Friday, January 26, 2007

What a difference a day (or two) makes!

Well, the last posts were pictures from Sunday (Sonntag). These are from Wed.(Mittwoch, in case you were wondering :) )
YEAH!!!! The snow has finally arrived. I have shoveled several times (another duty relinquished to me (what does Bart do anyway????)) and we finally get to start the girls ski-lessons which had been delayed for several weeks. Of course, we now have the added chores of putting on/packing snow gear for school, waiting in long lines at school for pickup due to the nature of such dressing and the hope that all 6 of us neighbors are responsible enough to keep the stairs shoveled or ice free. So far, So good.
Top pic is Kendra having fun while clearing snow off a skylight, mid pic is the same old pic off our terrace - changes with the weather and bottom pic is the girls in front of their "hideout." There are 3 huge evergreens in the corner of our backyard and over time, they have become quite bare under the canopy where they are in contact - the outer edges stay green but interior has died off. So mom has cut back a lot of the dead branches away on the inside to give the girls more room for their hideout. So they play in there, build little 'fires' with sticks and in general have a great time - just like kids are supposed to do.
Anyway - Enjoying the white look for a change and the way that life goes on here in spite of the weather. Picture in your mind the first morning after 4 inches and snow still falling - girl riding to work on her bicycle, post(wo)men still zipping around in their mopeds (post in in little trailer cart), kids and classes still walking along to school, dogs being walked, people walking along with their granny carts from the bakery/grocery, man selling bratwurst near the train station - it all keeps moving along, just a bit more slowly. Not all places in the world manage to pull this off - and granted, it was not a blizzard - but I like the way they don't let inconvenience get them ruffled. Unless it is a train running late - it is supposed to be on time!!! Cause for anarchy right there but.... fortunately I am not a slave to time (to Bart's dismay I'm sure - but I will wrap this up to shovel before getting girls from school.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

A typical day

Went for a long walk on Sat. afternoon. One of the main "Wegs" or walking trails runs right out out backyard gate - very convenient. The fir trees seen in the lower right of this pic are in our backyard - part of the girls 'hideout.'
The weather has been sooo nice. Of course, no snow and no skiing, this is driving the Swiss people crazy and the vegetation is all confused - Spring bulbs are emerging, begonia's & hydrangeas are leafing out. Well, it should snow this week and mess up the 'blumen' for the season basically.

I sit at my computer, set in the corner of two large windows overlooking the lake and the mtns in the distance, and am thankful for my wonderful family. And the yummy treat from the bakery with my cappucino. It was something with plum in it, kind of like a strudel, and had a 16 or so letter name which started with "Phlanz....." About once a week, typically at the bakery, I like to try something new so I get the whole "flavor" of being in a different country. I must say I wasn't keen on the pastry with the prune filling - how was I to know? My one requirement is that there are no walnuts - allergic. As everything seems to have nuts here, it is an adventure in ingredient checking. All this enjoyment comes after making lunches, getting kids off to school, dishes, folding laundry and is prior to the German homework I have before I go to class today.
I figure I'll write enough to get someone interested in visiting (to eat yummy things) but can't make it look too enjoyable as Bart will decide he should stay home and I go back to work.

I am an "Auntie" again. My sister Debbie in Hawaii just had Baby #3 - a girl named Teihanni. They are doing fine and Auntie Kris flew in from Australia to help out before Gma Elaine can get there. Three kids, 3 yrs and under - a lot of work but they sure are cute! I would post a pic of the cute little thing but - I haven't seen one yet!!!! No, really, there has been no one there to get pic's loaded. Just shows our impatience in this world of technology. And I'm jealous as we probably won't see them 'til next Christmas.

This blog was set up to keep you all up to date on our family, where we are traveling and fun happenings. Of course, a little of our international education is going to creep in. We are feeling a little less "US-centric." Doesn't mean that we are not concerned citizens of the US, have pride in our heritage or feel patriotic. It is simply a growing awareness of the world, its good and bad, and the complexity of it. That decisions good for one, are not necessarily good for another. That by listening to others who are different than you, you can gain an appreciation for their point of view - does not mean you have to agree. That there are those in our country and many other countries who need help - every day. That we are blessed to be US citizens.

