Monday, March 31, 2008

White Sunday

The Sunday following Easter Sunday is known as White Sunday, and is the day of first communion for many Catholic kids across Switzerland. First communion is a big deal. The second-graders get dressed up in the white robes and paraded through town beforehand, then are at the front of the church during the service, and afterwards the families do individually a fancy lunch in some restaurant in town, together with the godmother and godfather of the child, and sometimes other relatives.

In the case of Mathias, Martin's nephew who had his first communion yesterday, the entire family (aunts, uncles, grandparents) attended. May be I should specify that the entire family attended the lunch. Emily and I made it through about half hour of service before she started making too much noise. Martin with Sonja lasted about five minutes longer. And Mathias's aunt Regula was at work, but when she ended she did join for the lunch. I still can't believe her schedule (she is a doctor who works in a hospital): once or twice a week she has to work the whole day. I.e. 24 hours. So this weekend it was from about 8am Saturday to 11am Sunday. 27 hours at a stretch. Crazy crazy schedule. And apparently that is the norm. How can they expect doctors to make rational decisions after they have been awake for more than 16/20/24 hours? I was often wiped out after a regular 8 hour day, let alone 16 or more hours. Anyways...

(Most pictures were taken by Mathias's brother Lukas)
Parading through town:

During the service:

And then it's time to have some fun for both the kids:

and the adults - see all the wine glasses on the table behind this friend of Mathias's. Free white wine for all, OJ for the kids.

And first communion is also time to take a lot of pictures. One with your godmother:

...and your godfather...

...and your friends...

...and your girlfriend (whatever definition of girlfriend applies in second grade). (Maja)

According to Martin, Mathias's mom Christine fell off her bike the day before her first communion, so apparently in all the pictures from that big day she has a huge bruise on her face.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

First tooth and first "blah"

Some big changes for Emily this past weekend: the first tooth broke through the gums. Taking a picture of it while she is smiling is impossible as the lower gum doesn't show then, but she does open her mouth wonderfully wide when she is crying, so you can see it well... The tooth is still level with the gum, but it is a nice sharp diamond when you feel it with your finger.

...and Emily has also branched out from the eeeehhhhhh sound she has been doing for a while and started doing "blah blah blah". Martin says she even did "papa". :)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter bunny

Looks like there ar a couple different traditions with the easter eggs in Switzerland. In one part, the kids build a nest for the easter bunny, and the bunny lays eggs in it and hides it overnight, and the kids have to find their own nest the next morning. (Where did the chicken go? May be the bunny just relays the eggs from the chicken to the nest...) In a different part, no nest is needed, and the kids just go looking for the eggs in the morning. (But Lucie said that instead of the problem with easter bunny laying the eggs, it is the bells that ring and bring the eggs from the chickens to the kids... I don't know how much of an improvement is that over the bunny bringing eggs :)

Tom was very nice and made a nest for Sonja. Here are the kids filling the nests with green "grass"

The next morning, it was Tom again who found Sonja's nest, and gave it to her.

All the kids (except for Sonja) pose with their eggs. As each kid had more eggs than could be carried, the cones became an impromptu easter egg basket.

Earlier this winter, Martin tried to take Sonja downhill skiing, but she was put off by the heavy boots. This weekend, she did try to put on the cross country boots, and stayed on the skis for probably a quarter hour - a relatively long time.

On Sunday, Barbara and I went with our respective kids sledding. Here she shows it's no problem going sledding with three kids. I don't know how she does it.

Pictures of the kids... Alice and Lancelot:

Linnea flanked by Sonja on one side and Emily on the other:

Tom proudly shows off his "Alaska grown" Tshirt that is identical to Sonja's. Tom loves the orange color. Annika is on the side. (We should have brought two more shirts for Alice and Lancelot, but didn't get to it by the time we left Fairbanks.)

Jim, smiling over the peeled pears waiting to be baked in a tart.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Moms go skiing, dads watch the kids

Busy weekend. Long weekend. In Switzerland, most people get both the Friday and the Monday of Easter off, making it a four day weekend. We went to Davos, visited Chris and Barbara who lived in Fairbanks for a couple years some five years ago. Lucie and Edward were also visiting with their kids.

