First day of school, 2021 edition

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This is our fourth first of day school event in Würselen. Spencer is starting the 7th grade. Meg is starting 5th grade. They are both at the same school now, for the next seven years hopefully.

Big day for Meg

Meg had a busy day today! She woke up early to get prepared for her class field trip to the Würselen forest. I helped her pack a snack. Then she rode to the bakery to get some rolls, rode to Jana’s house, and then rode together to Aquana to meet the rest of their class (and stopped by our apartment to get a jacket, which she had forgotten). She had school a little bit longer than normal to celebrate the end of their Pausenengel time (the group of kids who are responsible for keeping watch during recess). They got the kids ice cream to celebrate.

Once she arrived home she had just a little time to take a shower and finish packing for her scout trip to celebrate the summer solstice. I did my best to put her hair in a French braid, (which was unfortunately not very good). I bought extra bug spray for her, and she is planning on mostly wearing long pants and shirt the whole weekend, so hopefully she won’t get too many bug bites. It looks the weather will cooperate, with highs around 25C (75F) and partly sunny.

Meg’s future

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Meg recently had an assignment at school to make a drawing of how she saw herself in the future, as if looking through a keyhole. She plans to be a programmer for NASA. She drew herself watching a rocket launch.

Looking into Meg’s future as a NASA programmer

Her class also made drawings to represent them leaving elementary school to go off to secondary school in the fall. Their class mascot is the penguin. They voted to make the best picture the official one. The voting turned out to be a tie, with Meg and Felix winning. They then worked together to incorporate the different elements of their pictures together. Meg was not excited to have to work together with Felix, but she handled it well. The end result was actually better than I thought it would be. I had imagined that having 2 people work on the same painting would end up looking like a painting drawn by two different people, but they did a pretty good job of matching styles to make it look coherent. Here you can compare for yourself (drag the arrows in the middle to switch between Meg’s original on the left and the final result on the right).

Meg’s drawing vs. the final image after collaborating with Felix

I think Meg’s penguin is much cuter, but I do like some of the elements from the final result, like swapping the subject names for the names of the kids in the class. Subject names as stickers on a suitcase makes a little bit more sense in my opinion, but having the kids names is nice as a memento. I think Meg is going to miss Mrs. Gehrmann. She was really a great teacher. It is amazing to see how much Meg has grown in 3 years.

Meg’s project week

Rosa rosado rosina

The last week has been anything but usual for most of the world, including at our home in Würselen, Germany. Schools have been closed since Monday, and throughout the week more and more businesses closed. Rob’s company recommended working from home as of Monday. Clare stayed home Monday, but went in Tuesday, only to find out that the entire research institute was closing as well.

Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Magnets, meal plan, and manners chart
Spring has sprung
Spring has sprung

Last weekend Clare put together a fantastic schedule mimicking the kids normal school day, comprised of 45 minute blocks with some 5 minute breaks, and a couple longer breaks as well. We also came up with a bunch of different types of school-related activities for the kids to do. Both of the kids were going to have assignments from their teachers, but they didn’t come immediately. I had to pick up Meg’s assignments from the school in person on Tuesday. Spencer’s assignments came via e-mail on Wednesday and Thursday. While we waited for these assignments, we thought of some ourselves, such as logic puzzles, typing lessons, and art projects. Meg came up with several projects on her own as well. Some she had already started before the Corona virus changed all of our lives, such as the small greenhouse she got for her birthday. Meg had also been pushing hard to use her whiteboard for meal planning for many weeks, which we finally implemented just a few weeks ago, once I found some magnets to hold it up on the refrigerator. After the first day home, which involved a fair amount of fighting and complaining, I also asked Meg to create a behavior chart, which she accomplished lickety-split.

One silver lining for us was the weather – it is definitely feeling like Spring here, and after several weeks of clouds and rain, the sun finally came out. We let the kids play at the park for “recess” until Wednesday afternoon, when they officially closed all the playgrounds. Saturday we walked to the farm stand to get more fresh milk, eggs, and butter, and strawberries (yes, local strawberries in March – much earlier than normal). We saw a few other people out walking, but definitely much emptier than a normal Saturday here. Clare went shopping on Tuesday afternoon. She reported that the store was not as busy as normal. They have not implemented maximum number of people at a time like in some places. But they were out of many things, without much rhyme or reason as far as we can tell. Like other places around the world, toilet paper seems to be in high demand. In fact, apparently someone in Würselen smashed a car window recently to steal toilet paper out of it. They were not out of canvases though, so Clare picked up a couple so Meg could paint some. Meg decided that we needed a pretty picture in our bedroom. She has dubbed the painting “Rosa rosada rosina”

Crazy times. We are getting through it though, and Meg has been super helpful. She remains cheerful (most of the time), and we really appreciate all her various projects.

Back to Germany, back to work, back to school


After a great 3 week vacation in the USA, it was time to come back to Germany. We spent most of Sunday morning packing, then enjoyed lunch with Drew, Haewon, Grandma, and Grandpa, and then Drew drove us to the airport. We said our farewells, got on the jumbo jet, and had a mostly uneventful flight. We all got a little bit of sleep even. We sat near the end of the plane where it curves down a bit, which meant we had 2 rows of 2 seats per row instead of 3, so we had a little extra room to stretch out, which was really nice. We caught our train at the airport with 20 minutes to spare, and were back in Aachen before we knew it. We managed to stay awake the whole day, to unpack, go grocery shopping and such, and watch an episode of Modern Family before heading off to bed.

Tuesday Rob went back to work, while Clare bravely took care of the tired and cranky kids, getting them prepared for the first day of school on Wednesday. Meg started 3rd grade at a normal time, but since Spencer is starting a new school for 5th grade (Gymnasium), he started at 15:00 with a special celebration put on by the older kids. It is a tradition in Germany to get kids a Schuletüte on their first day of 1st grade. It is a big paper cone which you fill with candy and other goodies. Since both of them did their first day of 1st grade in the USA, they missed out on this, so Clare decided to get them some mini ones this year. They liked them.

Another interesting occurrence on Tuesday was that our next door neighbors moved out. The moving company built a mini-elevator / electric ladder up to the balcony to move a bunch of their stuff. Much easier than the way we did it – trudging everything up 51 stairs of the winding staircase.