Daron, Melanie, Stephen, Kassie, and Kenny

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good Daddy Daron

Some of life's most very special moments are the simplest: not the fancy trips or big performances, but just the quiet or playful happy moments. I LOVE watching Daron playing with our kids. It just reinforces daily how delighted I am that I made the best choice when I said YES to marrying Daron.
Here's Daron and Stephen doing "art class", painting their Lord of the Rings miniature figurines we bought in Scotland.  

And I came home from running to find the kids all flying these new paper airplanes... Daron was engineering them from the 'world's best paper airplanes' website.

I’m so glad that you’re my dad;
You’re one in a million, Pop!
When it comes to first-class fathers,
You’re the absolute cream of the crop.
I love you because you're my father,
But you're really so much more;
You're a guide and a companion;
You and I have great rapport.

You pay attention to me;
You listen to what I say.
You pass on words of wisdom,
Helping me along the way.

Whenever I'm in trouble,
You always have a plan.
You are the perfect father,
And I'm you're biggest fan!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Matterhorn!

This weekend's adventure theme: Zermatt or bust! We again hopped on our little village bus, went to Nyon, then got on a longer (3-hr) train up to Zermatt, the cute village at the base of The Matterhorn: the mountain on the border between Switzerland and Italy, and one of the highest peaks in the Alps.  It was CRAWLING with hikers... just all sorts of cool-looking, VERY fit, outdoorsy people with packs bigger than themselves strapped to their backs. Maybe one day we'll return and hike it the 'real' way after the kids are grown. And maybe not. 8-)

Here we are beginning our adventure... Kas began a snail collection at the bus stop ~ I love how she doesn't even think twice about digging her fingernails into the dirt.

The train rides are always so entertaining...

Another dog friend on the train! Pure heaven for the kids... especially since the owner let us feed him.

And we arrive in Zermatt! There's the Matterhorn behind Daron's head ('matter' meaning 'meadow' and 'horn' meaning 'peak').

Daron spots some sausages... we opt for ice-cream instead.

The downtown streets are ADORABLE - the flowers everywhere. Like Gatlinburg, TN or Lake Tahoe, CA...

Our pretty Hotel Primavera ~ with a balcony view of the Matterhorn...

The town is totally kid-friendly - parks everywhere, including this one with a climbable mini-Matterhorn. We decided not to climb the ACTUAL peak; we printed the Wikipedia info about it's history and read about the countless tragedies (500 deaths over the years) of hikers attempting to ascend to the zenith. Ya' know, we just didn't bring the right gear this time. AH-HAH-AH-AH-AHA-AH!

And it's a good thing we both have high self-esteem so we can post this one ~

We realized August was probably the most travel-busy month for us thus far: Monaco, Cannes, Grenoble, London, Scotland, and Matterhorn ~ it's hard to sit still in one place when there are so many amazing spots to discover!  When we got back to Nyon, we had to wait 30 minutes for our bus, so I decided to let Daron take the kids on the bus, and I ran all the way home to Crassier! We've been wondering how long the 8 minute drive would take to run... I did it in 40 minutes. It felt great. Especially after we had been eating Toblerone chocolate all weekend. We of course HAD to though, after discovering that Theodor Tobler made his characteristic mountainy chocolate peaks in the shape of The Matterhorn... who knew.  We SHOULD HAVE, since the Matterhorn picture is right on the front of the package!!

Don't you wish all triangles were made of TOBLERONE?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Bowling and McD's...

No better way to end the 1st week of school than a date night of fun! Stephen and his friend Francesco  (cute quad-lingual boy from his Badminton class here in town) and I went bowling and to McD's.  Then home to watch Tangled with the kids. On this rainy, stormy night, we're feeling grateful that we're all safe... with Hurricane Irene approaching the Eastern coast of the US, Kenny's been quite nervous about all our family back in Texas being OK. He keeps praying that they'll all have a good storm closet to go into if tornadoes hit them.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Friendly friends and horses

So for these past 7 months, when we play in our big park, we can see over the hedge to the next backyard, filled with apple, plum, and 'mirabelle' (yummy tiny apricot-like fruit) trees. But we've NEVER seen anyone out there. So today Stephen and I stopped by after our morning exercising and knocked on their front door. We intro'd ourselves to this sweet little old Swiss lady - she and her husband have lived in their lovely villa next to the church here for 40 years - some of the original residents. We asked her (all in French) if she'd like to sell us any of her fruit - that we live nearby and noticed it in her lovely yard. OOOOHHHHH - she says, come on back here and pick all you like! Here - take these bags and help yourselves anytime!  Oh, my heavens. How could she have known the very words that are music to my ears. The plums were just melt-in-your-mouth delicious, and enough apples to juice til we die. I love good friendly people. We're baking her banana bread now to take back over.

