When Toddler Became a Preschooler

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Categories Attitude, Behavior, Childcare, Development, Language, Parenting, Preschoolers, SchoolTags 3 Comments

Toddler started preschool on August 1st. Though it wasn’t time yet for me to return to work, I wanted to make sure she got a few days with me nearby just in case. I didn’t know what to expect, especially since she would be napping without me away from home, which was something she’d never done before. Suppose she started to panic and freaked out when it was time to sleep? Suffice it to say that I was anxious.

The only other time she’s been in the care of someone other than her parents or grandparents was briefly about a year ago. Last summer when I was about 5 months pregnant with her siblings, we tried sending her to a daycare/preschool. The thinking then was that I wouldn’t be able to take care of her at home along with infant twins, so she would need to go somewhere else. In case I was to choose to be a permanent SAHM after the twins were born, I wanted to free up my mom to go back to a full time job. We also thought maybe it would be beneficial for her to interact with some other kids. So I decided to try it out for only 3 hours in the mornings. I would get up with her to get her ready, Daddy would drop her off on his way to work at about 7:30am, while I went back to sleep for an hour or two (I was so exhausted all the time), then maybe run some errands before picking her back up at 10:30 to come home and nap at 11.

We only lasted two weeks on this arrangement. The teachers were very loving, everyone spoke Mandarin, all the kids were super well behaved there… but ultimately we still felt our daughter was too young to be without us. My mom agreed, so we brought her back and she’s been home for another year (back with my mom for the 6 weeks of school I taught last year). I didn’t plan for it to be so long, but it turned out that Husband stayed home for 3.5 months after the twins were born (long paternity leave, then a job change) and was a great help. And though twin babies plus Toddler is definitely no joke, with not a whole lot of income or any extra time, I just didn’t get around to figuring out this school thing. But it was great. I got to experience all of Toddler’s age two: I was able to take her to Mommy-and-Me and swim lessons, I got to watch her become her own little person, and I was present to shape a time that I feel is very critical developmentally. I’m so glad that is how things worked out.

But now she’s three, I’m going back to work, and this summer keeping her home was feeling like I was holding her back. She’s ready, has been ready actually for quite a while now, for the more structured environment of school with peers. I was still a little reluctant, because I knew that she would be picking up coughs and runny noses from school, which she would then bring home and give to her baby brother and sister, and of course I would miss her terribly. Even worse, I would no longer have complete control over what she did every minute of every day. But I definitely couldn’t give all three kids to an aging grandmother, much as I wanted to. And mostly, she was ready.

So, I researched and visited many preschools. In fact, I visited her preschool no less than 5 times, at various times of day, and spoke with all of the caregivers. I took her along with me most of those times, so she became pretty familiar with the teachers and layout of the school. Actually, the last couple of times she was reluctant to leave, because she wanted to stay and play.

My biggest concern was the napping. I thought maybe I would ease her into being able to sleep there without me by sending her only half day for a week, staying with her for the first few mornings, and then transition her to full day. I figured since she’s so independent, once she was comfortable and trusted her teachers she would shoo me away. I had a couple of weeks before school started, and I didn’t think it would take that long. But the director of the preschool cautioned me against that plan, and all the teachers advised me against it as well. Apparently kids are much more adaptable than adults, and it is better to just let them figure it out on their own. I didn’t want to unnecessarily prolong her adjustment, so I agreed to full day from the start.

I was careful not to let my anxiety show of course. To her I always discussed the whole school thing with lots of excitement, making a big deal about how she’s such a big girl, and that all her friends from Mommy-and-Me are also going to start going to big kids’ schools. I told her that sleeping at school will be so fun, and she’ll have a little cot just like camping. And she would get to run around, and there would be snacks, and she would make new friends, and when she was tired from playing Mama would come and pick her up. I wasn’t so sure about all of this myself, but I guess I was a pretty good actress because she didn’t show any sign of apprehension.

The first day, I waited until 9:30 to drop her off because I still felt a true full day was a little too harsh. She was excited in the car on the way there, chattering about this and that. We had her blanket and a sheet for her cot, a cup with her name on it, and a change of clothing in a bag. It was pretty bulky, but she carried it out of the car on her shoulder like a big girl. Then she ran ahead of me toward the gate of the school. I followed behind, but before we even got there she turned around and sternly said to me, “Bye Mama! I don’t want you come in.”

Wha??? I really thought she must have meant something else at first, but indeed she wanted me to leave. I told her I had to walk her in so I could sign in and say hi to her teacher, which she then let me do. Upon entering she immediately ran to pick a cubby for herself, placed her bag in it, and then she was off to play. I was barely able to get her back for a hug and kiss before I left. I drove all the way home shaking my head in disbelief, and I still can’t believe that happened.

Since then all mornings are Huggy-huggy-kissy-kissy-loveyou-bye! There were a few days when she was confused why she was going to school every day instead of twice a week like Mommy-and-Me, and a couple of mornings she asked to go with DiDi MeiMei to Grandma’s, kind of teary-eyed. But really she’s done incredibly well. My own transition back to work is still ongoing, but hers has surpassed all my hopes. No behavioral incidents, eating great, fully independent in the potty, and happy all day long. At 4pm I pick her up every day, and she gives me the wildest greetings, yelling Mommy! and taking a running leap to jump into my arms. We recount what Mandarin lesson she’s learned that day on the drive home.

Despite all my earlier trepidation, this was the right move for us.

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What a Nightmare

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Categories Attitude, Balance, Childcare, Feeling Overwhelmed, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School, Sleep, Working5 Comments

Just a heads up. This is a post in which I vent.

