Sunday, March 26, 2017

Exercising Woes

Can we talk for just a moment about my eating and non existing exercise  habits and how it's not helping me get back into my pre-pregnancy shape?  I had to be careful when I was pregnant with Mack.  I couldn't exercise much at all and let's be honest, I was too tired to anyway.  Then I had Mack.  C-section.  It was the greatest C-section ever.  But you are still left with no ab muscles whatsoever and you are taking care of a baby now and so you are too tired to even have any ounce of desire to get out there and exercise.  Then you find out you are moving out of the country after only being in the country long enough to have a baby, and your mind goes into overdrive and the list of things to do is so long that it is too long and you feel like you can't even process how to do anything but eat. 

And then you move to that new country and the cycle starts all over again.  The list of to dos is ridiculous now.  And suddenly, the pastries, the yogurt, the cheese, the chocolate and the schnitzel are on every corner and it makes you happy because IT TASTES SO DARN GOOD.  And you have to go to the grocery store every day anyway, because the refrigerators are so small, so why not pick up a few more yummy things to eat?  Every day.

Well, I have to say.  It hasn't helped me lose my baby weight.  When we found our house that we have now moved into, one of the things we fell in love with right away, was the incredible farm land that is right up the hill from us.  I saw it an I envisioned myself running there every day.  Those visions dissipated with every box that I had to put away.  Until one day, the sun peaked out behind the dreary weather and called to me.  This is it!!!  I'm finally going to take advantage of that beautiful farm land!!!  So, I dropped the kids off at school and came home, loaded Mack up into the cobweb filled jogger, opened up Map My Run, only to see a disappointing alert that my last logged workout had been some time in the dark ages.  

Undeterred, I turned on my music and pushed the jogger out of our court and made the 90 degree ascent up the hill to the farmland that awaited us up at the top.  My throat was burning.  My legs were cramping. Sweat had already begun to drip off the end of my nose.  My heart was pounding in my throat when I realized I had gone about a block.  Are you kidding me?!  I wasn't even running.  I was walking.  It wasn't even walking.  It was more like a ram trying to push another ram up the Alps.  When I ascended to the top, I took a big sip of water and continued my attempt at getting back into shape...only to hear a voice in my ears tell me that I had completed my first mile and the time that it had taken to accomplish it.  Oh the wretched realization that my pace was on average my COOL DOWN pace in my prime.  And here I was practically heaving on the side of the road.  

This was going to be a long journey ahead.  I was depressed.  

But then I looked up.  

And suddenly I forgot about the lady in my ears and the burning in my throat as all of this beauty was staring at me.  I could get used to this.  So I walked.  Didn't even attempt a jog.  I'd save that for another day.  I fed Mack pretzels to keep him happy and we explored the country side.  When I turned back into our court I was ridiculously sore and exhausted for not having jogged an inch, but I was HAPPY.  And I felt so good.  Maybe getting back into shape wouldn't be horrific after all.  

Every country has it's issues.  But I have to say, Switzerland does it right when it comes to preserving farm land and putting that land in locations for all to enjoy.  Cars aren't allowed up on the paths.  It's strictly for pedestrians and bicycles.  The paths connect the towns so it's actually a much faster way to get from here to there.  And everyone gets out there and takes advantage.  As I walked I saw young and old.  I saw a trillion dogs with their owners, I saw the families who owned the farms out planting flowers and veggies, I saw the berry fields being prepped for summer... and I started to understand where the love of gardening was instilled in my parents.  When we came home to California from Germany when I was 4 years old, my mom and dad rented a little house up in the hills of Saratoga.  They spent HOURS turning the hill that ran down to the creek below into the most gorgeous garden, full of strawberries and vegetables and yummy produce that our family got to enjoy.  They were surrounded by this in Europe and brought it home with them when they returned.  

It is so important for the Swiss to have gardens, that even if you live in an apartment, you can rent plots of land and set up an outdoor area for you to plant your produce, possible set up a little play area for your children and even a table and chairs to enjoy your time outside.  They are scattered all over the countryside.  I love it.  And I think I'm going to love my excursions as I go past them--even if I am slower than molasses.  

