Today I went looking for preschools. I have heard great things from people in the area about one of the top-rated schools in the downtown area. So I go check it out. It is a machine. There are 4 or 5 different classes, at least three teachers in each, multiple rooms for different activities, learning equipment, playgrounds, waiting rooms with cookies on the coffee table, and chic moms standing around in high heels or matching juicy couture track suits waiting to pick up their kids after school. But they're not necessarily all in business attire. Which leads me to believe some of them may actually stay at home with their kids. Luckily I actually took some effort to look good that morning or I would have felt even more intimidated and out of place - which I'm wondering why I do anyway, because this is a pre-school for heavens sake.
An accented woman takes me around rapidly explaining the school, the philosophy, the school in Italy it's patterned after, the organic lunch package that's brought in fresh daily that you can order for your child for an extra monthly fee. Finally we sit down on the fashionably matched furniture so I can get in a question or two. Since I'm thinking of starting in September, and Cash will be three by then, he'll be in the 3-4 class that is only full-time (9am-3pm), she informs me. "Only full time?" I ask. "Full days, five days a week? There are no part-time options?" I had felt certain there would be. Apparently that is only for younger children. "So what if I put him in for the rest of this year? Are there any openings?" She discusses the three day a week option, and I ask for possibly two. She strongly discourages it, even though we look at her chart of students and realize there is an opening on two days. She's actually really pushing full-time and all of it's benefits. "But I stay at home," I explain. Truthfully, I just want like three hours, maybe twice a week. I don't want an excuse for a parent. I just want some social interaction for my somewhat reserved child, some exposure to structured settings, someone with charts and pictures and materials that better explain seasons and our senses, and....
"And here's the price list," she says. Choke. There's a $700 registration fee per year, a $200 fee per semester for materials, and for full time it's $990...a month. Plus there's a sign warning of the $35 fee you'll be charged if you're more than 10 minutes late picking up your child. Even talking her down to two mornings a week for three hours was $450 a month.
Wow. Maybe it's the intimidation of the place. Maybe it's the heavily scented woman with the accent I don't fully pick up on. Maybe it's the fact that it somehow just seems wrong to pay 8 times what a year of my college tuition cost me, but I just want out. And I want to keep Cash with me. And I don't really want him to ever go to school. I never understood that before when people were so sad to see their kids go off to school. I always thought it would be a welcome break. But not like this. Not from people who think I should just shell out money and they'll take my kid off my hands so I have more time to go look for items of clothing that say "Juicy" across the butt.
So we leave, and I think I'll stop and look at the Jewish place that is only a block away, and that I also know people personally who take their children there. A Jewish school - they must have some good values I can more closely relate to, right? So we go in there. My first question is, "Now, is this a day care or a school?" "This is a school," she tells me. As she's getting out information to hand me, she says, "The hours are 7:30am to 6:00pm. It is a full-time program." "Wait," I say. "Only full time? 7:30-6:00 five days a week?" "Yes," she says. "Oh, I'm really only looking for a couple of days a week..." I trail off, still grasping the enormous amount of time that two and three year-old children are expected to spend in this place (that so far seems dimly lit and somewhat unimpressive). That is more time than they're even with their parents in any given week. "Well," she says as she stops shuffling for papers, and looks up at me, "this is not the place for you." And those words resonate in my heart. This is not the place for you. The same phrase that enters my head almost daily that I've been trying to beat back ever since we moved to Miami.
And I leave, gritting my teeth, wondering why we didn't end up in a place like Iowa, or Utah. Somewhere where the nice lady down the street does preschool out of her house a couple mornings a week and probably charges you $100 or less a month. Somewhere where I don't feel this same frustration welling up inside of me when I get lost trying to figure out which of the 17 high-rises I'm trying to find so I can go visit a friend, where I will valet park my car and take my stroller and my kids and sign in with security and get buzzed in and travel up to the 30th floor just to hang out. Whatever happened to just walking down the street or driving a few blocks to park in someone's driveway?
