Happy Halloweeny!!

Yet another holiday comes and goes, with barely a passing glance.

I was unable to celebrate with friends this year as I am working this weekend in Laax. While the other au pairs were coming up with crafty costumes such as members of KISS and fireflies/bugs I was channeling the sullen teen within, pouting at my misfortune. So, rather than come up with a fancy dress of my own, I was left to think about how I celebrated in years past:

FRESHMAN YEAR

I took the outfit that I made for the drill team float senior year (Flinstones) and converted it into cave-woman. Madeline, who was my roommate at the time, was a soccer player.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

I ate too much candy during the day and got a stomach ache. I was too sick to dress up or go out to celebrate. One of my more pathetic moments.

So. Much. Candy.

JUNIOR YEAR

A last minute costume was thrown together by my roommate Abby, who had extra materials from her own costume. Thus, I became a Greek Goddess. When I got over to my friends’ house, Hannah dubbed me “Aphroteeny,” a portmanteau word from Aphrodite and Teeny, my most common nickname. It was a stellar holiday.

Madeline, Hannah, Kathryn, and myself

SENIOR YEAR

I was brainstorming with a bunch of guy friends about what to be for Halloween. Kevin said that I needed to involve my name, Teeny, since it was such a success the previous year. A few collaborations later and Teenyranasaurus-Rex was born. A dinosaur? Duh! This year we hosted a party at our house and it was madness, in the best way possible.

ROOOOOAAAAAARRRRRR!!!

Kevin, the masterMIND behind my costume. He's a brain. See what I did there?

Courtney was her usual self on a Friday night and Elizabeth was Hannah Montana, signing autographs all night.

Brent as a librarian. Priceless.

PeeWee Herman, a cowboy, two cops from Reno 911, and uno amigo. Or Matt, Pat, Harrison, Pearce, and Scott.

LAST YEAR

I actually stole my idea from one of my roommates senior year. She was going to be a bouquet but decided to be Bear in the Big Blue House instead. Thus, I snatched the idea for this year and went to Hobby Lobby to collect most of my costume. The interesting thing about this particular night is that it was the only time I have ever gotten a traffic violation. I made a right-hand turn on a red light (dang you, 75th and Mission!) and an officer, hiding in the bushes, pulled me over. As I sat in my sweet little costume, trying to be as nice and understanding as possible, I was sure there would be no penalty. Who gives a ticket to a girl dressed as a bunch of flowers? Well, this genius, apparently. I took my $110 ticket and met up with some ADPis on the plaza. Still a little ticked off about it…

I stopped by my brother's to visit two of my nephews, the Joker (Spencer) and Dracula (Jacob)

With Melissa, a gold-themed Cougar.

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Beer Guzzling

Let the festivities begin!

Perhaps you can guess by the title and the picture above ( if not, then we should really talk about your observational skills), but this weekend I ventured to Munich for Oktoberfest– the worlds biggest party. The only other “Oktoberfest” I’ve attended was one in Manhattan two years ago. I would show you a picture of what I looked like, but it’s honestly too frightening. Let’s just say it involves me wearing a bleach-blond, ratty wig and a plastic, bloody hand (?!) stuffed inside my sleeve. Not pretty in any way. You would immediately question my qualification for taking care of children.

This year was much more sane and overall a greater experience. Adam, Nick and I hopped on a train at 7:16 in the morning on Saturday and arrived as everyone was well into the festivities. When we got to the grounds it was a bit of a sensory overload. I didn’t expect it to be so massive. Tents, vendors, rides, games, food stalls, and people surrounded us on all sides. It truly was a sight like I’d never seen, and I’ve even been to the Missouri State Fair. We walked down the main drag and made our first mission getting food. After a bratwurst and roll accompanied by some of the greatest fries of all time, we carried on to obtain our first beer.

At first it didn’t look promising The lines outside the tents were rather long and the weather was adverse, at best. We settled on waiting outside one joint, assuming we had to do our time before we were going to get in anywhere. A waitress came by and took our order and within minutes we were in possession of the elixir of life. Our first beers of the day, and man, they were delicious. Oh, and they only come in one liter steins. God speed.

