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6 posts from April 2008

April 30, 2008

The Stone-Faced Chef

Img_0655_2 No one knows why, but Caitlin was not eager to smile for this photo.  Given the situation, she should have been grinning ear to ear.  We were just about to settle down for a delightful, delectable dinner courtesy of no one other than the dear girl.

She is very interested in baking and loves to create new dishes.  Cooking is part of the curriculum at school, interspersed into the various topics.  We decided together that perhaps she should take over the meals one night a week.

She planned the meal last night and we headed to the store this afternoon after the girls came home from school.  Actually, a little later than planned, so we managed to hit the 5 o'clock traffic jam that seems universal in grocery stores.  She packed up our little grocery basket (we have one perfect for a dinner's worth of groceries), we paid and headed home.

With a few small exceptions, she cooked the dinner by herself and from scratch.  We had cracker crusted chicken bites with honey-mustard sauce, corn and a salad.  She did the entire dinner, from tenderizing and cutting the chicken to setting the table to clean-up (okay, I helped a little there...there is something theraputic about washing dishes in hot, bubbly water). 

We were just about to eat when I managed to grab a quick shot...yes, while nursing Nicholas, of course, I must multi-task!  It was a great dinner and such a treat.  Kelsey is up on Friday, so look for another photo then, although currently we only have "hot rolls for dessert" on the menu.  Sounds yummy!
'

April 29, 2008

Memorable quotes

by Kelsey, of course

"I like homework; it's fun!"
followed up by
"You're the prettiest mommy in the whole world (don't tell Daddy)!"

now 10 years from now if she is still saying the above, I will really be impressed!

Continue reading "Memorable quotes" »

April 24, 2008

No, actually, we live here

Lately in some of the Icelandic news media, there has been some discussion of the difficulties of learning Icelandic (note: now is not the time to point out the famous person who learned it in a week).  Not only is it difficult to pronounce, as two ll's together make a "dk" sound or an Hv makes a 'kw' sound, but with the declensions?  Even those who have studied for years can have difficulties writing as endings change due to their location in the sentence.  One word can have twenty different meanings, all dependent on the ending.

While I did not necessarily 'give up' learning Icelandic, over the past 1.5 years, I did not stress myself as much.  I have continued to learn and figure out more vocabulary, but passively rather than aggressively tackling the books each night.  I have scared myself at times suddenly understanding things that I didn't think I deserved (for lack of study) to comprehend.

Another impediment to my language learning and an oft-discussed topic among expats here attempting to learn Icelandic:  if you don't speak it perfectly the first time, the conversation is immediately switched over to English, no ifs, ands or buts.  Given this, it is often not easier to even start, unless you are say, at the Subway ordering your kalkun og beikon sub med sosa. 

Or you can do what I do and just nod a lot if you aren't quite sure what is being said, and then accidentally answer in English.  Well, I did that the other day at the National Gallery while making a purchase.  Yikes, I must be a tourist.

So, despite the fact I made no mention of being a tourist, was dressed in my requisite black outfit, black mocs (not sneakers), and did not grin or chat about the weather, you can bet what happened ....

The clerk offered me a tax back form.  Yes, if we could claim taxes in this way it would be fabulous.  Our system is much more complicated, much longer and I probably should not say much more.  However, I can't claim the taxes and more to the point, live here and pay taxes on purchases just like everyone else.

And what do I get for it?  Someone assuming that I am here on vacation based solely on the fact I spoke English. Never mind it is actually one of the languages taught in all schools here or that there is actually quite a large expat community (overall) and many of them use English as a common communication tool.  Nope, you speak English and you are a tourist.

I don't know why this offends me so much except that

  • I am not eligible for said tax back
  • Most of the time I try to use Icelandic, the conversation is switched to English
  • It really negates your sense of belonging to a place to be pegged as a tourist only on your method of communication

Before the woman could even speak, I made it clear that we do in fact live here and cannot use the tax back form.  She stared open-mouthed as I walked off.  Now, I realize this  may seem rude to some, however, I think the woman was surprised, but not offended.  And, perhaps, just perhaps, next time she will think twice before whipping out the tax form to the next hapless expat who simply hasn't had the time to master the millions of endings in short stay. 

