Thursday, January 31, 2013

What's Up?

“Do you want the small brush? The medium brush? Or the large brush?” I say to the artist.  

This week we’ve decided chalk and pens are for amateurs.  We agree that swirling and sweeping our brushes across blobs and dots of paint is the only way to go.  
“More purple Bal La Lee”.  
Did I mention The Cousin digs purple?  I did too when I was of the toddler age.  
I still do.  Purple is one of those gorgeous shades that no one can really deny its beauty or place in the world.  Teaching kids to make purple from red and blue is like offering them a small package of magic. THEY LOVE IT!
And so The Cousin proceeds in forward motion and she is so into it.  She sees no end in sight.
“More, Bal La Lee”.  "Again, Bal La Lee".  It’s somewhat frightening because you know; being the adult and all, that painting can’t go on endlessly into the night, right? But you also know, that even though you hold the cards, she holds the tantrum that is waiting to explode when you say that  it’s time to clean up the paints and brushes.  
Ahh, the almost 2-year old tantrum. It’s a special, special thing.
Sometimes I still have them.  But The Cousin's tantrums, though dramatic, don't last that long. She had a teeny weeny one today. Hell, she was tired. We turned on Pandora to our Raffi station and she wanted to hear Baa Baa Black Sheep. Since I don't subscribe to the Premium Pandora, where I'd have to pay, I get the freebie which doesn't allow you to choose specific song titles. Every other f@*!ing song came on except Baa Baa Black Sheep. I tried to sing and dance to the others, which usually makes her laugh and forget about the tantrum tornado that lay in wait, but not this time. 
The Cousin's technique consists of throwing her toys, throwing herself on the floor and flailing her limbs or choking Sweet Pea. That's it. Then it's over.

We had some "mini-episodes" today.  Nothing major.   

Although I feel pretty damn confident in many areas, I've never professed to mastering this job.  
I actually could use a nanny support group if the truth be known.
I came very close to calling my union rep today because had the tea been hot, I would have been fired. No doubt.  I put my cup up high enough, or so I thought.  But 'too high' and 'too challenging' are not in Sweet Pea's vocab and thank the Mother of God herself, the Moroccan Mint had cooled.

Yea, it's really funny.  Mommy's gonna think it's funny when the tea stain doesn't come out 
of your shirt or she sues my ass for child endangerment.

The other setbacks today were minor; simply one nanny's inability to set boundaries.
"Yep, I know I wasn't supposed to get into your bag"

And her inability to keep Sweet Pea's socks on.

I remember when my freshman English teacher at Camarillo High School had us write an essay entitled "Wednesdays".
It took me forever to even get a visual because at that time in my life, as so many other times, Wednesdays could be summed up in one word:   Boring.
Those days are gone, my friends.  My Wednesdays are nothing remotely close to boring now. 

There's something way cool about The Cousin's style.  Today's look is reminiscent of the young 
16-year old boys I see walking home from school, pants down below their asses, boxers in full view, skateboards under their arms...
And what about the bed-head? I am such a feeble opponent. 
She didn't want it brushed, so I didn't push it.
What's Up, Bed Head Girl?

