Janice's Doings in Tübingen

Snapshots 1-4

Stories I've written for an English conversation group in GermanyThese are little snapshots of my life and thoughts while living here in Tübingen, Germany.  Each story is followed by a few little exercises and a few topics for further discussion in an English conversation group.
Each story will also have audio so that readers can listen to my authentic SE Pennsylvania accent while reading along.
Hopefully each story will also have a small glossary explaining more difficult or obscure words.
Please sign the Guest Book if you enjoy these, want to read any particular topic or have any constructive feedback for me!  Thanks!  - Janice

Snapshots 1-4
   1. Turning fifty
   2. Having six kids
   3. How I met my husband
   4. Weather (and Nature)

Snapshot 1:  Turning Fifty


In 2012, I turned 50 years old.  A friend of mine, ten years younger than me, asked how I felt about it.  I thought about it and said, "If I only had the four older kids with the last one about to graduate from high school, I would be feeling pretty old.  But since I have the younger two, I'm still doing 'young mother' things, so it doesn't really strike me as special."


In fact, turning fifty was a great excuse to have a whole bunch of special celebrations! I have a very varied group of friends and I was able to celebrate with each group exactly as suited us.  With my English-speaking friends, we had a lovely brunch at my home.  With my friends from my long-running German-learning group, we had five wonderful wellness sessions, run by the 'German expert' cum wellness therapist of our group.  With my family, I enjoyed warmth around a typical birthday meal, including birthday cake and blowing out the candles.  With my church choir, I brought in sparkling wine and yummy brownies for us all to share. 


But the best celebration was the 'Big' one: a dinner party with a sing-along in 4-part-harmony!  I had sung in many choirs for the past 30+ years and for some time I had been wanting to revisit some of the special music I had learned, some English, some German.  Some pieces were fun German folk songs, one or two were madrigals with their entertaining fa-la-laings, one was an amusing set of variations on a popular German tune, one was a spiritual and another an American poem set to music.  Usually, it's easier said than done to get together enough experienced singers to sing directly from some unknown music in 4-part harmony.  But I had the great good fortune, that in 2012 I indeed knew plenty of such singers...AND nearly all of them were able to attend my party! 


All in all it was over three hours worth of singing, two hours before dinner (but luckily after we all had some cake and coffee) and another hour between dinner and dessert!  So my guests literally had to sing for their suppers (and an excellent supper it was, too)!  It was a challenge indeed, but one that everyone enjoyed. Each of the voice parts was well represented, the guests running in age from my youngest (Helene, at age 6, and old enough to sit still) to a dear 82-year old English tenor friend.  The timing was perfect and it was a wonderful way to celebrate my 'half-way point' as I jokingly call it.  And it was certainly a party that no one will forget!


Time to work!

Find the verbs.


_________           thought         have ____________

feel                     _______        have ____________

do                       _______        have ____________

run                      _______        have ____________

_________           brought         have ____________

_________           sung              have ____________

eat                      _______        have ____________

_________           blew             have ____________


Choose the correct sentence.

1. What is your name?

a. ___ My name is Janice.

b. ___ You call me Janice.


2. Where do you live?

a. ___ I am living in Tübingen.

b. ___ I live in Tübingen.


3. Are you married?

a. ___ Yes, I am married.

b. ___ Yes, I am being married.


            4. How do you feel?

                        a. ___ I feel me excited!

                        b. ___ I feel excited!


Let's hear from you!

Did you have any birthday that you felt anxious or unhappy about?


What favorite way do you celebrate your birthday or your children's birthdays?


Snapshot 2:  Having Six Kids

I am often amused by the reactions of people when they hear that I have six children. 

There is always a look that says "So many??" This is followed by another look that says "How does she have any free time?"  And both looks are usually followed by the statement about how busy I must be.  All of these reactions made as if I have six children all under the age of 5 years!!  I find it rather amusing, especially since half of my kids have finished high school and the fourth will have likewise in a few months, so they are four grown-up people actually.  The younger two are both in school so they can do most things by themselves. 

So, what DO I have to do as a mother of six? 

Well, first I'll answer what I DON'T have to do anymore! 

I generally don't get awakened in the middle of the night.  With the exception of the occasional nightmare or growing pain, the kids have been sleeping through the night for years and don't need nursing or trips to the toilet.  And none of the kids have been sleepwalkers, thank goodness. 