A concern many parents here have is for their children who are of one Nationality but have lived in another country all their lives. They wonder where there children will find themselve fitting in - there are those who are US, Dutch or Spanish citizens but have lived in Switzerland or other countries for all their young lives. They claim they are "from" the country of their citizenship and speak their parents native languages but have never lived in those cultures. The culture you are familiar with brings you much security - think back to your sociology classes and how you relate to those around you. Much of our angst here is fitting into a different culture/social norms - Example: in the US it is considered polite to eat with one hand holding the utensil and the other in the lap(I am not trying to comment on anyone's table manners). In Switz. at least, this is poor manners as one should eat with both hands present on the table (not elbows) and utensils are used 'European' style when 2 utensils are required - fork in left hand for cutting, twirling or eating and knife/spoon in right hand. This is a mild cultural example compared to ones use of time, space and property norms. Or the children who in some countries have had household help do everything for them (remember Eddie Murphy in Coming to America) and they are slow in learning to 'do' for themselves.

Our girls are so definitely American (they are loud & proud) but are really enjoying Switzerland and are very aware of the different countries their friends come from. I hope this experience will give them an ease in settling into wherever they might land in their future.

One final note: We watched the season premiere of "24" !!!!!! Of course, it was at 10 - 12 pm Sun. night but we found that we are willing to sacrifice some sleep for our silly indulgences. He's trying to decide whether to watch the Super Bowl live or not - starts here around 1 or 2am. Think I'll pass.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Gatorland & Amusing Hausfrau tales

Rachel & Kendra were very enthused about holding the monitor lizard at Gatorland. Fun! How would you like one of these for a pet? Notice who's carrying the tail? But you'd have thought Kendra wrestled it down to hear her later. Have to love a 6 yr old's bravery.

Friendly inhabitants of Gatorland. We learned that, in general, these big guys are not interested in eating unless they are in the water. Nice to know if you are walking on a beach filled with sun bathing alligators.

Haircuts - There are several additional "hats" I (Susan) wear now that we are in Switzerland and I am sorry to not have a picture of my handsome husband for you - to show off my skills, of course. I have added "family hair stylist" to my many qualifications as Hausfrau. I will have to do a 'money' blog at some point but for now let's stick to the hair cut & our $ savings strategies. Bart's hair cuts would cost approx. $50 and the girls similar/each here in Switz. I've had my hair cut 1 time here (89chf for cut, 29 chf to dry, 18 chf to condition) - a whopping $110 - Ouch! - and Jose Eber wasn't cutting my hair..... So prior to leaving the States, our dear friend Danielle, showed me how to cut Bart's hair (I'm not ready for Bart to cut mine- had it done in FL). Armed with clippers & nice scissors, I have taken care of Bart's "Do" since July, as well as the girls (they are pretty easy).
Weeell, Sat. night we sit down for his cut and as I start on the 2nd buzz up the back of his head I'm thinking "hmmm, I see a little more scalp than usual." I look at the settings (which I admitted to forgetting to check prior) and they had moved - for a closer looking shave. OK - it was only one setting off but when his hair is already pretty short, anything shorter is noticeable - to him anyway. I managed to finish things off quite nicely - one of his best haircuts, just shorter. And we enjoyed an evening of "hey, Jarhead" "I've always admired the man in uniform look" "now we know the exact shape of your head" "I got pulled into the recruiting office I was walking by" and "I'm trying to ease you into the bald look."
Now that Bart has been teased, I will have to offer up my Swiss "humility" for the week - his orders - Yes, Sir! I happened to get "sucked" into a shoe store on my way back from Deutsch class last week (it was a terrible struggle - 50%off signs everywhere and with the price of shoes here, well, what can I say - ON SALE), and happened to find myself admiring a pair of boots that were lovely. Being 'petite' of size (short!), my calf muscles hit slightly lower than your average leg in a tall boot and well, my legs just aren't skinny - OK. The nice 60 something Swiss salesman says, as he is barely getting the zipper up the boot, that from walking and biking, "You have nice sporty legs"!!!!!! AAAGGGGHHHH!!! He then proceeds to convince me that the nice Italian leather will stretch and please to not worry that I can't yet feel my feet - by next week they will stretch out and I will tuck jeans into boots. NICHT (NOT)!!! You did note that he convinced me, right? Yes, I took them home, I've worn them around, they stretched out, fun to wear - but there is no way I'm getting my jeans tucked into them! Tschau for now!

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

"It's A Small World After All, It's A...."

Susan & Rachel

Clair, Rachel, Sam and Kendra - Sam looks THRILLED to be the center of the girls attention!

