Bullying? Stop It!

At the beginning of this school year, my first as a mother of a child in school, I experienced for the first time the unthinkable task of comforting a child who has felt rejected.

Jade came home from school that day feeling more confused than sad.  When I asked her if she was making new friends in her class (which you may recall I realized quickly was absolutely the wrong question) she shared a playground story with me.

The girls (you remember which ones) were playing nicely when Jade approached them and asked if she could play too.  They exchanged looks, one whispered to the others, and then they all ran away from her laughing.

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Jade??  She is gorgeous!  She’s funny, talented, and SO kind.  Not that it should matter what she is or isn’t at their age.  So why were these FIVE-YEAR-OLDS treating her like she had the plague?

I’m volunteering in Jade’s class once a week where I work with a small group on reading skills.  Jade is 1 of 6 kids in her group, and the only girl.  She has found her place among the boys, probably because she has 3 younger brothers.  She’s part of their clubs, their inside jokes, and they often fight to sit next to her.  It’s a different story among the boys.

There’s a Club (gang maybe?) that one of them has invented, and although its a “boys only” club, he’s invited Jade to be a part of it.  And even more surprisingly, he has named his testosterone-driven group “The Mimi’s”.

A Mimi looks (or at least did a few weeks ago) like a ball on a stick with a triangle at the bottom.  It has its own store where it sells goods to only certain other Mimi’s.  Its exclusivity at its finest.

One day while I was in their class, one of the boys in their reading group (who is NOT a Mimi) drew a picture.  He showed it to the gang leader and said, “Look, its a Mimi!”.  I will vouch for this young boy:  I have seen many Mimi’s drawn over the course of the year, and he was spot on.  However, the leader said, “That is not a Mimi.  This is a Mimi”.  He proceeded to draw an entirely different creature altogether, showed it to the other boy, rolled his eyes, and turned away.

Who taught them to act this way?  Did they see it on television?  Or are they genuinely just looking out for their own well-being, which at this age only means having fun even if its at the expense of someone else?  It always has at least a little to do with acceptance.

Regardless of the reason, this is unacceptable.  And if they act this way as kindergartners how can things possibly get better from here?  The answer is: they can’t.  Which is why bullying is more prominent than ever, especially with the added ease and convenience of cyber-bullying.

After watching the video that I’m sharing below I was thinking about experiences that I’ve had where I witnessed bullying taking place.  When I think about my involvement with bullying in public school, 3 specific kids come to mind.  I was never the originator, but I also never said anything to prevent it.  Observing and not speaking up made me just as guilty as the culprits.

A note about Facebook:  I don’t have any regrets about no longer using it, but I will admit that for me FB was a good way to try to mend relationships (or lack of) that had weighed heavily on me.  I have been in contact with one of the bully-victims in particular, and it amazes me how differently I see her now that I don’t have the anxiety of what people will think of me if I talk to her.  She’s so thoughtful, always congratulating me on life-changing events and thanking me when I do the same for her.  She’s a beautiful person inside and out, and I feel so grateful that she made it through that stage of her life and moved on to find happiness and love.  Not every target of bullying is so lucky.

Today being Sunday, I’m feeling a lot of guilt for skipping church, so I’m also thinking a lot about what Christ had to go through for me.  Clearly the word “bullied” is an understatement in this case.   But I can’t imagine that very many of those who contributed ultimately to the murder of their Savior did so willingly.  Many of them must have felt very threatened, physically or even socially, about what would happen to them if they didn’t support the crucifixion of who will forever be considered, by most, to be the most important man in the history of time.  Either that or they had been brainwashed into thinking that this man wasn’t worthy of the respect and kindness that everyone else deserved.  Its hard to believe that people could be so cruel, and not a single person today would believe themselves capable of such cruelty.

So then why is it okay to treat people so thoughtlessly now on a seemingly lesser scale?

I wish I could say that starting today I will be the one who institutes the biggest change the world has ever seen; one that will spread so quickly that I will never have to worry that my kids will be the subject of these senseless acts.  Unfortunately, I believe the world is only becoming more accepting of evil, so even if every parent on earth taught their children to be kind to others it still won’t protect them completely from how others could possibly treat them.

