Sunday, April 5, 2009

Notes from the Supply Monitor: Lite Brite Magic

When I was a kid, I spent hours on end with my Lite Brite, and now would like to pass its lessons on to all the children I babysit. It was almost as if the Lite Brite was my babysitter, colorful and wise, responsible for so much of who I grew up to be. I mean, who knew that forcing a hard peg through a thin barrier until it tears, then repeatedly inserting it into a tight hole until it lights up with joy could teach you so much about life? I never did raise the price of my Lemonade... still 10 cents since 1982.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Sexual Harrassment in the Workplace!

I'm referring, of course, to the unmistakable resemblance of the Gentile child's haircut to the head of a circumcised penis. Even in the high-rolling, fast-paced world of Computer Programming, this is totally unacceptable!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Iron Chef Shenanigans

Jacob and Ella wanted to eat some junk food before dinner tonight, so I let them compete against each other in a round of Iron Chef. I played the role of Chairman Kaga, mainly because I planned on doing a backflip to open up the show. I made the kids hold up a printed bedsheet in front of a lamp so you could see my silhouette from the audience and explained how I was going to burst through it, do the flip, and land on the kitchen linoleum. Neither sibling believed me, and I have to admit... they were right not to. The last time I did a backflip I was 15 and bouncing on a trampoline, plus I'm pretty sure I was on drugs. The kids had to settle for a disappointing front somersault on the living room carpet and, like sex with a senior citizen, it was crooked, slow and ended early. A C- at best.

After that plane crash of an opener, the games really began. The special ingredient was: WAFFLES. We used frozen Eggos. While the waffles toasted, the kids had 3 minutes to rush around the kitchen barefoot, climbing up on top of the counter and grabbing ingredients. The rules were: 1. If you got to the ingredient first, you got to have it at your station. 2. If the opponent wanted to use it, you had to oblige them, but not until AFTER you were finished using it. 3. No tattling!

Using a turkey baster as a microphone, I followed the kids around and made voiceover commentary in a Canadian accent. Jacob and Ella were so into it. You could almost see cartoon light bulbs of inspiration hovering above their heads as they rummaged through the candy cupboard. There was a gleam of confidence in their eyes, like mentally they were rubbing their hands together excitedly and saying, "Oh MAN, this is gonna be good... why, I could even be a professional and win a real cash prize!"

After I checked their stations over for safety violations and signs of race fixing, I set the timer for the cooking portion of the competition. They had 3 more minutes to make a dish using the Eggo and their chosen ingredients. Here's what they each came up with:

Jacob's Cinnamon Choco-Crunch Waffle

Ella's Marshmallow Surprise

I made the children describe their waffles to me and present them at the judge's table. Then I banished them to the living room and graded their dishes on Taste, Appearance, Creativity and Je Ne Sais Quois. It was a tough decision, but Jacob was declared the winner because "in the end, it all comes down to taste." Even though Ella's Marshmallow Surprise was the most creative with it's masterful use of chopped up granola bar, the Surprise ended up being cement-like coffee candy from 1998 and I accidentally swallowed one whole. After it was all over, I was able to teach the kids another valuable lesson about cleaning up the kitchen using mainly your mouth. Hopped up on chocolate syrup, the kids ate virtually no dinner and were then made to run laps around the yard holding sacks of flour to burn off some energy before bed.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Notes from the Hot Dog Pot: The Hotdoctopus

I would just like to take a moment to inform everyone that innocently chillin' in the files are instructions on how to make a Hot Dog Octopus, attractively splayed open on a bed of Mac n' Cheese with a harmonious Five-Kiwi and Parsley garnish. The only improvement I can possibly think of is to add clove eyes, a gold jump ring monocle and a waxed mustache cut from a black licorice wheel. Then to place the entire thing on a sterling silver covered platter and wait for the children to get really, really hungry before lifting the cover theatrically and announcing, "DINNER... IS SERVED!" I think I'll try it on Saturday night.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Frequently Asked Questions

Interviewing a babysitter has evolved over the last three decades from a simple one-question phonecall ("Are you available on the evening of Saturday, May 12th, 1981? You are! Oh thank God, you're hired.") to a gruelling process involving costly agencies and time-consuming cyberstalking. After all this modern-day hoopla, parents can still be left with a nagging sense of insecurity. Concerns tug at your guilty conscience as you pull out of the driveway wearing lipstick for the first time in 3 years. Have all my questions really been answered? How much do I actually know about the glamorous world of babysitting? Am I providing a nurturing environment for my babysitter so that she in turn can nurture my children's spongey, impressionable minds?

