Daron, Melanie, Stephen, Kassie, and Kenny

Thursday, September 29, 2011

You are what you eat!

juice fast review

We're trying to turn over a new 'leaf' - so to speak - after getting very motivated by 3 incredible documentary movies:

Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead (http://www.fatsickandnearlydead.com/)

Food Matters (http://www.foodmatters.tv/)

Forks over Knives (http://www.forksoverknives.com/)

Hippocrates was right when he said: "Let Food be your Medicine and Medicine be your Food." These movies are overwhelmingly inspiring (just watch the trailers!), and have caused us to take a look at what we're eating.  It feels great to add more raw foods and replace many of the processed foods we're used to. The world would be such a healthier place if everyone took more care about what we put in our mouths. Hearing people say they only plan to live til they're maybe 50 based on the way they're eating -- how sad! I want to live to be twice that age for sure - be able to play with my kids and grandkids.  I know I won't choose to never eat something 'yummy and bad' again, but I'm motivated to help us make good changes overall in our eating habits.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Kassie's back-to-school night

We won't ever have to look back on our time here and say - "we should've done this..." or "why didn't we go there?" We're definitely trying to soak it all up. Keeping full schedules and playing and learning. Every weekday the kids have a class (M: Stephen - gym; T: Kenny - gym; W: Stephen - badminton; Th: Kassie - horses), which keeps our evenings full. And every other weekend, it's travel time. I love it - it not only helps us experience as much as possible, but it also helps fill those homesick voids that come when, like the other day, Kenny said - "How long are we staying in Texas for Christmas?"  When I told him 2 weeks, he just dropped to the floor on all fours and cried, "What?? Only 2 weeks? That's not even long at all!"
Yesterday, after a full day (exercising, dentist, homeschooling, muffins to 2 sick friends, lunch at home with all 3 kids, grocery shopping, Kenny's gym class, park to play), Kassie and I went to her back-to-school night. It was so much fun to see her in her daily school environment... with her darling Swiss friends, speaking French, and being happy.  Several of the moms told me that their daughters love Kassie - that she makes them laugh all the time, especially when she acts like a dog.  Ahhh, the memories from Mrs. Rushing's class at The Woods... some things never change. She will always want to be a dog.  Here they are, gathered around her, after eating my chocolate chip/butterscotch cookies I took - they always ask Kassie to bring them to class, since I baked them a few times last year - thanks for the awesome recipe, Aunt Tiff!

Her main teacher, Madame Hostettler ~

Mr. Soulard teaches 2 times per week, and sings and plays the guitar with them ~


The kids did the cutest program ever... I WAS SO PROUD OF KASSIE! Each student had memorized a part where they explained what goes on in the classroom - how they study, what they do, etc. Kassie and her partner Mathau presented the teachers' schedules. It's hard to explain how cute she was ~ I had tears in my eyes listening to her recite her French. I love her fearlessness.

Giving me a classroom tour...

Daron stayed home with the boys and played... I came home and found them in a tickle war.

So here's our basement cellar ~ in the bottom of the apartment complex. All the buildings here have these bomb shelters with super-thick concrete walls. We keep a bit of food storage down there, along with all our suitcases. Here it is... no rude comments about the headband hairdo - I had just gone running. 8-)

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Happy Fall! Summer has now officially ended - kind of sad to put away all the shorts - but it's nice to see the colors changing in the trees up on the nearby Jura mountains.  Yesterday, I drove with a dear friend to the Bern temple, and enjoyed 3 hours of good chat time.  It's always so wonderful to surround yourself with inspiring people who motivate you to lift and stretch yourself. We talked about everything from exercise and healthy eating, to having faith in ourselves that we can do anything (just like the bumblebee, how he scientifically shouldn't be able to fly, yet he does), to believing in miracles. It's fun to ponder on the big, huge obvious miracles - she had some incredible ones about obtaining a car and house right when they needed it, right when they prayed for it - or how our home was on the market in Texas for a year with no contracts, then right after we signed the job contract to work here in Switzerland, our house had showings for 7 days straight, then 2 contracts!!

