Being away for two months is disorienting.  I almost didn’t recognize the living room when I arrived.  I forgot the pit to the card I use for everything here.  I have to think about where things are in the kitchen instead of doing my usual dance from place to place. I get my z’s and y’s mixed up when typing.


Jet lag with three kids under 5 is also disorienting.  I put my skirt on inside out this morning . . . and my shirt.


So we’re all a little bit a lot tired, but things are going really rather well.  I am astounded how much having routines and systems helped us hit the ground running.  My natural tendency would be to say “We just arrived after a long, hard trip, we should sit and relax a bit. We deserve a break.”  Instead, we decided to give our 24-hour future selves a gift and unpacked nearly everything before Stephan left for work the next morning.  We had our usual outing and the kids remembered when project time and media time were.  Without such established routines, I would NEVER have said “yes, you can paint” less than 24 hours after arriving home from a two month trip.  The routines helped us all start feeling grounded right away and the amount of stuff I’ve accomplished is shocking.


But it has only worked for the things I had a good routine or system for.  The rest, like blogging, finances, photos/videos and friends, is falling further behind.


Surprisingly, despite shunning leisure time, I actually feel I have more energy than I would have if I’d taken a break first.  Getting things done relieves a great burden, and with the air clear I can use the little moments to truly rest.  I’m starting to believe that the idea of “leisure” is a sinister plot by aliens to ruin society.  It’s really not all it’s cracked up to be.  I doesn’t bring the fulfillment, pleasure, and peace that real work does.  So here’s to finding a system for blogging and caring for friends that I can stick with!


Love to everyone.  I’m missing those I said goodbye to, and I’m looking forward to reconnecting with those I haven’t see in a while!


We had a wonderfully fun and deeply educational trip, but you’ll have to wait to hear more!

Posted by harp on Saturday, August 9, 2014 at 9:38 pm | Edit
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Why, as an upstanding citizen of the United States do I have to report to a crime network?  Because I have made the baffling choice to live outside the United States.  Who would want to do that other than a criminal?  Right . . .

If I had 25 foreign accounts or more I would NOT have to fill out the 20 fields per account (but I would have to keep records).  As it is I have only 12 accounts, which means 240 plus fields to fill out, including the finding the max value of each account and converting to US dollars.  Never mind that we all have the same address, I have to type it in separately for each account.  Did I mention that it’s an online form, so it should be easy?  Oh, and I can’t copy paste the numbers, which I have in a word doc so I have my own record of the before and after conversion numbers.  With three kids under three gathering around me when I’m at the computer the 3 hours it took to fill it all in really peeves me.  And guess what? I get to type in all that information again next year – there’s no sign in, so there’s no way to save that info (and there’s no auto complete like a normal PDF).  All are accounts are Swiss, but I still have to select “Switzerland” from a dropdown list for each of the 12th accounts we own.  It’s the perfect busy work for a schooled American . . .

Why?  How is this helping our country?

Oh, and in a classic case of circular help.  There important instructions on how if you click the link to the form most browsers can’t see it correctly, so you have to change your browser settings to automatically open PDFs in Adobe Reader.  These instructions are carefully laid out IN a PDF document, which didn’t open the first time because of said problem . . .

Now, imagine you’re doing all this in a foreign language!  (Which I party was because the instructions were in English and we have a German Firefox so all the menu names are different.)

Oh joy!

Thanks for reading my rant.

Please vote to stop taxation and reporting of 1 dollar bank accounts of 1 year olds and other peons like me who live overseas.  (Since our total assets are above the 10,000usd filing threshold, we have to report every account, even the ones for the kids with 1 Franc in them.)

Oh! And I’m not done yet!  I file with my husband so we are both required to sign at line 44, but it must be filed electronically and the system cannot handle two electronic signatures, so I have to fill out another form and keep it with my records.  What do these people smoke?

Posted by harp on Thursday, May 1, 2014 at 6:03 pm | Edit
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We aren't as fancy, but we're singing this for Easter.  I love having a hand in the music so I can pick great songs like this, even if it does mean hours of piano practice!

And this.

Happy Easter!

Posted by harp on Sunday, April 20, 2014 at 6:04 am | Edit
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Electronic sheet music for a whole orchestra.  Way cool.

Posted by harp on Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Edit
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Friday the 13th may be unlucky, or maybe not.  Both kids are sleeping at the same time(!) so there’s a moment for a blog post!


