Wednesday, March 27, 2013

what if

I still get emails for teaching job openings.

Tonight I got an email for a job opening that I interviewed for when I was almost done with student teaching. I really liked the principal and the school, and she liked me enough that I had 2 more interviews with them. It was narrowed down to me and someone else. The someone else already had teaching experience as opposed to me being fresh out of college, and they ultimately went with her. (The story of my teaching life. I sucked at teaching interviews except for Hell City because by then I was SO SICK of interviewing and being second choice that I went way way overboard and even got freaking teary eyed talking about how rewarding it was to work with kids, blah blah blah. I also was pregnant that day with Olivia and didn't know it yet so that might have had something to do with it. In any case, they called and offered me the job before I even made it home from the interview.)


I started thinking about what might have been if I had gotten that first job that I interviewed for. I wouldn't have been at Hell City at all. Or the alternative school. And maybe when I was pregnant with Olivia, I wouldn't have been so stressed out, especially since it would have been my second year there vs. my first year at Hell City. And I would have been teaching only two different classes instead of three. And I probably would have had textbooks. Or novels. Or you know, something for the kids to READ, (besides the stuff I was pulling out from anywhere I could find, for every single day) since I was teaching reading and all.

Maybe I wouldn't have gotten sick at all. Or maybe it wouldn't have been as bad. But then maybe Luke and Matthew wouldn't be here. But then maybe Olivia would be. I'm not sure where that leaves us anymore, except I really miss her, and wish she were here too. But I am so so glad for our boys. But. Ugh.

Once upon a time, I really loved teaching. Even through the alternative school, I liked it a lot. Even the middle schoolers. Especially the middle schoolers. But then Hell City happened and I had no idea a school could be THAT bad. The kids were seriously the spawn of satan, the principal utterly useless, even the veteran teachers at the school had no idea how to handle them. The principal called an assembly once, of the entire 6th grade, she yelled at them for a long time and threatened to start calling the police when they were out of control. Seriously. And then we went back to class and not twenty minutes later, three boys were shooting spitballs at a girl with these elaborate straw devices they had constructed sometime during the day. That ended up being over an hour of extra work for me as I had to assign each boy detention and call their parents and write up office referrals...and the wicked witch principal did absolutely nothing to help aside from her "assembly" that was oh so effective. Every day was something like that and progressively worse as the year went on. After I got sick with Olivia, I never went back, I never wanted to step foot in that stinking school again, I didn't want to teach because even though I knew that school was soooooo far from normal, I didn't want to risk being stuck somewhere that hellish ever again.

But if there had never been Hell City, I might still be teaching now. Even if Olivia had still died, maybe I would have gone back if I had been at a normal school. It's hard to say.

And I am not sure why I still even read the 'job opening' emails, anyway, my teaching certificate is not even current anymore, and I am not at all inclined to make it current.

Funny how it takes so little to still make me start playing the "what if" game, even after all these years. I hate the what if game because there never are any good answers, and although we very very much miss Olivia, it's hard to complain about life with our sweet boys, as hectic as it may be right now.

Monday, March 25, 2013

sigh. growing up.

I finally found a preschool for Luke last week especially thanks to my friend Katie. It is perfect. Teachers are all real, certified teachers. The classrooms are huge with climbers and dramatic play and water tables and sensory toys and one way mirrors so we can see in without Luke seeing us. They are NAEYC accredited* and don't do time out. (I don't have a problem with time out in theory, and we have started using it at home when we have to. I don't like preschools/daycares that use it because it is often applied too liberally for normal kid things when it's one school I visited, I heard the teacher of the 3 and 4 year olds yell "next person who tattles is getting time out!" when she didn't know I was there. Tattling is annoying, but that's a really dumb reason to put a kid in time out.)  No televisions. They have an awesome outdoor playground and an indoor playground as well. The teachers were all interacting with the kids. It was perfect, perfect, perfect. The rates were the same as some of the other places I have visited, and we got the last 3-hour program spot. Luke will be going Tues/Thurs starting in the fall.