Happy Day Jake!

Love him so much. 

Fasnacht 2017

Fasnacht, the oldest and biggest carnival in Europe, begins on Monday morning at 4am and ends on Thursday morning at 4am.  We got home late Tuesday night.  So after Joe left for NYC, we thought we'd try to experience at least a little bit of this wild tradition.  
Thankfully, our friends the Nordstroms, called us up to see if we'd like to join them.  So we spent all Wednesday learning about the Waggis and how to run up and get these crazy masked people to give you all sorts of goodies.  We learned that you have to be wearing the right Fasnacht pin on your clothing or they will come up to you and shove HUGE amounts of confetti down your backs (still finding pieces of confetti in jackets, the stroller and the car by the way...)
They use this time to make political statements to display their feelings about issues that they feel passionate about...some are really funny, some are cute, some are strange, some are gross, some are frightening... But it was really interesting to be in the middle of it all.   
Next year we will have to get up and be at the city at 4am when the whole thing kicks off.  I've heard it's pretty incredible.  And maybe we will hit the day for children instead of the Wednesday parade... it might keep the nightmares away ;)  

In the End, Detours Aren't so Bad!

After we crammed our tiny Renault Espace full of ski gear, luggage, carseats, bodies and snacks, we were headed home.  It had been a really great trip and we decided that we'd make our way back to Switzerland and stop along the way if we found anything that looked interesting.  Well, of course I had about 4 places that looked great.  One was a cheese farm where you could actually get the cheese out of a vending machine year round if the store happened to be closed.  We could stop and have some Spatzle for lunch and it was supposed to be in the most glorious setting high up in the Alps.  So we started headed towards it.  And before long, snow was falling. And soon the snow was falling faster the higher we climbed, and everything was white around us.  And then the wind began to really whip.  We were about 20 minutes from our destination when we hit a steep hill and the car began slipping backwards.  Chains!!  We need chains!!  Joe pulled over to the side of the road and he looked at me with that look of "Do you REALLY want to do this?!  Are we really going to get out in this weather and put chains on?!" 

I sighed.  We were so close.  "We don't even have chains, what a bummer."  Then Joe stated, "Yes, we do!  They are right at your feet in that bag that came with the car."  I looked down and saw the package at my feet that had indeed come with the car.  "That would be a first aid kit.  Not chains."  I started laughing.  Joe started laughing.  I got a little hysterical and might have shed a few tears.  We were in the middle of who knows where in the middle of a snow storm and Joe assumed that all along we had chains but never looked.  I assumed we didn't need chains because of the snow tires on the car, so I never looked into it.  This is what happens when you just throw a trip together last minute.  And really, we should know by now to  NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING.  If we could just learn that lesson, we'd have a lot fewer "adventures."  

We turned around and headed back down the windy roads and decided maybe we should just head home.  We were starting to hear a bit of whining from the back of the car and the weather really wasn't great.  I was a bit disappointed because there were probably so many things we were missing as we were driving along!!!  And then we came upon Feldrich, Austria.  I put my foot down and told everyone we were stopping.  We were going to go look at a castle.  People were tired and hungry.  I got it.  But this sounded really incredible.  We drove around the DARLING medieval town and tried to find something to eat, only to discover that ALL RESTAURANTS CLOSE at 2pm and don't reopen until 6 or 7pm.  More pretzels from the car to tie us over, I guess.  Another lesson learned.   

All complaining ceased as soon as we walked through the castle doors. 
Everyone was mesmorized and suddenly our growling stomachs were forgotten and we were looking at pianos and chess boards and beds and weaponry that dated back to the 1300 and 1400's.  
Kate discovered the ancient method of texting...
All were completely astonished at how short the beds were.  There was no way our family would have fit in the furniture!  

It was incredible.  It was freezing inside.  I know they had thick walls for a reason, but still, I am so grateful for modern day heating.  We left and everyone was happy.  A little hungry, but happy.  We were on a mission to find some food and make our way back to Switzerland.  In doing so, we happened to drive through one of the smallest countries in Europe-- Liechtenstein--  So small that we said goodbye as quickly as we said hello!  