March 29th: Joseph knows a number of colors in both languages (blue, green, yellow, white, brown, pink and red).  Today I got to work in the garden!  After the terribly depressing disaster last year, I decided to ask for help this year.  God answered the prayers of two ladies in our church.  One wanted a piano teacher and the other wanted garden help.  They happened to meet over lunch one day and learn of the other’s needs and - voila! - match was made.  My new friend helped me put some order in the chaos of a plot we have and most importantly gave me information and motivation to do work on it during the week.  I don’t mind work, but working hard knowing all the while it might be the wrong thing is not so much fun.  That week I had a blast since I had confidence I was at least close to doing what’s needed.  Our landlord brought a truck of compost for the rest of the grounds and let me have some for the garden, too.  That was quite nice of him.  Now I have lettuce and onions planted and the raspberries are no longer in a jungle.  Two more beds are ready for planting and one is on its way.  However, it snowed on Easter and has been coooold ever since, so growth is slow and garden work is on hold.


March 30th: The video of Joseph looking at his owls might give you the impression I want to make him a child prodigy by cramming facts down his throat.  Even if I wanted to, I’m not organized enough to give him that kind of opportunity.  The only time he gets to see his owls is when he asks for them, and most of the time I make him do some work before he gets to see them.  I do this because he asks for owls when I’m on the computer and this buys me some time to wrap up what I’m doing.  Today Joseph asked for the owls and I said “First put away your number puzzle and then you may see the owls.”  Well, he marched right back to the other room and sat down and worked on his numbers until it was all done.  It has numbers zero to 20, plus, minus, times, divide, greater-than, and equals.  He talked to himself as he did it and it took him some time, but he did it all by himself and without any more prodding than my first command.  He got an extra long time with his owls that day. J


April 2nd: Vivienne has the cutest smile that is a bit flat in the middle of the lower lip so that there are two corners on her lower lip before the corners where the upper and lower lips meet.  I don’t know if that makes sense. We’re trying to get a picture of it.


Joseph loves helping with the dishes.  He wasn’t to do dishes if there are no dishes to be done.  He’ll take the clean ones out of the dry-rack if he has to . . .


April 5th: Working at the computer I got a fright as I heard something landing in the toilet.  I rushed over to see which toy Joseph had dumped in, but was pleasantly surprised to find he was dumping his own pee in the toilet!  He had taken off his pants and diaper by himself, sat on his little pot and then dumped it in the toilet without a spill.  EC with Joseph has been about nothing since Vivienne’s birth, but if we ever find the time to work on him with toilet training, I bet he’d catch on quickly.  He is again back to telling us when he has to poo, so it seems much of the battle is won already.  These might be famous last words, as I have no experience toilet training a toddler!


Joseph loves talking about “Joseph’s X” wither it is his nose, his airport, his tower, or that he is in the act of doing something “Joseph swing.”  He also says “Joseph turn” when he wants to do something that I’m doing.  This comes from me saying “Wait, it’s Mommy’s turn. Okay, now it’s Joseph’s turn.”  Oh how excited he was to clean the toilet after me this morning. Lol


April 6th we went to a Good Friday service at the Catholic church.  Joseph sat quietly the whole time, only once getting up to grab a song book and return to his seat to flip through it.  Vivienne mostly slept on my back.  How amazing!  (They weren’t nearly that good for the Easter service, just in case you think my life is easy . . .)


April 7th I had planned nothing for my 30th birthday, since I like to be lazy and not plan, but friends of mind offered to come over, and I’m glad they did.  Stephan cooked dinner and we played Dominion until all hours of the night (okay, okay, it was just 10:30).  It was very much fun to ignore my responsibilities and play a game.  Movies, games, long sessions of book reading.  It all seems like a distant dream . . . but real life with two under two is much more exciting than any movie!  Still, it was nice to take a flashback to a previous life and enjoyed strategizing.  I could tell the brain is slower now, though . . .


April 12th I took the kids to Zurich to visit their cousin who had just turned one.  We had a great time watching the kids all together.  What fun!  It was also an uneventful trip.  Joseph excitedly played in the kid area of the train complete with a slide!  By excited, I mean arms flapping up and down excited.  He takes after his mother . . .

