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Saturday, April 26, 2014

One day in the life of...

I'm actually going to tell you about two days in the life of a part-time working Mom. A Mom who likes to be prepared, efficient and on top of things. Especially on office days. 
Both days happened this week, and both involved a code brown. It's not what you think. At least not entirely. Bear with me.

Let's get started.

Tuesday morning after the long Easter weekend. First day of school after a two weeks' spring break. 

Of course I had to wake Colin. He only gets up at 6am on Sundays. We were about to take a shower when hubs came to the bathroom. His PJ pants had brown stains all over. If it hadn't been him, being a grown-up and all, I'd have thought, you know… Turns out they were chocolate stains. From a chocolate egg that someone took to bed and forgot about it. He had the cockiness to ask who it was, when it was kind of obvious that neither, Colin or I, would bring chocolate and not eat it. 

Then C remembered that he was supposed to do some homework! We are not used to homework yet, and we couldn't find his booklet. A frantic search produced it, and he winged his assignments in the 10 minutes he had left before leaving the house. It's a good thing that kid can read and doesn't need help with the instructions. 
Even though doing homework at the last minute is not the standard procedure I want to have in place, I was pretty proud of him!

So instead of preparing food to put in the oven so it could cook while I was at work, I was running back and forth between the bedroom and the basement where our laundry room is, stripping down not only the sheets but also the bedding. 

By the time I was finished, I was sweating like a pig and had to put on new clothes.

At the office, the internet was down for a full two hours, due to maintenance. It had been announced to be down for a 45 minutes' time window between 8 and 12. It's kind of hard to work in IT without being able to do remote support. As for me, I was desperate to get on Facebook to my FBUA meeting. Or at least to post about my morning.

During lunch hour I went shopping, went home, started to reheat some leftover pizza, stocked the fridge, put the freshly laundered bedding in the dryer, started a new load of laundry, peeled the carrots and potatoes, put them in the steamer and was ready to race back to the office just in time. Oh wait! The pizza! I had to actually eat it!

Wednesday and Thursday I just went to the Brazilian rainforest and the dentist's. 

So they were pretty quiet. This should have made me suspicious.

On Friday morning Colin didn't finish his breakfast. He said his tummy hurt and he wanted to play hooky. Huh? Which one, now? But then he went on making jokes, running off instead of to the bathroom, being his usual cheerful self, so we sent him to school and said if he was feeling sick he should have the teacher call me and I would come and pick him up.

Every other Friday they spend the morning walking to the nearby forest and play there. I kind of expected to be getting a call and having to go to "right by the tall spruce" or "the place we once saw a squirrel", but apart from the hockey app that sent me the final result of the SJS : LAK game, my phone remained pretty much silent. 

Lunch hour was just about here, when I heard someone coming through the office door. Don't you just love walk-ins who won't respect the fact that food is now a priority?  

It was Colin, fully equipped with backpack, sweater, fluorescent thingie (young kids wear them to be better visible on sidewalks. I don't know how to call them in English), cap; - he even brought the plastic bag with a 1'2 tall stuffed animal Forfo that he was supposed to take to Sunday Friday School later this afternoon.

"Hey, what are you doing here, how did you get here?"
"I'm sick, and I can't go to daycare, so I came here. I walked."
"You are sick, and you walk an extra quarter mile to get here? What kind of sick are you?"

"My tummy hurts."
"Do you think you'd still want to eat something, I was just about to run over to LenzoPark  and get lunch?"
"I'd like a yoghurt, rhubarb or strawberry, or both."

Before I left, I made him call daycare:

"Yeah, hi, is it OK if I don't come over today?
Of course it's Colin. 
I'm sick. My tummy hurts.
At the office. You know, Mommy's. And Daddy's.
OK, see you next week. Bye!"

On our way back from the market, a coworker asked what was wrong with my son, and I told him. "You know that this could have backfired?" He said. "When I was a boy, my Mom sent me to school even though my stomach ached. Later they had to rush me to the hospital and remove my appendix!" Oh man, quit making me feel bad! That boy is fine!

