Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Faschnaut in Luzern 2009

Nick and I hoped that we would be able to find a babysitter and go to Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday celebration in Lucerne together, but being a school night, no such luck. I bought Nick a monster mask, since it was the Monster Ball, but he never had the chance to wear it.

Before dinner, they stopped by Chuck's place to drop off some beer and wine at his apartment. Chuck tends to keep his key in his billfold, so sometimes he loses it when he opens it. Sure enough, this happened on this night and Chuck was locked out of his apartment. Oh well. I am sure Nick didn't necessarily want to wear a mask anyways.

Nick said that it was really a pretty amazing sight with all of the marching bands, costumes, and masks. It is amazing to me the amount of preparation that goes into this week by the villages and the people. Some of these costumes must easily take the whole year to create. I hope that I have the chance to attend next year and is definitely something you should experience firsthand.

Nick stated that he would like to bring Coretta next year. I know that Geno would be terrorized with all the masks. He is at the stage where it is hard to decipher reality from fantasy.

Here are some pictures of his evening out and a short video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mardi Gras in Hunenberg

Today starting at 2:30 pm, my village of Hunenberg had their Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebration. It started out with a parade that was roughly one hour and a half long. Interestingly enough, I could watch bus after bus, dropping people off in costume from my apartment window.

At 2:30, Geno and I decided to go down and watch the parade. It is amazing how many people in the parade and not in the parade dress up. The thing that I find the most interesting are the marching bands. They make our marching bands in America look tame and lame. These marching bands are all in tune and have the craziest costumes I have ever seen.

As we were watching the parade, many people threw candy and oranges to Geno and even served me up some coffee while I watched. Once the parade was over, we headed into the town center where there was more band music, coffee with schnapps, brats, hotdogs, pomme frites, and hundreds of people. There would continue to be hundreds of people until the firing of the evil pig which is said to occur at 6:30 this evening.

If you click the following link, you will see even more pictures: Hunenberg Mardi Gras

Here are some videos of the bands as well:

This particular video was not really music, but they used these hand-made instruments that made a loud noise.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Coiffure Weibel

Today I went into Zugerland to get my first Swiss hair cut. It has been something I have been putting off due to the language barrier. Armed with my Swiss friend Judith's recommendation, I schedule the appointment. When I went there a week ago to schedule the appointment, the receptionist did not speak English, but she did say that she could get me an appointment with the hairdresser Nadine who speaks English. I was relieved.

Here's a picture of me and my new Swiss cut.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Bee Hive Faschnaut Celebration

Geno had school today and they were going to have a special celebration for Faschnaut. After Geno had his breakfast, I put on his costume and painted his face. All of the students were told that they could come to school dressed up. Geno wore his tiger costume from Halloween and surprisingly wore the mask on his head. It was great to see all the children dressed up, but equally wonderful to see the teachers dressed up as well. I love that they celebrate all holidays and make them so special for the kids.

Coretta's Last Day of Ski Lessons

Today Coretta and I drove to Sattel for her last ski lesson. Once there, we took the gondola up the mountain and proceeded down the hill. We were a little early, so Coretta decided to go up the ski lift and practice.

After her lesson, we enjoyed lunch at the ski chalet. Coretta and I had hamburgers and french fries and afterwards she went out to ski even more.

Inge and I took a hike and spent time talking and watching the kids ski. I had a great time watching her and visiting with friends.

Here's a video of her going down the ski hill.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Faschnaut Parade in Zug

Coretta, Geno, and I traveled in to Zug today for the Faschnaut kid parade. It is amazing how many people both young and old that dress up. In fact, if you are not dressed up you felt out of place.

There was literally hundreds of people lining up around the old part of Zug through the Metalli area waiting for the parade to start. I can't believe the turn out during a working day!

When the parade did start, there were many marching bands playing dressed in Mardi Gras attire and many parades of children dressed up as tigers, flowers, Pipi Longstocking, pirates, Indians, cowboys, sheep, you name it.

Luckily Geno was not afraid of all the costumes. Being the thinker he is, he just stood back, observed, and took it all in. Coretta being a lover of festivals thought it was the neatest thing. Even the bus drivers are dressed up. These festivities will now take place until March 1st.

In fact, festivities began as early as four in the morning in Luzern with bands, costumes, and drinking. Afterwards, we ate lunch at New York Pizza and went home.

Here is a short nine second video of one of the bands playing.

Brotherly Love

Today Geno and Charlie were playing together in the bedroom. Usually Geno will slam the door shut so he and Charlie can have some privacy. Geno usually smothers Charlie with love and Charlie either tolerates it or does a small growl that means nothing except that he is annoyed.
Today however, I caught Geno trying to pretend feed him gummy bears and playing tug of war. Very cute.

