2 Sep
2015
Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries
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First of First

Wombat first day of first grade

Today was Wombat’s first day of first grade (FIRST GRADE), and we’ve done so much all-caps-excited talking about it for weeks on end that I was completely caught off guard last night by the sudden sneaker wave of sadness that almost knocked me off my feet as I stood staring off into the proverbial horizon of the school year. I was surprised because I’m not really sad about it at all, I swear. First grade will be awesome and he’s so ready to have the company of his friends and to get back into the routine of his classes, and I’m so ready to get back into the routine of working alone and taking trips to the grocery store that don’t feel like hostage negotiations because I’ve got one or more children terrorizing my trek through the canned goods. It’s time.

Maybe it’s just that we had too much fun right there at the end of summer. I was supposed to take all of August off work and have Wombat home with me every day for three weeks of Crazy Awesome Funtime Summer Extravaganza, but then a few projects slid into that space and he ended up spending a lot of time reading in the corner (which was mostly fine by him, thank you very much) while I worked at breakneck pace for the reward of getting my ass handed to me in Monopoly Jr. before it was time to pick up Fox from daycare. Aside from the weekend we went camping, it wasn’t until last week that I was able to wrap up worky things or put them aside for a bit and diligently suck all the marrow from the few days we had left of summer proper. (How in the world that became an acceptable metaphor is beyond me. Gross, Thoreau. Gross.) So we went rock climbing and school shopping and swimming at a pool and swimming at the boys’ first water park and we spent the day at the science museum and washed my car and built a trebuchet and read a million books and ate hot tomatoes from the backyard garden when little brother wasn’t around. When I realized last night that I was losing my crazy awesome funtime summer buddy, I guess I just got a little bummed that it was over, that he was off to a grand new adventure, leaving me behind.

Orrrrrr maybe I’m just sad that I can’t sleep in anymore.

When we were at the California Academy of Sciences on Monday, we saw the planetarium show about Earth’s place in the universe, as illustrated by a simulation of a camera zooming out from the building we were sitting in, going up through the roof, into space, and then out as far as something like 900 million light years away, from which vantage point we were treated to an illustration of how many thousands of galaxies exist, each with however many star systems and however many planets (dozens? hundreds? kajillion billions?) and all the boggling potential those places, those homes(?) could contain. Before the show started, the docent suggested that the back two rows be used for people who might need to make a hasty exit, whether because they were with a small child or were prone to motion sickness or, say, “existential horror.” Existential horror! It seemed like such a funny phrase I figured he was probably joking, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced it’s an actual clinical term for the feeling certain people get when confronted with the vastness of outer space or the infinitude of time, or even the finiteness of time within that infinitude, and probably also the panicked sensation of smallness that wells up when certain people look out to sea, or out into the future.

Horror.

Yup.

Last night, Simon turned to me as we were falling asleep and thanked me for “producing such a great first-grader” with him. “It’s weird,” I said, as our entire relationship flashed before my eyes. “It’s just so weird.”

Not missing a beat, he hit me with this certain truth: “It’s only going to get weirder.”

The rightness of that is surely adding to my surprise sadness over sending my firstborn off to his first day of first grade. The first day is special (in a way that the second day and twelfth day and fifty-first day are not) because it marks the beginning of what’s to come, and once it’s started, there’s no way of stopping it. If you can somehow postpone the first day, you should technically be able to stave off everything after, right? The first day of first grade leads to all the other days of first grade, and then second grade follows, and third and fourth and fifth and then middle school and high school, and then it’s out of the house and onto a university campus, and, as a well-dressed pig once said, “That’s all, folks.” Even not compared to the approximately 13.8 billion years between today and the Big Bang (and what was there before that?! *silent scream*), childhood goes way too fast, and it’s fair to say I’ll never ever ever catch up to its carefree clip through my personal timeline.

I’ve been told by more than one motivational poster that today is the first day of the rest of my life, but IMO that’s kind of dumb and obvious and, to tell the truth, doesn’t motivate me so much as simply make me feel guilty for not doing something more noteworthy with my limited time. (Listen, those episodes of ANTM aren’t going to watch themselves.) And yet there’s something about today–and maybe this will be true of every First Day of X Grade?–that feels like the beginning of everything else. It’s a Little Bang, a moment of chemical magic from which Wombat’s universe will expand ever outward.

So forgive me if today I act like I’ve just sent my six-year-old off to college. Or off into deep space. It’s not sadness, see, just a tiny bit of existential horror. And it might be contagious.

Wombat aquarium

5 Aug
2015
Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries
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Writing to Write

Long story short, last August my main source of work dropped the bomb that they wouldn’t have any projects for me for FIVE WHOLE MONTHS *Munch scream*, but it was exactly then that I started a contract position writing articles and listicles and advertorials for one of my very most favorite clients (I love you, CafeMom!) and thereby avoided the dire fate of–OITNB spoiler alert–having to sell my panties on the Internet to make a living. So it is that every week for the past year I churned out somewhere between a couple and a handful of original stories, which is a lot considering I have no formal background in journalism or marketing and I’m also the world’s slowest writer (it sometimes takes me a half hour to come up with a headline that passes modern SEO muster). This I was doing in addition to, starting in January, resuming steady work at my regular job as a book editor, which had not only revived but blossomed into an abundance of projects for an expanded group of clients (*angel choir*) due to my timely realization that networking is kinda sorta actually crucial for a freelancer and not something I could keep hand-tossing away as “oh, not really my thing.”

