Friday, February 25, 2011

The Dreaded Daycare Search

We have been so blessed that for the first year + of Miss T's life, we have had our amazing, awesome, super, wonderful, loving friend Colleen come to our house 4 time a week and watch over our precious little bundle. 

We knew the time would come though, when we would have to give her up (Colleen, not T!) so that she could pursue her dreams and we'd be left trying to find day care that meets our standards.  And my standards?  My friends, they are set high, wicked high.  To feel comfortable, I need a place that is clean (we've talked about our OCD issues before), safe (we live in a high crime city!), nurturing both emotionally and educationally, accomodating, in a desired location, and affordable.  It seems these last two points are the major obstacles.

First off, we are limited by location.  Most people conducting this search could look for daycare near their home or near their work.  We are blessed/cursed to live two blocks from work and so we only have one area to look.  Plus, for those who are city dwellers, the thought of traveling more than a mile or two is staggering.  Between the traffic, the lack of parking, and the ridiculous amount of time it takes to go that one mile, the area that we are able to search shrinks dramatically.

Second, I'm not sure who could ever afford to pay this, but the few daycares that almost meet my standards cost the equivalent of four car payments per month!  Seriously??!!  There is one 4 blocks from my house (two blocks from work - perfect!), with great curriculum, great outdoor space, clean, healthy - but the cost is $1651 per month!  That's more than I take home in a month on my student stipend!  How is this justified?

Aside from all this, I think I've developed a strategic plan to research daycares online before going the route of in person investigations (those will be forthcoming).

In MD, we are fortunate to have the Maryland Child Care Resource Network.  You have to register (it's free), but then you can search by type of care (family, center, or both), by age, and distance to a desired location.  After looking for day care for over a month, I just learned today that no two searches are alike. Only 10 options are given per search and searches performed just minutes apart give very different results.  The results list location, phone #, weekly fees, operation times, and total capacity.  Good basics, but not enough to judge a center by any means. 

From there I immediately enter the address into Google maps and check out the street view.  I don't care what you say, when it comes to my child, I definitely can judge a book by its cover.  If there is graffiti or garbage, if the street is a highway, if there are shady people walking by at that inopportune moment - then it's a no go.  The beauty of using this tool is that the centers themselves don't have any control over when the Google vans drive by and thus, can't present their best foot forward.  In these street images, you get to see them as they are on any given day.

(side bar: It seems weird to me that you can view daycares like this.  Shouldn't they be protected from online weirdos?  Granted, I can't ever see a child in these images, but still.)

(side-side bar: I'm clearly paranoid.  Obviously every day care center in the world is a front for a sweatshop.  They see a parent coming up the walk on their hidden cameras and the sewing machines are stowed away, the presses are hidden behind fake walls and the children are trained to smile and laugh when the doorbell rings to allow the parent inside. Obviously.)

While still on Google maps, I then check out the satellite images to see if there is adequate outdoor space, a must for city kids to get "fresh" air and sunshine.

This next step has proven a little fickle.  Most day care centers don't have their own websites (seriously, get with the times people!).  So, a little more google searching hopefully will provide some online reviews of each center.  Like I said, it's hit or miss.  In fact, the one center that had the most reviews online (all positive) is no longer in business!  Go figure.  In addition, I've found that there are an unlimited number of so-called daycare database resources.  Each one required the daycare itself to register and as such each database has a different collection of centers.  My advice is not to waste your time with these.  Stick with the government sites that list all the licensed centers in your area.

At this point, I have to suck it up and call the center.  I'm not a phone person.  I don't like talking to people on the phone, especially people I don't know.  I absolutely have a phone voice and I sound like I'm five years old.  This one center I called, apparently I ask some weird questions because the poor director kept asking me who I was and why I was calling!  I was asking her how many children they currently have enrolled.  It seemed like an honest question for me to ascertain how active their center was.  She must have thought I was planning a coup or something!  Once we settled that I was a parent and overly protective and paranoid, she had no problem answering my odd questions. :)  Anyways, I usually ask about availability, verify price, and address any concerns that I developed after seeing their street view.

So far, I've visited one center.  I honestly had to hold back the tears throughout the visit.  The center itself was beautiful, clean, and had well attended, happy children.  It just wasn't home and it wasn't me.  It was still a strange place with strange people.  I'm going to have to get over this, I know.  Someday, she is going to go to school, go to college, get married, etc. and leave me.  Until that day comes though, I need to have as much control over her days as possible. 

