Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Friday

Friday is the most wonderful day of the week. It's the last day of work. If you play hooky it's the first day of your weekend. It's the one day you can spend looking forward to the next.

And that is why buying any product that was made on a Friday sucks. Friday built cars break down more often than cars made on any other day. Well, I'm guessing the same goes for computers.

We bought an HP in July. We had an HP prior to this one that lasted us for 9 solid years. It only ever had one problem, in it's 8th year and my brother was able to correct it for less than $30. So naturally when it came time to buy again I went with HP.
I have a friend who works for HP. She told me to get a Mac. She said, get an Acer. She said get an IBM. She said, don't get an HP. I should have listened.

Since July I've had this POS in to be fixed 3 times. All in the last two months. I've also discovered because of this that as much as I like the convenience of a laptop, I wouldn't want one as my every computer.

Well, my computer is home again. Hopefully to stay this time as I have a lot of homework to do and pictures to upload and daycare advertising to do...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hope hope hope

Professionally speaking, I'm pretty spoiled. I've worked from home for 7 years and in that time I've made sure that I've had clients who were co operative, easy going, viewed child rearing in much the same way I do and most important of all, I've had fantastic kids to care for.

That's not to say it's always been sunshine and lollipops. I've had my share of kids that have turned my hair grey in a few short hours or parents who have treated me like their 15 year old babysitter. But the advantage to being the boss is that I don't have to tolerate that. For a while I was known in my circle of fellow home daycare providers as the one week provider because I would have clients who didn't make it through the probation period. I'm particular.


See the thing is, I've been around this block before. I opened my daycare in 2003 and by 2005 I was burning out. It took over my house, my family and my life. I was stressed all the time and miserable and so I closed my daycare and went back to work in a centre. And guess what. That saying the grass isn't always greener on the other side....it's true. I was miserable from my first day at work because I missed my kids so much I couldn't breathe. I was jealous of Sean being home (he still worked nights) My marriage took a hit because Sean and I would only see each other 2 evenings a week. When I lost the baby it was an eye opener. It was the last straw. I quit my job an reopened my home daycare - but this time I was wiser.


I vowed that I would not take clients that stressed me out (parents or kids alike) I also vowed that when the last child left for the day, that was it. I was done. I would give it my all for the time the kids were here but when my work day was done - it was done.


For the most part I've stuck to it. I do have some times when I still feel the stress (think 5 months of toddler adjusting to daycare - a family I probably would have let go if not for my loyalty to another client and the willingness of Mom and Dad to really and truly work with me to help him out - not just pass the buck with a 'he's your problem now' attitude.

And there have been clients in the last 4 years who've been given their walking papers before the probation period is up (think co sleeping 13 month old who would not sleep even one wink here) but for the most part I've had what are called "golden families" and I'm happy about that.

So two of my clients are now on mat leave and while their little ones still come it's only two days a week so the money situation is a bit tight. I've decided to fill another spot (I'm allowed 5 kids at any given time but I prefer to stay at 3 or 4) So I've been interviewing people. After the 'I don't need to sleep' baby incident I've decided that except for existing clients I will not be taking babies anymore. I'm just getting too old. I'm not interested in baby care (and having had the opportunity to ooh and aaah over a clients 6 day old baby yesterday I've confirmed in my heart - I am DONE having children.) Now that 6 day old baby will be a client a year from now (barring any unforeseen circumstances) but since his parents are part of the 'golden family' group I'm okay with taking that baby.

Interviewed with a woman a few weeks ago (she came on referral) Except for my first few interviews when I was just starting out and not confident in my abilities, I have never been so uncomfortable. The mom didn't crack a smile and I just got that "you'll never do anything right" vibe. So um, no, thanks, don't need the business that bad. I had a promising email but when the mom said she wanted to know my fees because she wanted the best care at the best possible price....well that shot that to hell. I didn't tell her my fees, stating that I want parents to meet me and see my program and space and make a decision based on the whole package...not just the price. I take real issue with people who nickle and dime something as important as the care of their children and she clearly wasn't the client for me.
Then I got another promising email. Someone who's little one is the same age as the other toddlers I care for. And she's a full timer. And she doesn't actually need daycare until August. It couldn't get much better!! So we interviewed last night. Mom and Dad seemed really nice and the little girl was sweet. It was also the quickest interview I've ever had. In fairness, I emailed her a copy of the handbook so that answered a bulk of the questions beforehand but it was hard to get a read on them.

