Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Sound of Music

Coretta has been taking piano lessons for a couple of years now. I think her best teacher she has had so far has been Mrs. Pauli here in Switzerland. Coretta takes piano lessons at the Swiss school on Tuesday afternoons each week. Mrs. Pauli has taught Coretta so much in regard to tempo, rhythm, and actually learning how to read music. It is great to hear Coretta say "Oh yeah, that is a B flat." I am very pleased with Coretta's dedication to practicing every day. Her hard work and love of the instrument is paying off. Here is a video of Coretta playing just a few of her favorites. Enjoy!

Geno the Storyteller

Geno loves his books. He enjoys being read to and he also enjoys reading to a captive audience. This is Geno's rendition of Time to Sleep by Valerie Meler.

Coretta's Tsunami Presentation 2008

This year in third grade, they had to spend time researching a natural disaster. Coretta chose Tsunamis. Here is the power point she created.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Hedgehog, by Geno Bieter

Geno has his first school conference on February 3rd at 6:00 pm. The transition seems to be getting easier and easier. He wants me to carry him into the learning room, but then gets excited to pick out his coloring sheet and color. In fact, pick up was even better yesterday. When he saw me he was happy, but talked to me and pointed to all of his friends. Now when I say, "Do yo want to go to school?" He replies with no hesitation, "Yeah!" He also replies to "Yeah" when I ask him if he loves me and if he wants some lunch. However, in the video below he says he doesn't love me.

His clearest and most articulate word is No, which is typical two year
old behavior. At this stage everything could be answered with that word, however, the only real time he is persistence with its utterance is when we ask him if he wants to go to bed. He actually runs away and says "No!" Geno's preschool just published their newsletter which we received a copy, and they mentioned Geno's name as one of the new students welcoming him and his family to the school community. I have included this newsletter as well as Geno's colored masterpiece entitled simply Hedgehog.

Here's a video of Geno one week ago. Mind you it is right before bedtime and he didn't want to cooperate with Mama:

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Coretta's World

Coretta's parent/teacher conference is tonight at school and she is doing wonderfully. Prior to the conference, she brought home a portfolio of work and a report card that she needed to present to her Mom and Dad. She is doing an outstanding job in all subjects. The teacher stated that she is very mature for her age. She enjoys playing football (soccer) and plays this at recess most days. In fact, today she is orchestrating a boys against girls soccer tournament at recess. There are many girls that labeled soccer as a "boy" sport until Coretta broke through this barrier. Now because they were introduced to this sport through Coretta, they absolutely love it. She is such a good leader.

Her German skills are getting better every day and she is able to hold conversations with other German speaking kids in the neighborhood. Her favorite subject in school is German. She is also in piano lessons, and through her determination, and Ms. Paulie's guidance and expertise, has become quite good. She can not only play the music, but can also play chords and read the music as well.

She received a reading award from the principal for turning in and completing her reading over holiday break. One of her favorite past times is still reading. She reads at least 30 minutes every night. She also loves to download music and add free applications to her IPod Touch, facebook, bike ride, rollerblade, shop, drink hot chocolate, and play with her brother.

Her biggest accomplishment lately is going into Zug on the weekends for an afternoon of shopping and lunch all by herself. Her favorite places to eat are Starbucks and New York Pizza. It is great to be able to give her this kind of freedom. She has learned the bus and train schedule and checks it online before she goes. Then she jumps on the bus and then the train into Zug. I can tell she is very proud to be able to do this all on her own.

In Spring she will start golf with a few of her friends at the Country Club in Hunenberg. It will be interesting to see how she likes golf. Overall, I think Coretta is loving life and I am very proud of her!!

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Monster in his Tummy

Geno had a great day at school today. Although he hesitates at the door, as soon as we get in, he loves to choose his seat and draw. Today he chose to color a hedgehog.

When I picked him up, he was quietly listening to the story with all the other children. When he saw me, he got a big smile on his face, and came running to me. When I asked him if he liked school today, he clearly stated to me "Yeah!"

When we got home, it was clear to me that Geno was hungry and tired which can definitely become a lethal combination. I showed him that I was going to make him some chicken nuggets and french fries, which he was excited about, but didn't like the wait. Once I put them in the pan, he thought that they were ready and was standing on his tiptoes and stretching his arm with determination until he reached it. Sadly, I was right there to say, "No, not yet. They need to go into the oven." Once in the oven he kept staring at the food and pointing at it as if to say, "Mom, what is taking so long? I am HUNGRY!" Finally once they were ready to come out of the oven, I put some on his plate, and now we needed to wait for them to cool. I usually set his plate into the freezer for a minute to cool it down because if it is the slightest bit hot he says, Ohh Hoo Hoo." Today, however, he could not wait, so I put him in his chair and handed him his food.

