Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The preschool question.

I've written about it before, but we were truly blessed when we found our current daycare situation (believe it or not, it was all through an ad on Craig's List of all places.) J has been going to the same in-home daycare for 3+ years, since he was about 5 months old. We love the setup and the lady who runs it. The benefits have far outweighed the negatives: small group setting (I think 7-8 kids right now including Jr. and her own son who's in school all day), very low turnover (literally the same group of kids for the past 2 years, she hasn't had an opening for new families in a long time), reasonable price, warm and inviting atmosphere where the kids feel like they're at grandma's house, fun activities, home-cooked meals, parties on the holidays and their birthdays, a very open-door policy...

But recently, since Jr. was born really, TH and I have been wondering if J is starting to outgrow his daycare. As much as he loves it there, I can tell that every day he's more and more ready for a classroom setting. There is a routine every day and some learning activities, but the daycare is really geared toward the infant/toddler set. There isn't a "curriculum" in any sense of the word. J is a very intelligent kid, already reading dozens of words, doing basic math, and navigating the computer like an old pro. The other day he asked me when he could go to school like a friend of his who left daycare this semester and started preschool. When I told him if he starts going to preschool that means that he won't go to daycare anymore, he said, "I don't want to go to daycare anymore, Mommy." When I asked him why, he said, "I like it but now there's too many babies." (Backstory: All of the kids at daycare are roughly the same age, 2.5-3.5 years old. Three of the 'daycare moms' including me had babies this past year between August and September, so now there's a whole new crop of infants there.) Hmmm.

So what's the problem? I'm not sure if we can afford preschool right now. Our daycare is very reasonably priced, and one of the best features is that we pay per day attended, meaning that if J only goes to daycare for 2 days in a week, we only pay for 2 days, instead of the full-week-tuition-no-matter-what policy of most daycares/preschools. That works out well with my current schedule, because I only work every other week - therefore I only pay for daycare every other week. We've found a pretty good preschool that we want to look into, with a fairly decent tuition, but it's still going to be almost twice what we're paying right now for daycare for the two kids. And of course Jr. will still go to our current daycare, so the kids will be in two different childcare situations, which I'm not too keen about.

I also feel a little strange putting J in such a formal setting for so many hours during the day. 7:30-5:30 seems like alot of time to me to be in school. Of course that's how long they're at daycare now, but it's so much more informal there--like I said it's like being at grandma's house, with cookies and playing in the backyard and afternoon movies on rainy days. I think some of my resistance is just me not wanting to face the fact that J is not a little toddler anymore (he'll be 4 in THREE MONTHS. Holy moly.). It's so strange to think of him going to "school" already, carrying a little backpack and a lunchbox and not taking naps and having parent-teacher conferences. Which one of us isn't ready, I wonder.

We went ahead and set up an interview this week with the preschool so we could take J to see what it's all about and talk to the teachers. I'm still not sure how we're going to pay for it, but if it seems like the right step then we'll just find a way I guess, we always do when we need to. We'll see.....

Monday, January 18, 2010

Today's story brought to you by the letter J.

Today I was going to post a long, hopefully thought-provoking, totally navel-gazing piece about why Martin Luther King Jr. Day is so important to us, and how we're trying to raise our kids to be color-blind yet at the same time aware of their ancestry and the struggles our people have had over the years, and maybe throw in a little story about how I was a first-generation college student and the only black person in my vet school the entire four years I was there, and how awe-inspiring it is when you're raising African American sons to see Barack Obama running sh-- even if the tide seems to be turning against him...

But instead today's story is brought to you by J. It all started back when we were in Denver for Thanksgiving and hanging out in a hospital parking garage waiting for TH (who was visiting his mom but the kids couldn't go in because of H1N1 regulations). J was getting super antsy, so I said, "Let's make up a story." He loved the idea immediately, and for the next hour we developed what he calls "The Space Story." It's a great story, that changes every time we tell it. He's so involved in this story now that more often than not he wants me to lay down with him and do The Space Story at bedtime instead of reading a book.

(I tried to copy this down as close to verbatim as I could).

Once upon a time there was a family. A mommy, a daddy, a little boy, and a little baby. They lived in a house at the Las Vegas Airport. One day the little boy said, "I don't like watching this movie anymore. I want to go see outer space."

"That sounds like a plan," the Daddy said.

