Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer Arrives in Luxembourg

We had a streak of warm weather this past week, so it felt like summer finally came to our corner of the world.  This of course was a complete fake-out by Luxembourg - today it's rainy and cold again.  But enough about the weather, it's really a topic I quite detest and I've already been mentioning too much.

The kids and I started really living our no-car lifestyle, which, I'm not gonna lie, was difficult and frustrating at times and induced some not-so-stellar parenting on my part.  It's amazing how many things can go awry on a walk-bus-walk-shop-walk-bus-walk outing to the grocery store with kids.  

But we got out and about this week and survived, so I'm counting it as success.
retail outing in the city center for sunglasses and swimming shorts
we got library cards, picked up a few books in English, CDs/DVDs in Luxembourgish!
took bus trips to various parks (hats courtesy of care-package from Grammy)
and enjoyed some local wildlife
A friend from church had told us about a great pool called Les Thermes, so we set out to find it on the bus. 
Front of a spaceship.  Actually this is the pool.
Unfortunately, for reasons of which I'm unaware, I was told I could not take photos of the kids in the pool, so here are some stollen from their website.
photo credit
photo credit
photo credit
It's got a couple of slides that start inside, run outside, and then pop you out back inside.  You can also swim back and forth between the inside and outside pool.  There's a wave pool and a kiddy pool and such as well.  It was 10.50 Euros for the 3 of us for 1.5 hours, so not too bad, really.

Anyhow, that's summer in Lux so far.  How's yours going?

(Probably a rhetorical question by default, but I'd still like to know if ya care to share!)

Monday, July 23, 2012

2 Months, Bye-Bye Car, and Finally a Castle

July 23rd marks 2 months in Luxembourg and our first day without a car.  We returned the rental car last night.

If we tell people we're forgoing a car for now, almost without fail, we are immediately informed why they need their car or what they use it for.  Can I just make a general statement that we are fully aware of the many uses of cars and why it's very inconvenient not to have one?

Thanks.  Moving on...

Yes, it's starting to feel more like home here, although it's difficult to miss out on what's going on back in the states.  Pete's doing fine at his job - he seems to be enjoying it, but of course it is intense as he continues climbing the learning curve.  This past week he was in Munich, and the kids and I enjoyed the first week of summer break here while all our windows were being replaced with a more energy-efficient set.  We love the new onesl and especially that they can open on the top, like this:

The old ones could only open straight out into the room, which can be quite awkward with no screens (they don't do screens here)
On our last day with the car we decided to take our first real trip outside the city (besides to IKEA just across the boarder in Belgium).  We went for a drive through the northern part of the country (not too dissimilar to parts of Oregon) and stopped briefly at the castle in Vianden near the German boarder.

We walked up but didn't go inside - decided to spend the money on ice cream a the bottom of the hill instead.

Daphne took this one

Month three - here we go!!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Please Send Pictures!

If you ever visited our house in Oregon you probably remember this art wall in our dining room that we started when Daphne was about 3 1/2, and which morphed over time with the kids' new creations.  We have dedicated the kitchen wall of our Luxembourg apartment to kid art, but we'd like to start something new as well - a photo wall on the adjacent cabinet.

But we need YOUR help!

humble beginnings...
We love getting snail-mail from friends and family, and we would love it even more if you could send pictures - of yourselves!  They can be pictures us together or pictures of just you; pictures of your own adventures or just doing normal, everyday activities.

Emailed pictures are okay too, but it's SO helpful if they are already printed, and of course that means we receive something in our physical mailbox which is always extra special.

And really, the kids are still quite young and not always great with names, so it's very helpful to have the opportunity to remind them who you are ;)

According to the typical path of culture shock, I think we are about to hit a few months of "homesickness" and perhaps even some depression.  I know it will helpful to see your smiling faces and remember there are people routing for us back in the US (or UK, or wherever you may be).

Send me a Facebook message or let me know in the comments if you need our address.

Thank in advance!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Night of Wonders

Saturday afternoon, the family of one of James' school friends invited us out to a "Nuit des Merveilles" in Bettembourg, a few kilometers south of the city.  We were completely worn out from a 3 hour stock-up trip to the store (we give back the car in a week...ack!), and it would put us out way past bedtime, but we decided to go for it anyway.

You see, for the last few weeks the weather has been, as the British like to say, "rubbish." There was a bit of a break that evening, so why not take advantage of it?  And can you really say no to a Night of Wonders?

The Night of Wonders was sort of a little circus in the park.  Various acts took place under the trees, and part of the fun was spotting where the next act might be.  Some of it was was a bit strange and ponderous for our taste, but the kids seemed to enjoy the acts and it was fun to be out with some "local" friends.

