Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Month in review

April was a nice month for us, it went by very fast!  It was full of birthdays: my brother Jeff , sister Jill, and Mom all had birthdays, and to top it all off our baby turned 18 months.  Maris had a baby shower here in Keila.  She rented a play room and invited some families that we know.  I've been busy at work and we are waiting for the baby to come.  We finally got around to fixing the hole in our ceiling (meaning we hired someone else to come fix the hole in our ceiling).  There are a few more things to do, so be ready for a remont blog post in the near future!

 This was our easter basket this year, filled with goodies!

 Our baby's favorite was a giant chocolate panda bear.  I noticed later that it was half off the day after Easter.  I think next year we will celebrate a day late, that way we can get twice the amount of candy for the same price!

 This is the play room that Maris rented for her baby shower.

The kids always love going down the slide!

Next month will be much much crazier.  The end of the remont, the NFL draft, my birthday, BA and MA theses to review and supervise, exams, and a new baby! Stay tuned for the updates.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

25 years!

25 years ago yesterday Elder Nelson dedicated Estonia for the preaching of the gospel and for the beginning of missionary work.  This was the official beginning of the LDS church in Estonia, even though missionary work had been going on for over a year before.  To celebrate we had a special district conference.  We held it at the lauluväljak (song festival grounds) which is where Elder Nelson dedicated Estonia.  There were many visitors from Finland who helped out in the early days to establish the church here.  Elder Jörg Klebingat was presiding from the area presidency.  Many good messages were shared, many seemed as if they were just for me.  I thought I would share a few of them here.

The president of the Baltic mission, President Harding spoke about doing things the Lord's way.  He read Proverbs 3:7 "Do not be wise in thy own eyes".  Elder Klebingat spoke about the Sabbath day being a delight and that making long specific do and do not lists to do will not turn the Sabbath day into a delight.  My immediate thought was "Super bowl 50 here I come!"  What would be more delightful than going to the Super Bowl at Levi's stadium?  If Elder Klebingat is reading this he doesn't have to worry, a Super Bowl 50 trip is not in our family budget.  The Estonian district president Tarmo Lepp talked about what it means to be free.  He had good words of advice.  It means that we have nothing to fear, nothing to lose, and nothing to hide.  President Lepp is one of my all time favorite people.

They also read the dedicatory prayer that Elder Nelson gave 25 years ago.  One phrase that really touched me was the following: "Wilt though bless they servants who come here, the missionaries, the mission president, and the general authorities, that they may be preserved in their ministry".  When that part was read I was touched because I knew that I was the recipient of that apostolic blessing.

 It's been a great 25 years for the church here in Estonia, hopefully the next 25 years will be even better! It has been a privilege for me to have had the opportunity to serve a mission in Estonia and to be a member here. When I left Estonia in 2004 I felt an emptiness that never went away until I came back in 2008.  It was just for a two year master's program but here it is in 2015 and I am still here.  Everything good in my life has come from my decision to serve a mission. 

 This is me as a missionary in Pärnu summer of 2004

 This is where we had the district conference today.

President Lepp opening the first meeting which was held at the place where Elder Nelson dedicated Estonia. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Spring! Kevad!

Spring is my favorite season. It is just so positive after months of darkness and everything gray. Life! Light! Here are some pictures from yesterday. I just love plants, that´s why the post. :)

My first orchid that has not died and is blooming again:

I love these blue flowers. And the big flower in a blue jacket is the prettiest of them all.

These yellow flowers have been the first signs of spring for me for years, along with dandelions (and we consider dandelions flowers and weeds at the same time).

I caught this pretty thing just accidentally:

Leaves are just barely there:

From the back yard of our apartment building:

Some leaves are more visible that others:

Yay, more flowers:

Enjoy the spring!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Love the place you live- Keila

Our inspiration for our blog is my sister Jill, her blog is fantastic! One post I remember is the Love the place you live.  We've lived in Keila for a few years now, so that means its time for the Love the place you live blog entry!  A few family nights ago we went to feed ducks at a pond in Kumna.  Kumna is a cluster of houses and apartment buildings 2 kilometers away.  They had a beautiful manor home there as well! We went there to get new summer tires from Rehvi Pros and discovered the manor home and ducks.  It wasn't the most beautiful place in the world, but with ducks and a manor home it beats a lot of the other clusters in the area.  There is also a new walking path that links Keila and Kumna which is awesome. 

 This is the manor home, it looks great from the outside but wasn't open.  There was a blue construction sign up in one window, maybe they never finished the renovations.

 The ducks were not super hungry so we had to chase them around the little pond. 

 Lucky for us two ducks were kind of interested in our bread.

 The grounds around the manor home were also nice.

