Monday, November 30, 2009

Purse-onified


There are two daily staples to what I wear (aside from the running clothes every morning): my hair in a ponytail (it's either sleep or do my hair in the morning--clearly the choise is obvious) and a Longchamp.

A Le Pliage Longchamp is a type of purse that can also be classified as Mary Poppins' Bag Part 3 (Part 1 being the act
ual Mary Poppins bag and Part 2 being that damn Vera Bradley duffel bag). These bags can hold anything and everything. On any given day I will usually be dragging my large red one or the small grey one. I love them (the grey one too much--time to let that bad boy go) because they hold so much.

Here's a sample o
f my daily purse contents:
-1/2 filled water bottle (with water fountains all over Zürich who needs to fill it all the way up?!)
-Earlier in the year it was a jacket and/or scarf--now it's gloves and a hat
-Phone
-Keys
-Smaller Vera Bradley wristlet thing (yes Moll I know you hate them) filled with "emergency stuff": chapstick, matches (?!), eyedrops, Redskins pin (!?), allergy medicine, Neosporin, and a CPR breathing face-shield (never can be too prepared)
-Wallet & Public Transit Pass
-2-3 things of chapstick rolling around in the bottom
-Pens & Mechanical Pencil
-Small notebook to make my ever present To Do lists
-My Planner (everyone at the au pair meeting knows how attached I am to it)
-Map of Europe (Thanks Dad)
-Book and/or iPod
-1 toy/hair clip/accessory for a child
-Sunglasses
-Anywhere between 4 and 27 bobby pins & a safety pin or two
-Headband
-Gum

If I have my French lesson or French homework I have my books in the bag.
Or magazines to bring to the au pair meeting.
And if I go out at night I will undoubtedly stick my flats to wear after the 20 minutes of wearing heels--I don't even know why I own heels because I hate them so.

I know all this stuff isn't necessary to carry around all the time but I swear if I ever forget my First Aid supplies my eyes will get itchy (stupid cats) and/or I will cut myself and need the Neosporin.


Sorry for the lame post--Promise to be more interesting soon but I've got to go study for my French test demain!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

YESSSSS!!!!

Holy. Crap.

The kids have another winter break in February and their grandmother has offered to take them skiing. Anna apologized because the resort where they're staying doesn't have single rooms and they would feel bad if I stayed in the suite with the family, plus the kids love being with their grandma so they might not have a lot for me to do (aside from ski) et cetera et cetera... She feels bad when they't take me on a trip but really, it doesn't bother me. Why? Because it means VACATION!

And my vacation from February 13-21? Visiting my brother in South Korea!

Not kidding.

I'm going to Korea!

And the flight was only $650!!

And I'm going to see my brother! In Korea!

Sorry for the overuse of exclamation marks, I couldn't help it. I'm too excited!


Friday, November 27, 2009

Turkey Troubles

So this baby I've been seeing (which I will get to one of these days...) is pretty much what you can expect from a baby. The thing I like most about hanging out with it (usually referred to as "the thing" so "it" is a real step up) is her mom.

The baby is a typical baby but the mom is a real gem. She's one of Anna's friends (Turkish but spent most of her life in Paris, married to an American) and Anna said she can be really intense. She expects a lot out of her nine year old son and she warned me that she might be the same way (re: intense) with me. To my surprise and happiness, the mom (we will call her Michelle) is the bomb. She's appreciative, warm, funny and just great to be around. Sometimes I can't help but think, "Man I wish I were her au pair." (And not just because they have a great guest bedroom with a bathroom downstairs...).

I knew I would like Michelle the first time we met. She was talking about her baby and she said, "I mean, she's alright... For a baby." Knowing that your child isn't god's gift to humanity? You're alright in my book Michelle. Also in her directions for care of the six month old thing (whoops, I knew it would slip out!) she said, "Well she mostly just plays on her mat. Sometimes she rolls over and can't get back, so mostly I need you to roll her back." Dear Michelle, I love you.

Spending most of her life in France Michelle clearly speaks French and she is happy and willing to help me in my linguistic pursuits. The first week I was there she bought me a book from an afternoon trip to France (when you live in Switzerland you can just take an afternoon trip to France/Italy/Liechtenstein/Germany--neat huh?) to help me practice. She speaks to me in French which always helps (even if my response is a lot of nodding and "d'accord"). And she plays French nursery rhymes so I can practice my pronunciation. She even lent me Friends DVDs (in French with English subtitles) so I could watch something I understood.

Michelle is also really helpful in terms of jobs. Prior to the baby she worked full time (even when her nine year old was an infant) as a financial analyst. She went to one of the best business schools in Paris and is incredibly intelligent. When I said I was starting the Swiss job search she said she'd be happy to look over my Swiss CV (different than a US resumé) and have interview practice with me. Have I mentioned I love you?

Perhaps the best part about Michelle though is that I feel really comfortable around her. Sure we have a mutual love of Patagonia but it is more than that. Today we talked about my brother and his past girlfriends... Well one in particular. (She-who-shall-not-be-named--Jack & M & Howie you know who I'm talking about. And I swear Jack, if you marry her...) Anyway! We can just chat and laugh at ourselves, I think she's happy to have the company of some one other than a baby and I'm just always happy to have company! Also today: her family is going to another American family's house for a Thanksgiving dinner tonight (Friday night so their kids could stay up later on a non-school night). When she called and asked the woman what she could bring the woman gave her the turkey! So this French woman, who has never cooked a turkey before, had this fifteen pound bird on the counter today. She had made the stuffing earlier (with lots & lots of Cognac-- a "French twist" she called it) and was trying to figure out where to stuff the stuffing. When I walked into the kitchen she was examining the bird with rubber medical gloves on. It's a good thing she has a good sense of humor because I could not stop laughing at her. The hole to stuff the stuffing was really small (I told her we, i.e. my mom, just cooks it outside of the bird) and she was wondering how she could get it in there. She was standing the bird up on the counter when I suggested just cutting some of the skin to make the hole bigger. She had called a friend earlier to ask where to stuff it exactly and when the friend advised to not stuff it in the head hole Michelle replied, "What? I'm not an idiot! I didn't put it in the head hole." And of course, she had. They called back and told her to sew up the turkey after stuffing it (say what?) so we had to take it out of the oven and she sewed the turkey back up. But she didn't have the correct thread so she used silk. We were like an Amelia Bedilia book of Thanksgiving disasters...