We made it home safely that night and Joe got up and left the next morning to go to NYC for a big meeting.  Our first European trip under our belt.  Time to start planning the next one :)

Our First Berryhill European Road Trip

Our house wasn't even totally unpacked and put away and we were headed on a mini vacation.  It felt good in a way to get going on discovering some of the beauty around us--otherwise all of my energy would be focused on getting the house in perfect order and we'd probably not get to our first trip for 6 months!!!  So, we haphazardly threw this one together, piled everyone in the car and took off for Austria.  We were late in the game when it came to making reservations for our trip (should have done that before we even knew we'd be here!!!)  So I ended up finding a place that I thought was only about 15 minutes from the Serfaus ski resort that we had heard so much about.  I didn't know it was actually an hour away until we had left Kate's last basketball game of the season and were on the road.  The adventure begins.  Hahaha!  I started having flashbacks of all of our Chilean trips and the "adventures" we'd get ourselves into.   But everyone was THRILLED to be going skiing.  They couldn't wait.  

We got in late on Thursday night and had lessons scheduled for the kids at 10am the next morning.  Lesson #2 learned.  Don't make lessons so "early" on your very first day.   Driving an hour to the resort, getting everyone outfitted in their ski gear, tickets being purchased, trams being taken, figuring out a new ski resort and which gondola goes to which part of the ski schools... Oh!  And of course, trying to drop your baby off at the little day care.   By the time we were actually up on the mountain and everyone was where they were supposed to be, it was NOON!!!!
The kids only got an hour of the 3 hour lesson.  Joe and I hurried to the top to see if we could squeeze in a little time together, and as soon as we got off the lift, our phones began to ring.  Mack wasn't happy.  He had been crying and we needed to come get him.  I thought to sweaty self, "PLEASE don't let our entire trip be this way!!!"  
Thank heavens it wasn't.  First day was a huge learning curve.  2nd day there were 90 kph winds, so the resort was closed, but the rest of the time we were there, it was AMAZING.  We figured out how to help Mack be happy during the day and the kids were in lessons learning how to ski like pros during the morning, and then we all skied together in the afternoon.  They had the most incredible set up to make skiing fun for kids.  Like the huge bear above that actually ROARS when you ski through it.  There were all of these fun little pathways through the trees that had little houses to explore and animals that made sounds and places for kids to try and throw snowballs through dinosaurs mouths and an entire area to practice little jumps and turns...all for kids.  Ours were in heaven.  It happens to be there new favorite sport now, thanks to Serfaus.   

The hotel was far away from the resort, but what a beautiful setting!  We didn't mind.  It is set up so you go to the restaurant for breakfast and dinner every morning and evening.  You sit at the exact same table and you start to recognize the other guests because you see them so often.  Well, we were definitely the only family there with more than 2 children.  And our table happened to be in the very center of the restaurant.  The looks and the stares were quite remarkable.  We tried to explain to the kids that people are just curious, so they needed to be on their best behavior and really make sure they were using their manners.  The woman sitting right next to Jake had a stare that--take your pick of any Disney movie you'd like-- reminded us of an evil queen.  It was brutal.  And poor Jake was so uncomfortable.  "But staring isn't polite!!!!"  He'd say night after night.
Then we told him we'd try an experiment.  Every time we happened to look over and catch her staring at us, we would smile really big and make eye contact with her.  He didn't want to.  Hahaha!  So, Joe and I blatantly started smiling.  Even when Mack was beyond exhausted and starting to fling food and flail his arms at night to signal that he needed to be in bed instead of at a restaurant waiting to be served his dinner.  One of us would usually take him upstairs and then we'd box up our dinner.  Worked MUCH better!!!  But I digress.  We smiled.  We tried to say "Guten Abend," and be polite.  
On our very last morning, we were bringing our food to the table when the evil queen was walking towards the omelet station.  I looked at her and said hello and she stopped me and broke out into a huge smile I never imagined could have existed on that face.  She then asked all about where we were from and how wonderfully behaved our children were and what a nice family we had.  I was shocked.  I rushed back to the table with our 40 plates of food (that's what it felt like compared to everyone else's little side plates of bread and cheese and meat slices that were apparently satisfying their appetites) and announced to the kids that it had worked!!!  We wore her down with kindness!!!  We broke her in a good way!  We were all feeling pretty darn good.  Jake still didn't prefer to look her way that morning, and frankly, I wouldn't have either after all of the curious and unintentional glares, but hopefully he learned something other than just snow is his new best friend.  

