Thursday, September 30, 2010

Everett's Forgiveness

Liam and Everett come together in a brotherly representation of true forgiveness... too bad it only lasts about five minutes before another apology (from one of the two) becomes necessary...

Liam Unleashed

This is Liam in his natural state... rough-housing with his brother... Our favorite moment in the video is Liam's karate-style air kicks... Just so you think that we allow Liam to whomp on Everett all the time, we have also included the obligatory "Kiss-and-Make-Up" apology from Liam in a separate video.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Fifth Anneversary in Switzerland!

A street in the Altstadt (old district) of Zurich.

Delaine poses at the Swiss National Museum in Zurich.

Inside the Cathedral in St. Gallen (it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site)

Outside the Cathedral in St. Gallen.

Everett took this picture. No Joke! Pretty good, huh?

Delaine and Steve celebrated their fifth anniversary early this month. We decided to take the boys to Switzerland. Steve got to show them all a few of the cities in which he had served as a missionary. We first spent time in St. Gallen, which is only about an hour away from Liechtenstein. Then we got on a train to Zurich and walked around there as well. It was a blast.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Everett's Fourth Birthday (A few Pictures)





Here are a few photos of Ev's big day! More written details to follow... Wanted to get these out there sooner rather than later, though...

Our first castle experience...

Everett and Liam inside on of the castle's many rooms

Mommy and Everett trying to carry the royal carriage...

Everett and Liam checking out the Knight's armour

This is an awesome two-handed long sword!

This is the inner plaza of the castle

We have been wanting to go to this castle that overlooks the town of Austria since we got here, but we never have taken the time to visit. So we picked a rainy day for this indoor activity, and we had so much fun! It is called the Schattenburg (translated: Shadow Castle). There were swords and cool old treasure chests and paintings and art and awesome architecture. We were some of the only people in the entire castle and the boy ran around and looked at all of the cool exhibits. The lady at the ticket counter LOVED Liam. She laughed at his pronunciation of the word HOUSE, and actually informed us that the miniature building in a diorama about which he was repetitively screaming about actually existed still and showed us where to find it on our way home. We climbed up the stairs to the highest towers and turrets and saw so many cool old things. These things would have certainly been behind glass in the States, but out here they just let you get up close to things as they were hundreds and even thousands of years ago. Liam and Everett had a blast, and both Mommy and Daddy felt like little kids again. It was a great activity and it only cost 12 Euros for the whole family.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Everett's First Day of School!

Everett is our big Kindergartner, and he just finished his first week of Kindergarten, so we wanted to post a few candid shots of him on his first day!

Sunday, September 19, 2010

A REAL Steam Engine in our little town!

This old steamer chugged into our little train station, and we could hear the steam from our apartment, so we ran in our pajamas without shoes so that we could catch a glimpse...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Feldkirch Altstadt (Cont.)

Here are some nice little shots of our boys running around in Feldkirch. That is a cool fountain in the middle of the center of town. The boys were playing Hot Wheels all over the city, until they found the pigeons and chased them until they both got tired.

Feldkirch Altstadt

For anybody who has not been to Europe, most towns and cities have an Altstadt, which directly translates as "Old City." Where all of the little shops, old buildings, cobblestones, and marketplaces are located. Anyway, here is a video of the boys running around the Altstadt in Feldkirch, chasing the pigeons.

Liechtenstein goes Latin

One really cool thing here in Europe is the interest and experience with other cultures. Many Western Europeans travel extensively, and upon their return to Europe, they bring a knowledge and respect for other cultures. The town of Schaan, where we are living, has a population of only 6,000. Nevertheless, there are many cultural events from around the world. We were walking around our quaint little town, and we heard some pretty killer drums, so we decided to follow the sound. We came upon a Brazilian drum band, which included mostly Liechtensteiners. It was awesome. We walked around the festival, and they had many cool activities for the kids, etc. Everett and Liam made their own drums with garden pots, they got to sit on a donkey, Everett got to get their faces painted (some Avatar/Airbender Tattoos), among other things. It was a fun day, and the boys had a blast!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Liam Loves Bugs

Let the video speak for itself. Liam loves bugs... especially slugs...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Kinderwagen: Our New Supercar

An American family stopped and asked us if we were from the States, and we asked them how they could tell. The response: "Your stroller." We had already deduced that the days of "Old Reliable" were over, and it was high time to let our trusty Combi double stroller enter into a well-deserved retirement. To be honest, it wasn't that our stroller was bad, or that we were trying to keep up with the Jones Family, or the Mueller family as it might be called in this neck of the woods. Believe me, we see too many Ferraris and Lamborghinis to even try. It was a practical truth that we could not get around the city easily with our current system. We knew that the little wheels on our Combi wouldn't cut it any more. Almost the day we set foot on the Old World, we began looking for our new Kinderwagen, as they are called here. We looked at cute little boutiques, and at Toys R Us, and the sticker shock literally dropped our jaws. Our shopping criteria in the states was merely that the stroller was of generally good quality, and that it folded up easily into the trunk of our Camry (our Combi would never fit in the back of a Lamborghini... Sorry Daddy). What we found here in Europe is:

First, Europeans define quality differently than Americans.

