June 25, 2011

Swimming

Porter just finished up his first session of swimming lessons and he had a blast. I don't know that he learned all that much, but he loved it. :) Then this last week we took both the boys swimming and they were so excited to go down the slide. Gabe would yell "Splash!" every time he saw someone going down. He loved watching Porter go down with Adam, so we decided to give him a try at it. I expected it to make him a little nervous, but he loved it. Both my boys are fearless. We put a life jacket on Gabe in the pool and it was a good thing. He kept lifting his legs and just laughing and smiling when he floated. We kept having to grab him to keep him upright as going under didn't faze him at all. I think there is much more swimming in our near future.











More Hats















Gardening

Gabe found my new gardeing hat the other day and was delighted to model it. :)
Both the boys love hats.










Summer flowers













Gabe Turns 2

We didn't do a whole lot for Gabe's birthday this year. He is young enough not to really remember it, and we were a bit sweeted out, so we just made little brownie bites and did his gift. We got this little motorized 4-wheeler at Christmas time for a great deal and tucked it away for the summer and his birthday. He was a little leary at first, but once he got the hang of it, he loved it. :)

June 17, 2011

The Help - Part Two

As I read over my last post (and was horrified at all the typos), I was reminded of another temp job. I was only there two days and that was enough.

Let me preface these temp jobs. I quit a job I had been at for three years as a live-in nanny because the mother had injured her back and then become addicted to pain meds and the home situation had deteriorated to the point where I couldn't stay. I moved in with a friend who was also a nanny and in the four months it took me to get my next (and fabulous) job, I took on some temp work for the agency I went through. Some were good, some not so good. This is one of the not so good ones. Admit it, you don't really want to read about the great ones nearly as much as the horrid ones, right? Those are the interesting ones.

So, I was called in to stay with a mother who had just had surgery. She was newly divorced with three young kids and couldn't lift them for a couple of days. When I got there, she was having food for the week (delivered and put away) from a local grocery store so she wouldn't have to lift anything. It was around that time she explained just what surgery she had. Breast augmentation. She wasn't to lift anything until she healed. Fine with me. No problem. That afternoon, she went out for dinner.

Before she left she showed me where the food was. Well really she showed me as the delivery people put it away. Otherwise she might not have even done that. She didn't tell me anything about the kids or leave a note explaining their schedule or any special needs/concerns. She didn't let me know what time she would get back or when to put the kids to bed. By about nine, I assumed she would be back late and put the last/oldest of the kids to bed with promises that he would see his mom in the morning. I was never told where I was to sleep, so I ended up in one of the unused kids rooms. I started out on a bed that I soon discovered was broken. After fixing it at ten at night, I still ended up on the floor since it was so uncomfortable. At about 6 in the morning, the kids started waking up and crying because they couldn't find their Mom. She had never come home. I had no idea what to tell them. She had not told me anything other that they were going to dinner. I assured them that Mom would be home soon and tried to keep them distracted.

She didn't show up until after lunch. I was incensed - not for me, but for three young children who had no idea where their mother was and I couldn't give them anything more than 'I am sure she will be home soon'. Turned out she and her boyfriend just decided to stay out all night and then crashed at his place. She figured since she had live-in 'help' for a few days, she could just go out and enjoy herself. Not that it wasn't her right to do just that, but scaring her children and leaving me with no information about how to take care of her kids, or when she would return, was SO disrespectful. I was left with the feeling that she didn't care about anything, including her kids, except enjoying her new freedom and spending money from her divorce. That may be totally off the mark from reality, but that is how I was left feeling.

One thing that is mentioned in the book is gratitude. Showing sincere gratitude goes so much farther than you think. I like to go the extra mile for my boss. I always try to help out where I can and do those little things that will make their life easier. But when it goes unappreciated, the joy goes all out of it, and I have a hard time getting motivated to go above and beyond.