*NAEYC accreditation is one of the highest accreditations for preschools/daycares, it usually is only found at places that are pretty expensive or get funding from other places community college daycare has it, military base daycares have it, etc. I worked at a CDC when our accreditation was up for renewal, it is VERY VERY thorough, they spend several days combing through the center and they spend a ton of time in every room observing randomly through the day. Stuff like time-out is not allowed, and it can get annoyingly nitpicky like I had to change the font on the cubby names because the font style was not one of the 2 approved styles...

Anyway. I know Luke is going to love it. I can't believe he's big enough to be in a preschool program already, but every day he surprises me with how much he already knows and can do.

And Matthew is working on sitting up independently. He loves watching his big brother and laughs and babbles to Luke often through the day. He gets this gleam in his eye and huge grin every time he watches him, it's going to be trouble, I am sure. We finally brought up the exersaucer for him. I have been putting it off because 1)we have way too much baby/kid crap up here already-just looking around from where I sit now we have the swing, pack n play, rock n play, Luke's race car track that's 3 ft tall, Luke's chair, and a ton of toys and books...and now the exersaucer too. Yippee. 2) I am in denial that Matthew is big enough/old enough/ stable enough to be in it already. Oh my gosh, though, he LOVES it. Luke likes playing with the toys on it too and has climbed in (when it was unoccupied), several times now.  So yeah, even our little guy is growing up way, way too fast.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Another journey I was not really expecting...

This whole parenting stuff is full of surprises. There are things I thought I would feel strongly about, that now I am like "meh, no big deal", and then there are things I thought I would be "meh, whatever" about, and it turns out now that we have these kids, it's a really big deal.

Car seat safety is one of those things that I started out as "meh, whatever", I just wanted a seat that looked nice and was easy to use, but it has become a super big deal to me.

After dealing with the paranoia of pregnancy, then worrying about SIDS once they were here, I should have known this was going to be next. The leading cause of death for ages 1-14 is car accidents. That's a big freaking deal. Car seats have come a LONG way since I was a kid, thank goodness for that. They undoubtedly save lives. But there are so many common mistakes, mistakes even I made at first until I figured it out. A car seat can only be expected to work as well as it has been tested and designed if it is installed and used correctly. (The misuse rate is well over 80% and in some areas over 90%.)

Anyway. I have struggled with this a little bit because no one really wants to hear "fyi, you are using your car seat totally wrong." And with facebook and such, car seat mistakes and misinformation is very common. I have sat on my hands and not commented A LOT.

Standing on my soapbox for a minute:

The most common mistakes are chest clips at belly level (can cause internal injuries), straps not tight enough, using a coat in the car seat, using expired or used car seats, using after market products that are not included with the seat (strap cushions, bundle me's, etc.) , and incorrect installation.

Rearfacing is a parent's personal choice that to me is not so personal. It is the law for all kids to be rearfacing until age 1 AND 20 lbs. It is strongly recommended that kids are left rearfacing until AT LEAST age 2, and preferably until the weight/height RF limits of the seat. Kids are much safer when they are rearfacing, period. This is not new, there have been many many studies that have proven this for years now. I have heard people make a ton of excuses for turning their kids forward facing earlier. That's each parent's decision, for now (I personally think the law should be changed to make it until 2, but that's for another day.) But the very plain fact is that kids who are rearfacing are less likely to be injured at all, compared to the same kid in the same seat forward facing. Of the kids who are injured, kids who are forward facing are much more likely to have severe injuries than children who are rear facing. (Even leg injuries are more common with front facing kids than rear facing kids.) 

Luke is still rear facing now, and will be until he outgrows the limits of his seat. He rode all the way to Florida and back rear facing and it was not a problem. Kids are flexible, they will find a comfortable way to sit with their legs rearfacing. They can cross them, prop them on the seat, whatever. Luke went through a stage from about 15 months till about 20 months where he HATED getting in the car. It wasn't because he was rearfacing, it was because he hated being strapped in, he would have hated forward facing just as much. These days he gets in the car without hardly any complaint unless we are leaving from somewhere really fun and he doesn't want to leave. Even on our drive back from Florida, when we stopped and got him out and had to put him back in, he didn't complain a bit. The parent bonus is you can eat and drink stuff without them seeing you. The only way I can get away with eating something without being demanded to share by my toddler. If my 34 lb and 98%ile for height almost two year old can still comfortably fit rearfacing, most kids should be able to.

