Wednesday, February 8, 2017

We're official!

Immigration appointment completed.  Registering in our new town, finished.  Moving from temporary housing into our home, done!  Well, almost.  Our boat shipment should arrive by the end of February.  Until then, we will enjoy a few pieces of rented furniture and dishes and silverware.  But no one seems to mind because we scored when it came to finding our house!  An English phone booth and a man-mailbox greet you at the entrance-- it makes the kids feel like they are in Harry Potter World. 

And closets.  Let's talk about closets.  Not too many houses have them here.  We purchased plenty of wardrobes and dressers before we came, because houses just don't come with them.  When we walked into this house, the first thing I noticed were closets.  "Oh Joe!!!  We need to get this one!" I whispered loudly.  I was beyond thrilled at the prospect of having somewhere to store our things. 
Then we walked downstairs and were blown away.

I think we are going to like it here.
So very grateful.

While I'm driving...

Just a few of the images I've happened to see while going about my day to day life here in Basel in my car.  BEAUTIFUL.  Sometimes I can't find the hazards button fast enough.

We are at WAR

I couldn't help but secretly capture a few of his facials.  They were too priceless.  Not too many people get to see this side of Luke.  He's a ham. And I love that he loves to play cards with me.  

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Some days just really STINK.

I've never been one to really hate Mondays.  I feel like any day can suddenly turn sour in an instant.  But yesterday was a real doozy.  
And it happened to just fall on a Monday. 

I woke up excited to finally be starting a normal week in our new home!  We had just moved into it on Friday evening and unpacked everything we have at this point.  Boat shipment should arrive in a few weeks and then it'll be another round of REALLY moving in, but for now I was thrilled to be getting settled.  It was pouring rain, so we all loaded into the car and dropped Joe off close to the tram so he wouldn't get drenched, and then we headed to school.  
I had a mega long list of to do's.  The first was helping out in Luke's class with reading.  Mack was asleep in the stroller and I got to help a few of the students, including my own, practice their reading.  I loved it.  I left feeling so happy to be able to still be involved with what my kids are doing at school.  I loaded Mack into the car and headed to the gas station.  First time filling up in Switzerland!  Every country has different rules...  (In Chile, we weren't allowed to get out of the car.  We had to let them pump our gas for us and then we'd tip them.)  But I was ready to take this on.  I drove into the gas station, hopped out of the car and went around to open up the gas, only to realize I had no idea how to open it.  This Espace minivan is like something from another planet.  So, I whipped open the manual, did a little light reading, figured it out and got my gas.  Check! I did it!  
It was going to be a good day. 

I went into Reinach to drop off our trash and then headed into the city to get a rack put on top of the car.  I knew the mechanic was close to Joe's office, but I had only been once and didn't have the address.  Joe forgot to give it to me, so I figured I would see if I could rely on memory.  Shockingly, I found it!  Man, this was turning out to be an incredible day!  Got the rack put on the top of the car and then I headed back toward our new home.  I found the grocery store and explored that for a bit and then thanks to google translate, I was brave enough to ask an employee in German where the garbage bags were.  This is huge, folks.  I was feeling so good I even let a guy go ahead of me in line because of the few items in his hand.  "Bitte, of course!  Please go ahead of me!"  Loaded up the car and headed to the Die Post (post office) where I needed to figure out how to change our address from the temporary to the permanent address... as well as buy garbage stickers for our new home.  

Well...all of the available parking spots were taken.  And then there were some signs I just couldn't understand.  So, I followed a car into the underground parking that clearly displayed signs to the Die Post.  I left the groceries in the car and put Mack in the stroller and headed through some door and up some crazy elevator that I don't think I was supposed to ride.  I ended up inside the building but no where near the post office. And that's when things started speeding south.  I was by a library.  So, I went outside and around the corner, only to find that the post office was closed.  Just like every day from 12-2pm.  It was 12:07pm.   It's "quiet" time in Switzerland.  I just had no idea that the offices shut down too!  Darn.  Well, we got a lot accomplished.  I turned around and Mack and I headed back to the door we came out of, only to find it locked.  Hmm.  Strange.  Then I read the sign.  The library was closed.  Wouldn't open until 4pm.  I walked around the building.  There were no other doors to get inside.  I walked back to the ramp that I had driven down in the first place, and there was no getting inside.  The door was closed.

I'm stuck outside in the rain with Mack.  He was just waking up from his nap and would be hungry.  My car, with all of it's groceries, was stuck underground.  I walked around the building 4 more times just to make sure I didn't miss any secret opening that would lead me to the parking garage below.  Nothing.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  So, I turned around and took a picture of this:

A beautiful castle-turned-restaurant that sits in the very center of our new town, Bottmingen.  Apparently the swim team that Kate is trying out for this Friday, practices right behind this castle. Pinch me.  Is this for real?  We see castles everywhere we drive.  Every day heading to and from school we see 3 castles up in the hills just begging us to explore them.