It’s so cool to walk around downtown with The Cousin and Sweet Pea all bundled up and tucked in their double-decker Cadillac of a stroller. People are super-oober nice to me. No seriously. 
I mean I feel as if I’m actually reaching celebrity status.  Men smile. Old ladies say, “Hello” and tell me how terrific I am; what a great job I'm doing.  Other moms nod at me as if we’re in the same club and we have oodles in common.  I feel young because a few (a very slight few) ask me, “How old are your children?”  Now that’s worth a million bucks for sure. But then there’s the ‘assumers’, “Do you and your husband live here in town?”  But I’ll tell you what really clinches my jaw. 
It happened today.  So, I’m sitting on a park bench after power-walking for 30 minutes, singing my heart out in hopes they'll crash.  Finally, they’re both out.  It’s heavenesque. 
So I park the rig in the sun, put the sun protector flaps over their little faces, take off my glasses, close my eyes, lean back and soak up the rays. The only sound I hear are a few sparrows chirping in the distance. Gone are the screaming tantrums.  Gone is the hustle, bustle and mayhem of 2 babes throwing books, spilling juice, pulling their diapers off.  It’s just me, the sun and a few restful thoughts.
Then suddenly, some oblivious dude with a long gray beard and a SF Giants cap approaches the stroller, pokes his big ‘ole head in and with a voice that sounds like he’s just smoked a pack of Marlboro’s says, “Hey! Are the cuties twins?”
My Nirvana comes to a screeching halt and I instantly want to strangle him. 
The Cousin opens her eyes first. 
She’s petrified of the bearded man and starts to whimper rather loudly. I have absolutely no urge to be polite. 
I shoot him a look. He gets off easy though because I really just want to head-butt him.
I encourage The Cousin not to wake Sweet Pea, which is a joke.
Soon, we're all wide awake and we head for the park.
Today, The Cousin's dad meets us there and I have never felt so free.
It was quite pleasant actually.
A 2-parent family is definitely helpful.  With him on "swing duty",  I'm able to watch Sweet Pea and she actually doesn't have a chance in hell of eating leaves or wood chips.  I'm on it.

She did, however, eat peach yogurt earlier in the day. 
She's like a garbage disposal.  Man, I couldn't shovel the stuff in fast enough.
What's Up, Yogurt Lovers?

I think Wednesdays are under-rated. Hump day. Didn't we call 'em that once upon a time? 
We're half-way there; trying to make it to the weekend. But what exactly is our hurry?
These girls are "minute by minute" in a moment that could last briefly or for hours.  They don't give a damn what day it is. Every day is a great day!
They are blissful most of the time, and because they are... I am.

Well, it's almost 8:00 p.m. Nightie night all!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Day in the Life of...

I can't get no privacy at home or on the job.
At home, it's constant.
The cats follow me to the toi toi  and lurk around me, sniffing and trying to get under my thighs and into the bowl while I sit and attempt to do my business..
At The Cousin's house, both girls also follow me in, even after I've bribed them with toys, tippy-cups and cereal bits to keep them distracted so I can have 30 seconds of peace and solitude while I pee.
But, no.
The Cousin runs in and stares at me with those eyes.
"Bal La Lee. What you doing?"
"I'm going potty." 
"Going pottee?"

In crawls Sweet Pea.  She resembles my cats. She lurks around on the floor trying to get up and into the toilet bowl. I can't even wipe.
I'm making all kinds of lame attempts to get them into the other room,

"Can you go get me your Cat in the Hat book?" I say to The Cousin in hopes she's feeling cooperative and hoping Sweet Pea will follow her out like a shadow.  No dice.
You can't always get what you want and they stay right there like shit in a diaper.

The Cousin's parentals are starting to introduce the toilet concept to her, so they bought her an Elmo toilet.  I think it's kinda funny.
She digs Elmo, so to them, it makes sense that she'll want to sit on Elmo and go potty.  Hmmm.
I'm thinkin she might be intelligent enough to not want to shit on Elmo's face.
It's going to be a long road and I'll tell you why.  For starters, many of The Cousin's toys are in the living room, she therefore likes to drag the Elmo toilet to the living room for playtime.
I move it back to the bathroom, telling her it's not a toy, which obviously makes no sense to her whatsoever.
When diaper changing time comes, I ask The Cousin if she wants to sit on her "big girl toilet" and go potty.  She says, "Yes".  So, I put her down from the changing table, butt-naked, and she walks down the hall to the bathroom.  I'm feeling very cool and optimistic and I'm secretly hoping that I am the one who makes this break-through happen!  We get to the Elmo latrine, I joyfully encourage her to sit down and she simply says, "No."
In fact, The Cousin sees a much better solution.

She puts Kitty on the toilet.
Kitty goes everywhere with her these days, and it's Kitty that needs to be "potty-trained".
I actually hate that term, "potty-trained".  The whole 'training' of a baby kinda reminds me of
training a mule or a dog in a way, but whatever.  What the hell do I know? I'm just the nanny who aspires to win the "2013 Nanny of the Year Award" for getting the kid transitioned from diapers to the pot.
I'm also the nanny who would LOVE to change diapers 5 times in a day rather than 10.

During Sweet Pea's 30-40 minute morning naps, The Cousin and I always slip away to
'project-land'.  Today, we dipped chalk in water and made cool drawings such as "purple rain from the clouds" and "grass at the park" The Cousin's favorite color is purple, hence her "Prince-like" reference to rain.

It was a cloudy, cold and overcast Wednesday, so the girls and I decided to stay inside and wear our sunglasses.
It made sense to us.

Sweet Pea's outfit is the bomb. Her little knitted sweater-vest is a throw-back to the '70's.
I totally dig her look and it suits her personality.  She's a mighty strong little girl and don't we want girls to be that way? Of course we do. We need more of 'em.  I will spare you my "men rule the whole damn world" soapbox today, however I will say this.  Her strength drives me to drink.

Actually, the 3 of us drink together in the afternoon.  It's our "after walk, after naps ritual".
I make the beverages and we sing a song that I made up in a 'desperate moment of resorting to anything to keep the peace'.  It goes something like this, give or take a few weird words:

"It's drink time! It's drink time! Let's quench our thirsties now! It's drink time! It's drink time! 
We're gonna show you how! Cheers! Cheers! Cheers!"  
I mix up the tune. Usually, it's similar to Row Row Row Your Boat or something like that.

Sweet Pea's 'beverage of choice' is warmed boob milk. The Cousin's is an organic pear and green veggie smoothie and mine is straight vodka.
Just kidding.

I'm grateful that I'm not Sweet Pea's mom and it's not my boob. Because lately, I'm having to do a lot of "finger sweeps" in Sweet Pea's mouth to remove, paper, faux leather, yarn and other debris and damn her teeth are GINORMOUS AND SHARP! I'll leave what those fangs must feel like when they bite down on her mom's boob to your imagination.

Well, that's the story, folks.
Except that when 5 o'clock comes, and the papas walk in, I bolt!
You would too.  Cheers!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

It's a Jungle Out There

I hit the 'hard stuff' on Wednesday nights.
I'm not ashamed about it.
A cup of Earl Grey or a glass of Cab might suffice 6 nights of the week, but never on a Wednesday.
Women who have more than 2 kids, only a single year apart, must be drinking by noon.
Either that or they take high doses of Valium while recording soap operas on their DVRs.
Then I imagine, they lock their children in cribs and playpens for hours while they lay (catatonic) on their couches.

The Cousin keeps me moving. Here she is so thrilled because she found Elmo on her Ipad.
HER IPAD! In a pretty pink case no less.
Would you believe I didn't know how to locate the app she wanted? No shit.
So, she took it from me, after my ridiculous fumblings, and in one gentle swoop of her tiny,     19-month old index finger, she found the Elmo app!

This is cause enough for a "stiff one".
The idea that a 19-monther can use technology quicker and more efficiently than me,
is nothing short of humiliation.
Young moms got that down.  Technology.

I witnessed it at the park this afternoon and it, amongst other things, appalled me.
Yes, appalled me.  So many young mommies on their IPhones; texting, talking and god knows what else while their toddlers ran wild; screaming and carrying on between the swings and the big, yellow climbing train.  And the small group of women that weren't on their phones?
Oh! They were huddled in a circle laughing, gossiping, flirting with the one and only dad; devouring every minute of "grown-up" time they could possibly squeeze in.
Call me "old-school" but I gotta ask it, "Was one damn mom interacting with their child? Was one parent playing hide-n-seek or going down the slide or building a sand tunnel with their child?"  NO!
This led to me becoming a stressed out, judgmental wreck.
Some 4-year old stole The Cousin's favorite pink ball; took it all the way across the grass and wouldn't give it back to me. Then, I ran to help a kid who appeared to be a mere 16 months, as she went head-first down the slide and ate a mouth full of sand at the bottom.
Next, I helped a little girl out of a swing because she had been crying for her mama for a good
5 minutes.
All the while, I've got Sweet Pea on my chest in her baby Bjorn.  I feel like a mother kangaroo wearing that thing, but it does aid me in multi-tasking, especially when I've got to manage the entire jungle!

I ask you, What's the world's coming to? Kids on their own to fend for themselves like baby jaguars in a jungle?  How does a child play hide-n-go-seek by himself? How does a toddler get in and out of a swing by herself? And here comes the teacher in me:  How do children obtain the much needed language upon entering kindergarten, if no-body's talking with them!?

The park was packed. It was nuts.
Screaming, crying, lots of "kid issues" needing solving and grown-ups in their own damn worlds, completely oblivious. Here comes the soapbox...
Children are growing up without language skills and without socialization skills.
What I witnessed today was so disheartening; a microcosm of perhaps the condition of the world itself.

Maybe we need a serious conversation about this.

Yea, I get that there's no stopping technology. But what about eliminating the human touch factor?
That interaction that fills parents and kids, brothers and sisters, friends and pals with a personal sense of attention, understanding and love?
I'm talking about other things too like texts messages replacing phone calls.
Like a Facebook birthday wish replacing a hand-written birthday card that arrives in your mailbox.  Like an actual hug instead of a "xoxoxoxoxo" .
Are we complacent now? Have we just accepted that such ways of interacting with fellow humans is a "thing of the past"?
And back to the park moms...Are we so stressed-out and so self-absorbed, that we think our kids are fine playing 24/7 while we are on our phones, computers, Ipads or watching tv?
Do we think they'll be just fine if we sit them in front of a video game?

Now that I've become a seasoned nanny and an expert on so many subjects,  I must sound
arrogant and insanely pompous to y'all!
But The Cousin's parentals monitor her. Limit her with her Ipad. And they talk with her. Patiently. They answer her never-ending questions, while still giving her the encouragement she needs to explore, think for herself, discover. But they're involved and she's numero uno.
I like that about them. They also interact with her more than they interact with each other!
And she's smart as a whip!

"Let's make rain, Ball La Lee" she said to me.

Making Rain

Reading to Kitty

Hours past her nap time, The Cousin strangling Kitty

I have a lot in common with The Cousin. I, too, need my naps.  And so does this little beauty.

Sweet Pea is one determined little shit. Even a Radio Flyer trike can't stop her.  Here she's headed straight for The Cousin's book; you know the one we don't want her to have.
I gotta hand it to Sweet Pea.  If I had even an ounce of her fortitude, I could move Mt Shasta.

She was great at the park.  What I mean by "great" is that she didn't eat any dirt or leaves.
Last time, I had to do a finger sweep in her left cheek to remove the debris.
Of course, this time I didn't let her loose in the wild; kept her strapped to my chest in one of these handy-dandy devices.

This is a nanny's savior.  This gives a whole new spin on "multi-tasking".
I feel like some super heroine with Sweet Pea in this; like I could leap small building in a single
bound kinda thing.

Equivalent to Sweet Pea's determination is her curiosity. She continually wants to get into the dirty diaper pail. I'm thinking about just opening it up and giving her what she wants.
It might bring about the same outcome as rubbing a puppy's nose in the droppings that he
just left on the living floor.
Perhaps that will deter her from the pail.
She's a sweetie-pie though.  Her hair's getting pretty untamed. I like to spike it up whenever I get the chance. She and I have the "bed head look" going all day long!

"What's up?!"
I know it's so goddamn easy for me to write this, but today's circus at the park tells me it's time for parents to put the needs of their kids first.  I'm not talking about whether we buy them an Ipad or not. I'm talking about giving them consistent interaction, engaging in play with them (especially at a damn park), answering their endless amount of questions, teaching them to say, "thank-you" and all that jazz.

Space 7 had a bumper sticker on his pick-up that read:
"If You Can't Feed 'Em, Don't Breed 'Em".
Now, that's a good start.
I understand that it's a selfless job. And that even when parents are miserable themselves, they must somehow find an inexhaustible spring of emotional energy that is somewhere deep inside of them,  reserved only for their children. They must keep it flowing unabated.
It is there.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Lessons Learned (or Not)

“Instructions for living a life.   
Pay attention.  Be astonished.  Tell about it."
~Mary Oliver

The other day, I drove a dear friend to San Jose International Airport. She was returning home, to the great state of Texas, after spending 4 days in California doing what us Californians do best:
Drink wine, talk, laugh, drink more California wine.  My friend doesn't drink much and for some
absurd reason, known only to herself, she always comes to Monterey and orders a Blue Hawaii.
Just like a damn tourist.  Only God and the bartender know what's in those.
3 sips later, she snockered.
I tell her, "Sip the grape, not the volcano" but she never listens to me.
We have to practically carry her home from The Wharf.
There's a lesson to be learned I suppose.
Anyway, after I dropped her at the Southwest curbside check-in and we said our good-byes, which are never easy because we both have these humongous heartstrings that pull and twist and tug at the thought of good-bye.
How are y'all at "good-bye's?"  "Good-bye's" aren't my strong-suit.
So in order to lighten things up, as I drove away from my friend, I laid on my horn and scared the shit out of the entire line of passengers, the baggage dude and a traffic controller.

Upon entering the on-ramp to the 101 South, I looked to my right and saw the San Jose Airport Holiday Inn; the very location of all our quarterly trailer park management meetings.
Suddenly, a shitload of memories (and hideous paisley carpet) filled my head and I was quickly taken back to the conference room where I spent many a day during my 7 1/2-year career as a trailer park manager.
Instantly, I'm filled with visions of dudes wearing camouflage caps and denim shirts with embroidered elk, knitting bags made of red and navy bandannas and extra-large folk selling extra-large bars of See's during the potty breaks.

I always sat in the very back row; the seat closest to the door.  So did this Samoan couple from Campbell, who always had matching shirts.  They sat there, not for the "exit benefits", but rather for its convenient location to the snack table.
The snacks were nothing to write home about: individually packaged muffins with fake blueberries, either really ripe or really green bananas and "brown water" with packets of non-dairy powdered creamer.

The meetings went on and on and on. They lingered like a bad head-cold. "Park Safety","Rules and Regulations of the New Year", "Maintenance Budgets".  And thrown in the mix was this head admin dude, who I'll call Roger, who thought he was a stand-up comedian.  There were at least 250 managers there each time, representing trailer parks from King City to Sacramento. Out of the 250, I'd guess 249 took their job seriously.
I just couldn't.
I'd arrive wearing one of my peace shirts and weird skirts, sit in the back like I mentioned, and take out my notebook.  I'd scan the crowd for the perfect person to write about:  Mr. Sanchez who once stopped a drive-through drug deal at space 320 without having to call the poe-leese, Candy whose husband trapped a wild hog with his own bare hands, Mr. and Mrs. Vandy who tried not to discriminate because "it's the law" but they had a problem with "those kind"...
Such a potpourri of characters.
I miss those characters, those meetings, those days.  No joke.

My resume looks a lot like that potpourri of characters.  Actually, more like Campbell's
Alphabet Soup.  From trailer park manager to hotel concierge to nanny and a dozen
other professions in between.
It's incredible that any prospective employer would take me seriously.
But from the trailer park to the front desk to the changing table, there have always been lessons.
Lessons that have taught me, given me, tools for life.
Lessons such as determination, fortitude, patience and humility;  Instructions for living a life.

The Cousin has some lessons to learn. Like many of us, she needs practice and positive reinforcement in order to "get it".  She was very used to, very comfortable with, being the one and only kid in her family's life. That special grandchild.  The princess on the block.
Then along comes Sweet Pea.

Jealousy is a vicious green serpent. It yields its poisonous head at the most unexpected times and can be the source of many regrettable situations.

The parentals try and tell her.  They say, "Give Sweet Pea hugs. Be Gentle. Love your cousin." 
I can see right through it.  I "get" The Cousin's jealousy and I understand her journey; a path that will certainly have some bumpy rocks.
Oh, how she tries to please the grown-ups.
She tries to do the right thing, but sometimes the devil just gets the best of her.