It's not often I say this but I am hoping against hope that they chose me. I want this one. Bad. Financially it is fabulous. And age/development wise she'll fit right in.

So now I wait. I hate waiting. I'll wait until the end of March and then email mom and find out if she's taking the spot or not.

So for all your prayers out there, throw one up for me. And for the rest of you, cross your fingers and toes....

Monday, March 22, 2010

Well, the divorce is final. Emily slept in her new room on Saturday night and as expected it was a long night for all.



Mary burst into tears at bedtime, the most pathetic cry you ever heard, saying she doesn't want her own room.

We compromised and let her watch tv in bed despite the fact that it was already an hour past her bedtime. So at 11 pm she was still up and still weeping.



Emily was excited but sure enough she came up the stairs about 20 minutes after she went to bed crying and complaining of a headache and stomach ache. These are her classic sleep over illnesses and I knew it was coming. She's a bundle of nerves and it gets the best of her. So we talked for a bit about why she was feeling so nervous and reminded her that this is still her house, she's still near us all and it will just take some getting used to sleeping in a new room.



We also gave her a bone, letting her know that if she wants to move back upstairs, we won't be angry.



But she stuck it out (with the tv on, no sound and the static from her radio) She woke early Sunday morning but she did much better last night. No aches of any kind. Mary did good too. She tried to cry but only made herself giggle.



And I've noticed that they are playing together more often this last two days. Let's hope it lasts.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Divorce

My daughters are getting divorced.

Okay, not really but that's what it seems like.

Emily has finally decided to move into her own room downstairs and I'm finding this to be very much like a separation between spouses. As Em packs her things from their room she is making piles of 'hers' and 'mine'. She and Mary are negotiating. "You keep these pictures, I'll take those pictures" There are custody battles (who gets the dvd player, who gets the radio)

Mary is in mourning. She's shared a room with Emily for more than half of her life. I am trying to show her the benefits; privacy, more space to play but she just sees her big sister and best friend leaving her. I feel sad for her but excited for Emily. Weird right?

I don't have sister so I'm not privy to that kind of bond. One minute they hate each other and the next they are best friends again. I do think that in the long run the separate rooms will bring them closer together. I hope so anyway.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

It's a sad, sad day

I've come to a very depressing realization.

I'm old.

I've never complained about aging. I think if you look back the post closest to my last birthday (Aug 20) you'll see that for the most part I embrace aging. I have loved being in my 30's. I feel wiser, more experienced and much more comfortable in my own skin than I did in my 20's but yet I also still feel young enough to be adventurous, mischievous and to just plain enjoy life.
I sometimes forget my age in fact until I have conversations with other people still in their 20's as they reflect on getting older (one of my daycare mom's mentioned that she and her friends are all turning 30 this year so they are going away to celebrate) I think that's great but chuckle because I'm already making plans for Sean's 40th (yes, it's a couple of years yet but I've got big plans!) And I think....ah, I remember 30.

Here's the thing, I've said it all along. I think 35 is the perfect age. If I could live out the rest of my days being 35 I'd be one heck of a happy camper. In 5 short months I'll be 37. And I'm starting to feel it.

I took the kids to the zoo today. We go a lot. Family membership. I took Emily, her bff Jennifer, Mary Jo and Connor. Sean was working. I've gone to the zoo probably 150 times in the past couple of years. I know the animals by name (no joke there). And today, I was W.I.P.E.D. out. We were only there for 2 hours and I was so very ready to come home.

