September 2010


One way that we learn Everett’s perceptions of what is happening around him is when he makes imaginary phone calls. He will pick up a phone or an acorn or a strap or almost any object, hold it to his hear and give the person on the other end a synopsis of what is going on in his life at the moment. From this we know that he flew over the ocean to Swintzerland, then took a train to Austria to see Carrie and Anna and Sophie and Armin, which was the next leg of the trip. This was the first time we had seen Carrie since Everett was born and the first time Everett had been introduced to her family.

It was fantastic to see him and the girls together, and it was great to see him get his first taste of alpine adventures. The weather over the weekend was sunny and warm, so on Saturday night we drove to Hintersee and hiked for about an hour and a half, followed by meat, cheese, beer and pofosen at zer Reithütte. The next afternoon we drove to Gosausee and hiked around the lake. Everett walked a fair amount of it and only got in the stroller for brief periods after registering major complaints about it, while the adults wanted to have a nice walk and have him in bed at a reasonable hour. The only way we could get him to stay in the stroller was if Sophie pushed it. This is a perfect example of the dynamic we have observed between Everett, Sophie and Anna. He wants to do everything they are doing, including hiking around the lake, walking up hills, climbing rocks, etc. If they are ahead on the trail he wants to catch up, and if they are behind then he wants to wait for them. At these times it is best for parents to adopt a style more common to grandparents: try not to have any particular goals or destinations. Just go with it for a while and then switch activities. After the hike, Everett managed to stay awake for the entire drive home, finally getting to bed around 9pm and waking up at about 5:30am, which is not good behavior for keeping parents happy. I recall many times as a child telling my parents that I was not tired at bedtime, and feeling some sense of injustice that I had to go to bed under those circumstances. But now I realize that it’s not about whether the child is tired or not, it’s that the parents have had enough for one day and are ready for some time to themselves. Everett, like most children, seems to have a lot of excess energy to burn off:

The rest of the week flew by, as time seems to when caring for children. One day everyone went to Salzburg for the afternoon. Armin, Sophie and Anna went to the Haus der Nature, Melissa and Carrie went shopping, Chris and Everett went for a walk through old town. Then everyone met up at about 5 for dinner at the Augustiner, which happened to be delicious. Everett began getting exhausted and manic around 6. By 7 he was falling asleep in the car and by 8 he was home and asleep in bed.

From listening to Everett’s subsequent phone calls we learned the following:

-Sophie was hurt when she was stung by a bee.

-He and Sophie and Anna got a ride on the Bedtime Party Bus, which refers to the evening when Melissa and Chris put all the kids to bed while Carrie and Armin went to a school meeting.

-Morritz the cat caught and killed a mouse.

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No, that’s not a typo – it’s how Everett pronounces Switzerland.  Our flight left Dulles airport on time on Saturday evening.  We even managed to sit together 3 in a row in the middle of the plane, which was quite a relief because according to the United website (and customer service for that matter) they didn’t even have seats for us.

Sunday: Upon arrival we breezed through the Zurich airport.  The combined time required for passport control, baggage, customs and car rental was less than time required to get through the airport on most domestic flights.  We put our bags in the car, had breakfast in the airport, went to the grocery store (also in the airport – transportation hubs in Europe are quite different from the US) and left for Ascona.  Everett slept most of the flight and woke up immediately upon landing.  “Are we in Swintzerland?!?”.  He also slept in the car for most of the three hour trip through some beautiful snow-capped mountains, which we thoroughly enjoyed even though we were struggling to stay awake.  During the last hour or so of the drive we descended from the high mountains to the more mediterranean climate around Lake Maggiore.

The first hiccup in this trip occurred when we arrived in Ascona: the owner had double booked our house for Sunday night and instead offered to put us up in a hotel.  I was pretty irritated but Melissa was livid.  We had specifically planned the trip this way so that we could unpack, relax and cook dinner after a long overnight flight with little sleep and a six hour time change.  Also, one big factor in choosing this house was that Everett could have his own room.  This was a lesson we learned when Chris gave a talk at the University of Chicago a few months ago during which the three of us stayed in a hotel room together – Everett would not stay in the crib without screaming, perhaps because we were in sight a few feet away.  So we put him in bed with us, where he was a miniature tornado until settling down at 5:15am, which allowed Chris to get 45 minutes of sleep before getting up for his talk at 6am.  Ouch.  Anyway, after talking with the owner of the rental house we looked into family housing at Monte Verità (the conference center).  No one seemed to know how this might work so we checked into the hotel, tried to rest while Everett bounced around the room, and then went for a walk.  Everett promptly fell into a deep sleep so we returned to the hotel for more rest and to get cleaned up for dinner on the waterfront.  Everyone went to bed about 8 or 8:30.

