Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!

In honor of our two-year mark, here are two movies I made that cover our time here in Switzerland.

I hope you all have a wonderful, merry, jolly and peaceful Christmas.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Dreizehn am Montag.

So.  Long time no see.  Pretty much because not much has happened, but there are some little things I did finally want to write.  So here goes.

1.  The other day I was messing around with Brett’s phone (it’s an android?) and I really have no idea how to work it at all, but anyway I was looking at his calendar and I thought I’d be funny so I posted ‘Make love with Kayli’ to one of the days.  Then today he comes home and said, “Did you post something on my calendar?”  and I said, “yeah.”  and he said, “You know that all the people at work see all my calendar items?”       …oops.  (Then he said, “Actually they didn’t, but if you had been on my other calendar they would have.”)


2.  I love love LOOOVE how Talmage talks.  Everything everything sounds adorable.  He sings, “Oh Chimis dee, oh Chimis dee.” (‘Oh Christmas tree’ if you didn’t catch it.)  Jethro is no longer Lello, however; now he is now Jethlo, and Ethne is no longer Henny, and that makes me sad.


3.  Today Ethne and Talmage were throwing up.  That’s never very fun.  I wonder how quickly it will go through the rest of us.


4.  The other day Brett was telling all of us about a movie he watched on the plane when he went to the States, and then we were talking about the movie ‘Arachnophobia’ and telling the kids a bit about it, and Brett and I agreed it was a fairly scary movie, but I said, “It’s not too scary though, because it’s about spiders and I don’t mind spiders.  If it had been about SNAKES, then I probably would have been sobbing in the corner.”  And Brett said, “If they made a movie about writing grant proposals then I would be sobbing in the corner.”  ha ha.

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5.  It finally snowed here!  It is very lovely.



6.  When Brett was in the States (it was only a few days, he left Wed. morning and got home Sat. morning) I stopped nursing Orrin.  He had only been nursing at night, but usually two or three times at least.  (Which is silly because it’s not like he was getting any milk after the first time.)  So anyway, when I went to bed I would roll his crib out into the front room and the first night I heard him crying a bit, and I rolled over and went back to sleep.  The second night I heard him crying and I gave him soother and went back to sleep, and the third night nothing.  Awesome.  And now we’ve moved his crib into the girls’ room.  It doesn’t really fit very well in there, but it’s better than him being in our room.


7.  I love Christmas tree lights and I love the shadows on the walls.


8.  The morning that Brett was leaving to go to the States he had to leave really early and catch his train to Zurich, and I was still sleeping but then he came in and woke me up and said “You have to take me to the Bahnhof fast!”  So I had taken the Post card (which is like our debit card) from his wallet the day before to get groceries (why we don’t have two cards I do not know) and neglected to put it back, so when he walked down to the train station and opened his wallet to buy his ticket, he had no money with which to buy it.  Anyway, we ran out the door and Brett drove REALLLY fast into Bern (completely running a red light that he always yells at because it’s stupid) and I thought for sure he wouldn’t make it because his train left at 6:32 or something and it was probably 6:30 when I dropped him off and he still had to get his ticket and run to his platform.  LUCKILY he made it or he would have been perty ticked.  Phew.


9.  Yesterday was a fun fun day.  Sundays are my favorite.  We had fun making clementine candles and dancing to music (Jethro loves the Trans-Siberian orchestra.  Talmage asked me if it was Halloween music and I said that it was Christmas music and he said that it sounded like Halloween music).  After I made the first clementine candle, Brett made one without cutting it in half first, so it had no cut line.  I told him that he always has to one up me, and he laughed.


10.  Brett gave me a really good scare today when he called and told me that my (all of our) visa(s) expire(s) on the 28th, and it hasn’t been renewed yet because his new work contract hasn’t been officially documented, so if I went to the States they might not let me back into Switzerland.  So we went to some government place and asked them if we could get a temporary visa so I can get back in the country.  The guy there thought about it for awhile, and then he said that he thinks I shouldn’t have a problem coming in simply with my American passport.  He went and talked with someone else and they agreed that it should be fine.  I sure hope they’re right. 


11.  So as soon as I booked my tickets to go to the States I began exercising every day (Jillian Michaels, I hate you) and tried to cut back on sweets.  I was talking to my sister on the phone and I was telling her how I wasn’t feeling very much in the Christmasy mood, and we decided that it really does do a lot for your spirits (though admittedly not your waist) to eat good, traditional Christmas treats.  My mom always makes DELICIOUS candy of all sorts- fudge, chocolates – rolled and dipped by hand- vanilla, mint, raspberry, maple, coconut- they’re indescribably delicious, English toffee, glass candy, chex mix, almond joys, nanimo bars, caramels.  This is intense, time-consuming, muscle-growing candy making.  I mean, walk into our house at Christmas time and it always smelled like some divine mix of wintergreen or bubbly creamy fudge or something.  Take that away and of course I was feeling a bit Grinchish.  I did finally cave in and make some English toffee and sugared almonds, and I felt a lot better about life.


12.  We went into Bern on Saturday and walked around the Christmas market a bit, then to a bookstore for which Brett had a gift certificate (where I read the kids some stories in English- fun!), then a Swiss army knife store (where I bought Brett his Christmas present that he picked out), then the grocery store where we lost Talmage (which was a bit alarming since it was INCREDIBLY packed with people, but someone found him for us- he was lying down somewhere a bit hidden because he was tired), and a couple other stops, and after all that we were exhausted.  Brett and I agreed that hiking up a mountain with 5 kids is ten times easier than taking them around in the city. 


13.  I can’t believe I’ll be going to the States in one week.  It was almost EXACTLY two years ago that we got here.  I remember being soooo tired and a little overwhelmed.  Crazy.  Really crazy.  I think when I get back I’ll start posting about some of the little things that are different from the States.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Birthday boy.

