Saturday, May 31, 2008

We have to swim how far?

We purchased European maps for our Garmin this week and finally got around to downloading them today. I'm learning something new everyday it seems as far as technology and gadgets go. Finally got an iPod yesterday, but that's another story.

Anyway, back to the maps. Apparently you download the information onto the computer and then transfer it to your GPS unit. Pretty cool stuff! So, what do we do? We enter our new address and hit enter. Garmin starts to calculate.

And calculate.

And then it stopped.

Apparently swimming across the Atlantic isn't an option for Garmin.

Marion found some new things on her pants

We call them pockets.

Moving Day

I'm finally getting around to posting about Moving Day 2 days later. Did I mention we've been busy?

Thursday morning, Brian got up to meet the movers at the house. I stayed home with Marion to take her to the doctors. She had/has an ear infection. So we met up with Brian at the house after Marion's doctor appointment and after Brian and the movers got started. On the way to the house, Marion started saying (or maybe it was singing?) "Go see home!" over and over again. My stress level quadrupled in anticipation of the separation anxiety to come.

When we arrived, the movers had already rolled our their red carpet (nice touch!) and packed up most of the house,

in a big truck blocking most of our street.

Marion really could not have cared less. We did the bye-bye thing, or at least tried. Mostly she just swatted in the direction of the house, muttering bye-bye as she ran around and played. So, it appears, I was stressed over nothing. Go figure.

Since most of our things had been packed up in the truck already, we left to run errands and pick up Marion's medicine.

(mover guy pondering if our stuff will fit in this truck. it did.)

The movers were done packing up our house by noon. They left for lunch and met us at my parent's house a little after one.

Everything went smoothly from there. Nothing broken, nothing missing, and everything fit in my parent's basement.

Can't take credit for everything in those pictures, some items to the right in both pictures are not ours. But we did take up a fairly large portion of the basement.

Also, they were done by 4, earlier than expected. And the movers couldn't have been nicer- they did a great job. Brian and I are spoiled now. I can't imagine moving ourselves ever again!

After the move was completed, Brian and I were able to relax (a smidge) before running some errands and heading over to our house (at that time) to do a last run through. The house looked fantastic. Kind of like how I bought it 5 years ago, but a nicer looking sister.

After some quiet walking and reflecting through the house, I locked it up and went with Brian to neighbor's house a couple of doors down, talking to other neighbors along the way. A great way to end the day, having fun with our neighbors. We had great neighbors, they definitely made the block. And we will certainly miss all of them!

*** Breaking News ***

One of my closest friend's water just broke. Boy is he cutting things close. Pray that baby makes a safe entrance before 10 AM tomorrow!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

BGE & Communication

When I canceled our Baltimore, Gas & Electric service I was told that someone would come on May 29th between 8 and 12 to get our final meter reading. Which was great timing because the movers were at the house then and we would need to be there anyway.

So the movers finished this morning and Brian waited. Thankfully, we are busy so Brian and I decided if BGE hadn't shown up by 12:15 then we weren't going to continue to wait.

But that didn't stop me from calling them.

After a longer wait on the phone than Comcast but not as long as Verizon, I was speaking to a customer service rep. She informed me that because the new owner had requested service at the address after we canceled, BGE did not require a visit to get a meter reading.

Nice, thanks for letting us know.

Busy, busy week

Lots to catch up on!

Last Thursday my work had a going away dinner for Brian and I. We had a lot of fun hanging out and it was a great way to start the long weekend.

Then we packed. No need to discuss the craziness and pain of that. But the weekend was sprinkled with fun in between the packing. Friday night we had dinner with our friends Heather and Tom. Saturday was dinner and crepes with friends Steve and Sarah. And Sunday was a Memorial Day cookout at Steve and Sarah's house.

Memorial Day was spent packing some more. Painful, painful packing. I was so exhausted and sore that I pretty much tapped out by noon. I was useless. I'm sure Brian will say the same (he wasn't very happy with me).

However, the holiday did end on an up note. Crabs with my parents and grandmother! At the end of the night, we moved in with Mom and Dad. Back with the 'rents.

Tuesday after work Brian and I attended a going away happy hour given by Brian's work. Lots of fun with plenty of jokes about Brian killing computers. Apparently he has gone through five laptops in four and a half years? A record for the office I believe. I think it has something to do with his power typing.

Wednesday brought Brian and I our last days of work. Can't believe they came so quickly. That evening we met friends Steve and Jesse for dinner. They return from their travels around the world as we take off for ours. Poor planning.