See, I have a toddler. He's not content to sit in the stroller anymore. And given his incredible (and slightly obsessive) love of sewer grates he's not able to walk in a straight line. He needs to step on every. single. sewer grate within 50 meter radius. So this means one of two things. I can let him out to walk and not see a single animal and have the three older kids follow me following him around the zoo stepping on sewer grates or I can leave him in the stroller to whine, complain and fuss when I don't point the stroller at the sewer grates and run over them so that the big kids can actually see some animals. It is after all a zoo. We have wild sewer grates in our driveway but where else will we see a tapir?

I feel like a salmon swimming upstream. I'm fighting the current of toddlerhood (without the advantage of the youthful energy I had when the girls were toddlers) I'm also fighting the current of tween-dom. The eye rolling, I'm stupid and don't know what I'm talking about,
but-why-can't-you-buy-me-the-$150-Bench-jacket-when-all-my-friends-have-one, tween. I'm also fighting the middle child syndrome and while I don't actually think Mary Jo suffers from it, her natural personality fits the description like a glove. She's loud, outgoing, rebellious, attention getting, mischievous and can play just as easily with the 10 year old as she can with the 2 year old. Her manners leave something to be desired but she's caring and loving and as cute as a bugs ear (and she knows it)

And when I was in my 20's I might not have had the patience and understanding of the mature, wiser, patient 30-something, to deal with all of this but by God, I would have had the energy.

So, there you have it. I am officially declaring my age. My name is Jean. I am 36. And I'm old.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

6 Degrees of Separation

Now here's a weird one.

When I was a kid my best friend's name was Diana. We were friends from when we met at 9 years old until she moved cross country when we were 16. We stayed in touch by phone and letters (yeah, back in the time before email and internet) but more or less lost touch after a year or so.
Diana had two sisters, Donna and Debbie. (and a brother but he's not relevant to this) Before they moved away Debbie had a baby, she named her Ashley.

Fast forward to a couple of years ago when I discovered Facebook. I found my friend Diana on Facebook and friended her. I also friended her sister Donna.

The other day I was playing around on facebook and saw a status update from Donna. Nothing too interesting but Ashley (the now grown up niece) had replied to her. So I clicked on Ashley's profile just to see what she looked like now (last time I saw her she was about a year old)

So on Ashley's profile page I see a post from someone else named Nancy. Her last name was what caught my eye, I know someone with the same name. So I click on that Nancy's profile and sure enough, we have a mutual friend. This mutual friend is a girl named Noelle, who was one of my daycare kids (one of my favorites) from 10 years ago (she's all grown up now) My suspicions were confirmed. This Nancy is the mother of two of my other former daycare kids (they were bff's with Noelle - we used to refer to them as the three musketeers)

So - somehow, this mother of my former daycare kids (who lives in the same general area I do) knows my childhood bff's niece who lives at the other end of the country. And I know them both.

Weird.......

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Bye bye doo doo

Stop me if you've heard this before. We are taking Connor's soother away for good this weekend.

Okay. I know I've heard it before so you must have too. I have only myself to blame. We started off as expected, with tears and a restless sleep. But it got progressively worse until he would scream holy murder at even the hint of bed.

I know this is funny coming from a mother who has no trouble doing CIO with her 8 month old baby but I couldn't stand to see him so upset. I caved in, thinking, meh, he only has it for sleep time anyway so no worries.

Well, Mr. Magoo is 2 1/2 now and it's time. I've started prepping him. I cut the tip off of one of his soothers today and gave it to him. He took a suck, pulled it out and looked at it and started crying. So we decided to pitch that one and stick with 'purple doo doo'

Tomorrow is D Day.

I don't know if I'm getting soft in my old age or if my perspective has just changed. Connor is my rainbow baby and that certainly affects how I view parenting and motherhood. My recent tragic reminder of just how precious our kids are has affected it too. So the thought of purposely causing my child grief is not going over well....but in the long run I know it needs to be done.