I haven't heard back from the doctor or the audiologist and tomorrow will be a full week since his doctor's appointment. It has me thinking how long does it really take to schedule an appointment. I called and left a message with the doctor today, but haven't heard anything so far. I plan to try her mobile later on tonight.
Here are some pictures taken after school this afternoon. So far, he says No, Mow (milk), Yeah, Blue, and Bear.

If you look closely in the first one, you can see his reflection in the stove.

The Ottimo Experience

After Nick and I battled the stomach flu all weekend long, and barely ate anything but toast, come Sunday we decided to try a Swiss pizza place that delivers. They not only deliver, but delivery on Sundays. The name of the pizza place is Ottimo Pizza Kurier and they have a bald eagle on their brochure ready to land on the pizza like it is one of it's prey.

They conveniently have a website that allows you to order your food via computer which is nice. Although we are still trying every day to learn new German words, we needed the help of google translate to complete the order. For those of you expats out there looking for pizza delivery, check out this link: Ottimo Pizza Kurier.

The pizza arrived around 6:30 pm and right away, I noticed the picture on the pizza box. The pizza box had a white family just back from the carnival. The Dad had the child on his shoulders handing him a slice of pizza, the Mom smiling at them holding the box. They looked happy, almost subliminally letting you know that fun with family equals pizza. At the top of the carton, it says Pizaaaaaa. I have never seen a pizza box like this, so I had to share.

The pizza itself was very good. Coretta devoured it and Geno did the same. I believe we would order from here again, but not too regularly since Nick and I are on a pretty tight exercise regime.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Word Blue

Today I have taken the advice of many and have been noting things Geno says and ways in which he tries to communicate with me. One thing that he does when he wants something, is he will bring the object to me. If he wants peanut butter toast, he brings the toast to me. If he wants to read a book, he brings the book to me. If he wants me to pick him up, he actually says "Aww" which I now answer back "Want to get up? Good boy."

The more I took time to really listen and observe, I noticed that Geno really does have some vocabulary. For instance, he says Mow when he wants milk. He can say No and usually follows that up with a muffled "No, I don't want to." I noticed today, that he would answer, "Yeah" to me as well. The best thing that happened today is while we were reading his favorite book, I pointed to the color blue and said to Geno, "Say blue" which he answered with "blue!" To any other parent, saying the word blue would not be a big deal, but in my case it felt like I had won the lottery. Today I noticed that he actually said six words and one phrase.

What I find the most frustrating is when he tries to communicate with me, and I cannot decipher the words. What I did notice is that when I say, "I'm sorry, I don't understand you," Geno then repeats the same phrase with the same intonation but louder and with more intensity. If I then repeat to him that I still don't understand, he shakes his head and kind of growls.

Tonight when I stated it was time for bed, which is the one thing he never wants to do, he looked at me and said "Naw, I don't want to."

I haven't heard from the audiologist yet, which is frustrating since she said that this appointment could be done quickly. If I don't hear from her by Monday I'll have to call the office. Anyways, I thought today was very productive. Thanks to all for the words of encouragement and prayers. They mean a lot.

Geno's 2 year old doctor appointment

Geno had his two year old doctor appointment today with Dr. Gshwend. Thankfully she spoke English. She checked Geno's ears, had him stack some blocks, checked his heart, weight, etc. His head is 51 inches, and his weight is 34 pounds.

I explained to her that I am concerned about Geno's speech development and my doctor in the states told me to address this at the 2 year old check up. He stated that if he wasn't speaking then, that some hearing tests and speech therapy sessions may be needed. At first Dr. Gshwend said to me that children aren't completely speaking at this age, but when she heard Geno's babbling, she, too agreed that this was reason for concern. She stated that his speech is that of a six month old, but she doesn't believe that he has anything wrong with his hearing. She stated that the process always begins with a hearing test, to rule it out however.

Geno will be going soon to see a doctor in Luzern for that. Then, the special education team will be contacting me to do some tests on his speech and do some observations/therapy which will include observation play. From there, they should be able to tell me what type of therapy Geno needs.

