The day to day, comical happenings and sweet moments from my life as a nanny.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Road Trip

Having a blast on this much needed vacation and taking some time to just relax and enjoy some "family" time.  I did, however want to just get on and post something fun. Put together a little video of our road trip to Hilton Head.  Don't judge...Jenna and I were a little sleep deprived and stir crazy and honestly, both of us HATE being on video, but we decided to branch out. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

True glamour of a nanny.

I debated sharing this story because really, it was a pretty embarrassing scene...but then I thought about it and realized that being a nanny brings the risk every day of being publicly embarrassed or humiliated (moms and fellow nannies, you know what I mean).  
Kids don't always have filters, they don't always have control of their bodily functions, they sometimes lose control of their emotions.
 The person most in the spotlight during those moments is the caretaker.

Before I share that story though, can I first just say how proud I am of Todd and Angie?
In case you hadn't heard the news going around, Angie's book has been #1 on Barnes and Noble (above The Help...which made for a great screen shot). I am so so proud of her and am honored to have been able to watch her walk this path and stand by as she walks in humble obedience.  You MUST go get her book and read it. It is amazing and I plan on reading several more times....I've already read chapter 5 about four times. She is a very gifted writer.
Just to add to the families exciting week Selah's new CD was released this week and has been in the top 100 list on itunes and at one point was even between Lady Gaga and Eminem...HA.    I am so excited for them and LOVE this new CD. I have listened to it over and over again for several months and don't think I will ever get tired of it.   I love getting to see Todd, Amy, and Allan do what God has put them on a path to do and have never met musicians so humble and Christ-centered.    Go support them and buy their CD!
OK...just had to brag on them a bit.  Back to my story....

So just for laughs here is how my night was last night:

We were going to Selah's CD release party.
We walk in with the whole clan and I have little C in my arms.
 Now just to give you a little bit of back story and prep for the next part....the girls are very into finding me a boy. For the most part I just humor them and put up with the embarrassing moments when we are out and they announce (usually rather loud) if they see a boy they think I should get married to (they never seem to go to dating...just straight to marriage).  
Anyway, so for about the past 9 months or so they have been obsessed...I mean literally obsessed about this one boy that has helped out with Selah's CD (praying he doesn't read was just too funny not to share). They are constantly talking about wanting us to get married and how they think he is just perfect.

Then they informed me that they had also been telling him these same things.


I finally got to the point where I would tell them that I don't know this guy and who knows...he may not even be my type.
Simply to try to simmer down all this excitement for them.


 Back to the party.

We walk in and I'm being introduced to people and we proceed into the next room where I get introduced to this guy. A little awkward introduction of "Oh yeah, I've heard all about you"s were exchanged and we just laughed it off.
Silly children.
They say the darndest things.
As our introduction finishes I happen to look down at little C's face.

Ok moms/nannies, you know the face. The one where you know in a matter of milliseconds things are going to be projected from the child's mouth and although time seems to be moving slow...there is NO way you can move fast enough to do anything about it....


That was the face.

Which was followed by projectile puking all over....Me.

Side note: Why is the first reaction to put your hand there to catch it? There is no such things as "catching" uncontrollable vomit. It's impossible.

So I'm standing there completely being covered as little C just keeps it coming and the party comes to a screeching halt.
I'm torn between wanting to comfort and hold C close as she is crying and throwing up....and not wanting to move because I'm covered in chunks.
And then comes the "Now what do I do stage" that results in you just standing there calmly holding a puke covered baby and not moving a muscle for fear that chunks may scatter even more and the soaked through shirt and pants may get more soaked through than they already are and the chunks may squish under my feet since of course my shoes were covered as well.   And of course....not breathing. Because if you breathe in the way that you may just join in on the puking party.

Are you feeling sick yet?

Then I hear someone say...."Are those tomatoes?"
I look down to see perfectly cut up little triangles dog. To which I reply..."Nope, hot dog."

 Yep nanny guilt.

I was the one that fed her hot dog. Apparently she didn't actually chew u a single piece and I was now wearing the results.
I will never feed a child a hot dog again.
So we made our way to a bathroom, scrubbed off as much as we could, and I changed into one of the guy's t-shirts...
To make the situation even more I came downstairs Allan informed Angie and I that the girls had taken care of the "boy situation".  I was afraid to even ask what that meant but he proceeded anyway saying that the girls told the guy "Hey just so you know, Miss Kelsey says that you really are not her type."  


Out of the mouths of babes. 

8 year old match making. 

Never a good thing. 

At that point Angie and I pretty much just fell on the stairs laughing at how oddly eventful the night had been and we had only been there for about 15 minutes.
I then spent the rest of the night trying to keep a 5 foot radius between me and anyone else because the smell was enough to make you gag.  
At one point I must not have kept to that 5 foot radius because Angie was talking to a friend and said "Man, I still smell puke." to which her friend responded...."Kelsey is standing behind you"  hahaha.

We finally made our way home...with the windows down the whole way of course ;)
The night could not hold anymore incidents.


We're getting the girls ready for bed when we noticed a leak in the ceiling....I run up to check the girls bathroom and as I take the lid off the back of the toilet I get shot...right in the face and hair...with a shooting stream of toilet water.

We spent the next hour trying to fix a toilet...laughing about the glamorous life of a nanny and her best-selling author boss.

Being a mom or a nanny always brings the risk of embarrassing moments, sticky (or stinky) situations, and a whole lot to laugh about.

This will be one night that I will laugh about for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Mystery Quesadilla.

Ok I'm taking a slight intermission from the Casa 36 story because there is so much more to it and I'm slowly trying to get it written out.
I thought I would share just a little...what you may call..."Bad nanny moment"

The girls had left some food "creations" on the table and I was told to make sure they ate them at some point that day.
Some time later my sweet little five year old spit-fire came waltzing into the room announcing that she was hungry. I explained to her that she needed to eat her "quesadilla" that she had made first and then I would make her a sandwich when she finished. This resulted in quite an upset little girl and several minutes of her questioning and crying about having to eat her quesadilla.  I kept trying to ask her what she had put in it...."Is it cheese?"..."Yes Miss Kelsey..yes."

"how about I warm it up for you, then it will taste normal", I replied as I turned on the microwave.

She finally took a bite
resulting in a series of faces that made me have to stifle my laughter and force myself to be consistent with the situation at hand.

I asked her why it was such a big deal to eat the quesadilla...she loves quesadillas.  

This was her response:

"It's HORRIBLE, just horrible"
"Miss Kelseyyyyyy, you don't understanddddd!!! I just really wanted one of YOUR quesadillas and you were NOT here for me when I needed it" (nanny guilt kicks in about here)
"You NEVER put this stuff on would NEVER EVER do what I did"


"What exactly did you put on the tortilla?" I asked, realizing that more of the story was about to come out.
"Well, you never ever put this on, you never ever put yogurt on it"

My reaction was a little mix of bursting laughter, wanting to puke, confusion all at once.

"Yogurt? why did you put yogurt on it...and why didn't you tell me that in the first place when I asked what was on it?!" I very kindly asked, still trying to stifle my laughter and gag reflex

"Well I just didn't know how you made them and I LOVE how you make them and ooohhhhh I don't weren't here! And you just weren't listening to me when I tried to tell you."
(again with the nanny guilt)

So here I was forcing her to eat this "quesadilla" that had been sitting out for bit, had then be re-microwaved, and had...yogurt...on it.  Gross.

No real lesson here...other than feeling like a terrible nanny and well being told I have some mad quesadilla making skills....andddd feeling a little guilty for getting a pretty good laugh that day.

Anyone else have those "bad, but slightly funny" nanny moments?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Casa 36: Andrew

I could feel my palms getting sweaty and my blood start pumping. “Will they even accept me, a random college student here for Spanish classes?"
 My purpose for living there seemed so minute and silly compared to why they were standing there.

I scan the group and through the smiles can sense the fear and anxiety in their faces. All holding their babies, but unlike a normal situation when you see a parent holding their child….this was different. They were held, gripped with intensity, the willingness to leave that child in God’s hands, but the earthly fear that tomorrow, or an hour from now…everything could change and that child may not be going home in their arms.   Holding those children brings a much different emotion. It brings a realization that we are not in control.

