Photo Friday: Just Keep Swimming

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Since today is officially the beginning of summer in our household, it seems appropriate that I should post these photos from our adventures at the pool last weekend. Summer means swimming, right?!? As you can tell, we had a blast … Continue reading

Sprinkler Saturday

What do you do when it’s hot outside and you need to keep the troops entertained???

Go outside and play in the sprinkler!!!

And Garen got out his fancy lenses to capture a few quick photos. I think they turned out pretty cool, don’t you?!?

Mommy Review Monday: Care.com for Finding Childcare

I have excellent babysitters/nannies that help us out.  And, with four kids and both of us traveling for work, boy, do we need it?!?  When I tell people that we have great sitters they typically ask me how I found them.  It’s hard to find good help from word-of-mouth.  If you hear about someone who’s great, guess what?  They’re already busy helping someone else.   Or they’re busy with school or extracurricular activities.

Moms and Dads, the struggle is real….

So here’s how we found our awesome helpers:  We have used Care.com twice now to find regular babysitters/nannies for our litter.  And we’ve been pleased with the result both times- in fact, I’m pretty sure we’ve had our first babysitter that we found there for over two years now.  Time flies when you have good help I guess!

We recently found another babysitter- only because our regulars are getting busier as they “grow up” (they’re nursing students and school and “real jobs” keep them from helping out as much).  The process was good again.

I’ll admit that I was very leery of using Care.com.  It seemed so unthinkable to find a babysitter online.  I mean, they’re your kids!!!  But, like I said above, the struggle was real.  Really real.  We need the help with our work schedules to maintain sanity in our household.

Here’s what I liked about it:

  • You can post a position with exactly what you’re looking for in a sitter from hours to age to experience, etc.  Do you want them to have reliable transportation?  Great.  Add that to your requirements.
  • You can view their profile- not just their photo but also their experience and information.  I sorted through these carefully.  I don’t care what people look like but it is important to have that so that when you meet them, if you want to meet them in a public place, you’ll know who to be looking for.  You can avoid awkwardly walking up to someone in Starbucks and asking if they are so and so there to interview for a babysitting job.
  • You can ask for certain certifications such as CPR and first aid.  This is important to me if I’m going to leave my kids alone with them.  Our sitters are all nursing students, so we feel very comfortable.
  • There is the ability to read and post reviews about the providers.  This is very helpful in seeing what other families’ experiences were.
  • There’s the ability to message on the system with them without giving them your phone number or address, etc.  (See below for the flip side of this too)
  • If you’re interested in Au Pairs as an option, you can look at different companies and some of the Au Pairs that they offer.  We seriously explored this as an option but since we currently don’t want to pay for that level of care when the girls are still in pre-school, which would be an additional cost.  Oh, and our extra bedroom is currently serving as my office too, so that would be something we’d have to work out.  Maybe someday.
  • There’s a good search feature.  That is an obvious must.  As you are reviewing them you can add them to your favorites so you can easily find them later. See below image for these search filters available.

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  • The app is pretty good as well.  If you’re like me, the time in between errands, work, etc. is not at your computer so being able to quickly look at this on your mobile device is very helpful.  You also have the option to get notifications.  I personally hate phone notifications.  My semi-ADHD personallity gets overwhelmed by them so I’ve got them turned off.  It’s nice to have the options should I ever get in a position where I really, really needed help quickly though.

Additional options that I haven’t used but could also be helpful:

  • If you’re looking for child care centers, you can look at them online- although, there aren’t that many reviews online for that so you’d be better off reviewing them on another search engine than this site.  I also would say that there’s a good chance they don’t have all centers on here since it’s likely the center has to pay them to be hosted.
  • Family childcare (what I always called in-home daycare) is an option you may want to explore.  You can view their information, reviews, and whether they’re certified, etc.
  • If you’re in need of someone with experience with special needs, that is something that you can easily search for.
  • They have a search function for senior/elderly care, which is great if you have a family member you may need assistance with.
  • You can pay your babysitters through them.  We don’t do this but if we were having someone full time this might be something we’d look into, so it could be a good feature if that’s what you’re considering.
  • You can schedule them online.  Again, we don’t do that.  I find that texting our sitters works just fine and I feel like it’s more personal.  It’s always nice to have the option I guess though.
  • Do you need housekeeping or other help around the house?  You can post a job or search for candidates on here.
  • Do you need help with your fur babies?  You can get a dog sitter or walker or even someone to feed your pet lizard on here.  Our cat fends for herself while we’re gone most of the time but we’ll be looking into this if we ever go on an extended vacation.
  • Not sure if you feel confident in their record?  You can do background checks on here as a extra precaution.
  • You could put yourself out there as a caregiver/provider as well.  I’ve not tried it but sometimes I feel like, hey, what’s a few more when you have four???  Just kidding but some extra money might be good.

What I would change:

  • I’d love for it to cost less.  This year the subscription was $168.00 without tax.  I’ll admit that I feel as if I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it just finding our gem of a babysitter and knowing that I can find additional help pretty easily, but still…. that’s a lot.  The only good thing about it is that it automatically renews for me yearly so I don’t really have to think about it too much until I’m up for renewal and it shows up on my statement.  I think there are shorter subscriptions but it’s nice to be able to find help all year long and the yearly subscription is the best rate available.
  • I had a hard time getting our sitter’s contact information outside of the site, which doesn’t allow you to share phone numbers.  You can call them through the site but not text.  Please, please correct me if this is “user error” on my part.  I think this is a safety thing but it did make it harder than I’d like.  I had to get her email to have her send me her phone number so I could text her.  (You know us (barely) millennials and younger- we like to text each other rather than actually talk to someone on the phone)

There you go- Care.com- from a busy working mom.  It’s been good to us.  I’d love to hear your tips on finding good sitters/nannies.  What has worked best for you???