On the one side-- I worked as a live-in for a family several years ago. Housekeeping was not one of my jobs. Keeping up with the kids messes was my only cleaning responsibility. When I arrived at their home for the first time, I was honestly shocked at the mess. Literally a foot of piled clothing/junk (think hoarders) littered the floor of the living areas. The bedrooms were even worse. There were walking paths stomped down into the mess, but no clean carpet anywhere. Professional housekeepers has given up on it. I knew the father had just left for a new job. The mother had been on full bedrest for her lat pregnancy with a little boy who haad just turned 11 months. I just figured it got away from them in the last year or so, and they needed a jump start. In the next two weeks I basically gutted the rooms. I found old rotten foodwrappers, old baby bottles, unnamed stains soaked into the carpets. Anything and everything had gotten lost in the piles. Their son couldn't even crawl at eleven months because there simply was nowhere to put him down so he could learn. It was heartbreaking.

Anyway, I got it cleaned up. And from then on, I really tried to keep after it so the kids would have a clean place to play. At first, the family was so grateful. But after the first year, we moved into a new home and more and more of the housekeeping became my responsibility, instead of something nice I did when I had some extra time to help out. I started to get little comments if things weren't clean enough. (Pretty ironic considering what their house looked like if I really did nothing**) I remember one time when we were having issues (and I was thinking of quitting because of it), I took before and after pictures of the living room. I had been gone for the weekend and took pictures Monday morning before cleaning it all up and then taking another couple. I knew if things got to the point where I quit over the issue, I would want something to document against accusations when I was looking for another job. We did find even ground after that and I was there for a few more years, but it just highlights how gratitude can make all the difference.

** Things were dirty to such an extent that there were times I would have to go upstairs and shut the door to their bedroom so the smell wouldn't come out into the rest of the house. About every six months, I got to where I couldn't take it anymore and went to the master bedroom and did a total clean out so I wouldn't have to smell it. I honestly don't know how people can live like that.

On the flip side-- I work for a family now that has never failed to say thank you even when I am only doing my job. They treat me as well today as the day I started 4 years ago. It makes it easy and even fun to do a little extra when I can. When I was caring for the kids in their home, I was happy to clean up where I could because I knew how much she appreciated having it done. I know how busy she is with her job and her kids and their busy lives. Anything I can do to make things work more smoothly for them or help out, I am happy to do, because I KNOW they appreciate it. Sincere gratitude goes a very long way. I know I am not taken for granted. I am not, and have never been 'the help' to them. They have gone the extra mile for me when I needed something too and I am so grateful to have them as a part of my and my family's life. Allison, if you ever read this, thank you so much for being the best boss. I truly do consider myself your friend and not 'the help'.

June 16, 2011

The Help

Tuesday night at book club, I received a copy of The Help to read for this month. I started it yesterday morning and neglected anything and everything to read it. I was fascinated at how far we've come and also by what things haven't changed.

For 13 years, I have been 'the help'. In some jobs I have been an employee and treated as such, but at some jobs, I was just that, 'the help'. I wonder if anyone would want to read my stories if I wrote them out. Probably not. Most of my jobs have been good ones. There are only a few instances when I was treated really horribly.

Two weeks in Buffalo for a strip club owner comes to mind. (If I had known ahead of time who he was, I probably wouldn't have gone, but I was between jobs at the time and working temps for the agency and didn't get nearly enough information before accepting the job) I don't think I have worked a worse or harder job in all my life. And surprisingly, it didn't have anything to do with the strip clubs; that was something I had no contact with, other than his ex-stripper wife who was sweet as can be. It was the man himself who was a terror. His children were a prize to be displayed. And even then really only his 1 year old son; his daughter was ignored even in the ten minutes he was at home, while he praised his son and wanted me to praise him as well before he went out the door and back to work. As much as I was horrified that he only spent about ten minutes with his kids, once I had been there a couple days, I was relieved that was all the time he spent with them, so they didn't have to be around him. His wife had their third child while I was there and I didn't see him any more often after that either. Most dads take at least a day or two off to spent with their family when a birth happens, but not him.

Two housekeepers were fired in the two weeks I was there and he threatened to fire me too as well a the other employees. I was yelled at for not wiping the kids faces off quickly enough after lunch, for not tying their shoes properly, and the thing I nearly got fired over; putting a few strands of spaghetti down the disposal.