I do realize that this is a great opportunity for her!  Being an only child, having few friends nearby, the poor child desperately needs social interaction!  Just yesterday, we were visiting our friends across the street with H, a little girl 3 weeks older than Miss T.  She is lightyears ahead of T as far as crawling and walking which I attritube to being a second child (we're such overachievers!).  Just being in the same room as H for 30 minutes, T was standing and holding onto a bin of toys and testing out using only one hand at a time!  Normally this girl is making both of my index fingers turn blue!  It was a great step for her to develop initiative, courage, and independence and that only took 30 minutes!

I know we'll find the right place.  I know I'll know it the moment we step inside.  Next week, I plan to visit a couple of these centers and I'll let you know how it goes.  I'd love to hear suggestions for questions to ask the center!

First Birthday Party Sneakpeek!

We in the beginning stages of planning Miss T's first brithday party.  It's not going to be huge, but it will be special!  I got a recent code for free stationary cards at Shutterfly.  I think they got their specific gender sorting mixed up because I found the perfect invite in the BOYS section!  Oh well, Miss T will never know the difference, right?

anyways, here's a preview of our theme. (specific details have been removed)

Party Animals Birthday Invitation
Design your next birthday cards with Shutterfly.
View the entire collection of cards.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

While you were out

When I was recovering from a whopping 4 hours of labor and delivery (I know you other Mama's are jealous, but trust me, it has its pros and cons!), I was reunited with home improvement shows.  While home on maternity leave, if the TV was on, it was HGTV or TLC.  I knew they were "safe" to watch around little ears.  My obsession transferred over to my husband once we bought our house in April and we often watch shows about first time home buyers.  I give this credit for our renewed energy in updating our house.  Rehabbed in 1980, it was dated.  Yellow vinyl countertops, old stove with one reliable burner, it was a mess.  We replaced the counter tops with granite when Miss T was only a couple months old but of course, no kitchen remodel ever goes well.  Our old backplash was 2 inches taller than the one that replaced it and we were left with a ugly 2 inch gap between the new beautiful counters and our tired walls.

Frustrated, but not exactly the handiest people, that's how our kitchen remained
     - until Thursday!

I wrote before how I was going to surprise B for Valentines Day. 
Well, after three weeks of planning,
3 co-conspirators,
and not one single lie (!),
I managed to give my B the best Valentine's surprise ever!

I told you it would be television worthy! 
Remember the show on TLC "While you were out"? 

This was my version. 
B was visiting his family for a whopping 27 hours
We had very little time. 
The plan was to fix the wall,
replace the light,
paint the ceiling
and paint the walls. 

Ready...Set... GO!

Some before pictures...
 Let's zoom in shall we?

 Blech, big ugly gaps!

Now for some cool after shots... :)

Woohoo! No more ugly fluorescent lighting! No more tired, stained walls!

 No more ugly gaps!!!

Instead of the ugly box flourescent lighting...
We now have this beautiful hanging light!

Finally finished!   Approximate time - 9:30pm

Next Day, ready for B to come home!

I wish I had had the camera ready for when B walked into the kitchen!  His face was priceless.  But, I was just so happy to see him and enjoy that moment that I totally forgot to have the camera ready!

The result?  He loved it! 
How do I know? 
He asked me who did this for me? 
Some might take that as an insult - I did not! 
It simply meant that he was so impressed with my handiwork,
my planning,
and my ability to get this all done
without his knowing and truly surprise him! 

This was the conversation I caught between him and Miss T later...

B: Figures, I get Mommy a spa day for Valentine's Day and she beats me with the best gift ever!
T: Dja, dja, dja, dja

(awwww :), BTW, their conversations tend to be very onesided!)

Now, I need to fully thank my co-conspirators because I truly would not have been able to do this without all of their help. 
1. Mr. E - our go to master of all trades!  From the beginning, he helped me organize, plan and execute.  He did the light, most of the wall repair and supplied the necessary tools.
2. Ms. C - She entertained and cared for Miss T ALL DAY, so that I could focus on getting the kitchen done.  She was also there for emotional support at the end of the day when I collapsed!

Thank you both for your help
and for enabling me to pull off this amazing surprise for B
     - while he was out!

Blog edit: I'm linking up this entry over at the Showcase party on Stephanie Lynn's Under the Table and Dreaming blog (LOVE the name, don't you?)  Come over to check us out and some of the other fabulous posts too!


