Friday, October 31, 2008

First snow

We woke up yesterday to our first snow on the ground.
Quite the surprise, despite being warned by multiple people that snow was in the forecast. For some reason when they told me 'snow', I logged 'flurries' in my mind.

Marion loved the surprise. She ran to the door and yelled "Look! Look outside! Snow white!!!!"

That excitement quickly turned into anger when Mommy and Daddy wouldn't let her outside to play in the snow in her pajammas.

Imagine our surprise! Just last winter she hated the white stuff so much she refused to walk in it. I had to carry her from the house to the car to take her to daycare.

Anyway, we quickly got her dressed so she could go outside and see it.

Then we headed to playgroup. In the car on the way there Marion exclaimed, "Look Mommy! Snow! It's so pretty!" Then, as we walked through the snowy slushy mess, Marion actually picked up some snow and ate it. Don't worry, I made sure it wasn't yellow.

Guess that snow hating phase is over! Good thing, since we live in Switzerland now.

The snow was gone near us by late afternoon. However, there is still some on the hills surrounding us. Next time, I'll pay more attention to those weather reports.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My little princess

Here is my little princess, complete with tiara and earrings. She has already informed Brian and I of her plans to go to a castle, marry a prince, and get true love's first kiss. I hope that works out for her. Brian is looking into purchasing a firearm.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Proof that no matter how hard you try, you can't plan everything

And you certainly can't control everything.

I think my kids are trying to teach me this lesson. Marion did a great job with her pregnancy. I hadn't even considered a c-section as an option for giving birth until I had a complete placenta previa with her. Then she had to up and enter the world five weeks early! She certainly put Mom and Dad on notice that things can only be planned and controled up to a point.

I got that message, loud and clear. I definitely mellowed a bit after giving birth to her and didn't stress out about things (as much as I did before I had kids).

But someone obviously thought I hadn't gotten the message.

Yesterday, at my 16th week pregnancy appointment, Brian and I learned that our second child's placenta had moved into another complete previa.

Talk about dumb luck.

Previas are supposed to be rare. This little one's placenta was clear and out of the way just four weeks ago. And yet, there it was yesterday. In the way.

My doctor was stunned. He asked me, in his accented English, "What are you doing? It was out of the way before. Are you pulling it down?"

Sir, if I knew, I wouldn't be doing it. Trust me.

So, as a result of this little surprise, several things happen. First, no more lifting for me. Good news, considering we move into our new apartment tomorrow. Not so good news for Brian though.

Second, we wait and see if it moves. Fortunately, 90% of all previas move when they are diagnosed this early in pregnancy. We are hopeful that we will be in the 90% and not the 10%. However, seeing as how it is a complete previa and hoping for it to move didn't work out too well for us last time, I would really classify it as tempered hopefulness.

Finally, we were forced into reality yesterday when the doctor informed us that if this thing doesn't move, I won't be able to fly. Which means no flight to Vienna in November and, sadly, no flight home for Christmas.

See? My second child is already a trouble maker. We are thinking of naming the baby "Hell Raiser". Think he or she would be tortured at school with a name like that?

So there you have it. Everything you never wanted to know about placentas. If you could spare some, I'd appreciate some happy moving placenta thoughts! I'd really like to go on our trips. I've been dreaming about a proper steak ever since we booked our flight back home. A nice, huge, slab of beef, cooked medium rare that won't cost an arm and a leg. Yummmmmmmmm.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Moving, the Swiss way

We are moving this week to the larger apartment next door. Funny, Brian and I swore off moving for awhile when we packed our bags and came here five months ago. Yet, here we are again.

But this time, we are subject to the Swiss rules of moving.

First of all, in most rental contracts, there are two times of the year when the renter can get out of contract with only a months notice. All other times of the year you are responsible for giving three months notice. Or, if you move out before those three months are up, you can find someone else to take the apartment. If you do not, you are responsible for those three months.

As luck should have it, we are not moving during one of those two acceptable times during the year. And, unfortunately, we have not found a tenant to take our current apartment. So, as of November 1, we are responsible for rent for both of the apartments. Great timing by us.

Additionally, renters are not allowed to leave an apartment at the end of the year due to the Christmas holidays. Double whammy.

We are still hopeful that we will find someone. Otherwise, Christmas is going to be small this year.

