Winding down...

In February, when Grant first proposed the idea of Switzerland for a few months, I had no real expectation for what the time would hold. In the following 6 weeks, we packed our bags, got passports for the girls, found care for Kellydog, lent my car to my sister-in-law, and had friends who were remodeling their home housesit for us. Everything kind of fell into place and with so much going on in such a short period of time, the adrenaline was at an all time high with little time for introspection. 

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In April, after a short trip to visit Gigi and other family in New Jersey, we made our way to Switzerland (via Portugal) and instantly the emotions were high -- what were we doing?! Who picks up and leaves the country (alas, for Grant's job) after the two years we had - between Emery's premature birth and subsequent screenings/therapy and Grace's kidney surgery last December (we also had moved to California less than 2 year prior, buying a house and settling in). On one hand, it was kind of crazy. On the other hand, it was absolutely perfect.

Our time here has been a beautiful balance between travel warrior weekends taking us on adventures around Europe to beautifully boring weekdays exploring the playgrounds of Zurich. Monday-Thursday the girls and I explore the amazing playgrounds of Zurich, visit the Lake, and occasionally hit some playgroups or storytimes at the local library. Mostly, it is just the three of us spending hours upon hours making lego towers, playing playdough until we lose all the clay in the grass below and picnics in magical places new to us. Poor/lucky Daddy has travelled almost every week, racking up on passport stamps but also not getting the relaxed downtime we have enjoyed. 

Our weekends have been absolutely magical, making it the best summer of my life! While I was more than well-traveled before we came upon this adventure, travelling with my girls has changed everything. No longer is it about the places we are going, rather the journey. Seeing their jaws drop in awe as we travel through small mountain towns by train, listening to them sing in the back seat while we road trip, or seeing the pride on Grace's face when she packs her own bag for the airplane - these are the moments that life is about. We have all learned lessons in agility, curiosity and gratitude this season.

A year ago, but especially 2 years ago, I never would have imagined travelling so far away from Grace's Kidney specialist (we have had one break through infection that required solo mom not just going to the kinderhospital but also obtaining appropriate medication from Germany...) or Emerson's physical therapist. In reflecting on Emery's therapy this year, so much of it was hoping she would walk -- never imagining she would climb, run and swim through Europe with a contagious laughter - the greatest joy my heart may ever know. 

This morning Grant and I woke up early and while the kids played, we chatted about what we will miss about living here. Our lifestyle is number one: I love living in our apartment- having the kids all on one floor, less space to keep clean, renting means fewer to-dos, etc. I also love having less stuff - we have been so creative making bracelet beads from straws, using boxes in every which way possible, and turning everything into a "tool" for our playdough. Not having a tv leads to 3-hour long Disney Danceoffs and we have had more tea parties than the Madhatter. I'll miss our carless community and the peace of mind of safety for my girls as they learn to ride bikes basking in the Swiss Sun next to fields of wildflowers with trains hissing by. I'll miss the amazing playgrounds - there to challenge our kids not just take up space. I'll miss the amount of time we get with Grant - although he is travelling so much, he hasn't had so many late night work events that take him away from family dinner time so regularly. Dinner followed by exploring new parks that take us into the late evenings (the sun sets at 10 here) has been pure family magic.

Of course, there are things I am excited to get back to - first of all, my friends! Anyone reading this knows I tend to make friends pretty easily, but I haven't really made any close friends at all, it is pretty sad. For the most part, we have travelled so much, it has made cultivating relationships hard. Coupled with the fact that we are only here for 3 months, I understand no one wanting to make a temporary investment in the crazy American family who moved to town, admittedly we haven't made much of an effort either. 

I can't wait to get home and cook in my big, organised kitchen - complete with gas (cooking on electric has been an education), my beloved crockpot, garbage disposal, and garlic that actually tastes like garlic (it is very very weak here). As my double stroller doesn't fit down the grocery aisles here and we have no childcare since Amelie left the week we got here, I had to do all of my grocery shopping online at CoopatHome which was awesome as I could search in English. 

