Have I mentioned how much I adore my mom?  Just wondering, because there probably aren’t many days that go by without gratitude oozing out of my heart for that woman.

I feel especially grateful for her this week as I am fighting jet-lag upon “re-entry” into the real world after a pretty fantastic trip with her and the rest of “MFME” (a little acronym she came up with for all the women enveloped into our family).

My Mom, in her deliberateness and foresightedness (not sure if that is an actual word…) that is somehow part of her, knows there is strength in bonding and ideas and discussions and being together.  So she decided years ago that we needed gather every so often to buoy each other up, to learn from each other and to really KNOW each other.  And she figured out how to make it happen.  Sometimes it’s for an evening get-away after the Bear Lake reunion, other times it’s a little more extravagant like a trip to California (see the last one back HERE).

But this trip last week was the granddaddy of the others because we went to Europe.  We’ve been trying to figure out a time to get over there for a few years, and last year, since we knew three of the women in our family would be living over by this Fall, we decided to make it happen.  (My brother and his Swiss wife moved back to her motherland last spring, my other brother and his wife have been traveling around Europe, kind of backpacking style also since spring and have just settled in Spain, and my baby sister and her husband just moved to London.)

So, it was no easy feat to work around nine womens’ schedules, but we made it.  And I’m sure we will be reveling in all the beauty and bonding that took place there for a long time to come.

We all met in Zurich, traveled through much of Switzerland and parts of Germany and Austria.  We had two cars that followed each other through the most breathtaking scenery:

Through hairpin turns weaving through town after town nestled into the mountains:

We gaped at the flowers spilling out of the windows in practically every building we saw:

Listened to the melodic sound of choirs of gazillions of cowbells and sheep bells everywhere we went:

Explored all kinds of ancient, beautiful cathedrals:

Walked over miles upon miles of cobblestone streets and pathways:

Drove through more tunnels carved into the mountains than I could ever count…I think the longest one was two miles!

Learned so much about our Swiss ancestors:

Took in that gorgeous country our sister-in-law has told us about for so many years:

(Anita, the one from Switzerland is third from the left.)

Got lost only a couple times:

Took in breathtaking vistas:

And we talked through just about every topic you can imagine under the sun…and filled ourselves with wiener schnitzel and Swiss chocolate.

But let’s start at the beginning.  Let’s start with my seat(s) on the airplane across the Atlantic:

(because when the stars align to make that happen you just have to glory in it a little bit.)

As everyone started to trickle into ZURICH, hugging with huge smiles, some of us went out to explore the city.

St. Peter’s cathedral…the oldest parish church in Zurich with the largest clock face in all of Europe:

The Limmat River:

We took the stairs up into one of the towers of the Grossmunster cathedral.

 …where the views knocked our socks off.

Once everyone arrived we headed to SCHMIEDRUED where my mother’s Grandmother, Ida Weber was born.

Her family joined the Mormon church when she was very young, and by the time she was six-years-old they headed out to make the journey to America to join other converts there.

Part of me was so sad that she had to leave all this beauty.  One of the most beautiful little towns I’ve ever visited.

We took in the view from a ridge top waiting for the other car to arrive.

There is a museum in Schmedrued run by a pretty impressive historian.  He only spoke Swiss-German, but luckily Anita could translate everything for us.

The museum was built into the old school where my Great Great Grandparents must surely have attended (it was the only school).

Much of it has changed since then, of course, but see that minty light green color on the ceiling?  That was the color it was back then and see these stairs my cute little nephew Dean is “owning”?  They were there way back then as well.

Here we are with our tour guide and his wife:

 He was so excited we were there to pick his brain and he knew so much that he took us to the mill he would have imagined my Great Great Great Grandfather would have worked.

 Once again, with an incredible view.

(Keep in mind this was the first day…back when I didn’t realize that every single place in Switzerland has an incredible view.)

We found the very church our ancestors would have attended.

It all gave me the itch to do more genealogy.  So fascinating to think through those who’s blood runs through my veins, what they sacrificed, what they loved, how they lived.

That night we stayed, most of us quite jet-lagged, in a great bed and breakfast.  This was right before we left to go to Tal and Anita’s church.

I love going to church in different countries.  I love that the gospel is the same anywhere you go.

 Everything was in German, luckily they had little translator headseats for us.

 (My parents have been in Europe doing a whole slew of speaking things for the last month, so my Dad shared in Sunday with us.)

We got to see where Tal and Anita live in their new Swiss life (in an apartment on the second floor of this gorgeous place):

Anita made us a delicious Swiss meal:

 And we had the most fabulous Sunday walk that I’ll have to tell more about tomorrow.

To be continued 🙂
Part 2 is HERE.

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  1. This looks like an extravagantly fun trip.

    MFME stands for Mothers and Future Mothers of Eyrealm. I have always felt that this was a very unfortunate name for what is probably a great group of women.

    The name suggests that the group is closed unless you are a mother or are going to become a mother. What if one of the women, after marrying into the family (or already in the family) discovers she can't have children? Since motherhood is the expected life goal of all the females, no matter how many college degrees they get, how is that name supposed to make a barren woman feel? It's like rubbing salt into the wound. Even if you "let" them join the group and go on trips, they would always feel like an outsider.

  2. What beautiful pictures – you make that part of Europe look very tempting, Shawni! Maybe I should skip Italy and go to Switzerland instead. And how nice to be able to travel with your mom and sisters. Now that Elle and her cousins are reaching adulthood, how do you think it will work with the next generation? Do the men do the same thing?

