Monday, May 31, 2010

In Memory

All day I've been sad about my family's sad, unexpected loss this past weekend. I called my Aunt Gina this evening to cry with her (and to her) about how sad I am for her, my grandmother, my mom and my family. My Aunt Gina is an incredible woman and talking with her about my uncle helped me gain some perspective on my current situation.

I've been slipping down the "sneaky hate spiral" (towards self implosion) the past couple weeks. I've started the countdown (65 days left living here, 34 working days!) and although I feel bad about wishing my time away I know once I'm gone I'll miss Switzerland, not necessarily this job. My Aunt Gina said something that stuck though, "Your Uncle Kenny never quit anything he did. He followed everything through, even if it was in his own way, he wasn't a quitter." So for the next 65 days I won't be a quitter (I'll daydream about all the situations in which I would love to yell "I quit!"--which wouldn't be nearly as satisfying because then I'd have to go downstairs and pack all my stuff and then drag it to the bus and train...). I'll try to regain my positive mental attitude if only for my uncle, Gina also said he loved my blog.

Thanks for reading Uncle Kenny. Lots of Semi-Swiss love.
We'll miss you Uncle Kenny.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Big Brother

The Swiss are very organized, regimented and rule-abiding. This oft makes for dull citizens but a very organized country. Each little town/village has a "Gemeinde" which in every other place would be considered oppressive and sort of paranoid (think McCarthy-esque). When you arrive in Switzerland for an extended period of time you must register (within eight days of your arrival) bringing with you all this paperwork and information. They already know where you live and have sent you mail reminding you to register within eight days or you will be deported. Then you have three months to show them proof of your Swiss health insurance (which they will remind you of and threaten to deport you if you don't). You have to de-register when you leave and they pretty much know what you're doing at all times. My friend quit her au pairing job AND switched apartments but the Gemeinde still found her. Every time I receive a piece of paper from them my heart starts to pound and I break into a cold sweat. Of course I cannot read anything it says (nor can The Mother or Father) so it only leads to more anxiety. Don't even get me started on when I have to go there myself!

Another weird Big Brother-y thing happened yesterday. Those of you who are familiar with Facebook will know that it often "suggests" friends on the side of people you might know. Usually they have been people I went to Denison with and who I share numerous mutual "friends." I usually ignore it but one of the "suggestions" made me pause, it was my mom's best friend my Auntie Leila(x3). I thought it was pretty nuts because she and I had zero friends in common, so somehow Facebook knew that I knew her? Talk about Big Brother! But, as always, I'm happy to see/hear from Leila, but it just makes me wonder what else does Facebook know?!

Happy weekend everyone!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Walk the Walk

Last Monday I was with TB and everything was pretty average until she stood up and walked over to me. Now most people when they see a baby take his/her first steps think, "Wow! This is incredible!" I thought, "Oh, crap." See I was the only person around. TFoTB had just left for a business trip to California and TMoTB was out. I just saw the baby take her first steps. I thought about it and decided that I couldn't tell TMoTB. She would be heartbroken to have missed her daughter's first steps alone.

Friday I was chatting with TMoTB whilst she was in the kitchen and TB and I played in her room. TB started to walk again and I was nervous for TMoTB to see so I said, "Wow! TMoTB she's almost ready to walk!" TMoTB agreed and said, "Yeah! She's almost there." Damnit, so TB hadn't walked for her yet. Later on when she returned TB walked in front of the doorway where her mother was. I said, "TMoTB! TB's walking!" TMoTB's reaction? "Oh that's great! Good for her." I should have known, TMoTB is too cool to get mad about missing that!

When I saw TFoTB on Monday he said, "It's incredible! I left Friday and now she's walking all over the place!" I didn't tell him she'd been practicing since Monday.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Francophone

Yesterday my French teacher gave me a worksheet with nine verbs that I had to conjugate in different tenses. She mostly teaches children so often she'll use those tactics with me like drawing smiley faces when everything is correct or putting a sticker on my worksheet. She said if I conjugated all the verbs in all the tenses correctly, I'd get a treat. I'm sure that this would have been a great motivator for me if I were nine but for me, the biggest motivation is, you know, learning French. Having successfully conjugated all the verbs (fist pump) she said, "Wait, you are 18, right?" I figured it had something to do with my youthful glow and promptly forgot about it.

At the end of the lesson she went to the kitchen and brought back my treat. When I've been rewarded in the past it has usually been a candy of some sort (once, Iced Tea, it was a ChupaChup!). This time, she brought back a bottle of Pastisse, a French alcohol. My teacher rewarded my learning with booze. I swear if my Chemistry professor had done that in college my grades would have been significantly higher...

Also, on the way home she was telling me a story about something Girl said in the car the other day. They were taking another boy home and Girl looked at him and said, "My mommy's going to have a baby. She and my dad spent three whole days in the shower making it." (Insert oh dear god.) When my teacher told The Mother she laughed and then said, "Oh god! Is that what she's telling everyone at school?"

