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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

O Babysitter, Thou Art Divine: 5 Steps to Finding a Good Babysitter

O’ babysitter, thou art divine. You drive your own car. You don’t drink our wine.                               

But then there were other babysitters who left much to be desired. Of course, my gaggle of children wasn't always the easiest on the fragile ones. (One girl nervously dropped her cell phone in the toilet and accidentally flushed it while hiding in the bathroom.) And my husband and I left a few standing startled in the doorway as we hit the gas in our get-away car, leaving tire streaks on the drive. 

It always seemed that when we needed a babysitter the most, they were scarcer than jackelopes. I had to harden myself to rejection as the years went by and my family's reputation grew. My pockets got deeper. I actually had a teenage girl, who sat for us occasionally - probably only when she was desperate for money - tell me she couldn't babysit because she had to clean her room. I called her on a Tuesday. We didn't need her to come over until Friday. I tried to tell myself that her room was really, really messy, but the real truth hid right behind that thin consolation.

Nonetheless, I learned a lot during those years about how to select a sitter. The best ones weren't just warm bodies. They wanted to play with my children, talk to my children, and make memories with them. My oldest child is 17 now and I haven't retained a sitter's services in years. We still see many of our blasts from the past, however. And I love the way their faces and my children's faces light up in each other's presence. Then I know I took good care of my children even when I wasn't physically there.

Five Simple Steps to Finding a Good Babysitter:

STEP 1: Identify potential candidates for the job. Lots of parents who have found the perfect match for their family are reluctant to give out their best sitter’s name. Still, it’s never a bad idea to start by asking friends with children who they recommend. Another good source is church. Get the word out to the youth group and to the seniors group. Teachers, too, often supplement their incomes with babysitting. Don’t forget to check with neighbors. Also try an on-line service, such as, that connects parents with a list of local sitters who fit the family’s identified needs.

STEP 2: Screen the potential candidates. Which ones have the experience you’re looking for? Which ones are available at the times you most often need a sitter? Who on the list is trained in CPR and first aid? Who has his own transportation?  Parents who are clear about the requirements they have can very quickly cull their top 2-3 choices over the phone. Of course, ask for references and call those, as well. If using an on-line service, like, read the posted reviews.

STEP 3: Conduct a face-to-face interview. Prepare a list of questions ahead of time. Present problematic situations, both emergency and non-emergency, and ask potential sitters how they would handle them. Possible scenarios might include discipline, a stranger at the door, phone calls, and so forth. provides a comprehensive set of interview questions that parents can modify to their family and their situation. Aside from simply asking questions, the interview should also include opportunities for the candidate to interact with the child or children. A person’s body language and verbal exchanges, combined with a child’s response to the individual, add valuable information to the overall picture.

STEP 4: Plan a trial run. After selecting one or two candidates, run a background check on each. This may not be necessary for sitters under the age of 18, but it does apply to adult caregivers. Furthermore, Also, insist on a couple of short, trial sessions, about an hour at a time, to put everyone at ease.

STEP 5: Trust your gut. By this, I mean your parental 6th sense. If you get a bad feeling or your child displays opposition to a sitter, don’t brush it off. Investigate or move on to another candidate.

Do you have a funny or compelling babysitter story?

Useful Links:
The rate calculator:
The sitter cheat sheet (all the information you should leave for your sitter):
The Four Step Screening Process:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Loathing The Lorax

Last night, my husband and I and our four children settled down in the den after dinner to watch a family movie. It started off as a great way to pull back together after a weekend that had us stretched like taffy. But then this segment of the movie came on:

My husband and I turned to each other, astounded. He said, "Well, this suddenly took a political turn, didn't it?" And it did! It maligned everybody from corporate CEOs to lawyers to charities accepting donations. The movie went from being a fantastical exploration of what a world without trees might be like to lashing out with a jagged edge.

From that point on, I couldn't enjoy The Lorax. I sat regretting I'd ever wished away wicked stepmothers, pining princesses and handsome Prince Charmings. What was I thinking?

(It also didn't help my opinion of the movie that some snotty-nosed, adolescent, weak-on-words script writer fit in two of the worst current English phrases to date: (1) "I'm just saying," and (2) "I know, right.")

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I Didn't Ask for a Poodle

I confessed one of my deepest desires to the one person in the world I thought would understand: My husband. Instead, he reacted as if I had just suggested we replace one of our children with a poodle. Imagine my disappointment at being so gravely misunderstood. If he doesn't get me then who will?

You, perhaps?

Could you accept someone like me who has the audacity to admit that she would like to get rid of her dishwasher and install an ice maker in its place? That's not so crazy is it? Not crazy at all once you know my reasoning.

First, consider the dishwasher: Is it really a time-saving appliance or is it storage for dishes we don't want in the sink or haven't yet gotten around to putting back in the cabinet? Who among us isn't guilty of hiding dirty dishes in it when guests come over? Which of us has not ever retrieved dishes out of it to set the table because none were in the cabinets and drawers?

With the dishwasher, the process of washing, drying and putting away is never ending. We are almost always rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, running the dishwasher, emptying the dishwasher so we can reload it, or asking everyone in the house if he knows whether or not the dishes in the dishwasher are clean or dirty. There is seldom a time when the sink is empty and the dishwasher is empty and there is peace in the china.

It is a burden. If I hand-wash the dishes, however, the whole job is completed in one go: Wash, dry, put-away, done with nothing left hanging over my head.

Second, consider the miracle of ice. Man has accomplished the feat of taking what was once a nasty by-product of Mother Nature and turning it into something I simply cannot live without. Before the 1800s when ice was finally taken from frozen ponds and sold as a commodity, beverages languished at luke-warm temperatures, watermelons wallowed in tepid troughs, beer felt naked without the words "ice cold" preceding it. The world was a pretty grim place, particularly in the south during summer.

Ice is one of God's gifts to mankind, to cool our spirits and comfort our souls. I'd like to bring a bit of that holiness into my home.

You understand, right? You relate to my logic, yes?

You would never listen to my story and then turn up with a poodle to console me, would you? I didn't ask for a poodle.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Quitters Get Ahead

You read that headline right. Give up and get ahead and get a-hold of the life you've yearned for. In Her new book, Letting Go of Supermom, Dr. Daisy Sutherland of Mom Talk Radio releases women from aspiring to perfection. In fact, she says we can all quit the stressful habit of trying to achieve the impossible.

 Letting Go of Supermom: Dr. Mommy's "get real" approach to a balanced life

She advises us to focus on being the women God meant for us to be, and He's the first one to tell us that he doesn't expect perfection. Based on the Proverbs 31 woman, Sutherland helps readers grow in 16 areas of responsibility that matter way more than whether or not the neighbors think we have it all together."Dependence on God," she says, "is what makes it all work."

And this book is oh so practical. For the woman who has a hard time saying no, Sutherland lists several gentle, but effective ways to say it. For the mom who wants to feed her family healthy foods, Sutherland gives directions for several nutritious snacks kids can make. There's even a two-page spread devoted to energy foods for mom, and who doesn't need more energy? She guides mothers through better money management strategies and walks them through ways to calm household clutter and chaos. And this is only the tip of the turnip. Plus, Letting Go of Supermom has pages for us to make notes as we read and re-order our lives and our priorities.

I say keep this book handy as a resource, not just as a one-time read. Like anything we do, learning how to quit running ourselves ragged takes practice. And inevitably we will need to look back at this manual for a reminder.