Saturday, May 28, 2005

Yes, yes, I've been out of touch. You hardly recognize me. Suffice to say that during my silence there have been more childcare dramas, but that for now things seem ok. The first drama was that another family was trying to hire The Nanny for every afternoon of the week, and we were trying to figure out if we should just drop her, or attempt to do sharecare with this family across town, or what. But they ended up not hiring her, so now we're safe until the next potential job comes up for The Nanny. And now I'm realizing the big pitfall of working part time: Part time childcare is really hard to arrange. I even found about a potentially cool (though expensive) Montessouri preschool/daycare with a Mandarin immersion program, that takes kids starting at 18 months. But of course, they only take kids 5 days a week. And to pay for that, I'd wanna be working full time, that's for sheezy. Which I don't want to be.

But on to the real challenge for us these days: Culture clash with The Nanny. She has decided that Nutmeg is too skinny, and that it is her job to make up for our failure to adequately nourish her. Which means she keeps buying stuff that we don't want Nutmeg to eat and bringing it to our house, and ignoring the food we do want her to eat that is so inviting arranged on Nutmeg's own shelf of the fridge. And then of course, we have to reimburse her for the food we didn't want her to buy. Erik showed her Trader Joe's near our house, in case she has to buy whole milk for the kids when we're out of it, and when she came back she complained to me, "They don't have baby food there."
"She doesn't need to eat baby food anymore," I told her for the 1,000th time. "She's big."
"But she likes to eat the sweet potatoes. She needs to eat more."

Uh-huh. This is after Erik explained that our doctor said her weight is healthy and that it's normal for breastfed babies to be a little lighter than others at this age.

But then I was chatting with a copy editor at work about the situation, and the woman told me that she is married to a Chinese/Korean-American. So she is blessed with a Chinese mother in law and sister in law. And they're always trying to stuff more food into her kids too, and of course not the food she approves of.

"I think you're just going to have to accept the culture if you want her to learn the language," she told me. "Maybe it will help her understand the culture more anyway."

That's a thought. If we want Nutmeg to learn the Chinese language but we don't want her caregivers to act Chinese, she'll be as clueless as we are to truly communicate with the people she's trying to talk to.

But damnit, it's annoying for someone to not accept that you're the parent and your word goes. Well, who knows. Epu keeps applying for Chicago jobs, so maybe we won't be here much longer anyway. Then again, last time I thought he was applying for jobs it turns out he was in hour 5 of tinkering with his firewall. So maybe we will be here, for much longer.

On the upside, Nutmeg has added a third Chinese word to her vocabulary: "Chou." Which means, "stinky." She says it when she's getting her diaper changed. And yep, that's cute.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

OK, potential moms, listen up.

One year into this whole "baby" thing, I realize we made a purchase error. It's the diaper pail. Get a small one, because once your baby is eating solids, you are going to want to empty it every day. If you get a nice tall one, you will enjoy six months of convenience when you can let the diapers pile up for 3, 4 days and then haul a gigantic superheavy garbage back outside. Careful -- it's so heavy it might break.

But then when your baby's a year old and her "Acts of Congress," as Dave Barry put it, are rank as hell, you're not going to want to go to bed at night with a single dookie lying in that plastic box right next to your bed. Well, ok, some people don't live in San Francisco where a second bedroom is a status symbol akin to a private jet in other places. Get a small pail and you can use those plastic bags from the grocery store in it instead of full size kitchen bags, so then you won't feel bad about wasting a whole new bag every time you want to take out the dookies.

I didn't go for those Diaper Genie/Diaper Dekor type things. Seemed too complicated and kind of wasteful to me, what with the shrink wrapping of each individual diaper. Besides, they got mixed reviews -- some people say they get really stinky inside and are hard to clean -- and who wants to spend a bunch of money on something that might not work out?

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Have applied paint stripper to the bottom half of the beams on our back porch and am waiting for the 15 minutes or so to pass so i can scrape it off. This is so we can get the pest guy to spray some of the wood for powder post beetles. As unlikely as it sounds, I'm excited to be doing this because IT IS SOMETHING OTHER THAN SEARCHING FOR, EVALUATING OR WORRYING ABOUT CHILDCARE.

Speaking of which, this past week was the first one of nannying. The Nanny still seems great, especially since when I got home at the end of the first day, Nutmeg was happily playing with her new playmate the Jewnese boy (you know, let's call him the Sharebear. He's such a cuddly little cutie.) and she didn't even stop to crawl over to me, demand to be picked up, or nursed, or anything. This was NOT the baby i found at the end of a daycare day. So yes, it's worth the sinking feeling I got on Friday when I came home from work and wrote a check amounting to half of what I would take home for the week. We'll pay less if we find another family to share during the time the Sharebear's not there.

Of course, it will take some time for me to get used to my home being someone else's workplace. This was not the first sign, but probably the most emblematic to me: Erik sat down in the rocking chair and said, "Somebody moved your chair." Then he cowered in the corner, because even though he didn't do it, he knows what a bitch I can be when I find out someone moved my rocking chair. In our tiny apartment, there is really only one position that chair can be in so it can rock without hitting the wall, the bookshelf or the table.

