Au Pair Guilty Pleasures

Being an au pair can be totally draining and frustrating. It’s like parenting, but without the reward of unconditional love. Between all the negotiating, complaining, crying and rule-enforcement you have to deal with, sometimes you just need to TREAT YO’ SELF.

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Any au pair can tell you that the time you get to yourself is precious, and needs to be spent wisely.

naps

1. Naps

If only I were a mathematician, then I could write you an equation for the amount of energy I spend trying to get A to take a nap and its proportion to how much I then need a nap. Oh, the sweet, sweet irony. Sometimes, napping is the ultimate priority: one of my friends told me she decided not to punish herself by keeping her kid home from soccer when he forgot his homework, “I just wasn’t going to deprive myself of my the-boys-go-to-soccer-nap.”

 

chocolate

2. Chocolate

I partially blame this on the family for always having chocolate in the house… I only have so much self control. After a long day, you just need something to take the edge off. Since I live with the family, binge-drinking is off the table and thus chocolate is my frequent substitute. Hiding in the kitchen alone with a piece of dark chocolate is often the only way I get through the afternoon.

 

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3. Other snack binges

I have enough self-control to stay out of the sweets cabinet when the family is home, besides my vice mentioned above, and I’m pretty shy about making myself food in general (usually I eat my meals with them, I don’t cook for myself). Technically they’re supposed to feed me as part of the whole au pair deal, but I don’t think that means that the fridge is open 24 hours… But once they leave? It’s pretty much a free-for-all. I feel the least guilty about the leftovers I polish off, but I think they might have noticed that their jar of cornichons (little pickles) is emptying itself more often than usual.

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4. Baths

My host mom has the most magnificent tub in the master bathroom. I’ve always been a shower girl, but after giving A a bath in this tub 3-4 times a week, I jumped at chance to use it the first time the family left me home alone. That plus glass of wine, a face mask and some Netflix… Bliss.

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5. Netflix

Ah yes, it deserves its own special mention. I take special pleasure in the fact that I spend so much of my free time watching Netflix and yet the kids are only allowed 30 minutes of screen time per day… Suckers, being an adult is the best. Again, it’s ironic that I often choose to watch the old Disney movies that I could watch with the kids, but its so much better to watch them with my chocolate and snacks pilfered from downstairs… Even if I can’t take a bath and didn’t have time for a nap, at least I get to fall into a blissful Netflix-induced-coma at the end of the day.

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Humor, a 4-year-old perspective

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Yesterday, during a lego play sesh, A admitted something to me.

“M doesn’t think my jokes are funny.”

And A LOVES to make a good joke. He’s also very perceptive about whether he’s being laughed with or being laughed at (unfortunately for him it’s usually the latter).

As he says, he has three jokes:

The boy told his mom he needed to do a ca (poop) but then he only went pee.

(alternately) The boy told his mom he needed to go pee but then he did a ca.

The boy told his mom he wanted carrots but he got green beans.

Yes, he came up with these all by himself. There’s something to be said for originality, right?

I tried to make it a teachable moment and I explained to him that different people think different things are funny. I could have quoted Tina Fey to him, but I’m not sure that he would have understood… or that it proves my point. But keep trying to make jokes, little guy! And when you’re an adult doing stand-up and still making jokes about poop and carrots, you can thank me.

What’s in My Bag: Au Pair Necessities

  1. Tissues
  2. Band-aids
  3. More tissues
  4. Some of those wet wipe things
  5. Something distracting (alternatively the ability to make pocket lint entertaining)
  6. A book to read while you sit on the bench at the park
  7. Chapstick
  8. A snack/water
  9. A separate snack/water for the walking germs (alternatively children)
  10. A coin to flip for particularly heated disputes
  11. Absolutely no other money so they can’t ask you to buy them candy/tickets for the manège (carousel)/whatever else crosses their little mind at the time

#Latergram: My French Thanksgivings

I hope you noticed the plural there, because I had not one, but TWO Thanksgivings this year, which I’m pretty thankful for. Since everyone has moved on to Christmas already, I’ll keep my anecdotes brief.

Thanksgiving Round 1: The Host Family (they lived in the US for 6 years, so they’ve had a few Thanksgivings)

Culture Shock Moment: My host mom was astounded when she read that the turkey was not only going to cook for 3 1/2 hours, but it was also supposed to sit for 30 minutes after it finished cooking. However, we also had a French-style aperitif, so by the time we actually sat down to eat almost everything was cold. We agreed that whoever made the recipe hadn’t accounted for aperitif (probably because they weren’t French, since, you know, Thanksgiving).

Cooking Incidents: Condensed milk instead of evaporated milk in the pumpkin pie, which meant it was just a leeeeeettle too sweet. AKA I couldn’t finish my piece, but it didn’t stop me from picking at the leftovers all weekend. / My mom’s Italian Sausage Stuffing recipe became a French Sausage Stuffing made with baguettes, but it was still delicious!

Drink count: 2 glasses of champagne, two glasses of wine, then two glasses of Perrier because wait how can I feel tipsy when I’ve eaten this much?

Thanksgiving Round 2: American (and Canadian and British and Australian) Au Pairs… and a different French host family

Culture Shock Moment: Canadian au pairs insisting they were celebrating “Fake Thanksgiving” since apparently Canada’s Thanksgiving is in October. LOL right, whose Thanksgiving came first and also, who cares about Canada… at all?

