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September 19, 2018

(method/madness, last part) and then there were 10

 With my babysitting jobs beginning to take shape, I ignored Eddie's mockery of me - despite his accurateness.  Hey, I worried about bills to pay, affording finishing touches on the kitchen, etc.  The worst part was that I was kicking myself for not being more tolerant of the nutty family.  Should I have tried to make that work?  I needed to find a way to let it go and get back to my happy place.

Then . . .

8.  Another family interviewed me mid June.  They have one 6 mo old baby girl named Jillie and they needed care 5 days a week.  Really, Jillie?  That made us chuckle since I already had a Billy.  Jillie's folks live nearby and the mom teaches in a local district.  I was really hoping to build a relationship with families like this one with ties to nearby schools, because word of mouth is definitely easier than fliers, care.com, and stress.

9.  Coach insisted that I was being crazy considering taking on ANOTHER baby.  I told him I could handle it.  My kids were rolling eyes and moaning.  They feared that I would be grouchy because so many kids on the babysitting docket would make me nuts.  I cleared up the confusion.  'Clean up your own crap.  Make your own lunches.  Don't walk thru the family room dumping pen caps, loose change, and other choking hazards out of your pockets.  If you don't make extra work for me, then I won't be ultra grumpy.'  Why isn't this obvious to them yet?

Curly aka my temporary right-hand
 man holding Jillie at a local
forest preserve - preschoolers are in
 front of her looking at turtles.
Jillie's folks texted me July 6th to say that they were going to look into cheaper options.  Knowing there isn't anything cheaper than me (aside from an actual daycare in a strip mall), I thought:  'You'll be back.'  (Um, look whose confidence is returning?)  Later that morning I saw that they were shopping for a nanny to come to their house on care.com.  (Stop rolling your eyes.  It WAS them- they included a photo in their profile).  Um, a nanny is much pricier than what I offer, but whatever.

Four weeks later, Jillie's folks texted me back.  I was what they wanted all along.  Did I still have space for Jillie?  I joked with Mini that I was going to text back and say that my rates went up in August.  Hee hee.

I started babysitting Aug 13th.  It is busy.  Very busy.  It is going quite well.  Curly and Reggie were still home to help me for about a week before they started school.  I teased Curly that I was going to have her drop out of school.  I would attempt to home school her between diaper changes.  OK, I am not THAT crazy.  I have hired a friend, Andie, to help me two or three mornings a week, if she is available. 

Some of the older guys checking
out a koi pond across from our neighborhood. 
10.  After about two weeks, Jillie's mom asked me one day if I might have space to sit for one of her co-worker's kids.  HELLO, WORD OF MOUTH!!  It's happening!  I told her that I had already turned away two families because I was full (This is true and I didn't hesitate to share this tidbit with her, because she narrowly missed not getting Jillie on my schedule when she looked into other options).  Her friend only needed two days of care . . . Monday and Friday.  Those just happened to be the only two days I could do, because Joey and baby sister only come Tues, Wed, Thurs.

The mom came over the next day.  We hit it off.  Her kids were freakishly the same gender, age, shape, and personality types as Joey and baby sister.  They started the next day.  My family members threw up their arms in disbelief that I had added ANOTHER family.  I had two words for them:  college and tuition.  Besides, who loves chaos more than me?

I started out sketching larger heads on Monday - don't worry, the kids show up with normal size heads everyday.  I shrunk their heads only to make their noggins fit on the remaining days of this schedule:
Jillie (6 mos), Billy (14 mos) come 5 days a week.  Maddy (13 mos) and Jimmy (4 yrs) (who I forgot to draw initially on Monday, but don't think for a moment that I love him any less.  He is a riot.  Keeps calling me Aunt Kathy.  I plan to ask his Mom next time he comes if his Aunt Kathy is very pretty or something) - these two swap places with Joey (3 yrs)  and Harriet (11 mos).  Joey and Harriet are here Tues, Wed, Thurs, but grandma grabs them on Wed at noon to take Joey to preschool.  Then there is Zack, Suzie, and Lila.  They are 4 yr old triplets.  Very sweet.  Lila has autism and attends a special full day preschool program.  She comes here after school when the bus drops her off at 3:20.  The other two triplets leave at 11:45 each morning to go to preschool on a bus.  They return at the end of the day with their kindergarten brother Matt (almost 6) at 3:10.
Usually everyone is picked up by 4:00.  Oh, and the 'ten' is the total number of kids I sit for, but not all at once and some are here or less than an hour after school.
SO, now you understand my madness, . . . as for my method:  sometimes I just have a really long story to tell.  Breaking the lengthy stories up helps me stay one step ahead.  So, if I am juggling 10 kids during the day (never at the same time - 8 is the most, usually), does it irritate you to read a story broken up into shorter stories?

