Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Worst. Party. Ever.


I can do this.

It's been a month now.

I can talk about Reagan's party.

Seriously. Poor Reagan. She's the second child who doesn't have a ton of her own friends yet. She's incredibly frustrated trying to communicate, and is always compared to her super chatty sister. She's the kid who runs boring errands with me while Madison is at dance/school/storytime.

She's the kid who doesn't even have a freaking birthday on the calendar for goodness sake.

So I felt like she needed a good birthday party. One that was different than what Madison had, one where she could run around, one where there could be a mix of kids that Reagan knew because they were Madison's friends, and a few friends of her own as well.

I booked her party at an indoor jungle gym facility. The store sells those giant wood playscapes (both the kinds you expect to see at homes and the giant pirate ships you might see at a preschool) and they open the store for play on the display models. They've got a bounce house, tons of Step2 stuff, a train's perfect for kids, especially kids who have just been through an endless winter.

Because this place is so popular, I couldn't get a spot her birthday weekend. Or the next weekend. I didn't think I'd procrastinated, but this place books up months in advance, and the best I could do was two weeks after her birthday. She's two - she doesn't care, but I already kind of felt bad.

Party day arrived and already I had a few strikes against me. I had to work in the church nursery that morning. Party time overlapped with naptime, so I needed to adjust the schedule. I was rushing around getting clothes ready, goody bags ready, naps started, food made from the moment I got up.

As I was getting in the car to go to church, I realized I hadn't eaten anything yet. I was so busy trying to get everyone else fed that I hadn't worried about me. Not unusual, but I was feeling a little off from having a completely empty stomach, so I stuffed a bagel in my purse and headed out to nursery.

The kids were unusually well behaved and were all involved in their own play, so I spent the majority of the time in the rocker. I never ate the bagel, but I didn't feel sick, so I didn't worry about it.

Got home, got the girls down, rushed back out for bottled water, packed up the goody bags, started loading the car, and realized that I still hadn't really eaten and was definitely feeling off. I mentioned to Adam that my blood sugar was probably low, and ate an apple. I felt better after that, so I loaded up the girls and off we went.

The party was ninety minutes long. Twenty minutes of play, pizza, thirty minutes of play, cake, rest of time for play.

Reagan was having a good time as I followed her around with my camera, but the "off" feeling had returned. Suddenly, despite the 30 degree weather, I was feeling a little flushed. A little queasy. I walked out to get a water bottle from the car, and the cool weather made me feel better, so I figured it was just hot in there. Lots of toddler activity, lots of running, a tiring day...who wouldn't feel off? I chatted with friends but sort of started counting the minutes that were left. I planned on going home, letting Reagan open her gifts, and crashing on the couch.

There was light at the end of the tunnel. They were arranging the kids for birthday cake. I snapped a picture of the cake and got Reagan settled. I assumed my position as photographer as all the parents and little friends started to sing.

But crouching down was the straw that broke the camel's back, and I broke out into a cold sweat. Through the camera lens, as everyone sang to Reagan, I started praying that she would blow out her candles quickly so I could take the picture and scoot outside for some air.

Reagan started to blow out her candles...

And I barfed all over the floor.

Let me be clear here so you can get a good picture in your mind. Sixteen kids sitting neatly at picnic tables surrounded by their parents. A completely open area space. I am front and center with the birthday girl. Everyone's eyes are on this magical moment.


You know that dream, where you are completely humilated, in public, with nowhere to hide?


I had extra clothes for the two year old. I had extra clothes for the three year old. I did not have any extra clothes for myself.

All the adults noticed, and were evenly divided on whether or not I was pregnant (yay!) or I'd just exposed all of them AND the precious children to the stomach bug (worst mother ever).

And we had a half hour of awkwardness left.

Because all the kids still had cake! And then they wanted to play! And the lovely party hosts had some extra vomit to clean up!

Sidenote: I am sure I was not the first party puker they came encountered. Pizza + kids + cake + bounce house is a recipe for a mess. But I was probably the first MOM.

Oh, and I did mention that Reagan started an epic tantrum as soon as I threw up? Because, you know, all of a sudden all hell broke loose and her mom disappeared?

Right, because of course that happened. And the hallmark of two-year-old Reagan is epic tantrums. They are age appropriate storms that go on and on and on and on...

