There’s nothing quite like the juxtaposition of running through a corn field set amongst the hills and the lyrics “Shorty droppin’ to the ground like she ain’t got manners” (ah hem) filtering through your ears. It’s yet another aspect I love about living in Switzlerand; I get to run through some of the most beautiful scenery. I often trip over myself as I’m galloping through the fields because my eyes are preoccupied by the Alps impressively looming in the distance. Or maybe it’s the wildflowers blinding me with 1,000 different colors. It could be the cows idly chewing their afternoon snack by the side of the road, mooing at me in their own special way of encouragement. All the while music cycling through my head. The aforementioned song is “Get Buck in Here” by an assortment of DJs brought to me by none other than the dudes from the Hunting house. They always provided the craziest music for both pre- and post-bars gatherings. If I had a nickel for every time we jammed to STS9 I could quit this money-maker of a job. I miss those guys and those jam sessions.
I finally went and explored the pond and field area in Samstagern. It’s one train stop away and I’ve always wanted to check it out. I continue to encourage myself to pursue these little adventures because time is going to slip away faster than I know it. I want to make sure I get in all the activities I can. The run was great. It feels so right to move again; feet pounding pavement; upper body sometimes moving to the music on it’s own accord. I thoroughly exhausted myself, but in the best way possible.
Finally, another video for your visual pleasure. This was sent to me this afternoon from Adam (who obtained from a friend back home) and I would be remiss if I didn’t pass it along to as many people as possible. I’m a sucker for this kind of stuff. Often it’s not always what is said but how it is said. In this case both are hilarious, but it’s the voice that really kills me. The dramatic timing is perfection. Just awesome.
I am alternately amazed and annoyed at the TV shows the kids watch. It’s fun to watch some programs with them because the low-level language and slow-talking characters are perfect for my comprehension capabilities. I find I can pick up vocabulary and improve syntax and phrasing through this simple exposure. Once I get past these basics in the language and start focusing on what is actually being said I discover that these shows are atrocious. For the first two months I was here not a day could go by without us watching an episode of Heidi. You might be thinking of the sweet little German girl who lives with her Papa and has a lovely friend who is unfortunately wheelchair-bound. And in this assumption you are correct, however, this particular remake of the beloved show happens to be Japanese animé. That’s right. This little gem of a girl often interjects bouts of marital arts into her daily routine of milking cows and doing chores. The first time I watched it I couldn’t believe my eyes when she did a round house kick followed by several karate chops, then returned to playing with her best friends out in the field. The kids think nothing of it.
Heidi... in Japanese anime
Rapunzel lurves (said like Celine Dion) Barbie movies; she can’t get enough of them. Unfortunately they tend to degrade girls only the way an anatomically impossible role model can. One movie involves Babs and her friends becoming the Three Musketeers; another casts girls as different colors of the rainbow and they strive to beautify the lands; the most recent addition is Barbie and the Nutcracker (in June?). This last one caused Taz to have a bit of angsty (fear) because the Rat King was so ferocious. Rapunzel eats these movies up and I will often find her up in her room reenacting scenes from the movies. Most of the time we watch the films in German, but occasionally they will put it in English and I can understand the dialogue with painful clarity. It’s not that Barbie doesn’t have morals or a conscious it’s just that it’s pretty clear she is leaning heavily on her good looks to get her far in the world. I can’t condone this kind of propaganda. I often have to leave the room because I can’t handle listening to the movie and fear my gag reflex will be activated.
Barbie a la Rapunzel
Another show the kids are obsessed with is Yakari. This is perhaps the most politically incorrect show I have come across while abroad. It’s about a little Sioux Native American boy who lives in the Great Plains, which have magically produced vast (and impossible) mountain ranges. He wears a headband with a feather sticking up in the back, flies on the back of his friend who happens to be a bald eagle, and causes all sorts of mischief with his tomahawk. The show just rubs me the wrong way. The Dad once asked if we had this show in America. No way. This show wouldn’t last a hot minute before one activist group or another was attacking it for its cultural insensitivity.
The funny thing about the kids and TV is that they are hardly allowed to watch it so when they do they become these little zombies. I could light my hair on fire and they wouldn’t know, this is how engrossed they are. Heck, I could light their hair on fire and they probably wouldn’t even flinch. Rapunzel becomes especially feisty when we watch a film. I’ve seen her reach over to bite Little Beans fingers if she touches the remote. Like an animal! I was recently talking with a friend about cartoons and the ones we watched when we were younger. I think I need to smuggle in some copies of Tom and Jerry, The Flinstones, and Wile E Coyote. Although I don’t think these classics will be edgy enough for these guys.
Lately Taz has been frequently asking me how old I am. “How alt are you?” “What is for your age?” “How many [years] are you?” he asks. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, sometimes when I am in the bathroom and he is standing outside the door. The constant barrage of questions never ceases. We have gone over many times how old I am currently, how old I was last year, and how old I will turn this year when we celebrate my birthday in November. For some reason he is so curious about age. This started right around the time we were talking about Rapunzel’s upcoming geburtstag. Somehow he gets a number stuck in his head about my age and can’t seem to shake it. Last week is was, “Are you 69?” Yes, I am in fact. And don’t I make it look good! This week the lucky number is 45. Still not close. Rapunzel tries to help him remember and insists that I am 24. No, not quite, almost though. Of course Taz is very sure of his age and can tell me with his fingers exactly how old he is. He also knows how old Little Bean is and talks longingly of all the things she will be able to do when she is this old (holds up two fingers). She will climb stairs on her own, she will be able to ski, she will have friends; the list goes on and on. I wonder what exciting things are in store for me when I turn 24… I will have a big-girl job that I love, I will live in a city I have always dreamed of inhabiting, I will feel content, and if one can dream, at least marginally successful. I should probably ask Taz these things as he seems to hold ideas of the future.
