I guessed you were a mother

“I guessed you were a mother”.  The statement took me by surprise.  I didn’t realise that people guessed others parental status or not.  I had been teaching and facilitating a course all week long and he was a student.  I wasn’t sure how to respond.  Firstly, what was I doing that made me appear mother-ish?  Was it some words I used, the way I taught (which apparently was very good), my demeanour, my pouchy tummy, my mumsy clothes? I didn’t ask.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the truth!

It got me thinking about how I have changed as an employee since becoming a mother.  Has it affected the way I work and how I work with people?  Over the years I have taken the Belbin team roles test to see how I best work within a team.  It’s a 360 degree feedback test, so I invited several people to respond to questions about me.  In the final report you receive analysis of your preferred way of working compared to how others perceive you.  It also provides a list of words that others describe me as.  I had taken the test PRE becoming a mother and POST becoming a mother.  Within a 1.5 year time period people had described me differently.  The word “Caring” become top of the list since becoming a mother, whereas before it was waaaaay down bottom of the list.  That surprised me.  The word “Impatient” had also appeared on my list whereas nobody had described me as that before becoming a mother. People perceived me as analytical both before and after – thank goodness that hadn’t changed seeing as being an analyst is actually my job!

So what does this all mean?  That I have probably changed in the way I work – whether it was associated with becoming a mother or not, I don’t know, but I reckon it’s likely true.

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Purple

“This one mummy” says Aviana pulling at my purple top hanging in my closet.  I had asked her to pick out some clothes for me to wear.  Almost all the time I do this she will pick out a purple piece of clothing.  Why?  Because purple is Aviana’s favourite colour.  I don’t know why, but it just is.  If ever we need her to do something, if it is purple, that might just persuade her. For example:

Aviana – please eat your dinner…”NO!!!”…OK, how about you eat it from a purple Bowl? – “OK”.  

Aviana – please get dressed…”NO!!!”…OK, how about you put on this purple top and purple trousers? – “OK”.

According to Wikipedia, “The age when infants begin showing a preference for colour is about 12 weeks old.  Generally, children prefer the colours red/pink and bluee, and cool colors are preferred over warm colours.  Purple is a colour favoured more by girls than boys.  Colour perception of children 3-5 yrs of age is n indicator of their developmental stage.  Colour preferences tend to change as people age.”

From infancy, we develop learned paired associations with colour meanings and emotions.  These associations can elicit an automatic emotional response, thoughts and action without conscious awareness. One study explored colour preferences of young children and discovered that purple and pink showed significant gender difference, with girls rating purple and pink as a happy colour and boys rating it as an unhappy colour.  Red revealed a marginally significant gender difference, with girls rating red as unhappy and boys rating it happy.  Other colours -orange, yellow, black, white, blue and green revealed no significant gender differences. [1]

But what does a toddler’s favourite colour really mean? Here is an excellent post that explains it all.

You are welcome 🙂

[1] https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cdr/2012/975670/

 

Just Relax

Three years ago this blog was not on my radar.  My other blog The Great Pudding Club Hunt absolutely was.  We were just about to start our third cycle of IVF and although I hoped and dreamed to be able to have my own blog about parenting, Aviana was not on our radar yet either.  Three years ago, 21st March 2016, I set off on my work trip to Belgium; there was something else not on my radar, something unimaginable, something that can only be described as the absolute scariest moment of my life.  And it is now three years later I fly to Belgium, writing this blog post with a major difference – I have the most beautiful daughter I can snuggle, teach, love, care for, cry for, laugh and play with.   My perspective on that terrifying day has changed.

Anyone who has ever told an infertile couple to ‘Just Relax’ and you will conceive has a) never been through infertility and b) never heard our story of how Aviana was conceived.  So let me tell why I believe telling someone who is trying to get pregnant to ‘Just Relax’ is a whole lot of crap…..

After Chris and I had received the news that our second round of IVF treatment was a complete and utter failure we had very different feelings about if or when we should attempt a third round of IVF.  It was quite a low point in our infertility journey.  I won’t tell you all the gory details here, that’s all captured in my other blog, but picture the lowest low you could be at, on the edge of giving up.  Never-the-less, we started our third IVF cycle and I had started a regime of down-regulating the hormones in my body to prepare for hormone stimulating drugs.  It was the first time I was traveling for work on my own meaning that I was going to have to give myself the injections.  This in itself was pretty daunting….especially trying to figure out timings of injections over different time zones.