And sure enough, when we came back, he was sitting next to another coworker, quietly peeling a hard boiled egg, then wolfing down both yoghurts.

Lunch hour was over, and everyone went back to their desks. C went into Daddy's office. Hubs gave me this look. 

What? You are his parent, too!!

I said "OK, listen Colin, let's go to the conference room, we need to have a family meeting! Yes, you, too!"

We told C that we didn't think that he was all that sick and he needed to choose from the following:
  • Being sick and going home to lie down in bed, no gadget time
  • Not being sick, going to daycare and later KIK (CHACH in English = "children and church")
"I can't go to daycare, I might pass it on to other children" he said. Smartie. So I shut down my computer, shoved everything into the drawer, locked up the cabinets, and off we went.

First stop: a girl's house to drop off Forfo, the rainforest ant, so she could take it to KIK later. She wasn't home. Forfo, Smilinguido and a handful of other stuffed ants are the class mascots, and every Friday, a couple of kids are allowed to take home an ant for the week. It was important not to hang on to it longer than a week. Hence the operation "ant drop-off".

Next stop: the community building. We attached a note to Forfo and left him in front of the classroom door.

Next stop: mailbox to ship off my work of this morning, mainly invoices.

Next stop: home. On our way we had noticed that people had put out their wastepaper for the quarterly pick-up, so that's what we did, too.

Then I made him go to the bathroom, and while he was sitting there, pressing, I unpacked his belongings. Eeewww! He didn't eat all of his snacks, and everything was mashed, lumpy, soggy and also kind of smelly. The lid of the snack box wasn't entirely closed, so some of the smelly sogginess had spread onto pretty much everything else in the backpack, a set of spare clothes in particular.

Before picture (no after picture available. You don't wanna see that!)
Before I took those clothes to the laundry room, I thought it might be a good idea to take the things he had been wearing, too. Yes, there was a pile of stuff, and when I picked it up, about a pound of forest was flaking off those clothes. Chunks of dried mud, fir needles, pebbles, pieces of branches. I got the hand vacuum and cleaned up the mess. 

Meanwhile, C was still sitting on the toilet, his face all red from the hard work he was accomplishing. 

Then I got to clean up the, you know, other mess. Gosh, how can a little boy produce so much poop? No wonder his tummy was aching! 

Of course he felt better now and wanted to go and play outside. Or better yet, go to daycare.

Sometimes parenting just sucks.

I made him spend an hour in his room (he actually read a book. In bed!) and said no to iPad use. 

"You are so mean, making me take an Amish Day while you are on your computer!"

Can you say "work from home cause I had to leave the office due to a kid that was too sick to go to daycare?"

So all in all it was just a regular week. How was yours?

Here's your reward for keeping me company:

Friday, April 25, 2014

Funny Friday - Glassagna

I don't always go groceries shopping 
after a charity board meeting, 
but when I do, I drop the jar.

Today’s post is the first of what will be a monthly feature here. It’s called Funny Friday and is a collaborative project that I’ll post on the last Friday of every month. Each month one of the participants submits a picture, then we all write 5 captions or thoughts inspired by that month’s picture. Links to the other bloggers’ posts are below, click on them and see what they’ve come up with. I hope we bring a smile to your face as you start your weekend.

Here’s today picture. It was submitted by Confessions of a part-time working mom:

This is me. Dropping the tomato sauce jar. Want to hear the full story? 

The new year had barely begun, when the charity chief scheduled a meeting with some ladies of the church at short notice. I don't like unproductive meetings, and I particularly don't like evening meetings for two reasons:
  • I depend on my husband to come home early, so we can have dinner. I run, he watches Colin and tucks him into bed. Sometimes I get lucky, and he loads the dishwasher. Can't guarantee that he actually remembers to start it, too!
  • I am expected to take the minutes, and frankly by 8pm of an average day, my brain goes into battery saving stand-by mode. This fact, in combination with a slightly erratic person running the meeting, makes for a good combination. Not.
Those of you who have been following my blog for a while, know that the chief has been *irritating the h*** out of me and the other board members. 

