Monday, November 29, 2010

And time is going where?

Holiday Greeting from Zurich! One of my favorite spots right here.

We are on the fast train so I see the computer about 5-10 minutes per day. So you know there is no blogging to be done. In fact, I should be in the shower!

We've had recitals, a concert (will post that!), Thanksgiving, my mom's here, a Christmas party (real, live date with Husband!), lunch with Switzerland 'family', downtown Z for the lights and a Christmas market. Mom & I are headed to Germany today and then tomorrow - starts another round of activity through Sunday night.

We'll see what I can squeeze in.

I may try to sleep. Sleep is good.

So a belated Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

I couldn't leave 'well enough' alone

So much for just leaving a light-hearted post for 24 hours.

I've hardly gotten up from the computer and I'm already posting another one.

We've been satisfied enough with the education the girls have received here in Switzerland. And probably really pleased since the start of last school year for various reasons. We have always been exceptionally pleased with the 'extra's' such as the ski and mountain trips (who wouldn't be), the music program, after school activities, etc...

I won't hide the fact that it is a private school - it's an International School. Most of the companies (our's does) pay the tuition for Expat employees, but not all. Switzerland has a unique enough school system (nice way of saying "it is sooooo waaaayyyyy completely different"
) that it is hard for Expat children to be placed in the local schools as most families are on temporary contracts.

The school operates on the International Baccalaureate(IB) Primary Years Program (PYP), the IB Middle Years Program and for High School - IB and AP (US based Advanced Placement) aside from regular curriculum. The PYP (elementary school) most probably resembles a Charter-Montessori style.

So as we look at 'returning home', we worry a bit about how the girls will fit in to the academic structure. Of course, this will depend on where we 'land' but, still, it will be different for them. And we've heard that from other Expat's as well as the teachers here. Much of the focus in education here (ZIS) is to get the kids thinking out of the box - to 'go deeper' as the Social Studies teacher would say. They really focus on the content and process of the work presented by the student rather than form (spelling, sentence structure, grammar). They do a lot of research on topics and put all their thoughts together in various ways - via essay, art, comic strips, poster boards, etc... They are encouraged to present their 'findings' in unique ways.

I bought English Vocabulary/Grammar workbooks this last summer to help the girls ease into 'American style' English classwork. I also feel it's important to have a good command of written English/language. Oh, please don't tell me about my own writing mistakes- I know, I know.

Then I happened across this post this morning planet nomad and thought better of our situation.

Our girls will do just fine. Some days may be harder than others but in the grand scheme of life, not so hard. "Gold refined by fire" days. We have so much to be Thankful for!

So - When I am tempted to worry, I will remember all the blessings and advantages already received by experiences here. Experiences that will last a lifetime.

Make his red?

Due for a lighthearted post?

Leonard (Big Bang Theory) wears them.

And so does he: And him:

And this gentleman:

And that gentleman:

But I cannot convince Bart to donn the red pant.

How 'bout your guy?

Forgive me - irreverance and politically INcorrect humor is bound to burst forth from time to time.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why do we Blog?

Why do we Blog? And who is "we." I supposed it depends on the "group" of Blogger's you would classify yourself in. Let's see - I don't have paid advertising. I don't have giveaways. I don't cook or write fantastic, romantic stories about how Bart and I met. I have a lot of pictures but they're just OK - in technical respects. Definitely not the SwissFrau version of Pioneer Woman.

I started the Blog with the intention of just keeping our family and friends up-to-date on our new life in Switzerland. You know - pictures, some travel stories, how the girls have grown and so on and so forth. What I found was that I had a venue to really share what life was and is like for us. Giving me an opportunity for funny stories, experiences, prayer requests, thoughtful moments and connecting with people across the Internet that I didn't even know.

I think it's also been a small mission ground for me. The sermon today was titled "Practical Atheism" - the idea that one can say one believes in God but in practice shows no sign of belief at all. I found that blogging was one way to keep the "live what you believe" in practice. I don't know that I've changed anyone's world through blogging but I know it's changed me.

I would say I fall into the group of bloggers who are: mothers, christians - or not, travelers, and photo-takers/sharers. Nothing earth-shattering on most days but we enjoy sharing ourselves and reading what others are willing to share. There is a lot we don't share - thank goodness! But for the most part, the trials and joys are all there even when subtly stated. I can't tell you how much a small group of blogging (and in real life!) friends from IA have meant over the years of being in Switzerland. When you take giant leaps, it is so encouraging and meaningful to maintain contact with normalcy. Thank you J, M and S for being normalcy for me on so many days that felt anything but!