I just hope Sean hasn't got his heart set on sleeping for the next few weeks.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

another day

I hate the internet. It makes the world far to small and gives us access to information that we'd be better off without. Maybe.

Little Layla Grace, who I wrote about in this post passed away yesterday.

If it weren't for the internet I never would have 'met' the woman who told me about her. I never would have read her mom's blog and followed her on twitter. I would have remained blissfully ignorant.

But at the same time, I think about the good that came from it. Sometimes you need that little reminder of just how good you have it. I have the good fortune to be able to complain about the terrible two's and I'd be willing to stake my life that Layla's mom wishes she could too. I bet she'd welcome the terrible two's with unmatched enthusiasm. This morning when Connor woke (it's getting better - it was 5:40 am!) I brought him into bed with me, knowing full he would sleep. Instead I watched him play with his soother and his glow worm, whisper about the blanket and my pillow and every now and then he'd rub my head and whisper "Night Night Mommy" Then we snuggled under the covers together and watched The Big Comfy Couch.

As much as he has his moments of driving me insane (as do his sisters!) I am blessed to have them here, healthy and happy to do just that. And after having read Layla's story I don't think I'll ever forget to not take that for granted again.

Okay, on to something a little more cheerful.

I'm counting down until my holidays. Two more working days to go - and only one of them is hard. Friday Mary Jo gets to play hookey from school so that she and I can have a Mommy/Mary day. We're going to shop and have lunch and she wants to go swimming so we'll see if we can fit that in. On Sunday we're taking the kids to Niagara Falls for the night. Always a good trip though I'll confess I'm a little nervous. We're staying at the Hilton. It's tower is 52 stories. I'm worried I'm going to get room in the 30's or 40's. I don't do heights well and do elevators even worse. I'm going to request the lowest floor possible when we get there for check in. We've got a suite with a jacuzzi so we'll all pile into the tub together, load it up with bubbles and have some fun. I'm also hoping to have some fun with my camera. (provided the forcasted rain holds off!)

The rest of the week will be for relaxing, doing whatever we like and getting Emily moved into her new room. She's tired of sharing with Mary and has decided she'd like to move downstairs. So she's taking my dad's room. I'm a little torn on how I feel about this. I was the one who suggested it to her but at the same time I like having her nearby, not all the way downstairs. I'm sure she'll be fine though. She's excited and surprisingly so is Mary. We shall see.

I'll tell you one thing though, I'm NOT moving all that stuff back up stairs if she changes her mind a week later!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

10 Things Your Daycare Provider Wants You To Know.

I've been a home daycare provider for 7 years now. 7 long years. Don't get me wrong, I love it and though I do occasionally dream of a career change, one that involves me getting dressed in something beyond yoga pants or jeans and going to meetings and having co workers, I think I would be unhappy doing anything else.



But it's not all sunshine and lollipops. (or should that be it's not all fingerpainting and dress up?) This career has a very high burn out rate and when it hits, it hits hard. In fact, most ECE programs have courses just on dealing with stress and ways to avoid burn out. Of course much of it is of little benefit to those of us who do this at home because the simple fact is, we don't have co workers to support us. We are on our own.

More often than not, if you speak to a home daycare provider they will tell you that what burns them out fastest isn't the kids, the monotony of being home everyday, the noise (oh the noise). It's the parents. Let me repeat that. It's the parents.



So for my mommy and daddy friends out there, I'm going to offer you some tidbits. Please don't take offence, they are not meant to be so but they need to be said. Now remember these tidbits are not the case for every daycare provider...but they are for most of the ones I know.



1. Yes, we love children. This job is way to hard and doesn't pay anywhere near enough to warrant anyone doing it for any other reason. BUT - we also love when the children go home. We are tired, our houses are a mess and we still have 45 things to do before we can sit down because most of us are parents too. Please, when you come to pick your kids up, don't linger for 30 minutes chatting. Get your kids, say what needs to be said and go. If you have something of importance to discuss either come early or call and arrange a time to talk because we'd just like to get dinner on the table.



