Thursday, October 20, 2011

The next (not fun) adventure coming...

So everyone has been doing well. The kids are loving school and are currently out on their 1.5 week term break. The British school system is fantastic at raising the bar for expectations, but it seems like they are out of school for a week to two weeks every other month. Of course it fits nicely with the fact that most Brits get 4-5 weeks of vacation standard. The surprising bit is that they achieve so much more in terms of learning, but seem to always be out of school. Perplexing.

Scott and I had out eight year anniversary earlier this week. Of course we were both too busy to do much in the way of celebration, but we did manage to have dinner a couple of days later. We are still planning to have our big 10 year hoopla in two years so mark your calendars. We hope to have a similar party to the wedding (at the ranch) which was F-U-N.

We are gearing up now for the hard part. Scott leaves for a week this weekend, back for a week, and then back to the States for 4-5 weeks of trial. Fingers crossed for a good outcome at the trial. Fingers crossed that this household doesn't self-destruct in his absence! Fortunately Mary-Freaking-Poppins is here and wonderful.

Scott and I will be returning to Houston for three days the first weekend in December and hope to see as many of you as possible. We miss everyone terribly.

A few pics of recent:

Mom visited so we of course we did the obligatory pub visit!

Caden looking fierce in his skeleton (glow in the dark) pajamas. He likes pajama days as much as his momma!

Keali off to school. She won the school award for being tidy and polite. She is such a sweet cuddly little girl.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Music... sweet music

I have been on the road a fair amount recently. While not the typical "adventure" discussed on this blog, being on the road does have a few (and it really is very few) advantages. It gives me time to listen to new music and find new artists. The people in this group are right at the top for me - all acoustic, all beautiful voices. I can only hope the people next door in this hotel won't ask me to turn it down...

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Adventures with au pairs...

So I normally post on our adventures as they relate to travel so as to keep a diary of it for the kids, but also to stay in touch with everyone back home. The travel adventures are really only a part of our daily excitement. After thinking about it, I decided that in order to keep a true diary, I need to share more than the places we visit.

Truth be told, our kids are constant source of adventures. Our most recent one was probably one more of heartbreak as well as pride. It's longer than most posts, but it goes kinda like this...

Since moving to Europe, we have a live in au pair which allows Scott and I both to work full time, but also allows us to enjoy our kids more when we aren't working. The au pair helps with the kid stuff (their laundry, their groceries, etc). It also provides a great deal of stability for the kids since we don't have a babysitter or three coming and going randomly.

When we moved to Amsterdam, we brought over a girl from Houston that had been with our family. Overall, she was able to make sure the kids were generally safe and mostly followed the rules we applied to the kids. However, virtually all other job duties were and continued to be ignored. After over a year of that simply not working out, and many talks later to hopefully improve the situation, it became apparent that the expectations wouldn't be met and it was time to send her back to Houston. The parting was amicable. I believed she was sad to leave our kids, and as she had become part of our family, we were all sad to see her go...

Another girl (from Germany - let's call her AR) who was also living in London with a family was looking for a new au pair position. AR's host-family was mean to her and treated her very badly. She wanted out of her living situation as urgently as we needed someone to come in and help us. AR was with us for a week. In that week, she had the kids exactly 1.5 hours by herself while we attended a school meeting. We came home and she was distraught and said that Caden was too "mentally strong for her" and that she couldn't believe he was only 6 years old. She didn't want to stay long term but agreed to give us three weeks to find a replacement. I was so sad. I couldn't imagine that the kids behavior was so bad that she would quit after an hour. Admittedly, I was also quite proud that he was outsmarting and outplaying a grown up...

So that's sort of where the story gets interesting. I immediately started interviewing new girls for the au pair job. I talked to so many girls, I lost count. I received over 600 applications. I finally found a girl who I really thought was a great fit. We sent many emails back and forth and it looked like we would skype for the final and formal interview and she would come live with us. Then, one night I received a note from her saying that my old au pair (from Houston) knew one of her friends who was an au pair in London. Small world. Come to find out, our au pair that lived with us for a year (and enjoyed many very nice vacations, a great deal of unearned income, and more experiences that she would ever have had in her life) had told the girl that we treated her like a slave, made her work almost every weekend, and (the worst) hated our kids.

Now since she was a very young (mentally) person, I'm fine with the slave bit (she was with the kids generally 22 hours per week and we hired a housekeeper which should have been her job) and even the weekend bit (we hired babysitters almost every time we needed weekend support which was rare). Honestly I wrote that off to immaturity, laziness, and entitlement syndrome. However, I have to admit that the "hating the kids" bit put me over the deep end. How unbelievably sad I was to hear this. I wonder how long she had felt this way and how she treated the kids when we weren't around... I only hope she didn't hurt them in anyway mentally. It has certainly taught me to be more aware and not take things at face value.

We lost the au pair that I really wanted to hire because of this. Insult to injury indeed. About four days after this occurred, we learned that the girl from Germany (AR) had moved into our house in order to escape her other family and that in fact she had another job all along which she would start October 1. We were only a place where she could stay in a holding pattern. The biggest disappointment of this was that she blamed it on our kid. Bad show. She of course moved out the next day. That was a good day for me.

So I continued on our hunt for the perfect au pair. We hired a professional nanny to get us over the hump. We were fortunate to find a girl that we liked very much (let's call her MP). She flew over for the weekend and spent the last weekend with us. Honestly, when she had described herself as Mary Poppins (MP) during one of our many email exchanges, I didn't believe it. However, when she was with the kids, she was amazing. She took to Caden immediately. Caden played with her almost the entire time she was here. I am happy to say that she is moving in next Monday (9 days away, but who is counting...).

She is a bright amazing multilingual musician/artist/dancer/Mary Poppins. I am hopeful that she will be with our family until at least next summer. I can't wait for her to come here.

In the mean time, we keep doing what I think everyone with kids does: keep on keeping on. Caden has had the best behavior ever the last month or so. I think he has only had 2 time outs in the last 2 weeks. Anyone who knows our naughty, feisty, spirited, bright and beautiful boy appreciates this as almost unbelievable! We are looking forward to the next adventure in our life!