March 16, 2018

Sleep-you will (I know I will)

Just so you can all sleep better tonight, I thought I would share the good news.  My airbnb reservation nonsense has been sorted out.

It is St. Pat's weekend, so I have very little energy left to stay awake and type this . . . such is the existence of a mom with Irish dancers.  Still, I didn't think it was right to collapse into my bed and leave you hanging for ANOTHER day.  I mean what if you don't have enough green beer at your disposal to drown your anxiety about MY reservation?  Sleep can wait.

Have you noticed that sometimes when you search for something on google you get a different list of options if you change the wording just a tad?  Well, guess what?  I typed a different phrase into google while searching for a phone number for airbnb.  I promise it didn't involve any derogatory terms or cuss words even though I was feeling like letting loose on this website.

No surprise the company never responded to my inquiry about my missing reservation.  The website does state that responses will happen in 24 hours.  Maybe their clocks are also made of air.  I decided to once again try to call them.  My new search showed a link to one of those companies that makes customer service phone number suggestions.  Like:  this number will get you a live person, or this number has the shortest wait time, etc.

The number finding company explained that airbnb (which should probably be capitalized, but I don't consider them proper.  So, no capitalization for them) didn't publish their number.  They also went on to describe the high volume of airbnb users who often contact them looking for a number in order to resolve a problem.  So, this awesome company chose to publish the airbnb number themselves.  Yeah, them.

The number finding company warned that the wait times would be lengthy.  I handed Coach the phone and gave him a list of info about my missing air reservation.  Then I went to bed, because dancing duty was going to have me out of bed at 3:40 am.  After waiting for 40 minutes on the phone, a lady helped him.

The mystery is that I unknowingly created a THIRD account at airbnb.  Who does that?  This frazzled mom of six does, apparently.  Total mistake.  Led to a horrible headache and tons of anxiety.  Oops.

The lady told me what two email addresses I needed in order to access my two different reservations.  Neither of them are addresses that I use often.  I asked her to combine the accounts and link them to my real, regular, everyday email.  Turns out that was about as likely as this lady offering my Scotland boarding free of charge for my struggle.

Coach had to wake me up to go over a few details with airbnb lady.  I am glad it was sorted out, but it sucked to wake up, chat with her, and then try to go back to sleep.  I knew that 3:40 am alarm was going to suck.  I was having a hard time going back to sleep because it was like I had just taken a power nap.  Coach offered to rub my back for me.

This is a perk of being married to a Physical Therapist.  There aren't many other perks, so keep your jealousy in check.  Hello, crazy hours?!  Anyway, my husband was rubbing my back a bit to help me relax into what was going to become my temporary, way-too-short state of sleep.  I had once again dragged him thru some drama for a lost reservation.  (Do you remember the confusing font my confirmation number was printed in for Spirit airlines two years ago when we were heading to National Championships?  The lower case letter 'L' that looked like the number '1' or vice versa?  That moment when I was told 'your reservation was cancelled' almost caused me to faint.) 

Here we were again.  Emergency avoided.  Coach always able to remain calm.  Always confused about why I can't.  And the back rub.  I felt like his hands hesitated a little too long near my neck.  This was his chance . . . to strangle his crazy wife.  Who would blame him?

March 14, 2018

'Find my reservation,' I said to no one, apparently

OK, I know I just wrote about my fake airbnb experience that I survived in college - but I am even more frightened NOW than I was then.  Like as in . . . this is an emergency.  This is the kind of shit I have nightmares about, butI haven't slept long enough lately to summon this scenario from my deepest, darkest parts of my brain.

I leave for Glasgow on Tuesday.  We are renting an apartment there for a week and visiting Edinburgh for two nights in the middle of that week.  This is my first experience with airbnb.  I thought I would next type these annoying 'AIRBNB' initials when I returned and could describe our adventure.  Oh, but how the airbnb nightmare has consumed me these last 24 hours, so I am sharing the latest frustrating details. 