I landed in Brussels airport very early in the morning, so after I picked up my bags I decided to take a nice coffee to help perk me up after a tiring red eye flight before taking an 1.5hr train journey to Mons.  I wondered around with time to kill, went to the toilet, got cash out, I wasn’t in a hurry to be somewhere.  I headed to starbucks on the departures floor because my favourite drink is a tall skinny vanilla latte. I found somewhere to sit near an electrical outlet so I could charge my depleted phone battery, but just as I plugged in my phone there was a loud bang – it sounded like some building work had caved in – there was a lot of dust and confusion as we looked around, suddenly people were running – this all happened in 30 seconds, and then the second blast came – a giant shockwave went through me and a fireball went over my head, I vividly remember the heat and the smell in that instant. The ceiling had fallen down in front of my eyes, the glass behind me had shattered.

It was clear this wasn’t an accident, I found myself on the floor aware my life was in danger. People were wandering around dazed, screaming, running, crying falling over each other. I grabbed my phone, still plugged in, lying down on the floor and called Chris even though it was 3AM in the US – he answered and I thought in that moment I might be saying goodbye to him.  I told him not to worry, that I’d be OK.  But I thought this can’t be it – this isn’t it, there is more to come…terrorist modus operandi is to distract, create panic and cause mass casualties. I have to get out of here alive, but how? I didn’t know where to go, how to get out.

I won’t go through everything that happened that morning (you can read my blog post from that day), but I will say that the ONE thing that ran through my mind was my medication for my down regulation.  Half of it was in my suitcase, the other half in my roller carry on bag.  So I grabbed them both dragging and lifting them over the parts of the ceiling that had fallen down, broken glass, and other crap lying on the floor that people had abandoned in a panic.

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In hindsight, I must have looked like a complete idiot worrying about my bags (we’ve all seen those videos of stupid people taking their suitcases down the aeroplane slide after emergency landings! Yeh – c’est moi!). All I could think was THIS WILL NOT RUIN MY IVF CYCLE. I’M NOT WAITING ANOTHER 2 MONTHS TO START AGAIN.  Ha.

The terror of that morning continued (read my blog post) and I eventually found myself at a Hilton Hotel.  As I finally made it to a room they graciously let me have (despite it clearly in the midst of some kind of improvement/renovation) I looked in the mirror, sweat, tears and black soot from the smoke was smeared across my face, ash in my hair and all over my clothes. My legs and stomach were sore and grazed – I still have no idea how that happened, I think I can understand now how people in the movies don’t realise they are shot until they have escaped the danger, look down and they are bleeding.

Stress.  That was fucking stressful.  It was the ANTI relaxation moment in my life. It was more stressful than rockets landing around me in Iraq (and Afghanistan) – at least there I expected that shit.

And yet….I continued to inject myself with hormones, we kept going with the IVF cycle…. several weeks after, sleep didn’t always come easy, flashbacks and survivors guilt followed. And yet…we were successful.  Successful with my little fighter, Aviana (AKA Rocky).

This week I went back to the newly refurbished Brussels airport, I looked at the candles lit for those who lost their lives there three years ago, the giant bouquets of flowers near the small and modest memorial in the terminal, and I remembered how that day changed many people’s lives in ways unimaginable.  Yet for me there was something amazing, it was also the beginning of how Aviana came to be.  It will always be the bitter and darkest moment that eventually became the sunshine after the storm.

So fuck anyone that dares to say ‘Just Relax – it will happen’. For those of you fighting to grow your family, I salute your strength and squeeze you tightly with hugs of warmth to keep going. It can happen in those lowest of low moments when the stress seems like it’s over flowing and you’re drowning. We are anecdotal proof that relaxing is not the magic key.  A little bit of science and a little bit of luck is what will get you there.

*NB.  I wrote this a couple of weeks ago, but I wasn’t sure I really wanted to post it, but here it is 🙂

I gotta go paaady

Aviana had been back at school for just two days and she came home saying she “gotta go paaaady”.  My interpretation – Aviana has to go party??! Oh no….she has to “go POTTY”.  (Not even “go to THE potty”!!) American’s pronounce Ts very differently to us Brits.  For example when I go out to a restaurant I have to order a “Waadder” so to be understood, because if I ask for a Water (with a Teee!) I get a blank stare as if I’m an alien.

So, it finally happened Aviana came home from school speaking American to us.

I’ve been meaning to write a post about accents and how Aviana uses American and British words.  And now it seems appropriate I should write this now she has come home with this new phrase.