We had gotten used to just rolling our eyes and getting things over with. We were done talking and had announced to step down from our positions. So at this particular meeting, all of the chief's work intensive suggestions were declined by the church ladies. "Let's keep it simple" they said. 

I loved that meeting! 

Apart from a nasty comment she made about a person who wasn't there. 

But we were done in less than an hour, which gave me time to go groceries shopping on my way home. I stocked up on ingredients for… guess?

That's right. One of my "signature staple meals". 
The one I never get comments like "(INSERT FOOD) -  again???
The one I make enough to have leftovers that make for another dinner.
The one that allows me to spend an hour in the kitchen, sip on a glass of a main cooking ingredient and reflect on life. 

By the time dinner is ready, I am all mellowed out and good to talk to. As long as you don't mention 
*irritating topics.

It's also an opportunity to give back. You know, bring empty ingredient containers to the recycling collecting point. Unless you drop the jar like it happened the night I came back from the "let's keep it simple meeting". Then you just throw it away. Keep it simple. 

Click on the links below and let some other bloggers make you smile: 

Baking In A Tornado
Black Sheep Mom
Silence of the Mom 
Someone Else’s Genius 
Confessions of a part-time working mom
The Momisodes 
Sanity waiting to happen
On the Alberta/Montana Border
Cluttered Genius

*Irritating as in (random example):

Meeting 1: We agree on not doing cocktails at the yearly assembly (taking place on March 24) as there was going to be a 3-course dinner, interrupted by several speeches and music -> a lengthy program with plenty of food and wine. 
I take the minutes, so I'm pretty sure that's what we agreed on.

Meeting 2: The chief starts discussing napkins and appetizers for the cocktails. WHAT cocktails, we are not doing cocktails? Yes, of course we are. There is this great prosecco at our local grocery store, and it's cheap, too. 5.95! Eyes rolling. Arguing is a waste of time. I suggest "you send me a list of what you want, and I'll go shopping. Next topic?"

email1, March, 18: Tamara, I ordered a different prosecco. The one I was talking about is now 12 bucks. I have decided no white wine after all. You'll just have to provide chips or peanuts, you choose."

email2, March 22nd: Chief, I bought some yummy stuff, pistachio, popcorn, rosemary breadsticks... Do you want me to take everything to the meeting site during the day, or should I just have it ready when I arrive in the evening?"

email3, March 24: Tamara, just have everything ready. And make sure it's chilled.

Why on Earth would she want me to chill the chips? Is she nuts? 
Didn't she say she'd be taking care of the sparkling wine? 
Going back to email1. She ordered! 
That means she'd have it delivered, right? Or that she'd pick it up herself?

I try to call her. I try to call the store. No one ever picks up when you need them. 

I drive to the store and ask if by any chance there was some prosecco that needed to be picked up. The lady looks at me like I'm nuts. "Are you Mrs Gerber? We expected you on Friday! Mrs Chief said you were going to pick it up on Friday!"

"You know, I have not been made aware of that. Plus, for years and years, Friday has been one of my office days. Never mind. Do you still have those bottles ready for us? Thank you SO MUCH!" (I think I'm gonna open one right now!)

Now I've just got to chill 10 bottles of sparkling wine within 6 hours…

And you were wondering why I dropped the jar..?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The nominees for the bad teacher award are...

The other day I wrote a teacher's appreciation post hoping that the good guy would get flowers. Last night when I couldn't sleep I thought about how hard it was to come up with my favorite teacher, and how much easier it would have been to just make a list of the ones who weren't all that great in my humble and biased opinion.

That's what I'm going to do now. Purely for fun! And you get to decide who gets to bite the bullet (in German we don't say "bullet" but "sour apple")

The big bore
Elementary school, 4th and 5th grade
He was a mild mannered man who liked his routine. Every single morning, he would take out his guitar, and we'd sing "Im Frühtau zu Berge wir gehen, fallera!" It roughly translates as "we are going to the mountain in the dewy morning, yay!" I can't believe it's on Youtube:

Then we'd go about our other routine: dictations, fractions, oh, and essays. That's where I got my love for writing. Not. He insisted we had to use cursive characters, but I liked block letters better. And I had a really nice block letter hand writing! So when we'd get our essays back, this is how he graded them: "content: A, hand writing: F" The game that we kept playing for the full two years was that I wrote my essays twice, once block, then cursive. Every single time. God, was I stubborn. 