Here is a short video of the two of them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Coretta the Kitty

If you live in Switzerland, one learns quickly that they take their holidays and festivals very seriously. In fact, it seems that preparations begin months in advance. About a month ago, I had stated that I noticed all of these mannequins dressed up in mardi gras wear and masks. This indeed is a part of Faschnaut which takes place before Lent. Coretta said it also has something to do with an evil pig which I believe might be a reference to this and it's roots to pagan rituals.

During this festival which takes about three weeks (from now until the end of February) music can be heard throughout the villages, parades are important events where everyone wears costumes, and food and drink are to be eaten and drank to excess. This Tuesday, when school lets out, Hunenberg is having a family friendly Faschnaut parade. Coretta decided that she would be a cat or cheetah so we found the mask and she already had the coat. Geno, on the other hand, could go as a tiger (his costume for Halloween) but he has an irrational fear of masks, mannequins, and costumes. In fact when Coretta put on her mask, he had this scared look on his face as he ran away crying as if to say, "What did you do with my sister?"

Here are some pictures of Coretta pre-Faschnaut festival.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mmmmm...peanut butter

Today my little man Geno found the peanut butter, grabbed a spoon, and was eating this wonderful creamy and yummy treat all on his own. Now granted, he is eating it right out of the jar, but being the eternal optimist, I said to myself, "He is finally using utensils!" Here every time I give him an eating utensil, he looks at it like it is a foreign object, unsure what to do with it. Little did I know, if he is bound and determined to eat it, he will find a way for the spoon to work for him.

When I finally caught him in the act, he was so afraid I was going to take away his most coveted possession, that he almost started to panic. However, when I showed him I was just going to take some pictures, and not going to take it away, he relaxed.

In these pictures, it is as if he is amazed by this creamy, yummy concoction that I spread on his toast every morning. He never knew it would taste so good straight out of the jar. I think he could definitely be a great candidate for a peanut butter commercial. Jif, Peter Pan, Skippy go ahead and call me and make your best offer. This kid is gold!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Coretta's first Ski Lesson

This morning, Coretta and I dropped Geno off at preschool and headed to Sattel Hochstuckli for a two hour ski lesson. When we arrived (which was a 30 minute car ride with spectacular views) we parked, got our tickets for the gondola/ski lessons. We then had to put the barcode in front of this light to allow us access into the gondola waiting station. If you haven't ever been in a gondola, you must jump in while it is moving. Not hard to do, but when you are trying to get 3 kids and 3 adults in holding bulky ski equipment timing is crucial. Once in the gondola, I enjoyed the views of the mountains and lakes.

Once off the gondola, we proceeded down the hill to where the lessons were taking place. My friend Inge stated that Coretta should not put on her ski boots until she is at the bottom since they are heavy and bulky. Once down, we worked on putting Coretta's ski boots on. This proved to be a daunting task because her foot would just not go in. We kept pushing and pulling, pushing and pulling. Inge believed it was due to the type of socks she was wearing. Inge being the sweetest and most giving person, gave Coretta her socks and sure enough, the boots then slipped right on. Off to buy ski socks later today.

Although her ski instructor only spoke German, Coretta did well following his instructions by mimicking his movements. She learned the snow plow stop, how to change directions going up a mountain, how to walk sideways, and lastly how to push off. Inge has informed me that Coretta will be skiing down the big hill by Friday. I can't wait to see that. She only fell down two times, but her legs are very very sore. Should be interesting to see how she is feeling in the morning. Here is a video of her during her ski lesson. I apologize for the noise in the background.

While Coretta had her ski lesson, Inge, her mother, and I sat outside drinking cappucino and talking. It was a bright sunny day and very relaxing.

On our way back from the ski resort, I realized that we were low on gas, so I stopped at Migrol down the hill to fill the gas tank. I did not forsee this to be a problem because you just park, put the nozzel in, push, and pay. Not so at this particular stop. I thought maybe it was pre-pay, so I put my money in and went to pump the gas. It did nothing. I thought maybe there was a switch, but couldn't find it. I instructed Coretta to enlist the help of the young boy at the building near us, and She said, "Hilfe Bitten." When he came over, I realized that he did not speak English at all. This would prove to be a challenging task with me pantomiming my way through my dilemma and inserting German words sporadically as I went. Seeing that I was not getting very far, with this young gentleman, I ran over to another older man and stated, "Sprachen se English?" in which he responded, "Nein." I again went through my broken English/pantomime gig, and he ended up giving me the money I had deposited into the machine and helped me pump it. He stated that he would take my receipt and get the money back later. The Swiss are certainly helpful and nice especially in Coretta and my time of need.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Coretta and Geno Dancing

Here is a video I took of the kids dancing to the radio tonight. Forgive me for my singing, I forgot I was taping!!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Coretta's Third Grade Swimming Gala

Coretta did an excellent job on her swimming gala competition in Zug today. Coretta's race was the backstroke and they also did a class relay. I am very proud of her. Geno and I had a great time cheering her on. Coretta even received a ribbon. The teachers did a great job putting this event together and it clearly meant a lot to the students.

