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Friday, January 18th, 2013
Big news. Emmett took his first steps this week. Two. In a row. It was very exciting to everyone but him. We were all in Fia’s room playing. Even Wayne Sanchez. Em stood up using the rails of Fia’s crib, balanced and took the steps. We all freaked out, clapping and screaming. He plopped down on his butt laughing and looked kind of baffled in his happy-go-lucky way. Like, “Why all the hoopla?”
I don’t have any pictures to show of his steps, but I do have one of him standing proudly.
Emmett turns a year old next Friday. Hard to believe. Here are some more recent pics.
I took them to the zoo today. Loads of fun, as usual. (Take that all you blog bashers who called me a bad mom this week…not that I need to justify anything to those types….)
Fia on our way up to Death Valley. Exploring a ghost town.
Last weekend Phil and I took the babes on our backs for a 3 1/2 hour hike up some incredibly tough hills in Griffith Park. I’m the beached whale nearly passed out on the table midway through….
I swear he gets prettier by the day…he is such a beauty. And a delight. Inside and out. They both are.
The two below are a little blurry because he’s such a mover, it’s hard to capture him! He is funny! His tear duct on his right eye is supposed to open when he’s a year. Come on duct…. do it.
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backlash, Death Valley, firing, first steps, Griffith Park, hike, hiking, nanny, one year birthday | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Fia Friday, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles
Monday, January 14th, 2013
I’m going to do a complete 180 here. I got rid of my nanny and my life is easier. This is contrary to my post a few months ago when I wrote about why full-time help is necessary.
It has taken me almost 2 months to write about this. It was a painful experience and really hurt me to the core. These people become part of your family; they are taking care of the most precious entity in your life. And even though I know we made the right decision, and it was our choice, the loss hit me hard.
I don’t know why, but I just feel like telling my story. Maybe because I’m still hurt, even though at the same time I’m so relieved.
I won’t go into all the reasons. But the main reason was her complete inability to get here on time. I spoke to her former employers to find out if she was late for them. They claim she wasn’t. She also lived nearer to them, which, in LA traffic, makes a difference. They also had full time jobs in which they had to be out the door at a certain time. Phil and I work from home, so we naturally create a more laid back atmosphere.
I did every sort of tactic. I switched the times around to help her avoid rush hour (didn’t work), I gave her a cushion time, as in between 8:30-9. Not only did that NOT work, it backfired and made things worse. I gave her pep talks, threaten-talks, and on two occasions I lost my sh-t and yelled. And then she cried. And I felt terrible. So after a year of dealing with this–yes, a year–I realized the situation was exhausting me.
It was time for a final ultimatum.
Phil and I told her calmly and clearly that one more time and she was done. Communication had been a problem in that her accent is heavy and she also doesn’t text (which was another issue altogether). I wanted to make sure she understood how high the stakes were. She said she understood and reiterated that if she were late again, it was on her. She cried saying she would miss our kids so much–the mere thought of it broke her heart. I could tell her feelings were genuine.
That’s the thing about her. I had such a soft spot. Yet she would drive me crazy.
Her life hadn’t been easy. Her mother pulled her from school at a young age in El Salvador so she could care for her handicapped sister. She crossed the border when she was 17. Now she’s 50, a legal resident, and has 5 grown kids. But even though we paid her well above the market rate, money was tight (in part to bad decisions that drove me crazy–though I know–none of my business). With no formal education she is part of the true working class.
She became my project and my boundaries went out the window. I was going to teach her how to read and write (she was extremely limited in that regard, which I found out after hiring her). I offered to give her time off for ESL classes. I told her I could help her learn. She cried, saying it was her dream to read the newspaper. Never happened. I mentioned it from time to time and she’d say she was going to do it. Then nothing.
There were other things too, because as we all know, no one is perfect. But as mad/frustrated as I’d get, at the end of the day, she did a lot of lovely things for us and ultimately, loved my babies as her own. If there were an earthquake, she would throw herself in front of a crashing beam to protect them. She is that kind of person. I would tell myself that that is really all that matters. But it’s not. She was still an employee. And there to make our lives easier.