The Land of the Free and the Home of Skim Milk

Dear America,

See you August 5th.

Love,
jill

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Potty Un-Trained

Today I was planning to write a funny-ish TB story.

Then I had French class and I planned to write the funny things that happened there.

But then, this afternoon, Boy was supposed to take the bus home per usual (Girl was at swim lessons with my French teacher and her butt-monkey son). I looked at the clock at 3:55 and wondered where the bus was (also wondered why it couldn't have been ten minutes late last Friday). I was sitting on the patio so I went around the corner to where the front door was, prepared to walk to the mailbox/street and look for Boy. I saw Boy, standing in front of a potted plant by the front door. He was standing sideways-ish with a yellow stream coming from the front of his pants.

Boy (current age: 9) was PEEING on the front lawn. In broad daylight. I'd like to say that he was of sound mind and body but this is Boy we're talking about--I'm never sure. PEEING. I asked him what the heck he thought he was doing, made him stop mid-flow (yeah sorry if it's "tough" it wouldn't have been so tough had you opened the unlocked front door and went to the bathroom that is literally right there) and finish in the bathroom. He said he couldn't hold it. I told him he was not a dog and that it was socially and behaviorally unacceptable to urinate on the front lawn.

Learns something new everyday that boy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Happy Monday!

This morning I went to TB's house as per usual. Since my kids didn't have school I knew TBoTB (the brother of That Baby) would most likely be home, and I'd be hanging out with him as well. TBoTB is perhaps the most well mannered, kind, thoughtful boy (without being obnoxious) and I really enjoy him. When TMoTB answered the door she said, not unkindly, "What are you doing here?" I told her we mentioned Friday see you Monday and that I was home so I would see if she needed me. She said if I wanted I could stay otherwise I was free to go. She had the appropriate response when I told her I missed the chance to go to Istanbul (appropriate response being outraged gasp) and told me what a shame it was I didn't get to go.

I noticed four sets of photos on the table, wallet sized pictures of TMoTB, TFoTB, TBoTB and then me. I gave her a quizzical look and she explained that they were going to get their season passes for this pool (one that I took Boy and Girl to a lot last year, sometimes having to pay my own entrance fee) and she thought that, since I love to be in the sun and
outside, that I could take TB there on my mornings with her. And wouldn't it be nicer if I just had a pass, so I could go with my friends and not have to pay? Not only did they buy my pool pass (no inexpensive pass mind you) they actually used a good photo of me for the picture! (The picture is of TB and I the day of her Baptism.)

I took TB and TBoTB to the pool where we played, had lunch, suntanned (me, not TB) and where TB peed (on me--apparently those "water-safe diapers" aren't leak proof...) and had what my father would call "a poop explosion." (Is it odd that poop explosion is a catch phrase of ours?) Despite the massive fecal matter situation awaiting when we arrived home it was a very enjoyable day.

I've said it once, I'll say it again: I love TMoTB.
Another funny TB story to come later.

And One More Thing...

And one more irksome thing, before I end the self-pitying tirade that I've been on. (Promise to have a better attitude this week.)

Friday The Father says, "Do you have to work Monday? The kids don't have school and I'm not sure if The Mother or I have to work." (I know The Mother has it off because one of my friend's employers works for the same place and she has it off but the calendars didn't say anything about the kids not having school.) I said I wasn't told anything so I bought my ticket to come back Sunday. The Mother is usually on top of this stuff and I hadn't seen her since Wednesday morning so I was out of the loop.

Saturday I get a text message from her that says, "Hi! I don't know if you know but Monday is a bank holiday. We are both at home so you don't have to work... you can stay an extra day in Milan if you want/can! Have a good week-end. The Mother" When I read this I literally yelled in disbelief a few choice words combined with "Are you kidding me?!?!?" I have wanted to go to Istanbul since my junior year of college and one of my friends Pei Wen (with a great blog! Check it out on the side) was heading there this weekend but coming back too late Monday morning so I would have had to miss work so I couldn't go. Kristina and Danielle both had the day off so they headed Sunday to Cinque Terre (a little ways from Milan) and just about my most favorite place on earth. But my ticket was for Sunday (and I'm trying to do this whole "responsible with my money thing" so I didn't go because I would have had to get a new ticket home).

As I was regaling my friends about the perils of The Family they all voiced a similar opinion: That The Family has absolutely no regard for my time. My time is of very little consequence to them, unless it inconveniences them.


But, on the bright side, I did send a suitcase full of winter clothes to Gabri to be brought to the States and then brought to Minnesota when Ellen comes in August! Thank you Gabri and Ellen I CANNOT wait to see you!!!!

Say It With Me Now: AGH!!!

My friend Molly used to say how I seemed to have an unflappable amount of patience (especially when teaching German to our friend Brittney--who was a much better German student than she gave herself credit for). Last week however, my patience ran out.

