Monday, August 27, 2012

What Should I Be When I Grow Up?

Please welcome fellow blogger Doyin from Daddy Doin' Work, one of my favorite blogs to read (and one of my favorite "daddy blogs" - a very special distinction). As we were talking on the blog's Facebook community about kids and sports and activities, he's written about his experiences and his daughter. I really appreciated his contribution and I hope you enjoy reading this. If you do, you should check out his blog and Facebook community.
Hi All! I’m honored that Liz asked me to guest post on her blog. To provide a little background, I’m the author of the daddy blog Daddy Doin’ Work and I’m the proud papa to a beautiful 18-month old baby girl. She’s a little young to give me any clues as to what activities she’ll be interested in as she grows older, but I already know how I plan to manage those interests once the time comes.
First, let me share a quick story. When I was growing up, there was an older kid (let's call him "Mike") who was good at baseball - really good. The only thing in question was how he became so good (no, I’m not implying that he used steroids). Every day after school, his dad would make him practice hitting, fielding, throwing, etc. until the kid damn near passed out. Sure, Mike was the star of his baseball teams as he grew up - but once he made it to High School, he lost all of his passion for the game and he quit on the spot. By his dad immersing his son in baseball 24/7, Mike's grades suffered, he lacked balance, and he became extremely bitter and angry. I’m not sure what he’s up to today, but I’ve heard that he and his father have not spoken in years.
All due to respect to Nike, but I don't want my kid to "be like Mike." Don't get me wrong here, this cautionary tale isn't something that happens often - it's just something that I'll do everything in my power to prevent against. As the days progress, I think about what activities my baby girl will be interested in and the guidelines that I’ll follow to ensure she does so happily. Here's my short list.

Never Push, Only Guide: Selfishly speaking, I want my daughter to play sports because I personally don't think there's anything out there that better teaches children how to work together to achieve a common goal, deal with adversity, and win graciously than athletics. However, I'm not going to be that dad who makes his kid sleep with a basketball every night in hopes that she'll compete in the 2032 Olympics. My goal is to simply present her with the available options and let her choose accordingly. If my daughter chooses to go to Math Camp instead of Soccer Camp, that's totally cool with me too - as long as she's happy. Additionally, it's important that she makes these choices at her own pace. If I push her to do something too quickly, she could very easily burn out and become resentful like Mike did. 

Don't Quit: When my parents signed me up for something that I wanted to try (swimming lessons, piano lessons, basketball, baseball, etc.), they did so on one condition: I could not quit. Don't get me wrong, if the activity compromised my health and/or welfare - they would pull me out of it in a heartbeat. What they wouldn't tolerate is if I wanted to quit due to not liking my teacher, coach, or teammates. They knew that in life, I would have bosses and co-workers that I couldn't stand - and I'd have to "man up" and deal with them. No matter what activities my daughter chooses to participate in, the "Don't Quit" rule will be in full effect.

Add Value: Raising a knucklehead who sits on the street corner after school will absolutely not happen on my watch. The main thing I want for my daughter is to add value to her friends, family, and community with her activities. If she excels academically, I would love to see her tutor other children. If she’s active in the community, I'd love to see her clean up area beaches on a weekend. If she's a leader, I’d love to see her run for student council. Quite frankly, this world needs more people in it who choose to add value, and I hope that she figures this out on her own.

I know that my daughter is only 18-months old and she's not showing any signs of doing anything other than saying, "No!" to everything. However, her health and happiness are by far the most important things to me and I’ll do whatever it takes to get her there at her own pace.

But first, I’m going to teach her how to hit a curve ball (literally and figuratively).

Doyin shares his unique and hilarious adventures as a loving new dad on his blog, on Twitter at @daddydoinwork, and Facebook.
Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Nanny Olympics – a.k.a. So You Want to Be a Nanny

