Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Smith Letter 2011

This has been our most international year, and that is saying a lot for our family. We have watched our kindergartner—Everett—enjoy school on two continents, Liam developed his life’s passion: snakes. Delaine successfully navigated the German language living in Austria and Liechtenstein, and Steve completed his MBA at Thunderbird, in addition to accepting a full-time job with Hilti in Portland, OR starting in January 2012.

Liam has blossomed into an adventurous 3 year old. He loves doing flips on and off of the couch, playing in the dirt, collecting sticks and rocks, and learning everything and anything about reptiles. He is a true herpetologist. He plays with his toy snakes, eats with his snakes, bathes with his snakes, and sleeps with his snakes. He will not allow us to miss a week at our local library so he can pick out his weekly assortment of snake books. He loves it when we read to him and he takes every chance he can to physically challenge his brother in what he considers to be a perpetual, winner-takes-all cage fight. His ninja fighting skills are pretty awesome., and he loves to sing and rock out to music by Led Zeppelin, Duran Duran, and the Ramones. He is so excited to start primary this coming year. He is a true character, and makes our lives so much more LIVELY.

Everett has had so many milestones this year. He attended Kindergarten in Austria this year (they start at 3 yrs old there), where he became fluent in the German language. His daddy is super proud! He was devastated to leave. He loved Europe so much, and we hope to get back there soon. Upon our return to the USA, Everett started Kindergarten in Arizona. Despite being the youngest in his class, he is thriving. His teacher says he soaks up everything they cover. He LOVES to learn. He can read very well, write more legibly than his dad, and loves everything about school. He was awarded student of the month in October, he was on the principal’s list for both quarters, and he earned a special Howl Award every month. He is heartbroken that he has to leave his school, he’ll start in the Northwest soon. He is not only our little academic, but he has also advanced to a green belt in Karate! Basketball is the next sport on his list.

Delaine has spent her year being a trooper. She has worked hard at planting roots in Austria, Liechtenstein, and Arizona. She is also a full time chauffer—in Europe she escorted the kids by bus, train, stroller, and by foot. In Arizona, she drove Steve and Everett back and forth to and from school several times each day. She spent the rest of her time, cleaning, cooking, and enjoying outings with the family. She particularly enjoyed our trips to Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Italy, Neuschwanstein (the Princess Castle), Bavaria, Lego Land Deutschland, Oregon for Delaine’s Grandfather’s funeral, and the Grand Canyon. Needless to say, she is excited to settle in the Northwest for a while. Delaine wins that Smith family prize for PATIENCE and DILIGENCE this year.

Steve fulfilled many of his dreams this year. He was able to work in his mission area in a large company. He also got his family to be Germanophiles, too. He has also succeeded in learning Portuguese. And to top everything off, he GRADUATED from a highly ranked business school. While in school, Steve worked as a Campus Ambassador, Foundations Leader, and a Peer Career Advisor where he advised his fellow MBA students on resume writing and job searching tactics. He has refereed countless family wrestling matches and various other spur-of-the-moment homemade games. Although his schedule was crazy, he led the family in family scripture study, family prayer, faithful church attendance, and regularly scheduled date nights.

This has been a remarkable year for us, full of great experiences and accomplishments. We wish you all the best for the coming year 2012. We miss you all, and we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

WE'RE BACK in the USA

Well, reluctantly and happily we have returned!  We have had a blast in California with family and now we find ourselves in Arizona for our next short stint.  There are positives and of course some negatives--but that is life.  The boys love having family closer (6 hours) to us!  We were sure to unload the storage unit and have their bedroom and their playroom completed before they showed up!  They are so happy to see their old toys again.  It really is fun.  It is a furnace out here though!  We miss our old friends, and Everett really misses his school.  We have been visiting schools to get him all signed up, and he cried saying he missed his old teacher.  Transition really is hard on kids, no matter how much people tell you kids are resilient (which they are,as long as you are strong--which is key to international living), they will have hard times with moving.  As parents we must be patient and understanding.  However, the boys are adjusting very well.  Everett was really excited to learn that his new school will allow sugar and snack food in his lunch.  We love having the Glendale Library system again!  WE LOVE IT there!  I guess our job is to adjust here as well as possible until the next move in 6 months!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Always a Positive