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I am miserable. Everything I’ve been stressing about for the past several months is now starting to come to a head. I start work next week, with the official first day of school on the following Monday. With this deadline in mind, I feel like I’m fighting on too many fronts.

On Weaning

I’ve done the whole pump at work thing. Not fun. Not part of my return to work plan. But I’ve hit a slight snag trying to wean. 2.5 years ago with my first it wasn’t hard at all. I wanted badly to stop pumping, so I used the week off during Thanksgiving to step it down, and then Christmas break to finally end it. It was blissful to be finally done. But the point is that I was highly motivated and I had the time to make it a very gradual process. With the twins… I’m actually enjoying my pumping ritual. Pumping for two is not easy, and I am proud of having done it for this long. It just feels wrong to be letting it go. With that said, I still refuse to go back to pumping at work. So, starting about a month ago, I began lengthening the time between pumpings to 3 or 4 hours. I got a clogged duct. Well, the solution to a clogged duct is to pump MORE. So, in pain and running a fever, I went back to every 2 hours and finally it stopped hurting. Then I started over and to 3 hours, then 5, now 6… and guess what? I feel another clog coming on. I’ve never once experienced a clogged duct pumping for Toddler; this time is the 4th painful clog. Oy vey!

On Twins’ Sleep

For the last few days, we’ve been experiencing a sleep upheaval around here. The babies are not sleeping their normal times and durations, it’s affecting their feeding schedule, and they’ve been crying inconsolably much like they used to 4 or 5 months ago. I can only guess that they are transitioning to 2 naps now. It’s wreaking havoc on my nerves. This transition is probably never easy (I remember some headaches when Toddler went through them), but with twins it really is difficult x2. Maybe one is ready for a new schedule and the other isn’t? Maybe they both are but they need me to do something differently? I haven’t figured it out yet. I want to have them firmly set in the new routine before shipping them off to my mom’s, but right now it’s just survival.

On Twins’ Childcare Arrangement

So my mom decided she’d rather have me bring the babies to her house where she’s more comfortable instead of coming over to mine. I’m not altogether sure this is the best way to go, but it’s what she chose so we’ll have to work it out. Husband, his brother, and I spent quite a bit of time last weekend over there (while she was at our house watching the kids) clearing out, cleaning, assembling a second crib (Toddler’s will now be babies’), and installing a baby gate in the babies’ room. We are nowhere near done. The carpet needs to be cleaned, toys sanitized and organized, and all the baby paraphernalia x2 need to make their way over there. Did I mention this room is upstairs?

On Toddler’s Childcare Arrangement

Yesterday I registered Toddler for full day preschool nearby. It isn’t the most ideal place (Husband would say that I don’t think anywhere is good enough for her), but it will have to do. Mandarin is spoken, it’s close to home, the price isn’t too exorbitant, and the teachers seem caring enough. I paid for the month of August and gave a $250 deposit. Like all preschools, no discount for holidays (teachers get lots!) and 6 months’ attendance is required before the deposit can be refunded. No turning back now. She better like it there. I’m so scared what will happen when I have to leave her, or worse, at nap time. If she cries, I think I will cry too.

On Start of School Anxiety

After so long of being a SAHM, I truly dread going back to the frantic life of a working mom.  Not that life isn’t frantic staying at home with 3 young children, but in a different way I guess. I don’t look forward to waking up at the crack of dawn, getting myself ready as well as Toddler (before I didn’t really care how she looked to go to grandma’s house– she went in pajamas and unbrushed hair), remembering to get the day’s stuff ready for 2 babies, and rushing out the door to make it to school at 7am so I could get things done since I can’t stay after school. I also don’t have any appropriate clothes. Seriously, I haven’t worn real clothes or shoes for over a year. My wardrobe since the twins were born consists of camis and stretch pants. Before that I was wearing maternity clothes. And I literally have been only wearing a single pair of flip flops since the beginning of last summer. My shoes probably don’t even fit anymore. There is certainly some shopping to be done, which I don’t have time to do with 3 kids around.

On Other BS Stuff

Of course when one (several) bad things are happening, life has a way of throwing a bunch at us at the same time right? Our washing machine has been on the fritz for weeks. Buy a new one or attempt to repair it? No clue how to answer that question, but wondering every time I put in a load of laundry whether it will spin is not a way to live. I haven’t seen the dentist in at least 4 years. It’s probably time to go, but time and money and my fear of the dentist are all prominent factors here. Do baby clothes ever manage themselves? I find that I am frequently taking piles of outgrown clothes, some still with tags, and throwing them in huge storage bins. Here is another instance where two babies is definitely worse than one. I have had intermittent back pain ever since the twins were born. Keeping up with two mobile babies really does a number on me. Add in some stress and physical exertion and I start to feel like I’m breaking in half at the waist. You know what else? Our cleaning lady is vacationing for the month of August.

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Ok, I’m done. Whew! That feels a little bit better (not really). If anyone has any advice how to get through this, I could use it.

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Third Strike at Summer Camp

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Time Management, WorkingTags , , , 4 Comments

summercamp“Specialty” summer camp logistics has been a nightmare that I can’t wake up from. I told you about the fiasco of our first couple of days this morning. Today was the final straw.

When I went to drop the kids off, I signed them into the full-day program and made sure that the counselors at drop off knew that my daughters needed to get to their cheer and soccer camps at 8:00. At that point, I was informed that this wasn’t an option on field trip days. Since the full-day campers and counselors would be offsite on their field trip, there would be no one available to take care of the children when the specialty camps let out. I could elect either to have the kids go on the field trip and skip cheer and soccer or I could find alternate care for the afternoon.

