Friday, December 14, 2007

Still Waiting...

No news on the hard drive yet. But I find myself quite relaxed and unperturbed about it. Possibly because Rachel has been home sick all week and the "mother" side of my brain took over. I've more concerned with whether we will travel as a family this weekend or split up again as we did last year.

For this reason we have a traveler's insurance policy. A policy to help you recover the cost of trips you are unable to take due to illness, etc... A policy that would have been nice to have when we cancelled Barcelona last fall due to my respiratory infection. No refund on those plane tickets - ouch! We got the policy right after that.

But God answers prayer and it appears the fever is gone and her throat is clearing up. Some people seem to have this virus for only a day or so, some for a whole week. And as it was only fever, sore throat and she has stayed well hydrated and eating, I am confident we can all get on the plane tomorrow. Not that I was worried or anything.

Since moving to IA, now Switz., and traveling further distances for holidays, we have often had this situation over the past 5 years - children sick prior to a winter holiday trip - strep, stomach flu - the easy answer would have been strep. 24 hrs on antibiotics and she's good to go. But such was not the case. And I haven't been out of the house for 4 days except to and from school for Kendra. Two quick runs into the post office don't really count. So I am ready to get on that plane and get out of here.

We will have a computer with us so feel free to email. If anyone needs to call, Bart will have his cell phone. I'm not taking mine. I can't find the euro/usa adapter. And I figure I'll be with Bart most of the time. If not, I'll be shopping or reading by the pool or maybe (fingers crossed) getting a massage to relieve the tight and burning muscles around the shoulder blade region (having to carry Rachel into the Dr.'s office was not easy). And if I am doing any of those things, I probably wouldn't answer the phone anyway.

Yeah - I get to go to the States tomorrow. Feel like singin' "I want to be in Amereeca" from West Side Story - have to sing it with the Latin accent though or it's just not right. No German accent for that one! And we'll have little chocolate donuts and grilled cheese sandwiches and root beer! Ah - the simple things in life.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Pictures for You!

Hello - sometimes I post without a picture. And it's usually because I have a need to impart deep thoughts or complain about something.

No deep thoughts today.

And I'm not going to complain. Because it's not that big of a deal. We hope.

I am typing this from another computer. For which I am thankful. Because I have access to a computer. And a Yahoo mail account. And most of my pic's since we moved here are all downloaded to Shutterfly. And I had the foresight to turn off our home computer when I heard it making the loud "clank" clank" clank" noise. It could have been "clink"clink" clink" but I don't want to split hairs over small things like that.

So we are hoping that the nice Swiss technicians can make a backup of the hard drive even if the tower can't be saved. We are waiting for the call.

And I realize that I will be writing out all the Christmas card addresses by hand. Which is more personal. And you can revel in the handwriting mistakes I make. As I did not schedule time for this activity before we leave (VERY early Sat. morning). And had planned on putting on the address labels again. Of which file is on the hard drive as I wasn't finished updating a few address changes.

But I'm not worried. We'll probably wake up at 3am Sunday morning anyway and it'll give me something to do. Right? There might be room in the carry-on so I could do some on the plane. When I am not catching up on all the movies we've not seen. It will be a 27.5 hr travel day for us - from first departure to arrival. Not counting time to airport or to the hotel when we arrive. Please pray for us - health and safety and rest. Girls are feeling a little anxious to be taking such a long trip.

Rachel is home today in fact with a sore throat the school nurse said we should watch. But it gives me more time to get things ready before we go. Maybe even get some addresses written out!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Funny Conversations

It was recital week -
And we had an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day. I like to ski at a place to the right of that mountain range. This is on the 'weg' behind our place.
These are the kind of photo's you can get at 4pm - it was cold. Bulbs are priced at 1/4 but the ground is frozen so no point in that!
I looked up and saw this stash of nuts and red berries in this bird's nest - it was literally overflowing! Is it a community nest or will a single bird be defending it all winter. Maybe I'll find out.

We've had a week where we have actually sat down 3 nights in a row for dinner together. So Bart is either getting home earlier or I am feeding our children dinner at 7pm. Pretty much the 7pm thing - which is pretty normal anyway - some of the countries here don't start dinner 'til 8 or later but that's another topic. There were a few memorable conversations I thought I would share. And that way I can print this out to keep for memories sake.

Conversation #1
Rachel started talking about how "I'm going to go to college and when I'm done, after like, 3 or 4 years, I'll have a good job.." I interrupt to have her clarify when she was getting the good job - right after college or 3 or 4 years after college? (very important issue) She says "Weeeelll, I'll go to college and when I am finished, I will get a really good job :) and work for, like, 3 or 4 years, and then maybe I'll get a husband and then wait a couple years more and then maybe I'll have a couple kids."
It was all Bart and I could do to not start high-fiving each other all over the place. Instead we looked at each other, smiled, and Bart says to Rachel "So can we write all of this down and you could sign it?" I added "in blood." And Rachel said "Yes, that's a great idea - like a committment thing." Bart "Yeah - it's a contract" Susan "And you can't break a contract without penalty" Rachel "Yeah - that would be cool. We'll do a contract."
Don't think we won't.
Then we asked what she was going to do for her really good job someday. And she says "Hey Dad, maybe I could come work at KPMG with you!" Oh, how we laughed. But he has a good job. And she shows signs of inheriting our little accountant quirks - scary!!!

Conversation #2
We have this little box of cards that have questions on them - like family conversation starters - a Christmas gift from a friend. The girls enjoy pulling out a card and all of us answering the questions ever so often.

So the other night, Kendra pulls a card which asks us to rank the 4 following in order of importance: money, love, freedom and happiness. We agreed as a family that our ranking was 1. Love 2. Freedom 3. Happiness and 4. Money.

We started to discuss and our reasoning went as follows: Without Freedom, we couldn't really feel happy; but without Love, the freedom wouldn't mean as much and that Money couldn't buy you Happiness or Love - at which point Susan opened her big mouth to say "but, Money could buy you more Freedom depending..." Kendra "Yeah, Freedom to go Shopping!"

Oh - we laughed hard. Mom likes to shop but these days I rarely buy - I do a lot of window shopping. Should we be concerned about Kendra? :)

Conversation #3 - at Bible Study (ladies on Thurs. am's)
We're in the middle of our Beth Moore video when someone says "Uh, K, the Polizei are coming to your door" "S, (not Susan) why don't you go with K 'cause you can speak Swiss German" S comes back to tell us that anyone parked with their wheels on the sidewalk needs to repark so their tires are only on the street.