Back on December 27th, I reserved an apartment that is less than a mile from where Curly will dance in World Championships of Irish Dancing.  Last night I finalized with my Dad, who is also traveling with us, which place we should rent for our brief stay in Edinburgh.  I wast at my folks house.  My ipad dropped the site claiming it had been rerouted too many times or some high tech bull crap that made no sense to me.

I really wanted to go to bed.  I have a cold, of course.  Since I am traveling soon.  Duh.  I came home from my folks' house and told Coach that I was going to bed in a few minutes.  I just needed to book the Edinburgh apartment.  I found the place we wanted to rent on my desktop.  Hit 'book'.  Thought it would be done.  I was then prompted to share a photo of my drivers license.  Front and back.  It offered a few options.  One of which was using the mobile app.  That gave me the shivers.  I don't really do apps - unless my kids are around to help me.  They were all in bed.

After I uploaded the pictures (which took so long to upload from my phone via email that I probably could've re-taken the driver's test while I waited), I attached them to my account.  THEN the computer asked me to share a picture of myself.  Not just a cute picture from any old day.  It demanded a photo from right now.  I could select 'take the photo with my browser' or 'use the mobile app - recommended'.  I again tried to steer clear of the app thing.  Then I was alerted that my computer couldn't take my picture.  The only remaining option was your-friend-and-certainly-not-mine  . . . the mobile app.

Uploading the airbnb logo is as techie
 as I get.  I tried to take a screenshot
 of one of the Scotland searches I was doing
on the site and instead I shut down all
 the windows I had open. 
Still don't know
what I did.  Can you imagine if
my entire blog post disappeared? 
If I don't sleep tonight,
Coach might smother me.  
I tried.  My phone forced me to set up a new account using a gmail account that I rarely use verses the regular email that my airbnb account was linked to.  There was no way to convince the mobile app that I had another account.  Why does everything have to be so complicated?  My steady stream of cuss words at top volume did nothing to resolve the situation.  Imagine?!  Coach did appear from bed.  Groggy and appalled.

I gave up and went to bed.  I did send a quick email to the host of the apartment I was trying to rent asking for help.  Like, 'listen I am not an ax murderer.  I am traveling with my elderly father and two young daughters.  Can you bypass this step for us?'  That isn't word for word or anything.  I fondly remembered booking our week long stay in Glasgow in a matter of minutes.  Why the Hell was this booking so difficult?

I awoke a restful 4.5 hours later and had the bright idea that I would use my ipad to book the room.  My ipad takes selfies.  Not a practice I am accustomed to, but still.  My ipad wanted me to install a different operating system to work the freaking mobile app.  Bite me.

In the meantime, the host texted me to say she couldn't help.  You know who else couldn't help?  The most horrible website know to man.  The airbnb site offered me a few pre-typed questions so that I could refer to the pre-typed responses.  Where is the live chat?  Where is the 'please email us here' link?  What is this the 90's? . . .  I don't even know how far back I would have to go to discover such a suckie website.

I turned to my trusty phone.  It took some work, but I did get my ID photo uploaded and the most frightening photo of myself (it was like 4 in the morning peeps and I had barely slept) taken with my phone.  I can no longer convince the host that I am not an ax murderer.  Really.  She should sleep with one eye open just knowing I am in town.

I thought I was done.  I get several more messages alerting me that my ID pictures were too blurry.  They needed to be redone.  More joy.  At last after I shared a few more ID pics, I got a confirmation.

I just tried to check my original airbnb account, because thanks to the mobile app and the picture debacle I have two accounts.  I clicked on the 'trips' tab and I kid you not- I almost passed out.  My original booking for a week in Glasgow supposedly doesn't exist.  All the blood in my body rushed to my feet.

I summoned Coach, who loves it when I 'get like this'.  He watched calmly (how does he do it?) as I found an email with a confirmation number.  My pulse rate became a bit more normalized (really, after watching hundreds of episodes of ER over the years that's all I can come up with.  Sorry to disappoint).  Then I looked back at my credit card statement.  I was charged for the week stay in Glasgow.  So maybe I can survive this obvious suckie website issue.

