All Across the Land

SWITZERLAND

Laax

Lac Neuchâtel

Sierre

Photo courtesy of Adam

Zermatt

Etzel

Rhine Falls

Zürich

My Village

Not Pictured: Basel, Einsiedeln, Luzern, Rapperswil

ITALY

Pidemont

Milan

Como

Cinque Terre

SPAIN

Granada

Not Pictured: Cadíz, Madrid, Seville

ENGLAND

Manchester

Cambridge

 

IRELAND

Dublin

Belfast

Not Pictured: Galway

 

SCOTLAND

Edinburgh

 

PORTUGAL

Lisbon

 

Photo Courtesy of Adam

Porches

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

GERMANY

Munich

 

TURKEY

Istanbul

 

FRANCE

Paris

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

 

AUSTRIA

Vienna

 

Photo courtesy of Adam

There it is. Ten countries in eleven months. At least thirty cities within those countries. I may have had some really tough days in there, when I seriously questioned the sanity in choosing this job, but in the end, it was worth it. Absolutely, one hundred percent. Look at all I’ve done.

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I am Edumacated

Today is such a great day! Courtney graduated from college! Wow, a big timer. I can’t believe the time has come already. I am sad that I couldn’t be there to hoot and holler with the rest of my family. But, thanks to ever-increasing technology, I was able to watch her walk across the stage and receive all her honors and accolades via live streaming. Seven hours and over 5,000 miles can’t keep me from celebrating the awesomeness of this tremendous milestone.

In Nantucket, looking our finest

Courtney, you are amazing. But, of course, you already know this. Why? I’ve told you a million times. Your talent and intellect never cease to amaze me. Your passion for knowledge and dedication to all you pursue are envied by scholars around the world (literally! you did all that work in Kenya…). I am impressed by all you have accomplished in four and a half years (double major and a minor, graduating with honors), not to be confused with our overly-smart big brother (four years, double major, just ask my dad, he’ll tell you). Anyway, I’m so proud of you. College was an incredible experience because we got to do it together. Most of my absolute favorite memories involve times with you. Here are a few for you (and everyone else) to savor:

  • The day you joined ADPi, and as your new pledge class rounded the corner we ran screaming into each other’s arms, ecstatic to now be “sisters by choice.”
  • Talking you through a traumatic boy-related issue your freshman year on the phone, all the while secretly making my way to your dorm so I could give you a giant hug and discuss and dissect the drama at length.
  • Um, every football game. Ever.
  • Living across the hall from you at ADPi, Old and New Sundeck. That is most likely my favorite semester of college. And you were just a heartbeat away.
  • That ghetto date party when we were the Ying-Yang Twins. Well, that, and pretty much every date party.
  • My 21st birthday followed shortly by your 21st day o’ birth. Epic nights to remember.*
  • Friday afternoon lunch dates. I had just finished class and you were just heading off to your first. Still, the best way to end the school week and start the weekend. Totally true, I definitely miss those. Salsaritas, The Chef, Rock-a-Belly, So Long’s…
  • The “last blizzard” before you gave up sweets for Lent. Best part was when you requested they added more peanut butter cup because you wouldn’t get another for a looooong time. Awesome.
  • Just being able to call you up and see you when I wanted/needed. I’m so grateful we had this experience together.

CONGRATULATIONS!!

"Around the World" date party. Perfecting the "dad" dance move.

My own graduation last year.

I (Celine Dion) lurve you!

Happy Thanksgiving!

What? It’s not Thanksgiving?! I’m late again? Fair enough, but while you’re all sick of turkey and can’t think of eating poultry ever again, I indulged in the feast on Sunday and I must say it was wunderbare. I was invited to share in a Thanksgiving celebration hosted and attended by a few people Adam works with. I am so grateful to have been included in this family tradition. I tried not to think too much about what the holiday would be like at home, and instead enjoyed a new memory I made of eating fondue last Thursday, sufficiently stuffing myself with bread and cheese. And although I was sehr sad to have missed out on making my stuffing, I was so content on Thanksgiving and felt only the tiniest pang of homesickness.

Sunday’s lavish dinner came complete with a gigantour turkey, mashed potatoes, Indian-style green beans, stuffing, rolls, and gravy I could have taken a bath in (too far??). For dessert, there was a choice between pumpkin and pecan pie with ice cream or whipped cream. Really, it was the whole setup. The only thing slightly different were the people around the table. While I wasn’t related to anyone, and have known them all for less than a year, it was one of the few family-dinner experiences I’ve had in Switzerland– despite having lived with a Swiss family for a year. Of course, they are great people, but with every meal there is an expectation; it will be my duty to clear the table and clean up; I am still the employee. It was refreshing to feel like an equal in the group. There was just something in the air. The couple hosting and their two girls, and five other people gathered to celebrate a long-standing tradition. I could not have been more grateful to be surrounded by their company. This dinner reinforced how a family can be created from whomever. I’m so thankful for my family back home, and all the people I’ve met this year who have filled in for them while I’ve been away.

After the fantastic feast, we walked down Banhofstraße to see the Christmas lights. The twinkling, sparkling lights are perfect for bringing people into the holiday spirit.

