Thursday, September 29, 2011

Catching Up

Before I say anything else, let me just put this out there: chili-masala pumpkinseed pralines. Mmmm mmmm mmmm!

It's been a good week. It started off well, Monday being a day off for me. I used it wisely and took several hours to do some necessary cleaning of the apartment. It was one of the highlights of my week. Seriously. I reveled in my reclaimed domesticity. I also did not-so-fun things like pay bills and get The Worst Passport Photo Ever taken, but all that paled in comparison to the fun I had just getting stuff done at home.

I know you think I'm being sarcastic, but I'm really not.

There hasn't been much to report on the nannying front, at least, not much that provides any entertainment value or inspires me to new heights of hyperbole. Prita is now napping for me. It requires at least 20 minutes of singing and rocking on my part, but at least she's getting some rest. She has some definite favorite songs to be put to sleep by: "Pop! Goes the Weasel" (aka, The Monkey Song), "Baa Baa Black Sheep," and everyone's favorite "Little Bunny Foo-Foo." I should have started keeping track of the number of times we have been through "Bunny Foo," as she calls it. She also requests things like, "Big Baby Song" and "Octopus Song" and I have no idea what she's talking about. My inability to oblige only infuriates her (at least, when she's tired), and the only way to soothe her is to start singing, "Little Bunny Foo-Foo, hoppin' through the forest...."

Granny and I are slowly but surely improving our communication skills. We now serve Prita all her meals, get diaper changes done, give baths, and do dishes and laundry with a minimum of ridiculous gesturing. We had a charming little interlude today when she had me come sit next to her so she could sound out the words in Prita's Mickey Mouse book and have me check it for her. She knows all the letters and can sound things out, but she doesn't really seem to know what the words mean. After she had worked through a paragraph, she had me read the whole thing aloud...and cackled all the way through. I know my reading voice sounds considerably different than my normal talking voice, but really? Am I that funny? Laughing over, she grabbed Prita's Telugu primer and started showing me the letters and how to pronounce their names and the names of the accompanying pictures. I really can't remember a single thing, except that "rumpum" (or something like that) means saw. That'll be a great help, I'm sure.

I've also gotten a little more confidence when it comes to mealtimes with Granny. Previously, I had just been taking some of whatever she thrust at me, regardless of whether it sounded good or if I was even hungry, We've established, now, that I can get food when I want it--she doesn't have to serve me--and that I will not always want rice with curry, followed by rice with yogurt. Sometimes, I may just eat an apple and some nuts or cheese. Consequently, when I do have some of what Granny is having for lunch (or breakfast), I enjoy it a lot more and don't feel gross all day.

Tomorrow is Friday, which means 1) I get paid and 2) I get to look forward to an entire weekend at home, with my husband. Sounds pretty nice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Stay classy, UW-Madison

I'm sorry, but the University of Wisconsin is crazy. These are just some highlights of our trip across town on game day:

--A man with his (pink) pants legs rolled up, showing off his glowing white ankles and blush suede oxfords (worn without socks, of course). On top, he had on a *very* tight red WI t-shirt with the sleeves cut off.

--A pack of girls, all wearing red and white striped overalls with one strap undone, many of them with only a sports bra on underneath

--A man wearing leggings...under a pair of booty shorts with "SCONNIE" emblazoned across his rear end

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Dishwashers

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.... That is, it was 6:15 on Friday morning. Best, in that it was Friday. Worst, in that it was an ungodly early hour and the sun had not yet shown up. I hadn't slept much, thanks in large part to my husband having only that night taken up the habit of snoring. (At least he wasn't sleep-walking.)