I know, I know, it was just a downer of a moment, and I really am enjoying it here. Sometimes I just long for the simple life, you know? I think a lot of my resentment is also towards the people that must surround me here. Who are these people that do this to their kids? And then I remember the kind of people. Like the nice couple in our building with the cute little boy Cash's age. I had high hopes when we first moved in that we could be friends with them. But then I noticed I only saw them around at nights. She was the one who told me about the Jewish school. Then we saw them in the pool with their little boy while we were there one Saturday. That was a nice family afternoon, I thought. They must both have to work, but at least they're good parents when they're home. Then a nanny came down and took the boy away so the parents could relax by the pool. The wife told me I should really send Cash over to play sometime (I can tell by her comments she feels very sorry for me with all of my children by myself all the time), and that it would be no trouble because she has now got this nanny to come on the weekends. Of course, I think, recognizing her mentality. If you spend the whole week working, how can you be expected to work all weekend taking care of your child? When would you ever relax?
Anyhow, I realize now why all of my close friends here just don't send their kids to preschool. It's just a different world here. It's a business. It's not to enhance your time at home being a child, but to replace it. But I'm still torn because I loved preschool growing up. I think I had two years of it. I think it's great stimulation, great interaction, and different from what I can give at home. Besides the fact that I've never taken an early childhood education class in my life so I have no confidence in that area and I just don't have the energy or the structure to my life to get supplies and lessons together and a dedicated time so I can do it well.
I know friends in New York who have very successfully done co-op preschools. Our playgroup here has tried to do a little preschool, and while it's been fun, I have to smile and say we use the term "preschool" rather loosely. All the moms and all their kids come, the kids sit and listen...or not, and it's a whole range of ages, which is hard to cater to. I think one time there were 12 infant seats, gabbing moms, nursing moms, kids all over and someone trying to teach a lesson all in one small living room. I'm not sure it's really soaking in.
But really, Cash is only TWO years old, why do I even have to be worrying about this yet? But even 6 months ago even our doctor here was asking if he was in school yet. They all go so early here! And for such an intense amount of time! Whatever just happened to playing in the sandbox??
And this....I know, if I didn't know better, I might call child protection services myself.
We were all excited and ready to brave a weekend with all the kids in Key West. It was going to be iffy - all of us plus my mom in one hotel room, but we were willing to try. Until the night before we were going to go and the kids were sick and up on an off all night. Debate ensued. My mom offered to stay home with the twins and Ryan and Cash and I could go. So we headed forward with that plan. Until the twins got crabbier and crabbier. When my neighbor (another ophthalmologist) happened to come home early from work that day, we figured out Ashton had pink eye. She said that pretty much we were all going to get it.
When Ryan was home, we discussed further options. He had a conference to go to, they were providing hotel rooms, and I really wanted to go and had been planning on it for months. BUT. A very slight red spot in my eye made me a person of suspect. And apparently going to a conference full of ophthalmologists saying you have "pink eye" is about on the same scale as yelling "terrorist" in an airport. So I was not only uninvited but pretty much forbidden from attending the conference.
Pink eye, plus snot from his cold, plus a split lip from falling on his face, plus how pathetic he looks in his helmet.... Poor kid.
Oh well, at least I didn' t have to go to some measures to get there. Our ophthalmologist neighbor's husband is also a physician. He wanted to go to the conference and get perks too, but to do so, apparently he had to sign up to give rectal exams all day.
We went to the beach for the babies first real time this week.
They've been one other time, but they never left their car seats, and even then, within thirty seconds they were somehow covered in sand. And it was so humid that the more we tried to wipe the sand off them, the more it just dug into their heads. So I took the babies and left.
The other reason we haven't been is that even with my mom here, it took us about an hour and a half to get all our junk together and get out of the house. Plus I was just never sure how it would go watching them all at the beach. How do most beaching families do it? Just get over the sand eating? Not worry about them rubbing sand in their eyes? I guess that's probably what I'll have to do if we're going to become more regular beach-goers.
Ashton was actually really good and just liked to feel the sand between his fingers.