I don't have to do all of the 'little chores' by myself, like feeding kids and then brushing teeth, changing diapers (Phew!), bathing and dressing kids, straightening up rooms, putting away clothes or setting and clearing the table for meals.  The kids are always very helpful when I ask them to do something, so often they'll take out the food scraps to the compost bin or collect the trash.

I generally don't have to deal with the dishes all that much either.  The older kids (Sophie, age 21, and Dominic, age 17) and I have an unspoken agreement: whoever makes the meal doesn't have to do the dishes, unless the others have appointments.  That's a nice deal.

A newer perk is that Helene and Christopher feel confident enough to be left alone at home for an hour or two, so then I am not always tied to being at home when they are.

And currently, I only have four kids at home and not six, plus I have a great cleaning lady who frees us from that tedium each week!

So, again, what DO I do?

Planning meals, shopping for food and supplies, washing clothes, ironing every so often, driving Christopher to baseball practice once a week (twice a week from spring to autumn), gardening, raking the fallen leaves in autumn, shoveling snow in the winter, dealing with the car and a dozen other things that crop up, and, perhaps the biggest of all, KNOWING when each person has some special program/work and making sure that happens!

Given that someone else does the huge job of cleaning the house for me, I have a fair amount of free time and I'm very good not only at scheduling my time, but also at estimating how long any given task will take.  And to keep me from forgetting anything, writing down a weekly schedule of all that we do has been vital!

Time to work!

Find the verbs.

___________            planning            planned

___________            raking               _____________

___________            shopping           _____________

___________            scheduling         _____________

___________            forgetting          _____________

___________            knowing            _____________

___________            making              _____________

___________            feeding             _____________

___________            writing              _____________

___________            finishing            _____________

___________            setting               _____________


Match up the compound words.

            a. home                                   ___ cut

            b. base                                    ___ day

            c. birth                                    ___ walker

            d. skate                                   ___ bag

            e. sun                                      ___ washer

            f. hair                                      ___ work

            g. swim                                    ___ ball

            h. bean                                    ___ board

            i. dish                                      ___ glasses

            j. sleep                                    ___ suit

Let's hear from you!

            Is your life easier or harder than it was 5 years ago?  What has changed?


Snapshot 3:  How I met my husband

When I turned 27, I was still single.  I knew plenty of guys since I had worked in naval defense and participated in both co-ed choirs and volleyball teams, but none of the men were 'the one.'  So, when I got a Christmas card from a friend of mine, Craig, suggesting that I meet a friend of his, I figured 'what the heck?'

The suggestions was phrased so: 
Hey Janice!  There's this German guy in my lab who has complained of the dearth of voluptuous females in Princeton.  Perhaps you'd like to meet him.  A brief description:  6 foot tall, blue eyes, blonde hair... we'll call him Andrei for short.

Hmmm.... 'Andrei' for a German?  In any case, I was 27 and still quite single so the three of us arranged to meet up at the end of January.

And??  Well, Andrei was from Romania (which explained his non-German name), had light brown hair and was certainly no six feet, being barely taller than me.  He seemed nice enough but most of the evening I spent catching up with Craig whom I hadn't seen in years.  In the end, I did give Andrei my phone number to call me up.

A few days later he called and asked when we could get together.  At that point I had a very packed calendar - several choir concerts, volleyball practices twice a week, volleyball tournaments on the weekends and games during the week, plus my day-time teaching job - so I told Andrei, "This month is bad."

He was a bit taken aback that I couldn't find a single free day in an entire MONTH (hey, February is SHORT!) and so he pushed until I agreed to meet up with him on one of the few free days I had.

We went to a Japanese restaurant.  For me this was something completely new and exciting.  We ordered sushi and sashimi which was delicious and fine until I got 'involved' with a mouthful of octopus.  For a good ten minutes, I chewed and chewed and nodded and mm-hmm'd while Andrei talked on and I chewed some more...  Luckily, I didn't choke as well and I finally did manage to swallow that ornery bit of seafood!

From these three encounters I had discovered several excellent points about Andrei:
1.  he was willing to let me talk about things that were of no interest to him,
2.  he was persistent in the face of total stubbornness, and
3.  he could hold up a conversation marvelously!