So those stories are humbling, showing so clearly how Heavenly Father provides for us, but how often do we forget the simple, less obvious ones? Like, cute Kassie saying her glasses were getting blurry, so we called an eye doctor, got an appointment, and took her to get new glasses - just like that. Now she can see clearly again. (Here she is posing in them - they're purple - again - but these have cool textured designs on the side and rimless bottoms).

And the miracle of having 3 beautiful, very happy, healthy, capable children, who LIVE to have fun...
Here they are doing skits for each other. I love that they do that - Jen, Kas, Sterl and Steff and I used to do that all the time growing up.

And of course the miracle of getting to live in this paradise-like place...

There is also the miracle of Daron having a job, notwithstanding the fact that he's now under his 4th boss in 8 months, and 3rd CEO in 1 year! Things at HP are a bit crazy, but we're so grateful that he remains steadily employed, enjoying his coworkers and work environments (whether he's in Meyrin, or Grenoble, or right here in his home-office; there may even be a Dubai trip coming up - I've got to figure out how we can all tag along on that one!)

I think the kids, who are happily asleep now after we read Aesop's Fables together tonight at bedtime, would eagerly name the miracle of airplanes.  They've all 3 had a noticeably increased interest in the countdown to our trip back to America.  Kenny is asking how many minutes are in 2 1/2 months, and Stephen wrote in his journal about the 75 days left til we return to Texas for Christmas. Cute little kids -- so patient and good. What a blessing THAT has been - to have children that moved here happily, no rebellious attitudes or depression about us changing EVERYTHING in their lives in one big swoop: new house, new schools, new friends, new country, no more dog, new languages... we are so humbled and grateful for them and their sweet, open-minded personalities.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Hangin' at home this weekend...

We sure love to travel, but it's also fun to hang right here at home! Here we are playing with Kassie's cute classmate Coraline ~ (pronounced 'Co-ha-line'... with the French 'r')

We made some knee and elbow pads from some old socks for Kas to ripstick with ~

And Kassie's Grand Hideout Masterpiece, made from tape and paper. Kids don't need toys... just their own imaginations.

Our church party - an American-style BBQ at the Swiss Mission Home in Chambesy (near Geneva)... good hot dogs, root beer, and football. The kids were in heaven!

Kassie's new pet snail she found there...

One of our favorite things about Switzerland is these darling little watering spouts you see in every little village... they're always decorated with fresh flowers and you just drink straight from them. We stopped on our way home from the party ~

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We love you Dunn family!

A huge THANK YOU to our sweet cousin Laura Dunn from Sunny California -- we love our Ranch dressing packages! We tore one open and had it on our salad today for lunch. Thank you for feeding us!

And speaking of feeding ourselves... just thought I'd get a picture of this nice roast we had for Sunday dinner... pricey little thing at 32.63 euros... or $44. We savored every expensive bite. 8-)

There aren't as many 'critters' here as there are back in Texas, but the ones we do have -- well, they're BIG. Stephen and I passed a slug this morning on our exercise run that we thought was a small snake... unreal. And here's a spider we found hanging out by our tomato plant on the balcony; Kenny said it was 50-feet long. Poor spider is in heaven now.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mont Blanc, Chamonix!

What a fun weekend visiting Mont Blanc, the tallest mountain in Europe! At the base of the mount, Chamonix (the cute little town that held the first winter Olympics) is darling - just that same fun feeling, with little shops and pretty flowers and yummy treats. Always the yummy treats!

Daron found a great hotel right in the middle of all the action -- here's Kas exploring the lobby...

This candy shop was the BEST!

Dinner - again - at McDonald's. We're always tempted to eat at the local restaurants, then we see the prices on the menu and we just get scared. We can always count on getting good protein from McD's for the cheapest price... plus, hey - this one had a pretty mural of Mont Blanc behind the register!!

This was one of our favorite hotels so far... beautiful white lights strung up over every balcony.

Hotel breakfast - coco-puffs and chocolate coins! Wahooooo!

Out-of-this-world-crazy-beautiful flowers everywhere!

