travel

10 days in Switzerland

We brought the kids to Switzerland for 10 days during the March school holidays – yes we took 5 babies on a plane 14 hours to Zurich and lived to tell the tale.

Normally, we wouldn’t do Europe with so little time but the Krisflyer Spontaneous Escapes promo that dropped in Feb was too good of a deal to resist. It was 50% off the miles required to fly to Zurich, which made it only 19,000 miles one way (that’s significantly cheaper than a redemption ticket to Tokyo) for travel in March only, so y’know, YOLO and all that.

How was it like bringing 5 kids to Switzerland? A lot less crazy than it sounds.

In fact, it was a very acceptable level of crazy. I’ll credit it to the fact that these kids are the best travelers and they’re the reason why we even dare to attempt these crazy adventures. They helped with the luggage and strollers and kept a lookout for one another and had zero meltdowns the entire trip. I was prepared for a bit of madness but it was all very smooth and easy.

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March is a really nice time to be in Switzerland. We started in Lucerne, a gorgeous city an hour from Zurich.

Lucerne is the kind of dreamy that is just straight up unfair. Nestled between the breathtaking Swiss alps of Mt Pilatus and Mt Rigi, the city is a mix of old world medieval architecture and modern shopping malls. Our hotel was 3 minutes from the Reuss and we spent most of our time walking beside the river, along the Chapel bridge, then to the colourful Altstadt to explore the cobbled laneways of the charming old town.

The husband says that I’m like 85 on the inside but I’ll embrace being an old soul because my enduring love for cobblestones and old school charm will probably never go away.

I still like trips where there’s a lot to do, but I’m also starting to really enjoy just being with my favourite people in the world, walking and talking.

On our second day, we sat by the Lion of Lucerne for an unusually long time, during which we saw bus loads of tour groups coming by to snap selfies furiously and then leave. The place was strangely moving and the kids didn’t seem to be in a hurry to leave so we sat by the little pond quacking at 2 ducks and googling details of the French Revolution.

The big kids were fascinated and even Hayley was like “Why is the lion so sad?? Did he lose his mommy? I think we need to give him some snacks to cheer him up.

To mix things up a bit, we also took a cruise around Lake Lucerne. After the ridiculous fjord cruise in Norway, we’ve developed a love for boat rides. There’s something about having the cold wind in your hair as you stand on the deck looking out on miles and miles of pretty blue water.

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Part 2 of the trip took us to Lauterbrunnen, our base from which we explored the Jungfrau region.

Instead of renting a car, we decided to rely on the Swiss Railway to get around. Turned out to be a great decision because the trains are convenient and comfortable. Okay, lugging the suitcases + strollers up and down the trains was a bit of a hassle but totally manageable.

Lauterbrunnen is nuts, you guys. This tiny little Swiss town is in a valley flanked by towering rocks and we woke up each morning to this.

Before we arrived, I read all about how Lauterbrunnen is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I took it with a pinch of salt because hyperbole, but when we got there, we were all a little speechless.

During the 3 days we spent in Jungfrau, we explored Lauterbrunnen, Interlaken, Grindelwald, and took the cogwheel train to Jungfraujoch, the highest railway station in Europe. It’s 3,466m above sea level, which is a lot of numbers but I really understood how high that really was when we reached the peak and I felt the ground start to give way beneath me. My head was throbbing and I had to draw sharp breaths and I felt nauseous so I found a corner to do my Asian squat with my head between my knees for a bit. I peered over at the husband and he was also looking rather green so we high fived on both being afflicted with altitude sickness.

I thought some time to acclimatise would help but not by much, so we powered on ahead to visit the viewing deck and some of the touristy indoor attractions.

One of the stops was the ice palace, which is an entire place covered in ice. The floor and walls were solid ice and there were ice sculptures of penguins and bears and a dog, I think. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore because on our way in, Finn slipped on the ice floor and split open the top of his left brow. It was pretty brutal – when I saw it, there was so much blood I thought he had lost his left eye. Thankfully, it was just a very, very bad gash that was deep and raw and angry. I don’t think I ever want to see this much exposed flesh ever again in my life.

I kept pressure on his brow while the husband carried him back to the first aid centre. They couldn’t do much up on the mountain so we had to rush him back down to the nearest doctor 2 hours away in Lauterbrunnen.

Poor baby took 4 stitches to the head like a trooper and I held his hand super tight as he cried and cried while they injected anaesthesia into his raw wound and stitched him up. Yeah that wasn’t fun.

On the way back from the doctor, Tru said sadly “maybe if we didn’t come for the holiday, Finn would be ok and not injured.

Which is…true.

But then also what kind of life would it be if we don’t do stuff because we’re afraid bad things might happen? Bad things happen all the time anywhere and the best thing we can do is plan and take precautions and after assessing all the risks, just go for it.

