Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Christmas 2010

Dear Friends and Family,

It's not that we don't love you. We're just e-mailing this because we're lazy and cheap. Do you know how much it costs to mail a Christmas card from Switzerland? Of course you don't, and, in reality, neither do we because we're too lazy to go to the post office and ask.

We've been in Switzerland for almost two years now and we hope to stay here a long time. The country is beautiful, the people are fabulous, and the chocolate and cheese are delicious. Plus, being in the heart of Europe, we have travel opportunities that we wouldn't have in America.

And speaking of travel, here is a little update on our lives.

Jason spent most of the year on the road. Or, rather, in the air. This year he visited France, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Lichtenstein, Italy, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, America, Uruguay, Canada, Panama, Austria, Mongolia and China. He managed to avoid eating goat head (he thinks), and more importantly asked numerous doctors about important pharmaceutical products. It's fun to travel with Jason because he's Mr. Gold Frequent Flier so he gets to check bags for free.

Suzanne did not go to nearly so many places. This is okay because she is much more wimpy about new countries. She did begin a new job with CBS writing a career advice column. Yes, that's right. She gives career advice while sitting on the couch wearing her bathrobe. We find it amusing as well. She's also busy being in the Relief Society Presidency, taking German classes and running children all over town.

Sarah (7) climbed a 10,000 foot mountain with just Dad. She gained the nickname Mountain Marmot in the process. (Reet, reet! She says) She even convinced the rest of us to visit Marmot Paradise (really), which just so happens to be in Switzerland. She's enjoying school and is the top reader in her class. Our Swiss friends say that Sarah pronounces German like a native. She enjoys swimming lessons and can't wait for Tae Kwon Do to be over.

Daniel (2) is the happiest little destroyer you'll ever meet. His cheery disposition lulls you into a sense of carnal security, which you are rudely awakened from when your laptop is found swimming in apple juice. Daniel is responsible for keeping the economy floating by ruining two laptops this year, prompting his mother to have to buy new ones. He loves Thomas the Tank Engine and plays with his trains all the time. He also enjoys drawing and pulling his sister's hair.

We hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


The Lucas Family
Jason, Suzanne, Sarah and Daniel

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Music, Swiss Style

I took this picture at the August 1st celebration in Basel, which is actually held on July 31. We didn't stay for the fireworks because I'm mean and wanted the kids to actually sleep that night. They don't start the fireworks until after 11:00 which I think is ridiculous.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sarah'a Birthday Cake

Sarah did most of the decorating of this cake by herself. I made the sun, though. I know the limits of my talents. She turns 7 on Sunday. Happy birthday to her.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Romania Pictures 1

A Statue in Bucharest
A roadside shrine, which, unfortunately, was the site of one of Sarah's vomiting episodes.
Sheep, in the road.

An, unfortunately, typical Romanian Road. Check out the pot holes!

Thursday, April 15, 2010


I promise I'll post pictures later!

We figured that while we live in Switzerland we should take advantage of that and see as much of Europe as possible. Jason travels to all the "normal" places for work so he wasn't thrilled about Paris, Milan, Barcelona or any of those traditional vacation spots, because he's been there. He said, "What about Romania?" I said, "okay."

We flew into Bucharest and spent the first night there. Then Monday morning we got in our rental car and headed for Transylvania. My 6 year old Sarah started to complain that she felt like she was going to vomit. Now, she always complains that she is going to vomit in the car and she never has, so we ignored her.

We took a wrong turn and ended up in a grocery store parking lot. I said, "Let's stop here and get some water and a snack for the trip." Sarah said, "I have to vomit." I said, "well, open the car door then," fully thinking she was just being dramatic. Well, she wasn't and she managed to vomit all over the parking lot.


Fortunately, only a little got on the car, and the rest was in the parking lot. (Sorry about that, Carrefor people!) We got some water and headed out. She slept in the car and we decided it was a fluke. Ha! How silly we were.

Romanian roads are mostly in horrible conditions. Pot holes everywhere. Windy, dirty roads. Fortunately, our GPS (through the Iphone) had everything. I love Google. We drove through crazy villages and got to the base of the real Dracula's castle. We didn't climb up because it was raining and Sarah was feeling awful.

At one point, we pulled over into the mud, and she and I got out of the car so she could vomit again. It was raining as well and after she finished and changed her clothes and got back into the car she said, "some day this will be a really great story." We've trained her well.

We spent two days in the town of Zabola at a Bed and Breakfast ( She stayed in bed and Jason and Daniel went on a few walks in the woods and I read to her. The food there was so good. It was an absolutely lovely place to be and I would love to go back when no one was puking.