In the meantime–and here is where I’ve buried my point, despite having promised up there at the top that this would be the short version of a long story–one of the things that fell off my metaphorical cart and was subsequently crushed into bits by a stampede of wild wildebeests was my ability to write here about whatever the heck fuck I wanted, using naughty words and everything. I’ve missed it, oh how I’ve missed it, and so, yes, this is my version of the standard “gosh, it’s been so long since I’ve blogged / will I even remember how to do it? / is anybody out there?” post, which, as is also standard, I’m using to ease myself back in to what I hope will become regular practice once again.

To catch up for the past year: Wombat sailed through kindergarten (Private School B), Fox survived the terrible twos, Simon is now a drummer in a band, and I…I cut my own bangs. Considering that my idea of living dangerously is peeling a hard-boiled egg directly over the trash can, this is not to be scoffed at.

We are doing well:

family collage

And how are you?

25 May
2015

UrbanSitter Brings Child Care (and Me) into the 21st Century (sponsored + freebie for you!)

Captain Obvious here with some life-changing news! Did you know you could pay someone money to feed your kids dinner and put them to bed while you, yourself, are not even on the premises? While your dear little ones are brushing their teeth and negotiating for an extra bedtime story (or three), you could be halfway across town eating organic beet and farro salad with shaved Parmigiano and enjoying the dulcet tones of no one whining directly into your ear holes. I’ll drink to that.

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When I heard about the Clever Girls campaign with UrbanSitter, I pitched myself as the mother of two kids who had never (NEV-ERRR), in six and a half years, hired a stranger to watch my children in my own home. I can’t say whether they felt sorry for me or just wanted to test out their system on a complete newbie, but whichever it was, I’m glad I got the chance to see how the other half lives (or, rather, the other 95 percent) because it was GLORIOUS.

Since I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the concept of *air quotes* babysitting in general, I’ll focus on how UrbanSitter made it super-easy and low-stress, even for a first-timer like me.

The feature I love most is being able to do absolutely everything online. I reviewed profiles, booked the job, communicated with my sitter, and even paid her through my UrbanSitter account. If you’re the type who needs to do face-to-face research, or at least chat on the phone with a prospective child care provider, that’s definitely an option, but for me the digital-everything aspect was downright revelatory. Doing things on my phone without actually having to talk on the phone is my favorite.

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The second best thing was that having access to however many dozens or hundreds (or thousands?) of sitters (vetted sitters) meant it wasn’t impossible to find someone on 36-hour’s notice. For a Saturday-night job, I took twenty minutes out of my Friday afternoon to look at a handful of profiles and then sent out one booking request. As soon as I clicked “send,” I got a popup that suggested for a short-notice job like mine was, I might have better luck posting on the job board, and after I did that—it made the basic details of the job visible to all sitters in my area—I was sent email links to the profiles of everyone who was interested and available. Each profile includes personal details, experience/certifications, and rates (everyone’s is different), and it also featured—the most helpful bit for me—a video message. If, in choosing a babysitter, you list “overall vibe” right up there with “clean background check,” the video message is key to finding your perfect match, whether you’re looking for a Kristy, Stacy, Dawn, Mary Anne, Claudia, Jessie, or Mallory. (I haven’t delved deep enough to know if there are any Logans.)

With one click, I chose someone who was about my age, who lives five minutes away (I loved “Hey, we’re neighbors” aspect), and who came across as a smart, competent, nice person my kids would dig. Wombat had veto power, and our sitter, Carolyn, passed his very discerning “must have kind eyes” test, so we were all set. She showed up on time, gave off the just-right vibe we’d hoped for, and immediately got down on the floor with the kids to play.

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Depending on your level of neurosis about this sort of thing, you can conduct more in-depth interviews with specific people (I didn’t) and/or connect your account to Facebook (I did) and/or even load your profile with info about your kids’ schools and activities so you can see which sitters have been used by other parents in your community (I will). You can see how many repeat families a sitter has, and you can find a sitter for a full range of needs, from straight-up occasional in-home babysitters to long-term nanny types you can hire to drive your kids around or take them to the park or help you with errands or whatever. (Would it be weird to book someone for an hour to bathe my kids while I go read a book?) You can also rate sitters you’ve used, and of course look at the ratings others have left; if you’ve ever wanted to Yelp a person, here’s your chance.

We had such a good experience, I hope you don’t count on criticism for proof that a reviewer wasn’t paid to say only positive things because (1) I would never sign up for something like that and (2) I have nothing negative to say about our UrbanSitter experience, and that’s the whole truth. We left our kids without a worry, and when we came home, the toys were picked up and put away, the dinner dishes were washed, and the house was calm and quiet, which is more than I can say for the state of things when Simon and I are in charge of the homestead. The kids gave us an enthusiastic report the next morning and asked when Carolyn was coming back. We all hope she liked us as much as we liked her.

Thanks, UrbanSitter and Clever Girls Collective, for getting us out of the house but also bringing us together–the two of us but also the five of us.

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To get a free month of membership to UrbanSitter in your area, use code FORFREETRIAL. You won’t be disappointed.

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls. The content and opinions expressed here are all my own.