So half our group goes to repark cars while we sit and contemplate who could have called the Polizei. We narrowed it down to the neighbor walking on the sidewalk watching us all go into K's and sighed deeply at the compassion of the Swiss people for those who apparently don't know all the rules. Make that, lack of compassion. S returned and said the Polizei explained that "on the residential streets the cars could not be parked on any part of the sidewalk but that cars could drive up onto the sidewalk in order to avoid the cars parked on the street itself." They were very kind to not give anyone tickets and S thanked them generously for it.

And then S shares the following with us: They (Polizei) asked what the occasion of our gathering was? "we actually meet every Thurs. to study the Bible. Maybe if more people in Switzerland studied the Bible, they would have more compassion and be nicer to others." The Polizei laughed and said "Yes, but then we would be out of a job." S can be very bold.

Understand - S is American born of Swiss parents. She has lived here for 15 yrs and would really like to go back to the States (when her husbands job allows it). She speaks and understands Swiss German, but because she is American by birth and raising, she is still considered an outsider. She hears and understands what they say around her when they think she is 'just' American. They are not always very friendly. Not all, but some. And they have noooo problem calling the Polizei to report if your music is too loud, your car is parked wrong, your party has gone past 11pm and is too loud, you threw something wrong in the garbage, scold your kids if they are too loud, scold you if you have a shared laundry and you are washing clothes not according to the schedule! Shall I stop now? I know, I'm starting to rant.

Even my Swiss neighbor, M, yesterday was saying how some of her friends wonder why she looks to spend time with 'English' people (playdates with us and with a UK family). It is a small country desperately trying to keep certain ways of life afloat. And although technology and innovation are highly respected, they demand a certain quality and maintenance of life (based on generations) which is starting to change as their population changes. If you are not planning on living here long term, they do not invest time in a relationship with you (my friend M is an exception and has said so). They don't necessarily like change - and for a "neutral" country they have pretty strong views politically.

So it makes for interesting conversations and interactions. It also makes me very aware of how I treat others and do I discriminate because they don't speak the same way I do/look the same way? Do I treat others the way I want to be treated? I would say that most of the Americans here agree "we didn't feel quite so American until we moved out of America." It makes you appreciate where you come from. And while you can still enjoy the experience of living in foreign lands - you have the comfort of knowing where 'home' is.

BUT - someday - when it comes time to moving back 'home', we know that will be an adjustment once again. They say it's more often harder to re-integrate to the home country than integrate with the foreign. I can see that - no kalbbratwurst, gluehwein, roesti, local backerei with fun little goodies, efficient train system and the cheese! Oh the cheese!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Fun Bavaria

Yes - the 'Lederhosen' is alive and well in Bavaria. And actually, while there was a lot of lederhosen and dirdl's to be viewed and purchased - and we have seen them worn here and there. And what we have here is a fairly traditional winter outfit for the Bavarian male. Long wool socks with wool knickers, a cotton embroidered shirt with wool fitted jacket, hat and leather shoes. Bart can't wait to open his Christmas presents! Black forest squirrel - complete with pointy ears if you can click-on and get bigger photo. Where is my telephoto lens when I need it? - safely stored in the hotel safe - how smart is that?
Ah - the Christmas look everyone is going for. In Bavaria. If you are working at the hotel or attending a local function. Not what I wore to the company "Holiday" event. But would be kind of fun to play dress up in. Maybe....? Our 'horse-power' up to Neuschwanstein. Fun for the girls. Kendra giggled exceptionally hard when the pferde (Horse) to our right turned out to be a little 'gassy.'
And now I must stop as I appear to be having an allergic reaction to the pepperocini (red pepper) I put into tonight's pasta sauce. I know I can eat it without issue - have done it often enough. But cut it up fresh for the first time. Not fun - might have to break out the steroids again. After my hands and face quit itching. At least there is no rash - Yet!

and yes, I've already taken Benadryl.

Whew! We made it!

To Germany. Fussen to be specific. The romantic heart of Bavaria.

A month ago we were supposed to make this trip. But Kendra came down with a stomach virus. Funny how she ended up getting sick exactly two weeks later - same outcome, different cause.

So you can imagine how I was less than thrilled to pick the girls up from school on Friday with Rachel complaining of a stomach ache. But she often has a 'nervous' stomach and therefore I plied her with children's Pepto and continued to load the car. And she's telling me how three is a lucky number and I'm thinking that if she is #3 on the vomiting cycle then 3 is definitely NOT my lucky number.
We managed to get in the car, picked up McDonald's and met Bart at the Bahnhof. Rachel opted to not eat McD's and never did get sick. Yippee!!!
It was nice to get away from the business of home and we really lucked out with the weather. It has gotten progressively worse since we returned to Zurich and as we spent most of our trip outside, we were really glad to not be cold and wet. Just cold. But prepared.
Bart's bro-in-law is from Fussen and we had been there in '96. It was fun to return and experience it as a family. The girls enjoyed some of the local treats and looking in all the shops at the local dress, souvenirs, etc... It is a medieval city and very charming. Plus it has a couple castles to check out besides their Basilica and Kloster.
You do come to a point where a castle is a castle and a cathedral looks like the last cathedral you looked at. Can't be helped. But it is always fascinating to walk on streets and in buildings where people have lived for many hundreds of years. And this part of Bavaria is home to a couple of special castles. Neuschwanstein is the most famous - Disney supposedly modeled the Sleeping Beauty castle after it.

A small country church near Schwangau. Bart had to drop me off and drive around to pick me back up - it was on a one lane road and we didn't trust the tour buses to stop or watch for pedestrians! Bell tower of the Kloster with colorful village buildings. Love the little curvy streets.This is the lesser known, but no less immpresive Konigschloss, Hohenschwangau. The getaway residence of the Bavarian Kings and boyhood home of King Ludwig who went on to design and start the construction of Neuschwanstein. Very cozy - Not huge and grand (compared to some)- but with incredible views of the lakes and Austrian Alps.Neuschwanstein - a fairytale castle built as a tribute to the German composer, Richard Wagner. All of the paintings and themes within are from the opera's of Wagner of whom King Ludwig was obviously a huge fan. It is an amazing place but a little sad - never completed and so costly that the Bavarian government deposed Ludwig of his 'throne'. He died of a mysterious drowning 3 days after losing his title and it has been a museum owned by the Bavarian government ever since - yet his remaining family still had to clear his debts - it took 40 years. So it is beautiful but at what cost?

