Category Archives: Babysitting

December Photo A Day: Post #4

December photo a day list! #FMSphotoaday

#8. Someone You Love
TwinklesNot a someone, but quite personable: Twinkles. Last night I distinctly heard a ratchety-ratchety sound, as if Twinkles the guinea pig was foraging in his grain box for a snack. He returned to his owner and I didn’t realize how much I missed babysitting the critter.  Maybe a guinea pig for Christmas?

10. Under
underDoesn’t this look like a Hobbit hole?  The Hobbit opens today and I will find time to watch it. I told myself I wouldn’t go see it until I had finished the book, but I have caught Hobbit fever and must go see the movie.  Then again, I’m torn–if I don’t finish the book first maybe I won’t want to after seeing it as a film.  Oh, the indecision of book first or movie first…

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Day Twenty-Eight: Good-Night, Sweet Prince

Friday is my NaNo deadline. Speaking of deadlines, I am also supposed to turn in a short story for English. We are studying the short story form in English now and Mrs. X wants us to write one.

“We have been studying the elements of the short story and we have read many fine examples.  It’s now your turn,” were her instructions to us before announcing we needed to turn it in by Friday.  How am I supposed to squeeze in a three to five-page story when I still have around 4,000 words to hit my NaNo goal?

At first there were about five of us doing the NaNo extra credit challenge in Mrs. X’s class, dwindling down to three by the second week into it, and now it’s only me.  Although it looks like no one is doing the EC challenge because I stopped adding my progress stickers when I become the only NaNoWriMoer. I didn’t want to look like an overachiever.  Wait–if I do get my word count in eouldn’t the X factor have a fit if I dropped the 150 or so pages on her desk and say: “Umm, sorry I couldn’t get the short story in–will this do instead?”

As I was dwelling on pulling off my NaNo coup, Mrs. X was busy squelching the sounds of protest of having to write the short story. Yes, even though the X factor is scary, we sometimes do rise up to rebellion, even though it is a small one. At the minute grumblings, she did her trademark hand thing.  She will hold up her left hand like a traffic cop as if she is trying to stop the undesired behavior.  The strange thing is that is actually works.  She is scary.  Have I mentioned that?

“There is nothing wrong with having to write this story.  It will give you something to do besides update your Facebook profiles and wear your fingers out playing Guitar Hero.”

When she says stuff like this we toss around surprised looks at one another.  For being someone so decrepitly old, what she does know in terms of what’s going on continually amazes us.  She even uses a cell phone.  I saw her walking out to her car actually texting to someone.  That just doesn’t seem right.  Isn’t everyone over sixty supposed to be technologically illiterate?

I had a difficult enough time coming up with an idea for a novel, now I have to come up with an idea for a short story?  Actually, I might have one.

The other night I babysat Timmy.  He absolutely would not go to sleep.  Sometimes he gets fretful when his parents go out at night.  Kid fears.  I remember getting them now and then when I was his age.  He wasn’t interested in any of his books.

“Tell me a story.”

“Are you asking me or telling me?”

“Both,” he said.

“I’m not very good at making up stories. Really. That’s the truth,” I told him.

“I won’t be able to go to sleep without one.”

“You aren’t even a little bit sleepy?  Not at all?  Not even a tiny bit tired?”  I asked.

He shook his head.  “Not a bit,” although I thought he rustled down a little bit snuggier under his sheets and blankets.

“Hmm, that reminds me of a story I once heard about a little boy who couldn’t sleep.”

“I want to hear it,” he yawned.

I tucked the blankets around him and began:

“Once there was a little boy, he was a prince, in fact.  He lived in a wondrous castle with his mother the queen and his father the king.  He had servants galore.  One servant helped him dress in the morning.  Another buttered his toast, while another taught him his ABC’s, numbers from one to ten, and where Pago Pago was on the big map that hung in his study room.  Besides having servants the little prince had stuff.  All the kinds of stuff every little boy would want, be he prince or not.  He had balls, bats, bikes, boats, balloons, oh my and more, and that was only some of the B toys.  He had a pony to ride whenever he wanted to ride a pony.  One for each day of the week, in fact.  He had not one, but three pools to swim in.  One for when he was hot.  One for when he was cold.  And an empty one when he didn’t feel like swimming at all.  He had a huge library filled with books to read whenever he wanted to read.

