Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sasha Says, ep. 3

"These sunglasses are weird 'cuz they make my eyebrows bendy."

"I am six and that's all." (meaning not "six and a half" or some other fractional age)

"I only like eating my foot when it has enough dirt on it."


P.S. - Sasha lost her voice this week from a sore throat bug. Hopefully she'll be chattier next week!

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

baby shark week

I really love my days with Athena. She smiles, she bounces, she babbles, she eats and naps like a champ.

She just leveled up to 5 months, and she's got the new large motor skills to go with it. Primarily rolling over and flailing. But she can hold her own bottle, she intentionally grabs things, and she is intensely interested in reaching for my laptop and cell phone.

She also just started teething hardcore. Drooling, gumming her lips, biting stuff, batting her ears, the whole bit. I figured I'd be one of those all-natural let's-just-suck-on-a-frozen-washcloth people, but on Day One of teething after two 20-minute naps and significant short-term damage to my eardrums due to Athena's screeching, I unhesitatingly injected the kid with liquid Tylenol. (She thought it was delicious.)

Afterward, I wondered why I was so quick to give in to the medication route. Was it because Athena's mom had set the Tylenol and syringe out on the counter next to her bottles and gave the go-ahead that morning, and I was adhering to her expectations and parenting style? Was it because I wanted to be able to hand off a well-rested, happy baby in the afternoon to her daddy? Was it because she's not my kid? Was it because I hadn't frozen any washcloths and didn't have an arsenal of homeopathic herbs at my disposal?

Will I do things differently or the same with my own kids someday?

I don't know. But I do know that she blessedly slept solidly for her afternoon nap.

High fives,

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

school schemas

On one of our walks home from school last week, Sasha stopped suddenly and pointed to this.

As far as I can tell, it's part of the crank arm of an old latch gate that's no longer used. But of course, Sasha doesn't really have a schema for "crank arm of an old latch gate." She hasn't had much exposure to farms or the countryside or other places you would likely encounter this style of gate. What she does have exposure to, seven hours a day, five days a week, is elementary school.

"Wow! Look at this huge pencil sharpener!" she said.

From a six-year-old's perspective, it really does look remarkably like the manual pencil sharpeners installed in almost every classroom in the school district.

I could have said, "No, you silly goose, you're wrong! It's not a pencil sharpener, it's a gate crank!"

But that would make me kind of a jerkwad -- just another adult who knows better than you, you puerile rugrat -- and it would be missing an opportunity to engage some of those "young child as scientist" skills my professor talked about in child psychology class.

One of the things kids and scientists are best at is asking questions, making hypothesis (however rudimentary), and experimenting. So we talked and talked about the "giant pencil sharpener," speculating about why someone would have a pencil sharpener outside; how it got so rusty; how it works (the crank arm only rotates it about 90 degrees); where you would find a pencil big enough to fit in those holes; who uses it or used to use it.

If we ever find a big enough pencil, we'll most certainly try to sharpen it and see what happens.


Friday, 21 September 2012

Sasha Says, ep. 2

"Do you know that song, 'I just met you, so here's my number, call me maybe?'"

When giving me a "tour" of her neighborhood: "This is the president's house; but not Obama -- George Washington. This tree was built for climbing. This is where famous people live, like the tour guides and realtors. This is Swiper's house."

"You know what? She has no wrinkles because she eats super duper duper pooper ... healthy."

"We are going to buy that house on the corner and put all our extra stuff in it."

 "I have more money than my mom and dad. Way more. I'm super serious."

As she sees her mom get out of the car through the kitchen window: "There's my beautiful mom!" (Suddenly apprehensive) "but not as beautiful as you!"

High fives,

Monday, 17 September 2012

reading recipes

Sasha has been really struggling with learning to read. She still mixes up some of her letters, the most mysterious to me being f and i. She knows about five sight words, one of which is her own name. She drags her feet doing her 15 minutes of reading homework each night.

I remember how frustrating and tedious it was to learn how to read when I was her age. She has the same set of Bob books I had; I hated those books because the stories were so boring, and Sasha seems to feel the same. (In my case, my slow reading was at least partially to blame on my eyesight; my reading improved by several grade levels within two months of getting glasses.)

But Sasha likes stories. She likes being read to. We just finished the first Harry Potter book, and I've promised to find a copy of the second one to start reading to her. I may have her sound out a few words per page of The Chamber of Secrets so that she's involved in reading a more interesting story than "Dot has a hat."

I've been trying to come up with creative ways to integrate letter recognition and rudimentary reading skills into other activities so that it doesn't feel like reading, doesn't feel like a 15 minute timer, doesn't feel like homework.

So today, I wrote out a chocolate chip cookie recipe, packaged up and labeled all of the ingredients and most of the equipment we would need, and biked it all over to Sasha's house. After school, after some regular ol' dollhouse and dress up playtime, and after doing 10 minutes of her assigned reading, we whipped up a batch of cookies. She liked measuring and dumping and cracking eggs, and she loved mixing the dough with her hands!