My employeress had told me the day before that I should get over to the apartment any time from 7:00 to 7:30. Like any normal human being with a functioning brain, I chose the later of those two options and timed my morning to arrive right before 7:30. On the bus on the way over, I got a frantic call from my employeress, asking where I was and why I wasn't there yet. I jabbered for a moment, trying to figure out how to answer without 1)sounding snotty or 2)apologizing for going along with her plan. I passed her in the hall on my was up to the apartment, looking completely frazzled and harried. When I got inside, I was treated to a scolding from Granny, the only intelligible words of which were "seven," "seven-thirty," and "LATE." I shrugged and smiled what I hope was a winning smile. This is my new go-to answer when I have no idea what's going on or no idea why I'm being scolded.

Speaking of being scolded.... I should mention that I have a big, nasty, problematic fault that is coming into direct conflict with Granny. My fault is this: I HATE being told how to do something with which I'm already well-acquainted. In this case, the issue is dishes. As part of the "light housekeeping" I'm asked to engage in, I'm supposed to clean up the dishes after meals and snacks. I know how to do dishes. My mother made sure of it, even if I did pass that task off on my brothers as soon as humanly possible.

Thus, it really, really, really irks me when I start to clean up Granny's kitchen mess and she stands behind me, looking over my shoulder and giving directions. (I may not understand a single word, but I understand the intent.) Occasionally, she will grab the scrubber and pot from my hands and give a demonstration. I'm never quite sure what the point is, as I clean dishes exactly the same was she does: apply soap, scrub, rinse. The best part of all of this is that I'm supposed to wash all the dishes...before I put them in the dishwasher. If she finds a dish in the (dirty) dishwasher that still appears to have been used, she will pull it out and wave it at me. Finally today I seem to have reached a point where she trusts me to clean everything properly and no longer inspects the dishwasher every time I leave the kitchen.

Contrast this with my home life: We got a new dishwasher a couple weeks ago and Evan has been testing it by seeing how much gunk we can leave on the dishes and still have them come out clean. So far, it seems to have dealt well with everything.

(I'm struggling to find a way to work in a play on Sydney Carton's last line, but my creativity has failed me. Oh well, here it is in all its beauty, sans sense or context: "It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.")

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"...the monkey chased the weasel...."

Another 7:00 AM day. It's getting easier to wake up, although no more enjoyable. As Evan astutely remarked last night, "Oh, you're one of those 'eight hours of sleep' people." I had to correct him. I'm one of those 10-11 hours of sleep people.

The early start meant lots of gorgeous morning hours, which Prita and I spent at the park. I used my handy-dandy smartphone (I still can't get over that thing) and found a city park with a playground about a mile away. We walked down and Prita spent the next two hours running, jumping, swinging, sliding, and staring at all the bigger kids. I was happy to let her go as long as she wanted because, of course, lots of exercise means a better nap, right? Or no nap, if you're dealing with this kid. She managed 10 minutes of sleep in the stroller as we walked home. That was it. She was good to go for the rest of the day. Not that I didn't try to get her to nap again. We spent 45 minutes in the rocking chair, singing. If sound stopped coming from my mouth, she would cry. I cannot count the number of times I sang "Pop Goes the Weasel" to the wee beastie.

For all that, it was a pretty good day, and the mother came home over an hour early, so I get to spend the entirety of the evening with my husband.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Gone Walkabout

Firstly, we had an excellent weekend in Fort Wayne. Buca was delicious. The Johnny Appleseed Festival was awesome, as always. Church at Redeemer was church at Redeemer, and therefore difficult to beat, this side of Heaven. Even if Pr. Petersen was AWOL. I got hugs from some of my very favorite people (besides my family, I would have to count Jacqui, Lori, Nancy, and the Reunings in that extremely exclusive group).

Our drive home was uneventful and we made pretty good time, despite missing an exit and ending up driving along Hwy 14 through Palatine and Barrington. I only cried sporadically...the whole way home.

