But that Silver Toyota Rav 4 just ahead of the street cleaner is our previous car. I saw the Google car and wrote down exactly where we were plus what was around us! The photo was taken during the Spring.
We originally called Continental Airlines in the United States to work out the details of moving the cats from Zürich to Minneapolis. It was a pretty straight forward process. Mostly because the United States doesn't actually require much in regards to importing house cats. (Dogs are a different story if you happen across this blog while searching for pet importation information!) Pretty much the only thing you have to show is proof they are current in vaccinations and, if they are older than 7 years, a health certificate from a vet stating they are healthy enough to travel.
No problems right?
This morning I finally got in touch with the Swiss Pet Service agents for Continental Airlines.
They have given me a completely different story. According to them, the United States require that they are micro-chipped and have a Pet Passport. In addition, although they received the rabies vaccination that is good for two years and I have proof of this, they are unwilling to accept it. So we need to get them revaccinated and then wait at least 30 days before they travel.
I know they have their facts wrong, but the effort of arguing with a Swiss clerk was more energy than I had while also watching a baby crawling about and pulling things down upon himself. So I need to figure out how to get the cats to the vet and get all of this done as soon as possible.
And did I mention that GLH is currently in the US on a business trip, so I've got to figure out how to do all of this with a 10-month old baby in tow!
I have come up with a new motto for Switzerland:
We make things harder than they have to be.
Anybody happen to know how to translate that into Latin?
We've run into this on several occasions ourselves and I hear it all the time from other Expats living in Switzerland.
Why do the Swiss require all of our birth and marriage certificates to have been certified in the last 6 months?
It has finally been explained to me!
Apparently these documents get updated. Who knew?
In Switzerland, and in most of Europe, your birth & marriage certificates are kept filed at your Heimat (home town). When you get married, get divorced, have children or whatever, you bring the documentation to the Gemeinde (town hall) in your Heimat (home town) and they make an amendment to your birth/marriage certificate.
How weird is that?
They do not realize that in other countries (i.e. United States), it doesn't matter how many children you have, how many marriages and divorces you have, your birth certificate and marriage certificate will remain the same forever and ever. Therefore, a recent certified copy doesn't matter.
Fortunately, we were able to explain this to our lawyer, who explained it to the Swiss Adoption Authorities. Because getting a recently certified copy of a marriage certificate from a Caribbean Island is not an easy matter and could take months. We cannot just send our parents down to the Department of Vital Statistics, which is what we did to get recent copies of our birth certificates.
And that's why we ordered multiple copies of our marriage certificate right from the start. So that we would have them on hand if we ever needed them. Thankfully, they accepted it...
A family friend, who is 15 years old, is currently in Italy on a summer exchange program. Before she returns to the US, she is going to come visit us.
Earlier this week we overnight expressed her train tickets. And, because she is only 15 and will be traveling alone, we also sent my old mobile telephone loaded with a prepaid SIM card and our contact numbers. Just in case.
When we went to ship it, we explained that this was an old mobile, worth very little money and that it would be returning to us in less than 2 weeks. Because, of course, the girl will bring it with here when she comes to visit us.
I'm not certain they believed us. Because we have just discovered that the entire package (including the train tickets) are being held up in Italian customs and they are demanding a rather large customs fee in exchange for its release. The demanded fee is larger than the mobile is actually worth!
Meanwhile, there is nothing we can do from our end. It all has to be handled by the host family. And I feel very bad about creating this mess for them. Which shouldn't have been a mess because it is all very straight forward. All the customs officials have to do is look at the one-way train ticket, which is accompanying the mobile, and see that it clearly states it is a child's ticket cost!
We are in the process of booking a flight for our cats, Max and Tilly.
We love them so much and we will miss them dreadfully.
But keeping them just isn't fair to them.
Since Global Baby's arrival, they have been getting much less attention. And they are very social cats who need human attention and interaction to be happy. Max especially gets upset and neurotic when he doesn't get enough attention. As evidenced by two emergency trips to the vet a few months back to extract non-edible items he ate. Coincidence that both items were baby-related? I don't think so.
The upcoming arrival of Maybe Baby #2 is coming in just a few more months. We will need to be in the US for 2-3 months due to the adoption process. (Or at least, the babies and I will be. GLH will be traveling back and forth with frequency.) And once we are back, caring for two babies would reduce the amount of time we can spend with them even further.
Not to mention the fact that their former room is now a nursery and, lacking any other option, they have been relegated to the hallway. Not an ideal situation for any of us!
So it is with sadness in our hearts that we are sending them back to the United States, but at least they will be living with family and we can see them on visits home.
I am certain there will be tears at the airport when we send them off. Exact date is unknown, but it will be in the next month or so depending upon when we can arrange all the details.
Thank you to Mom (who is sighing a bit at the responsibility) and Dad (who is doing a Secret Happy Dance he hopes Mom doesn't notice) for agreeing to take them. If they weren't going to family, whom we are certain will love and care for them, I'm not sure we would be strong enough to do it...
This is a long post because, well, it was a very long process...
Back on May 23rd I lost one of my contact lenses. I wear rigid gas permeable lenses and they last longer than soft lenses. This set has lasted about 10 years or so. I have worn contacts for so long that I can no longer see very well with glasses and get terrible headaches, so I was a little concerned about how long it would take me to get new contacts here.
So on Monday, May 25th I went into an optician's office and made an appointment. Two days later I went back for my exam.