I wasn’t told when I signed the kids up for camp that specialty camps were essentially going to be incompatible with a work schedule. I specifically told the guy at registration that I was a single working mom, so full-day was a non-negotiable requirement. I’m sure that plenty of kids and parents elect to lose a day specialty camp over time at work, but poor J had already missed a day of cheer-leading on Monday. I wasn’t going to disappoint her again. Instead, I tried to do as much work as I could from my house with the kids there after I picked them up at 1:00 (having been late to work all week thanks to the search for answers at the Y). I was able to get some good focused time in immediately after they got home while they read, but by 4:00, they needed me to focus on them. I’m just so grateful that I have an employer who flexes to the unpredictable needs of two-career and single parents.

Even the coaches at the specialty camps were completely unaware of the conflict between full-day field trips and part-day specialty camps. I can’t help wondering how many coaches have had to stay late, over the years, on discovering that there was no one there to take responsibility for a subset of their kids when they were done with camp for the day.

I must say, in defense of the full-day program, that Sophia, the coordinator, called me as I was pulling out of the full-day parking lot to let me know about the field trip/afternoon care conflict. She apologized for not having mentioned it when we spoke yesterday. I’m embarrassed to say that I landed all my frustrations on her. She’s been nothing but helpful, and I called her later in the day to apologize for venting the way I had.

My daughters and I chatted in the car until shortly before 8:00, when I delivered M and J to their respective coaches. I then stalked YMCA staff until I located supervisors who were willing to talk to me. Specialty camp management was downright useless (except for Casey, who I mentioned yesterday).

The full-day management seemed to take my concerns seriously. They had obviously already discussed my frustrations. They listened to my concerns and recommendations for improvement. They promised to look into both systemic changes that they could implement and why I hadn’t received their weekly emails that outline what we can expect from camp. (There were emails!? This was the first I’d heard of them!)

I made sure that they knew that I had no complaints about the care my children were receiving, and that I’d had nothing but positive interactions with full-day staff. I was just flummoxed by the lack of communication, and the general not-my-problem attitude of the specialty camp administration. I reminded the full-day management that, while they probably get into the swing of things over the course of the summer, there are probably going to be new parents every week for whom the whole process is new and unknown. One of managers let slip that the specialty program doesn’t even inform them of which of the full-day children are enrolled in specialty camps in any given week; I think there’s clearly some federated organization pain going on, which is something I deal with–and try to minimize–at my own workplace.

I had originally thought we could push through the remaining specialty camps that M and J had selected and signed up for this summer, but I think it’ll be better for my blood pressure and the resulting home climate for us to call it quits. The emotional eating alone may be taking years off my life. The friend whose daughter is in J’s cheer camp and my daughters’ Girl Scout troop offered to pick my girls up early on field trip days so I don’t have to miss more work. I’m incredibly grateful for the offer, but she just shouldn’t have to make it.

I think it’s time to stick with the simplicity of the tried and true. Trying to make specialty camps and full-day care work together is like fitting a round peg in a square hole. I’ll leave those special programs to parents who don’t have to balance childcare with a work schedule during the summer. We’ll just stick with the full-day program at an elementary school location. These soccer, cheer, cooking and tumbling camps will have to be another set of things that J and M don’t get to experience because Mommy has a job.

On the upside, both M and J had a grand day. At one point, J’s cheer class happened to go outside to practice, ending up at the same field where M was working on soccer drills. The girls had an emotional reunion, and the coaches agreed to let M skip out of soccer early to visit J’s cheer camp for the week’s performance of the routine they’ve been working on. J, being the lightest kid in cheer camp, gets to be a “flyer,” the girl at the top of the pyramid. She’s giddy about M getting to watch her. I think that the counselors’ sensitivity to J and M’s relationship with each other and their willingness to think outside the box to nurture it shows that they don’t subscribe in the least to the uncaring culture of their management.

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Summer Camp Makes Me Cry

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Categories Anger, Childcare, Fear, Frustration, Mommy Issues, Older Children, Products, Safety, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , , 5 Comments

summercampOur school district has a 12-week summer vacation. I’m a single mom with a full-time job, so I have to find somewhere safe and fun for my 7-year-old daughters to spend the summer months. According to our divorce decree, my ex-husband is supposed to get 30 summer days with the kids when he’s stateside, but he had to decline that right this year, so arrangements for the entirety of the 12 weeks fell to me.

I pored over summer camp brochures. My kids qualified, academically, for the highly rated Summer Wonders program for gifted children, but the full-day program plus extended care (for two) was well outside my schedule requirements as well as my budget. I finally decided to go with a local YMCA program for 11 weeks and Girl Scout camp for 1 week and let the kids pick specific options.

A friend made all the transportation arrangements for Girl Scout camp and kept my daughters after camp until I got home from work that week. The paperwork was more than a little frustrating–why would a day camp require that I provide scans of the girls’ medical insurance cards?–but the kids had a fantastic time.

Most of the YMCA weeks were to be spent at a school location at one of their basic camps. Each of these basic camps has a weekly field trip, weekly swimming outing and fun activities all day, every day. The kids are obviously happy and well-cared for, and the counselors make sure that I knew the schedule, providing daily updates on a whiteboard, a printed schedule, and verbal reminders.

For a few weeks,  we elected to sign up for a few “special” camps: tumbling, cheer-leading, soccer and cooking. These camps last from 8 am to 1 pm. Outside these hours, kids can additionally register for full-day camp, and the YMCA staff is responsible for transitioning the kids from one program to the other.

