Sunday, April 29, 2018

April in review

April was a good month, filled with lots of excitement.  Here are some updates:

 On April 2nd we were hit with a large snow storm.  We had hoped that winter was done, but we weren't that lucky.  This year winter came late and stayed late. 

 The tram I was riding to work one day hit this van.  Luckily the tram rang the bell for a little bit before the accident, so most people had time to brace themselves.  No one was hurt, but it was still a pretty big hit.  As you can see the tram did much better than the van. 

 The Balti Jaama Turg (market) has been rebuilt for a few years now and I have never actually gone inside.  It is right next door to the train station and I guess I always felt I was too busy.  Luckly for me I decided to finally go and look around.  I was shocked at what a cool place it was.  Big lesson to me: take time to enjoy the beautifies of life. Especially the ones right next to us.

They had these cute booths where some food stores were.  This pink one was a bakery.  In the back not in the picture is a Muhu Leib bakery and man the best bread I have ever had.  

 The kids loved these super cute cookies.  They were extremely expensive and tasted very average.  The cuteness kind of makes up for it.
 There was a Georgian food restaurant too!  It was not a full sized place, they just had a few items for take away.  Really tasty stuff. 
 On one of the kids home days we decided to take a train ride to Laagri.  This is them before the trip, they were very excited.
Elder Uchtdorf came to visit Tallinn.  He gave a good message.  I translated one talk into English but he said later that he couldn't really hear it.  Maybe I wasn't speaking into the microphone?  Oops. 

All in all a good month and the best month is right around the corner. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Protect LDS children

"Do you have any problems with masturbation?".  Decades later I can still remember the feeling as a 12 year old deacon when my 65 plus year old bishop asked me that question as part of a standard worthiness interview.  I supposed 12 year olds in the digital era figure things out earlier than I did, but at the time I had no idea what the word or concept meant.  Fortunately for me this is the end of any negative or awkward experiences with Bishop's interviews.  The bishops I had were truly inspirational men and great role models for me.  I will always be grateful to have had their influence in my life. 

Unfortunately there are others who have not been as lucky as me.  Bishops do not receive formal training and come from many different backgrounds.  All assume a significant mantle as a judge in Israel.  This power dynamic can be especially problematic in youth interviews.  When an older man holds the power of the judgment of God without training the results can sometimes be negative.  For whatever reason some Bishops feel a need for an excessive amount of information regarding sexual practices.  I can only assume that they feel this is necessary so they can then make the best decisions about judgment and the repentance process.  The problem is that this type of sexual prodding can be more damaging and traumatizing than the sexual sin itself.  The culture of victim blaming (which is fortunately changing) has also been a problem in Bishops interviews. 

In addition having a Bishop meet alone with a youth creates a system where predators can flourish.  Even one instance of abuse is too many.  The LDS Church has such safeguards for male primary teachers.  It's better safe than sorry. 

Sam Young, a former bishop and a father of 6 daughters has organized a petition asking the Church to revise its practice.  Including another adult in the interview process is a small change but could have a significant influence in the lives of tens of thousands of children and youth.  I have signed the petition and encourage you to do the same.  The petition can be found here.  His recent op-ed in the Daily Beast can be found here.  Sam Young is collecting stories of the negative influence of such a practice and unfortunately the stories are flooding in.  Now certainly some might be fabricated or exaggerated but we also have to keep in mind the thousands and thousands that remain untold.  A single tragedy is too much.  Tragic stories of the negative influence of intrusive and abusive Bishop interviews can be found here. If  you don't have other plans on the 30th of March, then join the march!  The main march will be in Salt Lake but there are rallies in other locations across the US.  Most importantly, if you are active in an LDS congregation be a positive agent for change.  Bring up the topic in a ward council, as a parent discuss the issue with your Bishop and sit in on the interviews.  You may have a perfect Bishop but others are not so lucky and your actions can help change a system into such that could protect them from future abuse.  The LDS church has already taken a baby step in the right direction by announcing that an adult may attend the interview if the interviewee requests.  I can only hope that the next steps are still coming and that it will be mandatory to have a 2nd adult sit in on youth interviews.  The Me Too movement and the transparency of the digital age shine light on the dark deeds of predators.  This can be discouraging but at the same time we should recognize that it is up to us to make positive change.  Despite the focus on the dark deeds of abusers we should remember that there has never been a better time to be a Mormon.  The Mormonism I experienced is better than the one my parents and grandparents grew up in.  I'm asking for your help to ensure that the Mormonism my children grow up in will be even better.  Protect the LDS Children

Saturday, March 17, 2018

March update

It's been a cold and busy few months.  We're all ready for spring and it looks like the winter cold is gone for good.  Not too much is going on, but a few highlights are blog worthy.  At the end of February Estonia celebrated it's 100th independence day.  It's been a wild 100 years for Estonia, but incredible how well the last 25 plus years have gone.  Not too many places have undergone such rapid development. We had a big cake after Church and everybody loved it.  I thought it was cool how much the Russian speakers loved it.  It shows that Estonia is making good progress as a state. 

Estonia picked its choice for this year's Eurovision song competition!  Maris is a huge fan of the winner. It's a great song, good luck at Eurovision Elina!

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Winter action

What have we been doing this winter?
Well, because the kids have been sick a lot then we have been stuck in the apartment (the mini rental one). We have been doing a lot of crafts, play doh, plasticine, cutting, coloring, disco dancing, (kids) taking baths (this old apartment has a bath, our old one did not...and it is only great for kids not for actually using - taking showers in a bath...not so cool), reading and every imaginable thing. I even got a fancy shape sorter so that our younger one can do well with sorting shapes when she goes back to kindergarten. We play with legos a lot, too. When we could we went outside, like for walks, sledding, into the woods, beach. Here are some photos of what we have been doing.