The Olson's & The Dexter's

Alysen, Lauren, Rachel, Kendra, Susan, Carol, Bart, Braden & Royce

Well, even in Switzerland we know people who worked or know people in Des Moines, have been raised in IA or from Minn., know former colleagues in SF, etc... So, even before we left for FL, we had plans with the Garton family (Tom, Rachel, Sam & Claire - KPMG colleague, former neighbors/friends) to have dinner in Orlando as per emails, we found we would be there at the same time. Had a great visit and the girls got teary when they had to say goodbye (Oh, Kendra cried!!!).
But the shocker came the day we were at the Animal Kingdom. We had just came out of the Nemo Musical show theatre when I spotted 2 people I recognized - Royce Dexter and son, Braden - from Iowa! The husband and son of Carol Dexter whom I had the great pleasure of singing with at Valley Church for several years (may I "sing" her praises - she is a wonderful musician and has a beautiful heart). She arrived moments later and I must say, I was nearly speechless as it was so out of context & so unexpected & what are the chances with all the other thousands of people at those crowded parks. What fun - they had traveled down to meet with friends of theirs from Colorado. So it was a brief 10 minutes of "I can't believe it" and "How have you been?" and "Anything new going on" but it was a great 10 minutes and they looked wonderful to us - we do miss our friends and church back in IA.
So - that was the other cool part of our trip!

Happy New Year - Florida Adventures

Bart and girls at Animal Kingdom - It rained - A lot. We were very wet! But kept moving on and enjoyed Epcot that evening as well.
The rocket garden at Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral. Awesome place - highly recommend it. Is it too late to become an astronaut?
In the foreground you can see Rachel & Kendra learning the cheer dance with everyone else - they loved it! High School Musical is the cult hit for their generation (they are on the early end but at least Mom & Dad can enjoy watching it too).
Ready for a day at Magic Kingdom. We had beautiful weather and stayed until the end of day fireworks - we were a bit tired. But the girls are now old enough to do it all: the long day, no strollers, no temper tantrums at not getting souvenirs until the end - it was great!
Proof indeed that I am not afraid of snakes! At least not the poisonous ones. I was the lucky winner of the coin toss at Gatorland and ended up with the "head" instead of the "tail" of this python. It's an 8 footer, very heavy and very strong if you've never held one (had a friend in college who worked at a reptile store so I've actually done this before). And as you can see by my grip, this one didn't really feel like holding still at the moment. More pic's of Gatorland another day.

One might wonder why we would vacation in Florida when we live in Switzerland?! It was nice to feel a little at home (USA) for part of the holidays. We went to a familiar place with familiar language & food. We ate choc. donuts & honey nut cheerios, drank a lot of root beer, watched the Weather Channel & ESPN (there were no British commercials on TV but we were driven crazy by ads for the season premiere of 24!), had seafood & steak for dinner and did a little bargain shopping to boot (so glad we did not get pulled at customs!!). Things we do not have in our Swiss home.

We actually started out in Minneapolis to visit with Bart's parents and family. Rachel got really sick Christmas evening (we were due to leave the next morning) and we ended up sending Bart & Kendra to MN as planned the 26th and Rachel & I followed the 28th when she was able to travel. So she & I made it in time to cross the border into IA so Bart & I could renew our US Driv. Lic.'s thru 2012 (necessary trip!), get to the Mall of America as promised where Rachel got her ears pierced, rode rides and then headed to the Olson Family Holiday Party at Phil & Joanne's for a fun time (might I add that Rachel slept during the whole party: everyone got to see her though, she slept on the bed where all the coats were being laid) - all on the 29th. And then headed to the airport the 30th for Florida. Fortunately, we had quite a bit of down time in FL and spaced out our sightseeing so that we could relax, Rachel could continue to recover and mommy could do a little shopping.

So we had a great Christmas ('til about 8pm anyway) and a wonderful New Year! I think God has really shown us that patience is a good and necessary thing. It seems that every trip we have made in the last 6 months has come with some hiccup - terrorists, several illnesses, delays, weather, etc... And there have been many challenges for family members in the past 6 months where we are not present to help. A reminder that we cannot control all things and must look at the blessings we have. Bart & Kendra got to spend some precious alone time as did Rachel & I (we also agree that it is actually easier to travel just 2 at a time! hmmm - may work great for bargain trips in the future) because of the change in plans. And Bart got to visit with his aunt & uncle in Wisc. which would have changed if he had stayed back with us. It brings to mind Romans 8:28 "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose,." Paul was addressing the victory that men have in Christ - how he knows our weaknesses and intercedes for us that we may be glorified in the sight of God. A good verse to have on hand to keep challenges and trying circumstances from getting one discouraged. Not everything is a life or death trial or terribly dramatic - but all the small things add up to dealing with the big things.
Love you all!