January 27, 2010
Five teeth and a Claw
The day began with our usually benign neighbourhood cat, Cub, having an aggressive moment and making me bleed. A nice 5cm (2") lightly bleeding scratch across my right forearm. Then there were the five little red toothmarks a little closer to the wrist. No big deal. I stopped petting her and washed up and added some disinfectant for good measure. Later I came back and stroked her with the other arm, which she did not wound. I think she knew that then there'd be no more arms available to make her purr.
The day entailed no shoveling, as there was no precipitation, but the driveway is covered in ice...which our kids find wonderful fun. I just have to be careful walking to the mailbox. It was -5C (23F) most of the overcast day. Good for zipping up one's (purple) ski jacket and wearing (purple) gloves. That's a segue to the fact that I noticed, on my way to German class, that I was wearing not only those two purple items, but also a purple sweater, and carrying a purple backpack. Of course I Facebooked this on my iPhone in its purply pink case. Someone then alliteratively asked me to "post a purple pic" - which request I fulfilled by gathering up rather a large number of other purple things I have around the house and getting a shot of those:
At German class, I received a real treat. Picture this in your mind's ear:
You're sitting in class on the ground floor of your husband's office building, with a 7-month-pregnant student from the Czech Republich, a male one from Hungary, yourself from USA, and the Swiss-German teacher. In comes a new student you've never met before. From his cheerful, inquisitive speech, you discern immediately that he has a delightful francophone accent. Notice I don't say "French," since he could be from various countries (including southwest Switzerland, France, Belgium, and theoretically Canada or Africa, depending). It turns out he's Belgian, and he has this great way of speaking mostly German with a few English words thrown in, in a French accent. The icing on the cake, though, which I could not stop smiling about, was the way in which, every 4th word or so, he inserted, in English, "like." You know, like, the filler word that a lot of, like, young people, like, use. Except it sounds all the more out of place in a grown man's speech while he's speaking German. With a French accent. I can't even attempt to reproduce one of his sentences. It was really fun.
Had a nice lunch with my son as usual for Wednesdays, then took my daughter shopping for some clothing necessities. The way these kids keep growing... Since I don't like shopping and want to spend as little time as possible doing it, I tend to ask for help from the Guy who knows where everything is - and He granted us the favor and success I pleaded for on the way out there. But I wanted to use these special certificates (UBS Keyclub points) we'd gotten from our Swiss credit card company as rewards for using their card. I had 60CHF worth of them, valid only at certain stores. We found some needed items at one such store (Manor), and I was so pleased that the goods added up to only 60 centimes (like pennies) less than 60 Francs. Perfect, right? Except the store would not take the certificates to pay for an amount less than they were worth, since they could not give us change. I said they could keep the change, but they said the computer would not accept that. I asked if they sold anything for 60 centimes. They said maybe a pencil, downstairs? So we trooped downstairs and looked for something really cheap. We spotted a pen on sale for 1CHF. But then, even better, we found some Tippex (white-out correction fluid), that Emily actually wanted for schoolwork. 2.80CHF, but more worth it. Back upstairs, and we finally made our "purchase."
I have more to tell you, but it's way past time for bed. See you tomorrow, I hope!
January 26, 2010
Shoveling needs to come BEFORE showering
A first today: when I was done shoveling snow off of the driveway and the part of the road that they don't plow, the driveway needed shoveling again already. When I had done a second round, the driveway got a third perfunctory clean-up, then it looked okay. Unfortunately, I was all showered and dressed for the day before I started all this...and then needed to start all over again with that. New clothes. Shoveling is so exothermic!
This morning Emily said that her favorite thing about living in Switzerland is all the snow we get! Our lawn has been covered with snow since January 2nd, uninterrupted. That's 24 days straight so far. Today's snowfall bodes well for this weekend's ski possibilities - except that Jason will probably have play practice for the high school musical on Saturday, 10-2. That pretty much kills any trips to the mountains during ski lift hours.
Off to a meeting with the high school's university counselor, then lunch with a friend, then prayer for my daughter's school with other moms, then pick up Emily, then pick up Jason, take Emily to drama, pick her up, make dinner...the rest of the day is quite full!