We know not what the future holds.

I knew at that moment that if I continued forward and took hold of one of those babies for the first time…I was jumping off a cliff, risking my heart, forever tying myself into these stories. “Am I ready for what this house, Casa 36, would hold?”, I thought to myself as I tried to put on my most mature, fearless first impression…

And so began the story…at least my part in the story.
Four families, four stories.
This is simply my version, as an outsider coming in, as the random college girl placed in that house.

Mark, Staci and their journey for Andrew…
First day of moving into Casa 36:

I glance around the living room, still trying to piece together the stories and remember names. Yet at the same time feeling like I’ve known these people my whole life…we are all sharing our stories and how we got here and before we know it, the house is filled with laughter at the culture struggles we’ve faced, the incidents of being a first time mom and the mishaps with language translations. 

My heart is breaking for one of the couples though as I watch them struggle through attachment issues with their new son Andrew.  I see this sweet new dad trying to reach out for his son and the little boy won’t go to him. Only the mom is able to hold him. Any little moment or incident sets him into an ear piercing, screaming fit…enough to make any sane person go a little mad after about 25 min. I’m talking, insane, out of control screaming. I continue to watch as they try feeding him…this ends in food everywhere, two parents hitting a wall of hopelessness and yet another episode of screaming. 

To see the hurt in both parents’ eyes made me ache to help. The dad just wants to support his wife and love on his son, the mom wants to love her child and watch her husband do the same, yet you can see the exhaustion  from the “episodes” and the frustration of not knowing what or if there is a solution…

It’s only been a couple days. 

They have a long unknown road ahead and from my view, it’s not looking very encouraging or hopeful. 

As we begin to exchange stories they share with us that they have struggled with infertility for years and had opened their hearts to adoption.  Then this sweet faced, big brown eyed boy came into their life….they were overjoyed and ready to bring him into their arms.

The hard decision to move down to Guatemala was made…it seemed best so that Andrew could begin to adjust to his new parents. Then they told us about a little curve ball they had been thrown…Staci was pregnant.

We all looked at them, trying not to let our jaws fall to the ground in shock.

They were jumping head first into what were about to be the most painful, terrifying, traumatizing, yet rewarding months of their life.
Talk about scary and traumatic. Moving down as a first time mom, dealing with the physical exhaustion of pregnancy, and then facing attachment issues with Andrew….doing all of this away from her best friend/spouse in a foreign country.  It only took about an hour for me to tell that this was one courageous woman.  And that this was just the very tip of the story that was about to unfold….

We had only known each other for maybe a few hours, but sensing the exhaustion that Staci and Mark were both feeling we pried Andrew from Staci’s arms and pushed her and Mark out the door. Insisting they take a walk…breathe...we could manage the screaming, thrashing baby for a short while. Besides. I’m pretty sure Staci had not even been able to go to the bathroom alone for days…

I stood there with this screaming child, my heart completely broken, wondering what his little mind must be thinking through all of this. What HE was feeling through this new transition. What his story held

Propping him on my hip and gripping tightly to his little waist I reached out to turn the faucet on…letting the sink fill with warm water as the other moms went to gather baby soap and towels.
We were going to conquer giving him a bath if it took all of us and a flooded kitchen. 

I gently went to set him in the sink and the whole house fell silent.  It’s a moment that will forever be burned on my heart and in my mind.  I whispered quietly that he was so handsome, so loved, as I cautiously poured soap on a washcloth and began to wash his little brown body…fearing it would set him into another fit…fearing he would hurt himself.   The silence continued. We kept shooting glances at each other..almost as if to confirm this was real…no one wanted to move for fear of disturbing this one moment of peace.
Mark and Staci walked through the door and in unison we all turned to quickly hush them and show them what was happening. 
That moment…the moment of watching those parents stand in the doorway…looking at their son curiously playing in a sink full of soapy water…that moment was the first of many “small” moments of hope that enabled them to take each baby step through the storms and trials they were facing and about to face.

