Thursday, July 29, 2010

So. What are your kids doing this summer?

Some kids go to camp. Some are in day programs. Some hang around the house and watch cartoons. Some play electronic games all day.

Our kids have been on their annual 'Tour of the Friends and Family' trip already. And they have watched their share of cartoons. They've also played plenty of Monopoly and Trouble.

They are trouble.

This is what happened to our living room this week: Complete with store signs:
Advertising flyers (Note - phone #'s are made up based on Euro cell number structure and I have no idea if that is an actual .com address and Seattle? Found out this is the setting for the iCarly show - TV characters and locations are favorites for the role playing):
Price lists (they've since typed them up but I've not taken pic's of the latest):
And happy, helpful sales people:
Bart and I have both been required to go shopping over the past couple of days. Today, there was a coffee shop available - about time! I enjoyed a Capuccino (capably made by the youngest sales person via Nespresso), some chocolate chip cookies (courtesy of the sales staff's mother) and had a good read.
No business venture is complete without funds. This bookshop deals in multiple currencies as they'll accept Swiss francs or US dollars. As good as they are at setting up business establishments, there is a fundamental piece of financial sense that seems to elude them. This issue has come up over the past few years and it is a direct result of today's technology. Specifically, how banking works in regards to your money.
I do virtually all our banking on-line. The Hub wires money from his work account into the US bank. I then wire money from the US bank to the Swiss bank. I pay bills online, use a debit card for groceries, credit card for certain items and we use the ATM to take cash out. Unless I need foreign currency and then I visit the bank in Zurich or the airport (convenient to have a bank at the airport here!).
Our kids never see us put money INTO the bank. In their eyes, we just take it out or use a card.
Therefore, phrases come out occassionally like "well, if you run out of money, just use your card and get some from the bank." To which we always say "that doesn't work unless you have money in the bank already." They are under the impression that the bank has unlimited sources of money that they will give to those in need. HELLOOOOOOO!!!!!
To those who know us well, Can you begin to understand the frustration that Bart and I have with this????? We're both CPA's (I'm retired but the genetics for accounting are still there)
and what does Bart do for a living? He audits banks!!!! And our kids don't seem to grasp the basic concept of "Put money in the bank, take it out. No money in the bank, no taking money out."
So out came the white-board for a visual flow-chart example of basic economics for life in the 21st Century - skipping the whole on-line banking concept:
This seminar came complete with break-out sessions on topics such as taxes - governments gets first dibs, bank loans, credit card usage and interest, bank 'start-up' funding (ie - where do banks first get money to be a bank) and the US Mint (that it's not sitting there just printing money off copy machines -may seem like it some days but in theory - NOT).
The participants were enthusiastic!:
All that said, the girls are playing a competitive game of Monopoly as I type this. So I have high hopes for their future. They will also be opening bank accounts when we return to the States - the old fashioned way at first. Take their saved allowance money down to the local branch, open an account, go in to make a withdrawal, learn to read their bank statement.......
They must have gotten some of our genes, right?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

For your listening/viewing pleasure

We are really enjoying our summer. The weather is cool this week, too cool for much swimming but what a nice break from the mid-80F to mid-90F temperatures we had for a couple weeks. It was a little uncomfortable at times with no air conditioning.

The girls have enjoyed having friends over, playing at home and running around with me (I think?).

Thought I'd share two vid's with you. One from our hike the other day near our friends mountain apartment - we love the cowbell's while hiking - and the other from our Terrasse (please ignore my dorky commentary).

video

video

As a funny culture commentary, thought I would share the following:

Europe has different views on leaving children unattended than the US does. It is not uncommon, especially in Germany and Switzerland, for parents to put their kids in the hotel room for the night and then go back down to the restaurant or bar for dinner/drinks. Many parents leave their kids at home for an evening while they go out for dinner in town - kids are locked in and the neighbors/friends are aware and will keep a listen or the phone handy.

Part of the comfort is knowing that most houses are unlikely to burn down - most are concrete - and part is that most people live in multi-family homes. Kids are also taught practical self-help skills quite early here - in Kindergarten they are taught basic tool skills (hammer, screw-drivers, etc...) and by 2nd/3rd grade they're out building a fire to roast their brats on.