The Saturday morning market - everything from olives to rotisserie chicken to fresh fruit.

Kas tries to make money as a street-performer...

Hummingbird and hang-gliders...

We were playing in our park after we returned from Chamonix, and 3 cute girls from Kassie's class came, saw Kassie, and ran over to her, shouting her name to come play with them. I stood there and watched as Kassie busted right into French and started chatting away with them.  I tell you - I just almost cried! It was so precious. Then I joined them and we all chatted - they told me that they all love Kassie, and she's so funny and she acts like a dog at recess. We all had a great time playing. When we came home, I told her how proud I was of her (and the boys - they joined in the French too) and she told me that in class, she asked a boy (in French) if she could have the glue after him, and he said 'oui Kassie', then he turned to their teacher and said, "Mr. Soulard! Kassie me parlait in francais!" Then Mr. Soulard congratulated her, and she said all the students were excited for her.  We're so glad that she's in a good group of friends - they're all so supportive of her. What a blessing.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Just like heaven

Today was just a great day. Nothing huge or out of the ordinary. Just fun, relaxed, and memorable for no other reason than just because being together here as our little family is so enjoyable. We always like Wednesdays, since they're half-days... Stephen times his school work to finish when the kids arrive at lunch. Today included home-schooling, exercising (speed-walking outside with weights looking at the gorgeous mountains... it's getting crisp and cool outside now), having yummy Spaghetti Carbonara for lunch, visiting Kiki and getting more apples from his trees, wrapping packages for Grandma Joy and Grandma Inger, drinking our veggie-fruit juice (that we make with our juicer machine; we toss in peaches, pears, plums, brocolli, carrots, celery, apples, zucchini and pineapple... it is so good), shopping for yummy soft bread in France, playing in the park, talking with Uncle Sterling and Aunt Kassie on the phone, taking Stephen to Badminton class, reading our nightly scriptures together, and carving this pumpkin (below) and baking the seeds. I just really like Stephen, Kassie, Kenny and Daron. I completely echo the words of Sterling North, in his book 'Rascal' that we're reading together at night: "When I die, I want to come back to this family and do it all over again, because this is my idea of heaven."

Saturday, September 3, 2011

HP Picnic!

Man - there's NOTHING like a big huge company picnic! WE LOVE HP! All the free food, games, and fun we could ask for... check out Kenny here in a mid-air jump ~

I beat Daron at Connect 4...

Kids got balloon swords and belts...

Aunt Jenny - we thought of you when the kids got face-painted! What a fun talent that you have.

The poor lady had to keep adjusting Kenny's itchy face to be still ~

Then, of course, we had to go exercise off all the hamburgers, hotdogs, and ice-cream when we got home...


Last but not least, our youngest son Kenny. Here's the final entry in a 3-part blog series of things I adore about each of my 3 children. My sister recently brought an amazing Ensign quote to my attention about marriage. It said "we should not expose our spouse's Achilles Heel, we should protect it." I totally agree, and I also extend that to our children. While they, as well as WE, all have weaknesses, I think there is so much wisdom in not dwelling on the negatives, and instead, focusing on the positives. So here's Kenny's list of positives... I had fun thinking about little Kenny-Boo and his precious personality.

I LOVE how Kenny:

1. loves the water. He wears his goggles during every tubbytime, and would stay there for hours if we let him.

2. has a tornado/earthquake/volcano fixation. He's petrified of the thought of them all, but is mesmerized by pictures and videos of them. He prays for people in Oklahoma to be safe from them (since he knows about how Aunt Kassie and Grandma Inger almost died in a tornado once when we lived there... he brings that up quite often). In Scotland, I had to promise him I'd buy him 10 wii's if the Edinburgh castle volcano erupted, because I was THAT SURE that it wouldn't go off. He was quite scared, but the promise of 10 wii's helped calm him down.
3. enjoys moving constantly. He has so much energy - he cannot sit still. We laugh about how if we were to simply ape his every move for 15 minutes, we'd be exhausted and have the best workout of our lives... dropping, rolling, kicking, laughing. Here he is practicing a song for an upcoming church Primary activity:

4. uses his words. He phrases things in such a little boy way - I'm always sad to see the kids grow up and stop saying those cute little things. Like when Stephen used to say 'punce awanna time', instead of 'once upon a time.' The other day Kenny called me over to see the "Daddy big leg" spider. So cute.
5. loves to eat healthy things. His #1 snacks he always asks for are carrot sticks and oatmeal. He doesn't like many unhealthy things (except vanilla ice-cream and cheesy popcorn), and he has fun shopping for groceries with me, picking out the fresh veggies and fruit. We now have a smaller fridge to fit it all in, but it's better, in a way, because we're ALWAYS eating through it, then going to get more.

6. says "just to let you know", before he's about to tell us anything... it's his new phrase.
7. is helpful. He likes to help set the table for meals, and get the vacuum out and run it.
8. has one favorite meal: macaroni and cheese. So aside from the all the fresh stuff he likes, this is the one dish he'd love to have daily. (We compromise and have it for breakfast about twice a week...) Thank heavens that Grandma Inger found bulk cheddar powder online and mailed it to us -- we went through all our Kraft boxes very quickly after we got here, as well as all that was mailed to us by other kind souls (thank you Grandma Joy and Aunt Shelley).  So after a painful period of void, we once again had an abundance when this huge bag of powder arrived. Hallelujah.

9. wants me to snaggle him every night. We read scriptures at 7:30PM, then in bed by 8, then I read to them til 8:30, then we snaggle. (not snuggle, it's SNAGGLE - he coined the term long ago). He's a great cuddler.
10. really has no fear. From traveling around and seeing new places, to trying new foods, to meeting people. When we went over to visit Kiki (the cute old man who invited us to come pick fruit from his trees anytime), Kenny pulled his bike right up to him and energetically said - "Kiki! Conton de vous voir!" (I'm happy to see you). It was only our 2nd time to visit him. Kiki just laughed.
11. totally gets excited when he hears the Swedish song "Aftonclokker." I played it in our car today, and he hadn't heard it for months (he used to listen to it in Grandma Inger's car in Houston) and he absolutely went nuts -- started jumping around and laughing, saying "I LOVE this song!" Then he sang along with it. Luckily I had the camera and caught some of his excitement. It's particularly endearing to me because this is the song I grew up hearing about, how our Grandma Lilly played it when my mom was young. It was a very hard piece to play on the piano, but we all 5 tinkered with it.

12. loves trains. Still loves trains. I hope that doesn't end anytime soon.

13. wants to grow up and work at IKEA, so he can have all the 'automatic ice-cream cones' he wants.
14. doesn't like to have consequences. It usually happens when we're with guests. If he does something that he knows he shouldn't have, we deal with it appropriately right then, and later give demerits or discuss it more if we need to, after the guests are gone. But he just gets nervous, and keeps coming to me saying, "Mom, can we just do the consequences now? I don't want to wait til after everyone leaves. Let's just do it now." It's just so funny. He wants to get it overwith.
15. has us all sing "We bow our heads and close our eyes" before every family prayer. We started it to just help us get into a calm mood before praying. But then one time, after the ending of the song - "for blessings we all share," Daron quietly eeked out 'carebears' (since it rhymed, I guess. Who knows). So now, it's a big funny thing, and the kids all crowd around Daron and hop in his lap when they sing the song, then look up into his eyes and wait for him to say carebears. So silly.
16. got SOOOO excited last week when he got to complete his first official school homework assignment! Cute little things like 1 +1, but he's reading the instructions in French. He had so much fun getting to be like his siblings, who've been doing homework for all these years when he hasn't gotten to. I'm holding off on telling him that's it's going to get yuckier and one day he may not want to do it. But I'll just let him come to that point himself. 8-)