September 23, 2009
Not the best day
It's been a fairly depressing day.
My husband is ill in another country, trying to get home.
One of his colleagues had an accident abroad including breaking teeth and glasses and had to be flown home prematurely.
I heard sad and disturbing extended-family news.
I received a business-type letter I'd been waiting for for 16 days as a response to my letter, and it was not worth waiting for. A complete rejection of the things I value. I had been hoping for an apology and a change of direction, and got only "surprise" and the hint that I was just not mature enough to deal with certain rigorous and challenging things.
I splattered a little pesto sauce on my shirt at lunch.
I have a headache.
I'm hoping tomorrow is better.
As an aside, really neither here nor there, but adding to the weirdness, our 6th grade daughter is also abroad (in a different country from her dad) for 5 days and I have no way of hearing any news or reassurance until we see her again Friday night late.
Do you know where the phrase "This too shall pass" came from? It was originally from a Jewish folktale (not in the Bible) involving King Solomon, and then:
The phrase "This too shall pass" [was] made popular by Abraham Lincoln in his 'Address Before the Wisconsin State Agricultural Society, Milwaukee, Wisconsin' on September 30, 1859:
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: "And this, too, shall pass away." How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths of affliction!
Interesting. And for something that is in the Bible:
The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
September 08, 2009
Living Life is Taking All My Time
Sixteen days since last posting...and life is coming fast and furious here at the beginning of the school year at two schools and the beginning of all our school-year church activities, ones in which I am either participating or leading...
Jason started 11th Grade at his new school much closer to our house, Emily started Middle School (6th Grade in this case). They are both thriving and enjoying many new benefits.
A locker for Emily (she's been waiting her whole life to have one), and the thrill of being more responsible and travelling around to different teachers and classrooms on her own. The greatness of specialist teachers who are each passionate and knowledgeable about their own subjects and dedicate the whole of each period just to that. Knowing she'll have math every single day. Even if they did start with math haikus, which is a lot more like English class...but still. She's back in her community drama class and loving it as usual.
For Jason, a school with a huge built-in gymnasium with climbing wall and equipment for fencing, lacrosse, and other fun, unusual sports he's never tried before. And a big, green field for outdoor P.E. His previous school, although it had many benefits and wonderful staff, is currently working on a new facility with a gym and field, but they don't have it yet, so this is a great step up from last year in this domain. Also, Jason gets to do all his work on a tablet laptop provided by the school, which is a lot of fun and means they hardly use paper at all. They just write on the tablet, and share files. He can log into his computer with his thumbprint! High-tech stuff! Jason has started AP courses in Economics, Physics, Computer Science, and Calculus. Exciting hard-core stuff. He's continuing German and taking pre-AP English, and the fun P.E. class with a delightfully Scottish-accented teacher. He's also joined the indoor climbing club and the jazz band as a drummer.
We hosted some more Covenant Players (a travelling theatre group) for four nights at the end of August, which was a delight - they helped a great deal with our languishing landscape puzzle on a table in the living room, played stunningly beautiful piano music (some of which Emily picked up in a musical exchange, as she taught the visiting pianist one of her pieces), did a little drama for us, and helped us practice our German (they were all German nationals this time, a first). Always fun.
I've done a lot of baking: Apple Crumble, Chocolate Zucchini Cake (yum yum yum), lemon squares (didn't turn out so well), Neiman Marcus Cookies (which aren't pronounced like they should be if that first word were German), Oatmeal Raisin Squares, and I can't remember what else. We've had our spare freezer replaced (the main one is too tiny to hold much of anything, never mind an ice cream maker bowl), but now we're having trouble making ice cream. Something is not working (like possibly the bowl isn't cold enough, even after a week in the new freezer). Had a couple lunches and/or prayer walks with friends new and old.
This Saturday we drove about 2 hours west to the French-speaking Swiss canton of Jura, and visited its capital, Delémont. Maybe photos to come later. We had crêpes for lunch and then clambered up to a ruined castle there (Chateau de Vorbourg). The kids actually scaled the castle ruins, while I watched safely from below. We enjoyed speaking French. Did not enjoying slipping and falling on my rump in the mud on the steep and loose trail. Did not break my camera which was in my back pocket, yay.
