Wednesday, 30 January 2013

finding literacy

I am on a continual quest to invent creative ways for Sasha to practice reading. This week, I made a scavenger hunt for her. The deal was she had to read (and sound out) the clues herself, and at the end would be a prize, plus the whole thing would count as her 15 minutes of nightly reading homework.

The clues were very simple, because the decoding challenge for Sasha is the reading part; I didn't want her to have to decipher an obscure rhyme too. I just wrote them in Sharpie on index cards and then hid them around the house, with the starting clue on the table where Sasha eats her afterschool snacks.

It was enormously successful. Sasha loved it. Afterward, she used the prize (a small notebook and pen) to write her own sentences, starting with "today is good," but she said that she likes the "finding better than winning" in scavenger hunts. Good thing, because my supply of regiftable tiny notebooks is drying up!

We will definitely be repeating this activity again. Maybe every week. Depends on how quickly I run out of notecards.


Thursday, 24 January 2013

Magic in a Box

I expect the average six-year-old to be a veritable geyser of imagination. Around Sasha's house I see evidence of her imaginative play: toys arranged around a castle, sticky notes with scribbled "writing" posted here and there, dress-up clothes scattered across the bedroom floor. But rarely do I actually see Sasha playing, and anytime I suggest or try to instigate imaginative play, Sasha gives me her sassy teenager hands-on-hips-and-eyeroll smackdown. She prefers that I read to her or let her watch Spongebob.

This week Sasha's dad brought home a large box, discarded by the coworker who ordered the desk chair it had contained.

I have never seen so much creative play out of this kid as I have in the presence of this box.

We sat in our box "house" during a pretend storm; thunder and lightning exploded all around us; the floodwaters rose and swept us out to sea; we battled a giant squid and a sea serpent; we eventually crashed on an island where the green-bearded pirate had buried his treasure, which of course we found.

Another day, we got out paints and added details to the box: hearts and butterflies and flowers, stars on the ceiling, swatches of color on the inside walls.

Ezra gets good use out of it too: he and I play endless games of hide-and-peek-a-boo in and around the box. (He joined us for the pirate adventure too.)

This box is like magic, extracting from Sasha the desire to play, to innovate, to invent, and to create. Praise be for big boxes.

High fives,

Monday, 21 January 2013

Two new things in Ezra's life

1. Ezra's mom gave him his first haircut because "with that clip in his hair everyone always thought he was a girl and he's not!" but all she did was cut his bangs so now he has this hilariously stupid baby mullet hairdo oh my god


2. He started deliberately signing his first word! It's "more," of course. Like a dog, he is extremely food motivated, so I've been bribing him with blueberries for a few months trying to get him to do a new trick. And now he does it! Not even a year old yet and he looks me dead in the eye, grunts dramatically, and pokes his little index fingers together vehemently.

The time he's most likely to do it is while he's flat on his back on the changing table, though, which is extremely perplexing to me. The sign for "more" does look kinda like the sign for "change," but not that much like it.


Sasha Says, ep. 13

"We should ask God to make it snow. But I don't believe in it. I just believe in Christmas."

"I think the boxcutter is in the tillery room. I don't know why it's called a tillery room." She means the utility room.

Regarding the dog, who is at least part Chihuahua: "She was born in Mexican." (She's from the shelter, so her actual origins are unknown.)

Me: "Did you have fun with your Grandma during her visit?"
Sasha: "Kinda. Well, she always does a lot of stuff with me so I get like tired of her after just one minute."

"My dad is really old. Like probably 80 or 100." (He's probably in his 40s by my estimation.)

"My dad loves Miyazaki movies." (Sasha leans in and whispers) "I think my dad has a crush on him!"

Sasha wanted to "write the Harry Potter books, but with changes." (I tried to teach her the word "fanfiction" but I don't think it stuck.) So here's the text of Sasha's chapter one, which she dictated to me and I dutifully transcribed:

"Voldemort attacked the baby! Oh no! Ahhh! Little baby Harry. He's sucking on his sucky thingamajinga. Ahhhh!"

Oh yes, there's an illustration to go with it (Voldemort is the ghost and everyone is apparently nude):

High fives,

Thursday, 17 January 2013


I had Wednesday off this week. A relative was in town or something and Sasha's family didn't need me that day.

I... I can't believe how much less stressed out I've been, and how much happier I've been this week, with that one eight hour shift obliterated.

Over the last couple of years, I've had jobs with different hours. When I did AmeriCorps I was regularly cramming 60 hours of work into each week. Lots of 12 hour days, lots of extra work on weekends. Before that I was working maaaybe 15 hours a week in a research-y type position that mostly had me sprawled on the couch in my pajamas at 4 in the afternoon writing about community building activities for teens. That wasn't quite enough work to keep me from getting restless, but damn I had an awesome garden that summer.