"Love Hugs"

And after she's done with "the lovin",  she always has this look.  I kid you not, it's a look of total satisfaction. And I'm beside myself in thought. 
"Was I like this with my poor little brother?" 
I know the answer. 
My bro is 2 years younger than me and of course growing up in a household of "traditional gender roles" I was the sweet, innocent, little girl. Therefore, 
I definitely didn't start anything in the area of trouble. 
I'd taunt, tease and torment my brother until he couldn't take it anymore and he'd haul off and hit me. 
I'd then go running down the hallway, crying to mommy and he'd get sent to his room.  
The Cousin gets put on a "time-out".  At least her mom uses this method.  I tried once, but the truth is, 
I have this kinda look on my face that tells The Cousin, 
"No need to take the nanny too seriously." 

Satisfaction Cheer
We all know that lessons don't always come easy.
I particularly like the ones in which you receive the learning right then and there and you don't have to do it wrong, over and over again, for the next 10 years.

The cutest thing of it is, Sweet Pea adores her.  And she's so forgiving, even after a choke-hold.

Sweet Pea in her "I Love My Forest Friends" onesy with way too many snaps for the nanny.

"Thank God she's not eating my puzzle."
In fact, Sweet Pea is totally oblivious to The Cousin's jealousy.  She's astonished with life and lives it to the fullest, with very few cares in the world.  No huge lessons for her to learn these days. Well, except don't eat the toaster plug.  No barricade too strong to stop her.  No book that can't be torn to shreds.
She's one happy camper and all her needs are being met.

All kids should have that, ya know... All their needs met.
It's a beautiful thing.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Boogie Down With Your Bad Self

Only mothers can see the beauty in their babies when snot is running down their little noses.

A nanny cannot see any cuteness.  Any charm.  Or any hope for her own healthy future.
The only thing a nanny sees is a gooey, runniness and the prospect of getting sick.

Sweet Pea, I was informed upon her arrival at 8:00 am, "is not contagious".
Well, that's a f*@#king relief.  "But she is really congested, and although the mucus is clear, there's a lot of it and you'll have to keep small soft wash cloths, kleenex and wipes close by you at all times"... 

Actually, there are new, progressive tools-of-the-trade for situations such as these and a simple box of Kleenex is now considered "old-school". 

Grape Flavor Boogie Wipes

The Nosefrida

Now the first "tool" is self-explanatory but the 2nd deserves some explanation.
So, according to the moms, this is a Nosefrida.  I hate the name as I think it brings disgrace and humiliation to my heroine, Frida Kahlo. But according to the website, the Nosefrida is Swedish, not Mexican, in origin.
So, this state-of-the-art snotsucker is evidently used in many countries.  In ours, it's equipped with a filter (thank God) at the end closest to the adult doing the sucking.  But in some countries, there is no filter.  You get the visual. Basically, the grown-up inserts the pointed tube end in the child's congested nostril and places the red end in their mouth and sucks.


This nanny ain't going there! No way.  No how.
It's not so bad using a cloth or Kleenex. Sweet Pea hates it though and uses brute force to try and move away from the cloth, but if I take her by complete surprise, I'm usually successful.
"Successful" is such a pathetic stretch.
It used to be that successful meant finishing the book before the book club night, completing my rounds at the park without "incident",  making it through a 24-hour period without eating any white flour or sugar.

Now, my life is successful when I can wipe a baby's snot, in a quick, sneaky sweep, before it ends up in her mouth, her hair or my sleeve.

In honor of Sweet Pea's 'condition', I taught The Cousin the song "Boogie Fever" and we did the "Boogie Dance" as well.
As I've mentioned, I have to be super careful of what I say, as The Cousin is a goddamn parrot these days. When Sweet Pea sneezed and the 'goods' shot out about 2 inches, I almost slipped with a few choice words.  

Actually, all things considered, the day went quite smoothly.

Here's a recap...

Yes, I'm sporting The Cousin's rooster beanie.
Sometimes, you just gotta take one for the team.