What I Saw Today

An acrostic poem for you:

  • White people everywhere! I almost forgot about the complete lack of diversity here.
  • Hangover-free-me. Surprising… But, hey, I’ll take it.
  • A horse manure obstacle course in front of me at one point during my walk this morning with the baby.
  • Tan lines! Oh yes, the sun is beautiful thing.
  • Incredible amounts of candy by my desk. Thanks to my mom, my sweet tooth has reared it’s ugly head.
  • Seasonal depression leaving my system. Seriously, winter was far too long.
  • A couple making out on a street bench. Oh wait, make that 50 couples.
  • Woman walking a bichon frise in her heels at 9:00 A.M.. France called and they need you back!
  • Tractors heading toward me as I navigate a pram on country roads. I am basically a Gladiator at this point with my hand-eye coordination.
  • One stack of Swiss Francs on my desk–payday was yesterday. Now comes the easy part, spending it.
  • Danielle heading toward me on the running path! I’m sorry we didn’t meet up sooner!
  • Apples on the counter. Coupled with peanut butter, it’s the new POWER SNACK. According to Shape magazine, that is.
  • You all on my Stats! Apparently people actually read this thing. Thank you!

Drink, drank, what?

I was informed this morning that a family friend would be coming over to dinner and I was more than welcome to join. Seeing as though I live in this house I thought it unusual to be invited to dinner, but nevertheless I made sure to be home from Zurich in time to shower and be ready for a 6:00 curtain call. When I got home at 5 the lack of noise made it quickly apparent that no one was home. I took a quick detour toward the kitchen to grab a glass of juice and a sparkling water. I headed up to my quarters and made myself presentable by 5:45. To be brief, preparation for dinner took longer than necessary and we were slightly behind schedule. I offered to help and was awarded the task of setting the table. I opted for the nicer set of plates, which would prove to be a minor mistake later in the evening. I found we were waiting for the Dad to get home before starting, and when he walked in the door at 6:30 several hungry people herded toward the table. This is also when the trouble began.

Drinking with the family is something that I still don’t always know how to handle. They always offer to serve me whatever they are drinking, which is not only kind, but appreciated. The Dad’s parents own and operate a winery so most of the vino comes from them and it’s decidedly delicious. At the same time, I don’t ever want to look a fool, like some kid that just got out of college and is used to hitting the bars with friends on a pretty consistent basis. Hmmm, sounds oddly familiar… Back to the story, we are all settling around the table (the boy is at Grandma’s for the week) and the Dad asks if I would like a little taste of home with dinner. Um, excuse me, it is only the anniversary of my arrival, of course I would like a celebratory whatever-you’re-offering. Turns out, it’s a Miller Beer. Now, I happen to find no favor with this particular brew, but as if I am going to turn away something that he thought would made me feel nostalgic for my motherland. He sets it front of me with his humongous smile and proceeds to set two Coronas on the table for himself and the guest. What is this, a joke? I happen to really enjoy Coronas, but  I shall grin and bear my “homebrew.” Not a problem.

Through the salad course I am casually sipping my beer, deciding that it isn’t as bad as I perhaps thought. Maybe I am recalling Miller Light, which I definitely know I don’t like. I happen to really like beer anyway, so it’s not like anyone’s forcing something down my throat. Moving forward, I discover that the Dad has pounded his beer and I have no more than 1/3 of mine finished. Listen, pal, if I knew this was a competition I would have put my game face on, but I thought it was just a casual dinner. He jumps up from the table in his typical fashion only to grab four wine glasses and a brand-spankin’-new bottle of wine from the cellar downstairs. Oi. He goes through the customary “tasting of the wine” proceedings and deems the grape juice worthy. I am presented with a glass of wine with my chicken curry. I look at my place setting and find and almost full beer, a glass half-full of sparkling water, and several ounces of Barbera wine. And these people want me to watch their children?