September 17, 2018

(method/madness part 2) reasons #3-7 my school year is a tad busy

I continued my efforts to fill my childcare spots . . .

3.  I made up fliers and distributed them like crazy to area schools.  I got a couple of calls.  Interviewed with a few people.  One lady really wanted her toddler son to hang with me for the school year, but the logistics of her commute wouldn't work.  Bummer.

4.  In mid June I met a family on care.com.  They ended up living in my district and need me to watch 2 of their kids at my house before the bus picks them up for the district preschool at noon (plus 2 other kids after school).  We clicked.  Hired.

5.  Tank's algebra teacher hired me because Tank raved about how good I am at babysitting and she wasn't happy with the place she had been leaaving her guy, Billy.  (Woo hoo, Tank.  This guy can DEFINITELY make me crazy, but he is excellent at marketing).

By mid-summer I hauled all my baby
 equipment out of the basement and garage.
  The kids helped me clean it.  The last several
weeks of summer would soon be
 a blur of travel, so I knew
I had to get organized!
6.  Then Joey's mom was hired for a job closer to home, so her kids would be back in my care 3 days a week.  Hooray!  Joey always makes me laugh.

7.  Since things were starting to fill up, I decided to text Self-Taught's best friend.  While she hired me BEFORE the contractor craziness, this text inquirt was taking place AFTER the nonsense.  Follow?  I wondered if she would still want me watching her kid since I fired her best friend's dad.  Part of me was like, 'Well, if the suckie contractor operates suckie all of the time, then maybe it wouldn't even come up in conversation between best friend and Self Taught.  Business as usual, ya know?
 
     Best friend texted me back to say that she should've let me know that she had changed plans for the fall.  (yes, she should've!  Manners?!)  She claimed to have accepted a part time job and was going to use family to watch her baby.

     I was ticked.  Everything would be fine though- I was returning to my happy place.  I was, however, REALLY curious to know if my firing of suckie contractor influenced her childcare switch.

Now that my available babysitting spots were filling up, Eddie started making fun of me for the drama and emotions that became an ongoing theme all spring.  Just what I need, a 17 year old wise ass mocking me:  'What am I going to do, if I don't find another family to sit for?'  (imagine this in a high-pitched, male voice complete with exaggerated arm motions).


September 15, 2018

method or madness or both?

There is a method to my madness.  I know, I know.  I told you a ton of stories about the trials and tribulations of my babysitting situation in the shape of one super long story broken into a bunch of little snippets to make it readable.  Be honest, did that drive you crazy?  Were you like, 'Hey, I vote for a new topic?'

Same with all the cluster of Irish dancing stuff.  Ditto?  Were you in suspense or just OVER IT?

I am curious what you thought of my write-a-ton and break-it-up approach to blogging.  Please share your thought in my comments.  You can be brief.  You can be anonymous.  You can say 'boo-hiss'.

So, the method (or reasoning) to my madness?  And by madness I mean stories drawn out over several posts . . .

First I wanted to share how stressed out I was in the spring about babysitting.  I hadn't told you about all the babysitting nonsense (just a few little bits) as it accumulated, so I didn't know where to begin.  Now that you are all filled in, here is the story that was too hard to explain without first sharing the background:

1.  I was NOT going to sit for the nutty family this school year.  (Yippee!).  Joey's family, who I sit for three days a week, was possibly going to take a year off.  The mom wanted to find a teaching job that wasn't so far away.  I am crazy about these folks.  Joey is all personality, the baby is a fave, and most importantly, their parents are great.  We are on the same page.  Totally.  I was so worried that I would have no nutty family AND no awesome family, and therefore no additional in come.  My mind was working on overdrive.

