Daron, Melanie, Stephen, Kassie, and Kenny

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Monaco, Monaco

Yes, this is a city-country, just like Vatican City, Rome. In fact, this is the world's 2nd smallest (area of only .76 sq. miles), and most densely populated country; it has the world's highest life expectancy (almost 90 yrs) and lowest unemployment rate! This was a fun place to explore – we took the Petit Train around to see everything, and even drove on part of the road/track that’s used in the annual world-famous Formula One Grand Prix Race in Monaco. (No, Inger, that's not related to your favorite hotel chain...) This was particularly fun for Daron and me, since we came here to Monaco 12 years ago on a Globus trip with Feffer. We just barely missed seeing the changing of the guard outside Prince Albert’s palace, but it was still beautiful to see.

Here's the famous Monte Carlo Casino we stopped to see - the wikipedia pic looks better than the ones I took...

Steff, this video is TOTALLY for you - do you remember walking up and down these steps to get to the castle?? It was so fun to do it again and remember the 3 of us huffing and puffing up these together!

After leaving Monaco, we drove home through Italy - Daron's first time to be in that country since we got here! But it was the kids' and my 2nd time - we drove thru the Mont Blanc tunnel a few months ago with Steff and Christopher when they visited. So we enjoyed going back again to see the cute town of Chamonix in the summer - it's ADORABLE! Totally reminded us of Lake Tahoe, California or Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We decided we'll be returning to spend more time there next month for sure...

Cannes, France

Well, we weren’t there for the International Film Festival, but we DID get to stay in the JW Marriott on the French Riviera in Cannes on the day of the International Fireworks Competition! One of our favorite memories BY FAR – sitting on the beach of the French Riviera looking out over the Mediterranean at 10PM watching the most incredible fireworks display ever!  The hotel itself was our 2nd favorite we’ve ever stayed in, right after the New York Times Square Marriott (with the thick bacon slices and incredible workout center).  This Cannes Marriott had stitched leather walls, sleek black/white d├ęcor, and a fancy pool on the roof!

So here are the kids, on their first time to swim in the Mediterranean Ocean. Simply gorgeous – we had to steer the kids past the naked women basking on the beach… but we quickly distracted them with ice-cream, pizza, and all the fancy cars and rich people.

THE yummiest pizza ever! Plus just the greatest little hot-spot in town... open air pizza place right by the Famous Cannes Film Festival building, the marina with all the bazillionaire's yachts, and prime people-watching location... AMAZING the things people wear around town! Girls' heels higher than anything I'd ever seen. This was like Europe's Hollywood.

Enjoying (virgin) Pina Coladas – Daron got 2 free drinks because we used his travel points to book the hotel – I guess we’re VIP’s… 8-)

Grenoble, France!

Beautiful Grenoble started off our holiday trip this weekend around Europe… we had so much fun in the Chateau hotel! Two nights in one of the loveliest places ever – nestled up on a mountain in lush beautiful scenery, this castle even had an outdoor pool that the kids took full advantage of!

Wearing Grandma's swim robe gift!

Bedtime in the hotel - kids on the floor while Mom reads "Shadow Spinner" - great book!

Breakfast in the hotel - keeping costs low by bringing our own cereal and milk!

Seeing a double rainbow while driving in Grenoble!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Oh what do you do in the summertime, when all the raspberries are ripe??? Go picking! This is a huge berry farm in Meyrin (near Geneva) with all kinds of berries... we LOVED it!

Clearly, Kenny had his fill after a couple of hours... you can only eat so many. 8-)

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Being Primary Chorister!

I'm so excited about my new church job! I realized that there isn't another calling in the church that I could have where I could be with all THREE of my kids at the same time, except for this one! I'm so excited to get to lead the music in Primary - especially as this is Stephen's last year to be in there before he graduates and goes onto Young Mens when he's 12. It brought a tear to my eye when I put Stephen to bed and told him that not long ago he was JUST Kenny's age and size, and now he's 11 and it's just not fair... time absolutely goes too fast. But what a treat to have this last few months with him before he graduates. Stephen's such a cute boy - he came out and took this picture of me after my run this evening - I got caught in a downpour -- it started raining halfway thru my run, so I just enjoyed getting wet!

Tonight the kids had A VERY EXCITING SURPRISE... Aunt Jenny and her gang sent us a package!  And there's nothing more exciting than getting mail from America... we love you, Law Family!

When I tucked Kenny in bed tonight, he said, "You are so lucky."  When I said why, he said "because you have kids to snaggle with (that's how he says 'snuggle') and lots of friends that love you." It was pretty cute and spontaneous. And a good reminder about how kids soak up whatever we tell them -- Daron and I are often reminding the kids about how blessed they are - not just to be here in this amazing country having these incredible experiences, but just to simply have healthy bodies that can walk and see and hear. So I'm glad they seem to be internalizing that.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A REAL "Scare-Crow!"