Yet, with all these things the little prince did not have one thing he wanted and needed so very much.  That would be a good night’s sleep.  Night after night he would try to sleep, yet night after night he would close his eyes only to toss one way and then toss another.  It wasn’t any use.  It wasn’t possible for him to fall asleep.  He wanted to sleep.  He really did.  He wanted to close his eyes and dream sweet dreams of places to see and people to meet and new things to try and do.  Yet sleep simply would not come.

His mother the queen would read him story after story and the little prince would simply say, “Please read me another, dear Mother the Queen.”

Then the father would say, “I will tell you a story that will surely put you to sleep, so you will dream sweet dreams all through the night.”  He would sit in the chair next to the bed and spin a story that lasted and lasted yet the little prince would not shut his eyes, though his mother the queen was quite fast asleep.

The little boy prince would say, “I liked that one ever so much, dear Father the King.  Do you know any more?”

Many remedies had been tried to absolutely no use.  Cocoa, soft pillows, dreamy lullabies sung, snuggly stuffed bears to hug, and downy blankets to cozy under.  Nothing worked nothing worked at all.

Then one night when the little prince again tucked into bed could not sleep, the time had come to say “enough is enough.“  For by now the king was getting cranky and the queen  would sniffle and weep and the servants were nervous and the kingdom became concerned..  No one, no, no one at all knew what the matter could be, and solutions tried and failed.  The king announced, ‘Half my kingdom to the one who can come with a plan for my son to have a good night of sleep is what we all need.’”

The little boy prince sat up in bed and announced,  “Father my king you can keep your kingdom for I have all I need, but I think I have the solution.  It’s true, I think I do. There is one thing that must be done.  One thing I believe that would do it, I think.”

His father the king was speechless, his mother the queen stopped her sniffing, and the servants stood at attention waiting for the command.  They all listened and waited, wanting to know what it could be.

“If it pleases you all,” the little prince declared.  “I know I need a good night’s sleep and that will start with a ‘good night’ is all.”

“That’s all?” they all declared.

“Yes,” he nodded.  Every night with the stories, books, cocoa, comforters, stuffed bears and such, I thought it all too much.  All I need, and I am sure you will agree, is a simple, ‘good night’ and then I will know it’s time to sleep.

Such a simple solution from one so young amazed and astounded all who heard it, and it was done.

“Good night, sweet Prince, good night.”

image: clatl.com

The little boy prince fell asleep upon hearing those words, and the soft little snore became the sweetest snore ever heard.

The most amazing dumb story in the world is what I told Timmy, yet it worked.  I probably bored him right into unconsciousness.  I’ll write that up and see what the X factor says.  Or I might just drop my NaNo certificate of completion on her desk with the excuse, “Sorry I didn’t get to the short story assignment, but I was busy finishing my novel.”  That would be worth the laser eye.  I believe it would be.

Day Twenty-Two: Petting Pigs

A simple line-art sketch of a guinea pig (a.k....

A simple line-art sketch of a guinea pig (a.k.a. cavy) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m unexpectedly guinea pig sitting for the next couple of days. Twinkles is not any guinea pig, he’s Timmy’s classroom pig.  However, it was discovered one of the girls in Timmy’s class is allergic to Twinkles which means he has to find a new home.  Timmy volunteered to take home Twinkles for this week, and both he and his mom forgot about going out of town for Thanksgiving.  So here I am petting this fuzzy bit of squeak for a couple of days.

I have never had a pet before.  It would complicate our nomadic lifestyle to have to worry about finding places that allowed pets.  This apartment complex doesn’t mind contained pets like goldfish, parakeets, or guinea pigs.  Guinea pigs are amazing.  I decided to find out what I could about them.  I know I should go to the library for my research, but it’s closed due to Thanksgiving, which means I’m checking out Wikipedia instead–how wrong could information be on guinea pigs?  And so, for NaNo word count, my science report, and because I’m bored:

Guinea pig

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The guinea pig is not really a pig at all.  It is called a cavy.  It is a domesticated animal, of the kingdom Animalia, of the phylum chordata, of the class Mammalia, of the order Rodentia, of the suborder Hystricomorpha, of the family Caviidae, of the genus Cavia, of the species C. porellus (Wait-is that why Bugs Bunny’s friend is called Porky Pig?)

