Saturday, January 28, 2012

Catholic Preschool in Review (HHB)

See original post here

To catch up on our previous two preschool visits, you can click here to read about our visit to the Friend's preschool and click here to read about our visit to the Montessori preschool.

As some history... We are Catholic (no secret) and attend 3 different churches regularly. We visit the Shrine monthly, where Nicholas, Sophia, and Alexander (as well as P's brother, Robert) have candles and we usually have lunch after Mass (Sophia's favorites!). Of the other Masses each month, we attend 2-3 at "our" parish, the Catholic church that we've attended for years, where Bobby and Maya were baptized and the other children have memorials, and where we've been extremely active. The remaining 1-2, we attend at our local parish. It's not that we don't like the local church; it's nice. But SMG is home... We've been there for years, know people, and have a relationship with our priests. It's a warm place... It's home. We've cut down on our ministries since our time is needed with Bobby and Maya at home, but I still cantor there, Peter and I are involved in PreCana, and I may be getting involved in the RCIA program for a bit. But, at the same time, we support being active in our local parish. They have a playgroup that we used to attend until the kids started visiting their grandparents on that day (but I'm thinking about getting more involved with, even if we only stay for the first hour and then head out to the grandparents), their adoration chapel is 24/7, and the priests we've met have all been friendly. They still have a convent, and there is a sister in the kindergarten class! So, it's a good parish, too, and we know that it's possible we may be transferring our membership there at some point in the (near) future, but I'm getting ahead of myself...

We toured the preschool today (Thursday). Of all the ones we've visited, the security was best here. (I know I harp on security, but it's a big deal to me... I'm not altogether comfy with having my kids without me in another, unfamiliar environment... even if it is only 2 mornings a week!). I'm sure that part of that fact is that it is a "real" school; instead of being a preschool in a church, it is a K-8 parochial school that expanded to include a preschool. So, the security is that of a real elementary school. And, even though someone went into the school just prior to us, she made sure the door was shut so that we would have to buzz. I liked that. It gave me a sense of this staff person taking the security of the hundreds of children inside seriously.

As we got there, they were doing a monthly fire drill. Again, I like this. I like that they are prepared and that they timed the kids! (Once a year, the fire marshall comes and does a timed drill, in accordance with state standards). We saw the kids walk nicely out, including the 3 year olds! I was impressed. After the kids came back inside, our tour began.

The preschool area has their own secure/locked entrance. If kids are late, they come to the main entrance, but for normal drop off and pick up, teachers are there to greet kids and help get them squared away when it is time to go home. It's 2 mornings a week, like the Quaker program, so it's a good comparison.

There is one classroom with two teachers. Once a week, the kids experience a half hour of gym with the PE teacher. Once a week, the librarian comes to the classroom for a storytime and library visit. Once a week, the music teacher comes to the classroom for a music "class" (15 minutes or so). And each day, one of the teachers does art with them. Their morning starts off with playing, followed by prayer and religious instruction. (The school has a prayer room, where Mass takes place and where a weekly Rosary is said. While I'm sure preschoolers normally dont attend these, when the kids are older, it is an option for them as part of their school day). They have a snack and their "educational" instruction focuses on numbers, letters, days of the week, months of the year, etc. They have circle time and "station" time, where the room has different tables of play/instruction that the kids select to participate in (very Montessori like). The teachers are all state certified teachers, and many have their Masters. The school also has 2 learning support classrooms, where the student-teacher ratio is small and children who need assistance can have extra help. The teachers are both Masters degreed, and they divide the children by lower level and upper level grades.

The school is divided by grades as well. The preschool kids (and their bathroom) is in one section, the 1st-3rd graders have their own area (and bathrooms), as do the 4th-6th graders and the 7th-8th graders. I liked that as well. The preschool area is closest to the youngest grades. The student-teacher ratio changes based on grade level, but for the 3 year olds, there were 13 registered kids (there were 10 there today) and 2 teachers. The teacher we primarily spoke with teaches the 3 yo class as well as the 3-day 4yo program, so she gave us some information about the 4yo class as well.

While we were there, the kids were snacking, but Bobby and Maya were invited to play on the alphabet rug, which they LOVED. And the teacher was impressed that Bobby knew (and was reciting) all of his ABCs (too bad she missed Maya singing the ABC song this morning!).

There was definitely a good feeling while we were there, and added to it was the feeling that I get whenever I'm in a Catholic or Orthodox church... I cant explain it, but it's just this feeling of peace and holiness.

Because of the recent changes in the Archdiocese with schools, our local parish school will be joined by kids from a neighboring parish that is losing their school. Because of that, they are only going to be able to accept families from the local parish and this neighboring parish, which means that we will need to technically transfer our membership from our parish in a nearby town to the local parish, and become more active in our local church. I plan to remain as a cantor at SMG because I love it so much (and I love our music director, who is also my Confirmation sponsor), but I think the other ministries we've been involved with will slowly become ministries at the local parish (as the kids get older and we get more involved). This is something we'll be discussing this weekend as well as we make the decision about which preschool to submit an application to.

A lot of things to think about! But, we've visited the 3 schools on our list, have ruled 1 out already, and have 2 really good schools to choose from. So now, it's time to pray, reflect, think, talk, and choose!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Intention to Run

Well, it's as official as I can make it, I suppose...  I'm running... a marathon.  The Marine Corps Marathon to be exact, and I'll be doing it as a member of Team Lemon, the running team for the Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation.  As you may remember from a previous post, Peter and I bid on (and won) a package at the Lemon Ball, that included a spot on Team Lemon at the marathon level. 

I've never run 26 miles... I havent run over 14 miles!  I'm a bit nervous... But, as Peter says, I can do it.  It's 90% mental.  (which is why I know that the terror I feel has nothing to do with how long my legs can run!)

Sarah and I are planning to do Broad Street this year, which is 10 miles.  I'm not worried about that at all!  (It still amazes me that I feel that way...)  I didnt really have a hardcore training plan for the half; I'm guessing I should start working out some sort of distance plan if I hope to be ready to run 26 miles by the end of October!  Like I said, I know that I can do it; it's about wanting to do it.  And I do.


Nov 1st of this year will mark 25 years since Robert has been gone.   25 years since his parents hugged him.  Since Peter laughed with him.  It's a long time.  February marks 4 years since Nicholas and Sophia were born and died, and it's been 4 of the most bittersweet of my life; I cant even look to 25 years and wonder how I will feel. 

Robert's my running buddy; I often feel him with me.  Which may sound odd, since I never met Robert in this life.  But his presence is a constant in our family. 

When I did the triathlon, I relied on his strength- and that of my own children- to get me through the hardest spots (like that swim!)  So, I know that it will be the same for this marathon.  One mile for every year he's been gone...  25 miles... And that last mile: it's for the folks that were left behind.  For Peter... For his parents.  For all of us who never got to see his smiling face or hear his infectious laugh in real time.  Who know him from pictures and videos and the memories of those who loved him so.

I'd like to raise $2500 to commemorate this quarter century since his passing.  A hundred dollars for each year he's been gone.  In the shower yesterday morning, I figured out that if ten thousand people gave 25 cents, I'd reach my goal... If 1000 people give $1, I'll reach my goal...  If 100 people give $25, I'll reach my goal.  I know it may sound insane, but this is something I'd like to be able to give my in-laws as we gather around the table on November 1st this year: a card listing however many people it takes who helped us reach the goal of $2500 dedicated to researching childhood cancer (neuroblastoma if you want to make your gift specific) in Robert's memory on the 25th anniversary of his death.  So many of us have lost a child, and we know how much it matters to have our child's name said, to have them remembered, to have a keepsake of love from strangers who share our pain and our journey.  Times are tough- I know... But I can find a quarter when I go through jeans to toss in the laundry...  And I can find $25 if I refuse 5 coffee dates with lattes at $5 a pop.  So, I know it's a lot to ask- I really do- but can you find a quarter?  A dollar?  $25 or more?  If you can, and I greatly appreciate you thinking about it, I can tell you that it matters.  No matter how much your gift is, to a child (and a family) battling cancer, it is a GREAT gift.  Click here to donate.  (There will also be a link to this page until the Marathon on my sidebar).  (Want to Text a $10 donation that is automatically billed to your wireless account?  Simply text LEMONADE E79983 to 85944!)