Where was I?

A blogging friend, Linds , in England had linked this post from another blogger, Ann, this week. It is not a quick read but it is so worthwhile. It really says so much of what I would express had I the words to do so on why I blog. Why I read other Blogs. Why I will keep it up even when we return to the States.

Ann, the author, puts together so well the idea of women and faith and sharing and using Blog format to do so.

A Facebook status from my friend, S, also resonated along this theme this week. "I don't want to be the one the battles always choose, cause inside I realize that I'm the one confused. I don't know what's worth fighting for or why I have to scream" (Linkin' Park - Breakin the Habit) I think we all have our battles. Some more obvious than others. Some more painful than others.

I'm a bit in love with Switchfoot's Hello Hurricane CD. It wasn't what I expected but the more I listen, the more I listen, the more I...... Well, you get the picture. Their "Mess of Me" reads like a good poem:

"I am my own affliction.
I am my own disease.
There ain't no drug that they can sell.
There ain't no drug to make me well.
There ain't no drug, it's not enough
The sickness is myself.
I've made a mess of me, I want to get back the rest of me.
I've made a mess of me, I want to spend the rest of my life alive.
We lock our souls in cages.
Inside these prison cells.
It's hard to free the ones you love.
When you can't forgive yourself.
I've made a mess of me, I want to reverse this tragedy.
I've made a mess of me, I want to spend the rest of my live alive." (Switchfoot)

Lighthearted lyrics anyone? Where am I going with this? I love the way the lyrics pull out the dark places/feelings/emotions and lay them on the table. But I see a difference between the two: one hasn't found the reason to fight (in defense of Linkin Park - the lyrics do go on to talk about Breakin the Habit - but, still don't get a sense of hope? If I'm wrong, correct me here) while the other wants to live. Not all of us are going through or sharing periods of emotional or physical pain. Some of us are - and sharing it. And before sharing it on a Blog, phone call or FB status - are we sharing it with Jesus? The only one who can really carry our burden for us - even when we don't seem to see it.

Blogging gives us a chance to recognize that we aren't alone. We can share experiences and find out that - yes! someone else has had the same. If they haven't? There are often the best words of encouragement out there.

Romans 12:3 - 8: "3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. "

So - that's why I blog? Why do you?

Final Funny - 3 of us moms are together and the one says "Oh, it's a good thing my husband comes home today because I always stay up way too late when he's gone." "Me Too!" respond myself and the other mom. And here I thought it was my own bad habit. Sharing is good. Not that it gets me anymore sleep - Bart will be in the US this week!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Ah - These are the Dayz!

While life keeps speeding along, we take time, ever so often, to slow down, smell the coffee - which made it's way to my bedroom at 9am thank you very much family! and spend a day at home. A day at home is usually Sunday but that often involves getting off to church early for music practice and as we are a one car family - yep, everyone has to go.

When we do have that occasional Saturday at home with no agenda, we like to enjoy a little breakfast. Bart has trained the girls well and, while he is still Master over bacon and eggs (fried or scrambled - take your pick), he has taught the girls to make pancakes and crepes - from scratch. Rachel has become Queen of the Pancakes and Kendra is Queen of the Crepe: She's still working on making her crepes perfectly round but boy can that girl flip! She loves making them for people and loves being in the kitchen. In fact, she's such a busybody that I keep her busy in the kitchen making dinner with me as she gets bored while Rachel does homework.

If you're wondering, No! - I don't make breakfasts. I don't officially talk until the first cup of coffee is done. Even when we're on vacation in CA at our respective 'abodes' in Sacto or Fresno, I stand/sit with my coffee and watch everyone else make breakfast/order each other around. I apologize to all past and future guests for my poor breakfast offerings. I just don't 'think' about breakfast until after 9am most days.......

Thank you dear family for breakfast this morning AND for doing the dishes afterward (usually my concession to NOT having to make any kind of breakfast food).

We are experiencing some un-seasonally nice weather. Today - no sweatshirt required until the sun went down. Maybe winter came in August and we'll have August in December? All I know is that the weather has been hugely unpredictable this year - as stated before, since last September.