But Phoenix was the naughty one who just couldn't keep the sand out of his mouth (note the devious look).
We'll see if I'm ever brave enough to do it on my own.
Last weekend we had a spa-themed girls night at my house. I have lots of talented friends here in Miami so I figured it would be a great idea. We had two hair dressers, an esthetician, pedicures, waxing, hair treatments, hair styling, hand pampering, cucumbering, tasty treats, party favors, and virgin mojitos. Good times.
...When the airport trip started like this: Curb check-in man: "Your bags are overweight." Me: "Um, about 5 lbs right? I mean, is that a huge issue?" (Trying to bat my eyes. Trying a sweet voice. Seeing this isn't working. ) Man: "Yes. Delta is very strict on this." Me: "Really, there's no leeway, huh?" (Trying to woefully discuss this dilemma with my mom. Trying to start looking weepy and like I might have a nervous breakdown in front of this man. Doesn't seem to be working. I swear this stuff used to work when I was single!) Man: "No." Me: "Ok, ok. So what's the fee for overweight baggage?" Man: "$90 a bag." Me, choking: "WHAT?? Did you say $90 a bag? And I have two bags? It's only $25 to even check a second suitcase in the first place. For that price you would rather have me bring on seven extra suitcases????
Dang! And we had thought we would curb check to save time and effort of dragging all our bags/babies into the terminal, but now we were just stuck in the freezing cold, our ride had left and I had to figure out where to put 11lbs of stuff. And here I was having to open up my gigantic suitcase with underwear and who knows what spilling out all over the curb (come to think of it, there really was some weird stuff in there - fake hair, maxi pads...). Luckily I found a random plastic bag and had to fill it up with junk, pound by pound. Cash was screaming and wanted to be held. The babies were cold. I was about to start producing real tears. I think he finally got sick of standing there watching me and suggesting items I could take out and let me get away with an extra 2 lbs.
Then the whole public bathroom issue. I guess most of you have older kids so this is old news to you. But yeah, I guess you don't take your toddler into the bathroom with you when you really have to go, if you know what I mean. Cash wouldn't go in the small stalls with me. So I figured we'd go in the handicapped stall. Didn't really realize that that would mean door opens out. Should have thought of that. Didn't. Didn't realize Cash's only entertainment in said stall would be playing with the lock. Should have thought of that. Didn't. Should have realized the lock would be just out of my reach in the big stall and that I would be left exposed in a super compromising position and would have to hop out crouched over in the fig leaf position to try to grab the door multiple times. Yeah, didn't. Had to attempt to keep one cheek on the toilet and one hand on the lock. And still relax enough to get the deed done. Finally had to end up with a tantrum-throwing toddler on my lap while I attempted to go. Guess I'm forewarned for next time.
Then we finally had a break! The flight was quite open so we had a whole row to ourselves! "Great!" I say to the stewardess, "So can I take their car seats on?" "No." "Why not? Last time we had a flight like this the agent suggested that I do that." "Nope." Ugh. That was my only real hope for getting them to sleep - just like a car ride, right? So of course, not one of my three children slept for even one second of the 5-hour late-evening flight. We were all disasters by the end. At one point I was even in the back getting water from the attendants and just as I was trying to dump in the formula we hit major turbulence. It was a mess. Really, the whole thing was unpleasant at best.
Not to mention how late it was when we got home, and how messed up the kids were. They kept waking up every 20 minutes until about 3am. And I had this plan that we were going to "forget" Cash's pacifier at grandma's house. Yeah, at 3am after enough screaming you wonder what the heck you were thinking and give the kid his dang pacifier. I'm done with resolving to do something that will make my life harder. I'll get rid of it when he gives up his nap. We'll both be miserable then anyway.
But as some of you reminded me: at least the flight ordeal was only one day of my life.
And so now we're back to normal. ish. Grandma is here and my life is soooo much less stressful that way. And Cash got to go back to his beloved therapy. Apparently our kids are the poster children for being "special." You can check out their website here. They're also going to be on their brochure. Isn't that, um, great?