I guess I should have known at that stage that this would be a long, drawn out affair. As I was waiting for my appointment (I had to wait nearly an hour! Very un-Swiss!), an older man came in to purchase plastic clip-on sunglasses for his prescription glasses.
Keep in mind, these are the plastic things you can purchase off a rack for about $5 at any Wal-Mart in the United States without the need for assistance from a sales clerk.
But the sales clerk first removed his glasses and studied them to make certain they were appropriate for plastic clip-ons. Then she went into the back and returned with some plastic clip-ons. Still holding the man's glasses in her hands, she put the plastic clip-ons on the glasses and studied them to make certain all was correct. She took them off and put them back on a few times. Then she flipped them up and down to verify all was in working condition.
She next placed the man's glasses, with the clip-ons, on his face and studied them. She removed the glasses and made some adjustments on fit, then put them back on. Now satisfied that the plastic clip-on lenses were acceptable, it was time to instruct the man in the use of the clip-ons. She showed him how to attach the clip-ons and then watched him do it himself a couple of times. Then she showed him how to flip the sunglasses up and again he had to prove he knew how to do it.
Finally she was done. She escorted him to the cash register and charged him, and I am not making this up, 49 chf (about $45 USD) for plastic clip-on sunglasses! And the entire transaction took about 30 minutes.
So I shouldn't be surprised that it is now July 8th, I have had 7 appointments for exams & fittings and I still don't have my contacts lenses.
Oh, I have contacts in my eyes. At first they gave me disposable soft lenses to use until the trial pair of rigid gas permeable lenses could arrive. Then I had to wear the trial pair for a week and come back to see how they fit. Even though the lenses felt fine and I had no problem with them, they determined the fit could be better. And so a second pair of trial lenses were ordered. I wore them for a week and this time the fit was deemed acceptable. So finally my permanent lenses have been ordered.
But don't think my appointments have ended. Oh no, not yet. I will need at least two more. The first to get the lenses and check the fit. And then another appointment a week later to make certain all is still ok.
You know, sometimes good enough is fine. I really don't have time to wait for perfection.
Especially not when I have to figure out child care for all these appointments. Each one takes at least 30-45 minutes and Global Baby does not have the patience to wait in his stroller next to me for all of that.
And I'm still trying not to think about the fact that the trial lenses have been worn by others before me and will be sent back to whomever to be worn by someone else after me. Yeech!
We've been working on the incredibly long and complicated process for the second adoption. For the Swiss, everything must be filled out in German. (Or French or Italian, but our best bet for help is German!)
GLH purchased a translation software program to help us. He was convinced we could just write everything in English, run it through the translation program and send it in as is. "May not be perfect," he said, "but it should be close enough."
I decided to have my German tutor help us on it. Am I glad I did!
Otherwise, I would not have discovered that the software program translated "Bachelor's Degree" to the German language equivalent of "degree in bachelor's parties." Or that my statement that I am a "stay at home mother of a 9 month old baby" would become an "uncaring mother who looks old."
Languages have many subtleties that require human interpretation. Preferably by a native speaker...
For the first several months of parenthood I was a pretty laid-back mom. Global Baby went with us everywhere and we took him all over the place. Everything went very smoothly until he was about 5 months old. Then it quickly spiraled out of control.
Global Baby required holding and/or movement to sleep. I held him or pushed him in the stroller for every nap. At night I held him all night long. His sleep patterns were all over the place. He was cranky and he cried more as an older baby than he ever did as a newborn. GLH and I got almost no sleep.
By the time he was 7 months old I was barely functioning due to sleep deprivation. Very confused and completely exhausted, I did what I always do when presented with a difficulty. Research and reading.
I found my answer in a book I like to call "Baby Voodoo." It's published title is Sleepeasy Solution. Within 3 days of following the program, Global Baby was sleeping in his own crib, going down for naps and bedtime on a predictable schedule and a much happier baby. Which makes for a much happier Mama. Which also makes for a much happier Daddy.
Within a week he no longer had dark circles under his eyes and there was a nonstop smile on his face. He also had a huge surge in developmental milestones. Although it is just as likely it was coincidence rather than finally getting adequate sleep, I'm not going to experiment with that theory.
I immediately stopped being a Laid-Back Mother and became a Schedule Mother.
My sphere of existence has shrunk. During the week I rarely go further than a 20 minute walking distance from the house. I save our times when we change his schedule slightly to days when we are all together as a family. I am very focused on keeping Global Baby on his schedule, especially with a Maybe Baby #2 potentially coming in October. Otherwise I have no idea how I am going to handle two babies at once.
Fortunately it is all made bearable by the fact that I am also meeting other mothers of similarly aged babies. All within a few minutes walk of me. So I have new social outlets. And I reason it is only for a few years. Once Global Baby and Maybe Baby #2 are old enough to drop their morning naps (generally at 12-18 months old), I can once again go further afield. The older they get, the further my sphere will expand.
The only question has been how we will be able to continue traveling?
Well, obviously for at least a few years we will not do as much traveling as we have done in the past. Neither of us have any issue with that as Global Baby is more than worth a little less freedom to travel at whim.
And when we are traveling I become militant about Global Baby's schedule. Even more so than at home because everything else is different. We are limited in how much we can see, but we still are able to see and do enough. And more importantly, Global Baby's routine is maintained. Which means he remains a happy, smiling baby.
Although after our recent trip to France, it also likely means we will limit our travel to child-friendly places. Italy, for instance, was extremely child-friendly. France? Not so much. (Why is it that in many smaller French towns the only restaurant open before 7 pm is McDonald's? 7 pm is Global Baby's bedtime.)