She wasn't thrilled when I asked her to sound out the words on the recipe paper, but she was a champ at just straight up matching recipe words to container labels, and then recognizing the ingredient in the containers ("that's brown sugar!"). Good enough for a first go.

I wonder, if I wrote and illustrated a book for her that's all about things Sasha can do, like "Sasha can cook! Sasha can kick! Sasha can sing! Sasha can read!" if that would be a more exciting story for her to read than "Mat sat." I'll let the idea bake for a bit.


Saturday, 15 September 2012


Sasha's school does "Popcorn Fridays." But it's so early in the school year that Popcorn Fridays haven't started yet. So when I picked Sasha up on Friday, we decided to make popcorn as an afterschool snack! She asked me if I knew how to make popcorn "from the seeds" (meaning not a microwavable bag, I assume) and to do it "without burnting it." I'm thankful I taught myself this very same skill about six months ago when I decided to give popcorn with nutritional yeast a try, since I had already been eating nutritional yeast on just about everything else that would stand still long enough and had never developed an appreciation for microwave popcorn.

I let Sasha scoop out the coconut oil (after we threw out the burnt coconut butter we first mistook for coconut oil -- they're not the same thing!) and measure and dump the popcorn kernels. This was the result.

We ate it all.

High fives,

Friday, 14 September 2012

Sasha Says, ep. 1

This week, in adorable and hilarious things Sasha said:

"I'm allergic to nonfat milk."
"I'm allergic to poop. No, I'm serious. I'm really really serious."
"I hate all pies. Except for pumpkin pie."
 "I hate bananas."
"I hate coconut."
"I hate throw-up."
"I hate squishy things. Except bacon."
"I like babysitters better than nannies. But not actually babysitters and nannies. I mean the words."
When I pick her up from school and ask how her day was: "I really hate it when you ask me that question."
Standing in the living room with smooth jazz playing, in only her underwear and a fake pearl necklace, hands above her head, pushing out and sucking in her tummy repeatedly: "I'm a belly dancer!"
On why, after a granola bar and a phenomenal amount of popcorn, she should be allowed to have another snack of her choosing: "But these are healthy Cheetos!"
"Do you know where babies come out of?" [leans in close and whispers like it's a naughty thing to say] "Butts."
On the sunny walk home from school: "My armpits are waterin'."


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

an ode to camera phones

Babysitters, nannies, non-primary-guardian caretakers of the world, I want to share a secret with you.

Camera phones. And an unlimited texting plan.

For as long as I've had a phone on my camera I've taken quick, fuzzy snapshots of the kids I care for, usually for the purpose of later showing it to a friend in a "mine are cuter than yours" babysitter pissing contest. After a few momentary bragging episodes, the pictures would get buried in the archive of bad cell phone photos my poor SD card stoically keeps on file.

Very recently it occurred to me that I could do more with these adorable, grainy photos: text them. To the kids' parents.

I experimented with this on Jaden. The first time his mom left me alone with him, she'd only been gone about half an hour when she texted a "how're you guys doing? Sorry, I'll try not to send too many annoying check in texts!" Rather than just say, "We're fine," I sent her a picture of Jaden eating breakfast with all his cars lined up on his table watching him and an accompanying description of what was going on.

She loved it.

Throughout the day I sent her four or five more pictures of other activities we did: art, a science experiment, trying on my glasses. Jaden's mom thought it was the greatest. She thought I was the greatest. As one of my housemates pointed out, this is a win-win for parents: they get pictures of their kids being adorable and hilarious, and the reassurance that they're having a good time and being well cared-for, without having to be the ones doing the diaper changing and tantrum talk-downs, and being easily able to carry on with their meeting at work or their romantic date night.

I now regularly ask parents if they have unlimited texting and if it's okay for me to send them a picture or two each day. They have all said yes. So far, every parent has been delighted to receive a picture of their kid swinging at the park, or licking the side of the stroller, or learning how to throw a ball for the dog, or coated in smashed blackberries.

Seriously, if you want to delight parents, text them a picture of their kid eating a bagel or grinning at themselves in the mirror or petting the neighborhood cat. They will think you're the best babysitter ever. They may even up your pay or recommend you to their friends and not be able to pin down why they're doing it, just that they have a really great, fuzzy feeling about you. And all thanks to your great, fuzzy cell phone snapshots.

High Fives,

Sunday, 9 September 2012

the art of coming out without tripping over things

Now that I've been employed long enough to receive my first checks from my two regular families, I've been contemplating if, how, and when to tell these families about my family. Specifically, that I'm a big ol' queermo and that I share a bedroom and a cat with a person I usually refer to as my partner. I fly pretty silent on most people's queerdar since I have the double whammy of fairly feminine mannerisms and a fairly feminine physical presentation. (I even currently have long-ish hair that is neither a buzz cut nor a pixie cut, my two rotating constants over the past six or seven years.) So it's not like these families would look at me and just know, or even suspect that I'm, you know, "of the gay." (Unless they saw my Yeti legs, which I always cover during interviews with new people anyway because preschool teaching effectively ruined my body hair self-confidence in childcare settings.)