2.  In April, my friend suggested that I check out a website called 'next-door' for local neighbors.  Sometimes people post babysitting needs.  Turns out you can also learn about anything from 'unique bird' sightings to 'what day is garbage day' questions and everything in between.  The very day that she suggested I sign up for it, someone posted that they needed a school year sitter for their one year old in the fall.  I responded to her post.
There it is . . . the ever important hummingbird advice!

      Within seconds - no exaggeration, SECONDS- my phone rang.  It was this teacher from this 'next-door' website looking for a sitter.  Her first name is the same as my first name.  Self-Taught, my kitchen designer.  She remembered Self-Taught talking about my family.  My name sounded familiar.  A few weeks later, she and her husband and their cute baby came to meet me.  They were all in.  Hired me for 3 or 4 days for the fall on the spot.
She asked me if I was having work done to my house.  I was like 'yeah.'  Ready for this .  . . turns out she is best friends with
   
     Phew.  I was like, 'OK, one customer.'  I hoped to find more teachers in need of school year daycare.  There is an awful lot of college tuition on our horizon!

September 13, 2018

at a loss, contractor style

We hired a new contractor July 15th.  He came highly recommended by my appliance saleswoman.  I mean, come on - we had totally learned our lesson, right? 

During the whole suckie contractor situation, the appliance lady kept insisting that she wished we had gone with this guy who does so much work in our town.  His storefront is not far from our home.  Oh, believe me my rear end was sore from all the imaginary kicking of myself I was doing.

Now I am not so sure that I needed to kick myself so hard.  Perhaps I should have geared my kicking elsewhere.  Insert:  heaviest sigh imaginable. 

The new contractor, who I will now refer to as Mr. Italy or just Italy because that is where he is from, seemed to know his stuff.  He pointed out things that suckie had messed up - stuff that we hadn't even caught. 

Remember the two cabinets that couldn't open at the same time, because suckie hadn't utilized a spacer?  Mr. Italy agreed to take the cabinets down, insert a spacer, and put the cabinets back up.  I was excited. 

I made a list of all of the stuff that still needed to be handled.  Most of it was itty bitty stuff.  Put a dimmer switch in the kitchen so we can stop getting a sunburn when the light fixture over the table is on.  I emailed Italy this list per his request and he came over to have me sign a contract.  Of course, he wanted money.  Oh, how I wish these contractors could just be paid when the work was complete.

Italy and his people have done a few things.  Literally.  A few.  There are a few plate covers on the outlets that hd no plate covers.  The cabinet spacer thing has been fixed.  Both cabinets can open now. 

Most of the time, I just wait.  I text Mr. Italy.  'Anyone coming today?'  He is all smiles and jokes and assurances in his thick accent.  I was hosting two parties over the weekend.  He assured me that the work would be done before the main party.  Guess what?  Not even close. 

Note the light fixture in the background.
  It is typically off, because we would
 need to don sunglasses until they put
 in a damn dimmer switch.  Coach could
do this, but the man doesn't have
 time to put his laundry away.
The biggest issues remain:  no hood and no barn doors. 

Remember the leaking ceiling?  The damn ice dam?  Then the kids' bathroom that started to leak into the kitchen?  (Did I ever tell you about this?  Can't find a post to share).

Italy checked out the kids' bathroom.  He told Coach that the floor of the shower needed to be replaced.  This is a shower that was just done about 6 years ago.  By a professional.  Not sure if I should laugh or cry here.  Coach wanted to continue to attempt to seal the bathroom shower floor.  His re-grout or re-seal job had kept the ceiling from leaking into the kitchen for about 5 weeks.  I wanted it to be fixed properly.  I believe that Italy does things correctly.  It just takes a long time for he and his people to show up.  Sound familiar?  So for $2,500 we are getting a new shower floor.