 

Some of my friends and I on my birthday:

I’m so thankful for them!

UPDATE: I just ate a big plate of Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch and now have no choice but to crawl into my bed for an afternoon nap. These are the realities of my life.

Memory Making

This weekend we were supposed to go to Laax to celebrate the beginning of the summer holiday. The Dad threw his back out last weekend trying to pick up Taz, however, and he’s been feeling sore all week. The parents decided we better stay here this weekend, which is alright by me. I was actually not looking forward to going there as I will be out of Zürich for about 4 straight weeks and I wanted to soak up as much time here as possible. Instead of hitting the road, we hit the lake. The family has a nice little Bryant boat (ya America!) that we cruised around on. We dropped anchor near the island by Rapperswil and lazily swam. At one point I was sitting on the back of the schiff, absorbing as much vitamin-D as possible and I noted to the Mom how picturesque it was. Here we were sitting on the boat looking out over the lake to a little piece of the Alps. I wish I had my camer so I could share the view with you all, but rest assured it was sightly. I missed out on an epic weekend down at the Ozarks with my family and some of Courtney’s friends last weekend and was feeling pretty jealous of their lake time. I’m glad I finally made it out on the water, albeit and much, much cleaner and safer body of water.

On weekends when I work and we stay here I am usually responsible for waking up with the kids, getting them breakfast, and entertaining them until their parents decide to grace us with their presence. At 7:4o this morning I heard Taz yell from his room a floor below mine, “KRIIIIISSTIIIIIIIIINAAAAAA. I want to wake up NOOOOOOOWWWWW!” Ich komme, ich komme. After a morning of yogurt, bread, Wheatabix, and chocolate milk followed by painting, playing “shop,” and listening to stories on tape, the Dad suggested we go outside for bike riding. This is fine with me, except for the fact that Rapunzel still cannot ride a bike by herself. She’s 7. I learned to ride a bike when I was 4. She also cannot swim, which is depressing. She’s just so scared of everything and has no real desire to learn. The Dad asked if I would take them outside to ride bikes, and Rapunzel says, “Yeah, and you can help me learn how to ride one.” Uh, no. I count my dad teaching me to ride a bike as one of my favorite memories with him. There is no way I am going to take that away from them. I kindly suggest that her dad should really be helping her with this. So out we all go to the courtyard. The Dad helps for a little while and then goes off for a run. She’s got it down pretty well and can make it about 2o feet before freaking out, stopping the bike, and mixing her features into a worried state. She also has to “make a break” every five minutes and guzzle my water because it’s such hard work. I encourage her to keep trying, offering my bits of wisdom on how to control the velo. Fast forward 30 minutes and the girl is riding around pretty darn well. Rapunzel wants to go get her Mom and show her what she’s learned. I agree that this is a great idea. She goes in, grabs her mom, and comes back out. The Mom says to me, “Well, I guess she wants me to watch her ride her bike. Hmm.” Yeah, this is so weird. Your daughter wants you to be a part of her childhood. She’s crazy! The Mom watched for less than five minutes and went inside. It breaks my heart to watch these kids work so hard for affection and not see much of it.

I feel like I am witnessing so many memory-making experiences and I am not even a blood member of the family. Sometimes I feel so out of place. Do they ever feel strange having this extra person a part of their traditions and family time? Does it ever get old?

On another, more positive note. I came across this video and, to use a Jill-worthy double-negative, couldn’t NOT show it to as many people as possible. I don’t know why, but I think it’s hilarious when guys do girl voices and impressions and this scene ranks as one of the funniest. If you have the time, watch it all the way through because the end is ridiculous.

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.

In the Moment

(Before I begin any significant writing I want to note that the movie “Uncle Buck” is on TV right now. I’m not sure how the Swiss are going to handle this movie as it seems almost a direct assault on their austerity. I, however, happen to love this movie and can think only of the many times I have shamelessly watched it with my family. With the rain pattering outside and me freshly showered, my room is a tiny slice of heaven.)

Due to recent events, I am slightly worried about my sanity and apparent lack of presence in the moment. I spend most Wednesdays in the city as I have my au pair group in the morning and don’t babysit until 5 in the afternoon. I can have lunch with friends, satiate any cases of the “I Wants” I may have, and generally laze about the city. Today I picked up a few items at a couple stores, got lunch at an uber-trendy vegetarian hotspot, Hiltl, and walked around slightly sodden in the drizzle. For most of the day I was toting around a bag of my loot and was constantly reminding myself to keep it in my sights and pick it up when I changed locations. After my delicious chocolate-covered waffle snack I decided to head downstairs in the Hauptbanhof (Main Train Station) to catch a train to Rapperswil, which is where my German class was tonight. I made it down two flights, spotted a train that was leaving earlier than I planned, and found a seat on a relatively crowded train. I was just sitting there planning my route to get to the school when a tiny part in my brain registered that I was sans accessory. My shopping bag was currently sitting under a table where I stopped to eat my snack in the middle of the Wednesday market in the center of the station. I yelled, “Schiesse!” which earned me several reproachful glances from elderly ladies and a couple of goofy grins from the under-16 crowd, leapt out of my seat, and ran off the train just as the whistle was blowing. Thankfully after racing upstairs I found my bag sitting peacefully where I left it, completely oblivious of my neglect. The contents are of no extreme value but there was a birthday present in there as well as my latest finds from the second-hand bookshop. It was more my carelessness that bothered me.