When we decided to move here, we agreed to that we would not buy a car here and only use public transport.  Very logical since we would only be here for a year.  I mean come one--I served a walking/bus mission in Brazil--and believe me I did my fair share of walking!  I love the thought of being out with everyone, being among them!  I also love trains/buses etc.  I was ready for this grand experiment...however doing it with a 4 year old and 2 year old in tow is a whole different world!  I used to complain about having to buckle the kids in and out of the car...NO MORE will I ever do that.  Lets just say wiggly kids!  After these many months I am happy to report that our kids are fairly calm on Buses etc.  You can only point out so many cows/sheep/tractors on our 2 hours bus ride to church.  Try taking  your kids to school in the morning, especially when you have to go through 2 countries to get there EVERY DAY.  And never ever forget to factor in, that it is cold out here...who would have thought winter in the Alps would be cold!!!  My two awesome boys survived all of the elements!!!  Rain, Snow, Wind, Shine they did it!!!!  I thought I had it bad with New England winters when I had to run and turn on the heat before I had to drive out.  Try plowing a stroller through the snow--EVERY DAY! I have new respect for the pioneers!!! 
Soooooooo, I have compiled a list of positives from this no car experience with 2 kids here goes:
1. Walking, I walk a lot more and I am sure my body is thankful for it! I mean, we have legs for a reason right.
2. Being out in nature.  I love looking at the trees, clouds, leaves.  I love to hear the birds and the wind in the trees.  It is so beautiful here.
3.  It really provides great teaching experiences for me with the boys, they ask me about every flower, bug etc.
4. I am with the people (good and bad), I learn from them!
5. WE ARE PUNCTUAL PEOPLE!!  Those who know us well know that this is not easy, but we must be on time to catch every train or bus.  We work like clocks now! 
6.  The shock to learn how many groceries you really CAN fit at the bottom of a stroller! 
7. Because of our distance to church, our trains get us into church 40 minutes early--great PIANO practice time!
8. Church--I can't complain about 9 am church anymore--we go from leaving at 7 am- to getting home at 2:30-3:00 pm. 
9. Arm strength.
10. MY FAVORITE!  QUALITY TIME! I spend anywhere from 2-4 hours on buses or trains EVERY DAY!  That means I get to be with my favorite people uninterrupted for all of that time.  At first I dreaded this because the boys are busy and not easy to control.  However, we use our bus time as reading time!!!!  We read everything.  We go to the library often and books have become our life.  We read them over and over again.  My kids are sponges with learning.  We get these awesome children dictionaries.  They get so sucked into these!  They are now experts on bees and pollinating, volcano's, penguins, panda bears, lady bugs (they are fascinating), the growth of trees, hedgehogs, snails, apes, etc, etc.  They suck in this knowledge.  We love book reading time.  I only hope that we can keep it up to this level when we get our car back NEXT WEEK!

There are positives in everything.  We just have to find them.  I am so thankful for my time to just stop and literally smell the roses!  I hope my boys when they are older will be thankful and will continue to love the world as much as they do now! 

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Living in Europe and Being in Nature!

Our boys have become very curious about the world that surrounds them.  Now that spring is upon us, they are SO into finding bugs, rocks, sticks, slugs, leaves, flowers, and virtually every living thing around them.  There are times when we as parents get a little tired of the constant flow of flora and fauna that makes its way into pockets, floors, mouths, tables, etc.  But when I really reflect on this trend, I am so grateful for the beautiful world in which we live.  The boys are merely rejoicing in the beauties of the world that Heavenly Father created for us.  This has actually been a recent development.  When we were in the States, the boys weren't really out and about in natural settings, and when they were, we lived in a desert.  So, it has been a blessing to see our little Everett play with slugs (see below), whereas he used to be afraid of anything that moved, even dogs and cats.  Liam on the other hand has always been unafraid of everything in nature, so this opportunity to experience the Spring in the Alps has put him in perpetual bliss.  He would live outside, if we would let him.  In short, our boys love to play with creeping things, and we love to see their curious little minds race!

Yes, this is Everett playing with his first slug of the season!

Here are the boys watching a local beekeeper maintain his hives.