Best to not blow this photo up to see
any of the detail.  I took this after
 they poured the cement threshold.
  They say that the original guy
 should have used cement and he only
used wood, and that was the problem.
 If you look closely you will see a small
 sand timer on the shower ledge.  It makes
 me laugh to think that my kids
 pretend to time their showers.  AS IF. 
I know my little job is not a priority.  I begged him to get the kitchen done for the party.  Instead they came and ripped up the shower.  Italy insisted that the shower would only be out of commission for 3 days.  While components of the shower work needed to dry, the workers would finish the small kitchen stuff.  Not so much. 

The shower was torn up on Labor Day.  Weird, I know.  The workers were shocked at what they saw.  I think we are lucky that the shower didn't crash into the kitchen at some point.  There was mold.  There were worms.  Gross doesn't begin to cover it.  I assume that Coach and I have the same issue in our shower, because the same guy did that.  The only difference:  2 showers a day vs. 6 kid showers a day.  So the shower started on Sept 3rd.  The kids are scoring showers in other available bathrooms.    Yes, that is just as crazy convenient as you are imagining it to be.  So much for 3 days.

Nothing was done in the kitchen while a bathroom floor dried.  NOTHING.  I texted Mr. Italy yesterday.  'I really did not expect to text every day and beg for the work to be completed in my house.'  He texted back that he was coming later in the day.  No show.  This morning I texted, 'Today?'  He texted back 'yes'.  He was here for 5 minutes at 4:00.  I was busy handing off a baby to a mom, so I didn't speak to him.  Besides my vocab is limited in situations like this to 4 letter words.  . 

At a loss.  In more ways than one. 



September 11, 2018

Can Curly interest you in some swamp land in Florida?

While we waited on pins and needles for the results to be announced for Mini's competition, we walked over to check on the used dresses.

Mini's first dress.  Shortly after this purchase
 ( bought used at a feis) they outlawed bling
on young dancers. 
Translation:  I couldn't sell this.  EVER.
Every time we attend a feis (term for a dancing competition if you don't know that by now!), I drop off our used dresses at the used sale rack.  Then, when no one buys them, I haul the same dresses home with me.  I have tried the power of suggestion approach in the past.  'Has your daughter tried on this one?  I think this looks like her size.'  Still no success.

We were walking back to the awards area when we saw a family looking at an absolute eye-soar of a dress that was marked $100.  I have a couple of dresses that fall into that same category, but I leave them home.  They are from ions ago.  Worn before rules changed about who could wear bling, etc.  This dress that they were ogling had no business being on the rack.  Why were these people looking at it?

My friend walked by and noticed the look of horror on my face.  'You should have them look at  Curly's old dress - that one they are looking at is gross!' she whispered.

I did it.  Shameless as it was, I pulled Curly's old dress off the rack and approached the family.  Why not?  The dress was a true classic.  Mini had worn it too.  It had no bling (suiting younger dancers who can't wear bling), but the no-bling jacket could Velcro off and be replaced with a blinged-out jacket.  Bonus.  I assured them that it was a stunner on stage.  If they were interested, I would give them a good deal.

Our first Irish dance school (we are on our
 third - unheard of, but I won't 
play the games some of these
 schools force you to play) tried to get me
 to buy a used dress for $650.  

And that was the budget dress! It
was filthy.  Embroidery was falling
 out of it.  I knew I would never be able
 to resell it.  Consider that this was
 about 8 years ago.  That price for a
 used dress in that condition was nuts!
 The other dress they had in 
mind for Mini was $1600
  USED.  Gasp. They controlled all
 dress sales and were FURIOUS
 about the mint green number I
bought initially without their permission.
 I opted to make this dress for Mini.  I do
think it is quite cute.  The bubble skirt
look is no longer an acceptable style.
  I never planned to sell it.  I didn't
 use a pattern and if you look at it
 closely it is quite obvious. 
It resides in my closet.
I left them to ponder the dress as we went back to the awards area.   Then I sent Curly back to see if the people were still trying on our used dress.

