A Spot of Fatigue

The other day, as we passed through the thin strip of privacy trees separating our house from the neighbor’s, one of my charges looked at me and asked, “Nanny, what’s the name of these woods?”

And I said, “Uh, I don’t think forests have names anymore after they become suburbs.”

And then I was sad.

It was one more drop in the bucket that made me realize, ultimately, that I can’t stay here on the east coast forever. For one thing, all my family is over on the west side of the country, and here it’s much more crowded and takes considerable effort to get out into any kind of nature.

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But I found a Little Free Library today, which doesn’t happen nearly as frequently in rural areas.

Also, my job is starting to look like this:

Mrs. Parent: “The kids aren’t picking up anymore! They’re leaving toys everywhere! We need to get them to clean up after themselves, I can’t walk without tripping over toys. This house is always a mess.”

Me: Well maybe we should, I don’t know, give away a few hundred of their toys so that we bring their number down to a reasonable thousand or so, it might be easier to make this place look clean. “I’ll work on that.”

Not to mention, in my free time, I find myself leaving the house to wander aimlessly through parks and malls because it’s better than staying in the house, which is very loud. Some combination of three to six boys and two X-Tra Loud parents yelling constantly from 6:00 to 9:00 every day is keeping me from relaxing, no matter how much I try with my Celtic zen music and my mug warmer supplying me with perpetually warm tea.

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Sometimes malls have things like puppies for adoption, though. So there’s that.

So I’ve decided now that in a year I’ll be moving away. I’m not sure where to yet, but it will be an adventure because I’m a well-off white twenty-something with an extensive support system and safety net.

Three years of full-time nanny for three to six boys will look fantastic on my nanny resume, because normal people can’t fathom having that many kids and usually look very alarmed when I mention it. If I wait it out, save up money, and leave somewhere in early 2019, things will go great.

Provided I can keep my mouth shut and sweat my way through another miserably humid east coast summer without driving my car off a bridge in search of cold relief.

One day at a time.

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This mug warmer is truly a life saver, I should say. Everyone likely to make a cup of tea and then set it aside and completely forget about it should have one.

Something Blue

About a month ago I decided to get a new car.

“New” here meaning “newer than my old car, but still not actually new”.

The reason for this was because my old car, dubbed La Petite Rouge because it was petite and rouge, started indicating that it needed a coolant change.

Well, in fact, it had needed one for many months, but I had ignored it, because I didn’t want to spend even more money on a little red bucket of compressed rust literally held together with duct tape.

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Literally.

So as much as I loved it, when I had finally scraped together enough money for a new car, I dumped the old one like a box of warning lights and uncomfortable seating.

I feel like my employers were grateful for its absence, because it really was the neighborhood eyesore. In a suburb where the smallest house is five bedrooms and only one pool, everyone gets uncomfortable when the help’s car is so prominently poor.

So with so very in-depth research consisting of Googling several times, I decided that my next car would be a Kia Optima. And I decided to get it from a rental car place.

Months ago, I watched an interview with actor Jack McBrayer on Conan, in which he explained that he got his car from Enterprise because they don’t haggle and he doesn’t like haggling.

I didn’t much like the idea of haggling either, and so I located a promising-looking car on the Hertz car sales website and scooted over to buy it, money in hand.

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And it was beautiful.

A Kia Optima 2016, with features like a heater that works immediately, windows that reliably roll all the way down, and no flashing engine lights upon entry. And it was blue.

Despite Hertz’s assurances that the car was flawless, I took it to a mechanic anyway. The mechanic also proclaimed it to be flawless.

I bought it.

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I dubbed it Yonder, as in “Into The Wild Blue-“, though it’s only a working title in case I come up with something better. And, when I had Yonder, it was time to say goodbye to La Petite Rouge.

I donated the old car to a charity, mostly out of the selfish reasoning that I didn’t want the hassle of trying to sell a dumpster on wheels. They came to pick it up late at night, and I watched my first ever car get towed away under the streetlights.

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And while I was a little bit sad, it wasn’t enough to out-weigh the joyful knowledge that I probably won’t have to spend $300 on my new car every time I bring it in for an oil change.

Live-in nannying’s not a bad gig, all things considered.

Things Mom Was Right About

As a teenager, my mother always made crazy and unreasonable demands of me. Completely unfounded, out of whack suggestions and commands that had absolutely no basis in reality. Absolutely ridiculous.

These were things like turning my clothes right side out before she did laundry, or soaking a pot before she did dishes. Unbelievable. The gall.

But then here I was, seven years later, and as I passed by one of the boy’s rooms with my laundry basket, I reminded him to make his bed.

“No!” he yelled. “I don’t want to! I do all the work around here! You treat me like a servant!”

