Saturday, April 26, 2014

I Un-Quit!

As mentioned in "I Quit" I had new career, worked 9am-5pm, with not only people my own age - but get this - I was the baby of the place. Being one of the youngest full-time staff members at the time felt good. No babies, no kids, no runny noses, bottles to make, or toys to pick up. It was just me, my job, and my friends.


Life was great, until...


...I became friends with the Momma's around me. This changed the game totally. It was no longer adults that I kind of knew asking me to watch their kids and then we kind of became friends. But now some of my friends were mom's who had young children and desperately needed some time out of the house. 


 It was the mom of 3 who barely got a weekend with her husband during Christmas time because of his work schedule. It was the new mother, still working full-time at the same place as her husband, and they just needed a night out. It was the new couple that just moved to town with their two little boys and no family to help them out. As a matter of fact none of the couples mentioned here had family close by.


 My heart cry and passion for children couldn't be held by my tight lips. But something else had changed too. It wasn't just a job or a need for money anymore that had me heading over to someone else's house to watch their kiddos again. It was compassion for the parents, seeing the needs that they had and knowing that as a single woman with a love for kids I could help. In a way that blessed me as much as it did them.


Watching their children became my gift to these families. Some might call it community service. I call it community living. The old African Proverb "It takes a village to raise a child" became my mission statement. Not that I was a village but in a small way I became part of that family's village. This was a great way to serve, I had little money to give, came up short on the creativity stick, couldn't really swing a hammer, and anything my thumbs touched turned black not green. But I could make a quick bottle, change a dirty diaper, and rock with the best of babies. 

When my mind set changed from watching a child as a means to earn money to watching a child as a blessing for the parent(s) raising that child everything else changed. It no longer was a drudge to watch these children, but a joy knowing that it was a benefit for others. 


So I Un-Quit!



But I also learned boundaries, and THIS was really important. I didn't want to burn out and stop liking my friend's kids. I learned that saying no because I wasn't in the mood to watch children was okay. The guilt I had for saying no to child-watching on my only free night was bashed, I allowed myself to have me-time. This was the hardest part to change. As someone who hates not being able to fill a need, I had to learn that they best way I could fill a need was doing it wholeheartedly and that meant taking time to rest and refresh. Saying no at times, especially on those weeks where I only had one free night, was the best thing I could do in the end.


And I loved being able to help out even more. It never was work, it was enjoyment. Every now and then I would HIGHLY ENCOURAGE some of my friends to go out just so I could have baby time. Slowly the passion to help parents raise their kids began to grow stronger. So much that thoughts of opening up a day-care became on my radar. 

But God had other thoughts....


...check back in the next few weeks as the story of how this gal goes from being Office Assistant/Ticket Agent,  to a full-time Nanny. 


CECONNER ©4.26.2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

I Quit!

After 10 Years of Providing Child Care I Quit!

It was the year of my 21st birthday and child care had been my main side job for years. As I mentioned in "Let's Start at the Beginning..." there were countless families and children that came in and out of my life for years - but I was done! Like who cares how much money you offer - don't call me to watch another child done!

working at my desk
But this was going to require something big, a major life change. After picking up, packing, moving several hours away, and landing my first real "big girl" job the change came. It was a new town, with new people, and new friends - NO ONE needed to know that in another life I was a child watching machine.  My lips were sealed.

But why?

Why quit something that came as natural as breathing?

Honestly and simply - I was burned out. The night that I spent more time on my cell phone than with the child who was glued to the TV I knew it was time to stop. As someone who prided herself on putting the cell phone on silent and turning the TV off this was a hit rock bottom night. I realized that changing diapers, bed times, playing catch, reading books, and cooking meals were not the problem. But it was the 100th time I had to say no to someone elses child, the lack of communication from certain parents, the low pay from others, falling asleep on the couch, and heading home covered in baby food just grated my last nerves. 

First Quarter at Work
None of these things were new and they were all part of the job.

But at 21 with at 1,000 hours of experience under my belt , a called off engagement, and dashed dreams of someday soon have my own child - it was time to find a new passion. After being in college full time, working 2 part time jobs, and babysitting at least 3 nights a week it was time for a calmer life, one that did not include someone elses child being in my sole care.