Anyway, I'm going to step off my soapbox and get back to the "journey" part of this.

The other day, a good friend of mine posted a picture of a bunch of kids in her car in correctly installed car seats. :) Not only that, but her son is around 19 months was still rear facing. I commented on it, as did a few other people, blah blah blah. Then one of her friends came and posted that the FIREFIGHTERS in our city and the city next to us, actually told her that it would be "DANGEROUS" for her to rearface her child past the age of 1 because he was so big, and that recommendation is actually for just smaller kids. WHUCK?

My jaw freaking hit the floor at that. These same firefighters have inspected our car seats after we first had Luke and told us that the handle to our Graco Snugride always had to be down when we put it in the car. I was confused about that because I hadn't read that anywhere in the manual, so I asked some car seat techs online and they said that it used to be that way with the ORIGINAL Graco Snugrides about 10+ years ago, but it hasn't been that way for a very long time. (Note: Some seats do require the handle to be in certain positions so not a bad idea to check, but Snugrides are one of the most common infant seats and this change was not recent at all.) Anyway, as much as I tried to nicely reply that the information this person had been given from the firefighters she trusted was incorrect, nothing I was going to say or link was going to convince her otherwise. (Then she started complaining about how their legs are too scrunched up rearfacing so I'm not too sure that she really believed it.)

While I am grudgingly okay with a PARENT making the decision to not rearface their child, for whatever reason, it is also the parent who will have to live with that decision if god forbid it comes back to bite them. But, at the very least, they should be given correct information about rearfacing vs. forward facing and someone trusted to give information out on the safest way to use car seats should ABSOLUTELY NOT be encouraging parents to turn kids forward facing at 1 year old and giving them wrong information.

I was talking about this with a girl I worked with in Wichita who is now a certified car seat tech. I was shocked that she was not even a little bit surprised by this.
I learned that
A) Many firefighers and emergency personnel frequently trusted to install/inspect car seats are NOT actually certified car seat techs (CPST's- child passenger safety technicians is the official label when they have taken the course and passed the written and hand's on testing.) They may have had informal training from someone else or no real training at all.
B) Not all CPST's are good, evidently it is possible to spend a lot of the class and training texting and goofing off, and still barely pass, then go out into the real world and spout incorrect information.
C) In my entire 80,000ish population city, according to the CPST directory, there is only ONE CPST in our area. And he's a firefighter, possibly one of them who advised against rearfacing, possibly he just works with the person who advised that. In the neighboring city, there are only 3 CPST's, again, only firefighters.

At first it started off as a rant/joke to my friend whose picture had prompted the discussion, "I'm just going to have to become a tech myself I think!" . But then after I did some research and learned more (like that we only have 1 in our city!), I am strongly leaning towards doing this.

I am not sure that I will make any money doing it, probably not, as most CPST's are volunteers. But it might save lives. And at the very least, I will know I will be out there giving people accurate and up to date information on how to use their car seats.

Unfortunately, there is only one class in our area this year that I see on the schedule right now, it's in a week, far away, and is not really going to be do-able. In the meantime, I guess I better spend my time practicing installing our seats and learning more. And maybe I should consult my husband about this. :) This is another stop on our "journey" that I don't know we would be visiting if we hadn't lost Olivia, but I kind of feel like this is something else I'm being led to do. And ultrasound school is probably at least 2 years away (I think I was something like #138 on the waiting list, with classes of 24 starting each year...), so it will give me something to do with my time that is productive.

Bonus feature
In case you are interested in learning any more facts about rear facing vs. forward facing, here are some good links:
*And many many more!*

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Boys updates, 4 months and 22 months

Going to try to get this post done before they both wake up. We all have colds and have been dealing with sick kids since the day Matthew went in for a 'well visit', he had a vaccine reaction (103 fever) that night and we haven't all been well since. He had 2 days of fevers from it, then was ok, but the next evening Luke came up with a fever and had it off-with tylenol- and on all weekend. Monday we went back to the ped this time for Luke's fever, which was finally gone for good by the time we went in. He had a red throat but not strep, no ear infection or anything. Matthew's nose was a bit runny that day, by Wednesday we all had colds that have included fevers off and on again. It has been a blast. Now my dad has the stomach flu and gave it to my mom...we were just with my mom yesterday morning for breakfast. We already did the stomach flu back in Nov., we all had it but maybe not Matthew, it was MISERABLE. We gave it to my mom so I am worried we may get it especially since our immune systems have taken a beating from our current colds. Please no flu!!!) Anyway, that's what we've been doing for the most part with a mix of birthday parties and baby showers and busy stuff thrown in.

