Sharing chapstick is probably how I ended up sick

WANTED: One little girl, trolling around the house, most often found riffling through personal items, such as, but not limited to: purses, rucksacks, pockets, drawers, etc. She has curly, wild-baby hair, ice blue eyes, and answers to the moniker “Little Bean.” Will frequently be yelling for someone named, “Dia.”

Taz has been with his grandparents in Italy for the past week and doesn’t come home until Wednesday. This means that Little Bean and I have had a lot of bonding time. It also means that I have had the easiest week of all time. She sleeps until 9 or 9:30 and after that we sit around the house and play and go for walks. The other morning I brought her up to my room so I could switch out my glasses for contacts and I left her in my room while I went into my bathroom. When I came back the picture above is what I saw. She has a tendency to go through my things when left unattended. Like any little girl she loves playing with “big girl” things, which include my purses and shoes. There have been numerous occasions when I’ve found her running around downstairs in my shoes, carrying whatever bag I have left by the door. As of yet, she hasn’t taken anything out and permanently displaced it, so I feel fortunate.

On this particular day though she was so funny. She pulled out all the items of my bag and lined them up on the floor. She then proceeded to “use” each item; smearing my Burt’s Bees all over her face, opening my wallet, holding the cell phone up to her face, flipping through my German books, and wiping her nose with Kleenexes.

Little Bean itemizing the contents of my purse

Just last weekend I caught a pretty nasty cold. On Friday afternoon I was feeling more tired than usual and had that little scratch in the back of my throat that no amount of water can seem to erase. By Saturday morning it felt as though 45 little sledge hammers were working their way around the inside of my skull, paying special attention to my sinus region. Due to a steady pill-popping regimen I was able to get rid of the headache and accompanying fever, but the runny nose has persisted. I wonder when there will be a day when I don’t have to blow my nose. I will refrain from detailing you any more with the aspects of my illness, but I will say that kids are germ havens, so I’m not terribly surprised I got sick. If this is what LB is doing when I’m looking who knows what’s happening when I turn my back.

I mean, how can I even be mad at her?


One Day (I will write a book)

Every once in a while a book comes along that just takes me over. This happens relatively infrequently, but when it does it’s always good. Usually I start reading and within the first few pages I’m hooked. I’m thinking, Man this is awesome! what is about this literature that has been compulsively reading and beggin’ for more? It could be the dialogue, the characters, the plot line, whatever it is, I’m hooked–bait, line, and sinker. The most recent instance of this is with the book One Day by David Nicholls. My mom bought this book for me as a little treat when she was here in March. I had read The Understudy the summer previous and was looking forward to reading more by him. I brought it with me to Spain and didn’t get an opportunity to read it until my journey home, which was my Disaster Day of Travel. I read the book in a 24 hour sitting. Excuse me, let me rephrase, I devoured the book; I couldn’t get enough of it. There were times when I told myself to just put the book down and let my eyes rest. Plus, I didn’t want to fly through it and not really soak it in. Alas, like an addict, I was unable to put it down.  I felt myself drawn to the characters and their situation. They were my good friends, my cronies, and I couldn’t help but want more, MORE of their story.

The plot is a new twist on an old genre, the romantic comedy. Nicholls tells the story of Dexter and Emma, getting together for the first time on July 15th, the day after they graduate from college. Each chapter takes place on the same date, the following year, for twenty years. The reader is taken through the evolution of their friendship, the awkward beginning, the familiarity of the middle and the exasperations throughout. Nicholls is one of my favorite authors for his ability to incorporate laugh-out-loud situations in a non-slapstick way. It’s genuine humor and comedy. He also is simply a great storyteller. I sent One Day back home for Courtney to read, not realizing that it isn’t even available over there yet. So, she has a hot copy– and she better start reading!