I had noticed that Aviana has been using British words when speaking to Chris and I (such as nappy or rubbish) and generally annunciating words with a British accent.  But when she was with American teachers/nanny/others she appropriately used the American version (such as diaper or trash).  Huh! This girl is smart! So I thought….  But it turns out this is an amazingly short period of time where this happens.  At around 20mths toddlers are massively influenced by the accents they are surrounded by at daycare/school.  Fascinatingly, babies can differentiate between British and American accents at just 5 months old.  It turns out it is around the age of 2 that is a prime time for automatic language development (bilingual kids can learn without needing to understand how a language works). They just get it.  I have been learning about this incredible phenomenon spurred by reading a book by Maria Montessori “The Absorbent Mind” who observed this period of a child’s development in her work.

I find recent news reports of young American and Canadian kids speaking in a British accent after watching (a lot) of Peppa Pig hilarious.  This peppa pig phenomena isn’t uncommon…there are many reports of kids speaking Spanish words before English words after watching Dora the Explorer or British kids speaking with American accents after watching imported cartoons.  It’s fascinating how impressionable these programs are on their language development!

But the real question is – how long will Aviana have an accent for if we leave America? And will it make a difference how old she is?  Good question….this will be my next research task!  But for now it looks like Aviana will be speaking more and more with an American accent and her British accent was short lived.

 

 

Potty Training: Ready Set Go

Back in July last year I wrote about ‘The poop monster‘ where Aviana wanted to sit on the potty.  We decided several months later to try potty training at 22mths.  Aviana had shown a lot of interest so we bought a book called “Ready Set Go: A gentle parenting guide to calmer, quicker potty training” by Sarah Ockwell-Smith author of ‘gentle parenting’, we geeked up and decided to give it a go.  Half way though day 2 we realised Aviana wasn’t being herself and she actually fell sick so we decided to stop the potty training.  Since then there hasn’t really been a good time to start the potty training – work travels, vacations and a new school have delayed us starting.  But we finally planned it for the Presidents day weekend!

Ready, Set, Go focuses on the importance of readiness and the parents role to gently guide and the lead the way at a ‘mindful pace’, it’s the children who are in the driver’s seat.  The book is based on four principles:

Teamwork: Gentle potty training is based on the connection between parent and child

Compassion: gentle potty training is considerate of the child’s needs and feelings.  There is no punishment or chastising.

Being informed: gentle potty training is based on scientific knowledge and is as evidence-based as possible

No rewards: gentle potty training is achieved without chocolate candies, stickers or heaped-on praise.

Sounds ideal?  She doesn’t promise that your child will be dry in a week, but that it will be stress free.  And our experience has been just that thus far.

Pre P-Day (AKA Potty-Day)

The book explains the importance of talking to your child about what it is going to happen – no surprises – before you actually begin the potty training.  We taught Aviana the correct words for her body parts and encouraged her to come into the toilet with us to pee and poop.  We explained what it all meant and why we were doing it.  We did this over a period of months.  The day before P-Day I took Aviana to pick out her own underwear (even though the first time we did potty training we had bought a whole bunch, we still let her pick her own).  She picked out Moana underwear – of course the most expensive ones! We bought two different types of potties.  One that was a mini version of a toilet (Summer Infant Potty My Size) and one which converted into a step stool (Munchkin Arm and Hammer multi stage potty).  We also bought a toilet seat converter (Baby bjorn potty seat).  We had options!  The other thing we did include potty training proofing our furniture.  We used puppy training pads and waterproof picnic blankets on the sofas.  We removed some of the rugs to make it easier because we have hardwood floors so there was no worries about her peeing on the floor.  The night before we told Aviana we were going to throw away her pull ups and she was going to wear her new underwear.

P-Day!

We chose a long weekend to start so on the saturday morning we got Aviana up and made her throw her pull ups away (but not her night time nappies/diapers because she we aren’t ready yet to throw those away!).  She was excited to start potty training.  On day 1 the book says the child should not wear any underwear and must go bare bottom for at least a day to allow the focus on feeling what happens when they do go and not go in the potty.   The book highlights the importance of the parents confidence.  This time around I felt very confident Aviana was ready and could do this.  We asked Aviana to tell us where she wanted the potty in her play room.  She put it in a certain place and was happy about that.

The hard but good thing about this potty training method is no rewards.  It states that if your child is ready, there is no need for a reward, ever.  In addition it calls for not heaping on the superficial praise, rather provide effort based, specific and descriptive praise.  Eg. “I guess you didn’t need to poo after all, but sitting there waiting for a poo to come was a great idea” or “I saw that you took yourself to the potty when you need to pee; that made me really proud that you listened to your body” or “wow that’s a big poo.  I can see some of the corn you had for dinner yesterday in it: can you?”  admittedly it’s hard to not use excessive praise because really I was genuinely excited when Aviana did get her pee and poop in the potty!  So yes, we did give her some well dones…but used these types of praise and statements as well.  It effectively ‘normalised’ her actions.