So this is the first time we've seen this - above a nearby apple orchard, they've hung sevearl dead black crows... it's rather morbid, but I can only guess it's to keep intruders away from the fruit!

Kassie's had 4 fun lessons now - this week, she got to ride outside...

We've decided we really like living this 'simple' life - the smaller living space, less 'stuff.' I was talking with Barbara about how there are so many storage unit business popping up around the U.S... pretty much because people love to gather 'stuff', and when they can't fit it all in their big houses, they have to rent storage places to put it all. She brought up the scripture about where we lay up our treasures... and she said, "ya know, we're just passing through here! Do we really need all this stuff??" So true - it's funny how easy it is to accumulate things, yet it will all go away one day. Granted, lots of that 'stuff' can be quite entertaining... it's just good to remember our priorities.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Good reads...

We're all enjoying lots of reading this summer... Kenny is now sounding out his letters and reading so well! And Kas has zoomed thru all the Magic Treehouse books we've got and wants to order more. Stephen is on Lord of the Rings... he can't wait to finish them so we can watch the movies together.  I'm on "The Walking Drum" - I see why little Sterling enjoyed this one so much! One of my favorite passages is from the main character Mathurin Kerbouchard ~ a scholar/warrior/pirate with an insatiable desire for knowledge:

"The best of all things is to learn.  Money can be lost or stolen, health and strength may fail, but what you have committed to your mind is yours forever."

So true. It re-lit my fire for learning French. Since it's summertime, I'm not around as many French-speakers as everyone's on vacation, so it's easy to fall into our own English-speaking routine. But we get up each day and do Rosetta Stone together - even though the kids know more than me now, I can carry my own in a conversation. We had one of Kenny's cute friends from school over, and her mom came too. We talked for over 2 hours, almost entirely in French! She knew a few words in English, but I can pretty much make out everything she's saying in French. I felt so accomplished! I'm coming to love this language. It was also fun to discover that this cute lady is married to the Mayor of Crassier - turns out they live on this huge farm up the hill with acres of land - 30 cows, a plethora (Jefe, do you know what a plethora is?) of cherry and apple trees, chickens, the whole works. She invited Kenny back over to their place to watch Rio, and she gave us huge zucchinis from her garden, fresh eggs (they tasted unbelievably good) and fresh apple juice. We baked her banana bread the next day.

I was re-reading Lynn Robbins' April Conference talk and loved how he said "The most important way to teach 'to be' is 'to be' the kind of parents to our children that our Father in Heaven is to us."  So true... if we want our kids to do what's right, we have to do what's right too. This was so profoundly shown to us last weekend while camping. We have all agreed as a family to be more careful about not eating sugar... (so very difficult here in the land of all that is deliciously chocolate; yet so necessary, with our family history of both diabetes and cancer).  So as we were all sitting around eating our campfire smores, I asked Kas if she was planning to stick with the no-sugar pact (she's probably our child who loves sugar the most). And she looked at me and said "Well I can't FOLLOW you if YOU'RE not doing it!" It was so well-said... I just thought - wow. That applies to EVERYTHING.  How can kids watch and learn from our examples if we're not setting a good one?? Yes, it quite reaffirmed my resolve. I've been juicing like a madwoman ever since!  And bit by bit, the kids are getting more used to the healthy veggie juice. It's just plain easier if you don't keep the bad stuff around... when they go looking for the chocolate, I pull out the apples with peanut butter. It works. Plus - hello - the fruit here is just out of this world crazy delicious.  A friend invited us to enjoy some blackberries from their humongous backyard bush - I have NEVER. Like heaven - so sweet. Here's Kenny enjoying his favorite fruit...

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Camping in Lauterbrunnen and Conquering Jungfrau!

We now see why the 'Camping Jungfrau' campsite tops the official list of the World's 50 best campsites! Just 2 hours away from our home, we camped for 2 nights in the 'valley of 72 waterfalls', beneath the famous Jungfrau Summit, which is considered one of the most emblematic sights of the Swiss Alps.

After we played around a bit, we set up our tent... the tent, which was the first item we shipped over here to Switzerland before we even moved here! We knew we'd make good use of it, and this weekend proved that to be true.

Then off to go explore the area... gorgeous little streams everywhere ~

We couldn't wait to hike up to one of the many waterfalls in the valley ~ you can see the stairs on the hill behind us, leading up BEHIND the waterfall where we hiked!

Day 2 was our big trainride up the mountain... we rode the 'Jungfraubahn cog railway' straight to the top - 11,332 ft up to the highest railway station in Europe. It took 16 years to build.