Boy - the Bavarian government is dying to hire me for its Tourist Board. Bart would say I'm overanalyzing - I say it's 'deep thinking.' All said - would I go see it again? Yes. It is a beautiful spot and makes your imagination go wild. Black forest, black squirrels w/ pointy ears, wild mountains, alpen lakes, etc... - it is a fairytale place.

So, we made it. And want to go back in the summer. As long as no one gets sick :).

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Ouch! That Hurt!

This is what I found when I went to the dinner table after Bart set it on Sunday night.

The morning sermon was on the Christian Walk and Marriage. I'm pretty sure Mr. Cary spoke about "husbands, love your wives as Christ loves the church" from Ephesians 4. Not sure I want to ask Bart to set the table again - any thoughts?

What's worse - Kendra and Rachel decided it was an easier way to deal with the butter knife the rest of the evening. So now I not only have to re-train them, but I have to look at a 2-inch slice running down that big pat of butter. I know - there are still worst things to worry about - like Rachel burping as though she were in a frat house.

What really hurt was today's visit from "die Post." Another box arrived! From Gymboree! After 1 1/2 yrs of living here, 'smuggling' things thru customs or shipping large "gift" boxes from family and friends - I decided I would order something and ship it internationally from a company willing to do so.

I got a great deal on a jacket, jeans and 2 shirts - $64 was my total. And I gulped a little at the $20 international shipping but figured I got such a good deal, even $84 was still a good deal for what I purchased. And I figured since my merchandise total, etc... was under 100chf, that surely there would be little if any VAT on the box (value added tax).

OOOOOHHHHH! How naive I am. And how thoroughly whipped and never to even be tempted to do that again! 27chf later - Yes! Twenty seven Francs later (might as well be $27 at this point considering the dollar is now 1.09 to the 1 chf) - I am allowed to have my box. And the worst part - I don't even know what I am paying the 27chf on. I can see I was charged 10 chf just for them letting the box into the country - but the rest????? Considering the receiver never sees all the customs paperwork that goes with the box, I don't know if I've been charged tax on the $64 worth of merchandise (oooowwwweeeeeee), the cost plus shipping of $84 OR did Gymboree declare the full value of merchandise for me to be taxed on. Das is sehr teuer und schlimm!!!!

Yep! Won't be doing that again. The girls better wear it ALOT because I'm not sending it back!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Where's the Turkey?

You're lookin' at it! This year, I didn't find a whole turkey in our local grocery. And by time I was seriously looking, it was too late to go into Zurich and purchase a small turkey for 80 - 100 chf. I also spent some time driving around Horgen trying to find the "chicken man" to no avail. Soooo, there was Turkey Scallopini instead. They sell about any kind of meat ready to schnitzle.
But there was dessert! Chocolate cake will become an additional dessert tradition as Kendra listened to me discuss the apple and pumpkin pie and then said "I don't like pie. But I do like chocolate cake." For dessert, we invited another US KPMG family and our Swiss neighbors who enjoyed seeing what Americans do/eat for a holiday. We explained as they came in that the TV would be on (rather rude in Switzerland) as our tradition includes:

FOOTBALL!!!! while we eat dessert. So we watched some Thanksgiving day football as well - notice how dark it is here for this afternoon game!
Mom and I got a little skiing in on Friday. Hard and a bit icy in the morning as we had a couple warm days. But it softened as the sun came up and we took some good runs before lunch - and the clouds rolled in. You can see the clouds behind us here - we took our last 2 runs in white-out conditions and decided that we didn't need vertigo to end our day. We had a great time as it has been about 11 years since we've gone skiing together. It was a wonderful and relaxing visit.

But poor Mom, wearing my perfectly good but circa 1993 Obermeyer ski jacket. Guess it's time I invest in newer model should I decide I don't want to wear my parka?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The box is here!

I couldn't wait to post again as my doorbell rang (while I was putting all my freezer items back into the newly thawed out freezer) and 'the box' had arrived. $115 and just brimming with things we cannot get here - or get cheaply that is. It's a big box.
And here are our goodies:
The 2 pairs of cowboy boots (1/2 off on Sierra Trading post) are an input error on my part - I meant to order one pair. But God must have had a hand in it as he knew that Kendra would want a pair as badly as Rachel - and mom loves the cowboy boot so...... Along with Mac'n'Cheese, various 'drugs', socks, undies, shoes, sno-boots, a jump-rope (please email Bart soon and ask him how many times he's jumped), Ziploc's (see prev. blog on $$$ - a box of 20 baggies costs me 2.80chf - I promise to stop now), razors, Ranch Dressing Mix, gifts (please don't ask the girls about any items on this post :) ) and chocolate chips (milk? not semi-sweet?). I am soooo grateful to Bart for picking all of this up! Note to self - semi-sweet on list for next time. Don't be defensive - you don't make the cookies so how would you know.
Below is the stash my sis brought in her luggage in Sept. Emptied most of their suitcase with this stuff. We are not kidding about the lists that go to visitors/spouses when traveling back & forth. We rationalize that they just have more room for souvenirs when they leave. Yeah - we'll be packing light when going home for Christmas. :)
Notice a theme: Ranch dressing and Mac'n'Cheese. Truly American food products!

Money & Mom

Mmmm - I promised a pic or two of pastries sometime. This was today's breakfast from Migros - one of our local 'supermarkets.' I still can't spell the name of this pastry -esp. as they change it from time to time (I think from High German to Swiss German). But it is a yummy thing filled with plum jammy stuff - and don't make faces at the plum filling - it is sweet and yummy. Trust me! The pastry will also start our discourse on money. How I was stunned when last week I went to pay for my Kirsche Waehe (a cherry tort) and it was 3.20 chf. Since we moved here they were always 3.00 chf and the bakery lady said yes, the prices have gone up. So has milk, butter, etc...

And unless you never watch any kind of news whatsoever, you must be aware of the fact the US $ has fallen in comparison with foreign currencies - it is a 'weak' dollar. Unless you are traveling in other countries it may not really sink in unless you are watching your retirement portfolio's etc... Bart is paid in USD and we transfer $$ into our 'Swiss bank account' as we need it for bills, etc... And always looking to do it when the exchange rate is favorable. It has not been favorable for a while.

