Parenting on Sabbatical and the Power of Gummy Bears

 [Note: We’ve been home several months now, but had written a few draft blogs before we left. This is one of them.]

“Honey, let me wipe them off. They are all over your face.”

boogers back Holly

The sadness of a mountain top without your boogers.

“NO!”

I wipe her face.

“MOM!!!!! Put them back! I didn’t want you to take them!! PUT MY BOOGERS BACK!!”

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Reflections On Our Swiss Family Sabbatical

So, once upon a time a Colorado family took a break from their careers and moved to Switzerland for a year and hijinks ensued.  Our year in Basel ended June 18th when we flew out of Zurich back to the states, complete with 14 pieces of luggage, 2 car seats, and 54 weeks of memories.  The van we hired to shuttle us and all that gear to the airport arrived early in the morning.  As we loaded it up, neighbors came out to the street to say goodbye.  We wished we had gotten to know them better earlier on in our stay, with some relationships not fully forming until a couple months before we left.  It felt as if we were leaving too soon, that we still had unfinished business there.  But, looking back now it is clear that we had a very full year with new friendships and memories we treasure. Here are some of my (Barry’s) favorite things about our year: Continue reading

Sometimes (OK, lots of times) Baffled in Basel

I never know what I’m doing here, but one of the perks about plucking yourself out of your normal routine and plopping yourself down in unfamiliar territory, is that you can immediately feel OK about not knowing what you are doing. Living abroad can be confusing (and embarrassing), but it is also comforting to know that it’s not (all) just me being ridiculous. Sometimes I think I could write a book about how to embarrass yourself abroad, but then I realize that for me it would simply be one instruction: walk outside. Here are a few examples of me doing just that. Continue reading

Swimming in Thermal Baths: Heavenly or Hot Mess?

Going to a thermal bath/pool was at the top of my list of ‘Switzerland Goals’ this year, and it overlapped quite nicely with our girls’ constant drive to find a pool. Finally, in Locarno near the Swiss border with Italy, I found my opportunity. Even though it was February, the pool was warm (a terrific 95 degrees F), and you could swim to both indoor and outdoor sections of the same pool. The outdoor part had an *amazing* view of Lake Maggiore and the nearby mountains of both Switzerland and Italy. It was the perfect thing to do on a February afternoon that was a bit too cold to spend outside. What I didn’t realize is that what I thought of as the perfect confluence of relaxation and fun, turns out to be my husband’s own personal hell. In retrospect, I can see where our paths diverged.

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A Weekend in Bellinzona, Switzerland (with kids)

“What is that yellow circle emoji in my weather app next Friday?”  Barry wondered out loud as he scanned the ten day forecast for potential places to do a weekend trip.  “The sun.” Jana replied.  That’s right, a sunny day was being forecast for a weekend in February in Bellinzona, Switzerland.  Within an hour, plans were finalized for a quick trip down into the Italian-speaking, and slightly warmer, region of Switzerland. Unfortunately, the next day that forecasted yellow circle emoji was replaced with a cloud.  We went anyway–there are palm trees there, how cold could it be?

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Castlegrande overlooks one side of Bellinzona’s old town

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Basel’s Winter Carnival (Fasnacht)

Beginning the first Monday after Ash Wednesday each winter, the normally reserved Basel-folk don masks, grab their piccolos and let their freak flags fly for exactly 72 hours straight. Okay, by “freak flags” I mean lots of marching, confetti and satire – this is Switzerland, after all. Basel’s Fasnacht is said to be the largest carnival in Switzerland and dates back to, at least, the 14th century (many city archives were destroyed in the earthquake of 1356, so it is hard to say exactly when it began here). Continue reading

A Day in Freiburg, Germany (with kids)

“Aaaaaawww, I HATE Germany!” our four year-old yelled as we sat down on the train to Germany with, presumably, many Germans within earshot. She probably meant, as she almost always does, “I HATE doing whatever you are making me do that is not eating gummy bears.” After promising gummy bears after we got there and ate lunch, she really started to warm up to the country once more. We hoped our German train neighbors didn’t speak English (fat chance) or at least had encountered a gummy bear-addicted child in their own life (ours is well-documented: Our Finicky Four Year-Old Traveler). We were on our way to spend a (rare) sunny February day in Freiburg, Germany, which is only a half-hour train ride from Basel into the Black Forest region. Continue reading