I bring all this up now, not only because I have a slight obsession with reading, but because last night I was privy enough to attend a reading by David Nicholls, himself. My friend Adam, who I more or less persuaded to become a fan of Nicholls as well, joined a surprisingly large group of other nerds for a night of storytelling. What we didn’t anticipate was that a significant portion of the reading would take place in German. As we settled in and the program began we realized there was a serious possibility we would not understand most of what was being said. Thankfully, however, Nicholls and the German translator (I’m assuming) took turns reading excerpts. The best part about this was he reads exactly as I ahd imagined. I don’t know quite how to describe what I mean by this, but I suppose it’s like seeing a movie and a scene in the film perfectly matches the imagery you created from the text. He then proceeded to answer questions presented by the moderator and also some asked by the audience. The questions were interesting and gave great insight into both his craft and his beginnings as a writer. One utterly foolish woman in the audience basically ruined the ending for the entire room with her inquiry and left the room covering their ears and groaning at her selfishness. It was a cringe-worthy moment and made me happy that I had already finished the novel. It was first live reading and hopefully not my last. I realized how insightful it is, as well as entertaining.

I guess what I’m trying to convey through all this jumbled mess is that I really want you to read this book (and his others! At the train station in Manchester I bought his book Starter for Ten and read it in much the same fashion. Highly entertaining). You don’t have to have the borderline-inappropriate relationship that I did, but I definitely think it’s worth picking up. I finished the book in Laax on Easter weekend. The Nonna was at the house with Little Bean and I while the family was out skiing. For the last couple chapters I was a hot mess, getting way too involved in the story. I felt sorry for her as she had no idea what I was so worked up about. Her English is so-so and as you know, my German is rudimentary at best. I couldn’t really explain myself in a way suitable. Let’s just say, the book stirred something within me. If you get a chance, head to the library or bookstore and give the book a try. And thus begins our international book club.

When I Grow Up

I KNOW WHAT I WANT TO DO WHEN I GROW UP!!!!! This is exciting. I’ve given it a great amount of consideration, weighed the pros and cons, and am one stop short of declaring myself employed. I want to be a travel writer. Feeling a little let down? Maybe you thought I was going to say something a little more practical or albeit in the realm of education, for which my degree has been issued? Unfortunately, no. Ever since I started this silly blog I have discovered how much I like writing. I have never taken a single creative writing class, dappled in poetry, or even kept up a steady journal. But, I have stumbled upon something that I believe I have a real passion for. Think about it, I know I have. I love to travel and I love to write. I cannot think of a better combination. I owe much of this idea to the fact that I am reading yet another Bill Bryson book. Jill loaned me her copy of The Lost Continent and I have been devouring it ever since. The book is about his journey through small towns in America and discovering little gems along highways, tucked back in the mountains, or perched on seaside cliffs. Jill and I happen to share a of love of Bryson and this book is no exception. It has me laughing out loud all over Zurich. I don’t think  I realize/care how embarrassing this might be, but I just can’t help myself. If I could, I would do a dramatic reading for you, but you will have to settle for just reading it yourself. This particular bit is about people who are fond for RVs:

  • “A whole industry… has grown up to supply this market. You can see these people at campgrounds all over the country, standing around their vehicles comparing gadgets–methane-powered ice-cube makers, portable tennis courts, anti-insect flame-throwers, inflatable lawns. They are strange and dangerous people and on no account should be approached.”

I feel like I could do this. I could discover foreign, or in Bryson’s case familiar, lands and then regale you all with my tales. It is a given that I would find myself in some noteworthy circumstances, therefore it would be an entertaining tale that I would tell. And to be honest, I haven’t committed myself to teaching quite yet. This would be a great distraction/job. I know it’s far-fetched, but it’s what I’ve come up with so far. I still have six months to decide, right?

I will leave you with another excerpt. This is what Bryson says about women in Iowa:

  • “Iowa women are almost always sensationally overweight– you see them at Merle Hay Mall in Des Moines on Saturdays, clammy and meaty in their shorts and halter tops, looking a little like elephants dressed in their children’s clothes, yelling at their kids, calling out names like Dwayne and Shauna.”

I know it’s a cheap laugh, but his writing his ridiculous and thankfully he doesn’t exclude himself in the slaughtering of American culture.

Green Thumb

"I'm so thirsty," it says.

This is the plant that lives in my bathroom. It has lived there since before I arrived. I have never watered this plant. I have been here for five months. I’m not sure how I neglected to water it, other than the fact that it was a piece of the room that I always subconsciously knew was there but to which I didn’t actually give any consideration. Last night as I was brushing my teeth in preparation for slumber I finally saw this plant and realized what a sad piece of nature it was. I stripped off 18 dead leaves–yes, I counted–threw them away and gave it it’s first thirst-quenching, life-giving drink in a long time. As of now it’s a pretty ugly little thing, but I will certainly keep you updated on it’s rebirth.

