Swiss Family Stender: The Fast and The Hungry

Life in Switzerland continues to be excellent. We’re getting the food thing figured out so, uh…. Well, that’s really THE most important thing. Why you might ask?


At breakfast, we feed our pack of starving children a bowl of yogurt with fruit and oats (which sounds like something you’d feed a horse) and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Then, depending on the tug-of-war between the parents’ level of morning befuddlement and the childrens’ level of demanding, eggs and meat. After this is consumed, we flat refuse to make more food despite their insistence of being hungry.



Lunch, thank the heavens, is served at school though we’re told they often politely ask for seconds. I wish they would politely ask at home. When they’re picked up from school, we bring a Tupperware that lately is stuffed with sliced fruit, hunks of Parmigiano Reggiano and oatmeal cranberry cookies. They wolf this “snack” down while we wait for the train (DO NOT put your fingers in the Tupperware at this stage) and then ask if I have anything else. I don’t. So they ask what’s for dinner. This is at 4 PM. I used to tell them what we would be having. It would go like this:


“Stewed balsamic chicken with rice!” I announce.

“EWW! We don’t like that”, they respond in unison. “Is it CHEESY rice?”

“Why yes OF COURSE it’s cheesy rice!” I lie in reply.


…and Night.

And on and on until I realized the better course of action was to feign ignorance on the dinner cart – “I don’t know what’s for dinner?” Now I can get them home without nuclear meltdown on the train platform. If dinner is satisfactory for the little carnivores, it becomes a contest of who did the best.


“I ate mine first!” one blurts out.

“It’s not a race.” comes my attempt at not failing as a parent.

“Did I eat the best Daddy?” is the next question.

“Well, uh, I don’t know” I lamely reply in another attempt at not creating a tableside pissing match between the 3 foot lunatics surrounding me.

My dad tells the story of his dinner table growing up. There were 2 categories of people at this table. The Fast. And The Hungry. If you were Hungry, but not Fast, you didn’t eat. You needed to be both to survive. And his dad was the all caps version – FAST AND HUNGRY. “Are you going to eat that?” my grandfather would ask as he forked someone’s meal into his mouth.


As such, I can very confidently say Grandpa Smiley’s soul has been passed down to our children. If one gets up for a bathroom break or just to screw around, the other 2 will circle the unprotected plate. After some furtive glances, they’ll begin the inhalation process while their poor sibling is rolling around the floor making cat noises. No one gets out alive.


There are some other things that have been happening in Switzerland besides eating but I would say food dominates about 80% of a given day. I’ll fill in the other 20% next time around.

Swiss Family Stender Part 3

Today was tough. There was a food truck festival (with bar), a sailboat race, a farmer’s market, sunny skies and a high of around 70 with zero humidity. Très difficile indeed. And Sarah tells me there are people in her company that decline this opportunity for <insert lame reason here>. This does not compute.

I think we have wrapped up week 2 in Real Life Disneyland. The kids are settling in quite nicely at their new school. Milan had a classmate offer to put on her shoes for her. As in, another little girl put Milan’s shoes on Milan’s feet while I watched in shock and horror. A nice Italian man named Luigi introduced himself to me, welcoming us to the school, telling me he had heard about my children from his children. And swore it was a good thing. Due to Hendricks peanut allergy, the teachers have been feeding him hot dog buns at snack time while the others have “biscuits”. He doesn’t seem to mind. And Maren told the British school director her tummy hurt. But, Ms. Becky informed she was ok after she “had wind.” Which took me a minute to decipher and then a mountain of willpower not to smirk at. In short, the kids are back to normal.


Food continues to be a crapshoot for Sarah and I. We bought what appeared to be oatmeal only to get home and learn, via Google Translate, that you don’t cook it. Apparently you soak it in milk, yogurt or whatever liquid you like and serve it with fruit. So, we’re calling it granola and making yogurt parfaits. It’s, uh, chewy. There is a wide array of cured meats, including horse meat, which has made my breakfast exciting. And I have not yet figured out the beer situation. I ordered some online with our food delivery and it was atrocious. So I went to a liquor store and ended up bringing home individual bottles that cost 4.5 francs each. Man I hope they taste good.

Sarah has mastered the washer and dryer while I have FUBARed the dishwasher. When we arrived, there were 3 types of cleaning materials above the lave-vaisselle. A plastic tub with a handful of those little dishwasher detergent pods wrapped in plastic. A box of powder substance with pictures of sparkling glasses on the label. And a squeeze bottle of liquid soapy looking stuff also with sparkly pictures on the label. I’ll blame it on the kids and the need to prioritize. Putting naked humans on the toilet is ever the priority over labels written in French.


You see, anytime Tyler and I have played a new video game, we have always pulled the instruction manual out and purposefully flung it across the room. Why? Because its far easier to press all the buttons than actually read. In this same spirit, I put what turned out to be water softening salt into the detergent tray and attempted to wash dishes by hand with what is in fact a “rinsing aid”. Which would explain the lack of a thick lather. Once a red light started flashing next to “Sel” (Salt in English), I realized there was a problem. So I tried translating the user manual. Which only confirmed I need to be doing something with the provided water softener salt aside from attempting to wash dishes with it. What that is we’re still working on but it’s just not a priority at the moment. The detergent pods seem to be working nicely.


I’m sure there’s more but my mind is completely fuzzed over at this point. Bonsoiree!

Swiss Family Stender Part 2

We have arrived! After what felt like endless back and forth on how this whole thing was going to work, it came together and we are officially living in Vevey, Switzerland. Crazy. It was an adventure leading up to it, a BIG adventure getting here and is likely to be a continuous adventure during our time here.


