How I Ruined H’s Backpack

I mentioned on Facebook last week that I ruined H’s backpack as we were leaving the hotel in Sedrun. Well, here’s the whole story.

We always have the boys bring their backpacks along on trips.  They are in charge of picking out what they want to bring and also in charge of carrying it and keeping track of it. This time we were supposed to have all our luggage downstairs by 9:30 with all the other luggage from our group, so I got everything packed up and I was in charge of it.

Let me say that luggage for a family of 4 taking a snow holiday is heavy.  Those are some serious clothes in there, people.  And I was doing this by myself.  Mark was long gone to his first game of the tournament.  So I had the gigantic duffel bag, E’s backpack, H’s backpack, and the second “things I’m going to need right now skiing” bag of awkwardness.  Rather than make 3 trips up and down the stairs I, of course, I decided to use the elevator.

A word about this elevator.  It’s like a moving closet.  There is a front door, a little platform you stand on, and then a back door.  There is nothing separating you from the shaft walls. Nothing.  It’s horrifying.  And not just because of the pink bathroom tile they are using on the walls of that elevator shaft.  OSHA would never allow this.  There should be a sign saying “Please keep your eyes shut and your hands inside the ride at all times.”  (It’s amazing that more people from Switzerland aren’t up for Darwin Awards, but anyway….)

Against my better judgement I wedged myself, two suitcases, and two backpacks into this 1950’s bathroom tile closet and shut the door.  As soon as I push the lobby button the elevator lurches downward and H’s backpack shoots up in the air.  And I stand there, staring in open-mouthed horror at his black backpack wedged halfway between the ceiling and the wall of the elevator shaft with the pink tile whooshing by, making this whump! whump! whump! sound as we careen down.  I kept waiting for it to whisk up into the no-man’s-land of the elevator shaft like some evil minion in a sci-fi movie getting sucked out of the airlock and into deep space.

And then I remembered that H had packed Bear into that backpack.

You all remember Bear, right?  The stuffed animal that H has slept with since he was born?  The boon companion that H tries to take with him wherever he goes and can’t fall asleep without?  The inanimate object that I (Heaven help me) made a birthday cake for when H informed me Bear was turning 2 in October?  Yeah.  That Bear.  And he was one whump! away from disappearing into a black hole never to be seen again.

There was no way I was leaving that elevator and telling my son that Mommy had lost Bear in an I Love Lucy pink bathroom tile elevator shaft.  Because then Mommy would be finding a way to break into that horrible I Love Lucy pink bathroom tile elevator shaft or face finding a therapist that specializes in 5-year-olds.  So I held my breath, reached up, and yanked that backpack back from the brink of the abyss.

It all came out, except for one strap, which had been ripped right out of the seam of the pack, leaving a gaping 4-inch hole in the main body of the backpack.  I peaked inside and found that Bear was safe and well.  That’s when I started hyperventilating.

When the elevator landed I stumbled out of it in the most graceful way imaginable for a woman who had just had a panic attack.  And when I had to stack the bags up with the rest of the luggage, I was so paranoid about losing Bear I couldn’t leave him in the ripped backpack or even the giant duffel bag.  I moved him into the bag with our ski gear and carried him around with us for the rest of the day.

H has no idea what happened.  And thank goodness for that.  He’d probably demand another cake for Bear.  He was stunned to find that his backpack was broken, but thrilled that I went out and found him a new flashy red and black backpack.

Now E wants me to destroy his backpack.   (I can do nothing right.)

The Swiss Family Carlson Visits Disentis-Sedrun!

Disentis and its little sister, Sedrun, are little skiing towns in the southeast portion of Switzerland past Lucerne by about 30 minutes and in the Canton of Graubunden.  (The leadership that led to the formation of the canton was called The Grey League.  It sounds like a comic book hero team and, therefore, makes this the coolest canton in Switzerland.)   They are in the Romansh speaking portion of Switzerland and if you speak Romansh the real name of Disentis is Muster and so the official name is Disentis/Muster.  Got it?  Good!

My elegant finger points to the two pins marking Disentis and Sedrun,
My elegant finger points to the two pins marking Disentis and Sedrun.

Disentis was first mentioned in 765(!) and the monastery started appearing in texts in 720.  I think I will never stop being astonished at the age of different communities in Europe.

We went there because Mark’s curling team was playing in an outdoor tournament!  Mark was extremely excited to be able to curl outdoor in the mountains of Switzerland.  The kids and I were thrilled with playing in the snow in the mountains.

Of course we traveled by train.  Actually, the winter snow had closed several roads up into the mountains and we would have never have made it otherwise.  The snow made the trip very picturesque.

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Taking the train also allowed us to walk around and have chats with all the curlers on our team (9 of them in total besides the children and I).  The leader of our group was a true entertainer.  He brought along the most incredible picnic – sandwiches, wine, and beer for the first part of the 4 hours journey and then cheese and bread with more wine for the second part.  The children had a great time.  He brought juices along for them and they absolutely loved the sandwiches and being able to wander about the carriage.

Really, what is better than a glass of wine and a view like this?  (Hint, the answer rhymes with du-thing.)
Really, what is better than a glass of wine and a view like this? (Hint, the answer rhymes with du-thing.)
Books are wonderful things.
Books are wonderful things.
H loved being able to stretch out.
H loved being able to stretch out.

The weather was quite something.  It was snowing when we arrived at our hotel in Sedrun and it snowed for 2 days.  Our intrepid leader, Sammy, was quite displeased because it meant no curling because they couldn’t keep the ice clear.  (I strengthened my knowledge of German curse words and learned a couple Swiss-German curse words.)  However, we were all consoled by hanging out in the hotel’s pub area drinking beer and sampling the grappa after dinner.  Sammy proudly pointed out the grappa area and explained the hotel had 180 different kinds of grappa for tasting.  That’s when I realized we were also in the Italian speaking part of Switzerland.

