Baby-daddy lurve

I triple-quadruple-quintuple love this picture of my dad and me. I had it on my computer, and since today is his birfday, I thought I'd post it! I think I'm about a week old in this picture.

(you can click to make it bigger)


Overnights! part deux

Today was a great day!!!

This morning we discovered that pipe cleaners can make excellent jewelry. We made bracelets, a necklace, a ring, an anklet, and two headband/crown things (one for Sam, one for Coco).

Pipe cleaner power! (my hand, Sam's hand, Ben's hand--LOVE this pic)

We also spent lots of time loving on the Puffster, of course.

Then, we took a field trip up to Joann's, a fabric/craft store, and the kids each picked out two wooden shapes to paint. (They were 99 cents each! WOOT) Next, we hit up Corner Bakery for lunch, and I once again thoroughly confused the poor people with my order. (Sourdough bread with some of the mixed green salad, onions, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette. It always perplexes them that I want salad on my sandwich. And that I don't want meat OR cheese.)

Ben chose a soccer ball and a sun, Sam chose a puppy and a star.

(No final pictures, because they're surprises for Mommy and Daddy!)

After that, we were going to go to a park nearby that has water sprays (kind of like sprinklers) all over. So we got bathing suits on and sunscreened up, and just as we pulled up to the park, I got a text from Tracey asking if we'd like to go to an impromptu dinner/pool party at her house with Deanna and her kids. Um, yes!!! The kids were *so* excited (and, uh, SO WAS I) that we left the park without even getting out of the car and headed over :)

It was a great night with amazing friends, yummy burgers & hot dogs (mine was a veggie burger, hehe), and lots of happiness. Oh, and a LOT of flirting by a certain someone. Check out her face in this pic Tracey took!

On the way home, all three kids passed out in the car. It was so sweet looking back and seeing this...

...and this!

Of course, they woke up when we got home and were up for a while longer, but they were all still so happy that it was all good! I think all four of us are going to bed with smiles on our faces. And tomorrow, mom and dad come home! The kids are so excited! And as for me? Sure, a bit of catch up sleep will be nice, but I'm sure going to miss being with these sweet, crazy kids all the time :)



So right now I'm smack-dab in the middle of doing an weekend-long nanny session for my regular nanny family, while the parents are away at quite possibly the MOST INSANE WEDDING EVER. Have I mentioned that I love these kids? Because I DO. Here's what we've been up to yesterday and today:

We started our own restaurant. Today, we *finally* decided on a name for it--Cafe Duck. I don't know why. Ask the 6-year-old.

I taught the kids how to use Photobooth on my Mac (probably one of my biggest regrets in life
:) )

We made a countdown to their trip to Mexico--every night before bed, they rip off the day's number. Only 3 days to go!

Lil sweet cheeks here is pulling up on EV.ER.Y.THING!

In one of the highlights of my nanny career, THE TOOTH FAIRY CAME LAST NIGHT! She was very generous and left four shiny quarter's under Sam's pillow :)

We went on an adventure trip to Central Market to buy popsicles, toothpaste for the kids, and orange juice. I know we could have gone somewhere closer for those things, but Central Market has samples!

Did I mention I taught them how to use Photobooth? Now they hijack my computer at every opportunity!

....but sometimes I get in on the action as well :)

There's been plenty of happy baby smiles...


And tonight, when the kids were feeling a bit sad missing mom and dad, I threw bedtime rules out the window and let them get out of bed for popsicles :)

(In case you were wondering, the popsicles helped the kids to feel better. And they gave me a bit of sugar energy to CLEAN UP THE KITCHEN POST-POPSICLE MESS!)

It's been a CRAZY busy but so so so fun couple of days! Oh, and I am *so* loving having the pool in the backyard for some evening swimming before dinner. The sun's not so bad, and it's a great way to end the day!


A good cause!

So for the past month or so, I've been volunteering for Heroes For Children, an organization that "provides financial and social assistance to families, within the state of Texas, with children (0-22 yrs of age) battling cancer." And y'all: OH, it has been fun!

It *totally* appeals to my inner secretary wannabe. Stuffing and addressing envelopes? LOVE. Entering information into databases? LOVE. Copying stuff? LOVE LOVE LOVE.

(You all must know by now that I'm a freak. Or if you didn't previously, you do now. BECAUSE I LOVE THIS STUFF.)