Tomorrow we head back to Miami. Kind of like everyone's January wish is my reality. I enjoyed the beautiful snowy time we had in Utah, and now I'm going back to my 75 degree sunshine state with a cruise on the horizon. I will miss these views out the window:
I will also miss hours of family time, wearing jeans and feeling like I'm not trying too hard to pretend it's jeans weather, all the free child entertainment, straight hair, sleeping in when my mom was home, my kids even sleeping in (I have no idea why this always happens at grandma's house and cannot be replicated at my own), and not having to deal with bedtime (my nemesis) by myself for the past few weeks.
But I won't miss the nosebleeds, the reptilian skin, getting stuck in the snow while driving, and the not-quite-childproof house. Or spending too much money. It's really probably better for me when I can't (or don't) go shopping anywhere by myself because of the three little train wrecks that would accompany me.
I'm a little worried though - I wasn't freezing in Utah like I thought I would be, so now I'm afraid I'm not acclimating very well to Miami! Oh well, I'm sure I'll be back for another long stint when it's time to run away from Miami in the summer.
And luckily flying east is slightly quicker than flying west.
Be back once I'm settled back into reality.
(Ok, ok - it's not even real reality yet. My mom is coming back with me (can't have two lap-babies in one lap on the plane - not that I would want to if I could), and she's staying for a few weeks. She just retired last Friday. So where do people go when they retire? Miami! To change diapers and wipe noses and get spit up on and be surrounded by three screaming babies,of course....)
Last year I did a best and worst list for 2007. This year I didn't do one because, first, I was a little preoccupied so I didn't really notice much going on around me, and second, I was pretty sure you could all guess what my year was about.
Best of 2008: Oh my gosh! We had twins!!!!
Worst of 2008: Oh my gosh. We had twins.
It was definitely a challenging year. Those first few months after the move to Miami are probably one of those times I look back on through a dark haze. Being by myself all day every day trying to figure out how to deal with two babies and a toddler. Never seeing Ryan. Never seeing anyone, really. Nursing infections. Sweating. Sweating some more. Sweating in places I didn't know could sweat.
But I am excited for 2009. Things have gotten so much better. Thank you for coming, 70 degree winter, I am sure you have something to do with my mood change. Plus I'm more in my groove now with this three kid thing. We get out a lot. In fact it still surprises me how on-the-go I am with three kids. Must keep us all sane. (That and a healthy dose of humor about our life.) And we have awesome friends in Miami. We go for walks along the beach. How pleasant is that? Maybe it's because I finally dropped a few pounds (don't read that as meaning back to normal). AND - we are half way through the hardest year of residency. THANK GOODNESS.
And, dare I say? The twins are actually getting really fun. (Or maybe my mind is clouded because I've been around family for the last three weeks!)
I didn't ever think that once they were both crawling it would be even more fun. Yes, I do have kids that can potentially go in all different directions now, but it's so stinking cute to watch them take off army crawling after each other. Or over each other. Or following each other into the smallest spaces in the house and then howling for help when they get stuck. Or watching them both race over to me and start begging if I ever sit down with food. I keep thinking I need to dress them in some camouflage outfits, stick a toy rifle under their arms, and narrate their adventures ("Hit the deck, soldier!") as I listen to their heavy breathing as they army crawl after each other deliberately over and under every obstacle in the house. Really, I think it's a lot of effort to move that much chub. The first time Ashton crawled one morning, he moved two feet and slept for 3 hours.
As for 2009, do I have any goals? I guess not really. I told Ryan I thought we should try to be more spiritual. He told me I say that every year. I do? Oops. That's probably why I don't make goals. Apparently I don't even remember them.
