Thursday, September 28, 2006
Having never celebrated it before, I did some quick online research and found that Rosh Hashanah literally means the head of the year and commemorates the anniversary of the creation of the world. I also discovered the traditional gift is a honey pot (good to know).
We were welcomed by the sweet smell of chicken, kugel and carrot Tzimmes. When dinner was ready, we (along with about 12 other guests) gathered around the table and listened to our hostesses explain the significance of the food on the table (see below).
Round Challah: Symbolizes a perfect year to come. Sometimes raisins or honey can be added to make it extra sweet.
Apples & Honey: Dip the apples in honey to symbolize the wish for a sweet year to come.
Head of Fish: Symbolizes fertility and abundance. The head of the fish symbolizes the New Year, as well as the hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteous acts.
Head of Lamb: Symbolizes the hope that the Jewish people will lead other nations through their righteousness.
Tzimmes: Carrots symbolize the hope to increase good deeds in the coming year.
Spinach: Symbolizes a green year with plenty of produce.
Rice: Symbolizes abundance.
The food and company could not have been better. Chase thoroughly enjoyed herself. She didn't want to miss a thing - but around the fourth course, her eyelids became too heavy and she just couldn't keep them open.
I left the festivities full, happy and wondering why there isn't more symbolism to the New Year we celebrate. Sure, there are parties (symbolizing celebration of the old year and new year), and then there's watching the ball drop in Times Square (symbolizing a count down), but that's really about it. Sure it's fun, but it just feels like it's missing something.
So I have decided that I will just have to create my own New Year traditions, borrowing bits and pieces from other countries and religions that I have been exposed to and enjoy most.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
In Japan, it is customary for every family to erect a bamboo pole in their garden (on Children's Day) and fly a carp kite for every member of the family. The oldest son has the largest kite (shocker).
I wonder how big Prince Hisahito's carp kite is - I'm thinking it might be a little bigger than Chase's carp kite.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
I arrange her meals, play dates, travel schedule, "down time," exercise (baby yoga) and daily spa therapy (tub soak, baby massage and aromatherapy).
She can call on me at anytime to discuss anything; I am available to her around the clock.
I take the minutes from our meetings, and work against her deadlines on deliverables (one bottle, coming right up!)
I brief her on upcoming events, things she's going to do, and people she's going to meet. At the end of each day, I debrief her (how was it, did she like little Suzie, would she consider playing with little Suzie again).
I provide translation services (French and baby sign).
I clean up her messes with a smile.
But I must say, even at the end of the day when I am absolutely exhausted ... being Chase's PA is the best job I've ever had.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Funny how things from your childhood come back to haunt you once you have a child of your own. I remember my mom (bless her) used to work her tail off to get me to eat (and enjoy) healthy food. I remember veggie cars (celery body, carrot wheels - held together with toothpicks) and plastic Easter eggs filled with grapes. I remember that I could choose my own breakfast cereal, but sugar could not be one of the first three ingredients (this knocks out everything except whole grain cheerios and wheeties). Dinner was usually something uber healthy - I recall a lot of tofu. I, of course, only wanted to eat candy, twinkies, donuts, lunchables (they were so rad!) ding dongs and costco muffin tops.
So my parents came up with a plan. A donut dinner. No kidding. All the donuts I could stuff in my face in one sitting. Of course I ate so many that I felt ill afterwards; it took a good, long while before I wanted a donut again (also worth mentioning the fact that I quickly became the coolest kid on the block when my friends found out I had a donut dinner).
Now as a grown-up, I can certainly see where my parents were coming from (and I thank them for their continued efforts). I want my daughter to be healthy, of course, but still enjoy junk food on occasion. For me, the fact I couldn't have it made me want it all the more (a reoccurring theme in my life, as it turns out).
But as we all know, children today are in bad shape!
The NDP (NDEP is a partnership of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than 200 public and private organizations) indicates that:
- Diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in school-aged children.
- In the
- Ten to 15 percent of children and teens are overweight – about double the number of two decades ago – increasing numbers of young people have type 2 diabetes.