I try to pace myself through dinner, but it’s apparent that the alcohol is affecting me faster than I would like. I will stop to point out two things: (1) I drink far less than I did at home, mostly because it is so expensive to go out here and I don’t do it nearly as much as I did at home, and (2) Jill and I had a drink at lunch today so I already had a little alcohol riding my veins, not that this is a viable excuse. Either way, I digress. I make it through the dinner course, cracking a few more jokes than usual, paranoid that the family and guest know that I am feeling a little funny from the drank. When it’s obvious that everyone is finished I go to clear the plates, as usual. Wow, have I always had jell-o for legs or is this new? Perhaps I embellish, but everything is exaggerated because I feel I am being watched. While I am packing the dishwasher, dessert is dished up and yet another glass of wine has been poured for me. Meanwhile, I am clank, clank, clanking their nice (probably wedding gift) dishes into the dishwasher. “Oh, er, ya that chip has always been there.” Baby sips, I tell myself. I am definitely not drunk, but still, I always feel a little funny while drinking around the family. I remind myself that they always offer and have told me on numerous occasions that I am allowed to “store” whatever I need in the fridge (insert single eyebrow lift). So, I imbibe.

When we are all thoroughly smily and red-faced it is time to retire. I make a quick cup of tea and make haste to get up here and tell you all about this evening. Before I can climb to my chambers they ambush me. “Kristina, we are afraid you are using too much washing powder for the washing machine. Really, you don’t need as much as you may be accustomed to in the States. It’s just about protecting the environment.” So, you liquored me up only to remind me to use less resources? “Ok, not a problem,” I grin. What a silly night. Maybe next week in Spain I will set upon the difficult task of building a tolerance…

2 Months

It has been a full two months since I left the States. This is now the longest I have ever been away from home. The only other comparable experience is study abroad in Italy and I was gone for just over 6 weeks. I remember thinking as I was leaving that I wish I had more time since I was just finally getting to know my way around and feel comfortable in the city. Study abroad was the catalyst for this experience, in fact. When I got home from study abroad I was glad to see my friends and be surrounded by the comforts of home, but I wanted more time in Europe. I thought for several months afterward of ways that could bring me back. I had heard of au pairs before but didn’t really consider it until about a year ago this time. It was late Spring when the idea stuck in my brain and I knew I needed a way to talk to my parents about it.

I can clearly recall sitting on the back patio eating dinner with mom and dad and bringing up the subject to test how they would react to it. Honestly, I didn’t think they would go for it. Thankfully, they did. I put the wheels in motion in June and by August I had accepted the job. After a semester of having to split my brain between Student Teaching and preparing for this journey I couldn’t believe when January 23rd arrived. Truthfully, I am amazed at how fast the time has gone, and even more so in how much I have learned. The proficiency in which I can change a diaper is testament alone to how much my skills are improving. And let me tell, you this baby means business. It needs to be taken care of. Immediately. In any case, I’m happy I’m here. I’m happy I made the decision to do something a little wild and way out of my comfort zone. I think I was/am terrified of the prospect of saying to myself in 10 years, “I wish I would have…” I don’t want that a part of my future. So, I”m doing things I normally might not and experiencing things I never imagined.

Basically, putting all that edumacation and book-learnin’ to good use. Getting all cultured and stuff.

Fame

After my 24 hours of servitude I was in great need of time with friends. Luckily, I was treated to a pseudo-middle school sleepover on Saturday night at Kristen’s. Thanks to my recent acquisition of magazines I was able to bring a few to the party. Turns out there were already several there and by the time the six of us were settled amongst the pull-out couches and nail-painting station, we were swimming in a sea of glossy paper. It was fun to catch up on current trends and find out what kind of shorts and dresses I will be wearing this summer. We exchanged stories about our charges and families, and eventually the conversation turned to the people we were reading about: celebrities.

Being caretakers ourselves, we couldn’t help but discuss the merits of many of the celebrimoms in our magazines (Kate Gosselin, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon). What would it be like to be a nanny of a famous person? If we think we have children that seem entitled now, what would it be like with kids whose parents could buy them the world (Hello, Brad and Angie)? We also had an interesting conversation about the spin the tabloids put on certain stars. Our view is shaped based on what certain people decide to share with us, most of it being false anyway.

I think we were all struck by the impact celebrities have on our life, whether we like it or not. How did this monster get created? I am completely guilty: checking people.com when I’m bored, reading the magazines, and when I was home, watching E! I suppose I am just humored by how influential these perfect strangers are.

On an equally significant note, it was warm enough to wear shorts while running outside today. I can’t decide if people were looking at me funny because of the fact I wasn’t wearing full pants or because my legs are so pasty white. I’m pretty sure these things could glow in the dark at this point. Bring on Spain and the beach!