Here is a horse and rider out for a stroll in the fields behind our place.

Loving the Bubbles!

Daddy recently found out the the cheap store-brand shampoo makes the best bubbles in the world.  And we have had fun for our bath time ever since.  Our investment of CHF 1.10 has certainly been worth every Rappen.  

Everett would make a great Santa Claus!

Very rarely do we catch a picture of Liam smiling, let alone with a million bubbles on his head!

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Hubby

I just want to shout from the mountain tops how wonderful my husband is.  He really is.  We tell each other often how much we love each other, but I realize on this blog we make no mention of it.  How weird, because in our family it is often brought up.  Steve is often the quite guy at church, but everyone LOVES him.  I have never ever met someone who didn't love him.  He can talk with guys about sports because he LOVES sports, all kinds--one of those men who knows every player in every game and gets REALLY excited when he talks about sports, however he doesn't watch it very much ( we haven't had TV in years so that contributes to that, but he quitely every morning gets up too early to check scores, rankings, you name it he knows it.  Steve also gets along with women really well.  He is just one of those people after talking with him for a few minutes there is no weirdness and he seems to be one of your best friends.  He will never make you feel bad, always trying to make people feel better about themselves.  He is full of energy--always playing with the boys--and I mean ALWAYS.  He will lose himself in games of soccer or sand castle building, and will play UNO over and over with the boys.  He takes a lot of time for me too.  He comes home and I am always the first person he kisses.  He compliments every meal I make (and really they are not that great), he still holds my hand, is so overjoyed when I try new words in German, he is beaming when I give way broken church talks in sacrament meeting, he can tell in my eyes if I've had a rough day--and it doesn't matter that he has had a long day, he takes the boys right away.  He is the last one asleep and the first one awake everyday.  He sings in the shower, and is always whistling.  He almost always wakes up cheery (except when he has stayed up too late watching a game on the computer and his team has lost).  He LOVES to dance.  We have family dance parties instigated by him.  He makes the most amazing crepes a few times a week.  The man never seems tired.  He puts the kids to bed so I can get a break from the day.  He works hard.  That is an understatement.  When it comes to taking care of our family he does everything possible.  He NEVER thinks of himself.  I can never get him to make me a list for for Christmas or birthday wishes because without fail he will say--"lets save the money for this or that, I'm really fine".  Last Christmas all he asked for was a $15 pen that he had been eying, yeah try and shop for someone like that--drives me crazy sometimes.

Really he is just wonderful.  He works so hard, especially during this hard economic time and him being an MBA like many others out of work.  He stayed up late nights (MANY LATE nights) perfecting and perfecting resumes and applications to secure us 3 GREAT opportunities. 

I feel so lucky to call him mine.  I can't believe he tolerates me with all of my quirkiness.  He is a man full of hugs and kisses.  Loves to help me clean, is a fantastic singer.  Kisses me in the morning and kisses me goodnight.  He NEVER critiques me or what I try and accomplish. He is faithful, he is true to his covenants, and is always trying to be better and searching for ways for us to improve in all levels.  I don't write this to brag, I write this to record how dang lucky I am.  I hope anyone who reads this doesn't feel any lower because their spouse doesn't do this or that, never ever ever do I want someone to feel saddened or compare themselves to us.  I REALLY don't like comparison.  It makes everyone sad.  We all need to search out the best things in everyone, including ourselves.

I love my husband for everything that he is and all that he is trying to be.

