Saturday, February 23, 2008

Note to Self: things I take over with me

In the last few days, we've looked at a lot of pictures of Berlin and Vienna as a family. While it's closer to the top of my mind, I wanted to write down the things that I usually buy here and take over with us for Study Abroad. I'm being a little more generous at present because of the weak dollar, but here is what I have taken, and a few things I have wished that I'd brought.

1. school supplies. paper, notebooks, pencils, backpacks and even binders.

2. top drawer desk supplies: tape, pens, scissors, post-it and shopping list pads, glue sticks and very basic art supply kinds of things (crayons there are terribly expensive)

3. tool/fix it kit: screwdrivers (both kinds, especially a small one for battery toys), duct tape, double-sided tape, and something like pliers (could also buy a tool kit from IKEA)

4. baking aids: baking soda, baking powder, and recipes for things without brown sugar (the zucchini bread recipe worked well there, also some brownies and other treats to make for FHE refreshments with the students).

5. childproofing and puddle pads or mattress covers. Just not worth the risk on rental mattresses.

6. diapers -- if anyone is still using them, I take a case or so from Costco which helps keep the suitcases light on the way over, and is my insurance that we'll have room for souvenirs on the way back.

7. first aid: OTC medicines like Motrin and Benadryl and the most useful Triaminic. Adult medicines too! Prescriptions like our cough medicine and vitamins. Liquid band-aids and blister treatments/foot care.

8. travel items: hand sanitizing wipes, travel bibs, disposable sippy cups, even a few boxes of granola bars and fruit roll-ups get used. Also travel Tide and the Tide stain sticks for use with wash on the road.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Rob Hits the Airwaves

This week, BYU's International Cinema is showing The Lives of Others. In conjunction with that, Rob was asked to talk about divided Berlin and surveilance societies on Thinking Aloud with Marcus Smith. You can listen to him here for about half an hour, but if you haven't seen it yet, see the movie! It is incredible, and deservedly won the Oscar for Best Foreign Film in 2007.

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Rob brought these to me last night. He designed it himself and I think it looks wonderful (I am a big sucker for tulips). He said that he was walking down the hall in his building with it, and there was a wave of "Ooof! I gotta go get flowers!" behind him. He is extremely organized about Valentine's Day (like getting the flowers the day before, because he says "You've got to enjoy them all day long"). He claims that we're still making up for lost time, but it's a day he believes in. As opposed to our friend Katie, who is a conscientious objector. She doesn't allow candy or flowers or frou, but she's relented on books, so her husband always gets her something good to read.
This was our FHE lesson brainstorm last week. For once, I was organized enough to get the Valentines not only made, but mailed in time. You'll notice not only people and things, but some ideas too, like "Garbage Day" "Springtime" and "Local Foods". We had to generalize with "Democrats" because the kids and the parents don't agree on the presidential candidate yet.
Which reminds me, Rob and I are still mystified at the thought of having three boys. We're just not the obvious choice for boys. We don't have video games, don't play or even watch sports, and we're not handy in the least. We're going to try and outsource the last by lending out the kids as apprentices because they seem to have the interest and aptitude. But sports? Lately, Will has been asking "Why does everyone here vote for BYU football?" His verb choice is telling -- he knows more about international politics than American football teams. So after telling him about "supporting" or "cheering" for a team, I explained that we live right next to BYU and lots of people work there or attended college there. Will told me he wants to vote for the Denver Broncos.
I guess that at least the boys will be really good at Valentine's Day.
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Friday, February 08, 2008

Science Fair

So last week was the school science fair. Maddie's project was to include an actual experiment, and she decided that she wanted to compare regular grocery store eggs with the free range organic eggs we've been getting in our neighborhood. She made three recipes: scrambled eggs, chocolate souffles, and a ham and spinach quiche.
You can't really see the difference in color in this picture, but it is pretty pronounced. The other thing she noticed is that the organic eggs are more viscous, and particularly the membrane around the yolk is a lot stronger which you can see, because the ones on the left broke when they fell in the bowl. Everyone noticed a difference in taste in the scrambled eggs, and preferred the organic eggs. No one could tell once there was chocolate or ham and cheese present.
It is always difficult to find a project that your child is interested in, and something they can really own -- this was good because Maddie could do most of the cooking, and she learned a lot for herself; she's a big supporter now of Clifford Farms and buying our eggs there.