Of course the book also describes what to do when the child does have an accident….stay absolutely calm!!!! OK easier said than done.  But being prepared for accidents made it easier to stay clam as well as understanding how normal it is to have accidents frequently.  Especially in the first few days being part of the process.  “Next time you will know to go a bit earlier and we will get it in the potty!” Inviting the child to clean up their accident without talking about it being a mess or dirty to prevent shame.  I actually found this to be relatively helpful and keep me calm.

The book is a little confusing on to how much you remind/prompt your child to go to the potty.  It makes it sound really easy like your child will always sit on the potty whenever you suggest it’s time.  Aviana really DID NOT want to sit on the potty whenever we suggested it, and we can’t force her to sit on it or even bribe her.  So for example, the book suggests prompting/reminding every hour or 20 minutes after a large drink.  It was really hard to get the balance right.  But we had to trust the process and not bug her by telling her every 5 minutes she should go.  It was also our duty to spot when she wanted to go but perhaps wasn’t thinking about going so we could help her get to the potty.  She definitely has a little potty dance.

We decided to not put a diaper/pull up on for naps because she has been waking up from her naps dry for quite some time now.  She was a trooper and did not wet the bed!  Winner!

Day 1 the book expects most on the floor, not in the potty.  Well day 1 was awesome…Aviana had just 3 accidents, 7 pees and a poop in the potty.  Most of those she even took herself and didn’t need reminding.  It looks like she had remembered from her previous first start of potty training.  She knew just what to do.

We went to bed feeling pretty chuffed – may be it would be easier than we ever thought!

P-Day + 1

This was a little more of a stressful day.  Perhaps being stuck in doors for 2 days in a row didn’t help and we had used up most of the exciting new activities the previous day!  Never the less…we had several accidents.  One on the sofa that seemed to be purposeful, and of course she did it right in between the waterproof covers we had placed on the sofa!  We thought as it was going well in the morning to put her in underwear…that was when it felt like we were going backwards and maybe had introduced underwear too soon.   I was also starting to feel like I had a cold coming with a very runny nose. I was feeling disheartened, I worried we had blown it, until the last pee of the night she took herself and was perfect.

The book states a 60/40 floor/potty ratio for the second day…we were falling a little short on that ratio, but at least the poop was in the potty!

p-Day + 2

Chris went back to work, but I had the day off with Aviana for presidents day.  The third day is supposed to be another day inside close to the potty!  I really was beginning to go a bit stir crazy from being stuck indoors and I think Aviana was feeling the same.  I also started to get a fever with chills in the afternoon, it looked like my cold was turning into a sinus infection.  gross.  I turned to the help of my facebook mom group for ideas on keeping a toddler busy indoors and was reinvigorated to keep going with some fun things to do – we even baked some biscuits.

The book states to expect on day 3 a 50/50 floor-potty ratio.  In general, the day was much better than the previous with just 1 accident and 4 wees in the potty.  But no poop to be seen.  She was clearly a little constipated as she attempted to poo several times.  Aviana was doing awesome.  I however was feeling ROUGH and needed my bed!

p-Day + 3

I woke up feeling very sick after a rough night’s sleep.  I called in sick at work.  We sent Aviana into school with several changes of clothes and shoes.  Just as well because she came home with three sets of dirty clothes after her accidents, including a poop in the pants.  Whoops!  However, the teachers did say she had been taking herself to the potty on occasion.

p-Day + 4

Aviana woke up with a temperature and clearly had caught whatever I had.  So there we were both of us at home, ill.  Chris took the day off work to look after us both.  We thought potty training would go out of the window but overall she did really well.  We had a shower together and she pooped right at the end in the shower.  It was gross and we were rather surprised it seem to come from no where!  Luckily it didn’t get washed down the drain and was easy to clean up.

After several days of a temperature we took Aviana to urgent care and it turned out she had the flu….so I must have had the flu too.  But our symptoms weren’t so bad so I didn’t believe we had the flu, however, we both had the vaccine so we were probably fighting it.  Chris managed to avoid it completely!  So we survived the flu and potty training.

By Day 7 Aviana had managed her first day completely dry with no accidents!  The book suggests day 7-14 will be a 10/90 ratio of floor/potty, and will continue for a month or two with the odd accident common for the first year.

As soon as Aviana went back to school we worried she would regress, but she had just one poop accident on her day back….it is likely this will happen for a little while longer whilst she figures out the pooping thing and how comfortable she is pooping at school.

We have even left the house and taken our foldable potty seat (it’s a pink owl shape!) with us and she has peed in public toilets. Whoo hoo!!!