But uncharacteristically, I have held back with criticism when I've seen The Nanny doing things I wouldn't do. Like when I came home yesterday, she was spoonfeeding Nutmeg baby food from the jar. Now, this sounds just like what a nanny should be doing, right? Except that Nutmeg, at 12 months, is very capable of spoonfeeding herself, she just makes a big mess. I've noticed that Chinese parents don't use bibs, and they spoonfeed even older babies to avoid a mess. The Sharebear's mom, who is Chinese, confirmed this. Plus, I don't want Nutmeg eating jarred food when the fridge is full of fresh produce including some broccoli that had been minced just for her, plus, if you're going to feed her jarred food, you need to put some in a bowl so you don't contaminate the whole jar with mouth cooties.

Did I unleash a tirade of The Nanny's heinous misdeeds on her? I'm proud to say I didn't. My god, I realized, the woman knows how she likes to take care of kids, and as long as she isn't doing something harmful to Nutmeg, I'm going to have to let her do her job the way she sees fit. Sure, I'll hide the jarred food next week -- we use it for outings and emergencies -- and maybe put a list of "Nutmeg's favorite foods" on the fridge. But it's not going to stall Nutmeg's motor development to sit back and let The Nanny feed her two days a week. Aren't you proud of me? OK, I'm insane. But those of you who are moms, admit it: After a few months of taking care of your child, you develop pretty fixed ideas of how they should be cared for. I know I will spend the rest of my mothering life letting other people make more and more decisions for Nutmeg -- what she learns in school, what she eats during preschool snack, what she wears on stage in the school play -- and, holy cow, she'll even start making wild and ill-advised decisions of her own someday soon. But it's hard, dammit!

OK, gotta go scrape paint.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

So nice having two days at home with Nutmeg this week after last week's frantic day care tour. Trying to get her to drink cow's milk with little to no success. Various sundry cute things she has done lately:

-- Sit outside the bathroom door while Epu showers.
-- Pick up a remote control, but it to her ear like a phone, and say "Dad? Dad?"
-- When her Leapstart Learning Table says "Hello," respond "Hi."

Not so cute:

-- Pinch mommy, on the boob if possible, and delightedly say, "Ow. Ow!"
-- When Eliot comes over to play, grab whatever toy he's trying to play with and hold it away from him.

Fortunately, now that Eliot is crawling, he's striking back. His favorite move, as of yesterday: Grab her sweater hood and pull as she's trying to crawl away. If he succeeds in getting close enough, bite her on the shoulder.

"Ow. Ow!" She didn't like that very much. But this is the girl who used to crawl up to an immobile Eliot and just grab his face, and also the girl who liked to pick up a big plastic toy and bash him in the face with it. So, on behalf of Eliot, I have to tell her: Turnabout is fair play, missy.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Man, you full-time working moms, I salute you. Because of this week's childcare marathon, I feel like I've been working full time this week, and it feels... exhausted. I'm so tired that when I come home at night and do all that "make-up" playing with Nutmeg and tuck her in bed, I barely have enough energy to remind myself to put those mother's day cards in the mail the next day and maybe eat a pint of ice cream before falling asleep. That same bucket of laundry that I washed Monday, on my last day "off," is still sitting in the closet, waiting to be put away. The only real housework that's been done around here was done on Wednesday by The Nanny. The Nanny who said, "I like to clean up, when I have time, OK?" as if it would be kindness itself if I granted her this favor. Also the same Nanny who said, "Can I ask you, I like to cut the babies' fingernails, can I cut her fingernails?" Gee, our very favorite job, Nanny. I don't know if I can grant you that privelege.

So yeah, I love The Nanny. And Nutmeg is taking to her too. We are definitely going with her at least one day a week. The home daycare, meanwhile, is not such a winner. Nutmeg was there all day today -- the worry from which really explains my exhaustion I guess -- and although it is very clean and very safe, and the grandmotherly caregiver there is very concerned that the babies are warm enough and that they eat, I don't think I want Nutmeg there every week. She supervises the babies, but she doesn't play with them too much. And when I showed up at five, she told me Nutmeg had slept from 3 to 4. But she was still in the playpen where she slept. So apparently the daycare lady had let her stand around in her playpen for an hour after she woke up. Although, come to think of it, she said she'd just changed her diaper, so i guess she got her up, changed her, and put her back in there for some reason. When I did my observation day I saw her leave one of the other 2 kids who go there in the playpen for that long after he had woken up. She actually played with him off and on, but for some reason she kept him in there.

But the Nanny is constantly talking with Nutmeg, playing with her, and is a real sweetie.

sigh, i just wrote a ton of stuff about our first day in daycare, then accidentally deleted it. so i'll just say that i cabbed over there at noon, and she was already asleep -- Daycare Lady let her cry herself to sleep -- and I picked her up to nurse her because i felt bad about not bringing enough breastmilk for her. She had only been sleeping 20 minutes, and she did not go back to sleep after being nursed. Whoops, sorry, i had to tell Daycare Lady, and then i took the bus back to work. Both times Nutmeg saw me arrive, she was very excited and happy, and didn't have the "mommy meltdown" that tells you she's really been freaking out about your absence. So that was good.