Monday: Amazingly, Everett slept through the night despite being in the room with us, and even required significant amounts of encouragement to wake up.  Melissa took him out of the crib, sat him up and rubbed his back while saying “Good morning Everett, we’re in Switzerland,” to which he replied “Thank you!”.  We had a fantastic breakfast at the hotel during which Everett was absolutely exuberant.  “Are we in Swintzerland?  I’m having chocolate for breakfast!  Hi birdie!  Where’s the cat?  Mmmmmmm, gnkn!”  Gnkn is the word Everett invented for milk, though he hasn’t used it for many months.  It’s pronounced just as it’s spelled.

After breakfast Melissa tried driving the car for the first time when she dropped Chris off at Monte Verità for the conference.  Chris sat through a day of lectures while Melissa and Everett went on adventures including walking the maze and hiking paths at the conference center, exploring the grocery store and checking into our house.

Monday evening: Melissa picked Chris up at about 5pm from the conference and we had a lovely dinner outside.  The house where we stayed was part of a property with several houses around a common courtyard that was flush with grapes, figs and other fruits that we couldn’t quite identify.  The figs were the best fruit I have ever eaten in my life.  We taught Everett to hunt for them and managed to snack on them repeatedly before leaving. As a side note, this is where Everett started sleeping with the door to his room open and the light on.

The weather on Tuesday and Wednesday was very rainy, which made the days seem long and very unlike our expectations from the final scene in the Sound of Music.  Tuesday evening we went with everyone from the conference on a boat to Isole Di Brissago for a guided tour of the botanical gardens in the rain.  It turned out that Danny, a friend of Chris’ from graduate school, was also attending the conference and the guided tour, so Melissa and Everett finally got to meet him. The tour was too much talking and too little walking for Everett, who took his shoes off and led us on his own tour.  In order to make it back within several hours of his bedtime we had to take the early boat so we missed dinner on the island and instead went to a restaurant by the waterfront where we learned some peculiarities about language in Switzerland.  On prior trips to Europe I have always tried to learn some local language, at least enough to function as a tourist.  This was partly to be a good international citizen, and to do my small part to overcome the image that Americans are as inept and self-absorbed as a certain Texan who lived on Pennsylvania Avenue until recently.  I usually give up when virtually all of my attempts at local language were answered in English.  However, in this region of Switzerland English is at best a third or fourth language for most people.  Melissa does fine with French.  And fortunately most people seem to understand the vocabulary I’ve cobbled together from French, German, Italian and English.  Anyway, the waiter at this restaurant only seemed to speak Italian, which is probably why he brought iced tea when we tried to order milk for Everett in English, French and German.  Perhaps Italian babies drink a lot of iced tea at bedtime?

The next morning Chris got up early to give his talk, then took Danny to the train station, stopping along the way at four different ATMs in an attempt to get money to pay for our house.  Each time he received my card back with the message “No transactions are permitted with this card.”  Finally he gave up and after dropping Danny off went back to the house to pick up Melissa and E.  Fortunately Melissa was able to figure out the ATM problem (make several small withdrawals). That evening we were able to spend some time at a beautiful beach and playground at the east end of the lake. Chris noted that this part of Switzerland smells like his maternal grandmother’s house. Or maybe it was the smell blowing north over the lake from Italy.

Thursday morning was absolutely beautiful outside.  We left the house at 9am and drove back to Zurich, stopping in Seelisburg to see the hotels on the cliff overlooking Lake Lucerne (Vierwaldstättersee). It’s always interesting to observe the peculiarities and customs that are used in other countries.  One favorite of the Barber family is the signs that are posted in France as you enter each town, often containing one arrow with the label “Toutes Directions” and an opposite arrow with the label “Autres Directions”. For some reason “other” directions are not included in “all” directions. In this region there are roadway signs that have a number with a circle around it like this one:
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and it’s a sensible assumption that this is the speed limit in km/hr.  It is less clear what this sign means:
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and it’s possible that Chris’ misinterpretation led to a speeding ticket that was received in the mail several months later.

