Friday, July 2, 2010

July DC Area Get Together - Petting Farm

Please note the date change to Sunday, July 11th!

Hey, DC area people!

I know I know that I said I would do a grown-up only event for June... but... well, June kind of got away from me. And to be honest, Londo and I can neither afford a nice night out in terms of money and time. We've only gone out once the kids are asleep, and then we have had my mom or MIL stay with the monitors. But lately, my mom's been busy and my MIL wasn't able to come up to visit until last weekend.

(Side note: MIL and FIL stayed with sleeping kids last weekend, and Londo and I went out for ice cream and a movie! An early anniversary night out for us! We saw The A-Team, and it was awesome!)

However, I've got a great idea for July 11th: a trip with kids to a petting farm!

This location is up north of me, so not too easy to get to for some of you. But we plan to go a week from Saturday anyway, and I thought others might want to come. Here are the details:

Date & Time: July 11, 2010, 10:30 AM - ??
Place: Green Meadows Petting Farm, Frederick, MD
Cost: $12 for everyone 2 years old and up, those under 2 are free -- CASH (or money orders) only
Food: They sell snacky foods, but there are nice grassy areas for setting outa picnic. Previously, we've left around lunchtime and gotten food at the McDonalds down the street, but I'm going to suggest to Londo that we do a picnic this time. It would be fun to have a picnic with a bunch of people.
Things to do: Pet and see all sorts of farm animals and other animals, including a zebra, emu, llamas, kangeroo; milk cow; watch a show with the animals (maybe just the horses? I haven't seen it so I'm not sure); a hey ride in the fall, not sure about the summer; learn about farming and animals from knowledgeable, friendly workers and volunteers.

So, who's in?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Big Changes in Our Childcare

Londo and I are still working out the resolution to yesterday's Question of the Week/You Be the Parent. Keep commenting away, as we are getting a lot of great ideas and others are too! When we figure out what we're going to do and see how it works, I'll post a resolution.

In addition to the normal chaos of having a 3 year old and a 1 year old, there are some serious changes in our childcare situation over the last week. We've spent months of debating about what would be best for our children, and we have decided the following:

1. The Pookie started in a daycare yesterday. He's turned 1, and this makes the most sense for all of us right now.
2. The Pumpkin is going to "summer school" at the same place where the Pookie is going to daycare, and she started on Monday.
3. The Pumpkin will start in a Montessori school this fall. (I'd start her earlier, but the school is closed from mid-July to the end of August, so there was no point.)

1. The Pookie started at a really nice daycare that I think I'll be very happy with. We let the nanny go. I'm so incredibly sad, since she has really become part of the family. She watched the Pumpkin since she was 3 months old, a few hours every afternoon the first year of her life, and then all day as her nanny for the second year of her life. She's so wonderful with our kids, our dog and cat, our house and us. We gave a glowing recommendation to the family she is interviewing with. We wish we could keep her, but we simply can't afford to have a nanny anymore. To be quite honest, we never could. But we stretched past our means because we felt it was the right thing to do for our kids and their needs.

The Pumpkin was not ready to go to a daycare at 1. She needed more focus, more individualized care, a home environment and one-on-one attention. By 2, she was ready for more activity and more socialization. And just after she turned 2, we had the Pookie, so the nanny stayed with us.

But the Pookie... He is more laid back, less needy and fussy. He has just started to walk, so he is extra clingy (to me especially) lately, but overall does really well around other kids and grown-ups. As a second child, he is very used to having another kid around and having to wait for things. At 1, he is ready for daycare and will do fine.

2. The Pumpkin still needs a lot of focus and attention. Besides being unhappy with the turnover rate of teachers and lack of follow up about the bullying incident even after my talk with the director, I have been frustrated with the lack of general communication from the administration. My daughter needs time to get used to transitions, which means we need to KNOW about upcoming transitions. Like when one of her favorite teachers (she has two favorites) is moved to another room or the majority of the kids in her class are moved to the next class up at the beginning of summer. TELL US what's going on before it happens! Or heck, even after it happens!

The Pumpkin has been acting out lately, and I honestly believe that part of the reason is because of all these transitions which we had no ability to prep for. One day last week? When I dropped my child off? I knew 3 other kids in her class of 25 and NONE of the teachers there! Granted it was a weird day with one teacher on vacation, another one home with a sick kid and the other moved to another room (which she told me about herself, not the admin office). I called after I left to ask what was going on and the front desk woman said that she put out a note explaining... which I didn't get... cause it was on the door... which I didn't see... oh, because she put it up AFTER I dropped my daughter off. I was the last parent to drop my kid off. So how helpful was that?