Today's moving day. Pictures to come later, haven't downloaded them yet. Tonight, haircut, hanging out with neighbors, and my in laws arrive.

Tomorrow's settlement and transfer of my car. And about a million other things. I'll be driving all over Baltimore dropping things off, picking them up, yadda yadda yadda. Hopefully we'll be able to fit in a Ms Julie performance at the mall for Marion. Ms Julie's a local preschool performer and Marion loves her. Evidence of Marion's love: Ms Julie is a popular answer for many different questions.

Q: Marion, what do you want to buy at the store?
A: Ms Julie!

Q: Marion, who did you see this morning?
A: Ms Julie!

Nope honey, you saw a doctor this morning. A doctor because you have an ear infection. Three days before we leave the country. On a pressurized aircraft. Wonderful.

Saturday, more packing. And hopefully some pool time. That would be nice.

Sunday, I hope we have time for the farmer's market. It's one of my favorite things to do in Baltimore. Then we'll leave for the airport by noon. After that, well, we'll just have to see!

Monday, May 26, 2008

We survived the long weekend.

But we still tired.

You know how I know? I just typed "we still tired." Yikes.

We still have a little bit of finishing to do. But that can wait. Until when you ask? Not really sure. Our schedules, like the past week or so, are filled to the brim.

But it will get done. It always does.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Status: Packing. We're tired.

We've been packing for two days now. Packing, and packing, and packing, and... well, you get the point. There still doesn't seem to be an end in sight.

I think what is taking us so long is that, while packing, we have to figure out what to take to Switzerland with us and what to put in storage. And, as usual, I want to take alot more than we have luggage for. So it is a constant editing process of stuff.

However, we did purchase new luggage for our move. Isn't it pretty?
Well, as pretty as luggage gets.

On a completely different note, our irises have bloomed. I love them. So pretty.

Pretty on their own. Our garden looks horrible, no time to weed lately. The new guy will learn about the joys of home ownership pretty fast. No better way, right?

What are you doing this holiday weekend?

We're packing. A lot. Back to work before the slave driver, aka Brian, gets mad. Pictures to come later, if we ever get out from underneath all of our stuff...

Friday, May 23, 2008

A sad farewell

My first car, affectionately known as Rosie, is gone.

Some of you may know her as the Mr. Incredible car, an alias for her since Brian started driving her.

Rosie and I had some great times together since I brought her home in October 2002. One of my fondest memories is bringing Marion home from the hospital in Rosie. A newborn, a woman recovering from surgery and childbirth, gifts, and gear all chauffered by Brian in that little hatchback. I moved on to a new car in July 2006, but she still held a place in my heart.

But it was time for her to move on. So, we handed her off to a college aged girl from Virginia who was quite excited to get her this morning.

Farewell Rosie!

Do you see what I see? ----------------------->

A single digit countdown. Holy crap. And my house is an absolute pig sty. A mess from top to bottom.

And I'm adding something to my "Isn't that odd?" list. We've known about this move since the end of September. Yet most of the things we have to do in preparation happens in the last week. Go figure. We have a lot to do before now and next Sunday.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Visas in hand

This morning I had a meeting in DC. Monday I realized, hey, the meeting is in DC. So, this morning I left prepared to pick up our visas just in case the meeting ended early enough for me to swing by the Swiss embassy before they closed their consulate affairs office at noon.

The morning started out well, no traffic on 295 south. As soon as I thought that, wham! Traffic on 295 south. Darn.

Thankfully I had given myself enough time that I arrived to my meeting with time to spare. Meeting went smoothly, covered everything I needed to cover for this project that is going out my last day at work. Ended early too, doesn't usually happen that way. I got lucky.

So I took care of some things at the site and headed out to my car. Plugged the embassy's address into Garmin and headed off to find the embassy.

This is when I started to get a little nervous. Even with Garmin, DC is incredibly difficult to navigate in. At least it is for me. But thankfully, I paid attention to the little pink pathway. Even if the street's name was wrong, that pink line was always correct. It took me past the World War II Memorial (lots of students), the Washington Monument (still tall and pointy), up 17th Street to Connecticut Ave (busy, busy), and past the DC Hilton (where Reagan was shot). Thank god for that pink line. And that white arrow. Also helpful.

After a couple of more turns off of Connecticut, I found myself at the embassy.

Nice building, expected a bigger sign though. However, I like the sculpture in the courtyard.