Here are some more photos from this day: 3W Swimming Gala

Here is a short movie I created as well:3W World Class Swimmers

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Life Seen Through Coretta's Eyes

Coretta is doing very well at school and has made a lot of friends. As part of the Math curriculum, they have a unit that they call World Math Day. Kids receive a password, create their own avatar, and can play math games against other kids their age all over the world. The world of technology has opened the door for so many great learning opportunities. If you are interested in the site, click on the link: World Math Day.

She is also in swimming lessons through the school once a week which has helped her improve her skill set in this area tremendously. Not to mention her confidence as well. She has a swimming tournament on Friday in Zurich against other schools. She is very nervous and doesn't want to let her team or the coach down. I told her all she can do and all that people can expect is that you do your best. Her race is the back stroke.

Next week is holiday and she will be enrolled in skiing lessons with two other kids from the neighborhood. We still need to rent her equipment as well as buy a ski helmet and ski goggles. Coretta stated to me, "You know, the chances of me breaking an arm or leg, or any bone for that matter are considerably high." Always the worrier.

Lately I haven't seen much of her after school, because she runs in the door after school, drops off her backpack, and is out the door with her friends in the neighborhood: Esben, Marie, Michael, Seamus, Belinda, and Victoria. The rule is to be home at dark. Coretta has been very responsible in getting home on time which is great. She never had this opportunity in Minnesota since there were so few kids in the neighborhood. This makes me very happy. Both Nick and I grew up with many kids in the neighborhood to play with.

Coretta has also been continuing her studies in piano and really enjoys it. She also has a band named the Fallen Angels who get together and write music and sing songs. At school, some eighth graders are teaching them choreography to a dance, and Coretta has been enjoying this as well.

Coretta has another field trip coming up in March. They are going to (click on the word Technorama if you are interested) Technorama which is the Science Center in Switzerland. They have been studying electricity in Science and have learned how to make a buzzer work with just some wires, and a light bulb turn on. The field trip is supposed to expand further what they have been learning.

For anyone concerned about Coretta's transition from Minnesota to Switzerland need not be worried. She is flourishing both socially and intellectually.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Coretta's Valentines

With Valentine's Day right around the corner, and no Valentines to buy, I decided to create bookmark Valentines with a poem written on them and attach a piece of candy to the back. Needless to say, my arm hurts from all the writing. They are studying poetry at school right now, so I thought that this might be a cute idea.

Planeta Magic: Where A Kid Can Be A Kid

We decided on Sunday to declare a Family Day, so we set our sights on spending time at Planeta Magic which is located in Wadenswil, Switzerland. Here children can spend time on eight trampolines, swim in a sea of balls, play with the underwater world inflatables, and run through tunnels, mazes, and slides.

Parents in the meantime can sit and relax at the Bistro lounge drinking coffee or even drinking wine or beer and eating snacks.

Once we arrived, Geno was a little bit scared. Unsure what to make out of all of this adventure. We first placed him in the balls and he cried. He warmed up fairly quickly, and enjoyed bouncing, running, and playing with all of the other kids. We allowed Coretta to bring Esben and Marie from the neighborhood so she would have someone to play with. It is clear that by the time we went home, the kids were tired. Perfect rainy or snowy day event!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hunenberg Castle Ruins

Charlie and I decided to go on a nature hike in hopes to find the Hunenberg Castle ruins. Amazingly we found them, and they are very close to our home. It look as though they are working on some restoration.

The castle remains were discovered between 1945 and 1951. It is believed to be as old as the 13th century. The ruin is not merely stones and pieces of wall - the castle has a lot of atmosphere to offer.

As Charlie and I walked the paths around the ruins, there were beautiful paths with a stream running alongside us. It was very beautiful and had great views of the trees, moss, rocks, and river. There were also swings and playground equipment that blended into the natural landscape. This is what February looks like in Switzerland.