I hope the turkey came out well enough and I can't wait to return on Monday and ask Michelle how it went.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

I'm Thankful For

Tonight was my second of three Thanksgiving dinners! The first was Canadian Thanksgiving--does that even count?--the second was with an au pair friend Kate, and the third will be at Kristen's on Saturday. Three times the gluttony...

Since it's Thanksgiving I composed a little list of what I am thankful for.

I'm Thankful For:

  • Nutella (AND Carambars! I still love both Kylie)
  • Skype
  • Not having student loans (Thanks M&D)
  • Public transportation (even though I was not thankful that my bus smelled like a combination of urine and vomit this afternoon)
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Kate!
  • That the family remembered a) my birthday next week (Note to M&D: My birthday=next Wednesday, in case you forgot) and b) Thanksgiving today
  • My friends & family home & abroad
  • Brockenhauses
  • To be living in Switzerland!
  • And last, but certainly not least, this afternoon as I was Christmas shopping (also thankful that I'm halfway done!) in Zürich I tripped up the sidewalk--the sidewalk went up and I did not--(hey, it happens) and I ripped my jeans. And not on the knees where I fell, it was back upper thigh area, leaving me embarrassed, and slightly chilly, and I'll bet you're wondering why I'm thankful for this. I'm just thankful that it wasn't my favorite pair of jeans!
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Missing

It's almost Thanksgiving (half an hour until Thanksgiving in Switzerland!) and I decided this post should be about the thing I am missing most lately.

The bus.

Now as a very punctual person (like I said last time, my dad instilled that quality in me from an early age) I hate to be late. It give me anxiety and nerves when I feel late, so I try to avoid that as often as possible. Now that I live in perhaps the most punctual country in the world, I am constantly late. Especially for public transportation. (Oh the irony)

I have two options for buses in my town--one that takes me seven minutes to the train station or one that takes me 20 minutes directly into Zürich, both come twice per hour. The annoying thing is they come 14 and 17 (and 44, 47) respectively--so if I miss one, I usually miss the other. In Switzerland, at least on the buses, if no one is waiting at the stop or if no one on the bus wants to get off the bus, the bus will just drive by the stop. Fortunately for me, both of my buses are the last (or first, depending on how you look at it) stop on the line, so it has to wait until the designated departure time.

The bus drivers for the bus in my town are pretty familiar with me. Because at about Xhour 13 minutes and 47 seconds I, without fail, come tearing around the corner and run like a bat out of hell to my stop. Usually they smile and open the door for me. This is not exactly the case with the Zürich direct bus. Lately, as I've been running to the bus, it's driven off without me. I'm so close but I don't make it. Of course I will not wait around for a half hour so I do the only logical thing: I cut it off. No, I do not run into the street and force myself on, but this bus takes a longer route and from my runs to Zürich I know a shortcut. So I turn around and run (like a bat out of hell again) down this hill (Cait you know how I hate to sprint downhill) and cut it off. I have four minutes to make it and I always do. Of course I'm always sweating and out of breath, but hey, I make it!

It happened again today, and when I got on the bus the driver said (in Swiss German), "Was that you at the top?"
Me: "Yes."
Bus Driver: "Why didn't you wave your arms? We could have stopped!"
Me: "Oh. Well, the running is good for me."
Bus Driver: "You usually run in dresses?"

Well no, but I didn't want to be late.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Baby Whisperer

People are always afraid of turning into one of their parents, but not me. I've already inherited a lot of traits from my mother: my dancing (in)ability, our need to do a "double-back," a love for wine & cheese, and lastly, but certainly not least, a flair for the dramatic. However, most people don't focus on the characteristics that they might acquire from their other parent (should they be so fortunate as to have two).

Now I haven't learned to love fly fishing like my dad (sorry dad, I don't see it happening in the near future) but my need to be on time definitely stems from him. How many times did I hear, "If you're not early, you're late" on our way somewhere? Much to my mother's dismay I learned the motto "It's about looking good, not feeling good." (I think the first time I heard this was when he took me to my first NFL game Giants vs. Redskins & I didn't want to wear the 30+ layers my mother probably wanted). I also developed the need to schedule all my classes at college in the morning (he did it so he could do his homework in the afternoon and go out at night, I did it so I could go play squash with Howie and then go out at night--so not totally similar). I get my tendency to boss people around from my father (those who are directly related to him can attest to that characteristic of his...)--but I swear, those people need my directions! One trait that I definitely acquired from my father is an uncanny ability to handle babies.

Now for those of you who know my father when you look at him you're first thought probably isn't "Man, I bet he's good with babies." It's probably more along the lines of, "Who is that man casting with a fishing rod on his front lawn?" But my dad loves babies. If there's one in the room he can be found making faces at him/her and goofing off with him/her. He'd rather sit and play with a baby during a big holiday meal than eat the meal--madness.

But my dad doesn't just like babies, he's got a secret baby-power. You've heard of The Horse Whisperer? Well my dad is the Baby Whisperer. My mom said when when Jack was younger and fussy/screaming/crying (I don't include myself in this because from what I can recall I was a perfect baby) my dad would arrive home from work, she would hand him the screaming baby and in minutes Jack would be fast asleep. My dad calls it, "the sleeper hold," (wrestling pun intended) and I've never seen it not work. Now he puts the sleeper hold on the grandchildren of his friends. There is a lot of speculation as to how he does this, his friends joke that he must just tell the babies his fishing tales (sure to put them right to sleep!) but I know it's something more. I've been so fortunate as to inherit this trait as well. Like I said, I've been seeing this baby a bunch, and she always falls asleep when she's around me. I took her out in Zürich last week and from the moment we got to the end of the driveway to the moment we were going back up the driveway, two and a half hours later, the baby slept like a rock. Sometimes it's hard for her to fall asleep, but all I have to do is pretend to close my eyes and poof! she's out.
Her mom said the other day, "I don't know how you do it, she never, ever sleeps when she's around me. The second you come she sleeps for hours."

I didn't mention that my father and I are just natural baby whisperers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

24 Hours in Geneva

I arrived in Geneva in typical Jill travel style: no plan, no place to stay, no worries. My Denison friends Gill (yes a more creative spelling of my name) & Casey missed their flight from Spain (no fault of their own, stupid cheap airlines) and instead of arriving at one pm they were now getting in at eight, but I wasn't stressed or worried--I knew it was all going to work out. I only get anxious and stressed about changing travel plans when it's something I can control, when the situation is out of my control I am incredibly relaxed even when completely lost. So I wandered around Geneva, explored the city in all it's foggy gloom (not a good way to make a first impression let me tell you) and embarrassingly enough, I avoided people. It's not because I wasn't trying to make friends (I'm always trying to make friends) but it's because I was nervous. Nothing shows your ineptitude at a language than going to a country (or part of a country) where they speak said language. Yes I know this contradicts my excitement over the French article the other day but I realized that I can read it, I can hear it and understand it, but my verbal skills... well they're lacking. I avoided people just in case they spoke to me and I would be forced to respond in French and therefore exposing my terrible pronunciation. Damn.

It did make me think that perhaps I am living in the wrong part of Switzerland to be learning French... My problem is (aside from the paralyzing fear that my native English-speaking ways will be exposed and I will be an outcast in Geneva) that whenever I don't know the word in French I always know it in German and vice-versa. When I'm forming a sentence in French and cannot remember a word, all I can think of is the German word, it clouds my brain and I just start to mumble "Uhh, umm," as if that will let the person know that I'm really trying to remember this word and that I know it, or at least I did at one point! I think if we combined German and French I might be halfway fluent in another language!

So seven hours later I meet Gill & Casey at the airport. Tangent: (Thought people might get sick of my constant tangents so feel free to skip ahead) I have been so fortunate with the friends I've made and the people I've met during my tenure here. They are great, fabulous, fun, funny: all the things you'd want in group(s) of friends, but there is something to be said for old friends. They're like you're favorite shirt, or a security blanket/stuffed animal (which, by the way, I never had. The forgotten youngest child... Jack had a blanket and animal) so comfortable to come back to and you can put them on wherever and instantly feel at ease. Seeing friends from school reminded me that I am not just an au pair--it was comforting and comfortable and a blast.

Alright back to Geneva: We went back in to Geneva and that's when I realized that we didn't have a place to stay. I felt bad because I could have easily found somewhere that day but naturally, I didn't even think about it. We went into a couple of hotels (out of the price range) and eventually found the Geneva Youth Hostel which was awesome. The accommodations were great, the price (including breakfast & public transportation pass!), everything. The woman at the front desk asked if we minded sharing a room with a loud snorer--we all said no, and really, how bad could it be? After dropping our stuff we decided to go out in search for dinner. We found a restaurant serving up typical Swiss fare: fondue and rösti (essentially hash browns & whatever else you want in it) and it wasn't too expensive! We finished around 12:30, found a sketchy shop to sell us two bottles of wine and headed back to the hostel (we thought we might be able to make some new friends--nope) had a bottle and fell into bed around 2 am. We were wondering about the snorer but when we opened the door the room was silent. We all climbed to our top bunks, settled into our beds when we heard it. The loud, guttural snore of what I think has to be the love-child of a black bear and lumberjack. Of course, we started laughing (which did not wake the beast, I mean woman--who also was about 65. Why are you still in the Youth Hostel buddy?) She was also, of course, sleeping directly under me, so I tried to jostle the bed a bit to no avail. It wasn't even one of those snores that you could get used to, it changed pitch, tempo, volume--and after a bottle of wine it seemed even funnier. Eventually we all did fall asleep and woke early Sunday to get started on our Geneva day. Despite the rain we visited the United Nations Headquarters and the Red Cross/ Red Crescent Museum. The RC/RC Museum was terribly interesting and horrifying at the same time. All the services and aid that they provide--pretty incredible (go donate blood/time/money!)--and it makes one want to work for the Red Cross. After that we headed back into the main part of Geneva to look at what all the tourist attractions called this great clock made of flowers. Well we were less than impressed with the clock and more than soaked from the rain so we went back to the hostel got my stuff, grabbed lunch and I made it to my two pm train back to Zürich (I had to babysit tonight).

It was a great weekend and always good to see familiar faces in unfamiliar places!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Umm Awesome

Tonight I was doing some French homework (yes, I am no longer in school and yes, I still have homework) and I had to read an article about a celebrity's typical Christmas because pretty soon I will have to write an essay about my "typical Christmas." (Which, come to think of it, my family hasn't had in a while... I think the last "typical" Christmas was the year my dad got the tree without me--it fell over, twice I think, and had to be tied to the walls with string. Bad choice of tree, but at least the four of us were all there!) Anyway, I was reading this article when I realized, I am reading this article. In French. Reading. In French. And I understand it. And it isn't a children's book (though sometimes I don't understand those either).

That is awesome.

