The Ukrainian Mr. Bean

Miss Tamika had the flue today, and Miss Ruthie with the Gold Tooth fell down the stairs and sprained her ankle, and the old house just must be cleaned up for sale, and that just couldn't be done with Little Z around, so that was how I ended up calling Nataliya and asking if her mother could babysit.

Nataliya's mother does daycare as her main occupation, but there are a few reasons why she is last on our list:

1. She lives too far away.
2. She charges an arm and a leg.
3. She speaks Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, and French, but no English.

Other than that, she's the most fabulous babysitter who ever lived. Just ask her daughter,

"Mom, she is so wonderful, you would not believe it. You truly would not believe! She gets them to eat the vegetables, we have people who say 'my son has never eaten a vegetable' and she gets them to, you wouldn't believe it... and the potty, she gets them to go on the potty... and the-"

"But she speaks no English? Doesn't that make it hard to communicate with the children?"

"Oh, she is so good with them. They understand her, she understands them. We have Russian speaking children, English speaking children, they all understand each other. She is just so wonderful with children! She loves the children."

So, today, we rang her up. I dropped her off with a few instructions, given through Nataliya, who was home and speaks English. When I left her, Little Z was happily playing with Nataliya's son and mother. All appeared well.

I called half-way through the day. Again, Nataliya was home, and all was well.

When I went to pick her up, Nataliya was not home anymore.

Now, when I used to read my spy stories, and the two spies from different countries didn't speak each others' native languages, but they both spoke French, their conversations went like this,

"The drop-off protocol has been changed. The entourage will now correlate with delta code 335-2."
"The drop-off has been delayed. Can we locate the target?"

The conversation between me and Nataliya's mom went a little differently. It was a bit more Me Talk Pretty One Day by Dave Sedaris than, well, like anyone who could actually speak French. I can't really re-create our conversation in English. To sum up our problem: both of us mix up French with other languages- I mostly with Spanish and she with I have no idea what. I did find out, however, that Little Z did not nap, did not poop, ate lots of apples from the apple tree out back, and that she is a very good girl.

Then, Nataliya's mom handed me a digital camera, and said, "Zelma photo." I looked at the pictures on the camera, and there were about thirty of Little Z having the freakin time of her life in the back yard there, playing with Nataliya's son. She was so happy in the pictures that I worried for a moment she would not ever let me take her home again.

Satisfied that I had looked at the photos, Nataliya's mom went back to playing with Little Z, and I found out that Nataliya wasn't kidding; the children really do understand everything she wants them to do. This is because Nataliya's mom is a female, Ukrainian version of Mr. Bean. She gestured, she made funny faces, she grunted, and Little Z understood her perfectly. Little Z pointed to a farm toy on the floor, "farm".

"Farm," Nataliya's mom repeated after Little Z, as she pointed to the plastic toy farm animals.
"Farm," said Little Z again.
"Farm," said Nataliya's mom.

I don't know who was teaching whom. They both looked quite pleased with themselves.