The ultimatum came right before we were giving her a week off (paid) for Thanksgiving. That following Monday morning she was supposed to be at our house by 8:30. Fifteen minutes later I see a missed call on my phone. Phil called her back. She said her car battery died and she was just leaving her house. Wait, huh? If your battery had died, you would have known before 8 and called us. Which is what Phil said to her. No response. He hung up the phone and looked at me. We both shook our heads. He called her back and told her not to come. I haven’t seen her since.
I then sent her a check for 5 weeks severance. My friend Delia is the one who coaxed–and coached–me on that. I was just going to send her a week’s worth. Delia said, “Jill, there are the haves and the have-nots. We are the haves. You won’t ever miss the money. Consider it one less charity donation. To her, it is everything.”
I remember when I was in Al-Anon; there was a saying about detached compassion. “When the alcoholic is passed out on the cold, hard floor, rather than leaving her in anger, or trying to get her back on the bed, just drape her in a warm blanket.” So, even though I’ll admit the check was a little hard to write, I felt like that was my version of detached compassion. I wanted her to have a nice Christmas. I know how excited she was to buy gifts for her grandkids. And I know what a relief it would be to pay her rent.
She left us a message a few days later, after receiving the check. She thanked us profusely. I could hear her voice cracking. She knows she messed up.
I guess I felt betrayed. Hurt. Why didn’t she call us at 8 that morning? Why, after having a week off, would she not show up on time? On some level, my mind says, “Did she not love my kids enough to get out of bed on time?” But then I know: You can’t change someone.
I did get word that she found another job close to her house. In fact, I gave the woman the recommendation before all this happened, as we were going to take her down to part-time anyway and help her find a family to share with.
I’m sure this post sounds like an “upper class problem” to many people. Some would tell me to just get over it. And I am. But dealing with another human being on a deeply personal level is tough. I’ve never had a nanny before. And I doubt I ever will again. She was with Emmett from the day he was born. He is a special baby and I know she must miss him dearly. But at the end of the day, we are better on our own.
I have now hired a few sitters to work a couple times a week. They are young college graduates from New York. I won’t be taking on their problems. My boundaries are in place.
I also realize I’m utilizing my time far better. Instead of napping when my kids nap, I write or pay bills or make phone calls. I think having full-time help without a full-time job myself gave me license to be lazy. Now, every minute counts. Energy begets energy. I have cleaned out closets and organized photos that have sat for a year. I feel good. I have spent more quality time with my kids in the past 2 months than I did all year. I still don’t have any regrets in how we did it. I had some crucial time to myself and I needed it. I had plenty of delicious moments with my babies. More than most people probably. But now I get even more.
I’m looking forward to 2013 knowing we’ll have loads of adventures. Even if “adventure” means a trip to the grocery store with both babes in tow (something that 6 months ago sounded impossible to me. Granted, Em is almost a year now, so having him older makes all of this a helluva lot easier).
My mind goes back to a line I read not long ago. It’s from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project and gives me great perspective when I do get tired from the daily grind. ”The days are long, but the years are short.”
Like I said when Fia turned 3,when my kids are older and out late with friends, I will be watching the clock, wishing they were home. I will yearn for these sleep-deprived nights. They are all mine (almost) all the time. And for now, I don’t want it any other way.
Took Em to a fun playspace the other day. Making it a weekly thing now because he had so much fun. And I had so much fun watching him!
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childcare, daycare, firing, firing employee, full time help, Happiness project, late, milestone, milestone monday, milestones, nanny, on time, preschool | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Milestone Monday, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips, Must Read, The Sitter Chronicles
Friday, October 26th, 2012
No. No. No.
It can’t have happened.
Eyes partially shut, trying to skim the story without really digesting it.
Compartmentalize. Don’t think about it.
