Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Day Care Decisions

This year, as the summer days slowly passed us by and the girls became more and more active and social, Hershey and I realized that keeping Jane and Emma in the house with a nanny or our moms all week long would be detrimental to them.  Letting our nanny go was a difficult decision, but it was definitely better for the girls (and our pockets!).

The task of choosing a day care for Jane and Emma was daunting, and I'm asked all of the time now which center the girls go to and how we chose the place that we did.  So I figure that there are a lot of other mamas out there with the same task in front of them, fretting over horror stories of day care centers and trying to figure out WHERE THE HECK DO I EVEN BEGIN!?  Here's how we tackled the job.

1.  We went by word-of-mouth.  We talked to people and took recommendations and called everyone who we were referred to.  If someone likes a place enough to refer them to you, chances are good they are doing something RIGHT.

2.  We narrowed down our choices based on location and levels of care, and then we set up 4 interviews - one in-home care, one day care attached to a church, one early learning center, and one Montessori school. 

3.  Because of the way that our summer was going, we wanted to make our decision before leaving to go on vacation, so we did all 4 tours in one week (one per day), and we took the girls with us to get their reactions.  Most of the appointments were done about an hour before lunch, so that the girls weren't hungry or tired when we went.

4.  I created a list of questions that I really wanted answered.  Some of those questions were things like:

  • Do you have insurance?
  • Do you provide breakfast?  Lunch?  Snacks?
  • How do you handle nap time?
  • What do you do if the kids won't sleep during nap time?
  • How do you handle discipline?
  • What are your hours? 
  • What would we need to supply?
  • What is the teacher/child ratio?
  • Do you accept payment on the books or off?
  • Do you work with a curriculum?
  • Will you allow us to have summers off and still hold our childrens' spots?
  • Do we pay for every day of every week, even if the children are sick or we are home or have vacation time?
  • Will Jane and Emma be in the same room? 
  • Will the same people be caring for the girls daily?
  • What is your teacher turnover rate?
  • What are the age groupings?  If there are classes, how long will the girls stay in each class?
  • What do the kids do on rainy days? 
  • Is there a playground?
  • What is your TV policy?

This seems like an exhaustive list, but I created a spreadsheet and it REALLY helped me be able to break it all down and compare everything.

5.  When we went to the appointments, we watched how the staff interacted with Jane and Emma, how the children were interacting with each other, and how Jane and Emma reacted in each place.  We took careful note of the surroundings, and the toys that were available.  If the girls were timid, it was a red flag for us. They are pretty shy at the beginning of any meeting, but the places that they felt most comfortable ended up being our top contenders.

6.  We further narrowed it down by thinking about what was most important to us.  Our children are EXTREMELY active, and very intelligent.  So social interaction and intellectual stimulation were top on our list of priorities.  The next most important point was proximity.  I could not reconcile with being 35 minutes away from my children in case something happened (which, with kids, almost always inevitably does).  We also wanted them to be in a place where they could spend a few years, really get to know the staff and the other kids, and feel comfortable there.  It is so incredibly difficult to leave a crying baby, so we wanted to choose a place that was a "long-run" kind of place.

Ultimately we ended up going with the early learning center.  We were impressed with their curriculum, we know that Jane and Emma will be there all of the way until they enter the public education system in our town (we actually chose our town based on the great school systems, as well as the fact that we are as country as it gets for the county in which we live!), I don't have to pack breakfasts, lunches, and snacks every day, and they are only a quick 10 minute ride from work.  We couldn't be happier with the staff, and the activities that the girls get to do are AMAZING!  They come home with artwork almost weekly, and in November, they are participating in food drives, make-a-wish drives, and they are going to be creating artwork for elderly and sick people. The staff is supportive, understanding, and filled with mommies who get what it means to BE A MOMMY.  The director of the center even has a set of her own twins, so she totally gets me.  I really couldn't ask for anything more.  

First day of school!

I am not going to lie to you, the first few weeks have been really difficult.  The girls cried every morning when we dropped them off, and it took them a while to get into a napping routine.  They are still home with the Grandma Squad two days a week, so I think that throws them off a bit, too.  But the teachers have been so sweet and accommodating, and even though I call EVERY DAY, they always answer the phone, calm my nerves, and assure me that the girls are doing GREAT.  Jane and Emma are so happy when we pick them up from school, and they sleep so soundly those nights!  

And last week, the crying stopped, and Janey actually said, "BYE BYE!" and turned and ran to play with one of her teachers.  And Hershey and I breathed a sigh of relief and high-fived on our way out the door.

Coloring at Day Care

I hope that this helps those of you who are getting ready to navigate the scary and often murky child care waters.  Try to go with your gut - for us, that's what really worked best.  When it's right, everything will just click.  And if you EVER get the sense that something is wrong, don't be afraid to pipe up and ask questions.  I've been all OVER this Enterovirus D68 stuff.  The poor center director has fielded about 23 emails from me asking about their hand washing and toy cleaning procedures, all of which she answered patiently and graciously.

How are you planning to embark on this difficult decision?  Are you excited? Nervous?  I'd love to hear from you!

Good luck, and happy hump day!  xoxo

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Monday, November 10, 2014

POOF! (What 4 Day Weekend?)

Here it is, Monday night, and I have NO IDEA where the last 4 days have gone.  It was a CRAZY and WONDERFUL four days, but man, it went "bye-bye" before I even blinked.

Jane and Emma are finally feeling a bit better (aside from the really super-duper runny noses, of course), and Hershey was able to get himself some much-needed rest, so we packed the days full of activities, family visits, and bonding time with our Little Ones.