It’s the same way with the bamboo plant that sits on my desk. It took 7 weeks for me to realize that maybe I should give that sucker some water. Seriously. It was when Mom came to visit and we were sitting at my desk talking to Dad on Skype when I actually noticed it was there. Bamboo plants are frighteningly easy to maintain, so it would be incredibly embarrassing if I killed one. I water it roughly every 3-4 weeks and it has yet to wilt (and I’m 99% sure it isn’t plastic). The interesting bit is that Mom and Dad are both excellent gardeners. Our yard turns into some thing Better Homes & Gardens would be proud to display on their glossy pages. I don’t know what happened to me, but I don’t think I possess the gene for bringing beauty through plants. I remember once helping mom plant Snap Dragons in the backyard and snapping one in half as I was putting it in the ground. Thankfully, Mom wasn’t looking so I just shoved it down in the soil, completely unattached from the root, silently praying it would magically grow. A few weeks later, I’m pretty sure Mom wondered allowed why that flower was dead. “Hmm, yeah, that sure is strange. Best not to pay too much attention to it.” –Sorry, Mom, I don’t think I ever told you that.

Unrelated Nugget of the Day: The Mom and I have been talking recently about what my plans are for when I finish here. She is encouraging me to look for a position as a teacher here as they are always looking for native English speakers and people who actually have a degree in teaching. On Friday she sent me an email with links to all the International Schools in Zurich and the surrounding area. Yesterday morning I sent out about a half dozen emails to the schools inquiring about ways to get involved and/or position openings. I got a call from the primary school in Pfäffikon in the afternoon. Unfortunately the kind lady informed me they have no current openings and that I should check back in March for more information. She also told me that because I have an “L” permit I am unable to even be a substitute teacher, as they would need to supply me with their own work permit. Arg. But, I will not be discouraged! The chances of me staying here are slim, but it doesn’t hurt to look. Plus, after talking to Dad the other day I am reminded of the very real possibility of there not being jobs available in the States anytime soon. That Comedy Troupe with Jill is looking better and better every day…

Happy Father’s Day!

I love you dad, you are amazing. The dedication you have to your family is unlike any I have ever seen. You work so tremendously hard to make things possible for our family. I can’t thank you enough for all you’ve done and continue to do, not only for me, but for just about everyone you know. You don’t know a stranger and are eager to help those in need. Thank you for not only teaching me, but for showing me exactly what generosity looks like. You have such a servant’s heart; it has always been inspiring. You are an incredible father and I am so blessed to have you in my life. You deserve a Father’s Day that is as incredible as you are. All my love xxo

I wish I could be at home to celebrate Father’s Day. I like this day because it usually consists of us all grilling out somewhere, and honestly what is better than meat, flames, and the outdoors? In honor of the day I will share some of my favorite memories and pastimes with my pops.

  • Dad teaching me a to ride a bike at our old house. It was after a big afternoon lunch and I asked him about 25 times if his food had settled enough yet for him to run around with me.
  • Flash forward 10 years to Dad teaching me to drive a car. I did continuous backward figure-8s in parking lots so I could learn how to handle and control my car. Thankfully he didn’t slam on an imaginary brake pedal like Mom did : )
  • Going on church mission trips. He became famously known as Ricardo by the LYLAS girls and even has a dance move named after him. I loved having Dad along on those trips.
  • Father-Daughter dances at Liz Kelley Dance Recitals. Watching Dad stumble around on stage each week at practice and then finally for the big show made all the cheesy moves worth it.
  • Camping and fishing trips when we were younger. I may not be the world’s most rugged gal but I do like to camp. The time when a raccoon came scratching and hissing at my tent in the middle of the night really sticks out, although I know there were better times in there.
  • Going down the lake. Being out on the boat and coving out, waverunning, any kind of meat in the smoker, watching fireworks on holiday weekends, and hanging around on the dock are still some of my favorite times.
  • K-State football games. Tailgating before the game, screaming in the stands, the requisite snacks at halftime, and the celebratory dinner and beer (or two, or three) are all apart of the package deal. GO CATS!
  • Talking on Skype, even if it’s just for 5 or 10 minutes. I like catching up with Dad and hearing how things are going, although I usually do most of the talking. And we talk most frequently after I have just finished working out so I am a little out of sorts.
  • Most recently, skiing the Swiss Alps. Nothing made me feel better than knowing I helped one of Dad’s dreams come true. The day was horrible for skiing, but that didn’t stop us from attacking the slopes.