I am drowning in school information in countless emails and links to click on to get up to speed on everything; and enjoying seeing who God brings to the two ladies' groups I am co-leading. One is a "Moms in Touch" prayer group for our kids and their school (for Emily's school - I'm trying to start one up for Jason's school now, too, but no leads there yet). The other is a ladies' Bible prayer group - we read daily readings on our own, and then discuss them and pray over them together once a week. Each has met once so far, and I hope people are finding them useful, encouraging, and productive. I just know I need God's help with everything, my children, parenting, leading, and being His. And I know I need His Words to guide me and comfort me, steer me and correct me, teach me and help me, encourage me and touch me. And I know I need accountability and fellowship in these things. So I stumble on in leading and hope people see past my mistakes, to God and His greatness.
Today I went to German class at 10am (what an improvement in my understanding since a year ago! Wow), then straight to check the air in my tyres, then to help out with a special event for Jason's school ("Advisory Adventure" scavenger hunt around Zurich), then straight to pick up Emily, drop her at home, pick up Jason, drop him at home, take Emily to drama, come home, now the dryer calls, and then I have to pick Emily up, drop her at home, and go with David to an informational meeting for middle school (and about Emily's week-long field trip to Cortona, Italy). It's been, shall we say, a BUSY day. Quite par for the past two weeks. I feel almost one with the driver's seat of my car. And thankful God is mobile, too. Or rather doesn't need to be. He's got instant simultaneous teleportation to all points of the globe and beyond down cold.
August 04, 2009
Fun, fun, fun in the summer sun
Since I last posted, it's been fun, fun, fun - with the odd ear infection (Emily) and torrential rainstorm (on the way to the Boston airport). I was out of internet access for ten days - resulting in about 163 emails to wade through upon my return (still working on them). Instead of internet activities, we engaged in:
1. Family Reunion with about 25 people from my dad's side, at my cousin Sarah's in Massachusetts
- kids swimming for 8 hours straight with cousins (hence Emily's water-in-the-ear problems)
- meeting more relatives for the first time (e.g. my cute, twin, one-year-old second cousins once removed :-), and my first cousin's sister-in-law and family)
- 3 dogs interacting with everyone
- catching up with everyone we haven't seen in years
2. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship Family Camp in New Hampshire
- meeting up with old college friends on both David's side and mine
- making many new friends, both for us and the kids
- discussion, reflection, study, singing, worship, and prayer over the topic of "The Way" as described in the Bible and as relating to personal and family life
- pond swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and diving off the floating dock ten times before going ashore
- semi-spontaneous 19th Century Dance Evening which I had the pleasure of calling/teaching
- bonfire with s'mores
- games, games, games (e.g. Hearts, Mafia, Guillotine, a pretty butterfly puzzle, and new-to-us strategy board games: Power Grid, and Ticket to Ride)
- ice cream at Kimball Farm in Jaffrey, NH (try Chocolate Peanut Butter, Coconut Almond Chip, Vanilla Swiss Almond and Moose Tracks - with peanut butter cups)
- pitch-black night-time glow-stick-lit ultimate frisbee for the teens (they wore glow-stick necklaces, and the frisbee lit up, and the goals were likewise lit by glow-sticks - it was surreal to watch, as I couldn't see any of the people, only the disembodied floating red and white necklaces... very cool)
3. Beach Fun at my mom's River House on the Rappahannock River in Virginia
- more kayaking, canoeing, swimming and beach playtime on the lagoon and tidal river
- more games
- more fun interpersonal interaction
- celebrating my mom's birthday (what a blessed daughter am I)
- finally back to internet access!
Only a few days left of our summer vacation...and I'm very, very thankful for all of it.
July 03, 2009
The week of appointments: Ten
I've been the chauffeur for ten health-type appointments in the past four days (only one was for myself; and actually I walked to that one).
Monday was big domestic day as usual (sheets, towels, laundry, meal-planning, grocery shopping, tidying, etc), plus unpacking from our weekend trip to Geneva with cousins.
1. Jason to the dental hygienist for his first big clean after all braces being removed
2. Emily to the orthodontist for top braces on
Tuesday night David and Jason went to play soccer with the guys from church, and David hurt his foot quite acutely, so...
