Saturday, June 03, 2006

Daycare ... I love it

I started my blog after Matt started in a new daycare.

When we lived in Oakville (for about a year) and I first went back to work we found a wonderful daycare for Matt. I LOVED his teacher. She was amazing and kind and sweet and cool and Matt loved her to death. In fact, I loved all his teachers there and the centre managers. It was a hidden gem and I don't think I realized how great it was until we were moving and had to find a new place.

Our first attempt at a new daycare lasted for 2 weeks and I really hated it. I knew it was the wrong place when I voiced a concern (something I don't do a lot because I am pretty easy going) and I was told that "he was growing up" and I just had to accept it. Huh? I pulled him out that day.

And then he started at the daycare he is now.

I love the place!!

It's very different from his daycare in Oakville, and it made me a little nervous. But it has worked out really well. Over the last week or so I've discovered something. He really loves the place!

I knew he liked it, and I knew I liked it, but it takes time, and it seems that time has passed. He's in the routine now, and so am I. I know the names of all the teachers he is around frequently. He talks about them constantly!!

It's funny because the teacher he spends the most time with is the complete opposite of his teacher in Oakville. I don't mean to say she is old, but we have discussed her pension on occasion! She is rigid and strict, but she is really loving and it works. I have to admit that she makes me a little nervous because I often feel intimidated by her knowledge of toddler issues, but I am learning she is there to help me, not be critical.

The other day I said to her that I can't imagine spending all day every day with toddlers. She looked at me like I had 2 heads!! Really, I can't imagine it, and I don't think she could ever imagine sitting behind the desk and not singing itsy bitsy spider 27 times in a day.

She is balanced out by the preschool teacher who we see many mornings. Matthew LOVES her. We are usually the first family there in the morning and she is so relaxed with Matt. I love when I know she will be there because she works some sort of magic so that Matt doesn't cry at drop off. I don't know what she does, but really, it's wonderful.

For me daycare was such a tough choice. But, here I really feel like it was the right one.

For the past few weeks I've been taking the bus with a woman who is about to have her first baby (due early October). We started chatting, and have gotten to know each other fairly well. She asked me the other day about putting Matt in daycare because she is making the choice now. I said to her that when you are really comfortable with the place you are at it's a good choice.

I hope that was good advice. (and flattering that she asked. I know this is a topic for another post, but I am very flattered that someone is asking me for advice on everything from daycare to childbirth options. Is it possible that to some people I come off as a reasonably sane, put together and dare I say it mentally healthy mom??? I'm beginning to think so)

Friday, June 02, 2006

Finances - Ick

Mike and I have been talking a lot about our finances, or our lack thereof.
When we went for a brief time to marriage counselling we went through several of our issues - typical couple with a toddler issues -- not enough time for each other, dealing with stress, work/life balance, etc. We did really well in the counselling and enjoyed it.
The counsellor was pretty cool, and I think it's a fantastic thing for any couple.
At the end of it, though, she told us one thing. If we are going to stay together we need to get some financial counselling. (or win a lottery, I would imagine).
So, it's been something Mike and I have discussed off and on for awhile now.
What is financial counselling. I don't really know. There are a million different types, it seems, and a lot of services, but the issue from most of them is that there is a reason behind because obviously people want to make money.
We want to steer clear of those.
So the other day I was online and looking some stuff up and I came upon a web site for a television show where they basically offer you financial advice for free. The catch is, obviously, that you are on television.
Hmmmm ...
Of course I sent the application in. Why? I think part of it is because I assumed that they would say no and that we could then decide that if the tv show declined us we really were on the right path toward "financial freedom".
I was wrong.
They called us within a couple days. We did a preliminary interview and it turns out that they are really interested in us. And, we are really interested in them.
So, we are in the process of of working with them to get on the show.
On the one hand we are really excited. On the other we're not - for a couple of reasons.
1) It's admitting failure to the whole world, or at least to Canada and whatever country they decide to broadcast it in. (lol Japan? China? Indonesia? I wonder how I would sound if I were dubbed in another language?) Or at least admitting that we tend to overspend on stupid things
2) I am not entirely sure I want to go on a financial diet. I mean, I hate diets. And I am on one. So, what do you do when you can't go out to dinner? You go to a mall and buy stuff. Or, in my case garage sales. Either way. I'm a little afraid of what I would have to give up.
I guess what I am saying is this whole thing makes me nervous ... and excited. Would we be able to do it?
Will be accepted past the initial interview stage????
We'll wait and see.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Thursday Thirteen - 13 Things I admire about my friends

I was inspired by someone else's Thursday Thirteen. I hope this doesn't sound like a highschool year book

Thirteen Things I admire in my friends (in no particular order)

1. Wonderful zaniness and complete confidence in who she is. (Stef - How could I not instantly become friends with the temp who walked into our office with a fish lunch bag and long red braids without a second thought?)