She also stated that he should be doing role play as well as jumping, using eating utensils, and sorting colors and shapes. Geno however cannot do any of this. She did state that I should have come in earlier when I first arrived here. I explained to her that I was just following the advice of my doctor in the states and what is important is that I am here now and we find Geno the help he needs.

I will update with more, as this process progresses. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Update on 6th day of prechool

Geno sixth day of preschool went as expected. I dropped him off and he started his trademark pouty face holding back the tears. As I sat him down and gave him a coloring sheet and said goodbye, his face was so sad. I went into my car and cried.

When I picked him up, the teacher told me that his day went well. He didn't cry at all and he was participating in the activities and he was a good listener. She told me he even was talking (in his language of course) but that was a sign to me that he is starting to feel comfortable to interact with others. She gave me two coloring sheets that he did and also two books from the library he checked out. In fact, when I came, he was sitting quietly listening to the story being read with the other children. Things may be looking up.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Herti Stadium

On Saturday, Coretta and I decided to go ice skating in Zug. The Herti Allmede Stadium, which was built in 1979, and can house 4,900 people is just minutes from our home. Because they are actually building a new stadium as we speak, there is much construction going on around the site. When Coretta and I finally found parking, we only had to pay 8.50 in Swiss francs to skate.

I have never seen a European ice rink and was surprised by it's size. Much bigger than we are used to in the States. The EVZ Hockey Team plays there through February and in the off season, football (or soccer for us Americans) games are also held there. They also have a restaurant called the Pogg, where you can get lunch and a beer while you are skating.

They also have great learning to skate aids for young people just learning. Instead of pushing a chair, children can push a large cone, or a metal structure similar to a walker.

Coretta and I had a great time skating, and plan to go here regularly.

Fasnacht or Carnival in Switzerland

While walking through my village in Hunenberg this weekend, Coretta and I were shocked to see mannequins in elaborate costumes placed on terraces. According to, "The Fasnacht (carnival) in Basel is recognized as the largest popular festival in Switzerland, with some 15,000 to 20,000 masked participants taking part.

The prelude is the Morgestraich on the Monday following Ash Wednesday. As the clock strikes four in the morning, groups of fifers and drummers in charivari costumes and masks with small headlights start moving through the dark center of down while playing their carnival tunes.

The Cliquen, or carnival cliques, carry transparent lanterns made from wood and canvas, most of them over three meters (9 ft) high. The light from within illuminates the carved out silhouette of an event which has marked the past year. The marches played are popular tunes from previous decades, with new ones added from time to time.

On Monday afternoon, and on Wednesday afternoon as well, the Cliquen march along a planned route through the city, making their way through throngs of spectators. Months before Fasnacht, a current theme is chosen and transposed to the costumes, masks, and lanterns. It also appears on the leaflets written in prose and verse in Basel dialect, which are distributed to the crowd. On both evenings, individuals and other small groups wander from bar to bar, singing and acting out events of the past year, all spiced with witty remarks the so called Schnitzelbängg, or caricatures. Tuesday evening is dedicated to the Guggemuusige, or masked musicians, who fill the streets of the city with their improvised cacophony.

To many, the best part of it all is the Gässle, or wandering through the narrow alleyways. Masked individuals and groups roam through the streets of the old city, playing pipes and drums, with spectators marching in time behind them. Festivities go on until four o'clock in the morning on Thursday. Then another year must pass until the clock strikes four again on the next Ash Wednesday, ringing in the next, much awaited carnival in Basel."

During this time, people indulge in good food and drink, knowing that Lent and fasting is right around the corner. For more information on the history, click on this link: Fasnachts-Comite. Here are some photos I took in the neighborhood.

Night Out in Zurich

Last night Nick and I went into Zurich for dinner. We met up with three other couples from Nick's work with each living in Switzerland for different periods, and different backgrounds. One couple was originally from Ireland and South Africa, another couple from Oklahoma who before this resided in New York, and another couple from India and France.

We first decided to walk into the old part of Zurich which Nick and I had never been. There were so many great shops, bars, and restaurants in this area. We decided to stop for some pre-dinner drinks at this quaint little bar. Since we didn't have reservations, we could not find a place that would take in a party of eight until 8:15 pm. In fact, they stated that it is a well known custom to not take people in without a reservation, so we were lucky to get in anywhere at all.