That’s all the scientific stuff.  Basically I learned guinea pigs are  mammals, meaning they give live birth and are warm-blooded.  I have been paying attention in biology.  They are rodents.  That I find disturbing since I don’t like mice or rats.  I can’t stand that we have a rat in our science room.  Rats are creepy.  Doesn’t anyone remember how the bubonic plague started?  Cavia threw me.

Guinea pigs come from the Andes and not New Guinea.  They are a food source and part of the folk medicine in that area. The guinea pig became popular as a pet due to the introduction of the animal by European traders in the 16th century. One reason they are popular pet choices is because they are mellow little animals.  They don’t mind being handled and it’s easy to feed and care for them. Over the years guinea pig organizations developed and breeding guinea pigs was cultivated.  They are even guinea pig shows like people show dogs.

Beyond being a food source and pets, guinea pigs are used for experimentation purposes and experimenting on them began in the 17th century.  Being used as test subjects for various experiments happened mainly in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Guinea pigs have since then  been largely replaced by mice and rats; however, guinea pigs are still used in research in tests for human conditions such as juvenile diabetes, tuberculosis, scurvy and pregnancy complications.

 Okay, I’m grossed out.  People eat these cute little creatures?  And they experiment on them?  Now I know what people mean when they say things like, “I’m not a guinea pig.”  I thought they were talking about not wanting to be referred to as a squeaky little animal.  How can anyone eat a guinea pig?  I guess some countries eat dogs, cats, and even monkeys.  Lizards and grubs I hear too.  I’m not going to those countries if I can help it.

Guinea pigs became domesticated around 5000 BC in the Andean area of South America, which is known today as Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.  They have been found in art in archaeological digs in Peru and Ecuador. Beginning in 1200 AD to 1532, guinea pigs were bred and that is why there are so many different varieties of guinea pigs today.  They are still a large part of the Andean highlands culture for food and are used in folk medicine cures.  The folk doctor will take the animal and rub it against the patient.  Black guinea pigs are especially sought for the diagnosing of diseases like jaundice, rheumatism, arthritis, and typhus. After rubbing against the patient the animal may be cut open to determine if the cure was effective.  Guinea pig medicine is practiced in many parts of the Andes where Western medicines are unavailable or mistrusted.

Here take two guinea pigs and call me in the morning.  Poor little guys, the life of a South American guinea pig is not one to be envied.  Either end up on the dinner plate or be used like a furry leech.  I look down at Twinkles who is currently my roommate.  He is really, really cute. He borders on being adorable. I am amazed at all the sounds he can make for such a tiny creature.  He creates these sounds without barely opening his mouth either. What makes them a pig if not really a pig?  And what’s with the guinea?

Spanish, Dutch, and English sailor or traders took guinea pigs from South America and introduced them to Europe.  They became popular pets among the upper classes and royalty, including Queen Elizabeth the first.  The first written account of the guinea pig is dated at 1547.

Guinea pigs are pets fit for a queen.  I like that.  I’m going to find out if Queen Elizabeth really did keep guinea pigs for a pet, because I have  never seen her petting one in any the history books I’ve studied. 

The scientific name of guinea pig is Cavia porcellus.  The porcellus portion means “little pig” in Latin, and Cavia is new Latin, and the derivation is from cabiai, the animal’s name in the Galibi language of  tribes once found in French Guiana. It’s thought Cabiai might come from the Portugese word cavia which comes form the the Tupii word saujá, which means rat.  Guinea pigs are known as quwi or jaca in Quechua and cuy or cuyo (pl. cuyes, cuyos) in the Spanish part of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia.  Breeders refer to guinea pigs as cavies, yet scientific communities still use the more common term of guinea pigs.

Guinea pigs must be confused.  They are known as guinea pigs by some, cavies by another, and cuyes by their homeland.  As I see it they are guinea pigs if pets or experiments, cavies if show animals, and cuyes if dinner.  I’ll keep calling my new roomie Twinkles.  I promised him that I would not eat him or run any experiments on him.  When I talk to him he kind of “wheeks” at me.  I don’t know if that means he likes what I have to say or if it is ticking him off.