17. has good attention and retention skills. Sometimes, weeks after he's had a church lesson, he'll bring up a story he learned and tell it to us all at bedtime. It makes me happy to know he's listening. I think our kids listen to and soak up MUCH more than we realize they do!
18. is a daredevil. He LOVES roller coasters -- always wants to ride the hugest, craziest ones. He laughs so hard when Stephen gets his 'back arch' sensations -- that's Stephen's way of describing that awful feeling you get when you drop or go super-fast on those rides.  Kenny always wants us to ZOOM down the steep driveway to the parking garage below our apartment... they love to yell out 'do the back arch!'
19. is just now starting to like babies. He's never even noticed them before. Kind of like how Kassie used to pretty much care less about them. (Even when Callister was born. Sorry Fef -- thanks for not taking that personally). 8-)  But recently, Kas and Kenny are starting to follow in Stephen's footsteps and genuinely enjoy playing with little babies. It's cute. Especially since it wasn't long ago that he was just a baby himself... (here's one of my favorite shots, of Aunt Jenny feeding (or painting) him with an ice-cream sandwich)
20. says beautiful prayers. The last few times, I jotted down some of his comments afterwards. I just like how he expresses himself so simply: "bless us to be warm and safe; to preach the gospel; to not listen to Satan; to always listen to Jesus because He's our friend and He protects us; to do good things."
21. is incredibly honest. If he makes a mistake, he just tells us. He broke Stephen's arrow recently and he came right out and told us the whole story. (Probably the fear of those consequences). He also is quick to defend his siblings - if they get demerits, he'll say, 'Mom, I want to take those demerits for Kassie instead of her.'
22. tutors us on French. He especially likes to tell Daron how to pronounce his r's.
23. loves to ride his scooter and ripstick. Specifically, he loves to ride Stephen and Kassie's 'Spark' scooters: when he applies the breaks, they shoot off firey sparks. It's pretty cool.
24. laughs -- like he's being tickled. Especially when he's playing 'scare' games with the kids -- even though he's the one getting scared. Poor thing. We woke up one morning to the kids playing this hide-and-seek game in the dark, and laughing their heads off. Look at Kenny clutching his flashlight.

25. constantly makes sounds... whether it's whistling or singing or humming. His teachers have noticed this in the past. I think it's adorable, but I wonder if it makes them nuts in the classroom... 8-)

I'm so happy to have Kenny, as well as Stephen and Kassie, in our home. I read a quote once from a minister ~ 'our children are not ours -- they belong to God, and He has given them to us on loan, so we should treat them with great care and love'.  Daron and I feel blessed beyond words to have the chance to enjoy them and learn from them and watch them grow.

Friday, September 2, 2011


Since I posted the last blog about Kassie, I've thought of several more specific things I could add. But I guess that's the whole point -- to keep discovering wonderful things about each other everyday - to look for the good, always. (Isn't that from Pollyanna - 'if you look for the good in others, you surely will find it') So, on to Stephen.

I LOVE how Stephen:

1. has a beautiful, very large vocabulary.
2. loves to eat toast. How can he be so thin and eat as much toast as he does? I'm jealous...
3. is very sensitive to me and my feelings. If he ever thinks I'm in trouble - if I drop something or hurt myself, he's always the first to come running saying 'are you OK Mom?'
4. wants to be a little kid... although he enjoys being the eldest, he loves to still cuddle and play and be silly. When the kids all wanted to pose by themselves by this Scotland statue, he wanted to do the same thing, just because they did...

5. wants to be a grown-up kid... isn't it interesting how we just don't realize how short our childhood is... kids want to grow up so fast! But he does like the idea of being the oldest child, and getting privileges that go along with that... staying up later, etc.
6. is a clean freak! Almost a Germophobe... cracks us up how he wants to wash his hands the second he comes in the house, after he plays, doesn't want to use anyone else's towel... he's very clean conscious. So cute.
7. loves little children! I think he would love for us to have more kids... he absolutely adores playing with babies. Tonight we hosted the cutest family from here in town - and Stephen just doted on little Phillip the whole evening...

