May 17, 2013

When the nanny leaves

Elementary logic tells me that because Stan and I are moving to another country, we are going to have to leave our current jobs. This is going to be hard for me. Actually it already is, even though I have two weeks left to work.

I've been taking care of Goober & Goobrette since they were four months old. They're turning three next month; this has been the longest I've stayed with one family. We actually haven't started transitioning the kids much -- that starts next week -- because right now their sense of time comes down to "yesterday," "now," and "later." We figure two weeks' worth of "soon" and "in a bit" and "in a few days" should do the trick. But it's definitely something that's been on my mind.


My first nanny gig was just a temporary arrangement, covering the first half of a summer during my university years. The family in question already had a nanny who had been with them since the birth of their first child, nearly five years at that point. She had been live-in for most of that time, but now had her own place and was being "transitioned out" -- to use the mother's words. Flora* was still working a few days a week, but I was also working a few days a week. After about a month of this the family was going to France for a vacation, and when they came back, abracadabra: no more Flora and no more me.

The thing that made this arrangement exquisitely uncomfortable was that the parents had not bothered to tell Flora that she was been "transitioned out". The writing was on the wall, of course, and she knew as well as I did what the deal was -- in fact, we talked about it more than once. But it was an exceedingly poor way to handle that transition, for Flora and for the children. The parents didn't seem to want to risk Flora accepting another job before they had gotten all of their desired use out of her; I believe the plan was to give her notice once they were actually in France. Too, they hadn't told the children anything about Flora leaving, or about why I was there. The youngest had told me many times and in no uncertain terms that "I want Flooooora" -- and this is while we were both in the house, often at the same time. I can only imagine what it would have been like once she'd disappeared entirely.

I think I have more experience with transitions that were handled poorly than the reverse.


The tricky thing with this job is that you always know that it's going to end, but you attach anyway. You have to attach to the children if you're going to be caring for them effectively. You just do. But there's a constant tension there, because the job will end: you'll move or have a child of your own, or they'll move or decide they'd rather use a daycare, or at the very least, eventually the children will grow up a bit and be in school full-time. That's the reality of the job. It just is.

A quick google seach on "how to prepare children for the nanny leaving," however, tells me that while nannies always know this, parents sometimes don't. The articles I find have three dominant tones. First, there are the preventative articles: How to Keep Your Nanny Forever in Ten Easy Steps. Then there are a few fairly balanced pieces acknowledging that yes, these transitions are hard for everyone involved.

And then there are my favourites: the articles that sound something like this:

"Waaaaah! My nanny is leaving and my life will be sooooooo hard now! Why is she soooooooo selfish? Why me? What have I done to deserve this? I can't believe she wants to [take a better job / move / go back to school / have a baby / insert other extraordinary self-centred reason here] -- the cow!!"

Amazingly, this attitude can also be found off the internet. My mother told her of a family she knows of whose nanny just left. There are two children, ages eight and ten. The parents have had to hire people to do the laundry and cut the grass and such, because they just! can't! keep up! without the nanny. (My question: why aren't your capable older children being taught how to do the laundry? My brother and I started washing the dishes every night when we were younger than that.)


In two weeks, my job ends. A few days after that, Goober and Goobrette and their parents are going on an extended vacation to the prairies and then (funnily enough) France. We're moving away in the month after they get back, and they'll actually be moving not long after that. So it will work out conveniently enough for everyone involved. But this time, we're going to do transition right. This time, there will be no abracadabra-the-nanny-is-gone.

This time, there will be a chance to say goodbye.

May 8, 2013

Proof of ties

It turns out that when you go off to study in America, America is pretty interested in making sure that you leave afterwards. So one of the things we'll have to provide when we cross the border, along with proof of identity and proof that we have enough money to live while we're there is "proof of ties to Canada."

We're not sure what that means. Sure, we plan to move back to Canada in a couple of years. And of course we have ties here -- we were both born and raised in Ontario and most of our families and basically all of our friends live in Canada. But I'm not sure how one itemizes those historic and emotional ties for border patrol.

Stan's planning to phone the American Embassy here in town to find out what they're looking for. In the meantime, I have been brainstorming some ideas of my own:

- Matching maple leaf tattoos in prominent body locations (I'm thinking: forehead)

- A choreographed recitation of patriotic poems and songs

- Investment in some anti-American bumper stickers

- Writing a series of essays on the advantages of socialized medicine (and then giving them to the border guards to read as I'm sure they'll be very interested)

- Providing a meandering anecdote about the time my cousin B and I were fighting over whose country was better, which culminated in her punching me repeatedly through her pillow while I chanted "Vietnam! Vietnam!"

- Proving my inability to remember the words to the American national anthem ("...Whose bright stripes and bright stars, na na na naa na naaaaa, Were so naaaaa na na naaaa na na na na na waving, And the rockets' red glaaaaaaaaare....")

- Explaining that Canada will inevitably draw me back since it's the only place I can get a decent poutine

Yup. That'll work.

May 6, 2013


This weekend Goober & Goobrette's parents took off for a few days, leaving Stan and I in charge of two almost-three-year-olds and the cat. They got home sometime in the small hours this morning; when I woke up at five to six I checked to see that their car was indeed in the driveway, and then gathered my things and snuck out of the house like an escaping convict.

Not that it went poorly. It was fun. We took the kids to church yesterday, where they were extremely well behaved and had fun ("My play toys!") -- although I note that receiving a blessing at communion did not go down so well: "My scared of the man," Goobrette confessed on the way home. And as someone at church told us, "I don't know how you got your instant family there, but I like it."