Soundtracks

Between train rides around the city, working out, and the general walking around I do on a daily basis I have a lot of time to listen to my ipod. Thankfully, right before I left a friend added just over 400 songs to it to keep things fresh. I’ve made several playlists while I’ve been here to keep me entertained during my various activities and I thought I would share some (consolidated versions) of my favorites.

THURSDAY*

  • “Mountain Man” -Crash Kings
  • “Assassin” -John Mayer
  • “Kings and Queens” -30 Seconds to Mars
  • “Armistice” -Phoenix
  • “The Runner” -Kings of Leon
  • “Seaweed” -Passion Pit
  • “Fight Test” -The Flaming Lips
  • “Love Affair” -Copeland
  • “You and Me” -Dave Matthews Band
  • “Policies” -Pete Yorn
  • “We Sing” -Vedera
  • “Undisclosed Desires” -Muse
  • “The Funeral” -Band of Horses
  • “Make this Go on Forever” -Snow Patrol
  • “The Man Who Can’t be Moved” -The Script
  • “1234” -Chairlift
  • “I Couldn’t Explain Why” -Citizen Cope
  • “Samson” -Regina Spektor
  • “Breathe In Breathe Out” -Mat Kearnery

WEDNESDAY*

  • “Our Swords” -Band of Horses
  • “Three More Days” -Ray LaMontagne
  • “Dig” -Incubus
  • “Daylight” -Matt & Kim
  • “Who Says” -John Mayer
  • “The One I Love” -David Gray
  • “Life in Technicolor II” -Coldplay
  • “”Oh My God, Whatever, Etc.” -Ryan Adams
  • “Crooked Teeth” -Death Cab for Cutie
  • “Island on the Coast” -Band of Horses
  • “9 Crimes” -Damien Rice
  • “Fans” -Kings of Leon
  • “Control” -Mute Math
  • “Finer Feelings” -Spoon
  • “The Last Stop” -Dave Matthews Band
  • “Shiver” -Coldplay

WORKOUT 2

  • “Lisztomania (Alex Metric Remix)” -Phoenix
  • “Boyz” -M.I.A.
  • “Fancy Footwork” -Chromeo
  • “The Reeling” -Passion Pit
  • “1985” -Crash Kings
  • “Bulletproof” -La Roux
  • “This Must Be the Place” -Miles Fisher
  • “Just What I Needed” -The Cars
  • “Easy Love” -MSTRKRFT
  • “Sinnerman (Felix Da Housecat’s Remix) -Nina Simone &Felix Da Housecat
  • “Run This Town (feat. Rhianna)” -Jay-Z
  • “Call On Me” -Eric Prydz

It might seem silly to include you all in my kickin’ DJ skills but with as much music as I listen to I always appreciate finding something new. The website http://www.runhundred.com sorts good workout music by category, BPMs, artists, etc. and it has been very helpful in the construction of playlists. I find that it’s much easier to push through those last minutes/miles of a workout if I have something energizing blasting into my ears. It’s been a pretty slow day around here, for which I am so thankful. I’m now headed back to House Rules by Jodi Picoult–Thanks again, Mom! Is there anything better than a rainy, Sunday night and the only activity on the agenda is reading a good book?

*Title of Playlist refers to the day it was made. Creative, right?

24

Oh. My. Stars. Mom said this while she was visiting and I had thought it before, but after the last 24 hours the sentiment has been confirmed: This job is absolutely the best form of Birth Control one could find. The kids aren’t little terrors by any means, but 3 kids is A LOT to handle. Mom, I don’t know how you did it. I respect you tremendously. I will debrief:

The Mom left at 1:30 yesterday, at which time I promptly but them down for a nap. I wanted these kids to sleep for as long as possible on my watch. When they all awoke at 3:00 they first asked for a snack and then asked the question that would end up tormenting me until the Grandma came to relieve me today: “What do we do now?” Maybe I’m not remembering my childhood quite right but I feel that my sisters and I entertained ourselves a great deal. I understand that I am there to play and interact with them. But, when you have all three of them looking at you waiting for you to propose the most fabulous and exciting idea, it’s easy to be at a loss. And, sometimes I just can’t handle playtime. The Mom had thoughtfully left me with an army supply of arts and crafts we could destroy, er, use. After exhausting that option I decided to haul them outside to the playground. I discovered that the house adjacent to the area owns about 18 cats and uses it as their own private litter box. Needless to say we all needed a Germ Blasting afterward. Upon returning home I “rewarded” them with a movie. The kids are ga-ga for movies; their eyes glaze over and they become catatonic when the TV is turned on. It’s actually kind of a strange sight. The dinner that followed was uneventful and the kids were in bed at a decent hour with no complaints–the Mom trained them like a pro. They turn into little zombies and head straight to bed. Unfortunately, I cannot say I was anything like this growing up. Sorry Mom and Dad.

The sound of children’s laughter can be sweet, I believe. That same sound, quickly transformed into shrieks and quarreling at 6:12 in the morning does not have the same effect. Yes, that is when my day started. After breakfast and cartoons (what else do you do on Saturdays?) it was apparent that I would need to supply them with entertainment. Apparently they are incapable of finding things to do on their own. The two oldest fight all. the. time. Seriously, you can’t put them together. I put my mind in motion and came up with the most brilliant idea. I would take them on a bus/train ride to take up about an hour and half of the morning. Let the record show this was NOT a good idea. I know that should have occurred to me, but I blame the fact my coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. We stopped between trains rides to play on a playground (minus fecal matter) and fed ducks in Zurich Lake, which was the highlight of the trip. After we trained home we found out that the bus didn’t come for another 30 minutes and we would have to walk home. This is not a bad walk alone, but with three tired and hungry kids–one who has to be carried– it is not pleasant. The last remaining hour and a half before the Grandma came passed without difficulty. I think the kiddos could tell I had just about had it with them. I guess I hadn’t spent so much concentrated time with kids before. Usually I can escape to my room after 5 hours of work and relax. Not so this time. It just never stops.

The Grandma arrived right on time and I treated myself to a long run on the treadmill to eliminate the tension. The rest of the weekend is mine and I could not be happier. I know Mother’s Day is a ways away, but Mom, I am so grateful for you. You are amazing. It will be a loooong time before any munchkins of my own appear on this Earth.

Back in the Saddle

Today was a sad day as I had to say goodbye to Mom. We journeyed to the airport this morning (with a considerably lighter bag, I might add) with countless other commuters on their way to work. Let me tell you, it’s fun to carry around an enormous suitcase while people push and jostle around you. I’m pretty sure I was everyone’s favorite passenger. Mom moved through the airport check-in easily and we shared a Starbucks breakfast. In order to ween her back into American culture, you see. Afterward, it was time for us to go our separate ways and this time it was me with the teary eyes. It was just hard to say goodbye a second time. When I left in January I knew I had this visit to look forward to, but now I have to wait another 4 months to see my parents (or anyone from home for that matter) again. Mind you, when my dad left in January one might have thought someone died with the production I was putting on. I honestly believe the Parents thought I was disturbed. I did much better this time. I’m terrible at goodbyes. I know this about myself.

On my train home I put on a good playlist and let only a few tears slip. I decided that, unlike when my dad left and I wanted him to put me in his suitcase, I am much more secure in my place here. The truth is, I’m not ready to come home. I briefly allowed myself to imagine what it would be like to be in Kansas City and it didn’t seem right. Don’t get me wrong, it would be great to see family and friends again, but I would rather you all come here. I like being abroad. I like being in another culture and experiencing things I only could if I was in another place. I feel there is already so much I have learned about others and definitely about myself, I am eager to see what else lies ahead. And, let’s get real, I’m not prepared to face the job market. Yikes.

Having said all that, upon returning home I found the Mom and kids taking off for the grocery store. I decided to take a nice long run and clear my mind. After showering and coming down for lunch I was greeted warmly with the Boy wagging his finger in my face, cocking his 4-year-old eyebrow, and scolding me for eating his favorite yogurt. The 6-year-old Girl reminded me that only Mommy can tell her what to do. Only the Baby seemed genuinely happy to see me. And, the Mom of course, as she is now out of town with the Dad for the weekend and I am home alone with the kiddos for the next 24 hours. Is it too late to run back to the airport?

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams; live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau