What You Say? (cont’d)

So remember that one time when I said that Taz said really funny things (see below)? Well, this morning his sassitude was at an all-time high, and I might have to renege on the aforementioned statement.

I do breakfast for the kids. This involves slicing bread, buttering said bread and then applying either (homemade, sent from the heavens) jam or honey. I always ask the kiddos if they want cocoa, and now that it’s getting colder they usually want at least one cup, if not more. On this particular morgen, Taz woke up for the first time at 5:00. This small human is the most active person I have ever met. And it starts immediately when he rises. When I walked down to the kitchen this morning he had tied a jump rope from the tail of his pony to a couple of boxes and was pulling them around the house screaming, “Yeehaw!!” <–They just watched a cowboy cartoon movie this week.

Needless to say, he was raring to go. After the children were settled at the table with their bread I asked who wanted cocoa. Taz said he did, so I busied myself with the electric kettle and began spooning Ovaltine into a cup. Not more than two minutes later he yelled, “HEY!! Du (you)! Where’s my COCOA!” I stopped cold and exclaimed, “Excuse me?!” in a not-so-nice tone. I think he was a little nervous so he kept his mouth shut and refrained from repeating the question. But, I mean! I cannot ever imagine talking to my mom, or “the help,” that way.

Moments later he wanted to ask the Mom a question. She had clearly just woken up and is usually not the hyped-up animated creature that Taz is. He kept asking her if he could say something and she kept telling him to wait a moment, she was making a coffee and he could talk to her when she came to the table. Over and over again he asked her, “Mami, kann ich du erpies sage?” (Mom, can I say something to you?) In the little man’s defense, she does often let him reach volcanic eruption before deigning to reply. Finally, the lava spilled over: “DU!! Get in here! NOW!!” All she said was, “Ok, ok. Ich komme.” (I come). Is this some kind of joke? When do I get to make the commentary on what just happened here? Your child just owned you in that last conversation. How am I ever supposed to get any kind of respect from this little monster, er, boy?

Like I said, I know without a doubt I would have gotten (and still would get!) some serious reprimanding if I ever opened my mouth to my mom or dad like that. The open denial of authority and blatant lack of respect make the prospect of leaving more and more palatable.

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What You Say?

As much as Taz can grate on my nerves with his constant need to move, shake, and be entertained, he often says some of the most wonderful things. The title refers to a question he often asks after I’ve said something he either hasn’t heard or is choosing to misunderstand in the hopes that when I repeat it I will change the message. Such as:

Me: “Taz, have you brushed your teeth and put on your pyjamas?”

Taz:”What you say?”

Me: “Have you eaten all the sugar in the house and shaved your sister’s head?”

He entered kindergarten this year and maybe it’s the time he’s spending with his peers, or perhaps it’s just another symptom of getting older, but he’s getting more snappy with his remarks. Last night I started working at 5:30 and the two little ones were playing in their room. I came in and sat down to watch them build a ship.

Me: “Little Bean, did you have a good day?”

LB: “Yesh.” (not sure where the sh sound at the end comes from)

Me: “Taz, how was your day?”

Taz: “Good.”

Me: “Great! Did you have fun at kindergarten?”

Taz: “Kristina, you don’t talk. Just watch us.”

So, apparently he’s not the conversationalist I was looking for. What’s the point of small talk, anyway? Don’t we all hate it? I guess he’s just being honest.

This morning, I was sitting downstairs with the little ones, surfing the web (a no-no, I realize) and Little Bean ambles over carrying a picture of an adorable blond boy. The small male model is a little fellow Taz went to Kiddie’s Kare with last year. At his birthday party, this boy gave out framed pictures of himself as a party favor—um, Narcissus called and he’d like his idea back!

In any event, the picture now sits in Taz’s room as a showpiece of true friendship. When Little Bean brought the picture to me this morning I asked, knowing full well who it was, “Oooo, is this your boyfriend?” She smiled coyly and said, “Nooooo.” Taz then chimed in, exclaiming, “No! He’s mine!” Oh, OK. Well, I suppose that settles that.

Just Dance

Kids go through phases of entertainment. I remember some of my own growing up. For the most part, we skipped the Barney phase and went straight to getting hooked on the show “Zoom.” This was a program that was educational in nature disguised as fun using song and dance routines. Science experiments were accompanied by techno beats and a little fist pumping. Nothing gets you jazzed for science like break-dancing.

