life Weekend

Adventures in Alternative Childcare

July 22, 2019

Our nanny G (who we love!) has to attend to a family emergency and is out, without a well-defined date of return. It may be just a few days, but likely ~10-14 days or so. She is so reliable that in her 6 years with us, this is the first time she’s been out for a more than a day or so without advance planning. (And it’s 100% important for her to be with family right now, so I understand and support her leave).

I am also mildly terrified.

I have arranged after care for camp, which means A&C can go as long as 7:30 am – 6 pm. Drop off is on my way to work, so that part isn’t too bad. For G, I am using The Babysitting Company (company that provides short notice vetted sitters) for today and Tuesday but may look into having her stay at a local day care/school (the place where C did pre-K) for the rest of the time. Not sure and it depends on their availability and willingness to take on a short-term charge.

I armed the kitchen with easy staples (rotisserie chicken, pasta, etc) and plan on alternating super simple/quick dinners with takeout. I have started getting into the routine of throwing a load of laundry in each day (prefer this to letting it pile up). We will see how things go. I’m so sad for what G is dealing with and not sure I am up to this challenge, BUT in a tiny way I also welcome it because it’s a nice way of confirming that yes, our childcare arrangement needs to stay how it is. I suspect I’ll come out of this with an even greater appreciation for all that G does.

The sad part is that Josh and I were supposed to have a weekend away next weekend and I don’t think we’ll be able to go. During our mild fail of a vacation, I kept consoling myself with “well, we’ll get this nice date weekend in a couple of weeks!” so . . . yeah, I’m sad that it won’t happen. But we found out that our hotel is refundable. Our plane tickets are not (agghghgh there goes $1K). We are scheming to replace the weekend with a future one, maybe just spent together at home or locally (w/ kids @ G’s once everything has settled down).

So, yeah. Wish me luck.

Weekend scenes:

Josh was on call, so to organize my total Mom Weekend I decided to use a sheet from a planner pad that the kids got me for Mother’s Day 🙂 It fit very nicely into my Hobonichi . . .

just for some variety over the weekend — helped put me in a different frame of mind!
Flamingo Gardens

Both days followed a similar structure: 9-12 AM activity (though on Sunday I got a babysitter and did work/grocery shopped in this window!), G nap, and then afternoon excursion. Saturday was Flamingo Gardens (above) and Sunday was Young at Art (perennial favorite).

So many pix on these neon puppies with my kids at different ages and stages. I could probably make an album of just scenes from this museum . . .
Random shot of Saturday kid lunch


We are doing a back to school episode and would love to feature YOUR tips! If you can leave them in the comments of this post, or email me (shuboxblog at gmail) I would love it, and we will be sure to give you credit!


  • Reply Kristin July 22, 2019 at 8:04 am

    All hope may not be lost on your plane tickets. While the are non-refundable, you should be able to cancel and then use that $$ towards a future ticket on the same airline. You will have to pay a change fee but that’s better than losing it all. Good luck this to you and G this week.

  • Reply Omdg July 22, 2019 at 8:07 am

    Your kids eat runny yolks???????

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2019 at 9:37 am

      They FIGHT over who can get the runniest yolk 😂. THey are picky about other random things though!!

  • Reply Melissa Hall July 22, 2019 at 8:14 am

    A few I’ve learned over the years. Some may seem obvious but figure I’ll share!

    1. I buy a case of individually wrapped sanitizing wet wipes from amazon to go in their lunch box each day.

    2. I buy tons of extra right now while school supplies are cheap. For example, I buy the limit of 4 $.50 crayons almost every time I grocery shop. Then I have a stash ready to send the teacher as they run out later in the year.

    3. I keep a lot of the kids’ information that I don’t have memorized in the “notes field” of a contact card under the each of their names in my phone. This makes paperwork quick and easy.

    4. I always go to “meet the teacher” with a gift card and note for each teacher. It’s generally for coffee and I leave some acknowledgment about how hard they work. I want to start this relationship off on the right foot, since they will be interacting with my child seven hours a day for the next 180 days.

    5. We switch to no screens Mon- Thur and I try really hard never to schedule anything on Fri. We are ALL worn out by then so we take the evening to clean out bags, watch a movie and take the pressure off. My oldest in in 9th this year and youngest in 2nd. We have really had success with this approach.

    6. Every kid has a “homework box” ready with what they need. This means nobody is looking for items or waiting for me to get started. This included pencils, crayons, scissors and glue for the little ones.