Monday, February 14, 2011

Update on Ambrosia Music Lounge

Before I get to the nightclub update, a quick update on my Valentine's Day surprise for B.  I broke the news to him yesterday that is won't be here in time for today.  In fact, it won't be here until Thursday, the day that he goes up to RI for an annual family event - Syracuse vs. Providence.  So, it will have to wait until he gets back on Friday.  Don't worry, it will be worth the wait!  Stay tuned...

Also, BTW, it's going to be 60 degrees here today!  Happy Valentine's Day to EVERYONE!

On to the update....

Last month I posted about a new threat to my neighborhood.  A group of people were trying to open up a live music/entertainment venue less than 25 yards from my front door without having taken the proper steps to gain the neighborhood's confidence, or establish adequate security, parking, or trash containment. 

Well, I am amazed at what a group of people can accomplish when they set their minds on a specific task.  Letters were written, momentum was growing, and advocacy was established.  The people of Pigtown spoke up against the proposed nightclub.  The neighborhood associations withdrew their support of the night club and even drafted their opposition.  The liquor board heard our entreaties and guess what...



After 2 1/2 hours, the Liquor board denied the transfer of the Ambrosia liquor license (as well as another license for a notorious bar further down the street - yay!).  Our councilman, William Cole, was a fantastic advocate for our community and the turnout was amazing!

There are a few minor ongoing issues.  The owners of Ambrosia are still set on opening a restaurant in the location and are filing with the zoning board for parking requirements.  However, the major issues regarding the serving of alcohol 20 hours a day, 7 days a week and the live entertainment (including DJs) are resolved in our favor.
A special thanks goes out to my neighbors, Ben and Leslie.  Ben, a zoning attorney, gave up a significant amount of time with his family to see that our voices were heard and that our neighborhood continues to be a safe place for families in this city.  Thank you for all your hard work!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mommy Guilt

Through several conversations I've had this week, I starting to think there is an epidemic called
Mommy Guilt!

Why is is that no matter what we do,
we always feel like we are coming up short and failing

our husbands,
and ourselves?

Why do we put so much pressure and demands on ourselves?

In a conversation with a fellow co-worker the other day, we discussed how we felt torn between our careers and our families.  Both of us have invested a lot of time into our education.  Both of us felt that while we weren't excelling in our careers, we also weren't succeeding as mothers. 

I sometimes even feel like I'm failing at both. 

She told me a story of a friend of hers, a successful laywer,
who took an entire year off when her son was born. 

I thought "whoa"
What courage! 
What bravery! 
What love!

In our minds, however, to do something like that would "kill" our careers.  So, in the meantime, we gush over our babies when we are with them, provide the best care we can while we are working, and beat ourselves up for it every day!

As I mentioned before, I was able to participate in a round table discussion about breastfeeding and coming back to work.  I truly identified with some of the other women there.  "Jackie" was committed to breastfeeding her daughter for one year and then she was "off duty"!  "Sarah", a fellow student, was so relieved to hear about our school's president making policy that supported staff and student rights to breastfeed.  I was truly touched by two of the other women there.

"Cindy" was 11 weeks along with her second child.  With her first, she had been able to take that mystical year off.  Now with her second, she was working full time as a dental assistant and going to school for nursing.  You go Momma!  But that ambition was coming at a price.  She spends 12 hours a day away from home.  Yet, she wants to give her new baby the best she can, while providing a better life for her first.  Cindy was going to have to make a lot of sacrifices to make this happen.

"Nadia" has a one year old daughter at home and is starting to think about "number 2". However, she was concerned about nursing, with all the issues she had with her first.  Having a c-section and then an inverted nipple, her daughter had become a lazy nurser, then her supply dropped, and Nadia made the heartbreaking decision to give up nursing after about a month of exhaustive efforts.  As she tells her story, Nadia says things like "I messed this up", "I did this wrong", "It's my fault".  Watching her tell her story, my heart was breaking for her.  Now, in law school, Nadia has class all day and is trying to figure out how she'll manage maternity leave if she can't be in class and some of the lectures aren't recorded, never mind how she'll juggle the demands of studying, nursing and getting in some sleep as well.

I'll be the first one to admit that before being a mother, I had absolutely no understanding of the demands that is placed on those shoulders.  Now, as I look at the moms around me, I see them wearing their Mommy Guilt like blanket, weighing them down, suffocating them.