So, this year, on October 28th, as we approach that 25 year mark, I'll be running.  In his memory.  And with his spirit.   And, if you would, run with me: by lacing up your shoes for a mile, by pouring out your spirit in prayer for all those children suffering, or by donating to ALSF in Robert's memory.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Repeat Attack

I received a comment on my last post that I've opted not to publish, since it violated the aforementioned comment rule of respect in disagreement.  However, there was one thing that the commenter said that has stuck out in my mind.

"How can you call yourself a survivor?  If you really gave a damn, you'd understand that a raped woman has every right to terminate that spawn and move on with her life without a constant reminder of the f***er that raped her."

Always enlightening to be referred to as a "spawn"; I am imagining that the person writing that comes from a place of hurt, perhaps from a place of an assault that left her pregnant, and that, possibly, she had an abortion to get rid of the "spawn" she felt she was carrying.  For me, I'm grateful every day that my biological mother's first abortion attempt failed and that she didn't try for one at a later gestation.  But, that is  beside the point. 

I've been both molested and raped.  Sexual assault leaves a mark on the survivor that never goes away.  I consider myself a fairly whole person at this point, and even with that, as I've read more on the topic of sexual behavior and pregnancy as it relates to survivors of assault, I'm reminded of the marks I bear.  And, at the same time, I have to remind myself of the ones I dont.  For the longest time, I couldnt see a female doctor.  Not because they are inferior (in fact, I love most of the ones I've encountered), but because I couldnt allow a woman to touch me intimately.  I can see now that it was a response to a same-sex molester; but at the time, I never thought about the reasons why.  I didnt even like female massage therapists!  Again, too much, too close, too intimate.  It wasn't until I built a relationship with a midwife through a friend that I found a place of trust in that most intimate area of my body, and felt that I could trust a woman with that trust.  In time, I had female massage therapists and GPs.  (although my first female GP was a response to not liking the male docs in that particular practice!).  My current GP is a woman and, although I see Dr. B. (whose a man), Dr. L is a woman and I still see the aforementioned midwife.  But it took time.  Years.  Over a decade.  And the molester died long before, but I still had that...feeling I suppose, deep inside.  And, it's something I'm still working through.  Anyone whose been through a Pap or IF treatments (or even a routine gyno appt) knows the importance of "relaxing".  That's one that I didnt work through until recently, male or female care provider.

I can say that, with the exception of building a healthy sexual relationship, which took time and trust, the flashbacks and repercussions of the rape dont seem as long lasting- until I look at my control-freak tendencies, split hair anger issues, and desire to see and look all my exit strategies.  But, in that I didnt conceive a pregnancy, the commenter hits the nail that I dont know what it is like to look down and see a belly growing with the child of my attacker.  I'm grateful for that.

But, looking back at my former self, I can still see that an abortion wouldnt have been my answer.  It would have been a dual scenario of being raped again and of being the attacker.  The baby in that scenario had no role in his/her conception... They wouldnt have been responsible for what brought them into being.  They, like I was, would be having their choices taken from them, and would be the victim in an assault... An assault where the victim and now survivor is also the attacker.  On top of that, I think that I would have felt like I was being raped again: a submissive, passive "patient" on whom a procedure of violence was being carried out.  The scene itself, the hidden faces of the  "doctors"/"attackers", the feelings of pain, the after effects- I dont know that an abortion after rape wouldnt have left me more scar, not less so.  Estimations are in the range of 75% of raped mothers choosing not to abort, which leads me to ask if other survivors have similar feelings as mine?

As to raising the baby?  I know that there are many women that do, and do so well and with love, seeing in their child the part of themselves that their child carries.  It's beautiful.  While I could do that today, as an adult, and with a supportive family, I know that the me of all those years ago would have placed her child for adoption.  I was a teenager...  And, although I think my family would have supported me however they could have, I dont think that I was emotionally stable enough to raise a child (both because of my young age- I was 14- but also because of my 'survivor recovery'). 

Do I think that it is anti-survivor to be anti-abortion in cases of rape or incest?  No, I dont.  If anything, I think that someone who pushes for an abortion after an assault, without taking into any account the true emotional toll it might take, is way more anti-survivor.  As Leah mentioned in her comment to my previous post, abortion is a hard topic and one that, most likely, every single person in the world will not agree on.  But, in saying that, this is my response to the question posed (rhetorical though it was most likely intended).

I can say honestly that, over 2 decades since any molestation and moving towards 2 decades since I was assaulted that many of the memories and the emotional pain have subsided.  I know, however, that there are after effects that come up in the smallest of ways... Things that, until recently, I couldnt put on one particular thing and now, after thinking about it, realize they are lingering aftereffects.

Every action has a reaction, every choice a consequence.  I try, these days, to acknoweldge the things I can't change and to make positive choices for the things I can.  But there are days where that is a struggle.  I'm lucky that I have Peter and a supportive network to help carry men when I cant walk, and to pick up the pieces when I fall apart.

* I highly recommend: When Survivors Give Birth (Simkin) if you are struggling through pregnancy after molestation or assault, whether it happened 9 months ago or 9 years ago or forever ago...  It's an expensive book, but it is well worth it.  I can tell you that reading it opened doors into myself that I didnt know existed, to the extent that Peter is now reading the book as well.
* Dont be ashamed to get help.  Regardless of when the abuse happened, it's never too late to regain yourself.  There are therapists who specialize in sexual trauma who can help you on your journey.
*  Reach out. Groups like RAINN are there to help you get through the memories and find yourself on the other side- in a positive way.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Tragedy All Around

Yesterday, I posted the following picture as a status update on Facebook, in solidarity with all those marching in D.C. for the annual March for Life, and in memory of those who never will.

I'm pro-life; that's no secret.  Anyone who reads my blog knows that.  Peter and I served several years as the chairs of our Parish's Respect Life Committee, and we've worked with local maternity homes and pregnancy crisis centers; we fundraise, we give, we support, and in this most recent years, we've come close and face-to-face with mothers who've aborted and who are considering abortion.

Prior to meeting these mothers, my thoughts, both as an infertile and as a mother who had lost children, weren't exactly nice.  I was probably like most pro-lifers, I suppose: the baby is the most important part of the equation, they are already here (not some thought about idea) and they need a voice, do whatever you can to convince the mother to carry to term, etc.  (And I'm not being flippant, but I'm sure you know where I'm going with this).  I was angry that someone would kill their child.  I didnt care why.  I was just pissed off.  Especially since my babies had died... because I couldnt just look at a man and get pregnant.  It wasn't fair.  And, I reasoned (although I'm pretty damn ashamed to admit it) that, if the Universe had some dead-child quota to fill, then why not one of those mothers who didnt want her baby in the first place.... Why take my perfect, innocent, wanted and loved babies?

Like I said, it's a shameful thought.  I'm ashamed.  But I'm being honest.  And that thought was there.

The last year especially, though, brought some deep rooted changes.  Instead of just saying "Dont kill your baby", we put our family where our mouth is and offered another option: adoption.   I'm adopted.  I'm a child of attempted abortion, and I'm a child of rape.  It's a place that hits home.  As an assault survivor, hearing the stories of women who've been victimized and become pregnant as a result also has left a mark on me.  But something that has left an even deeper impression on me is that so many mothers who are given real choices- choices that are more than simply killing the baby growing inside of them- make different choices. 

We as a society are failing them, these mothers (and fathers) who feel like their only choice is death.  And not just the death of their baby, but also the death of something inside of them: something deeply personal and unique because they've made a choice they cant change and one that, in so many ways, they were coerced into making.  So many women, overcome by the fear of what might be... Without support...  Without income or housing or education...  They find themselves pregnant (through one way or another) and abortion seems like the logical, easy choice to some, and to others, feels like the only way out.