These kids make learning fun!

Pogs were another favorite pastime of mine. What are these things anyway? Does anyone know? As far as I’m concerned the goal was to accumulate as many of these colored cardboard discs and shove them into capped tubes. Some might have been called “Slammers” but I don’t remember them having any more power in the nonexistent game.

Look at this stash-- the envy of every adolosecent.

Skip-It was the game du jour in our neighborhood. If you didn’t have one of these ankle-breakers you could consider yourself shunned. Poor Jill didn’t have one of these growing up and she’s still sour about it. I can totally understand. This game was, like, tOtAlLy kewl.

I can only dream of being as sassy as this girl in her denim vest.

Currently the kiddos are going through a party-music-dance phase. A CD player follows us everywhere in the house. I feel like one of those old-school rappers with an over-sized music-maker resting on my shoulder. Hook me up with a Tall Tee, low-slung jeans, and a chain or two and I’m set. The CD on constant rotation is “Bravo,” a take on the popular NOW CDs in the States. Currently filtering through the unfortunately acoustically-unstable house is “Shut Up” by the Black Eyed Peas; before that was “Toxic” by Britney Spears. If ever there was inspirational music for minors, this is it.

The moves they were busting last night deserved awards. These kids know how to groove. Thankfully, the way they gyrate their little figures stays waaaaay over on the “G” rated side of the spectrum. Otherwise we might need to talk about respecting our bodies. Speaking of which, Little Bean favors a twirling-while-simultaneously-raising-arms-overhead move that would bode well for her during a Lord of the Dance audition. Taz, on the other hand, really works the stomping-foot-on-ground tribal feel. I’m actually impressed with their creative genius.

I really just have a problem with the lyrics of the songs. But, I can’t seem to get them away from this disc. And the parents are fine with it. Right now, I just heard the lyrics, “Come on girl, come caress my body.” I’m blushing just listening to this. Last night we were all sitting around listening to a stirring version of “Milkshake” by the lyrical mastermind, Kelis. Taz turns to me and says, “I don’t understand this song.” My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/And they’re like/It’s better than yours/Damn right, it’s better than yours/ I can teach you/But I have to charge. I ponder for a few minutes about whether or not to tell him how paying for someone rendering services can quickly become a slippery slope if one isn’t careful, when he jumps up off the ground and begins to throw his body around with reckless abandon. Best to let the naiveté live a little longer.

The Longest Week of All Time

Alas, Courtney has returned to the motherland. Last week was one of the best I’ve had all year. It was so great to see her and spend time showing her things I love about living in der Schweiz. Plus, we had an amazing trip to Istanbul to visit Jill, which was icing on the cake. I will get to all this fun stuff in due time, but first I will fill you in on my time in Italy with the family.

View from the house with the early morning fog.

The ten days I spent in the northern region of our southern neighbor were, hands down, the longest of 2010. Not only did I simply not want to be there, I was looking forward to the following week with a religious zeal. Therefore, the days crept by painfully slow and I found myself performing the role of sullen, angst-ridden teen, a role which I never even played when I was a teenager. I know I could have been more social or perhaps even remotely positive, but in all honesty, it was just too darn hard.

A typical day: I would hear the little angels rouse at approximately 6:15 a.m. and be shooed back to bed by the grandpa until at least 7:00. I would roll out of my horrible excuse for a bed (sheet rock is a more accurate description) around 7:30 and slowly shuffle downstairs. I would putz around, follow the kids, or sit in one of the big leather chairs, staring off into space until we were called to the tisch for breakfast. At this point, the grandma would come downstairs and discuss the most recently broken antique or rare piece of porcealan. The children would be scolded for playing with ancient artifacts and reminded that they could be doing much more fun things around the house (it went without saying that I was responsible for coming up with such activities). After a lengthy morning meal, the kids would brush their teeth and I would clean myself up and prepare for the day. Then, we would head down with the grandpa to the chickens and geese, where we would stay, feeding and harassing the animals, for anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour. The rest of the morning would be filled with a variety of activities: coloring and playing drawing games, hide-and-seek, playing “restaurant”, reading, memory games. Other stimulating activities included: chasing cats, screaming and slamming doors, poking geese with long sticks or ski poles, covering each other in mud, and of course, breaking things. After a cardiac-arrest-inducing lunch, which often included me eating my feelings covered in cream sauce, the kids would go down for a much needed nap. For the first hour of this nap Taz and Rapunzel would usually giggle and yell at each other or play pretend games from between their beds. The second hour was usually more peaceful and consisted of actual rest.