And what Night of Wonders is complete without...
wandering eyeballs on stilts making Darth Vader-esque breathing noises.  Daphne hid from them, afraid they would look at her.  Understandably.
Worth a "second look."  I did mention strange, didn't eye? Ok, you can stop rolling your eyes at me now!   Heehee.
We were about to grab an over-priced bite to eat and go home early (the thing went until midnight) when very suddenly it started raining buckets.  The deluge completely snuck up on us, I guess because we were under the trees and didn't notice the storm clouds rolling in.  

But really, it's no surprise.  "Sudden Buckets of Rain" seems to be Luxembourg's signature move.

taking cover in a doorway while Pete ran for the car.  he was 100% drenched.
It did make for a scenic drive home as the storm tapered...

view from our balcony
A memorable night.  Of wonders.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Last Day of School

Friday was the kids' last day of school until September 17.

It was a strange and emotional day.

It actually began late the night before when Pete was in Germany.  His brother, Jon, is touring in with Christina Perri as a band member, and they were playing at a venue in Cologne, so Pete made the trip out to the concert.
(Jon icing his wrists in the tour bus, in case you're wondering what's up with the pose)
Completely spur of the moment, Jon decided to come back to Luxembourg with Pete for a visit.  They got in around 2am.

In the morning Pete and I both walked the kids to school for the last day.

This summer this building will be leveled and a new building started.  James will be in a "container" across the street for the next 2 years.  
Daphne moves to the primary school next door in the fall.
we always wave to James through the window after we drop him off
Next I headed to a coffee meet-up with the following group I found out about via the American Women's Club of Luxembourg:

I met with 3 other (European but English-speaking) friendly and very down-to-earth ladies from this group at a restaurant in the city center, and it was really encouraging to talk to other moms of kids in the local schools.  I'm looking very much looking forward to spending more time with these ladies and meeting their children.

I then fetched the kids from school and Jon from our apartment, and we headed into the city center on the bus to meet Pete for lunch.  Unfortunately, Daphne was feeling quite ill, but she toughed it out and we made it to lunch.

After lunch I could tell Daphne was taking a turn for the worse, so we headed straight home instead of going to the afternoon session of school.  It was pouring rain so we would have been stuck inside for the afternoon no matter what.  She perked up enough for a coloring session with Uncle Jon...

...but soon collapsed into bed with a fever.  While Jon stayed with the kids, I popped over to the school to pick up all their belongings and say goodbye to the teachers.

It was hard for me to watch the other kids say goodbye to their teachers and classmates and know that James and Daphne were missing out.  It was quite emotional for me to leave as well.  I didn't realize how, despite its challenges, school has been our safety net and our connection to the Luxembourgish community over these past 6 weeks.  The kids and I are now "loose in Luxembourg" for the next 2 months.  It's up to us to keep up the connections we've made so far and continue to form new ones over the summer, and I have to find ways to keep up their language skills.  I frantically tried to get a couple more phone numbers from the parents of classmates who Daphne and James have mentioned by name and not in a negative light, and who I suspected I could communicate with in English.  It's difficult for me to be this forward with strangers, but I'm doing my best to be proactive for the sake of the kids.  We'll see if I'm brave enough to act on these connections over break.  Complicating matters, many families will be gone for a large portion of the summer on holiday (and I've completely lost track of who's going to be gone when).

Anyway, Jon had to leave for the train back to Germany before Pete got home from work.  Such a short visit, but it was so great to see him, even for just a few hours.

Daphne woke up later but was sick for the rest of the evening.  Next morning - completely fine.  This has now happened to her 3 times since we arrived here.  Luxembourgish germs must be prevalent but not potent.

Oh, and the the kids each got a couple gifts from their teachers, including these "First Thousand Words in Luxembourgish" picture books...

already studying' up
There really aren't a ton of books and other resources available in Luxembourgish (as it seems to be largely a spoken and not written language), so we're thankful to have something.  There are English translations in the back.

Well, the kids have now completed 6 weeks of Luxembourgish school.

We are so proud of them!!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

How the Party Went.

So, here were my main thoughts and questions upon receiving the party flyer featured in my previous post:

1. There is a parent organization for the school? Great! In all my research I never found any info about that, nor was I told it exists.  Too bad it will all be in French, for sure.
2. Is this the first everyone is hearing about this performance and party, two days before, or just me?
3. Diablo? So, Devil? Perhaps a demon? Ok then.
4.  In what way/shape/form will Scooby Doo be incorporated into the party?
5. Grilled bread on a wood fire?  That certainly sounds yummy.
6. What happens if it's raining for the courtyard stuff?

During the kids' first week or so of school, we heard them talk about practicing a dance, but then they didn't mention it again for several weeks.  We didn't know if/when/where it would be performed.  I assumed we just got our answer.