  • Reply Jodi July 22, 2019 at 8:20 am

    I love that planner sheet! Do you know the manufacturer?

    • Reply Hannah July 30, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      Second this question! Where is that planner pad from?

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 31, 2019 at 7:55 am

        the brand is elum and it is from anthropologie! you can order online if you google 🙂

  • Reply Meaghan July 22, 2019 at 8:30 am

    That’s a lot to suddenly take on, but you can do it! Also plane tickets usually let you reuse them, minus the fee. So the balance can usually be applied to a future flight, within a year or so…hope that is the case.

    • Reply SHU July 22, 2019 at 12:35 pm

      The change flight fees were $200 each way per person – so $800! Ouch! The tix were around $1000 so that’s . . . not really that great. But, we didn’t spring for fancy refundable tickets and we knew that, so not knocking the airline! Just the policy I guess.

  • Reply Marci Gilbert July 22, 2019 at 8:56 am

    Good luck the next two weeks! You’ve got it!

  • Reply Linda July 22, 2019 at 9:44 am

    I know you have a lot of family nearby. Can they help out?

    • Reply SHU July 22, 2019 at 11:42 am

      We moved about an hour away, so no one super close anymore, and for various reasons, not an option (though if I truly had no options I’m sure they’d help, or my parents would!)

  • Reply Lisa of Lisa's Yarns July 22, 2019 at 9:50 am

    Oh man, that is brutal to try to secure child care with no notice. But understandable that things happen and your nanny needs to be away. My company provides back-up child care, I think through a company like the one you referenced. I’ve never used it because our daycare doesn’t close much and when our son is sick, I feel guilty hiring someone, especially someone unfamiliar… but I am keeping it in my back pocket in case I ever need to work on a day when our daycare is closed. It’s an awesome benefit for them to provide, though!

    Good luck getting through the next several weeks. Bummer about having to cancel that weekend getaway, though! That sucks!!! 🙁

  • Reply Marjorie July 22, 2019 at 9:59 am

    It may not apply in this case but is worth checking out if the credit card you used to buy those plane tickets come with any kind of trip cancellation insurance. In most cases if it does, it wouldn’t cover the illness/emergency of someone outside the immediate family (or the travelers themselves) but worth checking anyway.

    My husband and I have 4 dogs, all either senior or close to (and one with cancer undergoing chemo) so whenever we travel we purchase trip cancellation insurance that allows us to recoup some/most expenses if we have to cancel for any reason. It’s pretty affordable and worth the peace of mind. I think we’ve only ever used it twice — once when my job suddenly needed me to take an urgent business trip the same week as an anniversary trip (hubby was totally fine with it) and again when my mother went to the Mayo Clinic and we had to extend her stay and postpone our return flight (so the insurance covered the airline rebooking fees).

    Might be worth looking into for future trips!

    And yes I totally second the question of who makes those planner sheets because I’d love a different option on occasion for my Hobonichi!

    • Reply SHU July 22, 2019 at 11:41 am

      I thought about buying that insurance but agree it probably wouldn’t cover us in this case anyway, since our immediate family is fine. I’d definitely do it for a huge trip though (like a DIsney cruise).

      • Reply KGC July 23, 2019 at 11:26 am

        There are definitely different levels of travel insurance – my parents now just get the ‘cancel anytime, for any reason’ plan since they’ve had a few trips derailed for various reasons (gall bladder surgery, birth of my first child, broken arm, etc.). Since having kids, we’ve also started to purchase travel insurance for big/expensive trips (whether we plan to take the kids or not) since things are just more unpredictable with children. Haven’t had to use it (yet) but we probably will continue to get it!

        That obviously doesn’t help you now (and I’m not trying to make you feel worse about what happened! obviously this stuff is unpredictable) but just pointing it out as an option for future trips that is not limited to problems with immediate family. In my experience, the extra cost of insurance is relatively small (few hundred $) compared to the cost of a larger/more expensive trip and we have found it to be worth the peace of mind.

        Hope you guys can still enjoy some of your date weekend with help of a babysitter, even if not on a trip away!

        • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 24, 2019 at 5:36 am

          Will definitely think about it for the future. To be honest, it’s not really the $ loss for this trip that made it tough – just the fact that Josh and I had been really anticipating the time and to have it taken away. Again, that said — what our nanny is going through is very tough so — we do have perspective. And we will be able to take another trip in the future.