Once the kids were actually at their special camps, they had a blast. The counselors were fantastic. J, being petite, got to participate in the most fun part of all sorts of cheerleading stunts. She’s a “flyer.” M couldn’t stop talking about her dribbling, defense and scoring skills.

The administrative side, though, was just horrendous. I thought that, once I’d filled out the forms, paid out my $400 deposit ($15 per week per child for 12 weeks plus some base deposit) and paid the first week’s tuition, things would go smoothly.

Not so.

In week one, I was the first one to mess up. I showed up to the school-based camp location instead of the specials place. One of the counselors made some calls to help me figure out where J and M should be. They were signed up for tumbling camp… except that they weren’t. I managed to register M and J on the spot for the school location and left them there while I tried to chase things down. As I said, the on-site staff, the people who actually deal with kids, are professional, accommodating, and infinitely helpful.

What had happened, it turns out, was that when I signed J and M up for tumbling camp (or perhaps when they got around to entering them into their system), the camp was full. So someone took the initiative to move my $30 deposit for the week to be a credit against another week of camp, without ever bothering to communicate the change to me, and effectively leaving me without childcare for that week. When I tried to point out that the appropriate, polite and professional thing to do would have been to inform and consult me, the manager simply said, “Well, I have no idea who did it. Jeff took your paperwork, but he would never do that. I can’t look up who did.”

Great. Thanks. That makes everything better. Obviously, my first impression of the “special” camps wasn’t fantastic. Neither was the second.

What I had gathered from the (incomplete) information on the YMCA website and from several conversations was that I could drop the girls off at the full-day location between 7 and 8 or bring them directly to their special camp at 8. On the first day, I decided on the latter. I easily located M’s soccer coach, signed her in, and began to seek J’s cheer instructor.

I asked for a location at the front desk. I was pointed to a room in the building. We went in and it was empty. It was 7:55. I called out, thinking that I was simply failing to see someone. There was no response. I went to the childcare program offices for help.

“We don’t run that program,” said the ever unhelpful Jeff. “You’ll have to ask at the front desk.”
“I already did,” I told him. “They told me to go to room X.”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“There’s no one there.”
“Oh, you should take her down to the [location] for the full-day program.”
“Now?”
“Yeah.”

I loaded J into the car and went down the street to the full-day location. Drop-off was easy, and J and I made sure that the counselor knew that J was supposed to be going to cheer camp. I left, my heart easy. I knew Sophia, the woman running the full-day program, and I knew she’d make sure everything was ship-shape.

When I returned in the afternoon to pick up the girls, Sophia was there. “I was so surprised!” she said. “I came in around 9, and there was J! It was so nice to see her.”

That didn’t sound right. At 9:00, J should have been at cheer camp. I mentioned my confusion. Sophia looked at her paperwork and confirmed that J should have been taken to cheer. She promised to look into it. J told me that she’d repeatedly told her counselor that she was in the wrong place, but I imagine that the counselor is accustomed to the petulant and unrealistic demands of 7-year-olds.

Within 10 minutes of our leaving to drive home, Sophia called. She’d called a couple of people. She and her counselors had messed up, she told me. By the time J and I arrived that morning, the posse of kids destined for special programs had already left. I assured her that, while I appreciated her taking responsibility, there were plenty of others who had given us misinformation.

The next morning, we were there at 7:50. M’s drop-off with her soccer coaches went smoothly, but J’s was again problematic. I went to the classroom in question, and it was filled with serious looking types in suits. I again went to the front desk. I tried to express to the man there that I was seeking the cheer instructor, and he informed me that he wasn’t the person I should talk to. I asked who I should talk to. He told me that no one I should talk to was there yet. I asked who, among the people there, could help me locate my child’s coach. He finally gave me the phone number for the head of the program. I went back to my car to get my phone, called the number he’d given me, and left a message. She still hasn’t had the decency to return my call.

On the way back to the classroom (for the fourth time in 2 days), I ran into a friend whose daughter was also in cheer camp. They’d be meeting in the grass that morning because of the meeting taking place in their regular location, she told me. By the time we found them, the other kids were in a circle, stretching with the coach. A woman–Carrie? Casey? I’m ashamed to say I was too upset to have retained her name–asked if I would like to sign J in. No, I told her. I wanted to talk to her.

I told her the whole story. By the time I was half way through, I was sobbing. I told her that I was entrusting her organization with the care of my children, and their behaviour wasn’t filling me with confidence. I trusted Sophia, I told her, to make sure that my kids were safe. She’d earned my trust over months of consistent communication, thoughtful and gentle discipline, and excellent time management. Sophia knew and cared for my kids. I hadn’t gotten an impression of caring from the other administrative staff. The not-my-problem attitude wasn’t winning any brownie points.

Carrie (?) looked into the whole tumbling fiasco. She took a screenshot of the oddball transactions and put it on the accounts manager’s desk for him to investigate. She explained to me that getting full-day kids to their special camps was the responsibility of the full-day counselors. I told her that I had already spoken to Sophia and worked out that part of it. I did ask her why, when J was missing yesterday, I didn’t receive a call to tell that she wasn’t where she was supposed to be. A lot of kids, it turns out, just never show up, so they don’t bother calling no shows. I recommended that the two programs get on the same page about what should be done with kids who arrive in that grey time between 7:50 and 8:00. Parents would understand, I assured her, if we needed to stay 10 minutes. Just tell us that instead of sending us on wild goose chases.

Sophia called me later that morning to check in. I assured her that I felt that she’d done what she could. I let her know, though, that a coworker of mine said that he’d had similar issues at the location 15+ years ago. It was time to fix some things. She listened to my recommendations and promised to follow up. She even thanked me for giving her a parent’s perspective.

