're marching to school - unfamiliar, foreign language immersion school where weird, unfamiliar stuff is happening to you.

So put yourself in a certain blonde 4-year-old's rain boots and see how you feel.  Maybe not so motivated.

But I'll tell you what does motivate the certain blonde 4-year-old at our house: screen time.  Videos, computer games, iPad - you name it, he loves it.

Enter the bribery.

Now, I do not like bribing my kids, it gives me a yucky feeling.  Rewarding and punishing - however you want to sugar coat it, it's basically bribery.  In general, I'm an advocate of inspiring intrinsic motivation for obedience and doing the right thing whenever possible, rather than providing extrinsic motivation (prizes and such).

Blah blah blah.  Bribery it is, folks.  Pete's behind it 100%.  It was his idea.  He has fewer qualms about bribery.

For every time the kids walk to school with no complaining, no stopping, no-weeping, no I-don't-want-to-go-to-school-ing, no pants-are-bothering-me-ing, no something-in-my-shoe-ing walk to or from school, they each get one ticket.  One ticket equals 5 minutes of screen time, to be spent or saved for a time of their choosing that week.  If I was some kind of parenting guru, the "reward" would probably better correspond with the task, or some such nonsense, but this was an easy way out.  And we're taking those when we can, by golly.

We still have good days and bad days, ticket and no-ticket walks, but I think it really has helped.  Much less weeping and stopping overall.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Right now...

the yogurt.
walking to the park, bank, post office, pharmacy, grocery store.
Google Translate.
that you can't buy a bad chocolate bar.
learning new Luxembourgish words from the kids.
hearing the names of the other school children as interpreted by our kids ("Timo Timo" "Weggie").
mail from the US.
listening to familiar, favorite music.
the extremely friendly and helpful English-speaking expat community.
a newly operational dishwasher.
blog comments. :)
picking up French bit-by-itty-bit.
meeting people from all over the world.
recognizing familiar faces and bumping into acquaintances around town.
a replacement of my beloved Dyson, European style.

all the vacuums here are this squat kind, I haven't really seen uprights
our family.
our friends.
Lake Grove Pres, Saturday night church, the band.
a garbage disposal.
a compost bin.
a large sink.
a double sink.
a clothes dryer.
putting things away in their designated place, a tidy house.
my own recycling bin at my residence.
our own furniture.
our pictures.
 our piano.
 our tools.

...Bemused and Amused by...
the curry flavored salsa and other "interesting" uses of curry.
our shower head that doesn't mount or hang on anything.
paperwork that we must complete immediately that we can't complete without other paperwork that won't arrive for months.
not-picked-up dog droppings on the sidewalks.
weeds as acceptable city landscaping.
cheese, cheese everywhere but scarcely any cheddar.
shallow bowls and tiny mugs.
not knowing whether people are speaking German or Luxembourgish.
constantly encountering instructions/signs/forms/mail in French and thinking, "well, hope that's not too important!"
hearing lots of Americans with southern accents.
how excited we get when someone speaks English or is from the US.
spending hours at the grocery store deciphering labels.
industrial sized containers of Nutella.

small country. big chocolate.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mom's/Nana's Visit

My mom was just here for a week.  We miss her so much already!  

It rained.

Chocolate House - you visit, we take you here.  It's the Lux experience.
Building homemade puzzles and Ikea furniture.  (The puzzles are much harder!)
Daphne opening a "half-birthday" present (6 1/2 on June 12)
surviving one of the 16 walks to/from school each week

train/bike/bus station - I inherited her love for public transportation
pizza time
we like that sign, can you tell?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Laundry and the Great Dryer Debate

There's a lot I could blog about right now, I suppose.  Yet it all seems way too overwhelming and complicated to rehash here at the moment.

What I'd really like to do is tidy up the apartment.  The problem is, I've sort of run out of places to tidy things to, until we get our furniture, or until we build some of these:
Ikea spoils.
  European apartments usually don't come with closets - you must add your own wardrobes.  Plus, we had a lot of built-in furniture back in the US, so we need a desk, bookshelf, etc.
So yeah, it would just be shuffling, not cleaning.  Not motivating.

However, I figure it's good to post something, so the family knows we're still alive and such.  Accordingly, I shall tackle a topic quite manageable for how I'm feeling this evening.