2.Tolerance and patience (Sabrina - She has been with me since our first day of J-School - she even put up with Boom Boom confusing us in diversity class)

3. Exuberance (Salina - Who else would even think to make their 1-month old "dance" in the puppet theatre at the playgroup and laugh when the other more snooty moms are shocked?)

4. Strength of conviction (Ginny -I always know where I stand with her, and where my ideas stand with her. There's no pretension)

5. Humour (Beth - She can make almost any office situation funny - and find anything I say hilarious. Sending blackberry messages back and forth is more addictive than passing notes in class)

6. Vision (Meghan - She will someday get her book published - I know it!)

7. Enthusiam (Ketly - Being around her is just generally uplifting because she is a fun person)

8. Encouragement (Amy - Sometimes all you need to solve a problem really is a latte and a listening ear and she's always there with both)

9. Guidance (Donna - I've looked up to her as my mentor for years. When I was struggling through breastfeeding I'd check my e-mail and there would be a wonderful e-mail encouraging me and answer the many questions I may have had - but there was never judgement.)

10. Caring (Sarah - She's that person who will get you a coffee when she knows it's been a bad day - and not expect you to do the same back. Even though of course you want to. It's just not a requirement of your friendship)

11. Love (Kyla - For Christmas I got a carebear ornament and this adorable 3 year old said to me "I really wanted to buy this for you because I love you very much". She loves me for me - it amazes me the capacity kids have for love, and even when I'm feeling and looking my worst she is excited to see me.

12. Longevity (Greg - The only guy to make this list! He's been in my life for so long and has been a friend through ups and downs. It's a friendship I can't explain for the most part, but I can't imagine not calling him my friend. Life would just suck)

13. Goodness (Becky - She just covers all the good qualities like patience and kindness and friendship and love. A little of my sister's time goes a long way.)

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Bus is Broken

They say in comedy it's all about the timing.
I think my son is going to be a comedian.
Yesterday on the ride home the back door on the bus wouldn't open. The driver got out and tried to fix it with no luck.
The next thing we knew he decided to turn off and completely "re-boot" the bus.
This has happened to me before. The whole thing just turns off and the lights are out etc.
No biggie.
Well ...
This is the first time such an exciting event had happened for Matthew.
Off went the lights, the fans, etc. Everyone got quite and did that mutter you hear on public transit when you know you may be awhile. That collective groan.
Then silence.
And in the collective silence, the moment of pure calm Matt shouted:
I have to say, it was probably the funniest moment in his short life.
Everyone bus cracked up.
I cracked up.
The driver cracked up.
And Matt realized that he was funny. And he cracked up too.
In the end it was no big deal. The bus got turned back on and the doors worked again.
And the entire way home Matt announced to everyone "bus is broken. bus is broken"
My son - the comedian.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

I sware I am serene!!!!