Then we headed to htttp:// and, fortunately she was feeling better. This place is run by an actual count whose family had to leave Romania 60-70 years ago. After the revolution in 1989 Romania started to allow displaced Romanian nobles to reclaim their land. Count Kalnoky came back (he's the grandson of the last count) and started restoring the old family lands. He was born in Germany and didn't even speak Hungarian (the language of the region) when he came back. He also spent a stint as a pharmaceutical executive, which which makes me laugh, for some reason.

The villages were crazy. People still drove horse carts around. The buildings were falling down or unfinished, but everyone had a satellite dish. I can't even explain how weird it was.

We learned a lot about what it was like to live in a communist country. Our tour guide, Monica, told us about how her grandfather was arrested and beaten for listening to clandestine radio.

We asked about religion in the country. The Romanian speaking people are Romanian Orthodox. Apparently there is no relationship between that church and the Roman Catholic or Russian or Greek Orthodox churches. If you don't like someone you can go to the priest and pay him money and he will pray that harm will come to the person. If you are having a string of bad luck, you can go to the priest and pay him money to find out if he's being paid to bring harm to you and then pay him to pray against your enemy. I don't know how accurate this is, but craziness.

There is a huge minority that speaks Hungarian. (That was the language where we were.) They feel very oppressed by the Romanians and consider themselves Hungarians. We ate dinner with some Romanians from Bucharest and they told us how they felt like the Hungarians had way too much control in the country and how they should be forced to learn Romanian.

It was clear that there were hard feelings between both groups, but the one thing they could agree on was that they all hated the Gypsies. The stories we heard about the Gypsies--wow. Nobody had anything positive to say--they were lazy, thieving, blah, blah, blah. I have no personal experience in this area, so I won't comment other than to say that it would be hard to overcome that stereotype to achieve anything.

We got to ride on a horse cart, we fed wild pigs and ate more delicious food. (I gained 4 pounds! Bah!) If it wasn't for the rainy weather and puking child it would have been a great vacation.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Kinder Pictures

The library at Sarah's school is open to family members after school. Sarah has a Mosaics class on Tuesdys after school, so Daniel and I go to the library. Today, he trotted in, walked right up to the Thomas the Train books, pulled them off the shelf and laid down to read.

The whole reading thing must be genetic.
Now that the weather is nice, we walk part of the way home. This is our favorite stop. Daniel gets very excited and says, "stick! stick!" We missed our tram by about 30 seconds, and the next one was a few minutes late, so we had about 12 minutes to play on the stick.

Well, Daniel played, Sarah read her book. She was angry that I made her put her book down long enough so that I could take her picture.
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Monday, March 22, 2010

A post only a grandparent could love

This Sarah (and me!) performing a German play. She's a rabbit who (spoiler alert) has swallowed a frog.

I won't be offended if you don't watch all of it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Random kinder pictures




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Friday, March 5, 2010


As legal non-citizen residents of the great nation of Switzerland, we have to renew our permits annually. Coming from the United States, the thought of doing this struck fear and dread into my soul. Not only do I have to deal with a government office, I have to add the horrors of doing it in German, with my children. Oy. (Sarah, at 6, is now required to sign her own name on her permit.)

But, I should have known better. The Swiss don't have a reputation for efficiency for no reason.

We received the paperwork in the mail, telling us when to appear and to bring new passport photos of ourselves. (In case we have somehow become better looking since last year, which is possible, because our last year's permits had no where to go but up. Jason and I look like the couple you see on the nightly news who have just been arrested for making meth. We actually wondered why we got married in the first place, as we both look so hideous, we couldn't imagine being attracted to each other. But, I digress. We're much better looking in person.)

Getting the passport photos was painful because we had to go into a photo booth, put in some coins (8CHF) and let the machine take our pictures. Should be easy enough, but Daniel was terrified of the whole thing and screamed. This is problematic because one of the rules was that no teeth can be showing.

After 6 tries with Daniel, we chose one with his eyes open and his teeth showing, figuring the woman would reject us and our silly photographs and we would have to mail in a new one.

So, off we went to Frenkendorf. This meant a 15 minute train ride through the largest freight depot in Switzerland. Daniel was in heaven. "Train! Train! Train!" he shouted as we went by.

Our appointment was at 3:30. Wanting to be prompt we were in the office by 3:25. There was one family at the window.

That family left, we approached the window and handed the woman our passports and new photos. She had right next to the window our paperwork. Can you imagine that happening in a US government office? Seriously. We had an appointment and she was ready for us. Bizarre.