What will that do?  Well, perhaps it will cement their sense of connection to a country that is currently their home, whether it be for another year or, say, another six weeks or so.  Which reminds me, time to stress out about moving now!

April 22, 2008

Birthday Celebrations

We have two, yes, two birthday celebrations this week.  Both of the folks are of family members near and dear to our hearts.  While one just wriggled his way into our lives a few weeks ago, the other has been a part of my life as long as I can remember.

Yes, obviously the first birthday is that of Nicholas Quinn.  As of Sunday, he is two months old and quite a charmer.  He is animated, happy, bright-eyed and loves everyone around him (or puts on a great show!).  He really notices those around him now, 'plays' with his toys and is quite contented in general.  I don't have an updated weight yet, but he is already 3 inches longer than at birth, and we have no doubt he will follow his sisters in the height category.  And, despite the fact our lives are in a complete upheaval right now (and I am not stressed at all.....NOT!), one look at his engaging eyes, his sweet smile and the heart rate slows and all is calm again.

Nicholas has yet to meet the other "Birthday Boy" (Man? Person?), however, I have known him for, well, 30 plus years.  Tomorrow is my grandfather's 95 birthday.  In today's day and age where life can seem so fleeting and fast at times, I am always truly amazed by those who lives have intersected with and outlasted those we only read about, whether in books or online.

When he arrived, cars were not clogging the planet (Happy Earth Day!) and I can only imagine how long a birthday card would take to arrive.   Grandpere for the most part, has lived in a rapidly changing world, from the telephone to the internet.  While he never seemed to embrace the idea of the computer, I marvel at all of the changes he has easily accepted while growing up, raising a family and watching his children's families grow.

I guess one can only hope to reach the same point and still maintain the acuity of one's youth, as he seems have done effortlessly.  We obviously could not be there this year (one of -us is still 'passport-less'), but enjoyed a long conversation last night.  Without a doubt, the same Grandpere we all know and love and hope to see again in person very soon.

Happy 95th, Grandpere!

April 14, 2008

Visitors!

Yes, excitement aplenty in the household once again.  Pete's father, Steve, and brother John visited us for six days, ending today.  In addition to the usual sights and sounds of Reykjavik and the surrounding area, spending time with the girls and cooing over Nicholas, they were also treated to Caitlin's IPC presentation.

As part of the IPC curriculum, the classes are required to do a certain number of presentations.  They may seem daunting at first (especially to Kelsey's class), but by working on them during the younger years, the children get over their fears of presenting.  Far better than foisting it on them for the first time in middle school!

The 2nd - 5th graders had just completed a section on chocolate.  No, they did not just sit around and eat it all day, although they did offer tasty treats post-presentation.  The classes delved into the history of chocolate and how it is cultivated and transformed into various products.  The kids wrote, directed and starred in a series of scenes to impart their knowledge to us.  Watching them I realized how much Caitlin had grown over the past few years and how she did not seem nervous in the slightest.  I also began to wonder about the school she may attend next year and only hope we can find one where she is just as comfortable and excited about learning.

The presentation was but one night, though, and we spent the next few days seeing a few sights around Reykjavik, taking in Kelsey's swim lessons (quite the little fish!), seeing Geysir & Gullfoss, Thingvellir and ending the last night of the trip with dinner at Fjöruborðið in Stokkseyri.  Consumption of 300 grams of lobster, salad and other trimmings was tough but we managed to muddle through.  Possibly the most exciting part of the evening was pulling up to the restaurant, opening the door and stepping unknowingly into a foot of snow...yes, it is still winter here in Icyland.

Now that they have most likely safely landed in the States, we are back to the usual routine.   We had hoped to have more exciting news, such as a departure date, but that is not in the cards just yet.  Supposedly, we are slated to leave in early June, but beginning to think we will never know fror sure.  So, we still cannot plan home leave, vacation, house-hunting, you name it.  And a pack out date?  Surely you jest! 

NOTE:  The final tally is not in yet, but it seems that Steve & John and Mark & Shannon are running neck and neck in the category of "set of visitors who took the most photos of Baby Nicholas".  Any more competitors out there?   

April 07, 2008

1000 words (see photo)

Hard to do with one hand, but caught the little nipper in the act...
Img_0620 yep, that's a smile, folks! He has had many and quite a few laughs, but just haven't caught on film until now.