How the animals came to be guinea pigs is not totally understood.  The fact that they resemble pigs with their large heads, stout necks, rounded backsides and no tails to speak of could be one idea.  There is also the thought that the animals make similar noises with the range of squeaks and pitched grunting they make.  They also like to spend most of their time eating.  They also do well in small enclosures (pig pens).  Guinea pigs have different pig-related names in other languages.  The German word for them is Meerschweinchen literally “little sea pig”.  This translates into Polish as świnka morska, into Hungarian as  tengerimalac , which all mean something as “sea pig”. This all can be traced back to how guinea pigs were transported on ships traveling to different parts of the world.  They were easy to transport and an easy source of fresh meat. There are a couple of misconceptions about the name, one being that the animals were brought to Europe by way Guinea, yet “Guinea” was a term used in English referring to any far away, unknown country.  There is also the thought the guinea pig refers to Guiana, an area in South America, although the animal is not native to that area.  A common misconception is that the animal‘s name referred to them being sold for a guinea coin.  That theory proved untrue due to fact that the guinea began its use in 1663 and there is a reference to the “Ginny-pig” as early as 1653.

It’s hard to believe there is such a concern over what to call the animals.  Why not stick with the original South American name of cuy?  It’s not as cute as guinea pig, that’s why. 

Guinea pigs can weigh anywhere from one pound to almost three pounds, and they are about eight to ten inches in length. They can live from four to five years, although they can live as long as eight years.  According to the 2006 Guinness Book of World Records there is a record of a guinea pig living to the age of fourteen years and ten and a half months old.

Guinea pigs are not naturally found in the wild, and thought to be a descendant of other cavie species that are still found in parts of South America.  Wild cavies live on grassy plains, living much like cows by living in small groups where there is a male (boar) for several females (sows).  They band together in herds, eating grass and other vegetation.  They do not store up any food.  They do not create their own nests or build burrows, but will borrow living areas of other animals or find crevices or niches to use.  They tend to be most active during dawn and dusk, when predators are not as prevalent.

Guinea pigs prefer living in groups since they are social animals. Domesticated guinea pigs will do well in groups of two or more.  Combinations that work together are one or more sows or boars, if they have enough room.  Domestic guinea pigs have longer periods of activity than those living in the wild.  They sleep in short periods in between activity periods.  They don’t like intense light.  They can live in cages, although wire mesh floors can create a condition known as bumble foot.  Guinea pigs can live in plastic bins with wood shavings for their bedding material.  They tend to be messy, jumping in their food bowls, mixing up their feces with their food and indiscriminately urinating and defecating throughout their cage.  Males tend to mark their territory after the cage is cleaned.

 I hadn’t thought about needing to clean out Twinkles’ cage.  Timmy didn’t say anything about that. All his mom handed me was a sack of guinea pig food, a bag of timothy hay, and told me to make sure he had clean water.  She told me he loves carrots..  Nothing about changing him.  I hope he won’t need changing for the two days I have him.  He’s not that smelly.  Yet.

 Guinea pigs can be trained to find their food, and will remember this food path for months.  They cannot climb, yet can jump small obstacles.  They are not very agile, and don’t use wheels or tubes or other diversions like hamster or mice use.  They do frighten easily, and will freeze in one place or dart around in random patterns.  Both tactics are used if the guinea pig thinks it is in danger, and will use these tactics to confuse its predator.  Sometimes when excited guinea pigs will hop about, which is known as “popcorning.”  Apparently guinea pigs can swim well. Guinea pigs, like other rodents, will groom one another in their social groups.  They have poor eyesight and depend on their well-developed sense of hearing, smell and touch.  They communicate by means of different pitched sounds.  Some sounds include:

  • Wheek – the noise they primarily make when excited, usually in response to their owner’s presence or food.   If lost, the guinea pig might wheek for help.  The wheek is also known as a whistle.  The wheek is onomatopoeic, resembling the sound the guinea pig utters.
  • Bubbling or Purring – this sound is one when the guinea pig is happy, as when it is being petted or held.  Sometimes this sound is made when grooming, or investigating, or being given food.
  • Rumbling – a noise made when dominance is being assertive, although the sound is also associated with the boar wanting to mate with a sow.
  • Chutting and Whining – a sound made when the guinea pig is being chased, or is doing the chasing.
  • Chattering – a warning sound made by rapidly gnashing the teeth together, and will have the head down, but a relaxed chattering means the guinea pig wants a treat and can’t reach it.
  • Squealing or Shrieking – a high-pitched sound in response to pain or danger.
  • Chirping – not a common sound, it is related to stress or when a baby guinea pig wants to be fed, and almost sounds like a bird song.

I have only heard the wheeking, although Twinkles did a bit of chattering when I first tried to pet him.  I wonder if he is lonely, since it sounds like he should have another guinea pig to keep him company.  I try to pet him a lot so he won’t feel so stressed out.  I wonder if it is confusing being traded around so much.  I hope he gets a home soon.  I’ve only had him for a few hours and I am attached.  But that would really mess up any moving plans we might have for the future.  What if the guinea pig lived fourteen years!  I would be out of high school, out of college, probably married and might even have kids by then.  That is a long time for one pet.

I skip over breeding and the photos of guinea pigs on platters.  Gross!  I like reading about how guinea pigs have been in kids’ books and even in a couple of movies.  I didn’t realize the guinea pig played an important role in the Narnia books, being the first animal to be transported to that country.  Ha, ha, that’s because it was an experiment and it was used as guinea pig.

Never mind, the joke doesn’t translate well on paper.  Maybe when Timmy gets back we will watch that guinea pig movie that came out, the one where they are super spies.

Mom is on the phone with Gran the third time in the last two days. Something’s up. We always manage to go to Gran’s for Thanksgiving, but I’m getting the feeling that might not be happening this year.   I wonder what’s going on.

Day Fifteen: Sleeping on the Job

This entry is out of order simply because I did my usual rabbit trail of starting on one topic and hopping over to another. It’s all because I didn’t catch up to Dad until nearly Thursday, due to our conflicting schedules, along with his need to get caught up on his sleep and type up his article and get it posted. Thursday morning he was on the couch working his way through stacked up correspondence, newspapers, and magazines when I made my appearance at 8:30 am. Here’s how it all played out:

“Why are you here?”  he frowns at me.  “Are you sick?”  Why do my parents always think I’m sick if I happen to be home?  Don’t they ever look at the calendar?  Is a purple-inked “NO SCHOOL” not loud enough of a reminder?

I shake my head and continue to the kitchen.  I toss over my shoulder, “Parent teacher conferences today.  No school.”  I let Dad work it out.  “Where’s Mom?” I ask deciding that breakfast will be bleak without eggs, bread, cereal, or milk as options. Another look in the refrigerator and cupboards indicate a lot more than the basics are depleted.

“She went grocery shopping.  She wanted to get it done early and then she and I planned on going out for lunch.  Hey, since you have no school let’s all go to lunch.”

Before I can agree, Dad sits up, with an obvious brain-wave.  “I know, let’s all go to your teacher conference and then go to lunch.  Do you have to make an appointment?” He paws through his stack of mail, locates a tri-folded stapled offering and flaps it up and down, “Yeah, here it is.“ He scans it.  “Yup, it says right here that we can just show up.“

I hoped that bit of correspondence would have gone unnoticed until next week.  Most of the stuff from school does slip under the parental radar.  Mom tends to ignore school mail, especially the newsletters and buries them in the stack of non-importants or ignorables.  When Dad checks the mail, everything gets read.  Going to Parent Teacher Conferences was not on my top ten list for today.

“Oh, there’s no need to go,” I assure Dad. “I’m doing okay in school.“  Dad doesn’t buy that.

“Getting to know your teachers is important.  High school counts remember.“

Oh, great.  I was hoping to avoid going and have been able to do so for the last couple of years.  I know it‘s too late now.  Once Dad is interested in something there is no real point in talking him out of it.  I answer his question about what to expect.

“Umm, it’s set up like an open forum.  You just go find a teacher and talk for about five minutes until all of them are covered.  Conferences don’t actually start until 3:30. I guess teachers have work time or meetings in the day.”