So they went outside where they had their big white spaceship. They got in their car and drove to the spaceship. They had to put on their special spacesuits and their special space helmets. That way they could breathe in the car. So then they counted down, "10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1" and when they got to 19 they said "Blast off!" Then the spaceship went up, up, up, past the clouds and the sun and the stars until they went into outer space.

"Let's go to the yellow Animal Planet," said the baby. "Okay" said the Mommy. This time it was the nice animals. So then they landed on the planet and when they got there they saw all the animals. Nice animals, not bite animals. There was all kinds of animals like a tiger, a lion, a bear, a jellyfish, and sharks swimming on the planet. Then a big green truck came and it was the tiger's truck and he said, "You have to climb up over the tall, tall wheels and get in the tall, tall seat so I can drive my truck." Then when they got in the truck they had to ride on a boat to the tiger's house. And he had a birthday party there, with a pinata, and a birthday cake. And Santa put a bunch of presents by their Christmas tree too. So then they ate all that cake. Then they had to pull a string on the pinata, and the baby didn't get to pull the string. Then a bunch of cars and trucks fell out so they could play with them.

After that they all got tired so they had to go back to the spaceship and take a nap. First they had on their pajamas and then they went back to outer space. Now maybe they should go to the purple carnival planet. That's where they had the slide thing. So then the spaceship flew around and then they got to the purple planet. Or green, or blue, or yellow. Blue means azul. Then they saw all the carnival things like a big slide, and a basketball thing, and the horse thing. Then the Daddy was strong so he could hold their big bag of candy. Then they had jumped! kind of like that (jumping around) and then he had the fighting thing (making fighting motions) and the tiger was biting the other animals.

So then they had to go back home again in the spaceship. When they got to their house they had to put their pajamas on again or else they don't have their clothes on. Because the baby was crying all the time for his pajamas. Then the Mommy said, "Do not get out of your bed!" and there was more presents under their Christmas tree, all the trucks for the little boy and everything. And the baby was growed up and had some trucks, too, so he could play with them.

And that's just the end of the outer space.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Break up, to make up, that's all we do....

Jr. and I are back together. It was a rough few days, that's for sure. Yesterday he started to act more normal about nursing (i.e. not pushing my boob away like it's poison), and today we seem to be back on track, for the most part. My being home for a week is probably a huge help, so now I'm worried that with my on-one-week/off-one-week schedule we're going to go through this at the beginning of every "off" week when he's been away from me for a few days straight. There's always something to worry about, isn't there?

As I was telling Julie--whose kids are the exact same age as mine, the babies are one day apart and seem to be eerily similar in their newborn shenanigans--this week has been a Big Lesson for me. I think part of the issue I was having with Jr. was expecting him to be the same as J. This has been one of the bigger adjustments of having two kids, which I'm sure we'll deal with pretty much forever: Realizing that although they come from the same place, J and Jr. are not the same kid. As an identical twin, when I was growing up I got so sick of constantly being compared to my sister, good or bad. People always assumed that we'd either be exactly the same in everything, or complete polar opposites -- "Are you the smart one or the dumb one? Are you the loud one or the quiet one? Why don't you guys ever 'swap' and see if anyone notices?" It gets old constantly trying to prove that you are not the same as another person just because you have the same parents and you look alike. Yet here I am, making the same mistake, because it's hard not to, especially in these early stages when I don't "know" Jr. yet the way I do J.

J was very attached to the breast from the get-go, despite my own difficulties with cracked nipples and pumping. He was always comforted by nursing, especially when he was tired. It took us a long time to break the habit of nursing to sleep. If I was even in the same room as him, he wouldn't take a bottle. From me, or anyone else. As a matter of fact, when he was small I had the opposite problem--when I went back to work J started "reverse cycling," refusing to eat more than a few ounces from a bottle during the day and nursing all night long. He had a strong urge to suck, and we had to get him on the pacifier early because otherwise he would have been attached to me all day long (another habit that took over 2 years to break).