 

The kiddos feeding the hens in the morning.

 

 

I could take pitcure of this little sweet spirit all day.

 

All this doesn’t necessarily matter because by this point I was free. I could do as I pleased. My afternoons were a mix of yoga, going for walk/run/explores, reading, and studying for the GRE. I spent a significant amount of time in my room, away from everyone. This is when I was an especially moody 15 year-old. I usually surfaced around the time for an aperitif– a glass of wine and a snack. Then it was time for another 7,000 calorie meal. Blessedly, it was then bedtime for the wee ones and I could spend a few more hours narrowing my eyes at book pages. I love to read, obviously, but even 5 hours a day can get a bit much for the avid reader. I wish I would have brought my computer so I could have watched movies or at least scrolled through old pictures, something to break up the monotony of the day.

 

Vineayard View--taken on one of my afternoon walks.

 

I wish I could be more positive about the experience. I was in one of the most beautiful regions of the country and spent a disproportionately large amount of time scowling. From my window I could see miles and miles of vineyards and rolling hills, and yet I found myself unnecessarily sassy and short with people. By the end of the trip I was just shy of being completely mono-syllabic with responses; I was, pure and simple, ready to get the heck out of there.

 

View from my window with almost-daily morning fog.

 

 

My little room (read: solitary retreat) in the house.

 

It didn’t help that the mom wanted little to nothing to do with her family (the dad had to stay at home and work until the end of the second week). She commented that she wanted to get a lot of “work done” while there. Thought-provoking activities I heard about or saw included, but were not limited to: watching “Confessions of a Shopaholic” on DVD, reading the new Mini Shopaholic book, listening to books on tape, playing solitaire on her iPad. To be fair, I did see her tap away at her computer. But I wish she would have been honest with me. I think she could have said, “I want to relax in the morning and just have some time to myself.” Rather, she had to put a pretense of doing work, thus leaving me in the dark as to what she was actually doing, and in turn making me feel like one of her (dare I say, neglected) children. At one point we were talking about a neighbor-friend who just got a dog. The mom was relating that this woman was feeling overwhelmed by taking care of the dog. I agreed, saying, “Yes, some people forget that having a dog is just like another member of the family. They can be a lot of work.” She counters with, “Of course she can always get someone to take care of it.” I looked her back in the eyes and said, “Sure, but what’s the point of getting a dog if you’re just going to hire someone to care for it?” This is her clear solution for her children– hire someone to play with them, read with them, teach them, raise them.

Often, what I find is that I am a luxury for this family, a showpiece. It gets quite old to feel unnecessary. These children want to spend time with their parents. It’s plainly obvious when spending any amount of time with them, and it makes me sad.

One very cool thing I was able to do was help harvest grapes. As I said, the grandparents live on a vineyard and make their own wine. They also sell some of their grapes to a local cantina. The kids and I were able to help them cut grapes off the vine and collect them in baskets. It was sehr cool to be a part of that process. As I mentioned, I also saw beautiful landscape and was able to spend hours in the afternoon exploring. I’m grateful for the experience of spending time in such a gorgeous location, but I am happy that this was the last time out there for me.

 

The grapes just before harvesting.

 

 

Vines

 

“24” noch ein mal

This weekend I was treated to another solid 24 hours with the kiddos, all by my lonesome. The parents were in Zermatt for a business weekend, which left me with the rugrats. When mentally preparing for events such as this I find it useful to plan for the worst. I begin to think of the weekend as the most miserable I will ever face. In this way I set myself up only to be surprised at what a success it turns out to be. This weekend was no exception. I had grand illusions that I would be plotting ways to flee the house without the children (and eventually the parents) noticing; I imagined clawing at my face in an attempt to escape reality. All this in the hopes of concluding the weekend on a pleasant note, shocked at how well-behaved my little angels were.