Well that took all of 3 seconds.  I would have loved to have walked around the grounds a bit, but it was raining and my bladder already knew that we were heading home.  We waited and waited and waited.  Until finally, I heard the gate opening at the bottom of the ramp.  I grabbed the stroller and started running down the center of the car ramp like a mad woman, straight at the car coming up from the underground parking.  She gave me a nasty look (as no pedestrians were allowed on this strip of cement) and I waved at her and slid narrowly beside her car as I darted for my own automobile before the gate shut me out again.  

As we turned to leave the garage, the car was a bit jumpy, but I gave no thought to it and finally made it home and unloaded all of the groceries and then sat down to feed Mack lunch.  I had an hour before I had to go pick the kids up again.  I tried setting up our alarm system and couldn't figure out how to dial from a cell phone to a land line.  Tried over and over to no avail.  Only to find later that the number was the wrong one anyway.  Then I tried to pay a few bills and wrap up some things in the states, only to find that after being "on hold" for 15 minutes, that it was 5 am in CA and customer service wasn't even open yet.  Darn it.  

Time to get the kids.  I loaded Mack back up into the car.  Turned the car on and went to reverse out of the driveway.  Car died.  What?!!!!  This is a brand new car!!!  I tried again.  Died again.  I tried 5 times.  Died 5 times.  I panicked just a bit.  Contacted the school and told them I'd be late picking the kids up.  Then I turned it on again and really punched the gas.  The car jumped backward and then lurched forward, almost taking off the leg of the neighbor's gardner.  I waved once again and headed to get the kids.  Car died on me 3 times on the way to school.  I called Joe in a panic.  This was insane!!!  What was going on!!!!  
He called the mechanic and then relayed the message to me that I had to go back in there asap.  And I'd better hurry because they closed in an hour.  Well, I still had to pick up the boys, pick up Kate, get her to her piano lesson, and then head back into the city.  I didn't even know if the car would get me there!!!
It did but barely.  
I got out of the car and started to explain to the mechanic that ever since I left their shop that morning, the car had been acting a little funny.  Then I casually said, "The only thing I did differently today was fill the tank up with gas!" 
"And you put diesel in it?"  Came his question. 

My eyes popped.  My face fell.  My heart dropped to my toes.  Diesel?!!!!  No!  Why would I put diesel in the car?!  OH NO!  I am that person.  Yes. I. Did.  I actually filled the tank with the wrong type of gas.  The mechanic looked at me with the baby in his carseat at my feet, and the 2 noisy boys goofing off running around me in circles, and I'm sure he was thinking that I was a loony American mother with too many kids (He didn't even know about the one at piano lessons) and zero brain cells.  
We went home in a rental.  Still have no word if I ruined the engine or not. 

In the craziness of it all, I couldn't find my phone when we got home.  I was going certifiably insane by the second.  Everyone sensed my mood as I slammed cupboards and muttered about and it was turning their moods sour as well.  Kate and Jake went outside to check the car again to see if they could find it, when I heard Jake yell to Kate, "Just use the damn key!"  

Oh yes.  Let's add a profanity lesson to the day as well, why don't we?  Apparently school is doing us a lotta good.  

Joe came home and did the dishes.  And bathed our greasy little pesto loving baby.  Didn't even need to be prodded.  He knew.  Some days just really, really, stink.  Such a good husband.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monday, January 30, 2017

Lessons I learned on the Tram

It's true.  You can learn a lot of life lessons from riding a tram.  Maybe it's because I'm out of my comfort zone, so I'm relying much more on faith these days.  But I feel like I've had a lot of little nudges from Heaven that have reminded me of some very important principles.  I'll share.  

LESSON #1:
Our first day here in Basel, we had a million of errands to run, in addition to the vital ones that allow us to live in this country legally.  We grabbed the kids and ran to tram #11 so we could head into the city and start checking off our list.  Joe had ridden the tram before.  I had ridden the tram before.  Our kids, had not.  As we arrived at the stop, Joe and I parked the stroller and sat on the bench that was well behind the white lines in the "safe zone."  The kids, immediately upon seeing the railroad tracks, got excited and were dancing and goofing around on the white lines and even crossing them as they got dangerously close to the tracks and as they leapt onto tanbark.  In an instant, we pulled ourselves out of our jet-lagged haze and taught the kids the importance of respecting those white lines.  Why they were there.  What purpose they served.  To be safe, it was important to stay comfortably on this side of that paint.  We never put Mack's stroller on those lines... we kept him safely away from them until it was time to board the tram.  The closer they "danced" around the paint, the closer they would come to heartache and danger.  Take that analogy on whatever level you'd like.  As our kids are getting older and having a tad more independence, I pray every day that they choose joy through Jesus Christ.  I am forever grateful that no matter what happens, He knows and understands them just like He knows and understands me.  That He will be there for them even when I can't.  I love my Savior.  So.  Much.