ALSO:  For the record- I am NOT getting paid or any discount from Care.com, although if anyone from there is reading this and wants to give me a discount, I’d take it!!!  

Photo Friday: New Lens, New Year

One of Garen’s new toys was is a new artistic lens.  So, I’m really just the lady behind the man with the camera so all I can do is be supportive… and buy him cool stuff.

He got some great shots playing with it.  Here’s a few to share for Photo Friday.

Enjoy your weekend!

Photo Friday: Sweet Holiday Memories with Sugar Cookies

A couple of weekends back, the kids helped me to make Christmas cookies. We had such a good time, even if my kitchen became a disaster zone and the control freak, perfectionist side of me struggled to let them decorate them however they wanted.

Garen caught a few good photos of us in action. Yes, I was brave enough to let Clara and Kate “help.” Sprinkles. Everywhere.

My Mom and my Grammy would always let us kids help decorate sugar cookies. Besides it being a great memory and fun (yet messy) activity, they actually taste really good. Here’s the recipe that my family uses. This is my Mom’s handwriting. I think. My Grammy wrote almost exactly like it. And it must be genetic because I write almost like it too!

This year I used a new icing recipe thanks to Pinterest. The recipe from In Katrina’s Kitchen was wonderful. It was tasty and hardened up for beautiful cookies just like her blog says it will. I’m not big on Crisco BUT it was good in this recipe. If you don’t use it and substitute with butter, you’ll get a similar effect but it won’t harden as well. If you’re not stacking cookies, that may not be an issue.

I hope each of you will take time to make some sweet memories of your own this holiday season! Tis’ the season to be busy with everything (which is why I’ve not blogged much) but I’m really making an effort to do things with our little (big) family that will create memories that they’ll cherish as well.

Happy Photo Friday before Christmas!

Mommy Review Monday: ezpz Happy Mat – One-piece silicone placemat + plate

DISCLOSURE: Due to the recent iPhone update my i’s are now malfunctioning. I️ am NOT going back through to fix. I’m too frustrated. Sorry folks.

It’s borderline Migraine Monday instead of Mommy Review Monday so this will be a sort one today so I can get off to bed. I should apologize to those who get actual migraines because I️ realize my headache isn’t really a migraine since I️ can manage to look at the screen.

I’ll thank the black beans all over the floor and the screaming toddlers for the tension headache. With that said, I’ll move onto our review of the day, the ezpz Happy Mat, without which there would’ve been many more beans on the floor.

Pros:

  • Cost. $24.99 may seem like a lot but if you use I️t every meal, I️t pays for itself pretty quickly.
  • Hardiness. It’s made of silicone so you know it’s tough. And unlike your friends’ fake boobs, these don’t have to be hand-washed. You can stick them in the lower rack of your dishwasher time after time.
  • Dividers. Since so many kids are funny about not mixing foods, this is a great feature.
  • Protection. The full placemats give your table the armor it needs against banging silverware and/or sippy cups.
  • Stay-put-ness. I️ realize that’s a made up word but you get the point. No pates thrown across the room. As I️ said earlier, had we served black beans on a regular plate, they would’ve been everywhere. This plate-mat stayed in place throughout Clara’s mid-dinner temper tantrum.

Cons

  • Fit on High Chair Trays. They don’t fit on high chair trays. I️ know that’s not really what they’re made for so I️ really have a hard time declaring that a con but I️ do want to make sure no one assumes they’ll work that way. They do make a smaller version, the Mini Mat but it still may or may not work on your high chair tray.
  • Only Stick on Hard, Level Surfaces. Again, this seems common sense but they don’t stick or suction themselves down to fabric tablecloths or very unlevel surface. They’re still nice to use to protect your nice fabric tablecloth but there is the chance they could still move. We used a nylon table cloth at Halloween though and it still worked pretty well.

All together, these Happy Mats are what the brand name explains, ezpz. They’re a great gift idea, especially paired with these bibs. I’d buy another. In fact, I may buy another set for when one set is dirty. I’m not sure if that’s lazy or smart.

Happy Monday!!!

Happy (Second) Birthday/Halloween!!!

Halloween is a big holiday in our household- it’s Clara and Kate’s birthday.  Today they turn two.  I sound like a broken record every single birthday for the kids but, man, how time flies!

It seems like just yesterday that this was happening!

Or this:

And now, here we are:  Two Two-Year-Olds.  Double, Double Trouble.

Maybe there’s a reason we chose dragons (or maybe I really just wanted to buy the “Mother of Dragons” shirt). I guess you’ll never know.

They’re a blast.  Every day we are watching them learn something new.  And almost always something different.

Kate prefers savory stuff (hence the sausage roll for birthday breakfast- she wasn’t happy about having her photo taken this morning)…

While Clara is all over anything slightly sweet.

Happy Birthday Little Pumpkins/Dragons.  We love you!!! 

And Happy Halloween to all of you fine folks from Cleopatra, Scary Jester, and Dragon A and Dragon B!