So - a little math for today. When we moved here, 1.00 chf was approx. $0.78. So if I paid 100 chf for groceries I knew it was costing me about $78.00. But now, 1 chf is about $0.89/0.90 which is a good 10%+ difference. Add to that, the increasing prices in Europe. The cherry tort's I love used to be approx. $2.34 and are now $2.85 - a 22% increase. Doesn't mean I will quit eating my tort's - just that I think more carefully about what I need.

Bart just returned home from KPMG's annual meeting and said all the European partners had long lists of things they were shopping for to take home. Including him - I can't wait for the box to come this week! And it's not that we don't get some equalization here but it makes you think really hard about the extra's.

You are all running to get your plane tickets and fly here right now, aren't you! Not a good way for me to advertise that I would love to have some visitors!!!!! But just a reality of life.

Speaking of realities - My Mom's coming! Gma Elaine will be here in 2 days so look what I am doing!

Defrosting the freezer! Which I mentioned about 6 months ago I needed to do. What a mess it is. And I hope the Magnum bars aren't melting in the fridge - should probably put them outside in the snow! Now - this freezer is LARGE by European standards. My sister-in-law in Germany has the typical one drawer freezer at the bottom of her fridge. Her fridge is smaller than mine - see below. I would guess my fridge is about 12 - 14 cu. And you wonder why we have to go shopping more often. Most expat's we know all buy a separate freezer so they can store ice cream and frozen pizza's. Maybe a reason why most European's don't make ice for drinks either - there is no room.

Below you can pick out our litres of milk - not sold in gallons. On the right, next to the lemon juice is a tube - yes, an aluminum tube - of mayonaisse. Depending on what we're having, I do break out the 5 chf tiny, camping size jar of Hellmann's.

So I started out with defrosting because my Mom is coming. I have this habit and I KNOW others do - especially when we don't live near our parents - that certain things must be done before they arrive. Like they really care when they haven't seen you in months about the state of your freezer. Or how many have finally painted that bedroom because so and so is coming?

But I know that if Mom cannot get that darn freezer drawer to shut because of layers of frozen fuzz, she will suggest that maybe we should defrost the freezer. And she's right. And if I was at her house, I would say the same thing. But when you live with it everyday, you kind of ignore it and say "I'll get to it." So I am always motivated before a visitor comes to "get to it." I'm not picking on you Mom - you're just the visitor for whom I'm defrosting my freezer - you'll thank me when you go to shut the drawer with the Magnum bars in it (you know you want one).

So Please - ignore the poor exchange rate, visit us and let's see what I get done next!

The last bit for today - more baked goods. It's Thanksgiving and we are going to celebrate it Thursday night. On Thanksgiving day no less! Because it's not a holiday here, many expat Americans opt for Fri. or Sat. due to time and husbands availability from work. But Fri. & Sat. are booked so we are eating on Thurs. But, :( , no turkey this year - can't find any. But I know where to get some tasty rotisserie chicken.

As is stuffing and you are looking at it:

The loaf on the right is for tonight's dinner but the others need to be cubed and dried out. I have to admit I am/was a Stovetop girl. But there is no Stovetop here nor are there dry bread crumbs/cubes to be had. If you want them, you make it yourself. I am a fan of healthy but quick cooking. Cooking is not quick anymore. A friend and I were talking about how much cheese we shred here. I would love a large bag of Colby/Jack shredded cheese - from HyVee - on sale for $3. Those were the days.

That said - I wouldn't trade these days either. Happy Thanksgiving Week!!!!!!! And safe travels to all!

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Week to Forget

Flowers that Bart ordered for me (& girls) to have delivered before he even knew what kind of week it would be. They are beautiful and we are sooooo looking forward to his return tomorrow morning - 10 days. A long time no matter where you live and what you're doing. The other highlight was the box from my bestest friend in CA - please meet Hannah Montana! No wait, that's Rachel's shirt and belt - ah, the wig. Yes, they can now transform themselves into little Hannah Montana's "you get the best of both worlds" and they even let me dance around with them - FUN! But I haven't tried on the wig yet :).
And look at our pretty first snow. Ski resorts are opening up between this weekend and next - I'm ready!
Those were the highlights.

I think there is only one other week or shall we say 'period of time' that is on par with this week. And with the different moves, travels, etc... I've had a few experiences but this sticks out - as far as torturous Mommy memories go. I think back to the time I went to the family cabin with the girls - Rachel a toddler & Kendra under a year - and Max. It was winter and Gma Vel was there for a day or so and when she went back to Sacto., we stayed on. I did this several times before any school was involved and always felt perfectly safe as we had Max to guard us - it always worked out great. Here's Max w/ girls a couple years back:

The morning we were to head back to San Ramon, I packed all our luggage in the Suburban, broke the port-a-crib down, did the 'cabin cleaning' we do when we leave and then let Max out for one last 'relief". At that point, Rachel decided to get sick. And Max came back smelling of something so very noxious that he had chosen to roll around in. And we had 2 hr drive home to look forward to. So I clean Rachel up and then proceed to march outside - where there is a foot of snow on the ground - and bathe Max because I couldn't handle the smell. And proceed to say a few choice words to him about how I didn't care that he was cold and freezing getting a bath in the snow and that he deserved it and if I had to be miserable, so did he. Told him didn't I?

Fast forward to this week: I was fine until Mon. when the cable went out (no phone or internet), and got frustrated with being able to understand people but not being able to express myself - in German, and dealing with a discipline issue I just didn't want to deal with (but did of course because that's what parents do), and late arrivals of technicians turning into late kids to school and - well I could go on. It culminated this evening with Kendra losing her dinner in the back of the car. At least we weren't moving. And Rachel was able to take care of Kendra in the house while I was all the way down in the garage cleaning things up - at 9:30pm. Somewhat glad Bart wasn't here but at the same time - certain things are harder to work around.