         Since Sage was born, I’ve realized that it’s difficult for me to get anything house-related (or work-related) done at home while both boys are awake, even if my husband is home. I decided that we would try to find someone to bring into the house once a week on Saturdays to help with wrangling the boys so Mike and I could get some things (such as cleaning) done. Once Mike starts teaching again in September, it will be super helpful to have someone here with me so that I don’t lose my sanity. We also wanted to find someone to watch the boys so that we could go out with our friends – previous to this, the only people who have watched the kids were our friends. And you can’t exactly hang out with them if they’re, you know, watching your kids.
Watch that baby. It's sleeeeping. Upside down.
         I posted an ad on (and am in no way endorsing that site through this post, but that’s the site I used) and received over twenty emails from potential caregivers in two days. I have to say I was a little overwhelmed by that, but I figured out pretty quickly who to email “No thank you” and who to set up an interview with, and I thought I did a pretty good job (giving myself a pat on the back). After viewing their application emails and profiles, I emailed five women to set up interviews.
         If you follow the blog on Facebook, you’ll know that we had our first interview two Saturdays ago and I joked with the folks in the online community that we were having the Nanny Olympics at our house and the first interview was the prequalifying stage. The first woman I asked for an interview was actually the first person to respond to our ad, and she did so within five minutes of me posting it. In my ad I had purposefully put in some jokes (OK, what I thought was funny) and in her email she responded to the jokes with jokes. She had a professional photo and her descriptions of her experience seemed accurate (as opposed to blown out of proportion). She seemed down to earth so I was excited to meet her.
I sometimes wake up cranky. No I'm serious.
She showed up for her hour-long interview wearing a long-sleeve cardigan, which, since we live in Texas is kind of odd. I answered the door in a tank top and she could see my tattoos. She came in and saw Mike had a lot of tattoos as well, and you could see her visibly relax. “My Mom told me I needed to wear a sweater or I wouldn’t get the job,” she tells us as she’s taking off her cardigan and revealing two full arms of tattoos. Right off I had good feelings about her. But then I left her and Silas to hang out and puttered around (a.k.a. eavesdropping). Mind you, Silas had just woken up from a nap “hard” (meaning he was a crank ASS) so I figured this was a great challenge to assess her. She matched him toy for toy, game for game, talked to him, sat with him, played with him (not around him) – it was awesome. I was super pleased. After her Silas time she and I talked about her experiences and how often she wanted to work. She told us she was 14 weeks pregnant which made me sad (because she’ll probably leave sooner rather than later and not nanny anymore) but also excited because I knew that her experience at our house could help her feel more comfortable as a first time mother when her child arrived. So Candidate #1 was in and hired. Now I needed to find two or so “backup” babysitters in case she wasn’t available (and hopefully to take over once she had her kidget).
My response to some of these candidates.
         I looked through all of the other potential folks and developed some criteria – they had to have checked that they’d do light housework, have their own vehicle, have references available, and they had to have experience with little littles like Sage (9 weeks). Infant CPR and first aid certs and Spanish speaking made a candidate that much more attractive but weren’t deal breakers. Now I’m not a mean House Manager, I don’t want someone to come in and clean my house AND maintain my children’s safety. I want someone who’s going to clean up after themselves, put dishes from lunch in the dishwasher, and wipe down the kitchen table. I’m not asking for them to clean my carpets, you know? So any candidate who emailed me whose profile didn’t say they’d do light housework got the boot. No transportation means you can’t possibly pick the boys up from school in a pinch. Das boot. I can’t ask others about your previous work? No thank you. And you don’t know that an infant needs their neck supported until they can hold it up on their own? I’m not teaching you that.