The kids were dog-tired when I started my shift on Saturday. After a lunch, in which Rapunzel was so exhausted she sat with tears streaming down her face because she no longer had the strength to turn off her own waterworks, we all went for a much-needed two-hour nap. Hard as it was to do, I managed to rouse the kids enough to go outside in the afternoon for fresh air. We rode bikes and drew with sidewalk chalk. Rapunzel and Taz wanted to draw the outline of my body in chalk and then color it in, effectively dressing me up in outfits far more fashionable than my leggings and zip-up. After we finished, the courtyard looked like a crime scene, dotted with bodies in various positions. I looked a little worse-for-wear as Little Bean didn’t understand the assignment and preferred to instead draw all over my person rather than the ground. The rest of the night passed rather uneventfully and the kids were grateful for a carb-heavy meal (think simple sugar coma), a Barbie movie, and an early bedtime.

Sunday morning came über early when Rapunzel woke me up at 6:20. She asked if it was time to get up. I promptly sent her back to bed and told her not to show her face until after 7:00, preferably 8:00. She showed up at 7:15 and began stroking my arm and whispering my name to wake me up. She often does this and it always creeps me out. I usually wake up with a start and am a little horrified to find her looming over me, petting my exposed arm that’s carelessly flung out to the side. The rest of the morning was a mix of catering to Little Bean who is once again sick. The sweet baby angel’s fever sky-rocketed and I called the Mom to see what I could do. She instructed me to encourage her to drink plenty of water and to administer, get this, two suppositories. Come again? I have to do what?! I have never given suppositories before and I wasn’t anticipating becoming a member of the elite groups of moms who do stuff like this. I don’t what it is over here, but they love those things. The kids are getting them all the time when they’re sick. The rest of the day passed rather uneventfully and the grandma showed up at 2:00 to take over. I was finished. That was that; certainly not a painful experience. This whole setting rock-bottom expectations may have something to it…

With my free time in the afternoon I decided to hit the running path by the lake. I’m slowly re-introducing myself to exercise (“Fitness, this is Kristina, Kristina, this is Fitness…) after weeks off my regular routine. Yesterday was gorgeous and I knew I had to be outside. I walked and ran along the lake and eventually made my way to Hurden, where the footbridge stretching across the narrowest part of Lake Zürich connects to Rapperswil. At 841 meters, it also happens to be the longest footbridge in Switzerland and used to be a part of a very important pilgrimage to Einsiedeln, where the Black Madonna lives. I’ve been wanting to walk across it for quite some time as I’ve seen it for months and have never tackled it. Yesterday was the perfect day for this and I’m glad to be able to cross another “want-to-do” off my list. Continue reading

Pick a Little

Little Bean has adopted a new habit. She’s gotten really into picking her nose and coming to show me her finds. LB will go digging for a while, paste a look of concentration on her face, then waddle over to me and say, “Ewwwww.” She will hold out her pointer finger and wait until I remove said treasure from her finger with a Kleenex. Yesterday, after about fifth time she did this, she took matters into her own hands and decided to clean the mess herself. She walked into the bathroom to dispose of her boogies on a piece of toilet paper. When I went into the bathroom ten minutes later I discovered that Little Bean has no knowledge of how to tear off a piece of toilet paper. She had unraveled the entire roll and put it all in the trashcan, which was now overflowing with the stuff. Of course, she also couldn’t disconnect if from the cardboard roll, so the toilet paper was stretch from the wall to the trashcan. I had no choice but to be frustrated with only myself for not coming to help her. This whole situation reminds me of an instance that occurred during my third week in der Schweiz

It can be kind of cute and charming when little ones behave like this, but adults I cannot forgive so easily. I have never been faced with a case of such complete lack of inhibition than by a certain gentleman sitting directly across from me on the train home from Zürich. He was probably mid-sixties and some investor-type fellow. Incidentally, he appeared nothing too out of the ordinary. His behavior spoke to the contrary.

The train had just pulled out of the station and people were pulling out newspapers and iPods to occupy themselves. As we were riding along I happened to look to the window, which has taken on a mirror-like quality since it was now dark outside. I noticed the man across from me was knuckle-deep into his right nostril. No, this was not possible; now way could this man be overtly picking his nose in front of all these people on the train. Then, much to my horror he proceeded to eat whatever little nuggets he managed to find up there. Absolutely, this was not to be believed. At this point I didn’t even know what to do. Should I send out some kind of mental SMS hoping the Polizei will hear me and remove this offender from society? I was barely able to get through this thought when he did it again, repeatedly, throughout the remainder of the train ride. I was mystified as to why this person had an appetite for boogers. Granted, it was dinnertime, but still, I was almost positive there were more appealing options for him at home.

