Monday, August 23, 2010

Not-Quite Campers

Camping, in my mind, is about as American as hot dogs at a baseball game. Well, as American as I am, one of those experiences will forever remain a mystery, and the other I am proud to add to my list of have-dones. Here's a clue: I have not consumed a weird link of red meat since approximately fourth grade.

We did our research (mainly by asking all of our camper-friends if we could borrow all of their stuff), and I'm still not sure why EVERY single person we told about our impending getaway started laughing. Like, out loud. I even remember one person saying, "you guys know that camping is outside, right?" Very funny. We get it. We're not exactly outdoorsy people. Well, we were about to prove everyone wrong. We could be outdoorsy. So we packed up and headed out. To a state park that had a hotel on the premises. Just in case.

With literally NO idea what to expect, we eagerly pulled up to a square patch of land. Were we in the right spot? Where the heck was the tent supposed to go? There's no possible way that this was the entire thing.

Well, after looking around, we quickly learned our place on the camping food chain. Our neighbors to the left had a humongous camper set up, complete with American flag lights illuminating their front entry way. The man of the site was sitting comfortably in his lawn chair sipping beer out of a can (the ultimate camping image), and his wife was sitting quietly knitting (a little weirder, but whatev.) These people hadn't left the site in at least a month. Probably longer. The family across the little dirt path had not one, but TWO deluxe looking tents. Each family member was going to get their own room in the first tent, and the second one was made completely of screen and comfortably held all of their food and supplies. We, on the other hand, came fully prepared with a single tent and a cooler. And so we got to work.

About an hour later, the tent was up, and the air mattress was blown up. In case you're wondering, a tent is supposed to look more like a pyramid than an oval, and an under-inflated air mattress is not sleep-conducive, even a little. Yeah, your tent isn't QUITE supposed to look like this:

Oh well, who cares? It worked just fine. And who needed fancy lights or deluxe tents, anyway? We had EACH OTHER. And we were CAMPING. (And oh yeah, NO- we didn't bring the boys. Another thing that people laughed at. We intelligently left them home. There was just no sense in forging unknown territory with two toddlers who sleep with their lights on.)

WOW! Things sure do get dark fast out in the woods. Between the darkest dark ever, the under-inflated mattress, the noise in the trees (bugs? frogs? Don't know, and don't care. But they were ridiculously loud), who could risk shutting their eyes? And I swear I heard raccoons walk across the edge of our tarp, which was also known as 6 inches from my face. When the sun came up and I realized I had been awake for the past 24 hours, I learned that my fellow camper had slept with a pocket knife next to his head, and had had visions of waking up to a bear looking him right in the face. Were these normal camping experiences?

At that point, he handed me the knife and told me to keep it in my pocket as I walked down the dirt path to buy us coffee and freezie pops. (Skip the judgements, please. Yes, we ate freezie pops on our camping trip.) I wasn't quite sure what he expected me to do with it, or even what I would have done had I been faced with the ultimate dangerous situation, but I was armed. So there I stumbled- bags under my bloodshot eyes (all that campfire smoke was killer), and the outline of a knife bulging out of the side of my leg, daring danger to come and find me.

Well, day two went surprisingly smoothly. We made breakfast sandwiches over the campfire, went hiking, had a picnic, tossed some beanbags into little holes, and hung out. No Blackberry, no Internet, no children, and NO hotel room! Just us, some trees, and some great people watching. We loved camping!

The next morning came quickly, and after finally having gotten some sleep (after passing out from pure exhaustion), we were ready to pack up and head home. Since we had never fully unpacked the car to begin with ("let's just keep everything in the trunk so that animals can't get to it"), the site took about 10 minutes to tear down. With visions of hot showers and clean sheets in our heads, we jumped in the front seats, and I turned the key. Hmmm, weird. I turned it again. Another note to self: If you don't drive your car for a few days, yet you keep opening and closing all of the doors and the trunk, your battery will die. We had been wondering all weekend why everyone had all of their stuff laying all over their site, instead of in their trunks. I guess we found our answer.

Luckily, Resident Camper to the left had a set of jumper cables, and was eager to help, snickering inside his head the whole time, I'm sure. I guess we're not quite campers, after all. But we're close. And we WILL try again. Maybe next time we'll even roast some hot dogs over that killer campfire.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Nanny Finale

There was a knock on the door and standing on the other side was a sight I've truly never seen. A woman who had very clearly just dyed her own hair/forehead a weird shade of red was standing there with some red lipstick that had landed on her front tooth, smiling a very toothy smile. She was wearing a solid purple 80's style sweatsuit, and the elastic-banded ankles came up just past her white socks. As she walked in to my dining room, I couldn't help but imagine just how many cats she owned. You have experience? REALLY??? Who hired you????