Although in retrospect, the only thing we might not do again is go back up Jungfraujoch and mostly because it’s more touristy than we expected + the altitude sickness makes for a less than enjoyable experience.

After sleeping it off for a night, Finn had almost completely recovered the next day. We asked him if he wanted to rest in the apartment but he would have none of it. He wasn’t going to sit around all day when the option to go sledding in Grindelwald was the alternative.

And Grindelwald? So much fun. The town at the base of the mountain is adorable and we spent the better part of our afternoon sledding at Bodmi, a super fun kids play area. This was Hayley and Theo’s first real experience with snow and they were in heaven.

They made snowballs and snow angels and snow castles and went up + down the hill squealing like well, very happy kids.

***

It had already been a spectacular experience in Switzerland but the pièce de résistance of this trip was definitely the stunning car-free ski town of Zermatt. It was like stepping into another world, like we had walked into Diagon Alley, except maybe even more magical.

5 days seemed like a lot of time to be spending in a tiny town but those 5 days went by in a flash because as the kids say, “when you’re having fun, a day is like one minute.

Zermatt may not have Niseko’s powder but that view of the Matterhorn as you come down the mountain? I don’t quite have the words to describe it.

After some time in the snow, the other kids preferred hanging out at the playgrounds and walking around the town so the husband and I took turns to hit the slopes with Truett. I don’t think I’ve seen this boy have so much fun in his life as when he was flying down the slopes on his skis. I asked him if he preferred skiing or Disney and I saw actual pain in his eyes, like “what kind of cruel question is this, mom??!

Being able to spend some quality alone time with my #1 baby who hasn’t been a baby for a long time now was a special bonus this trip. He’s grown up to be a really good kid who is funny and kind and considerate and very cool and he’s got such a big heart it makes me feel like we did ok as parents who had to learn everything on the fly.

My favourite part was getting to the bottom of the mountain so we could ride the ski lift back up together and chat while taking in the beauty of the magnificent Swiss alps.

And most of all, I’m just pleased that my almost teenager still enjoys our company and genuinely likes of hanging out with us. :)

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I’ll always be grateful for all these memories that we get to create together and I hope when the kids grow up, they’ll be as fond of each other as they are right now.

 

Hayley

Almost three

I try not to rave too much about my babies…okay that is totally not true and I rave about my babies every chance I get, but consider this my full on rave mode because this baby right here is in the most perfect stage (she’s been for the past year or so). She brings me so much joy but at the same time, every day that passes makes me a little sad knowing that I have one less day left of her babyness.

As it is, I’m devastated that I’m done having more babies and will henceforth have to be content with holding other people’s babies. I’m now the kind of person who does a double take when I walk past a newborn.

Nobody’s newborns are safe from now on – friends who have newborns know that I’ll be all over them in a heartbeat and even strangers, well let’s just say that I may or may not have used my baby as bait to start up a conversation.

Having big kids is great and I’m all for the benefits like savouring my full nights of sleep or having some semblance of my life back but I’m not prepared for this sadness that comes with letting go of 10 years of enjoying the weight of a tiny baby on my chest any time I want.

**

Hayley is a everything I could possibly want in a baby right now. She is so easy that it makes my life easy and some days I wonder if it’s because I’m a much better mom than I was when I started (those days were brutal) or if it’s just that this baby is such a dream. Probably the second one.

Here’s what a day with this baby looks like:

– go for walks along the Punggol waterway where she tells me about fending off lizards and alligators. (It’s my duty to prepare her for life’s catastrophes so she knows that if she’s ever attacked by an alligator, she needs to “JAB IT IN THE NOSE SO IT WILL LET GO AND RUN AWAY!!“)

– have snacks!! This baby is a snack monster whose entire life is about eating more snacks. “I haven’t had gummies for a long time (not true, it’s only been 24 hours)”, “how about tomatoes? Tomatoes are good for you right?“, “Is that chocolate?? I love chocolate it’s so delicious!

On the topic of gummies, she will try to pick out clumps of gummies that got stuck together after being in the fridge and try to pass them off as 1 gummy. “Look, this is stuck together into 1 piece so I have no choice but to take it.” Even when they’re not stuck, she will pick one piece and roll it around the bag like a katamari in hope of picking up more pieces. It’s genius.

– have a nap. Her, not me, although one of these days I’ll just live dangerously and join her for a nap.

– have fun with all the other kids. Her favourite time of the day is when everyone is back from school.

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Eating together is always more fun than eating alone.

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– fix dinner. I remember a time where fixing dinner was an ordeal, having to bounce a fussy baby while scrambling to throw stuff into a pan. These days, she enjoys helping to crack eggs and wash rice and hold vegetables to determine how squishy they are. And me, I just enjoy the company.