We arrived in Zurich, returned the rental car and took the train from the airport to the downtown station for our trip to Salzburg.  Melissa and I had high expectations for this train ride.  Trains are a symbol of our love for travel as well as a great way to see the countryside.  And train rides are always preceded by a trip to the grocery store to stock up for a train picnic, in this case lots of meat and bread and local delicacies.  Oh yeah, and lots of stinky cheeses. When mold grows on cheese in the US we throw it out, but in this part of the world they charge extra for it.  Who knew mold and fungus could be so tasty? Anyway, on this trip we were particularly excited about exposing Everett to the whole experience.  We also chose an itinerary that went the longer, southern route to Salzburg through the mountains in Switzerland and Austria, rather than the flatter northern through Munich.  The first thing we noticed was that we had too much stuff to get on and off the train smoothly.  This was not a surprise to us – we had talked about it often while planning the trip, along with the stereotype of Americans who travel with too much stuff, and had even reduced our load by two suitcases before we left home.  After struggling to get our stuff on the train, folding and stowing the stroller, etc, we discovered that the train agent sold us two tickets in adjacent, airline-like seats at one end of the train, which required Everett to sit on our laps.  This person is probably not a parent or he would have mentioned that the car at the opposite end of the train had a “KinderKino”, which is an open play area for kids with stairs leading up to a picture window:
Seriously?!? Chris figured this out while scouting for better seats.  So we moved ourselves and all of our stuff and settled in for the rest of the trip, which was not quite as romantic as we had imagined.  Everett had not napped that day and was turning into a maniac rather than joining us in the blissful reverie of rolling through a foreign land.  Eventually we had to strap him into his stroller until he cried himself to sleep:
which is where he stayed until we arrived that evening in…

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For Beach Week 2010 we visited Rehoboth Beach, Delaware during the last week of August. Rehoboth has been part of Chris’ family for three generations. Eileen went there as a child, as did Chris and Sean, and now Dillon, Connor and Everett along with Kathy and Melissa. One part of that tradition has been Funland, which is a (mostly) indoor amusement park on the boardwalk that has scarcely changed since Chris, Sean or Eileen were children. There are still exactly the same rides which cost 30 cents each for toddlers. This week we took Everett there for the first time, and we weren’t exactly sure how he would react to all the noise, light and motion but he seemed to have no reservations at all. In fact, he was kind of a maniac. Chris distinctly remembers refusing to get on the boat ride because he decided it was unsafe:
Everett took off toward the same ride and tried to climb the wall to get into the water. Once the ride started he seemed absolutely exuberant, and as soon as it was over he ran to the fire engine ride next door, then the airplanes, the train and then the carousel. We had to put the figurative brakes on when he wanted to get on an extremely fast car ride that looked like he might be thrown off. Photos and videos are here.

During Beach Week 2009 Dillon was the only boy walking. This year all three are walking and also know how to open doors and climb stairs. This amount of development, combined with a lack of baby gates, meant virtually unlimited freedom for all of them. Bedtimes were loosely enforced; wakeup between the three of them was coordinated through loud cries, similar to a pack of wolves. Fortunately the boys wore themselves out and so at least took decent naps. It was a lot of fun but perhaps not terribly relaxing for the adults. A few memorable events:
-One afternoon Everett was sitting on a towel on the beach eating crackers from Noni when a seagull swooped down and grabbed a cracker right out of his hand. He was stunned.
-Chris realized that the significant challenge for beach photography is keeping people’s derrieres out of the camera lens: the people you are trying to photograph rarely want their own bottom in the picture, and certainly don’t want to see those of strangers on the beach. Various companies now make software for pasting faces from one photo to another. Perhaps there is also a beach bottom remover?
-In order to travel lightly we did not bring the pack and play. Instead we assumed that Everett would just sleep in a bed for the first time. But as it turned out, Chris & Melissa’s room had a giant walk-in closet with a pack and play included, so that became Everett’s special nest. Meanwhile, Connor did sleep in a bed for the first time and shared a room with Dillon, with mixed success. As a result of no containment and the ability to open doors, there was a lot of stomping around upstairs well after bedtime, as well as trips to the top of stairs to wave and say hi to the adults downstairs.
-Everett probably inherited his curly hair more from Melissa than Chris. As it has gotten longer we have hypothesized that the diameter of his curls seem inversely proportional to the humidity. More on this after further investigation.
-One night Chris was getting each of the boys a drink for dinner and he found some grape juice in the refrigerator. He immediately recalled the meals at Camp St. Charles where as children he and Sean would drink bug juice, which was basically grape Kool Aid with lots of dead bugs. So he offered the boys bug juice for dinner, thinking they would be repulsed by the idea, but in retrospect it is not surprising that they went berserk for it. Since then Everett has been picking up juice boxes and asking “Is this bug juice?”
-Hurricane Earl came through on Friday, September 3rd. There was a lot of hype leading up to it, and it certainly caused a big swell in the tides, causing the water to reach the dunes along the boardwalk. But the amount of wind and rain it caused was less than a summer storm.

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The combination of Chris’ work schedule over the last few months and the computer crash in late March have put quite a damper on the website.  However, things are back online now and we will be slowly adding a bunch of old blog entries, so the diligent reader can look back over the past few weeks and find the new ones that were added.  We decided to do this to keep everything in chronological order.  I’ll also try to add a few new videos here and there.  Stay tuned, and check the old blog entries often.

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