Of course worse things happen in the world. People are dying and starving and suffering from abominable diseases. I recognize and respect these awful tragedies. But, this behavior is inexcusable. This salt-and-pepper haired gentlefellow subjected masses of us to his fetish. Who knows what other passengers, on countless other trains, viewed this? I just could not excuse this man for his revolting behavior. Thankfully, my stop came up quickly and I could leave this guy and let him eat in peace.

That is, until two nights later when I was sitting on a completely overcrowded train and was thankful I even managed to find a seat. I was exhausted, you see, from a day spent ravaging the remainders of a gigantic H&M sale. After dropping my sore body into my aisle seat I rested my head on the back of the seat and let the remaining dandruff of the prior occupant annihilate my scalp. I turned my head and looked into the window, which had once again taken on a mirror appearance. I took notice of the patron sitting across from me and think, Hmmm, looks familiar. Low and behold the man goes digging for treasure straight up his nose and I know where I’ve seen that mug before! It’s him, the same nasal miner from two nights ago. I was once again forced to endure this man’s disgusting habit for another ride home. I am not exactly sure what I had done recently to anger to gods so, but I felt that justice had been served. I immediately apologized for my unknown transgressions. Needless to say, this digger is on my radar and I will not find myself by him again.

Is There an Echo (Echo)?

Best Friends!

Little Bean is at the crucial and influential stage when she is repeating almost every. single. thing. she hears. She is a sponge, absorbing practices and customs of those around her. Many mornings Taz will yell from his room, “KrisTIna! Are you coming?” alerting me that it’s time to get up and get his breakfast going. LB has taken to yelling this as well. Taz will then announce his descent from the second floor down to the kitchen. “KrisTIna!! I’m COMING!” Prepare yourselves! Mr. Showbiz will then float down the stairs a la Miss America, 1,000 watt smile on his face. An obvious morning person.

Little Bean follows closely behind him, announcing, “Dina! I comingggg!” She then goes on to repeat just about everything anyone says. It doesn’t really matter what’s being said, she just wants to feel the words roll around in her mouth. Since we spend a great deal of time together she has started picking up my colloquialisms and phrases. This is especially true during diaper-changing time. When she has a messy diaper (the messier of the two) she announces a “cacki macht.”We traipse upstairs to tackle the problem. I will say, “Pee-ouu! Stinky!” and she promptly repeats. Upon discovering what treasures she has left I often declare, “Whoa, this is serious cacki macht!” And she says, “Serious cacki macht.” The other day was especially unfortunate and I mumbled, “Good Lord, Little Bean, this is explosive.” To which she soberly replied, “Ja, exposive.” The parrot-effect extends to the clean up job. I pick up the soiled diaper and say, “Come on little one, let’s throw it away.” Little Bean chimes in, “Throw it way!!”

Honestly, there is little she doesn’t repeat. If I accidently catch her finger in a zipper, bonk her head, or induce some other malady I always supply, “Sorry, little one.” Now, whenever she hurts herself she says, “Sorry,” as if she is somehow responsible for all her pain. Or, when I give her something like a snack, a bottle, a toy she yearns for, she says, “Merci*, Dina.” I reply with a polite, “Bitte schön.” Combine the two and when I give her breakfast in the morning or a coveted nookie her standard response is, “Merci! Bitte schön!

Nothing is exempt; she repeats everything. This has encouraged me to clean up my act a little and tone down the truck-driver language I’m accustomed to. Ha, just kidding. I would never tone down this mouth!

*Although Merci is French, the Swiss German speakers still insist on using it. In fact a standard sign-off or farewell often sounds like: “Ja. Ja. Genau. OK. Danke! Merci! Danke! Ciao! Ja. Ciao!!”

Unrelated: For one day I would like to speak in Auto-Tune. I am listening to the latest Usher (read: Errrsher) song right now and am revived at the thought of A-T– I thought this trend ended like 8 months ago. Somehow I think, “Brush your teeth and put your pajamas on!” would come across waaay cooler. No doubt the kids would respond better. And most likely break out into an involuntary, compulsory dance party.