Will's project only had to be researching some scientific topic. So he chose bats and studied up on them. Our interest was piqued because we'd just been to the Bean museum where the janitor had come upon a bat and we got to see him up close. And we wanted to find out where to place Rob's Christmas present: the bat house from his brother and sister-in-law. He's pretty excited about it. I think if they want to hang around, they'll find a way into the attic.
But it was also a good science project. Rob and Will typed up everything using a comic strip font, and Will was "Bat Boy", a super-scientific hero.
Science fair is always a big drain on the family in terms of the time, money and energy we spend, but the kids love it and it's one of the high points of their academic year. We think they should feel like they can contribute scientifically. And getting out of a day of classes to receive ribbons isn't bad either!
Sebastian decided that he wanted to do one too, so we gave him leftover pictures from Will's project, and an old display board from Maddie's electric pickle project, and he glued together his own science project. Thank heavens we won't have to do three for a while yet.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

It's Beginning to Feel a Lot Like Narnia . . .

. . . always winter and never Christmas, if you know what I mean. It has been snowing or grey since the beginning of December, and doesn't show any signs of stopping. But I will say that snow appeals to my work ethic, because if it is going to be cold and grey, it should at least be productive; like the opposite of storing up food for the winter: storing up your water for the desert summer.

The poor birds are getting a pretty raw deal in our neighborhood since there aren't any trees off our street. Sebi and I decided to make some more pinecone feeders yesterday. Sebastian took it very seriously, especially the part where he had to lick all the peanut butter off of his knife each time. It got entertaining once we got out the birdseed and he kept licking, stopping only to spit out the birdseed.

We hung four on the maple tree and four on a pine tree and they've had customers ever since. At least the birds are ready for the next snowstorm, which I hear is coming in tomorrow.
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Everything at our house is currently broken. Our heater is on the fritz, both vacuum cleaners are completely useless, the kitchen light and the cold storage closet are out, the computer is giving me fits and won't post pictures to my blog, and the ice maker doesn't work. The biggest blow to the household economy is the dishwasher. I was minding my own business while it was running, when I heard a pop and saw a wisp of smoke come from the faceplate. Not a good sign.

Now you don't have to feel too badly, because we do have another dishwasher downstairs. I've been commuting all the dishes up and down to clean them, put them back, clean them again, and so on. But the dishwasher was, once upon a time, voted the Appliance Most Likely to Save Our Marriage (probably the year was 1999, and it resulted in the great Cuban Tithing Blessing dishwasher which is another story for another time). In the intervening two weeks since it busted (don't get a Bosch in a square state -- too time consuming to find someone who knows how to work on it) we've had guests come for the weekend, tons of food to cook, and a dish-intensive science project; I'll tell you about that if I can ever post my pictures again.

The only silver lining in this is that we haven't been sick. We have been strangely healthy this whole winter season, and I'm so grateful that we're paying repair men instead of co-pays and that we don't lose any sleep with broken appliances like we do with ear infection season.

My sister had a boyfriend who once said that heaven wouldn't be worth much if he couldn't have a good sneeze. I thought he was a nut bar. Eventually I have come around to seeing his point, that even things we take for granted about our body are miraculously useful and even satisfying (as opposed to not being able to sneeze when you needed to, for example). Then there was a woman in Spain who claimed something even more outlandish -- that getting sick was a wonderful thing because it let you know that your body needed rest, and it made you so happy to be healthy again. As a missionary who was supposed to work 77 hours a week, I didn't want to hear about getting sick, much less could I enjoy it! Now that I have the luxury of spending a day in bed, I can see her point too.

And I must be getting older, because I am thinking of my broken dishwasher and ice maker in the same terms. It's nice that they'll be fixed soon, because I'll appreciate them more, at least at first. Just like Rob feels now that I'm over my first trimester. He walks in and says "You made dinner! You're standing up! You helped the kids do their homework? I can't believe it! My wife is back!" So the odd broken day may actually increase my gratitude.