After dinner one day I rinsed off their plates and ran the disposal. It clogged and stopped working. Knowing that I had only put a few strands of spaghetti in, I knew it wasn't something I did, but I got blamed. I should know better than to put anything down the disposal?! The plumber came and told the house manager that the disposal hadn't been cleaned properly in ten years and it wasn't any one's fault, just build-up. When the house manager tried to tell our boss it wasn't my fault, he threatened to fire him too. All of us, 'the help', wanted to walk out, but none of us felt we could with his wife and kids needing us there. For myself, I couldn't go anywhere anyway, since I was across the country and despite being promised transportation and a day off each week, I got neither. I couldn't leave without just walking away in a foreign city with nowhere to go and no money to get on a plane until I got paid.

Speaking of getting paid, the agency had told me what was agreed to before I left. I the end it was a pittance compared to the work I did and the hours (24 hours a day with no down time). Not worth it AT ALL. When he came to the nursery to pay me, he asked me what he owed me. I told him, and his immediate response was, "who told you that?" Like I was lying and there was no way he owed me that much. I told him it was what the agency and his wife had agreed too and he reluctantly paid me.

And then.... here's the kicker. He offered me a full time job working for them. HA!! NO way, NO how!

When they moved from Vegas, their foreign nanny said she had passport problems and couldn't move from Vegas to Buffalo with them; she needed a few weeks to get things straightened out before coming to meet them. A little fishy, and once I met the family, I know why. That was her chance to get away and she grabbed it with both hands. She moved in with her boyfriend the day they left, and she never did contact them again. Probably the only way she ever met a boyfriend was on the prescribed two hours the kids HAD to have outside, no matter the weather. As much as I hated taking them out in the rain, which was basically every day, it became my haven. I could be out of the house and call my family and friends and get some sanity back. We put up umbrellas on the stroller and walked and walked while I called home. He was proud of me that I was able to have them out for the 2 hours he had requested/demanded. Little did he know that I was the one benefitting from it, not the kids, stuck in the rain in the stroller.

Turned out, I was the first placement the agency had done for their family, and they didn't know what was happening either. You can bet I filled them in and warned them against placing any other nanny in that house. I was never so happy to be home and jobless again. What a nightmare! and it was only for two weeks. I can't imagine how their previous nanny took it. Well, yes I do. She was foreign, probably had no access to a car either and was basically kept prisoner in the house for however long she worked for them. Makes me cringe even thinking of it now and its been several years since then.

Overall, my job experience has been just the opposite of that story. I have worked for some really great people. My last two jobs have been a dream, with great employers, great kids, and a wonderful experience all the way around.

Every job has given me experience and taught me so much. I get just as much out of it as the kids do. I remember my first job and I cringe at how much I didn't know, especially about taking care of children adopted from a foreign orphanage. I knew nothing. Looking back, I still think there ought to be some kind of training for that. Caring for children; any children, takes training and time and experience. Most of us just get thrown in when we have kids. I am really grateful for those classes I took in college that gave me at least a basis of understanding, for babysitting experience I had as a teenager, and for a mother who answered my questions every time I called with another dilemma, and still does. Thanks Mom! :)

And isn't it funny, as confident as I am now in my ability to help raise other people's children, I still struggle as a parent to my own. Every child is different, and of course, my own know just what buttons to push to get my temper going.

I loved the book and it really made me think about all my jobs. One thing that really stuck out is how Aibileen tells 'secret stories' to her little girl. All my kids, from the beginning have gotten primary songs sung to them as they go to sleep. I always thought maybe as an adult, they will hear that song and remember me, and maybe be curious to find out more about where the song came from. I never thought of it as secret. In fact I had one employer ask me to teach them to her so she could sing them too, as the kids were always requesting them at bedtime. But I hoped, as Aibilieen did, that the songs would stick with them and teach them good things.

I highly recommend The Help.

June 13, 2011

Introspection

So, I haven't updated in a while. I have been very introspective lately and not really feeling like sharing with the world. We have had lots of things happen that I will eventually get around to blogging about, but for now, I feel lost in thought and the words just end up jumbled on the page. I just wanted to let everyone know that we are doing really well, the kids are loving summer, being able to play outside, swimming lessons, walks, and, in general, having very little schedule. Summer is good.