The snow didn’t stop us from getting out, however!  The children loved the snow and Sedrun was equally lovely.

The church in Sedrun across from our hotel.
The church in Sedrun across from our hotel.
The road to the ski areas.
The road to the ski areas.
A pretty little creek that runs through the middle of town. It wasn't frozen over at all!
A pretty little creek that runs through the middle of town. It wasn’t frozen over at all!
It is snowing! We got over 9 inches in 2 days!
It is snowing! We got over 9 inches in 2 days!

And Mark got to visit a monastery in Disentis with the other curlers.  (The children were uninterested in seeing yet another church in Switzerland so we stayed in and sipped hot chocolate while their snow things dried.)

Disentis Monastery1
The monks know how to do up a ceiling!
Disentis Monastery4
The Monastery has been burned and rebuilt several times since 720. The nice monk in the picture said they had tried to figure out what the original color of the walls was, but when they couldn’t they chose white.

Disentis Monastery3Disentis Monastery2

And finally on Sunday (probably because of all the candles they lit in the Abbey chapel), the weather cleared and it was declared by all the veterans to be perfect curling weather!!

Look at that curling form!  Like a champ!
Look at that curling form! Like a champ!
And, lo, the clouds did break and the team did score 4 points in one end.
And, lo, the clouds did break and the team did score 4 points in one end.

For H and E, it was perfect snow-bathing weather.


And Sedrun was really beautiful as well.

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I couldn’t get enough of the snow covered and tree-dotted mountains. I actually felt tempted to ski downhill.  I, for sure, would like to ski cross country up there.  The whole trip I kept staring at them and understanding why some artists only paint mountain snow scenes.  I am slightly envious of E’s ski trip to Nendaz coming up next week.

But before that we are off to Zurich for the weekend!  E and I are going to see horse show jumping and H and Mark will be exploring the realms of dinosaurs!

5 Months


We have now lived in Basel, Switzerland for 5 whole months. It’s hard for me to believe it. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 5 months now. It feels more like 2. Or maybe 3.

We have been all over Basel.  We’ve been to Bern, Lucerne, Geneva, Augusta Rurica, Neuchatel, and Wengen.  Not to mention the little towns in France we’ve visited and our Germany adventure with Shaun.

This weekend we’re off to Sedrun for a curling tournament and the week after that we’re going to Zurich, so we’ll be adding those pins very soon!  And we haven’t even really gotten into our list of places we still need to see!


We celebrated a birthday and several holidays.  We’ve had a few visitors and we look forward to having a few more.

While things still feel new, but I’m experiencing a feel of comfortable routine during the week.  Getting the kids breakfasted and off to school, picking the kids up from school, going to the market a few days a week, walking to see something new in the city, and getting odds and ends that we need here in the shops (I blew up our coffee grinder on Sunday.  That’s 5 appliances gone for those of you keeping score at home.)

The kids are at different stages of settling in.  The 5 year old has stated that he doesn’t want to move back to the States.  He’s made his friends here and he doesn’t want to have to go through all that again.  The 9 year old is in the middle of the settling process. He misses his good friends in Maryland.  He is making friends here, but not as deeply bonded with any as he would like.  We’ve tried to explain that it took him 9 years to make all those friends in Maryland and it’s just going to take longer than 5 months.  He’s going away to southern Switzerland for a week of skiing with his class in two weeks.  The teachers have assured us that this time with his class will help immensely.

More Noticings:

**  I don’t know how people with nut allergies make it here.  There are ground almonds and hazelnuts in everything.

** They love their festivals and they love their confetti.  Faschtnacht is a carnival that happens at the end of February right at the start of Lent and they are already selling bags of confetti in the shops around town.

** There are little bakeries (and big bakeries) all over where people buy their bread and confections.  I’ve found “the best” little bakery and that is where I buy my bread now.

** The typical Swiss dinner isn’t so much fondue as it is a nice cured meat and cheese tray with a mixed bread basket.  I serve salami, a wonderful thinly sliced cured beef called “Bundefleish,” pate,  and 2 or 3 kinds of cheese on a platter with some sliced fruit and tomatoes.  I have at least 2 kinds of breads in a bread basket sliced up.  The kids love it and it’s usually all gone by the end of the night.

** We are living in a different way here. We have more family time – in the evenings and on the weekends.  Mostly, I believe, because the businesses here rank personal happiness and family over making a profit.  If Mark works later than 6pm for many days in a row his boss will check in with him and get him assistance for his project if it’s necessary.  I really wish the US would mature as a country and come around to this way of thinking.

** The tram lines and trains make traveling around the city and the continent a breeze.  You barely need a car and that is what car rentals and car share programs are for.  Seriously, US, get it together.

** The Swiss public school leave time for handicrafts for the students.  The boys downstairs get instruction on crocheting, knitting, woodworking (one of them made a jigsaw puzzle for his brother!), and origami as part of their lessons.  I’ve only heard of this in Montessori in the States, but this is right in public school here!

** Music is everywhere.

** People smoke like chimneys.  And while we’re on the subject of vices, it is not uncommon to see people drinking a tallboy of beer at a tram stop.

** The price of shoes is an indicator of how close we are to Italy.

** The sheer number of perfume shops is an indicator of how close we are to France.

Only 13 months left. It’s hard to believe that we’re just over a year out from returning to the States.  I find myself pondering how I will feel in a year.  Will I be ready to leave?  Will I be begging to stay?  But I remind myself I will waste my remaining time here by pondering on that too much. The only thing I can really ponder is how can we pack in as much adventure as we possibly can while we are here.