With Jaden's mom, I knew her from her blogging presence on the internet, so I had absolutely no doubts about coming out. Within minutes of meeting her I had casually dropped the "my partner" bit, and not only was she instantly receptive ("your partner is welcome to hang out too, Jaden loves people!") but her kid was obviously acquainted with the term partner because he immediately asked in his adorable three-year-old lisp, "Does yo' pawtnah wike kids?" like an old pro. I gave him a mental high five.

My first day with Sasha and Ezra, I picked up a baby board book off the couch and upon my second or third reading to Ezra, I had it well enough memorized to start looking at the pictures that accompanied the text. It's a book called Everywhere Babies and even though it rhymes, it's the least obnoxious rhyming board book I have yet come across. I was surprised and delighted to see that even though the gist of the story was "babies are everywhere and they all sleep, play, and poop" it actually featured a very diverse cast of characters. Not only did it have what were pretty obviously same-sex couples, but it also showed grandparent-aged caretakers and caretakers who looked different from the babies (presumably fostering or adoptive families).

This was my sign.

This family is probably gay-okay and won't fire me upon revealing my true rainbow sparkle colors.

The next time I showed up at Sasha and Ezra's house, as their mom gave me my morning orientation, I saw my window and I plunged for it. It wasn't even really a window, but was shaped enough like one that I was pretty sure I could make it into a window. It went like this:

The Mom: "Sorry about all the noise, the workers should be done pulling off the roof after today. Ezra really needs a nap but he won't sleep through the noise so you'll have to put him in the stroller."
Me: "Yeah, I wouldn't be able to sleep through that noise either."
The Mom: "It's hard to sleep through sudden loud noises, like when they hammer or drop something big."
Me: "For sure. Last night somebody was going through our glass recycling out front and the noise of the bottles banging around woke us up. My partner got really worried that whoever it was would come in and steal her bike. But the type of person who bothers sorting through the recycling for bottles to deposit for a nickle each is probably not the same type of person who will then break into your basement and steal your bike."
The Mom: "Yeah, those people usually consider it their little job, and go from house to house on recycling day. Your bikes are probably safe in the basement."

Did you see that? She didn't even blink at the casual "my partner, she" bomb.

Of course, my partner sometimes goes by "they" pronouns, but one step of coming out at a time.

I would like to high five the people who illustrated Everywhere Babies, as it is now one of the very few board books that I don't despise on sight, but that I actively like. Good job on the passive diversity education front, Everywhere Babies.


Thursday, 6 September 2012

first day with Sasha & Ezra

Normally when I start caring for a new family, I just want the parents to get the heck out of the house and let me blunder around the kitchen cabinets and kids' dressers by myself. I'm a hands-on learner but I'm clumsy, so I prefer not to be observed in the act of learning. So I was a little nervous that Sasha and Ezra's mom was going to hover for the first week before she goes back to work. But she's so sweet, and so easygoing, that I didn't feel nearly as self-conscious as I thought I would, even when I couldn't get Ezra to take a bottle, and when Sasha had a bout of stubbornness and collapsed on a neighbor's well-manicured lawn and refused to move ever again for ten minutes. I like that this family is totally into the idea of getting me a bike seat or trailer to haul Ezra around (since I won't drive other people's kids around), and that most of their baby board books feature diverse families. I think nannying for this family will work out well -- which is good, because I'm on a reduced-rate trial run for the month of September.

A few of my favorite comments from Sasha, who is six years old, on my very first day of nannying her:

Sasha: You know what I want to be when I grow up? A babysitter. I love kids.
Sasha: I’m going to move out of the house like probably when I’m a teenager. I will buy that house across the street.
Sasha: Do you have a car?
Me: No.
Sasha: Do you have a driver’s license?
Me: Yes.
Sasha: WHAT?! That doesn’t make any sense.
Me: Well, I have a bike; I bike and take public transit everywhere. Cars are very expensive.
Sasha: And they’re bad for the environment.
Me: It was the first day of school, you have a different teacher this year, right? What's your teacher's name?
Sasha: Yeah, Mr. O.
Me: Is Mr. O teacher nice?
Sasha: He's cute!

High fives,

Open Arms

New house, new jobs, new blog!

I will probably write entries while the kids do the vampire thing and sleep in the middle of the day. Since kids are adorable, and I kind of need to project their adorableness to the universe, I figured I'd create a blog. They are all referred to by pseudonyms here, and photos will be rare and never of their faces, because 1.) they're not old enough to consent to having their lives published on the internet, and 2.) I can't consent on their behalf, not being their legal guardian.

I'm naming the blog Hugs or High Fives because I think choices are important, and so is affirmation, and gratitude, and comfort, and human connection.

If you're new to this blog, orient yourself by clicking on the tabs up at the top of the page to read a bit more about me and the kids I high five and/or hug.

Commence caring, connecting, and blogging.