But I have been thinking that this year I'd like to focus more on Ryan and me. I think we got a little lost in the chaos last year. Heck, half the time we were sleeping opposite schedules just so someone could get some sleep. But that could make for a really nice year, don't you think? Trying to focus on your spouse, keep each other happy, think of each other's needs as a priority? I haven't discussed this with Ryan yet, but can he really have much choice after I've blogged it? This is like doctrine. Like Oprah. Like saying you're going to lose weight this year in front of millions of people. (Seriously, did anyone watch this week? I only watched Monday - it may have gotten better the rest of the week. I've never watched Oprah before. There must be a reason. Millions of people are feeding her money to tell them "it's not a weight issue, it's a love issue"?? Come on. And women just eat this stuff up?) But we're off to a good start - I just booked a weekend cruise for the two of us! My first cruise ever. (And it's only taking two family members out in Miami to do it.)
Maybe I'll even challenge Ryan to try to re-discover his personality. :) That may sound funny, but he's the first to admit that med school and residency have sucked the life out of him. Frankly, he doesn't have time to have personality. And if he had the time, he certainly wouldn't have the energy. Our last Sunday in New York, Ryan and I had to speak in church. Afterwards, people kept coming up to me saying incredulously, "Ryan is really funny." It's so weird to me that people don't know what my husband is really like! But then I have to remember, he is hardly ever around people, and he's always exhausted. So I'm hoping he gets some time to be himself again this year.
But I guess I sort of feel a theme this year, if not specific goals. Every 6 months our church holds a general conference where the leaders of the church all give talks. One talk in particular keeps coming to my mind. It is called "Finding Joy in the Journey." That is a link to the transcript. If you want to feel inspired, motivated, grateful, and just happy, you should read it. I'll give you a few teasers from it:
“Whatever hour God has blessed you with, take it with grateful hand, nor postpone your joys from year to year, so that in whatever place you have been, you may say that you have lived happily.”
Arthur Gordon wrote in a national magazine, and I quote:
“When I was around thirteen and my brother ten, Father had promised to take us to the circus. But at lunchtime there was a phone call; some urgent business required his attention downtown. We braced ourselves for disappointment. Then we heard him say [into the phone], ‘No, I won’t be down. It’ll have to wait.’ “When he came back to the table, Mother smiled. ‘The circus keeps coming back, you know,’ [she said.] “‘I know,’ said Father. ‘But childhood doesn’t.’"
It seems especially poignant when I feel like so often we just keep thinking how nice it will be when we're done with med school, or done with residency, or through with this year. But you know what? This is my life. So this year is all about finding joy in the journey.
I was reading some parenting magazine recently that said that babies explore the world through their mouths. As I was reading this, I glanced up and realized that my toddler seems to have a different medium:
His bare belly. I don't really get it, but for the last couple months, everything must pass the naked belly test. Any different surface - Cash will pull up his shirt and lay on it, press up against it, or drape himself over it. He's done it on the floor, the rug, the fridge, chairs of all shapes and sizes, toys, at friend's houses, out in public....
Cash has also at that super resistant stage. Do you want to eat lunch? "Nooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!" Do you want to play with friends? "Nooooooooooooooo!!!!" Do you want chocolate? "Noooooooooo!!!!!" (Until he realizes what I've just said.) Anyhow, what's more, is that ever since we left Miami, the answer has a slightly different take. Cash, do you want a snack? "Nooooooo! Go to therapy!" Do you want to go play with your cousins? "Noooo! Go to therapy!" Cash, we're going to the store now. "No store!!! THERAPY!!!"
Ok, while Ryan and I may understand that the not-so-agile chubby babies go to physical therapy and you like playing with all the cool toys there, I'm not quite sure how that translates for you or us when you keep screaming for a therapist in public.
And great, since Ryan left, I've been trying to talk to Cash about it, but all it seems to keep coming up as is, "No Daddy airplane. Daddy go to therapy." "No, daddy not go home, Daddy go to therapy!"
We may have to pretty soon if all this keeps up.
And while it seems he is getting more mischievous, maybe it's just more clever. Because while I was helping clean this up, even I had to admit - this really is the most effective way to pick out the marshmallows.
On a positive note, this could make my life a little easier:
Cash has figured out how to use the mouse by himself. For any of you who have used the Starfall website, I get so tired of sitting there clicking on the mouse every 3 seconds, and Cash could do it for hours. So now - even more self-entertainment!