Right now, I would love a garage that was attached to my house. And big closets like we had before. And I know of several dear friends who are in either financial or physical difficulties right now and so all my small challenges combined are really nothing in the big scheme of things. But I am grateful to a husband who thinks to send flowers before he even knows I need them. And thankful to a God who helps me handle it all even when I don't want to. Thankful, Thankful - and next week - Thanksgiving! Yeah - Mom is coming for a visit. I must find a turkey. Yeah - and I need a trip "home" which I will thankfully get in a month.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Raebeliechtli - The Great Turnip Parade

Girls on the 'wanderweg' heading to our neighbors.Girls with their 'Raebeli' joined by L, neighbor's daughter.
Kindergarteners at the local school singing their Raebeliechtli songs.
So the girls and I were invited by our neighbors to join them with their daughters school in the Raebeliechtli Umzug. Or as I might like to refer to it "The Great Turnip Parade." Because that's what they are - carved turnips. It is an old tradition here and marks the end of the harvest - the turnips being one of the last items out of the garden. And they hollow them out and carve pictures into the skins and with a candle in them - they are very cute. Old tradition held that the 'Raebeli' could be lit each night and kept through the winter on the window sill. Back in 'ye olden times' that might have worked but with indoor heating and electricity - the need for turnip candle holders has diminished but continues to be a sweet tradition marking the change from harvest to winter.
And considering this was Thursday night and on Friday afternoon I drove home from Thalwil in the first snow flurries of the year - it certainly was appropriate timing.
And what was I doing in Thalwil? Renting my ski's! And snow was falling out of the sky! It was a beautiful thing. It's the most wonderful time of the year..... Funny how some people enjoy the snow and some do NOT. I am always a bit wired by it. I even enjoyed it in Iowa. Must come from years of driving up to Tahoe and watching for the snow line in anticipation of skiing for the day. I was the kid who chose a birthday at Squaw Valley and then another at Heavenly in lieu of a birthday party with friends. Mom even took me out of school to do it. So maybe I was a little weird but I can still remember each of those days clearly. Best kind of Birthday presents I guess.
I don't think there can be any doubt that Bart & I have girls with personality - if this pic is any indication. It's all Rachel - 100% Bart is in MN right now with his parents and then will head to FL for Annual Mtg. He was calling me from Target asking how many boxes of Children's Chewable Benadryl he should get and Oh, look, there's Children's Nyquil and, OH, I was a wee bit jealous. I could just imagine what the aisles looked like and all the different choices and opportunities there might be to just get whatever you want, whenever you want, in a language you don't have to guess at and each item for less than $10 (don't get me started on the $ vs the Franc right now, Boo Hoo).
It's a Small World After All coincidence of the week - some of you may remember a post re: friends from Valley Church that we ran into in Orlando last Dec. - totally caught us all by surprise. Well Bart flew into MN late Thurs. night and had plans for about 6 hrs in Minneapolis with his dad for some shopping before heading to their place - 4.5 hrs NW of the cities (think cold and Fargo). So they are in the Mall of America getting lunch and run into our neighbors, Heidi & Mark w/ boys. Our houses faced each other and speaking for my girls - they loved playing with the boys and still insist that we must move back to a neighborhood where Brandon will be living someday. And we loved having them as neighbors - So Bart really enjoyed getting to have lunch with them. What are the odds? Honestly - Have you been to the Mall of America? Just being in the same place at the same time - Wow!
Enough rambling - may happen more when Bart is gone as I have noooo one to talk to :) .

Sunday, November 04, 2007

An Unexpected Weekend

As my last post dealt with food different than I would be eating in Des Moines, IA, I felt I should add a quick update based on the conversation I had with my Swiss neighbor. We started talking about our kids and food and I mention how Rachel now rolls her eyes and says "not Chicken again!!!" when she gets to the dinner table. And my friend mentioned how they had 'pferdefleisch' on sale this week at the grocery store and her daughter also is grumbling about it. Well - 'pferde' is horse. Please remember that we are NOT living in North America right now and a whole other realm of meats is enjoyed on this continent. Good old aged beef is hard to come by here - thus the whole chicken issue. I laughed and told her that is probably one meat that I will not eat (not the only one, just for this story's sake) and she smiled and said - because you can ride on it? She seemed to understand that we don't find it an appealing part of our diet for cultural reasons. I'm thinking it would be really tough although it does look nice in the package - many of us reach for it thinking it's a fillet until we see the little animal outline on the label. I'll have to get some pic's of that sometime - handy when you don't know the animal words yet. :)

On to the weekend:
We were supposed to visit some castles in Germany but Kendra decided to submit to the stomach virus going around on Friday. I called Bart and let him know we were definitely not driving to Germany and we got all the reservations rescheduled without any hits to our pocketbook - last minute cancellations can be costly.

This is the dear little one pre-illness posing with one of her weekly masterpieces on the dry-erase board.

So in light of us finding ourselves with 2 days of free time unexpectedly, we did what any normal family might do late fall. We slept in. And then I got to drink my cappuccino in bed - and Bart even brought me a fried egg w/ croissant - IN BED! It was heavenly. I might add that this is Sat. morning, K had been able to sleep thru the night after 12:30am and was on her way to recovery with Mom & Dad asking every half hour if she had been drinking her water. I was not neglecting my sick child for the luxury of breakfast in bed.

Once we roused ourselves, we (Bart) got on to the lurking task of 'winterizing' the rest of the out of doors stuff and then we tackled the storage area and my closet. It feels sooooo good to have all of that done. Bart has a US trip coming up and with the family schedule lately - the timing was good.

But I noticed something as I cleaned out my wardrobes and switched summer things for winter things (as I am vertically challenged, I have to switch things around so I can reach what I want to wear without aid of a footstool) - I have a color issue. You can see below - and don't think I would have shown picture's if I hadn't just cleaned it ALL out (including the big bag to kleidersammlung - think Goodwill). Aside from blue jeans and a few red items - all my winter clothes are shades of brown, green (dark), cream or black. My summer clothes are a little better - I throw some pinks and light greens in.

This was news to me. I thought I wore more colors but I don't. Hmmm. But I like the colors I wear so it really doesn't matter. So much so, that I plan on buying another black long sleeve T in the States in Dec. Because maybe, one of my other 7 black long sleeve T's just might be on it's last legs, or is dressier, or too short, or.... any number of reasons. Bart will now read this and insist I don't need an 8th black T nor a 7th shade of olive green/brown T. But if I can get it cheaper in the US, I should really do it!!! Do I dare count my short slv black T's?

My frivolous paragraph for the day. :)

By Sunday, K was feeling much better and R had enjoyed hanging onto the sicky coattails as they watched episode after episode of 'The Suite Life of Zack & Cody', 'Hannah Montana' and 'That's So Raven.' In fact, if you like, Bart and I could sing any of those theme songs. Yup - and tell you which are our favorite episodes. As if we didn't get enough eye candy via TV, we decided to go to the IMAX in Luzern and catch 2 movies: The Alps and Deep Sea. We reserved our tx ahead as the IMAX is very popular on Sun. (esp. as there are no stores open and the weather is cold).