Jr. is just a different kid. He likes to nurse, but doesn't love it the way J did. If my letdown is too slow, he gets impatient and squeezes my boob or kicks me. When he's done eating, he turns his head away rather than falling asleep at the breast. As a matter of fact, he won't nurse when he's sleepy, if he's tired or cranky and I try to feed him--even when I know he's hungry--he gets more upset. He'd rather fall asleep on his own and wake up a mere 30 minutes later to eat than actually nurse to sleep. Which is a good thing in some ways, Jr. is so much better at getting himself to sleep without all the "crutches" of nursing/rocking/singing/bouncing like we had to use with J, who was a terrible napper. Something tells me that Jr. is going to get over breastfeeding long before I will, and not because of anything I'm doing--it just seems like that's his personality. I was hoping for a year, and now I'll be happy with 6 months. If for no other reason than to cover the cost of that fricking breast pump!

Monday, January 11, 2010

The one where the 3 month old broke my heart.

Why is motherhood so difficult sometimes, the things that should be easy are always a struggle? Well not always, but sometimes it seems that way. For the past couple of days, Jr. has been on a "nursing strike." He doesn't want the boob. It feels like he doesn't want me. Our breastfeeding relationship has been excellent from day one, so different than the beginning of bf'ing with J. My first 6 weeks nursing J were kind of hellish - cracked, bleeding nipples, mastitis, ridiculously huge breasts bigger than the whole baby (did you know there's such thing as a G cup? Trust me, it's real. And it's spectacular.) It felt like I was serving a sentence instead of doing something wonderful. And then, when we reached 6 weeks, suddenly it was easier and we were both enjoying it and it wasn't painful and the baby was growing and healthy and I could see what everyone raves about. When I went back to work at 10 weeks I had some issues pumping enough every day but somehow we made it to almost a year before weaning. It was a great year.

I *thought* it was going to be the same with Jr. Only without the hellish first month. And it was, until last week. Jr. latched on to my breast 10 minutes after being born and never looked back (yes, I have a picture, no, that picture will never show up on this blog.) No cracked nipples, no issues latching on, the boobs are still huge but at least this time I was prepared for it and still had my $60 ordered-online G cup nursing bras. It's been fairly blissful, the baby acts hungry, I pop a boob in his mouth, everyone's happy. I went back to work six weeks ago and even that didn't cause any problems. This time around I bought a better breast pump and haven't had any problems collecting enough milk for daycare bottles. I was just bragging--JINX ALERT! When will I learn--to coworkers that Jr. has never had a drop of anything but breastmilk in his young life and how proud I was of that fact.

So what happened? I'm not sure. Honestly I think he's learned that bottles are the best thing since sliced bread - the same amount of milk with 1/3 the work! I noticed last week that in the evenings he was being weird about nursing when I came home from work, and figured he just wasn't hungry. He's still waking up three times a night to nurse, and thankfully (I guess) that hasn't stopped. But yesterday we hit a wall with the daytime nursing. Suddenly, every time I offered the breast he actually turned his head away and clamped his mouth shut, even crying. No matter what position we're in, he's having none of it. I've managed to nurse him a few times...while he's sleeping. That's the only way he'll accept the breast. When he's awake he acts like I'm torturing him when I try to nurse. It's breaking my heart a little...or alot. Last night he was screaming and crying at bedtime when I tried to nurse, usually a relaxed time of day. Finally I gave in and had TH give him a bottle, which he promptly sucked down in one minute flat. I started crying. Kind of hysterically. How could he prefer a bottle to me? J NEVER wanted the bottle when I was available. Never. Why was he doing this to me? My little secret lover, betraying me for a piece of plastic.

This morning I called the lactation consultant as soon as the office was open, and her only advice was "keep trying, but don't force it." She gave me some words of hope that this is very common in 3-4 month olds, and usually (knock on wood) it only lasts a few days. Today we managed to nurse enough times (all during or right after sleep) that I haven't had to pump, but I know that's next if he keeps this up. I'm not sure if I'm keen on the idea of pumping during the day when I'm home with the boys. It seems like it totally defeats the purpose of breastfeeding, i.e. not having to deal with bottles and pumping on your days off. But I hate to introduce formula to the mix just yet, so we'll see if it comes to that. Luckily I only work every other week (part of the problem, I think, my new schedule is kind of disruptive for both kids), so I'll have several days to hole up with Jr. and push my boob in his face every hour until he "gets it" again. Until then, I'm so sad. Breastfeeding is one of those things I never expected to be so important to me, but it is. It's the ONE THING I can give my kids that the daycare lady can't. It's also my private time with them, even in the middle of the night, and I cherish it, especially on days when I work. I'm just hoping, and praying, that Jr. will leave Dr. Brown and come back to me, soon....