Want You Some More?

What a fantastic weekend! Despite the almost-unbearable chill in Vienna, we had a great time exploring and seeing some sights in this beautiful city. In addition, the Kings of Leon concert was out-of-bounds awesome. I promise to tell you all about when I’m feeling a little better. I’ve got a bit of a tummy bug that the Mom enjoyed last week. Honestly, I believe this family is slowing trying to kill me with all these little sicknesses. Either that or they’re building up my immunity to be so strong as to be able to take on 1,000 robots in immune-system-to-immune-system combat.

For now I want to share a funny moment from this morning. After putting together breakfast for everyone and cleaning it up I knew I needed to come back upstairs to lay down a for bit. Luckily the grandma is here so I can do this and the kids will be supervised. I came down to make a cup of tea a couple hours later. I sat on the sofa with Little Bean while I waited for the tea to cool. She asked me if I was hungry and if she could feed me. Giving in to her squeaky voice and unfailing charm, I said yes.

She sat on my lap with a bowl and a spoon and proceeded to shove “food” in my mouth. As she happily filled my belly with her imaginary food, she laughed and giggled, exclaiming that the meat she was giving me, “is so alicious!” I always ask her if he food is delicious when we we’re eating, and this is her two-year-old take on the word. She then scrapes the remaining food off the plate and yells, “last bite!” as she pops it in my mouth. Little Bean hops up and asks, “Want you some more food, Bistina?” Of course, my little friend. How could I deny her?

After four more plates of food, she determined it was time for me to sleep. She pushed me down on the sofa and covered me with nooshies and toys for a good night’s rest. “Gut nacht,” she said as she patted my arm, rubbed my back and ran away screaming that I was schlaffen on the sofa. I love her. So much. I am going to miss her terribly when I leave. I asked her last week when just the two of us were eating breakfast, right after she smashed our heads together and threw her arms around my shoulders, if she wanted to come back to America with me. She laughed and said no. Naturally, I’m a little upset she doesn’t want to become my adopted daughter but I can somewhat understand her reluctance to leave behind her family. But, she still has two weeks to change her mind…

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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.

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.

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.

I Promise I’m Happy!

I recently had a realization that I spend a significant amount of time talking about the things I don’t like or that frustrate me in regards to this job. I suppose it’s simply easier to talk about the bad things, and usually make a good joke out of it, than walk around singing the children’s praise. Why is that? I wish I could tell you, but I will spare us all the philosophical tangent and get to the point of my writing. I want to share some of the things about the kids I really like or think are really fun.

-Taz has this tendency to become my little echo and pick up on some of my frequent sayings. It always catches me off guard and almost never fails to make me smile when I hear him say something that came straight from my vocabulary. For instance, about a month ago I asked him if he thought what we were eating was delicious. He looked at me quizzically and say, “What is this delicious?” I explained that it means you are eating something you really like and think tastes good. The next day at lunch he told the Mom, “Wow, Mommy, you are a great cook. This is so delicious!” It was perfect and so sweet coming from his mouth. The other day we were making cakes out in the sandbox and he asked me if I wanted apples in it. “Of course, that would be great.” And would you like bananas in it? “Yes! Please!” And how about some delicious? “Mmmm yes, as much delicious as possible.” If ‘delicious’ came on the shelf you can bet I would have bought it all up by now. He is a very affectionate little man. Sometimes we will just be sitting at the table eating a meal and he will reach over, hook his little arm around my neck and say, “I love you” and rest his head on my arm. I can’t help but love him back in those little moments.

-Little Bean is also wonderful. She too has taken on the habit of picking up my colloquialisms. It started when I would say, “Beep, beep” if she was standing in front of something I needed to get to, such as the trash can. Later while she was pushing some cars around on the floor one ran into my leg. “Beep, beep,” she said through a mouthful of nuggi (pacifier). Now, she and Taz are routinely getting in little traffic jams around the house just so they can say, “beep, beep” to each other. The wee one also learned something that stopped me in my tracks one day. Let me preface by saying that Little Bean and I had a slightly tumultuous relationship to begin with. She wasn’t so keen on me being the new person to take her away from her Mommy and it took some time for her to bond with me. Obviously this had me a little upset as she would shriek and thrash her body around whenever I came to get her out of her crib (I wish I was exaggerating). After about a month or so she came to trust and like me and now I can safely say (knock on wood) we are fast friends. So, one day I was walking her downstairs after changing her diaper and she locked her arms around my neck, nuzzled her head next to mine and said, “Big hug!” I couldn’t have appreciated a big hug any more. There is something about a hug from a little kiddo, totally unprompted that just makes you feel good. Oh shoot, now I’m starting to tear up…