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The single most important thing we can do as parents to combat the effects of bullying is to show our children love at home.  Maybe that’s why we have a large family; so, if they’re as lucky as Aaron and I have been with our own siblings, my kids will always have a built in support system.

***Spoiler alert:

This video does end happily!

STOP BULLYING!

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Happy Vegas snapshots

I’m feeling rather uninspiring when it comes to writing after a long and wonderful visit with my mother, both in Las Vegas and my own home.  So to sum it up, I desperately needed this trip for so many reasons, but I’m happy to be back to…normal?  A more systematic routine anyway.  Here are some of the highlights.

Eating breakfast at the world famous Hash House (featured on Man vs. Food).

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Seeing Cirque du Soleil’s Love.  This was my favorite Cirque show so far.  I’ve also seen Mystere and Viva Elvis.  This one struck a major chord with the dancer in me.

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Jean Phillipe at the Bellagio.  The best desserts ever!  You can tell how in love I was.

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New York New York’s roller coaster.  I rode twice.  By myself.  Don’t feel sorry for me; as you can see I didn’t care.

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My mom’s friend John Salvatore was in Jersey Boys, so not only did we get REALLY good seats for a great price, but we got to go back stage afterwards.  I think the usher that reprimanded me for having a camera out wasn’t on such a power trip after he saw this.

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75 degrees {sigh}.  Enough said.

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Wow.  All I can say is…wow!  This is an incredible exhibit if you ever get a chance to see it.  It is especially exciting if you can recite lines to the movie while you’re walking through replications of parts of the ship like the steerage hallway or the grand staircase.  Maybe I’m the only one who does that.

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We walked.  A LOT.  We did zero gambling but we did walk through every. single. casino on the strip in order to get to where we needed to go.

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Bellagio fountain of course.

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And finally…

IMG_0569Yes.  This did happen.

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I have no words for this experience.  Well, I do because I always have words.  But nothing that would do it justice.  It was a feeling similar to what I felt when I first fell in love with my husband but couldn’t tell him yet.  Its just this warm feeling that hovers there and there is nothing you can do about it but just laugh or cry or take a deep breath.

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We were actually supposed to be at the Pentatonix concert that night, but after seeing the Titanic exhibit we felt compelled to stop by the House of Blues to ask them where our “seats” were.  The man at the ticket counter looked apologetic as he explained that we probably should have called the box office and asked them about our tickets before we paid for them.  Apparently we were going to have a terrible experience (we had tickets for standing room only on the 3rd balcony).

The next day we decided to take a VERY long walk back to the north end of the strip (we were staying at the south end) just so I could get a refund on a shirt that I was overcharged for.  Right next to Fashion show mall was a half price ticket counter.  Seeing it sparked a conversation about how great it would have been to see the Celine Dion concert.  But my mom had looked at tickets prior to our visit and they were $250, so it wasn’t even a thought.

I suggested that maybe we just stop by the half price counter just to check, to which she responded “Its the biggest show in Vegas, there’s no way they sell tickets for half price”.  But I convinced her, as I’ve been known to do.

That night we sat in the 11th row orchestra seats at the Colosseum ($250 seats) for $98!  Ohhh, what a night.

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And then we returned home.  It was a surprisingly balmy 35 degrees as we exited the airport, which quickly turned into a blizzard that gave us 8 inches of snow.  But I had a half dozen excited, smiling faces to come home to.  We had a nice weekend with my grandma and aunt, watching Frozen (fittingly) and taking Jade to basketball and play practice.

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If you were one of the ones who was with me the last week — missed you Daryn 😦 —  you know that even when all the stars align to your advantage there is still room for stress.  Sorry for that.  But those are the moments that “get you from one happy snap shot to the next“, right?  So grateful for an incredible family to share these memories with, and for an extremely patient and supportive husband for staying home with 4 little kids!