If you decide to catch an IMAX film and The Alps is showing - it is excellent and gives you a view of why we personally love the mountains in Switzerland. And thanks to the geological expertise of my mom's husband, J, we were able to quickly mouth the answer to the question "what are the rocks/mountains made of in Switzerland?" which was voiced in the movie. That answer being "limestone, limestone, and limestone - oops here's a bit of granite too." My words, not J's - he did impart some good knowledge of such things while he was here so our "tour guide" repertoire in the mountains is improving. Again - excellent film and if you can't get to Switzerland to see them in person, it would be the next best thing.

So the weekend turned out well and K is off to school and I am making lists of things I would like Bart to 'smuggle' back in next week.

Monday, October 29, 2007

I'm Sharing My Lunch With You!

Now some of you may want nothing to do with the lunch I had today, some may think it sounds interesting and some may wish you had eaten it yourself.

I went to lunch today with a friend to the Landrestaurant Hanegg near Waedenswil. She and I like this place and as I haven't been in about 6 mo's, decided it was time. Fall is here in a big way and as the menu's in Switzerland lean heavily toward the seasonal, I am all over the fall food. I love the Kurbiscreme suppe aka Pumpkin/Squash cremed soup and the way they incorporate all these veggies I might not ever buy in the store into wonderful, tasty little meals - and I don't have to learn to make them. Because I tend to be a lazy cook. Because some of these things take a bit of TIME. And we have learned that anytime 'kurbis' is on the menu, and they have translated it to 'pumpkin' for the English menu - it doesn't necessarily mean it is a pumpkin as we know it. It could be a pumpkin, a butternut squash, acorn squash and some things of which I couldn't fathom the name.

And not only is it Harvest veggie season but, like it or not, hunting season. And the restaurants here are into serving the "Wild" menu. That would be your wild game (which they pronounce 'veeld') such as Venison, boar, quail, pheasant, rabbit , etc...- much of which I can actually buy in the store right now. Growing up in a family where hunting was not verboten, we only had this menu on the table if Dad/Uncles brought it home. And then only if Mom could be convinced to cook it. My personal favorite has always been the elk sausage - but I digress....

So - Today I passed on the pumpkin creme soup in favor of the Wild menu - thinly sliced Venison with a fresh mushroom gravy accompanied by sauteed purple cabbage topped with a baked apple dressed with cranberry, roasted chesnuts and a side of spaetzle (little egg noodly things - very good with the gravy). Up 'til now, Grandpa Bianco's Venison stew would have been considered my favorite of the venison meat dishes. But I think my new vote is for the mushroom gravy smothered venison. It was quite tasty. As was the pile of sauteed cabbage - it was so good I actually saved it for last. Who would have thought?

Then we adjourned back to my friend's house for a bit o' pumpkin pie (leftovers from Harvest lunch at church - we are back to the days where the church can actually do a lunch together - in the basement! - it's fun) and a cappucino.

So I hope you enjoyed my lunch - and if you are mortally offended by it, please don't let me know by saying nasty animal righty things in the comments. Or I will be compelled to delete them. Maybe I could share some pastries next time - with pic's :).

"Trunk or Treat"

Here are the girls flanking their friend, R, for "Trunk or Treat."Rachel talking with her friend, V, during the festivities.
As Trick or Treating is a very "US of A" custom, habit or holiday - however you wish to view it - an effort has to be made if your kids want to participate in this Fall ritual of childhood. This is not a popular European thing to do. The PA at the International School, sponsors a "Trunk or Treat" in which parent come and park their vehicles in the school lot and it becomes a tail-gating trick or treat time. Most everyone decorates their trunks with Halloweeny type decor and jack'o'lanterns (and pumpkins are HUGELY expensive here). And one parent sits at the car handing out candy while the others walk from car to car with their little goblins, princesses and superheroes. The majority of the crowd is US followed by native Engl. (Austr., Canada & UK) but there were some European families as well.
So the girls had fun and came home with their loot. Much of which I'm sure we'll throw away in a month as usual. Especially as most of the candy is not necessarily to Mom & Dad's liking (fruit taffy's and weird gummy things). Not that we ate all our kids candy before but occasionally raided the pumpkin for a Snickers or 3 Muskateer. We might have to look at having some "real" Halloween candy shipped over next year! Thank you Mom for the pumpkin Peeps!
An added note: I used to have a jacket similar to that of R's above - all gold and puffy. About 15 years ago. When I was a lot younger and my jacket had bigger shoulder pads and a snug waist - it was a ski jacket. AND I wore it. Probably looked like a Battlestar Galactica cast member but it was cool at the time. It no longer graces my closet. And as cute as R looks in it, I don't think I can pull off the look again in my lifetime. But never say never with fashion - it always comes back around and we manage to sneak in a "look" one way or another :). Although - the leg warmers have been back in various ways and forms but you will never find them anywhere near my legs. I have proudly forsaken them since 1983!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy 7th Bday Kendra! and Monday ramblings

As you can see, Kendra is quite elated with her gift from Gma Elaine - an Island Princess Barbie! Score Gma!
A bit of party decor - she wished to have lots of jungle vines with flowers. So preschool lessons in crepe paper flower making did come in handy. For Mom. 35 years later. They are now hanging in her room. Kendra's that is - not Mom's. :)
The Jungle Bunch. I don't normally post any (recognizable) pic's of other people's children without their permission BUT in this case, figure it could do no harm. As none of them are recognizable except as jungle animals. They had a lot of fun decorating their masks and they actually wore them for a good bit of the party. And yes, they may appear to be dressed oddly - really this is how kids dress in Switzerland! No, it was not a PJ Birthday party but it WAS pajama day at school.
The students get to vote every year for a theme- dress day and this year it was Pajama Day. For the 'right' to wear PJ's to school, they are asked to voluntarily donate 2chf or more. The fundraiser benefits the sister school in Ghana and the goal was to raise funds for a fresh water well at the Ghana school. Right now, they bring buckets from outside wells to keep on hand during the day for the children. This is all thoroughly explained to the children at ZIS so they are able to grasp, on some level, the quality of life/schooling differences experienced in less fortunate areas of the world. The ZIS students feel a lot of accomplishment when they see the progresses made at the Ghana school that they help provide for. And much of the money raised comes from the students themselves - out of their own allowances.