So I encourage all of you in the Big D area to volunteer too! Or, if you don't love gluing envelopes shut as much as I do (how could you not?!? It's so relaxing!), you can donate here to help celebrate HFC's 5-year anniversary! They're only asking for $5!

Jenny, who's the executive director and co-founder (and angel Allie's mom!), writes:

Dear friends and family,

I am so proud that Heroes for Children is turning five years old this fall. This year, we anticipate serving more than 800 Texas families battling a form of childhood cancer. Our services provide direct finacial assistance to families in their most difficult and stressful times and provide support to the families and children undergoing treatment.

Five years ago, we lost our daughter Allie. She would be five and a half years old. Please help me honor her and her legacy with this very big five year milestone. What we're asking for is simple--make a five dollar donation to our organization in honor of five years. Please consider clicking on the link and making a donation. Become a fundraiser too and help us spread the word.

Thank you for helping us have five successful years in Allie and Taylor's memory.

With lots of love,

This is an amazing organization that I've loved helping out. They've made such a tremendous impact on the families of children with cancer. You can help out too!


Is it winter in the northeast yet?

So now that I've decided to go back to DreamSchool, Damien's not getting fixed. Which I was perfectly okay with until he started doing something new yesterday.

You may remember that my boy Damien's AC/heat, for whatever reason, starts to reek of gasoline when I slow down, turn corners, or stop the car. So it's second nature for me to turn the AC/heat off when I slow down, turn corners, or stop the car. And then I just sweat/freeze it out until I start moving again and can turn it back on again and THANK YOU LORD FOR AC/HEAT.

Well...now, whenever I'm driving, Damien's constantly cycling from room temperature AC to heat.

By himself.

Like it'll be room temp (no more cold AC), and then it'll slowly switch to HEAT HEAT HEAT, then it'll slowly switch back to room temp.

This is a fun new development, let me just tell you.

Especially on a day like today, when it hit 104 degrees (NOT counting the heat index) and I already sweat easily GAH.

So, all I'm saying is: if you see me running around the big D in my boy Damien and my face is shinier than, I dunno, oil, forgive me. We'll all just pretend I'm on a new sweat-it-out diet.


Le d├ęcision

I'm going back!!! Screw accumulating debt, you only live once, right?!? You can all congratulate me now. And start sending me money.

An amount

I got my financial aid offer from DreamSchool.

They actually gave me a grant, which I was almost surprised by. Earlier today, a friend texted me that he'd gotten no money -- and he's raised by a single mom, who's a teacher.

But they did give me some. And it's more than I ever thought it would be, but still a relatively low amount, if that makes sense.

We've crunched numbers, and figured out how the next several years are going to look. It's doable, but I'll still have to take on a significant amount of debt that I'd be spending the next 20 or so years repaying.


I've almost landed on a decision. I think I have. In the meantime, I'm writing an appeal letter for more money. I don't have much hope for that, but hey -- can't hurt to try. But I'll be making my decision regardless of them giving me more money.

I'll let y'all know either tonight or tomorrow. Oy vey.


I have found the devil

...and it looks like this:

A Snoopy Sno-Cone maker.

Let me just tell you: I burned enough calories cranking on that bad boy for me to be able to have six cookies and a chocolate milkshake tonight.

(Or maybe that's just in my head. Let me have my little sweets-induced fantasies.)

The kiddos today decided they wanted to make sno cones. So they pulled old Snoopy out of the cabinet and set to work. We didn't have any actual syrup to put on top, so we used apple juice. Hey, it's got less high fructose corn syrup, right?

Essentially, I realized within the first 30 seconds of use that I hated the Snoopy Sno-Cone maker. I was trying to exert enough force to smoosh ice down into Snoopy's chimney while trying to turn the crank to actually crush the ice in the cheese-grater-type crusher while trying to hold the entire damn thing still while Sam tried to hold a glass under the "spout" to catch the 1/8 centimeter of crushed ice that popped out every, oh, five minutes.

Note the number of times I used the word "try/tried/trying."

I broke a sweat about two minutes into the operation, but we persevered. Approximately thirty minutes later, we had 1/2 cup of sno cone-like ice. Drenched in apple juice.

And my right arm was suddenly all muscular.

But the kids were ecstatic. Man, they went to town on that 1/2 cup of watery apple juice! And they thanked me profusely for letting them make the sno cones, which, of course, made the whole ordeal worth it in my book.

I have a feeling that Mr. Snoopy the Sno-Cone Maker is going to be a regular visiter this summer. Which is fine by me, cause hey -- my right arm's never looked so good.