And now, a chronicle of all the times I lost my patience throughout the week:

I awoke Monday morning tired from my weekend and a little more than annoyed that after 11 months, five days a week Boy still hadn't mastered our morning routine and every morning I have to get on him to brush his teeth, stop playing with those toys, make his bed and get dressed. It isn't just once I remind him, it is a series of reminders (some might call it nagging) from about 7:45 until they get on the bus at 8:18. I could feel my patience draining away and, as it looks right now, never to return. Monday morning The Mother said she had a lot of work so I would need to be home for after school. I was a little peeved because I had planned to do work for this semi-internship thing that I have here but she said she'd be home in the middle of piano lessons at four so it would just be a few minutes. I almost lost it with Boy when he started to tear up because I wouldn't scoop out his kiwi for him. (Yes you read that correctly.) I was thinking, "There are about 12 million things to cry about: world hungry, child sex slaves, child soldiers, unnecessary wars, the fact that Arizona has basically legalized racism/discrimination... But kiwis? Are you for real? Four comes and goes, as does five, six, seven when The Mother and Father return at 8:15 as I'm reading to the kids and putting them to bed. "Sorry we ran a little late."

Tuesday morning was more of the same. Tuesday afternoon my French teacher now takes Girl and her son to swimming so I just pick her up at 5:30 and then drop Boy off at his swim lessons. Boy and I had to do some of his French homework (I literally have to sit next to him to get him to focus). Later, when he said he could conjugate the verbs on his own, I busied myself setting the table/making dinner/et cetera when he comes downstairs and asks me if he should be conjugating the verb in the idicatif or the subjonctif. I turned to Boy and said, "Have you learned the subjontif yet?" And he said no and then I asked if he had the Bescherelle book (which conjugates just about every French verb in existence) and something he was forbidden (by his teacher) to use during these exercises. He said it's in my room in the drawer. I walk into his room and it is lying open on his desk. I was furious that he has just blatantly lied to my face and when I told his parents later they weren't as furious as I had hoped... Tuesday afternoon The Mother calls and says she's going to be stuck at the office for a while but The Father should be home soon. During dinner The Father calls and says he'll be home later and "I hope you didn't have any plans." Super. As Boy and Girl are going to bed Boy starts to snivel and cry because "I haven't seen my mom since this morning." I turn on my kind, loving super-nanny powers and calmly say, "Boy, I haven't seen my parents since Christmas. They live on a different continent. You were fine 10 seconds ago when you were reading. I. Don't. Want. To. Hear. It." And then I left the room. The Parents got home around 10 pm.

Wednesday morning was okay. Boy took the bus home and skipped French and I had to take him to meet his dad for a doctor's appointment. I left my keys in the house thinking I'd just use the car key's house key when I realized that I left them in the car. With the dad. So I had to sit outside my house for two hours waiting for them to get home, I could see my keys mocking me from the counter. Later I was talking about some of my friends' jobs here and he said, "So did you have any difficulty/problems advising the next au pair on our family?" What was I supposed to do, say, "It was a struggle to keep from saying everything I wanted." I did tell him that I told her that there would be some days when she didn't like it (at all) and those days she was welcome to give me a call. He looked at me in disbelief and said, "Really? You didn't like it sometimes?" (A kudos to my acting ability I suppose.) TMoTB when I recounted the story to her said, "Are you kidding? If they get frustrated with their kids after 20 minutes how do they expect you to do it?" Couldn't have said it better myself.

Thursday afternoon The Mother was on a business trip so I was there after school. This was the fastest I have ever yelled at the kids. They get off the bus, come to the door and "ding-dong," ring the bell. Then I hear, "dingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdongdingdong." Halfway through I just scream "STOP!!!!!!!!!!" I hadn't even let them in the door and already I had screamed, a new record. I asked why on earth they rang the doorbell so many times and they said they couldn't hear me coming. I replied they couldn't hear me because they rang the bell so many times. Boy and I did some more homework (only after he spilled juice all over his power point presentation and the mail and just said, "Jill" and pointed to it), I made dinner, gave them baths (note to The Family: nine is too old for me to be giving him a bath!) and was again reading to them when The Father got home at 8:15. I bolted out of the house to meet my friends for drinks and to regain some sanity.