Off to the right was an interesting building.

I did some research after I got home tonight. Turns out the building is the Swiss ambassador's residence. Here's a better picture:

That white tree sculpture reminds me of the White Tree of Gondor. Yes, my husband made me watch the Lord of the Rings. And I enjoyed it. Anyway....

As I gathered all of our paperwork, I decided against bringing the camera into the embassy. Last thing I need to do is piss off the Swiss before I enter their country.

So I made sure, again, that I had all of the paperwork I had been told to bring. According to my checklist, I was good. So I grabbed the bag and headed inside.

Once inside, I told the receptionist that I was there for visas. She asked if I had all of my paperwork. I proudly showed her the stack of stuff I had brought with me. But wouldn't you know, I got it wrong. Passport photos had to be attached to the visa applications. Strike one. So she gave me a glue stick and I fumbled around with all of my paperwork to glue the passport photos to each of our applications. After the glue work had been completed, I handed everything to her. She took it, then asked for the visa fee. And, with pride that I was prepared again, handed over cash to cover it all. With that, I was sent to the waiting chairs.

I settled into my chair to wait. Because that's what you do in government agencies, right? Lots of waiting.

A couple of minutes had gone by when the receptionist came back and asked if I had made copies of our passports for their records. Uh, nope. I hadn't, not on my list. Shoot, strike two. The receptionist turned around and said something in a foreign language. And all I could think was "Crap! I pissed off the Swiss!"

After about 15 more minutes, I was pulled into a side room and given our visas. Wow, fast! And a fairly smooth process, except for my two strikes.

And that was that. I walked out with all three visas. Which, by the way, are also very pretty.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Answers to some common questions we get

I realized I never completely explained why we are picking up our lives and moving across the pond, among other things. So here goes, I'm going to try to answer some of the common questions we get. If I miss one of yours, just let me know and I'll answer it!

Why are you moving?
Brian's firm offers international rotations for their employees. We had never really thought about it until he received an email from his firm leadership discussing the benefits of international experience and urging employees to apply for opportunities. Brian forwarded me the email and said he had already said no. I responded, "Why? Looks like fun." That was approximately 1.5 years ago. We discussed it, a lot. Then, when Brian finally applied for a job, several things had to take place before we were approved for the rotation.

How did you get the apartment?
An employee in the group Brian is going to is moving back to the States at the end of May. He emailed Brian letting us know that his apartment was available. We discussed it, saw a video they posted on their blog, and decided to apply. Two days later, we were notified we got the apartment!

Will you work while over there?
Nope, I'm going to try my hand at being a stay at home mom. Partly because I've heard that finding work as a spouse can be difficult because of permit/visa restrictions. A little bit because I know that being an engineer abroad can be completely different than being an engineer in the States. But mostly because I want to explore Europe with a bossy two year old. Glutton for punishment? Probably.

How long will you be there?
Our permit is for two years. So, at the very least, two years.

When will you be back to the US?
Probably around Christmas time. Nothing is booked yet though.

What are you going to do with your stuff?
Mom and Dad have kindly offered their basement for storage of our furniture. Thank god, because storage spaces are expensive!

What are you taking with you?
Clothes, some toys, books, blankets, toiletries, and Brian's golf clubs. All of the important things.

Are you packed?
No. Please refer to the countdown to the right. Gotta get on that.

And Brian just informed me that he is often asked:
Are you bringing your family?
I don't even know what to say. He better be.

The Swiss like to walk

So says CNN.

This is good. Because the official exercise of Maryland is walking. Which means... absolutely nothing.

Well, it means one thing. I should look for a good pair of hiking boots when we get to Zurich.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Pretty money

We received some Swiss francs as a going away present a couple of weeks ago. Wow! The Swiss have some gorgeous cash. Maybe that's why they are some of the best savers in the world?

Who knows. But I do know that the US dollar is weak next to the Swiss franc (in more than one way)!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Purge Cycle #2

We had our second yard sale today. Again, I forgot to take a picture until later, when alot of our stuff had been sold already.
Unfortunately though, at some point during the yard sale, someone walked off with my old 35mm SLR camera I was selling. The camera and the camera bag. Unbelievable. It wasn't like I was going to ask alot for it- maybe 5, 10 dollars. They are selling on eBay for $25 or so. But someone felt the need to steal it. And so for the second time in a row Brian and I have been robbed during a yard sale. I hate that.