To learn more about the history click on the following link: Hunenberg Castle History. Here are some more photos from my facebook album if interested: Hunenberg Ruins

Thursday, February 5, 2009

It's Puzzle Time!

Today Geno had a great time putting his puzzles together. He has an easy time taking them all out, but not so easy time getting them to fit. When he tries to push them in, he makes this "Ooooh ahhhh" noise. When he is concentrating real hard, he also sticks his tongue out just like Coretta and Mom. Very cute. Here's the video.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Jumping frogs, magnets, and puzzles

Today I went up to the store to try and find the things I need to enrich Geno's curriculum emphasizing motor skills, speech, and language development. I found these jumping frogs which are great for matching by color and some great peg puzzles to help with those fine motor skills.

I also picked up a mosaic toy that is similar to Lite Brite in America. Geno must put the pegs in by color. This works on his fine motor skills and color recognition.

In addition to all of those, I bought him a magnetic letter, flashcard, white board set to practice words, colors, drawing and phonics.

Lastly, since he has been so into playing with cars, I bought him a race way mat to play with. So far, he likes them all and was so excited to have new learning toys.

Now I just need to buy him a trike so he can master that as well. They have some really neat ones here that have a handle on back so I can push it like a stroller when he gets too tired. With spring like temps here in the 50's it is nice to be out enjoying the weather.

When I put Geno down for his nap, he was so sad because he wanted to play with the new toys. It was very cute. After nap, we will start "grasping new ideas!"

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Geno's School Conference

Geno had his first school conference tonight and it went great. She told me that he has adjusted amazingly well. He does some parallel play with other children, but that is what they expect as far as socialization at this age/stage. His favorite activity is art. In fact, if they allowed him, he would sit and color all day.

She stated that he is always happy and tries to communicate his needs either non-verbally or with "his" language. He is not afraid to come up to any one of the teachers if he needs something. He does however need a little help with his gross motor skills and his speech. I explained to her that we have an audiologist appointment set for March 4th at 11:00 am and then will see a speech pathologist.

She showed me the hedgehog that Geno created (with help from the teachers of course) and he did a great job gluing the pieces in their proper place.

I plan to buy some peg puzzles and work with Geno on recognizing colors, shapes, numbers, and words. It seems like March 4th will never come. Until then, I will just keep doing everything I can to help him. Overall, he is happy and loves to go to school.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The American Dream

Last night Nick had the strangest dream. In his dream, they were checking out different offices for work, but everyone was dressed as Star Wars characters. Mostly Darth Vader and storm troopers however. He said to himself, "I have my chewbaca costume in the car. Maybe I'll wear it."

For lunch, they were driving along a strip mall, and stopped at Quizmo's. As they were standing in line, someone told him to get the pizza. When it was his turn, he stated, "I'll have the pizza?" They asked him, "Do you want the special?" Nick said yes, so they handed him a bucket of coke and gave him the dough for a make your own deep dish pizza. As he sauntered up to the condiments bar, he said, "So I can put as many toppings on as I like?" which they retorted with "yes."

Nick was so excited about this, until he saw the little person guarding the condiment bar. He states out loud, "Sure, you say you can put as many toppings on, but he is here to police it." They state that he is there to make sure that the black olives do not get mixed up with the green ones. Nick woke himself up saying, "Mmmmm." He then woke me up with hysterical laughter.

Much can be made out of this short series of events. Nick believes that the people in Star Wars costumes were symbolic of how crazy Americans can be especially in regards to events such as the Super Bowl. The strip mall, quizmos, and bucket of soda symbolizes America's tackiness and the whole "Super Size Me" mentality. And lastly, Nick is really missing Green Mill deep dish pizza.

Snowshoeing in Axalp

On Sunday, Nick woke up at 6 am and got ready for a day of snowshoeing. Nothing else would get Nick up that early except for a hike, sledding, or snowshoeing. I'm actually quite surprised at his dedication and love of the outdoors.

His plan was to take a train into Lucerne, where he would meet up with his friend Chuck, and then drive to Axalp Obernese. Once there, the two of them put on their snow shoes and began their walk enjoying beautiful views of the mountains and lakes. All along the path, there were several wooden sculptures placed throughout the landscape. Nick stated that this snowshoeing destination was not as rigorous as his past snowshoeing experience, but if you ask me, that's a good thing.

Once they returned their snowshoes, they decided to take a drive into the capital city of Switzerland known as Bern and have lunch. Once back to Lucerne, Nick noticed several animals suspended in the air at the train station. These were some of the many decorations to be found all around Switzerland when Faschnaut starts in February.

Nick arrived home around six o'clock pm, tired, sore, and ready for bed. This is his perfect Sunday.