Friday morning was the same as the other mornings. Girl had a kindergarten production of "Stone Soup" that I couldn't attend because I had TB but The Father was going to but still asked if I could be there after school because he had to run a few errands (errands for his sailing equipment, I had already done the grocery shopping the day before). The kids arrive home at 3:45 and that is what time I arrive home with the bus. Of course, my bus was late (by Swiss standards) so I arrived at 3:48. The door was open so I burst in, after running like a bat out of hell from my stop, to find both kids inside (stuff strewn about, not neatly put away like with me) and The Father lying on the couch, eyes closed. Sweaty and out of breath I say sorry and he says, "Good thing I was here. I took Girl home from her show and it was a good thing for when Boy got home." Now see The Mother told me earlier in the year that if ever she or I is running late the kids know to wait outside and that one of us will be there momentarily. The Father seemed bothered by it but I wasn't about to give him the satisfaction of groveling. He kept bringing it up to Boy saying things like, "Boy, do you know what to do if no one is home?" and other passive aggressive things of that nature. He finally came into Boy's room (where we were working on German homework) and said, "Jill I know it was only a couple minutes today, but I really need you to be here when they get home after school." I looked at him and said, "I'm sorry and it won't happen again." And as The Father is walking out of Boy's room Boy says, (kid you not) "This is the second time this has happened." I swear the look on my face started out incredulous, went to shock and then finally rested upon Satanic-rage. I responded (sorry, I couldn't not) "This is the second time in ELEVEN MONTHS I have been late." (Wanted to add your parents were late THREE times this week.) I was inwardly seething and counted down the hours until I would be headed out of town with my friends. The Father then offered to drive me to the train station because he was heading out to pick up Chinese food for dinner. I was waiting for him when he called up the stairs, "Okay guys when I get back I want you to be in your p.j.s. I have my phone if you need me and I'll be home in about a half hour." HE WAS LEAVING THEM HOME ALONE. After I had been chastised for a three minute delay in broad daylight he was leaving them alone in the evening for a half hour. Are you [expletive] kidding me?

And so the countdown begins.

Friday, May 21, 2010

I Meant to Post This Friday

This week has reminded me how much I hate this job. And, consequently, has made me kick myself (several times) because I could be finished in one month instead of two.

I will elaborate (in a rage filled tirade later) but for now, the weekend. Off with great friends for a fun, sunny weekend in Milan.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Oh, Boy?

My last semester of college I took a Gender & Communications course (go liberal arts education!) and learned a lot about gender stereotypes and how they can effect one's whole life. I like to consider myself open minded and open to breaking gender stereotypes (except really long nails on guys. Actually long nails on anyone--yeesh).

With that being said, I couldn't help but laugh at the situation that presented itself the other day:

I was playing trucks with Girl in her room whilst Boy was upstairs listening, dancing and singing along to... wait for it... Lady Gaga. I'd like to say that this is a new thing for Boy but since I've caught him painting Girl's nails, attempting to do her makeup, wearing his mother's high heels and coming into the room with a FULL face of his mother's makeup (we can't even call this "guy-liner" it was straight up girl style).

I often call Girl "girlfriend" but perhaps I'm saying it to the wrong child? (Just kidding mom, I won't be that mean to Boy).

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Tale of Two Bathrooms

One thing that really sucks about my particular au pairing position is that I don't have a private bathroom. I share a full bathroom with the kids on the second floor but I usually brush my teeth and use the facilities in the bathroom on the first floor. I keep all my stuff in a little box in the corner so as to not be obvious as it is still a guest bathroom, but I like to pretend it is mine. The kids will use it on occasion but it is rarely occupied.

This is where the story gets gross. I went upstairs to pee and brush (don't forget floss!) my teeth and The Father was still up. Whenever one of the Parents is still up I always go through the internal dilemma: go upstairs (where I also keep floss and a toothbrush) or just use "my" bathroom--something about my employer hearing me pee just doesn't sit right. I decided to go for it and use the first floor bathroom. Mistake. I walked in and it had clearly just been occupied. And the previous occupant had left shall we say, a distinct smell there. Now poo smell is gross. (Sorry Howie.) And some one else's poo is even more gross. (Sorry again Howie.) And that that some one else who just happens to be your boss' poo is even more gross. But, the worst part about it is that The Father was sitting there so we both knew what I was getting in to. I walked in, tried not to gag and then realized I was stuck. I could either run screaming out of there, walk out and calmly go upstairs to use the facilities, or go through my nightly routine whilst holding my breath. I chose the latter because I'm too awkward for anything else.

How is one supposed to handle herself in that situation?! Yuck.

Can You Cope[enhagen]?

I bought my tickets to Milan this weekend (it's going to be 80 and sunny. I need that!) AND I have to take a longer route home (40 minutes longer) which I bought because it allowed me to use my card that gets me home for free (making the trip much cheaper). Have I learned NOTHING from my last blog post? Apparently so.

Alright, back to Copenhagen.
I arrived Friday at noon and met up with my friend Chris (remember the American football player from this past summer and Oktoberfest?). Naturally, we had no place to stay yet so that was our first order of business. We walked up and down the Stroget (main shopping street) but the places we encountered were way, way out of our price range. I had written down the name of a place so we took the metro and tried to find it. After finally obtaining
a room (and let's say the word room was generous, I'd call it jail cell) we set out to find dinner and sample some Danish beer. We sampled a lot of beer from numerous bars (you know, to get an accurate representation), explored gray Copenhagen and had a blast catching up. (Chris is now playing American football again in Stockholm and just spent the previous months in Australia. Kid has a rough life, I know.) After a pit-stop at the Hotel EuroGlobe we headed back out to meet up with some friendly CouchSurfers. We spent a fun evening out with them (even if the club we ended up at was definitely a 18+ kind of place...).