The final 'test' came several months later:  I took him to have Easter lunch at my parents' house to meet them and two of my four siblings, my two brothers-in-law and my four nieces and nephews.  The meal went fine and afterwards while Andrei chatted to my dad about chemistry, I play-wrestled with my little nephews on the living room floor.  My one sister was appalled that I would behave so 'wildly' in front of a potential marriage candidate, but it only showed Andrei that I liked kids and showed me that he was quite accepting of that.

I would have never guessed that I, with my American suburban middle-class upbringing, would marry a man who was raised in Communist Romania.  But despite our different backgrounds, we agree on most things, have a similar sense of humor and let the other one enjoy those things that we don't ourselves want to do.  Twenty-four years, six kids and still going strong!

Time to work!
List some of the new, good words you found in this text:

______________   _______________   ______________   ________________
______________   _______________   ______________   ________________
______________   _______________   ______________   ________________
______________   _______________   ______________   ________________

Name the opposite (synonym) from the text:

same        _______________               short        ________________           married      __________________
flexibility _______________               poor/fair  ________________           calmly        __________________

Let's hear from you!
          Do you have a fun story of meeting someone for the first time?
          How did you meet your spouse/best friend?


Snapshot 4:  Weather (and Nature)

"If you cannot think of anything appropriate to say, you will please restrict your remarks to the weather."  This is a lovely line said to young Margaret Dashwood in the BBC fil
ming of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.  The point is that Margaret should talk about boring, predictable topics rather than personal ones.

But given some of the weather reports made throughout the world, who doesn't like to talk about the wild forces of nature or unseasonal weather?

This winter in Tübingen (2013-14) we have had the mildest winter I can recall from over 12 years of living here:  a green Christmas, temperatures hardly below freezing, regular sunny skies, virtually no snowfall and spring in full bloom in early March!  And yet my family living near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the USA have had the worst winter even my 80-year-old parents can remember:  three non-stop months of below-freezing temperatures, thirteen major snowstorms dumping over 160 cm of snow and temperatures dropping below -20°C repeatedly!  For an area of the USA that has a fairly similar climate to ours here, that is a crass difference, especially given that Tübingen is a full 9° further north than Philadelphia.

Besides our having to cope with extremes of temperatures or precipitation, what else does our weather affect?

In 2013, we had snow at Easter.  From the pond next to our house, we could see (and hear) that there were far fewer frogs that had survived April's cold spell.  Also, the allergy season was postponed, but then blasted down on hay fever sufferers with a vengeance as many trees and plants went into bloom simultaneously.

In July a massive hailstorm denuded fruit trees of their growing fruit resulting in a very poor harvest of plums, etc.

Now we've had a mild winter and the mosquitoes are already biting and the tick population is supposed to be the largest ever.  If we humans are lucky, a cold snap will come along and kill off a bunch of those nasty biting creatures.  On the other hand, from a greater number of insects we can anticipate a greater surviving bird population.

Since 2001, my family has lived next to a large pond with an unkempt wilderness of plant and tree growth surrounding it.  Each year in March the kids and I have celebrated the migration of frogs across our lawn as they go from their winter homes in the small wood behind our house over to the pond.  Months later in September we're extra careful not to step on the baby frogs as they make their way back for wintering.  The pond and foliage around it have been the home to fish, frogs, ducks, turtles, salamanders, foxes, marten, birds, spiders and countless insects plus a visiting place for cranes in the summer.  But a new building will be erected on that spot so the trees and bushes were all chopped down in January and the pond will be emptied in June.  A whole habitat will be eliminated, but fortunately there are still woody areas here for many of these creatures.

However, should the weather also act 'against' these creatures - an unseasonal freeze in particular or too little or too much rain - then the balance of their lives will alter for a few seasons before it can readjust... IF it can readjust.

Human alterations leave their impact, but the weather is something we cannot control.  Or can we?  Are these extreme weather conditions indicative of climate change... and can we humans really do anything about it?

Time to work!

List the adjectives in the text:

_____________    _____________    ______________    _____________
_____________    _____________    ______________    _____________
_____________    _____________    ______________    _____________
_____________    _____________    ______________    _____________

Let's hear from you!
          Have you ever had to drive through a bad storm?  How did you manage to get through safely?
          Do you think we can do anything about the climate?



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