I've talked to moms, seen them face to face... Heard them express every sort of "get this thing out of me" type of comment... I've seen them continue pregnancies, knowing that there is another family there to support them and raise their child if they can't do it when the time comes... Having that trust and continuing a pregnancy that they initially wanted to end...  Seeing their baby born and deciding to parent.  Knowing that, no matter their choice, they would be changed forever and, seeing in their newborn's face, the reality that, no matter what, it was worth it all for this little person.

And it doesnt stop there.  A huge criticism of the pro-life movement (and one that I've seen played out over and over again) is that people only care about the baby, not the mother (or father).  Save the baby and then who cares!  But there are so many crisis pregnancy centers and maternity homes that do so much more, ranging from providing baby products, arranging housing, and garnering financial assistance for families struggling to get back on their feer to getting parents enrolled in classes to complete high school, garner college credits, or better their parenting.  Their are rehab programs for parents who need it, and volunteers to assist parents in filling out government assistance paperwork, should they need it.

It's not easier than an abortion, but somehow I think the life-altering emotional side effects might not be nearly as bad. 

I've met women, too, who say that they dont regret their abortions.  Who am I to argue?  There are plenty of decisions I've made that I dont regret; I guess the only person who has the right to tell me if I should is the Great Spirit.  Since I believe all sins are equal, I think that the smallest to the greatest are all things we are held accountable for.

But I've also talked with women who deeply regret their abortions.  Who wish, over and over again, that they could change that "choice"... That they could have had real, concrete choices placed before them that didnt involve the taking of another's life.

I cant speak for all the CPCs out there: I dont know what they are doing.  I hope that they are treating parents with dignity and offering them a variety of options with the emphasis being on supporting them in their roles as parents (because they are, already, parents, regardless of whether or not they abort).  I hope that they arent using scare techniques to try and convince them to not-abort at all costs.  I hope that, instead, they are finding out the reasons why they feel that choice is the only one they have.  More often than not, in my experience, issues are financial or mothers are being pressured (either by their own parents or their partners).  No choice should be a result of coercion.  And, as one of the wealthiest countries in the world, a choice so grave shouldnt be based on finances... Not when there are ways to keep families together.

And adoption?  It's a two edged sword.  I believe it should be there, that option.  But, at the same time, from personal experience, it's a hard place to be.  Because the goal is unification (similar to foster parenting).  You have to want the mother/parents to choose to parent at the end of the day.  At the same time, you have to fall in love with that child and give them everything you would give a child you were carrying: your devotion, your love, your prayers and thoughts.  You have to prepare for them to come home and be okay when they dont.  I can understand while fellow infertiles and orphaned parents think Peter and I are crazy... It hurts.  It's a lot of pain.  There are a lot of tears.  Three times, we've been in this spot... This place of loving the parents and the babies... Praying for them, offering them support in whatever ways we can, encouraging them.  And accepting- with joy- their choice to parent their babies.  Congratulating them, promising them that the Center we work with will be there to help them along the way (because it works with parents and their babies every single day to make sure that a life-affirming choice is a positive one).  And then, we work on our own broken hearts.  Because, no matter how happy you are for that family, you are also sad for your own.  It's different than our losses because we know these babies are okay (and we get updates, which is nice and it is so good to hear that things are going well).  But, as you know from reading previous posts, there's sorrow.  And emotionally, it takes a toll.  I mentioned recently that we'd been contacted about another adoption via the Center and, after counseling and assistance, the parents have decided, prebirth, to keep their family together and parent.  It's a great choice and one we are happy about, but the state of flux does do a number to your inner peace, and so we are taking a break from the active role of possible adoptive family.  There are others available, so it isnt as though this option is gone for parents, but for now, our role is to pray and support in other ways... And to focus on Bobby and Maya and each other for a bit.

I started this post because, as I think about the March for Life in DC and abortion in this country, to me it is more than the statistic that over 54 million babies have died since abortion became legal in this country.  It's more than the tag line that Planned Parenthood kills more people of color than groups like the KKK.  It's not just a sound bite.  Because something I think we all can agree upon is that abortion has consequences- not just to the baby- but to the parents.  Some of those consequences may be positive, but no one can deny that some of them are awful.  How can we look ourselves in the mirror each day and not feel for the parents who have been faced with such a tragic "choice"?  How can we not want to reach out to all of them, with healing arms, and say that we will help them?  With all of our goverment programs and private poverty-fighting organizations, how can we tell a mother that to save herself from the financial burden, she must kill her child?  With all of the educational options, how can we tell parents that, in order to further their education, they must cause their child to cease to exist?  Assaults, incest, marital rape: how is it that in our "advanced" society we are still blind to the fact that over 200,000 assaults happen a year, with almost half of those happening to children under the age of 18 (and 80% to those under the age of 30)?  That 1 out of every 6 women (and 1 out of every 33 men) in this country is a survivor of assault?  (an those numbers are way lower than they were 20 years ago)  An estimated 3,000 pregnancies occur yearly from assault; when we view that in light of the well over a million abortions that take place each year, well... It's thought provoking to say the least.

We are a developed country.  We have countless programs of social service at the government level, and a variety of charitable organizations that are in place to help the disadvantaged and those in need.  And yet... the option we are left with is death?  I just cant see it...

And honestly, I dont want to.

It's hard to talk to women who grieve babies they had a hand in killing.  I get that.  For an orphaned mother, it's painful when we think that we didnt have such a "choice", that our baby's death was inflicted upon us.  I've had moms who I talk to in support type settings ask point blank if mothers who aborted are going to participate in support groups or in Face2Face meetings... because they are outraged that such women should have the right to grieve.  They did it to themselves, after all! 

A mother's grief...  It's still a mother's grief.  Perhaps, in some ways, if we have to judge whose grief is greater, the abortive mother's grief is deeper...  Because, as is pointed out, they had the choice- and they chose their baby's death.  If she's grieving that loss- for whatever reason- she still needs to grieve it, just as we grieve ours. 

Reflecting on abortion, I'm sickened by the loss of life: the babies, the mothers who die during the procedure, as well as the fathers who are never told of their children and are refused the chance to parent them, the grandparents who will never hold their grandchild, the mothers who will never mother.  It breaks my heart that the only choice people are being given isnt really a choice; it's a travesty.  Are we asking why?  Are we offering all the choices available?

Mother Theresa made more than a few references to abortion in her work, but the three most awe-inspiring, for me at least, are the following.  "It is poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish."  "Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what it wants." "If we accept that the mother can kill her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another."  Smart woman... I think.  I'm amazed by how we can be pro-animal rights, anti-war, anti-death penalty, and pro-abortion.  Anti-the rich and powerful who are using their money to get whatever they want (no matter the cost), but pro-it's okay to abort because kids are expensive.  (and they are- no doubt.)

"...a child must die so that you may live as you wish..."  That one really sticks out...  If I am you and you are me and we are all one on some deeper, cosmic level... How then can I let you suffer?  How can I let so much hurt be in the world so that I can have what I want?  How can the choice you are left with be one of death so that I can live in a way that is pleasing to me?  Why cant we all live?  Why cant we all love?  

A lot of thoughts today, I suppose... That's what happens when I have too much time to think.

A note about commenting: I dont mind thoughts different from my own, be they pro-life or pro-choice, but intolerance and nastiness wont be tolerated.  If you are disrespectful, your comment wont be published.  And that goes for both sides of the fence.  Respectful disagreement=okay; offensive meanness=not okay

Date Day

On Sunday, Jan 15th, Peter and I spent a lovely afternoon 'dating'. :)  I once said that I didnt want to be one of those parents who had kids only to get sitters so that I could have an evening out.  But, at the time, I didnt realize that there is a huge difference between "Mama" and "Michele".  I love being "Mama", but "Michele" needs time to reconnect with "Peter" outside of his being "Daddy".  Having a good, strong marriage makes us better parents.  And we are extremely lucky to have people in our lives who understand that, and who go out of their way to give us time to just be "Peter and Michele" for a few hours.  Our thoughts are never far from our children, but, for a few hours, we have time to reconnect, like we did that first night nearly 14 years ago, and just be us... together.