2 days later:
It was the morning Mark would be leaving to head back home. The morning he would leave his wife and child, knowing he would not be there to protect them, not knowing when they would be coming home. It’s the morning that I’m sure every international/adoptive parent dreads.
I learned that summer that I hated watching those goodbyes. I hated standing in the house, watching one of the moms and their baby/babies wave goodbye, the dad waving out the van window. I'm sure sending up prayers that God would protect the life he was waving goodbye to for the time being.

The days to follow were beyond tough, and yet those tiny little triumphs, moments that most parents wouldn’t think twice about, moments that made an entire house of people rejoice, the moments of Andrew cracking a little smile, the moment Staci could place him next to her on the couch for two seconds without him screaming, the moment she was able to actually stand up without him in her arms for a couple seconds…these were the moments that kept her…kept all of us going.

Baby steps.
Everyone was going to survive.
We just needed to praise in the triumphs, and hold tight to God’s promise that He is in control during the dark moments.

Another curve ball was about to be thrown…
(Aprox. 4 weeks into living in Casa 36)

My head was spinning.
“How could God allow this?”
“Why, after everything they’ve been through?”

Staci had just received the news that her pregnancy had taken a turn and it was possible she would be facing a miscarriage….at the same time they found out that their fingerprints had expired and the fastest way to get new ones would be in the States.
Decisions needed to be made quickly and before any of us were able to process what was happening, Andrew was placed in my care for what was supposed to be the next 48 hours as Staci boarded a plane for home…48 hours turned into 5 days that would bring more heartache and yet another storm to conquer.

48 hours turned into 5 days due to the crushing news that Staci would end up needing a D & C.

It was a couple days in and things were going fairly smoothly…although I was getting an even stronger taste of what Staci must feel and was starting to wonder how she had kept her cool for so long.  My arms were throbbing from carrying around a big baby boy and my personal space had all been stripped away from me.

  I heard the annoying tone of my Guatemalan cell phone and picked it up…
Hey Kelsey, it’s Mark…I don’t want you to worry or freak out, but I need you to listen carefully…” My stomach dropped and I’m pretty sure all the blood immediately drained from my face.

(Side note: Anytime you are in another country watching someone’s baby and you get a call saying…”don’t freak out, but follow my directions carefully” good news is probably not about to follow)

  Somehow I kept myself calm enough to listen to the directions Mark was trying to get across to me over the fuzzy international connection. “Our lawyer/adoption facilitator has threatened to come take Andrew. She knows where the house is. I need you to take Andrew and leave the house early in the morning and do not come back until late,” his calm but firm tone hit hard as I hung up the phone. I knew how corrupt their lawyer was and just how possible this could be.

Thoughts came piling into my head, as I stood there with the phone in my hand, unable to move yet unable to sort my thoughts that came racing in.
 “What would I do if someone came to the door and tried to take this precious child from my arms?”
“How am I supposed to protect him when I can’t even call the police here?”
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to him while he was in my care.”

Then, having the wild imagination I have and having watched way too many episodes of Law and Order...I began playing scenarios out in my head….
“Well if someone comes to the door…I’ll hide Andrew and use one of the dull knives from the Bodegona and just fight for our lives….or….we’ll run and hide all the kids in the upstairs loft and make up some story about how Staci left with Andrew and moved to a different house”……..Andrew's screaming snapped me back to attention.
Yeah, hiding isn’t going to work, not with those lungs” I thought as I began to gather what I would need for a long day out, wandering Antigua.

The lawyer never came, but the tension didn’t leave the rest of the week. Anytime someone looked at me strange or anytime there was a car driving by I jumped and gripped him tighter. Throwing up a prayer that God would bring us peace and we would continue to lay our fears at His feet….knowing in the end…He was in control.
As Staci's returned drew near we all wondered how she would adjust back into life here, wondered if she had even been able to process what she had just walked through...would be walking through...on top of the situation with Andrew...wondered how we would ever be able to support someone who has walked through what she we would show that we grieve alongside her. 

Staci returned and we all watched as she seamlessly jumped back into caring for Andrew, marching forward with determination and adrenaline. All of us knowing that there would be a time, a moment, when it would all hit and the grieving and emotions would pour out.  Realizing that. that time would probably not be allowed to come until she was safe in her home in Alabama. 