Putting my new-found sno cone maker muscles to work. I'm the short one holding the upside-down kid.



So Damien's much-wanted fix was a no-go. They did some work on his fuel tank (which I thought was leaking and causing the smell, but I suppose not), but whatever they did didn't help the smell at all.


There's one more thing we can try, but it costs at least $500 (or more). So I've decided that if DreamSchool comes through and offers me enough money so that I can go back, I *won't* fix the car (since I'll only be driving it for the summer. Sweating while driving! That's a way to lose weight!). If I'm NOT going back to DreamSchool, I *will* get it fixed, cause I'll be driving year-round.

Make sense?

I'm disappointed that this wasn't the magic fix, but hey, what're you gonna do? I still love me some Damien the Wild Stallion.


A five-spot

Uh, I don't think I blogged about it, but I just went on a trip. It was a brief one, just a six-day whirlwind of a trip, to see three sets of relatives in different areas (LOTS of driving!). We're back now, and I'm exhausted!

1) No news from DreamSchool re: financial aid. I finally broke down and called them again today, and apparently there's been a delay in sending out notices. They *should* send them out tomorrow, meaning I'll know next week. Then again, they said that last week.

1) We brought Damien the Wild Stallion to the Volvo dealership last week to try to get him fixed. The brilliant Monica H. & her husband did some research, and figured out that Damien might be eligible for a free replaced fuel tank because of a recall. He was! I'm picking him up tomorrow, so FINGERS CROSSED that my boy is smell-free!!!

3) I've been in contact with a rather well-known local doula about me maybe starting to volunteer at a birthing center. Y'know, in all my free time :)

4) Pupster Max was SO HAPPY to see us today when we got back! Last week when we were packing suitcases, he would NOT leave my side. He's been so used to me coming home briefly and then going back to school for extended periods of time -- and I think he was afraid that was happening again. But I came back! :) Right now he's curled up asleep on the floor next to me, sweet thing.

5) I've said it before and I'll say it again: this is one of the. best. inventions. EVER.


She's brilliant

So last Wednesday, Sam, Ben and I were playing kitty-cheetah. That's a game that they've invented, and it involves me going to the pet store, wandering around trying to decide what kind of pet I want ("Do I want a pet TV? Nah, no pet TV. Do I want a pet couch? Nah, no pet couch.") until I finally find them -- the kitty and cheetah! Perfect!

We play some variation of this every day. It's always funny to see what kind of twists and turns they'll come up with for dramatic effect. Sam's my drama girl, it seems. And she likes to narrate how we play:

"Pretend you come in and you can't find any pets you like!"
"Pretend you find Ben first, and you take him home and train him, and then you find me!"
"Pretend you have no home and we have to build one together!"

Well, this past Wednesday, it was: "Pretend you have no money so you can't buy us but you really want to!" (I have no idea where that came from...?!? But hey, I went along with it.)

So I wandered into the 'pet store' (read: the living room) and wandered around, admiring the various 'pets' (read: the TV, the couch, the table, etc.), until I found the PERFECT kitty and cheetah that I just had to have.

"But oh, no, Mrs. Pet Shop Owner (Coco is usually the Pet Shop Owner)! I don't have enough money to buy the kitty and cheetah! But I want them soooo badly!"

Usually I can figure out how to deal with their dramatic situation -- discovering the kitty and cheetah at the last minute before I leave the pet shop empty handed and depressed, creating a home out of couch cushions instead of Coco's room, which we usually use, etc. But this time...uh...I was drawing blanks on how to deal with the no money situation.

"Uh..Sam," I whispered. "What am I supposed to do if I don't have any money to buy you guys?"
She shot me a look that clearly said, "YOU ARE STUPID," and whispered back, "YOU GO TO THE BANK WITH YOUR CREDIT CARD AND BUY MORE MONEY."

Ohhhhhhhhhh. So THAT'S how I can afford college.


Job guilt

As much as I double-triple-quadruple heart my job, I feel utterly and ridiculously guilty for having it.

The majority of my friends from DreamSchool can't find work right now. Not for lack of trying, no--one friend has sent out 28 resumes to EVERY sort of place. She's had experience doing retail and waitressing and can't even get a call back--but because there really aren't that many jobs for teenagers and college kids right now.