Then we'd talk about roofs. For a very long time. Arched roof, flat, gabled, hipped, domed roofs. All we ever did was talking. Never would we walk around in our village and look at real houses. 

I used my time to learn the steps on how to solve the rubric's cube underneath my desk.  
I can still do it! School really does teach you valuable stuff!

The professor
High School

He taught History, German, Latin and Greek. (No, I didn't attend Latin and Greek!!) How he put up with a bunch of teenagers is beyond me. He was probably the most knowledgable teacher I'd ever meet, but he was challenged in the way of, you know, transferring that knowledge. He would mumble about the topic at hand and scribble illegible notes on the endless overhead slide. Once he scrolled back to old notes, and he couldn't find them.  There was a whole bulge of slides on the floor, and he'd still scroll. We were laughing until tears ran down our cheeks.

Us kids did our own thing. Writing notes to each other, eating candy, folding airplanes out of paper, conducting test flights,…

Then he'd snap and hand out unannounced tests. Sh** We realized we had no clue. 

I remember how I carefully looked around me. The eager beaver about four seats away was writing like a maniac. I took a chance, folded my test paper, wrote her name on it and passed it on. She'd turn her head to me - I flashed her my best smile - she'd look in the teacher's direction. He was busy and didn't care what we were doing. So she'd basically answer my test questions. Then my neighbor's, and the other neighbor's.
The teacher was not dumb, of course. He never said anything, but from now on, he'd hand out four different sets of test questions. That didn't stop us from passing on our papers. Everyone who knew anything, wrote it down on the buddy's paper. On an average test paper there'd be answers written in blue ink, black ink, nice hand writing, not so nice hand writing. I think "potpourri" would be the appropriate term. We all got the same grades. We were audacious. 

The lazy stargazer
High School

Our geography teacher must have worked hard in his first year of teaching. That's when he set up his binders, including a full script with pictures, maps, jokes and all, and also his tests. He did that in the early 70s or so. From then on, he went on REPEAT mode. And I mean it. I had friends in higher places classes who handed me down their booklets and test collections. That's how I could tell my buddies what joke the teacher would make about a certain topic. We studied the old test questions, and it worked out, it was unreal!

The good news about him was, he was passionate about astronomy. So when ever there would be a solar or lunar eclipse, or a certain planet to be visible, he'd tell us about it. I loved that part!

The ignorant drill sergeants

There were two of them, and they were best friends, go figure.

One, ah,  was, ahem, supposed to, ah,  teach us about, ah, bookkeeping, and it, ah, was a real, ah, pain just to try, ahem, and listen to him. 
He was our class teacher, too, but he never bothered to learn our names. 
Field trips were like military activities, we went marching. And it wasn't about the lovely sights or the team building aspect, it was about how many miles we hiked.

Once we complained and asked if we could go somewhere by bicycle instead - surprisingly he was open for it, hooray! The 30 miles trip that he chose, made us surmount three passes, and when we finally arrived, we got a 30 minutes lunch break before heading back.

The other one was our computer tech teacher. It was in the mid-80s, and we had our hopes up for some fancy stuff. This is how he started the first lesson:
"Good morning, my name is Mr H, I am going to teach you how to work with computers. Before we start, may I ask the girls to come and sit in the front row. Usually the girls don't get it anyway, but if I've got them a little closer, there's a better chance!" 

What an encouraging welcome! 
He never knew our names either. 
Exams were done on the computers, which made sense. He would give one warning "You've got 5 more minutes to finish up!" Then he would turn off the electricity. Some had never saved their work and failed the class. Not me, though. That's probably why I'm qualified to work in the IT business today?

The grumpy Ass****

Finally there was Mr L. He wasn't technically my teacher, but he was some kind of head coach for all sports activities. 