Pretty sure France will still be there when Global Baby and his potential sibling are a little older...
On Sunday we returned from a road trip through France. On this trip, with the extra baby help provided by my parents, I managed to take a few photographs!
We began our trip with three days in Paris.
Our favorite Paris moment from this trip? Watching a man in a 3-piece suit, listening to headphones and singing at the top of his lungs while riding a rental bike down the middle of a busy street during rush hour. Unfortunately it happened too quickly to get a photo!
We also met Paris-based blogger and fellow Minnesotan, Ksam. But I won't link to her blog because I'm not sure how she feels about it. It was fun speaking Minnesotan in a teahouse owned by a Kansan in the heart of Paris!
After Paris we headed for Normandy.
The American Cemetery at Omaha Beach was sobering...
Followed by a very cold & windy trip to Utah Beach. We are still trying to figure out why the two young men with clearly British accents were dressed in full vintage US army uniforms. It was a little odd. Leave the battlefields behind we went to the playground of the French Renaissance. The Loire Valley has chateau after chateau, each more extravagant than the last. Pictured below is Chambord, perhaps the most famous of them all.
We have no photos of Lyon. I forgot to turn off my camera before putting it away after touring Chambord (Baby hungry now!) and the battery died. But it also was a lovely visit!
It was a great trip, but after 9 straight days of driving through the French countryside and trying to maintain a semblance of a routine with a 9 month old baby, I think we were all happy to head home.
Almost a week later, I am still trying to get caught up on laundry. It just keeps accumulating!
Now that we have Global Baby, we are starting to meet our neighbors. (Apparently friendliness is not allowed unless you have a child.)
There is one neighbor whom I have met a handful of times.
Each time she has told me that it is time to let Global Baby play in the street with the other children.
I thought she was joking, laughed at her joke and the conversation moved on.
However, each time I have seen her, she has repeated herself. In fact, she practically chastised me.
She said I should leave Global Baby with the other children and come in for coffee. After all, the little girls love babies. And Global Baby will never learn independence if I keep him too close for too long. (Yes, she actually said that!)
There is no way I am leaving my 9 month old child in the care of a group of children ranging from 3 - 8 years old while I go have coffee and a chat! Even if we do live on a quiet street in a small town.
Do the Swiss really do this? I guess thinking back I have seen very young children playing on the street. But I just assumed the parent was somewhere within sight and they were with their older siblings.
We decided we have lived in Switzerland long enough, and are going to live here for the foreseeable future, so it was time to upgrade our Ikea bed.
We looked at several different options and debated this for several weeks (almost several months!) before deciding on the spur of the moment.
On our recent trip to Florence we stayed in a Westin Hotel. It made us remember how unbelievably comfortable the Westin beds are. In fact, it's their schtick. They call it the "Westin Heavenly Bed." And heavenly it is!
I did a bit of research and discovered you can actually order the Westin Heavenly Bed and have it delivered to your home!
We called the number for European orders and now, 8 weeks later, our new bed has arrived!
I think what I enjoyed the most about the delivery was the Swiss delivery men, looking with puzzlement at the pillow-top mattress. They eventually decided the pillow-top was for extra warmth in winter and you used the other side during the summer. They didn't quite believe me when I assured them the pillow-top was for year-round usage, but put the pillowy side up just to humor me.
But my favorite part will be sleeping on it tonight!
I've decided to hereby completely ignore the photocopied brochure Global Baby's pediatrician gave me regarding the introduction of foods and follow the English-language book from the US instead.
When I follow the US guidelines, Global Baby does just fine. He spits up maybe once or twice a week. When I decide to try a new food using the Swiss schedule, clothing changes tend to happen!
It astounds me at how different the two schedules are! Are babies really that different?
Let's go back and talk about Global Baby's lactose intolerance. In the US there are many options available for babies who are lactose intolerant. In Switzerland, we could not find a single formula that worked for him. Once I started reading labels, I discovered why. It is virtually impossible to find formula that doesn't have some lactose in it. Even the soy formulas had lactose added!
And when we were still in the US and Nicholas was having difficulties, the US pediatrician told us to try the lactose-free formula first. Worked like a charm and Global Baby instantly stopped having stomach problems. The pediatrician said lactose-intolerance is quite common, especially in babies under 6 months old. That is the one they usually start with when a baby is having discomfort.
However, the Swiss pediatrician said lactose-intolerance was extremely unlikely. He would be more likely to have a milk protein allergy.
Complete opposite of the US theory. I suppose it's possible, given Swiss cuisine, that Swiss children are simply not allowed the luxury of lactose intolerance. But is it also possible they are far less likely to have it?
So I've been wondering. Is there some kind of genetic link to this and that is why the advice is so diverse? Is it possible that babies of some ethnic heritage have more problems with certain foods than others?
When we first considered adoption we looked at the various options, international and US domestic. One article intended for parents adopting from Asia said that Asian children are quite likely to have lactose intolerance and therefore should be watched closely when given dairy products. So, I guess it is possible.
Or is it that Swiss children simply have more stomach discomfort and vomiting and that it is considered within the norm.
What have been the experiences of other expat parents in Europe?
After giving them a couple of days to recover from jet lag we are setting out on a driving tour through France. But when we get back, we are putting them to work.
The reason for the three week visit is that there are some major organizational tasks around the house that I must get done. And I simply do not have time to get them done in the short bits of time during which I am not caring for Global Baby.
Here's the List:
The office will be reorganized and completely cat-proofed. The cats are being moved into there.