Saturday the moms got to do some fun things (myself, Lucie and Barbara):

While the dads watched the kids: (Edward with Lancelot, Alice and Linnea; Chris with Annika on his knees and Tom and Jim; and Martin with Emily and Sonja)

(The dads got their own skitour in on Monday, while the moms watched the kids.)

In addition to ski touring, both Martin and I managed to go skate skiing twice this weekend. It was the most exercise we got this winter. Snowed most days, but both Saturday and Monday were by chance very nice days.

Easter report tomorrow, hopefully...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Our girl is seven months

This girl here is seven months today.

Time sure flies. She now sits very well, and if there is anything in front of her, she leans over to grab it. (Then it goes into the mouth.) If it is too far in front, she thinks about it a bit, then leans wayyyy forward and tries to grab it. Sometimes she leans too much though.

She is now learning to stand while holding onto something. She wants to practice all the time... those knees don't bend anymore if I am putting her down somewhere. And she is discovering her voice (for example, at 6am. One exception is at the doctor's: she was mum quiet there, and I was asked whether she vocalizes. ohhh, yes, she does vocalize. Eeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. She is holding it longer and longer. I think she is practicing her name, Eeeeeeeeeeemily.).

She also loves to interact with people. As she has done since we got here, in the trams, she looks around until she finds a person who will look back at her. She smiles, waits for a smile in return. When that comes, she really opens her smile and plays a bit shy, hiding into my shoulder if she is in the sling.

And those eyes, nothing can escape those eyes. They want to see everything that is happening. Getting her to nap while we take a walk outside is becoming nearly impossible, she needs to observe everything in sight.

And apparently she does love chocolate (see a couple posts ago).

Thanks for coming to us seven months ago, Zwärg (as your dad calls you) or Zlatíčko, Sluníčko (some diminutives in czech that I call both our girls)

Tutanchamun exhibition

This morning I and the girls went to check out the Tutanchamun exhibition that is here in Zurich for several months. The exhibitions shows all? most? of the articles found in Tutanchamun's burial chamber. Not the real thing, just reproductions. Apparently the best reproductions ever produced.
With two kids in tow, I didn't get as much out of it as if I had time to actually read the (english) information, but it was still impressive. Of course the baby went with it. It does go pretty much everywhere we go, afterall. Luckily, it did not have to pay for an admission. The girls neither. I was trying to point to Sonja the animals that were there (monkeys, dogs, lions, birds,...). That kept her somewhat occupied.

Doggie, not quite alaskan.

The sarcophagus was inside a bunch of heavily decorated boxes. (I am sure they have a name, but I really didn't get to read about it.) Think russian dolls hat nest inside each other. At left is the sarcophagus, then a clay box, and then two of the four? golden boxes are visible behind.

There were many of these foot-or-two high golden figurines that were supposed to help Tutanchamun in the afterlife (1 for each day of the year, then a bunch of others, making more than 400 others, of which some two to three dozen were displayed in the exhibition.)

Overall, it is very impressive, and Howard Carter, who discovered the grave, must have been stunned when he made the discovery.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Easter eggs, doves, and visitors

From our apartment we look over the rooftops of the world. OK, not the world, just Zurich. On the way down to the street, it is great to watch things from different levels. I hoped to take a picture of these doves from multiple places, but at the end only this picture ended up being ok, without branches blocking the doves from view. Rather romantic.

Tonight's visitors who brought an excellent salad and dessert: Hil, Sophie and Ryan. It has been amazing to watch Sophie grow up so much since we first saw her.

Will was put to good use. Reminds me of the American Gothic, the picture of the farmer with a pitchfork and his wife.

Will and Anne leave tomorrow on the next stage of their trip:

Our onion-skin colored easter eggs. I am rather happy how they came out.

For next year: the skins form about 2 lbs of brown onions are boiled in 2-3 quarts water for 20 minutes with 1 tablespoon salt. Test on a white piece of paper if it is a strong enough brew. If not, add more onion skins, or black tea.... Meanwhile, boil the eggs in a single layer in vinegar water for 8-10 minutes, put into cold water, then let dry....With egg white, paint some leaves, press them onto the dry eggs and smooth out. (Since I boiled all the eggs, I used regular paper glue.). Use a piece of an old stocking or similar to cover the egg so the leaf can't fall off, tie it off tight.(I used bandage from the first aid kit) ... Put the eggs into the onion brew for 2 hours or so... then remove from water, remove stocking and leaf, dry off, possibly shine with some oil or bacon.