The whole day though, as soon as i felt myself getting absorbed in my work, i'd have that feeling i get in dreams a lot, when i realize that i'd forgotten about my baby and she hadn't eaten in a week or forgotten that i was supposed to be trying to get to the airport as soon as i found my airplane ticket.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Yegads. The childcare roller coaster continues. So, last night The Nanny called us back and asked, how much can you pay per hour? We told her that each family could pay her $9 an hour. She said she'd call back today. Today she calls and says yep, she'll take it. I spend naptime researching certain issues I won't go into here. I leave a message with the Jewnese family (the called themselves a bicultural Jewish/Chinese family in their initial e-mail) asking if they're still up for it. I go out to the Post Office and the park and come back to a message from the Jewneses saying they're definitely still interested and to call back. So we eat dinner, put Nutmeg to bed, Epu queues up a West Wing dvd, and I call them.

We talk about The Nanny for a minute or two, then the Jewnese mom suddenly suggests that we consider forming a little co-op instead, taking care of each other's kids' one day a week apiece.

Not that that's a bad idea. I'm just _so_ tired of evaluating options. The Jewnese dad apparently has been championing the idea of alternating care with someone, while the wife was resistant. But once she met Nutmeg, she changed her mind. They didn't say they were concerned about the cost of paying The Nanny -- they're apparently pretty well off -- but they did say they were concerned about how we would handle compensation if one kid was sick or otherwise couldn't come. Then they said they'd be traveling a lot in the next few months, that their son had only been attending the day care he's in now about 60% of the time due to illness.

We agreed that the Pu family (epu, cpu and bpu) will visit the Jewnese family on Saturday afternoon at 3:30 to discuss this possibility further. And now I'm going to lie awake another night with all kinds of questions swirling in my head. What am I supposed to do with my kid while these people are out of town? Would I hate having to spend one of my two weekdays off taking care of an extra kid? Would the Jewnese mom be a good caregiver? (Not if she's just doing this becauase her husband's making her.) Will she speak Mandarin to the kids? She already said that they gave up on having her speak Mandarin to their son because it was too confusing.

And what about background checks???? This one issue has been such a stumbling block for me. We'd be up for background checking ourselves but what will they think about that?

And what about this wonderful nanny we found?

God, I'm so tired of all this. Tomorrow we're going for a practice day at the home daycare, and the next day The Nanny is coming here for a practice day. Where is Nutmeg going while I work Thursday and Friday? The Nanny says she isn't available until next week. So I hope she's going to the home day care.

I'm typing this while watching The West Wing and now Supernanny. It's all just stressing me out more. And do you know what those Jewnese parents are doing? They're in their hot tub.

Yes, rich is better. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Before Part II of our childcare saga, let me treat you to this posting found in the childcare section of Craigslist:

I'd like to emphasize that Parents don't realize of a very important thing when they interview nannies. It's understandable to ask for references, but did you know , how bothering there is for families to keep receiving tons of calls from so many families nannies apply to? i know its necessary to check on references but i understand that getting so many calls from new families , we're applying with , bothers families.... Parents , you should trust in people who show you everything you asked them for,and not make the job starting date take so long by asking for trial days,etc. There are still lots of honest and good nannies who really love children and would be willing to give you copies of their documents ,so you feel safer about them,but It's illegal to get copies of that, so please parents, trust in us , in all we show you.

Ah, yes, parents. Please be considerate and quit checking our references.

So, our potential nanny came over today and she's a darling woman. Nutmeg loves her, in fact when she was leaving Nutmeg threw her arms around the nanny's neck for a goodbye hug. And the family who's thinking about doing sharecare with us were all lovely too. Happy story, yes? Except that this nanny charges $12 an hour PER KID. Not only could we not afford to pay that, I don't think anyone else will pay her that either. I adore this woman, but she only has five years of experience, no formal training, is not registered with Trustline, and her command of English is just OK. None of this stops me from wanting to hire her, I'm just saying, she's not going to get the $24 an hour she's looking for to watch two kids.
Soooo, a few hours after she came over, she called to ask how much we *could* pay. Now she's thinking about it and seeking advice from her current employer, whose daughter is going off to preschool. I'm thinking she's going to take it.

Meanwhile, we're going to do a test day Tuesday with the muuuch cheaper home daycare. Will I ever sleep again? The implications of employing someone are boggling my mind. She wants to make enough money to pay rent in San Francisco. Gee, how demanding of her! Why am I so mean that I won't pay her what she needs to get by? Oh, I don't know. I just have this inclination not to give her *more* of my takehome pay than I keep. Anyway, I'm hoping I can help her find more work to fill out her schedule so she can earn more money. If we hire her.