Vivienne fell asleep in my arms.  Really.  In all the din of kids playing and me belting out orders to Joseph, she just fell asleep and stayed asleep until it was time to get off the train.  Amazing.  (Okay, so when we got home they both screamed for a while.) She also sleeps 4-5 or even 6 hours for the first night stretch.  Now if only her brother wouldn’t wake up in that time I’d be rolling in sleep!  The other amazing things she does is go to sleep with me.  In the evening, when I’m ready for bed, I just take her to bed with me and she tosses a bit, and maybe sucks a bit (but then maybe not and never for long) and just falls asleep while I’m lying there.  No rocking, no pacing, no soothing, no much of anything.  People who have that kind of baby and never had a Joseph kind of baby cannot appreciate what they have.  I didn’t think Joseph was particularly bad, just that mothering was hard and about killed me the first three months.  Vivienne also seems to genuinely like me.  She smiles at me and calms down when I pick her up.  I did not get the feeling Joseph liked me until he was a year.  It’s not that he didn’t like me, it’s just that he just wanted his needs fulfilled and then was off to something else.  Vivienne seems happy just to be with me, which is lovely!  As I’ve written this Vivienne woke up, nursed a bit, and is now happy on the floor alone.  Okay, so this morning she cried for an hour and I don’t know why, but I can handle that occasionally.  It’s such a blessing that it’s not like that every day and every night!  Oh, and she sleeps in until 7:30 or 8.  Joseph has done that maybe 8 times in his life . . .  so, thanks to Stephan who gets up early with Joseph I get to sleep in a little sometimes, too!  But even though she’s easy, I shouldn’t ignore her.  It’s time for quality time with Vivienne before Joseph wakes up.  Hope you all had a blessed Easter!

Posted by harp on Friday, April 13, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Edit
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Dear Readers,

I have been getting so many spam comments that I have decided to turn on comment moderation.  Once you have been approved your comments should show up right away, but until your first comment since this post has been approved there will be a delay until I can get to the computer and sort through comments.  Thanks for your understanding.

Posted by harp on Thursday, December 22, 2011 at 8:38 am | Edit
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Things I’m thankful for in no particular order:

  1. Halloween candy (and the thoughtful people that made it possible for me to have some!)
  2. The tickler, and how I can use it to carefully tuck away encouraging notes from friends and have them pop up at random times, yet they always seem to pop up at just the right time.  It’s thoughtfulness and love multiplied all over!
  3. Friendly strangers
  4. People who model Christ’s love by seeking out ways to serve others.  Someone from church called and offered to take Joseph for a walk so I could have some time to myself before the baby comes.  What a thoughtful gift when we are so new at the church!
  5. Homemade caramel sauce
  6. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matt. 19:26
  7. Family walks


Posted by harp on Friday, November 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm | Edit
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Things I’m thankful for in no particular order:

  1. Time off and the people who make it possible
  2. Daily family prayer and Bible reading time lead by my husband and loved by our toddler
  3. Coffee
  4. Candlelit nights
  5. The babymoon: this time around I am treasuring each moment alone; each time I want to do something and I have two free hands and there’s nobody in the way of doing it; each time I sleep 5 hours at a stretch; the moments alone with my husband; moments at the pool where I can swim because Joseph needs only eyes watching and no longer an ever-present hand; etc. etc.
  6. Shelter, heat, yummy food, and a soft bed where I can lie down with my family and feel safe
  7. Baths
Posted by harp on Friday, November 4, 2011 at 4:01 pm | Edit
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Things I’m thankful for in no particular order:

  1. “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench.”  Isaiah 42:3
  2. A husband who listens well
  3. A communicating toddler, alive and well at 16th months today!
  4. A healthy baby, alive and kick’n
  5. A clean house
  6. Grandparents who delight in their grandkids
  7. The end of the drilling project 5 meters from our front door
Posted by harp on Friday, October 28, 2011 at 2:11 pm | Edit
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Sorry it’s been over a month since I’ve blogged.  Needless to say, it’s been busy.

June 15th: Our little boy has turned into quite a climber.  He climbed onto our blue couches all by himself.  He is an able climber, and I might say a good deal less cautious than he is when standing, especially if you’re holding him.  It’s as though he knows you’ll keep him safe so he can push of whatever footholds his little feet find.  He also just loves to watch me brush my teeth.  He thinks it’s so funny.  Thankfully he doesn’t mind it when we brush his either.

June 23rd : Climbing with a vengeance all over the beds and every bit of furniture he can reach.

June 26th: Joseph started to stack blocks on top of each other and often successfully, though with the flattest side of the blocks.  He’s started to help me put away his toys when asked.  He’s gotten better and better, though he still gets distracted sometimes and wants to play more rather than just put things away.

June 27th I gave Joseph his first hair cut.  It was so long over his ears and at the back of his head.  I was cautious, so I didn’t do too much, but it still looks funny over his ears.  I had him watch Pimsleur DVD’s but he still got annoyed with me messing with his head for so long.  Hopefully I’ll get better each time!  Today he was willing to stand alone for me if I was right there to catch him.  How exciting!  I thought maybe he’d walk on his birthday, haha . . .