There are some other awesome things (though maybe none as exciting as realizing I can read French!):
  • The other day I was grabbing money from my secret stash to go with Stephanie to buy a birthday present (don't worry mom, I was reimbursed. And also why is: a) Hello! Kitty so popular still? b) Why is it so expensive?! Thirteen francs for a pen?! Oh yeah... it's Switzerland) and I realized that I had one more 100 CHF bill than I thought! It was like when you find a $20 in your jacket pocket... but five times better.
  • My friend Kylie's blog. It is clever, well written, creative and definitely funnier than mine. (Plus she loves Nutella too).
  • SuperSaver Tickets. You can look up & buy cheaper train tickets. Saving money? Always awesome.
  • I am seeing friends from Denison this weekend in Geneva! Traveling=awesome. Traveling to meet up with Denisonians=even better.
  • The au pair meeting on Wednesdays.
  • Family members reading your blog (Hi Uncle Joe & Aunt La & Uncle Jerry!)
  • Hearing American teenagers. I know this sounds weird, because teenagers are pretty annoying (I know, I was one) but I heard a bunch of them on the bus this evening and it's nice to know that even though these kids are living in Switzerland, teenagers are still teenagers, no matter the country.
  • Wednesday after the au pair meeting I was walking around town with my friend Kate. It was a beautiful "downright balmy" (as Kate put it) November day, we were walking around a gorgeous European city--and this is our "job." That's awesome. And to make it even better? We decided, at 2:30 in the afternoon, to enjoy Zürich a little more with a beer. No open container rule? Not to be redundant, but that's awesome.
Happy (almost) Weekend!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

You Can Come Back Now


Many of you might remember my friend Allison from my first posts about Switzerland. She was my very first friend (and a Minnesotan at that!) here in Switzerland and was the reason I had so much fun those first few weeks (well her and the football team that we went out with!). Unfortunately Allison has left the country for a couple of months while the Swiss government approves her work visa. Apparently when you want to start a company you have to comply with all the rules and regulations--like not being an illegal alien. She will be back (no option Allison, we are getting that apartment your family thinks we already have) but I am definitely bummed that she won't be here until January/February. All you Minnesotans--watch out! She's back!

So here a few extremely valuable things that Allison taught me: (wow this sounds so sappy)
  • When people tell you it's okay for you to come along, they mean it. (And in the case of her and Kevin not make you feel like a 3rd wheel. Actually it was Kevin that was usually the 3rd wheel when we were together...)
  • That drinks are incredibly expensive in Switzerland--and it's okay to bitch about it.
  • The Zuschlag (or however you spell it)--This is the 5 CHF supplement to your ticket that you have to buy when you take the night train. If you don't have this it's a large fine. She & Kevin taught me this on our first night out in Switzerland... I also wouldn't have been out in Zürich that night if I hadn't met her.
  • That age doesn't matter. Unless its six und zwanzig! Kidding!
  • That it is okay to live abroad and still like America.
  • She was the first person that told me she read my blog on her own accord (so this excludes the people required to read this--M&D) and that she thought it was good & a little funny. (Probably because she was in all of my first posts but that's okay!)
  • Some cool pilates moves.
  • Girlfriends and girls' nights are a necessity.
  • Starbucks isn't so bad (did I just say that?!)
  • That baked goods are dangerous but really thoughtful.
  • That a Swiss resumé is different than one from the States.
  • That it is really fun to talk to some one about your home and have them know exactly where and what you are describing.
  • That you do feel better after running up and down hills. (I said after not during)
  • She's the kind of friend that can convince you to go out, stay out later than you planned and have a better time than you thought you could!
See you soon-ish Allison!How could we pass up a photo opportunity with this random Minnesota t-shirt sighting?

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I'm Already Itchy

Two in one day! Unfortunately I bring you:

The childcare industry necessitates a lot of flexibility. One day the child goes to the doctor and the next day he's got a gluten allergy--I get it. But, with that being said, the parents need to provide the childcare-giver some information.

So here is my inconclusive list of things au pairs (and other care givers) should know:
-dietary restrictions
-allergies (food, medication, seasonal and otherwise)
-asthma
-learning difficulties
-diabetes
-any allergy that requires one to stick a needle into him/her to keep child alive

-health issues: prone to ear infections/pink eye/et cetera? Let me know!
-LICE. LICE. LICE. Please don't let your au pair find out from the eight year old while he is RUBBING HIS HEAD AGAINST YOUR SHIRT.

ICK.

In third grade there was a lice epidemic (yes epidemic) in my class. Now as a self-proclaimed "dirty kid" (I hate to shower. Seriously it's too much work for too little payoff) even I took great pains to avoid it. Just my luck to stay lice-free it in a classroom filled with lice-y children only to be struck down at the age of 22! Sure I don't know if I have it or not (I will shave Mark's head myself if I do) but I'm already feeling itchy....

(And don't pretend like you wouldn't be dramatic about it either. I have an au pair f
riend who used rubber gloves to bathe one of her lice-infected children... I think I might wear them all the time!)

ICK. This is what my face looks like currently...




Sorry for the over-sharing of information. I just had to write about it!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Oops

After my lazy Friday night I decided that going out on Saturday was non-negotiable (especially since Allison leaves me for three months on Tuesday!). We met up with some friends in Zürich and had a blast but I was trying to be mindful of the time (because I had a lacrosse play-date on Sunday and I had to get up at 7 to make it to some teammates' apartment so I could get a ride to our mini-games). When I decided it was time I should go I realized I only had ten minutes to make my train... and was at least 15 minutes from the train station. I then had to wait for the 3:05 am train to take me home. I got in around 3:45 (stupid uphill walk) fell into bed and awoke right at the crack of 7:30. Saving you the expletives that I thought when I woke up late (thank you alarm clock for not working?? It always works!) I figured I could: a) grab my stuff (pre-packed from the night before) and run down to the train and try to make the 7:41 train into Zürich so I could make it with enough time to get to their apartment by 8:15 or b.) Realize that maybe this will be another lacrosse-day like the one in Bern (where I had to sprint to the next town's train station only to feel like death and not play well), apologize to the girls and go back to bed. Now usually I would pick A because I have guilt about not doing something I said I would (even if it doesn't seem appealing anymore) but for once I picked B. All day I felt terrible for not going but there's another in January so next time, I'll be there.