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Monday, February 27, 2017

International Church

I know that The Church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints is an international church.  We have more members outside of the United States than we do inside.  We have attended congregations all over the US and the world, whether it's been to visit or to stay for a while.  Some of the Primary classes our children have attended have been large; some have been bilingual; some have been on the smaller side.  Here, in Basel, our children make up HALF of the primary.  Half.  Church is an incredible blessing for us.  It's a place where we get to strengthen our knowledge and testimonies of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  It's where we can go to be uplifted.  It's where we can go to start fresh. It's where we can go to learn how to uplift others.  But it's not only that.  We have had the benefit of having an instant church family wherever we happen to land.  

And for that, I am extremely grateful.  

As I sat in the pew a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed something beautiful and unique that I haven't experienced on such a level before.  

We live in Basel, Switzerland.  There are 4 official languages in this country:  German (Swiss German), French, Italian and Rumantsch.  Because 74% of the public uses German, our meetings are held in German.  Just like in Chile, our meetings were all held in Spanish.  We don't speak the language yet.  

I don't understand a thing.  

And yet, I looked around and noticed something remarkable.  We had headphones on and were listening to our new and dear friend translating the remarks into English for us.  Others had headphones on and were listening to a Spanish translation.  (Sometimes we listen to that Spanish translation when no one is there to translate into English.  Who would have thought?!!!).  

Another woman was sitting behind us, whispering to the lady next to her.  I realized she was translating the meeting into French for her.  Then I looked over by the piano and saw a woman sitting in front of another woman who was deaf, signing the entire meeting for her.  (On another occasion, when the translator wasn't there for the deaf woman, I have seen another member of the congregation type every word that was said at the pulpit, so it could be read immediately on the woman's iPad).

I got chills.  

None of these people get paid.  They are all members of the congregation providing service for their fellow members... so we can all benefit from the teachings of Jesus Christ, no matter what our native tongue happens to be.  Truly, an international experience I am blessed and humbled to be a part of.  
I love kind people.  

Jersey #27

I love that a week into school, Kate came home and announced that she was in choir and had joined the basketball team.  Bam.  Just like that.  Wow, I am so impressed with how she has jumped into this transition.  Basketball was already midway through the season, yet thankfully, we were able to catch her play in her first game in Switzerland, the day our boat shipment arrived.  I quickly noticed that I was really loud.  Cheering and screaming for the girls... it was all thrilling for me to watch!  And then I realized none of the other Swiss parents were joining in in the fun!  They quietly sat and watched the game.  No bells.  No whistles.  Just watched.  Not sure I'm going to fit in very well!

The girls played really hard and they are off to Zurich tomorrow to play in their 2nd to last game. 
 Go Dragons!!!

Boat Shipment Arrived!!!

It's here, it's here!!! Christmas all over again!  Especially since we opened up our Christmas gifts and looked at them for all of about 24 hours and then packed them back up again.  I can't tell you how good my own pillow and mattress feel.  And THANK HEAVENS Mack is now sleeping in his own room.  This is LIFE CHANGING people.  We have never had our babies sleep with us in our room for more than 2-3 months.  This guys has hung with us for a good 10.  And not by choice.  We've just been limited on space.  Well, I have to say, he loves it and we love it.  Suddenly he's back to being the best sleeper in the world and my mind can start coming out of the hazy state it's been in for....hmmm...I can't even count back far enough.  
Let the unpacking begin!!!  Can't wait for this place to feel like home. 

The Struggle is Real...

Big Mack.

