29 July 2009


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?

26 July 2009

One Swiss Mystery Solved

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!

Here's why...

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...

23 July 2009

Customs Woes

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!


19 July 2009

Leaving on a Jetplane

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...

08 July 2009

In Pursuit of Perfection

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!

07 July 2009

Lost in Translation

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...

04 July 2009

Parenting Styles

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...

03 July 2009

Road Tripping France

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!

01 July 2009

Teaching Early Independence

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.

What is up with that?