Rajesh convinced them to make an exception since we were "tourists." I have to say that this place had the best Thai cuisine I have had to date. We shared two bottles of Spanish wine from the Rioja region and decided to try the special of the day which started with an appetizer of spring rolls, asian meatballs, jumbo shrimp wrapped like eggrolls, and a coconut curry soup. We then were served roasted duck, fish curry, spicy beef, vegetarian stir fry, and a chicken curry in the "homestyle" fashion. Once we finished these courses, they gave us dessert. Dessert consisted of mango, pineapple, and papaya topped with ice cream.

We then jumped on a train back to Hunenberg. I would say this was my most enjoyable date yet. Good food, good wine, and good conversation. What more can one ask for right?

Friday, January 16, 2009

Trip to Colmar, France

My parents are coming to visit us in Switzerland March 1-12th. They jump on a flight from Fargo, ND on February 28th at 4 in the morning. From there, they will fly to the Minneapolis/Saint Paul airport where they will have a two hour layover. Then they will fly to Newark airport in New Jersey where they will have another 2 hour layover. From New Jersey, they will fly into Zurich airport where we will pick them up. I believe with the layovers it will be a 20 hour trip. Hopefully it will be as pleasant as a trip this length can be.

Once they arrive we will take the train to Hunenberg, Switzerland and they will take the day to rest. Jetlag to Europe can be a huge problem since there is a 7 hour time difference. While they are here, Nick plans to take my Dad to Mount Pilatus and I plan to take my Mom shopping in Zug and Zurich. I would also like to take them on a boat tour from Luzern stopping at several small towns a along the way. Then on March 6-8th, I have booked a trip to Colmar France where we will be able to do some sightseeing, sample French cuisine, shop, and tour some churches and museums.

Since this is their first trip abroad, I hope I can make it special for them. Click on the link to learn about Colmar France: Colmar. The above picture was taken oin the town center of Colmar, France.

Geno's 5th day at Preschool

It is 9:06 am and I have just dropped Geno off at the Beehive Preschool for day five and I wish I could say it is getting easier. As we pulled up, he knew we were at school and started getting the pouty face. I told him things are going to go great and you are going to make a lot of friends, you'll see.

Sadly, I don't think he believes me. Once there, he again hesitated to walk through the door and clutched on to me for dear life. As I put on his slippers, it was if he wanted to cry and sob, but held it in the best he could. I walked him into the learning area and this time sat him at the table and gave him some colored pencils and a color sheet. We drew together for a few minutes and when he was fully engaged, I secretly stepped out. He looked back once and saw that I was gone. He didn't run after me. He didn't cry. He just continued drawing. I think that is a good sign right?

I am unsure if I have the strength to make it the six weeks that another woman told me it took for her son to adjust. I do not like seeing him so sad and I worry that he thinks I am abandoning him or that I am sending him there because he is a bad boy.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. He is such a delight to be with every day. He makes me laugh. He is full of life. He likes to read, be read to, draw, play choo choo train, build towers and crash them, take everything out of the fridge and bring it to me saying Mmmmm.

He likes to help me clean up and put things in the garbage. He loves to dance. He loves to play with his sister and his dog Charlie. He likes to pinch my nose, show me where his eyes, ears, and head are. He loves to lift his shirt when I say, "Where's your belly?" He likes to wrestle. He likes to give me kisses and hugs. He loves to giggle, and run, and smile. Smile. That's the boy I know and I want the rest of the world to see and know, especially at his new school.

Well I pray every day that we will both have the strength to endure this transition. Here's some pictures of him this morning before drop off.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Geno and Dr. Gshwend

Geno was supposed to have a doctor's appointment with Dr. Gshwend in Zug yesterday, but they said they had no record of it in their files. Nick had scheduled Geno's two year old check up while I was in France. I filled out some paperwork so that I would not have to do this next week. The receptionist stated that it was a very busy day, and that I could wait, but it would take close to an hour. I stated that I would reschedule for next Tuesday instead. They were very nice to me considering they had no appointment written down for him.

While at the doctor's office Geno ran into one of his fellow classmates from the Beehive Preschool. A woman came up to me and asked if this was Geno. I stated yes and she proceeded to tell me that her son was in Geno's class. He started when he was 19 months old and is almost two. I told her he has only been there for three days and the first two went okay, but the third was hard. She told me that it took her son six weeks to make the transition, and now is doing well. I'm hoping for a little sooner, but it does give me hope.