Peter's mom and Sarah came over to be on baby-duty, and we dressed up (me in one of my new Shabby Apple frocks!) to head out to lunch, spend the day, and then dinner.

We went to a (formerly) local hangout (now in the next town over since we moved) for brunch, then headed to Mr. B's for coffee and conversation.  (It's so strange being there now, sans kiddos, since I'm so used to being in the jungle gym area!).  We talked and drank locally roasted coffee, and just hung out.  Then, we went to the orchard we frequent for a wine tasting (and a few bottles!), before popping into the bookstore and heading to dinner at our FAVORITE Italian place.  Dinner was perfect, and then it was off to our home- and bath time!  Nothing beats getting home in time for bath and bedtime ritual!

Of course, this story wouldnt be complete without a mention of the NY Giants!

The game was on and we were (I'll admit it) interested.  Well, in the restaraunt, so was everyone else!  Including a grandma who came in and gave us the score (it was 20-10, NYs favor).  What a riot!  (We won that game and are now going on to play SF to decide whose going to the Super Bowl!)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Year of the Dragon

Happy Lunar New Year!!!

Making Lemon Out of Lemonade

In early January, we were honored to receive an invitation to attend the 5th Annual Lemon Ball, a fundraising gala for Alex's Lemonade on Saturday, January 14th.  When we'd first received info about the Ball, we'd joked about attending, but knew that the tickets were a bit out of our price range.  So, imagine our surprise when we were contacted by ALSF with the offer of complimentary tickets.  (When top name sponsors, like Bacardi or Volvo, donate their tickets back to the event, they are given to "hero families".)  We first offered them to Peter's parents; as Robert's parents, we felt like they deserved to have first dibs.  They declined (it was a late night event) but Uita (P's mom) offered to babysit so that we could go.  Sarah came on board as a second pair of hands.  Now, why is this an even bigger deal than normal?  The two of them had already volunteered to hang with the kids on Sunday, so that we could have a date afternoon/night.  Not only were they willing to watch the kids for Saturday, but they were okay with doing day #2!  (which turned out to be uber hard on Mama and Daddy, who didnt get to spend a lot of the weekend with the kids, but was nice in that we got some much loved Michele & Peter time)

The event is black tie (or slightly less, since men are invited to wear suits or tuxs, and you dont have to wear a floor length gown, tea length is fine and, for some women, apparently miniskirts do indeed come in formal wear!  Not on this butt!), so we dressed up.  It gave me an excuse to wear my Christmas finery again, and I love Peter in a suit (note to self: get that man a 3 piece suit.  He'll give Neal Caffrey a run for his money!) 

This is actually from Christmas, but apparently the photos from before we left for the Lemon Ball were lost; but these are the outfits we were wearing!

The event is touching.  When we got to the hotel and saw all of the people who turned out to honor a girl who simply wanted to help other kids with cancer by donating money from her lemonade stand, it was lump-in-the-throat inducing.  We checked my coat and went into the cocktail hour, where the silent auction was going on.  After having a few drinks (lemon drops, anyone?) while walking around the tables, we bid on a few items: a trip to San Francisco (we were quickly outbid on that one), an internship at ALSF (we were outbid on that one as well), and a spot on a Team Lemon (running) event (at the time I didnt know what for) and race gear.  I really wanted that one, but at the same time, it's a charity event and I also wanted it to bid up as high as it could.  We arent really in the same income bracket as some of those bids (like the uber cool suite seats to a Union game!) but, we were having a nice time, and the money was going to a nice cause.  We also bought 2 raffle tickests for a $19K bracelet (one for Bobby and one for Maya) with the idea that while I'm not a ritzy jewelry kind of girl, it would be a nice gift to their college funds! 

5 minutes before the cocktails and auction ended, we walked by the tables and, sure enough, we'd been outbid on everything.  But that was okay.  We walked by some more (like the Tarot party) to see how high the bids had gotten and, as I'm commenting to Peter about a gorgeous ($750) hand carved salad bowl, I turn around to notice that I'm talking to air.  I search through the crowd of people and see him...  At the table... Writing in another bid... 

And, in a few moments, we won me a spot on a Team Lemon race... And not just any race.  A marathon!  Like 26.2 miles of running!!!  The two they listed were the Philly or the Marine Corps, but the paperwork said that I could negotiate a specific race where they have a team.  I'm not ashamed to say that I cried.  When I started running, I used to wear an icon necklace of Our Lady of Czestochowa that was Robert's.  I used to feel like I was running for him... Because he couldnt.  Then, there was the running for each of my children who weren't in this world with me.  But, Robert's always with me on the runs too...  When I was tired during my half in September, I would talk to each of them... And he was there.  On that run.  Helping me push to the end.  And so, to run a full marathon, knowing that I'm on a team that is raising awareness about neuroblastoma and other childhood cancers...  It's like running with Robert holding my hand. 

But I digress... We were leaving the cocktail ballroom and walking towards the escalators that would take us to the next floor for dinner, when we decided to pause and watch the big screen.   Images of previous ALSF events, pics of Alex, and pics of other childhood survivors and heros flashed.  And, in the moment we'd stopped, the next picture that flashed, was one of Robert.  Smiling up at the camera, surrounded by pumpkins.  The last picture before he passed away, and a family favorite.  I lost it.  It was just too much.  When I thanked the Foundation for the tickets, I mentioned this moment, and our contact there said that it was a magical moment because the footage was so long we wouldnt have likely seen Robert's picture again had we missed it that time.

We had dinner, and met some lovely people.  A woman and her daughter, who is fighting neuroblastoma, sat next to Peter (and they had won the internship at the auction... so glad); as the mom and I were talking, she mentioned she had twin boys in their teens... and that she'd lost triplets born at 25w.  The couple next to me?  Their son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma at 18 months... and died at 26 months.  It hit hard, not just because they'd lost children- babies- but because I had 28 month olds at home; I missed them terribly and was so grateful that I could go home and snuggle them... And sad because those parents couldnt.  That mom and I, we held hands at part of the dinner, and wept with one another.  Because it's hard.  And it's so damn unfair.

Cancer, like pregnancy loss and IC and infertility, doesnt discriminate.  There's no one who 'deserves' to have it; and it sucks.  It sucks big time.

Alex's parents spoke and I have yet to not be impressed by these people.  I've run with Alex's mom in the Lemon Run and she (and the rest of her family) are just such lovely people who truly are giving all they have to the cause of eradicating childhood cancer.  She shared a story that, even now, brings me to tears.  They were at the stage where they knew Alex wasnt going to be a survivor and, as she and her daughter were talking, Alex asked her where the money they were raising was going.  Her mom explained that it was going to her (Alex's) hospital to try and research neuroblastoma.  Alex's response- and this from a young girl- was that that wasn't good enough.  The money needed to go to all children's hospitals to research all childhood cancers because all children needed a cure. 

Her mom said that, in that moment, all she could think about was I dont care about everyone else.  I just want a cure for neuroblastoma... a cure for you!  And then she said that, in that moment, her daughter's legacy became clear and she, too, realized that yes, all children need that cure.

The chair of the event, in his opening speech, said that one day, we wont be raising money to find a cure.  Because, one day, we will find it.  Then, we'll be raising money to figure out a way to stop it altogether so that no child- and no family- has to go through the monster that is cancer.  God, I hope he's right.  I hope that  every dollar we raise when it's Lemon Run time... every dollar we send to places like Sloan-Kettering and ALSF...  I hope that one day, somewhere, someone finds a cure.  And families dont know what the hell of losing a child to cancer is like.  That parents dont mourn a child they'll never watch grow up... That siblings never have to suffer through burying their best friend.