The hopeful moments continued though as Andrew finally learned to walk, finally allowed Staci to walk out of the room for a short period, and finally began eating food like a “normal” kid.   The three bottles and back-pain inducing “walking while rocking” to get him to sleep every night continued, but that was seemingly small compared to the big obstacles that had been over-come.  Again, the moments that kept us all hopeful.

I eventually hit the end of summer. School was about to start again.

I had to leave.

Leave behind these families that I had grown so close to, that I had bonded with in a way that only the group of us can explain.  It broke my heart leaving, not knowing when they would be…if they would be following behind me.  It was the hardest goodbye and the hardest transition back into life in the states that I have ever had.
I packed my bags, the kids thinking it was a game, hiding in my suitcase…not aware that it only made it harder and I would have done anything to keep them there and take them all with me
The moms let me put all the kids to bed that night and give them one last hug and kiss…pretending all was normal…

3 am came and I slipped out into the misty morning...taking one last glance at the Volcano I had looked at every morning and every evening. I got into the van with a bunch of strangers. People who had no idea what I was leaving behind...people just on their own agenda, heading back to wherever they had come from. I wanted to scream or cry, or simply get back out, grab my suitcase and refuse to go…but instead I just watched Casa 36 fade out the back window of the rusty van…again being reminded by a gentle whisper..."I AM in control, I AM holding them in my hands"
He would bring them home when the time was right. Until then I had to just trust...and have lots of skype dates.

(five minutes later watch a man get stabbed…another story for another time though.)

None of us knew that for Mark, Staci and Andrew, there was still one more storm to survive…one more terrifying, enough to cause permanent fear and PTSD, large storm…

To be continued…

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Casa 36: Part 1

I stood in front of Casa 36, my heart pounding so loud it drowned out the rhythmic chanting of the chicken bus drivers yelling, “Guate, Guate, Guate” just down the street, and the rumble of the tuk tuks racing by on the cobblestone road.
The heat of the day mixed with the smells wafting over the walls from the market, a combination of fresh produce, trash and urine started to make my stomach turn and my head spin.
I was trying to replay the past three weeks of Spanish classes (the whole reason I was here in Antigua, Guatemala anyway), but for some reason my brain had decided that now was a good time to take a siesta and with it went all the vocabulary, verbs and conjugations I had labored over day and night.
My new found friend, turned sister stood beside me, my only bit of comfort as we waited for the realtor to arrive.    “I hope I understood them correctly and this is the right location”, “how did I end up in this position?”, “what if the other women hate this house?”….thoughts and fears tumbled through my head as I saw, who I assumed to be the realtor walking down the road towards us. I'm just a college student, I've never had to find a house...let alone a house in a foreign country for a group of people I have never met. All these fears jumbled with the over-all situation was enough to put me into a panic attack right then and there...luckily the fear and knowledge of Guatemala "hospitals" was enough to keep me just off the edge of the looming panic. 
As we wandered through, what truly was a gorgeous Guatemalan house with a slight “USA” flair I could barely keep all the information straight…and wondered if I was even understanding the information correctly.  I just remember nodding my head and responding, “si, si…muy bonita” dumbly as the responsibility of finding a last minute home for four new moms, the five kids and myself weighed heavily on my shoulders.

How did I end up in this position?

Casa 36.  I shook the realtor's hand and the decision was made. We had a place to call “home” until the time came for us to head back to the states, whenever that may be. Later that day I would come face to face with these four women and the children that would be sharing this house with me.

But allow me to back up...

I came to spend the summer in Antigua in order to learn enough Spanish to test into a higher class back at college.  I was determined to graduate on time. I, of course, told God that I didn’t want to simply spend my summer leisurely taking Spanish and waltzing around with the other tourists, partying my summer away. If I was going back to Guatemala, the country that had stolen my heart, I wanted to be used and have a purpose there.   I should have known God would have an adventure laid out for me as soon as those words came out of my mouth.

Three weeks had gone by. In those first three weeks I had spent time at the orphanage I used to work at, then lived in a “room” by myself in some strange building (think scene from Law and Order), to then living with a host family in the outskirts of town at the base of the volcano.  I spent those weeks feeling lonely and without purpose… I had no idea what God was preparing around the next turn. 