-For the most part, Taz and Little Bean are good together. Taz likes to be the big brother and LB is happy to tag along. Since it has gotten so nice out we have been in the routine of taking long walks in the morning. In my particular village and there is no shortage of cows and other livestock. The kids love these big beasts and frequently request to stop and talk to them. Only happy to indulge in this request, I will stop the pram and let the two little ones yell, “MOOOOO!!” as loud as they can at all the cows. It’s actually pretty funny and the cows don’t seem to mind. They usually continue to grind whatever blades of grass they’ve been working on. Sometimes I will join in and we certainly look like quite the trio as we stand and holler at the cows. The kids are always hoping for a conversation with a bovine but I have yet to tell them that probably won’t happen. I just don’t want to disappoint them.

-As for Rapunzel, well that is a different story. I have tried, really I have. For us, though, it just doesn’t work. I have attempted to find the wonderful qualities about her that are hidden underneath a layer of royal snobbery but even with all the best mining equipment, I cannot find them. We just don’t get along. I don’t put up with her bossy attitude and I don’t let her get away with trying to call the shots. It’s tricky because I hardly spend time with her as she is in school for most of the time I work. Maybe that’s why I don’t make more of an effort to like her. Today, however, I picked her up from school, as usual per Fridays and asked her if she wanted a piggy back. She was giddy with enthusiasm and eagerly climbed aboard. We galloped, skipped, and walked our way home and it was actually really nice. There was no whining or complaining and I was genuinely happy to be in her company. As soon as we stepped through the door and she saw someone had played with some toys she had designated as being “hers” for the afternoon she immediately started crying and throwing a fit. I remembered why we have such a hard time getting along: I just can’t see the value in getting upset about such petty things, and much as I’ve tried, I can’t seem to break down the meaning of, “No use crying over spilled milk”  well enough for her. She certainly isn’t a hopeless case in my book, but she is just one tough nut to crack.

Art Linkletter Got it Right…

…when he said, “Kids say the darnedest things.” Most days the kids amaze me with some of the things they say and today was no exception. In fact, it was an especially entertaining day. This morning at breakfast I was sitting with Rapunzel enjoying some bread with jam and she was talking about her birthday, which is tomorrow. She says, “Tomorrow is my birthday.” I wish you could hear it, though. It’s with this terrible inflection, like I’m so much better than you because I have a day of birthday celebration and you don’t. It really works on my nerves. “Yes, you’re right. This is so exciting,” I say. To which she responds, “And I get lots and lots of presents. Only me. And there will be none for you.” Then she has the nerve to give me the most disgusting smile and try to wrap her Gumby-esque, skinny limbs around me. It’s all I can do to not snap one of those arms, so I gently push her off of me and continue to eat without responding. She continues to push, “Are you going into town to buy me a present today?” Honestly, this kind of behavior makes me ill. I can hardly handle this sense of entitlement. In fact, I was going into town to buy her a present that afternoon, but now the only thing I want to give her comes out the back-end of a dog. Maybe if I gift wrap it nicely she won’t know the difference.

Taz was much more comical today. He slept in a bit, which is highly unusual for him. He’s more of a 6:00 A.M. sort of fellow, preferring to wake the house up with the latest tune he learned at Kiddie’s Kare. The refrain, “I love you, you love you,” has been on repeat this entire week. After a second breakfast with him I started getting some puzzles and games down for us to work on. The radio is on every morning rather than the TV and already it has driven me crazy. I’m not a radio person in the first place, and it is absolutely terrible here. Every other song is Ke$ha and the other songs are either one hit wonders or power ballads. And it’s all American music. One morning I heard a Swiss/country version of Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” followed by “Gangsta’s Paradise,” a la Coolio. Nothing sets the tone on Easter morning quite like Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” in the background.

At any rate, this morning I was not willing to subject myself to such torture so I put on European MTV, which is essentially music videos all day and the selection is pretty decent for the most part. So there we are in living room and I look over and see these girls “club dancing” on the TV, meanwhile Taz is laying on the couch, one leg crossed over the other, hands clasped behind his head, the epitome of relaxation. OK, we need to get out of here. I certainly am not going to let him sit here and watch this. We move our party to the dining room to work on a puzzle and all the sudden Taz starts bobbing his head and says, “Uh, uh, I can be your freak; I can be your freak.” I lost it. I was laughing so hard I was crying. Apparently I hadn’t been paying attention to the words from the music video and they were a little more explicit than what a 4 year old should be exposed to. I started singing every children’s song I could think of in order to fill his mind with more age-appropriate lyrics.

