Tag Archives: babysitting

Call the Red Cross. Because you can’t get there on the Web.


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My oldest is taking the Red Cross Babysitting Course today — we signed up for it online, to save ten whole dollars, which believe me, we earned, since the Red Cross web site is a natural disaster in itself: unbelievably torturous to navigate. It’s as if they deliberately hide information in an online labyrinth, sending users click after click in a nearly endless search for the one small piece of information they seek.

Armed, even, with the course number of the babysitting course, once we stumbled on the “Take A Class” section, the course refused to manifest itself for registering.

My daughter and I, stymied, at last puzzled out that we could excavate the registration page by searching for the course by NOT using the course number as a parameter – or using ANY search parameters at all.

(Smart girl, that babysitter-to-be.)

The services they offer, of course, are as good as their web site is bad, so I have far higher hopes for the class itself. It’s a full-day gig, and my eldest, usually a late-morning weekend sleeper, was up and ready for it. She’s got an ulterior motive: a babysitter certified by the Red Cross is WAY more likely to be rolling in jobs and cash than your average 12-year-old.

Add to that a mom with a graphic design background, and a neighborhood to post flyers in, and my little entrepreneur has dollar signs in her eyes.

To her credit, though, she also sallied forth with a notebook, pen, and a willing spirit to soak up everything the class has to offer: particularly, I warned her, the part in the course description that says “How to Communicate with Parents.”

This, I told her, is one of the key breakdown points in a babysitter’s career.

As an enterprising 12-year-old myself, I recalled one disastrous episode where I managed to keep a panicky hold on three human toddlers for about eight solid hours, even managing to get them all to sleep. Their humanity was questionable, although they were unquestionably primates; their ability to hang from the ceiling and from any small outcropping on the wall or high dresser proved that.

The kids trashed the already-messy house, but remained somehow alive and relatively clean themselves by the end of the grueling day. When the mother — tall, blonde, and blithe — finally arrived home to relieve me — tiny, disheveled, and exhausted — she was insanely furious that I had not, somehow, also cleaned her house, as well as feeding, cleaning, and caring for her maniacal tots.

She refused to pay me my one dollar an hour fee.

This was before I developed my full-blown nerve, and while I was still under the constraints my parents had deeply instilled in me never to shout profanity at, or smack the bejesus out of, grownups. I was a polite, respectful kid. I felt hot tears in the back of my near-sighted eyes, and a large, even hotter lump in the back of my throat.

I simply fled.

Lucky for me, my mother was the same sort of mad grizzly bear that I am now. Furthermore, my mother had been counting on robbing me of my babysitting money, which augmented her fury. She marched over, breathed dragon fire on the blonde welcher, and returned triumphantly with my cash, which at least I got to look at before it ended up in my mother’s purse.

Thus I illustrated to my own daughter: make it clear up front that cleaning the children, not the house, is what you are being hired to do.

I am certain the Red Cross will have the perfect words for that concept.

Not only that, the Red Cross class includes infant care – something I myself learned on the job, way back when. It’s startling, really, how desperate some people are to get out of the house, that they’ll leave the very youngest infants with the very youngest pre-teens, including clueless ones such as myself. How could they be sure that I was as nervously watchful as I was? It took ages to figure out which end of the diaper went where.

I remember calling my mother, who was absolutely no help at all with those odd plastic tape things, since I, apparently, was a cloth diaper baby – oh, she just dropped them in a box and someone brought clean ones to the house. And – funny story, she used to stick me with pins… Okay, Mom, thanks anyway, gotta go, there’s weird green stuff coming out of this baby now…

The worst thing I ever did was eat my employers out of house and home once the kids were asleep. (Once, bored out of my mind, I ate an entire box of Wheat Thins out of someone’s pantry. Kindly, the woman told me next time to please simply tell her what I’d like to have around and she’d stock it for me. I wanted to sink through the floor.)

So I will be supremely thankful to the Red Cross for giving my daughter the kinds of heads-up on infant care that a mother simply can’t.

Although my daughter and I DID have a talk the other night that was both reassuring and profoundly disturbing at the same time.