How did I end up here?

That question was still floating through my head as I walked back down the road we had been on just a few hours earlier. This time a small gathering of “gringos” were waiting for me in front of that Casa 36.
As I approached I saw three families who at the very first sight…caprtured my heart (the fourth would join us later that week).  The unknown future they were facing poured through the look on their faces as they put on smiles and we introduced ourselves…trying to laugh about the last minute rush to find a house.
Little did I know, that moment was the beginning of an incredible story that is still very much a part of my life today. Little did I know…that summer would become the most stretching, challenging, terrifying, rewarding summers of my life so far. Little did I know…I was about to see God reach down His mighty hand and work miracles in this little country of Guatemala.
You see, all these moms had come to foster the child/children they were adopting, until the process was finalized.  They’re husbands were going to be leaving them there and heading back to the states, not sure when they would have their wife and child/children safely in their arms back in the states.  The moms, all facing not only the fears that come with becoming a mom for the first time, but becoming a mom for the first time in a potentially dangerous city/country, without the comforts of home and  the close support of family and friends.  
Instead it was just this Casa 36.
 A house full of strangers.
 A group of people brought together for a common purpose. 
A group of people who would soon be facing some of the hardest moments of their life.

How did I get here?

At that moment…I started to wonder if telling God I wanted a better reason than Spanish class to move to Guatemala for several months, was such a good idea. Even then, I had no idea what was about to unfold. I had no idea the impact it would have on my life.  I had no idea I was about to walk through kidnapping threats, tuk tuk rides through unknown alleys to sketchy doctors, attachment disorders, screaming, sickness, translating, biting ant infestations, and lots of buy one get one free Dominos nights.

I could write a book on each families story, that is, if I was an author. 

Each one is so unique and incredible and has so many details. Each detail of each story plays into the others, because when you share a home, you share life together. You see the trials and the triumphs in one’s life.  

It’s been  three years since that summer. 
Three years and none of us have truly sat down and written out the details of what occurred. We have reminisced, sympathized with each other and looked back on pictures, but to write it out even now seems a daunting task, as so much was shoved into those months. So much pain, emotion, and also praise. 

 I want to share with you a little bit of each family’s story. The battles they fought to bring these precious babies home. The physical earthly picture of adoption. The parallel to God's fight for us. His open arms and our adoption into our heavenly family. 

And to begin, I want to start with the story of this big guy...

…it’s an incredible story of adventure, fear, pain, struggle, trials, hopelessness at times and of course…triumphs.  It’s really a story that should be made into a film.

To be continued......

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Nanny Work-Out

Want a full body work-out? Love that feeling of finally sitting down at the end of the day and feeling like every muscle in your body hurts?
Well let me introduce you to the nanny work-out:

  • Lift a baby up and down about 40 times a day. 
  • carry baby around in one arm until it goes numb.
  • switch and carry baby in other arm. repeat. 
  • bend at the hips and/or squat to pick up toys/food/un-identifiable items off the floor too many times to count. 
  • lift gallon of milk several times a day
  • chase around baby who has now started moving at an unbelievable pace
  • bring in five bags of groceries on each arm
  • sweep and mop- which includes scrubbing the milk that spilled and dried that morning under the high-chair
  • carry baskets of clean clothes up and down the stairs
  • walk up and down the stairs about 20+ times a day
  • push a cart around the store with two 30 pound kids
  • Play freeze tag for an hour
  • push two kids on the swing simultaneously  
  • do cartwheels, while also pretending to hold a light sabor and fight off little yodas.
  • play tickle monster and chase kids around the house for thirty minutes
  • Go for a walk in 100 degree weather pushing a stroller, uphill
  • take kids swimming and give piggy back rides, catch kids jumping in, race across the pool. 
  • hold a sleeping baby awkwardly until all your back and arm muscles feel like they're going to completely give out. 

End the day's work-out with some stretching, by bending over to put little shoes on, unload the dishwasher, slowly, stretching your arms to reach the very top shelf.

Remember to breathe through the entire work-out, smile, and enjoy the motivational disney music playing in the back-ground.