Second post of the day - I have a lot to say.
I read the article below in the Post today. I know some people like that paper, but it's not my favourite (I'm sorry). It just irritates me some days. Like today.
The story below was on the front cover. I read it a couple of times because I couldn't figure out exactly what was annoying me.
But wait, it's the first sentence "The serene stay-at-home mother who teaches her children as she cleans and cooks all day remains the main focus of modern literacy advice to families, ignoring the reality of the modern, dual-income working families"
Okay - so I understand that this is a researcher who is saying that (see below) but I also understand that they picked out a very specific phrase that just perpetrates this whole working vs. stay at home argument to use as the lead paragraph.
In my opinion they did this to raise the ire of some people. Like me.
It frustrates me to no end that they that they automatically assume the mom at home is calm and serene while the mom who works is frazzled.
Okay, I am a little frazzled, but in relation to my year of being at home not so much!
Really, meet some Stay at Home Moms. Unless you have a live in nanny or something to help you out you are generally not all that serene. I don't mean that to be offensive. It's the toughest job in the world, I believe.
I think the point that should be made here is that most literacy training materials are directed toward stay at home parents.
Point taken. How does the fact that they use shopping trips and laundry to teach reading cause SAHM's to be more serene?
I don't see this researcher saying that. What I think she is saying is that literacy material is more focused at SAHM's.
Well, that makes sense.
I'm not offended or annoyed by that part. I am still taking issue with the word serene.
Truthfully, when it comes to literacy, I don't worry that much about it. Why? Becuase he is in daycare, and one of the advantages of daycare is that is something that they work on. I get report cards and daily information from them. I do care, don't get me wrong. I love reading and I think it is crucial to my son's development. But, he's reciting his ABC's, Counting (in English and Spanish, thanks Dora!) and knows his colours.
Why? Well, I attribute that to the daycare he is in.
My sister stays at home with her kids. And, yes, they seem equally bright.
But, she does use those tactics to teach. Why? Because she is home with them all day, so instead of throwing laundry in at night she uses stuff like that as a learning session. This is normal. She also does stuff like that with the dishes and cleaning up.
She does not always do this in a serene fashion.
She doesn't own a dishwasher - how can she be serene about doing dishes? And, what does it matter in the scheme of literacy?
Really, this story is not front page news unless you want to piss people off. I really don't believe that literacy materials encouraging families to use grocery shopping as a learning experience is only focused on SAHM's. It is just more geared towards them. They know their audience - parents who are home with their kids. And, why not use laundry, cooking and cleaning as learning lessons. Yes, that is how parents did it a hundred years ago. And it worked.
And at the same time, hello, many of us working parents still grocery shop, wash our clothes and bake and cook, and we really do use these times as learning lessons.
Whatever, it's a good point, and something to look more into. Maybe there should be some literature on using the commute to daycare to teach my child counting (one bus, two bus) good hygiene (don't put your hand in your mouth after touching the subway seat, use more Purell) and even grammar (find the spelling mistake in that billboard).
But, please, let's not bring up the argument about how serene parents are.

P.S. This article is really interesting - you just have to get over the first paragraph.
The myth of literacy & stay-home mothers
Anne Marie Owens
National Post
600 words
30 May 2006
A1 / Front
(c) 2006 National Post . All Rights Reserved.

In a week-long series from the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the National Post showcases some of the most interesting research being undertaken in Canada.

- - -

The serene stay-at-home mother who teaches her children as she cleans and cooks all day remains the main focus of modern literacy advice to families, ignoring the reality of the modern, dual-income working families, a Canadian researcher has concluded.

When parents are instructed to encourage their children's literacy, there is a subversive undercurrent that often favours this old-fashioned image of motherhood as primary agent for children's reading, says Suzanne Smythe, a graduate student at the University of British Columbia.

"The advice embeds literacy in domestic work traditionally performed by women," Ms. Smythe says. As in, "Bake cookies with your children," "Let your children help with the shopping list," and "Doing laundry is a good time to teach colours and sizes."

Often billed as based on the latest science in children's reading, she says much of the advice about encouraging children to read remains unchanged from what women have been told for the past hundred years. Even though lives have changed dramatically, with more women working and more families with time-strapped, double-income couples, much of the advice aimed at helping kids read is still rooted in very traditional notions of family life and in a mythical mother who teaches as she goes about her busy day.

"Literacy advice is often less about promoting reading and writing than about regulating mothering practices and children's reading choices," argues Ms. Smythe, who presented her findings at a conference in Toronto yesterday in a paper called, "Ideal Families, Ideal Literacies."

For her doctoral thesis, she examined child-raising manuals, parenting magazines and family literacy promotional materials from the 19th century to the present day. What she found was "a remarkable continuity" in the content of advice to mothers.

She says even though school boards often say broad-based statements such as, "Parents are their children's first and foremost educators," what is hidden in that statement are gendered assumptions about mothers' roles and primary responsibility for literacy development.

Much of the home instruction on literacy ignores the possible roles of fathers, siblings and other community members, and also fails to recognize children's own literacy interests independent of their parents, she says.

She says it is more subversive than the 19th century literature, where at least literacy was overtly expressed as the mother's domain. Now, the political correctness of language suggests that all of this is parents' work, not mothers', and yet the reality and the expectation are largely unchanged.

She says she began the research when her own children were small and she realized that even in her equal-responsibility home, where both parents read to the children, the responsibility for homework, for school assignments, for communication between home and school, fell to her.

"Is children's success in literacy and in schooling dependent on the work of the 'ideal' mother," she asks in her paper. She says the question is more than rhetorical and is particularly relevant today, when cash-strapped schools are increasingly relying on mothers not only as teachers in the home, but as advocates for school conditions and fundraisers for the school.