Not sure that last sentence brings peace of mind to American parents considering leaving their kids alone BUT the alternative is accidents when kids don't know how to do these things properly. OK, getting off-track now.......

We have certainly left our girls alone for various reasons at an earlier age than we might have in the States. Always within their comfort level. In fact, they 'babysat' themselves the other week while we were at dinner with friends moving out of Zurich - during the giant thunderstorm that wreaked havoc. In spite of several phone calls during the evening, they managed themselves well under the circumstances and we were proud of their growing maturity and independence.

I've taken a long time to get to my funny point. I was 'shopping' for an apartment for SkiWeek this next winter and came across the following additional service provided by the owners of the rental:

"child listening services provided"

Made me chuckle. It's a multi-unit chalet in which the owner lives and rents out apartments. On their quiet evenings during which they're watching Swiss News or Curling competitions, they're willing to "listen" for your children while you enjoy a nice Fondue or Pizza for the evening.

Don't think about the "I'd never leave my kids in a place where strangers are 'listening' for them if they're upset." Think about the "how nice it is to live in a place where strangers are willing to 'listen' for my kids(for money of course) and the strangers would not consider being inappropriate when entrusted with the task."

It's not that I would use the service, I just enjoy living in a place where overall, people still feel a sense of personal responsibility and kindergartener's still walk themselves to school.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Corrections!

I have been given instructions for future posts re: female members of the family.

I am allowed to say they "out-number" the men but am forbidden from using the term "out-weigh."

My sincere apologies. Really. I didn't 'read' it that way when I wrote it but there was an outcry even if not evident from the comments. ;)

AND re: Pole Barns

Bart said it's a "pull-barn" not "pole" because they're built with large doors that are "pulled" along big sliders. But, I also have it from a former IA farmer/current Swiss resident that they are "pole-barns" because they were built with basic poles and slapped with metal siding for walls/roof.

So, there you have it.

More later today with pictures. I'm flying through the to-do's today!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

One of those days....

OK - As the afternoon progressed (invited 2 mom's and their kids over for swimming - 4 were boys which is always a novelty for me!), I thought about my lunch in the midst of the busy-ness. Did I eat lunch? I'm sure I did. I remember getting it and the dish.....

Yes, the ravioli's. Ok, yes, I ate lunch after all. Even thought about what they tasted like.

Went to soften some butter for dinner tonight. There was my little bowl of ravioli sitting in the microwave!

But I really thought I ate it!

Imagine if I could do that with every craving? This 'age' weight would NOT creep up on me!

Probably speaks more about my crazy state of mind.......

Baby update: Babies are doing well. Baby J, the bigger baby is still on a C-pap machine (oxygen) and has some low iron issues but those are being addressed and monitored. Baby X, little baby ( 3.8 lbs right now!) is doing well and they talk of letting him go home in a week or so - he's doing that good. But oh, is he tiny.

My sister is doing well and she and her hub are taking turns at the hospital - they have 3 other kids, 6, 5 and 3 to take care of at home as well. Deb gets tired but starting to rest more as they (she and nursing staff) work on her schedule.

We still ask for prayers for them as the babies are still developing and Deb recovering (although she's amazing - I was a much bigger wimp with my C-sections). AND - Aunty Susan is going to go help during the last part of August. I'm excited and nervous at the same time. It's a long way from 'home' and my own kiddo's/hub. So I will have pictures!

Well, that's my day. I do KNOW I ate dinner. What I didn't eat was potato salad. Potato's are cooked and ready - forgot to buy Mayo, again! So, they sit in anticipation of tomorrow. Maybe I'll just imagine we ate them? Do you think Bart will buy that?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Next Stop: CA

No summer is complete with out a trip to CA to see the Family. Susan's family. And they all live within a couple of miles of each other - except for Uncle D who boldly moved across the Sacramento River and lives outside of Yolo County. The audacity!

Seriously - my whole extended family lives in the town I grew up in. The only ones who moved away permanently (I don't count cousin H who's in TX doing her residency as house and Hub are still in Yolo Cnty. Go Dr. H!!!!) are my sisters, mom and I.

The kids play in the pool and the adults eat, drink and talk. Fortunately, this was the best summer weather we've had in the Sacramento area for a long time. The day of our party we had beautiful weather. The previous weekend had been about 105 F but we spent that day on the Lake.