So after dealing with that Elementary School crisis mostly by laughing, I started thinking back on all the absurd demands of my childhood. Turns out, they were actually pretty reasonable. These were things like:

  • Rinsing out the bathtub after a shower so that the soapy residue didn’t stick around, making it slippery and hard to clean.
  • Practicing piano every day before the day of your lesson instead of making excuses right up until the morning of, and then frantically practicing for fifteen minutes in the hopes that your piano teacher won’t notice your incompetence.
  • Cleaning up as you go. Hey, did you know that could save you time?
  • Turning those clothes right side out before wash. Wouldn’t you know it, it’s incredibly tedious to do it all at once.

It’s surreal, taking care of children who complain about the exact same things I complained of. The only difference is that they’ve learned to complain about them out loud.

And it’s really, really annoying.

So I’d like to apologize to Mom for being, excuse my language, a little shit. Being a functional human being is better. You were right, Mom. Thanks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Except about The Sims 2. That’s a great game and totally appropriate for someone over thirteen years of age.

 

 

Can We Have Spring Now?

On very rare occasions parents can be right about things. In this case, that thing is snow- or, more accurately, that snow is not nearly as fun when you’re an adult.

Now, four walls and a fragile personal space bubble is the most separation I have from my workplace, and my morning commute is mostly me forcing myself to get out of bed and walk the ten foot hall to the kitchen, so driving isn’t really an issue. (Disappointingly. If I lived far away I could claim the weather was too bad to drive in.) Rather, the very reason I’m here is to be at the house when the children can’t go to school, such as during a snow day, or one of the forty-three vaguely patriotic holidays the teachers have off.

I’m watching the snow fall right now.

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That, ladies and gentlemen, is an ornamental rich person fence. It keeps the poor people safe from the lawyers on the other side.

Fortunately, by the time it started snowing in earnest it was too late for the school to give them back, but Tuesday is gearing up to be another snow day, which means three to six stir-crazy boys frothing at the mouth to get outside, freeze to death for an hour, and then smuggle snow back inside and dump it all over the mud room, to be repeated in another hour.

All day long.

This wouldn’t be so bad if they were a little older, of course. After a certain age you can pitch them outside and keep an eye on them through the window, in the comfort of your well-heated home with a glass of warm milk. But with the mixture of ages, and their tendency to try and sacrifice the little ones to the snow gods, I need to be right out there with them the whole time.

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Fortunately, there’s always one that volunteers to shovel the driveway.

I combat this in the only way I know how: By stalling in the garage so that I don’t have to venture out into the frigid wind, which the children can’t feel because children are blissfully unaware of temperature extremes. It’s the same reason these children can play outside in the 90F, 90% humidity of a summer day.

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Here’s a good garage game: You take some cones, and you hide a container of bubble solution under one. And then, wait for it, here’s the good part- the child checks under them all until they find them! Now it’s their turn to hide and your turn to find it. Tip: It’s under the one they keep looking and giggling at.

As I was writing the entire power system flickered, which probably means the laundry has stopped and the kids will be coming home from school even earlier.

But good news, it’s Friday!

Good news for the nanny, at any rate. Possibly not so much for the parents.

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It’s Been a Thursday

The most frustrating thing about being a nanny is how little I can really change. I see patterns of behavior that careen past disrespect and rub shoulders with bullying in the older boys, but any progress I make is instantly gone when I’m off for the day.

The most I can do is consistently enforce the rules. These rules are:

  • Don’t hit people.
  • Talk to people with respect and not that weird sullen snippy muttering you do all the time, yes, I can still hear you calling your brother an idiot and that’s not okay, I mean it.

Or, if Mr. and Mrs. Parent are home, these rules are:

  • No rules, but we’ll tell them to stop but not actually do anything about it because we don’t want the children to feel bad about themselves. Yes we do, it’s bad behavior.

I don’t know if you can tell, but I’ve had a stressful day. I have seen the future, and it is loud, crude, and violent.

And when I’ve had a stressful day, I like to light a candle or two to create a more peaceful atmosphere in my living space.

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This isn’t working.

‘Tis the Seasonal Mayhem

I could breathe through both nostrils today, from which I must conclude that the end of this horribly stubborn cold is in sight. I’ve been sick for eleven days now, and it’s been terrible, because I haven’t been able to sing a single Christmas song without sounding like a frog. And not even that frog that could sing really well.

The beginning of the end of the cold means that I have to actually get up and start being productive.

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Apparently sitting in Starbucks all day with eggnog chai and Overwatch is not “productive” or “conducive to a social life”.

And one of those things that I was putting off, besides flossing my teeth and finalizing my healthcare plan, was putting together the last of the Christmas presents.

My immediate family was already taken care of, but my employers very nicely give me gifts on Christmas and my birthday, and it’s only decent that I purchase something for them. And for their three to six children. And somehow, this year, I’m participating in two secret Santa gift exchanges. So in addition to the three to six children, I had four more gifts to put together.

Thankfully, none of these people read my blog, so I can post what I’m getting them.