However, it was a beautiful day for a yard sale and we had a great time sitting outside, enjoying the weather and the company of our neighbors.

A beautiful day sprinkled with some of our neighbors from further down the street stopping by to ask about the house. Since our realtor doesn't put an "Under Contract" sign out, alot of our neighbors have been nervous that our house hasn't sold. But we assured them all that we had two contracts within days of the open house. No need to worry, houses still sell relatively quickly in our neighborhood. But we got the feeling that a lot of them were nervous for us, or for them and the values around us. That pesky real estate market has everyone nervous I guess.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Go home Mommy!

I hear this alot lately. Actually, everyday when I pick Marion up from daycare. She gets in the car and demands to go home, get a cup, and eat. Have I mentioned she's a bit bossy? Not a clue where she got that from...

Anyway, this has been happening for the past week or so and, if she doesn't see the house in the near future, she loses it. And when we get home, she points to our house, yells "HOME!!!!!", and starts kicking her feet and laughing. Then, when I get her out of the carseat, she runs for the door.

Hmmm. Why must she get so attached to "home" three weeks out from departure? Will this make her transition to Switzerland more difficult?

So, since I'm a planner, I googled "moving with a toddler" to try and find some answers. And I found:

To toddlers, moving is akin to having their entire world taken apart, which literally is what's happening.


A little further down:
Before the movers come, if it's possible, visit the new house a few times so she can get used to both her new space and the idea of switching from one place to another.

I think we fall in the "not possible" category.

A suggestion:
When it comes time to start packing, ask your toddler to help you pack up her room.

Hmmm, have the people at babycenter tried packing with a toddler around? I have. It went okay as long as I was packing boring stuff, like china or platters, and she was playing with bubble wrap. But the second I tried to pack her toys, all hell broke loose. I'd put a toy in the box, she'd stomp her feet and take it out. Repeat a hundred times.

Next suggestion:
On your last day at the old house, accompany your toddler on a tour of every room so she can say good-bye.

This could work! Definitely going to try this. The bye-bye method works great for Marion- we use it for everything, from things dropped on the floor to dragging her out of toy stores.

And finally:
Your child needs consistency to feel secure, so once you're at the new house, set up her room first — no matter how chaotic the rest of the house is or how much you're dying to unpack the silverware.

I was already planning on doing this. Maybe I should write the expert answers over at babycenter?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A break from the madness

Horsie time with Daddy!

Visas: they're in.

We received a very nice email from Brian's office in Zurich notifying us that our visa authorizations have arrived. Remember how I mentioned that it wasn't really going to be real for Brian until we got our visas, boarded the plane, and landed in Switzerland? Well, I think this news has pushed Brian to his first level of reality regarding this move. His response to the email:

"Holy shit… we are moving to Switzerland."

Baby steps honey, baby steps.

On another note, silly silly me. For some reason I thought that we were waiting for our visas all along. Turns out that just the authorization is in. We have to go down to the Swiss Embassy in DC with money, passports, passport photos, a copy of our marriage certificate, and completed visa applications for each of us. Then we should have our visas. Wonder what Brian will say then?

Monday, May 12, 2008

We like to donate to the state of Maryland.

So much so, we'll continue to give from Switzerland.

Apparently, Maryland is one of the few states that taxes expatriates. Taking up residence in a foreign country for a few years and earning money in a foreign currency doesn't mean squat to them. Since our stay in Switzerland is dependant on Brian's job, the state of Maryland says we can't officially establish a domicile in Switzerland.


So, naturally, we wonder: hey, will we have to pay Swiss taxes? And the answer is yes.

However, we won't have to pay federal taxes, or at least will be paying significantly less than we would if we were living in the US. Thank you Uncle Sam! Enjoy our money Governor O'Malley.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

The cancellation process.

With our move in only 3 weeks, I've finished canceling our utilities, cell phones, and my gym membership. I never enjoy canceling things. I always feel uncomfortable when the agent on the other end of the phone starts through their form comments: "Was there a problem with the service?", "Would you like to transfer your service?", "If you find someone to take over your cellphone you can keep the number".

But now I have a great answer. "We're moving to Switzerland". The response usually is "Oh, okay, we'll cancel the service".

Quick, painless. Love that.

Except with Verizon.

Verizon's customer service line is automated. Right off the bat I'm annoyed- the automated service line is the kind that requires spoken responses rather than touch tone inputs. Probably annoys me because it never picks up my responses and my end of the call sounds something like "no. no. NO!" followed by some punches of the 0 key to try to get a person on the line.