Later that morning Taz, Little Bean, and I went on a walk to pick Rapunzel up from school. For some reason I still haven’t figured out, Taz has an aversion to a particular crosswalk we needed to use. He told me in a very firm voice that we were not going to cross there. I politely, and equally firmly told him that we were indeed going to cross there. He said, “No.” I said, “Yes.” No.” “Yes.” Then, he stomps his little foot on the ground, looks up at me and repeats to me what I say to the kids when they become obnoxiously defiant, “When I say ‘No’ it means NO.” ”

WHOA-OA-OA, Mister!” I stepped back and looked at him and we both started laughing. I couldn’t believe it; that line sounded so funny coming out of his little mouth. “No way,” I told him, “I call the shots around here, and that was cute, but I am not having it.” I took hold of his hand and proceeded to guide him across the crosswalk, which in the midst of our laughter, lost all of its danger. Kids really are listening and processing what you say. They may not completely understand the language, but it’s in their heads and they aren’t afraid to use it.

Deutsch Lernen in der Schweiz

I was enrolled in an intensive German course during the first couple weeks I was here. It was two hours and for two weeks I would sit among my fellow students and practice rolling this new language around in my mouth like a hot piece of food. The most interesting thing about this course was that everyone came from a different country. Nations represented included: Greece, Russia, Chile, Argentina, Turkey, and Romania. I was not only the single American in the room, I was also the youngest, by about 12 years. I only know this due to the day we learned numbers and how to say how old we are. The only common language in the class was German, therefore that’s primarily all that was spoken. English floated around every once in a while when someone who spoke it asked for clarification. One such student was Ba’bis from Greece. I don’t want to get cocky but I have small suspicion he had a crush on me. A couple times I saw him making eyes at me and I quickly averted mine. He also was always asking me questions during the “interview” portions of class and volunteered to be my partner. I told the Mom about this thinking it was funny and she replied, “Stay away from the Greeks,” looked up toward the sky for a minute, turned and walked away. I guess I won’t ask about that one. And anyway, I learned he is vierundfunfzig jahre alt (54 years old) so I don’t think I’ll be getting his number any time soon. Another interesting character in this class happened to come from Turkey. She sat next to me in our “U” shaped arrangement and was constantly talking over people to answer questions and correct others’ mistakes. She had a tendency to scowl at students and direct her nose just a tad too high in the air. I’m sure it’s the teacher in me, but I had a hard time sitting next to this gal who constantly had to make her presence as “Best Student in the Beginner Level” known. Come on, girl, we are all amateurs. Besides, people learn when they make mistakes; give them a chance to do it wrong so they can understand how to fix it in the future. Man, just talking about it is getting me worked up.

The reason I bring this up is because I had my placement test for my next German class today. I hiked over to Oerlikon to take a multiple choice exam so they could determine to which subset of “Novice” I should go. The proctor instructed me to stop whenever I felt I couldn’t go on and that I had 30 minutes to finish.  The first couple of questions were great: which sentence of “My name is _______and I come from _______” was correct; filling in the blank with the correct form of “you.” For the briefest of moments I thought I was going to do pretty well. Then I got to question 8. Things got a little hairy from there. I really had to think about the questions and use the tiny pictures by the questions to derive context clues. By question 20 my brain was exhausted and I swear a small sweat-stache was forming on my upper lip from concentrating so hard. I returned to the teacher and let her grade my paper. I earned a startling 10/20. I’m a little impressed given that it’s been 7 weeks since my last formal class. She made a tsking sound as she finished grading and consulted the class-assignment card. “Did you try the last ones at all?” she asked. “Hm, no, I thought I was going to pass out. But I could try them if you want.” “Well, really you need 11 correct to go to the next level but you seem like a quick learner so I’m going to go ahead and bump you up.” How could she tell I was a devoted scholar? Perhaps she is a clairvoyant? Or maybe she imagined me plucking my eyebrows out as I sat through yet another entry level class. In any case, I should hopefully be starting more German classes soon. I can’t wait to regale you with my tales from schule, probably with the enthusiasm of a first grader getting off the bus in the afternoon. As for me now I have a free weekend ahead of me and haven’t quite determined how I’m going to spend it.