Over $650,000 was raised in one night, in memory of not just that sweet little girl with a dream, but in memory of all those children- including Robert- who have fought the good fight before taking their sweet rest, and in honor of all those who are still fighting, those who have seemingly won and those who feel that their war is almost done.  And I'm moved to have been a part of that, in some small way.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Yoga Solstice

Many moons ago, I was a yoga teacher.  Like, that was how I made my living!  I traveled to a lot of different places to teach, including a facility for adjudicated youth up near the Poconos, and I taught at a fair amount of local gyms and studios.  My knees started to go, we needed more income from my employment, and so I backed away until I wasn't teaching at all.  It was a sad thing, but at the same time, other doors opened for me professionally, so I'm not regretful.  Ultimately, things led to where they are today and, for that, I'm really grateful.

But I miss teaching.  I've kept up and written on yoga and yogic philosophy for magazines like Yoga Magazine and Yoga Living, but it's not the same as giving a class.  (And, honestly, I havent even written about yoga in over a year!  I barely have time to blog!) 

As a part of Mending Heart Bellies, I wanted to offer prenatal classes... But then I thought, why stop there?  I kept getting calls about teaching yoga each month (one or two), from folks who'd found my info somewhere (does Google ever get rid of anything???) and so I started talking to Peter about the idea.  Why not teach again?

Peter didnt really want me to start the rotation of teaching at gyms, etc again.  I did a lot of driving (depending on the location) and, while it was fine when I was doing it 'full time' and wasn't trying to raise kids and keep house, it wouldnt work now.  I agree. 

But then, just as that window closed, a full fledged door blew open.

I mentioned earlier that we turned the nursery (formerly Maya's room) into a playroom for the kids (I'll blog about the playroom later- it is AWESOME).  So, that meant that, in our downstairs large room, we still had the pool table on one side and the other side was empty...  I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this...

Studio anyone?

We looked into local ordinances, legal stuff, insurance stuff, etc...  Then, we started working to make it happen.  Peter and I moved the pool table to the side where we previously had the playroom (which is where the bar is, so it makes more sense to have the pool table there, in my opinion).  And, in the blink of an eye, what was formerly a thought became a dream come true...  My very own (home) yoga studio!  I can comfortably teach 4 students, and can have 6 students should the need arise.  I have props and mats.  And, to block off the pool table (and 'man area') I have these awesome folding shoji screens.  Pretty nice!

You can see all the photos of the studio at the Facebook page.
What makes this space so incredibly awesome is that it has its own bathroom (yay!) and its own entrance.  I wouldnt leave the kids alone while teaching, of course, but the idea of being able to lock the upstairs off when I'm teaching a class gives me an added sense of security.  And, because it is a small studio, classes are not drop in.  (Most of the small studios, like the one where I actually took prenatal yoga when I was pregnant with Alexander (and is also a home-based studio), are not drop in.  Space is an issue, but security is as well when you are teaching out of your home!)

So, Yoga Solstice is back!  (and you can even like YS on Facebook!)  It's wonderful to feel like I'm getting back into something that really touches my soul and inspires me.  I've already practiced down there and the space feels so... right.

Thanks to Peter, I've also been able to get some quasi-decent shots of the new space, so enjoy!  And, downward dog anyone??? ;)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Christmas 2011

I'm a bit late, seeing as it is nearly a month after Christmas... But we're just now getting photos loaded...  I'll blame Peter for that one.

We had a lovely time.  I did post a bit about it on 12/27.  We went to my in-laws for Christmas Eve, which was (as always) great.

Maya helped cook...

...while Bobby taught Grandpa how to read...

We had a great evening as family, before we headed off to Mass.

Christmas morning, after I cantored, folks came over for our annual brunch.  Sarah and I got a little silly (mimosas anyone???)... Bobby and Aunt Janet making music....

...and Maya fed Aunt Sarah (pretend) food...

By the end of the afternoon, I fell asleep sitting up (no joke)

...before we went to Aunt Janet's for dinner and the monkeys made great use of her loft!

It was a great holiday, and as I look back over the pictures, I am flooded with warm fuzzies. :)  You can see all of the Christmas pics at Facebook.

Saying Goodbye to a Legend

As another preemie mom wrote, this woman's research damn well likely saved Bobby and Maya, as well as countless other premature babies. 


Mary Ellen Avery, Premature Babies’ Savior, Dies at 84

Dr. Mary Ellen Avery, a medical researcher who helped save hundreds of thousands of premature infants with a single, crucial discovery about their ability to breathe, died on Dec. 4 in West Orange, N.J. She was 84.        Read more here

Thank you, Dr. Avery.  Godspeed you to a graceful rest in the Land of Eternal Peace.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Friends Preschool Visit in Review (HHB)

Previously posted here

So, I posted last week about our visit to the local Montessori preschool. As much as I'd hoped to fall in love on the spot, that warm and fuzzy feeling eluded me. The week before that, I'd met a grandfather at the playground. As our kids played together (and we discussed the alarming amount of things we have in common, including their being members of the local Parish), he mentioned that his children and grandchildren all attended (and, in one of the GCs cases, still attend). Because I'd really hoped for the love-connection (and because I'm not super big on the whole idea of preschool anyway), we had planned on interviewing other schools only if we really didnt like the local one and felt called to. Afterwards, I scheduled an appointment with the Friends school, as well as our local Parish's school (which will be a week from Thursday/today).

The Friends School is run by the Quaker faith. Peter and I have a great respect for the Quakers (learn more about them  here), so it is actually fitting that we investigated their preschool. And...

WE.LOVED.IT. It was everything we were looking for, from a preschool standpoint.

When I called to make the appointment, I spoke with the director, and found her warm and welcoming (just as she was in person). In addition to inviting us to tour the school and ask questions, etc, she invited the kids personally (for both the Montessori and St. Stan's preschools, I asked if it was alright to bring the kids; she specifically asked me to bring the kids so that they could play, if we felt comfortable doing so). We arrived about a half hour after school had started.

Walking from the parking lot, we were able to see the Kindergarten room (through the windows) and I loved the set up (very much like our home classroom, just bigger and with more stations) and the children seemed to be enjoying themselves. Initially I had the thought of "oh no, not again" when I opened the door, which was unlocked. But immediately, my feelings from our previous tour (where security had been a problem for me) were settled. Before we'd gone 2 steps, the director was greeting us. (I'll talk more about security in a bit).

She was very nice and walked us down to the 3 year old classroom, where she also was gracious to Bobby and Maya, speaking to them by name and inviting them to take off their coats (and hang them on the peg board). And once they were inside the classroom! Oh, how they loved it. The teachers (there were 3 total for 18 kids) were lovely and encouraged them to play as well. The kids had a blast while Peter and I were able to learn more about their program.

Did I mention that we loved it?

One of the things that I loved was that it felt like I was feeding the teachers the answers to my questions. What they said was what we were looking for. They believe that kids learn primarily through play (CHECK), with some formal/structured "class" type things, like Science and Math, thrown in (CHECK), but that at this age, the primary point of preschool should be socialization with other children and exploring the world through play (CHECK CHECK CHECK). The three hours, two to three times a week, isnt meant to replace education at home (CHECK) but is meant to help give the kids time to be kids with others their age (CHECK). I kept nodding and just wanted to say "You're speaking my language!"

The teachers were certified. The one we spoke with primarily also was trained as an occupational therapist, so when I discussed evaluating the kids, she was right there. And my favorite phrase from that talk? "All kids develop at their own pace. It isn't necessarily that a child is exactly at the norm, but that they are developing at a good rate, on the curve that is right for them." YES YES YES. If kids show developmental delays, they notify parents and help arrange therapies to help the child succeed.