Don't panic: you're not alone! I've created this handy list of Frequently Asked Questions just for you. These nuggets of knowledge are of the utmost importance to a good babysitter/parent relationship. If you like, you can print it out and stick it to your fridge with a magnet for quick reference, or distribute it paper menu-style amongst your neighbor's windshields. Now get going, you - that basket of Olive Garden breadsticks isn't going to get drunk and lick the salt off of itself!

Just the FAQ's, Ma'am!
All About Babysitters
by Jenni

Q: I have a fridge stocked with icy cold beverages, and you're welcome to help yourself. What do babysitters drink?

A: Crystal Light, ice tea and beer

Q: I'm meeting a blind date at the Rusty Nail for Happy Hour, and I won't be able to fix dinner. What can I leave for you so you can make something quick and easy for yourself and the kids?

A: Money, so we can order a pizza. If that's not possible, the next best thing is to leave some hot dogs in a small pot of boiling water accompanied by a package of room-temperature buns on the counter. Carrots and ranch dressing should be left in the fridge to maintain freshness.

Q: Do you know CPR?

A: Does anyone really know CPR?

Q: I don't allow television or video games in my home. Are you going to have a problem with that?

A: Absolutely not. Your children and I will have a wonderful time playing Coney Island Carnies with some steak knives and the Lazy Susan. Or, if the rain lets up, we'll go to the park and set up an unlicensed mustache trimming stand to scam German tourists.

Q: We don't believe children's primal urges should be stifled with a lot of negative rules and regulations, so we don't have a set bedtime or punish so-called "bad" behavior. Can I expect you to create a similar environment while I'm away?

A: No, becuase I will never be caught within a 50-meter radius of your children.

Q: I'm having an affair with a substitute art teacher, and she thinks my kids ought to be more creative at home. What kinds of crafts do babysitters know how to make?

A: God's Eye, lanyard, tooled leather key fob, macaroni jewelry, dried bean art, celery/carnation food-coloring arrangement, Easter egg dying, friendship bracelet, clay pipe

Q: Do babysitters really steal husbands?

A: Sometimes, but usually it's pretty gross to even imagine making love to your aging, bald husband, let alone actually doing it. Officially, it violates the Babysitter's Code.

Q: I put out an outfit for my child to wear to school the next day, and he/she came bak in something completely different! What happened?

A: You must be very busy because you accidentally left out a pair of Crocs and your child thought he/she had to wear them! To school! Don't worry: I donated them to a Mexican worm farm and thus had to completely redo your child's outfit from scratch. I only charged you for postage and gas.

Q: Uh-oh, it looks like I'm going to be late! Is that OK?

A: Totally! Supervised visiting hours at my boyfriend's facility are from 8:00 am - 8:50 am, so I don't have any plans for later tonight. Relax, and take your time coming home. This is your night, and I'm just here to help you enjoy it for $20 an hour.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Public Service Announcement: The Lonely Little Chip

During Spring Break of either 2000, 2001 or 2002, I made a promise to be the best Child Advocate twelve Pesos could buy. I kept myself alert while digging through the bottom of the prison latrine (unfortunately, in the morning it was revealed to be a public toilet at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville) by dreaming up a series of child safety Public Service Announcements. Here is the first.

Four Dangerous Joykills:

1. When people give out toothbrushes for Halloween - especially if you're a dentist. Do you need to be so self-righteous EVERY day in October? Really? All the way to the bitter end, huh?
2. A pinata filled with raisins.
3. Candy Villains, especially Lord Licorice. What a royal douche!
4. When people make cookies for children and put way less chocolate chips then the recipe requires. If you want to be healthy, please just give a kid some nice crunchy carrots. Don't put health where it doesn't belong: in the cookies.