So how does one find a balance between Super Porridge with sea kelp and donut dinners?
Now there's food for thought....
Sunday, September 17, 2006
Our pediatrician was pleased to find the littlest "Tallbritton" is now in the 92nd percentile for height (tall? shocker!) and the 75th percentile for weight (and head circ).
I will miss our pediatrician (as we are most likely leaving Zurich in October). He is kind, sweet and gentle. He also has a way of making me worry less about things in general.
Our conversations go like this:
"I'm a little worried about Chase. She grunts at things. Her whole body gets rigid, like it's taking every last piece of her being to focus on an object, but she can't tell me what it is she needs or wants." I say.
"Do her eyes roll back in her head and does she start to convulse?" He asks.
"No," I say.
"Then you have nothing to worry about," he says.
- or -
"My daughter has been covered in a rash for four days." I say, panicked.
"Does she have a fever? Do the red spots have a core that is filled with liquid? Is she having trouble eating? Is she acting differently?" He asks.
"No," I say.
"Then you have nothing to worry about. Call me back if it gets worse, or if anything changes. Children around 6 months break out into rashes. It should go away in a couple days."
So I have decided his approach is a good way to evaluate things that come up in life. As a natural worrier, I have many opportunities each day.
Here's an example: First, I must think of something that makes me worry (hmmm, okay, a fifth international move in 8 years). Second, I must think of things that could make it harder/worse (i.e., having triplets due the same day). Third, I can then be happy that the harder/worse thing isn't happening (Phew! It is so much easier to move with one baby, rather than four). Fourth, feel relieved and get a good night sleep.
Six months of changing diapers.
Six months of sneaking into my daughter's bedroom while she is asleep to make sure she is still breathing (yes, I'm one of those crazy, overconcerned mothers).
Six months of singing "good morning to you."
Six months of looking into my daughter's eyes, wondering what she's thinking as she looks into mine.
Six months of watching in awe as Chase grows, learns, evolves and matures - getting stronger and more independent with each day.
Six months of strong, unwavering support from my darling husband.
Six months of counting my blessings.
Six months of eating cheese and chocolate every day (I really need to cut back).
Six months of being amazed, scared, overwhelmed - and happier than I ever thought possible.
My lovely Chase, your Daddy and I feel so blessed to have you in our life. We cherish every moment we spend with you. You are so amazing. So sweet. So strong. So good natured. So adventurous. Such a good sport.
We love you more than words can possibly describe.
Monday, September 11, 2006
We were both on our backs on her bed (as an aside - I just don't get why people buy cribs - the mattress on the floor works so well).
I was watching her, whispering "hush, hush." She wasn't her usual sleepy self; I could tell she was thinking about something (she furls her brow).
She then proceeds to takes her pacifier out of her mouth and try to put it in mine. She then bursts out into hysterical laughter.
So I pretended to suck on it, which made her laugh and laugh and laugh.
Military training for Swiss youth can be traced back to the Middle Ages. Shooting practise for Zurich youths was first described in 1576 but the actual Knabenschiessen competition was first documented in the second half of the 17th century. As Zurich traditions go, the Knabenschiessen for 12–16 year-old boys on the second weekend in September is second only to the spring Sechseläuten, which bids farewell to winter. However the shooting match has only existed in its present form since 1899. Thousands of boys - and recently girls - take part in the competition for youngsters at Albisgüetli. Each competitor has five shots and the winner receives great honours with his/her picture appearing in every Zurich newspaper.
The «Shooting King» receives an old Zurich coin on three silver chains and may choose an award from the prize table. In addition, as a guest of the Baker’s Guild, the winner is invited to the Sechseläuten banquet, attended by representatives of the Government, high-ranking Swiss Army officials and members of Zurich’s Guilds.
While most of those changes are for the best, new parents also find themselves facing a few challenges. I firmly believe that any challenge can be overcome if one has enough creativity and determination.