         I set up four interviews over the next two weeks with potential childcare providers via email. I gave them my cell number and a date/time, and asked them to call or text me to let me know if that time worked for them (assessing conscientiousness I was). One called, two texted (I have no preference for either call or text honestly), and one didn’t respond at all. The one who called left a voicemail, so I called her back and left her a voicemail, and then she butt dialed me twice and never called to apologize (or to talk to me). So we were down to two prequalifier candidates, and they both were scheduled for Sunday (August 19). The first one (11 a.m.) showed up at 11:15 because she got lost because there’s construction on my street (which I had told her about previously and suggested she arrive early because of). The second one (4 p.m.) nsnc’d (no show no call). Wow. Really folks?
         Having been a nanny in graduate school, I would like to share some secrets (hopefully they’re not so secret honestly) about how to get hired as a nanny. The first question people may have is “what’s the difference between a babysitter and a nanny?” Well, here’s how I think of it – a babysitter makes sure your kids are safe for the time that you are out of the house, while a nanny may be asked to serve “in the place of the parent” by, say, dropping off/picking up from school, assisting with homework, preparing meals, cleaning, doing laundry, and of course entertaining children and making sure they’re safe. Usually there’s a pay difference too – if I hire a babysitter for the night who’s going to sit and watch TV after Silas goes to bed (and Sage sleeps through their entire visit), I’m less inclined to pay them a higher rate. We pay $8/hour for mother’s helper (I’m here, you’re just playing with Silas) and $10/hour for “you’re in charge” childcare by the way (and I put that in my ad). If the woman we hired is asked to do nanny-type tasks (grocery shop, pick up the boys from school) then I will pay her a higher rate per hour for the time it takes to do that, especially if she’s grocery shopping with two kids in tow (that will be $45 per hour please…).
I expect you to like our dogs. No, for serious.
         Many House Managers (i.e., the person who’s hiring you to do the childcare, usually Mom) will tell you what they want you to do (and if you’re a babysitter or a nanny), but if they don’t, it’s important to ask about expectations when you go to an interview. If you’re responding to an ad online, be sure to read the ad fully and see if you feel like you fit with what the House Manager wants. Don’t just respond to every ad asking for childcare. When you respond to the ad, write professionally – use proper capitalization, spelling, and grammar. If I see one more email with textspeak I swear to someone I’m going to hit a nanny. If the writer of the ad uses jokes, then joke back, but if they don’t then simply highlight the skills you have that they stated they were looking for. If you’re responding via phone, again, be professional. Make sure your voicemail sounds…professional. “You know what to do heeheehee” is not professional.
         In all of your interactions with families make sure to represent yourself accurately. Don’t tell Mom you have experience with infant care when in reality you held a baby at a party once. If someone says they have experience, then I expect them to know their shit and feel comfortable handling, diapering, and feeding an infant. Parents will have their own little quirky “ways of doing things” and they’ll know their kids best, but make sure you don’t lie about your experiences. Get to know what the parents want/like by observing them and asking questions (but more so by observing them – I think a lot of times if potential nannies ask too many small specific questions that they’re not confident in their own abilities and that’s a big no thank you – babies and parents are like dogs, they can smell fear).
         Make sure you have your listening ears on (sorry, I’m a toddler parent) when interacting with parents – if I say “No TV,” I’m not kidding, I’m not joking, and this is MY kid. Now of course, I don’t say this because Silas loves him some Thomas and Friends, but parents are asking you to act as them for a time (and paying you to do so). The least you could do is follow their rules. Now I’ve seen the Beverly Hills Nannies show (OK I’ve watched a few previews) and some people are, like, whoa crazy parents. If you see that at an interview, run and hide (unless you’re just in it for the money – then stay there because I don’t want you at my house). Crazy families will find someone crazy to take care of their kids – crazy attracts crazy, no worries. But I’ve seen some of those parents and you don’t want to work with them.
Silas say, "If you can't have fun, don't come to my house."
         And that’s the thing – that’s what you’re doing – you’re WORKING. Be professional. Be punctual. Focus on your work (i.e., the children), not your phone and Facebook. Have fun with kids. Sit on the floor and play. Sing. Dance. Make up silly stories. If you feel uncomfortable doing these things with kids, I’m pretty sure that childcare is not for you. Little people are amazingly creative and fun – if you can’t enjoy that and let your adult guard down to do some HotWheels cars in the dirt play, then being a nanny is not in the cards for you my friend.