My solution is to get her into a quiet place and just let her get it out. Hugging, picking up, trying to console her, all those things make it worse. When she reaches "epic" you need to do that quasi ignore thing in a quiet place and just let her get it out.

But we didn't have a quiet place. And I was there where she could see me but not there where I could be with her, which is the worst kind of place I can be. She is cool with other people holding her if I am not around.  And rather than being ignored, people were attempting to pick her up and cuddle her quiet. Which is like throwing gasoline on a fire.

So Reagan's party ended with thirty minutes of screaming (her) and thirty minutes of awkward conversation with adults who were both avoiding me and trying to act like nothing had happened (me).

The party finally ended, the guest slunk out while avoiding eye contact, a screaming Reagan was loaded into the car and I threw up in the snow while saying goodbye to my parents and in laws.

Then got home and proceeded to suffer the stomach bug and the churning stomach of humiliation for the next twelve hours...until it hit Madison...and then Reagan.

Happy Birthday Reagan...and I am so glad you will never remember this.

Worst. Party. Ever.

OK, readers. Bring it. Can you top my story of parental humiliation at a kid's birthday party?

By the way, if Adam were invited to write a book about embarrassing wife stories, this would probably top his list of stories to share. Thank goodness such a book does not exist (yet).  Have you picked up a copy of the book where I poke fun at his poop yet?  Pin It

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Giving it Away

Every few years, our town does something called "bulky waste". Basically, you can put anything you want out on your curb - no garbage can necessary-  and on that one day, the town will pick it up and dispose of it for you. You don't have to figure out how you're going to get to the dump on the ONE weekend a month the dump is open, you don't have to lug whatever it is into your car, you don't have to take your chances with finding people to come take this stuff. If you can drag it to the curb, it's done.

Now before anyone gets all up in arms about how we ought to use Freecycle or what a horrible waste it is to just throw out everything or how could we be thrilled that our town in producing such a multitude of junk, it basically IS Freecycling. Every evening, you can watch people driving slowing through the neighborhoods in pick up trucks or big SUVs, scavenging whatever looks good. In the past, although we've put out a huge amount, by the time the town actually sends the garbage trucks, there is very little left to pick up. They've picked up completely broken and useless stuff - like our old well tank - and probably make a decent amount of money for scrap. Good for them.

The last time the town did this was in 2008, so it feels like it's been a while. Many in town seem downright giddy that they have brought it back. Adam and I seem to have accumulated a good amount of junk in the past six years and we have thrown ourselves into decluttering in a big way. We're skulking through the house in a "take no mercy" way, banishing things to the curb.

Rusted out, non-LED Christmas deer? Gone.

The remains of our first shed, which caved in under three feet of snow a few years ago? Bye bye!

Computer desk that Adam got in high school? Out the door.

The frame of the patio table? See ya!

Two old vacuums (that were decluttered to US), our broken patio umbrella, a spreader that doesn't work, battered lawn chairs, a wicker hamper that is falling apart and waiting to stab you under the fingernails? All gone.

We've got a long list of other things that won't be given quarter in our home, but we're trying to put things out a bit at a time, so everything is visible and as much gets picked up by the scavengers as possible. We are ruthless.

Except for the baby stuff.

I know, I know that realistically, we're done. The family is complete and I am at peace with that decision. We're in a great place. But somehow, it is incredibly hard to part with the baby stuff.

Adam and I were staring at the crib rails, currently holding court in a corner of our bedroom. In the past few months, both girls moved into toddler beds, and actually, Madison is now sleeping in her "big girl" twin bed, her crib stripped bare and abandoned in her room. We started to talk about what to do.

Adam: So what do we want to do about these?

Me: Ummm....I don't know. We won't be using them again.

Adam: So we should put them out? Or could we try to donate the cribs? Or sell them?

Me: No, Goodwill won't take anything a baby has slept in. And I thought I heard you aren't allowed to sell cribs? Maybe you are. But even if you can, they're both pretty chewed up. And it's not like these are handcrafted artisan cribs.

Adam: So we should put them out?

Me: I feel weird about just putting out the rail. No one will take just a rail. And then if we find out someone does want the cribs we won't have all four sides.

Adam: Madison doesn't use hers at all. Should we put the rail back on and put the whole crib out?