On another note, I was supposed to have the morning off so the Mom and kids could go visit her grandmother in Basel. Unfortunately the Little Bean came down with some sort of variation of croup and they decided to stay home an extra night. Alas, my free time/sleeping in was taken back and the kiddos and I were left with another rainy morning, forcing us to stay indoors. As the Mom decided to sleep in I had breakfast with the kids alone this morning. I made the executive decision to watch a movie and give all of us a mental break– let’s face it,those couple of weisse biers I had last night with Jill probably helped make the decision as well. We never watch movies. The Mom would prefer they only watch 30 minutes of TV a day and that should be done on her time, at night right before bed. Only when the kids are sick is it OK to watch movies or TV in the morning. Well, Little Bean qualifies as being sick to me, so on Tinkerbell went. It was a nice reprieve and helped the morning go by slightly smoother. Afterward, I brought my computer down and put on Bon Iver For Emma, Forever Ago to help put the kids in a calm state of mind. I was hoping the soothing sounds would somehow transfer onto them. In case you’re wondering, this doesn’t really happen. But As Taz was propelling Little Bean across the room in a stroller he stopped suddenly in front of my computer, started tapping his toe (which in his slippers looks like ‘soft shoe’), and said, “Wow, this is a really good music.” Well, at least the boy has taste. He said the same thing about Pete Yorn Music for the Morning After when I had it on the other day while we played outside. Perhaps he too is horrified by the radio and is grateful for decent music. Finally, after lunch the Mom and kids packed up and shipped out. I promptly placed myself on the couch, where I am currently sitting, and have been enjoying lounging around the house by myself. Sometimes it’s difficult to really relax and let go, so these times when they leave are nice. Now all I have to do is wait for the 75 people I invited over to show up…
Here’s a little musical snack of what I shared with the kids this morning. Probably my favorite song from the CD.
I love lazy mornings when I can just sit around drinking my coffee, enjoying breakfast, and generally hang out in my jammies and robe. Both days this weekend have been like that and I am so grateful for the time off. Yesterday I woke up at my friend Kristen’s house and was treated to a couple bowls of cereal, brewed coffee (as opposed to espresso, which is what we drink here), and movies on Apple TV. Scrolling through the list of movie options it was immediately obvious what I was going to watch: “Madagascar 2”. I mean, is there any other choice? I love kids’ movies, especially when they are well done, which I think this series is. The “Shrek” movies are a close second. I hesitate to consider these cinematic indulgences guilty pleasures because I am quite content with my interest in them. And, come on, the adult jokes they throw in there for the parents and babysitters who watch these movies are pretty clever.
Anyway, it was a relaxing morning before a day of sightseeing with some other au pairs. We went to Rheinfall, which is Europe’s biggest waterfall. I don’t want to shame Europe by any means but it looked similar to some of the rapids I have traversed on the Northfolk River. I guess what I’m saying is if you put this waterfall next to Niagra falls I think it would be quickly apparent who would win in a street fight. Nevertheless, it was really beautiful and more importantly, fun to get out for the day with some of the girls. When we get away from our kiddos, there’s no telling what can happen… We got back in town just after six and seeing as though I was in no rush to get back home, Jill and I decided to see a movie. Movies are absurdly expensive over here, which blows my mind because the experience is uncannily similar to what happens in the theaters at home only they are more than twice as much. I’m thinking that for $18 there should be fireworks, some kind of consolation prize, or at the least, a complimentary drink. I saw Avatar earlier this year and it was $26– for one ticket. I’m not proud enough of my salary to share it with you all, but let me say it’s not enough to be financing these kinds of activities on a regular basis.
I have been suffering from a pretty nasty cold/sinus infection for the past week so I am not feeling my best but I can’t just stay cooped up here in the Princess Suite all day, and some fresh air was just what I needed. Along with interesting and frankly, ill-received advice about what to wear, the Mom has been giving me loads of “remedies” to get rid of this sickness. There have been pills from her pharmacist mom, a menthol inhaler that looks somewhat like a space gun, tablets to dissolve in water and then chug, and enough kleenexes to construct a quilt for my single bed. This family tends to awaken the dormant hypochondriac that’s been living inside me. Every time I cough the Mom asks if I have a cold or an allergy. Negative, I just swallowed the wrong way. This time, however I actually have been sick and she is trying everything to help me get healthy. The other night at dinner she advised me to change out of my shorts and put on pants since I am coughing and I “don’t want to catch more of a cold through my legs.” I wish I could explain to you the logic behind that, but it is lost on me as well. Last night I popped two sleeping pills and an ibuprofen and wedged in some ear plugs. The last thing I can remember thinking was I sounded a lot like an astronaut, and then I was out. I feel better this morning, which is good as I have a big day of American football to look forward to. I’m not sure on all the specifics, but I will be attending a football game today with some other au pairs–should be fun.
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.