“There are a lot of girls at my school who are trying to get their boyfriends to get them pregnant,” my (only) 12-year-old said.

Me: (putting on my stone face, in an only half-successful attempt to disguise my inner “OMG!” and resorting to “Old Faithful”) How do you feel about that?

Her: I think they’re idiots.

Me: (at last able to exhale.) Why’s that?

Her: Because they don’t realize that once they actually HAVE a baby, they’ve got to take care of it. Like getting up at 1 o’clock to feed it, you know?

Me: (unable to resist driving the point home) Like getting up at 1 o’clock to feed it. And then again at 2 o’clock, maybe. And then at 3, waking up to change the nastiest diaper you ever saw or smelled. Then, just as you fall back asleep at 3:45, the baby wakes up again hungry. Then at 6, it’s feeding time again. Every two hours, around the clock – for months, until you’re desperate for sleep, and you can’t believe you’re being tortured like this, and the baby hasn’t even smiled yet.

Her: (looking at me, and blinking impassively.) Yeah, that’s sort of what I meant.

Me: (catching my breath) I’m not really a baby person.

Her: I get that. Don’t worry, Mom. I’m in no rush.

Me: Okay, good. Okay, then.

Her: My friend says she’s not going to have sex until she gets married.

Me: (unable to exhale again.) Yeah?

Her: My friend is an idiot.

Me: (exhaling tentatively.) Well, you know you can always talk to me. You don’t want to get pregnant before you’re ready, and you certainly don’t want to die. So talk to me, okay?

Her: (grinning.) I will. You’re fun to watch.

This is definitely a kid who can be trusted. After all, I ruthlessly use her to watch our youngest all the time, and when she’s on the job, I never worry for a second. That’s saying a lot. 

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Gonna Stomp Me Some Kittens, Right Soon.


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kittenOne of our cats, Louie, is not a boy cat. We know this because kittens sprouted on her teats six weeks ago, to my horror and the girls’ joy.

Louie now sports the moniker “Lulu.”

It all began in a semi-nasty puddle on my old wedding dress, which I’ll admit was no actual tragedy. Unlike some anal-retentive brides, I’d never gone to great – or any – lengths to preserve what had once, in my lily-of-the-valley childhood insanity, been the biggest dress in the room.

It wasn’t even hanging up, to tell you the truth. One thing Lu knows, though, is the importance of comfort. Silk fluffiness? She’s all over it, literally – at least until she got sick of her claws catching in the tulle. As a matter of fact, that was just how I felt that day. Except I could kick off my heels and be the barefoot bride, scandalizing my family.

Lu, not caring about scandalizing anyone, simply snuggled up and oozed all over the thing.

Still – like I said: no tragedy. I’m ludicrously small, at five-foot, one inches tall, a size six on my fat days. Everyone is bigger than I am. Strangely, even as an adult, nodding acquaintances are often seized by the extremely annoying urge to lift me up in the air. Formal announcement: this is only fun for me when Peter does it. Otherwise, it is officially creepy.

My daughters? Not only are people bold enough to take me in their meaty paws and bench me, they are also bold enough to say things like: “Holy cow, they don’t look a thing like you. Does that bother you?”

As if I would burst into tears and unload right there to them if it did, which of course, it doesn’t. Neither of them look anything like me, nor do they look anything like each other. The three of us, together, look like the random assembly of pieces you use when you lose the top hat, the racecar and the other metal game bits in Monopoly and have to make do with whatever’s lying around. We like that about us. Variety.

The one thing they DO have in common, that they DON’T have in common with me is that they’re tall. They’re built like their dad’s side of the family. Even their maternal grandmother is five-ten. My eleven-year-old is already a few inches taller than I am. My nine-year-old is catching up. So the prospect of either one of them ever wearing the aforementioned wedding dress is laughable. Almost as laughable as the idea of those sleeves ever coming back into style.

The best they’d get out of it would be a sentimental hanky scrap. So we’re still fine; there must be an ooze-free section left.

Amongst the ooze, though, slept how many? Three, four, oh, no! Five, count ’em, five! Five kittens. I’d never seen kittens this new; uglier creatures – besides my own newborns – I’d never seen.