2. We like you. The key to any good daycare arrangement is a feeling of mutual trust and respect between the parents and provider. But for a good many of us the relationship will remain professional. I am not going to be your friend. We are not going to have weekend playdates. It's nothing against you or your child but it's hard to maintain professional lines when you are buddy buddy with clients. Parents then may feel it's okay to take certain liberties and providers feel a little more uncomfortable enforcing policies. It's just bad business. We can be friends after your children are no longer in my care.



3. We do not watch tv, surf the net, play video games and eat all day. We also don't play playdough, paint, play cars or Barbies all day. This is a not an easy job. We are actually very busy. We are changing diapers, cleaning noses, breaking up fights, tidying, cooking, planning, monitoring. We often have 11-12 hour work days and unlike most people, we don't get coffee breaks or lunch breaks. Half the time we're happy just to get into the bathroom without a few pairs of hand banging on the door.



4. Please do not drop your child off to daycare and say any of the following things: "I am bringing him/her because I am going to get groceries, I'm going to do laundry, I'm going to run some errands, I'm going to nap, I'm going to tidy the house, I'm going to relax." Don't ever imply that you are going to 'get things done' because you can't when your child is home with you. Simply put, this makes you look bad. Most daycare providers have to get meals cooked, houses tidied, laundry done and errands completed with all the kids right there. We work long hours and this often means throwing a load of laundry in while the kids are napping and folding it while they play or getting supper cooked because some of the kids are here until 6 pm. If we can cook a spaghetti dinner with 6 kids underfoot you can handle getting groceries with one. So please don't whine to us about how you can't do it. We aren't buying it.



5. Daycare is work for children. They are often here for upwards of 10 hours a day. In that time they must play, follow rules, share, negotiate, learn, lead, follow and tidy up. It's hard work for a little person. And like anyone else, they like a break from work too. There is nothing wrong with children going to daycare to socialize and learn. But if you work full time and your child attends daycare full time, please do not send your kids to daycare when you are on holidays. They want a holiday too. They want to spend time with you. Because as much as they love daycare and they love us, they love you more.



6. As an attachment to numbers 5 and 6. Please don't ever use the following phrase "since I'm paying you anyway" When you break it down, you pay us roughly $3 an hour and saying something like that sounds like that $3 an hour is more important to you than time with your child. Lose that sentence from your vocabulary.



7. Pay us on time. Every. Single. Week. I don't know anyone who does this job for fun. It's paying bills. And I'm willing to bet that most, if not all of you, get paid on time every payday. We expect the same. It also leaves us wondering, why you would ever in a million years consider it okay to not pay the person who is caring for your most precious possession.



7. Respect our rules. Most providers have contracts and policies. They have been written out of necessity. Unfortunately too many people think it's acceptable practice to drop their kids off to daycare with green snot dripping out of their noses or 4o minutes early or sending them with peanut butter smudges all over their clothes in a peanut free home. Remember, first and foremost, these are our homes. Don't bang on the door at 7 am, don't track your mucky boots on my rug. Show me that you respect me both as a professional and as a fellow human being. And please also respect my family and my house.



8. Remember we are professionals (this is not the case for all - but for many) Many of us have ECE backgrounds. We know our stuff. Remember that why you chose us. Trust us unless you have a genuine reason not to. This is especially so for new moms. Many of us are experienced parents and daycare providers. We are not new to children, raising them or teaching them. We do want your input but you need to trust that we do have a clue. There is no need to remind us that your 6 month old doesn't eat grapes. We are also not going to try potty training your 9 month old. Please feel free to address us with concerns you might have but do not talk down to us. We want to be able to work together for the best interest of your child. We recognize you as being the parent and will not undermine that - but we also know what works.



9. Your child is not the only one here. Exceptions can sometimes be made but we have to meet the needs of many children and families at once. Please don't ask us to favour your child over the others, to bend the rules or adjust the schedule in a way that will affect the other negatively. It's just not going to happen.