Cutting. Very important.

While being sick the kids watched the kindergarten kids go out sledding, like in this picture. Sad. But they enjoyed it. Then we discussed how they will go back to kindergarten and can also do that and meet their friends. Yes, our rental is on 4th floor. Yes, it is the worst. Yes, it is good for staying healthy. 

Here is a plasticine doggy I made for the kids.

And other animals. It is good as stress relief.

Peppa Pig and Peppa´s mini pig.

Sledding is a hit. The older kid always goes way up and will not believe me that is is too scary. She still would not give in. Then it is usually very dramatic for her do actually go down the hill. 

Me and my younger girl on the sledge. A pretty decent hill.

We also went into the woods, picked pine cones and sticks.

Today we went to the beach. Looks awesome. 

People walk their dogs there. The kids got to pat the fluffy little dog in the photo. Loved it.

Going back and forth and throwing chunks of snow into the water.

From these pictures it might seem we do stuff but mostly we hibernate and stay inside, usually sick. But it is February and it does not get dark at 4 p.m anymore so... there is hope.

Monday, January 29, 2018

2017- year in review

Time goes by fast, I figured I'd better get the year in review post up before January is already over!  How would I describe 2017? Busy.  nice.  awesome.  normal (normaalne for our Estonian readers).  Our lives work around the academic year so it is split up into two halves with one incredible summer in between.

Part 1- January-June:

Busy, very busy.  The kids were not in preschool so we took turns tending them, usually me in the day and Maris in the evenings.  The kids are energetic but cute and it is great to spend time with them and watch them learn and develop.  We enjoyed a visit from Mom and Dad in February.  Nothing cheers up a dreary Estonian winter like a visit from Mom and Dad.  May was a great month.  I had my birthday, Keila has it's annual fair (Keila päev), and to top it off there is Eurovision. 

Super summer:

The summer's in Estonia are short but awesome.  I had conferences in Denmark, Hong Kong, and San Francisco.  Maris took a trip to Austria. Maris had a good time at girls camp and I enjoyed participating in my first pride parade.  The summer went by fast.  My new dream in life is to take my kids to Hong Kong Disneyland!  Hong Kong was truly magical and what could be more magical than going to the Magic Kingdom in magical Hong Kong!?!?

Part 2- September-December

  The kids began kindergarten which was a big step for both of them.  We started practicing in August and slowly got them used to it.  All in all they have done very well.  It can still be difficult to take them in the morning, there are many points for discussion along the way (clothes to wear, food to eat, toys to take, ect).  One thing that I must say is that Estonian kindergartens rock.  I mean 10/10.  They are educational, meaning accredited teachers, curricula, and so on.  It's a great opportunity for the kids to learn and develop.  They even have theater days where they bring in professional actors who put on a play for the kids.  Our oldest loves the fish soup and has a good friend in kindergarten. 

Unfortunately the 2nd half of the year was also very busy.  Maris got her work load bumped to full time (she would have preferred part time) and the down side of kindergarten is that the kids get sick rather often.  When one kid gets sick they both get sick and when one is sick then they both want to stay home so the healthy one can take care of the sick one.  Great sibling love.  They keep life interesting though.  Our oldest cut off almost all her hair when Maris was in the other room.  She wanted to look like one of her friends in kindergarten who happens to be a boy with a buzz.  She now looks like 11 from Stranger Things. 

To top it off we ended the year by selling our beautiful apartment of 5 years and moved into a rental across the street.  The rental market in Keila is not great so we are grateful for a place in a good location for a good price but it's a step down from what we are used to.

What to look forward for in 2018

2018 will stay busy for the first half.  We are excited to move into a new bigger apartment, hopefully in a few months.  There will be more posts to come on that.  In the summer we'll visit Idaho which will be jolly good fun.  Top 3 things on my to do list?  Target, KFC, and Culver's. 

Awards for 2017

This wouldn't be a year in review with out my own set of awards.  

Movie of the year: The Founder.  It turns out that there is so much more to a big mac than the trans fat and special sauce!  I loved this movie.  It's a heart wrenching movie but at the end of the day McDonalds has colonized the world and we're all fatter and gladder for it.  There is a story to be told and this movie tells it well.  On a different note, I asked Maris what she would do if she knew the world were to end in 4 months.  My answer to the same question was that I would eat at McDonald's every day. 

TV show of the year: In an upset surprise: the Expanse! We loved season 2 and are eagerly waiting for season 3.  What gave the Expanse the surprise nod?  Well it is the perfectly realistic portrayal of humankind in the future.  Exploitation, colonization, othering, and even Mormon mega projects!  The best though is the character Chrisjen Avasarala, a UN undersecretary and is played by Shohreh Aghdashloo.  Excellent character, great acting.  It was so incredible that I bought her autobiography for Christmas.  Honorable mention goes to Stranger Things and Star Trek Discovery.  The new Star Trek show is unlike anything ever seen in the Star Trek Universe and (spoiler alert!) will most likely win my TV show of the year for 2018.  half way through season 1 I am completely blown away. 
Book of the year:

Person of the year: Sam Young is a former LDS Bishop who is fighting to change bishop interview policies with LDS youth.  Here is a great article that sums up his efforts.  Having middle aged bishops interview young teenagers one on one about the intimate details of their lives is a recipe for disaster and will likely get the Church sued at some point in the future.  While making a minor change in interview policies might not seem news worthy, small changes can have a big influence in the lives of many.   Good luck to Sam Young and thanks for your efforts.