Hi2mommy's Blog

Not every family has grandparents who can babysit. In our case, my husband’s parents are up in years and not in good health, and mine  – how shall we say? OK –  you know how you always leave your number on the counter when you leave your kids with a sitter? My parents sat for us twice, and both times, THEY CALLED IT and we had to come home (once on New Year’s Eve, when we had just gotten our badly-needed cocktails). No disrespect – they meant well and we appreciated the effort. Babies are tough duty. I would literally give years of my own life to make MY grandmother young enough to sit. At 88, the spirit is still willing, but the flesh, as they say…

So what do you do, especially when you have a baby or two and don’t feel comfortable leaving them with a teenage neighbor?  CHRIS, the Salon 117 in Arlington Heights, IL pedicure goddess – remember pedicures? Remember having time/money to get them? I’m lucky to get one a year these days, BUT I DIGRESS! Anyway, Chris told me about Sittercity.com, and it has given us a portion of our life back.

SitterCity is not an agency. It’s a searchable clearinghouse of resumes, references, background checks, and other background information on child care/elder care/pet care/other care providers. Your membership fee (sliding scale – $30/1 month; $60/3 months; $120/year) gives you unlimited searching, job posting, etc. You can start with a 7-day free trial to get a taste.

We found our current nanny (lovely Monika, part of our family for 14 months), fill-in sitters for her vacation days, and our #1 A-List evening sitter with this service. The profiles include personal statements (I’m biased toward smart sitters, so I pay attention to language skills), references, parent reviews, certifications (CPR, First Aid…), background checks and location information (I’m also biased toward local sitters, because Midwest winters do not favor long commutes). When I’ve posted a job looking for substitute sitters, I’ve typically gotten 25+ responses, most from applicants with terrific and varied backgrounds (teachers, artists, athletes, therapists, nurses), college age to grandma age.

That said, nothing’s perfect. SitterCity does not screen its applicants (again, not an agency), so we’ve had a few hiccups. I interviewed one woman who proceeded to discuss her current employer’s hysterectomy and her previous employer’s financial issues (she thought she saw their dining room set on Craig’s List!) at a level of detail that compelled me to permanently block her profile.

Then there was the recent conversation with a sitter’s reference, in which the reference (very nice woman) said that she had referred this sitter to another family, who reported that the sitter had gotten caught stealing from them. Still hoping that was just a misunderstanding – the sitter denied it – but, needless to say, we did not bring that sitter into our home. Just sayin’ – always do your due diligence (SitterCity puts a checklist on the profile page – handy)!

They’re nationwide, so if you’re new to an area and don’t have family around or another support system, it’s definitely worth a look. SitterCity has done very well by our family. Hope they come through for you, if you need it.

Now you can go to the movies!! Or get a pedicure!!

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Ever get stuck with an hour (or day) to fill, but you don’t want to overload on TV and the favorite toys are not cutting it?

One of my Pre-School Moms’ Mom (PSMM? Pre-School Grandma? PSG? ) babysits for the two girls a few days per week. Oh – let me stop here and say, on the record, that grandparents who babysit have a special place at the VIP table in heaven.

ANYWAY, this grandma is a former pre-school teacher, who builds an apparently endless list of fun and educational activities around a theme of the week (dinosaurs, fairies, whatever). So we’re trying it. We’re not great at it yet, but we’ve managed to squeeze in a couple of  cool outings or activities each week that we wouldn’t have tried otherwise, so I’m calling it a success.

It’s actually amazing how many fun things you can cook up when you wrap your mind around a simple topic. Try it and, within 5 minutes, you’ll probably come up with a great list that might include:

– cooking/baking
– crafts
– books
– tracing words and pictures
– dramatic play (how fun to walk like an astronaut for a day!)
– music
– simple science projects
– outings (to stores, parks, local events)

The trick is to not let it become another thing that’s overcrowding your life. Just doing 1-2 things and working the theme into your conversations is great!

For example, our first theme was birds. By the end of the week,  we hadn’t done much more than pick out some library books and look for birds with our “binoculars” (made from toilet paper tubes taped together – incredibly popular at our house). Then, Friday evening, I got inspired to take the two kids  to Wild Birds Unlimited, a small shop devoted to wild bird supplies (don’t even ask how stores like that stay in business, but how great that it’s there -and there are franchises all over the country). I had gone gift shopping there once before, and remembered the owner to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic about all things bird.

OMG – what a great time! The kids (Geoffrey’s 4, Allison’s just turned 3) pinged the wind chimes, marveled at the feeder shapes and size, and laughed their heads off at a promo video of a bird feeder that sends unwanted squirrels flying into oblivion. They also listened attentively as the owner told them about the different birds we could expect to see in our yard (BRAG ALERT – he was impressed by their morning dove imitations). The feeders were pretty spendy, but we did walk out with a bag of safflower (cardinals, finches, doves and others like it but squirrels DON’T, so it’s good for feeders – AND it leaves no shell mess on the ground). Another great find was the “Thistle Sock,” an inexpensive little mesh bag that holds thistle seed and offers good gripping space for birdy feet. We saw our first ever goldfinches on that sock (through our TP binocs), and it’s holding up pretty well, despite our relentless fall weather.

So Bird Week turned out OK. Since then, we’ve had Truck Week (if it were up to Geoffrey, EVERY week would be Truck Week), Prince and Princess Week, and we’re on Week 2 of Halloween because we slacked a bit last week and – let’s face it – Halloween is EPIC!

So if you’re inspired to try Theme of the Week, please share your stories and favorite activities. I’d like to ask my friend’s mom to be my first guest on Cool People I Know – and then see if she’ll come babysit OUR kids!!!

I’ve started this blog to expand upon one of my life’s current bright spots  – a great connection with a group that I affectionately call “The Pre-School Moms.”

For many of us, sending our children “out into the world” (pre-school) was a little sad, a little nerve-wracking, but also liberating. In addition to gaining 2-3 little chunks of free time each week, we were regularly in the company of people our own age – having actual adult conversations (mostly about our kids, but still)!

A key takeaway from those conversations: we love to compare notes on just about everything.

So while I hope and expect to be comparing notes with my Pre-School Moms for years to come (there’s been some light talk of arranging marriages), I would really love to share some thoughts and see what the wider circle of moms has to say about things like:

– how to keep kids entertained in restaurants

– what inspires kids to help others (and how to light that spark)

– cool holiday activities and traditions

– favorite music

– mom-friendly work options

– how to introduce kids to computers

So many things! Also, being a journalist at heart, my vision for this includes an interview segment, tentatively titled “Cool People I Know.” Because, as it turns out, I know a LOT of cool people  – as we all do! One thing I’ve learned – if you spend a few hours with ANYONE, you will learn something fascinating about them.

So share your fascinating self, OK? Thanks for reading…

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  • hi2mommy: Thanks, Laura - I'll never give up! YOU post some of the most exquisite recipes I've ever seen. You are going to be featured here very soon.
  • susie: well im not really sure what the 2nd reply post was all about, but i reckon this is still a classic game, whatever way you look at it.
  • Laura: Yum! I love a fruit smoothie - especially on a hot summer day. I'm with you on the fruit - mango or raspberries. Picking up where you left off is a

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