8. is polite. He's growing up to be such a mature big boy. I sometimes watch him and imagine him as a missionary, meeting people. The other day in the park, we were all playing and we met a cute new family, and I was talking with the mom, and Stephen left the other kids and walked over and introduced himself to the mom I was chatting with, asked her where she was from, how long she'd lived here, if she likes it, kept good eye contact the whole time, then said, well, nice to meet you! And walked back to the kids. The mom just looked and me and made a noise like she was flabbergasted and said - what?? How... what... how did he learn to do that? I was very humbled.
9. protects his siblings.  When we thought we lost Kenny for 10 seconds in London's busy Trafalgar Square, it gave us all a very big scare. For the ENTIRE rest of the trip, Stephen never let Kenny leave his sight - he held his hand everywhere we went. It was so sweet.
10. is honest. He'll always tell me what happened, even if may result in consequences. He told me the other day 'Mom, I'm playing on this website and when the aliens die, there's a bit of green blood.. I probably shouldn't play it, huh?' I had to laugh - he was being so good about telling me everything that was going on. (I didn't make him turn it off - I think the green blood's OK...)
11. has lovely handwriting. It's always been beautiful, since he was a young boy. He's a perfectionist and loves precision.
12. is a reader. I've always heard that 'readers are leaders' - I can see how reading certainly helps develop leadership skills: thinking, speaking well, sorting out thoughts, problem-solving, having empathy toward others less fortunate... etc. He gets sucked into whatever he's reading and it's great. 
13. has a sense of 'rightness.' He's always the first to apologize if there has been a disagreement and he had partial fault in it. I've also heard him explain to his friends why he doesn't see PG13 movies - generally - some exceptions ofcourse, if he's read the book, or earned it somehow. But I admire how even though others his age and younger are seeing those movies, he's able to be fine with our family decision and stand by it.
14. has his 'ailments'.  8-) I LOVE this part of him. When he gets hurt, it's truly like he almost died. A scratch, a hit, it's practically the end of the world. Always great drama surrounds his injuries. Then soonafter, he's OK. I found this pic of him back in Texas, with his rice bag, obviously trying to 'heal' after some affliction.  It's just one of his cute little quirks - like how he gags when he eats yogurt with big fruit chunks, or how he picks his fingernails. We all have our little quirks... his are endearing.

15. loves his Daddy. He has always said, since he was a little boy, that when he grows up, he wants to work at HP with his Dad. He's a total homebody... saying that he'll want to live by us and go where we go. He's always quick to answer 'yes!' when Grandma Inger asks if she can go with him on his mission, or atleast visit him and watch over him. I just love his love for his family.
16. likes to play games. Chess, UNO, legos, online battle games, sword-fighting, bow-and-arrows, sneaking up and scaring us... you name it. He wants to play it.
17. has a good memory. He'll sometimes recount things from his childhood - funny memories that I've already forgotten - like how we dug for grub worms together in our garden back in Texas... it's those good times that fill our little kids' brains and hearts and make them who they are.
18. prays. I often have said that when my Grandpa George would pray, I felt like I wanted to open my eyes and watch him because it was as if he was talking directly to God, who must have been sitting right in the room with him, because of his emotion and genuine way of praying. Stephen's prayers have a wonderful, meaningful style all of his own ~ he not only uses his great vocabulary, but he remembers specific things and people - that we've studied about (like those in the 10-40 window) and talked about. It's nice to participate in that with him... seeing him understand the importance of what a privilege it is to talk with God. We read that great 'Friend' article recently about how it could take months or even years to get an appointment to talk with a President of a country, and yet in 1 second, we are able to have the full, undivided attention of the all-powerful Creator of the Universe. Truly, what a humbling privilege.
19. is dynamic. We recently met a cute man in the next town over - Borex - just by regularly biking past his house to go see the chicken/peacock pen. We've become friends with him, and he invited us to come pick his apples and plums anytime. When Stephen talks to him, he just busts out into French, and does such a great job. It makes me feel so proud! It's fun to see him develop his personality and assertiveness.
20. is very disciplined. He's become quite good at self-governing, whether it's in home-schooling, or what he watches.
21. is willing to try new things. Drinking the daily veggie juice, trying the handball class, eating the baby squid (that Grandma offered him $5 to eat...) - that's a great quality. Open-mindedness.

Bottom line: what a great kid. We're so glad he's ours.