  • Reply Gillian July 22, 2019 at 11:14 am

    With 4 kids ages 12-3 we have had a lot of back to schools. Here are a few of my back to school thoughts:

    1) I take the first day of school off of work. It helps to have the extra hands and it feels special to the kiddos, plus it is nice to great them after school and here all about how it went. Our first day of school is always the Wednesday after Labor Day, the holiday week is slow for me anyway and taking that day off has a lot of impact for my kids.

    2) We always have dessert (just ice cream) on the first day of school. It feels just a little celebratory.

    3) If your school offers school supply boxes use this service! If they don’t it is worth lobbying for. Our elementary school uses it and it is so easy. Order in June and pick up your pre-paid, pre-packed box of supplies in August all ready to go.

    4) If your school doesn’t offer this service get on and order supplies the minute you get the list so you don’t have to worry about inventory or going to shop for school supplies in August.

    5) LL Bean makes the best backpacks, hands down. My son got one in kindergarten and it is in reasonable condition after 6 full school years. The only reason we are buying a new one for middle school is because he wants something more grown-up than he did when he was 5.

    6) Bento-style lunchboxes are the best! We like planet boxes. Again, they last forever (We have one that is 7 years old and no worse for wear). It is easy for kids to see what they have for lunch. There is little to no waste and no plastic. They are easy to clean. My kids make their own lunches in these with no issue.

    7) The new school year is a great time to start new routines. This is when we assign new household responsibilities (our word for chores) in our house.

    8) Schedule a time to talk to your kids about school before the first day. We have 4 kids and meet with the 3 older ones approximately quarterly to make sure we are on top of the big things that worry/affect them. We (my husband and I) meet with them one at a time and we take notes so we can follow-up on any action items. One of of these times is always in the weeks before school school starts. It is a good time to check in on what is worrying them and what they are excited for in the new year. It is also a good time to be sure they understand what our expectations are for them. We talk logistics, like planning homework time. The point is just to be sure everyone is on the same page from day one.

    9) Meet with your children’s caregiver before school starts. It is a great time to check in with the nanny/au pair regarding schedules/routines and expectations too. We do this after we meet with the kids, but before the first day of school.

    10) If you have a kid with special needs, no matter how mild, always touch base with the classroom teacher BEFORE school starts. It gives the teacher a better sense of how to deal with your child than any IEP (individual educational plan) can. It also may prompt the teacher to read the IEP (it is amazing how often these documents are ignored). As a result of reaching out in advance my special-needs kiddo has been seated next to a friend for the first day, for example. These little things can get the year off on the right foot for a kid who might be dreading heading back to school. It also let’s the teacher know who you are and that you are on invested.

    I think that is all I’ve got. Good luck the next couple of weeks!

    • Reply SHU July 22, 2019 at 11:39 am

      I LOVE these! I hadn’t thought about scheduling the meetings formally, but I love the idea.
      We are LunchBots users but so agree w/ the Bento style & metal containers 🙂
      And I have been less than impressed with the PBK backpacks so maybe it will be time to switch to LL Bean (though a run through the washing machine once or twice definitely helps!)

      • Reply Gillian July 22, 2019 at 1:16 pm

        After reading all the data on endocrine disruptors coming out (I am adult endo), we have really starting limiting our plastic use!

        The meetings are great. We started them about 18 months ago and now the kids expect them and have their own agendas too. My oldest once came armed with articles from common sense media about online gaming and Fortnite. Everyone takes them seriously and I find them really helpful. We talk about school, friends, extracurricular activities, upcoming birthday or projects. They are super helpful for proactively approaching upcoming change.

  • Reply Erica S July 22, 2019 at 12:30 pm

    My big tip is that schools release calendars at least a year in advance, so I already have important dates on our shared Google Calendar (teacher work days, regular school social events, delayed entry days, you get the idea).

    We set up any new routines, and have a meeting before school starts to discuss expectations and how things have to be different from our slightly relaxed summer.

    We also try to attend all of the back to school events (meet the teacher social) the week before school starts.

    Finally of course the first day of school is a fun day. The pictures on the front porch, Mom and Dad both go to drop-off, and we have a week day dessert to make it special.

    • Reply Jennifer July 29, 2019 at 1:13 pm

      Holy moly! These tips are awesome! do you have a blog?

  • Reply Robin July 22, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    My son is starting kindergarten this fall and I would love tips about getting started well!