And just as a side note:  Mack did eat it and loved it.  Also, first time we've ever had to pay for the ketchup packets!  

100th Day of School!

Well, technically Luke has only been in school for 24 days, but we'll take it!  Always willing to join in on a little celebrating!!!  Jake was ticked (and Kate might I add) that they didn't get to participate in the festivities.  Regular day for those two.  They were super excited to help Luke with his project though...100 fish for 100 days.  

They Accepted Us!

We aren't applying for Swiss citizenship or anything like that.  Because if we were, we'd have to have lived here for a number of years and would have to have neighbors come and say whether we have integrated well into the community or not.  Seriously.  That's tough stuff!!!  We just wanted to be accepted for a little while in our little town ;)  And we have been!  We can now call Bottmingen home for a little while.  

Because the Swiss don't want to invade upon anyone's space, it is up to the newcomers to "welcome themselves into the neighborhood."  So, I'm off to buy some flowers and treats to bring to all of our neighbors to introduce ourselves.  Hopefully that'll make up for our children's noise level when we are outside and we can all start saying hello to each other!  

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.  

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.

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.  

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).

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Fondue and Schnitzel... and a little bit of Chocolate

Where Imaginations Run Free

I have to say, I'm very impressed with the International School thus far.  I remember seeing plenty of educational posts and documentaries about how the Danish and other European countries do education.   Kids are allowed to wander and explore in the forest in all types of weather... they don't even begin to teach children to read until age 7... I was intrigued.  The concept sounded very promising.  Well, as we have started at ISB, I've come to see some things that I already love.  First off, Luke gets to participate in Walderkinder.  He went exploring in the forest with his class (all bundled up in snow gear) and when they reached the trees, he looked at his teacher and said, "YOU MEAN I CAN GO AND DO WHATEVER I WANT?!!"  And she happily said yes.  They spend two or more hours outside creating pretend islands and finding the best sticks... It's all about imagination for him.  And frankly, it's perfect.  My other two had PLENTY of imagination at Luke's age.  It isn't something that comes easily to him.  He was THRILLED to show me his monsters that he painted after reading, "Where the Wild Things Are."  Frankly, he has it way easier in kindergarten here than he did at home with me.  Hahaha!
Jake's jealous that he's not in kindergarten.  But the great news is, class sizes are small so the kids can go at whatever pace works for them and homework is MINIMAL for him and Kate.  No busy work.  Hallelulah!!!

How Many Candles?!

Joe had the biggest meeting of his Swiss career on his birthday.  What luck.  He left early in the morning and didn't return home until after midnight.  THANKFULLY it went well.  Really well.  He was so relieved.  So was I.  But, we had a chance to celebrate the weekend before by trying out a new restaurant that we will probably not go back to.  Hahahaha!!!!  Kids weren't thrilled about the raw meat, octopus and rabbit on the menu...  Morning of, we sang to him as he blew out his candle in a cutie, sent him off to work with a bunch of cards and a lotta love.  He's the greatest.  Love him with all of my heart. 

Big Mack

Oh how I'm grateful for this one.  All of the kids are in school (so weird--still struggling with that one a touch).  Joe is at work all day.  And I have to go around and figure things out around town. It'll be a bit easier when I learn some German.  But for now, all I have to do is take this guy with me wherever I go, and I'm set.  They smile and laugh and talk to Mack.  And he smiles and giggles back.  As long as I have him by my side, people are nice to me.  So far.  Thank heavens!!!

Here's the Church... Here's the steeple...Open the door and...

Meet your parents dental school buddies?!!!!

Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Few Things I've Noticed...