I spent some time -that I really couldn't think of anything else to do with anyway- inspecting each of the canned responses to common questions that the website lamely offers.  At long last after I got to the highest level of 'still haven't found your question' game that I find so fulfilling, I was granted access to a little box where I could type a message.  I also emailed the host.

The website says they will get back to me in 24 hours.  I just hope they don't ask me for a 'what-do-you-look-like-at-exactly-this-moment' picture. 

March 13, 2018

the original airbnb: a sobering event

The four of us student travelers were relieved to be reunited in the tiny rented flat in downtown Prague.  Charles, who was apparently breaking the law by accepting funds in exchange for our staying at his place, explained to us in broken English that we were to pose as friends who were visiting.  There was lots of nodding on our part before he handed us the key and left.  When we were alone we admitted to our individual fears and the various frightening scenarios that had played out in our minds as we allowed Charles to separate us and lead us to his flat.   

I remember there was no shower, just a sink with a hose extension and a curtain next to the toilet.  This was all located in the minuscule kitchen.  I took a pass on a shower.  Obviously.  In addition to the kitchen/bathroom combo there was a small living area that doubled as a bedroom.

Pat's birthday celebration brought us to Prague in part because the beer was so cheap.  My traveling companions were anxious to get the festivities underway.  We walked to a nearby beer hall where we didn't wait long for a table.  The night was young.

We each ordered a meal from the menu.  The food was dirt cheap and the portion sizes were unbelievably huge.  Our server threw four large beer steins down on the table and added four tick marks to a piece of paper on the table.  Each over sized beverage was 19 cents.  As soon as a beer was close to empty, another landed on the table to replace it.  There was no question as to whether or not an additional beer was welcome or not. 

I used hand motions to inform our generous waiter that I was not interested in consuming another drink.  It took a few minutes, but eventually he got the message.  The fellas I was stuck at the table with showed less restraint.  Three beers, three tick marks, three sloppy drinkers, and me. 

When Keith rested his head on the table, Pat and Neil celebrated with slurred words and clumsy high fives.  Lights our for Keith.  The other two idiots ordered me to take a photo of them.  They posed with their fingers in the #1 position hovering over Keith's unconscious head.  Neil was next.  Pat requested another photo.  Proof that he was 'still standing' while his buds had passed out . . . on the table not far from our tick mark paper bill. 

Embarrassing.  If you look at the table
 you can see the paper used to track
the consumption of too many 19 cent
steins of beer.
I noticed a line forming at the door.  Hungry and thirsty customers were waiting for tables.  Our table was serving as a sleeping-it-off station.   Pat didn't last much longer.  I did the only thing I could.  I took a picture of the three of them and tried not to glance at the patrons waiting to sit down as I started trying to rouse them.

Eventually I was successful in waking the three of them up.  They stumbled outside.  A few feet from the door Pat lost his cheap meal.  I was delighted to say the least. 

We found our way back to Charles' apartment, but we struggled to get the key to work.  More visions of this friendly older guy duping us.  Had he given us a fake key so he could take our backpacks while we went to check out the local sights?  It was late at night and my intoxicated friends were far from quiet.  Just before we got the door unlocked, I noticed a neighbor lady open her door and peek out at us. 

We were unrolling our sleeping bags, brushing our teeth, and certain people were harassing others about their lack of ability to hold their drink.   There was a knock at the door.  Neil looked out the peep hole and turned to face us with a look of horror on his face.  Voices were yelling at him to open the door.  When he opened it, there stood two soldiers.  They had weapons.  They were big.  Their uniforms were gray with red sashes.  They repeated over and over:  'Passports, passports!  Arrest, arrest!'