Another incident occurred the other day as I was coming home from Zurich. It was after a rough day (see post below) and my mind was pretty fried. I was in the middle of my most recent book, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and I was hardly paying attention to the surroundings of the train. Right before the trains depart an announcement is made, detailing some of the stops. It is usually in German, then French, and finally English. I vaguely remembering hearing the first and about halfway through the next language I realized something was off because it was in Italian. I was on an Italy-bound train, with about thirty seconds to get my little butt off it unless I wanted to ride the rails without a proper ticket, never mind be in enormous trouble. I had no more than gotten my two feet on the ground when the train shut its doors and took off. I looked at the clock and realized I had exactly 55 seconds to find my actual train unless I wanted to wait 30 minutes for the next one. Lady Fortune was on my side as I noticed the next platform over housed my train. I sashayed over and managed to finagle myself on a busting-at-the-seams train. Didn’t matter. At least I was on my way home and didn’t have to detour into another country.

These incidences coupled with the fact that I have lost countless games of Memory to Taz have me slightly worried about my brain and its proper functioning. I think I need to work a little more on keeping my mind present and in the moment.

Live and Learn

One of the many valuable lessons I learned through my student teaching experience was that it’s important to not hold grudges against kids. For example, if the class was really rowdy and unresponsive right before Specials it would be silly to still be mad at them when they returned. Most likely while they were releasing their 8-year-old angst through a serious game of kickball they have completely forgotten about the incident and/or behavior. I would be doing them no favors by giving them the cold shoulder, rather I need to start over and perhaps alter my teaching strategies to make the classroom more manageable. I have found this to be true over here as well. Although it is slightly different since I live with these kiddos and I don’t have the luxury of sleeping in a different location.

Mondays are a relatively easy day for me as the Grandma comes and I have time to clean my room and bathroom. She usually doesn’t need me downstairs so I have taken to including checking email, flipping through magazines, and basic procrastinating into my routine. This morning I managed to draw out my cleaning process into just under 2 hours. I ambled downstairs to find Little Bean in an unusually sour mood. Whenever I came within a 15 foot radius she would shout “nay!” and throw her arm out as if she wanted to claw me. I know I don’t look my best in the mornings but that’s no reason to get upset.

I decided to draw with Taz instead and make some pictures for Rapunzel’s birthday, which is this weekend. Taz is still learning how to move seamlessly between German and English so most of his phrases are jumbled and the syntax is quite off. It took me a couple weeks to catch on, but even now I sometimes refer to myself as “having a hungry” as opposed to being hungry. So, this morning he asks, “Kristina, can you me a boat do?” This means, “Can you draw me a boat?” I made the mistake of drawing a couple sailboats when I first arrived and now that’s all he wants me to draw. I have taken to expanding my repertoire to ships and Bayliners and I could probably draw them in my sleep at this point. I whip up a fancy sailboat for him and sit at the drawing table as he proceeds to scribble over it and call it a masterpiece, which clearly, it is. This goes on for about 45 minutes until I run downstairs to shift around some laundry.

I am hauling my basket upstairs and I hear an ear-splitting scream from below. Not wanting any part of this action, I choose to stay in my room until the storm passes. This storm is far from dissolving, however, and Taz is now in the midst of a full-blown breakdown. I catch him on the landing kicking over a table, shattering the phone. Scared by his own Hulk-like strength he scoots his little behind back in his room and I shut the door on him. This only leads to more screaming and my inevitable trek downstairs to figure out what’s happened. The Grandma says he was mauling Little Bean and was sent to his room for a time-out. To make a (painfully) long story short, the yelling, screaming, and tantrum-throwing went on until I left the house at noon, sharp. I had plans to be in town, and even if I didn’t there was absolutely no way I was hanging around for that kind of rage.

After 7 hours spent in town, I slowly turned the key in the door to see what kind of psycho mood swings were awaiting me. I get three steps in the door and I hear Taz yell, “Kristina’s home!” He comes running from the kitchen with the World’s Biggest Smile and gives me a giant hug around the thighs. I kid you not, he says, “I’m so glad you’re home!” and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t mean it with that sweet expression on his face. He helps me out of my jacket and asks me if I had a good day. Then he instructs me to head to the kitchen so I can have some delicious (a word I’ve been teaching him) dinner with everyone. I picked my jaw up off the floor as I headed inside, wondering who this sweet baby angel is that looks frighteningly like the spawn of Satan that was present this morning. I was wondering if he was trying to replace me as an au pair and/or if he had aged 40 years and gone to some kind of butler-training school while I was gone. I realized he completely forgot about anything that happened this morning and there was no use in me continuing to be upset about it. I just let it go and let him lead me into the dining room so I could tuck into whatever awaited me at the table. Kids are funny in that way; it seems that nothing phases them and they are able to forgive and forget so easily. I think I will tuck this lesson away for future use.