Back to Daycare & Work

So despite my rant yesterday it was actually a pretty fun day.
It was a nice surprise to stay home with Matt and just have some fun.
I'll say this first of all - if my maternity leave had been with a toddler it would have been a lot more fun.
When Matty was an infant I would say "hey, do you want to bake muffins today?" and he would scream. Or I would say "hey, let's turn on the music" and he would scream.
Yesterday was much different. When I offered to make muffins he brought the chair over and got very excited, helped stir and cracked the egg for me.
When I turned on the music he danced!!! It was great.
We even made a yummy dinner (he asked for mashed "tatoes" though he didn't touch them) and just enjoyed each other's company.
But, at the same time I think we were both ready to go back to daycare/work today.
When we got to daycare he was so excited, his friend was waiting for him and they found the teacher who told them that they were going to eat breakfast outside today. I got a couple extra hugs goodbye and then they were off.
Is it okay for me to feel this happy about the daycare send off?
I am pretty positive that I feel happy about it because Matty is so happy about it. Yesterday for both of us was a treat. And, I think we both appreciated it. I know I did. I got a whole lot of extra cuddles and impromptu kisses that aren't generally part of my work day. And it was so nice.
But, I also think it was because it was unexpected for both of us. I don't really think that we'd have mellow days like that if I were home all the time. I think I'd go back to being just as frazzled as I was, and constantly trying to come up with new ways to entertain him.
So, today I'm back at work. And, I'm happy to be here (especially since we have a divisional lunch that will be fun). I'm happy to be working, and happy that my job pays enough that I can put Matty in a daycare where I know he is safe, happy, well taken care of and I think I can go so far as to say loved. (not as much as by me, but in a completely different way).

Monday, May 29, 2006

Where's the Bus???

I know that I don't always love the bus and subway, but today it's ridiculous.
Who thought that calling a Wildcat strike for a Monday morning - with no warning - was a good idea? This strike is ridiculous.
Here is why I am annoyed.
I live in Toronto and chose a condo that was accessible on 2 bus routes. I chose a job that I was able to commute to by transit and I chose a daycare that is on a subway line. And, I buy a monthly metropass.
This strike is ridiculous.
I understand unions, and I am very sympathetic to the plight of drivers. But, I also pay a lot of money every month. It is completely unfair of them to cripple the entire city to further a cause that at this point hasn't even been clearly stated.
Are they locked out? Is it a wildcat strike? Who knows.
What I do know is that it is very frustrating.
My son couldn't go to daycare today because I didn't know how we would get him home or how I would get to my office if we got a ride to the daycare. It's a very long walk. I estimate 2 hours.
So, he is at home trying to entertain himself while I try to get work done.
This morning my boss was on the phone trying to have me re-word something. She said to me "why did you pick that as the important thing to point out in the e-mail". Well, because while I was trying to draft something halfway logical Matthew was climbing the chair.
So in order to actually speak logically I gave Matt a popsicle and figured out what I wanted to say.
He has had several popsicles today as I have been on the phone. Oh well.
But, I have to admit it hasn't been all that bad.
We've had a fun morning.
Matty and I have watched some tv, had a cup of coffee and just relaxed. Well, kind of.
And, he has a new phrase "where's the bus?" How cute is that.
I think this afternoon I will teach him to say "wildcat strike" or maybe "lockout" but first I have to figure out what it is.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

I'm So Proud!!!

(My Mom and Matt)
Usually I write about my experiences with my son and all of the reasons I am proud of him.
But, today I was proud of someone else ... my mom!
Today Mike, Matty and I went with her and my dad to see her new office in North Oakville.
My mom is my greatest ally and an inspiration. Don't get me wrong, we don't always get along. We've had many arguments and we certainly don't see eye to eye on every issue. But, she's an amazing person and an incredible mom (who I draw a lot of inspiration from.)
For the past few years she has been changing her career path. She has always wanted to make a difference in the lives of others, and the way she does this is through training, solution focused counseling and stress management coaching.
When she decided to do this she also committed to keeping her family first. Between us my sister and I have 3 children. My mom kept her grandchildren snd children a priority (especially when Matty, Mike and I arrived on my parents' doorstep for a few months between houses!). She's committed to her work, but she always makes time to bake brownies with my nieces and blow bubbles with my son.
My mom made so many huge leaps in the last 5 years it amazes me. Few people have the courage to leave a full time job with no guarantee of full time work in order to what you really want, but that is exactly what she did. When she turned 50 she decided it was now or never.
So, I am really proud to say that she has now grown her business enough to expand into her very own office.
Way to go, Mom! You're an inspiration.