We fumbled around for our passports while Neil attempted to describe our close knit ties to our friend Charles.  We were visiting him from the United States.  'Friends.  Friends with Charles.'  He repeated these phrases over and over.  He demonstrated how the key was stuck.  Shrugging.  Apologizing.  I don't know how long we stood there wondering if we would be hauled off to prison.  In Prague.  It seemed like an eternity.  Eventually these giant soldiers- I'm telling you, they were NOT just police officers, handed us back our passports and headed out the door.  I don't have photos of this part of our travels.  I just didn't think it was appropriate to ask them to pose with my drunk companions. 

We were all quite sober after that. 

I leave on Tuesday for Scotland with Mini and Curly and my Dad.  Curly is dancing in the World Championships of Irish dancing.  We reserved an Airbnb in Glasgow.  I have many traveling related logistics weighing on my mind.  The Airbnb is a new experience, so I have a bit of anxiety about whether or not it will be a pleasant one.  Of course if I compare it to my original Airbnb stay in Prague, it will be a piece of cake. 

March 11, 2018

the original airbnb

When I was a junior in college in 1991, my brother, Pat, and I studied in Ireland for the year.  It was a St. Mary's College program, but it was open to Notre Dame students (ND is located across the street from St. Mary's - an all girls school).  Pat and a few other students from Notre Dame were accepted that year.

Over Christmas break all 21 of the students in our program bought Eurail passes.  We traveled by boat to France and then embarked on our separate adventures to see Europe.  It was an unbelievable experience!
Pat and I in Prague when we
 weren't in search
of a McDonalds.

Pat and I planned to travel together.  I wanted to strangle him from time to time because he completely lacked in the sense of direction department.  This annoyance paled in comparison to his  insistence that we eat most meals at McDonalds.  The fast food nonsense stemmed from his frustration in Italy.  We didn't speak Italian and when we ordered food they brought us kiddie portions of pasta.  Pat is 6 foot 4.  He wanted to eat somewhere where he could predict portion size and not struggle with the language barrier.  I wanted a do-over in the choosing-travel-companion moment, although I know my folks would've insisted that I stick with my younger brother.

Part of our itinerary included meeting up with Pat's two roommates.  They were the only other guys on our program, and Pat shared a house with them while in Ireland.  Pat was turning 20 on December 27th, and his buddies wanted to celebrate with him.  We met them at the train station in Prague, Czechoslovakia.  Looking back I have no idea how we arranged to bump into them here because cell phones were not in existence in 1991.  Imagine how resourceful we had to be.  (I feel an offshoot post brewing titled:  'kids today don't know how easy they have it' - but I feel I would be preaching to the choir).

At the train station there were men walking around very casually uttering the word 'accommodation' in low, hushed tones.  We had heard about this phenomenon in our travels.  Students hanging in hostels often shared experiences and travel tips with other students.  It was like a very cool unspoken code.  'If you go to such-n-such, don't bother with this hostel . . .there's a better one up the hill', etc. 

We were told (and for the life of me I have no idea who tipped us off, but I think Pat's roomie Neil was the one who insisted that this was how it was done) that free enterprise was unlawful in Prague.  People approached travelers and offered their home for a very reasonable price in order to make some money.  It was all very sketchy and secretive.  Of course we were young and cheap, so red flags blowing in the 'be-afraid-be-very-afraid' breeze could whip us in the face hard and we would stay the potentially dangerous course. 

Just as predicted a man in a suit walked up and whispered 'accommodation' over and over while nodding at us.  At this point, Neil's eyebrows shot up as he spun on his heel to face us.  He was like 'It's happening guys!  Just like I told you.  How cool is this?  This old dude is fighting the system.'  After more nodding and pointing, we followed Charles outside the train station (I swear, that I remember his name was Charles.  Why my memory won't serve me today in recalling what food item we've just run out of while I'm in the grocery store, I have no idea). 
This is me and my huge pack.  I am pretending to
nibble on the foot of this statue. 
I guess I was hungrier than I recall.