We've got a few strikes against us:

1) Our jobs pretty much need to be temporary, if we're just home for the summer
2) In this economy (aren't you guys sick of hearing that expression?) jobs aren't going to go to the college kids. First, they're going to the adults who have families to take care of. Then they're going to the senior citizens who've come back out of retirement. Then they'll maybe get to us.
3) We've got a bad rap overall, being teenagers/college students.

Several of my friends are bagging groceries making under minimum wage. I feel guilty that I get to sit by the pool for an hour or two each day, and make double that. Don't get me wrong: I have the safety, health, and well-being of three gorgeous kids in my hands. And that's a huge responsibility. But I just wonder, how did I get so lucky?


Babysitter fail

So in the interest of keeping things honest, I have to inform you of something.

I'm not a perfect babysitter.

No really. You can pick your jaws up off the floor, because OH Y'ALL, I have a story.

A little under two months ago, Jen tweeted (sent a Twitter message, for those of you under a rock) that she needed some baby help. To this day I'm not entirely sure she was serious, but as a) she lived in my area b) I was looking for a summer job and I have a bit of experience keeping an eye on kids and c) ZOMG IT'S HER AND ZOMG HER KIDS ARE ADORABLE, I immediately tweeted back that HI I CAN HAZ NANNY JOB?

Or something like that.

We e-mailed back and forth for several days, and in that period of time I tried to be as witty and charming as possible, all the while assuring her that I was the perfect AND ONLY person for the job.

Me? Modest? Nah, baby. If DreamSchool taught me one thing, it is to SELL MYSELF. (Er. In a non-sexual way. Though if financial aid doesn't come through, I *will* be considering other options.)

But anyway--we agreed to do a trial run the Friday after I came back. Coincidentally, the kids of another favorite blogger of mine would be there that day as well, so I'd be watching Jen's baby Coco and the three other kids. No problem at all. It would only be for about two hours in the morning.


So I got there and met everyone and all was well and good. So Jen, trusting woman that she is, ran out to go shoot a session and the kids and I went out back to play.

The boys decided to jump on the trampoline (they'd been doing it earlier that morning, so I knew it was okay) while little Lucy helped me push Coco in the swings. All was going swimmingly for the first ten minutes until there was a sudden odd, unsettling silence.

I look over at the boys. They're sitting quietly on the trampoline, which was my first clue that something wasn't right.

"Y'all ok?" I called over. And got no response.

So I went over (maybe 20 feet away) to check things out. Bailey, the older boy (not Jen's), was holding his mouth, and said, "I think I broke my tooth."

And in my head, I said, "Oh shit."

Out loud, I said (in a cheery, happy, No-nothing's-wrong! voice), "Uh oh, can I see?" So he came over, opened his mouth, and sure enough: one of his bottom middle teeth was missing a good fourth of itself. And that's a permanent tooth.

In my head, I said, "Frickity-frick-frick-frick."

Out loud, I said, "Yeah, looks like you chipped it a little bit. Let's head on inside and we'll get you an ice pack, cause I bet your mouth is sore." (It ended up that we used frozen peas instead of ice. The boys were quite amused by this.)

As soon as poor Bailey--who was doing a really good job trying to remain calm--was iced up, I knew I had to call Jen and 'fess up. Tracey, Bailey's mom, was at a major job interview that day and I did NOT want to stress her out. Or have her come kill me. So I called Jen. This is what that sounded like:

Me: "UMhiJenit'sNannylookeverything'sokaybutBaileyjustchippedhistoothalittlebitandthere'snobloodandIdon'tthinkthere'sanyrootdamageI'msososososososorry."

Jen: "Oh crap."

Jen said she'd handle telling Bailey's mom, and that it was okay--accidents happen. The boys were playing on the trampoline when it happened. It could have happened on anyone's watch.

(YesbutithappenedonMYwatch. BabysitterFAIL.)

Long story short, the rest of the morning ended up being great--the kids were totally enamored with baby Coco, and spent most of the time entertaining her (hey, made my job a piece of cake). Tracey ended up not killing me (thank goodness), and I'm hopeful she may let me around her kids again one day. Hey, I wouldn't blame her if she didn't.

And for whatever reason, Jen hired me to become her summer nanny. I couldn't ask for a better family to work for! I love each of the kids SO much, and I really do love spending time with them.

But I'm not allowing anymore trampoline time anytime soon.



Sam-that-is-a-girl, age 6, gave me some great kid-isms that I thought I should post.

One morning, the doorbell rang. I went to get it--the UPS guy had dropped off a package, and was leaving. When I came back into the room, Sam asked who was at the door.