Matthew was 4 months at  the end of Feb. He has rolled both ways. He loves sitting up looking around, assisted. (I need to bring the exersaucer and jumperoo up soon.) He "talks" and loves to smile and laugh. Luke fascinates him and was making him laugh-unintentionally- last night while he was eating dinner. It was adorable. He has started to like baths instead of hating them. Not sleeping through the night but not up long enough that it's a big deal. He is using his hands and grabbing stuff a lot. I can't believe how fast this is going, it went fast with Luke too, but this is even crazier. Although some days do feel REALLYYYY LONG, not so much because of Matthew. He is much smaller than Luke was, he doesn't seem like he eats as often, or for as long, but he's gaining weight and doing well, so it's all good. I think his weight was like 37%ile and height 42%ile, he is about 14 lbs. Overall, he's mostly mellow, although he does have some moments where almost nothing makes him happy.

I have to admit that my least favorite age ever is from about 15ish months to 20ish months. In daycare we called this room the "pretoddlers" and no one ever wanted to work in there. They don't yet have the reasoning and verbal skills of toddlers, but they aren't really babies either. They know "no" but don't really care to comply, etc. ANYWAY, I see more and more signs every day that Luke is leaving that stage and it makes me so happy! I am sad that he is growing so fast but so excited to have a two year old of my very own, the two year old room was always my FAVORITE.

Luke.Luke.Luke. He asks "whatsthat" 18 million thousand times a day, sometimes the first thing he says/does when he opens his eyes. Often to things he already knows, like Matthew, "baby". Right when we got back from Florida he started pointing at Matt and saying "what's that?" and we'd ask him, "what is that?" (poor baby), and Luke will say, "That's my brother". SO CUTE. He is all over Matthew a lot, touching his hands, feet, face, patting his back, etc. So I guess they are friends. We were at a store with a friend with Matt in my stroller and Luke holding my hand, she pushed the stroller ahead for me and Luke did not like that at all, so a bit protective already. He still LOVES dogs, and ducks, and fish. (So tired of those dang Eric Carle books!)  We fed ducks at the lake yesterday and I had to drag him away, after a half hour, kicking and screaming and crying. He is also obsessed with coloring and drawing and stickers. And just being outside. He recognizes not actual letters but when he sees a letter he'll point and say "A""E""O", etc., a few handful of letter names, he's recognized them in books and his bathtub letters. (Not the correct letters, unless by totally random coincidence, he just has connected the dots that those lines/shapes are A's, etc.) He also says "thank" and "your welc" unprompted and in correct contexts (ie. he just handed me some mail he pulled down from the table, I said thank you, he responded "your welc"). So funny and random, we made no effort to teach him that yet except modeling it. (Usually if we ask him to say something, like "hi", he doesn't/won't, has to be his idea I guess...stubborn boy.)

He is a big kid, about 34 lbs and tall, he still loves to cuddle. Still rearfacing comfortably in his car seat, he usually doesn't fight getting into the car these days unless it's leaving the park or whatever.
He is a disaster for our house, good at picking up if we ask him but he is constantly scattering random stuff EVERYWHERE like all day long. Thank god it's spring.

More pictures to come but this one will have to do because both kids are now awake:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Florida recaps

We left at around 11:30 pm on Saturday night. It was perfect, both boys slept and we didn't have to stop for them, plus the highway was mostly deserted so no wasting time getting stuck behind slower cars, passing, etc. I will try to always drive at night with young kids from now on when we have more than a 6 hour drive to go.