The current cat room/huge walk-in closet (also known as a bedroom!) will be thoroughly cleaned, baby-proofed, reorganized and decorated as a nursery.
The kitchen cupboards will be emptied, cleaned and completely reorganized.
The hall cupboard will be emptied, cleaned and completely reorganized.
Our storage room in the basement will be emptied, sorted and reorganized with everything we don't need either donated or disposed of.
Mom and Dad will do Baby Care while GLH and I work on the above tasks.
Woo hoo! We sure know how to show our guests a good time!
We've known for a bit, but it seemed weird not to post something so major here...
About three weeks ago Global Baby's birth mother contacted us. She is pregnant and would like us to adopt this baby as well. The baby is due in October.
For reasons I won't go into involving legal complications, this adoption is even less of a certainty than when we adopted Global Baby. Likely I won't mention the adoption process unless it comes to pass.
But we are preparing in case we may have a second baby this Fall.
Preparations include car shopping. Over the weekend we purchased a minivan. The back seat of our car was crowded with just one car seat. We get visitors on a regular basis and were already considering the purchase of a larger vehicle. The thought of squeezing 2 car seats plus all the various baby accoutrements (times 2!) pushed it over the edge. Extra passengers would have been impossible.
We pick up our new Chrysler Grand Voyager on Friday afternoon.
We love grilling in our household. We use our grill year round and cook everything from the standard meat to artichokes to pizzas on it. So in honor of the Official Start of the Grilling Season in the United States (Memorial Day Weekend), I thought I would write about the Weber Grill.
The first Spring we spent in Switzerland we noticed the grills popping up at the local hardware stores and immediately went to purchase a Weber Grill.
We were surprised when a couple of weeks later a Swiss visitor said, "Oh, you've purchased a Swiss grill!"
Later, a German visitor proudly proclaimed it a German brand of grill.
And I was very surprised when even later I was told by an Australian that Weber is an Australian company.
Let me take this time to dispel all of this.
The familiar kettle grill was invented by George Stephen, Sr. in Palatine, Illinois in 1952. He was a welder with the Weber Brothers Metal Works and originally made the grill for just himself. Others saw it and liked it and he made a few more. The grill business took off. Eventually he purchased the company and renamed it Weber-Stephen.
I think it interesting that the Weber Marketing Department has been so successful in placing their brand that so many others swear the grill is original to their country. After all, when you visit the Weber website, it asks you to select your country and language. You can select from 29 countries and 22 languages. Pretty impressive.
But make no mistake.
The Weber Grill is 100% American!
And while we are on the topic, may I just mention something else that drives me a bit batty?
Cooking on a grill is called "grilling."
"Barbecuing" is a very specific method of cooking involving the use of spice rubs or at least a spicy sauce. Please stop using it to describe any type of cooking on an outdoor grill. (I specifically address this to the Australians out there! It's time to start saying "Throw another shrimp on the grill!")
We carefully gathered all necessary documentation and headed to the US Embassy in Bern to renew Global Baby's passport and apply for a Social Security Card.
We had been warned to arrive at least an hour before they opened at 9 am. Others had said the line starts forming at 6 or 7 am.
We arrived at 8:50.
Got our number and sat down to wait. We were Number 2 for service. Which didn't matter because when they opened, they opened two windows. So we were first!
Only difficulty? Guess who forgot the bring the new passport photos?
So I covered myself up with a white blanket (Thank goodness I had one!) and held him to the side in the passport photo booth at the Embassy. I got him to look at the screen by tapping my finger on it moments before the picture was taken.
Not the best photo. I am partially visible and you can see the remnants of his first bug bite on his forehead.
But it was deemed acceptable.
We were finished and on our way back to Zurich within 30 minutes.
Our afternoon activity? Car shopping. More on that later...
We're off to Bern on Friday morning to renew Global Baby's passport.
Usually a child's passport is good for 5 years. Due to the adoption, GB's passport expires after 1 year. We have to take the adoption decree and the new birth certificate to prove the adoption has been finalized.
We also, of course, have to bring an updated photo. Here are the best results from the photo shoot earlier today.
It was actually easier taking the passport photo at 1 week than at 8 months. He's a bit more mobile now!
We're hoping it will be accepted. Having it done professionally is not a good option. Someone has entered into Separation Anxiety/Fear of Strangers Phase. Pretty sure a professional photo shoot would not go well!
A member of the Swiss Bundesrat* boarded a Swiss Airline flight. When he boarded, he took the first available seat in first class instead of his assigned seat on the other side of the plane. He immediately opened up his briefcase and set up some work for the flight.
A flight attendant approached him and explained he was in the wrong seat and asked him to move. He refused to move, stating that he was a member of the Bundesrat and could sit wherever he liked.
The flight attendant alerted the flight crew manager who also approached the passenger. She tried to reason with him. She cajoled him. She demanded that he move to another seat. He stated he was too important to comply with her and refused to change seats.
So they alerted the plane's captain to the situation.
The captain approached the passenger and spoke with him quietly for two minutes. Without further protest, the Bundesrat member packed up his belongings and moved to his assigned seat.
The flight crew asked the captain, "How did you do that? What did you say?"
The captain replied, "I told him that the seat he was in was going to a different destination. If he wanted to go to his destination, he would have to move to the other side of the plane."
*Definition of Bundesrat: A council of 7 officials at the highest level of government who are elected by the United Federal Assembly of Switzerland.
To other Switzerland-based Bloggers: If you know a good Swiss joke, please post on your blog and let me know in the comments field of this post!
We have just returned from a 5-day trip to Florence, our first trip there. But perhaps not our last?