(See title.)

guess I haven't removed the stickers yet
My washing machine lives in the kitchen.  I am very excited about it because I've never had a front-loader, and because I feel a special camaraderie with my aunts and Nana in England, all who have washing machines in their kitchens.  None of them owns a clothes dryer either.
out the kitchen door
I actually enjoy hanging things out.  It takes longer, but somehow it's more satisfying to me.
Dryers here do not vent to the outside.  Instead, they have water condensers that must be emptied at least after every load.  We had a dryer at our temporary apartment, but it seemed more trouble than it was worth (but I'm sure we were doing all kinds of things wrong, everything was in German - but still, it was a pain and didn't dry very well).  So we're trying to go without.  If my aunts and 90-year-old Nana can do it, we can, right?  It's plenty damp and rainy in England too!


My upstairs neighbor has a clothes dryer in her cellar, and says she uses it every day.  

So maybe we should get one, at least to use some of the time, like for sheets and duvet covers.  In a damp, cold stretch it could take several days for something like that to dry.  We can also lay things over the radiators in the winter, but we'll see how long I can stand how cluttered that looks.  And my mom made a good point - we have enough challenges right now that if we can make something easier, we should probably go for it.  And she's totally British.

A ridiculous part of me thinks it's cheating to get one. But it's not, I know it's not.  Because - my neighbor!  But - my Nana!  I'm so torn, torn, torn.

Thoughts? Votes? 

Off to shuffle some stuff around now.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Moving Day! #2!

truck with our air shipment + internet van
At long last, Tuesday was moving day!  We woke up in our temporary apartment, threw a few things in the car, and drove over to our real apartment.  I walked the kids to school, Pete walked to work, and then I went to pick up the apartment keys (conveniently, the real estate agency is right below our apartment).  When I arrived, our air shipment truck was unloading and our internet was almost set up.  With cars parked on both sides of the street, and traffic was now completely blocked.

Air shipment boxes!  Kids' bikes!
Our relocation agent and the real estate agent were conducting the inspection of the apartment (speaking in very fast German, so I was totally lost.  Well, even if it had been slow German, I'd have been lost).  Basically, this is an old building, lots of stuff doesn't work, and the owner will only fix or replace certain things.  I couldn't really do much protesting.  I had only spent about 10 minutes total in the apartment before this, so I was learning how stuff works (or doesn't work), where the garbage goes, where our "cellar" is in the basement maze, and trying to pay attention to things that are already wrong with the apartment so we won't be accountable for them when we move out.  It was overwhelming.

Next the truck arrived with our temporary furniture, plus another truck with a special elevator for bringing in the larger items.  By this time, the traffic situation was horrible, and I felt pretty guilty for causing such havoc, even though there wasn't anything I could do.  Apparently there was a no parking sign put out by the furniture company since last week (to give people plenty of warning), but two cars were parked in front of the building anyway.  So then the police got involved.

police filling out tons of paperwork + 2 shipment trucks + luxury SUV parked illegally
Next, two tow trucks showed up to grab the cars (just what we need, more trucks on our street).  Tow trucks here actually lift the vehicles off the ground and place them in back - I wish I'd got a picture, but here it is already lifted on..

bye bye luxury SUV :(.  The owner showed up a few minutes later.  Poor lady, she was not pleased.
Now, the elevator truck had room to pull in front and send furniture up through our balcony doors, since the apartment's staircase and elevator are much too small.
up it goes...
and in through the balcony door.  Wish the kids had seen it!
About the time this process finished, I retrieved the kids from school.  On our way back inside we ran into our neighbor from the 3rd floor who is SO, SO nice.  She is originally from Munich, speaks amazing English (and German and French of course), and has lived upstairs with her husband and 11-year-old daughter for over a decade.  She invited the kids and me up for some lunch and gave us a much needed roll of toilet paper (forgot to bring that over from the temporary apartment!).  

We are so thankful for a great neighbor!!!!
eating yummy spaghetti
and...they have bunnies!
After lunch the kids were itching to ride their newly-arrived bikes, so we rode to the park for a bit.

Then we headed to the temporary apartment to continue packing and cleaning.  When Pete came home, we went out for pizza, and it was time for bed!
story time on temporary beds
Well, time for kids' bed.  Then Pete went back to the temporary apartment to pick up the rest of our luggage and supplies we've collected over the past couple of weeks, and I made a very minor dent in unpacking.

The end.
Wild day!