One of Joe's good friends moved from PA to MS a few years ago, we don't go back to PA very often as it is, so it's been like 8 or 9 years since we've seen them, back when we were newlyweds with no kids and we were overseas with the military. (I think we saw them before we left and then after a year when we came back for Christmas, but after that the next time he went to PA, they had moved.) Anyway, they were an hour or so out of the way, but we decided to stop there for the rest of the day/night and then drive the next 3ish hours to Pensacola the next day.

We stopped around 8 am for gas and to change diapers and feed the kids and let Luke walk around for a bit. I think we were in Mississippi by then but not positive. We stopped at a Burger King that was seriously dirty, in a not great area. Whoops. We didn't stay there that long before we hit the road again. The kids got a little fussy but not too bad. Our hotel (also not very nice) wouldn't let us check in until 2 so we went by his friend's house until then. (They knew we were coming.) We pulled into their driveway and his friend wasted no time before he opened the door and scooped out Matthew. We stayed there for a couple hours, ate lunch, then went back to check in to our hotel and take naps. Luke napped. Matthew cried. Joe and I tried to get him to stop crying but he was just a mess. Didn't want to eat. Didn't want to sleep. Didn't seem gassy. Walking didn't help. The swing didn't help. So much for a nap. We went back to Joe's friends and ate dinner and hung out with them for awhile and then left to finally sleep around 8. I should mention that the friends have 3 kids, a middle schooler, elementary school, and preschooler (4). They had a ferret and hamster and so Luke was pretty much in heaven between the two animals although he really wasn't crazy about actually holding either rodent. He kept kissing the hamster cage though and really liked that. Our husky would kill either animal in about .00005 seconds. And Luke LOVES the dang husky, so no rodents for us. Darn. Plus I wouldn't do it until Luke is old enough to take care of it. No thank you!

Our next hotel check in on Monday wasn't until 3 pm so we decided to stop at the Gulf Breeze zoo before checking in, since it was Joe's only real day off.  It made me realize we are SO incredibly spoiled to have the "free" (to me, the tax payers of St.Louis pay for it), St.Louis Zoo in our area. Joe was concerned that a few hours wouldn't be enough time to properly see the zoo, until we pulled into the parking lot which was much smaller than even our grocery stores parking lots. The nice thing was you are pretty close to the animals and can feed many of them (including the giraffes), but it was a pretty small zoo. They did have giraffes and a couple tigers and monkeys, plus petting zoo type animals. But their enclosures were much smaller than I am used to seeing at our zoo and for $30 we were kinda underwhelmed. Luke loved it though. He was just happy to be walking around outside, plus the ducks.

Anyway, we ended up going to the hotel after an hour or so at the zoo. Our hotel was super nice, right off the beach, with a gorgeous view of the gulf from our room on the 7th floor. The week was okay. We made it out to the beach the next day for awhile, me carrying Matthew in his car seat, while pulling Luke and our gear in the wagon. Matthew slept, Luke had fun in the sand and was not inclined to go anywhere near the water. Before we left, I took Luke's hand and brought him to the shoreline (we were pretty much the only ones there on the beach and so I was ok w/ leaving Matt in his seat asleep where I could see him while we walked 20ish feet away). Anyway, we were just dipping our toes in, maybe like an inch of water, when the cold water startled Luke though and he fell on his butt. He was not happy about that at all and gladly went in. I let him walk next to me because we could literally walk across the pier and be on the fenced back patio of the hotel and into the hotel, and he did a good job of staying near me and not trashing anything. The other days it was too cool and windy (for Matthew) to go out by the ocean so we took walks, Luke played in some sand on the back patio of the hotel where it was a little warmer, played with play doh on the balcony, Luke played with Lincoln logs that were in the lobby of the hotel with a lot of games for people to play, and just hung out. There was a little more crying on the drive back, especially before we stopped for the night in Nashville, but overall both kids did fantastic and it was a nice change of scenery.


Luke went and got his dog and went out to the balcony to enjoy the view!

Play doh on the balcony

View from hotel room

Luke loves ducks, the buffalo thing let us pet him.

Matthew at the zoo

The smart way to feed the goats

Luke patted their heads like they were dogs

Luke was also entraced with following around this stray bird

I tried to get more of Luke's face but he was bad about looking away, all in all, a big success. Too bad we came home to a bunch of snow and Matthew and Luke have taken turns being sick this past week.