So the girls played in their hide-out. The hide-out is beneath some large fir trees in the corner of our property. The trees are old enough that everything up to 6 - 8 feet high is dead/cleared and the girls can sit back there and have a good time. It's also on a slope so it stays a bit drier. Here they are in their retro "Little House on the Prairie" look:

Kendra is wearing a skirt I made my Freshman year of high school! And Rachel is wearing a dress patterned after Gunne Sax (Jessica McClintok) - circa 1982 - made by my Mom for my sister Deb. We are the dress-up/recycling family! FYI - sisters and I went to Christian schools growing up (until Deb broke the mold- hahahah) and wore dresses to school. EVERY DAY! I told a recent guest that I attended almost all my Freshman year college classes in sweatpants. Because I could!

Seriously though - the dress my mom made is still in great condition other than the "pearl" buttons which have lost most of their "pearl." Great job Mom! Best sewing teacher I ever had.

Our year of weird weather has offered fewer of these days but thought I should share. My breakfast on the terrasse: I loaded these pic's before we left for dinner and I was very hungry. Tonight we went to one of our local favorites, the Leutschenhaus. It is the former wine press building for the Kloster of Einsiedeln and sits in the middle of a vineyard and pasture. Wonderful food and a warm, casually nice atmosphere - and sometimes you sit next to the 400 year old enormous, wooden wine press. Things to talk about - Bart and I. What we came away with was the amazing fact that we have choices in this day and age. Most families we know in "our boat" are told where to go. We 'get to' decide. It's actually a harder boat to be in - at least ours is. Deciding. That is what happens when you take big leaps. But we are blessed in that we have a choice. So thank you Lord and if you could put that writing up on the wall, it would be greatly appreciated!

As a side note: we didn't have to hire a babysitter! Another thing we're thankful for. Just saved myself 50 min.'s of driving time and approx. 50 chf. What a cheap dinner (oxymoron in Switzerland)! We went to a restaurant closeby and the girls "babysat" themselves. At 12 and 10 - they are considered "old" in Switzerland. Another phase of life we've entered - and one we like!

Like I said, I was really hungry when I downloaded pic's for this post and came across this one from the Hambalek's visit in May: YUM! Although I am now completely full, those stuffed peppers and olives sure look tempting...........

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

With a Mission

One finds oneself with a different mission at various times. Sometimes it's a mission to find marshmallows - which seem to have gone missing from Coop and I must grab some at the candy store in Sihlcity. Or to find the perfect black boots for the season. Oops - took care of that last year. This year it's brown boots as, Yes! M, J and C, I have worn out the ones I bought in Hungary 3 years ago! Has it been 3 years already?

Today I'd like to share someone else's Mission. She is a delightful young lady - Carissa, a graduate of Cal Baptist University in Riverside, CA (my Alum) and has given her time and efforts to Global Xpress - this is her baby. Her mission is to reach children and give them a heart for - Missions. The program uses fun activities and visuals to educate children about different parts of the world: what they eat, landscape, local religion and lifestyle/culture.

One of the things I have most appreciated in living outside of the US - and traveling - is the time taken to learn about other cultures. This encompasses not just what kind of coffee do they drink at what time of day - "coffee culture" exists for a reason! - but what do they believe and how do they view other cultures? To love others, you must learn to walk beside them - have empathy for them. It helps to begin with the smallest understanding of their world.

Most of us will never live in a place of real hardship. But some have. We sponsor children through Compassion that live a life our girls will never experience. But they need to know that it exists. And that people can still be happy and love the Lord even when they don't have 15 stuffed animals at any given time on their bed - in their own rooms.

So Carissa's program helps educate kids in a fun and simple way about children in other countries. It's a great resource - they've already done all the work. Good for home schooling, Sunday School supplements or simply to have at home if you want to add something to your family reading/activities.

Links to Global Xpress: and blog is

From afar - we've enjoyed hearing how this program has been blessed over the past year. And if you check out the vid on the blog you will see one of my awesome Bro-in-Laws!

*Correction - 2 years since I bought the brown boots heading into 3rd winter. But they are worn out - starting to hurt my feet. Sign that it's time to go. Now if we could just get a similar sign re: location - hahahahahaha............

Thursday, November 04, 2010

When it's pink.......