Eastern Switzerland - St. Antonien

On Tuesday I and the girls tagged along with Will and Anne to the scenic St. Antonien in Eastern Switzerland, to visit Elsbeth and Tinu and Lena and Elias. A bit over two hours each way, but the company was good, and even though there were mainly clouds, we did see some sun that day, and Sonja enjoyed digging with a showel in the snow once again.

Some castle seen from the train:

It had snowed the previous day and night. The snow line was very definite. It was beautiful, green meadows and fields below, and white above. I just couldn't get a nice shot of it with two kids on my lap. This is the best I did on the bus:

Finally we arrive at St. Antonien. The church is from 1483. Elsbeth and Tinu stayed on the farm that is the last building visible in the background.

A cat on the farm:

At the farm:

Elsbeth and Tinu treating us to a lunch of bread and some local cheese they got from the farmers, both hard cheese and some soft goat cheese.

We visited the farm animals, to the joy of all involved:

Here is the bunch of them that stayed the night, while Sonja and Emily and I headed back home to Zurich half an hour later.

It was the coldest day since Elsbeth and Tinu got there, and Lena was getting very cold, and unhappy because of it. We headed in for a hot chocolate while I waited for the bus.

Emily's first chocolate

Two days ago Emily managed to get her hands on some Ragusa (chocolate bar) that apparently was within her reach at the table... she seemed to like it, and was very very unhappy when I pried the leftover piece from her hands. Of course the chocolate painting on the face is priceless :)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Northeast Switzerland and more relatives

Northeast Switzerland near Lake Constanz/Bodensee. Some beautiful houses in that area, even if there are no mountains.

We visited Martin's family from his mom's side today around lunchtime. Excellent food, as nearly always (first a salad with greens and avocado and really good dressing, followed by risotto and sauteed meat in creamy mushroom sauce, and finally a nutty cake). I sometimes wonder whether Martin just thinks to himself "let's see where we can get lunch this time". We met there an aunt and uncle with their three (adult) kids, then later another aunt and uncle whose kids we met several months ago when I cut my own hair....

Martin's cousin and uncle:
(it is great when I can claim that I don't understand what he is saying - he did not want to have his picture taken, though he was standing just fine next to his daughter without trying to escape. So I don't think he minded that much)
(and - above their heads are the beams from the original house. They renovated it some twenty years ago or so. In the wall by the window, they found some newspaper fragments that were stuffed there. That newspaper is from 1865. It mentions the american civil war in one article visible on that fragment. Talking of history. Now they have it framed in the entryway.)

Martin's aunt and their cat Momo. Sonja loved the cat. The cat let Sonja play with her for a looong time before getting tired of it. Sonja, Emily and Baby are near the couch. Baby is fine even after yesterday's frightful episode, and did not mind travelling again.

Martin's cousins:

Martin's other aunt and uncle.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Catastrophe... averted

Catastrophe ... luckily averted. Anyone with kids can understand - this happened to our "Baby", which goes with us EVERYwhere.

The perpetrator, eh, rather the suspect:

The perpetrator (a few months back) and the victim:

The innocent bystanders or suspects:

Accident description:

Location: Zurich Zoo, Monkeyhouse

The victim was being held by the suspect, looking at the bystanders in the enclosure down below. Suddenly the victim was in the enclosure together with the bystanders. The suspect claims to have done nothing, and in fact seemed to be rather unhappy, to say the least. It does appear that the victim was not tossed into the enclosure, but rather slipped out of the suspects hands.

The zoo attendants retrieved the victim several hours later. A few scratches to the head. A lot of (stinky) saliva covering the clothing of the victim and the cloth part of the victim itself. No major injuries.

The victim choose not to press charges against the suspect, as they have a long history together. Both have traveled extensively together, from Barrow, Alaska to various European cities and countryside. The victim was thoroughly cleaned and is recuperating on top of the heater.