    Some families are just child-oriented, Unknown – it doesn't mean people without kids are shunned or less-than. When there is love and sympathy on offer, most people don't choose to take offense instead.

    1. don't skip Italy. you can go to Switzerland in Italy too. but also go to Rome and Florence and Venice and Naples, and the sea side and eat some of the best food ever. 🙂

  3. Being child oriented is wonderful. And, no – I'm sure they are not shunned or treated as less-than. But they are pitied, and I'm sure they feel like a disappointment to their families and to their church because they cannot reach the goal placed before them. They are forever stigmatized at family gatherings and always the one being whispered about by the moms with 5 kids each… "poor thing" – and the name of that group just cements their sense of not belonging.

    1. Hello, “Unknown!” As a Mormon woman currently struggling with unexplained infertility, I thought I'd offer my perspective in case I can help you understand why I would not feel offended if my family had a “Mothers and Future Mothers” gathering. The reason why Mormons are so family oriented is that we believe that families are eternal, and we also know that because of Jesus Christ's resurrection, we will one day be resurrected and our bodies will be perfected. That means the blind will see, the deaf will hear, and the barren woman will become a "joyful mother of children." It gives me comfort to know that this mortal life is not my one-shot chance at being a mother. Even though I'm not pregnant now and never have been and don't know if I will bear children in this life, I consider myself a "future mother," because I know that one day in the future I WILL be a mother. Even if I live to be 90 years old and never give birth, I will still consider myself a “future mother.”

      I have experienced the stigma and pity you mentioned (believe me I went to a cousin's baby shower last night with my younger pregnant sister-in-law), so I don't mean to give the impression that just because I know I'll be a mother someday in the future, I don't ever feel isolated, awkward, and uncomfortable because of my situation with infertility. But that's not because I feel like I'm a disappointment to my family or my church. I feel left out because motherhood is what I want more than anything in the world–not because my parents want grandchildren, not because my church emphasizes the importance of families, but because I feel a yearning for children deep within my soul. I don't know why I have an unknown medical condition that is preventing me from conceiving children, but I do know that's it's not my fault, anymore than it would be my fault if I had cancer.

      Yes, there are lingering unhealthy stigmas about infertility all over the world that have been around for ages–like it's a curse from God, or a woman is worthless if she can't bear children, or infertility is a taboo topic to be tip-toed around. But I'm afraid that's part of our society at large, not isolated to my extended family, or to certain people in my church congregation. Please be careful not to confuse those false societal thought patterns with the doctrine of a gospel that is dear to my soul and gives me an amazing amount of hope. Even though the family is important and emphasized in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (aka Mormon Church), our male and female church leaders remind us that not everyone experiences an ideal family situation during this life, and that is not their fault, and they can still make important contributions and have very meaningful lives. (In fact there have been women leaders in some of the highest leadership roles for women in the church who have been single or childless–Sheri Dew, Ardeth Kapp, and Barbara Thompson to name a few).

      Since you are commenting as "Unknown," I have no idea who you are or what life experiences you have had. I honestly hope that you have never felt the exquisite brand of pain and loneliness that infertility brings. But before you roll your eyes at my comment, I challenge you to get to know me, because I'm a real person and I am not ashamed to talk about my infertility or my conviction that I have a loving Heavenly Father and a Savior who has atoned so that I will one day be free of the pain infertility causes me. That’s why I choose to talk about my infertility openly, both in “real life” and online on my blog. I choose not to be ashamed of it and not to be silent about a medical condition that tons of people struggle with. You can visit my blog if you want to become better acquainted with me. I truly wish you the best and hope that you have a wonderful day, Unknown!

      Love, Hannah
      (blog: http://www.viewfromtheairport.com )

    2. Hannah – I do appreciate your comment and your sharing and wish you the best. However, maybe just for this "life" – I think I would call the group WSWE (Wonderful Strong Women of Eyrealm).

  4. Amazing! All of your posts inspire me, but this one hit me at a personal level. I've been working on my Swiss geneology and I've had a major desire to GET THERE to see it for myself. I have let some of the roadblocks feel really big. (I have a newborn, I don't want to travel alone, I don't speak German….) I really admire how your family makes things happen. Follow-through it what makes the magic happen. Also, can I just say I want to be a ME version of your mom when I grow up. 🙂 My family has a long way to go to be as connected and supportive of each other, but I am trying to be the change. (Oh, and one last thing….my relatives are Krusi's, but I've run accross some Webers. None that were members of the church but stranger things have happened…perhaps we are related way way back!)

  5. I so miss Aja's blog!! I loved reading about her and Jonah's alternative lifestyle in Hawaii. Tell her to start blogging again! Also, I'm totally curious about their Europe trip. Are they just traveling for an extended period of time or have they permanently relocated?

  6. Ahhh, I have been reading your blog for quite some time now. I am from Salzburg and we live only a few kilometers away from the city. And now I see that you have been here ! I wish I could have met you just for a second 🙂 My husband ist the Bishop of one of the wards in Salzburg, we have 4 children and I am always impressed and inspired by your posts. Sending you love and greetings from sweet little Austria ,

  7. I served my mission in Zurich and the surrounding German speaking areas of Switzerland. These posts are amazing and sure make me miss that beautiful land! Thanks for sharing!

  8. I've never been to Austria (not yet!) but it's said to have some of the most beathtaking views in Europe. But I've never been really interested in German-speaking countries because I don't speak German and find it hard to communicate!
    I didn't know your brother moved to Spain! (I'm from Spain). Where exactly? Are you planning to go visit him? If you ever need any help with Spanish, let me know. 🙂

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