Unfortunately, I got sick on the way down to Florence (making for a very fun ride!), but at least we had decided to splurge on the hotel. If you are going to be sick on vacation, you may as well be sick in a 5-star hotel.
I saw a lot of this view for the first couple of days:
The worst thing about being sick was that eating gelato was a risky thing. So unfair! But at least I could take pictures. And when I was feeling better, I made up for it!
Traveling with a baby made the trip very different from past trips we've done as we tried to keep with Global Baby's schedule as much as possible. Which meant we frequently ate in empty restaurants! I do not know what kind of schedule Italian babies keep, but it definitely wasn't lunch at 11:30 am and dinner at 5:30 pm! Fortunately, the Italians LOVE babies. We had restaurants that allowed us to come in before they were open so we could feed Global Baby and also eat ourselves!
Which also meant that the restaurant staff had more time to come by and play with the Bella Bambino!
In keeping with a baby's schedule we went back to the hotel every afternoon for a nap. A habit I highly recommend, whether you are traveling with a baby or not! When we would go back out again, we felt refreshed. And bore no resemblance to the other tourists who stumbled about the streets in an accurate imitation of zombies in the late afternoon.
We also kept to Global Baby's schedule when touring the sights. We had pre-arranged our tickets to the Uffizi and Accademia museums, cleverly scheduled for morning nap time, which meant we could bypass the incredibly long lines at both locations. With a sleeping baby, we calmly strolled through the museums and looked at our leisure. Although because of the sleeping baby, we did need to keep moving. Otherwise baby was no longer sleeping! And we were limited to about an hour in each museum.
By the way, museum guards also loved the Bella Bambino. As evidenced by the fact that I was always ushered quickly past the security gates (without having any type of search or scan at any of them, which surprised me) with all the guards grinning at Global Baby as we went.
And we did manage to see quite a lot even with a baby and the fact I was sick for the first 3 days of the trip, such as...
Michelangelo's David at the Accademia. Pictured below is the copy of David standing in front of the Palazzo Vecchio (also called the Uffizi), it's original location. Photographs of the actual David are strictly forbidden and enforced by a small army of guards.
The exterior of the Duomo. Unfortunately, the Duomo has a dress code, which we did not meet as GLH was wearing shorts and my skirt was above my knees. Although we likely wouldn't have gone in anyway as the line was too long to wait with a baby. (Remember the "keep the stroller moving" rule!)
We also walked across the Ponte Vecchio on the way to see the Palazzo Pitti.
The Ponte Vecchio was built as a covered bridge to connect the PalazzoVecchio and the Palazzo Pitti. The walkway is on the upper floor while the money-loving and practical Medici's rented out the space on the ground floor to jewelry stores. To this day, all the shops on the bridge are jewelers. Nice to look at. Too much money to buy!
We also strolled about the streets, just taking in the sights and atmosphere.
There only two things that made Florence somewhat less child-friendly. The extremely narrow and poorly maintained walkways that made it difficult to push a stroller. (The Bugaboo would have handled the walkways better than the Maclaren, but would also have taken up more of our car's luggage space!)
The second is that green spaces were very difficult to find. And if you did find them, they were either not particularly green or may as well have been named "Needle Park." Or they cost 10 euros per person for admittance!
On our last day in Florence we discovered the park just to the north of the Fortezza. A bit out of the way, but worth it when baby needs sunshine, fresh air and a break from the stroller!
Although you do need a wet-wipe handy to pick up all the cigarette butts before setting baby down!
The Swiss love their tunnels. And who can blame them? For a fair amount of the year it is impossible to get over the mountain passes. Tunnels are definitely the way to go.
But there was one particular tunnel we have been waiting to open since we moved here in January 2006. The Uetliberg Tunnel, connecting our side of the lake with the Nord-Ring, a beltway that partially circles the city.
Up until now to get to the other side of the city, we would have to slowly creep our way through the city, frequently in gridlocked traffic, because the highway went right through the center of Zurich. Early on Sunday mornings we can be from our house to the airport parking garage in 20 minutes. In rush hour traffic, it could take more than 2 hours! Not terribly convenient.
But the Uetliberg Tunnel solves that and should make our runs to Ikea and airport pick-ups much less of a hassle.
Originally the tunnel was to open in Fall 2007. Then they changed the laws on Tunnel Safety Requirements in Switzerland and the brand-new tunnel had to be completely renovated before it could open. So it was delayed to November 2008.
That date came and went and we discovered it was delayed again. Never did figure out why.
But we finally heard the tunnel was completed and ready to open.
However, before opened, they had a party in it. The last weekend in April was West-Fest, a 3-day carnival to celebrate the completion of the tunnel.
We thought the tunnel would open the following Monday. Only to discover they had to remove all the rides, booths and other carnival-related items. Clean-up took an additional week.
Finally, it was announced the tunnel would open on Monday, May 4th! Yeah!
But the actually opening time remained a secret. See, they didn't want people lining up to be the first to go through the tunnel. That would cause gridlock, which the tunnel was intended to prevent!
So in the wee hours of Monday morning, they quietly opened the tunnel and then sat back to wait.
The Swiss are a little upset that the first car to drive through the newly opened tunnel had German plates. (Perhaps they should have arranged it so a Swiss car would drive through first?)
But at least, after so long of a wait, the tunnel is finally open!
Every year there is a riot in the streets of Zurich.
It happens every Mayday. Because it is an annual event, the police are ready for it, all dressed up in their full riot gear.