Family party day was nice! Wonderful to see my sister Kris and Mom: Rachel, little J and Kendra had fun at the park:
Kids always have fun in the pool:
Even the little pool:
There was a lot of good food: Segregation of the Sexes: the Men
and the Women
In my family, the women outweigh the men. All the men except one on my mother's side has married in. The picture above doesn't include all of us. Probably why the men find safety in numbers!
There was also the quick trip down to Fresno. It was great to see our friends there and spend a day on Millerton. We got all 5 kids on the banana tube :
for a very short time:
There was a night at the Davis Farmers Market for good food and live music. If you are wondering where the remnants of the CA late 60's/early 70's Era went, they're in No. Calif. Many in Davis to be specific. And still dancin' in a groovy way. Except, these were people about my age and so I didn't quite get it. Because I remain a child of the '80's and would like some Van Halen please. Seriously - some good people watching there at the Davis Farmers Market.
With a giant bag of Fresh Kettle corn - they were stuffing in their mouths as fast as they could:

Our one really hot day was spent on Folsom Lake. We went later in the day (it was a Sun.) to 1) avoid some of the crowds 2) we wanted to go to church and 3) because the thought of sitting on the Lake at noon just made us tired. We watched the truck/boat with everyone except Kendra, S and I go through - we were understandably in the car as 8 people are not allowed to legally ride in a King-cab pickup truck.
We arrived at the gate and were told "there's no Day-use parking available Ma'am, only boating vehicles. You'll have to turn around here." But, but, but - you just let our boat through and we need to get on it! "Sorry Ma'am, we can't let you into the park. You need to turn your vehicle around at the officer." Grrrrrrr!
Needless to say, in spite of the hassles and verbal astonishment on part of our husbands, we convinced them to come out of the park with the boat, meet us in a nearby parking lot, we ALL climbed in, and waited in line - again, to get in. Fortunately, the Sheriff who happened to pull in right behind us in line! could not see all the extra heads bobbing in the back due to the boat. And the fact S was sitting on the floor. Thank goodness for CA tinted windows!
S (friend, not me - I can't get up on her ski) treated herself to a bit of waterskiing around 7:30 - it was beautiful: And the kids enjoyed their rides in the Tube:
I also managed to meet up with a couple high school and college friends. I don't have a pic of V & I who met at Starbucks one morning to catch up. Needless to say, I didn't make it back over to Grandma's in the time I thought I would.
I also met up with these lovely ladies. I am the shorty of the bunch. They measure in at 6' and 6'2" - both played basketball and volleyball at Cal Baptist where we all went. I also went to High School with A (left). S (right) and I were on the same dorm wing/floor for a couple years.
It was great to catch up and enjoy a late night dessert together - night was perfect for being outside late. Hopefully, we'll do it again before another 20+ yrs goes by. For A, V and I - it was a 25 year reunion catch-up. Where did the time go?
Thus ends our Summer USA journey. It was a bit shorter in length than normal but on purpose. So we could enjoy our last summer in Switzerland in our home. And I'm enjoying it - every single moment!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I'm an Auntie (again)!!!!

As I revealed a couple of months ago, sister Deb was expecting identical twins.

They're here!

Please pray for them and my sister (and the family) as: 1) little men arrived early (34 wks) 2) are on breathing tubes and 3) Baby B is about 1lb behind Baby A.

Happened all while I was sleeping and now the time change has me tied up until people wake up - Grrrrrrrr.

Congratulations Ohana Tafisi!

Friday, July 16, 2010

USA - First Stop, Minnesota!

A huge thank you to the 10 readers I have - not just 3!!!! You make me laugh and keep me motivated to Blog On. Just felt a bit out of it after that long break and twice my mom called to say "Is everything going allright? You haven't updated your Blog yet?"

Today, I'll share some of our US of A trip - Minnesota being the first destination. We went to the Zurich Flughafen in - the rain of course! Funny thing was, it was raining when we got back July 6th too. And then quickly warmed up.

