Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair!

On Thursdays Taz is treated to a day of KiddiesKare, which is the equivalent of preschool. This means it’s just Little Bean and I for the day and we are free to take 2 hour walks around the countryside and Moo at the cows until our voices give out. It also means that she usually sleeps until about 9:30 or 10:00 and I have the morning to take care of important business such as emailing, blogging, or catching up on missed episodes of The Office or 30 Rock. This week and next, however, Rapunzel is out of school on Spring holiday, therefore she is home and I had to care for her as well. At this point it’s no secret that she is not my favorite person on the planet, neither am I hers. So needless to say I was a little disgruntled at the thought of spending all morning with her. After a reassuring talk with my mom last Friday I determined that I don’t have to put up with her shenanigans and petty tantrums. Fueled up on resolve to not take any of her 7-year-old antics I was ready to take on the day. All that being said, it ended up being a good day. Perhaps when you have extremely low expectations and presume only the worst will occur things can only go up.

The morning started out with a little beauty school session. Rapunzel just got a mirror, a la Snow White, for her birthday and we filled up the side pockets with important accessories, such as butterfly clips and scrunchies. She wanted to play with my hair, which I thought sounded like a great idea. I grabbed a Glamour magazine trying to complete the experience, undid my ratty bun and settled in for some stylin’. “Alright girlfriend, this hair hasn’t been washed in about two days so let’s see what you’ve got.” Turns out my hair isn’t so fun to work with and after about 2.5 minutes she was over it and wanted me to do hers. “What, I don’t even get so much as a bobby pin stuck in there?” I won’t go into the details here, but Rapunzel’s hair is her pride and joy. It falls past her butt and is somewhat curly, with a rather coarse texture. She loves swinging it about and generally wrapping it around poles and other objects in the house. It actually kind of grosses me out. But, playing with her hair sounded like a good way to fill some time and it allowed me a chance to contain it. Byt he time I was finished she looked like a full-on prinzessin, not to mention tightly bound with a number of rubber bands and bobby pins. No amount of Swiss wind was going to shake that up-do. I was pretty proud of myself.

After this came the elusive, “What do we do now?” question. Hoping to keep up the momentum of our unspoken truce I offered the suggestion of Arts&Crafts. She was game so I got down my Big Box of Supplies and devised an activity. What proceeded was an hour and a half of companionable crafting. I put on Ray LaMontagne Gossip in the Grain and began working on our project. Today we took tin cans and covered them with designs and scenes. The great thing about working with Rapunzel is that she needs little direction, unlike Taz who needs a general hand-holding through all proceedings. It turned out to be a fun day with a shock-worthy ZERO tantrums. Maybe I don’t give her enough credit. But, like I said, she’s not a complete lost cause and I knew at some point I would be able to find little nuggets of kindness within her.

The art project for the day. Can you guess which is mine?

Last night I had dinner with some friends in town at a very traditional Swiss restaurant and I ordered the cordon bleu with a side of rösti (Swiss hashbrowns). Why it took me so long to feast on this delicious meal I have no clue. It was fabulous, made only better by the fact it was stuffed with cream cheese and pine nuts. Excuse me, but I will eat bark if it has cream cheese on it. Needless to say I was beyond full when I left and am still feeling a little sleepy with over-indulgence. As we speak I am watching Little Bean walk around in my tennis shoes, wielding a cane. If I don’t keep an eye on her I fear someone will become the victim of a random act of violence.

This was on tap yesterday during a major creativity binge.

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We’ll All Cry if We Want to

Today was Rapunzel’s birthday party. I have been prepped on this event for at least the last three weeks, so I was expecting great things. I was informed that I would be caring primarily for Taz and Little Bean and my time should be spent keeping them happy and as out of the way as possible. Nothing like feeling ostracized from a 7-year-old’s party. It was impossible for the party to go on without a hitch as the drama started waaaay before 2:00 this afternoon– Rapunzel had doubts about the Guest List. She had already sent out all the Prinzessin Lillifee invitations when she decided one of her cronies wouldn’t quite fit in with the other girls. Thankfully the Mom didn’t allow this kind of de-friending and the little girl was allowed to show up at the party. In fact, there were 10 lovely little ladies in attendance today.