Anyway, I finally found my way to the cancellation section. I was told the wait was approximately 6 minutes and if I would like, I could have Verizon call me back when my turn came around. Nice! So I entered my phone number to have them call me back. But after that the call wasn't disconnected and I was transferred to another section of the automated service line. Assuming that it hadn't worked, I waited on the line.

Wrong decision. While I waited, Verizon called me back. Damn. So I hung up and tried again. This time I found my way to an automated cancellation section. Problem with this decision- I answered yes to moving out of the area and then they wanted to know what state I was moving to. Shoot. The 0 button couldn't get me out of that question so I hung up and tried a third time.

This time, I decided to wait on the line and not take any chances of getting transferred somewhere else. Finally after 5 minutes or so I was transferred to a customer service rep. Told her I wanted to cancel my service and saw an end in sight. Oops, nope- canceling phone service is handled by a "special" customer service department.

So she transferred me. And I waited for TWENTY minutes for this super secret special customer service agent who was the only one with powers to cancel my phone service. After what seemed like an eternity (aka 20 minutes listening to elevator music), someone picked up. It then took her another 5 minutes for her to cancel my phone service.

Overall, a good 45 minutes of effort to cancel my phone service. FORTY FIVE minutes!!! Comcast took five. And one phone call.

Now I just hope that it worked and I won't have to call in 3 weeks to remind Verizon to turn off our phone!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Our new home

Our new home is south of Zurich, Switzerland.

Our apartment is a 2 bedroom apartment with a patio and green space. A playground is a hop, skip, and a jump away from our patio. And there are several toddlers in the area. All boys though. Shhhh, don't tell Brian.

Our town is one of the larger towns along Lake Zurich, approximately a 20 minute ride from Zurich. Several stores and the train station are within walking distance of our apartment. But, by far the most important thing, is that the current renters have a list of babysitters for our use. Score!

This is a HUGE load off our shoulders. We will receive the rental contract fairly soon and then will be able to occupy the apartment when we arrive in Zurich the morning of June 2nd. I've been told we can also preorder furniture from Ikea and have it delivered the next day. Suh-weeeet!!!!

Unfortunately, it is not a 3 bedroom apartment. But potential guests, please don't worry. We will be purchasing a new sofa bed just for you. :-) No excuses people!!!!

So, we have a place. If you'd like our new mailing adress, just shoot me an email. Now onto decorating... off to Ikea this weekend to investigate!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Coming full circle

Brian and I made some great purchases in the past five years we have lived at this house. Two favorites were our big screen TV and sectional couch in our basement.

The TV was purchased the first fall after we bought the house. Brian moved in and immediately began laughing when he saw my 13" TV from college in the basement. Apparently it was not what he envisioned watching football games on. Off we went to Best Buy and purchased a 50" rear projection HDTV. Through some screw ups on Best Buy's end, we ended up getting a 55" model. Football season was glorious.

Unfortunately, we only had a couch I had purchased through eBay to sit on while watching glorious football. So several years ago we went searching for a grown up couch. After a lot of searching, we found a huge comfortable sectional. And our bottoms have been thankful ever since.

But sadly, both had to go. So after our buyer rejected both items (his loss!), we sold both of them and they are now with their new owners. And now we have come full circle for our last month in this house: A 13" TV and Marion size chairs.

I find the familiarity comforting. Brian is thankful it is no longer football season.

Thank You!

Yesterday, Brian, Marion, and I attended our going away party. It was a fantastic party, with great friends, family, conversation, and food. The weather even improved just in time for the party!

A huge thank you to all who attended! We truly enjoyed seeing all of you before our departure. We wish we had been able to spend more time with you but we greatly appreciate each and every one of you taking the time out of your busy spring schedules to wish us off. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!

And if you weren't able to make it - and we know how busy life can get - we hope to be able to see you before we leave!

Thursday, May 1, 2008

And now for something entirely different.


Mommy's letting me take over the blog today because it is my birthday. I had an awesome day. First, Daddy took me to breakfast at the local diner. I ate french toast with whipped cream and then had a cookie with a candle.

After my nap, Mommy set up a new gift. A play bounce! I was scared at first and wasn't happy about this thing.

But then my friends Brinley and Karis came over and I had a blast!

We all sang Happy Birthday and then had cake! I had so much fun that I fell asleep within 5 minutes. What an awesome birthday!