I believe introductions are in order

When I started this blog I was also maintaining another more private, family blog where I’d post lots and lots of pictures of my kids, the funny things they’d say and do, and occasionally (or more than occasionally) the funny things I’d do, like become obsessed with Twilight for 5 years and re-post anything and everything Twilight (omg, did you hear that K-Stu and R-Patz are back together…again?!).  Anyway…

I had no intention of THIS blog containing things about kids.  I set out to find myself by doing a lot of soul-searching, self-analyzing and desire-exploring.  But I’ve very quickly realized that I have very little to say that doesn’t involve parenting, motherhood, homemaking, wifery and the like.  Don’t get me wrong, I have an opinion about EVERYTHING.  But when it comes to the things that really matter to me and matter in general, they mostly involve my family.  Its about time I didn’t use such vagueness in posts describing those who I love most (ie: “the daughter”).

So without further ado, I’d like to introduce…

“THE DAUGHTER”

Jade Ondrea

IMG_0167•Likes dancing, singing, prancing, skipping, anything musical, anything whimsical.

•Has an incredible talent for drawing and anything artistic really.

•She was born with an opinion (furrowed brow and all), and is a great negotiator, just like her mommy.

“THE BOYS”:

Aaron Everest (Everest)

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•The sensitive twin.  He gives the best hugs, complete with back pats.

•Formally known as “baby A”, he was born first, born bigger, and stayed bigger.

•He’s most recently developed the talent of headstands.

Calder Reed

IMG_1829 - Version 2•My midnight “cackler” with the uncontrollable laughter outbursts.  He’s got a temper like I’ve never seen, but he’s also got the world’s most contagious smile.

•He’s totally obsessed with anything space/rocket related.

•He’s the one who “likes” everything about me when its time for bed (in all honestly, Everest is the one who started this, but Calder quickly caught on that he can stay up a lot longer if he butters me up.  He’s like Jade this way).

“THE BABY”

Lochlan Bradley

DSC_0103•His first sentence was, “I’m smart, independent, and capable of doing anything my brothers can do.  Back off.”

•That’s not true, but it may as well be.  He CAN say mama, daddy, Jadie, and “cheeeese” though.

•I bet he’ll be potty trained before his brothers too.

“THE HUSBAND”

Aaron Reed

IMG_3109 - Version 2•Love him.

•Love him.

•Love him.  Oh and also…he is an incredible landscaper, fine art sculptor, basketball coach, father, and the most patient man I know.  Did I mention I love him?

As I read through this, scanning for spelling and grammatical accuracy (which we both know is impeccable), I feel like the absolute luckiest girl in the world.  My family means everything to me.  Is it so strange that I still have a sense of longing to find something?

Yesterday, Aaron gave me the opportunity to have a “me day”.  Before I left he asked me what I planned to do, and I thought…go to the grocery store?  Mail in Jade’s basketball registration form?  Go out to lunch…oh, by the way Aaron, do you want me to bring you something?  I don’t know HOW to have a “me day”.  So as I went from random place to place, I found myself just talking to everyone I saw, stranger or not, and voluntarily offering an explanation for why I was childless today.  No one cared.  But I did.

Being out in public childless is like forgetting your purse at home.  Or even worse, forgetting to wear a bra.  I think from now on even on my “me days” I will bring at least one of them along.

The Privilege of Motherhood

From the top of the stairs: “Mama!”

“Yes?” I call from the kitchen.

“Mamaaaa!”

“YES! What is it?”  I say louder.

“I need to change my diaper, I have poopies!”  My 3 year old says, immediately followed by, “I need to change my panties too because I went potty in them.”  This coming from my 6 year old.  This happened twice.  Today.

I’m not surprised.  She’s had the stomach flu off and on all week.  So in addition to my 1 year old’s teething-related bowel problems and my 3 year old twins who are still not potty trained, I have changed, cleaned up, flushed, scrubbed, laundered enough excrement in the last week to fill up every bath tub in my house (I have 3, one of which is a large soaking tub).

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Astonishingly, I have been okay with this.  Of course its not a pretty site (or smell), but I watched this video again, after having watched it several years ago before I was quite SO up to my knees in all of this.  It hit me harder this time as I imagined what would it would be like for my children to be going through what they’ve been through this week without a mother to care for them.