It rained all night and into the morning hours, but it stopped just in time for me to make my walk to the bus stop. The rest of the day only got more beautiful by the hour. When I got to work, I discovered that Prita spent the weekend sick with whatever nasty cold I had last week. She seemed to be on the mend, though, with no runny nose and very little congestion. She and I took a long walk late in the morning, just after the sun finally broke through the clouds. I'm seriously considering writing to Google to request that their maps have some way to indicate on which routes you will be forced to push a stroller uphill. I was so warm by the time we got back to the apartment (despite it only being in the 60s, at that point), that Granny was a little alarmed and made me drink some water. She really is a nice old lady.

On toward Prita's 2:00 naptime, I was trying to wear her out by having her ride her tricycle up and down the apartment hallways. As we were heading back toward their unit, Prita started crying out for her mom and, when I turned around, there she was. She hadn't been feeling well all day and finally decided to give up and come home. I felt bad for her, facing the prospect of putting her daughter down for a nap AND stressing out over missing work AND nursing a headache and a cold. But anyway, I got to leave 4 hours early.

Practically skipping with glee, I got outside and pulled out my phone to determine what time the bus would be coming by. Turns out, the buses run much less frequently during the day and the next one was not scheduled to be along for another hour and ten minutes. Rather than go sit somewhere and wait an hour, I started walking along the bus route, keeping track of the stops and planning to stop just in time for the bus to catch up with me further down the line. Originally, I figured I'd just walk a few streets down, until I found a stop with a likely looking bench where I could sit and read. No. Instead, I ended up walking over half the length of the route between work and our apartment. When I got home, I figured I had walked just a touch under four miles. But it was a perfectly beautiful day, and I was full of energy and wearing really comfy shoes, so I didn't even notice.

Evan and I made good use of our unexpectedly free afternoon. We headed over to the DMV (which was, incidentally, on the route I took home) and Evan got his license renewed, while I replaced my IN license with a WI license. That felt oddly final and I'm afraid I pouted a little when I figured out that they weren't going to let me have my old license back. After the DMV, we did our second ever Big Grocery Trip, this time checking out Woodmans. Which was huge and overwhelming and delightfully cheap.

Friday, September 16, 2011

On Vacation

Evan and I are spending the weekend in Fort Wayne, so don't expect much from me for the next few days.

We have all sorts of plans. Tonight, we're having dinner at Buca di Beppo in Indianapolis with my Caston aunt, uncle, and cousins, and also with Grandfather Dear. My Grandmother Dear is ditching us to go hang out with her church ladies. The ostensible reason for the party is that my birthday was earlier this month, Evan's birthday is later this month, and Jonathan never got his birthday party back in April. Really, it's just an excuse for us to visit the family and eat way too much pasta. I'm okay with that.

Just a brief update on the nanny front: yesterday was good, even though it started off with me crying in front of my employer. I was overly tired and had a racking cough and no voice and the combination of the three just suddenly overwhelmed me. I tried to make sure that she knew that I was not crying because I hate my job. And I was not crying because I can't communicate effectively with either Granny or Prita, despite the fact that the tears started rolling just as I started talking about that. She was understandably freaked out, and I got a call later from her husband, making sure everything was okay and that I am really comfortable with the position. The answer, of course, was "Yes. It's only been three days. Any problems we have now will only improve with a little time. Stop worrying. There's nothing wrong here..." etc.

Otherwise, the day was good. We spent a total of 5 hours outside, walking. We walked to the Social Security office so that I could drop off the paperwork to get my name changed with the government. Later, we took a route that just happened to lead right through the nearest Starbucks. Talk about fortuitous. Incidentally, I finally discovered just why Granny wants us to get out of the apartment so often: she uses the time to watch her Indian soap operas. Really. Watch the full 5 minutes, I dare you. The full episode I got to see yesterday was even better.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"Walk walk walk walk walk"

Today started off much worse than yesterday, and by "much worse" I mean a whole half-hour earlier. That's right, ladies and gents, I woke up at 5:45 AM and was out of the house by 6:15. At that hour, life is not worth living. In fact, I'm pretty sure I wasn't alive, but rather undead.