It was chaotic to say the least. I was ignorantly grateful that my role involved caring for only two of the kiddos. This feeling of ease was dispelled quite quickly as I realized how much a part of the scene Little Bean wanted to be. As the Mom was giving directions for the first game Little Bean decided the only place she would be happy was on Moms lap. I had to pull her off and distract her with a bottle of orange soda. I suppose it’s a good thing she has the attention span of a puppy and anytime I say, “Little Bean, look over there!” she goes running and squealing in whatever direction I point. As the girls proceeded to craft homemade candy necklaces, which were an obvious choking hazard for the Little Bean (no need to invoke my lifeguarding skills of CPR here), I herded the little girl all over the garden in attempt to keep her out of the way. After this event it was time to head for the back garden for Arts & Crafts. I happen to really enjoy A&C but it’s incredibly difficult with a noncompliant 2 year old and an overly jealous (and dare I say, cranky) 4 year old. Little Bean couldn’t play with half of the supplies as they would most likely find themselves lodged in her windpipe and Taz was so pre-occupied with ten pretty little things (a.k.a. the attendees) that he could hardly see straight. At one point I was holding is hand to glue down a flower on his canvas while his head was rotated approximately 180 degrees with eyeballs obviously engrossed in far more important matters. He finally became bored with my antics and had long ago ceased finding my humor entertaining; he wanted his Mommy and he wanted her now. He started this whiny game, for which I have no patience, so I let him wander the back garden and find her. I was left with Little Bean, who promptly started crying for no apparent reason. “Listen, Little Bean, my mind reading skills are on the fritz so I have no idea what the problem is. Care to divulge?” We soon found ourselves wandering around the premises playing with any and all bikes, toys, and pieces of nature that we came across. Any closer to that girl and I would have been considered her shadow. I long ago gave up on Taz and it was decided he could become a part of the party. That is until…

Rapunzel was finally to the point where she could open her presents. She had quite a stack going as well, with each girl having brought more than one goodie. With each shredding of paper Taz became more and more frazzled. Finally, an out-of-control jealousy rage struck this little boy with such ferocity that he had no choice but to throw his head back and wail. I flew to the scene, seized him in my arms and carried him to safe grounds. In actuality I had to talk him down from the ledge and remind him that this wasn’t his birthday party and that Rapunzel was entitled to all the presents that meandered their way into the house. I ensured that there was still plenty of fun to be had but, last time I checked his tears weren’t invited to the soiree. He sobered up and waddled back to the party. I was back to Little Bean-duty and she was amped up on sugar at this point. She alternated between running/screaming and stopping to stare off into space–telltale signs of a sugar-fueled stupor. She finally settled down when I found a jar of bubbles to play with. As we busied ourselves with the wand and bubbles I heard a wounded animal howl with pain from inside. Turns out it was only Rapunzel and she was upset for a reason unbeknownst to me. After recapping with the Mom tonight I found out that she was unhappy about the seating arrangement of some of the girls and the result of her “being too spoiled” sent her into a frenzy– Well, as long as we’re all on the same page… Back to the scene, Little Bean and I are happily playing in the front garden when the Dad informs me that I will be able to go to German class and that I should put this little sprout to bed and get ready to split. I inform Little Bean that it’s time to quit and she promptly throws her body on the ground and performs a routine commonly known as, “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” Her cries of pain probably had the neighbors wondering what horrors had befallen this child; only those of the evil au pair. The Dad took her from me and, mercifully, let me go.