Another Swiss rule of renting is the state of cleanliness required for the apartment. Each renter is entitled to a clean apartment when they move in. And by clean, they mean spotless, eat off the floor kind of clean. I've been told the cleaners actually take off the handles to the stovetop and clean each individually.

This results in a multitude of businesses willing to clean your apartment for a hefty fee. Our apartment has been listed on a popular rental website for almost two weeks now. We have received two phone calls as a result of the ad from men who only spoke German. Once I found someone to translate I found out that both of them had cleaning companies and wanted to clean our place. Talk about frustrating! I was hoping for apartment leads and I get cold calls. Pfft.

Anyway, we had the walk thru for our new apartment today. They've lived there for four years so it needs some sprucing up. The management company is going to paint the place and recaulk some things and then it will be ready for us.

We will start moving in tomorrow evening and finish up on Thursday. Next week, we get to do the whole thing over again for our old apartment. And then we will definitely be swearing off moving for awhile!

Friday, October 24, 2008

To tip or not to tip

It's been a question for me since I arrived here. Tipping etiquette is pretty well known in the US: 15-20% depending on service.

But here, things are not so clear. Which is odd, since the Swiss seem to have rules for everything. But I digress.

When we arrived we took a relocation course. The woman who came to meet with us told us that people tend to round up on bills as a tip, if they are waited on. So a $48 bill would become $50, and so on.

Other people have told us not to tip. And then others tip 10%, less than they would in the US but more than people seem to do here.

I've done all three and nothing seems right. I'm so used to the 15-20% rule and really don't have a clue as to what waiters and waitresses expect here.

So imagine my surprise when I read this blog post over at Waiter Rant.

I couldn't help but chuckle to myself and thank my lucky stars that I tend to be on the overgiving side of things over here just in case. No one likes to piss off the waiter.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Little Miss - An Update

Marion's been up to a lot recently so this post is going to be all about her.

First, she is on her way to being potty trained. A couple of weeks ago I bit the bullet and took the diaper off while we were at home. And wouldn't you know, not a single accident. She put everything in her potty and clung to the follow-up routine like toilet paper on your shoe. She pretty much trained herself. All we had to do has clean out her little potty!

We haven't ventured towards training outside of our house yet though. I'm a little nervous about accidents but some friends have advised me to just do it. I might do just that after we move (next Wednesday!!!).

Marion has also become a great two year old. She has a tendency to not listen and talk back. And I have a tendency to laugh at her because some of the things she does are hilarious from a two year old! One conversation we seem to have every day goes something like this:

Me: Marion, (insert me telling her to do something here).
Marion: Hmmmm (placing index finger on chin, mulling it over), no.
Me: Marion, listen to Mommy.

This conversation will go one of two ways. She'll quickly respond "Hmmmmm (with that finger on her chin again), okay!" and do whatever I asked her to do like it was her idea in the first place. Or, she'll say no and do whatever she wants. Usually I can get her to do what I ask by ignoring her for a bit and then bringing her back around to the request.

There are also those precious two year old moments where she goes hog wild in public and it is just a disaster. And I prefer to not relive those moments because I become super tense and very aware of looks from people around me. I hate that.

We continue to feed Marion's obsession with princesses. We purchased Sleeping Beauty the other day and the girl loves it. Somehow she has even learned to clasp her hands together under her chin, raise her shoulders, tilt her head to the side, and talk in a sing-song voice about the movie. I don't have a clue where she picked that up from.

Not to worry though, we aren't raising a little diva or anything. Marion also enjoys picking up a ball and throwing it at Mommy and Daddy without warning. That's fun.

Our little miss has also become aware of her new brother or sister. She knows that Mommy has a baby in her belly. So now, Marion likes to tell us that she also has a baby in her belly.

And finally, Marion is back to going to playgroup twice a week now that the fall break is over. And her teacher recently informed me that she is starting to speak German!!!! I was thrilled and surprised at the same time. I certainly wouldn't know if she is picking up anything more than greetings and basics because I still know very little of the language. I have to resort to asking "Sprechen Sie Englisch?" (Do you speak English?) whenever someone tries to talk to me. Which has resulted in Marion asking people she meets, "Speak any English?", after she says hello. Always a great way to meet new people. :-)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Jucker Farmart

Two weeks ago Marion and I went to a local farm, Jucker Farmart, with some friends of ours.

