This past weekend, we watched our 6-month old nephew and three-year old niece Friday - Sunday. I don't know the last time I watched a baby for that long - either when I was eight and would get up in the middle of the night to help my mom with my newly born sister or at sixteen when I was a full-time nanny of a 1-month old for an entire summer. Either way, I was honestly a little nervous going into it, especially since I had both kids by myself one of those three days. It was of course exhausting and challenging, but it was also fun, sweet and a good morale booster for me. People often tell me I'm a natural with kids, but I don't think that's true. I'm the second oldest of five, and have been babysitting since I was eight. I'm not a "natural", I've been in training for a long time.
I picked them up Friday afternoon, and thankfully my younger sister didn't have class that day, so she spent the day in Austin with the three of us. We walked the kids to my local elementary school's Boo Fest, which was perfect for my niece. I bought her a few tickets, and she slid down the giant inflatable slide, ran around the playground, dug in the sandboxes, got her face-painted (Frozen themed of course!), and complimented lots of kids on their cute costumes. Once we got home, I prepared dinner and she helped set the table. Both kids were asleep by 8 pm and my sister and I watched an episode of a show before we both went to bed early. Kids really take it out of you!
On Saturday, my sister drove back to school and I spent the day preparing meals while giving my nephew a bottle or changing a diaper, doling out dried fruit snacks, facilitating pumpkin painting, helping my niece color a birthday card for her grandmother, and then took them to another local school fall carnival. Unfortunately, it's been abnormally warm here for October and since it was about 90 degrees on Saturday, we only stayed at the festival for an hour. My niece spent some time jumping in the bouncy castle and playing games, before we headed back to my house for more afternoon crafts. She was passed out by 7 pm but my nephew had a tough night and was fussing off and on until about 10:30 pm. Since I had prepared myself for the potential of him crying throughout the night though, it really wasn't that rough and I was just grateful for the solid six hours he did sleep.
On Sunday, Keith and our niece made pumpkin pancakes together while I got our nephew ready and started packing all of their stuff. If you don't have kids and ever babysit, plan for leaving the house to easily take an hour or more. Kids have a lot of stuff! We took them to our local farmer's market and introduced our niece to Red Rabbit's pumpkin donuts (amazing!), picked up a bunch of goodies for a picnic, then met friends at Barton Hills Farms in Bastrop for pumpkin pictures, baby play time and a lunchtime picnic. Last year we took our niece to Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls, and I liked that place a little more, but Barton Hills was certainly an easier drive. Again, it was much too hot to be out very long so we spent most of our time enjoying our picnic lunch in their shaded food area, let their baby boy and our nephew enjoy some tummy time, snapped a few obligatory pumpkin photos, and then finished our time with our niece bouncing on the inflatable jumping pillow and sliding down the super slides.
We met up with my brother and sister-in-law Sunday afternoon and then headed back home. Being an aunt has lots of great benefits, but my favorite may be getting to experience fun kid activities for a few hours or days, and then bring them home and return to your own much calmer life. Our house felt pretty big and a little too quiet when we first got home, but I've certainly been enjoying the past few diaper-less, tantrum-less days. I'm sure my life won't always be this way so I'm trying to remember to appreciate the quiet while I still have it. I'll end this post by saying I am very, very, very impressed with any semi-sane parents that have 2+ kids under the age of four. You all are awesome.
Let me know if you'd like any tips for fun activities to do with kids of all ages in the Austin area. I'm not a parent, but I'm a regular babysitter for a lot of our friends and family.