I brought up my worries about security and, rather than try and knock them back with a "we havent lost a child yet" type comment, the teacher said "I completely understand. Other parents have asked about that too when they first visit." Because they are Quaker in foundation, they dont lock the doors. And, because they dont lock the doors, they have a deep awareness of when the door opens. We saw that first hand. They teach the kids to be aware of things outside the windows (and not just from a 'boogyman' type standpoint; there's a fair amount of wildlife like deer, so it's actually quite an educational experience, too) and the teacher told us that often the kids will tell them what they see outside (not strangers, thank goodness, just the wildlife thus far!). The teachers also know if they are expecting students or not; and if not, then they are extra vigilent when the door opens. And the director has a view, so she, too, knows when that door opens (and is right there). Honestly, I had the impression that because their isnt a lock, the staff are MORE aware than the previous experience where there was a lock. I mean, that time, we were right in the thick of it and no one batted an eyelash; here, someone greeted us at the door (and there were eyes on us the entire time we were there- I mean that in a good way, not a creepy way). I actually felt more safe. (I also realize that, lock or not, if someone wants into a school, chances are they will find a way... That doesnt make me feel better about the prospect of sending them to a traditional school setting. But the same can be true about a break in- if someone wants to break into my house and do damge, they could. It's just not worth worrying about that every second of every day.) But, as to the security, I actually felt more secure, and so did Peter.

The ratio was different as well (this was my other big issue). The first school was 7 to 1, with one classroom of 14 to a teacher and an aide. This 3 year old class was set up as 2 classes in a big room with a divider that closes the room into two rooms when need be. For open play, the kids are together in one room, with the 2 teachers/1 aide or 3 teachers. When the rooms are divided into 9 students each, there is 1 teacher in each, with the aide/teacher floating between the two. So, the ratio drops to about 6 to 1. (Looking for the PA regs, it's 10 to 1 as the requirement). While it's only 1 kid different between the two we've interviewed so far, it actually is a bigger difference. If a child has to be removed for some reason and an adult leaves, in the previous scenario, that leaves 1 adult with 13 remaining kids; in this one, it leaves 2 adults with 17 kids (or about a 1:8.5 ratio). Add to that, a floating aide or the director comes in until the other adult returns, and you are still looking at 3 adults. So, that made me feel better as well.

Educationally, I think the kids would learn wherever. But, so far, that warm, fuzzy feeling I was looking for? Yep, found it at the Friend's School. We are still going to interview the local, Catholic parish school*. We feel like it is important to look there as well. If the feelings of warm & fuzzy are present there too, we are going to have quite a decision to make!

Oh, and both the Quaker and Catholic 3 year old programs have another big thing: 2 day programs. For the Quaker school, there is a 2 day and 3 day to choose from; the Catholic preschool is just 2 day. But, one of my major heartbreaks is the idea of them gone for 3 mornings a week; 2 days is much more easy to handle, I think. And the teacher at the Friends said that most of their 2 day kids are "young" 3s (meaning summer/early fall birthdays), so Bobby and Maya, as September babies, would be truly among peers, versus older threes in the 3 day program.

So, we have a contender! I'll update on our remaining interview after it happens next week!

*Local Parish: So, we live within walking distance to the local Catholic church (and school), but because we've been so active in our previous parish, we've been attending there and havent switched membership over.  Our current parish was just told that, as part of the reorg, the school would be closing and combining with another parish. If we decide to send the kids to our local parish school, we'll most likely be changing parishes from our current to our local. So that is also a consideration as we explore the school.

Emergency Alert System

An open letter to the PA Emergency Alert System
(in jest, of course... with just an edge of pissed off mama!)

To whomever decided that the monthly Emergency Alert System test needed to go off during the time at which the toddler/preschooler educatational programs are running on PBS...  Thank you.  Truly.  Without your expert timing, I might not have to break promises to my 2 year olds!  Does it ever occur to folks that kids dont want TV every second of every day and therefore, when their daily dose of Super Why is disturbed, it is heartbreaking for them?

Don't get me wrong, person-responsible & in charge (PRIC for short).  I get that we need EAS.  And, when it goes off monthly- every single time (it seems) my kids are ready to put their hands in and transform with the Super Readers to solve the super story answer, I explain to them that it's just a minute... that we can still transform and be ready when the Super Readers return... that we can still solve the mystery.  And I even give a primer on why we need EAS (not that they get it any more than I did when I was 2 years old).  Does it piss me off, PRIC?  Yes it does, but I deal.  Because it is a community service that is needed (even though most people I know have emergency alerts set to go to their mobile phones these days!).

So imagine my surprise when, once again, we are ready to transform, and the EAS doesnt just run for the minute of beeping...  But then it switches to some infomercial about arthritis supplements.  AND DOESNT GO BACK TO PBS.  We waited for a bit.  I even tried turning the cable off/on.  But no.  Informercial.  Eventually, I turned it off and apologized, and tried to distract the kids to something else.

Why is this a big deal? Why am I more ticked off about this, PRIC, than just another average day?  Let me tell you why...  My kids dont watch a lot of TV.  Normally, this is when they watch Super Why, but this morning, they were watching the earlier showing so I could make breakfast.  When I turned it off (just prior to transformation), I said those special Mama words "I PROMISE YOU CAN WATCH IT AT 9am.  LET'S HAVE BREAKFAST."  So, they fulfilled their part of eating breakfast and not worrying that they were missing Super Why...  And, at 9am, I turned PBS on... And they were excited... And then, PRIC, you decided to run the monthly AES.  I was irritated, but it was okay.

Until someone got lazy and made it so that, once the test was over, an infomercial ran... On the EMERGENCY ALERT SYSTEM.  So that NO ONE could change channels or get back to their regularly scheduled programming... like PBS.

So, thank you, PRIC.  Thanks for my peanuts crying because they couldnt transform into Super Readers to help Whyatt solve the super story answer.  Thanks for making it a fairly TV free morning, not by choice but because I dont let my toddlers watch fake doctors hawking their fake treatments for real ailments.  Thanks for screwing up what's normally a happy, education-filled half hour with the favorite characters of my kids current imagination.  Thanks for screwing up a brand new episode of Super Why!  I appreciate it.  WE appreciate it.  Really.

Perhaps the next time you run the emergency alert, you could do it at 6am?  Or how about 11pm?  You know, when toddlers and preschoolers arent normally watching TV?  I mean, I'm just saying... Especially if it isnt a real emergency and all...


Mom of SadToddlers
(whose also ticked that you ruined her recording of a new Super Why)

UPDATE @ 11:46am:  Thank you to Comcast for finally figuring out the problem (apparently the EAS froze certain people to whatever they were watching post-the test) and working quickly to fix it!  We will be taking the old "new" episode from another PBS station tomorrow!  Crisis averted!!!  (although I had to call several state employees who didnt answer their phone, had emails bounce back for "security reasons", and finally had the lovely lady at Comcast handle all of it for me... No wonder people get ticked off trying to call govt offices!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Peter said that the first story he heard on the radio this morning as he pulled out for work was that CHOP is reconsidering their refusal to transplant a (family donated) kidney to a young child who is mentally retarded.  According to the radio spot, they have been berated with emails, calls, etc. 

And who says that social media doesn't have pull!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Brick Walls

If you havent seen this (especially if you are in the Philadelphia area), then pop on over... Brick Walls

Friday, January 13, 2012

In My Head

My car's CD player isnt working (and it's holding 5 of my CDs hostage... Not cool!)  So, although I'm normally an NPR kind of girl, I've been in the mood for music.  I can honestly say I'm not up-to-date with what ranks as 'music' today (I admit it...) but I had the local Christian station on.  Those who know me, know that I'm not the "Halleluja Jesus" type girl; I actually am not a fan of contemporary Christian music.  I've been to a Point of Grace concert (when I was pregnant with Alexander) because Peter likes the band and has some of their CDs.  But it's not my thing.  If I want "Jesus music", I probably want something written a few hundreds years ago, most likely not in English.  (Pie Jesu anyone???).  And, honestly, I prefer Dead Can Dance to the artists featured on The Word FM.  But, I'm open minded.  And, with the kids in the car, I definitely dont want "F-U this" or "b-tch" or other words coming out of the blue.  And, like I said, I wasnt feeling NPR.  So, contemporary Jesus music won out. 

And I found this treasure...  To the point that, by the end of the song, I was teary eyed.  I'll admit it.  It hit a little close to home.