Guzzling in action. The mugs are literally bigger than my head.

At about this time Adam received a text from an acquaintance that loosely translated to: Come to the tent across the way and say you are with the McKinsley party. Sounded easy enough. We slammed our beers and walked over to the next tent. When we told the kind gentlesir at the front that we had a reservation we were directed to a side door. At this side door Adam said, “We have a reservation under the name McKinsley.” “Oh, of course, come right inside.” Boom! Just like that we were in. No one ever bothered to consult a list or check any kind of ticket. Maybe “McKinsley” is some sort of special code. Or more likely, getting in is just easier than we thought.

We finally arrived inside! Could there be any more joy on his face?

Super party machen

Again, we were hit by waves of sound, smells, and body heat. Inside the tent I found myself overwhelmed. It was just so much bigger than I thought. We wandered around for quite a while, taking in the sights and eventually happened upon the friend that initially invited us. In order to get any beer you must be sitting down at a table. Seeing as we were quite clearly sans table we made friends quickly with a table of young German gentlemen, a few of whom were taking a wee nap at the table (they started drinking at 7 a.m., you see, and by this time it was 2 p.m.). Our first round of beers led to several more and the afternoon passed tremendously. Apparently this is one of the most popular tents, with the greatest atmosphere and overall ambiance. I couldn’t tell you any different as we stayed in this one location for the next 7 hours.

This is the band in the middle of the tent that led us in rousing renditions of traditional German tunes.

Beer, Beer, Beer. One for each of us.

There’s not much more to say about the event. We sat, we drank; we stood, we drank; we danced; we drank. It sounds like an enormous amount of beer drinking, which in some (re:many) ways it was. But, just to ease your angsty about the day, I managed to keep myself respectably composed. I contented myself with about 3.5 liters of beer in the course of the day. When I shared this total with Jill she informed me that “German babies drink more than that for breakfast!” But, for me, it was just the right amount. And the beer was delicious. The Germans certainly know how to make a tasty brew. Overall, the day was s super success. Although it was a short trip, it was definitely worth it. I mean, who doesn’t want to attend the Biggest Party in the World?

I love everything about this picture. It captures the spirit of how fun and festive the day was.

Happy Independence Day!

Zürich promised a good weekend and it certainly delivered. Zürifäscht was a b-last and a great stand-in for a 4th of July celebration. On Friday afternoon I headed down to Badi Utoquai (a bathhouse that sits on the lake) with some friends to find reprieve from the the seemingly incessant heat. Now I would much rather be hot than cold and when it comes to winter, especially the worst month ever, Ferbruary, I can be quite a baby about it. But, with the distinct lake of air conditioning just about everywhere it’s almost impossible to feel completely cooled off. So, naturally a dunk in the lake was exactly what was in order. After Kaitlin joined the crew we headed back to meet with more friends and commence celebration. That evening we saddled up at a bar along the lake and tuned in for World Cup viewing. After the game we walked around the hundreds of stalls lining the streets and river and took in all the visual stimuli, which culminated with a tremendous fireworks extravaganza. The fireworks were timed with music and made the show even more exciting. I expected nothing less from the Swiss and will have a hard time going back to the displays at the Four Seasons, sorry Lake Ozark.