Second, the Liechtensteiners and Austrians don't care if a stroller fits in the trunk of a Camry (probably has something to do with the number of Lamborghinis in Liechtenstein)

Third, multiplying Swiss Francs is a heck of a lot less deceptive than pricing things in Euros (the multiplier for Francs is roughly equal to the dollar, but with Euros... that "1.3 dollars to 1 Euro" calculation can be tricky and cumbersome for college grads and MBA students.

As a disclaimer, strollers here are not strollers. They are cars. They have to have features, like disc brakes (a feature included on our Euro-stroller... again this has to have something to do with the Lamborghinis in Liechtenstein). They have to have umbrellas, the winter package, five-point safety harnesses, a mosquito net (yup, ours has that, too), a rain cover (check that one off the list for our latest family purchase), inflatable tires, swiveling front wheels (a surprising number of Eurostrollers don't have these, which makes absolutely no sense, because there is no such thing at all as a straight road on the entire continent, and it is entirely impractical to lift two growing boys every time we have to make a course correction, let alone a hairpin turn down a cobblestone alley), and most important BIG WHEELS with really good bearings.

Ooops, forgot one little lesson we learned about Europe. Well, Europeans are the consummate practicalists, and this goes for children's toys and gear. As soon as families are out of the child-rearing phase, they sell or donate their stuff. Here is the other awesome fact: Austrians and Liechtensteiners take really good care of their stuff! This makes for an awesome marketplace for ex-pat American bargain hunters like ourselves. We found a stroller in Austria that was relatively close to where we live (which means about 70-90 minutes away by foot, train, and bus), and we set off to find our new means of transportation.

It was raining. Liam cried on the bus for most of the way there, and both Everett and Liam eventually fought over which of them would be able to push all of the buttons on the bus and the cell phone simultaneously. When we finally laid our eyes on the stroller, and we knew were getting a killer deal, but insisted on trying it out with a walk around the block before making the purchase decision. We really took our time with a 20-second walk around the block and upon our return, we handed the cash to the woman of the house. Then we just stood there in the rain, reminding ourselves that we were 70-90 minutes from home in an unfamiliar place. This is where our Austrian seller truly showed her stripes. Understanding our plight, the woman offered to drive us to the nearest train station, which we kindly accepted. I do not think she knew what she was in for.

This was probably the first time that a Eurostroller has been placed in the back of a car...ever. She had to ask her husband how it folded, and he seemed to know that it folded somehow. After using all of the problem solving skills from the GMAT, Steve folded it up (with the woman's help... could have used her help on the GMAT, for sure...) Anyway, her jaw dropped when Steve turned around and clipped our tri-folding Combi together and gently laid it in the back of the car, as we then tried all of our Tetris skills to get the beautifully designed, but unwieldy double Eurostroller into the trunk. After what seemed like an eternity, we mashed the thing into the trunk and gently closed the decklid. It clicked shut, and then we got into the car.

At this point all mental, physical, and psychological reserves had been spent, this includes our boys. Liam remembered that he was sad, and began to cry. It was not a time for focus and calm for our polite chauffeur. She put the car in reverse, and backed straight into her sister's car with a crunch. IN ALL OUR COMBINED TIME IN EUROPE, WE HAVE NEVER SEEN A CAR CRASH FIRST HAND. This attests to the fact that Americans cause a great deal of stress for Europeans. Anyway, she merely responded: "Eh, my sister works for an insurance company, anyway. Don't worry." We felt so bad, but she recovered her calm quickly...but Liam didn't. He just cried and cried. We learned how difficult it can be for small talk over the lungs of an unhappy two-year-old and after a minor fender-bender. By the time we got to the train station, the woman certainly wished she were driving a Lamborghini, because we all just wanted to move on with our lives. (Well, the car would certainly not have fared well if it were a Lambo, it would have been a mess of cracked fiberglass and carbon fiber. Luckily, her modern bumper absorbed all of the impact and it didn't even leave a mark, at least that is what we like to think, at least.)

So there we were, at the train station with our new prize. We waved goodbye to the woman, and headed to our train, happy to know that the wheels were big enough to board without the fear of getting caught in the doors. Although we know that we got a smokin'-hot deal, we still haven't brought ourselves put the purchase price in Euros into real US dollars. That 1.3 multiplier can stay where it the back of our heads...because we know that we got the best bang for our buck (or Euro as the case may be). And besides, our kids and our sore muscles will thank us for trading in our clunker for a Lambo, but in typical European fashion, there are no cupholders. Lamborghini's don't really need them anyway.