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.

14 May
2015
Posted in: Regular Entries
By    No Comments

In the Crapper

Speaking of losing things, earlier today I stood up at the conclusion of my *ahem* daily constitutional and, while the flush was already in mid-swirl, I caught out of the corner of my eye in the mirror across the hall (pooping with the door open is truly one of the great joys of working from home) the image of a small piece of paper fluttering from my back pocket and into the bowl, where it circled a few times, slunk up into the hole, and then–as I flailed helplessly toward my porcelain adversary–peeked a corner back out, as if it were about to surface, before, alas, it succumbed to the forces of our hearty indoor plumbing, so dearly beloved in every other case but this.

During the paper’s final wave of departure, I leaned in (but not too close; I’ve seen those videos) and tried to make out a word or two but could not. The notes were in my handwriting and probably recorded nothing more critical than a grocery list, and thus I am trying valiantly to not let the not-knowing drive me to madness. Madness, I say!

This concludes the sad tale of the time my best laid plans literally went down the toilet.

The end.

13 May
2015
Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries
By    7 Comments

Gone But Not Forgotten

Simon’s car got broken into in front of our house over Thanksgiving weekend (I was not thankful to discover my child’s car seat filled with broken glass), and in addition to taking the subwoofer, S’s nice sunglasses (not one of the thirty pairs of $5 ones, of course), and my child’s sunglasses (really, dude?), this person also robbed us of a bag of miscellany that included things like hand sanitizer, a multitool, pens and markers, spare change, that sort of thing. Last month when I couldn’t find the full SD card I’d taken out of my DSLR camera around that same time, I was sure it had been stolen with the lot. I remember having swapped the full card for an empty card in the car, and I couldn’t find it anywhere in the house, so it made perfect sense that it, too, was gone forever.

Our desktop computer, ten years old and overloaded, had starting refusing to deal with all the hi-res images I tried stuffing into it, so I hadn’t downloaded any photos from my camera for an entire year. The camera card I lost was Christmas in Salt Lake, spring flower sniffing, Easter in bow ties, frittering at the beach, my boys’ birthday parties, swimming lessons, boys in pigtails, Wombat’s first day of kindergarten, Simon’s band’s last performance, lost teeth, scraped knees, and a hundred other random since-forgotten moments that I’d captured with my camera specifically so I’d never forget them. The thought of it all being gone made me dizzy with loss. Those pictures are of no use to a thief, but they’re everything to me.

Another thing in the stolen bag was a little black notebook Simon kept in the car in case he needed to jot anything down. Most of the notebook was blank, but the first part was a daily journal of winter 2005, including the Christmas he spent in England with his mom and sister and the time he spent in therapy because he had for the previous few years been dealing with Major Life Upheavals and thought it might be nice to talk to someone with a degree in listening.

As we took stock of what had been stolen from the car, that notebook was the thing he was most upset about. That was the one thing that was truly irreplaceable. As someone who has boxes and boxes of journals, and another box full of old day planners, I was sick for him to have lost something like that. I wasn’t sure how personal of a record it was–he said it was mostly just the highlights of what he did each day, with very few interpretive flourishes–so although there was no cause to worry about sensitive information now being in the hands of someone with an obviously screwy moral compass, it was still a violation, a breach of what should be an inviolable boundary. And as with the photos, how senseless to be robbed of something so intimate, something as proportionately UNimportant and UNvaluable to the person who stole it as it was precious to its owner (and its owner’s sentimental wife). The total monetary cost of stolen goods wasn’t worth even half of what it took to repair the broken window. It’s all just so stupid.

About a month after the break-in, Simon got a call from a woman who said she’d found his little black notebook on the street five miles from our house. Back in 2005, Simon had put his phone number on the inside front cover; he’s had the same phone number as long as I’ve known him. That Saturday, we drove to a cute little house with a yard full of cats, about halfway between our house and where the notebook had been found. There was some water damage, the woman explained, because it had been left out in the rain on the side of the road. I tried not to think about all of our stolen things strewn across the ground, puddles forming around them.

When Simon told me that of all the items that had been taken he was mostly feeling the loss of the black notebook, it was an obvious reminder that the things people would save from that proverbial prepetually burning house (aside from family and pets) are always photo albums and journals. Memories. Evidence that we were here and we did these things and we loved these people and we laughed and we wore silly hats and we went on vacation and we celebrated holidays and accomplishments and each other. These are the things that matter.

I worked hard to come to terms with having lost a year’s worth of photos. (I also repeatedly kicked myself for not having downloaded them or uploaded them or even *gasp* blogged them.) I tried to console myself with the thought that even though the physical reminder of those moments was gone, the fact that they had happened at all was something that couldn’t be stolen. The boys had had wonderful birthday parties with family and friends and games and cake and party hats, and they will always have had them, no matter what. I probably had dozens of photos of Wombat reading in various unusual positions and locations, but that’s so much a part of who he is at this age I can’t imagine ever forgetting it. Fox is my little ham, and if memory serves I likely had several multi-shot series of him making different goofy expressions in each frame, and when I close my eyes I can flip through them now with my brain-camera, no technology needed. I think this is what it means for something to be gone but not forgotten, stolen but not lost.

I think about how few photos we took when film came in rolls of 24 or 36 shots, and I wonder if my need to have a record of every single thing that happens is nothing more than tech-enabled greed. And that would be a good moral to end on, but it’s not a realistic one for a sentimental fool like your dear author. Sure, I can brightside away about how many of the things we had stolen were “necessary” (none), but that does nothing to erase the pain of having them taken away. Necessary or not, the photos were a major loss.

Now flash forward to a few weeks ago, when I remembered that I’d switched out that full camera card on the way to Wombat’s early-December holiday concert, which means if I’d left it in the car, I’d done so after Thanksgiving, after the robbery. Hope lives! Another few weeks went by before I remembered I’d bought a new purse around the same time (maybe my memory isn’t to be trusted after all?), and whaddya know, when I looked in the old purse two days ago, I found, zipped safely inside an inner pocket, the photos I’d thought were lost, the memories I feared had been stolen.

There are lessons here, as there are everywhere (backup your photos, blog more, pay attention to your life, don’t leave anything in your car), but if I had to choose right now between learning those lessons or having my 2014 photos safe and sound and in my possession, I’d definitely choose the photos. Fortunately, I got them both.

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