My Dad is awesome. His “take on the world” mentality has led me to do some amazing things, such as moving across the world becoming an au pair. He is always encouraging us to go for the “extra credit” and to “go big or go home.” Even if he doesn’t know it, he has pushed me to do better, be better, and achieve more. I am grateful for the sense of adventure I got from him and my drive to experience new things. Thank you Dad for being one of a kind. Have a wonderful day!

I love you Dad!

This song always makes me think of you. Sounds of my youth.

Baby Party

I woke up this morning feeling a little fuzzy headed. Yesterday was the Swiss-Spain game and naturally I had to participate in the local scene. I went with Adam, Phil, Nick, and Angela to watch the game at the Landesmuseum. In the courtyard they set up a monster tent with TVs, bars, food stands, and the nicest Porta-Potty I have ever seen. It was great to watch with the Swiss and see them cut loose a bit. There was yelling and ruckus just like at sporting events at home, yet there was still the air of reservation. The only true moment of insanity came when the Swiss scored the only goal of the game. At the end of the game there was tremendous celebration and singing. We joined the masses in the streets and headed to Longstrasse to find sustenance. Along the way we threw high fives like they were going out of style and I pranced about wearing a Swiss flag like a cape, thanks to my new, similarly named friend Cristina. We made it to a kebab house and hunkered down there for the rest of the night to watch the South Africa game. I’m sure you can surmise that we needed something to wash down all that kebab glory, which is why I’m not feeling top notch this day…

Since I wasn’t feeling my usual 100% awesome this morning I decided Little Bean and I should take a field trip. I needed to pick up my gym bag that I put in a locker at the train station, and since I wanted to devote as much time as possible to laying around and napping this afternoon I thought it would be best to take care of this business while on the clock. I had a bag with me yesterday because I went into town in the morning and had plans to go to the au pair meeting, hit the gym and shower before meeting up for the game. All went according to plan until I finished my workout and shower and was rifling through my bag to find my clothes. As I pulled out all the contents of my bag I discovered I forgot one crucial part of my wardrobe–pants. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t bring pants to change into. I only had the fleece-lined workout pants I had worn all morning and proceeded to sweat in for the last hour. You see how this is a problem, yes? I made a quick detour to ZARA and picked up the missing piece of my outfit before heading to drop my stuff in a locker. In the fervor of the Big Victory (and the old Feldschlossen or two) I forgot to grab my bag, hence the field trip.

So the Little Bean and I made our way into town for some girl time. I wish you could have seen us trolling the streets. We looked awesome. Jill and her baby, I shall call her Tibs, were coming into town so we decided to have a Baby Party. Our little ones are only 10 months apart, which would obviously make them perfect friends. We all met at a Starbucks, where hopefully a lifelong friendship would blossom. Little Bean and I did a “monster walk” up to them (this is basically something I invented and you just walk in a crouching position with your hands in front of you like a T-Rex). As soon as we sat down, though, LB went shy on me and didn’t want to immediately love her new bestie. Why they didn’t want to immediately become friends is lost on me. At one point we even pushed them toward each other into a warm-ish embrace that led to Tibs attempting to steal LB’s jacket. I was practically rolling around on the dirty ground outside, I was laughing so hard. I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was so funny, but really it was. We only had limited time to socialize as we had a train to catch.

We bid farewell to our friends and made the S2 train home. Upon sitting down LB became engrossed with the woman sitting across from us who was eating crackers. I swear Lb drooled a little. She looked at me with pleading eyes and the woman must have seen. She gave LB a cracker and then looked at me as if I should be ashamed of myself for depriving her of food. Ya right! This girl eats anything that isn’t nailed down. As soon as she finished the first cracker she shouted, “Mehr! Mehr! Mehr!” The woman gave in (it’s hard to say no to her sweet face) and passed over two more crackers. With a mouth full of crackers LB looked across the aisle and saw a dog. She immediately started barking at it, which is our usual custom. Spittle and crumbs of cracker were flying everywhere. Thankfully our stop was next and we were able to leave the train with what little dignity we had left. Still, I was proud to tote her around.