The Passage of Time

Individual days often seem to drag on into infinity, and I’ll find myself wondering if it’s dinnertime yet and then realize it’s only 2 p.m. and the Mister won’t be home for another 4-5 hours. I watch a lot of “Bones” (a TV series about forensic science that is not for the faint of stomach), and I spend a lot of time online. A LOT of time. I am always amazed by the number of things that exist on the internet that have absolutely no purpose at all. Free website hosting is not always a positive contribution to society.

However, I’m also always surprised when the Mister gets home from class one day and announces that he’s headed off to his Friday night volleyball game down on the Strip and I realize that it is in fact Friday and another whole week has passed by. We have six weeks, including this one, until the semester ends and we head home for the all-too-short Christmas break. That’s 40 days from this posting and I couldn’t be more excited. I am beyond ready to get back to a land where the seasons change, pickup trucks rumble, country music is on every station and southern courtesy and hospitality is a normal thing.

The weeks have been passing faster recently, though, since I actually have something more productive to do these days. In addition to the social media work I’ve been doing for the LOGOLOPE campaign, I’ve also been working for the Ross Office of External Communications, which is basically the counterpart to UT Martin’s Office of University Relations, where I worked before we moved. I love the work – interviewing professors, attending special lectures and events, writing features and formal press releases – but I’m realizing with each piece that I’m either really out of practice or the expectations here are just very different from what Bud would have loved. Either way, I’m trying to figure out the learning curve as quickly as possible.

I’ve also spent most of this week with my babysitting charges, which has kept me very busy and is probably the cause of what I think is a pinched nerve in my shoulder. (The kids have developed a new game where they start from a fixed point and take turns running to me so I can swing them in circles. They never seem to get as tired as I do.) I originally interviewed for a position as their nanny, which was going to include light housework and occasional cooking as well as babysitting, but they hired a local cleaning woman to do that part instead. However, I still feel a bit like I’m the nanny anyway, since there are often small chores that I’m asked to do while the kids are napping. It’s not that I mind, necessarily, I just find it odd that they didn’t just make me the nanny in the first place.

The only difficulty I’ve come across in that position is that, this week at least, one or both of the parents have been home while I’m there with the children. This leaves me in a confused state, since I can’t really take authority with the kids while their parents (who obviously have all the authority) are there, but I’m not sure what’s expected of me otherwise. This in turn has led the parents to think that I’m not really confident dealing with their toddlers, but at least they have been nice about “teaching” me. Last night they had me stay to help with bath time after they got home. I’m actually pretty good about bath time, but they weren’t able to see that because I have no weight when Mommy is home and I just flail around trying desperately to get Thing 1 and Thing 2 to listen to me, and then Mommy just thinks I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m also decently good at figuring out how to get children to stop screaming, but I can’t do that either if they’re both running to Mom and Dad instead of letting me console them to sleep. So it’s a bit of a frustrating circle, but hopefully they’ll consider me fully trained soon and stop coming home in the middle of the routine to help me with it. I’m the babysitter; I’m supposed to get the children through the hoops and into bed so the parents can enjoy their evening, so it would help tremendously if they would go away and let me do that.

So I’ve been pretty busy lately, but I’m bringing in a bit of money and it makes me feel more useful to our household, so that in itself is a good thing. 40 days until we get on the plane to go home; 26 days until we hopefully have keys to the new apartment; 14 days until “Catching Fire” comes to theaters (we get to see it here a full 24 hours before you guys in the States); and hopefully 10 days until Meera has her stitches removed and can run and play outside like the big dog she’s getting to be. This last one is actually the most important to me right now, since the poor thing is cooped up and DRIVING ME CRAZY with the insane amount of energy that she still has.

Happy Monday to all! And wow how time flies…

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Top Ten Thursday – A Crash Course in Toddlers

I recently started babysitting for an Australian family here on the island and I’ve been at their house a lot this week. The girl, who I’ll call Thing 1, is 3 years old and the boy, Thing 2, is 18 months. Thing 1’s little Aussie accent kills me every time she asks me for a “biscuit” (a cookie) or tells me that her “nappie” (diaper, she wears one during naps) is wet. They love to go out “scooting” (on their scooters, obviously. I had to have that one explained to me and I don’t think we have a word for that in American English), but Thing 1’s favorite thing is to wear my “thongs” (flip flops! The first time she asked if she could wear them I had to stop and really think about what she was pointing to before I started laughing.)

Thing 1 has the Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar memorized, and I love when she and her brother sit in the floor together and she names the foods that he points to. Precious beyond words. But then ten minutes later she steals his truck and he bonks her on the head and the atmosphere changes dramatically. (Reminds me of me and my brother, actually, and I can practically see my mother laughing as she reads this.)

Which brings me to the Top Ten things I’ve learned about toddlers and about living with toddlers in the last 48 hours.