Speaking of delivery, I thought that would be what I missed most - on demand meals from Munchery, same day delivery from Google Express and Amazon - but I haven't bought a thing except for groceries since we got here and it has been liberating (for my psyche and my wallet!) With delivery laws in Switzerland preventing anything that isnt Swiss made from being shipped (without a huge tariff) I haven't shopped online or really spent money on anything but experience -- where as back home there were daily boxes piling up outside our door. #guilty

I'll miss the ingrained sense of servitude for our planet and others - recycling isn't a big thing here, it is expected and everyone just does it - everywhere - without a reminder. There is a pride, without being prideful, in caring for your community - parks aren't filled with trash, and the expectation to care for your possessions is evident -- something even granola California could learn from. I'll miss the laughter of little children playing outside our windows, and of adults toasting with friends - our community is so active here with echoes of joy bouncing off our concrete building.

While I am sad we only have two weeks left of European exploring (two road trips planned - one through Germany, one through Switzerland) before we go, the lesson of family travel is our souvenir. I love travelling with my family. Just the four of us exploring the world through a new lens of love and appreciation. There is nothing better in the world the travelling with them and I can't wait to bring our travels back to the states as we explore California with a new sense of vigour. 

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Regrets? Sure we have a few - I really wanted to explore more of France with the girls, but we can do that next year.  I had hoped we would find an outfit or two for each of us to bring back as a momento, and also wish we would have brought our fancy DSLR camera so we would have at least one quality family pic from the trip - oops! I also intended on learning German, but when Amelie quit I had to cancel my German class and I think I know less now than I did before we arrived, as everyone speaks English with me, likely because they hear me talking to the kiddos before we get up to the counter. Loud Americans :)

As we open our Calendar to July, we count down our last two weeks here in Switzerland before heading to Virginia/DC for a few days until finally reunited with Kellydog, friends and family back in California the 21st. The next few weeks will be busy, but if they are anything like the last 3 months, I know they will be beautiful. We fully intend on coming back next summer - which gives me time to get planning for more planes, trains and automobiles!

Have a great 4th weekend, you know we won't be taking our freedom to travel for granted this year!

 

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Embracing Daily Life in Switzerland

Another week in the books of our Swiss Adventure and I can honestly say we are starting to feel at home. While Mother Nature brought a mix of sunny days along with quite a few rainy ones this past week, the girls and I explored down by the lake - mastering the trams, feeding duckies, and even a nice long train ride to Rapperswil where we explored the kinder Zoo - seeing Camels, Flamingos, Penguins, Cheetahs, Giraffes, Zebras and more! While intimidating at first, the Swiss public transportation systems are ridiculously reliable and user-friendly with the awesome app that literally has a, "Take me home" button you push and just follow directions :)

Grant and I had an opportunity to steal away for a memorable date-night on Thursday, despite the onset of a tonsillitis for me. Right downstairs in our building, through a back-entrance door, we snuck into an intimate dinner at Hombi's Salon - a place of magic filled with creative passion by world-class tenor Christoph Hombis. When I met with him earlier that day, he requested we arrive anytime between 6 and 7 for cocktails but insisted we absolutely must be seated by 7pm. Grant was running late but we snuck in just in time to enjoy a lovely glass of white wine and some appetizers before the tenor/chef got to work preparing an immaculate dinner of pasta and meats and the freshest, most thinly cut prosciutto I have ever had - I will dream of it for years to come. After the main course, a lovely trio played classical music for us, with Hombi joining in - captivating the intimate audience before we enjoyed our dessert and stumbled back upstairs - having been served a few too many bottles of wine :) Truly an evening I will remember for the rest of our lives. 

When we first decided to make the trip to Switzerland with our two little girls, everyone immediately asked us where we would be travelling. I felt a lot of pressure - initially mapping out day and weekend trips for the girls and I while Grant worked, with longer getaways planned for the family. But reality is, we have two little girls, ages 1 and 2 - and what they want to do is play at the playgrounds, run around outside, and take in all that is new right here - which has led me to let go of that expectation and truly enjoy this opportunity as a chance for our family to live in Switzerland, not just use it as a landing board. Going to the market, exploring the rail system, feeding ducks along the lake and visiting local attractions that still let us get our naps in are what toddler day dreams are made of - and we are revelling in it! They wouldn't remember seeing historic landmarks, and while maybe a picture would help, I hope to bring them back to Europe when they can appreciate those things, but for now, focus on what they do revel in - picnics in the parks with mom and dad. Everything is new for each of us - no matter how well travel Grant and I had been in our single lives, exploring with our littles is new through the lens as a parent - and it is incredible! 