Stephen finished the Lord of the Rings series - he was quite motivated to finish it all in about 3 weeks since he wanted to see the movies before jumping back into homeschooling. It's going great - by the 2nd day, he had already finished everything for the week, except for his daily tasks (journal-writing, Rosetta Stone French, and current events).  He loves the freedom he has - much like his cousin Sterling -- it will be interesting to see how this steers his future education.

Kas enjoyed her first group horse-riding class this evening! She was able to control her cheval beautifully and guide him through cones, even though he wanted to follow his amies (other horsie-friends). 8-)

And some back-to-school shopping... pretty much, with the price of things being about double here, we're making what we have last... but we did get Kenny new jammies (there is NOTHING as yummy as new cute kids jammies!) and Kas a new bomber jacket -- she actually paid for half of it herself, and said it was just the coolest thing in the whole wide world. I took pity, since her last winter jacket was 'pink barbie', (the warmest one I could find in Houston), but she despises all things 'girly', so this was right up her alley. Even though it's so hot here (not quite Houston's 106 degrees, but still hot...) she insisted on wearing it the rest of the night.

Monday, August 22, 2011

First day of school!

Here we are, starting another year, but in the most unique way they will probably ever do it... in a whole different language and country! We had a good breakfast and they were off...

How did Kenny get to first grade already? He was just born. I can't even believe it. He came home at lunch saying he didn't really understand much from this morning's class, but I reassured him he'll get it faster than any of us. Cute boy.

His cute teacher Madame Emilie has 3 little boys of her own -- everyone says she's the sweetest thing there is. Hallelujah. There are no happier words than hearing your child will be in good hands for 7 hours a day...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kas sings a solo at church!

Ahhh the chocolate. 8-)  Here are the kids celebrating with a little back-to-school mousse treat... they start in "French school" as Kassie called it -- tomorrow! Wow, 2 months of summer flew fast.

Cute little Kassie did an amazing job singing "Jesus Was No Ordinary Man" today at church. Her 2nd solo ever, she was lovely and received many kind compliments. We were so proud of her! Here she is doing just a bit of it...

And wow - what blessings we have because people have sacrificed so much for us to have scriptures. This is a great video:  http://youtu.be/7JjwhVAPXtc.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Fire-breathers, Hard Rock, and Hotel FHE!

Tipping the bagpiper!

These street comedians were hilarious – this guy kept stacking his tin cans and standing on them... Kenny was the first to give him $.

The Fire-breather… our favorite! When he cracked his whip after the big trick and said "nobody bloody move" we were all dying - it was so funny. (He didn't want us to just leave without paying him) He's been doing his street show here for 25 years!

The Edinburgh cathedral… Kenny was feeling particularly excited about lighting the candles after he watched the fire breather  ~

And here’s Kas posing by the Scotland sheep and flag… the flag, which dates back to the 9th century, is said to be the oldest known flag still being used. Cool.

Hard Rock Café for dinner, with free ice-cream sundaes from receipt coupons!

Our Family Home Evening was extra fun in the hotel… here’s Kenny doing his talent: cup-stacking with our Hard Rock souvenir cups…

And then back home to our lovely Switzerland. Even though it was quite difficult to wake up at 5am to fly back home, we were all very excited to walk back into our cute little Crassier apartment. We decided that although the UK was beautiful, Switzerland is still the prettiest, and our favorite. We are so lucky to have the chance to live here.

A Sunny Scottish Sabbath

The greatest thing about the Latter-Day Saint church is that it’s totally universal – walking into a ward building in Texas feels the same as walking into one in Geneva or Scotland – the people, the doctrine, the Spirit – it’s the same. It’s just wonderful.  We met kind people and heard amazing thoughts that were shared. One man talked about his responsibilities as the father in his home – he said he’s not perfect, but he does have 5 invisible pedestals in his house – one for his wife, and 4 for his children, since he adores them all. It was so precious. And one woman talked about how much she wants to be married but it hasn’t happened yet – and she’ll just keep being the best person she can be until God blesses her with that – even if it’s in heaven.  The whole day was a good reminder of the importance of how each of us is a child of God and how He knows each of us and our needs.

We packed picnic food and drove out to the Scottish highlands (oh my gosh – how cool does that sound?? Just like we’re in the movie Brigadoon…) after church to the lovely town of Stirling, to see the 2nd most visited castle in Scotland there.  The kids are posing here by the Scottish patriot William Wallace statue.