Rosie received some such cookies from a well-meaning yet grossly misguided relative the other day. I watched as she carefully wriggled her fingernail across the surface like an Archaeologist digging for delicate pottery shards. A full minute later, the cookie was crumbled to bits and Rosie's face broke into an expression of relief as she extracted the lone chocolate chip from the rubble. Then she put it up her nose. Carefully weighing her options, she then removed it from her nose and placed it in her mouth. "I want... chocolate chips!" she announced. Don't we all, Rosie. Don't we all.

Friday, February 13, 2009

High Fructose Hijinx

Since he is now in Jr. High, I've started educating Ryan about everything important a teenager should know after his younger siblings have gone to sleep. Last night I taught him that sequined nipple covers are called "Pasties." In return, he taught me how to do this:
Ingredients: one orange. You're welcome!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Please Meet my Interracial Love Child

His name is Kalim. Isn't he cute? I was babysitting him during the day while his Mama got some work done, and decided to take him for a walk in his stroller around Lake Merrit. Then I remembered the Oakland "bird sanctuary" (pigeon slum) on the south side of the path and decided the risk of bird flu was much too high. It would be even better to walk him over to Lakeshore Avenue, where I could obtain both a giant piece of pizza and a hearty sense of accomplishment.

As I wheeled the stroller through a small crowd of people taking in the oboe stylings of a one-legged clown and past the hoards of jobless coffee sippers in front of Peet's, I noticed that some people were looking at me funny. Not "so, you're a stripper" funny, but a weird, eye-darting puzzlement that slowly dissolved into a glare. I put on my large pink sunglasses so I could observe undetected.

A man craned his neck to see in the stroller, but was trying not to look obvious about it, so I just halted right in front of him and fake pushed a bunch of buttons on my phone. Don't mind me, just sending a very important text message to the Viceroy of Guam! lmk if u want me 2 pick up knishes for tuesday potluck bingo nite. The man looked at Kalim sleeping in the stroller, then up at me. Then he looked at my... hand? What was he looking for, a ring? Finally, the glare. I walked passed the bagel shop. Same deal, but a woman, this time. Stroller, me, ring finger. Duuuude... it suddenly dawned on me that people thought Kalim was my interracial love child. And they were totally offended! Oh man, this was gonna be an awesome walk. I sighed dramatically and pushed the hood back a few inches on the stroller so passers-by could get a better look at Kalim's mini-halfro.

Many years ago, when Rodney King was still wearing Grant Hill Filas, I jumped into a garbage truck to escape the special school for wayward girls I was attending and hitchhiked to Oakland. It was here I befriended a "living statue" named Kevin. When he took off his silver body paint at night, he became just another a black man in duct tape overalls and silver glitter hi-tops, carrying a jeweled ghetto blaster. We were walking down the street together one evening and noticed that all these black chicks were staring at us, looking displeased.

"What gives?" I asked.

"Well, you know... they're upset seeing us together. There's not a lot of good black men out there, and they don't want to see any of them fall into the wrong hands."

"Good?" I scoffed. "I was thinking it was because I'm so much better looking than you."

Well, it turns out we were both right. I can't WAIT to take Kalim for another Lakeshore stroll. I still have some food stamps leftover from my brief commitment to an urban yurt collective back in 2005, and I'm going to conspicuously take them out of my Lewis Vuittron wallet to pay for my pizza. Hopefully, there will be a long line of good black men behind me. That's what she said! JENNI, OUT!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Curb Your Enthusiasm

It's very, very tempting to make up a bunch of spontaneous games while babysitting, especially when you're working with a pack of siblings and you've had a couple of Diet Cokes on an empty stomach. During the span of my entire babysitting career, I'd say that the five most popular games I've coined are:
1. Tickle Monster
2. Car Wash (ages 0-3)
3. Marshmallow War
4. Flaming Marshmallow War
5. Extreme Stair Toboggan and Kitchen Floor Speed Skate Olympics

Now, I'm not saying that there's not a reason these games are in the top five. There's actually a very good reason - these games are fucking fun as shit. However, they also require an enormous amount of physical energy on the babysitter's part, and when you come crashing down from your Diet Coke high, guess who still has a gajillion more rounds of Marshmallow War left in them? The Neibaum triplets, that's who. And they haven't even eaten dessert yet.