Anyway, I was so frustrated that I called up the place where the Pookie was going to start daycare. They have a pre-school programs, fun summer activities and a spot available for a 3 year old. We did a trial free day on Monday, and then just kept her there. Yes, we're losing our deposit at the old school, but it's way better for her. And though I was kind of concerned about the sudden transition, I realized that her school was already transitioning her without our involvement by changing the kids and teachers around. I didn't think there was really anything to lose there. And she'd already visited the place when we checked it out for the Pookie.

For the summer, the class she's in has around 8 kids with one teacher. Instead of three teachers doing "crowd control" (my sister's term for the same situation at the affiliated school to the Pumpkin's old school, where my niece used to go), this teacher is able to really see what's going on in the classroom. Without the extra chaos of so many 3 year olds, the Pumpkin seems to be settling down and settling in really quickly and well. And she's having a blast doing the summer activities, like water play and digging through sand for gems!

Plus, one drop off! And the ability to check on both kids at once!

3. Although the Pumpkin seems to be doing well at her summer school, we are going to switch her to a Montessori school this fall. Having looked into different types of preschools, I really believe the Montessori method and this particular school will be the right fit for her. Although the classes will be larger than this summer class and there are mixed ages, they promote the idea of the older kids as leaders who help the younger kids and the kids don't sit around waiting for teachers to direct them in everything. The kids take the lead in what they want to do, with the teachers assisting and guiding. The materials are all very hands-on, which is ideal for my girl.

The school has a real school administration who run things efficiently, communicate and remember what you tell them, and are willing to work with you on any issues. Apparently, those are things that I need in a school. They also have a few options for pickup times, so we can get the Pumpkin by 4:30 and are paying only up till 4:30, as opposed to the price of an all day pre-school/daycare which we've been paying even though Londo usually picks her up before 4:00. (This earlier pickup option is how we can afford the school at all.)

The only negative that I can see so far is that they require tuition payments 2 months prior to the start of school, plus a hefty enrollment fee. So we are paying for three schools for our two children in July and August! There go our savings!

A huge plus is that the Pookie can start there after he turns 18 months, so we've enrolled him for January 2011. He will be in the 18 mo/2 yo toddler room, which cost less than the daycare because it's a mixed age group with 2 year olds. So even if I love his daycare as much as I think I will, I suspect the drop in costs, the sibling discount and going back to one drop off will be worth the switch. I sure hope so, because that hefty enrollment fee I paid to hold his spot is non-refundable!

So we are currently house-poor (still! Thanks, housing-market crash!) and childcare-completely-broke. But I feel really good about these changes. Hopefully, my kids do too.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Question of the Week - You Be the Parent at Bedtime

A bloggy friend of mine does a really neat series of posts, which she calls You Be the Parent (her older posts were on her previous blog). It's like the Choose Your Own Adventures of parenting decisions. Not only do I like reading them and contributing to them, but I love to read everyone else's answers. It seems like a great way to get lots of opinions, as well as see where you are in the bell curve of people you know.

After approval for totally stealing borrowing the idea, I am doing an edition of You Be the Parent: Bedtime as my Question of the Week this week:

Although your three-year-old daughter has never gone to sleep easily, you worked hard over a couple of months to get her used to going to sleep on her own. You slowly weaned her from being cuddled and sang to in order to get to sleep, to sitting next to her and rubbing her back, to sitting across the room from her while she lied down by herself, to finally her going to sleep on her own without you in the room. To finally get her to do it by herself, you came up with a rewards chart, which had just started to work.

Then a few weeks ago, she stopped going to sleep by herself. In addition to having problems going to sleep, she has been quite a handful lately, and you suspect it might correspond to the sleeping issues. You are trying to re-wean her, and get her to stay in bed so you can start moving towards and then out the door. She is simply not ready to try the rewards chart and prizes at this point.

Bedtime has become miserable. It takes you 1 to 2 hours to get her to sleep, and it involves a lot of arguing, fighting, yelling and crying--and that's just on your part! Your daughter has occasionally hits and one time bit you! You are frustrated and dread bedtimes. Your partner is having an even worse time than you are.

You have spent 3 years and 4 months suffering through long, frustrating bedtimes with your kid. You are at your wit's end. Your husband thinks the process of weaning that worked before simply isn't working anymore. You both are wondering if a drastic change is needed, or if you should stay the course through this period of regression.

Do you:

A) Go back to lying in bed with her and singing her songs/telling stories to get her to sleep, in order to try to get her to sleep quickly and easily. It worked for a long time, it will likely work again.

B) Stay the course with weaning her from parents at bedtime by continuing to try to get her to stay in bed by herself until she is asleep. Eventually move away from the bed and reinstate the rewards chart to get out the door.

C) Try letting her stay up watching shows or playing quietly in her room until she is tired enough to go to sleep without a fight. She'll eventually fall asleep or climb into bed to pass out.

D) Sell her to gypsies or on eBay, whichever will take her first. See if they will also take the dog.

E) Other?

In the words of my friend, I eagerly await your input!