Thoughts

Well, I often don't get an opportunity to write my thoughts down, much of our efforts on the blog are to record experiences, however this lack of thought unloading doesn't mean I don't have any.  Quite the contrary, my brain is always streaming with ideas, spiritual and non.  I think of how trials make us stronger and how they are given to us often to benefit others.  I think of my boys and their continual growth--I often strongly contemplate if I am being a good enough mother--is the house clean enough for them, are they eating enough nutritional foods, do I smile enough so they know that I am happy, am I being an example of the believers everyday and every moment, do I give them enough extra curricula activities, what will they be like when they are older, what will happen when we add another child to the bunch--will I stay sane, and often I think of this experience we are having out here and if it is benefiting for them.  Everett has grown a great deal in many ways, he has friends, is now bi-lingual,  loves to rides bikes, knows how to read, is taking greater chances, and is just so happy and so dang smart I wonder where he came from--sweetest boy in the world.  Liam on the other hand is always by my side, though this is a good thing, a times it is hard for him, he has not been able to have a regular play group which I always had with Ev at least 2 days a week,  so he has major clingyness issues.  He is nearly 2 1/2 and still won't go to nursery, he screams when we leave him for just a little while (except with my mom which is not often because she lives in the US).  He is super talkative and confident, fun as any kid I have EVER seen, and I am so happy that he is mine, I can't help but feel guilty that  he seems a little displaced.  One thing for sure though, we try to stay constant.  When we go somewhere we are there as a family--we will always be together (Everett prays for that every night).  We continually do family home evenings on Mondays, we try and get our scripture reading in, prayers are constant, we play together OFTEN, we try and keep our routine, because we have been so displaced for the past 3 years that is all I can give them with normalcy is a routine.  Hope our displacement will end soon--scheduled to Jan. 2012--can I hang on until then?

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Spring Time at the Farm Behind Our House

video

A Boy's Dream: Excavator Shovel

We find the most interesting things as we walk around Europe.  For all you concerned with the safety of this depiction, no children were harmed in the making of this photo.  Our boys are fascinated with every piece of machinery, and they are more prone to use the German word Bagger than the English equivalent each time they catch a glimpse of an excavator.  Makes their daddy proud.

Spiderman Everett and Indoor Rock Climbing Day

 Okay, Everett is oftentimes shy by nature.  He does not generally like to try new things (think about food, etc.).  But at the same time, he is relatively competitive, and likes to win.  Needless to say, we were surprised that Everett decided to climb like Spiderman, when we strapped him up and told him to climb to the ceiling of a large industrial building that was converted into an indoor climbing hall.  We had to coax him up the first wall, but when we told him that he would get to race mommy up the second wall, which was significantly higher, he just scaled up the wall without any major problems.  We went with the Griell family from the ward, and we had so much fun.  Everett and Liam played with Aurelia and Timo, and everybody got a chance to climb the walls except for Tabea, who was recovering from an injury.  It was a first for Steve and Delaine, and it was a lot of fun for us all.  Liam climbed a little bit, but he was mostly interested in throwing the rocks that he found in the various planters around the facility.  They also had a kids reading and playing area with books and toys, so he was in his bliss.  What a fun day!  Thanks to the Griells for suggesting that we try out something new!
Everett on his first attempt

And up he goes!

Don't look down!

He was so high that we couldn't get the ground in the photo!

Daddy's turn

C'mon, it is harder than it looks!

Oh, yeah, Daddy, let me show you how it is done!

Finding the right handhold is not the easiest thing in the world!

Once we got him going, Everett had to climb everything in sight!

This one made Daddy's hands and fingers really tired!

Definitely not his best angle... How are those thighs feeling?

And they're off!

You might not be able to tell, but this wall is almost twice as high as the first one.  Everett was a stupendous climber!

And Everett reaches the  very top of the wall!

Check this pair of climbers out!  We both did it, yay!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Evidence of Spring


















Wanted to post a few pictures to show that spring has arrived here in Liechtenstein.  We still need to wear our coats from time to time, but we have loved getting outside, and there is no shortage of things to do out here!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Fasnacht - Kids get to dress up...

Everett was pretty devastated that they do not celebrate Halloween in Austria with trick-or-treating (or trunk-or-treating for that matter). It is an American rite of passage to dress up as whatever you want. Needless to say, we jumped at the opportunity to let Everett dress up this year for Fasnacht. Which originates from the period of fasting before the Catholic Lent, where certain foods and activities were historically frowned upon (or even forbidden in certain time periods). So people would dress up and go crazy before Lent began. These days, it is just a whole bunch of fun, with music, festivals, and food. For kids, they allow them to dress up as whatever they wanted. Everett chose to be a ninja. And boy did he look great. He was the talk of his class, and his sword was a winning touch.

Here is Everett posing with his classmates... can you find the ninja?
As a father, this is one of my favorite pictures of Everett of all time... he really looks like he knows how to handle that thing... and I have a few bruises on my hand to prove that he does!

A master at rest, look how he blends into his surroundings!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011