Sunday, 20 July 2008

Announcing the Sixth

After almost 8 months of expectation we are very pleased to announce the arrival of our sixth child, Micah Frederick. After a couple of weak false starts, Gaynor went into labour proper Wednesday 16th of July around noon. True to predictability, Gaynor's parents -- who are visiting for a while to help out with the birth -- had left that morning for a few days in Las Vegas and were recalled for active duty after a pleasant lunch in Barstow. Gaynor had called me at work first, suggesting it was time for me to come home and also contacted her midwife. By mid to late afternoon Gaynor's attendants were pretty much assembled.

The birthing team had everything prepared
The birthing team had everything prepared.

Since it was a home birth we'd previously discussed with the children who would like to be there and who would rather not. Joshua and Mara had chosen to stay and both were very helpful during the labour and delivery. Gaynor's father had volunteered to look after the other children, including Elijah's friend visiting from Germany and took them off to a movie. By the end of the movie the boy had not yet shown up and so we arranged for Elijah and his friend to stay overnight with some friends of the family. Ariana and Bryna came home for a quick bite and then off to bed. They were both very excited to think that their new brother would be there by morning.

There was a bit of a wait while the labour progressed but by late evening it was down to business. He was born at 10:02pm but took a few minutes before expressing his displeasure at the world.

Gaynor cuddles her newborn.
Gaynor cuddles her newborn.

Overall the water birth at home worked marvellously well. The midwives were wonderful, the attendees performed well and, above all, Gaynor did great. She got through it with lots of ice crunching, ginger beer and hand squeezing. Both her and Micah are doing very well. After his first feed, he weighed in at 3.876kg (8 pound, 8 and a half ounces) and measured 53cm.

He's currently being loved to death by all his siblings, friends of siblings, grandparents and parents.

Margaret admires the tired little fella.
Margaret admires the tired little fella.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Language Update

Of course, one of the challenges of moving countries is the language barrier. The shift to Germany meant an obvious difficulty but the move to California has brought its own subtle problems. In Germany the challenge was to learn a whole new language, in California it's retention. Retention of both our Australian dialect and our German. The former is not such a large hill but the latter takes a lot more effort.

The retention of our Australian was mostly put on hold while we were in Germany, in favour of them spending more time leanring and speaking German. Besides, there wasn't much competition between the two, being so different. Living in a culture with a different dialect, on the other hand, is much more subtle. Most of the 'replacement words' -- 'vacation' for 'holiday', 'parking lot' for 'car park' -- are generally already known and very easy to understand even if they've never been heard before. Remembering to use them in context when speaking to an American is a bit harder. Americans are less likely to have heard the other version than we are to have heard theirs.

A couple of our children are picking up a few accented words. Bryna has a few and Elijah tends to adapt his accent to his audience. It's most obvious talking with him immediately after picking him following time with his friends. At first, we'd remind him but I'm pretty sure he's not doing it consciously, so now I just let it go.

Watching Australian television shows wasn't something we could do in Germany -- everything is overdubbed there -- but the children have a few they watch religiously here. H2O, The Saddle Club and even Bindi the Jungle Girl all get a regular airing. In addition, we take our sports education very seriously and enjoy many rugby games, Brisbane Broncos, Queensland Reds as well as internationals.

And so to German. To be honest, my German has never been that great. I figured out enough to hold a grammatically poor conversation for about 20 minutes. I can read a bit and know plenty of less used words that the rest of the family didn't need to know, like Rechtschutzversicherung (legal insurance) and Ölwannedichtung (oil sump gasket). Gaynor and the children on the other hand did wonderfully. Gaynor could teach a 45 minute lesson at church and each child was passing German as a subject at their school. In the case of Joshua, Elijah and Mara that was at the academic high school. Ariana spoke fluently and without an accent with all her friends and Bryna really only spoke German.

Gaynor and I have spoken a number of times about steps we'd take to help the children retain their fluency in German. Unfortunately for Bryna her only chance was for us to mostly speak German at home and that is something very hard to do when it's your non-native tongue. Bryna now only remembers a few German words and phrases and almost always speaks in English. Her transition was complete within the first six months of our arrival. The retention improves with the older children and Joshua, Elijah and Mara seem to recall virtually all of theirs with Ariana somewhere in between.

However, we are of the firm opinion that without constant practice and opportunities to use it they'd lose it. So to that end, we've tried to bring as many German books and DVDs with us as possible and we've recently had an influx of books and DVDs when one of Elijah's old school mates came to visit for a few weeks. We also have an incentive scheme for them to read and report on German books, we subscribe to a monthly church-related magazine in German, a friend in Germany sends us copies of one of the children's favourite television programs Die Pfefferkörner (English description) and every Wednesday is supposed to be 'Deutschsprechtag' -- 'German speaking day'. I say 'supposed to be' because not everyone remembers for all of the day but we are mostly making an effort! Hopefully these opportunities and ideas will be enough to help them retain the lion's share of their ability.

And finally, speaking of languages, we've set the children the challenge of being fluent in three languages by their eighteenth birthday. Some have picked French and others Spanish but we'll see how they go. By the way, we've been pleased to see that southern California, at least, is very bilingual. Of course there are many people who are native or fluent Spanish speakers but there are also many stores that have signs in both languages. Perhaps 'American' as a synonym for 'monolingual' is on the way out -- much to the chagrin of some US citizens I'm sure.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

More Room to Read

Well not actually more room to read as more more room to place some of our reading material. One of the things about moving internationally with very little is obviously fitting/filling out the new place. Gaynor has had pretty much free reign in this regard, though probably a bit slower than she would have liked. After our initial spending spree -- Gaynor spent a day at IKEA buying the initial essentials like beds, cookware etc. -- we've been slowly acquiring furniture and other bits and pieces.

The most recent piece is for the things we have the most of: books. By volume, they make up about a third of all that we shipped. Though we had picked up a couple of bookcases here and there, all for free, we needed one or two large, main ones. So in a desperate attempt to save money and get what we wanted, it was agreed that I would make them.

Fortunately, a friend and work colleague has a very well equipped woodshop and offered not just it but his expertise as well. The final results can be seen in the accompanying photographs with the final dimensions being 243 x 100 x 32cm, 8 x 3 1/3 x 1 1/12 foot, in the old (and current American) parlance. I'm quite pleased with the way they have turned out and Gaynor is quite pleased to be able to finally start unpacking the last (quite a) few boxes.

Main bookcases
Main bookcases already with a few things on them.

Bookcase detail
Bookcase detail.

Edit: For those who'd like to know, the case is maple -- main pieces are 3/4" plywood and the trim is solid wood -- with a red mahogany stain finished in one coat lacquer, followed by two more coats of semi-gloss acrylic.