A few days ago my daughter had been throwing up all day, unable to keep anything down and barely able to sit up.  She said she wanted to sleep on the couch upstairs (in the same spot she hadn’t moved from in 12 hours).  I sat beside her rubbing her back and pushing her hair back out of her eyes as she breathed weakly.  Finally I equipped her with a big plastic bowl and a sippy cup of water before going downstairs to be with my husband.

We sat at the kitchen table playing a lovely game of skip bo (that I won) and trying to enjoy the much needed silence during the rare time when all 4 kids were sleeping, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that I needed her to be closer to us.  I needed to hear her breathing.  So I made my husband go upstairs, pick her up and carry her, her blanket, cup, and bowl down to our bedroom to sleep on the floor.

It was the second night that we stayed up most of the night rinsing out the bowl, changing clothes and sheets, bathing, and rubbing backs (third night if you count doing the same for the baby).

My one child who hasn’t been sick this week (so far) is the one who laughs, cackles even, hysterically and uncontrollably in the middle of the night almost every night.  Usually I enter the room in a fit of anger, only to have him calm my rage by stroking my face and telling me “I like your eyes.  I like your cheeks.  I like your hair.  I like your fingers…”.  I can’t help but laugh as I say “I like you too”.

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I’ve said it more times than I can count, and every time I feel a little bit guilty, but MOTHERHOOD IS HARD!  If anyone wants to argue with me that it is not the most difficult job in the world, feel free.  I will win.

But in the same breath I can say that I am SO lucky to be the one to take care of these children.  Everyone once in a while I get a glimpse of how in the WORLD God would think I can handle this.  I’m so grateful for the perspective that sick kids give me of my purpose.  It may be a thankless job more often than not, but this week I have gotten more thank you’s, I love you’s, and cuddles (from the one who can’t talk) from these little ones than I think I deserve most of the time.

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“Its a tough job but somebody’s gotta do it” and I wouldn’t want it to be anyone else but me.

Do you have some sort of business woman special?

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I haven’t been this excited (or this nerdy) about something in a very, VERY long time.

Today I registered for an online training course to become a digital legal transcriptionist.  Yes, its a real thing, even though as I typed the word “transcriptionist” it was automatically underlined in red as a misspelled word.  I do NOT misspell words.  That is why this is the perfect job for me.

Let me tell you how I came to find this potential career of mine.

After a long fight with myself, I finally decided that it would be best if I visited a therapist.  My emotions have been so up and down for a while but around Thanksgiving is when it got really bad.  I was feeling hopeless and useless and just ready to throw in the towel.  It scared me because I’d never felt THAT bad before.  So I made an appointment.  I owed it to my family to try to find some sanity in this crazy season of my life.

So far I’ve been to visit him 3 times now and during the last visit we talked about the importance of me finding something in my life that could give me a little perspective.  He suggested getting a part time job and asked me what my skills were and what I may like to do.  Hmm…well let me think.  I worked as a hostess at 4 different restaurants, a line cook at a Subway-style Mexican restaurant (“Welcome to Moe’s!”), a checker at a grocery store, and then I started having kids.  And kept having kids.  Do I want to go back to work with a bunch of teenagers who may or may not have dropped out of high school yet as a 30 year old woman?  Let’s keep thinking.

This week I racked my brain for something I could put to good use (besides dance) and suddenly as we were binge watching the show Suits, it hit me.  I need to be a Court Reporter.  I love typing and drama.  The next day I called an attorney friend of mine and clumsily asked him if he had an opening like that.  He explained that they didn’t actually employ their own reporter but gave me the name of someone to call.  Well, to be brief, the 7th Judicial district (the court district that I live in) houses 10 counties and employs ONE court reporter.  But that’s beside the point.  To be a Certified Court Reporter, I’d need to be CERTIFIED.  So I started looking into it.

In my search I came across a job opening that was hiring for Legal Transcriptionists who want to work from home, can type 70+ wpm (oh please, I’ve got this in the bag), and have an AAERT certificate.  Huh?

I looked up AAERT: American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers.  Apparently there is a whole association of nerds like me.  I contacted their membership liaison, Sherry, and had a very nice conversation with her about the joys of a career in the field legal and medical transcription, which she’s been a part of for over 30 years.  After learning about my “situation” she encouraged me to check out a certain website that offered a great training course to prepare you to take the AAERT’s certification exam.