Night time potty training will come something up to a year later when Aviana is physically able to hold her pee through the night (around 3-4yrs old).  We won’t be in a rush to night time train and we decided we won’t be doing the method of waking her up in the middle of the night thing.  We will follow her lead on that.

Was it gentle potty training? Yes, absolutely.  Was it easy? Well it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve done, but it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.

We have to remember that our job isn’t over yet and she is still learning to understand her body, so it’s not over quite yet 🙂

 

 

 

2 years old

Last month Aviana turned two.  Wow.

At two years old she surprises me every day.  She is going through a language explosion right now.  She says new words completely out of the blue so we have to be careful now about swearing!  One day she just randomly started counting to 20. She knows her abcs and can read some of the letters.  Again, randomly she started pointing out letters.  Suddenly I felt underprepared for her learning to read.  She speaks in 4 or 5 word sentences and has memorized many nursery rhymes – her favourite being twinkle twinkle little star and incey wincey spider.  She also knows all her colours – she impressed the doctor at around 21 mths with all her colour knowledge!

One of Aviana’s favourite hobbies is reading.  Some nights we can end up reading her 5 or 6 books before bed or even more if she is allowed to.   She is not picky over her books and will read them over and over so that she can memorise the story and join in the reading. One day she started recanting the Christmas story! Some of her favourite books are all her Julia Donaldson books, including the Gruffalo, and some recent favourites are ‘The Pout Pout Fish’ and Sparkle the Unicorn.

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Aviana’s favourite toy is her kitchen (she calls it her kitchen disco – another good book BTW!) followed probably by duplo, play doh and stickers.  She is insanely good with stickers and is quite a perfectionist with them, they have to be just right.

Aviana likes to help us out in the kitchen – she has some steps so she can reach the surface, although she is still a little too short.  She rather enjoys making a cake and helping daddy with daddy pancakes.  She will also help load the dishwasher!

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Aviana LOVES going to the Little gym, swinging around, roly polys, dancing around on the mats, just learning new gymnastic skills in general.

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She also loves going to the zoo, playing in the park (particular the swings, she could swing easily for half an hour without stopping if she was allowed to).

Her favourite TV shows are pocoyo (narrated by Steven Fry and he is brilliant!) and baby bum….she can also be distracted with pretty much anything on the TV if she were allowed to be, which we discovered on our family trip back to the UK recently! (THANK YOU NETFLIX!!!!)

Things Aviana doesn’t like to do….in typical two year old fashion – get dressed, get undressed, have her hair dried with the hair dryer, going out in the cold, eat too many types of vegetables (she currently eats frozen peas, corn on the cob/sweetcorn/cucumber and raw carrots-kind of).  She is also quite shy and reserved until she knows a place and person.

Aviana sleeps from around 7.30 PM to around 6-7AM with the odd occasion beyond 7 (of course that’s the day we have to go to work), she naps for around 2 hours but can survive without a nap – bedtime is just ugly.  I would say overall she is a good sleeper and we are very lucky that she is easy going to get to sleep (thus far!)

She still has her last 4 molars to come through although I suspect she has been teething these for well over a month now, perhaps even longer than that.  She is not so great at brushing her teeth…it is the one thing that she has complete and utter control over.  Having said that, the dentist said her teeth are very good (particularly as she is thumb sucker).  I wish there was some easy way to get her teeth clean!!!!

Hmmmm what else can I say about this girl?  Her sense of humour is wicked, something definitely taught/inherited by Chris.  Sometimes it’s hard to not laugh when she does something she probably shouldn’t be doing because she does it in such a hilarious way!  This age is so much fun (minus the tantrums).

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Photo credits to Max Turner

Changes in 2019

I don’t really make new years resolutions. I’m not a fan of them because I would almost certainly break them and get depressed at not keeping them.  Most of the time new years resolutions are all about things I think I should be doing ALL the time (like eating healthy, sleeping well, learn new things, do exercise, take care of myself…blah blah blah)  However, I do like to reflect on the past year and project to the next.  There are three things that I am both excited and nervous for in 2019.