Not wanting this drive into Zug to be for nothing, Geno and I decided to walk to the train station and have a blueberry muffin at Starbucks. We ordered and sat down. Geno was very excited about his blueberry muffin and just kept saying Mmmm. The coffee barista thought it was so cute. He loves blueberries, but hasn't had any since we moved to Switzerland. Looking at the pictures you can tell his enjoyment!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nick's Adventure Snowshoeing in Sorrenberg

Nick decided that he was going to try out snowshoeing on Sunday with his two friends Chuck and Bob. Nick packed up his things that morning, filled his day pack and his camel back, and promptly left around 9:30 am. They had to drive there, which took a little while. Once there, they rented their snowshoes and were told that they needed to return them by 5:00pm.

Knowing that they wanted to make the best out of snowshoeing and have enough time, they skipped lunch. Nick explained to me how snowshoes are not made the way we used to think of them, or at least I did, like huge tennis rackets on your feet. He stated that they did not restrict your walking and your ankle can actually move up and down. He explained that they also have grippers that allow you to have some traction and keep you above the snow so you do not sink. This makes it very easy to get to certain areas in Switzerland that would not be accessible otherwise. He actually told me of a remote area where they were that has the mailman not only deliver the mail, but passengers as well. With temperatures typically in the 30s or 40s, it makes winter sports much more enjoyable. In fact, where they were snowshoeing, people were walking around in t-shirts.

As they hiked, they saw mountain views and pine trees which reminded Nick of home in Minnesota. They actually trekked 10 miles that day on very steep terrain. Once Nick got back to turn in his snowshoes, the woman at the desk stated that he looked tired. Nick thought, not only tired, but nauseous. Since Bob needed to be back to make supper for his daughter, they decided to skip supper as well.

Once in the car, Nick stated that he was still feeling nauseous. The next thing we know, Nick asked Bob to pull over because he has to puke. Bob does so promptly and Nick opens the car door and gives three big heaves and the apple juice and chocolate bars make their way to the surface. Chuck and Bob were a little bit caught off guard by that, but it goes to show you, that eating before an excursion like that is necessary.

Nick arrived home around 6pm luckily because I was worried that they may have fallen over a cliff. Here are some pictures of Nick's snowshoeing experience. Below you will see two pictures showing how the snowshoe has evolved.

Miss Coretta Independence

Yesterday Coretta took the train into Zug with her Dad. He showed her how to take the bus and then the train to Zug and back to Hunenberg. She spent the morning shopping in the Metalli and bought some earrings, a brush, and some scarf headbands. She then met her dad for lunch at 11:00. She didn't want to be late and make her Daddy worry, so she stood in the train station 30 minutes early. They ate at the Coop buffet. Coretta's eyes got real wide when she saw that she could order whatever she wanted. She had chicken cordon blue, french fries, and of course dessert. She then left Nick to make her way back home all on her own, and was back before I was from picking Geno up from preschool. Way to go Miss Coretta Independence!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Geno's Third Day of Preschool

Today dropping Geno off at preschool proved much more difficult. As I strapped him in the car and drove off, he was all smiles, and in a great mood. Once we parked the car and I took him out of his car seat, his mood changed to that of uncertainty and apprehension. As we got up to the door, Geno planted his legs and would not budge. I literally needed to peel his feet from the pavement to get him in the door.

Once in, things got progressively worse with him holding on to my legs and crying. I picked him up, and he gave me the tightest hug possible as if to say "Please don't leave me." There was no way to assuage his fear, so I walked him into the classroom, rubbed his back, and hoped that his demeanor would change. When his teacher tried to give him a butterfly with his name on it, he wouldn't take it. He wouldn't even take it when I handed him the butterfly.

After a few minutes, I stated that I was going to leave, and he would probably chase after me. I saw him just standing there. All alone just standing there. Not crying, just standing looking lost. Everything in me wanted to scoop him up and bring him home. Nick keeps telling me to be strong, but that is proving to be more difficult every day. I hope that this will be a good thing. I have guilt for putting him into preschool, when I am home, but I was concerned about him socializing with children his age. I hope that pick up goes much better than earlier today, but I am feeling like a horrible Mom leaving him there right now. Wish me luck!