(Here's an internet pic of our train and the Jungfrau behind it)

Halfway up we stopped at a lovely lookout and enjoyed some Japanese udon noodles (Why do they serve those there? Because almost every other tourist on the mountain was from Japan! This is obviously a hotspot among the Japanese, so the restaurants wisely cater to their preferred cuisine... as for Daron, there was much rejoicing.)

At the top, our favorite thing was the Ice Palace -- a glacial cutout; it's all ice up there so they carved out rooms and got creative with their sculptures...

Oh my word - don't we look like classic TOURISTS here?? Check out Kassie's red velvet Swiss cowgirl hat, her pink Barbie jacket, and leopard pants. My headband's totally funky but it's what all the Europeans wear - hey, it keeps the hair back!

We even got to meet a real Swiss St. Bernard dog! (Of course that was the kids' highlight of the trip...)

For the 2nd night, we decided to go ahead and purchase warm sleeping bags... we FROZE the first night in the 45 degree cold -- so the next night's sleeping was much more pleasant. I don't know how the pioneers survived... I asked myself that several times in the night as I kept rearranging kids in their blankets!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multi-lingual homes

We discover new things everyday we love about Switzerland! And not just the whole country, but mostly this darling little town we moved to. I'm so glad we chose this charming village over a busy town.  Here are just 4 things:

1 - Our tomato plant that's growing lots of tomatoes, given to us by our cute neighbor Margaret, who grew it for us from seed!

2 - The public drinking 'spout' that we love to stop and get drinks from when we're out playing... you have to be sure you don't drink from the ones that say "non potable d'eau"...

3 - All the orchards and vegetable fields around us. We found these 2 vegetables that someone had pulled up and left wilting by the road, so we took them home to figure out what in the world they were ~ white radishes??  Still not sure... I didn't dare use them without knowing...

4 - The amazing, lush flowers. Here's a cute cottage down the road from us - I had to take a picture so I can try to imitate this glorious freestyle design when I get back to Texas.

So I've come to an interesting conclusion about the multi-lingual homes here. While it's one of the most amazing things I've encountered here - the fact that multiple languages are spoken in most homes, I also see it, in some circumstances, as a potential social predicament.  For instance, many homes have the father speaking one language and the mother speaking a different language to the children. So the children grow up responding to each parent in a different language. No problem, if the mother and father both understand each other's language. In fact great, because often the child is getting 3 separate languages (say, German from the Dad, English from the Mom, and French in school. Amazing.) But what if the mom and dad don't speak each other's languages? Kenny had a playdate at a friend's house, and the adorable mom speaks Arabic, French, and English. But the dad only speaks French. So - the mom speaks Arabic - always - to her children, even around the French-speaking husband (who doesn't understand her Arabic). So in essence, except for what few words he picks up of Arabic over time, he doesn't understand what his wife is saying to his kids pretty much all the time. Even at dinner, he might ask for clarification on something said, but it's like totally separate conversations going on. He's basically a bystander rather than a participant in his own home. So as the mom was standing there talking to me in English, the dad stood behind her, and after greeting me in French, he just stood back and did his own thing. Understandable that he doesn't speak English - not everyone here does. But it posed an interesting dynamic - she and me talking and laughing, without him taking any part. Even more than just not talking with visitors like me, him not being 'in on' the conversation in the home is kind of wild.
I've thought many times since coming here, how cool it would have been to have learned Swedish from my Mom (who's a full Swede, and totally fluent) and Spanish from my Dad (who's still fluent from his mission).  But if they had spoken those languages to us growing up, it would've completely changed our social scene in the home. Most of my favorite memories are of the family laughter and banter together with my parents and siblings -- it would've changed all that if we were just talking Swedish with Mom and Spanish with Dad. I suppose we could've spoken English together, but the kids here generally stick with the strong tongue they're initially taught by whichever parent. It's just interesting. Like, what if Daron spoke Japanese to our kids in the home? Can you imagine? What a hoot - they'd be bilingual, but I wouldn't have a clue what he'd be saying to them! I guess it just works itself out... but I'm glad I grew up the way I did. And I'm glad we're all now getting the chance to learn another language together.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summer swimming...

A friend invited us to use their pool today...

I have always been so impressed with the way my brother-in-law Christopher expresses himself. He's in Vietnam now completing course work for his MBA, and his family email update was so thought-provoking:

This is the most untouched place I have ever been.  It brought to my mind all of the quotes and sayings that teach us that God can be heard only in silence.  Our world (the American world) is so loud compared to what I experienced here.  It is not that God is “more” here than anywhere else.  It is just that I could hear him more easily.

What a great goal to strive for - the ability to feel God's presence amidst the noise. One of my favorite quotes is "beware of the barrenness of a busy life." I believe it becomes barren because we lose the ability to hear God in our crazy schedules. Great thoughts, Christopher.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Hangin' with the missionaries!