As I walked through the door, headed toward the train station, I replied to a text Jill sent asking how the party went as, “Suicidal.” All three children ended up in tears at least one point during the party. I’m pretty sure Taz is harboring some deep loathing toward me for taking him away from his Mom for so long. And I never knew such anxiety and tension could reside among girls of such young age. I arrived at German totally out of my mind and of no use to myself or anyone in the class. When put on the spot to decide whether the personal pronoun was either nominativ oder dativ I almost cried because I hadn’t been paying attention and had no idea what was going on. Couldn’t my lehrerin see that I was in another world entirely, one that involved quick getaways and no birthday cakes(yes there were two; an extra one provided for the girl that is on a strict no-wheat diet)? Clearly, I”m beyond exhausted and my brain is about as comprehending as scrambled eggs. But, on the bright side, the next birthday isn’t until July…

Hast du dir die Hände gewaschen?

Have you washed your hands? I’m not entirely sure if it’s a Swiss thing or just the family I work for, but these kids are intensely anal retentive about being clean. At the first family dinner I thought it was cute how Rapunzel got up from the table to get a napkin for herself. I saw it as self-sufficient and mature. Now, every time a speck of jam hits the table from her bread I make up every morning she jumps up from her seat like it’s on fire to rush and clean up her “mess.” It’s downright annoying. It’s as if she is incapable of living in disorder. Mind you, this house is by no means tidy. There are piles of papers on the counter, toys strewn about like little land mines, and don’t even get me started on the nooshies lying around this place. The nooshies are the kids’ security blankets, although they look a lot like cheesecloth. Except there isn’t just one for each child, there are about 20 per kiddo. Heaven forbid we leave the house without one; it would put Little Bean into an uncontrollable tailspin, out of which she would not get until she could secure one in her tiny fist. While the house is nice, it’s slightly chaotic. Therefore I cannot understand where this compulsive need to be clean comes from.

For example, Taz and I worked on an arts and crafts project I organized yesterday after looking through one of the million books lying around. I thought it was clever and something we could hang in his room or in the play area. Also, it would fill a decent amount of time in the morning before Little Bean awoke from slumber, and let me tell you, this little bean sprout does not wake up well. Her favorite word until about 10:00 is, “NAY!!!” This project we were working on involved gluing down pieces of torn cotton balls to create a cloud effect. Taz could no more put one piece of cotton down before he had to completely clean his hands of all remaining glue/cotton. After about 5 rounds of placing the cotton and the ensuing cleaning of the hands I told Taz not to bother with this routine as it was going to take until tomorrow to finish and also, as he realized, he was going to get dirty in the process. He looked at me as if I needed a lobotomy and continued to scrape his fingers. I assured him everything would be alright if he waited until we were completely finished to wash his hands. He tilted his head a little as he considered this walk-on-the-wild-side and decided to go with my plan. We were able to finish the project in enough time to work on a second one, which you can see below.

Little Bean is just as bad about this. We can’t get through a jar of baby food without her having to clean up using her bib. In fact, if for some reason I’ve mentally checked out and forgotten to put on her bib she will remind me by thumping her chest like some sort of warrior call; she keeps me in check. So, with bib securely fashioned around her neck we can proceed to eat lunch. Sometimes an errant piece of food will find itself on her hand or cheek and I can’t so much as prepare another spoonful before having to clean it off. Seriously, she juts that bottom lip out and prepares to cry if I don’t move fast enough. She is also in the process of trying to feed herself. I’m sure you can imagine the mess that is created doing this. Let’s just say her fine-motor skills aren’t quite up to par yet. She actually takes the spoon and scrapes the crook of her mouth and attempts to get rid of residual debris. At least she’s got the right idea. This is great for her developmental and all, but it results in lunch becoming a lengthy affair. At some point I usually have to pry the spoon out of her chubby fingers and take the reigns, otherwise we’d be there all day. I would roll up my sleeves and help her get the job done, but she won’t allow me to push them up. When she sees this happens she quickly comes to my aid and pulls them down again. Maybe she’s like her Mom and is afraid I will catch cold through my forearms, but it’s more likely it’s her anal retentive personality. I don’t get it, normally kids are crazy about being dirty and getting in a mess. Not these ones though. They sleep much better at night knowing they have fought crime one germ, jam spill, or Krazy glue at a time.

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.