When you come into a country with "fresh eyes" you tend to notice things that are so commonplace for the locals, that they don't even think to tell you about them.  We've had many of those moments already.  And as we figure out:

*tram rules and times (they are never late and ALMOST never break down)
*new cars (ever heard of an Espace?!!!  Well, there's not enough space, that's for sure!)
*grocery carts (yes, you have to have a coin to unlock the cart and use it--brilliant way for getting people to return their carts)
*garbage stickers (every canton has it's own.  You can't throw away your tiny little garbage bag without one paying for the stickers)
*recycling rules (there are quite a few... overall they need to be separated and taken to the grocery store)
*quiet hours (10pm-7am and 12-2pm daily + all day Sunday.  No overly loud music, showering, or children or vacuums or washing machines.... I can guarantee you that I've already broken this rule due to puking, sudden bed wetting and oh, how about that baby that isn't used to the 9 hour time difference?!!!  I'm sure our neighbors are saying a few things about these Americans.  Can't wait to get into our own place! )
*registering and deregistering in different cantons (every time you move)
*grocery shopping in Switzerland
*grocery shopping in France
*grocery shopping in Germany
*speed limit rules (already got a ticket-- I really did--don't speed in Switzerland.  Just don't. And if you see a flash... you've got one too.)
*where to find the nearest bathrooms 
*what's the best cheese to use when making Mexican dishes (cheddar is rare-- thinking Gouda)
*I'm sure there's so much more...
 *Then of course the day to day stuff like finding good doctors, dentists, hairstylists, etc... we are far from close to getting it all accomplished. It can be overwhelming and exhausting.  Thankfully, we have been so fortunate to have people reach out to us and take us places and show us things and answer our questions.  

I've noticed a few similarities and definite differences from living in Chile.  I'm going to throw a few out there while they come to mind.  Definitely not a complete list, but here's what I've noticed thus far:

1.  Dogs.  They are everywhere in Chile.  Never on a leash.  Smartest dogs I've ever seen.  They are everywhere in Switzerland.  Everyone of them has been on a leash.  They are treated like children here.  They even ask you when you enter the country how many dogs you have.  When looking for a house to rent, they assume you will have dogs but will say in the description:  "Children permitted (or not)."

2.  Driving.  Every man for himself in Chile.  I considered it a complement when a taxi driver flipped me off.  It meant I was a pretty dang good driver with some awesome skills.  Never worried about the speed limit.  But here it's more like, "After you, please."  I have never met such courteous drivers in my life!  And everyone obeys the speed limit.  They just do.  People move over so you can merge, they slow down to let you in, the pull to the side to let you pass...and pedestrians and bicycles have the right of way.  It's incredible.  I do have to admit, I can't wait to try out the autobahn...

3.  Waste baskets, washing machines, trash bags, refrigerators, etc...  They were teeny tiny in Chile and they are teeny tiny in Switzerland.  

4.  Garbage Disposals.  Don't exist in either one.  I miss mine.  

5.  Rules.  Not really enforced in Chile.  Switzerland?  You better be a law abiding citizen or you are outta here. 

6.  Grocery Shopping.  You basically go every day.  In both countries.  That's just how life is.  I miss Costco already... ;)  You have to weigh your fruits and veggies in both countries.  In Chile, you wait in line and have a person do it for you.  In Switzerland, you do it yourself.  The kids LOVE to help me with it.  

7.  Food.  Both countries don't have brown sugar like the states.  Both countries have banned many foods that the US allows.  I always get really excited, thinking that I'm going to be so much healthier when I leave the country.  In Chile, I just baked more and ate it.  Here, I find myself buying soft pretzels and pastries on almost a daily basis... oh and the yogurt... and the chocolate... I'm doomed.  Just doomed.  We were thrilled to find that they did have some cereals here that Chile did not have.  Rice Krispies and Golden Grahams!!!  Interesting that the Golden Grahams don't taste as sticky sweet as they do in the states.  I like it.  And goldfish?  Well, we discovered the original ones that don't have the fake cheese.  The kids like them better!!!  Woohooo!!!!    Milk.  They have FRESH MILK in the grocery stores here!  I was overjoyed.  

8.  Buses: In Chile, people would get in fist fights so they could get a spot on the bus.  Here, people hold the door open and move over to allow you to enter.

9. People:  Both Chileans and Swiss are reserved until you get to know them.  Then they become your dearest, life-long friends.  We experienced this in Chile and can't wait to have the same experience here.

10.  Countryside:  Both are absolutely breathtaking.  Can't wait to get out there and explore!!!  (Maybe when temperatures reach above zero degrees...)