The weather that day started out kind of iffy but, as usual around here, the weather swiftly changed from cloudy to sunny and warm.

Marion was thrilled to see her friends. And then she saw the pumpkins when we walked into the place. It was like toddler heaven.

We started off at the trampolines.
After a few seconds on those, some of the girls decided it was a little too much for them so we headed over to the animals.
Then it was playground time.
And then, lunch. This place had some tasty pumpkin soup (I think baby 2.0 is obsessed with pumpkin soup) along with fresh dairy products, meats, and apple juice. I decided right then and there that I would be coming back with a stroller and Brian to haul some larger pumpkins back to the car.

After lunch we decided to pick out a pumpkin. Small pumpkins since I was going to have to carry them back to the car.
While we were exploring our choices, we found prize winning pumpkins. They were huge! I have no idea how these pumpkins get so big. I always thought huge pumpkins like this would rot as they grow but obviously not!

The farm also had a lot of pumpkin art which was fun to look at.

Of course, Marion found the princess in the pumpkin carriage. Good thing she's going to be a princess for Halloween next week!
We had a ton of fun with our friends and exploring the farm. But by 12:30 Mommy was pooped so we headed home but with plans to return soon with Daddy!

Friday, October 17, 2008

A run in at the gas station

Yesterday morning, Brian and I stopped at a gas station to fill up. We stopped at a small gas station that only has room for two cars on either side of the pumps. On top of that, it is a one way gas station so you have to wait for the people in front of you to pull ahead before you can get gas.

Well, as luck would have it, the side we needed to be on was full. The car in front finished fairly quickly and left. But the car behind him took a little bit longer. Brian and I discussed whether or not the nozzle would reach around the car if we pulled up on the other side while we waited. But Brian mentioned he had tried that before and it did not reach.

So we waited.

Finally, this guy was done, closed up his gas tank, and then left his car there to go inside and pay. So I said, screw this. I pulled around through the empty side, backed up, and parked at the pump in front of him.

This did not please this guy and, when he finished paying, he came out and decided to say some words to me, despite Brian standing right next to me. Can't say I blame him though, if you had to pick who to argue with between the two of us- would you pick me or Brian?

Anyway, he told us we should have pulled on the empty side. I told him that the nozzle doesn't reach and he could have easily pulled forward since, in addition to the open spot in front of him, there were three open parking spaces next to the store where you have to pay. He told me you pump first and then pay. And that's when I walked away because, obviously, this guy was not going to be reasoned with.

I think Brian and he talked some more and then he got in his car and dramatically exited through the entrance (even though the other side was still empty) and sped off.

We just shook our heads, finished up, got in the car, and continued on our way. But I can't shake the feeling that this guy is going to tell people about the rude Americans he encountered.

Obviously, we don't agree with that and hope that isn't the case. But we can't control what other people do. I think I'll avoid that gas station in the future though.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Hohenschwangau & Neuschwanstein

The day after we arrived in Füssen, we went to see our first Ludwig castle, Hohenschwangau.

We decided to take the horse-drawn carriage up to the castle. Marion and I sat in the front seat so she had a better view of the horses. It turned out to be a better view of the horse's behinds but she didn't mind. Even when one of the horses had gas and the other one had to go "poopies". No, no, no- that made the ride that much enjoyable... for Marion. Oh the enjoyment of a toddler in the middle of potty training.

Anyway, it was a short trip up the hill and we quickly arrived at the castle.

We followed the rest of the tourists up the path and found the waiting area. Since we were fairly early for our tour, we walked around the grounds. The castle had lovely gardens, fountains, and the views were spectacular.

Everyone enjoyed exploring, except for Marion.

Marion recently became obsessed with princesses. One of the movies that helped her cultivate this obsession was Enchanted. And one of the first things Giselle does in the movie is go to the castle to get married.

Marion knew we were at a castle. And all she wanted to do was go inside to go get married to a prince. So she let everyone know it. I wouldn't necessarily classify her behavior as a tantrum, just very, very determined to go get married. And darn it, Mommy wouldn't let her. I'm so mean.