Sound Harsh?
Great Nanny Look - right?

That is totally how I felt, completely burned out and bored with watching children. I wanted to work at a desk near adults. My dreams of family went from wanting to have a house full of kids to maybe someday, a very far off day, I would have one.

So with new career in hand, working 9am-5pm, with not only people my own age - but get this - I was the baby of the place. Being one of the youngest full-time staff members at the time felt good. No babies, no kids, no runny noses, bottles to make, or toys to pick up. It was just me, my job, and my friends.

Life was great, until... 

 (Look for I Un-Quit in the Next Few Days)

CECONNER ©4.16.2014

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting Out of the House

You want to get out of the house

A day out with the kiddos

But one is hungry. One is tired. And the other poops right as your getting everyone into their car seats.

So how do you get out of the house without going insane?
Take deep breath and know it will take some time. 

It is totally possible to do. It is just going to take some planning.
  Knowing that it will take 15 minutes to get out the door, planning trip that won't squeeze into a nap time, or that driving time wont take longer than play time are all key factors in getting ready. 

There is no magic recipe for success here. Just two things that YOU as the Nanny have to do:
1. Have a Plan
2.  Be Flexible (with that Plan)

The first thing was figuring out their schedules. Answering questions like:
1. What is their morning/afternoon nap times? Are they consistent? How long do the naps last?
2. Will one or both need to be fed right before we leave?
3. What time is the next feeding?
4. Where can we go and how long can we be gone in our time frame?

Once you know those answers you can plan accordingly. Pack the diaper bag before hand, with snacks, diapers, bottle/formula, lunch if you need and water. Have the bag all set and ready before you even try to get the kids ready. 

Now I tend to be a minimalist - I hate diaper bags. So if I know it is going to be a 30 minute trip to the park, most likely there wont be a diaper bag. But if we are spending the day at the zoo we pack everything to last through lunch time. 

Then make a game out of getting out the door - who can get ready fastest.
Have the kid's shoes, hats, coats somewhere they can reach. As they grow into toddler ages they can get themselves ready and have fun doing it.

Then just go. Don't worry about what you forgot or what you might not have packed. Keep a stroller in your car so you don't have to lug it in and out every time you go anywhere. Leave your baby carrying device in the car, whether it's a Moby Wrap, Baby Bjorn, Ergo, or something else.

If you don't have time for a big day trip take a small walk around your neighborhood, you will be glad to just get out. Kids generally won't care if it is 10 minute walk around the block or a 2 hour trip. They are just happy for the change. Realizing this helped relieve so much stress. Thinking through the reality of time we had made everything go better. I stopped trying to plan day trips when we only had an hour. I was happier and the boys still had just as much fun.

Being flexible is also crazy important. The days where it seems impossible to get out of the house is generally my faulty thinking. Those are the days where I want to make a big trip, go do something for a couple hours. Or Bug slept longer than I planned. Or Bear is being "too fussy" for my liking.

In the end we don't go out because I wasn't being flexible and didn't carry out plan B, a simple walk.
ALWAYS go for Plan B. :-D

Go out of the house, enjoy the spring weather, and most important your kids.

CECONNER ©4.11.2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

Seattle Aquarium

*The Seattle Aquarium!
One of my favorite places to meander for an hour or so with Roo on a rainy day. 

Some of the reasons I love this place so much are: the easy accessibility, the entertainment it provides, and the duration of our stay can easily vary. Kids love petting the star fish, watching the octopus spread it's tentacles, playing with the felt board, walking around the tropical fish, trying to interact with the harbor seals, and watching the river otters wrestle. The aquarium has the ability to capture your child's attention for hours or can quickly be walked through if you are on a time crunch

The Location:
1483 Alaskan Way, Pier 59
Seattle, WA 98101-2015

The Hours:
9:30am - 5:00pm

*The Cost: 
Youth (4 -12yrs)
Children 3 & Under

*Membership Cost: (per year)
Individual       $69
Family          $139
Family Plus  $179

Yes the cost is more on the pricey end for a small outing, but I recommend talking to your nanny family about looking into a membership. There are different levels to suit your family's needs. This is a place you can go monthly if not weekly for a day out of the house; membership costs tend to save money after about the 4th visit.

