Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Bright Side

The good thing about how much I hate our current ECFE class is that it has focused my attention on what I do and do not want in a school for Lily. At Hale, the school we've gone to for most of our ECFE classes, I took for granted a lot of wonderful things, and I guess I assumed all schools would be like this. Because they should be.

At Hale, when I come back from the parent discussion time, I usually get some comments from the teacher or assistant about how Lily did that day, and what she did, like one time she really wanted stories, and so she sat with several other kids and listened to the teacher read stories, and then she and the other kids played reading to each other. At Wilder (the class we're in now), I never get a report, and it feels like the teacher is kind of distant. He's very focused on preparing the kids for school, getting them to all do one thing together, and follow directions, and even find their name tag (with mom's help) for attendance. Attendance? Recognizing letters? Excuse me, they're two. TWO! They should be playing! He even has them do exercises, and tells them it's important to exercise. Well, yeah, but do we have to make it a chore? Why can't you just put some music on or sing and have them dance around and hop and run?

Then there's little things, like having windows in the classroom (none at Wilder), and knowing that if I leave something in class by accident, it will be there next time with our names on it. I've lost several things at Wilder, never to be seen again. My notes from discussion, a binky, and who knows what else. The teachers just don't seem to be personally involved with us. It's like the class is a blob of students instead of individual kids and parents.

Oh, and how about this little gem: during parent discussion time at Wilder in the first class, the teacher explained what the procedure was in case of a lock down. A lock down. As in if there was a "situation," all classrooms would be locked until the building was deemed clear of the "threat." Kind of like in prison. Or Columbine. Jesus. I mean, yeah, okay, it's good to know that if I leave the discussion room of my own volition, against the better advice of the teacher, the teacher in the kids' classroom will not unlock that door to let me in to see my child, because he would be protecting the children against the "threat." So I'd be stuck in the halls, because nobody would let me in any doors.

When asked if there had ever been a "threat," the teacher said rather too nonchalantly that there had been one the previous year and no one was hurt. When asked for more details she glossed over it very quickly and moved on to the next thing on her list.

I don't want Lily in a school where this is a top priority. I mean, of course safety is a top priority, but you know what I mean.

So, having a fire lit under my butt from this experience of "bad school," I sent in the application this week for Lily's preschool. We went to a preschool fair a couple of months ago and it was interesting, but it seemed rather in the distant future. Not anymore.

Last week we went to an information meeting for a specific school that we thought sounded nice, and it was fabulous. I want to go be a student there. It's Willow House Preschool, Waldorf and Lifeways inspired. It's all about nurture. The school is actually in a house, or is a house, I should say, since the whole house is the school, including the backyard, where they have a fabulous actual willow house, check it out:

Isn't it wonderful? They spend a lot of time outside, which is great. The teachers (they are two women, both with teaching backgrounds) said they only stay indoors if the temp is below zero outside. So they go out in the rain! (In raincoats, of course). There's a K-3 school across the street with 3 playgrounds, and they go on field trips a couple blocks away to a park with a lake.

They do lots of handwork, like sewing and knitting, and making little gnomes and sheep from wool. Ah, I feel happy just thinking about it. So that's the bright side. It's very clear to me now that this school we are going to send Lily to is a very special place, and I won't be taking it for granted (that's why I sent in our application the day of the kid-hitting discussion). So my response was positive, you could say. I've been venting here for a couple of hours now, and I hope you aren't bored reading it all. I just really needed to put it all down in black and white (or in this case, green and beige). Yes, that icky stuff really happened, and then look, over here, a fabulous counterpoint!

Oh, and another response I have to this ickiness is that I'm taking a community ed class on making a "Magic Fairy Tree House." Here's a sample of what the teacher made:

Okay, I really have to stop now. I hope all this long-winded rambling makes sense in the morning (I haven't slept yet--havin' a headache).

Ditching School

No, not really. But sometimes I want to. I'm talking about the ECFE (Early Childhood and Family Education) class that Lily and I are in right now, and how much I hate it. I waited too long to register for this session and got what was left, which was not the school we usually go to, but instead a school that has a very different socio-economic base. It's not really too much farther away from home than the school we've usually gone to for the last two years. But it's in the other direction, in more ways than one.

In the most recent class, during the parent discussion time (the kids are in the classroom with other teachers and helpers while the parents get together with one teacher in a separate room) there was actually a discussion about whether or not it's ok to HIT your kid. And I quote, from one of the dads, "There's a big difference between occasionally hitting your kid and abusing them." This is when I felt like getting up and leaving, and not quietly. The discussion was supposed to be about discipline, and this is what I got to listen to. In other ECFE classes, I have always felt validated listening to other parents and what they are going through with their kids, and I've always gotten helpful ideas to think about or try with Lily (or myself). This class, no. It's frustrating. I don't want to be there. I'm not dealing with the same issues, or, maybe I am, but I'm not parenting at the same level.

I'm trying not to be snobby or prejudiced, but it seems to me these folks are learning how to be parents at a really basic level, and I'm not. For instance, there's one mom who's dealing with her son spitting. To stop this behavior, she "pops him in the mouth," as in, hits him in the mouth. Now, terrible as this sounds, she did concede that hitting him is not working. And she was asking for help, for other ideas that would be better and teach him a better lesson. So, good for her. She's getting a lot out of the class, and she's trying hard. But I just don't feel like I have anything to discuss with her when we split up in small groups. And that she has nothing to offer me. Is that mean? I end up feeling like my challenges are trivial compared with hers.