Update: When I picked Geno up from the Beehive Preschool, I saw a bunch of students in a circle introducing each other while they sang a song about feelings. Geno, however, was not in that circle. I caught a glimpse of him helping the teachers prepare the lunch (or picking up the spoons and forks and drinking out of all of the cups) with another little girl his age. I found out that this was her third day as well and had a tough day today as well. When Geno finally saw me, he ran to me and wanted to show me the alligator seesaw, but then quickly grabbed my hand and walked me to the front where the coats were as if to say "It is time to go now." With every day, may this transition be easier fro Mom and child. Amen.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy 59th Birthday Mom

My Mom's birthday is tomorrow. She has always been the rock of the family, even when met with resistance from us at times. Ya know, that typical tough love stuff that you need in order to straighten up and fly right. I remember those ghastly teenage years where I would sneak out of the house and my parents nailing my window shut, to the days where I would ask her to drive me somewhere and tell her to park miles away as to not be seen with my Mom. I know all of this is part of growing up and independence, but it wasn't until I had my own children that I realized how hard it is to let them grow up and be themselves, and more importantly, not to take these things personal.

My Mom is one of the most caring and loving individuals I know. Our needs as a family always came before her own. She was a stay at home Mom who did do daycare out of the home for only a few cents per hour. She did it so that we could have other children to play with, not to make a profit. Looking back, she does recall how ridiculous it was to charge like 25 cents an hour. I remember she waking up at 5:30 every morning to get things ready for the day before the daycare children would come.

My Mom was also the type of mother that you could rely on and that would make sure that her children had stability and routine. One thing was to make sure that us children had the right Catholic upbringing by putting us into Catholic School and never missing Sunday Mass for anything. She also made sure that supper was ready shortly after we returned from school, did our laundry and cleaned our rooms. My Mom coming from a family of fifteen with so many chores to be done daily, told herself that when she had children, that would change. I told her that I do appreciate the fact that she did everything for us, but going off to college proved difficult when you do not know how to wash dishes, cook, or do a load of laundry. I painstakingly learned however, but expect my kids to help out more than I was asked to do.

If we had a bad day at school, she was always there to listen and comfort us. No matter what, my Mom was always there, even when I thought I didn't see her. She doted on us from morning to night, worried about us falling off our bikes, being bullied, being disappointed when we saw what the real world was like.

It was when I went off to college that my Mom decided to finish college and get her degree in nursing. I remember as a kid, she telling me the story of how she tried to take care of worms (slicing them and operating on them) letting them know that what they had was not too serious an illness. After selflessly taking care of us for the majority of her young years, I was very proud when she was the valedictorian of her nursing class. My Mom, being one that has never liked the spotlight, had trouble seeing herself in that role, but what she didn't realize was that the role was made for her. She has always been a great leader, role model, and caregiver. This career was tailor made for her. Seeing her care for the elderly at the nursing home in the Alzheimer's wing is something to witness. She surely has found her calling, and they love her, and she them. Although she doesn't get the pay or near the recognition she deserves, she does it because she has a passion for helping and healing.

My Mom has been there for the birth of my two children giving me the strength I needed in the delivery room to make it through. In fact, she made sure that she would be ready to jump in the car as soon as she received the call (mind you the car was packed a month in advance) and drive 4 hours through rain, sleet, snow, or blizzards to make sure she was there by my side. She, herself, suffering complications and near death experiences in that delivery room, could feel my suffering with me and made sure she would be there. The joy she had on her face when she saw my healthy babies was beyond words and something I hope to share with my own daughter some day. Bringing a life into the world is one of the most amazing experiences anyone could have the privilege to do. Now I share that badge with my Mom.

My Mom has a way of making really anything special. She cares so deeply for her grandchildren Coretta, Geno, Jack, and Emilia and would go to any lengths to help them or to see them happy. Again unselfishly and with great grace she does what a grandparent should do. Play an active role in their life. I couldn't ask for a better Grandmother to her grandchildren. In fact, a simple need as missing stove top from the mouth of my daughter had her spending almost 40 dollars to mail 5 boxes of it over to Switzerland.

Mom, tomorrow on your birthday, I want you to take care of yourself for once and realize how greatly we love, cherish, and miss you! Happy Birthday!! Thanks for being our bridge over troubled waters! Below I have created a movie for you to watch, just click on the link: Grandma Earnest's Birthday Video

Here are some videos I found on life in the 1950s and commercials from the 1960s:

Life in the 1950s

1960s Folgers Commercials

Chatty Cathy

Friday, January 9, 2009

Geno's Second Day at the Beehive Preschool

Geno's second day of preschool went well considering that today he ran after me out the door and had the saddest pouty face that could make any mother break down and weep. It was so hard to just turn around and keep walking, but I knew this is what I had to do. As Nick keeps saying to me, "Be strong." As we were pulling out of the parking lot, Coretta told me to look back in the window, which I did, and noticed Geno standing there no longer crying and interacting with a little boy his age. This made me feel better.