Now, I'm a believer in the Great Spirit appearing to each of us in a way that we can respond and take in.  For us.  I've danced in my fair share of sacred drumming circles and felt Spirit present.  I've been to thousands of Sacrifices of the Mass and Divine Liturgy's and have been moved by the presence of the Most High.  I've hugged trees, chanted incantations, and felt overcome by the Divine Grace that moved from outside to within.  I'm openminded.  I view All That Is Holy without a need for a specific name or creed, and I work with what resonates with me.  And for me. 

And these words?  They are it for right now.  And they are stuck in my head.

We pray for blessings; we pray for peace. Comfort for family, protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity.  We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering.  All the while, You hear each spoken need, yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.  'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears?What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

We pray for wisdom, Your voice to hear; and we cry in anger when we cannot feel You near.  We doubt Your goodness.  We doubt Your love as if every promise from Your Word is not enough. All the while, You hear each desperate plea and long that we'd have faith to believe.  'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops? What if Your healing comes through tears?  What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near? And what if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?

When friends betray us... When darkness seems to win... We know that pain reminds this heart that this is not, this is not our home. It's not our home.

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops?  What if Your healing comes through tears? And what if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near?  What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy?  And what if trials of this life- the rain, the storms, the hardest nights- are Your mercies in disguise?

("Blessings" by Laura Story)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Morning in the Life of Toddlers

Because you can't make this stuff up.

Heard this morning at the breakfast table:
Peter: "Wash your hands.  A sticky vagina isnt a happy vagina."
(We'd been eating pancakes, with syrup... Maya needed to go potty and was trying to take her clothes off and get naked... with sticky hands.... But still.  Who the hell ever imagines that conversation???)

We went to Mr. B's this morning.  Maya is on level 4.  I have Bobby, ready to go out to the cafe and grab a snack.  "Maya, come down please.  We're going to get a snack."  We make eye contact, I sign 'eat', she nods and proceeds to climb down to level 3, where I lose sight of here.  Then I hear a loud noise and she starts to cry.  That's right: my evilkineval daughter decided that the quickest way to get to the bottom was to jump through the middle of each climbing level.  She landed just shy of level 1, on the mesh seperating levels 1 and 2.  She was fine, just startled by the fact that she actually had jumped and traveled at warp speed to the ground.  But really?  My goodness, crazy woman!

Bobby... My sweet little boy...  Who finally is getting over his fear of the potty.  We have had some moments of sheer terror, screaming and fighting, for him to get near the toilet.  But recently, he's not only gotten near it, but he's sat on it, read a book, and then let us put his 'boy boy' underwear (pull ups) on before he flushes the toilet, etc.  Nothing has happened, but it's a major thing.  Today, at Mr. B's, he walked to the exit twice, and said "Mama. Go."  I thought he wanted a snack.  But the third time, he came into my arms and I got a whiff of his bottom.  He'd gone, alright.  And it was a mess. 

But I was so proud of him.  SO PROUD.  He had tried to tell me that he needed to go to the bathroom.  Maybe he had already gone by that first time, I dont know.  Or maybe he had actually told me before he went.  I'm not sure.  But, combined with him telling us he needed to sit on the potty the last few days (sometimes before he goes (he goes right after he gets off and done) or right after (you can still see the steam off the pee), he's getting there.  And I'm so glad we arent rushing them and are letting them do this at their own pace.  It's taking a while, but they are getting it, like really getting it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

28 Months Old!

Originally posted on our homeschooling blog

We are indeed at 28 months old at Casa Haytko!

We have an upstairs playroom. Bobby and Maya share a room now, and Maya's old bedroom is now a fully functioning playroom/schoolroom. And they LOVE it. The other day, we had a rare warm winter day and I had to ask them THREE times if they wanted to go to the playground, which is unheard of in our house! We moved the majority of their lower level playroom toys upstairs (because of it being colder in the basement and us rarely being in there, we are making it into a yoga studio for me to conduct classes at home for Mending Heart Bellies!) It also helped us to clear out some of the living room, making it more of a family area and less of a toy laden area. There are educational posters on the wall of the school/playroom, work/play stations for the kids, and everything is there level. There's no TV (although they do have musical instrument 'toys') and the majority of the tactile toys are wooden. LOVE THIS ROOM.

  • Both kids can count to 20. Bobby can count backwards from 10, and Maya from 20.
  • Both kids can recite their ABCs and are starting to sound out words.
    • Bobby's first "read" word was "Norwich", the university that Peter and I attended. We have a blanket, with the NORWICH spelled out. He recited the words, then said "N-O-R... nor... W-I-C-H... norwich." Which was amazing because we had just started the "ch" sound!
    • Maya has sounded out the word "vegetable" and she is still quite the mimic. Her vocabulary is insane. And the retention of it...
    • I personally think that Maya speaks clearer than Bobby, but part of that too may be that she is a chatty cathy and wants to be talking all-the-time. Bobby is more quiet, but when he wants to say something he can. He still has moments of extreme frustration and we have to just tell him to relax (and sometimes hold him, looking him in the eye, until he does).
    • Bobby uses progressive verbs more than Maya does. She, however, has started using pronouns and has realized pluralization (i.e. one egg, two eggs)
  • They love to help cook. Bobby is my go-getter. He wants to go to the pantry, fridge, etc, and get whatever we need for the meal. Maya is my preparer. She wants to be right in the action, making food and getting ready to serve it. That child LOVES to set the table. They both love to 'wash dishes' too. It's adorable. :)
  • They are learning how to put on their socks, shoes, and coats. (see below)
  • They are learning how to clean up after play. (see below)

Things we are working on:
  • Potty training is still a big one. Maya will ask to go to the potty, although we usually get there late. Or, she will sit there with no action. She's peed in the toilet once. And we are/were thrilled! (So was she- she ran around telling Bobby and Peter that she "peed and wiped my vagina!" and she was so excited). Bobby, for the longest, hated the potty. Would have a freak out every time we tried to sit him on it. So we stopped. And let him direct it. He's now sat on it a few times with no freak outs, but he is in control and he decides when he does it. We ask, or if he takes us there, then we go. So far, no action. But it's a positive step. We're really hoping to continue doing 'child led' potty training, but I'm hoping they decide sooner, rather than later that they want to use the potty consistently!
  • Getting Dressed (without help). The kids consistently help us pick out their clothes and get dressed, but we are now moving towards having them put on their socks (they are getting pretty good at this!), shoes (working on it!), and coat (hit or miss, but more hits as the winter moves on!) independently.
  • We are now at the age where they are following directions better and are helping to clean up areas of play when they are done (although the school/playroom does NOT reflect that right now!). It's still a work in progress but I am trying to reiterate that when we are done with something, we need to put it away. Last night, Bobby helped by putting away the foam letters before he went to the recycled wood pulp blocks. I was SO proud. I didnt even ask him to do so, he just started! And Maya has been putting chalk and crayons back in the easel trays when finished. So, we are getting there, but we are just starting with this.

I found some interesting charts about developmental milestones at this age. This one is from Babycenter, for 25-30 months.
Child's Age
Mastered Skills (most kids can do)

Emerging Skills (half of kids can do)

Advanced Skills (a few kids can do)
25 and 26 monthsStacks six blocks
Walks with smooth heel-to-toe motion
Uses pronouns (e.g., I, me, you)
Washes and dries own hands
Speaks clearly most of the time
Draws a vertical line
27 and 28 monthsJumps with both feet
Opens doors
Understands descriptions (e.g., big, soft)
Draws a vertical line
Starts to recognize ABCs
Balances on one foot
29 and 30 monthsBrushes teeth with help
Washes and dries own hands
Draws a vertical line
Draws a circle
Balances on one foot
Puts on a T-shirt
Names one color
Names one friend

I am happy to report that our kids are doing well!! They both stack, walk, jump, open doors, brush teeth, wash and dry hands, and can draw lines (the most kids can do section). Maya is starting to use pronouns, but Bobby has not, and she also speaks more clearly than he does sometimes (this is from half of kids/few kids). They understand descriptions/verticle lines, and can draw circles. (from the middle section for 27-30mo). Balance on one foot? When we do yoga! ALL THE TIME!!! And they love love love love love going to the playground and climbing on the (terrifying) big kid jungle gym! They dont just recognize their ABCs- they know them and sing them!! They can put on shirts, name several colors, and can name each other (or repeat the names of others). Sadly, we dont really have a playgroup, etc, so their friends are mostly family/godsiblings. But this made me feel like "Whew! On par!"