Newborns are hideous; there’s a reason the body floods a new mother with hormones that make her go giddy-stupid with love. They’re covered with something that looks like ricotta cheese. They’ve just gone through the equivalent of a pasta maker, which is not the best look for a creature whose skull is still soft. Their skin has not yet settled on which color it wants to be, so it’s still experimenting with the cooler shades of the color wheel, like purple and blue. Their eyes are squeezed shut, giving them an angry-looking grimace, and they’re usually crying.

Nevertheless, biologists have determined – I know this, because my kids are addicted to the Discovery Channel – that we are wired to find all this overwhelmingly, compellingly adorable.

Even satirists. The three of us, as different as we are, in looks, in build, in temperament, all responded exactly the same way: “AAAWWWW….”

The little things got cuter every day, stupid things. Two of them had the nerve, even, to be long-haired cats, to weaken our knees, although to my enormous relief, the really beautiful black and brown one is a nasty son of a gun.

“We can’t keep them.”

“But-“

“We cannot keep them.”

“But-“

“We already have three cats…”

“But-“

“One large dog…”

“But-“

“Two ferrets…”

“Nobody likes the ferrets.”

“Then let’s get rid of the ferrets!” I suggested happily.

“But-“

“Okay, then someone ELSE change the cat pan,” I suggested happily.

“But-“

“We are NOT keeping them.”

“But-“

“Okay, maybe ONE.”

“YAY!”

Since then, the kittens have grown – and grown. Still incredibly cute, but it makes them look hilarious when they’re not quite done nursing, but Lu’s had quite enough, thanks. They hang by her nipples, dragging along the floor. Lulu gets up, nonchalantly striding away as if she barely notices she’s got five other cats a third her size dangling there.

They eventually give up and dart for the kitten chow. Although Tucker Dog, who seriously thinks he IS a cat, has a serious taste for seafood, so the cat food doesn’t last long on the floor. The dog food languishes in the bowl, but the cat food? Forget it. They all compete for it. You’d think Tucker would win, seeing as how he outweighs even the adult cats seven to one – but he’s terrified of the geriatric cats, who treat him like the dorky kid in school, and won’t let him eat lunch at the cool table.

Even the kittens swagger around Tucker, who dotes on them like a massive, slobbering uncle. He even babysits for Lulu – Heaven only knows how they worked this out – and herds the kittens into the dining room, watching them like the part Shepherd he is, while Lulu naps upstairs, blissfully ignoring her offspring.

It’s quite a sight, watching a giant black dog, the pressure and anxiety clear on his face, kittens in his mouth, setting this one here, running after that one…

Tucker is tuckered out by the end of the day.

But that’s not why I’m ready to stomp the kittens. Heck – whatever Lu and Tuck have worked out between them, it’s none of my business.

Although technically my “bedroom” is upstairs, it’s currently in a state of utter disaster. I started “renovating” it (see my other blog, The Cool Tool Girl) and so I am currently sleeping in my studio on the futon, which turns into a very comfortable double bed.

Cats – and kittens – are nocturnal animals. So while they rest adorably in laundry baskets and on couch pillows during the day, charming the pants off of all who gaze with eyes a-watering, at night, while I am desperately attempting to get some much-needed shut-eye, they gallop through the house like a team of Budweiser Clydesdales.

This part is not a joke. You simply would not believe how much freakin’ noise a set of five kittens makes on a one-hundred-year-old hardwood floor from underneath.

You would think they were all wearing tiny engineer boots, or Doc Martens or something.

Either way, it’s a struggle each night to remain in bed, and not to stumble up the staircase in my own engineer boots, flick the lights on and start stomping out the noise.

Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat! Thump. Meow… Splat!

Ah. Blessed silence.

Clean up this mess in the morning.

Saves me a trip to the shelter.

Oh, wait – take back one thump. Meow… Splat! We’re keeping one of the longhairs. Since Anne wanted a name in French, we’re calling it “Touffu.” Means “fluffy.”

Lucky Fluffy.

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