Monday, December 31, 2007

The year in review

I did this last year and was reminded to do it again this year when I saw it over at Postcards from the Mothership . Here's how it works. To get your blog year in review, take the first sentence from the first post of each month.

Here's what my blog year looked like:
I'm a resolution-maker in spite of my better judgment. Sorry for the lack of posting, but everybody is sick over here (even the grandparents!) and I'm just trying to keep my head above water until Thursday when we do transfer. According to my Highly Placed Source within the Swiss government: "the swiss army 'invaded' lichtenstein today. A company of swiss iinfantry (about 170 men) took a wrong turn during a 25 K training march and 'invaded' Lichtenstein. No casualties or prisoners are reported." I love purses. Remember this "match made in heaven?" 10. You think doing a top ten list a la David Letterman is still funny. Could any of my readers out there recommend a children's book about bringing home a new baby? I think of it more as changing apartments, since we're staying in the same building, but I guess it is actually moving since although we're only going 30 meters up the street we will be hiring - and paying - movers (because yes, we have that much stuff and you can be sure I won't be lifting any of it at almost 26 weeks pregnant). We're in the new apartment. After two years of improvising, or just plain doing without, R and I ordered curtains custom-made for our bedroom in the new apartment. Hm. Mausi kindly awarded me a purple lion for powerful words.
That's a pretty good representation of the year, actually. It makes no sense, was completely disjointed, and not a lot happened but for the highlights of Boychen and the new apartment.

How about you? What did your blog year look like?



Over the next few days I'm finally going to update my blogroll. I've blogs listed I no longer read; blogs that have moved; blogs that have gone belly up; blogs that have gone password protected; and I've been reading a lot of blogs that I never listed. I'm going to do away with my categories, except for the expats and the Swiss stuff, and list everybody alphabetically under something along the lines of "all the other blogs I read."

So for the next few days my blogroll might be a mess, incomplete and/or riddled with errors and duplicates but bear with me, I'm working on it.


Friday, December 28, 2007

Bureaucracy American style, part two

The US Embassy called today to let me know that the application materials for Boychen's US Passport, Social Security card and Consular Registration of Birth pass muster and we can come in to complete the process anytime during opening hours. The embassy is closed Monday through Wednesday of next week, but seems to be open Thursday and Friday, so maybe we can take care of this by the end of next week. Yay!

And the cold I have must be even worse than it feels, which is pretty awful, because at the end of the phone call the woman said "and Gute Besserig" which is Swiss for get well soon. So I guess I sound like crap.

Next step, Swiss passport and national ID card for the Boychen.

Hm, and probably for me, too. I'm eligible and I've been meaning to do it. It would be time.

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From the grandparents. Could Small Boy be any happier?


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The ghost of Christmas kitsch exorcised?

For Small Boy's first Christmas R and I started a tradition of getting him a Christmas ornament for the tree each year. Since he was almost one year old that first Christmas, he was old enough to pick out his own and he's picked his own ever since. This is a lovely tradition in theory, but in practice, if you stay true to the "you can pick your own" idea, it sometimes ends up looking like this:

or this (yes, that's a trailor home. It says "Home is where you hook up"):

or this:

This year, Small Boy chose this one:

A massive downscaling of the kitsch factor, but still, could Small Boy have taste less like mine? Me, I like a nice delicate glass ball, perhaps frosted sky blue, with just a hint of silver sparkle, or plain etched glass. Really, if I were stupid rich I'd rent a studio apartment just so that I could put up my own perfect tree every Christmas.

This year Small Boy was old enough to help us decorate the tree. Last year helping involved his bringing us the ornaments and we would hang them. This year, he was able to hang the ornaments on the lower branches. This of course means that our tree is never going to find itself in Martha Stewart Living or House Beautiful; it's a bit...haphazard, shall we say. At least he clustered all the kitsch together in one place.

Sorry about the funky formatting; I've tried to fix it about ten times and I give up now. Maybe I'll come back in a few days to make it look pretty, because I'm really obsessed with that sort of thing, but I can't take it any more right now.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

The belated birth announcement card

We finally got our act together and ordered birth announcements, which arrived this week.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

Eure Kinder sind nicht Eure Kinder.
Es sind Söhne und Töchter der Sehnsucht des Lebens nach sich selbst.
Sie kommen durch Euch, aber nicht von Euch,
und obwohl sie mit Euch sind, gehören sie Euch doch nicht.
Ihr könnt ihnen Eure Liebe geben, aber nicht Eure Gedanken,
denn sie haben ihre eigenen Gedanken.
Ihr könnt ihrem Körper ein Heim geben, aber nicht ihrer Seele,
denn ihre Seele wohnt in Haus von morgen
das Ihr nicht besuchen könnt, nicht mal in Euren Träumen.