3. David to a general doctor to look at his ankle, upon which he could not walk.
4. & 5. Jason and Katherine to the hair dresser's (10-15cm/4-6" off my hair, still long)
6. David to an orthopedic surgeon to be clear on the diagnosis - yep, no break, just an unhappy ligament. Prescription: put your feet up and drink beer. Seriously, that's what the doctor told him to do. Well, and ice it. Which we'd already been doing. So we were very happy for this excellent verdict, all things considered. No sports for 5 weeks, though. I guess David will have to join the spectator ranks at the church soccer nights for the rest of the summer. Bummer on that. But now he can concentrate on conditioning his ankle for skiing at Christmas in Colorado.
7. David to dermatologist early (we're a family full of sensitive skin on both sides). That appointment was made before we knew he wouldn't be able to walk or drive himself there and would be working from home that day...then off to work to pick up his work laptop so he could work from home better.
8. & 9. Jason and Emily to dermatologist (why not take care of all the problems in one day? This dr. is a wonderful, friendly, caring, fantastic English speaker, with his own pharmacy so he just gives you the products and you don't have to go to a separate place; which all means one generally has to make appointments far in advance)
10. Emily back to the orthodontist for work towards the bottom braces being installed - which will not actually finalize until next month.
I am happy for this week of appointments to end. It has been the first week of summer vacation, but it hasn't really felt like it yet for me. I am really thankful David's foot is not in a more serious condition, and glad that it is getting better rapidly. He's off crutches already, but walking gingerly, and the ankle is still swollen.
May 27, 2009
A Very Odd Day in MayThe prelude, day before yesterday:
- The garden sprinkler system revealed itself to be broken at several points. Replaced one part only to find more broken links. Not fixed yet.
Then all this happened yesterday:
- We needed ID photos for some paperwork, and tried to use the photo booth at one train station but it was occupied for too long
- We tried to use the photo booth at another train station and it was out of order
- Said booth was fixed, but then produced poor-quality photos and we got a refund (and a tip for a better place to get photos)
- This delay made me late for German class
- But when I arrived at German class, the teacher was not there - she was on another continent and forgot to mention it
- So the one other student there (a Frenchwoman) and I spoke in bad German for an hour (and the occasional French, English, and Spanish thrown in)
- I called my beloved to talk about seeing his new desk location, but was distracted by conversation with my classmate about final arrangements for the following day's non-happening German class right after I pressed the call button, and unwittingly made him wait long enough that he had to hang up (oooooops)
- Then when I tried to leave the parking lot, the machine for paying the parking fees ate my ticket and wouldn't give it back or let me pay. After jiggling all the buttons, calling for help twice, being assured the technician had been called, informing all the other patrons who wanted to pay that they had to use another machine (in German), deciding 50CHF was way too high a price to pay (if I called it a "lost ticket" - yeah, lost in your machine), getting David's office to weigh in, and retelling the whole story (in German) at the exit gate intercom, I was finally let out of the parking lot about 45 minutes later without paying.
- There were trucks in front of me all the way to my friend's house to pray.
- As I left her house, the biggest, baddest hailstorm I've ever experienced descended on my car while I was driving to pick up Emily at school. It was 3pm and the streetlights came on because it was so very dark - and I needed my headlights, too. The ice chunks coming down were so large and so violent that I earnestly prayed they would not break my windshield and shatter glass in my eyes. I had to pull over because I couldn't see the road. The ground rapidly became white. The crashing hail was so loud that I wondered if there would be dents in the roof of the car. Eventually the hail turned into rain, and I deemed the visibility safe enough to enter the highway and continue on my journey. The highway was moving fairly well, despite large puddles, and I made it to school...where tree branches had fallen in the road, and where the thunder was loud enough to make my car vibrate quite impressively. The children were not allowed out of the classrooms for a bit, until things calmed down. We drove home through more deep puddles. The temperature went down to 10°C (50°F). Remember, it was 33/91 the day before at the same time of day!
