A Taste of Home

Through a magical intervention and precise alignment of the stars I managed to meet two people here in Zurich that lived in Kansas City. Since March we have been able to reminisce about our favorite eateries, old haunts, and “best things to do” in Killer City. Having this constant reminder of home has made the transition of living in a completely new city a wee bit easier. Recently one of my cronies, Phil, moved back to KC. Today he passed along an article highlighting the transformation our city has gone through. The New York Times piece presents a 36-hour agenda, a guide to help one navigate  new hot spots as well as the tried and true.It was great to read about places I frequent myself–if I don’t get some Okie Joe’s in me sometime soon, I might just lose it!–and also new joints I’d like to check out (Extra Virgin, Sherry Leedy— yes please). Living in Switzerland no doubt is amazing, but there are few things that beat the comforts of home.

As of late I have been on a new music bender, both giving and receiving. One band I can’t stop listening to is The Helio Sequence. They were offered to me by geniuses at itunes, who Thought I Might Like them based on previous purchases. Like them, I do. After the first run-through I felt like I had been listening to them for ages. It’s easy and effortless. Each song has a very unique sound, yet somehow the album comes together as a whole, making a pleasing compilation.

Schlaff Gut!

Fridays have always been a good day, and starting this new school year they just got better! Taz is now in kindergarten and he has one of the most erratic schedules. I’ll spare you the details, but Tuesday is now the only morning I have with him. Time with only Little Bean is so easy. She is really good at playing by herself and most of the time just wants me to sit and watch her do her thang. She brings me treats and concoctions she’s fixed up in her kitchen. I mime eating these delicacies and then she’s off to the lab to do more work. She also likes to sit and “read,” which involves her rolling her tongue around in her mouth and making the odd sound.

Today we played a game she often requests: Schlaff. Schlaffen means to sleep in Deutsch. She says to me, “Dina. Schlaff!!” Little Bean proceeds to push me down to the floor on top of the giant yoga mat in the living room. She then begins to cover me with objects she believes I need for slumber. First comes the Barbie Prince, obviously I wouldn’t want to be lonely. Then she brings me two nooshies, small comfort blankets that look like cheesecloth.On top of my side she continues to pile: a folded up blanket, five Euros in coins, two walkie-talkies, a Polly Pocket mirror and comb, a scarf, and a book about Christmas. She waves her hand and wishes me Gut Nacht. As she’s toddling away she suddenly remembers something she’s forgotten. “Oh nay!” she exclaims and throws her hands over her mouth. She runs to the play room and grabs the keystone to my nap. “A gookie!!” This is actually a nookie, which is a pacifier. She brings me two and won’t rest until I put one in my mouth. This is in no way going to happen (if you’ve seen these floors you would know why) and I pretend to put it in my mouth as I turn my head. I then spend the next twenty minutes laying on the ground, “napping.” I would have gotten up sooner but every time I made to move she started screaming and throwing my head back down. I happened to be wearing my nice, i.e., expensive glasses and really didn’t want them warped.

Taz, Rapunzel, Rapunzel’s playdate friend, and the Mom walk in to find me prone on the floor. The Mom is used to this game so for her it was no big deal. Rapunzel’s friend, however, gave me this look that said, “Who is this fool lying on the ground, covered in junk? She’s expected to take care of you children?” Believe it or not, sister, I get paid to do this.

Stumbled across this blog today. I wouldn’t consider myself an active member of the Grammar Police, but I admit I can be a bit of a stickler on some things. The Oatmeal has some great posts about how to use important things like apostrophes, “i.e.,” and “e.g.” as well as funny stories and comics. It’s along the same lines as Hyperbole and a Half. If you’re sitting around, twiddling your thumbs and looking for something to do, send yourself to the site. Certainly worth a gander.

Nose in a Book

Today was undeniably one of the most beautiful days I’ve experienced this summer. The temperature was a perfect 80 degrees, the sky was an endless blue, and an easy breeze came by at just the right moments. I had an inkling this would be if not the last, then at least one of the last true days of summer. I wisely decided to spend it by the lake with my new friend Michelle, absorbing the last few rays of sun and, most likely, a final dip in the lake.

On my train home I was mere pages away from finishing The Help; I nearly missed my stop as I was so engrossed in finding out how the novel ended. I have read a generous amount of books whilst living in der Schweiz. Some have been easy reads, a few have been disturbing, more than a handful have been an enjoyable story, but few have been remarkable, stand-out books; The Help falls into the last category for me. I mentioned last week that I hooked up my Kindle with this read and that I would start it over the wochender. Within the first few pages I had a hunch it would be a great story. I decided that I needed to pace myself through this one. I have a tendency to inhale books, often finishing them within a day or two.