1. The travel trailer adventures.

    EXCITING! Late last year we bought a 32’ travel trailer and a 4×4 truck to pull it. The idea is that we can go visit state and national parks and enjoy seeing America without taking the need to take a tent.  I am excited for all the cool places we are going to see.  We are hoping once we have de-winterized it that we will get out and visit somewhere new one weekend a month with a few longer trips anticipated for 2019.
    NERVOUS! We are going to have to learn how to drive the truck and travel trailer. YIKES. In the US you don’t need a license to pull a trailer, let alone a 32’ one. The only reason we would need a license is if we were using it for commercial purposes.  There aren’t really driving schools that will teach you how to drive it.  That terrifies me.  We haven’t moved it anywhere from the campsite yet.  People say the best idea is to just get out there and do it!
  • 2. Organisational changes at Work.
    • EXCITING! Traveling for work has its ups and downs because it often involves transatlantic travel over the weekends. The good news is however I do get to visit new and exciting places.  I need to embrace this as an exciting point!  My team is also doubling in size and I have applied for a new position (a promotion) within it so who knows what will happen there, but I want to think positively about it.
      NERVOUS. Organisational change brings on a lot of unknowns, but as well as organizationally changing my job description has changed a little bit which will bring new challenges.  I hope I quickly learn the new skills I need for this new job description.  I have a few courses already under my belt and I have a few more this year to take.  I also suspect there will be confusion and stress through this change not just for me, but others so we need to tough it out together – I am nervous that colleagues won’t and work will become less fun.  I really hope not.
  • 3. Toddler Development.
    • EXCITING! I am looking forward to Aviana becoming more independent and enjoying more quality time together, learning about her personality, hearing her talk endlessly (she talks A LOT to us!!) and potty training (bye bye nappies/diapers!).
      NERVOUS. Potty training. Haha yes, I am also nervous about that.  We did actually try potty training several months ago but Aviana fell ill on the second day, she just wasn’t rising to the challenge as we think she can.  She has proven that she knows exactly what to do on the potty by peeing and pooping on it on her own terms.  She also spent a few days at daycare successfully using the potty and staying dry just before we moved her to the new Montessori school.  So potty training will come soon hopefully.  I am also more nervous about dealing with toddler temper tantrums.  Admittedly I think she started these several months earlier than 2 and I feel a little more prepared on how to cope with them (How to talk to your child is a great book for helping in this area)…but I am nervous that there will be bigger ones on the way!

    What are you looking forward to in 2019?  What is making you feel nervous about 2019?

    The hunt for a new daycare

    Aviana has been in the toddlers class pretty much since she mastered how to walk, not long after her first Birthday.  At first we weren’t sure if she would thrive in the class, she seemed to be crying constantly in all the videos we were being sent.  But after a few months she turned a corner and she seemed to be doing very well there.  She was clearly advancing quickly and was meeting all of the milestones for the next class up – “twos”, except for one – actually turning two!  Due to state regulations on teacher-child ratios she couldn’t move up sooner.  So she often visited the twos class for short periods of time and seemed to be excited to be in the big kids class.

    All was good except for one problem became apparent – we felt that one of the teachers in the next class up didn’t meet the standards.  She made a great infant teacher when she was Aviana’s carer in infant class, so loving and caring with the babies, but not so much of a twos teacher.  At this age toddlers need a lot of direction and boundaries.  Strangely she then left (for some unknown reason) and another teacher replaced her who was simply worse.  I often noticed she would yell at the kids in a way that made me feel uncomfortable, so much so we complained about her.  She didn’t seem to have much patience and Aviana really didn’t care for her at all – Aviana loved all the other teachers, literally all of them but her.

    The twos classroom was also uninspiring to me. It always looked a bit depressive.  The ‘library’ had about 4-6 books in it that were mostly ripped and were very random.  I picked one up that wasn’t so badly trashed and it was all about Ants…fine but the pictures were pretty much the same throughout the book and had a lot of text.  Not good for kids to pick up and be excited about.  I know the kids were read stories by the teachers all the time, but these decent books were all hidden away in a locked cupboard.  I just didn’t get the same warm fuzzy feeling about this class as I did in the toddler room.

    Meanwhile in Aviana’s toddler classroom her usual teachers were being shifted around the classes a lot as the school suffered a shortage of manpower from a high teacher turnover.  The director also suddenly decided to quit and not come back after a long weekend holiday.  As an indicator of how bad the turnover was, when it came to Christmas gifts we couldn’t keep up with who was or wasn’t Aviana’s teacher that we didn’t know who we should give gifts to, so we put two boxes of goodies together and said it’s for everyone.  It seemed the school was in turmoil and it was time to leave the sinking ship to give Aviana some stability and kick start her pre-school education.

    It made me think a lot about pre-school education.  I had read a book called ‘The Importance of Being Little’ and how America doesn’t do enough play based learning or teaching practical or problem solving skills that are important in early childhood development.  Instead kids as young as 5 were being given ‘worksheet style homework’ and forced to do activities that lacked enablement of child centered creativity.  It was an eye opening read and got me thinking about Aviana’s education at this young age.  I never thought it would be important, but as she is with someone who is not us for so long in the week it was clear we needed to think carefully about where, what, how and who she was with.