But then, you look at your kids–in my case–Fia hugging Emmett. Your heart crushes to its core.
Super Why is on television. It’s daddy’s birthday and we’re letting him sleep in. It is, by all accounts, a normal morning. Except it’s not. Something awful—unthinkable–has happened.
Two kids are stabbed to death in their Upper West Side apartment bathtub. A 2-year old and 6-year old. The mom is out with her 3-year old. She comes home to a dark home. Something is amiss. She opens the bathroom door and sees something no one, absolutely no one, should ever witness. Her two children. Dead. Her nanny is also there with a stab wound to her neck. She is alive and suspected of committing this atrocity. The mother goes into a psychotic state. The father gets off an airplane in New York. The police meet him and deliver the awful news. They take him to the hospital where he joins his wife. Their life is forever changed. For the worst.
Terrible things happen all the time. A plane crashes and it’s front-page news. This too, is front-page news. But as awful as all tragedies seem, this one hits a different chord. It is so personal. We are moms and dads. It is we who make the decision to have someone help us with our kids. We entrust these people with the most precious thing in our life. And 99.99 percent of the time they are a gift. A story like this so rarely happens. But when it does, it is a nightmare beyond comprehension.
There are no words to comfort, no justification to make us feel better for this family. And no God who can say this was meant to be.
I have a nanny. She loves my kids like they were her own. I know her whole family. We did a background check on her before we hired her. It was flawless. When I told her about this story, she started to weep. “How do you ever know someone, truly?” she said to me through tears. “You know me, you trust me with your kids, but how do you know you really know me?” I understood exactly what she meant. Sometimes as hard as you try to do the best for your children, your efforts fall short–and tragic.
I don’t want to put myself in the shoes of this mom or dad. It’s too painful. But I can only imagine if the allegations prove true, and the nanny did this, not only will this mother be haunted by the loss of her children, but also by what she maybe had missed. The clues, the signs. And sometimes there simply aren’t any. Sometimes people just aren’t who they seem. My heart just aches for her, the dad, the surviving child–how will they go on?
When Fia was a newborn, I, like many moms, was paranoid to leave her with anyone. A friend of mine said, “At some point, you just have to trust.” She was right. But stories like this leave you reeling. Questioning.
I can’t live my life in fear. But today’s nightmare is a stark reminder that it is only by the Grace of God, Go I. And all of us, for that matter.
Darkness picture courtesy of Shutterstock
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baby, babysitter, caretaker, death of a child, infant, nanny, nightmare, toddler, tragedy | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Mom Situations, The Sitter Chronicles
Monday, October 8th, 2012
I loved my mom-cation. I am not sure if the official definition means vacation without your kids, but I did the opposite. Fia, Emmett, Courtney, Teddy, and I loaded up and went on a short trip to San Diego for two nights last week. I did it because my nanny was off, and I was scared of getting bored and antsy in our 100-degree non-air conditioned house.
I wrote a blog about it and my favorite tweet back was from @MothaKim, who totally understood. She said, ”I preferred our 15hr road trip to Chicago over 2hrs spent at the mall with them.”
I SO get it.
I realized a few things on this getaway. With another mom there, even though she was taking care of her own, it felt easier than if a spouse had been with us. That’s because moms just seem to “get it” more. The schlepping didn’t bother us. In fact, we double-schlepped. The hotel we stayed at the first night was full so we had to move to another one for the second night. Instead of griping, we embraced it. It allowed us to see two different properties and assess whether we’d go back. (Answer: Paradise Point: yes–for the pool and the accommodations. Beach was full of pine needles. The Catamaran: probably not. Rooms old. But bay front convenience and beach were far nicer).
I think with a spouse, it would have felt like more work. Or you could easily get resentful. Probably both. Why am I doing all the packing? Phil, did you remember the sippy cup? Answer: NO. Cue eye rolling and storming off to “do it right.” You know, the typical martyr behavior that is oh-so-easy to get sucked into.