So since we all know I go out, and when I go out I have a "cold adult beverage" or two, and sometimes that results in not feeling your best the next morning. Well let me tell you, Switzerland is a pretty great country to have a hangover in. 1. Everyone's quiet on public transportation. They even have quiet cars in the trains for people who want to be really, really quiet. 2. Free water! All the fountains in Switzerland (unless otherwise labeled) are flowing clean, cold water. All you have to do is bring your own bottle and you've got water! (Although, my friend Aubree pointed out that yes the water is free, but they make you pay for public toilets!--Which is true, but there are a couple of free bathrooms, all of which I have made a mental note of). 3. Nothing is open on Sundays... Except the junkie food restaurants/stores! Too much to drink and no food at home? Well since you can't go to the market and get stuff for a salad you have to eat a kebab! No guilt there, because you physically can't get to the good food!

So not that this happens to me a lot, but Switzerland is definitely a good place to suffer through a hangover. (Got that Howie? Now come visit me!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Something New & Different! Just Kidding...

Disclaimer: This post is whining about being an au pair. Don't say I didn't warn you.

There are a couple things that no au pair should have to endure (but does). These things go along the lines of ironing the boxers of an eight year old...

1. The "sneak attack" babysitting. Like, for instance, having "weekends free," in your contract, but the family may ask you to babysit on an occasional weekend night. Occasional I can do, I am happy to do even. Not at least once a weekend for eight consecutive weekends... Oh and that trip you, the au pair, wanted to take in December to Vienna? You know how you, the au pair, said it could either be the first or second weekend in December and that you'd be willing to work around the parents' schedule (meaning her sister's birthday party in Paris that the kids can't go to because they can't miss Catechism again) to fit her trip in... Only to find out (from your French teacher) that the following weekend they have RSVPed to a party Friday night thus cancelling your trip? That sort of sneak attack babysitting.
2. Summer homework. As I have already lamented about summer homework I won't go into it. But making your au pair make your children do homework in the summer time is just cruel and unusual punishment.
3. Speaking of cruel and unusual punishment... I've been thinking of them a lot, because if/when I meet Mark's music teacher there will be a world of hurt coming towards her. I'm sorry what music teacher gives a 3rd grader A RECORDER?? (Only the world's most annoying instrument next to the kazoo). I remember getting a recorder in the 5th grade, sure it was still annoying but I'm not sure we got to take them home. (And if we did then I apologize to my mom & dad. Certainly taking the instrument home is a way of punishing parents/au pairs--it's so exciting and new that all the child wants to do is play it over and over. Cruel.
4. Extra curricular activities. Actually I kind of like them. I get to hang out for an hour or so while some one else is in charge of the child's learning/well being/life. The downside? The preparation and post-activity work required. Sure swim classes are great, especially great for the parent because you can make the au pair: prepare the swimming bag(s), take the two five year olds, get them out of many layers of winter clothes, into swimsuits, to their class, out of the pool, into the shower, dry their hair, into the layers of clothes, into the car (with a snack because they'll be dying of hunger) to their respective houses, pick up the elder at his respective swim lesson, get them home, unpack their wet clothes, hang them to dry (while making dinner, making sure they do the homework that is due the next day, and practicing the piano), have them eat dinner, change into their pj's, brush their teeeth (while you clean the kitchen) and be reading to them when the parents get home from work. See, extra curriculars are easy.
4.a. Extra curricular: Hockey. Now I know I come from "The State of Hockey" (Minnesota). But I am not originally from there so my athletic allegiance doesn't lie with hockey. And now it never will. Mark plays hockey. Great, good for him. Mark this year decided to try goalie. Definitely brave of him (no one is going to shoot hardened rubber disks as at me thank you). Hockey was on Monday's so Anna would ask me to come home earlier so I could watch Stephanie while she took Mark to hockey. Fine, no problem. Except now there's a goalie practice on Wednesdays so I have to take Mark and Stephanie to hockey. And not just take him to hockey like drop him off out of the car with his back and stick. I have to dress him. And let me tell you, getting an eight year old into full hockey goalie equipment sucks. Yes, it sucks. I don't know why parents do this to their children in Minnesota. Sure athletics are beneficial to children but by the time he's gotten all his pads on I've had a full body workout. So not worth it.

I think all au pairs can empathize with this generalization: We are there to help out parents, absolutely. But au pairs are also expected to do what the parents won't. I'm there to stay with Stephanie when Anna takes Mark to X, but when Anna can't be there guess who has to take both to X? And make sure they are clean? And start dinner? And clean up from dinner? The au pair.

It just makes you appreciate all the hard working parents that do it on their own, day in and day out. And yes, I had a babysitter (I guess the right word have been nanny--she didn't live with us but she was there a lot in the afternoons). So my parents had a little extra help, its true. We had my beloved babysitter R. for what a couple years? Not for that long, and I loved her, Jack loved her, my parents loved her (we're still in touch so clearly Jack & I weren't too terrible). I remember her picking me up from my half-day preschool, eating fried rice & watching The Price is Right with her, making cookies. But all those formative memories? Carving pumpkins, Trick-Or-Treating, dyeing Easter eggs, even bathtimes and getting dressed in the morning? Those were all my mom & dad. So thanks M&D. Love you. (Oh and thanks for not taking advantage of R!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friday the 13th

Today, Friday the 13th by the way, just didn't start out well. I woke up [late] rushed to wake the kids up, make lunches & snacks (Friday is the only day I have to make lunches--how did you stand it mom?) get them dressed, brushed (teeth & hair) and onto the bus on time. I hate being or feeling late (a trait inherited from my father). But the day was beautiful and relatively warm so I should have been cheered up, but I was in this funky mood all day, nothing was really wrong, but nothing was really right either. It was definitely ennui. I didn't have any fun weekend travel plans (I need a trip, asap), I don't need any new clothes (want & need are apparently two different things according to my mother) so there is no reason to shop, Anna & Will get home tomorrow so I'm not sure if I should stick around here or if I can go do my own thing tomorrow... whatever I was just in some sort of weird, apathetic, bored mood.