This year they did not disappoint. On Friday, May 1st about 12,000 people gathered for the Labor Parade. Approximately 200 of the protestors wore masks and were obviously up to no good. A small riot ensued. It was immediately quieted and around 30 people were arrested.
Does anyone else find it humorous that the Swiss schedule their riots?
Yesterday we had a party to celebrate the adoption finalization.
It was truly an American Smorgasbord!
Perhaps the most fun we had was using our authentic Swiss fondue pot to make a Velveeta cheese dip for the nacho chips! We also served American-stye "Swiss cheese," which is vaguely Emmental-esque and Cheese in a Can, just for shocks and giggles. I wonder if we will get kicked out of Switzerland for committing cheese related crimes?
And here is the Star of the Day, playing Pony Boy on GLH's knee:
I am a relatively meticulous housekeeper and like to keep things tidy and clean. But since Global Baby's arrival, that has become increasingly difficult to do.
Before GB's arrival I generally spent about 5 hours a week cleaning the house with a thorough cleaning every season.
I just plain don't have that time any more. But I was reluctant to find a house cleaner (Putzfrau). Partially because I felt weird having someone clean up after us. Partially because I wasn't certain how to deal with the logistics of finding one. And partially because I would hate to pay someone a lot of money and have them not clean as well as I do when I have time.
Not to mention that I dreaded not being able to speak with them as most cleaners in Switzerland have German as a second language and tend not to speak English. Two non-German speakers stumbling over the language? Bad idea.
GLH took the decision out of my hands. He knew how it upset me to not have a very clean house, especially now that GB is crawling, and announced he would arrange it all.
And he did! Or rather, his assistant did.
Frau C starts Monday morning. She's from Germany, so speaks Hoch Deutsch (more language practice for me!) And it was all arranged through an agency, so we don't have to figure out all the various employments laws, liability insurance or anything else I was dreading we would have to figure out. We just pay the agency and they deal with it all.
We are back. Struggling to stay awake. Doing mountains of laundry. Figuring out how to restock our empty pantry on a Swiss Holiday (grocery stores closed).
I'll post more about our trip this coming week. But I thought I would do a Top 10 Tips for Traveling with a Baby...
Try to keep as close to your regular routine as possible. Too many changes, too late dinners, too much stimulation causes Baby Melt Down.
Vacation with extended family. Grandparents and aunties are very useful for extra hands, running to get something or taking over when you need a nap, a pedicure or a romantic dinner for two with your spouse. (First romantic dinner for about 6 1/2 months!)
If flying with another adult, one of you should get on the airplane with all the stuff and set up. The other person should stay at the gate with the baby and be the last passenger to get on. Everyone, other passengers included, will be happier that way!
In addition to a change of clothes for baby, remember to bring a change of clothes for yourself when on a long flight. I highly recommend you NOT wear white. Learned this one the hard way.
It is not possible to have too many short-sleeved, white onesies. Bring more than you think you could ever possibly need.
Bring a large, light piece of cloth that packs easily and can be put on the floor, ground, wherever so baby can stretch out and play a bit wherever you happen to be without worrying about the germs in the hotel carpet or floor of the airplane or restaurant. Remember which side is the germy-side!
When Baby is very young, consider vacationing in places you have visited before. That way you know where things are and you aren't upset when you can't get out and see as much because Baby needs a long nap (not just a quick stroller nap).
If you can stretch your budget, fly Business Class for long flights. It is so worth it. Plus it's fun to see the faces of the other Business Class passengers when you sit down with a baby!
Invest in a sturdy, lightweight umbrella stroller that has a recline for naps on the go. We really liked the Maclaren Quest we purchased as our travel stroller.
Bring a blanket to cover the stroller for nap times. Not just to block the sun, but also to stop complete strangers from reaching in to touch the baby, thereby waking the baby from his nap!
Today GLH took Max back to the vet to have his stitches removed.
When it was his turn, GLH took him into the exam room. The vet was already prepped for the task at hand. He had two assistants standing by with thick leather gloves all the way up to their shoulders. Their job was to hold Max down while the stitches were removed. (Unfortunately, the vet needed his hands free to deal with the scissors.)
Max became so frustrated that he couldn't bite them that he decided to poop and pee all over them instead. I hope they had an extra set of clean clothes on hand.
Max and Tilly have both been with us since we lived in the US and were already declawed when we moved here. (Declawing is illegal in Switzerland.) The first time I took Max into the vet, he started with a lecture about the evils of declawing.
Five minutes later he admitted that sometimes declawing is advisable.
Now when we go in, he just shakes his head and gets ready to deal with the cat he has nicknamed "Mad Max."
But Max really is a very affectionate cat. When complete strangers aren't poking and prodding at him!
Oh yeah, and never, ever, touch his belly. Not unless you are ready to dodge his teeth! He really doesn't like that.
Max came home Thursday evening. We waited all day to find out if he had "made the poop." (Direct quote from the vet.) Late in the afternoon, he did indeed make the poop and he was cleared to leave the vet's office.
When GLH walked through the door with him, Tilly excitedly ran to greet him. And then recoiled in horror.
In fact, we all recoiled in horror. He stunk to high heaven. Combination of blood and feces mixing with the overwhelming odor of Big Stinky Dog. Tilly got really freaked out and started hissing and growling like I have never seen her do.
We cleaned him as best we could with a damp washcloth (real bath will have to wait until he's healed more) and we can now stand his smell. But Tilly has not yet been able to recognize his scent and is treating him like an interloper. Which I guess is for the best for the time being. This way there is only one cat picking at his stitches instead of two. If he manages to remove them before a full week has past, he needs to go back in to have them redone.