The Aquarium also has Toddler Time a various mornings each month. Click here for their updated calendar of events. A fun indoor activity to participate in during our rainy winters.

Bear loves the atmosphere of the aquarium; from touching a starfish to running around with the harbor seals - it is a place of delight. Bug's attention is even captured with all the bright colors and fish.

With a staff that genuinely seems to enjoy interacting and educating children the aquarium gets this gals vote! So if you are looking for a place to get out of the house on a rainy day (or sunny one) the Seattle Aquarium makes the list.

CECONNER ©4.11.2014
* Updated 10.28.2015

Friday, April 4, 2014

Local Community Centers - Our Saving Grace!

The rainy days this week inspired me to think about an easy place to go to when the weather has us locked up inside. The local community center. Click Here to find a complete listing in the Seattle Area. In West Seattle we are lucky to have several centers within our city limits. 4 out of the 5 have a great Toddler Open Gym, while all 5 of them have different activities for Preschoolers throughout the school year.

So Here it is

The Top 5 Reasons I love the Community Centers:

  1. They are inexpensive; $3 per child.
  2. They are in a closed environment: Generally adults are only allowed in the Toddler Play Gyms when accompanied by a child.  Having 2 children in one open space can be daunting, but the community centers are set up in a way that allows a caretaker to scan the whole room and see everything. This is great when one child wants to play in the floor and the other with the toys across the gym. 
  3. It is a great way to meet other Nannies and Moms. Often there are regulars at the community centers, this is a great way to connect and meet up with friends. 
  4. This is place you can stop in for a half hour or two hours. The flexibility is amazing. When most children's activities in the area can cost anywhere from $5 - $20 it is nice to have a place that we can go and not feel like we need to stay long hours to get our monies worth.
  5. There is almost always one happening, every day of the week. 
And this is just for the Toddler Gym Hours. Community Centers have dance classes, sports, arts and crafts, and all other types of events for all ages. These are all great ways to get involved and meet people in your neighborhood. With the coming of summer pools will begin opening too!

Community Centers within the West Seattle Area:

Toddler (5ys and under) Play Gym Hours: $3.00
Monday, Wednesday, Friday
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Toddler (5ys and under) Play Gym Hours: $3.00
10:00am - 1:00pm
Toddler (5ys and under) Play Gym Hours: $3.00
10:00am - 2:00pm
Toddler (5ys and under) Play Gym Hours: $3.00
10:00am - 1:00pm
All of these Community Centers offer different programs for Preschoolers, click here to locate a PDF with all West Seattle Winter Programs.

Where ever you live, small town, big city, or suburbia check around for local community centers, schools, and churches to see what type of play gyms they have in your area. 

Overall we have fun on the days we decide to go. They are a great place to let Bear run out his energy and meet up with a few friends. Bear, Bug, and I have not personally checked out all of these Community Centers so we would love your feed back on which ones you like best and why. 

CECONNER ©4.4.2014

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Started a Nanny, Ended a Daughter.

Every Once in a While you Come Across a Family Who Hires You as a Nanny and Ends Up Loving You as a Daughter.

This Picture Captures Our Relationships So Perfectly

This doesn't happen often in life but when it does treasure it,  hold onto them. 

On the rare occasion life gives you the gift of not just one but two places to call home, two sets of siblings, two sets of parents, two places that no matter how far you travel or how long you have been gone - you can always go back and call it home. 


 The Steward's are that second family for me. I grew up (and still to this day) with a wonderful family, my mom and dad love me, my siblings are some of my closest friends. But the year of my 14th birthday God smiled down and gave me a second family in the most unlikely circumstances. 