Aerial shot of the Women's Badi

Saturday delivered even more heat, so it was back to the Badi for the afternoon. Six of us found a platz on the one of the docks and proceeded to vacillate between the dock and the high dive for the afternoon. After unwinding and preparing for the evening, we headed back out to the streets to find some grub. The most difficult part of this task was deciding what would be the most delicious. I settled on a giant hunk of pig that we saw roasting over flames earlier in the day. It was out-of-control good. There is something so right about street food. We walked, ate and took in more of the sights until the Fireworks Extravaganza pt. 2 took place. The funniest part about it was the 10 minute introduction before the show. Both a woman and man come on over the loud speaker to detail the next 20 minutes’ proceedings. Obviously it was in German but mostly went to the tune of, “We are about to share with you something that will both please and delight you. Enjoy.” At the risk of making a gross generalization, it is very typical of the Swiss to prepare you for something only moments beforehand. Heaven forbid we be taken off guard by explosives in the sky. Immediately following the show our gang proceeded to start the Greatest Dance Part of all Zürifäscht. 60s, 70s, and 80s hits dominated the Rivella tent and no one could stop the fever that was burning inside us. Jill and Phil started the party, and at one point entertained the entire tent with a lip-syncing musical snack to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life,” which obviously we were in the midst of having. At one point I found myself at the head of a Conga line that snaked throughout the space and had a significant number of participants. Two and a half hours later and my dogs were barkin’! It was time to call it quits, at an impressive 3 a.m. Although it wasn’t a typical 4th of July day/weekend it was definitely a holiday weekend that will go down as one of my favorites. It was another one of the those moments that remind me why I came over here in the first place. Times like this weekend make all the days that grind my gears worth it.

The six greatest dancers in all the land--Allie, Kaitlin, Phil, Jill, Me, Adam

“Can’t Nobody Hold Me Down”

Why, yes, that is a Puff Daddy reference. And you thought I wasn’t “with it”…

Yesterday was just one of those days. You know the kind: you wake up on the wrong side of the bed (in my case there’s only one but let’s just run with it), and from there everything seems to compound and progressively get worse. On a scale from 1 to 10, with 1 being a “bad hair day” and 10 being “get down from the ledge!” it might rank at about a 6. When I sat down I had plans to regale you with my tales and woe is me act. But, upon further reflection I realized no one wants to read about that, and complaining really doesn’t translate well. So, let’s settle for the fact that yesterday is in the past and today I rolled down to the end of my bed and got out that way.

(Is it a coincidence that Florence + The Machine “Dog Days Are Over” just came up on my “Genius” shuffle on iTunes? I think not.)

I will be MIA for a while as this weekend is ZüriFäscht. This is essentially a giant party. Around 2 million people swarm our city, which only inhabits roughly half a million people– so one might presume it will become a bit of a zoo. Zürich becomes a self-proclaimed outdoor party heaven and is host to an assortment of activities and concerts. This is, in fact, such a major event that the Doggfather himself, Snoop Dogg, will be performing tomorrow night at China Garden. As of yet I do not have plans to see this soulful singer but I’m sure his melodious beats will carry throughout Zürich and not one of us will be spared his inspirational words of wisdom. ZüriFäscht only occurs once every three years so when it does happen it’s with a bang. The Zürchers have been hard at work giving the city a facelift. The streets have already been lined with booths and spaces for vendors. Temporary stages have been erected and the lake is being prepped for it’s role as setting of an intense fireworks extravaganza. It will be a fun weekend, promising to put us all in a celebratory mood. A friend from back home, Kaitlin is coming in town for the event. She is currently an au pair in Madrid and is making the trip east to join in the festivities. I’m looking forward to seeing someone from home and also sharing a little piece of the city I have come to regard as home.

More exciting news: Today I have a meeting with the director of the Obersee Primary School that’s just down the mountain in Pfäffikon. I contacted her about becoming a volunteer at the school. She said she could use me starting at the beginning of the upcoming school year, so today we will discuss my availability and what I can do to help. I’m looking forward to getting connected with a school here and havign experience working in a bilingual school. Also, now that Jill is set to go on to bigger and better things, let’s face it, I’m going to need something to do in the afternoons.

I suppose today would be a nice day to leave you with a song. Recently I’ve found myself drawn toward this particular tune. I heard it for the first time in Manchester whilst perusing the finds in a vintage shop. I couldn’t help but stop, listen and be immediately attracted to it. Her voice is so powerful and intense I found a whole set of emotions swirling around inside. I couldn’t deny a feeling such as this. The rest of the album is sensational, as well.