When it's pink, one must take pictures: I was rushing around the house tonight trying to get things done before picking up the girls from cello/swimming and saw 'the pink' out the window:
It really makes you slow down and wonder at the Majesty behind it.
Even when it's orange:
And so early in the morning that you think "What am I doing up already?" BUT - if I wasn't up, I wouldn't be able to experience this:
Or this:
Ooooooohhhhhh - and this!!!!!
It helps keep the day in perspective.
And the night too:
And mid-day when taking a trip on the car ferry from Horgen to Meilen:
That our God is bigger and more creative and more powerful than we can imagine. And we have been so very, very blessed to live here.
These pictures have all been taken this Fall. We've not had the best of Seasons - since last September - but we have had some beautiful days. They help remind us of what lies behind the fog and rainy clouds that seem to be the norm. Again - for this past year. Other years have been great.
Rachel is learning about the Famine period in Switzerland (early 1300's) when many people starved for 6 years because of the constant rain. I believe it! I thought to myself this summer when our garden was so pathetic because there wasn't enough sun/dry days "If I really had to garden to provide food for my family, this would be a baaaaadddddd year."
Now, while I don't believe this is the coming of a great Famine, it can become a Famine of the soul. Whether SADD (seasonal affected disorder...blah, blah, blah) or just anticipating change, it's not always easy. I've mentioned in the past that there can be a 'lack of heart' here too. This is not just my imagination or perceived interpretation - unless most of the other people I talk too (international groups, not strictly from the USA) are wrong also: there is a lack of heart and a focus on the material here. It can wear you down.
An acquaintance from the French Indies said the other day "my people may be poor on the Islands but they have heart, and soul, and God and they are happy - people here have money but they are not happy people."
I am being, for some, brutally honest. I am so happy to be here and yet am ready for the return. It won't be perfect - no place is. This world is not my home. I guess I just answered the question that everyone's been asking lately. Because we're in decision mode. Yet, I have more peace this go around than any time before.
God gives me these skies to keep it all in check. I am so thankful and so blessed to be here. With my wonderful family. And we have a LOT OF HEART.
What a wonderfulllllll wooorllllllllddddddd...............

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

There's Football east of the Pond - and we're not talkin' Soccer

I'm posting an experience I did NOT have. But Bart did.

On Sunday, had you been watching the SF 49ers and Denver Broncos play in Wembley Stadium, you could have seen him on TV! He was the one in a 49er baseball hat and black 49er sweatshirt. Well, guess there were a few other guys dressed just like him so maybe not so easy.

Not an easy game to get tickets for. He's entered the lottery (tickets are by lottery only) each year we've lived over here and finally, in our last year, he got the 6 tickets he requested. So it was a guys weekend in London - along with approximately 12 - 13 million other people. He's (we've) been to London a few times and said this particular weekend was very crowded.

They did some site-seeing on Saturday and headed over to the Stadium on Sunday afternoon. He was really impressed with the organization of people (large masses of men out to watch American Football) both before and after the game (especially getting everyone to the Underground afterward).

Approaching Wembley - look at the line of people snaked up the stadium:
It was raining a bit but Bart said virtually everyone had jerseys/colors on - though covered up a bit here. But, somehow, I think the kilts add a distinctive flavor to the game that you wouldn't find in the States, don't you?

And the team that I grew up with (I do lean more maroon/gold than the black/silver but I keep it quiet because I have some 'rough' relatives - hahaha - yes, that includes you, Mom!):

Here are all the NFL flags in honor of NFL International Series:
Of course, Bart did get a pic of the Raider flag. He almost wore his silver/black Raider gear. Which is a source of running debate in our house. I kept shaking my head declaring he couldn't wear the Silver and Black if the 49ers were playing. Because anyone knows you can't be a 'Niner and Raider fan at the same time! Am I wrong?
Thing is, he lived in Minnesota as a Viking fan first, then in CO for several years and became a bit of a Bronco fan, then lived in So Cal during the LA Raider years and then moved to the Bay Area where he could go to both '49er and Oakland Raider games (because the Raiders moved back to where they belonged!). He's just confused! Sorry Honey :). He really ended up in the Bay Area "too late" in life to develope a 'strong emotional attachment' to the '49er's like he should have and well, that's OK with me because I only glance at the games nowdays anyway.
Fact is - he's just a big sports fan and loves going to games! I love his enthusiasm and the energy that goes along with it. And was secretly relieved he didn't wear the Silver and Black!
It was a '49er 'home' game: No pictures of Bart & the guys though? Not a one. Now a girls weekend would have included a memory of who wore what and maybe pictures at dinner but I guess it all comes down to different priorities...........