Left to Right: Jon, Me, Hunter, Jordan
In 2001 they moved to New York from Alaska, 3 boys: Jon, 17 -  Jordan, 10,  Hunter, 6 months. Christine and Troy (the parents) started attending the church that I grew up in and was currently involved in. 
Baby Hunter
One of our first experiences involve two boxes mac&cheese and one teenage girl who didn't know how to cook them. The boxes were left out for me to make dinner, each a different kind of cheese. Simple enough, you would think. But as Jordan so kindly reminds me "you are the only person I know that could ruin a box of mac&cheese".  It took almost 10 years to convince him that a 14 year old girl eventually learned to cook.

Christine AKA Mom & Me in Hawaii
Almost from the first day on the job we became siblings. I was no sooner making them dinner then they started teasing me in true sibling fashion. Sometimes I felt I was babysitting Jon and Jordan - breaking up their brotherly fights than I was Hunter. There were hockey trips to Canada with the family, outings on their boat, quiet nights in the hot tub, dinners around the table, and our favorite: game nights into the wee hours of the morning.
Yes it is blurry, as we got older, this says it all! Siblings

Being Hunter's nanny gave me a lot of "firsts". He was the first baby I rocked to sleep at night, learning the joy of comforting a little baby. The first little brother to capture my heart. He allowed me for the first time to learn the preciousness of loving someone more than myself. I remember learning how comforting holding a baby can be. One Sunday something really emotional happened and I just wanted to cry, I remember going to find Hunter and a rocking chair and just holding him for a while. After a few minutes of baby time what seemed so big earlier no longer overwhelmed me. 

Hunter was there to sooth my first real heartbreak. After the end of a 4 year relationship I went over to the Stewards one night. Jokingly I asked Hunter to be my boyfriend; his 7 year old boyish yes made me giggle. But not nearly as much as he did that night when I tucked him into bed. I went in for our normal good-night kiss, this one was not so normal. After a weird pause before he kissed me and a lingering lip that last just a few seconds too long for comfort I asked Hunter "What was that?"
His sweet response "That's how boyfriends kiss their girlfriends" had me laughing and sweetly explaining that he really couldn't be my boyfriend, even though his childish love helped heal a broken heart.

Hunter at an Arts Festival

Both being the youngest children, Hunter and I had a special bond. He was my first real little brother. We would read together, play Legos, watch hockey games, and play Guitar Hero together. Being with the Steward's through 2 different deployments (first Troy then Jon) gave me insight to what Military families go through. The joke is I am 1/2 Army Brat 1/2 Civilian now because of the close look inside this family. These times were some of the most heart wrenching and warming years of my life. Learning first hand the hardships each Military family has to go through. The love and laughter, the struggles and obstacles, but mostly the victories that these families have is astounding.

Hunter as a Toddler
Almost 13 years have come and gone since that first time I stepped into the Steward's house. They  have adopted me into their home and family (I have the key to prove it). The boys and I have had our fights. Each brother has shared special moments that only brothers can with sisters. Talks about school, work, relationships, and family. We have been there for each other through all the ups and downs. They have seen me at my worst and loved me at my best. As a family we have shared Christmases, birthdays, and vacations together. They have teased me, embarrassed me (Troy - announcing my singleness and availability in front of a whole room of strangers at his retirement party), taken care of me when I was sick, and watched me grow up. 

So blessed to take this vacation with them
Troy, Jordan, Jon, Hunter, and Me

What started out as a helping put one little baby to sleep at night, turned into years of family love. Becoming a daughter, sister, and friend to this wonderful family. More than anything I look back over the years and feel so incredibly blessed to be in their lives and them in mine. Watching the changes through the years hasn't always been easy but they have all been for the better in the end. Jon got married to his sweet wife Diana, Jordan grew from a young pre-teen to a strong man, and Hunter, my baby Hunter is growing up into a smart young teenager. 

Hunter and Me in Hawaii

More is yet to come with these guys. More change will happen as it always does, but knowing that no matter what happens in life I will always have this family to be grateful for. Not just for the memories made, but the memories to come. 

Thank you Troy, Christine, Jon, Jordan, and Hunter for letting me into your home and hearts. Our relationships over the years are some of the most treasured, buried deep in my heart. 

**Photo credit goes to both Christine Steward and Myself***
CECONNER ©4.2.2014