  • Assign a person who is physically present to be in charge of parent communication at all times throughout the day, and make sure that all staff members know who that person is.
  • Coordinate between programs so that managers know where children should be taken at what time.
  • Provide clear and consistent expectations for drop-off times and locations to all employees and train them on answering questions with patience and a sense of ownership of the problem.
  • Send email or written confirmation of registration records to ensure that parents have the same impression as the YMCA of their child’s schedule.
  • Along with written confirmation of registration, send parents a list of assumptions. Who is responsible for our child at different points in the day? Where, precisely, are we supposed to go to drop them off and pick them up? What should they bring with them?
  • Train data entry staff on appropriate handling of unusual cases or insist that they check with a manager before making modifications.

Honestly, I don’t have much confidence that they’ll fix anything. I’ll just have to trust that Sophia will notice even if everyone else loses track of my children. And this will be our last year of turning to the Y for special camps.

Edit: June 26, 2013, 11 pm CDT – Things got worse today. Read on.

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Decision Made

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Categories Balance, Childcare, Mommy Issues, SAHM, Working2 Comments

Well, it’s been decided. Not in a definitive moment of inspired epiphany kind of way, instead a slow but sure realization that there wasn’t ever any other option. Who was I kidding? (Myself.) There is no long-term way that we would be happy living on one income in Los Angeles, especially now with three children who are only going to get more expensive as they require activities and demand stuff. And by no means do we spoil our kids, but we don’t want them wanting for anything if we are able to provide it.

So there it is. Decision made. I will go back to work for the next school year, continue my career, strive to impact the lives of young people, and hopefully sock away money for the enough-bedrooms-for-everyone next house.

To be really honest though, I’m not sure I was ready for the uncertainty of taking a few years’ break from my career. As a teacher, my job is comparatively secure. There have been layoffs in my profession in recent years, but it’s not nearly as bad as in others. However, I currently have 10 years in my district, which represents a pretty solid seniority ranking– one I would lose if I left and started working in a different district in the future, not to mention a loss in pay as well for basically starting over. And even if we are able to afford me staying at home full time in the future, am I really ready to completely let go of my career? What will I do when my children all go to school?

I do even look forward to time away from my kids. Not that I don’t love being at home with them, but I do need some time to myself, time that isn’t precariously contingent upon nap schedules and baby mood swings. I can get up in the morning, shower, get dressed, and go on my way like a normal person. I can interact with people who are over the age of 3. I can have an intelligent conversation with someone who isn’t my husband or a mommy friend. And then I can run home and enjoy my more-precious children at the 3pm bell.

But that’s not to say this isn’t a heart wrenching decision that comes with its own dilemmas. I will need to not only part with my 3 year old every morning, but also two more kids who will by then be in the throes of separation anxiety. Their lives will drastically change after almost 9 months of Mommy-all-the-time. What the heck, my life will drastically change and I will suffer baby withdrawals. No more mid-morning trip to the park, afternoon visit to the library, or classes with Toddler. And it will be the end of naps for Mama. No more break while the kids are all taking their midday nap. I will be gone for the relatively easy naps/feeds/happy children during the day but retain the craziness of getting out the door in the morning and dinner/bedtime/cranky children in the evening. All while putting in a full day of work. I’m exhausted just thinking about it.

And I haven’t exactly locked down where Toddler will be going to school come fall. We’ve decided she is definitely ready for more structured socialization, but the preschool hunt has turned up nothing spectacular. My requirement of Chinese instruction is what really holds us back, but that is also the one thing I cannot compromise.

Nor have I really figured out what to do with the twins. My mom has been coming to take over one feeding with the babies two mornings a week while I spend time alone with Toddler. She does great with them, and I always come home to well-fed and back-asleep babies. But she’s only here 3 hours, and they’re napping for almost half of that time. She’s an aging grandma with her own ailments, and I think caring for crawling-in-different-directions twins might break her. Ideally we’d have the exact same setup as with Toddler: Drop them off at her house in the morning, drive 5 minutes to work, and pick them up 10 minutes after the last class. But schlepping two around this time, with stuff for two, up and down stairs with two, two additional cribs, highchairs, two everything… and picking up Toddler somewhere along the way, that’s just daunting. So maybe she will need to come to my house? Maybe I will need to hire an additional helper? Maybe I need a nanny instead?

I am very anxious that this isn’t all worked out by now.

So, it is ultimately with a heavy heart that I will be going to be back to my classroom in a matter of weeks, unpacking boxes from cabinets, putting up bulletin boards, and preparing to meet the 120+ teenagers who it will be my job to mold this year. Maybe I can reassess next spring…

lunchldyd is a high school teacher and mom to 3 kids 3 and under.

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Planning a Date Night for the Whole Family

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Categories Activities, Balance, Childcare, ParentingTags , , 2 Comments

Last week Chris and I realized that although we manage to get out and away from the kids once a week, that this time is usually spent with our friends. We counted it up and we generally make it out together “alone” on a date less than once a month.

We wouldn’t change the quality time with our friends for anything, however we are unable to finance a ton of extra romantic evenings away from the kids on top of our “wildly” busy social lives. There are limits to how often we can call in the grandparents, because I’m pretty sure that they didn’t retire so Chris and I could go out to dinner and stare lovingly into each other’s eyes. Also, if we go out on a work night it generally means that Chris and I have seen the kids for less than an hour that entire day, which we both hate, added to the expense of hiring a sitter to take care of our twin munchkins.