And here we are.  I am now enrolled in the International Institute for Transcribers and Court Reporters’ Legal Transcriptionist course.  For the next 6 weeks, I will be learning all about secure, organized file storage, homonyms, ei vs ie words and their exceptions, the proper uses of the comma, colon, semicolon, hyphen, italics, and dashes, as well as medical and legal terminology and so much more.  I just want to say, you had me at organized file storage.

Is it possible that thinking about learning more about the proper use of the English language and then getting to type it out really fast is actually make me love my children more?  I feel like a real adult!  I may not be able to sleep tonight thinking about my foot pedal and headset arriving in the mail next week.  Maybe my shrink was right about getting some perspective.

The Pen Pal Challenge

Freedom!  You’d be amazed what you SEE when you no longer have something blocking your periphery.

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I made the long overdue decision to “cancel” my Facebook account.  I say “cancel” because on the final page of the cancellation process it says “to reactivate, simply sign in using your username and password”.  So I guess the only thing holding me back from permanent deactivation is that I still remember my username and password.

I did, however, remove the FB app from my phone and the bookmark from my computer toolbar.  My biggest problem has been how easy it is to stay signed in 24/7.  My phone has almost become an extension of my arm, permanently attached, my eyes glued to the screen.  Yesterday I made the comparison between my addiction to screen-time and a bug to a fluorescent bug zapper.  And its equally detrimental.

The day that I decided to make this change I posted a status update alerting people to the impending deactivation.  Ironically, the majority of the feedback I got was that people wished they had the courage to make that change, but that they were scared of how much harder life would be.  They’re too addicted to it to imagine their life without it.

So I issued a challenge.  I DARE you to cancel your account and write me a handwritten letter.  If you are brave enough to just take that step, I promise your life will not be lacking anything.  In fact, taking those blinders off has allowed me to SEE my children more in the last few days than I have in months.  Not just because I’m looking at them instead of my phone, but because the things I read and see on Facebook poison my outlook on almost everything.  Suddenly my patience isn’t so short and my opinion of myself isn’t so terrible.  When you’re not spending all your time comparing your life to everyone else’s, you’d be surprised how great your life looks.

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As I’m writing this, I got a phone call.  It was from a friend that I see rarely except in my news feed.  She said “I went on Facebook to ask you a question but I realized you weren’t there anymore!”  I explained the situation and she said “Good for you!”  She said she thinks about doing that often.  She asked me to help her out with an activity and we set up a date and time.  We had a short but nice conversation and now I have plans to be a part of something!  How fast that worked.

I’m excited to see how my life changes now.  I have no intention of losing touch with the people who mean the most to me, I’ll just have to work a little harder.  Who wants to take my dare?  Even in this fast paced, technology filled world, its still really nice to get mail.  I love the feeling of actual paper.

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Adventures in Babysitting

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In case the mother of my most recent babysitter happens to be reading this, I first need to say you have raised an amazing young woman and she is exempt from any  “criticism” 🙂  Moving on…babysitting from multiple POV’s.

As a Parent looking for sitters

Fortunately for our family, for the majority of our married life with children we’ve had family very close by and haven’t really had to find a sitter.  Not to mention we live in a town where there’s not a lot to do on dates so there’s rarely a need.  But when we DO go out, we usually enlist the help of my wonderful MIL.  She knows and loves our kids and respects our house as much as we do, so not only can we count on her to take care of the KIDS but I trust she’s not going to be stealing from us or inviting boyfriends over while we’re gone (right, mom?).

I have only very recently realized that there is a major shortage of good babysitters out there.  The few times that we have had teenagers come to our house, I come home and find it messier than it was when I left, no diapers have been changed, and I’m $20 (or more) poorer.  More like $50 after gas and dinner.  Was it worth it?

My question is, for those of you who are in this stage, do you make obsessive-compulsive lists for your babysitters of what you want them to do?  Or do you expect them to just use common sense?