10. You scratch our back we'll scratch yours. If you stick with the above we'll be more inclined to overlook the scattered late pick up or be a little less miffed when you chose to go for a mani/pedi instead of taking Jr. to the zoo.

A happy provider is a good provider. If we feel as though we are appreciated, respected and valued we don't burn out nearly as quickly which means a happier, healthier environment for your child.

Friday, March 5, 2010

What I'll never be...

I have begged for years for a newer, better camera. I started with the basic 35mm film camera (actually, I had one of those 110 film cameras - remember those?) and gradually moved up the ranks from film to digital point and shoot to finally, my DSLR. It's just a starter one but it's a lot of camera for me.
So armed with my kit lens, my photoshop software and a few friends who know what they are talking about I have begun snapping. Since Christmas I've taken upwards of 3000 pictures. That's an average of 42 pictures a day. Yikes.
Most end up going on the stick and are not worthy of anything more than looking back on but some are pretty decent and worth printing. At least I think so.

The thing is, I'll never make a living at this (not that I wouldn't want to) It is an insanely expensive hobby. With just my basic starter dslr and kit lens and photoshop software I'm already in for $600 beans and that's without a better lens and fancy speed lights...
I know what looks good in other peoples photos and I'm working at getting that accomplished in mine but the software is overwhelming. It's good thing I've got so many pics to play with so that I can practice on the not so great ones and not totally destroy the good ones.

I'm not worried though. I'm having a blast taking pictures of everything that moves (or doesn't move) and though I may never make any money at this, I'm going to have an excellent documentation of my kids lives - I am after all their own personal paparazzi!



















Monday, March 1, 2010

Random ramblings.

Somethings been bothering me for a few days and I need to get it out.

The internet is such a powerful thing, something much more powerful than I think many of us realize. You've all heard me talk endlessly about the wonderful group of women I've come to know (in a virtual sense) and care for because of the internet. I've never met any of them, though I hope to one day, but we still laugh together, cry together and gripe about our husbands, kids and jobs together.
Just look at this blog. I started it as a diary of sorts. I type faster than I can write by hand so it gave me an outlet. When my dad got sick it turned into a communication tool. It was easier (both emotionally and logistically) to update everyone on his progress through my blog. And after he died it went back to my random ramblings, only now I had an audience which, if anything, has kept me honest. Truth is, beyond a few people who I know for sure are reading, I don't know who does and doesn't.

I've also learned a lot from the internet. Really, anything you need to know, it's there if you know how to find it. I'm slowly mastering my photoshop software thanks to YouTube tutorials. I'm learning about certain philosophies of Early Childhood Education that were never covered when I went to college 15 + years ago but are very relevant in the field today. I'm able to find information everything from baking to fixing my transmission (not that I'm going to - have you ever tasted my baking. HAHA)

But now I come to what's bothering me.

I was passed along a story, a six degrees of separation type of thing, a person I know who knows someone else who knows someone else who knows this family....
a little 2 yr old girl is dying of cancer. That day I read the mom's blog from the start with her diagnosis in May 2009 to now, where she is near the end and my heart broke. I actually started crying to Sean when he came home from work that night and I think "how ridiculous, you don't even know these people" but I do know this. I have a two year old. And I've seen someone die from cancer. And those two things together....well I can't even begin to fathom.

And since that day I've bookmarked the blog so I can keep reading, each time I do my heart breaks more but I marvel at the strength of her parents (and of her!) and I feel horrible that things like this even exist. Babies aren't supposed to die from cancer.

I've read several times now that her mom feels that purpose in life has been served, she's brought people together and on this end I can say that's true. Because since I read that blog I hug Connor (and the girls) a little longer. I check my temper when they are misbehaving and I spend 5 minutes more playing trucks and Barbies....because you just never know.

I won't leave you without a link, for those of you not in the know. You can read her blog here.

And I'm certain, as I did, after you read it you'll have a new found appreciation for your life and the gifts you've be given.