  • Reply Sara B. July 22, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    Ugh – last minute childcare is sooo hard. The trust is hard, although I’ve used our backup service twice and have had wonderful experiences. Truly fabulous in one case. Increasingly, it’s replacing the driver that hurts the most – there’s not an easily-trustable situation for that, and logistically complex with car seats. Our nanny has cut back recently, and we’ve been hobbling along with some fill-ins we are getting to know pretty well, which has meant I Uber to work some days so the full-in nanny can take my car with the car seats.

    Looking forward to the back to school tips! We are going all-in on 1st day ice cream!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 23, 2019 at 6:06 am

      YES on the first day ice cream! Love this!

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 23, 2019 at 6:07 am

      And YES on the driving. It’s harder to trust drivers you don’t know as well, too (though you are smart to be building a whole team of those you are comfortable with!!)

  • Reply Megan July 22, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Would paying for an alternate nanny (if that’s something you are comfortable doing) so you could still go on your mini vacation be cheaper than losing the $1000 in airline costs?

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2019 at 9:14 pm

      I wouldn’t want to scramble to find someone who I’d trust enough for overnight care (2 nights) on such short notice. We will definitely still do a date trip and enjoy it, just may be local.

      • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 22, 2019 at 9:15 pm

        (And obviously on a different weekend).

  • Reply Amanda July 22, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    You. Can. Do. It.! You have several great ideas to tackle the childcare need. I have learned so much from you on how to have the best of both worlds. I work full time (and am fortunate to have a partner who does as well) and cannot afford to outsource laundry, cooking or extended childcare. If I can do it, then I am sure you (the teacher!) can too!

    I really feel for you on the trip. All of our family is within flying distance and I would still see if I could recruit someone to help. 🤞

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 23, 2019 at 6:06 am

      As much as I would love to go on the trip, it doesn’t feel like a big enough deal to recruit an alternative! And I am sort of enjoying figuring out what I am able to do without outsourcing.

      Truthfully, the laundry and cooking are doable. Not having the flexibility to go into work early or stay later if I need to is tough.

  • Reply Lori C July 22, 2019 at 9:44 pm

    Sarah you got this girl! This is where the rubber meets the road with your planning skills 😜 I’m not sure if there is a Bright Horizons near you, but in our area they offer reputable care and short term/drop in coverage. Might be worth looking into (although I must say they are very expensive!) I’m sorry you got thrown such a curve ball! Start planning the next getaway so your anticipating self has something to look forward to the next 2 weeks 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 23, 2019 at 6:03 am

      YES I need to start planning that next getaway! You just gave me the idea to look into the childcare center that is affiliated w/ my workplace. I suspect they will laugh at me b/c they’re probably beyond full, but doesn’t hurt to ask . . .

  • Reply Lori C July 23, 2019 at 12:48 pm

    Two random additional thoughts- 1. Bad timing on this suggestion, but have you thought of doing a podcast or webinar on goal setting? I would love to sit into a webinar to learn the work/mindset/steps behind the quintile and annual goals lists! 2. For the BOBW podcast, how about Audible as a sponsor? I am thinking of getting a membership and I am pretty sure they do an affiliate program for podcasts. Just a thought, not looking to add extra work for you right now 🙂

    • Reply Sarah Hart-Unger July 24, 2019 at 5:34 am

      Ooh, love the goal setting webinar idea (though could be a podcast topic, too!). Maybe one of my first forays into YouTube? We will see . . .

      We don’t really hand-pick our sponsors, because we work with an ad network, but I agree it would be a fun fit! B/c both of us definitely love books, reading, and doing so efficiently.

  • Reply sophia July 23, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Nannies are people with their own needs and it sounds like you treat yours really well but OMG finding last minute care is so hard. It’s extra hard for you bc you just moved and probably know fewer sitters in the area. You might have already thought of this but have you considered calling some of your miami beach sitters and asking if they are available to help and paying them for commute time?

    Back to school:
    -We buy the box for school
    -we reuse a lot of gear from year to year
    -my (active) son is on his starting his 4th year with his land’s end backpack and it has a lot of life left
    -I just finished listening to how to be a happier parent (after hearing her on BOBW) and it’s SO GOOD. so much practical goodness there. If you haven’t read it you should
    -school lunch. There. I said it. Its not the healthiest but not terrible and it’s so convenient and free in NYC. It’s made life so much easier
    -we don’t buy “back to school” clothes specifically. We buy clothes as they grow out of stuff and need it throughout the year. I find that getting a bunch of outfits for back to school increases clutter.

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