Max has spent the last couple of days sleeping. This morning he was obviously feeling a lot better.
So he made it through this one. But I suspect if given the opportunity he would eat another Binky.
Max is obsessed with Global Baby's Binkies (a.k.a. pacifier, nuki, dummy, etc.) The green object in the center of the photo is a Binky.
When he is successful in getting one, it is literally a matter of moments before it is destroyed.
So we need to be diligent about keeping the Binkies away from Max. But when one is caring for an infant, it is not always possible to be aware of exactly where the Binky is at all times. Over the course of the last six months, we have lost 9 Binkies to Max.
So when Max became very sick yesterday we immediately suspected he had eaten part of a Binky, likely the one he stole while I was feeding Global Baby on Friday afternoon. (When we found it later, the nipple was missing.)
As the day wore on, he repeatedly vomited. I was hopeful when he vomited up part of the Binky. But the vomiting continued and he was refusing to eat. Even when I offered him a kitty treat. Max NEVER refuses to eat a kitty treat!
So late yesterday afternoon GLH came home from work and took Max into the vet for an emergency visit. Last night the vet performed a 2-hour surgery to remove the Binky part from Max's intestinal track.
He needs to stay at the vet's for 2-3 days because he is receiving nourishment and antibiotics intravenously to give his intestinal tract time to heal. But he should be fine. I just have to wonder how many of his 9 lives does he have left? This is the second foreign-body extraction that has occurred. And he is unlikely to learn from this event as well.
And how is Tilly? After all, they are litter mates and have never been apart since their conception.
Well, Tilly is fine. Occasionally when she wants to play she'll look around for Max. But for the most part she is enjoying sleeping in Max's favorite spots. Which Max would never let her do if he were here!
By the way, when I called today to ask how Max was doing I also asked if we could come to visit him this afternoon. After a moment of silence (likely while the receptionist contemplated how insane Americans are about their pets) she said we could call at 4 pm and they should be able to tell us when Max can come home.
I guess the vet hospital doesn't have "Visiting Hours."
Well, it's actually a Flat Trinity. But same concept.
She's already been to several places in the United States as well as France and now Switzerland.
Where will she go next?
Please let me know if you would like to host Flat Trinity's next adventure. She's quite small, easily fits in an envelope and doesn't eat anything. She only wants to explore your city and learn a bit about the people there.
Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to have her for a visit.
...scrapping the bottom of your last jar of peanut butter and knowing you won't be replacing it for at least 18 months to 2 years (or longer).
See, Global Baby has a Family Medical History that includes nut allergies, including peanuts.
Because he has now reached the stage where he tries to grab everything out of our hands while we are eating, we want to reduce the risk of his exposure to nuts and nut-based products. The theory is that perhaps if we remove nuts from his environment until he is at least 2 years old, he may grow past the danger stage and never develop the allergy.
My biggest question? What am I going to have for lunch from now on? Peanut butter and jelly was almost perfect, except for the whole allergy situation.
I need something that I can make ahead and leave on the counter until I am ready to eat.
Something that I can eat with one hand while Global Baby naps in my arms. (Yes, I either hold Global Baby for all his naps or take him on long stroller walks. It's the only way he will sleep during the day. Moving on...)
And hopefully something that is very healthy and low calorie.
Regular readers have likely noticed a lack of postings of late.
There is a reason for it.
And here he is...
Global Baby is now 5 1/2 months old. He started eating solids a little sooner than we had planned, mostly because he showed many of the signs of readiness and he was demanding full bottles every 2-3 hours. Once he was routinely eating more than 40 ounces of formula in a day, it was pretty obvious that formula alone was no longer enough for him.
He has also started the teething process in ernest. Which means he is not always the happy, smiling baby he once was. Sometimes he screams. A lot. It keeps his Mama busy!
And although he once happily slept through the night, those days seem to be gone. I know it is just the current stage. But when one feels as if they are constantly sleep-walking and can barely lift their head, it's easy to feel it will last forever.
But over all, Global Baby is doing well. He's just making it more complicated for his Mama to post blog updates! Especially since this is a secondary blog to our family and friends who demand regular updates or the guilt trips for living so far away with our baby come more frequently. The Baby Blog is a private one and that, along with quick Facebook updates, is where we are focusing our time when it comes to internet use.
But no worries! Our travels are about to begin again. Yes, after several months of no traveling, we are headed back to San Antonio to finalize the adoption. Then we are meeting family and friends in Florida for a week long Celebratory Caribbean Cruise. We leave the end of March.
And surely one of these days Global Baby will start sleeping/napping on a predictable schedule.
If you have any personal stories that may be evidence to the contrary regarding babies and predictable sleep times -- please keep them to yourself. I'd rather keep the fantasy alive, thank you very much!
We debated back and forth about when to begin because we wanted to wait until he was 6 months. (Currently he is 4.5 months.)
But he had other ideas. He showed many of the expected signs that he was ready for solids. And most importantly, he had been eating more than 40 ounces per day and had started waking up in the middle of the night for extra feedings. Indications he was too hungry with just the formula.
Our little baby is edging ever closer to not being our "Little Baby" anymore.
Not the lest of which, he is already wearing size 12 months clothes!
Lately while feeding and rocking Global Baby I've been watching a program entitled "A Place in the Sun" in which Brits travel to warm and sunny locations. Generally to purchase either a vacation home or a retirement home.
Frequently they talk about how the house or apartment features an "American kitchen."
