Hazel wasn’t tired last night…. Instead fighting a bedtime tantrum, I offered to keep her company. (I’m coming off another spell of around-the-clock meeting prep and business trips - so I was in need of some quality time with my girl)
I crawled in bed with Z and by the glow of the nightlight, I told her Auntie Ellen stories. Those are her favorite.
She is partial to the one where El gets lost in the woods… and chased by a bear But I am tired of that one. I have told it a million times, at least.
I racked my brain for some new material. And then, like lightening, I was struck by a genius idea. (One that I couldn’t BELIEVE hadn’t crossed my mind before). I knew it was going to be a crowd-pleaser before the words even came out of my mouth….
I told Hazel a great pair of stories:
The one where Auntie Ellen played Belle in her 4th grade play & The one where Auntie Ellen played Ariel in her 5th grade play.
(Musicals + Disney Princesses + Aunt Ellen. Pure Gold!)
I told Hazel about how Ellen brought the house down with her tour de force performance how she sang more beautifully than all of the matilda’s put together, how she looked even more radiant in her ball gown costume than Belle does in the movie and how I was so proud of my little sister that I was the first one on my feet for the standing ovation and how I clapped so hard, my hands actually stung.
Hazel asked if Ellen swam on stage when playing Ariel. No, she didn’t swim…but she did sashay, I explained.
She asked if Ellen’s Belle gown had sequins on it Millions! I assured her.
Then Hazel asked if I brought Ellen flowers…. Did I bring her flowers?! Did I bring her flowers?! You betcha! I was so moved by her performance that I threw a garden worth of roses on to the stage as she took her bows and I delivered a bouquet taller than Felix to El’s dressing room during intermission.
Hazel liked this response.
My goal in telling Auntie Ellen stories is obviously to entertain my girls - but more importantly these stories are a way for me to reinforce the message I wrote to Hazel the day before Felix was born:
This eternal winter is taxing on everyone… But the toddler set gets hit particularly hard by cabin fever in weather like this.
On Saturday, Simon and I were determined to come up with an (indoor) activity where the kids could run around freely and didn’t have to keep quiet. Simon suggested the Garfield park Conservatory. Free. Warm. New to Us. Sold!
I built up excitement by telling the girls we were going to the jungle. When Hazel asked if Mowgli was going to be there….I went with it, and was inspired to turn the entire adventure into an elaborate hunt for Sher Kahn & Baloo. It was a TOTAL HIT.
We searched for the fictional tiger in the tropical greenhouse - then made our way through the lush paths, past the waterfall, beyond the Koi pond & wishing well…then finally over the bridge to the Children’s Garden.
This outing was EXACTLY what we needed. And the conservatory solidly earned a top spot (right next to or North Park Village Nature Center) for best pocket of nature in the city.
I don’t know about you, but our January was brutal….
What with all the polar vortices, runny noses and the Olympus sized mountain of work Simon and I attempted to climb. I spent the better part of those 31 days tired, stressed and COLD.
So when I found myself with a free weekend, I jumped at the chance to join my mama & gp’s down in Miami. (Simon was prepping for a trial, so he couldn’t get away, but he was all for the idea of a “girls weekend” - and even helped us pack our bags!)
We enjoyed 5 days of South Beach Sun and time together.
Beach. Pool. Park. Repeat.
I Watched my girls play at the water’s edge, and my heart swelled. They chased waves and birds, Collected seashells and seaweed They hauled buckets (and cups and caps) full of sand all over that beach - two pint-sized builders on a mission.
Joy radiated from my daughters. And for the first time all year, I was warm.
It was my first day back at work after a long weekend in Miami. It was nice to be back. Not quite the same degree of difficulty as my reentry a year ago today (I returned to work from my mat leave with Felix on my birthday last year.)
Glazed & Infused Donuts (and flowers! and mimosas! and streamers!) from my team at work.
The kindest words from the dearest of friends. Messages across all mediums, each one warming my heart.
My day flew by. That is not unusual.