Saturday weather.com promised low 60s and sunny skies. Well the temperature was definitely low and the skies were rainy and overcast. We headed into the city center for some sightseeing, had lunch by a canal and mostly froze on our expedition. I had to see some of the city (although heading back and doing dramatic readings from Chris' ridiculous book again would have been entertaining) so we decided the best plan of attack would be a boat tour around. The tour was fine until we got to the famous Little Mermaid statue. And by statue I mean billboard. The statue, for the first time in its history, is not in Copenhagen (Griswald!
). It is in Shanghai. No joke. Halfway through our boat tour we began to see who could draw a better animal in 10 seconds or less. I guess rainy weather is conducive to my lack of attention span. After more touring we called it a [very very cold] day and headed back where I stood in the shower for approximately 20 minutes just to warm up again. We rallied for the evening and met up with one of the guys from the night before who made us go to a mambo club. Not even kidding. My lack of rhythm was readily apparent but if you can't laugh at yourself...

Sunday was spent touring a bit more, dodging the rain and then traveling cross countries to make it home. I think I would have liked Copenhagen a bit more had the weather been better but I still had a blast.

Next stop: Milan (part 4!)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Live and Learn

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."--George Santayana

I think Mr. Santayana's quote was probably directed at me.

I frequently learn life's most difficult lessons, twice.

For instance:
-It took me two semesters at college to realize just how inept I was in chemistry.
-I had to learn about not lying to your parents because they always (and I mean always) find out. Once after that little party I had senior year and after the stupid Principal's daughter crashed into my car (I wasn't even in it! I was parked... at a party).
-I've learned "beer before liquor, never been sick-er" a number of times. Come to think of it, I still have to re-learn that on occasion.
-That it's never the same twice.
-That eating Incredible's Pizza (incredible would be a gross exaggeration for this "food") after a bar party at school is never a good idea.
-That getting off a plane/train in a foreign city/country without any ideas and/or plans isn't always the best course of action.
-That when I get to a foreign city/country without any ideas, plans or places to stay will all work out (especially with my last traveling partner).
-That that last, last bite is never worthwhile.
-That eating junk and/or dairy right before a fitness test/set of sprints in lacrosse will always result in me barfing. (Nice visual, I'm sure.)
-To dress for the weather (and now, consequently, not to trust weather.com).
-Last but certainly not least: traveling out of your way to save money.

A history of the last time I did it:
When I was studying abroad my friend Molly and I wanted to go to London. The cheapest tickets were out of Bratislava which was only a 45 minute bus ride from Vienna. Unfortunately, with these cheap tickets also came a very early departure time of six am. The only bus that would get us to Bratislava in time for our flight was the last one at 12:3o am. We took the bus (which almost didn't show because it was blizzarding) arrived at the near desolate airport and tried to find a comfortable place to sleep. I don't know how many of you have ever tried to sleep in a Slovakian airport in late November, but I can assure you, it's not particularly comfortable. Lack of sleep definitely took its toll (we may or may not have been hallucinating during Wicked). On the way home we took a different airline, still through Bratislava, which allowed only one carry-on bag so we had to put on just about every article of clothing so as to consolidate our luggage. We could hardly bend our arms or sit down and at that moment I thought, "Is this really worth it?" (But being a poor college kid of course it was.)