I am reluctant to pick up historical fiction for fear the story will lack authenticity. This story, however, reads as such a genuine account of what it’s like to be a black woman working for a white family in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s (as if I truly know what this is like). Viewing this life from several different maids’ and one white woman’s perspective, the reader is privileged to an insight often neglected. The novel is written in a Southern dialect, of which I am usually wary. I find more often than not it detracts from the story as I must spend time translating and fighting my way through dialogue (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn anyone?). In The Help, however, the dialect comes across genuine and reader-friendly. I find it greatly enhances the story, yet doesn’t take away from the integrity of the voice throughout. I was immediately swept up in the story of the maids who work for these racist, catty, narcissistic women. It is such a deviation from any life I have ever known, I was amazed through the entire novel that this was the norm within our recent past.  It is funny, thought-provoking, and disturbing on various levels. Certainly a book worth picking up.

I was trying to describe to the Mom this weekend how much I was enjoying this book and how interesting I found it. I knew she wouldn’t be able to relate completely as she didn’t grow up in the States, but I was hoping my description would help explain how traumatizing life was for so many people. She nodded and gave me a little verbal feedback, certainly not the Book Club interchange my own mom and I share. As I finished telling her how much I was enjoying it, what a great story it was she says in a serious voice, “Well, do you know what book comes out at the end of September?” I’m intrigued, I always love hearing about new books. “The latest book in the Shopaholic series. That Sophie Kinsella really knows how to write a book.”

“Please,” I say. “You’ll have to pass that along when you’re finished.”

Say Cheese!

Believe it or not, sometimes it’s a challenge to entertain the kids. With Taz it’s an almost daily struggle to keep him occupied and engaged. I am constantly rifling through my bag of tricks in order to prevent a lack-of-stimulation meltdown. One hundred games of memory, countless drawings of boats, a well crafted playlist for dancing, and one snack of bread and jam later, Taz is still asking, “KrisTIna, what can we do?” “I don’t know anymore, Taz. Let’s listen to the sound of our breathing.” It has gotten to the point where I don’t allow that question to be asked anymore. Maybe it’s a symptom of raising a boy, or more simply, a case of a next to nothing attention span. Either way, it’s hard to always come up with things to keep them busy.

On Sunday morning in Laax the parents went out for a walk and to do some outdoor work; I was left with the kids for a few hours. My feet were still under the weather so I wasn’t up to taking them for a walk. I opened my computer so we could listen to some tuneage while we drew pictures of make-up (Rapunzel’s idea–surprise, surprise). Taz looks at my computer and asks if he can look at my pictures. Of course, that sounds like a great idea. I love looking through my pictures, who knew he would be so interested in my social life?

Browsing through iPhoto we come across many pictures I have taken of the kids. Next thing I know I’ve got Rapunzel on my other side and we are shuffling through photos of them. I open up Photo Booth, which we have used before to take pictures and videos. We then browse through these flicks and pics, taking some more as we go. Little Bean wakes up from her mid-morning nap and before I know it 2 1/2 hours have gone by. This is probably the easiest and most successful way I have found to keep them entertained, short of putting on a film. Idea noted for future rainy days.

Rapunzel, Taz, and I-- glamour shot!

Little Bean and I on another Photo Booth Day in Laax

Tooth Fairy (a.k.a. Money Bags)

Rapunzel is at the age where she should be losing teeth, right and left. Only a few months ago she lost her first tooth and it was a momentous occasion, as these events typically are. When this celebrated whitish, calcified structure found its way out of her mouth, Rapunzel grinned with glee, showing a mouth full of blood. The precious tooth was placed under her pillow and thankfully the Tooth Fairy happened by and placed a five Franc coin under her pillow. Contrary to your belief, this is not a misprint. She actually garnered five hot ones for a little piece of calcium. The next day Rapunzel, fueled by the missing mouth piece and five bones in her pocket, headed to school to show all her friends. I picked her up from school and noted the dejected expression worn like a mask. Apparently her friends didn’t think this was as special as she did. She was the last person in all of first grade to lose a tooth. This was old news; girlfriend jumped on the gummy bandwagon far too late.

Get it, Tooth!

I believe, however, that this time she has a far more impressive story to tell. Rapunzel had been showing off her loose tooth for, what felt like, ages. I get sehr squeamish around loose teeth and most body parts that do things they’re not supposed to in general. She was constantly running up to me, wiggling it, trying her hardest to prove how hardcore she was. “I can move it back and forth!!! It doesn’t hurt!!” Well, it hurts my brain to watch that, so let’s put it to rest. This morning at breakfast, she started crying after biting into her bread. “It hurts! My tooth! Ah, I hurt my tooth!” As she tunneled out her bread to get the soft parts, I enlightened her by sharing what some people do when they have a stubborn loose tooth. “When a tooth just doesn’t want to come out, you can tie a piece of string to your tooth, tie the other end to a door, and give that door a good slam. POP! Out comes the tooth.” Her fearful expression told me all I needed to know about her thoughts on that idea.