I got the perfect cheer-me-up idea! Nutella! Yes, I bought a jar of Nutella. And guess what? Although it is delicious it is not what I wanted--bored of Nutella! Something must be wrong. Then I got the ennui-reducing news: lacrosse practice! Friday practices have been resumed and we have some winter play dates on Sundays (this Sunday being one). I made it to practice and the first thing we had to do: run five laps (around the tennis courts we now practice on--because they have lights & perhaps because they make us run a bit faster after those ground balls). I was definitely regretting the last spoonful of Nutella as I ran around the courts but I was grateful to be moving! Practice was great (even the part where I intercepted a ball [yes!] then turned to run and wiped out... completely). Plus the team was excited to see me and to help me practice my German.

So lesson learned: Nutella is (surprisingly) not the answer to every problem.

Also I really do like when people comment so keep 'em coming! Maybe I should post a question at the end so it will compel people to comment...

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Crying Karma

It has got to be karma. Many of you might not know this but I can cry at the drop of a hat. Sad movie? Overflowing tear ducts (just ask anyone who has watched My Girl with me). Sad book--game over. I've even been known to get bleary eyed at a sad commercial (pathetic). I can make myself cry--which was extremely beneficial growing up with an older brother! Even when I laugh really hard I cry. Like today, a fellow au pair mentioned how she wound up at a Shaggy after-party. I said, "Shaggy, the one that sang 'Shorty you're my angel/you're my darling...' I didn't even know he was still famous." Well I went downstairs from the café to the market with another au pair and we were laughing about Shaggy and I kid you not, that song came on! We were laughing so hard that I started to cry. I told you, I'm a crier. No one knows this better than my immediate family. They have this inexplicable ability to make my cry at the drop of a hat. When I start to get frusterated with them instead of arguing back I burst into tears. If a boy were to tell me I looked ugly I would tell him to go to where the sun don't shine, but if my brother said it, definite waterworks--it's truly terribly and I thought by now I'd outgrow this habit. I'm sure it annoys the crap out of my family and for this reason I am, or course, the au pair of "criers." And, of course, it annoys the crap out of me.

Mark & Stephanie cry for different reasons. Mark falls down a flight of concrete stairs, head first, and doesn't shed a tear. But when I un-jinx (yes PDT we play jinx) Stephanie first after I had jinxed them both (also PDT style) Mark cries. That makes me less likely to unjinx him, perhaps ever again. Stephanie is five so she spends most of her time tripping up and down things and generally injuring herself. She, like Mark, is pretty tough and will only cry if she is really tired, and/or feels that it will get her picked up. (Being a 30 pound five year old gets you picked up a lot because its just so easy!) He cries when he has to do something he doesn't want to do (like English homework), she cries when she wants something (like a snack). Since Mark & Stephanie aren't my family being around them doesn't make me want to cry, but my thoughts usually drift to the more violent forms of protest... This has got to be karma, rearing its ugly head again.


Also on a totally different note: I was wondering about my blog posts. I have been writing more in November and I was wondering if it is too much? Should I go back to the weekly or biweekly posts, or keep up with the near-daily posting? Please let me know what you guys think! Thanks!


Monday, November 9, 2009

Afterthought

Also on a totally different note:

Crazy that 20 years ago , today, the Berlin wall came down. I don't remember the event happening as I was not yet three years of age, but its wild to think that something as divisive (get the wall pun?) existed in our lifetime(s).

Happy Anniversary Berlin!

Family-arity

It is amazing how familiar you get with people's moods, characteristics, routines, et cetera. I came to the realization (last week) that since I brought all these nice clothes (remember the 150 pounds of luggage?) I really should start wearing them. Since the temptation to wake up, throw on running clothes (to persuade myself that since I'm dressed, I really should go for a run) and start my day was proving too great in the morning I have taken to laying out my clothes the night before so I can throw them on instead of my shorts and fleece. Well this morning I had my running clothes on (for a later Pilates date with Allison--I'm still in pain!) and Mark looked at me and said, "Now you look like Jill." Shoot.

Also in terms of the familiar there is French. French, like German, has different forms of the word, "you." So there is "tu" form of you, meaning the informal "you," which you'd say to a peer, family member, or some one younger than you. The "vous" form is the more formal "you," which you say to a boss, older person, or some one you don't know too well. For each of the verbs in French (and German) you conjugate it differently. So for instance with common verbs, ones that end in er, you have:
Je parle (I speak)
Tu parles (He speaks)
Il/Elle parle (He/she speaks)
Nous parlon (We speak)
Vous parlez (You or they speak)
Ils/elles parlent (He/she plural speaks)
Difficile, n'est pas?
Anna & Will are on a holiday this week (celebrating their 10 year wedding anniversary) and their great-aunt (who I met that week I spent at their house in France) is staying with us helping out. She only speaks French so it is great for me to practice (although the kids hate it when I speak anything other than English) but it is difficult because since they are all family members they use to "tu" form in verb conjucation and I have to wrack my brain to remember the "vous" form when speaking to her. Trust me, it is harder than it sounds, so there are a lot of awkward pauses while I go through the six ways to conjucate a verb!!

Lastly, tonight at dinner when I tossed the salad, I didn't drop any of it. Stephanie looked at me and said, "You are marrying!" Meaning, you're getting married! I told her that if I got married I'd have to move out and into a house with my husband. Her eyes got big and she said, "Okay you will have to marry me then. Marry me!!" My first proposal and it came from a five year old girl. Talk about being familiar.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Semi-Cultured

Last night I went to the ballet, Raymonda, with a few other au pair pals. It was all around beautiful and such a fun night--definitely going to have to be repeated again! Especially when tickets are only 20 CHF!

Sorry for the short post but I am off to the Rhein Falls,
which is Europe's largest waterfall(s), but I'll try to update tonight.