I feel like getting a babysitter puts me in a really weird position.  I still don’t feel old enough to be calling babysitters; I used to BE the babysitter not that long ago.  So when someone arrives at my house I still feel the need to communicate with them like we’re on the same level.  I hate telling them what to do because in a sense its like telling your peers what to do.  Plus I think they should just assume that if they make food they should wash the dish, or if there’s a messy diaper, it probably shouldn’t wait til I get home.

Me, as a Babysitter

When I was in middle school, my mom made me take a babysitting course that included CPR training and certification.  I’m not sure if this was just a house rule, or a state mandated law.  But I returned home from the class a qualified babysitter, ready to approach “clients” with my skills.

I was told that it was appropriate and appreciated to tell the parents how much you charge, when you’re available, and to ASK THEM what they want you to do while you’re there (ie: dishes, laundry, bathing, diapers, etc.).  If you happen to have kids toys or books, bring them.  Kids always love not to have to play with their own boring toys.

I had lots of different babysitting experiences, some for parents who already had an extremely tidy house and just needed someone who would fix dinner and make sure the kids were alive (although this was never all I did, even if it was all that was expected).  Some for parents who had a very specific list of tasks to accomplish before they got home (Wednesday: bathroom cleaning day, Thursday: laundry day, Friday: clean the wood floors day).

It seems to me that parents are not teaching their kids HOW to have responsibilities.  I think that most parents of teens, when they hear that somebody needs someone to watch their children, automatically volunteer their own teenager.  The problem is many teenagers think that babysitting is the easiest job in the world because all they have to do is SHOW UP.  Heaven forbid they do something besides turn on cartoons and text on their phones.  I never ever expected to be paid to just sit at someones house and not do anything to help them.  So my point is, if you don’t feel qualified to be a babysitter (or don’t think your teen is qualified yet), DON’T TAKE THE JOB.  It shouldn’t be the world’s easiest job.  Just like parenting, it should be a job you “show up” to and take pride in

As someone who has been “babysat”

Children are impressionable.  Just because they are young doesn’t mean they won’t remember what you do when you’re there.  I still have vivid memories of experiences I had with babysitters, good and bad.

When my parents got divorced my mom had to get a full-time job and was forced to find a full-time babysitter.  She hired a woman named Mickey.  My 7-year-old-memory of this experience may not be accurate, but this is how I saw it.  I was dropped off at Mickey’s house every morning before school, I walked to school with her kids, and returned after.  Here are my 3 most distinct memories of my experience at Mickey’s house: I used to have to take naps on her living room couch while she watched Oprah and soap operas right next to me.  One time her kids were all going to see a movie with their dad and she told me I wasn’t allowed to go.  I cracked my chin open on the side of her pool and as I waited for my mom to come pick me up and take me to the hospital, she kept yelling at me to stop crying.  My mom says Mickey was a very nice lady who made a good impression on her so I guess you never know.

I had one babysitter during a summer in North Carolina with my dad who invited her boyfriend over while she was watching us.  My friend Bryan came over to play and we caught the sitter and her boyfriend making out.  When she saw that we were “spying” she made fun of us and then dared us to kiss.  I was 8 years old.  That was my first kiss.

Everyone else

I’m very aware that especially in today’s world everyone has an opinion.  Everyone is a professional on every issue.  So there will be someone who reads this and thinks “if you have such a problem with babysitters then take care of your own kids”.

May I remind you that I am a 99% stay-at-home mom.  The other 1% is the date or two that I go on each month to keep my marriage in tact (which is rare these days).  Because as much as I love my children, there will be a day when they leave the house and my husband and I are left with whatever remains of our relationship (which I hope is every bit as blissful as it was when he proposed to me).

I’ve come to realize that you can love your children with every bit of your heart, but still need a moment or two away from them.  And the truth is that they need time away from you too.  It doesn’t make me a bad parent to leave my kids with someone else once in a while.

All I’m saying is that if you are marketing yourself as a babysitter, whatever your age, you’d better be prepared for the requirements.  And parents, teach your children (before they become know-it-all teens who are unteachable, like I know I was) the life skills they need to become a babysitter BEFORE you unleash them into someone else’s home to take care of their most precious things.