    We decided to look around for a new school, but our standards were already set pretty high and specific.  It had to be full time, open til 6pm ideally, not too far away from our house as Chris works from home or from my commute and not religious.  We felt play based learning is important during pre-school, so focusing too much on tests, worksheets, homework etc was not attractive to us for pre-K classes. Suddenly we were down to just one alternative – a Montessori school which was within a stone’s throw of Aviana’s current daycare.

    We did some research into Montessori and what it is all about.  Admittedly we thought this style of teaching and learning would suit Aviana well. Generally a Montessori school follows these principles:

    • Mixed age classrooms; classrooms for children ages 2½ or 3 to 6 years old are by far the most common, but 0–3, 3–6, 6–9, 9–12, 12–15, and 15–18-year-old classrooms exist as well.
    • Student choice of activity from within a prescribed range of options.
    • Uninterrupted blocks of work time, ideally three hours.
    • constructivistor “discovery” model, where students learn concepts from working with materials, rather than by direct instruction.
    • Specialized educational materials developed by Montessori and her collaborators often made out of natural, aesthetic materials such as wood, rather than plastic.
    • A thoughtfully prepared environment where materials are organized by subject area, within reach of the child, and are appropriate in size.
    • Freedom of movement within the classroom.
    • A trained Montessori teacher who follows the child and is highly experienced in observing the individual child’s characteristics, tendencies, innate talents and abilities

    montessori

    We took a tour of the school and it was remarkably quiet and calm – even with a few toddlers who were crying.  It was clean, spacious, tidy, yet not ‘sterile’.  We watched a couple of classes and observed how the multi-age classes (3-6) were working on the activities they chose.  In the pre-school (2-3) class the kids were in a circle singing and dancing to some Spanish songs.  There was an indoor and outdoor garden for teaching botany, a kitchen for cooking classes, a ‘STEM’ class room with a couple of computers and science experiment equipment, various animals (bird, tortoise and fish) a gym and some awesome outdoor play equipment.  Overall our impressions of the school were good.

    But there was no room immediately in the toddler class – a class size of FOUR! They did have a space in the toddler class in their sister school which was another 20 minutes away, but that was too far out of the way to make it worth it.  So we signed up for the waiting list to register for September’s class.  If Aviana was accepted into that cohort then she would be eligible for their summer camp and could start in June/July.  That was sooooo far away – a lot can change in 9 months!  It was disappointing that we had to wait so long and the thought of Aviana with that awful teacher in her next class filled me with sadness.

    Thinking more about the Montessori method I began to worry whether it was truly right for Aviana.  I had read many articles about the pros and cons of Montessori, how it’s not for every child and family.  I had read from teacher testimonials that Montessori kids were coming to school with poor reading and writing skills.  Yet would be well mannered and behaved kids who found it hard to adjust to the state education system.  I read testimonials from parents whose kids were simply doing nothing all day because it’s child led rather than teacher led learning.  Was this right for Aviana?  Well the decision was a little away because it was February that we would have to register her.

    We returned to Aviana’s daycare after the winter break with Aviana turning 2 she was moving permanently into the Two’s class.  The first day back in her new class there was a new teacher – I felt sudden relief…wooohoooo the one we didn’t like had gone!  Perhaps we didn’t need to change schools after all?  As expected when changing classes and returning from a long period of time away Aviana had a tough time at drop-offs.  Aviana screamed and clung to me refusing to go to her new class.  From when she woke up she kept saying how much she didn’t want to go to her new class.  It was breaking my heart to hear her say this and very difficult to leave her when she was so upset, she’s always been a crier at drop-offs when with me, but this was a totally new level of crying.  It was breaking my heart.

    On Aviana’s fourth day in her new class I got a phone call from the Montessori offering Aviana a place in their pre-school class immediately because a military family had just left.  We jumped at the chance and accepted.  The timing was just right.  She could start the very next week.

    It was very hard to tell her current teachers who have been at the daycare since Aviana was 4.5 mths old because they have cared for her on and off as Aviana has been an infant and toddler.  I questioned whether it was the right decision.  But when I showed Aviana around her new school her eyes lit up – she was so excited for her new classroom and to take her own packed lunch box.  My worries started to dissolve away thinking this is the right thing to do.  Aviana’s new teacher has been there for 15 years so we are excited for Aviana to have a bit of stability.

    In fact Aviana starts her first day in her new Montessori school today!  I’m unfortunately out of the country for work right now so I am excited to hear how her first day goes.  I imagine there will be some crying and we need to get into new routines….packing lunches, new school times with before and after school care hours we are charged by the half hour so we will be getting used to all that.  As it is a school and not a daycare they follow the public school holidays so we will need to figure all that out too.  But I’m excited for her.  It’s nerve wracking making a big decision like this, I just hope we made the right one!