Charles could only fit two of us with our huge backpacks in his tiny car.  (This is where that red flag left a mark on my face, but my cautious side was no match for 3 Notre Dame men who felt confident that this was a no-brainer.)  Pat and Keith left in Charles' car.  I looked at Neil as my brother and his obnoxious and overly hairy roommate Keith drove away.  I wondered aloud if this harmless looking Prague native would kill those two and then come back to finish us off in order to rob us of whatever dirty clothes and bits of money we lugged around in our enormous backpacks. 
Great building:  exhibit A.  Beautiful Prague. 
Easily one of my favorite cities.

Just when I thought I might soil my pants, which would've been a real downer since I only had a few pairs stuffed in my pack, Charles returned for Neil and I.  Sure as Prague is home to some beautiful buildings, he delivered us to his flat where Pat and Keith awaited our arrival. 

If I found watching my brother carted away by a possible ax-murderer-in-disguise-as-a-gentle-soul  unnerving, then what happened next was the most frightening experience of my life to that point.  Sorry, I've reached my self-imposed-bordering- too-long rule of thumb. 

The best is yet to come.  Promise. 


March 9, 2018

feast or famine

This morning I urged Tank to add more things to his sack lunch that he packs for school.  I guess if I'm being honest, I pack most of his lunch while he stands around acting bewildered with no concept of time.  My goal is not to enable him but to get him out the door on time.  I'm rarely successful at either.

Usually when he should be selecting food and making a sandwich, he is searching for socks.  Well, it isn't until Ed is begging him to get in the car so they aren't tardy AGAIN that Tank realizes he has no socks.  His would-be-productive time is spent messing around with the tots I sit for or quoting lines from a favorite Office episode or an Austin Powers movie.  He is a barrel of laughs, but tough to live with.

Define famine, Tank!  I stock goldfish,cheez-its (and sometimes other chips but those are supposed to be reserved for taco salads and Chicken Tortilla soup dinners) a variety of protein and granola bars, and trail mix.  Not to mention fresh fruit and 3 kinds of lunch meat.  Hostess cupcakes and crumb cakes are not pictured here because they are in another drawer.  How about rice krispie treats?  I expect the kids to eat fruit and a sandwich, but it'snot like I don't keep a supply of goodies in the house.  Tank won't bring cheese sticks or yogurt and prefers not to bring fruit because the food doesn't stay cold in his plastic bag lunch sack.  It is totally uncool to carry a lunch box to school complete with cold packs.   
I keep getting emails alerting me that Tank has purchased something (like chips or cookies) from the cafeteria using his 'pushcoin' account.  It is much more economical to pack snacks from home.  I told him that we will add up all the crap he ate at the end of the school year and he will have to pay us back.  True, we do keep money on his pushcoin account.  The intention is that he only use those funds for water or milk.  You recall that he lost 5 student IDs in the first week of school, right?  Sending him to school with cash is a horrible idea.

I think I have written about my numerous visits to the grocery store each week.  Apparently my brain is wired to think that the grocery is the 'it' place.  I can't seem to get enough.  So, this morning when I started calling out various pack-able lunch suggestions to my helpless freshman, Tank shot back:  'I mean I didn't know there was a famine.'  Funny, but impossible.

Am I alone here?  Do your kids struggle to bring a lunch to school?

March 6, 2018

Got milk, dope soap, & more

Weekend frustrations:  Ed's varsity basketball team lost their playoff game Friday night.  I was with the girls for an Irish dancing competition a few hours away in Lake Geneva.  We were crowded around my phone waiting for Coach to send us text message updates.  I was worried that we would be scolded by hotel personnel for our screams of delight when our team hit a 3 point buzzer beater to put the game into overtime.  We lost in overtime.  I found out later that the other team had a player fall down, lose his dribble, and get back up again holding the ball.  No travel call.  Grrr.  I love this group of kids.  It was a great season.  I don't think I missed a game all season and I was super bummed to miss this one . . . and for Irish dancing no less.

Irish dancing:  I danced for 8 years growing up.  Some combination of my kids have danced for the last 9 years.  I find the subjectivity, wigs, leg tanning, makeup, and outrageous costume prices exhausting.  Neither girl danced as well as they could've.  Mini danced better Saturday, but placed lower than she did on Friday.  There were tears.  Not fun. 