Ready to blow out candles! Happy 7th Birthday Putsie Pie!

And who is unable to take a serious picture? Since she was 3! Well sometimes. But not while eating chocolate cake. And pretending to be a zebra - complete with sound effects. Did you know zebras make noise? They do. They make a squealing noise - something between a pig and a pony - and Rachel has heard it - and it is very ANNOYING! Gotta love her!

So the party went well - Kendra was happy. Which we were glad for as she is coming to the realization at the tender age of 7 that our expectations of how things should be do not always match the reality. If only life were a fairytale come true.

Worldfest - This fun event at the school was also this last weekend. This year I 'ate' in India, Finland and Japan, Bart in the US, Australia, Finland, Italy and Mexico, Kendra in Italy & England and Rachel in the US. I scoped things out and will have to try Greece and the Middle East next year. It is so hard to decide - you fill up so quick on these delicious foods from all over the world. Bart & I supervised one of the inflatable rides this year - outside for 1 hour. And I have been instructed to volunteer for an indoor job next year.

Winter has arrived. There was snow on the nearby hills when we woke up Sat. morning and right now it is 3c (about 42), the wind is blowing out of Austria and I 've seen little bits of snow pebbles fall. Not really hail, certainly not rain but neither is it a snow flake - so I call them snow pebbles. I'm sure there is a better term but... I don't know it.

Pleasant surprise at church on Sunday. We had visitors from California Baptist Univ. at church - the President, Dr. Ron Ellis and VP of Marketing and Comm., Dr. Mark Wyatt. They had a day in Zurich on their way to Rwanda and came to visit IBCZ. Bart and I enjoyed meeting them and talking a bit about the Univ. and what they are doing Internationally. I did not graduate under Dr. Ellis (I graduated before he came - when it was still Calif. Baptist College) but there have been many wonderful accomplishments in curriculum and facilities under his leadership. I had the opportunity to visit the campus several years ago with my sister Kris and basically wished I could go back and experience it again. Parts of it anyway - I wish I had played more but had to help pay my way - thanks for paying the rest M & D.

College is a funny thing. Especially when you live on campus for 4 years as I did. I really liked going away to college (no offense family - it just suited me). All of these other 18 - 22 year old people become like family. You live, eat, work and play together. You are growing up together and making decisions about life - good and bad - I know I made my share of both. You are working hard at being a grown-up and sometimes find out later how much you were still just a kid. I hate to admit in the same sentence that I had some absolutely wonderful friends but only a handful that I have been in contact with the past 20 years. Or that I send our annual Christmas letter to (I count this as contact -even if it's dorky). It was a school where most students lived on campus and return to their 'home' cities after graduation. Or maybe stayed in Riverside but soon the business of careers, families and relationships (good and bad) created distances that were never overcome or the effort of returning seemed great - or you simply didn't know where to find them. But I think about those friends regularly as my memory is triggered re: something we had in common or enjoyed doing together. I have a favorite roommate (they were all favorites in their own way) that I think of whenever someone mentions the word 'curry' - because she loved to cook with it - and she was an awesome cook.

What I have learned in the past 20 years of moving around - So Cal, No Cal, IA and now Switzerland - is that staying in touch with people takes a lot of effort - and must go both ways - and I can be guilty of letting the ball drop. Even with the internet. And often our phase of life dictates where our efforts in communication are placed. We have met and made many wonderful friends over the years in the places we've lived. And we are not in communication with all of them regularly BUT ever so often, an old friend pops up. And isn't it sooooo nice. There are so many that we think of and talk about - Love you All.

WOW - am I contemplative today or what. Talk about ramblings and musings.

AND for my final comment - if you would like to see a long awaited answer to prayer (and many of you have prayed along with our family - thank you) - PLEASE pop over to Kris & Jason's blog via the link on ours and see what wonderful work God is doing in their lives today. :) :) :)

Thursday, October 18, 2007

There are Days.....

There are days when you wonder what universe you've found yourself in. It always takes me a day or two to re-orient myself at home when we get back from a trip. After 7 days in Italy saying Grazi and Buon Giorno (ignore my spellings - they are phonetic and from the German alpha at this point), it takes me a day or so to get back to Danke and Gruetzi - not to mention a host of other things. But getting all that laundry, grocery shopping and housework done after an absence helps - I'm sure - doesn't it?

So yesterday I find myself greatly annoyed by the cows up the hill. They are really cute and fun when they are up in the Alps with their bells on BUT when they are practically in your backyard and won't shut up for 2 hrs it starts to get on your nerves. Won't someone please feed them as the grassy fields are apparently unsatisfying? Or should I have wandered up to see if we had a new member of the herd? You know the Away in the Manger verse where it says "the cattle are lowing, the poor baby wakes" - I know why the baby Jesus woke up! Holy Cow!

And we also were made aware of this very important news item - Miss Switzerland 2007 has been crowned! She feels her job is very important as Switzerland is mainly known right now only for Federer and the Alinghi win of the America's Cup. But in the same sentence they announce her name and where she's from (St. Gallen if you care - they make really good bratwurst there!); they give her height (1.68m) and measurements (84-65-95 cm - Kudo's to any who care to comment with these translated into inches - I just know they are not mine!). And then - Gasp - it is reported that she is the first brunette to win in 4 years - Yeah! Go Brunettes! HELLOOOOO! But this is in a country whose women got the right to vote in 1971 - yes, 1971 - only 36 yrs ago! All Bart and I could do was shake our heads and laugh - sometimes you wonder.

And 7 years ago today, I was laying in recovery at this time, looking at our new little girl who would be named Kendra by days end. They are getting so big, so fast. She is so funny - last night prayed that she would have a "stupendous" Birthday - complete with large hand motions. So will post a pic of Bday girl later. Ciao!