United is a code-share with Swiss Airlines which we don't mind at all. Swiss has the better food! No joke. Flight next to us was the new direct! flight to San Francisco. We'd seen the advertisements around town for a long time with the 70's style Peace plane - it wasn't just an Ad, they painted the plane: Starting out in Zurich. It's about 12pm, everyone's fresh and happy. Girls in the spoil seats. Someone's in the back griping that two kids who can't possible appreciate those seats bumped them out of an upgrade. The girls do appreciate them:
Because we know that come 5pm in Chicago, it doesn't matter what seat they're in, it feels like 12am - Midnight. And all they want to do is go to sleep:
Big T-storms were blowing their course through Chicago between our landing and our takeoff into Minneapolis. So once boarded, we had a 2 hour taxi before we could take off due to the lineup of planes that were delayed due to the Storm. No problem for these guys. By then it was about 1/2am and they went promptly to sleep, Again:
I don't think I've shared much about Bart's parents place in NorthWestern Minnesota. I know I've shared pic's from the Mall of America and refer to his folks location as the place where we have no computer. Today you get a few pic's of the area they call home.
We took a slight detour on the way as a town on the direct route, Wadena, was hit quite hard with tornadoes the day before we flew in. But our detour led us past outlying damage. The speed at which the power company was setting up new poles was amazing, metal roofs peeled back from gas stations, barns demolished with houses right next to them perfectly fine, twisted metal in fields, stands of trees partially leveled:

We then reached The Folks place. Looking down the road from their mailbox (note - stay out of the grasses there at the edge of the road, there are tics, ewww! I do not like them) :
Beautiful evening sun through the trees with the garage at right - there are "only" 5 cars in that garage right now. R has a bit of an obsession with the vehicles.
On our way to the 'Pole barn' (why do they call it that? I still don't know. He keeps cars in there too!)
Here is evidence of the "little tree" R was bringing down that went a different direction than he planned:
Resulting in an "Open Air" Pole barn:
For the girls Birthdays, R gave them each a bag of sand from Alaska that is 'seeded' with some gold - never know how much you might get. R is a gold-panning buff as well so brought out his equipment and the girls had fun sifting sand into the centrifuge and watching the little bits of gold separate from the sand.
They each took some small nuggets home with them - Thank you GrandPa!
What would a trip to the Lakes country be without a photo-op with Paul Bunyan? Kendra was OK with the fact that this Paul did not have Babe, the Blue Ox with him (she finds Babe a bit scary).
This was our first 'meal out' while in the US. These were 'small' Root Beers. We were all (well, our family anyway) quite shocked at the size and determined to try and remember to share drinks later. We're so goofy - we also noticed how much ice was in our drinks! Please remember, we live in a land with no A/C, tiny freezers and drinks just don't come with ice unless you ask for it ( or they give it to you because they hear your American accent). And in America, you get free water with your meal! Ah, home of the brave and land of free water!!! Cute little church a couple miles down the road (Lutheran, of course):
The weather was really nice while we were there. Bart and I were attacked by aggressive deer flies a couple of times but overall, it was nice to be outside this summer (no one was captured by mosquitoes although they gave Rachel & Kendra a run on the last night).
The girls and I took a nice walk down the dirt road by the house and found a frog:
a turtle:
picturesque scenery:
mid-twentieth century farms:
Aspen:
and a good run down a dirt road! Love it! Another part of life experience unlike any they could have at 'home.'
I try to take several walks during our stays with The Folks. Because of these - CATS!
The girls love Grandma's cats. All 4 of them! 4 cats! I've been allergic to cats my whole life - not a cat lover. Rachel is also allergic but loves the cats so constantly washes her hands and takes all the med's I throw at her while we're there. I just keep myself highly medicated - 3 nights is about the limit before I get a little, um, strange from the large amounts of antihistimines.....
The girls in front of the '69 Riviera - one of R's four (4!) Riviera's. We went out for a joyride in this one - I got to drive! It's been a long time since I've driven a car like that. The Surburban was big but nothing like a long, wide sedan with a bit of Umph. FUN!!!
The old Chinook. Which survived the whole "little tree falling on the Pole barn" incident.
The girls had it for a playhouse and loved the avocado green shag carpet. They could run in and out, honk the horn - great time for kids.
And the cats again. Hard time finding a seat in the house between kids and cats:
We had a great time in the Big Woods. Thank you B and R - we Love you!