After work, we picked up the kiddos and swung by my p’s. Mom baked me a cake and ran it down to the car…along with a “birthday box” (her best invention - it’s literally a box full of surprises)….and my dad. Kisses and cakes exchanged in the circle driveway in front of their building. I love living near them.
We then headed home and ate empanadas. And listened to Les Mis on Vinyl (one of the thoughtful birthday gifts from my husband).
Hazel repeated her best pun to date: Eponine-enada. I couldn’t make that up if I tried.
My little family lit my candles and turned out the kitchen lights and sang me happy Birthday. Hazel blew 2/3 of them out before I had a chance….teamwork :) Felix discovered the joy that is licking frosting off a candle. That kept her busy.
Sticky hands. Big bath. Bubbles, of course. Feeling fly from her 4 days in the pool/ocean, Felix spent much of tonight’s bath showing off her new-found ability to dunk herself. I clapped everytime.
I put Felix to bed tonight. Unprompted, Hazel gave me the copy of The Giving Tree from off her shelf to read to Felix as a bedtime story. It was a great suggestion. A poignant birthday text. I fought back tears when I got to the part about the stump….Fee was feeling it too. She sat quietly through the whole book.
A goodnight kiss for Felix. A goodnight kiss for Hazel. Upstairs with Simon…Tonight we watch YouTube clips of Les Mis flash mobs and talk….we talk about work and I share more stories about our daughters on vacation. I’ve got a great guy.
And then, back to work. My nightly ritual. I enjoy it…I find I make progress in different ways when working after dark. It is my time to think - think about problems and think about solutions. This is the time where my ideas take shape.
It’s 1:33 am now - meaning, it is no longer even my birthday (and waaay past my bedtime)…but I wanted take a moment to capture my gratitude and feelings of immense love.
This is actually one of the most common questions I get in my ask-me queue. So let me expand, a little….
We have a wonderful woman who has worked with us since Hazel was about 5 months old. Our nanny came to us as a referral from a lifelong family friend - and she has been a great fit for our family. We love her.
She comes to our house 4 days a week and my girls get to spend every Wednesday with my mom (who lives about 4 blocks away from us). In addition to the priceless family time, Grandma Wednesday helps us bring down our childcare costs a little and it let’s our nanny work the 4 day work-week she was looking for….
Our nanny has school aged children of her own, so she works 8:15 - 5:30. Regularly, Simon and/or I need more time than that at the office- so we switch off who is on nanny hand-off duty. One of us usually heads to work early…one of us stays at the office a little later…deciding on who gets which slot (or both) is the ongoing negotiation of our life. It gets a little stressful*, but we make it work. It is a relief to know if we were ever in a bind or say, I got delayed during business travel, my mama could cover for us. (*I am fully aware that relatively speaking this “stress” doesn’t register anywhere meaningful on the absolute pain scale, but it is what we deal with and so I share.)
And then, of course, there is school!
Hazel started pre pre school a few months ago. As of this week, she will be in class 3 days a week (up from 2). I am thrilled we got into the additional day - Hazel adores her school and friends. We drop her off on our way to work, and the school is just a short walk from where we live - an easy walk for our Nanny and Fee who pick Z up around 3:00 on school days ((when the weather is ridiculous, we work out a ride situation)).
With Hazel out of the house a couple of days a week and Felix still on a 2-a-naps-a-day schedule, our nanny also helps out with light housework. She unloads the dishwasher, folds the laundry, helps Hazel make her bed…that sort of stuff. I’m not gonna lie - it’s so nice!
All things considered, we have a great set-up, but even so - it isn’t easy being a working parent. Hell, it isn’t easy being a parent! Knowing that my children are well-cared for and that I get to come home to a peaceful/tidy environment makes it possible for me to focus on the things I need to do at work then hustle home and be present for our family time. For that I am immensely grateful!
…So for those who have ever asked, or wondered, how we make it work in our household (right now, at least) - here you have it, the Childcare situation for our 1 & 2 year olds.