She hardly ever has a bad day. No terrible twos to speak of, no meltdowns or overall grouchiness. One time, she woke up 20 minutes into a nap and was generally upset at everything so I recommended a follow up nap to solve the problem. She laid down next to me, then sat right up and said, “I don’t need to nap, mom. I won’t be grouchy any more.

Are you sure? You’ll feel better after a nap and I’ll be right here till you fall asleep.

I’m sure. I will be cheerful now,” she told me, flashing me a huge grin.

It was worth a shot and just like that, she was in a fabulous mood for the rest of the day. Later that day, she came up to me looking very pleased and said, “see, I told you I will be cheerful right? I did it.

I have to give it to this kid. She’s made the experience of having a last baby pretty perfect.

from around here

So, February

February and I aren’t like the best of friends. We try to get along but it’s awkwardly cordial at best, with the possibility of being straight up dysfunctional far more often.

You always know what to expect with January. There’s the leftover high from the year-end break coupled with the start of a new year to keep things exciting but come February, it’s pretty much just a sad reminder of how much of the year you have to get through before you reach the next December.

In this particular February, I feel like I’m already redlining it two months into the new year.

It reminds me of the time I attempted to take up running like all the cool kids. Want to hear about it? Of course you do. I had decided that I was going to be the kind of person who runs. With much determination, I laced up my trainers, did my warm ups and started what was meant to be my easy 5km jog. About a minute in, all of my insides were starting to hurt. Another minute later, my lungs were on fire and I thought I was about to die. At this point, my mathematical brain got all like, “I’ve done about 200 metres out of 5000, there’s another 4800 metres to go and at this rate, I will be 100% super dead by the time I reach the end.

That particular run didn’t last very much longer and it was probably the reason I didn’t attempt another run for the next um, 15 years. I started running again last year and I still feel the soul crushing pain about two minutes into every run. I glance at how much further I have to go and will immediately feel the need to give up on life but I’ve learnt that if I just keep going, my brain stops registering the pain after a couple more minutes.

I think Februarys are a bit like that for me. It’s that point where the routine feels like an unbearable weight and I’m not quite on my game. I’m exhausted way too early for me to plausibly make it to the end and things aren’t looking all that great. Maybe I’ll catch a second wind or maybe it’ll be one of those runs that feel painful all the way through but the only way to find out is to keep going.

Drink some water. Put on some music. Find that little bit of joy or whatever it is that adds a boost to keep those legs moving until I find my mojo.

**

On that note, Finn and Theo are the definition of best bros around here these days and watching them hang out has been asking a lot of my ovaries. These two boys have been spending hours every day just talking to each other about their secret boy stuff – adventure missions and special powers and being in their little world with very complicated rules that only the two of them understand.

They take this very seriously – there are a lot of charts and many pages with detailed descriptions of special abilities. Finn will do all the writing and then they will huddle over the pages intently like it’s their 武林秘籍.

These two have the most adorable dynamics. Occasionally Theo will yell “kor kor Finn is getting all the powers” and Finn will try to explain himself like “no, we both have the same number of powers, Theo has 5 and I have 5“; to which Theo will yell “but his powers are more powerful than mine” and Finn be will like “WHAT?? He chose those powers himself and they are the same kind of powerful and it’s all imaginary. Urgh ok ok fine we can swap powers” and Theo will nuzzle his head into Finn’s arm affectionately because he knows that a big brother like this is something special.

Sometimes I watch them together and it’s exactly how I imagined their relationship would be like and that makes me smile.

**

I realise I haven’t really talked about the little 3-day trip we took to Hong Kong Disneyland last month. It was meant to be Hayley’s first introduction to Disney and also for us to get in some quality time with the two babies.

The trip was only 72 hours but I’m glad to report that both of those things were achieved to varying degrees of success. Turns out that this baby is terrified of even the slowest baby rides and is not a fan of all rides in general. Her first ride was on the Slinky Dog Spin (a ride that’s as relaxing as it gets) and she basically lost it from that point on. The moment we started moving, she grabbed me in terror and screamed “I WANT TO GET OFF NOW!!! LET ME OOOOUUUTTTTTT!!

I thought it was first time jitters and we managed to talk her into riding the carousel and the flying carpets, both of which ended up the same manner – with a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth. So that was that for this baby.

She’s more of a “let’s walk around and soak in the magical Disney atmosphere” kind of kid so that’s what we spent our time doing. Munching on popcorn, watching parades, and enjoying the cool Disney air. On the bright side, she was happy to chill out while the husband and I took turns to ride Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars 14 times one evening when it was a walk on. Also, why have I never done this ride before? It’s amazing, possibly right up there in my list of top 3 rides of all time. Disney World’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad used to be in that spot but this is definitely better in terms of pacing, backward drops and overall fun factor.

I’ll always miss the other kids who didn’t get to go but traveling with 2 kids was almost too easy. And they got to have our attention divided by 2 instead of 5, which in terms of math is a very good thing.