The other thing I realized was slightly more profound. I don’t think I need full-time help.
We got home on Saturday. Turns out, my nanny had to take off more days this week. I didn’t have an escape plan. So I just decided to Mom-Up. (Cassandra is beaming at my progress.)
I had to return a rental car, get my car out of the shop (20 miles away), get a tire fixed, get Fia to swimming then gymnastics…taking Emmett along for the ride…all before noon on Monday. And guess what? I did it just fine. With both kids. Okay okay, it’s not like I haven’t done stuff like this before. But honestly, with a nanny, I often do the mundane, annoying errands on my own. Yes, it’s easier. Plus, I don’t like to drive my kids on the highway when it’s unnecessary (driving in LA still makes me nervous at times.) But the thing is, at the end of the da,y I felt far more accomplished than I have in a long time. Almost proud of myself. Oh, I also had 2 families over for dinner (yes, Courtney and Teddy were there. Told you we were inseparable).
I wrote a blog recently about how tragedy struck a family member. I had to leave the kids for a funeral. I was worried that the household would fall apart without me. It didn’t. Now, the tables are turned. I was worried about not being capable of doing it on my own. Or at least getting super stressed out. And guess what? I did fine.
Emmett is eight months now. Fia will be 3 in December. I think it’s time to take the reigns on my own more. Mom-Up! Here I come.
Fia is having the time of her life. Rules went out the window. Clearly.
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driving, full time help, hotel, mom-cation, Mom-Up, nanny, part time help, traveling with toddler, vacation | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations, Mom Tricks and Tips
Wednesday, September 26th, 2012
My nanny has to be off the rest of the week for personal reasons. Of course, when I first found out, I panicked. I know, I know, I can hear Cassandra in my head: Mom-Up like the rest of the world. Well, I am. Just not in the traditional sense. Two words:
In my previous travel-obsessed life, I would get antsy if I were home for more than a few weeks. Since moving to LA and having a house–oh, and a second baby–I have barely traveled beyond the perimeter of our neighborhood. To give you an example: Fia was on something like 18 flights the first year of her life. Emmett, so far, has only been on one (for his baptism). He doesn’t even have a passport yet. Gasp.
Cleo’s time off is actually perfect because I feel a bit antsy right now. I mean, with kids, the routine is so, well, routine, that I find myself getting a bit bored; wanting to shake things up. I decided the best way to do this was to flee–with babes in tow. That way I don’t have to watch the clock. Instead, we’ll all have an adventure. And room service. Time will fly whether it’s a disaster or not, simply because it’s a break from the daily grind.
I enlisted Courtney and Teddy to come along too. We’re heading to San Diego. We got a hotel right on the bay, so the kids can frolick in the sun and sand for a couple days. Our room goes right out to the shore, and since it’s the bay, there are no waves. I am convinced there won’t be much “work” involved. Because if any of you have taken your babies to the beach for just one day, you know how much labor it takes. Umbrellas, towels, chairs–all for a mere two hours. Then you break it all down to rush home for a nap. Or because your kid is hungry. Or you’re all overheated and cranky. Possibly all of the above. My beach experiences with two kids haven’t exactly been serene.
I know this all probably sounds whacked, because I’m sure lugging all the crap and three kids down to SD for a 2-day getaway will be exhausting too. But at least it will be 2 days worth, rather than 2 hours worth. So there is more payoff in the effort (at least that’s what I’m telling myself.). Plus, to stay home in a non-air conditioned house with a baby who won’t take long or regular naps just doesn’t sound as fun. (I’m sure Phil will appreciate the house to himself.)
So folks, I’m checking out the rest of the week. Wish me luck on my version of Mom-ing Up.
Picture at beach via Shutterstock
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adventure, Airplane, beach, daycare, flight, getaway, Mom-Up, nanny, San Diego, sand, staycation, travel, vacation | Categories:
Fearless Feisty Mama, Have Baby, Will Travel, Mom Situations