The kid are sleeping. We had a really fun evening. I got home from work early, and we spent fifteen minutes or so playing around on the new gymnastics mats in the basement, doing somersaults and airplane lifts and making human sandwiches (that sounds so gross, but you know what I mean).
Then it was dinner, one of those marvelous occasions on which the main course (butternut squash soup) was enthusiastically received by all and carrot (Riley) and celery (Maddie) sticks were consumed with gusto.
Off it was to the bath, where no one threw a tantrum when the bubble machine didn't work and there were no tears about hair washing or combing out. We had extra time for stories, we sang an extra song, and the light was out by 7:25 p.m.
And now, here I am with a glass of wine and my after-bedtime snack. I have a couple of bills to pay. There's a load of laundry about to shift to the rinse cycle. I could write some thank-you notes.
But the dishes are washed, the play areas are clean, there's no need to pack lunches. This post is really an ode to Z and how she has transformed our lives in the past two months. She delights in the kids, and they in her. I've been able to hear their Spanish skills just explode. Taking care of Maddie and Riley is clearly her priority, but she is also a huge help to me around the house, which has freed up my time in ways I did not expect and have yet to really learn how to manage. I find myself now in the evenings with my chores done well before 8 p.m. and the whole evening stretched out before me. Usually I manage to fritter away my time on Facebook or end up asleep by 9:30 p.m. I haven't been so well rested in years, and it feels really great.
I'm not terribly surprised to find that I love having another adult in the house after hours. Sometimes, once the kids are sleeping, Z and I will cook something together or just spend time socializing. It's nice to hear stories about what the kids are doing and to help with questions Z has about life in the U.S. Often, Z will spend the evening on her computer or on the phone, visiting with friends, but just knowing that she's here and that I have backup if something goes awry is a huge load off my mind, and an unanticipated benefit of having a live in au pair.
I have wanted for some time to get an au pair, but the circumstances were never right either logistically or financially. It was worth the wait, though, and my hunch that this was a good solution for our family has been confirmed. It's nice to be headed into 2011 with such a settled, happy feeling: my job is stable and mostly good, the kids are in a good place in school, and the childcare situation is so much more than that.
Now it's 7:54 p.m. I need a few more snackies to get me through the bills. Then I think it's time for an episode of Mad Men and some reading. I started To Kill a Mockingbird a few days ago. Not sure how it could be that I've never read it before, but there you have it. What a luxury to have time to spend on these things, on myself. I am well aware of this gift.