When I went to pick him up at 12:30 pm, I peeked in to see that it was story time. I opened the gate and proceeded to try and find my son. To no avail, I couldn't find him, and thought that he must be somewhere else with another teacher. When story time was just about over, I glanced over to see my little Geno sitting quietly and contently listening to the story. I actually had to do a double take. My two year old son, sitting on a chair, not throwing it, quietly listening? It was quite amazing.

When he saw me this time, he ran to me and gave me a big hug. The teachers came over and told me that Geno is doing exceptionally well for being new and just turning two. They stated that he is very cooperative, listens, but is shy and not quite ready to completely socialize with the other children. He does inquisitively observe the other kids still taking it all in. She states that this will change with time, and I agree. There aren't any other little people for Geno to socialize with at home that aren't stuffed, so this is so good for him socially. It sounds to me that he has the demeanor of his father which is quiet, shy, and a deep thinker. Nothing wrong with that!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Geno's First Day of Preschool

Today was Geno's first day of preschool. When he awoke, he was all smiles. For breakfast he had some muffins and milk and then he got dressed. Although he didn't really know what was in store for him on this day, he did exceptionally well. Wish I could say the same for his Mom who was crying her eyes out even before we got there.

Once in there, I had regained my composure for as not to embarrass myself or make Geno worried. When we walked in, Geno was holding both Coretta and Nick's hand and looking up at them as if to say, "What are we doing here guys?" After putting his belongings in his bin and putting his slippers on, we entered into the learning area. It is so great to walk into a school environment where all kids are engaged and well behaved. It reminded me a lot of Coretta's experience at the Montessori School in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Once we met his teacher, we decided to make a quick exit as not to create unnecessary duress for Geno in this new environment. As we turned around to leave, he ran after us. He wasn't crying at all thankfully, more like uncertain of what was happening. The teacher scooped him up in her arms and out the door we went.

Once in the car, I broke down and cried again. I know that it is silly, but there is definitely a bond a mother has with her child. And in Geno's case, I have been at home with him since the day he was born which makes this separation equally hard.

When I picked Geno up at 12:30, he was content and happy. He was sitting in conversation with his teacher. They stated that he had a great day. They sang songs, danced, had story time, and painted. She said that Geno was a little curious about the paint and decided to just pull up a chair and observe.

I knew he would thrive in this environment and know that he needs more friends than Mom and Winnie the Pooh. This was made even clearer to me when I arrived to pick him up and he smiled, but ran towards the kids as if he wanted to stay. Needless to say, it was a very successful and positive experience at the Beehive Preschool.

Here's a Preschool video created by Coretta:

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Trip to Lyon France 2009

Our trip to Lyon, France was supposed to include the whole family in celebrating Mom and Dad's 11th wedding anniversary, but sickness interfered with this plan, so Coretta and I went to France together while Geno and Nick stayed back.

That morning, Coretta and I started off on our 4 and a half hour car ride at 10 am. As we drove, there were lots of mountains, architecture, and beauty that outlined the landscape. Once we arrived in Lyon, parking (which I knew would be a problem) was difficult. In France, their streets are small, their elevators are small, and their parking garage spaces even smaller. I parked on the street and went into the Astrid Reine to check in. They informed me that they had underground parking available (19 Euros per night). He stated that I would need to push the button and he would then open the door to allow me access. Once in, I was instructed to park in any of the spaces that had a green card on the wall. There were many, but the spaces were so tight, it took me 20 minutes to manuever the car into the space. Now I wasn't alone in this endeavor. As I looked around, other Europeans with smaller cars than me also were having trouble.

Once parked, Coretta and I gathered our things and made our way to our executive suite room 210. Our key was very interesting and could be a topic of conversation to say the least. The old fashioned t-shaped key was attached to a very old gold door knob that easily weighed 10 pounds. I joked to Coretta that we wouldn't have to worry walking the streets at night with this key with us. One swipe across the temple to any assailant and they would be knocked out cold.

Once we opened the room, it was so beautiful and romantic. The door opened to the view of two balconies and these Victorian curtains that hung all the way to the ground. In the middle of this room was a dining room table and a sofa with a pull out bed. As you walk down the hall, the floors are all marble. To the right was a full kitchen, to the left a half bath and then to the right another bathroom. The next room was the actually bedroom that had a queen size bed all in the Victorian style. Now I took a moment to reflect on the beauty of this room, and it made me sad that the love of my life was unable to be there with me. I believe it was the nicest room I have ever stayed in.