Orrin, it was your birthday on Monday.  How old are you now??
That’s right!  You’re so smart.  And how does your mommy feel about you getting so grown-up?
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Right again.  But at least you got a cute cake.  And a crown.
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Which you were a little bit excited about. 
But you didn’t really smile until Hazel started blowing bubbles for you.  You thought they were pretty cool.
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Happy first birthday to my cutie cute cute Orrin!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wald Weinacht

So on Saturday night me and the older kids left Daddy with Baby and walked up past their school a little way to meet with the rest of our little village for Wald Weinacht.  That means ‘Most Awesome Christmas Celebration in the World’ in German.  Okay, it literally means Forest Christmas, but just look—it was totally the awesomest thing I’ve ever seen.

We bundled up and went up at met at the firehouse at 5:00 and were told to bring lanterns, so we brought along the lantern that Ethne had made in Kindergarten, and got the candle lit.  Jethro looks ornery, but really he was happy.  :)


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Here’s a picture of some kids I don’t know, just to show some other lanterns, because I think a lantern parade is awesome.


Then we went down the road a ways, then across this field, which was marked by burning torches every little bit.


Sorry, it was dark and everyone (including me) was moving, and all of my pictures are blurry.  But here’s a shot of the first of the procession.


There were quite a lot of us.  It was a good showing for our tiny village.


As we got to the edge of the forest there was a little band playing Christmas music.


When we got into the woods, the trail was lit with plenty of candles.



After a while we came to the little area where there was a bigger band playing Christmas music and the lit tree.


Once everyone got there, we sang two Christmas songs. 

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Talmage smiling/grimacing for me.  :)


Then they announced that they had seen Samichlaus, so all the kids had to yell to him so that he would come.  They all yelled, “Samichlaus!!  Samichlaus!  Samichlaus!”  And out from the woods in the other direction came Samichlaus, his donkeys, and two Schmutzlis.  Schmutzli is Samichlaus’ helper who wears dark clothes and has a black beard.  (Sometimes there’s only one, sometimes there are more.)




They walked around the circle, shaking hands and greeting the children.



Then Samichlaus stood in the middle, and let all the children gather around him while he read a story.



It was magical.


After the story, Samichlaus and the Schmutzlis went to different spots, and the children stood in line for their turn to recite a poem or song or verse to him.  Then he gave them a bag of treats (peanuts, an orange, a pear, a chocolate candy, and a little lebkuchen –a dry gingerbread cookie thing). 



Here’s Jethro and Talmage and Jethro’s friend Elias talking with Schmutzli.  Hazel said the little poem

“Advent, advent, the little light burns.

First one, then two, then three, then four.

And next, the Christ child at the door.”

And Jethro said it in German, which he learned last year at school.


And some pictures of my kids + Elias in front of the tree.


Talmage didn’t want to be in the picture, unfortunately.


Then, for those who wanted, there was a bonfire and they were serving hot tea.  We would have stayed if it was hot chocolate, but it was okay, because we needed to get on our way anyway, as it had started to drizzle and Talmage was ready to go home.

Back through the candle-lit trail.

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Can I just say I just ADORED and LOVED everything about this???  It was sooooo wonderful in every way.  And really, it just beats the crying pants of off going and sitting on Santa Clause’s knee in the mall (and I’m totally not against sitting on Santa’s knee in the mall). 

Incidentally, I was talking to my friend Karin today, and she said that where she lives, they have something like this, but you have to RSVP and then pay 20 franks per kid.  But I’ve heard other places just ask for donations.  Ours was completely free.  We totally live in the right place.

Now, I know you all want to hear more about Samichlaus and Schmutzli.  Well, Samichlaus lives in the woods and doesn’t have reindeer, but donkeys.  He comes on Dec. 6th and fills boots that children have left outside their door with peanuts and oranges and treats.  But he doesn’t come on Christmas Eve/Day to leave presents, that’s Christkind (Christ child). 

And here’s more info about Schmutzli from this site (you should definitely check it out):

Known as Schmutzli in the German part of the country and Père Fouettard (from "whip") in French, Samichlaus's alter ego usually carries a broom of twigs for administering punishment to children whose behaviour throughout the year has not been up to scratch.

Kurt Lussi, the curator of religious folklore at Lucerne's History Museum, says that the St Nicholas custom in Switzerland became interwoven with a festival of noise and masks dating back to pre-Christian times. Schmutzli, he says, was a symbol of the evil spirits which these ancient festivals sought to drive out with a combination of noise and light. Winter processions involving loud noise and lanterns continue to this day in many parts of Switzerland.

"Schmutzli means an ugly character with a concealed face, and this figure appeared with a black face, red eyes and a black cap."  He gives the example of an illustration from 1486 that depicts a demon who abducts children. "This child-stealing motif returns again in Schmutzli," he said. "There's also the Sträggele, another child-stealing figure which I would call a native Swiss demon. Birch brooms are associated with it and that's also what Schmutzli carries."

A demon-looking guy to scare kids into being good?  AWESOME.  :)  (More info about different cultures’ Christmas demons/scary-dudes here-check it out.)

Some other pictures:





As a parting tidbit, my friend Karin (and her family) was at our house today for dinner, and saw all the peanuts we had from Samichlaus on the counter, and she said, “Did you know there’s a Samichlaus in every peanut?”  And we did not, so she showed us (and this picture came up when I searched for images of Samichlaus and Schmuzli, so I thought I’d share).  See in that bit of ‘sprout’ up on the top, there’s the hat on top, the nose (and face), and the beard on the bottom?  Awesome.

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I hope you’re having fun doing Christmasy things and have Christmas songs in your head and Christmas tastes on your tongue!

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