LESSON #2:
Another day.  Another tram lesson.  
Trams in Switzerland are known for their exactness.  When you look up at the schedule it is says that the tram will be here in 3 minutes, it will be here in 3 minutes and it will not wait for you.  It's also known that trams don't break down.  Well, on the kids first day of school, Joe, Mack and I went into the city to set up our bank account.  We had plenty of time to be there for the "first day" pick up.  It was a big deal!  Kindergarten, 3rd grade and 6th grade (junior high, oh my).  We hopped on the tram ready to make our way to pick up the kids.  We were crossing the Rhine River (how cool is that, by the way?!)  when there was a loud bang and then a jolt that threw us all forward.  And then we stopped.  There was a lot of German being spoken everywhere around us and over the intercom.  And Joe and I just stood there looking at each other, not knowing more than "thank you," "hello," and "please," in German yet.  
We finally started asking people around us what was going on, but unfortunately, even though everyone thinks everyone speaks English here, we happened to be on a tram where no one could tell us anything.  We obviously knew something had happened, but we weren't understanding the instructions that were blaring over the speakers.  FINALLY, after the tram slowly started going again, we thought everything was ok, and we stayed put.  What we didn't know, was that the tram was damaged, and it was making it's way back to the station,  in the complete opposite direction of where we were initially headed.  This was the only tram line that took us to our kids, and it was shutting down.  We didn't know the bus routes well enough to know how to figure out how to get to them.  Time was ticking away and it looked like we would be late picking them up on their very first day of school.  Suddenly, a man, half Joe's size, who spoke very broken English, with the worst breath I've come across since a few doozies in my dental hygiene school days, grabbed Joe's shirt and said, "I take you.  I take you to Aesch."  He had obviously heard us talking about needing to get to the canton, Aesch, where our kids would be waiting for us.  He literally helped us off the tram, made our way through a maze of people, and then we blindly followed him as he weaved in and out of streets until we came upon a bus.  He made sure we all got on the bus, and then another bus, and then guided us safely to another tram so we could get back to Aesch.  All we could do was say "Danke" over and over again.  We didn't have the vocabulary we would have liked to thank him properly, but we were so grateful for his goodness that day.  
And then it hit me.  How grateful I am for the guidance of the Holy Ghost in my life.  How many times is my Father in Heaven trying to tell me or teach me something, and I am not listening because I'm not in tune with His "language."  It is the gift of the Holy Ghost, like the smelly saint who literally grabbed us and guided us to our destination, who helps me get closer to my goal of being on the same path as Jesus Christ.  Physical goal:  LEARN GERMAN.  Spiritual goal:  Continue to learn how God speaks to me.  

LESSON #3:
And Finally.  My last tram lesson for the day.  
Joe and I had just parted from our "Swiss Culture" welcome course.  He went back to work and Mack and I were headed home to run some errands before picking the kids up from school.  This time, I drove into the city, but was taking the tram just a short way to the parking garage.  It was the middle of the day and since I had just learned that from 12-2pm every day is considered "quiet time," not many people were with me on the tram.  My stop arrived and I pushed the button to alert the driver that I'd be getting off.  I grabbed the stroller and headed out with Mack in front of me, when to my surprise, the front two wheels of the stroller didn't hit the curb, but fell straight out of the tram and into this empty space in between the curb and the tram.  As they did, the entire stroller started to fall as well, and I was headed right over the top of it.  Suddenly, out of no where, I felt a strong hand on my upper arm, and another hand grabbing the stroller, as they pulled us to safety.  Startled, I looked up, and saw 2 older gentleman, of different nationalities, who had jumped to our aid.  Again, I mumbled a bunch of "danke's," frustrated with myself that I didn't know enough German yet to properly thank these gentlemen for saving us from a nasty fall.  As I walked toward the parking garage, I thought of these men.  I don't even know if German was their first language.  I do know that they didn't need to help me.  But they chose to.  
With so much political turmoil in the world and especially in the US with the recent election, I have seen and read about so much division and hatred.  But this day, I witnessed kindness from complete strangers who didn't speak my language.  And they may have not spoken each other's native tongue.  But they chose to be kind to someone who is a newcomer to their land.  And I choose to follow their example and be kind.  There is still a lot of good in this world.  And I choose to focus on it and try to spread it in my own life.  Refugees, friends, immigrants, family members, neighbors, strangers...  We should treat everyone with respect.  What the world would be like if we could all just "try a little harder to be a little better." (Gordon B. Hinckley).