Go big or go home

Spelling bee list

There is a lot of test prep happening in our house lately. My kids both have German exams coming up and my son is participating in his school’s spelling bee. The German tests are mostly multiple choice questions with a listening-understanding and reading-understanding part at different difficulty levels. Some of the answers even I find not completely straight forward but I find that to be the case with most multiple choice tests. As usual my daughter does that independently whereas I basically have to sit next to my son so that he will stay focused. You don’t know how the test will look like but practicing with old tests helps a little to learn what to pay attention to when the actual testing day comes along. With the amount of complaining he does about the actual test, the stupidity of the questions, etc. I sometimes question myself if this is all a good idea but I think I said this before. Considering the amount of complaining and claims of misunderstanding he does surprisingly well on the practice tests.

I can help him with his German but I have my phone and my daughter to help with the list of spelling words. For a good chunk I would not do the pronunciation correctly and sometimes I even don’t know the word – so it is a learning experience for me, too. I told my son when looking at practicing his spelling words he should apply “klotzen, nicht kleckern” what is a German idiom for ‘go big, or go home’ I guess. It can mean to work really hard on something, or to put in a lot of effort (to achieve the optimal result in the end). A “Klotz” is a big block or chunk of something like a wood block or a concrete block. A “Klecks” is a small speck. So he should use a block and not a speck in direct translation. Anyway he seems not to concerned about the whole thing. The last couple of years another girl from his grade won the spelling bee and I fully expect she will do so again (and I think so does he). She has way more competitiveness in her than either of my kids and I am fine with that. To say it with another German idiom “Der Apfel fällt nicht weit vom Stamm” – “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”

Do you have a favorite idiom? I am sure there are plenty in English I don’t know about. I like them and as Amélie said in the movie of the same name (at least in the German versin) “Someone who knows idioms, can’t be a bad person.”

When looking at the translation of ‘Nicht kleckern, klotzen!’ I saw that it is also the German book title written by a public figure I rather not name – I might never use this phrase again.


Resolve to always be resolving

‘Resolve to always be resolving.’ That was a suggestion in the New York Times newsletter Saturday morning. It talked about how lots of people make new years resolutions and then break them by February and it said all the things that I am feeling about this topic. If you want to start a new habit, live healthier, sleep more, any year of the day is as good as New Years to start. I did not make a single resolution, did not find a word of the year, did not make any concrete plans as of yet other than going to my dad’s 80th birthday party in March. Flight is booked and everything else will come in the coming weeks. I always in awe of everyone who comes up with all the ways they want to better themselves, all the goals they set for themselves for the year to come. It’s not for me this year.

During the break I started running again – outside when it’s not raining in the gym when it is. I do feel much better with the exercise in my life. I get antsy when I don’t but it gets harder to fit it in with the kids back in school, with long work days, pick-ups, etc. I am not a fast runner, don’t run long distances either but I enjoy it. We will see how long I can keep it up.

All this reading about goal lists made me question my approach a little but I think I finally settled and am more content with my decision to let the year just come. Last year I had our Resident’s Day week all nicely planned out and was about to head home on Friday to go home and pack suitcases when I got the call from school that one of my kids was not feeling well. Sure enough it was covid and we had to stay home that week instead of going on an adventure. Luckily covid did not hit to hard and we had a quite week. Since then, I started letting things just happen more because I am always weary that something might come up that leads to disappointment. Of course I still plan a little – flights to Germany for the summer have to be book ahead of time so that they don’t get too expensive, summer camps, hotel rooms, but I make sure I am able to cancel and leave it up in the air mentally.