Me: Ummmm....I don't know.

We finally left it, reminding each other that we have a few more weeks to figure it out.

But I'm really not sure why we're hesitating. We are not picturing any more babies sleeping in cribs in our house. We aren't hoping we get to use these cribs again. There is no logical reason we need two cribs when both girls have outgrown the actual "crib", and we're staring at two spit up on, chewed up, stained rails. They are purely clutter. They should have been among the first things we hauled out. Why is it hard?

I think it's that they symbolize the last of the baby days. We've managed to give away and sell most of the smaller gear - the bouncers and swings and high chair. Burp clothes and towels have been turned into cleaning rags. I've been sorting through clothes and toys as Reagan outgrows them, making piles to consign, piles to sell, piles to donate, piles to pass on to friends. Although I've been cooing here and there over an adorable tiny dress or sleeper, I've generally been ok with this.

But the crib is hard to say goodbye to. When I was pregnant, it made the nursery feel like a nursery, rather than a room crowded with baby gear. Madison's crib saw her grow from a tiny newborn into a preschooler. Unlike the clothes, the gear, the toys, which all had a lifespan measured in months, this piece of furniture was constant for her first three and a half years. And even though she isn't using it, saying a true goodbye seems strange.

I don't have to say goodbye yet. I could give these cribs a pass until next time. I could scour Pinterest for ways to re-use them.

But if I do that, I'm just postponing the inevitable. I'm clinging to a material memory trying to slow the progression of time, but that isn't reality. The baby days are in their twilight. Both girls are growing into independent, feisty, individuals, who don't want to stay babies. And why would I want to keep them that way, when the little girls they are growing into are so amazing?

Today, the crib rails stay in our bedroom, and both rail-less cribs stay firmly in the girls' rooms.

Maybe in two weeks, I'll be ready to say goodbye. But if not, I'll know the end is coming.

And I'll be ok with that. Pin It

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How to Nail Your Nanny Interview

I'm not looking for a nanny.

I'm not looking to become a nanny.

But thanks to some shameless eavesdropping in Starbucks, I now know exactly what one should say if they very clearly are not the one for the job.

So maybe this post should actually be titled "How NOT to Nail Your Interview".

If you follow me on Facebook, and you are one of the lucky three or four who see what I post, you know that I spend at least one weekend afternoon at Starbucks. I write, I catch up on email, I plan out my week, and I do it all without the sounds of chaos downstairs, or with a baby monitor on. I don't need the silence of a library, but I write best with a nice, dull din of cappucino machines and surrounding conversation.

I've heard girlfriends dishing on their latest dates. I've heard girls planning their weddings. I've heard socially awkward teenagers working on group projects. I've heard college kids on dates try to "outcool" each other. I've heard a retired math teacher explain phi to a table of fifth grade Girl Scouts.

Last week I heard a couple interviewing nannies.

The Starbucks I was at has a relatively small seating area. I was actually at a table with four chairs, because I needed to charge my laptop and the only available small table when I sat down wasn't near an outlet. They had all the trappings of new parents - bucket seat and a sling, giant diaper bag, the thirst in their eyes for caffeine. I offered them my spot immediately when it was clear they wouldn't fit anywhere else, and I had enough juice to finish what I was doing. When I gave up my table (they were surveying the prospects with dismay and thanked me profusely for offering to swap), the mom and I exchanged pleasantries.

Turned out they not only needed a bigger table because of the baby. Within five minutes they began a series of nanny interviews and my productivity dropped drastically when I heard what was going down. It's tough to head back to work with a ten week old no matter what, but after hearing some of their situation and definitely after hearing some of the prospects, I just wanted to give that mom a big hug.

Here's how NOT to nail your nanny interview.

State that you have no interest in babies.

I kid you not. The first question they asked was "why are you interested in taking care of babies" and one girl spent a good five minutes chatting about how boring and needy babies are. She does like kids though, and babies grow up to be kids. So there's that.

These first few years as your nanny will suck and I'll hate everything about it. But hey, four years in you might have a kid who's fun, so I suppose I can suck it up.

When asked about salary, mention a very non-traditional history of employment.

Look, I understand if that's an awkward question, but let's be honest. This is a job interview. Have at least an idea of how you plan to dance around the money question. And I suppose one girl did. She babysat a friend's child while her mom worked - as a tattoo artist. They had a great bartering system - the mom tattooed her for free.