    An unexpected visit to the ER

    Last summer (2018) I left my work conference in Washington DC a day early – I took the greyhound home because it was the quickest I could get back.  Chris described his symptoms to me…he was crawling up the stairs, his legs were extremely painful – inexplicably painful that he could barely walk.  He had numbness and tingling spreading up his legs.  Chris went to urgent care where the doctor couldn’t really explain what was going on, but took several gallons of his blood to test for various things including Lymes Disease.  The doctor sent him home and told him if it started to spread up his body to immediately go to the Emergency Room.  I made it home and it was clear Chris was very ill, with what exactly we had no clue.  It was all very worrying.

    The next day when Chris woke up the numbness and pain had started to spread to his hands and arms, so we sent Aviana off to daycare and headed to the nearest ER.  It was there that Chris was admitted into hospital for tests and observation.  The doctors were very concerned and he became that patient that would have had House M.D. appearing at his bed.  It was a mystery.  Each day they ruled out various diseases with tests and observations, new doctors and specialists appeared with their theories and hypotheses.

    It was very difficult for me to leave Chris in hospital and go home to look after Aviana in the evenings. It was difficult for Aviana to understand why daddy couldn’t play with her.  The hospital is generally a terrifying place for a toddler, beeps, noises, wires, strange people etc aren’t overall very welcoming.  I had friends who helped to look after Aviana whist I visited Chris in hospital.  Of course this all happened when our regular sitter was out of town otherwise it would have been a whole lot easier to handle.  It made us realise how far away our family is in a time like this. Of course we were all worried.

    Eventually Chris was discharged and told it was probably a virus and one of these things that happens. (Ummmm yeh, just one of those things???!)  When he became an outpatient Chris had some nerve tests done which confirmed he had nerve damage in his legs…and so was diagnosed with acute inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy, also known as Guillain Barre syndrome.  It is basically an autoimmune disorder where the body’s immune system mistakenly attack the outside of the nerves and damages the myelin insulation.  It is often triggered by an infection of some sort (he had some kind of stomach bug thing a few weeks before), but it can happen to anyone, anytime. They don’t know why it happens. Scary. Chris was told his recovery could take from 6 months to a year.  He was off work for several weeks, exhausted as he slowly gained his strength back.  He also suffered from a lot of ‘brain fog’ as well, so mentally he has had to build his strength back up before going back to work. There are still unknowns if this would ever come back again (chronic form), but so far, it’s looking promising.

    Chris was lucky that this did not spread further to their parts of his body and that the damage did not require him to need physiotherapy nor need much longer hospitalization.

    So that’s where I was and where I went to.  It was a crazy summer and I decided to take some time off blogging to focus on my family.  Then I got busy with learning how to sew and knitting blankets for local families who lose their babies (that’s another story for later).

    I miss blogging but I have also been thinking very carefully about this blog and what I write about here.  At the forefront of my mind has been Aviana’s privacy, especially after reading an article about a kid asking her mother to stop blogging about her and her mother refusing to.  I don’t want to be that kind of parent, but at the same time I want to share my experiences as a parent. So I will return to this blog!

    (Ps. the post I posted the other day was SOOOOO old and incomplete, sorry about that- I have a lot of draft posts I have yet to finish!  My goal is to finish them within the month!)

    Goodbye 2018, you have been full of highs and lows.  Hello 2019 – what will you bring us this year??

    Happy New Year Everyone!!!!

    Where’s Dani?

    I haven’t blogged in a while.  Mostly because I have been focusing on other things in my spare time, like learning how to use my sewing machine!!!  Work was a little crazy too and I have often come home feeling like the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of a computer to write.  It is also a sign that I haven’t felt the need to blog, my therapeutic tool.  And that’s kind of a good thing.

    I’m feeling more comfortable in my parenting rhythm.  It goes something like this…

    ….Figure stuff out (books, facebook, family, friends and google – thank you) Two weeks later forget that and figure something else out.  Eat. Sleep. Repeat.

    I have learned to be cool with the routine of the routine always changing.  That’s not to say we don’t have a routine, because we do and it’s a pretty good one Chris and I have figured out.  Rather, I mean, that Aviana is constantly changing and her needs are always changing.  Now I’ve gotten used to that reality.  Expect the unexpected is my new motto.

    With that in mind, I haven’t felt like I have needed to blog!  Which is a shame because I love to capture the interesting things I have learned as a parent.

    In any case, I thought I’d do a series of micro blog posts to catch up!!! No one wants to read my 3 months worth of an essay in one hit!