We flew out of Detroit on Monday, May 9th nonstop to Amsterdam where we changed planes for a quick flight to Geneva. Once there, we got picked up and took an hour car ride to our new digs here in Vevey. The flight to Amsterdam had a lot of good things – extra legroom, big headrest TV’s with endless free movie options, two legitimately tasty airplane food meals and a reasonably turbulent free ride. There were also some downsides – Maren losing her lunch thrice, Sarah’s cashmere sweater taking the brunt of this and no sleep (for the parents) on the overnight flight.


An interesting difference between US and Swiss versions of getting a ride to the airport proved that contrary to popular belief, we are not all uncouth, manner-less baboons in America. In Detroit, we got picked up in a mammoth van that easily could’ve hosted a raging bachelor party driven by a suited up, super polite and very helpful gentleman. Here in CH, a guy noticed us coming, walked up, grabbed two bags with nary a word and hustled for the exit doing his best impersonation of the White Rabbit from Alice.

Dragging the children, we fortunately caught up to the Rabbit at his old van with a trailer hanging off the back. With the bags heaved in, the kids buckled in, we were off. Finding the entrance to our apartment proved tricky resulting in the driver’s fist smashing the steering wheel followed by muttered French swears which certainly wasn’t helped by second gear constantly jamming in the stop and go traffic.

What we’ve noticed so far…

  • The apartment is a study in IKEA interior design and we love it.
  • The beds are low to the ground and have only duvets, no top sheet.
  • All the windows have heavy duty metal blinds on the outside that I’m hoping aren’t for hurricane protection.
  • There are no screens on the windows so perhaps they don’t have bugs here in the summer. There also does not appear to be any sort of heating or air conditioning. Maybe it doesn’t get cold in Switzerland?
  • There are 2 toilets which is handy now that the twins are nearly toilet trained.
  • They don’t refrigerate their eggs here but the yolks are an outrageous deep orange color and the strawberries are actually red throughout and super sweet. A nice change from the red-on-the-outside-white-on-the-inside American tasteless version.
  • Sarah and I recently mistook a can of chocolate fruit dip for chocolate pudding. And ate it anyway.
  • The coffee is all instant but is magically delicious.
  • They use the word “FORBIDDEN” frequently such as “It is FORBIDDEN to make noise between 10 pm and 7 am. We are screwed.


That’s all I can think of at the moment. The Alps are the view from our balcony. Lake Geneva is 2 blocks away and crystal clear. Most cars here are wagons and stick shift. I’ve found myself sitting on the balcony watching them all drive by. I have also slammed my nose into the door glass as I rush to see what’s coming when I hear a Ferrari or Porsche winding up. In summary, as far as international living goes, I think we’re going to make it.

Swiss Family Stender

Swiss Family StenderWe are moving to Switzerland. WHOA. With 3 children under 5. Double WHOA. As we embark on this adventure, there are bound to be lots of stories to be told so in the interest of keeping a log and keeping friends and family updated, welcome to Swiss Family Stender.


As we prep, there are some questions:

  • Where will we be living?
  • Is it wrong to tranquilize children on long flights?
  • Everyone speaks American, right?
  • How does a family of 5 not die of starvation without access to Costco?


These questions will be answered and as we learn them, we’ll share here. Sarah’s HR department told her that as long we’re not expecting Switzerland to be America, we’ll be fine. Put another way, if you’re flexible you’ll be fine. Which we are so it should be a blast.


We do know the area we’ll be living – Vevey. Contrary to the nitwit who corrected my evidently pathetic American pronunciation, it is in fact pronounced VEH-VAY, not VA-VAY. #Groan. It looks to be a postcard perfect little village perched on Lake Geneva. Across the lake is France. Down the road is Italy. There’s also Germany and Austria on the periphery. Weep for us.


Did you know there are 4 languages spoken in Switzerland? French, German, Italian and Romansh – which is obviously some sort of pretend language. We’ll be living in the French speaking section which is fortuitous since I am a former Advanced Placement French student. You know, “AP French” in high school? Which must be a misnomer as Milan, our 4 year old, already knows more French than I do. Advanced Jackass would be more appropriate.


There is the small concern on keeping calorie intake up. You see, the children have all inherited some version of my insatiable appetite. Two breakfasts is our norm. One at 6 AM (peanut butter and jelly with fruit), another at 8 AM (piles of eggs with meat and more fruit). Do the Swiss eat like this? Is there a reason Americans are generally larger? The correlation is unclear but the reality is clear – we must find food. Turns out horsemeat is on the menu over there. But I might actually prefer to go hungry than eat Seabiscuit. We’ll see.


The general conversation with my friends is that the country is run by a team of elves, wearing lederhosen and working out of large oak trees. Cousins of the Keeblers. Making chocolate and toys. The usual. I’m not sure if the Swiss allow elves in their midst but I do know lederhosen are a generally accepted part of society. As such, the top item on my priority list is a tailored set. Halloween will be done – forever. But should I plan to wear them while in country? Yodeling like the Ricola man? Or singing like Maria in the Sound of Music? We will see.


As you can see, there a lot of critical questions to be answered. But it’s an adventure. We’ll figure it out as we go. When I studied abroad in college, my friend Kevin and I got off the plane in Budapest both under the impression the other had the pertinent paperwork. Neither did. Neither of us knew where we were going. So we went to the bar instead. I can tell you that won’t be the case here. But I can tell you it’s going to be just as much fun.