One day there was a basketball tournament, and he approached me when we (thought we) were done with the games and just wanted to grab a sandwich for lunch. He was a grumpy guy, most girls were afraid of him. I had gotten to know him better the winter before in ski camp. He had been giving me a hard time because I didn't follow him closely enough downhill. 

"You're the first who tells us to do this, every other ski coach wants us to keep a distance!" I dared to say. 
He gave me a dirty look. "And why would they say that?" he asked. 
"So that when someone falls, the next person won't collide with them." 
Another frown "Do I look as if I would fall?" 
"Ass***" I didn't say it, but he knew I wanted to.

Anyway, by the end of ski camp we were almost friends. 

So of course when he had to say something to my team he'd talk to me. The day of the basketball tournament he told me my team would play for 3rd place in the afternoon. 

"Round up your team" he said. "You're up in about an hour."
"I'm not sure we can. I know for a fact that two girls went home?" 
"Well, that's not my problem, YOU are the captain, you make it happen!"
"I am WHAT? When did THAT happen?"
"You are responsible cause I say so. You drag their asses here if you have to! See you later."



I met the big bore at the school reunion in 2012 and talked about the cursive and block issues. He smiled and said "you'll be happy to hear that as of school year 2014 there'll be no more cursive drill!"

Nothing ever happened. about the professor and our cheating on the tests. Until the day a school inspector visited. And of course we'd get a test. For a minute we froze. Then we'd carefully go about our usual teamwork. Of course the inspector observed us but didn't say anything. However, before the end of the school year we got a new history teacher.

The lazy stargazer is now the father in law of one of my classmates from back then. He turned out to be a wonderful grandfather to her sons. 

The, ah, bookkeeping teacher, who was also, ah, my class teacher, made me come back to school after graduation because I requested access to my written final exams. At that time I already had a job in downtown Zurich, and I couldn't make it to school during class hours, so he had to stay longer and wasn't thrilled about it. I took my time to read my essays, go through every paper, you get the picture. Then i thanked him politely for his time and made small talk. He actually asked about my job, and I told him. Yes, a private bank, everybody speaks French. Yes, they let me handle stock exchange orders for really large amounts. No bookkeeping, though, thank God, right? Hahaha. 
With my newly acquired corporate experience I realized he was just a clerk who never got promoted!

I have never heard back of the "girls don't get it" IT guy.

And Mr L, the grumpy sports coach? Got married a couple of years after my graduation. Guess who was his wedding photographer? My Mom!!! He was looking very happy on those pictures!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Someone stole Marcia's Spandex

Do you know Marcia?

She's not Dr. Marcia Fieldstone on Network America! 
Even though it'd be cool to know her, too.

The Marcia I want to tell you about today is Marcia Kester Doyle aka Meno Mama

I met her last fall when I was welcomed into Karen's monthly writing challenge group where we do fun stuff like "Secret Subject Swap" or "Use your Words" - the latest project being "funny Friday", look out for it later this week on April 25!

Marcia is the generation between my Mom and myself. I think! She loves to write, eat chocolate and drink wine, so that makes her my friend. Also she's my fellow FBUA (Facebook User Anonymous)

Her writing is very broad. With 9 simple questions, as an example, she can tell you if you are a MILF

The other day she was asking, quite justifiably, whether we are raising an ungrateful generation? 

But my favorite post I've read from her so far is a sad one: Soaring with Eagles - a tribute to her sister Cherie who passed away. 

If you liked any of this, I would like to encourage you to sign up for her book "Who stole my Spandex?" that is going to be released early this summer:

Who Stole My Spandex? Midlife Musings from a Middle-Aged a humorous collection of stories based on Marcia Kester Doyle's hilariously popular blog, Menopausal Mother. Take a ride on the midlife wild side with a wacky journey through menopausal pitfalls, raising a family in a madhouse, maintaining a spandex-worthy booty, and all points in between! Nothing is off limits!

The collection includes laugh-out-loud brain candy, such as "How to Annoy Your Children," "You Might Be Menopausal If...," and "Menopausal Cuckoo," along with some of her newer tales of midlife mayhem. With a dash of wit and a heavy dose of humor, this is the greatest therapy ever offered in book form…and cheaper than any therapist's bill!