It happened again this past weekend. In an effort to save money I was going to fly to Copenhagen from Geneva and then fly back to Milan. My flight to Copenhagen left at the normal hour of 10 am however the 2.5 hours it takes to train to Milan accompanied by my chronic need to be early for flights had me leaving on a 4:57 am train. I left my house a little after 4:30 only to walk out into the rain (super). About a third of the way down the hill I realized I had forgotten my boarding passes (super duper) but I didn't want to risk it by running back up to grab them. After the early morning the rest of the travel experience was uneventful which was nice. Plus all my stuff for a whole weekend fit into my red Longchamp bag. I've carried bigger bags to the gym so I was very impressed.
The way home, however, was not so easy. When I went to the train station Wednesday to buy a return ticket from Milan (which is a four hour train ride and it's not even the main Milan airport, it was an hour bus ride outside) the man informed me that since it was a holiday weekend all the trains were full, all day. I asked him if I could just stand (how many times have I been on an overcrowded Italian train?) he flatly refused me. I asked if I could have any ticket to anywhere in Switzerland and I'd just use my Gleis 7 to ride back from whatever city I was in. Nope, that was not going to work either. I affected my "it's all going to work out" attitude and hoped that my friend Gabri could persuade them to give me a ticket on the Italian side (no dice). Saturday morning I realized that a train home was pretty much out of the question until Monday and I needed to find an alternate means back to Switzerland. I entertained the idea of renting a car but my [lack of] stick shift skills would have left me either in a horrible accident and/or still circling in an endless roundabout. Plus, if I got a ticket they probably would have taken me in on account of my mother having an outstanding speeding ticket from there. I then remembered that my friend Shelley has a car so I asked decided I could lose nothing by asking for this huge, huge favor. She, amazingly and generously, said yes and we agreed to meet in Como right on the Italian border of Switzerland and Italy.
My flight arrived a little late but being the prepared kid I was I bought my bus ticket mid flight so as I exited the plane I had to "bust a move" (another one of my dad's favorite phrases) to get to the bus terminal. I ran through the mostly empty airport (creepy) and took the very last seat on the bus (yes!). Gabri had looked up train times for me (thanks man!) so I bought a ticket at the automated machine and had 35 minutes to spare. When I got to the tracks however I didn't see any signage for my train to Como. I asked a man and he said, all whilst laughing, that silly me! This train left from a different station, five metro stops away. A large expletive formed on my lips but instead I thanked him and took off for the metro. The first three machines didn't take credit cards (I had no Euros on me) so I was already a little panicky and more than a little sweaty. I got my metro ticket and raced to the correct platform. No train for six minutes and it was 6:20!! I rode the metro in a my paranoid state (re: looking at the clock on my phone every 37 seconds) and then ran (in a couple circles) around the correct station looking for the trains. Usually, in Milan, you have to put your metro ticket through the machine when you exit as well but the guy in front of me didn't so I barreled through. I finally found my track and had less than a minute to spare. There was another plastic partition in front of me which I figured would open automatically. It didn't. Which I learned by crashing into it. I made it though (forgot to validate my ticket but luckily it wasn't checked) and met Shelley in Como. We grabbed a delicious dinner, saw the sunset over the lake, and then crossed the border (on foot) back to her car in Switzerland. We set off back towards Zürich around 10 pm and it was smooth sailing until the Gothard Tunnel where we encountered 1.5 hours of stop and stop some more traffic. Finally arrived at 1:30 am and Shelley had to continue back to her house (I mean this was above and beyond kind and generous).

I have definitely learned that perhaps convenience is worth the added price. That is, until my next trip.



Tadaaaaa!

DELTA CONFIRMATION #:  B7RPYP
TICKET #: 00623267520444
Bkng Meals/ Seat/
Day Date Flight Status Class City Time Other Cabin
--- ----- --------------- ------ ----- ---------------- ------ ------ -------
Tue 31AUG DELTA 2421 OK T LV MINNEAPOLS/ 500P F **
STPAUL COACH
AR LOS ANGELES 659P

Tue 31AUG DELTA 17 OK T LV LOS ANGELES 1035P D **
AR SYDNEY 635A COACH

Guess I'm going home first! (Surprise mom and dad!)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Happy Anniversary to Me

Just had the following conversation with Kristina via Skype chat:

Jill: I'm not cut out for the real world.
Kristina: word.

Today is the one year anniversary of my college graduation--look how far I've come!

Three in One

I woke up in Denmark, flew to Italy and am going to bed (finally!) in Switzerland. I'd call that the Kristina Special--three countries in one day!

I made it back (thanks to an incredible, incredible friend Shelley who DROVE to ITALY to pick me up because no train would let me return!). Copenhagen was great, the weather was not, my fever thankfully broke Thursday night so by the time I left for my 4:57 am train to Geneva Friday morning I was feeling a whole lot better.

I promise to explain all the details of my Danish experience but for now, bed.

When I was explaining the issues I might have returning home today my mother said, "It's always an adventure with you Jill."

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Occupational Hazards

Like many jobs, being an indentured servant (I mean au pair) has its occupational hazards. There's a chance you might set your hair ablaze and run screaming from the house just to get away from the perils that lie within (let's just forget about the time I set my hair on fire on accident). You could burn yourself on the iron from hell or the oven. You will most likely be subjected to lice and other small, disgusting parasites. You will have your ears attacked by obnoxious songs and/or, my personal torture, "Jack & Annie." The books are interesting stories about history but on tape, they make me want to attack the iPod. The author, Mary Pope Osbourne, reads them and her voice and the voices she does for Jack and Annie make me long for the days of High School Musical once more. Perhaps the biggest occupational hazard though, is sickness. You are constantly subjected to the germs of these kids, and if they are like mine and go to school all day, the germs of hundreds of other children. Last week The Mother and Father were both gone a lot so it was mostly Girl and I hanging about (Boy was also gone). Girl was a bit under the weather but that didn't stop her from a.) wiping her nose on my person, b.) trying to LICK me (and yet, she's still my favorite) c.) constant touching and/or climbing on me. Thanks to G, I am now under the weather and not too happy about it. My flu-like symptoms are going to have to go by tomorrow morning so I can enjoy my weekend in Denmark. For now, I'll just be raiding the medicine drawers and hoping to use my rudimentary German and French skills to figure out and ingest as much medicine as possible! Glad I already knew the French word for flu: La Grippe. Why must the French make everything sound better when it is just the lousy old flu?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Please?