"Oh, it was a package," I said.
She looked up and grinned at me. "How could a package ring the doorbell?!?" she asked.
Goofy girl. I cracked up.

Later on, she and Ben and I were trying to decide what to do.

"How about hide and seek?" I suggested.
"Oh, that's a classic!" she responded.

So we played a classic game of hide and seek.



My day, in multimedia

Well actually, this was Wednesday. But I'm just now getting around to posting it.

(morning activity with the big kids--painting!)

(morning activity with Coco--playing!)

(Can You Find The Baby In This Picture? alternatively, where's Coco?)

(watching big brother Ben dance around. She LOVES him and got *so* excited watching him!)

(We decided we'd better get her dressed *sigh* I just love naked (or only-diapered) babies! Though isn't this outfit adorable?!? Check out the clip in her hair!)

Annnnd some videos which I thought were too adorable not to post: (And please excuse my talking-to-babies voice.)
Her new trick is clapping, so I tried to get her to do that for y'all, but alas: 7 month olds are not circus monkeys.


The nanny dilemma


I've always struggled with this, as both a babysitter and as a nanny. (I worry less about it as a babysitter since I'm with the kids for short chunks of time, but as a nanny when I'm with the kids for extended periods of time, it is a concern.)

I read an interesting article about how kids nowadays just don't know how to play by themselves. They're so used to being in front of the TV, or with a parent or babysitter or nanny--in the name of watching them to keep them safe--that they don't know how to use their own imaginations by themselves or with other siblings.

My girls A. & E. with my former family didn't know how to play at all when I started working full-time with them. They were so used to being in front of the TV that they literally didn't know what to do on their own. I worked for months helping them to learn different activities and things to do, helping to develop their imaginations, and slowly worked up to having them play off in the living room while I was making dinner in the kitchen. They learned to entertain themselves.

When my sister and I were younger, we'd spend hours off playing school, or doctor, or "adoption" together, in and outdoors. Our parents played with us a great deal, but we played alone a lot, too.

Kids with nannies don't really play alone, though, because it's lazy babysitting/nannying for the babysitter/nanny to sit off in the next room, letting the kids play. Does that make sense? In other words, why would a parent hire someone to just sit elsewhere, not be with the kids?

I've talked with fellow nannies about this. We want to encourage self-play in our kids while at the same time staying in our bosses' good graces. In my past experience, the kids I've nannied/babysat for turn to me to entertain them constantly--because it's my job. But kids who are constantly being entertained by someone or something else don't develop self-play/entertainment skills and, therefore, are much more demanding on the whole.

I'm not saying that as a nanny, I'd want to leave my kids to self-play all day. Not at all! Playing with a nanny is a great interaction and wonderful for social skills. I love playing zoo keeper, baby wrangler (when the big kids want to be babies), etc. But I also think that it's important that, for a certain chunk of time each day, the kids play by themselves, learning to keep themselves occupied and discovering their own imaginations.

A stay-at-home-mom or dad has various tasks to complete during the day, like cooking, cleaning, or working from home. As nannies, our sole purpose is to dedicate ourselves to the kids. And it's great fun for kids to have dedication like that! But I do wonder, in the big picture, if it is a problem?

P.S. I have *no* idea if this post makes sense or not! But it does in my head :)


Damien the Wild Stallion, part 2

OKAY. So here's the end of the story, yo.

I live in Texas. And during the summer it gets pretty warm here. Triple digits and such. So air conditioning? Is a good and joyful thing.

Alas, Damien has AC issues.

He's got it, and it's good -- nice and cold and deeeelish. But the problem is the smell.

For whatever reason, whenever I slow down or stop with the AC (or heat) on, Damien starts to reek of gasoline. Like seriously stanky.

We've tried to have him fixed before, but nothing has worked. Damien's just a smelly boy. So it's become second nature for me to reach over, turn off the heat/AC while I'm slowing down/stopped, and sit and freeze/sweat for several minutes until the light changes.

But in the middle of a Texas summer, that's pretty miserable. Especially if I've got kids in the car, I don't want them a) sweating to death or b) breathing in the gasoline. And I don't want me breathing in the gasoline. It's just not healthy.

(Oh, and the sweating is a problem, too. Especially when my makeup starts dripping off my face.)

So I may be bidding adieu to my beloved Stallion. And trying to find a new car. Because I needz one. Problem: I don't have any money.

So this should be fun.