Here's to Marcia and her new book! *Raising a glass of Pinot Grigio*

May many readers enjoy it! Good luck!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

If life doesn't hand you lemons...

In preparation for Easter I not only wanted to dye eggs, but also make a carrot cake. 

I had never made one on my own, but watched and helped my mom a couple of many years ago.

A quick look into the fridge confirmed that there were more than enough eggs for both purposes, but all the ground hazelnut in the baking drawer had expired. That's what you get for not making Christmas cookies!

I went groceries shopping. Alone, because hockey guy doesn't always like to join me. So I had to make it quick, but I did think of the marzipan carrots. After all they are the most important ingredient of a carrot cake. At least here in Switzerland. We don't cover carrot cakes with cream cheese frosting.

I started by doing a mental pro / con list on kitchen machine vs hand grater while peeling the carrots. This is how my brain works:

Kitchen machine pro:
  • No hand grating. Obviously.

Kitchen machine con:
  • I'd have to look for the manual because I wouldn't know how to assemble the necessary pieces to grate carrots. 
  • Assembling the pieces might take me a long time
  • I'd have to wash the bowl by hand because I would need it again to make the batter

Hand grater pro:

  • It doesn't take up much space in the dishwasher
  • No assembling necessary
  • I actually know where it is!

Hand grater con:

  • Hand grating necessary
  • Finger nail and / or skin damage and / or coloration might result

You guessed right. I have an expensive and powerful kitchen machine, but I preferred to grate the carrots with my own hands and a cheap old grater.

I was quite happy about the nicely grated carrots, washed my hands and said to myself "don't worry about the orange-ish fingers, just rub them with lemon juice."

Wait a minute! Lemon juice? I don't have any lemons! I also didn't buy any! But I need some for the recipe! Shooooot!

Colin was outside, playing with the neighbor's kids. I told him I had to do another quick run to the store.

"That's OK" he said. "If anything happens, I've got your number."

And he does. I always write it down when I leave. We have been doing this for almost 18 months now when I leave for a half hour of so. So far he has called twice. Once to tell me who won the hockey game he was playing. And once to ask if I was going to buy donuts. 

"Wonderful. Be nice, don't fight, I'll be back soon!" I blew him a kiss and went back to the house. He blew me one back. I was almost at the door when he ran toward me and shouted "wait, Mommy!" I turned around. "I want to give you a real kiss!" 

Awwww! When life doesn't hand you lemons once you could really use them, you get sweet kisses by your kid instead! In front of his friends, no less. Life is good!

There I was, back in the kitchen, juicing my lemons and separating yolks from egg whites. And I forgot that I wanted to try the water bottle trick! I'm sure you've seen it going around social media:

By now you know I do things the old fashioned way in the kitchen. But wait, I used the kitchen machine to beat the egg whites! I am always fascinated by the miracle of some viscuos fluid turning into a voluminous, fluffy, gleamy mass!

While the cake was in the oven, we boiled and dyed our eggs.

There is something therapeutic about being creative while the kitchen is full of the nice smell from baking. 

Cake on the rack for cooling, eggs in the carton ready for the Easter Bunny to pick up and hide, pizza in the oven for dinner, I felt on top of things and grabbed my phone to check Facebook and email. A friend and I are sending picture riddles back and forth. Mine was this - actually I only sent one single letter, so you are better off:

Q: What's this about?
A: Part of your Easter decoration?

Did I just say I felt on top of things? 

I had done NO decorating whatsoever! 

Can you say "quick & dirty decoration?" T's what I did…

Thank God for last year's efforts!
This morning Colin went letter chick hunting 

and tried to make sense of it:

So proud he spelled Easter!
He figured it out!! The most valuable hint we gave him was to start with the "V". He wanted to write "Las Vegas" but noticed he didn't have all the necessary letters. Then he wrote "never", looked at it, looked at the remaining letters and got all excited: "It's DENVER!!"  

And "St. Paul" on account of the soft hockey sticks he got after he left out the letters over night for the Easter Bunny.

Happy Easter!