Monday, December 17, 2007

Bureaucracy, American style

Or how to get a US passport for a child born abroad, round two.

The requirements remain annoyingly onerous, but the US Embassy - at least in Bern - seems to have improved the process of registering the birth and applying for a passport and Social Security card since I went through this almost three years ago with Small Boy. I still need to provide Boychen's birth certificate, international version ("Extract of the Birth Registry Issued in Pursuance of the Convention signed at Vienna on September 8, 1976"); my passport; R's passport; and a copy of our marriage certificate. R and I were married in the US so I can just provide our license. Had we been married abroad I would need to request "Extract for the Marriage Registry Issue in Pursuance of the Convention signed at Vienna on September 8, 1976." Because only one of the Boychen's parents is a US citizen (that would be me), I need to provide evidence of my physical presence in the US for at least five years, two of which were after the age of 14.* This can be done through school records, tax returns, pay stubs, or the like. I just happen to have every report card I've ever gotten from Kindergarten through graduate school, so I'll be using those just like I did with Small Boy.** I still need to fill out but not sign form SS-5 for the Social Security number, form DS-11 for the passport, and Application for Consular Report of Birth Abroad form DS-2029. I stil lneed to provide two color passport photos with a plain white background and a maximum head size of 3.5cm and a minimum head size of 2.5 cm.*** I still need to go in person, with my infant child and non-citizen spouse, to complete the process.****

Where they seem to have improved the process is by sending you, upon request, an application packet with the necessary forms (no more searching and downloading! no more filling them out at the embassy while your baby cries!), two pages of instructions, and a sample completed form DS-2029. You can then fill out all the forms at home and send them, along with the passport photos and photocopies of the relevant documents, back to the embassy. Embassy staff will review the documents and contact you if there are problems. Once they have reviewed the application packet and have determined that everything is in order, only then do you go in person with your child (required by law) to the embassy to complete the process - which at that point involves signing the forms in the presence of a consular official and paying a total of 176.40 Swiss francs (US $147).*****

This preview by mail is a major improvement, since you are required by law to bring your minor child with you when you apply for a passport. It's a serious pain to go to the embassy with your child and non-citizen spouse during the work-week only to be told your passport photos are wrong and you have to come back another time. Or to be sent away from the desk repeatedly because something was wrong on your form DS-2029. So yay US Embassy in Bern. A change for the better.

Photos have been taken, documents have been copied, and I hope to make it to the Post in time to send off my packet for review today. Getting Boychen's passport, step one, has certainly been easier than getting Small Boy's was. With the holidays coming up, meaning the embassy will probably be closed for two weeks, I don't expect to actually get this done before the new year, but we'll see.

Coming tomorrow: Bureaucracy, Swiss style.

* If the law doesn't change, this means that if the Boychen lives his whole life in Switzerland and has a child one day, he will not be able to pass on his US citizenship. Bastards.

** Actually, wouldn't simply showing them Small Boy's registration of birth suffice, since it proves I've gone through this rigamarole successfully once already? But that would be too easy.

*** If you live in or near Bern and you need US passport photos for an infant, save yourself some bother and just go to FotoDany on Waisenhausplatz. They know what they're doing.

**** If only one parent appears, the non-appearing parent needs to provide a notarized letter of consent and a copy of a valid signed passport. This is so that I can't give Boychen US citizenship without R's consent.

***** Amazingly, the price has not gone up since I did this with Small Boy.

Continued in part two, part three, part last, and part last subsection one.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Love is in the air

It's here, it's here! The day I wait for all year is finally here! My 2008 Abfallkalender has arrived. Oh Abfallkalender, every year I fall in love with you all over again.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Hee hee - political humor

R just forwarded me this:

(Those are the first names of all the Bundesrat members; Christoph is Christoph Blocher)

You need to have seen this SVP flyer to fully get the joke.


More Swiss politics: SVP goes into the opposition

I see via Global Librarian that Frau Widmer-Schlumpf did indeed accept the nomination to the Bundesrat and in response to that the SVP basically threw her and Samuel Schmid out of the party. So the SVP is not (by their own design) in the cabinet any longer and has gone into opposition. Blocher is no longer in the Parliament but he is surely not leaving the Swiss political scene. Schmidt and Widmer-Schlumpf are in the cabinet without a party affiliation.

This is unprecedented.

It's also starting to hit a bit close to home. It's hard to say why without ripping off the veil of anonymity but R's job has something to do with somebody involved in this whole mess. His job is secure, as far as we can see, but it'll probably get weird and stressful around the office in the near future.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Blocher abgewahlt!