Now that we've managed to conquer the "mom is a zombie due to lack of sleep" challenge, we are now finding ourselves asking -- how can someone so small require so much stuff for a weekend away?
We used to get away with just a small, very light and portable bag between the two of us. Now, we are finding we require an additional full-size duffel bag, just for Chase (diapers, bottles, sterilizer, multiple changes of clothes, toys, blankets).
With the new air travel restrictions, flying has become a mega nightmare (waiting in long lines and having to sit in one position with squirming infants is beyond unfun). We tried train travel, thinking it would be good because Chase wouldn't have to be confined to a car seat and there are shorter lines (didn't take into consideration the multiple transfers, physically toting Chase's uber-bag and being jammed into little seats). This leaves the car, which has worked pretty well, as long as the trip itself is no longer than three hours - which basically limits us to Switzerland, Western Austria and Southern Germany. (I know you're all thinking: poor Lang and Brian)
Because the traditional baby bags just aren't cuttin' it for me, I've decided to design a smaller baby travel uber-bag that allows for two nights of travel, but doesn't kill the parents or take up an entire airline overhead storage compartment. If anyone has any ideas (must haves) for this baby "weekender" bag, please don't hesitate to post a comment or send me an email. You might even get a baby weekender bag out of it!
Friday, September 08, 2006
As I watch the latest updates about the "War on Terror" (thanks CNN), I must admit I feel quite safe and extremely happy to be living in neutral Switzerland.
That said, I must tip my hat to the Swiss for their preparedness (should they ever need to defend their country, neutrality, cheese and chocolate, they can and they will). Like a Swiss Army Knife, the country is compact and somewhat unassuming, but fully equipped to handle any situation.
Today, the Swiss military can mobilize 360,000 soldiers in 24 hours (since September 11, 2001, approximately 475,000 army reserve members have been mobilized to support the Global War on Terrorism - the US has approximately 1,421,950 active troops).
Switzerland, with its compulsory military service, still spends more money on the military than on retirement insurance, education, or research. Machine guns and gas masks are common in every household. In addition, every army member has his own supply of weaponry. Interestingly, Switzerland is one of the few nations with a higher per capita rate of gun ownership than the United States, yet Switzerland has virtually no gun crime.
Bunkers are everywhere. Even at the neighborhood playground. There are also things we can't see - like underground bases and secret tunnels and pathways, which if connected, would be 1,437 miles long.
Earlier this week, the Swiss announced The Sonnenberg Tunnel, originally built to offer shelter to 20,000 people in the event of war, is to be turned into a motorway tunnel. The doors of the tunnel are 1.5 meters thick and weigh 350 tones (designed to withstand the explosion of a one-megaton nuclear bomb within one kilometer of the tunnel).
The crafty Swiss also built bombs into mountain pass tunnels that border surrounding countries. So, in case of emergency, they can simply explode the bombs to seal off Switzerland. How convenient.
Living in Switzerland has been a bit like living in a bubble. A clean, safe, beautiful bubble. One doesn't have to worry about terrorist attacks or natural disasters. Young children walk the streets alone.
All one has to worry about is if it is too cold to swim or too warm to ski.
I must say - it just makes me so sad that my daughter will have to grow up in a world where she has to worry about her safety - not to mention all the stupid stuff, like wearing slip on shoes when traveling by air. Oh Chase, my darling, I'm so sorry I can't keep you in this beautiful bubble.
Image from www.wenger.ch
Thursday, September 07, 2006
I never understood why some people were so passionate and so completely obsessed with it.
To me, chocolate tasted brown.
When I moved to England, I noticed immediately that there was something distinctly different about the way chocolate tasted. It was pretty good chocolate; I used to consume something chocolate approximately every two weeks or so...
Since moving to Switzerland in May, I have consumed a piece of chocolate almost every day. No kidding. I'm surprised I don't weigh 500 lbs.
So I did a little research on Swiss chocolate and found that the first factory opened in 1819. The Swiss quest for perfection led to the first milk chocolate in 1875 and "melt-on-the-tongue" chocolate in 1879.