June 28th Joseph turned one year old.  We had a special family day where I took him to the pool and let him do whatever he wanted and stay as long as he wanted and in the evening we all went to the park.  In the afternoon we went to a friend’s birthday party who was born on the same day he was!  When he first arrived he planted him a tackle kiss!  The 1-year-olds had fun together and also with the older children.  He loved having all that attention and was in a great mood.  I should make a mental note that when he’s given enough attention he’s calm and happy . . .

June 29th I wanted to make up for not getting much work done the day before because I was focusing on Joseph and it was a bad day for him!  From so much attention to so little, poor guy.

June 30th We went to the new doctor in Emmen and praise God I am quite comfortable with her.  Finding pediatricians in the Luzern area is difficult because there aren’t enough.  Joseph got a clean bill of health weighing in at 10.6Kg, 75cm.  He’s only gained 1.35Kg since he was 6 months (that’s about 3 pounds).  He still has chunky legs and arms, but looks rather trim, especially in his birthday suit compared to what he used to be like.  Joseph was able to put small beads into a small-necked bottle, which I hadn’t tried him on before.  He transferred on bead from his left hand to his right and put all the beads in with his right hand.  He always throws balls with his right hand, too.  He did well taking the MMR shot.  In general he didn’t do what the doctor wanted him to right away, he was always interested in his own play.  Instead of pushing the car back and forth (which he’s done from a few months of age with his musical car) he was more interested in putting the little person in and out of the car.  It took a while before he banged two objects together when she asked, even though he’s done that for a while, too.  He can do a lot, but he does what he wants!

July 1st we had a family birthday party for Joseph.  I set the timer and had names in a hat so that each person got 10 minutes of focused time with Joseph.  It worked well and Joseph loved it!  He enjoyed opening his presents and making a mess of his corn bread cake.  I hadn’t thought that it’s worth doing much for a 1st birthday, but it was good for us all to mark the event and enjoy him.  I’m glad we did and I’m glad we have some family nearby to celebrate with us!

July 3rd Joseph took three steps alone toward me!  Later that day he did 6, but that hasn’t been repeated.  Mommy and Daddy are more interested in him walking than he is!

July 6th Joseph uses the word “hot” frequently and for a few things: hot things, forbidden things, things that have been hot in the past (left over potatoes from the fridge).  He’s good at letting his food cool before touching and eating it.  And speaking of eating, he loves it, especially veggies and fruit . . .

July 14th I first noticed that he can catch a ball that I’ve thrown to him such that it bounces at the floor near him and back up in the air where he catches it.  I find that quite impressive!  He can do it often, though not all the time.  There’s a video of it now, but you’ll have to wait because Daddy just posted a bunch.

In the family news we’ve had US guests, a wedding where we both had important roles, another wedding where we could just enjoy it.  Joseph found himself on a grassy gentle slope but was too cautious to crawl down it – he scooted backward the whole way as he would going down stairs!  The garden has turned into a jungle.  I harvested a ton of weeds this weekend.  There wasn’t a trace of lettuce, carrots, zucchini, kohlrabi, Swiss chard, or onion.  I had thought all the sprouts looked alike so I was afraid to weed until I could tell, hence the forest.  It turns out they all looked alike because they were all weeds . . .  The corn grew well from seed and is doing fine.  We had a hail storm before I put up stakes for my transplanted tomatoes, but I tried to save them, we’ll see!

Posted by harp on Monday, July 18, 2011 at 11:01 am | Edit
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Some days everything seems to go wrong and other days everything seems to line up.  Most days are a bit in between, but here is an account of one day to give you (and my future self) a glimpse into daily life here in our new home in Emmen.

6am Stephan’s alarm goes off. I’m already awake because Joseph needed a snack.  He just want back to sleep so I do too.

6:15am get up and follow my morning routine:

Get dressed. Do a quick sweep of the floors. Process my physical inbox for five minutes. Water the plants.  See the chives, marjoram and tomato grow!!!

10 minutes of “nesting” or making the house a bit nicer than it was the day before, today I wiped the coffee table, de-cluttered the window sill and arranged the candles there, found a home for some oversized sheet music that had been sitting around since the move, etc.