Finally adjusted to the time change, everyone is doing well! I am a bit down for the count with an incurable sore throat I can't get over - the remedies provided at the Apothekary here were of little help - with Grant heading back to the States Thursday, I may request some American cure-alls as my Mother's Day present. ;) 

Last week we also attended a local playdate for English speaking moms at the GZ Oerlikon which was a lovely way to learn of some fun places to explore. Grant stole me away for a few hours Saturday while the girls napped and we went to the famous Dolder Hotel - enjoying the modern art and a glass of wine while the rain came down. Amelie also treated our family to a traditional Swiss raclette on Wednesday which still has me full. Our days are simple, filled with small adventures we can savor stress-free. 

We have had great luck in meeting wonderful new friends - both through church and in our building - and I look forward to getting to know each family more as this week unfolds. I never would have imagined a more family-friendly city - and our community specifically is just filled with new friends all who have little ones of the age of Emery and Grace. With Grant traveling for Mother's Day, I am hoping to plan some fun local adventures with the girls this week to celebrate how happy they have made me as a mother and how lucky we are to write this chapter of our family's adventure here in Switzerland .... strong likelihood it will involve chocolate, if not chocolate and cheese :) 

Also would be remiss if I didn't give a glowing shout-out to the birthday girl, my beautiful Mom aka Grandbarb/Barbie! We love you, miss you, and can't wait to see you in just a few weeks! Enjoy your special day!

#MomTruthMonday: The Jetlag Edition

Inspired by my incredible friend Krista and her weekly #MomTruthMonday I look forward to each week, I couldn't resist boarding the truth train and share just how tough recovering from jetlag has been for our little family.

Let's be real. It has been tough. So tough. Borderline unbearable. While both of my kiddos have traveled plenty with time changes to Hawaii and the East Coast, this 9 hour time shift has thrown us all off, with sleep being interrupted by the need to use the potty or tummy's grumbling thinking it is time for dinner. We don't have a TV here, so our usual "quick fix" at calming crying toddlers down is taking a bit more effort finding books and activities to calm them in the middle of the night - and the boxes we sent arrived on Friday but we didn't get the notice until after business hours, so we can't get them until tomorrow since today is official Swiss Holiday for May Day so our distractions are limited.

While the struggle is real facing off with jetlag, we have also had the blessing of some dreary weather. I call it as a blessing as it has forced us to slow down, embrace the exhaustion and take each day one at a time. Being here for 3 months means we don't have to squeeze everything into a short vacation timeline, so for our first week in Switzerland our outtings were pretty limited - we explored the grocery store, learned how to take the train, bus and tram systems, and got a chance to know our new community. In an odd way, it all worked out just as it should. Fortunately, we did have a chance to explore the Nature Museum at the University of Zurich on Thursday and Saturday Grant took us to Luzern in picture perfect breathtaking weather - the lake was stunning and the snow on the alps adding romance to our stroll along the lake. Sunday we visited a new church, C3, which welcomed us with such open arms we instantly felt at home. I had searched for English services, and with the help of Google, landed at this church that also boasted childcare -- which meant english speaking families! We even met a family of four (soon to be five!) that live in our same building! Afterwards, we ventured around the lake on our bikes and explored some parks.

You guys, the parks here are AMAZING. I'll post more on that later, but it is insane. I can't even begin to describe how impressed I am...even the train from Oerlikon to Luzern had a playground on the upperdeck we happened upon - the kids were thrilled, even with older boys yelling at them in German - Grace just babbled back with a huge flirtatious smile on her face. Kids these days :)

It is raining again today, which is a welcome distraction after such a busy weekend and still recovering from the time change - so we are planning on visiting the indoor playground in our complex and maybe making some cheesy Raclette for dinner. 

All in all, Zurich is already proving to be an extremely livable city which we are enjoying more and more as we continue to explore - and look forward to uncovering all of the magic of this enchanted city when our sleep schedule is more on track, but for now, every new day is an adventure, even if it just attempting to figuring out the swiss laundry systems :) 

Have a great week!

 

The Swiss Family Allen

 

Switzerland with our 2 little Swiss Misses

If ever a time to brush the dust off this old blog, this is probably it. On Sunday morning, we woke the kids at 4am PST, piled too many bags to count into a black car, and braved the airport. Our first leg of our journey was to New Jersey to see some extended family (there is an AWESOME flight from San Jose to Newark now, just $120 per person but at 6am on either United or Alaska if anyone is looking to go East and avoid SFO!)  