Anyway, my zombified form made it to the bus stop on time. The ride went quickly and there were no hiccups or wrong turns. I was even the last one on the bus for the final 4 stops before my destination....Which must be why the driver decided to stop for coffee, 1 mile from my stop and 5 minutes before I was supposed to be there. The look on my face when he said he was stopping to grab some coffee must have been something to see, because he immediately changed his mind and got back behind the wheel, and I made it to work on time.

Granny* offered me breakfast, which in this case involved curried green beans, mystery orange curry, rice, and chapatis. It was all delicious, but my poor, cossetted stomach was not prepared for that onslaught at 7:00 AM. Note to self: buy granola bars. We had essentially the same meal for lunch, minus the chapatis and plus a boatload of homemade yogurt. At one point in the not-so-distant past, I deluded myself into thinking I would be happy eating Indian food all the time. I was so naive.

Prita and I were kicked out of the apartment around 9:00 and told--very forcefully--to "walk walk walk walk walk!" We walk-walk-walked for almost an hour, coming back just in time for the power to go out as we walked up to the apartment. Granny was trying to get lunch started and could not figure out why the rice-cooker wasn't working. Try explaining "power outage" without any common words. After I went around pointing to all the non-functioning appliances saying "power: off" and making a chopping motion with my hand, she caught on. The outage only lasted about 20 minutes, though, and the day got back on track.

After Prita's lunch, we were kicked out of the apartment again with another vigorous "walk walk walk walk walk!" Prita was asleep within minutes, but I couldn't make myself turn around and go back to the apartment. I made a tour of the neighborhood, wishing I had brought my book along on the journey. Finally, after 45 minutes of fairly aimless wandering, I gave up and went back, hoping to get some reading in while Prita finished her nap. She woke up as soon as we walked in the front door. Back upstairs, I laid down with her and she was nearly asleep again when Granny walked in, yelling for me to come eat lunch. At that point, Prita gave up on sleep for the remainder of the day and became her usual, hellion-like self.

Other highlights include peeling a basket-full of onions, being chastised (I think) for letting Prita watch me play Angry Birds to get her to sit still for 5 minutes, and seeing a dead body carried out of another apartment while out walking. Good times, all.

Overall, despite some mishaps, it was a much better day than yesterday. Tomorrow should be better yet: it's the last day I work this week AND I don't have to be there until 8:00.

*I should note that in referring to the grandmother as "Granny" I'm not being disrespectful or flippant. (That's reserved for the actual content of my comments.) Rather "Granny" is how the family refers to her, when speaking English. I haven't the foggiest notion what else to call her. Although, she knows to call me "Brittany." Amazing.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

First Day

Ha. Haha. Hahahaha. Hahahahahahahahahaha....

Sorry. Crazed laughter over.

So, I started my new job this morning. I am nannying 40ish hours a week, taking care of a two-year old girl, only child of a young Indian couple. Those 40 hours began at 7:30 this morning. (Rather, they were supposed to. More on that in a moment.)

My wonderful husband got up early to walk me to the bus stop. It was a lovely morning, if a little cool, and he made that walk much more enjoyable. I got on my #14 bus and was on my way. Until the driver missed a turn, drove a couple miles out of the way, circled back around to get back on her route, and made me twenty minutes late for my first day of work.

Thank goodness the people for whom I'm working are very understanding and flexible. I called them and they told me not to worry about anything and just get there ASAP. When I got to the apartment, the husband was at work and the wife was ready to walk out the door, leaving me alone with their daughter and their eighty-year-old grandmother. Did I not mention her before? She lives with them. And she speaks no English.