At the bottom of the flyer was a contact name and email, so I set a message asking if I could help with set up.  I received an immediate response (in English) saying, yes, meet in the courtyard at 2pm.

When I arrived there was no one in the courtyard, but James' teacher showed me to the Cultural Center, which is next door to the school and which apparently they had rented for the evening.  Fortunately, I immediately ran into a Luxembourgish mom I'd spoken to before in the school playground (it seems most educated Luxembourgish natives speak excellent English), and she introduced me to the woman who'd I'd exchanged emails with, the head of the parent organization.  I apologized for only speaking English, to which she replied something to the effect of, "Well, you don't need any languages to set up chairs!"  Nice, I can do this.

We set up the chairs as the children filed in to rehearse.  Then we moved outside toward the courtyard of the school to set up for the party.

As more moms showed up, much animated discussion ensued (some in Luxembourgish, mostly French - the way people here move in and out of languages never ceases to amaze and shame me).  Carole (the mom I already knew) eventually filled me in.  Typically, the whole performance and after party takes place in the courtyard.  But here was the courtyard on this this particular July afternoon...

Finally, after several false starts, the decision was made to set up the food tables, lottery items, and games outside and hope for the best.  There was simply not enough room in the back of the auditorium.

setting up under the bit of shelter
Eventually, as we continued to set up, one of the moms spoke a couple words of English to me, and I quickly grabbed this lifeline and introduced myself.  She is from Iran (but of course speaks English, French, and who knows what else).  She was very nice and friendly.

Side note: Pete and I talked about an aspect of the Luxembourgish culture the other night - Luxembourgish people (and non-Anglified, non-expat-ish people living in Luxembourg) will pretty much respect your right to be left alone.  That is our interpretation, anyway.  It's up to you to introduce yourself or your existence may be almost totally ignored.  But if you put yourself out there, most people are quite friendly and kind.

Anyway, after that I found my courage and introduced myself to a couple more ladies over moving benches and cutting table cloths (again, probably most of them speak some English, but the default common language is typically French).

When I felt like the "helping" I could do with my language handicap had dwindled, I headed back to the auditorium to save a seat for Pete.  He arrived JUST in time for the pre-primary kids' performance.

Here's a clip of their song.  You'll see James up top and Daphne down below.

African zebras
James and his "best friend" from school (parents from Peru, born in France)
This was the only number that an entire class or age group performed.  The rest of the show...basically imagine a school talent show and you'll get the idea.  Dance routines (presumably choreographed by the students), singing groups, keyboard solos, etc.  There were explanations in French/Luxembourgish throughout, but of course we have no idea what they said.  The surreal part was most of the actual songs except for the pre-preprimary performance were popular American or British songs -  Maroon 5, Adele, Beyonce, etc.  I'd like to say we we perked up and were proud to be American at that point.  But I won't.  We weren't.

Oh, and Diablo?  I think we figured that one out.  A little girl did a solo interpretive dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller"...
Dressed as...a, wait...the Hunchback of Notre Dame with fangs.
Then we were released to the after party.  Mercifully, the rain had quit by then.  We socialized in our limited-language fashion as much as we could, but we were getting hungry and everything cost money, even the kids games and activites - I suppose it was all a school fundraiser.  It looked like some sausages were being cooked but that it could take hours to feed everyone with the tiny grills.  And speaking of grills, we didn't see any wood fire or grilled bread.  Maybe canceled due to rain?  Maybe mis-translated.  Who knows.

No sign of Scooby Doo either.  Pete said he saw a Scooby Doo sign at one of the tables, but it just looked like kids making bracelets. 

It's probably for the best.

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Invitation to a Party

Got this in the kids' backpacks today:

Allow me (erm..Google Translate) to translate:


(Association of Parents of preschool and primary schools of Luxembourg-Hollerich) together with teachers of the basic school and home school Hollerich invite you to the traditional

Year-end party for students in schools of Hollerich from 16h to 20h30

Wednesday, July 11, 2012 in the Cultural Center and in the courtyard of the school

4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. children show presentation at the Cultural Center.
Preschool Dance, Karate, Ballet, Diablo, Dance, Piano ... etc.

5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. party in the courtyard of the school
Games, Football, Basketball, makeup, Scooby Doo, Jewelry, Painting etc ... with grilled bread cooked on wood fire, desserts, drinks, music and good atmosphere

Come see your children and help us (cakes, gifts, time .. etc) to make this feast for all and for the district Hollerich. We are few, and we need your help!!

I have various questions and comments about this, but instead of typing them, I'm going to bed.

And I'll ask instead, what are you most curious about?

Stay tuned for how this one goes.