In 2005, approximately 86,899 tones of chocolate products (including imports but excluding cocoa and chocolate powder) was consumed in Switzerland (with an average per capita consumption of 11.6 kg - 25.6 lbs!). **It's worth mentioning that this figure also includes tourist purchases and those who drive over the border just to buy Swiss chocolate**
I found it no surprise that milk chocolate was the most popular (over 80%), followed by dark chocolate (15%) and white chocolate (5% - you people don't know what you're missing!).
... Oh Chase, unfortunately chocolate doesn't count as a solid... yet!
Special thanks to the following Web sites:
http://www.schmerling.com/aboutchocolate2.asp and http://www.chocosuisse.ch/page/3_2_faq-en.html and image from http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.desktopexchange.com/gallery/albums/Movie-Wallpapers/Charlie_Chocolate_Factory_2.jpg
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Just the other day Chase was watching Dagney, our cat. Dagney stepped onto a piece of tape, which stuck to her paw. Dagney looked utterly dismayed. When she lifted her paw the piece of tape hung from it. Chase burst out laughing. She laughed and laughed.
I couldn't help but ask myself the question: How did she know it was funny?
In an attempt to answer this, we first have to answer the question: What is a sense of humor? The National Association of School Psychologists reports that there is actually a two-part answer. First, there is a mental ability to discover and appreciate events that are humorous. Second, situations that surprise have the potential to create laughter.
They go on to say that in terms of development, a caretaker's voice or tactile stimulation can cause a smile to occur from a fully alert baby at one month. Smiles associated with recognition of faces take place by the fourth month. "Peek-a-boo" should create laughter by the eighth month.
Parents who show silly behavior (e.g., pretending to drink from the baby bottle) can produce laughter by the first birthday. They indicate that a sense of humor begins to develop in the second year, when the child can engage in fantasy or make-believe behavior.
So my question remains. How did she know it was funny?
Special thanks to http://www.amphi.com/~psych/humor.html for facts above..
I must salute a country isn't afraid to serve up big pots of melted cheese (otherwise known as fondue) with bread and potatoes (when we ask for veggies, they look at us like we were crazy).
As my own cheese consumption has easily tripled since moving to Switzerland, I found myself wondering how much cheese the Swiss consumed on an annual basis (could my consumption be normal?). After doing a little research, I discovered that last year, the Swiss ate 149,991 tons or 19.74kg (43.52 lbs!) per person (good, sounds like I'm right on track). Not surprising, given that there are about 450 kinds of cheese produced in Switzerland (so much cheese; so little time).
At this point, I feel I must take a moment to dispel a myth: most Swiss cheese doesn't have holes. What we (Americans) call "Swiss cheese" is in fact Emmentaler (the holes are caused by carbon dioxide building up as it matures - the process gives it its taste). You may or may not be surprised to know that what is marketed in the US as "Swiss cheese" or "Emmentaler cheese" was, most likely, produced in Wisconsin, Utah and Ohio.
So what are some typical Swiss cheeses?
- Emmentaler: Discussed above.
- Gruyere: Produced mainly in French-speaking Switzerland and is claimed by both Switzerland and France (typical). This cheese is used in fondues and French onion soup (I love it in quiche).
- Appenzeller: A semi-hard cheese, named from the region from which it comes. While it is curing, it is washed with an herbal brine, which gives the cheese a fruity flavor.
- Raclette: My favorite. Raclette, the dish, is prepared by heating the cheese and scraping it onto a plate. Yes, that's right. Melted cheese on a plate. Deee-lish. It is most often accompanied by small potatoes and gherkins.
A quick cheese factoid: US President Clinton horrified the Swiss when, in one of the final acts of his administration, he agreed to a recommendation that the size of the holes could be halved (slow day at the White House?) The reason: to reduce the chances of the cheese bursting and to make it easier to slice. Swiss manufacturers quickly announced that the plan did not affect them (and most likely made sure Clinton would never be allowed entry into Switzerland).
... Oh my darling Chase, if only your little tummy could handle cheese ...