I cannot for the life of me figure out what they mean by that. The kitchens don't look particularly American or even much like each other.
Not only am I taking care of a sick & feverish baby while I have a bad cold, but Global Baby is also having a growing spurt. Last night he woke up every 2-3 hours and downed almost a full bottle of formula each time. This morning I noticed the clothes that fit fine last week are now a bit too short.
Shouldn't his body know he is sick and wait a few days for the growing spurt?
Meanwhile GLH is off on an executive retreat/business meeting in the Swiss Alps. Last night the entire group snow-shooed through the woods to have a fondue dinner in an igloo restaurant.
Apparently lack of sleep improves my language abilities. Who knew?
We are leaving the Deutsch textbooks behind and moving on to reading & discussing books in German. We are starting with a modern baby care book. My tutor thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the baby advice given to Germans and Americans. I agreed!
We made a quick trip up to Germany over the weekend.
Our primary goal was to pick up US infant formula, Infant Tylenol and Infant Motrin. We've got a friend connected with the US military, so we went on base to do a bit of shopping. American groceries at American dollars -- and no worries about packing them in luggage for a flight. Woo hoo!
We also picked up a Baby Einstein Exer-Saucer, which our friend's toddler had outgrown.
I have officially become a Crazy Lady who yells at other people's children.
Here's the story:
Today's nap wasn't going well, so I buckled Global Baby into his stroller and went for a stroller nap. It took 30 minutes of constant movement and singing (which earned me more than a few sideways looks), but I had just managed to get him to sleep when we happened to walk by the school. Just as school was letting out for the day.
A large group of boys, aged about 8-10 years old, ran out of the school and immediately started up a snowball fight. With Global Baby and me in the middle.
Can you see where this is going?
Not surprisingly, one of the snowballs hit the stroller, causing Global Baby to wake up and start crying.
Fortunately, the snowball did not hit him. Or this might have been a very different story. One involving the police being called after I throttled a young child.
However, I was angry enough at these inconsiderate boys that I yelled at them in a combination of High German and English.
I doubt they understood what I was saying. But I am certain they took my meaning.
This past week I snapped this photo of Global Baby...
What amazed me is that while I can still see the baby that he is, the photo captured a brief glimpse of him as the mischievous, little boy that he will eventually become.
This morning I packed away his 6 months clothes and pulled out the 9 months clothes. It was a struggle getting him into the 6 months size. And that is US sizing. In European sizing he is closer to what is recommended for 12 months.
I think he doesn't realize that he is still only 3 1/2 months old!
He is trying to stand on his own. (Has the strength, doesn't have the balance.) He is trying to crawl. He is trying to talk. He is starting to teeth.
In short, he is doing so many things that the Baby Books say he shouldn't be doing yet. I've had to read several months ahead in the "What to Expect the First Year" book just to keep up.
On the one hand, it is thrilling to see him so excited about discovering the world and learning new things. On the other hand, there is a part of me a little sad that he is so determined to grow up so quickly.
I hope he still loves to cuddle for a long time to come. I would miss that the most.
"A man who was born German and died American has just been named the most significant Swiss of all time."
One of the newspapers here in Switzerland came up with the list of the 30 most influential Swiss in all of history. How influential could they be, given the person in the number one position wasn't even Swiss and only lived in Switzerland from 1902 through 1914.
It's a bit late because it's been a busy week with a teething baby, but here's the 2008 Top Ten List!
10. Delos, Greece
Ancient sites are thrilling to me. I love glimpses of life from centuries ago. We were astounded it was as free of tourists as it was. occasionally we ran across others, but for the most part we felt we had the island to ourselves. Not being engulfed in crowds made it all the more special. Delos would be higher on the list if it hadn't been so hot and humid on that tiny island.
9. Rhodes, Greece
An amazing juxtaposition of ancient, medieval and modern lives. Definitely on our list for future travels.
8. Dubrovnik, Croatia
Such a beautiful, charming little city. It's beauty was made poignant by the freshly repaired roofing tiles, which highlighted the extent of the bombing during the civil war in the 90's.
7. Las Vegas, Nevada
Although I have no driving need to ever return to Las Vegas, I'm glad we made a trip to this iconic city. Especially before Global Baby's arrival. Regardless of the many attempts to Disney-fy Vegas and the hordes of children running about the smoke-filled casinos, it is still an adult's playground and most definitely not child-friendly.
6. Santorini, Greece
Perhaps the one place this year which was so gorgeous it literally took my breath away. None of the photos of this much-photographed place can possibly compare to the reality.
5. Olympia, Greece
The Olympics is the only sporting event I care about. Seeing where it all began was beyond exciting for me. Ditching the tour guide and large group for this visit was definitely worth it.
4. Cairo, Egypt
Walking into the tombs of ancient Pharaohs is an indescribable experience and one which I will carry with me forever.
3. Istanbul, Turkey
Perhaps the most fascinating city I have ever visited, the trip was made all the more enjoyable by having hired a private guide and driver. Something I cannot recommend highly enough for this city. Otherwise you cannot possibly grasp the extent of its history and significance.
2. Pompeii/Napoli, Italy
As mentioned before, I love the ancient sites. And this one outshines them all. A moment in time from Ancient Rome, frozen by the molten lava of a spewing volcano. What is also amazing are all the people who continue to live in the shadow of Vesuvius, a still active volcano that is due for another Big One.
1. San Antonio, Texas
How could this not be the Number #1 trip of the year? It's where we went to get Global Baby, our beautiful son. No other trip could possibly compare to this one filled with so much joy.