Got milk?:  I sent Tank in the basement to bring up a gallon of skim milk yesterday.  He brought up an untouched, out-dated gallon of skim.  It was best by Feb 26th.  Yesterday was March 5th.  Having a second fridge in the basement is a luxury . . . until the many-gallon-of-milk-drinking kids fail at rotating the bought-with- hard-earned-cash stock of milk.  (Imagine me banging my head against the wall.) 

Ah, nothing like a fresh
gallon of cold milk . . .
except when it is over
 a week expired.  
When Reggie admitted to seeing the passed-its-prime gallon of milk down there, I wasn't sure if I should pull my hair out or make him drink a glass of it.  He was able to convince me that it had already expired by the time he noticed it before a drop of spoiled milk touched his lips.  (I really wasn't going to make anyone drink it.  Promise.  I'm frustrated - not abusive).

Missing wardrobes:  Last week I got fed up and collected all of the articles of clothing off the floor of Reggie and Tank's room.  It was almost exclusively Tank's.  Shock.  I loaded it into a laundry basket and shoved it into the trunk of the great white (former airport shuttle van).  Tank was forced to wear jeans to school.  More than once. 

I knew things were desperate when he came downstairs the other day wearing MY JEANS.  I apologize for not having a photo of that to share, but I think you should be relieved.  It wasn't pretty.  What's worse?  He didn't know that they weren't his jeans.  That's what becomes of teenage boys who aren't detail oriented and who will only wear workout pants.  They lose all track of what 'other' articles of clothing they own. 

Eddie has been searching high and low for his coveted high school basketball quarter zip sweatshirt.  I hadn't seen it.  Tank owns the same sweatshirt in a smaller size.  I remembered the wardrobe that littered Tank's floor that had recently been relocated to my trunk.  The only way it would be there is if someone mis-sorted the laundry.  It happens.  Not usually on my watch, but occasionally I recruit more clueless family members to help.  I finally dug thru the laundry basket in my car and alas, there was Ed's missing sweatshirt.  Ed rejoiced. 

Tank banged on my bathroom door this morning begging for a pair of pants to wear to school.  I was in the shower and finally gave in.  I told him where he could find his 'stuff' in my trunk.  Coach and I planned to make him earn his clothes back.  My brain is usually fried by this time of night, and I've had a headache on and off for days.  The fam (or at least those members that had completed their homework or didn't have a blog post to compose) got comfy in the family room to watch a '30 for 30' about the rivalry between NBA players John Starks and Reggie Miller.  My mind flipped into the 'on' position and I reminded Coach (who is freakishly home because it's Tuesday night and not Mon, Wed, or Thursday) that Tank needed to work to earn back his belongings. 

As I sit and type this I am inhaling the strong smell of bathroom cleaner.  Tank is upstairs scrubbing both showers.  If I never write another post, then you will know that our family perished from choking on the overwhelming scrubbing bubbles fumes when we go to sleep in a few minutes. 

Dope soap:  We often joke about Tank's lack of command of the English language.  He did have an 80% speech delay as a tot.  Not sure if that is why he occasionally mixes up words or uses a word incorrectly.  I can never remember a decent example after the fact.  This example is the exception.  In our family, thick skin is necessary.  Nothing is sacred. 

I took Tank and Eddie to the dermatologist yesterday.  Tank was asking the doctor to explain what soap he was supposed to use in the shower.  He currently was using Dove bar soap.  Everything got jumbled and the words 'dope soap' tumbled out of his mouth.  Ed was still perched on the exam table from his turn.  I really thought he was going to roll right onto the ground from laughing uncontrollably. 

Tank might frustrated the be-Jesus out of us, but lately he has been contributing quite a bit to our comic relief.  With expired milk, losing teams, unsuccessful dancing competitions, strewn about laundry, bad headaches, and missing sweatshirts, we embrace dope soap and the like.