If you want something funny to read while you all anxiously await my next blog post (kidding!) the website 1,001 Rules for My Unborn Son is pretty clever and a great time waster!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

I'm Having Fajitas for Dinner

Some days it seems, no matter what you do, nothing is going to go your way. Well, today was not one of those days (and you all thought this was going to be another drag of a post... oh ye of little faith!).

Today was, is, and will continue to be a great day. And here's why:

  • I had my favorite breakfast: museli. Yogurt with fruit and some granola mixed in, like a parfait, but better.
  • I managed to get dressed this morning in a nice outfit (Anna told me I looked chic, this coming from a woman who looks chic in sweats) and this baby I'm seeing only spit up on it once! (Yes, I'm seeing a baby. I can't quite give more details... sorry!)
  • The week's forecast was heavy rain all week. The actual weather was about as far from that as possible--sunny, big fluffy picturesque clouds, a slight chill in the air but sitting in the sun was awesome--which is where I sat with this baby.
  • The baby slept almost the entire time which allowed me the time to read Dave Barry. Dave Barry is definitely one of the funniest people I've never met. I couldn't help but laugh out loud on multiple occasions. Many of these occasions were on public transportation, which resulted in attempted laughter stifling, which resulted in laughing harder, so hard, in fact, until I cried. Which then resulted in a drunk man moving seats on the train to get away from me. (Double plus).
  • The mom was late to return home but she brought me back chocolates from the Lindt factory--umm please be late every day? And let me just go off on a tangent about chocolate please: Swiss chocolate is the bomb, definitely better than a Hershey bar, much, much better. Now my mom always told me that Hershey's chocolate was gross, not real chocolate blah blah. I never wanted to spend more money on "better" chocolate, when I liked the cheap stuff (consequently that is still how I feel about wine, why buy a nice bottle when for a fraction of the cost I could get a whole box!!) but seriously this chocolate is incredible.
  • I went into Zürich to get tickets to the ballet for Saturday (yeah! I'm doing something cultural). I decided, since I went on a rant about language the other day, that I should attempt to buy the tickets in German. So I went up, told the woman that I wanted to buy two tickets for Raymonda on Saturday night. Her reply? "You asked that in very good German." (She was Australian) I was so pleased with myself that if there wasn't a plexi-glass barrier I would have hugged her. (Also, why is there a glass barrier?? Are the Swiss so crazed about their Opera tickets that it necessitates a barrier between them?) The best part of this exchange: my ticket was 20 CHF.
  • After that I made my tram, train, and bus in perfect timing.
  • Lastly and the BEST part of the day: I HAD THE AFTERNOON OFF! Now I know most of you think I don't really work, which is mostly true but this is still my first afternoon off in four months, save for the ones where they went out of town. It is fabulous because for once I could meet my non-au pair friends for after work drinks, I could go out to dinner, I could do whatever I wanted. Instead: I went to my friend K's house and painted with her and her kids! It was/is a blast (I'm still there) and about to go on the coveted Eliptical machine. The Eliptical is a workout machine, and since K. lives with an American family she has one at her house. (Starting to re-think this whole "adult job" in DC now Moll, eh? You could be an au pair with an elitpical in your house!) After my workout we will be catching up on the episodes of Glee (this family has AppleTV which is also awesome). Oh and she's making fajitas for dinner (you didn't think I would be cooking, did you?)
Does it get better than this? Probably not. Happy Thursday!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Afterthought

While I was driving to school I thought about the last post--it wasn't meant to be as harsh as it probably seemed! I promise! I do like this job (most of the time)

Where's the Relating in this Relationship?

Last night I started thinking about relationships--not just romantic but ones you have with your family, friends, and most of all, employers. The hard thing about relationships, aside from the one you have with yourself, is not knowing what the other person is thinking. It's crazy that one person can be trying to say "I love you," while the other wants to say, "I think we should see other people." Other relationships can be so seamless and effortless you wonder how you ever got on without that person. But even in the most picture perfect relationship there will always be a couple flaws. Take a seemingly perfect relationship: Jill & Nutella. To an outsider our relationship might seem ideal and without problem, but you see, Nutella is a bit clingy (mainly to my arm and hip area)--so even though I love Nutella, I can't be with it all day every day. There are some relationships that are tumultuous from the start and it takes a while for you to realize the beauty in them. For instance, the walk from the train to my house. From previous posts one might recall how I loathe my walk up from the train. It's .96 of a mile, uphill and every house/apartment I pass I wish that I resided there. But even though I don't like this walk, sometimes (when I need to stop and catch my breath) I'll turn around and in front of my is a gorgeous lake, to one side I can see Zürich and to the other, snow covered mountains--the view is so breathtaking (which is difficult because I'm already trying to catch my breath), it reminds me of why I moved to Switzerland. (Well the beauty of Europe, not the other reason of avoiding the "real world")

Perhaps the most difficult relationship to figure out is that of an au pair with his/her respective "family." A lot of us call them our "host parents" but I always feel uncomfortable doing that, because this lady is definitely not my mom, but she is a mom that is technically hosting/employing me... They can easily lower or lift my mood (which happens a lot)--sometimes I even have a hard time keeping up with my manic moods! It's also a tough relationship because what are you? Employee; servant; doormat; family member; mooch? I don't necessarily love-love-love being an au pair, but I do love the opportunities that this job has afforded me: I love the free time I have to explore the city, I love having weekends to travel (although I'm babysitting quite a lot in the upcoming weeks...), I love the fabulous friends I've made, and I love living abroad. And I know that without being an au pair I might not have had all the other things that came along with it.

Sorry for my random ramblings. I just started thinking about relationships because last night, Anna and I were talking about my job search in Switzerland. She said, "Well if you don't have a job by July," (which is when my contract runs out) "we would love to extend your visa and have you stay for as long as you can," (my visa could be extended for another 12 months) "or until you find a job. We're so happy to have you and love you and would love for you to stay."

And all I could think was, "I have got to find a job by July!! I can't do this for another year!!"