She laughed at Daniel's picture. (It is funny.) Didn't faint at the rest of the family's pictures. (Sarah looks something like Wednesday from the Addams Family.) Gave us forms to sign. We signed them and we handed them back to her.

Then we all said "Tschuss!" and headed out the door. Time? 3:28.

Seriously. We were there for 3 minutes. No waiting, no whining. 3 minutes.

This was on a Monday and we got our new permits in the mail on Friday.

This is how bureaucracy should work.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Chienbaese-Fasnacht in the neighboring town

This is the before picture. They are going to light this thing on fire and pull it through the streets.
And here's the after picture. Those are some flames.

And in case you needed video, here we go. Note, they take this flaming wagons through the city gate. This gate is made of wood. The fireman hose it down before each wagon goes through. And this parade lasts about 1.5 hours. That's a lot of fire. (On the video, that is Sarah and her friend singing about libraries. Why? I don't know.)

Sunday, February 28, 2010


Switzerland has cheese. And by cheese, we don't mean that namby-pamby mild stuff you Americans call cheese. We mean real cheese. (Incidentally, I've been known to pay $12 a pound for some cheddar cheese. It's rare around here.)

Jason loves cheese. The stinkier the better. Daniel is just like his father and adores cheese. When we pass the cheese aisle in the grocery store he says, "cheese! cheese!"

Yesterday I bought a new kind of cheese. I decided on it because it was 1. on sale and 2. had a sunflower on the label. I thought it looked cheerful.

We had some for lunch and it was so nasty that I couldn't overcome the smell to even taste it. Daniel and Jason, of course, ate some. Jason described the smell as vomit that had been sitting in one of Daniel's diapers for several days.

This morning, Jason yelled up the stairs, "This cheese is really good!"

"Which cheese?" I asked. (We always have several in the house.)

"The diaper-vomit cheese," he said.

Umm, yum. I promise to protect you from this cheese.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Bad Week to Not Be Swiss

This week is Fasnacht, which is a the biggest celebration you have ever seen. It's like a Mardi Gras or Carnival, but it is held after Ash Wednesday instead of before. Why? Because when the Protestants took over Basel, they also took over the party. The Catholics threw a great Fasnacht party and the Protestants wanted to continue it, but didn't want those nasty Catholics participating.

So, they put their heads together and came up with a great idea--they moved it to after Ash Wednesday so that all the Catholics would be in the midst of Lent and couldn't come. They stole the party and kicked out the originators. Brilliantly mean.

But, I digress. The point is, this is a big week so no school, and Jason was off work for a day or two. And Monday morning my doorbell rang. My neighbor (incidentally, the one who informed me that the inside of my mailbox was a little dirty) informed me that all of the neighbors have been talking about how horrible we are.

We are too loud. We do too much laundry too late in the day. We use our drill all the time. We come and go at all hours of the night.

Now, I'll agree to the loud thing, and the laundry. Bad us. We don't own a drill and we don't go anywhere late at night. That is other people, but being blamed on us.


But, as she continued (she started out with, "I hate to tell you this," but it was clear that she did not hate to tell us this. She lives for such things.), she also had some helpful advice:

1. Buy a car
2. Buy a vacation home
3. I should try to understand that other people in the building actually have to work, so they need their sleep. I wouldn't understand this at all because I don't work.
4. We should pull Sarah out of the International School and put her in the Swiss schools, so we would understand.

Ahh, it all becomes clear. This wasn't about noise. This was about not being Swiss. And I think a bit of class envy. This woman also wanted to know Jason's salary, and when I wouldn't tell her began to guess. She came surprisingly close. I suspect, given the rent here, that our income is higher than our neighbors and that she has shared that information with them.

She can't understand why we won't buy a car (it's about the chocolate croissants, not about the money), nor a vacation home since we are obviously swimming in money--as indicated by Jason's perceived salary and my status as a Hausfrau. We don't speak German very well, and we don't understand.

It's an interesting cultural lesson for us. Of course, I'll be better about not starting laundry after 5:00 p.m. (Really! That's what they want. Incidentally, that same evening we heard someone else doing laundry at 10:30. Go figure.) We'll try harder to keep our children from screeching. (Suggestions welcome.) But, the real problem is the culture and the language.

Suggestions are welcome for that as well.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Disaster Narrowly Averted

Tomorrow morning, I am going visiting teaching. This is a Church program where each woman in gets visited by two other women each month. We're supposed to bring a lesson and chat for a bit. It's a great program and I must confess my lack of faithfulness to it, for the past while.

It's not all my fault--they didn't assign me women to visit at first, because of that whole language barrier. Then they did assign me people and a companion and well, then, the sin becomes mine doesn't it?