6:45am Joseph wakes up.  I drop what I’m doing (nesting) and greet him.  He pees on the potty.  We dump it in the toilet together and play a little.  I get us breakfast.  Today he ate two little slices of bread and three scoops of yogurt.  I had toast.  I wipe up the high chair and table and notice Joseph grunting so I put him on the pot.  Success!  For some reason he also grunts before having to pee.  We take care of the pee, say goodbye to Daddy as he goes off to work, I do the dishes and we play a little together and nurse (I don’t remember how often we play and nurse but it’s here and there and whenever).  I finish my morning routine:

Open all windows to air out apartment (so humidity doesn’t get high enough for mold to continue to grow)

“Swish and Swipe” bathroom (wipe surfaces and toilet, brush toilet bowl) – 4min

8:30ish I start to work on my “important daily cards” where I alternate 10 or so minutes on a task with 10 or so minutes of focused play with Joseph.  This morning practice was first up so I got out my harp and worked on adjusting the bray pins until Joseph crawled over to me and I gave him a little harp lesson.  He loves the harp.  I’m trying to teach him to be gentle.  He actually seems to have learned a bit how to be gentle and has a better plucking technique than he did before.  It used to be the “grab five strings and pull with all your might never releasing the fingers” and now it’s “grab one to three strings and pull sometimes releasing the fingers and making a nice sound.”  I call the improvement, especially since he’s only had three lessons.  What a smart kid!  I tell him he can’t bother me while I’m practicing (it’s only 10 minutes!) and he listens until I’m almost done then when he comes to grab the strings while I’m doing a run-through of a piece I tell him “no” while I’m playing (that takes brain power!) and he starts crying.  Fortunately I’m at the end of my practice session and we can make up.  Total time the harp is out: 15 minutes.  Not up to conservatory standards but I’ve learned how to make the most of the minutes I have.


Posted by harp on Friday, April 29, 2011 at 10:06 pm | Edit
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Things have been plenty busy around here with several trips to Basel for rehearsals and other commitments but it’s been a week since my last post so here’s a little more for you.


Stephan has been coming home for lunch, which we’ve made the made meal of the day.  It’s lovely to share every meal with him, though it takes quite a bit of time to prepare and to clean up on my own with Joseph.  In general, I’ve been pleased with my progress of figuring out how to keep house without taking too much time so I can be there for my family.  Joseph is enjoying the extra space and can crawl quite fast now.  He loves people and will happily go to and play with anyone who smiles at him.  This is quite a hit on the trains.  If someone doesn’t look at him, he coos and smiles at them until they do.  He expects the attention and loves it.  Of course, Mommy has to be near by and when he wants me nobody else will do, but it is nice that he doesn’t need me all the time.  He’s spent a number of hours with Grossmutti away from me and has done just fine, so maybe we’re coming up to the time when I can have an evening off and go out somewhere.  Who knows!


March 27th Joseph surprised us by moving from the seated position on the train to scooting backwards onto the floor.  It was very smooth and deliberate, but it still must have been half luck because he’s not usually that intentional about getting down off sofas and beds, though he’s getting better!


What’s also surprising to me is Joseph’s third word (after “Mama” and “Bappe”).  When he’s unhappy about something he whines “nei nei nei nei nei” which is pronounced like the German word “nein” meaning no.  His mother tongue is English, but so far all three words he speaks are more Swiss German than English!


We’re enjoying beautiful spring weather here.  I hung some laundry up outside yesterday and wild flowers and blooming and birds are singing.  It’s easy to be in a good mood!  (Disclaimer: That doesn’t stop me from getting frustrated when Joseph is too much, but I’m learning to be more and more patient.)

Posted by harp on Sunday, April 3, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Edit
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I've been a bit out of the homeschooling scene for a while, so I newly discovered that there are materials for doing Montessori at home.  Here's a link if you're interested. 

Posted by harp on Friday, February 18, 2011 at 10:17 am | Edit
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Having found that beets overwhelm any vegetable soup I looked for expert help when we received beets again in our vegetable coop.  I turned to a cookbook by Jamie Oliver that Stephan had before we married and we both found the result so delightful that we ate the whole beet in one meal despite the fact that the rest of the meal was a very tasty hunk of beef.  I don’t feel right publishing the recipe in full, but I’ll advertise his cookbook and give you a hint.  It’s The Return of the Naked Chef (Kochen für Freunde in German) and the idea is simple: bake the beets in tin foil with a secret green, a bunch of smashed garlic, and a good bit of balsamic vinegar.  It’s tender and tasty and goes down easily!  Plus, it’s super easy to make.  I’m not sure I’ll ever do anything else with my beets again.

Posted by harp on Sunday, December 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm | Edit
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We're forced to be that way!  At least until spellcheck came along.


Posted by harp on Wednesday, October 27, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Edit
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