Dear Eyjafjallajokull (The Icelandic volcano),

Please, please do not erupt again. It's bad for poor Iceland's environment and it would really bother me if I couldn't make my flight to Copenhagen on Friday. (P.S. Going to Copenhagen Friday! Well, I hope I am.) So please, stop spewing your volcanic ash, disrupting the weather and airline flights. Thank you.

Sincerely,

jill

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Catch Phrase

Today is Mother's Day (Mutter Tag here) and I know I always wax poetic on how wonderful my mother is--and she really is--but today, I'm heading in another direction.

When I was a kid I thought that everything my family did was the norm, I didn't know that macaroni and cheese wasn't made with cottage cheese until the 3rd grade. It was a big shock at the time, I promise. Most families have their own inside jokes (busted like a cheese biscuit or busted like a fromaggio biscotti when we're in Europe, death marching, bloody stumps, Griswald to name a few) and mine is no different. I realized the other day just how many catch phrases my parents' use and how many of them I have adopted. I didn't even realize I was using them until I would start to say them and Boy and Girl would finish my sentence for me.

Parental Unit (another saying) Quotable Quotes:
From Meine Mutter:
  • "Let's go, let's go, let's really go!" (Sung more often than spoken.)
  • Nicknames like Doobie, Monkey doodle (both of which I have given to Boy and Girl)
  • "You'll be great, you'll be swell!" (The show tune she used to sing to me before big days at school which was horribly embarrassing and I now sing to my kids.)
  • "Third times' a charm!"
  • My mother often breaks out into song and/or makes up new lyrics to songs on the radio when she doesn't remember them.
  • "Mean green bean"
From my Father:
  • "Put your napkin on your lapkin."
  • "If you're not early, you're late."
  • "Hey, I don't make the rules, I just follow them." (I am following The Mother and Father's instructions whilst he was most likely following my mom's or just making them up as he went along.)
  • "My brains are dusty." (Applies only post-sneeze.)
  • "You've got wild baby hair." (What my family calls bed-head.)
  • "Butt monkey." (To which my kids said, "That's a bad word!")
  • "Ready for inspection?" (This was during my room cleaning but now I do it with their teeth brushing.)
  • "You'll be eligible..." (Eligibility for things was a big part of my childhood.)
There are a few phrases that I haven't started to say yet:
My mother's biggest insult: "You turkey!"
Or these other gems from my dad: "Saddle up and ride, muchachos," "Buddy Lee, man of action," "Report back" (I was either reporting back, getting ready for inspection or trying to be eligible for something during my childhood, and no, my dad is not Captain von Trapp) and I was often "Narda" apparently an old magicians assistant, every time I assisted him I was "Narda-ing."

So to my mother: Happy Mother's Day! I love you mom, je t'aime beaucoup.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I can type with my eyes closed.
I can find my way, literally and figuratively, around foreign cities without issue.
I can send a text message like nobody's business.
I figured out how to fix my computer (take it to the Apple store).

And now, I can turn on the T.V. in this house!! Sure it only took 10 months, but better late than never, right?

Friday, May 7, 2010

When It Rains...

So the Parents have both been traveling the last couple of weeks and so I've had "a lot more to do." (A lot more for my job, not yours Allie/Kristen.) They have paid me more AND given me more time off. Monday I got my second official afternoon off (which resulted in lots of weisse beers with Kristina and some Thai food) and tonight the Father asked the girl if she wanted a ride to school. She said absolutely and he told me I could HAVE THE MORNING OFF. This has NEVER happened to me. Since July. Of course tonight when I got home (from more weisse beers with Kristina and co.) I made her snack and got everything ready for tomorrow morning so all he would have to do is give Girl breakfast and get her dressed (I've already picked out her clothes for tomorrow, packed her bag and made her snack for school). [Note: Boy has been gone all week for a school trip=awesome!]

It is odd because I was feeling so taken advantage of right before Christmas and they didn't pay me extra nor really thank me for all the hell I was in, but these past two weeks the Parents have been incredibly appreciative. Weird, but I'm happy for this change of pace.

Also exciting travel plans coming up! More soon!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Additionally

I almost forgot! The best part about TB's birthday:

When I told TMoTB that if TB goes to school in the U.S. everyone will always want to celebrate her birthday since it falls on Cinco de Mayo. When I explained what Cinco de Mayo is she said, "Well that's great! I love margaritas!"

Isn't that what every mother wants? Their child to be born on a party-holiday?

Uno de Baby


Some of you might be wondering why my title is "Uno de Baby" instead of Cinco de Mayo but today, my friends, is TB's first birthday.

TB and I have had a pretty good relationship for the past eight months. I realized the other day that the longest I've heard her cry cannot be longer than 30 seconds, both Boy and Girl cry, on average, more than 30 seconds per day. She rarely cries (at least with me) and if I ever have children I hope they have similar dispositions. TB is also very much a ham (wonder where she got that quality?). She rarely growls when we're in the company of my friends and she has yet to perform her cell phone trick. What, you might wonder, is the cell phone trick? Well the other day I was changing TB's diaper (woof) and gave her a toy cell phone to play with so she doesn't wiggle off the table. When you squeeze the phone it rings and all of a sudden she takes the phone and brings it to her ear. Like a real phone. The baby, who cannot talk or fully walk, knows how to answer a phone!!! I definitely think she learned that little habit from me.