When I was trying to piece together nanny jobs after my exhausting, overwhelming AmeriCorps year wrapped up, I was aiming for close to 20 hours a week. I ended up with 35 hours a week. This week was a good reminder of why 20 hours a week is my ideal work load. While almost-full-time means I'm building up a cushy savings account, it also means I cling to the weekends like I'm an invasive species of blackberry bush and weekends are native underbrush -- and I have a harder time enjoying my time with the kids when I am at work.

HB and I don't really make formal New Years resolutions, but we do talk about what I call, in a deep and foreboding voice, "our hopes and dreams."

My current "gosh wouldn't that be nice" is to work halftime in a small, progressive preschool, and work halftime as a freelance artist. I really miss painting.

I've been trying to partition off more evening time for art lately, but it's hard to motivate myself to work on it when I get home from eight hours of scrubbing baby chins and cajoling a belligerent six-year-old into starting her homework. When I work close to full time, all I want to do with my free time is eat, sleep, and watch shoddy escapist shows (current favorite being Once Upon a Time which is thoroughly, thoroughly mediocre).

Little by little, and with HB's encouragement, I'm reclaiming parts of my evenings and weekends for making some real progress on art projects, and that feels fantastic, but oh, I do look forward to an employment future of fewer hours spent in other people's homes raising other people's children.

For now, it's what it is, and I'm thankful to be employed, housed, and partnered, even when the balance isn't quite ideal.


Friday, 11 January 2013

Sasha Says, ep. 12

Sasha: "What's that van for?"
me: "It says 'Heating and Cooling' on it. What do you think it's for?"
Sasha: "I think it delivers heating pads."

Sasha: "You left the kitchen light on!"
me: "Your mom had it on this morning and I never turned it off, so it's been on all day."
Sasha: "I would not like to be that light."

Walking home from school during a sunbreak after days of clouds and rain: "My eyes feel kinda weird, because they haven't had the sun in them for so long!"

Regarding a Cinderella toy: "That is not Cinderella. I hate Cinderella. Cinderella is my worst emily -- eminy -- eninny -- elimy -- em -- en -- enemy."

During imaginative play, Sasha has started narrating in a way that mimics novels. Rather than just having the dolls, animals, or toys speak their lines, Sasha will follow their dialogue with "said so-and-so." (It's usually variations on Harry Potter characters and scenes.) So her playing sounds like this: "'Come on Harry, get in the car, we're leaving,' said Mr. Dursely. 'Where are we going?' asked Harry. 'I said no questions!' Mr. Dursely yelled."

High fives,

Tuesday, 8 January 2013


Sometimes this nannying gig is kind of thankless. There are times I don't love it. Sasha in particular can be frustrating and I spend a lot of time feeling like the Bad Guy destroying all Sasha's hopes and dreams (which mostly revolve around sugary foods and television). The last two hours of the day I clock-check a lot, repeating mental mantras of the "please come take your children" variety. There was a moment a few weeks ago that looked like this: an hour before Sasha and Ezra's parents were due home, Ezra was screaming and thrashing about while I pinned him to the changing table to wrestle a soiled diaper off his poor chapped bottom, and Sasha came running into the room, slipped and fell, and started bawling too. Both kids, totally losing it at the same time. And while I snapped onsie snaps and tried to say comforting things to Sasha, I was thinking: why am I doing this again?

I had almost two weeks off from nannying for the winter holidays to do some traveling and to visit family. My first day back, Sasha's mom told me that Sasha had asked nearly every day when I was coming over. When I picked Sasha up from school, she told me that a couple of days during winter break she'd had a different babysitter because I was out of town, but, Sasha was quick to add, "I didn't like her as much as you."

And my heart grew one and a half sizes.*

Although apparently the reason this other babysitter was inferior was because "she didn't know us as well, because, you know, she was new."

So I'm the choice nanny because I've been around longer? Whatever, I'll take validation where I can get it.


*let's not get too hyperbolic here

Monday, 7 January 2013

Sasha Says, ep. 11

"My ears haven't been alive very long."

On our walk home from school in a stiff wind, Sasha commented on the debris scattered around the neighborhood from overturned recycling bins and summed it up with: "It's a messy day!"

Two days later, referring to the tree detritus blown everywhere by the recent wind storm: "It's all dirty!"

"The Sirius Black Lego sticker is my favorite because I have a crush on Sirius Black." (Keep in mind this kid hasn't seen the movies, just heard the first three books read aloud.)

As the family dog (a small Chihuahua mix) jumps all over Sasha upon our arrival home: "I wish I had odor on my body so I could spray the dog and protect myself."

"I want a turtle, and so my dad said I can babysit his friend's turtle for one week and if I show that I have responsibility, then I can have a turtle. So I'll be really responsible for one week and then not after that."

As the baby emits several of his usual grunts: "Ezra has a frog in his throat. He is very digestible."

High fives,