We decided to come up with a few economical solutions to give us a “date” when we feel that we haven’t had enough couple time. As a part of this solution we’ve found the ideal couple to double date with – our 22 month old twins.

560450_10150995661177110_2068335716_nMe and Miss Molly on a “date” at Granville Island Brewery in BC

Drive In Movies

I have a real soft spot for the Drive In that started in the early 80s when my parents would take my sister and I in the hatch back Celica and we’d watch the first movie (or most of the first movie) from our sleeping bags and then fall asleep giving my parents a night at the movies. As a parent of infants The Drive In appeals to me because the car provides some shelter from disturbing fellow movie goers if there is a melt down, you have space to comfort and cuddle babies if they need it and Molly and Jack are generally really good in the car. I’ve found that our car is surprisingly sound proof! As the kids get older we’ll bring special snacks, play Frisbee outside before the movie starts, and watch them fall asleep during the first feature.

Backyard Romance

Getting out and organized with enough supplies can be a giant hassle and sometimes we’re too tired to make the effort. Now that the nice weather is here, we’re trying to celebrate in the evening by bringing a couple of beers or some wine out into the backyard, along with the baby monitor.

Brunch is Best

We go out at the time of day when our children are best behaved (for us this is generally late morning/early afternoon). I am a huge fan of brunch with kids because: 1) You can get something a little bit fancier for cheaper 2) The food is served quickly 3) There are often a lot of other children around even if the establishment isn’t a “family” restaurant and people seem to be generally more patient and understanding of kids being around during the day 4) Many places offer special child friendly menu options, colouring books and crayons. Our kids are usually really well behaved at restaurants, but they aren’t silent, not even close to it. It’s nice not to have to worry about offending other patrons or having to shush your children when they’re just being kids while you enjoy a meal out together. We always order the bill with our food, just in case we need to jam because of a meltdown.

Dinner & Movie

This is a bi-monthly tradition we started BC (before children) in the colder months to beat the winter blahs. When the minions get older this is something that everyone can enjoy and work on together in teams. Right now one of us is on childcare/bed time duty while the other person prepares for our late dinner in. Essentially how it works is that you alternate turns where one person selects a movie and prepares an appropriately themed dinner to go along with it. Chris is much better at the dinner and movie selection than I am. Personal favorites: Casablanca with a Moroccan Feast including sweet mint tea, The Godfather with spaghetti, meatballs, garlic bread and red wine, or Cool Hand Luke with Southern fried chicken and a dozen hard boiled eggs.

Hopefully this will allow us, and others to carve out a little together “alone” time and start some great traditions!

*This is an excerpt from a post on my blog.  Read the entire post click here

SaraBeth is a Toronto based writer.  Her blog Multiple Momstrosity was named one on Toronto Mom Now’s 2012 Top 30 Mom Blogs.  She is a two-time veteran of the Three Day Novel Writing Contest.  She lives in The Junction with her husband and fraternal toddler twins (Molly & Jack).

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Summer Vacation? What Summer Vacation?

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Categories Activities, Childcare, Frustration, How Do The Moms Do It, Mommy Issues, Parenting, Perspective, Routines, SAHM, School-Age, WorkingTags , , , 1 Comment

I have a variety of mommy–or rather parent–friends. I’m a single working mom of twins, but the families my daughters and I spend time with run the gamut from large home-schooling ones to two-income families with one child.

When we moved back to Central Texas last August after a year living in El Paso, we reconnected with old friends and also made a number of new ones in our new neighbourhood and at J and M’s school. The majority of these new mommy friends are either stay-at-home moms or teachers. Another friend with whom we try to spend as much time as possible is going to college. All their routines change drastically during the summer. No school, no work.

As the kids’ school year drew to a close, people’s excitement was palpable. Mom after mom talked about the plans they had in place to entertain and educate their kids during the summer. They proposed fun and exciting events and activities. One mom is even going to host Spanish language activities for five kids, including my daughters, so that they don’t lose the huge leaps in Spanish fluency they’ve made this year in dual language first grade.

Although I work at a university, my work schedule is not impacted by the academic calendar. I need full-day childcare for my daughters when they’re not in school. When they were littler and in daycare, our summer routine was no different than the rest of the year’s. Now that they’re in school, I replace after-school care with summer camps.

A letter from J describing her first day of Girl Scout camp

Our old friends quickly learned that our social calendar was limited to weekend activities. After all, I went back to work when M and J were 11 weeks old. Our new friends are learning this now. Just yesterday, I had to turn down two invitations for midweek play dates. I’ll still be at work at the times my friends proposed. A couple of times, we’ve been invited to weeknight events; my daughters’ friends can sleep in the next day, but my girls have to be dropped off early so I can be at work on time.

A complication in our attempts to schedule play dates is that my daughters have a number of friends who, like them, have divorced parents. Birds of a feather, you know. M and J’s dad lives in North Carolina, and we’re in Texas. He sees them when he can. Many of the girls’ friends spend alternate weekends with their dads, and I’m friends with the moms. On the Daddy weekends, none of the girls’ “divorced” friends are open for play dates.

My daughters’ routine gets switched up during summer vacation, but mine remains the same.

Does summer bring a marked change to your family’s routine? Do your kids’ social calendars put yours to shame?

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Twins Explaining Twins

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Categories Childcare, Community, Education, From the Mouths of Multiples, Frustration, Identical, Older Children, Other people, School-Age, Singletons, Talking to KidsTags , , 5 Comments

I’m going to try something new. I’m going to let my twins write, or rather dictate, this post on twinhood. They started to tell me a story on the drive home from summer camp that seemed appropriate for this audience. My 7-year-old daughters could have typed this up themselves, but it’s much faster for me to simply transcribe our discussion.