Some of you young sitters out there may be a little skeptical. Oh come on, you might be thinking, I've still got some kick left in the old jalopy. Aren't you a little old (yet still very beautiful) to be a babysitter? Didn't I see you yesterday at the Alpha-Beta buying gin and six tins of catfood?" Though the first part is somewhat untrue, I understand from experience why you might think such things. I was young and naive once, too. Then I invented Tickle Monster at age 12 and barely lived to rue the day. Look, it's a simple fact that once you make it to Jr. High, you become physically incapable of producing a fraction of the energy of a 7-year-old who's just enjoyed a frosty pint of apple juice. So do yourself a favor... before you make that bright idea of yours into a game of harsh reality, consider this checklist:

1. Does this game have any monsters in it and if so, must this monster always be played by the same person aka me?

2. Does this game have a clear beginning and end or can it just cycle on for all of eternity?

3. Does this game require the unusual bending of my body for longer than 10 seconds?

4. Does this game require intense upper body strength or "fancy feet?"

5. Does this game allow children to defy gravity and if so, are you the source of their defiance?

6. Is this game going to be remembered the next time you babysit? How about the time after that? And the time after that?

If you answered yes to every question except #2, which isn't really a yes or no question, then you're in danger of entering the no-rest zone, where sweat is shed and DVDs lay unopened for months. Carefully consider whether you really want to be playing this game for 3 hours straight on a rainy evening. On the first day of your period. Just after you walked in on your boyfriend softly tonguing the Zac Ephron poster he claimed was only in his room for "hair inspiration." Hmmmmaybe not.

...Or maybe you do? It's a little known fact that Willie Nelson was a babysitter once. My babysitter. Invented a little game called Shotgun, and look at him now... haggard and decrepit, but still awesome.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Burning Sensation

Today I unwisely violated one of the six golden rules of the Babysitter's Code: Never say "sure, why not?" when a boy between the ages of 8 and 16 asks you to do something unfamiliar* - and ESPECIALLY don't do it twice. This was the result:
This is what happens when you open a fresh stick of Big Red gum, lick the wrapper, and stick it to the soft, vulnerable underside of your arm. And you know what? It really does hurt twice as much if you do it on both arms. If you don't believe me, why not suggest that a hated co-worker give it a try? This would be especially funny if you worked at Abercrombie. Please note: the burning, itching welt reduces in intensity after 2 hours and 39 minutes. Thanks for the helpful information, Tyler!

*If you want to start following this rule before puberty just for safety's sake, by all means... be my guest.

Notes from the Supply Monitor: Duct Tape Discovery

A good babysitter carries a very large handbag at all times, and that handbag is filled with assorted items - some necessary, some illegal - that can literally mean the difference between life and death on the job. No matter the season, if you emptied out my colossal purse, there are a few things that you would always find. A roll of duct tape is one of them. Duct tape is the solution to so many of life's problems that I wonder why the nation's therapists don't roll through Long's (Duane Reed, if you're chilly) in the middle of the night buying up the entire stash. As a babysitter, duct tape plays an important roll in everything from fixing a torn pair of pants at the park to acting as a crucial prop in a heated game of Kidnap. So imagine my delight when I strolled through the aisles at Michael's today hunting for Bedazzler refills and came across this:

A hot pink roll of duct tape!!! I came in my pants. Twice. I could hardly believe that two of my favorite things in the world were combined into one amazing super-product, and that it could be mine for only $3.99. Oh, sweet Michael's... if I wasn't already engaged to an imaginary kettle corn chef, I'd marry you.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Congratulations... You're Going to be a Wonderful Mom!