Curly returned a bit later.  'Um, these people are clueless.  They don't even know who can wear bling and who can't.  I am filling them in on everything.  The dress is a bit big for the girl, but I told her it looks great and that she can grow into it.'  Curly, future used car salesman extraordinaire, marched back to them.  Less than 10 min later she returned with the family in tow.  Her face was a glow.  'I think they want to buy it!' she hissed at me when they were not yet in earshot.

The dress was marked at $550.  I knew that I would accept a much lower price.  Maybe $175?  I was tired of lugging it to feis after feis.  The dad pulled out his checkbook.  'This is the dress that my daughter likes.  Um, you said you would give me a deal?'

'OK, what were you thinking?' I asked him.  'How about $500?' he asked.  I bit my lower lip.  I had to try hard not to bite so hard that I would make it bleed.  $500!!??  It was hard to hide my joy.  'Sure,' I said, 'I can do that.'  He wrote me a check for $500 and I handed him the dress that we truly loved.

The dress is really great.  Promise.  Nothing wrong with it.  It is just that I have been trying to sell it for a year and a half, so I was ready to be VERY flexible with the price.  These dancing dresses don't have a very long shelf life.

Curly leaned over to me a minute later and whispered, 'See, I told you they didn't know anything about Irish dancing!'

These are the two dresses I have been
dragging around trying to sell forever!
 The black and green one on the right is
 the one that Curly sold that day.
 Still looking for a buyer for the coral/black one.  

The styles change so fast that people often
 get stuck with a dress that no one wants 
because it is outdated.  Just one 
of the joys of Irish dancing.
There was much rejoicing on the way home from this feis.  So rare.

     1.  Mini won a first.
     2.  I sold a dress for an outstanding price.
     3.  I had gotten a job.  Early on in the day while we were still busy with makeup and wigs, a woman had texted me.  She and her husband had come over the day before with their triplets (almost 4 yrs old) and son (almost 6 yrs old).  They live in my school district.  She was looking for someone to watch her kids during the school day while she taught at a nearby school.  The preschool/kindergarten bus would pick her kids up at my door.  We clicked.  Her text read that she didn't really want to wait to check my references.  She really liked me and wanted to secure a place in my house for the school year.  Yippee!!!

Mini and Curly and I agreed.  BEST FEIS EVER!

September 9, 2018

Hooray or not at Mini's last hurrah

Mini's last feis had arrived.  She was ready.  I begged her not to be nervous.  Easier said than done.  Regardless of the outcome, she had a wonderful dancing career that she should be proud of.  I told her so.  Mom is always right!

I had toyed with the idea of secretly registering her for the feis the next day - Father's Day.  Mini didn't want to dance that day, and I certainly didn't want to attend another feis unnecessarily.  If Mini didn't place 1st, I wondered if I should be poised and ready to say, 'Hey, if you want to compete tomorrow and try for a first, I did register you.  Your call.'   I opted NOT to go that route.

It was once again a fairly large group of competitors.  About 20.  This competition was set up differently in order to get dancers ready for National Championships.  The dancers did each dance on a separate stage.  Instead of dancing for the same 3 judges for each round, they would show their stuff at three different stages.  Three judges sat fixed at each stage.  Confused?

Translation:  I had to bop from one stage to another in order to follow my two girls as they danced each of their 3 rounds.  It was exhausting.  My mom showed up to cheer the girls on.  I pointed out who would be dancing on which stage next and whispered words of encouragement to the girls as they lined up.

Curly got teary eyed just as she was supposed to dance her first round.  This seems to be her new system.  Cry a bit before dancing.  Dance one round.  Move on to the the next round nerve free.  Then dance the next two rounds phenomenally.  I miss the good ole days when Curly got excited to get on stage and raced off to do her thing without batting an eye.

Curly competes at the highest level possible.  There is no advancing.  The only reason she attends these feises is to get in front of judges to see what comments they might have before heading to a major competition like National Championships.  No brainer.

This is the first year Curly is expected to wear makeup, so I stood there blowing on her face begging her to stop crying.  'Remember, this is what you love to do.  No tears.  Just go have fun!'  Sigh.

Both girls danced great.  I watched Mini's competition and felt that she belonged at the top.  I hoped that the judges saw it that way too.  Nine judges.  Nine.  One screwy judge wouldn't necessarily throw off the entire outcome.  Right?