Dad absorbs this as well.  “Hmm, let’s see what your mom says.  I think we could go to the conference and then go out to an early dinner instead.  Do you have school tomorrow?”  I shake my head.  “How do they expect you guys to learn anything if you don’t go to school?” I shrug my shoulders.

When Mom arrives home laden with groceries I gladly help put them away.  I like knowing what my options are when it comes to food choices.  There is nothing like restocking the cupboards and refrigerator to get my appetite going.  I’m not really a foodie, I just like to have menu choices.  Inspired, I set aside the loaf of French bread, eggs and milk. “I’m making French toast,” I announce, reflecting my new interest in Simone’s home country. “Do you guys want some?

“Absolutely,” Dad cheers. “I survived on energy bars and coffee while on my trip. Let me know when it’s ready.”

Mom surprises me by kissing my cheek. “That would be lovely.”  She blossoms into radiance when Dad returns from his writing trips.  She hums and walks towards their bedroom.  Great.  If she’s in a good mood she’ll do anything Dad suggests.

After breakfast it’s decided we will all go to the PTCs and then get an early dinner and hit a movie.  Not that I had planned anything more special than reading my new Jasper Fforde book and maybe actually start a real novel today.  Then again, any excuse of not writing works for me.

I hole up in my room intent on reading only three chapters of my book and seriously consider starting a concrete paragraph of my novel, until 11 a.m, when Mom taps on my door.   “Can you babysit Timmy?  His mom wants to know.  She forgot he didn’t have school today and had made an appointment to get her hair cut.  She doesn’t want to reschedule and doesn’t want to take him.  She’s paying the usual rate.”

I say sure.  I really have nothing better to do.  The occasional babysitting jobs I get help my dwindling cash flow.  The only real money I get is birthday gift cash from Gran and Gramps.  My parents don’t dole out allowance.  They just slip me a five or ten now and then, depending on how well they are doing with their jobs.

I set aside my book and get ready.  I like Timmy.  He lives downstairs and just started school.  His mom stays at home and does some kind of typing work for medical offices.  Timmy’s dad works at the county courthouse.  I think he’s a clerk in one of the city/county offices.  I’ve babysat Timmy since we’ve lived here.  He’s a cute kid.  I wouldn’t have minded having him for a brother.  The apartment building has one of those playgrounds within the complex and that’s how we met.

“Push me,” this little tow-headed boy yells at me.  On my way to the dumpster, I looked around to see if he meant me.  I thought he might be yelling to his mom.  “Push me,” he yells again.  I decide to humor him, but give him some trouble first.

“Hasn’t your mom taught you not to talk to strangers?” I tease.  I easily talk to little kids.  They have no hidden agenda.

“You’re not a stranger,” he states.  He says it with what I would consider disdain.  Can a five year old have disdain?  “You’re the girl who lives upstairs.  Your parents are writers.  You go to high school, but you don’t drive a car yet.  You don’t have a boyfriend.  My mom says she has read your dad’s articles and he writes pretty good, but my dad doesn’t understand how a writer can make a living these days.”

That’s why someone said, “Children should be seen and not heard.”  Adults totally underestimate how much little kids are listening.

“I guess you know a lot about me.  Who are you?”

“I’m Timmy.  I turned this,” he holds up five fingers. “on my last birthday.  I don’t know how to swing yet.  I still need a push.  Push me.”

Hmmm, precocious kids only exist on television, I thought.  “Maybe I will.  What’s the magic word?”

“Daddy says there is no such thing as magic.”

“Okay.  Then what is the word you use when you want your mom to get you to do something?”

“Hurry up!”

I laugh.  This kid has potential.  “Please, is the word you should use.”

“Oh, that word.  Mom says ‘Use your manners, Timmy’ when she wants me to use that word.”

Okay.  That makes sense.  “Use your manners, Timmy.”

He sighs.  “Please, will you push me?”

And I did.  I showed him how to pump his legs so he could keep himself going.  About five minutes into this, a frazzled looking woman comes running down the sidewalk.  “Timmy!  I told you to wait for Mommy before coming to the playground.”

She opens the gate and catches her breath.  “You’re the girl whose parents are the writers?”