...The mothers of my babysitting children have been saying this to me since back when I still used Maxi-Pads (see above circa 1992). Naturally, I assumed it was true and couldn't wait to have a kid of my own. As a result, I developed what I now realize was a very unrealistic fantasy of my future pregnancy. I imagined that (insert whatever boyfriend I had at the time) would accidentally knock me up. We'd totally freak out, cause we were like, totally not prepared! He was a (drug dealer, neurotic vitamin salesman, wifebeater, great-grandfather) and I, a poor child care professional with no health insurance. Months would go by while I deliberated whether or not to redeem the free coupon I'd earned from my frequent buyer card at the Abortion Clinic. Would I, or wouldn't I? Pitcher after pitcher of margaritas would be drained, but nothing could quench the fire of uncertainty in my belly. Then: a phonecall. "Hello? Yes, this is she. General hostpital? He what? Instantly, you don't say... I'll be right over." My boyfriend - dead in a mysterious accident! ...and the last lingering piece of him on this earth was living in my womb...

Of course, I would have the baby. How could I not? His family would be so grateful to me for bestowing this miracle upon them that they wouldn't say anything when I named the baby Claudine in hopes that she'd turn out to be a slutty French Gypsy. Why, they'd probably even let me live in the pool house rent-free for as long as I wanted! Yes sir, I thought, having a baby of my own was going to be pretty sweet...

Then, I failed at dying before age 28. Friends and cousins started having babies that weren't pretend. I started to see things... horrible things. Mistakes were made. Relationships fell apart, dreams were killed and vaginas were ruined - sometimes forever. Pregnancy, childbirth and the ineveitable parenthood were revealed to be not a generous scoop of Cream Dream, but a cantankerous bottle of old breastmilk curdling in the sun... precariously perched on the windowsill and just waiting for you to walk past without a condom.

Nowadays, I have a much more realistic perspective on what having my baby would really be like. Here is a photo-realistic depiction:
Motherhood: For Fruits Only

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Notes from the Naughty Corner: Words, Words, Words

Lots of grownups have woken up after a long weekend at Burning Man to find themselves parents, but they don't want to completely give up vices such as smoking pot, drinking before breakfast or wife swapping. And who can blame them? Parents such as these who have young children underfoot often make up euphemisms for their naughty behavior so the kids totally won't know what they're talking about, man! Sometimes, when I'm supplementing my income with a little light pot dealing, I am telephoned with a request to "come over and bring a bowl of chips," while children shriek loudly in the background. If I've recently been to a birthday party where I've handed out a bunch of my suggestively erotic business cards, I might be asked if I can "watch the dog and let him out when he has to go" by a potential new client. The answer, of course, is always a firm "no." This got me into trouble once with a family that had a new puppy and a Missoni cashmere rug.

These naming conventions have proven to be useful for dodging Child Protective Services, but I always wonder... what if little Joey gets invited to little Soon-Yi's birthday potluck and is asked by her recently immigrated mother to bring a bowl of chips? Then what, he rifles through Mom's stash and shows up to the party with a big bag of weed to put on the table between the hot dogs and the kim chee? That $20 set of Bratz Acrylic Nails you meant to be Soon-Yi's birthday present has now become a $120 liability ($210 in New York).

As an experiment for the science fair, I think it would be interesting to see what would happen if you made up explicit euphemisms for ordinary tasks and taught them to your small children. If your child sees you washing the dishes and asks what you're doing, you can say, "Oh, I'm just gently massaging my penis." If you're taking out the trash, you can announce in a loud whisper that you're going outside to "cook up some crank" and will be back momentarily. Cleaning out your ears with Q-Tips? Yawn! Why not "insert asparagus tips into your anus" instead? And sorting through junk mail is much more fun when you're "engaging in urethra play." I wish my parents had thought of this when I was young, before they stopped herbally expanding their minds and became Republicans. Well, it's been fun, kids, but I've got to go now and polish my doorknobs before the landlord comes over for his monthly inspection. TTYL!

"I was gently massaging my penis when I ran out of soap."

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

...and that's why Vishnu made YouTube.