So she wasn't very happy with me.
Finally it was almost time to go inside. Seeing how I am pregnant, Colleen carried Marion on the tour. You can tell Marion is happy to at least be making progress towards going into the castle (to go get married).
No pictures were allowed inside the tour. Not that this rule mattered. Marion was a chatterbox the entire time so I was busy feeding her peanut M&M's to try and keep the peace. But I did pick up a few things.

First, everything in the castle was original and everything that we saw was in incredible condition. The paintings on the walls had been directly painted on the plaster and had never been restored. They looked fairly new they were in such great condition. There were ceramic "boxes" to give off heat but the wood was not brought into the royal rooms. Instead these boxes extended to the first floor where the servants would maintain the fire and the hot air would rise. Finally, King Ludwig and his brother Otto stayed in the Annex with their teachers.

So despite Marion gabbing about getting married and me shoving chocolate down her throat, I did learn something. :-) And Colleen got some lovely little chocolate chunks on the back of her jacket. Sorry, Mars, those little shells melt in my toddler's hands.

After our tour, we decided to take the carriage back down the hill. While we were watiting, Colleen and Marion marched along the path in some water.
And then I realized something. We were waiting where the horses stopped and there was a hose next to the path. Hmmm, could that water be poopy water? Hell yes it was, but I didn't let that ruin their fun.

We headed back to our hotel to grab some lunch and rest during Marion's nap. Then, after her nap, we headed out to explore Füssen.
I forgot Marion's stroller and she was running around hogwild so I bribed her with some chocolate ice cream.

Hey, I like to keep the peace when we are traveling and around other people. And she's two, she doesn't quite get reasoning talks just yet.

For dinner we found a traditional Bavarian restaurant. I'm not really a fan of traditional German food (or maybe baby 2.0 isn't?), but my pork and noodles were pretty good. Even the sauerkraut smelled good. Weird.

On Tuesday we went to Neuschwanstein Castle. We decided to take the horse-drawn carriage again since Neuschwanstein is farther away from the ticket area than Hohenschwangau is.

Our horses for the day were Philip (L) and Mona (R).
Philip had some gas problems but was finally able to relieve himself about halfway through the trip. Mona let loose much earlier. And these horses gave you the full view by lifting their tail alllllllllll the way up. This pair was definitely not as modest as the horses the day before. Marion loved every minute of it. And we were able to have a quick science lesson during our trip: Everyone poops. So now, everytime we see an animal on a trip or at a farm, Marion yells "Goats go poopy!!!"

Unfortunately my camera battery died on the trip up to the castle. Can you believe it? What horrible luck. I had forgotten to charge the battery the night before because I felt sick. However, I was able to get a picture of the castle the day before from Hohenschwangau.

Neuschwanstein Castle was much bigger and grander than Hohenschwangau. But I preferred Hohenschwangau because of the grounds. Neuschwanstein had stone courtyards and just seemed cold to me.

However, the inside of Neuschwanstein was spectactular. Seriously, I can see how King Ludwig spent as much money as he did. Everything is incredibly detailed and elaborate. Very over the top. One room in the King's private area is a fake cave, complete with colored stalagmites and stalactites. But the tour moves incredibly fast. Our tour guide had started speaking before we were able to join her in the next room sometimes. I wish we had had more time to look around.

Sadly, my favorite part of the tour had nothing to do with the castle. Colleen carried Marion again and, at one point, Marion peed. Colleen, feeling the warmth, immediately suspected that Marion had leaked her diaper and peed on her. It was hilarious. Having been peed on many times, I am used to it. But Aunt Colleen was not used to this and spent half the tour with a frown on her face thinking her back was covered with pee. Okay, so it obviously wasn't hilarious to Colleen. But I got a chuckle out of it.

After the tour we headed back down the hill in another carriage, this time sitting in the back. Then we had lunch at one of the restaurants near the ticket center. And I wish I could remember the name of it because the pumpkin soup was fantastic!!!!

Then it was back to the hotel for nap time. The rest of the evening was spent exploring some more of Füssen and then returning to the Italian restaurant for dinner. The following day we drove back home. It was a pretty short, uneventful drive after a great, sight-seeing trip!

I'm a slacker, yes I am.