- Upon picking Emily up again after her drama class in the evening, someone double parked behind me and I was stuck yet again. Thankfully, a wonderful man came over to my window and asked if I needed to leave, and he went into the building to find the person whose car it was, as he knew they were going to be staying there quite some time...and she came and moved her car. That was definite provision of God, as I had assumed the car belonged to someone else picking up from drama and about to leave as well.
- However, the day ended on a good note: I made a well-received (by 3/4 of the family, par) chicken-asparagus risotto with goat cheese, tomatoes, garlic, onions, parmesan, parsley, and white wine.
Phew, glad that day is over. But surmounting obstacles is good training.
May 18, 2009
State of the Household
The fruit of the day:
- Grocery shopping is done, with 4 meals planned and ingredients now in the kitchen
- Fridge has been culled of obsolete items
- Clothes are clean, dry, folded and put away
- Towels are clean, dry, folded and restored to position
- Sheets are changed, old linens are in the process of getting clean
- Trash has been collected and consolidated and placed in one big, special, paid-for trash bag for tomorrow's collection
- Yard waste bin has been retrieved from the street and put back behind the house
- Some windows are cleaner than before
- Pink birthday roses have been trimmed and refreshed (still looking beautiful after 12 days!)
- Basil plant has been revived (was dehydrated)
- Carport is swept clean of leaves, dust, pollen, and seed pods
- Children have been safely ferried back and forth
A Particularly Fruitful Domestic Monday.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
In other news:
* the peonies are burgeoning
* the irises are hinting
* I posted a 59-second video on Facebook of our latest Dance Evening (our first in Switzerland)
* the house smells like heating oil, as the tanks were serviced - and it'll be the same tomorrow, when they refill them (not the nicest smell)
* I need to learn more simple, basic German verbs like "abstellen" - which I now know means "turn off" (but which I was completely blank on when the guy asked me whether he should do it to the heater today, presumably for the summer, while he was down there)
May 16, 2009
The End of an Era
In 1992, my father's father's mother died, at age 107. (I had a great-grandmother until I was about 20.)
In 1994, my father died, at age 51 (a year after walking me down the aisle, for which I am grateful).
And today, 15 years later, my father's father died, at age 92.
He lived for 15 years after his son died, and lived for 41 years longer than his son did, but lived 15 years shorter a life than his mother did. Life can be odd like that.
On our living room sofas are the four cushions my grandfather needlepointed for us, with each of our initials in our choice of colors. He was a hugely accomplished needlepoint fan.
He had lots of little, fun, balancing toys on his living room table, with metal balls that clinked together and metal arcs that rotated.
He had an enormous raspberry patch in his back yard, along with a wood-chopping area at which he worked for hours daily as exercise until his last few years.
He played around eagerly with colors and patterns in computer graphics, which was surprising/impressive for someone of his age/era. But not so surprising if you remember that my dad and my brothers all ended up in the tech industry as well (and I married into it too).
He got up early and went to bed late, and loved chocolate (could I have gotten my passion from him?).
Our last visit to my grandfather was in December, five months ago, when my beloved, wise, generous husband suggested we take a whirlwhind trip across the ocean to see him one more time as his mind was getting noticeably foggier and he was starting to eat less. We took the kids to see their final remaining great-grandparent, and now they will have memories from their ages now (14 and 11). We hadn't seen him for 3.5 years before that, so it was high time, and we didn't know how long he'd have left, despite his mother's marked longevity. And now we are so very happy that we made that crazy, brief trip. Goodbye, Grandpop.
Catching up: Sechseläuten, Dance, Alpenhorn Band, J's Top Braces Off
I've had trouble writing about my life in the past month, because I've been so busy living it. But, "An unexamined life is not worth living," right? (Know who said that? Socrates).
I went to a baby shower, got the snow tires taken off both cars, sent a lot of birthday cards (every late April we celebrate four days in a row of family or quasi-family birthdays), and picked a lot of unwanted dandelions out of the lawn. I drove to France for the day with a friend, to obtain some supplies not readily available in Zurich (and to speak French; it's only 1.5 hours to the northwest). We had our piano receive a well-earned mechanical overhaul (it's 24 years old and served well in five countries, for four regular players at different junctures). The Swiss gentleman who took care of it is very kind to speak to us in lovely English.