Have you looked for a childcare provider/nanny? What did you find? I want to hear the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Sunday, August 12, 2012

Week In Review at The House

            Every week at The House there’s random shit that happens that just makes me (or Mike) laugh. Sometimes we laugh because we’re sleep deprived (and it’s really not that funny) but sometimes it’s just too hard not to laugh at the stupid stuff we do.
Big Boy Bed
Sleeping in the big boy bed, hope he doesn't fall off...
            Last Saturday Mike and Uncle Steven (Mike’s best friend) picked up a toddler bed for Silas (28 months). I found a good deal on it on Craigslist so we bought it after much debate (toddler vs. straight to twin bed). Being me, I worried that Silas would get out of bed every night (or worse [funnier], fall out of bed). When Mike and Steven brought it home, Silas and I went out to help them bring it in because I wanted Silas to be part of the transition from the get go. He went out to the truck and grabbed a side of the bed and “helped” them bring the bed into the house; he even went and opened the door to get it in the house when Steven asked him to. Big Helper, awesome! We put the bed in his room next to the crib, made the bed, and a few hours later it was nap time. He excitedly got up on his little bed to nap, and an hour later he emerged from his room (opening his own door). Rut-roh. If he can do that now, I thought, he can do that tonight or early tomorrow morning.
            We took the crib out of his room and moved the big boy bed to its spot, facing the same way. Mike and I made a big deal that night of him being a Big Boy and reminding him to stay in bed at night. He complied. The next morning? He was a ninja – he got out of bed and out of his room without me even waking up (and I’m a light sleeper – noises from the monitor always wake me up). I found him at 7:45 a.m. playing with trains and attempting to watch Thomas on the DVD player (which is also Mike’s Xbox – imagine the chaos if that were to have broken…hey wait, maybe that’s not a bad idea…hey Silas, come here…).
            He’s only fallen out twice so far. The second night I hear crying around 2:30 a.m. over the monitor and I go in to check on him. He’s sitting up, eyes closed, crying, “Momma…momma…” “What’s up buddy?” I ask. He grabs his blankets as if to come with me, and rolls headfirst off his bed onto the floor. Completely asleep. I pick him up and he’s still asleep. I lay him back down and cover him up, and that’s the end of that. But try not laughing at your asleep kid falling off his bed (it’s only a foot off the ground people, I’m not that horrible of a person). The second time he literally fell out in his sleep. He was asleep horizontally on the bed when I went to bed, but then an hour later there was a thump and some crying – tuck and roll buddy.
Ask and Ye Shall Receive
My concrete thinker
            I have a bad habit of asking Silas questions that are really more theoretical than concrete and he, being, you know, TWO, takes them literally. Like the time I was trying to potty train him with Cheerios and I tossed a Cheerio into the toilet and told him to “Get it.” I meant pee on it. But he looked at me like I was crayzay, and when I told him to go ahead he reached into the toilet water and scooped out the Cheerio. Oh. I. Oh. Well. Nevermind. I was banned from Cheerio-ing. Today Silas was blowing raspberries at Steven and it sounded like it was getting out of hand so I called Silas to me. “Hey, what were you doing?” I asked him. Mike cringed. Silas blew a raspberry at me – glasses covered in spit. I had that coming. Hey Liz, remember how you tell your students that toddlers take everything literally and don’t understand insinuation or sarcasm or humor a lot of times? Yeah.
Two For the Price of Poo?
            A few months ago I was on the phone with my BFF, Missy, who has two daughters, ages almost 3 and 1. She told me she had to get off the phone because they had synchronized pooping and I just thought that was funny. “Just you wait, your boys will do it too. One poops and the other does and you have to deal with two diapers.” Well tonight Silas was “asleep” (i.e., futzing around in his room) and the Internet alarm went off, meaning he had pushed the button on the box. I went in his room and it stank to high holy hell. I asked if he pooped and he denied it. Mike came in and we turned on the light and changed his dipe. Mike went back to the living room, I cleaned the diaper and put it in the wet bag, and then I went back to say goodnight (again) to Silas. Sage started crying in the living room.
Sage not currently screaming.
Silas: Baby!
Me: Yes, Sage is crying.
Silas: Oh no!
Mike (in the living room): Oh god!
Me: I have to go.
Silas: Why?
Me: Your brother just pooped too. And apparently it’s a big mess.
Missy wasn’t lying. What the hell boys? Really?
            We’re also trying out the potty learning bit around here. Lots of naked buns time and random accidents. Asking Silas to use the potty is turning into a crying fight, so I’ve decided that he’ll be naked and I’ll remind him that the potty is there to pee in and we’ll see how it goes. Dino tattoos seem to be helping along in the process. Silas’ right arm is covered so far (with dinos in various stages of decay).
Did I Mention I’m Tired?
Sage and Momma
            Sage hasn’t been sleeping well at night, and you know us adults, we prefer to sleep at night, so I’m getting maybe 4 hours tops every night for the past three days. I’m tired. I’m cranky. Have you seen that “unnecessary censoring” of Sesame Street? The one where Elmo says “*&^% you baby!” Yeah, I feel like that some nights. Tonight I wanted a glass of wine and I couldn’t find my one wine glass (we have somehow broken the other three, no ideas). It wasn’t in the glasses cabinet. I asked Mike if he knew where it was, and I could hear the whine in my voice.
Mike: Did you look in the dishwasher?
Me: No. *Whine*
Mike: Well…why not?
Me: Because I just want to whine about the fact that I can’t find it for a minute. I’m sure it’s in there.
Steven: [to Mike] That’s why I love your wife – she’ll actually admit when she’s whining and that it’s for no reason.

I’m really ready to go back to work. I’m not a house wife or SAHM by any means, and I am well aware of that fact. I have the utmost respect for Mommas and Daddys who work at home – but I just could not do it all day every day. I need sleep, wine, adult interaction, and a night nanny and everything will be back to “normal.” I have a sneaking suspicion that my idea of “normal” is never to be again. But there will be a new normal I suppose.

            Honey, can you stop reading over my shoulder while I type? If you want to write for the blog go write your own damned post. Love you.

Thanks for reading! If you’re not already following us on Facebook, make sure to do so since there’s a lot more random funnies that get posted to the page every week.