Proof that the ducks actually ate something!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Is Idaho the worst governed state?

As you know from previous blog posts you can read here, here, and here, I am not very impressed with the politicians governing Idaho.  In yet another incredible sign of complete incompetence, Idaho is now risking 46 million in funding for child care payments and access to the mechanisms that runs the entire child support program because of crazy ungrounded fears of the impact of an international treaty on welfare payments.  Way to go Idaho.  Coupled with Idaho's terrible track record on education it might be the worst state for a child to live. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

Thoughts about the world we live in

There is a ton of news going on right now, I thought I would highlight a few articles that I found interesting and that I largely agree with.

Iran.  The nuclear Iran question is a hot topic for the world, but especially for the United States and in particular Republicans.  This is highlighted by an open letter that 47 Republican senators wrote, unfortunately including Idaho's misguided Republican senators as well. I think the recent deal reached regarding Iran's nuclear enrichment is a breakthrough applaud the Obama administration for it.  Not everybody is happy about it.  Here is an interesting article in the Atlantic that looks at the alternative options and comes to the conclusion that other options are not good options. 

Rand Paul. The US presidential election has already begun!  The election is well over a year away, but for some reason some candidates have already started their campaigns.  One such fellow is Rand Paul who is my favorite Republican candidate.  I appreciate many of the stances he has including more pragmatism and less intervention in foreign and security policies, civil liberties, drug policies, and much more.  I have reservations about him as well including his movement towards the base of the Republican party, and his ideas of limited government regarding policies that actually need government regulation and intervention such as gun safety, climate change, and the environment.  I don't think Rand Paul will win, and I'm not sure I would want him to but I am glad he is running and as of now he is my number one Republican choice.  Here is an interesting piece about him that basically says the same. 

Kansas. It is said that every country deserves their government.  The same could be said about states in the US.  They elected politicians that represented failed policies in the worst way because they were Republicans.  Now they are paying the consequences that they new were coming and chose to accept anyway because they are in love with the letter R.  Here is an over view  of the budget situation in Kansas. Specific problems in education and infrastructure that come from Kansas' tax policies are written about here and here. Hopefully Idaho will learn some lessons, as they also have a habit of voting for Republicans who are responsible for failed policies.

Indiana.  Indiana recently revised their problematic religious freedom law. This is a topic that gets a lot of attention from the LDS church as well (their top religious freedom lawyer just got called to be a general authority).  Bottom line, religious freedom cannot be an excuse to discriminate against and margionalize others.  Those are the rules of tolerant societies.  Here is a good piece on the Indiana religious freedom law, before it was amended.

Estonian coalition.  There is no article to go with this note, but recently Estonia agreed on a ruling coalition between three parties.  The coalition agreement supports several principles that I can agree with: increasing the welfare of low wage earners (lower tax burden, higher minimum wage), lowering labor taxes for employers (decrease of the social tax from 33% to 32%), and an increase in support for families with children (special provisions for single parents).  Lastly, the parties agreed on reforming the local government system which should have been done 10 or 15 years ago.  These will be offset by increases in the tax on gas and an increase on the VAT tax on hotels from 9-20% (don't worry Mom and Dad it won't go into affect until 2016 or 2017).  The new agreement doesn't do much on integration issues which is critical at this time given Russia's hybrid warfare tactics.  It also did virtually nothing in the education field, which does need additional funding and attention.  Perhaps the biggest problem is not in what they will be doing but who will be doing it.  There are only two women out of the 15 ministers.  Some of the most competent ministers of the last coalition were women who are not out of a job (Anne Sulling and Maris Lauri).  They are replaced by long time politicians who had to resign from their jobs in the past due to scandal.   This will most likely come back to haunt these parties.  The Reform party will likely have another scandal on their hands and people will realize that their successful party rebranding was just an election gimmick which does not bode well for the next regional elections at some point and the IRL party (who had no women ministers) will be unsuccessful in rebranding their party after a monumental election loss. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Americans are from Mars, Europeans are from Venus part 4

This will probably be the last blog entry in this series on differences between the US and Europe.  This post focuses on electronics in Europe, and Estonia in particular. In general, electronics are crazy expensive here.  The high VAT tax, small market, and high transportation costs all factor into the high price tags.  One other reason that is often overlooked is the fact that in Europe electronics require a mandatory two year warranty. Of course the price is passed onto the consumers.  Usually I have hated this because what product breaks before two years?  Well now I have the answer, a Candy dryer.  We bought a dryer about two years ago  and it recently broke about five weeks before the warranty ended, great timing!  They had to order a new motor which took a while but it was all free of charge.  Now we have our dryer back in service which is great.  Hopefully the motor will last longer than two years this time. Next time I buy an electronics product from Europe I will think differently about that two year warranty.