I don’t know if this is an accusation or a question.  I guess she says this to allay her fears that I am not going to harm her child.  Would I still be here with him if I had evil intentions?  She’s a little stressed around the edges so I try being polite to show not all teenage girls wear heavy black eyeliner and pants riding so low that bending down is next to impossible due to the current city ordinance of public decency.

We exchange introductions and I end up with a babysitting job.  “I like her, Mom,” Timmy announced.  I guess that sealed the deal.  I don’t babysit Timmy often during the school year except for the occasional Friday night when his parents go out to dinner.  Mostly I babysit in the summer when Timmy’s mom needs a break.  I’ll take him to the city pool for a couple of hours.

Today it’s only for an hour and a half while his mom gets her haircut.  “Thanks, for this last minute help.  I still haven’t got this school on/no school thing figured out.  Now that’s he’s in first grade I’m used to having this big span of time to myself.  I guess I better enjoy my time while I can, huh?” she pats her growing belly.

“I guess so.”  I’m not up to discussing pregnancy.  “Any special instructions?”

“If you can get him to take a N-A-P, that would be great.  He’s getting cranky and I want him in a good mood for when his dad gets home.  It makes the evening go so much better.  Don’t let him know you want to give him a you-know-what.  Maybe read him some books and he’ll you know.”

“I don’t need a nap.”

Timmy’s mother rolls her eyes.  “Good luck,” I think.  This kid is going to rule the house before he’s eight.  No telling what will happen when he’s fifteen.

Instead of getting into a power struggle about taking naps I distract Timmy.

“Hey, show me something you’ve done in school.“  Timmy’s mom smiles at me and sighs.  She hugs him and he wiggles away, being intent on showing me his “story” that he made in class.

After praising his story, especially his choice of colors (“bears can too be green,“ Timmy insists) and not wanting to help him play with his Legos, I ask him to bring me five of his favorite books.  I told him I have to do a report on books that little kids like to read and he would be helping me do my homework.  He immediately dashes off to his room and returns with an armload of about ten books.  Maybe they don’t teach counting in first grade.  We read through them and we talk about why he likes certain books better than other ones.  I yawn and tell him I’m tired.

“I’m tired too.“

“Really?“

“Yeah,“ Timmy nods. “I miss taking naps like we did in kindergarten. We don’t do that in first grade.”

“I miss naps too.  I wish we could take them at school.  I know a lot of teenagers would love to nap in the afternoon, but we would get in trouble with our teachers if we did.“

“Teenagers like to nap?

“Oh yeah. Teenagers love to nap.  I wouldn’t mind taking a nap right now.”

Timmy got off the sofa and brought me this amazingly soft plush blanket, one of those velour throws with the lambs wool material on one side. He climbs up and snuggles next to me.  Together we tuck it around us.

“We’re like two callerpillars in a cozy sack,“ he giggles.

“You mean we’re in our cocoon?“

Timmy nods. “If you want to nap, I’ll let you.“

“Hmm, maybe that’s not a good idea.  Your mom might not like that I was sleeping when I’m supposed to be watching you.“

Timmy thinks about it. “What if we are both sleeping?“

“That might be okay.“

He leans against me and soon I sense his body relax and I glance down and see he’s gone to sleep.  Kids do look like little angels when they sleep.  Mrs. X would burn that cliché out of my writing, but I don’t know how else to describe that sweet innocence that radiates from their face.  It’s comforting and peaceful.  No worries, no cares.  I close my eyes and lean back into the sofa. Timmy readjusts.  Two cozy bugs in their cocoons.

Luckily I hear the click of the door and open my eyes when Timmy’s mom comes in the door.  Happy to see him napping, she tiptoes across the living room to the kitchen. Just as I wonder how to extricate myself without waking him up he rouses like a little puppy, yawning and stretching.

“You’re back, Mommy!” Flinging off the blanket, he runs over and looks over the sacks of groceries.  I don’t think Timmy’s mom wanted him to notice the gallon of chocolate swirl ice cream.  She gives into him, like she usually does, and says he can have a little bit for being so good.  He scores a treat and I get some spending money and a nap out of the deal.   That part of the day was much more pleasant than the latter half.