Curly's awards happened while Mini was on stage.  I wished her luck but stuck at Mini's stage to watch her dance.  Curly returned a few minutes later with a huge trophy and a sash.  2nd place.  Big smiles.  I felt bad that I missed her awards, but she shrugged it off.  Happy to have won.

While we waited ENDLESSLY for Mini's competition to be announced, I tried to convince my mom to go home.  She doesn't go to these things very often.  It makes for a long day.  She wanted to stick around and see Mini's results.  I dug around in my food bag and gave her a few granola bars and a water bottle.
Mini with her back turned as she
 accepts her platter
 (trophy's aren't always given) and
hops up on the podium.

Trying to sell used dancing dresses acted as a distraction while we waited.  I found my mom a spare folding chair.  We waited longer. 

At last they announced the top 10 winners in Mini's competition.  It was down to first and second place.  I knew that Mini danced better than the other girl who was most likely Mini's only real competition remaining.  I held my breath when they announced that the other girl (not Smiley, who took 6th this time) came in 2nd place.  I exhaled and began to shake when they announced Mini as the 1st place winner.


A montage of smiles:  Curly, Mini, and Nana.
 Not sure why this feis
handed out teddy bears too. 
My girls aren't really into that, but when
 you are handed a teddy bear on the
 podium you hold it for your pictures.



That was it.  At long last.  Mini came in first at her last feis!  She had officially advanced to Open Championship-meeting her goal.  It was a day to remember.  My mom was there to see it.  We all wept a bit.  Except for Curly, who just jumped around a ton and hugged everyone within an arm's reach.   There were pictures.  More hugs.  More tears. More pictures.  Record breaking smiles. 

The judges:  the 9 of them had ranked Mini first almost unanimously!
 

September 7, 2018

If at first, you don't succeed . . .

Mini danced great on Friday.  After the competition, we enjoyed the meal I packed from home.  I was in bed early - at last unable to keep my eyes open.  The gluten-fuzzy-head finally subsided.

Saturday involved a bit more prep because both girls were dancing and costumes/wigs were part of the deal.  There were wigs and makeup and leg tanner and fancy dresses.  We arrived at the venue in plenty of time.  Both girls danced at the same stage, which is always a bonus.  Gone are the days when I jogged back and forth between multiple stages when I had 5 young dancers.  I would be changing shoes for one kid, checking another kid in side stage, and eyeing a third stage to see if my lined up kid was about to actually compete.  Don't miss those days.

At least back then makeup wasn't allowed and my girls didn't wear wigs yet.  

Curly’s Indianapolis competition was combined with an older group of girls.  She didn’t expect to place, but she was overjoyed when she came in 5th out of about 20 - beating many of the older girls in the competition.  There was only one girl her age that placed higher than her.

Mini danced even better Saturday than she had on Friday night.  She had a babysitting job to get home to and I had a party to prepare for.  I hoped they would announce Min’s results sooner than later.

Mini in orange.  Hugging Smiley. 
I couldn't argue with these judges.
  Both girls danced great.
 Mini missed 1st by one point. 
I braced myself when they began to announce.  Once again the last two places remained between Smiley and Mini.  Mini took 2nd again.  Of course Smiley was smiling.  Mini kept a smile fixed on her face as she congratulated her friend, Smiley.  She was a good sport.  I snapped a pic of Mini and Smiley hugging it out on the podium.  

I wanted to scream.  No time for drama.  We needed to get back home so Mini could babysit on time. Tank was positioned to fill in for Mini if we didn't make it back in time.  I told him that if he needed to start the job, that Mini would be dropped off as soon as we got back in town.  He was not having it.  If he started the job, he would finish it and he would be paid for it.  I hoped to avoid that battle by making it back to Chicago on time.

So . . .  that was a lot of posts to describe two hectic days.  I must admit when that party was cancelled and we made it to Indianapolis on time, I thought for sure Mini would end up with a first place.  That would've been a great wrap up to the story.

Stay tuned.  The girls were registered for one more competition near home (thank goodness no time zone difference) the following weekend.