Special thanks to swissworld.org, swissinfo.org and senselist.com for valuable cheese factoids and figures
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
I have always been fascinated by names; how they are given and what they mean.
When I was five, I named myself Daisy Rosebud (a special thanks to my fabulous parents who always supported and applauded my independence and creativity).
For those of you who don't know the story, my dad asked me to register myself for first grade (he was talking to the principle or something), so I did - as Daisy Rosebud. You can imagine my dad's surprise when he was greeted as Mr. Rosebud at his first parent/teacher conference (yes, he actually went along with it). The name Daisy stuck; it lasted all the way through high school.
When it came to naming our little girl, we decided to follow an Allbritton family tradition and use specific initials. We both decided we wanted a strong, but slightly unusual name, which is how we ended up with Chase. We agreed Lockett would make a lovely middle name (it was also an Allbritton family name). Our next baby's middle name will be a family name from my side (and no we're not preggers).
When Brian's parents found out we were having a baby, they both set to work trying to decide what they wanted to be called. They decided on Papa Joe and Kar Kar.
When my parents found out we were having a baby, they both (independently) decided to let Chase bestow a name upon them.
This past week, Chase and my mom worked together to agree her
I translate these findings to mean that when people look at her resume or communicate with her on email, they will assume she is a boy/man. No biggie; all my life people have assumed I'm an Asian man.
I've found it works to my advantage; I love the look of surprise when they realize they have been tricked by their own assumptions (it is much like the look I get if I meet someone while I'm sitting down - and we are the same height - and then I stand up - and I'm a full head and shoulders taller).
Something tells me that Chase will get to enjoy that too.
Monday, September 04, 2006
The following observations are sure to impress Herr Doctor at Chase's next appointment!
1) Chase has a sense of humor (this usually doesn't develop until much later)
2) Chase notices her own shadow (very unusual for a 5-month-old)
3) Chase has invented a game (based on peek-a-boo), where she will place objects over her eyes and then I have to remove them to "find" her. I was initially freaked out by this because I don't like the idea of her placing anything on her face, but my mom pointed out that I need to honor her game because it is the first thing she has created independently. In addition, my mom pointed out how Chase has even taken it to the next step - she has generalized it - it doesn't just have to be her bunny, it can be anything. And, Chase gets really sad (brink of tears) if I don't play the game with her.
4) Chase feels items with her lips. She isn't tasting them. She isn't sucking them. She isn't licking them. She gently places her lips on things to help identify them.
Go, Chase, go!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
The lake is the fourth largest in Switzerland (24 miles long, 2 miles wide).
The Kapellbruke (Chapel Bridge) - pictured below - crosses the Reuss River. Built in 1333, the bridge is 558 feet long and one of the best preserved bridges in Switzerland. It was originally used for defense (I laughed when I heard this because I was thinking ..."quick everyone, onto the bridge." Brian, on the other hand, believes it was most likely the only bridge crossing the river). The bridge was also known for its 122 paintings (depicting daily activities) that hung within - from the roof. Unfortunately, 2/3 of the paintings were destroyed in a fire in 1993.
While the paintings below are from Mills Bridge, they are quite similar to the paintings seen in Chapel Bridge. Mills Bridge, on the other hand, was built in 1407 and restored in the 19th century. The series of paintings, called The Dance of Death, commemorate a plague that swept the city. They were painted by Kaspar Meglinger in the 17th century.
The Lowendenkmal (Lion Monument) is a monument to the bravery of the Swiss Guards who died in Tuileries of Paris in 1792 trying to save the life and honor of Marie Antoinette. Mark Twain once said the Dying Lion of Lucerne was "the saddest and most poignant piece of rock in the world." I have to agree.
We also viewed the Panorama, one of the largest canvases in Europe, covering 10,861 square feet (thanks mom!). Couldn't take a picture inside.
Taking a break at Lake Lucerne...
While Chase appreciated the history of Lucerne, she found her toes to be more exciting ...
Historical information provided by Frommer's Switzerland