So I've obviously neglected this blog in the past week. But I am glad to say it is because I have been feeling a smidge better and getting out more. Unfortunately, early mornings, early evenings, and the kitchen/refrigerator still are a problem. But I'm tackling everything else. And now, I am getting back to the blog. Thanks for the virtual kicks in the butt! I needed it. Off to write some posts. Stay tuned!

Monday, October 6, 2008

On the road to Füssen

The day after Mt Rigi, we headed out to Füssen, Germany. We consisted of my mom, grandmother, sister, and Marion. Brian stayed home to nurse a nasty cold and work.

We had rented a minivan for the occasion and boy did that rock. The car was a VW Sharan and, as much as I hate to admit it, it was really nice. Large enough for all of us and our bags and it drove pretty well. I may have a minivan in my future when I get back to the States. Never thought I'd think that, let alone admit it. God, what has happened to me!?!?!?

Anyway, we arrived in Füssen in time for a late nap for Marion. The rest of us relaxed and planned the rest of the trip. We were there primarily to check out two of King Ludwig's castles, Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. But Füssen looked like a great town as well so we wanted to learn more about the area.

Side note: I really did not know a lot about Ludwig before we went. Man, that guy is fascinating. Never married, spent his time building castles, and then died under mysterious circumstances after being declared insane and removed from the throne. Interesting stuff.

The rest of Sunday was spent settling in and mapping out our drive to the castles. We did find a really good Italian place for dinner though. That was a lot of fun, especially watching our waiter's reaction to Marion saying, "Danke Shoen!" He loved it. Yep, my kid can be pretty cute.

But then the flood gates opened and everyone in the restaurant got to see overtired Marion. It wasn't pretty so I took her back to the hotel as quickly as I could. She literally jumped into her crib after bathtime she was so tired. Things are definitely easier at bedtime when she doesn't fight sleeping! And that makes Mommy happy. :-)

Mt Rigi, is that you?

What Brian had planned for us that Saturday was to go see Mt Rigi. Apparently Mt Rigi is a popular place for families since the hiking isn't that hard and the views from the top are spectacular. Brian's colleagues spoke very highly of it and, since the weather was supposed to be a bit warmer, he was going to take all of us there.

On the way there, we noticed clouds. But people had told Brian that Mt Rigi is tall enough that the top is actually above the cloud cover and, no matter what the weather, you can see some great views from up there. They also told him that it doesn't get very cold at the top.

We must be very unlucky people. It was pretty chilly at the top. Plus, this is what we saw.
And this.
And this.
We were supposed to see this.
We walked a bit down and it never got better. So we decided to head back home via Zug for lunch. It was fun, even if we didn't see anything. We'll definitely have to go back sometime, on a clear day.

The next day it was obvious how out of shape I am. My calves hurt for days, all for looking at fog. Oh well, it did get me out of the bathroom for a bit!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The little one is having a party

Last Friday was my 12 week appointment. My mom, grandmom, and sister arrived on that Thursday so I gave Marion to them and headed to the doctor's office with plans to meet up with them in Zurich afterwards.

Let's do the good first. The baby is healthy and having a party in there. He or she was moving around so fast the doctor could barely get a measurement. Basically, the baby is having a great time, completely oblivious to the craziness going on because of him/her.

Now the bad. I've lost 4 lbs since my last appointment. Not a good thing. And surprising to me considering I thought I was doing better at keeping food down. As a result, the doctor canceled my trip to San Francisco this week for a friend's wedding. They are getting married tomorrow and here I sit in Zurich, feeling awful. It's better for the baby that I don't travel so far, but it was still a disappointment.

After the appointment I caught a train to Zurich to meet up with everyone. They had already made their way down the Bahnhofstrasse. I ended up meeting them at Fraumünster. The Chagall stained glass windows are gorgeous and we enjoyed walking through the garden next to the abbey.

Then we made our way across the River Limmat to the Grossmünster. This was another impressive church which, according to legend, was founded by Charlemagne.

Brian met up with us afterwards and we headed to Papa Joe's for lunch. Yummy "American" food. It is about as close to American food as you will get in Zurich. And when I say American, think Chili's.

After a long morning, we headed back to the apartment for naps and rest. Brian had big plans for us for Saturday so we needed to rest up.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

It's been a very busy week.

And I have a ton to tell you all. But, unfortunately, I don't have the time right now. I just wanted to let you all know that we are still hanging in there.

More to come tomorrow and Friday!