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Employers are hard. As it turns out, it’s moderately difficult to buy things for your bosses, because they’re richer than you and they’re not quite your friends, even though you’re friendly with them. I decided to put together gift bags.

  • Two coffees. Or “cawfees” if you say it like my employers do. They like Starbucks and they like coffee.
  • Two chocolates. Because that’s a good default gift.
  • Two nice, Christmas-y candles. Also a good default gift.
  • Two scarves. I tried to buy what I thought they might wear; they’re both very conservative in their dressing, so I went for that “rainy day in a post office” look.
  • Two different Christmas ornaments. Mrs. Parent got a cute little reindeer because the Christmas aisle in Target was low on stock, and Mr. Parent got a mustache, because, wait for it… he has a mustache. It will be a hit with the kids, anyway.

In my head, this is thoughtful yet impersonal enough to be gifts for your employers whose house you happen to live in. I mean, probably.

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Secret Santa gift #1 had to be a bit smaller, because we had a limited budget to work with. Contents include:

  • The same scarf that Mrs. Parent is getting, although the owner of this one will wear it brighter, somehow.
  • More chocolate!
  • A littler, mild candle. I give mild candles to people I don’t know quite as well, in case they have some kind of reaction to strong smells. I understand this, as I am frequently forced to kill anyone who gets me a cinnamon-scented monstrosity.
  • Two little sets of dangly earrings that I didn’t think to pull out. This lady always wears dangly earrings. I figure she must not have cats.
  • Also that box with a bow. Most of these items will be stuffed into it.

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Also, these things, for secret Santa #2. Just… just turn your head sideways, if you would. It’s far too difficult to rotate this thing and upload it again. If there’s a way to rotate a picture while in WordPress, I’d love to hear it.

  • Two absolutely outrageous earrings for an outrageous lady.
  • Two boxes of Lord of the Rings flavored tea. I buy the Bilbo Baggins Breakfast Blend for myself on the regular.
  • Chocolate. Creatively.
  • Another mild candle.

These things, in addition to the three to six identical extreme dot-to-dot books I am buying for the boys, mercifully conclude my Christmas shopping. It somehow doesn’t feel right to be doing this now; in Idaho we have snow by now. Here, it’s 50 degrees and I’m running my errands without a jacket, and this strikes me as “Halloween is coming up” weather. C’est la vie.

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Bonus: I can’t just sit in this house. I am a perpetual jungle gym.

[Intense Coughing Fit]

One of the problems with nannying (of which there are many) is that you can’t call in sick unless your spleen is actively outside of your body. A mere stomach bug or a fever is not an excuse, because if you back out at the last minute your employers will panic and run around in circles until you agree to haul yourself and your separated spleen in anyway.

I’ve not been that sick, but I’ve been the sort of sick that saps you of energy and makes it even more difficult to stop three to six boys from killing each other with couch pillow zippers.

It’s been especially rough because my employers have been working later, to make up for taking Thanksgiving off. Last night my day ended at 8:30, and only after I excused myself from the rooms of half-asleep children to have a massive and untimely coughing fit. It’s been a joy.

Fortunately, I have a fail-safe way of rapidly de-stressing in the evening before I go to bed at nine so I can get eight hours of sleep, and that is: To resemble, as much as possible, a retired single sixty year old woman.

It starts with a bath.

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A bubble bath, with tea, and a book, and candles, and a plant to read aloud to. 

I like to soak in this while I listen to the sounds of chaos outside my room. When I finally am done with work, there’s nothing more satisfying than listening to other people handle what I was handling not ten minutes before.

When I can snag Wi-Fi I like to play some soft classical (or Christmas) music, but my voice has been completely gone since Thanksgiving and I’m becoming bitter that I can’t belt out “YOU’RE A MEAN ONE, MISTER GRINCH” without sounding like I’m on my third pack of cigarettes.

I feel like the whole goal of the evening is to be as warm and comfortable as possible, because once I’m out of the warm and comfortable bath it’s straight to the warm and comfortable bed. The Jean of tomorrow gets to do the dishes.

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Yes, those are pillows made to look like books, and everyone should have them.

I’m coming to the conclusion that this simple bathrobe is the greatest thing I have ever purchased. I haven’t read the tag, but I would wager it’s composed of something like “60% hair of the gods, 30% summer night air, 10% that feeling when you have nowhere to go and can watch the rain fall with a cup of tea in hand”. I sleep in it every night. My other pajamas are neglected and I can’t make myself care.

So the electric blanket is on, the computer is set up, more tea is on the beside table, and I have “Les Cinq Légends” which is Rise of the Guardians in French. There’s something very soothing about watching things in French for an extended period of time, even though all I know in French is essentially “oui”, “non,” and “pomme de terre.”

That’s it, really. I heartily recommend doing this after a long day to anyone.

It especially helps if you’ve just done something productive before, like making your bed to pretend it always looks this good.