Before anyone gets insulted, I have no prejudices against tattoos, tattoo artists, nannies with tattoos, parents with tattoos, or bartering. I am sure everyone involved is capable, reputable, and wonderful at what they do. HOWEVER, when first time parents with no visible tattoos themselves go to hire a nanny, "payment in tattoos" just might scare them away.

Tell the parents that you are available for employment because you have a habit of quitting jobs.

Yup. One girl loved the training process for jobs but found she hated actual work. You know, the stuff that happens after you get trained. She went through the EMT certification process but really didn't like the work. She liked animals, but found that she hated working for a vet and dealing with the people. She thought she might like to be a beautician, but hated working on clients. She did like kids, so she was excited to get some work as a nanny!

So this girl had found, three times worth mentioning, that after she actually had to start dealing with people, that she really didn't like it after all. I know she was sure that wouldn't happen this time!

This is a helpful hint for any job. "I quit everything I start because work is hard and people are annoying" is probably not your winning answer.

Make it abundantly clear that you have no idea about babies and development.

All of these girls were college aged, with varying degrees of experience, but no kids of their own. Still, it was pretty clear this particular job was caring for an infant. Tattoo girl talked about how she helped get her friend's son on a schedule. Great. Another girl talked about how she loved rocking babies to sleep, and didn't mind if the baby didn't like to go right in her crib. Fine.

One girl, when asked if she had any questions, wanted to get to know the child better. What was her favorite food? Favorite TV show? Favorite color? Favorite game? Favorite book? How much was she talking? Was she walking? Did she obey?

Let me be clear. This baby was 10 weeks old and looked it. Mom nursed her twice at Starbucks. The mom did a much better job than I would have responding to those questions. I would have looked at her and said, "oh, I'm sure she's similar to you at 2 months. I'm sure you remember".

Helpful hint. Better to say nothing than show that you have no idea what an infant is like.

Let them know that your schedule is both rigid and inconvenient to them.

Mom is going back to work as a nurse, which I understand can have some variables. Dad works a fairly regular reschedule at his day job. But they were looking for someone who could do weekdays with the occasional Friday off.

So announcing that you have another job from 7-1 and take classes in the evenings leaves you, what, four hours a day to work with? Perfect.

So you'll just pop by when it's convenient for you? Super! When can you start?

Never acknowledge the baby.

Seriously. Baby was right there and two of the girls completely ignored her. Didn't smile at her, ask her name, even glance in her direction. You are looking for a childcare job. Theoretically, you are comfortable around kids. And you don't look to the baby at all? Weird, right?

These people want you to watch their baby. Acknowledgment is probably OK.

Be incredibly insensitive.

Turns out that Mom's mom was supposed to be babysitting. But she's been sick and can't shake it, and is currently undergoing a diagnosis which they are really hoping is not cancer. She's too ill right now to even think of it, and the stress of the future isn't something they can see now.

Correct human response: I'm so sorry. I really hope she's ok.

Incorrect response: So if she gets better, this job just ends?

Probably already ended for you, sweetie. But thanks for playing.

Be a diva.

As each prospective candidate sat down for the interview, Dad offered to go get a beverage. Mom had a cup of tea, Dad had a coffee.

Non-diva response: Nothing thanks. Yes, I'm sure. Oh, well, if you really don't mind, maybe just a cup of coffee or tea.

Diva response: Venti, extra hot, skinny caramel macchiato with no whip and an extra shot.

Obviously I'm not anti-Starbucks. I'm here too. But come on, you're on an interview.

So a $6 cup of pretentiousness? Gee, can't wait for you to be in our home every day cursing our food options.

Since I had to leave at get back to my own children, I didn't get to hear them wrap it up and make the final decision. For all I know Mary Poppins walked in the door and Mom was able to instantly feel at ease with the stress of going back to work with a potentially sick mom.

But if she didn't, I really hope they were able to dig through the clueless, the divas, the lazy and the insensitive to find someone great. Because every mom deserves a great babysitter.

You know what else everyone deserves? Alone time. I am very, very, very lucky that Adam gets that and supports my weekly Starbucks afternoons for people watching writing. Have you picked up a copy of the book yet?  Pin It
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