March 4, 2018

teenagers making $ and experiencing their own babysitting weirdness

I opted to point out to Geraldine that her method of hiring a babysitter was not the acceptable approach.  She was SURPRISED.  I wanted to bang my head against the wall. 

She insisted on using Mini.  Before I describe how the job went, I feel it is necessary to supply you with some more 'Geraldine' background.  My kids have babysat for Geraldine in the past a handful of times.  Each incident ends up having an interesting story to accompany it.

Last winter break (over a year ago), Geraldine arrived to pick her kids up and asked if Laddie was able to babysit on Saturday night.  Laddie thought he was driving to Michigan to see a high school buddy who returned to college early.  He had just requested permission for this little adventure.  Coach and I were not on board.  At all.  Hello icy, snowy conditions driving from Chicago to Michigan.  We suggested he hang with friends who were still in town.

While Lad dragged his feet on accepting the sitting job, Tank offered his services.  Geraldine was still standing in the kitchen.  She informed Tank that she was really hoping for a driving babysitter. 

The next day when Lad realized we weren't budging on his road trip plan, he accepted the sitting job with Geraldine.  She had made it clear to Lad that the kids would  most likely be sleeping the entire time.

The morning after Lad babysat, I asked him if he was paid like the college kid, driving-variety babysitter that Geraldine had requested.   She pays my younger kids a low rate, which I completely approve.  They aren't as experienced and they are happy to make a little cash as they work their way up the babysitting ladder.

Lad said he WAS paid $10/hour.  I was relieved that she recognized that a college kid deserved a higher pay grade.  The wave of relief hadn't really set in when he shared with me that he had also vacuumed their house. 

I almost fell over.  What would prompt him to vacuum their home?  Did the kids spill fish food or shred something Styrofoam? 

'Geraldine told me that since they knew the kids would be sleeping the entire time, they thought I could do a few chores for them.  She told me to sweep the kitchen and vacuum the house (it is a small townhouse, but still).  She  expected me to put all of the kids' toys away before I vacuumed.'  I was floored.

Coach and I used to run around and try to put the house in order BEFORE the sitter arrived.  Our only sitter expectations included caring for the children (regardless of whether or not they were sleeping) and cleaning up after a meal or playtime that occurred while we were out. 

This is a toddler boy laundry simulation. 
Mini doesn't have a phone yet
 (not till high school, which is right
around the corner).  She couldn't take a picture
 of the towering piles she sorted. 
I assembled these piles out of the
clothes the families I sit for store
 at my house.  The other family is
constantly updating the sizes and seasonal
wardrobe pieces.  Geraldine had to
be prompted more than once to leave
clothes here.  The first year I babysat I ended up
 buying a backup outfit for Theo because
she gave me nothing.  
This winter break, Geraldine texted one morning that she hurt her back and wondered if any of my kids would be able to come over and give her a hand with the kids.  Mini went.  She came home busting at the seams to tell me about her experience.  When a neighbor called and invited Geraldine's  kids over, Geraldine asked Mini to walk them to the neighbor's house.  When Mini returned, Geraldine made herself a sandwich and sat at the kitchen table and asked Mini to sweep the kitchen.  She gave her a few more jobs before she suggested that Mini go back to the neighbor's house and offer to be helpful there. 

Mini is 13.  She didn't feel comfortable hanging out in a stranger's house asking how she could help.  It was bazaar.  She just collected the kids and brought them home. 

Last night Mini said everything went fine.  She chuckled and added, 'So . . . I wasn't asked to sweep the kitchen or vacuum.  Instead Geraldine asked me to sort the biggest pile of kids' laundry I have ever seen.  It was annoying because I had to look at the tag of every item to check the size because I don't know whose clothes are whose.  (Theo is 3T and Carter is 2T, so their wardrobe pieces aren't drastically different in size)  It took forever.  The piles were so high they were practically falling over.'

Mini even brought homework with her, but Geraldine didn't pick up on that obvious 'clue'.  Mini was happy to make some dough.  I honestly think she enjoys adding another encounter to the Geraldine collection.