Our family loves to host the missionaries -- they are such great young men! Our kids enjoy being around them, which makes us happy... what better examples of the kind of selfless service that our kids will be doing someday too as missionaries.  We had Family Home Evening tonight, and Elder Broccious did a great job at the piano!

The elders taught a lesson about the 'walls' that we have to overcome, and what tools we can use to do that. They likened the Bible story of Joshua and the Jericho wall which came down through their faithfulness, to the Berlin wall in Germany, and how it came down in a similarly miraculous fashion. Our kids listed some of their 'walls' - Stephen suggested learning a new language; Kenny talked about having nightmares and how praying to God can help him. Then it was talent time -- here's Elder Wayment showing off his lifeguard (very loud!) whistle ~ the kids loved it!

Then, since it was P-Day (or Preparation Day for the missionaries) we played a bit in the park. It was all quite memorable!

And in other Chalk news, today was a big day -- we bought a JUICER!  (Plus $160 of fruits and veggies to try out...)

This all because Daron and I watched a very inspiring documentary - "Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead" (http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/) about a guy who not only cured himself of a terrible disease through juicing, but also affected countless others with his healthy habits.  The kids were beyond excited to get the juicer out of the box and start juicing...

Our beauti-"FULL" new cornicopia fruit/veggie-bowl!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

We love Saturdays!

Popsicles for breakfast...

And Kung Fu Panda 2 for lunch!
(Our first European movie-going experience... and for the small fee of $100! Yikes! That's just the entrance fee...)

We watched this together for our morning devotional: (http://lds.org/pages/watch-your-step?lang=eng).  I like how they put the 2 paths side by side.  The kids all said – “it’s like the Friend story from last month called Crash and Tell!"  (A good story about a boy who learned from his mom that when he accidentally saw bad internet pictures, he should power off his computer and tell an adult what happened.)

We came across a great list of summer activities... I wish I had a yard to put a hammock in to do the first 2!
Swing in a Hammock: Snuggle close to your child, and sway the afternoon away.
Do Yard Work Together
Play Dress-Up
Build a Secret Fort outside: Stay up chasing fireflies and listening to "night sounds."
Go on a Bug Safari: Marvel at an ant carrying an oversize crumb.
Chalk it Up: Use the glow-in-the-dark sidewalk chalk so you and your child can glimpse your artwork from the window at bedtime.
Make Beautiful Music: Spread a blanket in the backyard for a stage. Invite kids to bring their instruments and perform -- even your littlest musicians can join in using pots, wooden spoons, and shakers. Set up lawn chairs for the audience, and cheer your little stars.
Dance in the Rain: Surprise your kids by taking them outside during a gentle summer shower. Dance in swimsuits, catch raindrops in your mouth, and jump in all the puddles.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kenny masters the ripstick!

We're loving summer already! It's so nice to not have a schedule to stick to. Sleeping in and reading books and playing - we love it. Our big family news is that Kenny is now the 4th family member to learn to ride the ripstick! We just have to teach Daron then we'll all 5 be able to do it together...

Stephen and Kassie are SO supportive and helpful - they have been cheering him on for months as Kenny's been trying to get this.

Children of the corn.
(We've watched this field go from weeds, to being tilled, to being planted, to growing these corn stalks - amazing!) You can see from Stephen's expression it was a bit hot today while riding bikes...

Playing with our good friends Sariah and Benjamin ~


This trampoline sits right under a HUGE cherry tree... our friends invited us to use it anytime -- jump on the tramp and eat the cherries.  I love nice people.

Tonight we watched 'Father of the Bride.' Wow - that movie sure gives you much to think about, particularly after becoming a parent. I remember just laughing at the funny jokes before I had kids - like my kids did tonight. But I was telling them about how they won't understand Steve Martin's emotions until they grow up and have kids that grow up and leave. It's that feeling that comes in the moments when we slow down and let ourselves see how quickly life is passing us by. These precious years when the kids are so small, and running and jumping and being silly. As my mom always used to say, when we're here right in the middle of the 'growing up' craziness, it seems like it will just keep going on and on - school projects, busy activities, etc. But then just like that, it'll be over and they'll be grown up and we'll long for all these days back again. I know I'll enjoy them as teenagers and grownups too - I like them so much already. But I find myself already missing them being littler.  See, here's Kenny drawing (with the markers Aunt Jenny gave us) - we've been practicing reading and writing our letters. I remember doing this with Kas and Stephen, and now we're doing it with our last baby. That Fiddler on the Roof song "Sunrise Sunset" - so true. Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers - blossoming even as we gaze. When did she get to be a beauty - when did he grow to be so tall?  Growth and change is good, but sometimes I have to take a moment and just be sad that I can't freeze time.