Cooking Incidents: What kind of potatoes should I buy for mashed potatoes? / Oops, I forgot to put olive oil on the roasted veggies. / Wait, did anyone set a timer for that? / Does anyone have a meat thermometer? / Were you still planning on cooking something here? Because we’re about to start eating. / Yeah whatever, Valerie, you think you’re special because you showed up here with your stuffing all done and ready to go? (Yes.)

Drink Count: 3 glasses of wine, 1 cup French Press coffee

And to finish up, almost a week late but here are some of the things I’m thankful for: well-illustrated children’s books, the classic December “Santa threat”, headphones, international calling and skype, a mother who will listen to even the most inane details of my life, friends who haven’t forgotten about me even though I’m in France, new friends who keep me sane, blog readers who are understanding of my inability to post in any relevant time frame!

Pinterest Almost-Fail: Homemade Goldfish

Pop quiz: what do Goldfish, peanut butter and granola have in common?

Answer: They’re all difficult to get or extremely expensive in France. I learned this fact when my host family requested I bring them with me in August. Of course, in the ensuing packing disaster, I only had room for the Goldfish in my suitcase, shout out here to my boyfriend for bringing peanut butter with him on his trip later in the month. And, double of course, the boys ate through the two giant bags of goldfish in the first three weeks since they were a key part of snack every day. Being an avid pinner (meaning I use it to avoid getting out of bed), I knew when I found this homemade Goldfish recipe on Pinterest there was an afternoon activity in our future. And, it would kill two bird with one stone–the boys would get a fun activity AND they’d have goldfish for snack! AND they would learn the phrase “kill two birds with one stone”! They’ll be giving me the plaque for best au pair ever any day now.

First problem: Do they have cheddar cheese in France?

Solution: Yes! Although it’s an almost scary orange and it’s circular. Strange. But, hey, tastes fine!

Thankfully, the rest of the ingredients were easy–butter, salt, cold water, flour. You mix everything in a food processor and ba-bam! But then…

Second problem: There’s no food processor.

Solution: A.. hand blender? Looks like this, usually used for giving soups a smooth consistency. Maybe this is a common thing and I’m just not very culinarily advanced (I’m guessing this is the case), but I was pretty mind-blown the first time my host mom made a smooth soup. However, the blending part took a precarious turn, and the whole project almost turned into a Pinterest Fail, but we managed to get it to a decent consistency and refrigerated the dough as instructed. Side note, A basically lost interest after the cheese grating and playing with flour parts were over. So, if you’re planning on doing this project with a 4 year-old, that’s about how long it’ll keep them busy. Thankfully, my backups M (9) and J (12) were more focused.

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Now comes the fun part! Cutting out shapes, baking and eating 🙂 Also, I hand-made those goldfish cookie cutters. Regular size and jumbo. Out of a soda can. NOT as easy as the tutorial leads you to believe, but thankfully my Design major has prepared me for cutting and reshaping a myriad of materials.

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The End Result: Very tasty, cheesy little cracker! I think the bigger ones were almost better because they had a nice consistency. And obviously the boys were overjoyed and wanted them in their snacks every day for the whole week!!!! JUST KIDDING both of them decided they didn’t want them the next day and haven’t eaten a single one since that day. I think J and I are the only ones who have eaten them. I guess it might be considered a Pinterest fail after all…

Nice try.

–Scene 1–

I’m putting together the snack for the kids in the morning. M requests one type of cookies, the kind that A doesn’t like. Great! Then sees me put a different type of cookies in A’s snack, and changes his mind that he wants that type of cookies. Drat. Pouting ensues when I inform him that A won’t eat the other type, and there’s only one pack of this type, so the odds are not in his favor today. M complains that since there’s only one pack, it means A must have eaten a pack the day before. I move on with my life because there are a million things in the world more important to me than what kind of cookies they eat for snack.

–Scene 2–

I’m doing laundry, and hear a crinkling noise in the pants that M wore yesterday. Hmm, intrigue. What’s that? The wrapper from the cookies he INSISTED that A ate yesterday? AHA. HARD EVIDENCE. I WILL TEAR HIM APART.

–Scene 3–

Me: Oh hey M, look at this wrapper from the cookies A allegedly ate yesterday. You know where I found it?

M: Uhh, where?

Me: IN YOUR PANTS POCKET.

M: *sheepish grin*

–Scene 4–

I cry quietly to myself because apparently cookies do matter to me. However, I am unsatisfied by his lack of guilt. Mental note to use this deception to my advantage at a later date.

Chat

Re: My Necklace

A: What’s it supposed to be?

Me: Nothing, it’s just a design.

A: C’est pas beaux. (It’s not beautiful)

[He says this with a smug expression of superiority, like, lol you can’t even pick out a necklace and I’m supposed to listen to you when you tell me I have to walk on the sidewalk?]

What I’d Like To Say: You’re a four-year-old boy. You don’t even DRESS YOURSELF in the morning. What on God’s green earth do you think gives you the authority to tell me my necklace isn’t beautiful? You can’t even SPELL necklace. Take that smug little face and come back when you’ve seen other necklaces besides your mother’s. FYI: the ones with stick figure silhouettes and names of her children aren’t particularly stylish. I mean, fine, you don’t like the necklace, kids are brutally honest, blah blah blah. My problem is that you have the AUDACITY to act as if you know better than me, specifically about this subject. I have been wearing necklaces for about five times as long as you’ve been ALIVE. When you’re old enough to buy a necklace for someone/if you choose to wear a necklace yourself, you can call me. Or teleport to me, because that’s how far in the future it will be when your opinion on this subject will have any weight with me.

What I Actually Say: Oh well, you don’t have to wear it!