I told you relationships are tricky.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A Note on Language

This is not to point fingers or name names, it is just a commentary on life in Switzerland/Europe.

There are three official languages in Switzerland: German, French & Italian. The German is actually "Swiss-German," which is confusing and harder than German, if you can believe that. It also changes from place to place where two people, from opposite sides of the German part of Switzerland will technically be speaking the same language but be unable to understand one another--crazy. There is a fourth language that combines German, French & Italian together but only a small handful of people speak it. However difficult, these are the languages of Switzerland.

Zürich is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, which means that people here are not required to speak English. It is rather amazing, and a credit to the Swiss Education system, that so many can speak English, and speak it well, but they do not have to speak it. Now my German is pretty pitiful at best, but I try speak German, or at least ask in German, if they speak English. I promise you that if you do this, people are about 77.8 times more likely to help you out or at least be nice to you. (Now I know this isn't the case always, yes I know you will say that this isn't the case, but these are my opinions and experiences. And since this is my blog I get to say what I want haha). It really bugs me when people say, "Well they should speak English." Or (and this one kills a little piece of me and my patriotism every time I hear it): "Well our country owns their country, so they should talk to me in English." Umm last I checked America could not afford to own anything!! And also, Switzerland is neutral so no we did not save them in World War II... The closest country where English is an official language is England, so no: Swiss people do not need to speak to you in English. People do not go up to order a coffee in the States in French, even though our Canadian neighbors speak French. I'm really not trying to pick on certain people (ahem train station queues...) I just think that we shouldn't assume that everyone speaks English (even though they probably do), as a sign of respect at the very least.

I understand German is an incredibly difficult language to learn (not to mention it isn't the prettiest sounding) but still, a little effort goes a long way.

Mark Twain has this great quote about learning languages:
"My philological studies have satisfied me that a gifted person ought to learn English (barring spelling and pronouncing) in thirty hours, French in thirty days, and German in thirty years."
- Appendix D of A Tramp Abroad, "That Awful German Language"

I d0n't mean that every American, au pair and/or ex-pat does this, and I'll admit that sometimes, I wish it were English so I didn't feel so awkward asking which vegetable is a leek (note to self: looks like celery with a white bottom) but I'm always going to try to improve. The other day one of my friends was talking about a meeting he was having with some Zürich University professors for work. I asked if he was going to have the meeting in German and he replied, "No, I wish. They have to come down to my level and speak to me in English."

Monday, November 2, 2009

Happy Anniversary to Me!


Well I would tell you all about my Halloween but who wants another post about going out, staying out until 6 am and having a really great time? In short: I was a pirate for Halloween (my shirt, shoes & skirt--which actually was a shirt as well--were from a Bröckenhaus, the hat, eye patch, and hook--haha--were borrowed from Mark, and the red tights were my mothers--a very economical costume if I do say so myself.) Went to a friend's party (the bloodied biker) and then out in Zürich. Had a fabulous time, as always.

But the real news is: Today is my four month anniversary in Switzerland! Four months may not seem like a long time to you, but it is a) the longest I've been away from home and b) the longest I've been out of the country. (When I lived in Vienna I was gone for exactly four months). The odd thing is I feel like I've only been here a week while simultaneously feeling like I've been here ages--as Mark would say, "It's quite odd."

So in honor of my anniversary I'd like to share a few of the things that I've learned over the past four months:
  • Seriously, nothing is better than having an agenda/date book. No I'm not talking a CrackBerry or iPhone, a real-life, hand written calendar. It's wonderful and as most anyone can tell you, always with me.
  • Skype. Is. Awesome. Especially because I can still text Heabs "Hey there... Heaberg" whenever I need to.
  • That the Swiss are pretty clever with their inventions. Although it took me two months to learn how to properly close the shower (I swear, it's tricky!) now that I know, it's pretty dang clever.
  • The one invention the Swiss really didn't master is the washing machine. I cannot tell you how many things (especially my beloved undergarments) are discolored, off-colored, or ugly colored because of it. White t-shirts? I'm sorry, you must have meant my slightly grey t-shirt... It sucks and I want my clothes back!
  • That when I go pick up the kids at 4:30 on Wednesday we will play on the playground, having fun and be laughing/joking/singing/dancing in the car on the ride home but by the time I pull into the garage, one of them will be crying and/or (yes and/or) having a hissy fit and I will be at the end of my rope.
  • That sometimes the kids are so sweet or funny that I almost entertain the idea of doing this for another year (ALMOST I said). Like tonight at dinner: the French have this joke/saying/custom (not sure what it is) that when a girl tosses the salad (not throwing up, but literally tosses the salad) and doesn't spill any, then she is ready to get married. Well the kids are acutely aware of when I spill some, and tonight I didn't spill any. Stephanie's eyes immediately grew wide and she said, "You're marrying!" Me: "Who?" Stephanie: "You're boyfriend!" (She is obsessed with love at the moment) Me: "But I don't have a boyfriend." Stephanie: "Well make one!" If only it were that easy...
  • That even though Switzerland is so dang expensive it's a great place to live: safe, clean, and fun (admit it Kristen).
  • That I will always miss Denison and will probably never stop talking about it. (And you all thought Molly would have the hardest time letting go)
  • That traveling is the best anecdote to restlessness--and traveling alone really isn't that bad.
  • That it pays to be dressed for the weather.
  • That sometimes an afternoon of lounging at a friend's house, eating kebabs & Nutella (LOVE YOU) and watching Friends is better than exploring some fabulous European city.
  • That it is okay to resent your employer for a little bit, even though you wouldn't be having this fabulous opportunity if it weren't for them. (I mean ironing a wash cloth--seriously?)
And please, feel free to add to this list!

There is, however, one thing I have yet to learn: how to turn on the television. (I can almost hear Moll's gasp across the Atlantic). We even have American t.v. shows, but its just so darn confusing with the three remotes, so I don't even bother! Maybe in another four months I'll have tackled that... Maybe.