Cute Kassie at the inner court of the castle by the gardens…

King Daron and Queen Melanie…

Then, since the Loch Ness is 8 hours away, we settled for driving just an hour to Loch Lomand… lovely.

THE EDINBURGH CASTLE and “The Fringe International Festival”

The whole town of Edinburgh (Scotland’s capitol) is magical, particularly the town’s top attraction – the Castle, which majestically sits on top of a DORMANT VOLCANO formed 350 million years ago – definitely shouldn’t have told Kenny that before bedtime! (He’s quite afraid of explosive things…) The castle has crown jewels, a war memorial, and a huge cannon that they fired while we were up there, which scared the bajeebers out of Daron. (Ok, we all jumped).

We were lucky enough to be here during the month of August, which is when Edinburgh hosts their annual 'Fringe Festival'.  The Royal Mile (the street full of vendors and shops going out from the castle) absolutely COMES ALIVE with performers and crazies of all kinds! It was SO FUN to watch all the commotion – kind of like the Texas Renaissance Festival. We loved the bagpipe players! We got fish and chips and just planted ourselves by some performers. 

Stephen and Kas got to paint and keep some 'Lord of the Ring' game pieces for free in a Games Shop. 

And another ‘first’ – Kenny is now so accustomed to greeting people in French; so when he saw this dog he wanted to ask the girl if he could pet it, I said sure, so he turned to her and said “es-que je pu caresse lu chien?” And she just stared at him and said, 'what?' So he repeated it in French, and I just stood there laughing – finally I told him that she speaks English, like everyone does in Scotland. Hilarious. Then he did it again back in the hotel – he met a cute little boy his age in the lobby and I said – ask him his name! So he turned over and said “como t’appele tu?” The kid just looked at him and didn’t say anything, so he repeated it again in French. I love it.


Really, our 5-hour train ride through the United Kingdom couldn’t have gone any better, thanks to our riding partner Sid, who sat behind us, keeping Kassie occupied!  What a welcome new friend... he even looked a bit like Bumper. 8-)

We loved seeing the English countryside whiz by us, as we traveled up the coast looking out at the North Sea.  What a treat to enter Scotland and see the rolling green countryside dotted with sheep – simply gorgeous.  And our next ‘first’ – driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road! When we got in the car, Kassie said a prayer, asking God to “help Daron drive us through the sunsets of happiness.” Oh my word, hilarious.    (Look at the kids' faces peeking out... I think they were a bit afraid of the upcoming drive. And Daron admitted later he was quite petrified at that moment... but he did a great job driving!)

The Marriott Dalmahoy Resort – a perfectly fairytale-like castle in the Scottish hills. Complete with gorgeous wild landscaping, a great work-out room (which the kids wanted to do the treadmill because it reminded them of Grandma and Papa’s treadmill) and a huge gorgeous pool. Thanks, again, to Daron's travel points.


We were so excited to head off for another big summer vacation! 9 days of London and Scotland… here we are leaving Crassier ~ with all our stuff fitting into 4 roller bags and 1 backpack! 
We got to experience lots of ‘firsts’ on this trip… the first 'first' was taking a bus, a train, and a plane ALL IN ONE DAY!  By the time we got to our awesome Courtyard hotel at 10:30PM that night… we fell in bed and were ready for our one day in London the next day.
We hopped on a red double-decker tour bus and saw EVERYTHING! The kids loved their plastic rain-ponchos…

We loved the National Science Museum, where we got to learn about earthquakes and taste dehydrated astronaut ice-cream! Plus the outside walls still have the bomb damage from WW2…

Next stop: Trafalgar Square!  (It looked a bit different from 12 years ago when Daron and I came with Stephanie on our Globus tour…)
"Living" Wall art!

Then a drive on the Tower Bridge (often thought to be the London Bridge, but that’s a bit further down the Thames River).  The guide pointed out the spot right near the bridge where the pilgrim ship Mayflower ship departed for America many hundreds of years ago… wow! (We also saw Plymouth Rock where they landed… on our Boston/Prince Edward Island trip 8 years ago)

The “London Eye”, the tallest observation wheel in the world, built in 2000 for the Millennial Celebrations. It brings in so much $ now that it’s a permanent fixture in town.

The Tower of London…  it used to house the political prisoners. They had countless beheadings here, including the great Scottish patriot William Wallace (who Mel Gibson portrayed in ‘Braveheart.’)
Here’s Stephen by the St. Stephen’s tower, which holds the famous BIG BEN clock!
Westminster Abbey…
And ofcourse, Harry Potter's Platform 9 3/4 at King's Cross Train Station to get to Hogwarts...