David After the Dentist

Monday, February 2, 2009

Smokin' Hot

The kids have been haranguing me about it for months now, so today I finally taught Gracie and Tyler how to smoke. They're pretty wet behind the ears, but I suppose that's to be expected from a couple of grade-school amateurs. Gracie had the cigarette in backwards at first and we had to start the whole thing over due to extreme sogginess. I made her give me 50 cents and a clean pair of socks for the ruined cigarette so she would learn a valuable lesson about prison commodities and their costs. Soon, however, both siblings had mastered the detached glare and the slouchy posture one needs in order to smoke convincingly.

Congratulations, kids! I think you're both naturals. Oh, but here's a free piece of advice: avoid American Spirits, they're really foul tasting. If you truly want to go natural, smoke Nat Shermans. They're a bit more expensive, but hey - what's a little allowance in exchange for a good time?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fistful of Dollars

Having just completed a successful garage sale, Rosie's mom paid me in one-dollar-bills. I went to the market after babysitting to buy some shrimp, and the total came to $16. When did shrimp for one become so expensive? Probably somewhere between global warming and the new Red Lobster opening in Richmond. I decided it was worth the cost for a delicious shrimp dinner, and took out my wad of cash to pay. It took me a moment to carefully peel off 16 dollar-bills and when I handed it to the man at the counter, I noticed he was looking at me funny. Really funny. At first I assumed it was yet another case of mistaken vegetarian identity, but then I realized... he thought I was a stripper! A budget stripper. Awesome!!!
From now on, I think I'll always carry 50 ones with me wherever I go. You know, just to make spending my hard earned money a little less painful and a lot more uncomfortable for others. Maybe I'll even clip some coupons for things like air freshener, flea collars and Q-tips and put those in with the bills along with a large ball of weird, questionable lint.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Riverdancing with Rosie

I babysat Rosie at the old house today and discovered something very important: Unlike their namesake, Little Mermaid Pull-Ups are NOT waterproof.

"It has a... MERMAID." Rosie was excited to show me her special diaper when I arrived. Then she wanted to be picked up.

"Ina hold you..."
she said, lifting her chubby little arms up in the air. It feels nice to be wanted, so of course I obliged. Rosie giggled.

"I want the lollipop song. My Boy Lollipop," she demanded, careful to enunciate every word. Rosie is 2, but she's as big as a 3-year-old or even a lactose-intolerant 4-year-old, and she's very concerned about diction. She has an enviable froggy voice, too (no calling up boys as soon as she comes down with bronchitis when she's older, she can do that any time). This, combined with her striking features and homemade silk dresses, give her the look of a miniature starlet from the Talkies.

"OK," I said,"Get ready!" I swung her over to one hip, and when I looked down, noticed that both my top and jeans were soaked with pee.

"Whoops!" I said, "Looks like we have to change your diaper, first." Rosie's family is moving into her Nana's house to take care of her after she fell and broke her hip over Christmas, so the usual supplies were scattered between the old house and the top floor of Nana's old, lightly haunted Victorian. I plopped Rosie down on a pile of blankets and changed her into another Little Mermaid Pull-Up until we got to the new house.

Then I sang the Lollipop Song. Twelve times. We did the Lollipop Dance. We made some faces. We looked for and successfully located her bellybutton. I swung her upside down in front of a mirror. Next we went for a walk outside with a creepy wooden Pinocchio head magnet to test what it would stick to, cracking her up until it was time for a nap back at Nana's house. Rosie pulled books out of her bookshelf as I searched high and low for a real diaper. Finally, a call to her mama revealed that they were in a trick hidden drawer (also haunted) in the bathroom. By the time I got back to Rosie, she was giggling again.

"I have a poopy diaper!" she exclaimed. I sighed. I reached over to pick her up and found that rather than a poopy diaper, she had an entire outfit, including tights, soaked with pee. I had to wipe her down with a towel and then detail the "problem areas" with baby wipes.

"Don't... wipe... my toes, please." She said carefully. "Mama painted them RED."

"Don't worry, Rosie," I said. "Unless you've gotten into Papa's anti-freeze, I don't think urine takes off nail polish." From now on, we are going with the bland, brown organic Tushies. They aren't much to look at, but they keep pee off the streets.

Doing the Lollipop Dance...Apres-Pee