After the first full day of rain and errands, I had already had it with the girls marching around, screaming and crying out of boredom (our one hour story hour trip just wasn't quite stimulating enough), I whipped out the finger paints and let the girls go WILD.







It was awesome until Janey literally started EATING the paint.  I'm still finding paint splatters in random places around my house, even though they were contained to the dining room table.  No bueno.

Friday we spent pretty low-key, taking a trip to get our bangs trimmed and having "MeeMa, Granpabob, and Nanneeeee" over for a semi-quiet dinner. 

Saturday morning, the girls were right back to their old tricks, sweet talking Daddy into sharing his Pop-Tarts with them, which they then proceeded to give rides in their baby carriages just before demolishing them all over the floor.





Saturday night was an amazing unofficial kick-off to the holiday season.  Every year for the past few years, from now straight through until my birthday in January, we get to spend every weekend with our "framily" - Suzanne, Scott, Hailey, Erin, Rich, Daniela, Kevin, Krystle, Will, Lindsay, Joe, Alie, Dave, Leo, Bernice, Cindy, Artie, Loni, Jimmy, Noelle, Jerry, and in the last 2 years, the newest additions, Ryan, Olivia, Luke, Isla, Adelyn, and little baby Joni (Loni and Jimmy's bun-in-the-oven).  From holiday to birthday to anniversary celebrations, we bring the par-tay for almost 12 straight weeks.

This year, we started the festive season with Ryan's first birthday celebration.  And oh, what a celebration it was!
















We even got to end the night with a good old fashioned jammy party!






We are in some serious trouble in a couple of years.  The Groff clan packed it in at around 8:45 (one full hour past the twins' bedtime) and the girls slept the whole ride home.  When we got home, we simply took off their hats and jackets and rolled them into bed, thinking that these are going to be some of the BEST years.  Jane and Emma took a THREE HOUR nap yesterday, and Hershey and I are still trying to recover from the festivities.  Sometimes I feel like I rest more when I go to work!

I hope that you all enjoyed the "holiday" weekend as much as we did!  Do you have any big plans for the holidays??  Ways that you de-stress during one of the most stressful times of the year?

Happy Monday everyone!  xoxo

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Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tornado Twins

Well, another month has gone by and I have barely had a chance to BREATHE let alone sit down to write a blog post.  The last month has been a true trial of love and extreme patience.

First of all, the girls have been SICK SICK SICK.  They both had bronchiolitis, which if you remember from January, we are right back to the inhalers like we were with the RSV.  Luckily we have dodged stomach viruses (for now).  However, Emma had an ear infection 2 weeks ago, and now Janey is on the verge of one.  Oy.

We have also been trying to catch up with family and friends, as we have been literally imprisoned in our home for 2 months because of sicknesses.  Hershey was sick, I was sick, and the girls have been Sick.  Whew.  We are ready for a break.

Trying to keep the girls busy and entertained while they are sick is proving to be a challenge.  I mean, how do you explain to a one year old that they are sick and need to stay inside, warm and cozy, so that they don't get worse?  There's just no way.  So we've been using our imaginations...











As you can see by our beautiful sectional sofa behind them, Jane and Emma have started a climbing stint.  A couple of weeks ago, Jane went right over the arm of the sofa onto her head on the hard wood floor.  I think I lost a couple of years off of my life on that day, and now we have to find creative ways to keep them off of the couch.  I am now raising puppies. Hmpf.  

And just to prove that I am raising puppies, Daddy decided to keep the girls occupied one day while I was making lunch to keep them out of the oven, off of the couch, and out from under my feet.  The results were frightening...












As you can see, it all went downhill very quickly.

Last weekend, we got to see Hershey's sister and brother-in-law (the girls' godparents).  It was a much-needed visit with them, since we haven't seen them since the summer and we missed them so-so-much.  The girls have been getting quicker to warm up to people who they haven't seen in a while, so they had a great time playing with all of Hershey and Heather's old toys with their aunt and uncle and Grandma and "Papa".  Adorable.









Today and tomorrow, we have a much-needed break -- HOORAY FOR TEACHERS' CONVENTION!  Although, I don't know how much of a break it is for Hershey and I.  Hershey is sick (again), and the girls are in rare form.  This morning, we got up at 6:30, and I made them a BIG breakfast, which they proceeded to throw all over the dining room softball style.  They then fought and pushed and shoved each other for about half an hour, at which point I brought them upstairs and let them tear the bathroom apart so that I could shower.  Story hour came next, and when we got home, they fought and stood on chairs until I served them lunch, at their big girl table...





This adorb-ness lasted precisely long enough for me to take these pictures, because immediately after this, that handful of peas that Jane is holding went onto the floor.

The one lovely thing about the past 8 weeks is that we got to thoroughly enjoy the fall foliage on our property.  It is absolutely BEAUTIFUL where we live, with all of the mountains and lakes.  I even made an attempt at decorating our front doorstep, although we never got to carve our pumpkins since we were all sick the week of Halloween!




I don't know about the rest of you, but I am totally ready to kick this holiday season off!  We may have even already read How the Grinch Stole Christmas with the girls once or twice.  We are hosting Christmas this year (the first time my husband will EVER get to just stay home for his birthday!), so we are now in a mad dash to try to finish the last of our really big home improvement projects by then, all while suffering from constant runny noses and coughs.  Nothing that a little Hug Machine can't cure.

Sorry for the SUPER long post.  Hopefully I'll be able to get on to keep you updated more often, which will mean shorter posts!

Happy holiday season kick-off everyone!  xoxo

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