There are three things that my friends say when they meet TB. In order they go:
1. Yeah, you're right. She isn't that cute...
2. Wow Jill, she really looks like you! (So let me get this straight, you don't think she's cute and she looks like me. Meaning you don't think I'm cute?!)
3. (This one happens after they've spent some time with her and I think it's after they've seen what a good baby she is.) You know what, she is cute!


Yesterday though, I got evidence of TB hamming it up, growling and using her cell phone.

video


video

Monday, May 3, 2010

A Love Hate Relationship

My travels have taken me to vastly different places with incredibly different inhabitants however, in all my European travels there has remained one constant in every city. That constant is scaffolding. I hate scaffolding. It is the bane of my European travel existence. Seriously. Nothing is worse than coming up to a church that is hundreds of years old only to have your view impeded by scaffolding. Now I realize that people are just trying to help keep the building intact for future tourists but still, I hate scaffolding. Wait, I sit corrected, what is worse than the plane scaffolding is when buildings drape a large piece of cloth over the scaffolding with a picture of what the building is supposed to look like underneath. Talk about patronizing. I don't want to look at a screen-printed image of gargoyles, I want to see their contorted, weather beaten faces for myself!

Our "neighborhood" decided to all paint their houses and windows (either a display of Swiss "togetherness" or a display of the controlling nature of the Swiss. You be the judge). I woke up last Monday to the sounds of scaffolding. Our house has scaffolding around it:

Unfortunately, that isn't even the worst part. The worst part have to be the men and woman who are working on our house. I have a routine every morning: I peel myself out of bed, go upstairs, go into the bathroom, rid myself of excess water (the nicest way I could think to put it) and then brush my teeth. Well last Monday morning I closed the blinds so I could do just that but Tuesday morning as I was winding the blinds down (they are these exterior-steel blinds that you have to crank down and up) the painted had the audacity to knock on the window and tell me he needed to have it rolled up. Meaning I could either complete my morning routine with the painter peeping or hold it until later. Naturally, I decided to hold it until after I put the kids on the bus. I ran back inside and upstairs to the next bathroom but lo and behold there he was again! I ran upstairs and another group were examining the top floor patio. It was a painter-bathroom conspiracy. I'd like to tell you it has gotten better but in fact it is quite the opposite. They left their supplies outside the downstairs bathroom so even if they are nowhere to be seen just as I'm trying to sneak in they'll pop their heads up and WAVE to me. The painters seem to know exactly when some one will be using the toilet and/or shower and are at that window at the exact moment. And it isn't just me. One morning the painters were no where to be seen until the Mother needed to take her shower. Then, of course, they were outside her window. The worst part about it is, when they are finished with our house, they will just move next door and have better leverage to look in our windows! At least we will be able to close the blinds and use the facilities in peace.

Man, I hate scaffolding.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

So Long, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

Tomorrow my friend Kristen leaves. And as happy as I am for her to be returning to our motherland, selfishly, I'm sad she's going. You may remember Kristen from stories about: Zermatt & the Matterhorn, Oktoberfest, going to Liechtenstein on a whim or just spending weekends at her apartment.

Kristen has been a Semi-Swiss reader since the start of our friendship and she has always been encouraging of my fledgling blogging skills and is pushing me to write a book on my year--partly so she can garner the fame from being a character in what is sure to be a best-seller, kidding! (She also wanted me to a commit a crime so she could hide me in her apartment and publish my writings from an undisclosed location, then I'd get caught and gain even more fame whilst I am serving my time--hoping that dream dies since she leaves the country tomorrow.) So thanks for reading!

Kristen and I also overcame an obstacle that a lot of friendships don't face: traveling. Traveling with some one is difficult. Traveling well with some one is even harder. Traveling well and remaining friends is a serious challenge. Kristen and I met at the au pair meeting one Wednesday and solidified our friendship that afternoon: she knew where the Patagonia store was in Zürich and I knew where The North Face store was. And thus a friendship was born. That weekend we went to Zermatt together and on the train there I realized that I had been missing girls when I traveled. We also are compatible when we travel: we both know when it's time to eat and more importantly drink, when it is time to sight see and when it is time to sit, relax and enjoy your surroundings. We know when it's time to shop and when it is appropriate to take photos (okay well she hasn't really learned that skill yet--while I, on the other hand, never take pictures). Kristen also, cannot read a map. Which one would think would be a bad trait, however it plays into my bossy, controlling nature (Uncles J, J & J wonder where I got that habit?) so being able to take control of the situation worked well for both of us.

I'll definitely miss you Kristen and let me impart some words of wisdom on you (different from the ones you told Wyatt this afternoon though): Don't mix Benadryl and alcohol. Travel safe.