Open Thread: Introducing a New Comments Tool

by cv harquail on January 25, 2015

Time for an open thread– and an upgrade in our commenting practices!


I’d like to introduce a new tool, a tool that I’ve been using ‘behind the scenes’ — on about 20% of the comments — to help keep our commenting easy to read and easy to respond to.

You might know it by sight or recognize it by its symbol. You might use its old-fashioned name, “The Carriage Return“, or its newfangled moniker “Enter“.

Whatever you call it, this tool makes every comment better.  

Long comments are become readable. Short comments become more pithy. Even spelling mistakes disappear when this tool is used. Srsly!

Try it — it’s available to anyone, over there on the right-hand side of your keyboard. You can reach it with a slight streeeetch of your pinkie.

Just do this,

a23CEnd you’ll save me from the silly editing work of adding line breaks and creating paragraphs.

Bonus:  You’ll make your comments easier to read, and easier to enjoy.

Now go try it, in the open thread, below!



When Your Au Pair Repeatedly Loses Things

by cv harquail on January 23, 2015

I’m known for losing things.

Sunglasses, cell phone, car keys, arguments, emergency chocolate, the Costco card… . I try hard to hold on to things, but the absent-minded part of being a professor is really strong with this one.

My own sensitivity to losing things has led me to compensate for potential losses in two ways.

glenn euloth lost nemoFirst, I work to have a system — a firm place that things go, an extra one hidden somewhere — to cut back on the problems that losing things can cause.

Second, I try to cut other people some slack when they mess up.

That said, when other people lose things repeatedly, I get pretty irked. I want people to treat things with respect and to take care of their things. With au pairs, I want them not only to take care of what they are in charge of, but also to teach my kids how to treat things responsibly.

[See:  When Your Au Pair Loses Your Smart Phone]

MKK Host Mom emailed about some trouble she’s been having with her au pair –

Her Au Pair has lost and ‘left behind’ kid items like sweaters, toys, books and mittens. Recently the au pair left a pair of the kids’ tap shoes at dance class, and the shoes disappeared before the Au Pair thought to return to look for them. MKK Host Mom says –

I have never asked our Au Pair to replace these items, but my husband thinks we should.

What do other families do when items are lost forever and must be replaced? What would happen if our au pair forget our kids’ iPad somewhere?

Also, all 3 of our Au Pairs has misplaced important items in the house (like car keys and the TV remote), and it’s taken days or weeks to find them. Each time this has happened, the burden of ‘not having’ the item has been a drag, and it’s been compounded by the Au Pair’s not treating it seriously or taking responsibility to find it or fix it.

Any suggestions for what to do when – despite having a plan and place for putting things where they belong— items are commonly lost or misplaced by our Au Pair?

See Also:
Extra Umbrellas and Hidden House Keys: The beauty of redundancy
Can you guess what prompted this Host Parent tip?
When Your Au Pair Loses Your Smart Phone

Image: Lost Nemo, by Glenn Euloth on Flickr



Whoa there Nellie.  Get down off that exercise equipment.

Host Mom Mimi dropped an aside that felt like a bomb. 4727247770_6620363646_m

In her comments on Slush Funds vs. Petty Cash jars, Mimi mentions:

 “If our AP takes the kids to the gym while she is on the clock, she is responsible for babysitting room fees.”


HRHM asks in a more polite way:

Just curious if your kids like going to the gym babysitting? Mine would not and I don’t think I’d allow it, even if she was paying the fees. I’m assuming your  kids do…”

I understand that if a host parent can use the babysitting at the gym, one might think it’s fine for the Au Pair to do the same, but…. that wouldn’t fly in my house. Am I over-reacting? Please advise.


Image: University of Madrid

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Help Your Au Pair Take Snow Days In Stride

by cv harquail January 19, 2015
Au Pairs enjoy their first snowfall au pair advice low cost childcare

Few events clarify the gap between how working parents and their school age kids respond to changes than the announcement of a snow day. When I was little, I thought snow days were magical. An overwhelming amount of snow combined with a day off from school seemed like a gift from the heavens — to […]

18 comments Read the full article →

Is It Too Late To Extend? Any J-1 Workarounds?

by cv harquail January 18, 2015

Imagine it — you have an au pair you love. She didn’t want to extend. Now she’s changed her mind, but the agency says it’s too late. Is it really too late? Dear Au Pair Mom– We just ended the year with the world’s best au pair.  She is a part of our family. The […]

42 comments Read the full article →

Lost Passport Delays Au Pair’s Arrival. Should we match or move on?

by cv harquail January 17, 2015

Dear Au Pair Moms– We’ve got a crazy delay in our Au Pair’s arrival that messes up my carefully made plans. Specifically, we are looking at a 3-5 week gap, maybe longer, to figure out childcare and wait for our au pair who lost her visa. Can you advise me what to do? Our old au […]

8 comments Read the full article →

Reimbursing Your Au Pair: Petty Cash Jars or Slush Funds?

by cv harquail January 16, 2015
au pair advice, petty cash

How does your family manage paying for small things, like pizzas, movie tickets, or another gallon of milk? Petty Cash Jars I’m a big fan of the petty cash jar (or in our case, a zippered pencil case /envelope in the kitchen drawer).   I keep about $20 in the envelope– usually in $1s and […]

34 comments Read the full article →

Awkward Arrival Time But We Like This Au Pair — Should We Match or Move On?

by cv harquail January 15, 2015

We’re new to the AP process, currently interviewing for our first AP ever. I’m in academia, and was hoping for someone to start in July or August, so that they can get comfortable with my son (will be 3 years old in the Fall) before school starts back up in September. One issue is that […]

47 comments Read the full article →

Rules & Methods for Paying Your Au Pair

by cv harquail January 14, 2015

Paying your Au Pair her or his weekly stipend, on time and at the right amount, is critically important for sustaining a good au pair-host parent relationship. Your Au Pair is working hard at a real job, and s/he is earning that stipend. Plus, s/he probably has a lot of plans for using this money […]

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Do You Round Up Your Au Pair Stipend? (poll)

by cv harquail January 12, 2015

Here’s a quick poll to get a sense of the numbers behind our responses to Why You Shouldn’t Round Up Your Au Pair’s Weekly Stipend

11 comments Read the full article →