Then there was the girl who stood on my step looking like she hadn't eaten in months, with jet black hair, a skunk stripe of blonde, about 50 earrings and 51 tattoos. She came in (yes, I let her in, trying my hardest not to judge based on looks) and told me that she could start "whenever because I sit at home and don't do nothing." Ok, well, it looks like that'll be your agenda for a while longer. Good luck finding a job with small children. See you.

Or I suppose I could have hired the girl who showed up wearing a wool cardigan sweater even though it was 94 degrees out. She sat on the edge of her seat as my children started going crazy around her. It was dinner time, they were hot, and she was the third candidate to come through the house that day. It's called a TEST, girl- you have experience, right? Why then, did you not pick up on the fact that our family clearly wasn't a good match for you? Now, I'm not a genius or anything, but I'm pretty sure that if a kid whipped a matchbox car at MY head at full speed, I would consider the interview over.

After about 20 more inquiries, and 20 more "No's" (not enough experience, not old enough, too old, not a good enough personality, seems lazy, just not "It"), I was starting to think that maybe this whole "going back to work" thing was a bad idea. Maybe all these weirdos were a sign, after all. Maybe there truly IS no one good enough for my kids (Oh my God- am I THAT mom?). Maybe *GASP* WE are the weird ones. NO, that's definitely not it. We're probably the most normal family a babysitter will ever meet. People should be ecstatic to work for us. Right?? Right???

Between Ty having the most ridiculous stomach bug imaginable, and the ridiculous amount of anxiety that this whole hiring process was giving me, I was really having a glorious week. (These people were sounding so perfect in emails and on the phone- what was the problem??? ) But then, after the fourth night of literally getting three minutes of sleep, she applied. I have no idea why I even gave this girl a chance to prove herself. After all, she didn't fit the profile we had created in our minds at all. (But then again, that profile wasn't working out so well, was it?) But it wasn't even us who picked her- it was the boys. She walked in (at dinner time again- it very easily could have gotten ugly). Ty (who's even more judgmental than I) instantly started talking and playing (or was it flirting?) with her. CJ actually looked up from his crack addiction (Yo Gabba Gabba) and answered her questions. It probably helped her case to be young and very pretty, but whatever. She won.

Is she the best ever? I don't know. (Is anyone the BEST?) Will she be great? Probably. And will she make my transition back to work (full-time for the first time in three years!) easier? You bet.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Looking for Mary Poppins

Since this is now our fourth round of this game, I am declaring myself seasoned. I have finally learned how to accurately interpret the profiles of "professional" nannies. Just as I've learned that when I read a student of mine is a "social individual who likes to express himself verbally" I can really expect a disruptive, hyperactive, pain-in-the-ass to show up at my classroom door; I've also learned what to expect when I read the following terms in these profiles:

College Student: I will show up mostly on time and take care of your kids, but I will also call in sick after a long night of partying without thinking twice. On weekends, please pay me in cash and be home in time for me to make it to last call.

25 Years Old: I'll show up every day and take good care of your kids, but I would really prefer one of my own. Please do not act surprised if I tell you I'm either engaged or pregnant. Additionally, either of those things will take ALL of my attention, and I'll totally lose interest in my job.

Certified Teacher: I really love kids and will probably engage them in some pretty great activities, but the second a better job comes along, I will drop your family with the quickness and never look back. Year-long commitment? What's that?

has grown children Since my own kids have grown up, I will now tell you how to be a parent, and will act as though your children are my own. I will probably be overly annoying with the gifts and will tell too many stories about how many children I've "raised" over the years.

So who then, IS qualified to take care of my darling angels? Well, I thought the 40-something mother/nurse/dietitian from England would have been ideal. Loving? Check. Competent? Check. Ran when I uttered the word "taxes"? Check. Same story goes for the charismatic 30-year-old med school drop-out from Canada. I now have an addendum to my ad.

In fact, it now reads something like this:

We are looking for a full-time nanny for two only slightly chaotic boys. The older one is very social, and especially enjoys expressing his desires while others are holding a conversation that doesn't include him. He is opinionated and behaves best when never asked to perform simple everyday tasks, or leave something he enjoys. Potty training is not usually an issue, but the closet floor should be checked upon his waking. The younger one is a budding actor who is anxious to be as steady on his feet as his brother. He has his very own well-stocked first-aid cabinet, should an accident occur. He has the amazing ability to take his scream to a decibel we are sure you've never heard before, and we are certain he will be excited to show off this talent. Drinking on the job is understandable, yet not encouraged (unless they can't see you. If in fact they do, just tell them you're taking a sip of "Dada's pop"). These boys are the light of our world, so you must be willing to love them at least half as much as we do. add: Candidates must have greencard.

Interpret this ad as you will. Now... who wants a job???