There's one mom who I really can NOT stand. She has twins and two more at home, and she is the long-suffering mom. It's all about how difficult it is for her. Even the weather is against her. I never hear her happy about anything. Except that she seems to really enjoy complaining. And doling out advice to everyone else. She seems to think that because she has more than one child, she knows more than those of us with "only one." It's obnoxious. Here's some of her advice: "TV is a great motivator." As in, you can get kids to do what you want if you offer them tv. Oy. She even admits it's probably bad parenting, but "I don't care, because it works." She's all about controlling her kids, and they are always trying to get away with something (her viewpoint). Sitting next to her (which I now avoid), I can feel the icky waves of stress and dischord flowing off of her.

There's another mom who has teenagers at home and she is constantly saying some variation of "Just wait, it's worse when they're teenagers."

These are not my people.

As far as the kids, some of them are like wild animals, running around screaming, or just sitting and yelling. Some are nice, though. I don't think Lily is enjoying the class as much as the classes she's had before at other schools, but I am trying to look at it positively. Maybe it's a good experience for her to have exposure to kids from different backgrounds, and to be the more mature kid in the bunch. Maybe she'll calm them down some. But sometimes I see her looking at some of the other kids like they are from another planet. Yes, honey, we are strangers in a strange land.

Mommy Doesn't Feel Good

So I've been having a rough time recently with my migraines again. I was doing really well in November and December, and then on New Year's Day it all went to pot. I started having awful headaches and not being able to see clearly. It really scared me.

I got an MRI and they didn't find anything to explain this sudden flare-up, if I can call it that. So I'm going back to doing physical therapy and probably trying some other things like guided imagery and maybe yoga or pilates.

It's going to be a lot of work, and take time. Sometimes John will have to take vacation time so that I can go to physical therapy. I hate that. I want his vacation time to be spent on actual family vacation.

And I don't like it that I've had to poop out on Lily so much lately. I can't do a lot of the things she wants me to, like jumping up and down and chasing her, stuff she loves.

I feel bad that Lily has to grow up with a Mommy who has migraines all the time. It bothers me that I have to lie down on the couch sometimes and tell her I can't play. On the other hand, she seems to have developed some empathy since she's become more aware of when I don't feel well. She'll give me a kiss on the forehead and tell me that will make me feel better (Of course, I modeled this first and she's chosen to imitate it). I know I've seen other kids who have a sick sibling and they have developed empathy as well. So maybe it's ok. The thing is, it has to be okay. I don't have control over this.

And I know that I will feel better once I get some PT and find some other things to help. I'm just really crabby about it right now. I think once I stop having a constant headache, I will be able to see the forest for the trees and believe it's really there, not just a mirage. For instance, I know intellectually that Lily will be ok even though I'm sick sometimes. My Mom had migraines that confined her to bed sometimes, too. And she had to go to the hospital ER sometimes. And yet, I turned out ok. I wasn't scarred for life. I don't remember those parts the most. I remember that she played games with me all the time, and how much I loved that.

Well, I have my first PT in a few days. Better days are ahead.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How To Live Green with a Toddler

Don't ask me, cuz I don't know. We recycle and I save all kinds of crap from going in the trash and try to find a way to reuse it. And so it pains me to see anything go to waste. Especially food. Now, I'm not even talking about the way Lily grazes and only eats 3 bites of anything and wanders off. At least then I can put the remaining food in the fridge for later (unless I leave the room for .0001 seconds, in which case Cocoa steals it and makes me crazy). No, I'm talking about the food getting knocked on the floor or dropped.

I know it's because she's only two and doesn't yet have a lot of coordination. Or attention to what her body does when she moves. Like she doesn't notice that turning her wrist while holding a plate in her hand makes the plate turn over and the food go on the floor. Oy. I try to remember not to put too much food on a plate at once, for just such a contingency. And yet it still drives me crazy. Now, I'm not averse to a few germs, but I can't pick up the food and brush it off. Because everything has dog hair on it.

Okay, so I'm cranky. I couldn't sleep last night because of my dang headache. And my new glasses have not come in yet. I'm sick of not being able to see. I need baby kisses.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Here's a picture from today. She's laying on the couch next to me. She got a haircut today, at her request. Her hair had been getting in her eyes and bothering her. This was her 3rd haircut ever and she's a little more ok with it each time. Today she didn't cry at all or try to get out of the chair. She just held my hand very tightly at first, then relaxed after a while and was ok with me just standing right next to the chair. It helped they had Thomas the Tank Engine videos.

Christmas Pic

This is one of my favorite pics from Christmas. Lily got this new art easel from my folks and she immediately figured out a way to climb on it. She made me laugh and we were having a lot of fun.

"Babies Sing on Trains"

It's a new hit song, composed by Lily in the car today. She just started singing, it was the most adorable thing ever (since the last most adorable thing she did five minutes before that). First the verse was "Babies on the train," and then she modified it, first to "baby rides the train," then the funny "Babies sing on trains!" She asked me to sing it with her, which was easy, since it was only one line over and over, and it was a wonderful moment. Then she told me not to sing, so she could belt it out on her own. She's brilliantly talented, what can I say?

She's also got complex musical taste. The things that I think she'll like, that are cute and played on a xylophone or other baby-friendly instrument? She's oh so bored with those. After she had finished composing her toddler transportation ditty, she wanted me to put some music on. I tried some Pink Martini but she was oh so bored with that. I tried some Blue Man Group (Las Vegas 4 Song Sampler)on a whim, and she loooooved it. "Make it louder!" she said. Wow. Maybe she'll be drummer like her mama. Sniff. No, not really. I have no twisted desire to see her relive my musician days. The smoky bars, the long nights...just kidding, I was only a musician in junior high and high school and the biggest hardship I endured was walking through horse poop in parades. And I was damn proud to do it. I was a superb marcher.