Abridged Version

M: Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M and J, posed back to back in matching dance costumes,M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did… I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” … “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example…. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.”

J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day… And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”

Real Time Version

Sadia: So, what should the title be?
J: Nocturnal Twins and Identical Twins.
Sadia: Uh… Well… Okay.

Long pause

J: Did I say, “nocturnal?”
Sadia: Yeah.
J: Is that right?
J and M are both wearing South Asian attire, but in different styles and colours.M: How are twins different from identical twins?
Sadia: Identical twins are one kind of twin.
M: But it’s a twin? What’s another kind of twin?
Sadia: Fraternal.
J: Fraternal?
M: What’s a fraternal twin?
Sadia: Ones that come from two different eggs.

Potty break.

Sadia: So, shall we start again?
M: Yeah. Mommy!
Sadia: What? I’m writing down our conversation!
M: Mama!
Sadia: Mm-hmm? Okay. J, you were telling me a story in the car.
J: About what?
Sadia: About the girl… wait… was it you, M?
J: No, me. About what?
Sadia: giggles
M: No it was me. I told you about the girl who said that because we weren’t wearing the same clothes…
Sadia: Yes. That story.
J: One second.

Trash break.

Sadia: Okay, so why don’t you get started? M?
M: giggling at my typing Soooo… today at summer camp, I met a girl who said that just because we weren’t wearing the same clothes and we didn’t have the same hairdo and J’s hair was short and mine was long and we didn’t have the same shoes and J was wearing socks and I wasn’t, she said that we were not identical twins. Not even twins.
Sadia: So, what did you tell her?
M: Well, I told her that even if you aren’t wearing the same things, one has socks and another doesn’t, no same shoes, no same hairdo, no same size as hair, it doesn’t mean that someone isn’t a twin with someone else.
Sadia: What was her response to that?
M: Well, she said, “Wrong!”
Sadia: She did not!
M: Yes, she did.
Sadia: gasps
Sadia, J and M making facesM: (whispering) You gasped.
Sadia: I got it!
M: You forgot the… waves her hands to indicate italics.
Sadia: I’ll do it later. I just want to get the content now. So, J.
J: running off Yeah?
Sadia: Where are you?
J: returning Hmm? Yeah?
Sadia: I understand that you…
M: Mom, I’m not done with the story.
Sadia: You’re not? Oh.
M: I told the girl. Wait, where are we?
Sadia: “She said, ‘wrong’.”
M: Oh, yeah. Right. I said, “You don’t know anything about twins!” (laughing) Okay, back to where we started. I don’t mean started. I mean stopped. (giggling) You’re typing it down!?
Sadia: Yep. Okay. Continue, pleeeeeeeease.
M: “I do too know about twins,” she said. And she said that identical twins have to wear the same things and shoes and do everything the same. If one gets a haircut, the other gets a haircut. I just yose that as a example.
Sadia: Mm hmm. It’s a good example. (long pause) Is your story done now?
M: No. So, ah, oh yes. I told the teacher. I told her this story. And she said, “Ignore her.” The End from M.
Sadia: I love you.
M: Hello to J!
Sadia: All right, pumpkin. You ready?
J: For what?
Sadia: To tell your story.
J: What?
Sadia: You were telling me you gave her a bit of a class?
J: Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh!
Sadia: If you wouldn’t mind, I’d like to hear what you told her.
J: Uh. Uhhhh. Uhhhhhh.
M: Mom, can anyone do this? I mean, read this?
Sadia: Yeah. Is that okay?
M: Mm hmm.
Sadia: I’d really like to hear your lesson.
J: A few minutes after that, I gave her a lesson. At first, she didn’t wanna listen, but she didn’t like to hurt people’s feelings, and I knew that, so I said, “It really hurts my feelings when people say me and my sister aren’t twins.” And it was true. I wasn’t just saying to get her attention. First I said, “Twins doesn’t mean that people look the same or have the same voice. It matters about their birth. To be a twin, you have to be born from the same mother and the same day.” Am I true?
Sadia: 100%, baby.
M: giggles at my typing again
J: M!!! Stop giggling! Stop giggling!
M: “100%, baby!”
Sadia: Was that the whole lesson?
J: Mm mm. “And I cut my hair because 1) It was a way to tell me and my sister apart since we’re identical twins and 2) Because I kept chewing on my hair. Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: But if I write it, people will know. Or did you tell her, “Don’t tell anyone?”
J: I told her, “Don’t tell anyone.”
Sadia: So, I can write it, and that’s okay?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Was that the end of the lesson?
J: Yeah.
Sadia: Well, you know what? I think you guys handled that situation very well.

And we followed up with a hands-on lesson in editing.

Do your kids know that they are multiples? Have they ever encountered a multiplicity denier? How do they handle misconceptions?

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Trust

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Categories Babysitting, Childcare, Mommy Issues, Other people, Relationships, Safety, Travel, Working1 Comment

I recently had to take an emergency trip from my home in Texas to London, where I was needed to help care for my 2-year-old nephew. A co-worker pointed out that this went against the norm. It’s normally the UK that exports its nannies to the US, he said.

It didn’t make sense to bring my daughters with me, financially or practically. I didn’t want them to miss school. We wouldn’t even get to see London because I was going to have to focus on my nephew. Besides, I wouldn’t be able to get them passports in time. I cut it close with my own passport as it was. It had expired, but, fortunately, I fell within the criteria for an emergency travel credential, a passport substitute, good for this trip only. I drove 300+ miles roundtrip while my first graders were at school to obtain it.