The little girl--I'll just call her "Prita"--is a squirrel. She doesn't sit down to eat; she runs back and forth and you have to reach out at just the right time to get the food into her mouth. At least today, the grandmother did most of this. She would cajole her for 5-10 minutes (at least, I'm assuming it was sounded like it, but I really have no idea what she was saying) and finally Prita would back up against the far wall, lower her head like a bull, and charge. About the time she pulled even with the grandmother, she (the granny) would force a handful of food into her (Prita's) mouth.

Prita spent much of the day reciting her ABCs to me, or having me write them out one at a time on her Magnadoodle. Prita doesn't actually converse in English--she talks mainly in whatever Indian language the family uses--but she knows a number of English words that she can shout out. She especially likes cats and I cannot number the times she yelled, "C is for KITTY!!!!!"

Prita is on a set schedule of meals and naps, although her mother was out the door before I could ask what time the nap was set for. It took granny and I several tries at gesturing and trying to find mutually-comprehensible words before I could find out from her that Prita goes to bed at 2:00. Well, come 1:00, granny scooped her up, beckoned for me to follow, and carried Prita off to her (granny's) room. She set Prita in the middle of the bed, laid down on one side, and gestured for me to lay down on the other. Uh...come again? I have no problem cuddling with a child who needs to be coaxed into sleep, but cuddling with a child and an 80 year-old woman who I've never met before and with whom I can't really communicate? Weird. I tried it anyway, but Prita was having none of this napping business. We gave up and let her run around for awhile. Several tries at putting her to bed were unsuccessful, so I let granny know that I was going to take Prita out for a walk in the stroller, to see if that would get her to sleep. Don't ask how I got that across, but I did somehow. Granny was also able to tell me to make sure Prita was wearing shoes and to keep the sun out of her face. Bethany and Granny: 1, Language-Gap: 0. That walk was the best part of the day. That that's despite my congested state which made the entire endeavor completely exhausting.

Anyway, Prita never did get a nap, but she did get increasingly moody and clumsy with every passing minute. By the time her mother got home around 6:00, she was mood-swinging like a manic-depressive and running into walls, but she would NOT sleep.

There are so many more quirks in this job, most of them will just have to wait.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Busy Weekend

We attended a family wedding up in Green Bay yesterday. On the way out of town, after the reception, we took a detour past Lambeau Field because, apparently, not doing so would be like going to Rome and skipping St. Peter's. I took a photo with my phone as we drove past, in the dark, and sent it to Patrick, who is now above responding to messages from his sister. That is to say, I don't know that he ever got it. (Did you, Patch? We went five minutes out of our way, just to get that picture. Some appreciation is warranted.)

Rather than drive back to Madison that night, we stayed with Evan's folks in Plymouth, and drove from there to Sussex for church this morning. First, I just have to say how thankful I am that we are able to attend church at Peace. Pr. Bender is great and the people there (not even counting the Gehlbachs, my adopted family) have been really welcoming and kind. The following should in no way be taken as a reflection on that church or the gifts we receive there each week. But there are no adequate words to describe how much I miss Redeemer and my church family. Seriously, I cried like a baby through the first two services away from Redeemer. The third week, Evan's parents were along and I managed to keep myself in check. This week, I didn't cry at the service, but ended up weeping my way through "Lord, Thee I Love With All My Heart" at the church picnic. I probably would have cried through "O Lord We Praise Thee", but I was too distracted by the pace at which the organist was playing it--MUCH slower than Kantor Reuning-- and thought of my brothers straining to sing it faster. At one point, I looked up toward the chancel to make a face at one of them, but of course none of them were there. And at the church picnic, I had a perfectly good time and sat with Susan and Katie and made faces at Alia when I should have been paying attention to Pr. Suelflow....But it was almost disorienting to look out at a park pavilion full of church people and not see Osbuns or Lagemanns or Ridleys or anyone else I know.

But just so you know, I'm not complaining. Just reflecting.