* * *
I mentioned this before the fact, but now we've experienced it: 20th of April - Sechseläuten - a Zurich half-day holiday in which they ring the bells at 6pm and light a bonfire under an effigy of a snowman packed with fireworks - how long it takes his head to explode determines what kind of summer it will be. (?????) Sort of a cross between Guy Fawkes Day and Groundhog Day. The city was PACKED with people watching the bonfire and counting the minutes until the firecrackers started going off. Bang! I think it took 12 minutes or so, this year, which signifies a good warm summer. Excellent.
After we witnessed the bonfire explosions, we fought our way through the crowds to find an al fresco seat at the Spaghetti Factory for dinner. The kind of place with 30 or so numbered spaghetti dishes written on the placemats. Fun. I absolutely love pasta. This place also lets kids design their own dishes and have a smaller amount with a smaller price.
From the table, we could hear marching bands coming along, and one or more of us would leap up and go check out what kind of costumed musicians were passing by, with horses, flags, flowers, and various guild symbols (bakers, millers, shoemakers...).
* * *
Then on April 25th, we had a significant event - our first family "Civil War Era" Dance Evening in Switzerland. If you read my blog when we lived in England, you might recall that we dreamed and prayed, and then organized four 18th-19th Century Family Dance Evenings during the course of our two years there. Our lovely friend Elizabeth taught the dances (as she did in California) and did the calling, for our first dance with 18 people, and later up to 53 people gathered in an old stained-glass-windowed chapel refitted with bastketball court flooring.
Well, here in Switzerland, we got permission from our international church to host a dance in the sanctuary - we actually meet in an office building, on the premises of what used to be a dance studio, so the floor is just right! 22 people came and had fun, and we have another evening planned for Saturday, June 6th. The difference here is that since Elizabeth is back in California, that leaves me to do the teaching and calling. I was filled with trepidation beforehand, and thus filled with constant prayer requests...and God came through. Apparently I am capable of teaching the dances, because the dancers got it and did it...and they looked great. Thanks be to God who provides training even if we are unaware it is happening (I didn't know that was what I was learning in England!) and holds up his children as they do what He calls them to. We are hoping people will bring guests to the next dance and it will be a fun, non-threatening outreach event.
* * *
We celebrated my birthday with dinner out at Wagamama in Zurich. It's a great Asian fusion noodle bar restaurant chain that started in the UK, and I believe there are three in Boston now, and one coming to Washington DC next year. They already have about 70 locations around the UK and about 40 in the rest of the world (Europe, Middle East, and Australasia). On our way back to the car from the restaurant, a serendipitous gift: a shortcut took us through the Alter Botanischer Garten (the Old Botanical Garden), streaming with wisteria.
Only a few days later came Mother's Day - I asked for what every mother wants to do on Mother's Day: a visit to Hell's Grottoes. It doesn't sound so bad in German: the Höllgrotten. And in fact, it's just some caves that take 45 minutes to tour, in the middle of a beautiful forest by a stream (20 mins from our house, in Zug). First we ate lunch at the restaurant in the woods, with a field of buttercups nearby, and received yet another unexpected delight: a ten-person Alpenhorn Band playing in lovely harmony, in full traditional costume. I had never experienced this before, thinking that Alpenhorns were only played solo. I loved it. The caves were interesting, too.
* * *
Then this week, Jason's top braces came off, to reveal his white, straight teeth! Exciting, after one and a half years of metal up there. The rest come off in two weeks or so, after he gets used to the new internal retainer on top.
And today, the parents' association at the kids' school put on "International Day" - with food from all over the world, games, entertainment, casual soccer, and an art auction. We ate three types of Indian curry, then German apple strudel, French Nutella crêpes, and British scones with cream & jam for dessert. The art auction was fascinating to watch. Each school class (multiple classes each from preschool through 5th grade) had made one collaborative artwork, and the parents bid on the pieces. Some sold for the beginning price, but others, with two or more competitive and proud parents bidding, went sky high. Very interesting. We just watched. The proceeds benefitted the art program at the school, I think.
Simultaneously, my high school in Geneva held its own similar festival, called the "Kermesse." Both my brothers were there, and I would have liked to go, but it was just too far for a day trip (over 3 hours each way).