We have their developmental assessment at the end of the month. I feel pretty awful about this actually. They should have had one in September and one in December (one at their 2 year and one at 2 years adjusted)... We were just so busy and had so much on our plate... But I made their appt this morning, so it is now on the calendar!

Things on the plate:
  • Preschool (possibly). We were excited about the possibility of doing a few hours a week at the local Montessori preschool... But, we interviewed there this morning and, honestly, I didnt love it (another post coming!). So, we're going to look at a few other places... We'll see. I love educating at home; but I want them to have more socialization. We are lacking in that... Hence
  • Playgroups. We've struggled to fit in at a playgroup. Most take place in the afternoon around here. We do lunch at 12/12:30, then nap around 12:30/1pm until 3pm or so. So, an afternoon playgroup just doesnt work. Our local parish does a weekly morning playgroup... But it's on Wednesdays- which doesnt work, because the kids visit their paternal grandparents. So... Friends suggested, which I checked out, and we may be able to find something that works for us! I really want the kids to be able to make friends (and I'd love to get to know more local parents of toddlers, too).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Montessori Preschool In Review

Okay, so in fairness... I'm not sure what I was expecting.  I dont want to say it was a bad experience- it wasnt...  It just wasnt what I thought.  I wanted to fall in love on sight- and I didnt.

So, there's a joke... "Did you know Lansdale has a Montessori school???!!!"  I was so excited about this fact a year ago that, every time Sarah and I passed it on a run, those words would slip out.  To the point that now it is a private joke that is sometimes said whenever there is a need (someone brings up something for the umpteenth time).  Needless to say, I'm in love with the Montessori Method for educating kids and the fact that we had a REAL.SCHOOL.WITHIN.WALKING.DISTANCE made me super excited.  Even though I love the idea of educating at home... Even though I'm not sold on the idea of 'traditional' school settings... Even though the pricetag knocked me over...  But, we promised ourselves we'd consider it and, once the kids hit two, I knew we needed to make an appointment to tour it if we had a chance of getting in for their third birthday.  So, we did.  I read up on how to interview, what questions to ask, and even blogged and FBed about it.  (and thanks for all the suggestions!)  So, this morning, we made sure the kids were clean, we looked presentable, and off we went! 

And that's about where it fell apart.

We pulled in and, although classes were in session, there were parents still doing drop off.  And one let us in.  Actually, she held the door open for us.  So, although there was a keypad and doorbell 'security' system, we got in with no administrator the wiser.  And then, since we had no clue where the office was, we proceeded to walk upstairs to where the classes were... And all the kids...  And, no one stopped us.  We finally stopped a parent and asked where the office was.  And when we got there, the secretary looked, in her own words, like a deer in headlights, wondering how the hell we'd gotten in.

Yeah.  Not cool.  I have anxiety about sending my kids to traditional school settings for exactly this reason.  So, security?  I wasnt impressed.  You can assure me all you want that you try to avoid these instances, but... Yeah...  No.  I walked in where the kids were.  Where the classes were.  I could have snatched a child in a heartbeat.  And then, to make light I'm sure, the secretary said "We havent lost one yet." Really?  That's reassuring.  When we visited the classroom, too, Peter's comment was that Bobby or Maya could easily (and quietly) slip out if they felt like it and based on where the 3 year old room was (and how easy it was for us to get in), getting out of the building, while no easy feat, wouldnt be impossible for the daredevil duo.  That, in and of itself, isnt as concerning to me, though, as the fact that someone could get in.  I realize the door is locked.  And there's a keypad.  And, really, Peter and I had 2 kids in tow- that mom probably thought we were just doing drop off, too, and that she was doing us a favor.  But it left me with a huge stone in the pit of my stomach.

The classroom was nice.  It was definitely Montessori-esque and they'd even made the sandtable/watertable into one with the peanuts people use in posting items, for easier clean up.  Loved that idea.  May try it!  So, loved the classroom...  But, it looked like the school/playroom we have here.  Which I guess is good on the one hand, but I dont know, I guess I expected more?  I mean, I'm not a teacher and, although I've read a fair amount on the Method, I guess I just expected there to be something that wowed me.  The skills of the 3 year old room (academically speaking) seemed to be things we are learning now... at 2 years old.  For example, my kids can count to 20 already.  This room was learning 23.  And the toys/learning tools...  90% of what they had, we have and they are learning those and mastering them...  So, I guess I just expected more?  Maybe I shouldnt have?  (more on this later)  But, all in all, I liked the classroom.  And a primary thing was how well the kids interacted together and with their teacher/aide.  Loved that.  The teacher explained that they've been working on this skill since the term started in September, but the kids were doing really well in my opinion.

The other thing that really bothered me was the teacher/student ratio.  And, again, maybe I'm off (teachers- especially you, Paula!- weigh in for me).  There were 14 kids in the room and 1 teacher/1 aide.  So, a 7-to-1 ratio.  For 3 year olds, that just seems really high... I guess I expected maybe double that?  2 teachers/ 2 aides for that large of a room?  Am I nuts?  Is this the average ratio and good for that age group?

And, while we are on teachers, only one (the director who is also the kindergarten teacher) is Montessori certified (in addition to being state certified).  The other teachers are state certified and the director then educates them in the Montessori method, but they are not certified Montessori teachers.  This doesnt bother me as much; the classrooms looked to be set up in the style, and the room we saw was definitely being run in the Montessori way, which we are happy with.  But I guess I expected more by way of that certification, too.  But that's not as big a deal to me as the student/teacher ratio, and the security issue.

So, overall, I'm left a little bummed.  When I talked to Sarah, she asked if maybe part of the reason is that I'm not sold on traditional education in the first place.  I think that's definitely a part of it.  But I know that the kids need more socialization than what we have now.  They love to run into kids at playgrounds.  I want more of that for them. 

When Peter and I were decompressing, he had a more positive view of the school then I did.  The security didnt trouble him as much (WHAT????!!!!) and he said that he expected our home educating and the school's to match up (so he wasnt expecting that wow factor that I guess I was).  His big thing is socializing them for both that and the independence, as well as increasing their verbal communication skills.  In that way, he liked the interview and felt the school was fine.  But he's okay in viewing others too.

We have an appointment to tour the local Friends (Quaker) preschool.  I talked to the director today and their pricing for 2 days a week for the kids would be around $3k for both, and 3 days would be around $4400.  While the 3 day is about average with the Montessori school, we hadnt really considered the idea of a 2 day, which may work better for us.  (St. Stan's, the local Catholic church school, also has a 2 day, and we will be touring them too).  In thinking about it, a Tues/Thurs set up would allow us to keep the kids with their current visit to the paternal grandparents on Wednesday and with my dad's visits on Fridays...  So...  We shall see.  We're touring the Quaker school on Friday and I have yet to make the appt for St. Stan's, but will this week.  Even if they do go to a preschool, be it for 2 or 3 days, we will still continue the Montessori homeschooling.  And, if they dont do preschool, then I'll just continue it more formally.

Some friends recommended to find playgroups.  Most of the ones I've encountered do afternoon playgroups- right in the middle of our naptime.  But I'm hoping to find either morning playgroups or ones close by that we could do after naptime.  Because, at this age, play is important, and doing that with other kids, would help with their socialization, independence, and communication.

So, all in all... I guess I need to really evaluate where I'm coming from.  Is nothing going to be right, because deep down I dont want it to be?  I hope that isnt the case; I truly want what is best for them (be it home school, private school, or public school).  But, as a cousin said, knowing what feels wrong is just as important as knowing what feels right.  And, as much as I wanted the local Montessori school to be the right fit, it just doesnt feel right...