Dec 142011

Boys Republic Della Robbia Wreath

My Great-Grampa Bert was a big supporter of the Boys Republic.  You have probably seen the movie Boys Town with Mickey Rooney as the bad-kid-with-the-heart-of-gold and Spencer Tracy as the tough priest sure to help him find it.  Similar idea, only this one was the brainchild of a SoCal judge and largely funded by a Pasadena Philanthropist named Margaret Fowler.  Here is a recent LA Times article on the program.  In any case, Grampa Bert liked them.  Their big fundraiser each year is to make and sell distinctive holiday wreaths.  Great Grampa and Grandma would send them to everyone in the clan.  When they passed, Grandma Connie started sending the wreaths out.  They are part of my family tradition and I love them.  They smell good and they signal The Holidays for me. 

Given our German Excursion, I didn’t really expect to receive one for 2011.  But, Hooray for Mom and Grandma, about a week ago we got notice that ours had arrived!  Of course, being that this is Germany, the customs agents wanted to have a little chat with us before we could take it home.

With our crazy schedule and David’s driving obligations, it was tough to make it down to the customs office in Appenweir, an outlying suburb in the wrong direction from everywhere.  This morning I pressed and David (very) reluctantly made the trek.  It was apparently further than he remembered.  There is a storm blowing in, so the wind is impressive and the sky is dark.  When he got there the customs agent did the same routine as with the bath mats Mom sent when we first arrived in Offenburg.  Open box.  Demand to know what it is.  Question purpose.  Raise eyebrows.  Re-question purpose.  In this case, though, according to David he got an extra-special eyeroll.  Even after explaining the charity and the family tradition, the agent just didn’t understand.

“You can’t get trees living in the black forest?  You had to have one sent from America?  Unbelievable!” She scoffed.  

But, at least now I have my lovely wreath!

DS poses with the wreath.  My those walls are beige!  A little color goes a long way!

So, how are our Young Wizards doing these days?  Lets check in at Hogwarts and Durmstrang to find out….

Life at Durmstrang

DS is starting to devour German like it is cotton candy.  His favorite new thing is to use to quiz himself on German Vocab.  For those unfamiliar, freerice is a nice ap that donates 10 grains of rice to the UN Hunger Relief Fund for every correct answer on any variety of quizzes.  It is a great tool for the altruistically motivated student.  DS was thrilled yesterday when he figured out that he had managed to accumulate about 3 bowls of rice for a starving person.  “I fed someone for an entire day!” he beamed.

Changing face shape

He really seems to be enjoying himself at school these days.  He has two different music classes this quarter.  One centers on singing and he comes home merrily bursting out in snippets of German songs.  What is especially cool is that he seems to be getting some actual Singing Instruction, because his vocal quality is greatly improved.  Clear, round notes in a beautiful still-soprano (but not for long).  Love it!

The second music class centers on instruments.  In somewhat of a repeat of his bold soccer pronouncement, when asked what instrument he played, DS clearly announced to the room that he plays the drums.  Boggle.  He doesn’t.  His sister does.  He has occasionally struck one.

He was apparently thinking that having hit a drum now and again was the closest he had to a musical instrument skill of his own (though we did work on keyboard for a while).  Whatever the case, he was shocked when they expected him to be able to play a drum set!  So, now they have it worked out where he plays 1/2 the set and another girl plays the other parts.  This suits him just fine.  In fact, he coyly admits, several of the girls in the class think he is a rock star for playing the drums.  As he sheepishly notes, the other drummer does half of the work, but he gets all of the glory. 

From his stories, I am beginning to evolve the impression that he may be getting a fair bit of female attention.  There is one girl who is not in the least shy about her crush- and for DS to notice, it must be blatant indeed!

Also, perhaps a bit ironically, it turns out he is not a bad soccer player after all!  He has largely taken to playing goalie, and from his perspective, he is one of the top two players in his age group.  Rock on, little man!  Drums, soccer and an exotic American accent?  No wonder the double-X chromosome set can’t help but take notice.

Hogwarts Update

Meanwhile, back in France, his sister is juggling gender-related issues of her own.  But, as she is now a full-fledged teen, I have been forbidden to further discuss her gender-based social life here.  Sigh, more’s the pity from a strictly selfish writer point of view! But, I suppose that as far as personal development and maturity of one’s offspring, I should be pleased she has reached the “Stop Posting About That, MOM!” phase of life!  Teen, indeed.

In non-gender-related, DD-semi-approved update news, her scholastic experience is more up and down than that of her brother at the moment.  All her scores took a nose dive last month when her Big Tests lined up with our Rotten November.  And French is still her personal bane.  But, she is connecting intellectually with a group of the geekier students, having a blast discussing math theory and arguing out science.  Her French is improving- though not being fully immersed, it is slower than DS’s German.  We have decided that I will focus on French with DD for a while and our male contingent will be our Germanophones.  We got some beginning French books and DD and I will study over vacation.

The Party

Multinational Teens at a party

This weekend DD got invited to a party to celebrate her friend V’s 15th birthday.  It was in a complex right along the river on the German side of the border between France and Germany.  V’s parents went all out.  There were two teen DJs, a smoke machine, a felt-covered dance room (to protect the floors), and, at the end, a slide show of everyone’s silly moves while dancing.  About 20 girls and 6 boys showed up.  There were French, German and English speakers there.

DD and V, funning for the camera

And, from what I could tell from DD’s descriptions, it went down just about like any other mid-teen dance.  The girls danced, and the boys hid in the corner. 😉  DD’s observations were actually pretty wonderful.  She says there were essentially two forms of dancing that went on- Waving and Bouncing.  She claims that the waving was beyond her skill level, but she bounced with the best of em.  She also relayed there were two forms of communication.  “Are you having fun?” and “Do you like the party?”  The answer was that she did have fun and she did like the party! But, by about 10:30 she was essentially ready to come home.  David got the “come get me” call and headed out.

When he was walking up the path to the party, he spotted something he had been searching for since we arrived in Deutschland!  He called DD on her cell and she ran out in stocking-feet so she could see it, too.  An Igel!  They didn’t have the camera, but here is the level of Cute with which they were faced:

Igel are wondrous native hedgehogs.  We have up-til-now unfortunately only seen them as roadkill.  But DD and DH got within 2 feet of the one near the river.  I am so envious!

A Charlie Brown Christmas Tree

So, we have the vast majority of our decoratives in storage, including out Holiday Ornaments.  But, I really wanted to make sure we had at least a tree and a few sparklies around.  So, we headed out to Bauhaus and selected a small, currently-living tree that would not only fit in our apartment, but also in our tiny car!  We all picked a few little ornaments and had a speedy tree decorating session.  I think it may still need a thing or two here or there, but not bad for a first effort in the New Land!

Singing as we work- I never realized how much DS looks like DH from the profile!

Our poor little Charlie Brown Tree.  I like the star on top, though!
A few ornaments from the curtain rod

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