So, my companion and I have repented and we're going tomorrow. My German is still terrible, so I thought I'd do something very American (or perhaps very Utahn) and bring cookies. I cannot speak German, but I can bake. (Ich kann nicht Deustch sprechen, aber ich kann backen.)

I wanted to make chocolate chip cookies because they are a novelty here. Despite the chocolate that runs in the streets, chocolate chips are not available. Neither is brown sugar or baking soda (although I did locate some of the latter in Germany), so no one around here makes them.

I went to get my chocolate chips out of the cupboard and they were gone! Horrors! I was sure that I had one more bag. I searched high and low and did not locate them. I did, however, find Jason's Thai Potato Chips. He'll be thrilled.

So, I searched once more and whew! Found them! It is my last bag, however. Good thing Jason is taking a trip to the US in February. Chocolate chips are very important.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A dirty secret

Switzerland is clean. Super clean. In fact, if you come to visit us, the first thing you'll notice when you get off the airplane in the US is how filthy the US is--compared to Switzerland.

I've been under the impression that the Swiss are just naturally clean people, but I have recently changed my mind. I think their impulses towards messiness are the same as ours, but their dedication to cleaning is much higher.

Tons of people smoke and they drop their cigarette butts on the ground at the tram stops. But, every day the place gets cleaned up by a dedicated employee. Even the ticket machine gets wiped down. You see, it's not that the Swiss hands that punched the buttons to get the tickets don't have the same dirt on them as their NYC counter parts, it's just that someone thoroughly cleans those machines regularly.

(Of course, because they are cleaned regularly, there are fewer dirty hands. Dirt begets dirt and cleanliness begets cleanliness. There is undoubtedly a sacrament meeting talk in all of this, but I'll leave that for another day.)

This has been brought to the forefront of my brain because it is our family's turn to clean the church. Each family takes responsibility for cleaning the church for a month.

I have discovered that Swiss people also leave cracker crumbs and Cheerios on the floor. (This is extra curious because you can't buy Cheerios in Switzerland, yet they are there. It must be the 11th commandment or something--take Cheerios to church for toddler.*) The seminary students do not clean up after themselves, and dirty dishes are in the sink.

But, the building is always spotless on Sunday because someone cleans it. Now, a confession. When I was told how to clean the church (the list of tasks is in German, of course. I did not know the word for chalkboard, so I needed a bit of help with the interpretation.) I was told it would take about 4 hours worth of work to do the building.

Fine and good, but this is week number 3 and the longest it's taken is 2.5 hours worth of work. Hmmmm. Obviously, I am missing something. (The fact that I can't read the list probably plays into this.) I'm sure my fellow church members are sitting their during Sunday School, mumbling to themselves, "whoever was in charge of cleaning this week sure didn't straighten the curtains properly" and "what were they thinking? The cleaners didn't use a toothbrush around the light switches!"

I'm glad we only have one more week of cleaning, although it's been a good experience for all concerned. It's even made Daniel less freaked out at nursery, since he gets to play in there while we clean without the threat of an actual non-parental adult in there.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Showing off our superior manners

Daniel goes to nursery at church now. Currently, there are three little boys and one little girl. They get a snack every week. The families rotate the responsibility of providing the snack. Usually, it is fruit and pretzels, or something similar.

Well, this Sunday the mom in charge of snack brought in some granola bars with a bit of chocolate on the outside. She cut a bar into bite sized pieces and placed it on the table with the fruit.

Our well mannered little schweinkind started grabbing at the chocolate granola bar. One of the other boys managed to grab one piece. The 3rd boy and the girl got none. (The girl didn't like them anyway--so no great loss.) So, Daniel has his hands completely full of the treat. Boy 3's mother says to him, "Daniel, can you let Raphael have one piece?"

Daniel looks up at her and shoves both fists in his mouth, getting all the granola bar in his mouth at once.

I didn't witness this in person, but heard the story from two different people. Ahh, to be the mother of Mr. Piggy. Don't mess with Daniel and his food. Gee, I wonder where he picked that up?

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Perils of Being 6 Hours Ahead

Sure, we got to ring in the new year while you were still pondering what to have for your New Year's Eve dinner, but this also means that while you are still snoozing away, we have to face reality.

Yes, today is the first day of reality in 2010. After 3 weeks off school for Sarah and 2 weeks off work for Jason, this morning we set alarms, got up, got dressed and made a mad dash to the tram.

Thankfully, the tram driver saw us coming and waited for us, so we didn't have to sit and wait for 10 minutes for the next tram.

Vacation is so much better than reality.