Christmas is officially over in our house. I usually keep the tree up until January 6th and put everything away the weekend after what I did yesterday. I only left the snowflakes on the windows. It makes it feel still a little festive and helps me ease into the next season.
Today the outside lights got put away as well, since we had a break from the rain. Oh, the rain, there is so much of it this year. I can’t really complain since we had no leaks, no flooding in the area, had not to evacuate unlike others in our community. The only thing happening to us was that we had power outages twice already caused by the rain and storm. If the electricity poles are any indication, I am not overly surprised. The jumble of wires and the ‘quality’ of the set-up, surprises me every time I have a closer look. Our friends lost power during a party once because the tree across the street grew around a power line and cut it off. I saw lines which still had parts of tree branches attached after the tree was already gone for years, have seen poles which were reinforced by planks because there were cracks. Because faulty lines caused some of the big California fires they finally started putting the lines underground. Hopefully it will also fix some of the other issues. It’s a little annoying to always expect a power outage when it’s a little windy outside (because of the fire danger in the summer and because of the rain in the winter). Is this something normal in the US? I don’t think I ever knew this before moving here. In Germany power lines are mostly underground for a long time now. When I was in elementary school I remember we had to pay attention when flying kites. because of power lines on fields everywhere. Over time they just disappeared (or I was to young to conciously hear about it). Can’t say I ever missed them.

Goodbye 2022, hello 2023

Golden Gate Bridge in the rain

I am wishing you a very happy, healthy and peaceful 2023!
On 12/31 the old year said goodbye to us with a serious downpour in the Bay Area. It always blows my mind that whenever ‘unexpected’ weather hits the area (and that seems to be true for other areas in the US as well) everything collapses. The drains were sorely clogged up in many areas and we felt like we had to drive through rivers on some roads going into San Francisco that day. We later learned that we actually were fairly lucky. I saw pictures online with people surfing the streets and a section of 101 south of the city was closed. There was an evacuation order in place for another town close by due to flooding. With 5.46″ of rain in San Francisco that day it was the 2nd wettest day on record. Considering all that we were extremely lucky with our small garage leak. There is another atmospheric river passing over us this week with the most expected for Wednesday – we will see.

Mask of a pharao plated in gold
Burial mask

On New Year’s Eve we had tickets for the “Ramses the Great‘ exhibit at the De Young museum in San Francisco (so that is why we drove into the city what we almost never do). I think it was pretty fantastic and we managed to walk through without major complains even from our strongest museum critic (our son). It’s still on through February 12th if you are interested and you have to get tickets in advance. I just wished we had eaten lunch before we went or at least taken something because there was a long line at the cafe and honestly it was a little too upscale a menu for some of us. I was glad we came a little early to walk a little through the rest of the museum before our timed tickets which was fun, too (at least I thought so). On the way back we decided to have a late lunch at In-N-Out Burger.

Statue with a face with
Another museum fin

The rest of New Year’s Eve was pretty quiet for us. We had raclette for dinner. It’s basically a mini table top grill where everyone has their own little pan that is filled with raclette cheese (or other cheese if you prefer) and other things like corn, onion, tomatoes, bacon, mini sausages, etc. We had boiled potatoes and a dip with it, too. It’s popular to do in Germany even though it originates in Switzerland. After dinner we watched ‘Spider-Man: No Way Home” as requested but took a break to be continued in the New Year since everyone was falling asleep (not the fault of the movie I assure you). We adults tried to stay awake a little longer but fell asleep on the couch only to wake up again after midnight. The champagne we had before dinner gave me a migraine so I was a little extra tired anyway.

I am always a little puzzled why this last day of the year is such a big deal. I enjoyed reading all the word of the year and goal posts (past, present and future) but for now this is just nothing I want for myself. Maybe when I have a little more breathing room in my life I will think about it more deeply.

Now the daily trot has us back – school, work and the likes. Since it is raining this week I picked up my daughter from school yesterday. That meant being home earlier than usual and I got the chance to take a walk outside before the rain started during daylight hours. Sunsets are always something to behold in the bay and I love the views peaking through the houses. If I would make a resolution I probably would say I want to go on a 30 minute walk every day. That is doable, right?

Deep orange sunset over the bay with a peak of the Golden Gate Bridge and Mount Tam
Sunset over the bay