Original text:


(Association des Parents d'Elèves des écoles préscolaire et primaire de Luxembourg-Hollerich) ensemble avec les enseignants de l'ecole fondamentale de Hollerich et le foyer scolaire vous invitent á la traditionnelle
Fête de fin d'année pour les élèves des ecoles de Hollerich de 16h à 20h30
le mercredi 11 juillet 2012 dans le Centre Culturel et dans la cour de l'ecole
16h30 à 17h30 présentation spectacle enfans au Centre Culturel.
Danse du Préscolaire, Karaté, Ballet, Diablo, Danse, Piano...etc
17h30 à 20h30 fête dans la cour de l'ecole
Jeux, Football, Basket, Maquillage, Scoubidou, Bijoux, Peinture...etc avec grillades, pain cuit sur feu de bois, desserts, boissons, musique et bonne ambiance
Venez nombreux admirer vos enfants et aidez nous (gateaux, dons, temps..etc) afin de faire de cette fête pour tous et pour le quartier de Hollerich. Nous sommes peu nombreux et avons besoin de votre aide!!!!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Settling in

As you might imagine, we've spent the last several days unpacking and arranging our stuff.  We're basically done with the unpacking, and we have just a bit more arranging to do.  We're getting close on the pictures/decor and light fixtures also.  In Luxembourg (and maybe other European countries), when you move, you take your light fixtures with you, so we've had dangling wires since we moved in (and temporary lamps).  We couldn't do much about it until our tools arrived this week.

And of course there's no such thing as drywall in Luxembourg.  All walls are solid concrete.  We borrowed a special concrete drill from a super-nice couple at church, and the thing is a beast.  It's not easy (especially drilling for the light fixtures), but Pete's been doing an awesome job and he's saving us a lot of money by doing it all himself.  It feels like we'll never finish, but we're making progress, a little (or a lot) each evening when he gets home from work and this weekend.  Our neighbors must be thrilled.
insert light pun here, or biblical reference, a la "let there be light"
I've noticed that it's a running joke around here that everyone's house/flat is an Ikea showroom, and I'm afraid ours is no different.  Ikea is close by and it's inexpensive.  I wandered into a lighting store in Luxembourg city the other day and looked at the price on only two light fixtures.  One was 300 Euros and the other was 600.  That's when I bolted for the door.  Ours were all under 20 Euros each from Ikea.  I'm sure there's an in-between somewhere (probably in France or Germany), but it's much easier to run to Ikea, and you start to get a bit desperate if you wait too long to find other options.

the kids run and hide and plug their ears when the drill comes out
Along with light fixtures, we also needed a computer desk, bookshelves, wardrobes - all built-in furniture in our US house.  And lots of rugs so we've not living in an echo chamber.  At last count I think we have 13 Ikea rugs of various sizes.  And curtains to help with the echo as well.  Top that off with the fact that I already had 2 distinctly Ikea "Poang" chairs in our house before (the classic minimalist chair) and we will be doing our part to advertise for Ikea whenever anyone comes over.

I think I'm going to keep pictures of our "finished" apartment to a minimum on the blog.  Maybe it's silly, but I'd like to keep it a bit of a mystery.   If people come visit, I want things to seem fresh and not like they've seen everything.  Anyway, as I said, maybe it's silly, but it's my blog, so there.

But if you're really curious, just run to your local Ikea, look at all the cheapest rugs and light fixtures, know that my favorite color is red, and you'll get the gist.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Moving Day #3!

This is the most beautiful sight I've seen since landing in Europe 6 weeks ago.

One truck picking up our temporary furniture, and another truck dropping off our own furniture and all the rest of our belongings.

And it is beautiful because it is happening on the same day at the same time.

We had prepared ourselves for the worst...whatever that is, we're not sure...maybe our stuff gets stuck in customs forever, or they deliver the wrong sea container, or everything's broken, or they take away all our temporary things while our own stuff is delayed and we don't have a fork or plate or towel to our name, or they bring our stuff while our temporary stuff is still here and we're overwhelmed with stuff...

Shall I go on?

No, I'll just admire the beauty.

Since we packed on May 15, it's been just over 7 weeks.
our half-full half-sized sea container.  yes, it is always sunny and gorgeous in Luxembourg. heh.
"I don't remember owning anything that shape!" was my recurring thought as the packages poured in.
When I picked up the kids from school at lunchtime they were thrilled to see their toys and watch some of the proceedings.

bunk bed assembly
When the movers were packing back in May, we accidentally left Daphne's most favorite thing, her special "blankie" that she sleeps with every night, on top of her bed, and it was packed up with the bedding and sent across the sea!  Fortunately, Grammy loaned her a spare that got her through.  Until today!!

Do you think blankie's in here?
Blankie, can you hear me?
Tonight, we sleep in our own beds!
someone else missed his most favorite thing.
I know it's the 4th of July but it sure feels like Christmas at the Ts!