"You're doing a great job!!!!"
I want to tell each and every one of them!

But can I say that to myself?

Yes, I can. 

When I look at this smile.

When I hear these giggles.

How can I be failing as much as I think I am when she looks like this?

Momma, look at your children, their smiles.

Hear their giggles.

Even if they can't say the words yet,

they love you,

they adore you,

and they think you are amazing.

(just like I do!)


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Embrace the Camera Day, Ambrosia Lounge and Nursing talk update

Yay!  It's Thursday!  The weekend is almost here!
It's been a crazy busy week (what week isn't?).
I am so ready for the weekend, but I'll make the most of today.

Today is "Embrace the Camera Day", hosted by the Cool Mama at The Anderson Crew.  You should head over there and check out the other women who are embracing the camera and not hiding behind it! 

I want to dedicate this EtCD to my wonderful husband and what a great father he has become.

Nothing looks better on a man than him connecting with his children!

Just when I thought I couldn't love him more -
he ends up being a great Dad too!

Love you B!

Hang on!
I have a few quick updates too!

The Liquor Board hearing is today regarding the proposed Ambrosia Lounge that wants to open in my neighborhood.  Click here if you want to find out the back story.  Also, check out the Citizens of Pigtown website for more information.  We could really use your prayers today that the liquor board will hear our concerns and will reject their application!  I'll let you know what happens as soon as I find out!

I spoke at the session "Back to School Basics for Breastfeeding" yesterday and shared some of my experiences and advice. Click here for the back story.  It was a great chance to meet other moms and soon to be moms.  Some of these women had amazing stories to share.  I would like to share these stories in the near future and I'll work on posting them soon!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Dressin' Up!

Guess what I did! 

I thought I would try something new

The ever crafty lady over at Little Lizard King was looking for pattern testers for a new dress pattern she had designed - The Georgia Dress  I love her patterns and have been tempted to try one out.  But, however skilled I am at crocheting (not really) and fabric flower creating (sorta), I am was a novice in sewing clothing. 

I tried to make a dress for myself once to use in a costume.  I wish I could find the picture (anyone have it?).  I roped my classmates into dressing up as the Mystery Gang from Scooby doo.  I made my Daphne Dress.  It kinda came out ok, but not the best. 

But, since Ms. King was looking for pattern testers of all abilities, I figured I'd give it a shot!  Here's the finished product - what do you think? 

On the inspiration of my pattern maker, the fabric was bought from Hobby Lobby (so love that store!  must visit soon!)

On top of all that, I have the cutest little model in the world!  

I'm not quite sure why she's sucking her thumb in this picture, she never does that! 
Maybe she was just trying to work the camera! 
Must be all that time she spends in front of it...
I can't wait until the weather is warm and she can wear this dress all the time.  Wait a minute, if I layer a onsie and leggings - she can wear it right now!

This dress is sooo cute and the pattern is sooooo well thought out, that I've listed it in my etsy shop!

(you should click this link and check it out!) :)

I'll be experimenting with different fabric combinations and sizes! Check back here and at my shop.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Embrace the Camera Day - Kisses

Guess what day it is!

I took this picture before going to work this morning. 
I kiss Miss T WAAAAAYYYY too much. 
It's kind of ridiculous. 
But with those
bright blue eyes
squishy cheeks
and toothy smile
who could blame me?


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Can't wait to share!

If you're like me, you have someone in your life that you
and would do anything for!
I'm so blessed that that person is my wonderful husband!
I'm so lucky to have a partner
that gets me
that understands me
that knows what I'm thinking without me saying a word.
Actually, that last part drives me crazy sometimes. See, when you have someone that special, you want to do things for them, surprise them. When they can read your mind, its a lot harder.
Calculate in that I am the worst liar in the world
(seriously, I cannot do it!)
and all my surprises go right out the window.
However, I am making an attempt at surprising my honey for Valentine's Day.
I can't say here what it is yet
(a certain someone reads this blog too!)
but let me just say that there are accomplices involved and the surprise will be television worthy!
I am so excited I am ready to bust!
Anyways, I had to share my excitement, even if I can't share the details.
Stay tuned for the wrap up
(after the actual surprise)
and to see if I can actually achieve my goal of surprising my hubs for once!

 This is us going to a wedding in 2009 and us about 10 years earlier!  Look pretty good together, huh?

He hates when I take self-portraits, but these are some of my favorite photos!

Another self-portrait of two love-birds!