I know, I know. There is a labor and delivery story to tell, the counting of small fingers during the middle of the night nursing sessions, the oh! my! this is a gassy little baby complaints to make, the astounding pace of his weight gain to marvel over (born 3390 grams, three weeks later he is 4 kilos with multiple chins - perhaps that helps explain why I'm exhausted and eating 17 times a day?), the mystery of a whole new person to explore. I know, there is all that to write and I try, but I'm going to bed thirty seconds after the Small Boy these days and when I sit to think about these things, about the Boychen, it all disappears like early morning fog burning off with the sunrise. It's all in there, somewhere, in the incoherent bits and pieces in my hand-written journal. I'll get it out into something, something, eventually.

For now I can give you this: Swiss politics. Christoph Blocher, the leader* of the Swiss People's Party (SVP) - the wonderful people who brought you these flyers - has been voted out of the seven-member Bundesrat (Executive Council, or cabinet). Elected in his place with 125 votes is Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, an SVP member from the Kanton of Graubundin about whom I know nothing. Members of the Bundesrat are not elected by the general public, they are elected by members of the Swiss Parliament (there is a little primer on the Swiss Parliament in English here) - this means that the Parliament, where the SVP holds the most seats (but not a majority), voted out Blocher - probably the most well-known and certainly the most controversial politician in Switzerland - and replaced him with a different member of his party. So the SVP still holds two of the seven seats in the Bundesrat; they cannot reasonably argue that the all-important "concordance" (cooperation, congeniality) has been broken or that the SVP, as the most popular political party, has been deprived of a seat in the Bundesrat. It was a vote against Blocher and against the hard-line politics of the Zurich wing of the SVP (Samuel Schmid, the other SVP member of the Bundesrat, who is far more moderate than Blocher, was re-elected easily).

The SVP had threatened to go into opposition if Blocher wasn't re-elected to the Bundesrat; I can't see how they can realistically do that, though, seeing as how two of their members were voted into the Bundesrat. The Parliament is reflecting the will of the voters - the SVP won the most votes in the last election and they are entitled to two seats in the Bundesrat. The Parliament has given them that. They just haven't given them Blocher. So what is the SVP to do? At the moment - I'm writing this half an hour after Blocher results came in - the SVP is talking about how Frau Widmer needs to decide if she's going to accept the position (read: SVP party members behind the scene are pressuring her hard to turn down the position so that there is still a chance to elect Blocher).

Over the past few weeks cracks have appeared in the SVP internal party politics. The Zurich wing of the party seems to have gone a step too far in trying to enforce its version of the party line on party members. The hard-liners might have over-reached. The SVP, founded 100 years ago as a farmers' party - conservative, yes but hard-line xenophobic and isolationist no - the SVP is fighting for its soul.

This could get interesting.

* He is not the official party chief any more than George W. Bush is the actual party head of the Republican Party but Blocher is the leader of the SVP in the same sense you'd say Bush is the leader of the Republican party.

UPDATED TO ADD: Swiss Guy has a much more detailed post on the situation here.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

A clarification

Dear Small Boy,

When I wrote "may you always be willful," it was not meant to apply to dinner time. Or bedtime. Or to the wearing of hats on cold days. It was meant in a Lance Armstrong on L'Alp d'Huez, Roger Federer on grass, Rick Hoyt on Heartbreak Hill* triumph of the human spirit kind of way.

So eat your dinner and go to bed.


* I originally saw this video via margalit. Watch it. Get some tissues and watch it.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Purple prose

Mausi kindly awarded me a purple lion for powerful words. The idea is for recipients to list three things they think are necessary for powerful writing and then to pass the award along to five fellow bloggers. So what do I think is fundamental to powerful writing? Unrelenting honesty. Fearlessness in the face of the uncomfortable truth. And allowing, as Sy Safransky writes, "some room on the page for everyone who isn't us; for how much unspeakable suffering there is on this ublelievably beautiful planet; for the shining mystery at the heart of things."

I think most of my NaBloPoMo posts fell far far short of that (most of my posts do, but it's the landmark on the distant horizon I aim for, my true north), but it's nice to get points for sheer perseverence. I'm a great believer in the virtue of sheer perseverence, you know, so I'm honored to take my purple lion and to pass it on to the following five bloggers who are all much further down the road to the shining mystery than I.

In Search of Desert for refusing to click on "post" until she's satisfied.

My Topography for unrelenting honesty and beautiful prose.

Stepping Stones for transcending prose.

Southern Infertility for having the courage to make an intangible loss tangible.

Phantom Scribbler (though she's on a bit of a sabbatical at the moment) for being able to write like this while fielding questions like this from Adorable Offspring.