The flight was actually great, the kids slept a little, ate, and indulged in a bit too much screen time - but hey - they were well behaved and quiet. We arrived in New Jersey while patting ourselves on the back a bit as we managed the two kids, a rental car, 4 checked bags, a stroller, 4 carry-ons and ourselves. We made our way down the shore to see my grandmother and aunts and uncle - enjoying a lovely dinner catching up before attempting to sleep (this was the beginning of the end) and the next morning spending time with my cousin Jen and her two little boys, hitting the boardwalk for some fun, and then making our way back to Newark for the next part of our journey.

...and this is where we unraveled. 

When looking for flights from San Francisco area to Zurich, we couldn't really find anything for less than about $3k a person/economy and we really wanted Emery to have her own seat as she is so wrigly these days. Then,  with a little Google Flight magic, we stumbled upon TAP Portugal Airlines Newark to Zurich (with a stop in Lisbon) for $212 -- always the budget traveler, we scooped these up, thinking that at worst, it would be like going into labor with a child- terribly painful but can only last 24 hours.

And turns out, that is exactly what it was. Excruciatingly painful as the armrests didn't go up fully between seats, making it awkward to provide our two exhausted toddlers with support to rest. Grant was up in business class so he took Emery for a bit which was extremely helpful since Grace was pretty annoyed that our seats didn't have working TV Screens. For an entire transatlantic flight. Fortunately we had loaded iPads, but Grace carries a serious case of FOMO (fear of missing out) which made seeing everyone else have a screen with fun movies a case for jealousy turned into rage. No seriously. Uncontrollable. 

By the time we arrived in Portugal, Grace had slept a total of an hour, Emery maybe 3 and both girls were dead set on having french fries for some reason... but it was 6am. Fortunately there was a compassionate worker at the McDonald's in the terminal who fried some up - which gave us a bit of peace - but they were on the fast track to misery -- too tired to function. With just a 3 hour layover in Lisbon, we tried to enjoy the SAS lounge but alas, our children were a bit too unruly, living up to the "American Spoiled, Poorly Behaved Children" reputation. Poster children for it, really. 

When we finally got on the last leg of our adventure - Lisbon to Zurich, I thought it would be fine. Clearly the children were exhausted - this short flight they were sure to sleep. Or not. They both screamed the entire time. I don't know how to properly explain it - but they actually screamed, and cried, and kicked and tantrumed the entire 3 hours. We were humiliated as people in a multitude of languages said things under their breath... and directly to us. We tried to apologize and settle them down, but it is the moment of parenting I'll always look back on just feeling like the ultimate failure. We couldn't settle them down - not with cuddles or bribes or screen time or anything. The stewardesses were mad - thank god they didnt start the tantrums until we were in the air or else they would have kicked us off the plane. It was bad. So bad. As we landed in Zurich, everyone in our family was in tears, exhausted. 

On the car ride from the airport to our new home, we vowed to start anew. Having never been to Zurich before, I was excited by the green hills, clean streets, and endless possibilities of exploration. We arrived at our lovely new community and found a spacious 4 bedroom flat outfitted with toys for the kids and everything we need - providing me with a renewed sense of hope for this 3-month adventure after the 11th hour of an arduous journey.

We arrived on Tuesday afternoon, and I am now writing this during lunch/naptime on Thursday with little else to tell. The biggest news was that it snowed yesterday, at the end of April! It was Emerson's first time seeing snow, and Grace hadn't really seen snow since she was born in Washington, D.C. Our California baby (Emery) loves it, Grace not so much, which kept our adventures to a minimum. Aside from venturing out to meet Grant by his office yesterday for a nice late lunch at Cheyenne Oerlikon, we haven't done all that much due to the 9 hour time difference we are struggling with - up all night, weird naps, etc. Fortunately time is on our side - we have 11 more weeks to explore the city, getting ourselves back in the groove of things can take its sweet time - except for poor Grant who had to travel to Germany today -- please send some love his way -- our kids kept the whole place up all night, and he had to leave early early this morning for the airport for his flight to Hanover for the Automation Conference.

Stay tuned for updates that are hopefully a bit more exciting with details of our adventures abroad. Missing all of our family and friends back in the United States and hope to hear updates! Please keep us posted on your daily lives - can always email me kkennedyallen@Gmail.com 

 

Broscht from Zurich!

 

The Swiss Family Allen :)