1. We can watch the same movie every day for a week and it doesn’t get old. In fact, if I sit on the couch with them but play Solitaire on my iPad because I’ve seen Ice Age twice this week already, Thing 1 tells me to “turn that thing off and pay attention!” (I mean, Ice Age, come on! If we’re going to watch something over and over at least let it be a good Disney movie so I can be hilariously entertaining by singing all the songs in different voices.)
2. I’ve watched infants who spit up their baby food and older kids who are completely independent, but the ages in between are impossible to feed. How do you get a child to eat anything when they are old enough to insist on feeding themselves but young enough that they refuse to sit still and eat what you give them? As their father said to me last night, “We’ve resorted to just feeding Thing 2 like he’s a caged animal.”
3. The smallest things can avoid a temper tantrum. Producing a second toy, helping one cook in the pretend kitchen while the other sets the tiny table, or even twirling around in circles and making funny noises can make them forget why they were about to start screaming. But once the screaming starts full blast, I am still at a complete loss on how to stop it. (If they were my kids I’d snatch them up and swat them. But they aren’t, so I can’t.)
4. Parents should never be home at the same time as the babysitter. First of all, it makes me feel like I’m completely incompetent because nothing I do works and Dad has to come out of his office to help; and secondly, the kids know you’re there and don’t want anything to do with me. Or they intentionally work to make me look incompetent, I haven’t really figured out which.
5. The most well-behaved angels during the day can still turn into toy-stealing, sister-bonking, pushing, crying, tattling creatures at about 30 minutes to bedtime.
6. Little kids sleep a lot. Two-hour afternoon naps and then bedtime at 7 for Thing 2 and 7:30 for Thing 1. I haven’t stayed with them in the morning yet, but I’m sort of hoping they take morning naps too because tomorrow (Thursday, so probably as you are reading this) I’ll be here from 7:30 a.m. to lunchtime. I’m sure naptimes are when parents actually get things done, but I’m scared to do anything for fear of waking them up!
7. They will never want to do what you want to do. If I want to play with the kitchen, they want to race cars across the living room floor. If I want to build a tower, they want to have a tea party. Etc etc.
8. Thing 1 will antagonize her brother for no reason at all. Simply to do it, I suppose. (Which, again, I probably still do to my brother.)
9. But then they can turn around and be such sweet siblings. Thing 1 will run to take Dog to Thing 2 when he forgets it. Thing 2 will retrieve a ball that rolled away from Thing 1 and give it back. They will hug and snuggle and Thing 2 will sit in Thing 1’s lap and it’s all very adorable. Until the next change in the winds….
10. There really is no good way to have multiple children. If they are too close together they cause more chaos; farther apart makes one able to help watch the other. BUT, too far apart means they don’t nap at the same times and you don’t get this lovely block of silence in the middle of your day, and it takes you longer to have them all (and then, on the flip side, to get them all out of the house).

I’ve been around lots of children and I’m pretty good with them, but I suppose you can never be expected to know how to handle everything until you have them for yourself.

Do you have any suggestions on how to entertain small children inside the house? Ways to calm screaming meltdowns? What about just funny words your kids made up when they were little?

…Let’s Wait a Little While Longer…

The mister and I became parents Saturday before last.

Well, ok, temporary parents.

A coworker of mine has two little girls, ages 8 and 3, and needed some time alone to pack their house in peace. Enter the Chesnuts.

We picked the girls up at around 1:30, unsure if the youngest daughter, who is typically very clingy, would even let Mommy out of her sight. But, to the shock of her mother, she went quietly – content to ride in the car regardless of who happened to be driving.

After two hours at the city park and another at a McDonald’s play place, the mister and I returned the girls alive and (mostly) well. The baby was actually sound asleep when we got her home, to the joy and relief of her mother. I’m pretty sure we got bonus points for that, even though she’s now limping (it was a short fall and it’s not swollen!).

While we both enjoyed our little foray into parenthood, the mister and I collapsed onto our bed at around 6:30 that night and agreed we had learned several things:

  • Our quiet rides in the car are limited. Once we have children they will never stop talking.
  • It really is hard to concentrate on driving when the little ones are reaching for things, asking for things and messing with each other behind you.
  • The delighted shriek when you pull out Dum-Dums lollipops is both ear-splitting and adorable.
  • McDonald’s really doesn’t put enough food in a happy meal after a long, hard afternoon of playing.
  • My shoulders are too old to enjoy the monkey bars.
  • When you are 8, “base” is wherever you happen to be standing when you get too tired to run any farther.

As I stood at the McDonalds counter and ordered two girls’ happy meals while juggling a baby on my hip and another asking for her drink cup, it occurred to me that, if these children were my own, I would have been 14 when the oldest was born. I wonder how many of the parents behind me were silently doing the same math.

I know of some young women my age who have kids in school. In SCHOOL!! I can’t imagine having a child in utero, much less in kindergarten!

I went through a period of HORRIBLE baby fever this past spring. It was to the point that I couldn’t even play with other babies without crying because I wanted my own so badly. Now I’ve mostly moved on, although I still feel a slight twinge when the really adorable ones go by.

Watching the girls helped reinforce the reality that, while we do want children and the girls were very well behaved, the mister and I are not quite ready to have our own yet. A few more years and several more afternoon babysitting jobs under our belts and we’ll see what happens.