My sister-in-law, Suzanne, has been helpful beyond expression over the past three years. She babysat Peach when I was in class, and when I was teaching class, and when I had conferences with my students, and when I had meetings with professors. Then I finished my coursework, and quit teaching so I could concentrate on my thesis, and Suzanne offered to keep babysitting Peach a couple of times a week so I could have some time to myself to work. Not only is Suzanne an extremely good mother whose parenting philosophy and skills made me very comfortable leaving Peach with her, but if anything, she is overqualified as a child-care provider, because she has a Master's degree in speech pathology and plenty of clinical experience working with children.
A couple of months ago, when I applied for graduation, I talked to Suzanne about my deadlines, and she mentioned that she and her family were planning to be in California on February 20th. No problem - I had to have my defense scheduled by then, but I didn't have to actually hold the defense until March 6th, and they were definitely planning to be back from their trip by then.
Fast forward to February 18th: Suzanne's three-year-old daughter had to be taken to the ER because she was in respiratory distress. They ran some tests and discovered that she had the flu ... the real flu. As in, actual influenza. At first Suzanne thought they would have to cancel their trip, because her husband, Kendall, can't always get time off from work. But by the time the three-year-old was healthy, they had managed to get his time off shifted, and were able to make the trip after all. I was very happy for them.
Unfortunately, this meant that Suzanne would be in California on March 3rd. Usually Glen would be my emergency back-up babysitter - his employer has been surprisingly flexible about things like that - but he wants to be at the defense, and clearly bringing Peach with him is not an option.
In desperation, I called a friend who lives in the neighborhood and is at home with her own two children during the day. I hate beginning conversations with "I have a huge favor to ask you," but I really didn't have a lot of options. Amanda was really nice about it. She said she'd be happy to do it, and insisted it wasn't a big deal for her.
The only remaining question is, What's the best way to express my undying gratitude?