Please allow me this small indulgence of complaining:

Unfortunately, yesterday I allowed my iPod, camera, and all other contents of my purse take a little swim as the cap to my water became conveniently unattached–got to love those Longchamp bags, they have that attractively advertised waterproof lining that not only keeps the water out but also in. After dumping the whole soggy mess on a sidewalk upon this discovery I reloaded the bag with the hopes that things would dry out and return to normal. It was only water after all. Well, this morning the only electronic that will work is my über-hip (read: not at all) slider phone, provided by the family, which I actually happen to hate. My iPod is sitting on my desk, stubbornly refusing to turn on. The camera sputtered to life for about 2.5 seconds and went back down for a little shut(ter) eye [see what I did there?]. So, let’s all maybe just say a few words of encouragement for these essential pieces of technology, shall we?

Baby Party

I woke up this morning feeling a little fuzzy headed. Yesterday was the Swiss-Spain game and naturally I had to participate in the local scene. I went with Adam, Phil, Nick, and Angela to watch the game at the Landesmuseum. In the courtyard they set up a monster tent with TVs, bars, food stands, and the nicest Porta-Potty I have ever seen. It was great to watch with the Swiss and see them cut loose a bit. There was yelling and ruckus just like at sporting events at home, yet there was still the air of reservation. The only true moment of insanity came when the Swiss scored the only goal of the game. At the end of the game there was tremendous celebration and singing. We joined the masses in the streets and headed to Longstrasse to find sustenance. Along the way we threw high fives like they were going out of style and I pranced about wearing a Swiss flag like a cape, thanks to my new, similarly named friend Cristina. We made it to a kebab house and hunkered down there for the rest of the night to watch the South Africa game. I’m sure you can surmise that we needed something to wash down all that kebab glory, which is why I’m not feeling top notch this day…

Since I wasn’t feeling my usual 100% awesome this morning I decided Little Bean and I should take a field trip. I needed to pick up my gym bag that I put in a locker at the train station, and since I wanted to devote as much time as possible to laying around and napping this afternoon I thought it would be best to take care of this business while on the clock. I had a bag with me yesterday because I went into town in the morning and had plans to go to the au pair meeting, hit the gym and shower before meeting up for the game. All went according to plan until I finished my workout and shower and was rifling through my bag to find my clothes. As I pulled out all the contents of my bag I discovered I forgot one crucial part of my wardrobe–pants. Yes, that’s right, I didn’t bring pants to change into. I only had the fleece-lined workout pants I had worn all morning and proceeded to sweat in for the last hour. You see how this is a problem, yes? I made a quick detour to ZARA and picked up the missing piece of my outfit before heading to drop my stuff in a locker. In the fervor of the Big Victory (and the old Feldschlossen or two) I forgot to grab my bag, hence the field trip.

So the Little Bean and I made our way into town for some girl time. I wish you could have seen us trolling the streets. We looked awesome. Jill and her baby, I shall call her Tibs, were coming into town so we decided to have a Baby Party. Our little ones are only 10 months apart, which would obviously make them perfect friends. We all met at a Starbucks, where hopefully a lifelong friendship would blossom. Little Bean and I did a “monster walk” up to them (this is basically something I invented and you just walk in a crouching position with your hands in front of you like a T-Rex). As soon as we sat down, though, LB went shy on me and didn’t want to immediately love her new bestie. Why they didn’t want to immediately become friends is lost on me. At one point we even pushed them toward each other into a warm-ish embrace that led to Tibs attempting to steal LB’s jacket. I was practically rolling around on the dirty ground outside, I was laughing so hard. I’m not exactly sure why I thought it was so funny, but really it was. We only had limited time to socialize as we had a train to catch.

We bid farewell to our friends and made the S2 train home. Upon sitting down LB became engrossed with the woman sitting across from us who was eating crackers. I swear Lb drooled a little. She looked at me with pleading eyes and the woman must have seen. She gave LB a cracker and then looked at me as if I should be ashamed of myself for depriving her of food. Ya right! This girl eats anything that isn’t nailed down. As soon as she finished the first cracker she shouted, “Mehr! Mehr! Mehr!” The woman gave in (it’s hard to say no to her sweet face) and passed over two more crackers. With a mouth full of crackers LB looked across the aisle and saw a dog. She immediately started barking at it, which is our usual custom. Spittle and crumbs of cracker were flying everywhere. Thankfully our stop was next and we were able to leave the train with what little dignity we had left. Still, I was proud to tote her around.

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…

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.