I had to figure out how my daughters would be cared for while I was away. Their father lives 600 miles away and wasn’t going to be available. I don’t have any family nearby. What I do have is the village that it takes to raise a child, the people who are more family than family. These are the people who love J and M nearly as much as I do, from choice, not obligation.

I sent out two text messages, one to our babysitter Angie, and one to our former neighbour Heidi.

Angie used to teach at the daycare J and M attended for over 4 years. She’s known the girls for over half their lives, and is a trained childcare provider. She’s creative, funny, and affectionate, but doesn’t accept any disobedience or lack of discipline.

Heidi’s daughter is two months younger than my girls, to the day, and our girls have grown up like sisters, at least sisters where one sister can’t tell the other two apart. Heidi used to be the person I’d call if the girls wanted to play outside while I was in the middle of cooking dinner. As early as age 3, I knew I could trust them to go out the front door by themselves as long as Heidi knew they were out. I’d just usually end up stretching dinner to feed both families. I taught Heidi’s daughter how to bake, and she taught mine how to navigate the swampy area behind our first home. All 3 girls have known all their lives to listen to both sets of parents as if they were their own, and that the different rules of each house started at the edge of lawn and extended from the sidewalk to the back yard.

Both Angie and Heidi immediately said they could help care for the girls whiIe I was away. I went with Angie, because she could come and stay at our house with the kids, minimizing the disruption, avoiding the packing, and saving me having to find someone else to feed the cats and discipline the kitten. Her nannying schedule worked out to be a perfect complement to the girls’ school and after school care times.

I didn’t just want a babysitter for the kids, someone who would just ensure that they were safe and on schedule. I wanted someone who could fill in as Mom while I was away. Someone who would address their concerns about my absence openly and completely. Someone who wouldn’t take shortcuts to get through the evening, but would instead carry forward the work of raising the girls, discussing the choices they’d made during the day, challenging them to be responsible, building their confidence while emphasizing humility. What a gift to have two such people actually available to us on a week’s notice! There are still others in our community who would have gladly done it, had their work or childcare obligations allowed.

While I was in London, I videoconferenced with the girls on Skype every day, some days twice. I could tell that they were comfortable and happy. Their smiles were genuine, their stories from their day those of typical 6-year-olds, and their trust in Angie palpable. A couple of times, they had worries to discuss with me, but for the most part they wanted to hear about my day, be silly with their cousin, and confirm that I was okay before getting back to their busy lives of art projects and games of pretend.

Angie was the first person I gave a key to my home to after I bought it. There is nothing more precious to me than my children. I’d never leave my kids with someone I wouldn’t trust with my house keys. Anyone I can trust with them, I can trust with all that I own. After all, I’m trusting them with my life.

 

Sadia lives with her 6-year-old daughters in the greater Austin, Texas area. Her trip to London was her first to her home country in over a decade. She was too busy with a toddler and bureaucracy to see much of London.  Still, she was reminded that snow needn’t be too deep to crunch underfoot, that people walk on the left there, and that British biscuits are a far superior comfort food to American cookies. She heard a lot more Portuguese and Spanish than was spoken in London in her childhood, and was happy to learn that 11 years had put no dent in her closeness to her cousins or closest college buddy.

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Daycare Jitters for Momma

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Categories Childcare, Mommy Issues, Toddlers, Working7 Comments

This September, my 14-month old twin daughters will start daycare. Up until this point, they have been at home with me and/or my husband, or with extended family. I was recently asked back to my previous company and was faced with the big decision of whether or not to “leave” the girls. I tried working full-time when the twins were 6-months old and it ended up being too hectic for us. Though the girls were at home with family, I couldn’t stand leaving before they woke and returning just before they went to bed. After trying to suck it up for a few months, we decided it was best if I stayed home. I loved my time home with the girls but also realize the effects it could have on my career if I was out of the job market for a long period of time. Granted, having twins is a good “excuse” for being out of work but, it’s a tough market out there!

I have worked it out with my employer that I will work one to two days a week from home. The girls will go to daycare just two days a week and my husband can watch them the extra day as he is a Firefighter and his schedule is quirky. We are very lucky in that we will only send them to daycare two days and I will be home two days. Honestly, I don’t think we could afford more than two days a week for each of them. Daycare costs are outrageous!

I have brought them to visit the daycare about three times in the past two weeks so they can adjust to going in and out of the building and so they recognize their teacher and the environment. Each time, the girls immediately leave my side and run (waddle, new walkers!) in to explore and check out the other kids. The first two times they didn’t even look to see if I was there and they cried when I made them leave. Obviously, we have no problem with socialization here. Is it awful that I wish they needed me more??

The third time my husband and I both brought them in and we left the room to work on paperwork. I could see them through the glass and they were playing very well. The instant we went back in to get them, “A” came to me crying and whining and clinging to my legs. Now I know this was all an act but I can’t help but feel guilty! I could see that it had just registered in her clever little brain that she was LEFT THERE! Her little sister (by 1 minute) was oblivious and again threw a fit when we made her leave the other children.

I have already returned to work and the girls are doing great at home with Daddy. They are napping and eating well and greet me with hugs and kisses. Though it seems they adjust well, I have this weight on my shoulders that is growing heavier as next week comes closer. I am dreading dropping them off. Perhaps this is harder on me than it is on them. I am taking solace in the fact that they will have each other; they can look around the room and see a familiar face in their sister.

At least they have each other!

Parents – how do you deal with the anxiety of dropping your children at daycare/school for the first time?

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