Heck, I like it too. Turns out I especially like having another adult with me the whole time -- yesterday I was able to just go upstairs and take a nap without worrying that it was five pm, or that the kids were up and about, or that technically they're paying me to be awake during the day. Stan was awake, so all was well. And then I napped, and there was much rejoicing.

All the same, I was pretty eager to come home this morning. I live just fifteen minutes away on foot,
and so by twenty after six I was in my own bed, which, for the record, is way more comfortable than what they've got going on over there. I got to see Stan before he left for work, and eat my own food for breakfast.

I do have to get back there for eleven -- but I'm glad to be here, now.

May 3, 2013

America, America, my country tis almost of thee

Hooking up with Jen for Seven Quick Takes.

1. It's summer here! I know that the calendar says that it should probably be spring, but we had spring already: it was about a week ago and it was ten minutes long. Now the temperature is hanging out in the solid mid-twenties, and we're all walking around with sunburns and stunned expressions.

The fun part, of course, is that it would not be unheard of if we got another snowstorm before the month is out.

2. Having grown up in The City, I never particularly needed to drive, and so I didn't bother to learn. But last year I decided that I was going to get my licence (only ten years overdue) and so I went through drivers' ed and then took lessons with an instuctor. And he was -- how can I say this? -- a gigantic jerkosaurus. So a month or two after my lessons ended I wrote a letter to the driving school detailing my experience. (This is something that I've recently discovered: when something goes wrong, it's ok to complain. Crazy, no?)

The upshot is that they were very apologetic and are sending me out with their senior instructor this morning to make sure I'm ship-shape for my road test at the end of the month. All I hope is that we can practice parallel parking, because I haven't done that in yonks.

3. Part of the reason I decided to learn to drive is because we're moving! At the end of July we'll be leaving our city... and our province... and our country (!) as Stan is going to be pursuing graduate studies in the States. It's both exciting and daunting to think about living as ex-pats for the next three or so years. And to add to our sense of displacement, we're moving from a city of a million (note: this is the smallest place I've ever lived) to a town of 7,000. That's the size of five of my highschools.

Stan says that I'll love small-town living, and he's probably right, but right now -- in the abstract -- it just doesn't make sense to me. The town: so tiny! What do they all do there?

4. One of the used bookstores near us is having an all-summer-long five-books-for-a-dollar sale. This is basically like handing me a bag of cocaine. But it's helpful for the next stage of my reading resolution: I want to read one French book a month. I've been easily exceeding my goal of at least three nonfiction titles, and so I think it's time to add French to the mix.

This resolution also comes in light of the upcoming move, since I won't be using my French daily in Tinytown USA as I do here.

5. You know that Yiddish saying about God laughing when we make plans? Years ago I told God (and anyone else who would listen) that I would never live in my current city. And even more than that, I told God that I would never, ever, ever ever ever, not even a little, ever live in the United States.

Ah ha, ha, ha ha ha.

6. This post has basically been all about the move so far, and that makes sense I guess, since it's a pretty big deal. We're getting excited, and we've finished our paperwork and lined up somewhere to live, but there's still one thing that's giving me some major trepidation: odds are, I won't be able to get a work permit. Getting into the States is no problem because I'm going down as the dependent spouse on Stan's student status. That means that he can work, with some limitations, but I can't at all. And looking at the regulations and conditions and incantations necessary to obtaining a work permit, I'm pretty daunted -- especially because I'm not in any sort of specialty occupation.

I'd be happy to have your prayers that we'd find a way for me to get a permit, because (a) it'd be awfully useful for me to be able to bring in some income since Stan will be working and studying both, and (b) if I have to sit around the house for three years I might die.

7. On that note of (slight) hyperbole, I shall close. It's almost time to meet my instructor, so I've got some parallel parking videos to review!

May 1, 2013

April reading brings May posting

Books books books! I was a bit worried that my April reading was going to suffer due to my crippling Plants vs. Zombies addiction, but I somehow pulled off 21 -- the same as last month, in one less day. Mind you, I did have to stay up past my bedtime in order to finish Passage before the deadline last night....

Books Read: April 2013

01. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla (Stephen King)
02. No Cheating, No Dying (Elizabeth Weil)
03. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)
04. The Dark Towers VI: Song of Susannah (Stephen King)
05. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower (Stephen King)
06. A Complicated Kindness (Miriam Toews)
07. Carry On, Warrior (Glennon Doyle Melton)
08. Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) (Mindy Kaling)
09. Mean Moms Rule (Denise Schipani)
10. WLT (Garrison Keillor)
11. Sailing to Sarantium (Guy Gavriel Kay)
12. Lord of Emperors (Guy Gavriel Kay)
13. Tears of the Giraffe (Alexander McCall Smith)
14. The Full Cupboard of Life (Alexander McCall Smith)
15. The Rite (Matt Baglio)
16. The Brides of Rollrock Island (Margo Lanagan)
17. Red Spikes (Margo Lanagan)
18. Escaping the Endless Adolescence (Joseph Allen & Claudia W. Allen)
19. At Home in Mitford (Jan Karon)
20. The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday (Alexander McCall Smith)
21. Passage (Connie Willis)

Cumulative Stats for 2013

Total books read: 75

Average number of books read per month: 18.75

Fiction: 61
Non-fiction: 14

Books by male authors: 41
Books by female authors: 33
Books with joint male/female authorship: 1

Distinct male authors: 21
Distinct female authors: 20

Books by living authors: 69
Books by dead authors: 6

Books read for the first time: 33
Books read at least once before: 42

About six of these are chunksters, which makes me wonder how many books I might get through in a month if I restricted it to books under, say, 400 pages. It might be worth an experiment!