I really don't know what most normal families do when they get together. Eat? Play games? Have adult conversation? Play sports or the Wii or something, I guess? Well, we definitely have the eating part down. And we are definitely game players in our family. But that may be where the similarities end. Quite frequently we manage to find amusing forms of entertainment.
- There was the time we took straws - one end goes in the mouth, the other end in the armpit. And then you make music. I think we had a lovely piece all worked out to perform. Did we actually perform it anywhere? I can't remember. I would hope not, but I'm guessing we did.
- Then there was the time I bought a waxing machine. It was before I ever went to beauty school. A girl at work just said, "Hey, waxers are on sale at Sally's! Want to come get one with me?" Why not?? Why shouldn't any untrained shmuck feel qualified to stick burning wax on someone's flesh? Well, it was such a novelty, it turned into post Sunday-dinner entertainment. Quick - pin down a brother-in-law and attack the uni-brow! Once it's on - there's no way but off.
Then there was my poor 16 year-old nephew. Apparently if you're on acne medication, you're not supposed to wax. Who knew? So that unibrow came off - along with about 10 layers of skin. (Um, sorry? Hope that goes over well in high school?) Only it wasn't apparent until a few hours later. So in the meantime, after waxing other various body parts on different family members, we were running out of things to wax. 'What else can we wax?" we wondered. "Well," said my nephew, "I have a hairy stomach." Why the heck not? So we put some on, rip off the strip, and he screams like a 10 year-old girl. He was freaking out. Couldn't believe how bad it hurt. "Um, Zac?" I said, "The only problem is that now you have one little bald spot in the middle of a hairy stomach." So the rest came off too.
And apparently, the whole acne medication episode didn't sink in to my sister. A few weeks later, she had me wax her armpits. We'd done armpits before with no problem. This time it looked a little more raw. We couldn't figure it out - maybe the wax was just hotter this time so it looked more red? Well, as time went on, it looked more and more raw...and my sister spent the night crying with washcloths under her ferociously wounded armpits until her husband finally yelled at her that she was never allowed to wax anything again. Maybe a week or so later, she finally mused, "Maybe it's because I had been putting Retin-A on my armpits." Um, what????
- Then there's the Indian leg wrestling. I'm assuming you know what that is. Well, just take note: the first time you bring your boyfriend home to meet the family, you probably shouldn't involve Indian leg wrestling. The first time Ryan met my family, we had just had a big, full dinner, when somehow the topic of Indian leg wrestling came up and my sister had to start bragging about her wicked skills. Granted, she's pretty good, but it brought out Ryan's competitive side, and he assured her he could kick her butt. Well, after so much trash-talking, the match was on: Ryan and my sister, on the floor. One, two, three..... Fffffffrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!! Yes, Ryan totally ripped one right in front of my whole family. Dead silence followed. For about 5 stunned seconds. Until everyone erupted in laughter. Whoops. So much for first impressions.
(Maybe that got him over all reservations with our family though, because he's also done interpretive dancing in a Darth Vader costume for some family entertainment in recent years....)
- SO. Come New Year's Eve, ringing in 2009. We knew we had hours to kill. We knew we'd be up late. What would we do to entertain ourselves that long? Well, basically, we took my sister from this:
(11pm It was around this point that she called work and begged to not have to come in the next day).
(12:30am. Happy New Year! The point at which I keep saying how afraid I am that if we keep going her hair is going to turn into sausage. She wants platinum.)
(2am. The point at which her hair does turn into sausage. I'm a little shaky and vowing never to do hair again.)
All I can say is A: There is a reason I never take anyone from near-black to platinum in one night. B: Thank goodness she still has hair. C: I am never doing that again. But D: I think she looks awesome. Can you believe she's almost 45??? And E: Um, don't touch your hair too much or it will fall off, ok?
Yeah, let's just re-emphasize that transition:
Holy cow. I think I aged 10 years from the stress.