We left before the church picnic was quite through to drive back to Madison in time to get ready for a Supply Chain Management center party. That sounds unbelievably awful, but it was a seriously good party, in the most sophisticated, grown-up way. Like Evan said as we walked back to our car afterwards, it was the sort of party that makes you feel like an adult. It had smart people, really good food, a nice selection of drinks, and it was held in a beautiful home, perfect for entertaining.

Tomorrow is my last day of freedom before I settle down and start working for my keep again. I have a whole list of things to get done--cleaning, laundry, picking up a bus pass--but I have this premonition that I will actually spend the whole day watching movies on Netflix. But I really don't know where that thought came from.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Thank You Notes

I love thank you notes. I love picking them out, I love writing them, I love receiving them. For the most part, I have had a lot of fun doing the thank yous for our wedding gifts. Evan and I turned on some music, sat down, and knocked over half of them out one evening last week.

When I woke up this morning, I decided to use my day at home, alone, to get the rest of them done.

Did you know you can have thank-you-note-writer's-block? I sat down, picked out the first name, picked up the pen and...nothing came out except. "Thank you." What else to say? This normally comes so easily. Today, though, nothing. It took me two hours to get nine notes written. Then they sat in a little pile, mocking me and egging me on. By the time Evan got home at 2:00, I had been at it for 5 hours straight and only gotten 30-some notes written (which means my rate had improved, but not enough) and my hands were cramping.

My reward was that we ran to the post office to get more stamps and stopped at Starbucks for pumpkin spice lattes on the way home. And everything was better, because I was out in the sunshine holding yummy coffee with one hand and my husband's hand with the other.

Tomorrow's tasks: finishing the notes for which I was missing addresses, calling a piano tuner, and getting a bus pass. If any of those should produce blog-worthy results, an update will follow.

Monday, September 05, 2011

People Watching

My dear sister-in-law likes to talk about car-spotting. Well, cars are great and all, but I really don't know enough about them to appreciate the hobby, so I just play my own version: clothing-disaster-spotting.

There is, very possibly, no better place to enjoy this pastime than a county fair. Oh. My. Goodness. I'm not about to pick on the legitimate fair people in their boots and flannels, or even the country people in last decade's Walmart bargains. Oh, no. Why descend to petty, income-based mockery when there are targets aplenty?

Take, for instance, the woman walking around with the bottom of her t-shirt tucked up under the edge of her bra. That encounter had the potential to be scarring, except that she had the waist of her pants pulled up to the bottom of her rib cage. That just took it from indecent to inconceivable.

Being newly arrived in Wisconsin, I was delighted to see the men walking around in camouflage Packers jerseys. Really? This isn't Minnesota; there's no need to hide your loyalty. There was a whole display of Packers-themed 4-H homegoods projects, for crying out loud.

Also, a fair classic, was the "skunk" hair phenomenon. Dark hair, light roots; light hair, dark roots; light hair, dark tips; dark hair, light tips, etc.

But, oh. You simply have not LIVED until you have seen the glow-in-the-dark tie-dye t-shirt stand advertising sized L through XXXXXL.

Friday, September 02, 2011

Hair Woes

Ahhh, the perennial topic of complaint.

So, it's like this: I let my hair grow out for the wedding and it is now a little longer than shoulder-length. I would say that this is the length where it starts going flat, but I'm not really sure there is a length where it doesn't do that. The upside to my hair right now is that I can leave it down or put it up and either way it looks semi-presentable. I can finally get a good french braid in, and it's been years since I was able to do that.

The downside to my hair right now is that it goes flat and ratty very quickly. I feel like I can't go anywhere without a hairbrush and I'm not comfortable unless it is pulled back somehow, thus camouflaging its tendency to go lank.

The problem is, I'm not sure how much a shorter cut will help. It could, very possibly, remove the things I like about my hair (being able to put it back) but leave all the things I don't like (flat crabbiness).

I would seriously consider just CHOPPING IT ALL OFF and going the pixie cut route, but I know for sure that my husband would not appreciate that. :o)