Cut to later in the day as I’m lounging on a chair reading my book. I see Rapunzel tying a piece of string to her tooth. She comes to me and says she’s tying it on there in hopes it will fall out. You’re missing one crucial step, sweet baby angel, and that would be a little acceleration. For the rest of the afternoon she walked around with this string like a tail out of her mouth. The Dad called me down for before-dinner drinks around 6:30. As I was making my way outside I heard a yelp of apprehension, a small squeak/scream, and sounds of celebration. Apparently the Dad had come upon her quick like a bunny, snatched the string and gave it a good yank. Thus, the tooth finally exited her mouth. She was too shocked to be upset, and again, with a mouth full o’ blood she smiled at me and informed me that the tooth was gone. When she went inside to clean up the Dad turns to me, hands me a glass of wine, and says, “I just couldn’t stand seeing that string anymore.” The joy of parenting.

Feeling Broken

You know how after a holiday you tend to feel a little abnormal? Maybe your sleep pattern is off; perhaps your clothes fit a little snugger than you would like; occasionally you may feel so dehydrated it’s as if a desert has taken permanent residence in your mouth. For me, returning from my four weeks of holiday led to all these symptoms combined to make one unfortunate combo platter. To sum it up, I was not feeling too hot. Monday was another Disaster Day of Travel, the details of which I will spare you. Basically my flight home was cancelled on Sunday night so my friend Phil and I were granted one night’s stay in Madrid and a seat on another flight returning to Zürich on Monday morning. I don’t know what it is with Madrid, but I seem to have no luck when coming home from the city. Clearly we are not meant to have the special friendship I was looking for.

Back to my predicament. I decided to take Monday off from all activity more strenuous than climbing my stairs to my princess suite. Tuesday, it was time to get back into my routine. After a solid 2 hour nap immediately following lunch I laced up my brand-new tennies (thanks mom!) and decided to head out for a run. Since leaving Neuchâtel I had yet to break a sweat that was caused not caused from the sun being turned on full blast in Portugal. My mind was still back in the rolling hills of the French part of Switzerland where I could run 4 miles and not be fazed. My body, however, was still in the sleep-til-11-and-do-nothing-more-than-sunbathe-eat-and-drink phase and was not prepared for the Body Blast I was giving it. I ran and ran and ran some more. When I couldn’t run, I changed to walking and interval running. I knew about 3/4 the way through that something wasn’t right; I was tired and my form was all out of whack. The only way home is on foot and I knew I could get home faster if I ran. It didn’t feel good, but I did it anyway. The yoga teacher, who preaches “listening to your body,” hauling herself home despite the dull pain throbbing in my feet– trust me, the irony is not lost on me now.

Over the next three days this dull pain has turned into an ugly monster residing in my feet and lower legs. It rears its nasty and deformed head any time I walk or put pressure on my feet. Imagine the pain of a thousand samurai swords stabbing my soles and sides of feet. I know I have a flair for the dramatic, but seriously, it hurts. I have hardly been able to walk. I do this awkward, stiff hobble that makes most people around me uncomfortable. Seeing as though walking is my most basic form of transport my family and I decided I should see a doctor. So I went to his office this afternoon and through a series of examinations, foot prodding, and grunting, he decided to take some x-rays. His overall diagnonsense: I have the pain and symptoms of a stress fracture in both feet–without the actual fracture. So, I am walking/hobbling around with more or less two broken feet. He supplied me with a cream to massage into my feet 3-4 times a day and a tablet to take twice a day. Hopefully, he says, the pain should be gone in a week. A week! That is quite a while to wait, but there is clearly nothing I can do about it. Except sulk, sigh dramatically, and read. I just bought The Help on my Kindle as mom (and it seems the rest of the world) can’t stop raving about it. I’m looking forward to starting it tonight and reading it while we’re in Laax this weekend.

Please forgive me if I seem a little more snarky than usual. I’m miffed that my Get Back into Shape and Order plan backfired on me so tremendously. Here’s to hoping for a speedy recovery!

That’s it for now

Last thing I ate: Handful of Snyder’s Sourdough Pretzel Nibblers that came in the care package I got from Mom yesterday.

Last thing I drank: Mineralwasser

Currently reading: Mercy by Jodi Piccoult. Great concept for a novel but poorly developed and written, which is a shame because normally I really enjoy her books. I’ve persisted with it as I have a hard time not finishing a book I’ve started; almost there.

Currently listening to: “When the Night Comes” by Dan Auerbach. This has been my go-to song lately; I can’t get enough of it. It’s so simple and such an easy listen.