Once situated, Coretta and I decided that we would have a low key evening, since we were both a little wiped out from the drive. We decided to take a stroll through the Parc de la Tete d'Or which was situated right outside our hotel. The Parc de la tete d'Or was named for a golden head of Jesus supposedly buried on its grounds. The park itself is one of the largest in Europe consisting of 259 acres. The gate itself was quite impressive. It was extremely high. So high, that you had to tilt your head back to see the top of it. It was wrought iron decorated with gold accents. It has a 60,0000-bush rose garden, paddle boats dot the artificial lake, and African animals fill the free zoo. Everywhere you looked, you saw people enjoying themselves. Some just were taking time to stroll the many pathways, others rollerblading or scootering, and some getting their afternoon run in before dinner.

On Saturday, Coretta and I got up early and decided that we would wander around the city of Lyon which houses a population of 435,000 people. We set our goal to walk to the specific area in Lyon known as the La Presqu'le and Les Terreaux. Here we saw monumental squares, statues, and fountains which are one of the trademarks of this area. Once you cross the Rhone River, you also get beautiful views of the Fourviere and Roman section of Lyon. Coretta and I saw the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere which was absolutely breathtaking. We also saw a metal structure close to the Basilica that looked like a direct replica of the Eiffel Tower. Along the river there were many vendors selling several things from french literature, vintage comic books, to matted paintings of old propaganda posters from the 1940s to popular American icons.

Coretta and I thoroughly enjoyed sight-seeing in this particular area even though we did get lost a few times. We also saw an enormous ferris wheel where there was a group gathered around protesting terrorism and several police were there in case a riot broke out.

The Musee Des Beaux-Arts was spectacular as well. This converted palace takes visitors through many diverse exhibits from the Roman and Egyptian era as well as famous painters such as Monet, Renoir, and Picasso. The outside also has much to see as well. The garden consisted of several roman sculptures throughout.

That night, Coretta and I decided to do some shopping at Part Dieu which is home to 230 shops in the center of Lyon. We took the city bus number C1 which took us right there. Coretta and I had some of the best Italian here and enjoyed the taste of "real" American ice cream at the Hagen Daas stand. The actual building had five floors for shopping and was very busy.

Sunday being our last day, and shops being closed, we dedicated this day to museums. We decided to visit the East of Rhone and Modern Lyon section. We knew from the map that we would need to take subway A at Massena. Then we would need to get off at Chapelles A and jump on the B line that takes you to Jean Mace.

Now I do not speak French and the automatic ticket booth was in French. Amazingly enough, I managed to purchase our tickets very easily. One ticket on either the train or bus costs 1,60 euros which is quite inexpensive. However, getting on the train before they slam the doors and find a seat before it takes off proved more difficult. When the train started the sheer force of the train pushed me back, I stepped on Coretta's foot, and a French man laughed so hard. Once we sat down, Coretta and I laughed as well.

Once we stepped off the train, we needed to find Berthelot Avenue. Since we were having difficulty finding it, I approached a french woman, and pointed to the map where I needed to go. She spoke in French and motioned with her body like one would playing charades in which I nodded and said Merci. She wasn't helpful, but she really wanted to help. Which brings me to the topic of stereotypes. Since I have been here in Europe, the French really are nice, warm, friendly people. This is not the view we hear about the French in the states which is that of cold, impatient, or rude people. Nothing could be farther than the truth.

Once we found Berthelot Avenue, we finally found our destination: Centre D'Histoire De La Resistance et De La Deportation. Being an English teacher for the past eight years and having taught the Holocaust, I knew that this was a must see for me. As we traveled to this destination, I prepped Coretta briefly on the history of the time period and what she would see. This exhibit was very well done. Although much of the information I already knew, it was an excellent teachable moment for my 9 year old daughter. One particular part of the exhibit that I found to be interesting was that of the female role during this era. It documented several of the women resisters and their role in the underground movement to warning people, importing weapons to people, to saving Jewish children from deportation. This lead way into a discussion that Coretta and I had about risking your life for the humanity of others. The actual museum is housed in a building where Nazis tortured detainees during the Occupation and had several documents, photos, and films about Lyon's role in the Resistance. Coretta and I were also given hand held audio devices in English to help us as we walked throughout the exhibit which was very helpful.

Coretta and I both think that Lyon is a must see and plan to go back again in the spring or summer. With 22 museums alone, to fully appreciate all Lyon has to offer, multiple visits are needed.