Monday, October 15, 2007


Well - What can we say - Rome was great. In the way that only a week of walking your feet off and stuffing yourself with biscotti, pasta and pizza will do. My Aunt Liz went with us and I think we wore her out. Traveling with a family can be different if you are not used to it. Not to mention going to Rome which has so much to see and through which you do a lot of walking - on stones/concrete no less. We did all the touristy things: the Roman Baths, Forum, Colliseum, Spanish Steps (too many people on a bunch of stairs - we lasted about 3 minutes once we walked down the stairs), Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, a couple of museums, several cathedrals, the Vatican/view from the top of St. Peters Basilica, Borghese gardens, a day trip to Pompeii - very cool, a day trip to Florence (the Duomo and Ponte Vecchio) and then a day to relax and do a bit of shopping - our one really rainy day and thus not much shopping got done. Whew!!! I'm sure I missed something but it was a trip full of activity.

We will be glad to go to Hawaii in Dec. and throw ourselves at the mercy of the beach and ocean. Although Bart is already talking about what we could 'do' there that we haven't already done - volcanoes and such. Maybe I am just getting lazy - I could probably spend a whole day somewhere I have never been and by simple process of having a leisurely breakfast (I like cappucino and a pastry), strolling to a nice little restaurant for lunch (which could last 2 hours if there is people watching available on the menu) doing a little window shopping (I can be happy without spending any $$$ contrary to what Bart might say) and then having a nice long dinner (again with people watching) - I would say I had a great time and enjoyed the place. OK, I am lazy and have a thing about eating - I don't have as much downtime as one might think. Forgot to add a 'read a book' somewhere in that day.

I am actually very lucky to have a husband who likes to "go and see and do" and children who have been fairly well trained at this point to go along with all of it. We did however encounter several "why don't we ever get to pick what we are going to do? 's" on this trip. Mainly because we did have an agenda this trip and they did get dragged along - like it or not. For the most part, they really liked it. Especially the day trip to Pompeii when they met the only other children on the bus - 2 girls just their ages (Canadian/Brazilian) who are living in Qatar - also at Int'l school. They were best friends by the end of the day. So we heard a lot of "when do we get to get back on the bus and see our friends" all the while looking at the ruins of Pompeii. Funny!

Rome is a city built around its ruins. And Italy is a beautiful place but with constant reminders of old mixed with the new - there is still much poverty mixed with new wealth. Like several other large cities (NY, London, Paris for example), it can be dirty (exhaust & litter) and you may find yourself showering at night as well as morning. But it is very alive and vibrant and interesting and so you find yourself not minding some of the inconveniences that might otherwise bother you (and if you find a clean bathroom, you urge all of your family to go - NOW). The dirt and litter in Copenhagen and London bothered me more than Rome did - somehow it all seemed part of it. And we still really liked it. And besides the pasta being wonderful (and I am looking the part of an Italian momma right now - stuffed!), the pastries as well were quite good (as good as France! - maybe better to my taste buds) and the gelati which was eaten every day by the girls at least was fantastic as well. And the Chianti as well - never had better than in Italy.

What else - I'm sure more will come to mind and there will be a few more pictures/stories added this week. It was a lot to absorb in 7 days. Much of it looking/standing in places that were 2,000 plus years old. And thinking about Nero watching Rome burn from Palatine hill, about Paul in prison here and writing to Timothy and the churches, about gladiators and churches built on ancient pagan sites (many pagan temples were actually given to the church because the rulers knew they would take care of the buildings and artifacts - clear back in the early AD years!). It was interesting and should I go back, well, I've seen the sites so I can do some shopping!!!! Ha Ha!!! Here we are at the Roman Baths - it was estimated that at one time 6,000 to 7,000 persons came to these public baths daily. Early AD.

Oh - I forgot to take a pic of the painting causing this amusing reaction Rachel is playing up! Well, you must understand that much of the artwork in the museums can be pretty graphic and this face she is making is her reaction to a battle scene where a horse is crushing someone below and ...... I don't wish my readers to have their Puritan sensibilities disturbed... so I will skip the rest of the detail. Enough that we all looked and said "Gross, look at that, that's disgusting" and then the girls started to laugh. Better than given them nightmares I guess. And we of course have the discussions on why there are so many "unclothed" persons in the pictures and statues, etc... It's so fun to travel with 7 & 9 year olds who never ask any of these questions in "indoor" voices - Hah! (And I'm not so much a Puritan in my choice of words here as I am careful to not use words that may be Googled and draw unwanted attention to this blog - however carefully I try to keep it protected)
There is even artwork on the Metro trains here! Rachel wondered why they don't clean it up and the Police don't take care of it. We explained that they have other problems to deal with here in Italy and graffiti on the trains was not one of the issues they spent a lot of time on. I did catch a girl start to swing her hand into my Aunt's purse one night on the street - all it took was a look and she was gone. You always assume you will be stolen from when traveling in certain places - keeps you from wearing/carrying valuables and on your guard - always keep your bags closed, in front of you if possible and wallets in a safe place (Bart chooses the front jean pocket - a back pocket is an invitation to the pick pockets here).
Kendra throwing her coin backward at the Trevi Fountain - It's said if you do this, you will for sure return to Rome. She liked it (Rome) and said she wants to go back.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Is it October already?

I can't believe it's October already! My brain's calendar still sees Sept. as a future event. So I am a bit behind..... We took a really cool hike up near our friend's place in Oberiberg - about 45 min. from home. Beautiful day and as always, we are blown away by the beauty here. We are always aware that Switzerland does not necessary have big attractions such as the Roman Colliseum, Versailles, famous Castles, etc... but they have these incredible mountains and a love for enjoying them.

There are elections coming up here in Schweiz and one of the hot topics is that of immigration OR more importantly - If an underage 'auslander' commits a crime of a serious nature, does the whole family get kicked out of the country? There are elements of discrimination built into this issue based on the ethnicity of those committing the crimes. There are many here who would like to keep Schweiz for the Swiss and they do not care for the fact that approx. 28% of the population in the major cities are made up of Expatriates. Every country is waging it's war on who or what they want to allow or not.

Today: Celebrated the special 40 yr birthday of a friend from the school at lunch. We were seated outside - only 6 of us - and the whole place went silent as we sang her "Happy Birthday." There are times you take a big sigh and say "whatever" and you can't let it bother you.

We really enjoyed having my sister and Jason and miss them. But we had guests from Danville Sunday night and I just picked up Aunt Liz this morning (Wed.) and she is going on with us to Rome for the Fall Break. So we are staying busy (I can hardly keep up with laundry right now!) and I am hoping to get some good pic's in Rome!

I have several prayer requests for things I don't necessarily want to publish right now but they involve kids (my own and others), family and friends - in areas of faith, health and finances. So if you could keep us/them in your prayers - "The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:5b-7