Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Preschool Search....

Can I start by saying thanks for all the really sweet comments lately? I get, well, almost giddy when I see that someone has commented - the whole Sally Fields moment of "They like me - they really like me" kind of thing....

But now to share the current bane of my existence. Since Max was born, I have been dreading this. The Great Preschool Search.

Yes, I know. I'm a teacher. I truly believe in the value of education and the doors of opportunity that it throws wide. I just don't know if those doors are necessary for a three or four year old. There are many valuable things that can happen in a preschool - socialization, learning to listen to an adult other than your parent, even some academic building blocks (numbers, letters, that sort of thing). But there are just as many things about it that feel unnecessary at this point for this child.

The truth of it is that Max wants to go to "big kid school", so we've started looking for one for next fall. We have to have daycare anyway, and there's no reason why that daycare shouldn't be academic, I suppose. But in looking, the options are overwhelming, scary, and frustrating.

Issue 1: Preschool schedules - Part-time options begin an hour to two hours after we need to be at work. Some offer early care, most don't. Full-time options also rarely start early enough or end late enough for our work days - which are short in comparison with so many other job fields! Then there are the great co-ops, farm/forest schools, and charters that a working parent doesn't even have the possibility of participating in....

Issue 2: Expense - While not surprised, I am amazed at the cost of preschool. In many cases it is far more expensive than full-time infant care. Places that have part and full time options are only minimally more expensive for full time than part time. It looks like I'm headed back to work full time just to afford to have him somewhere.

Issue 3: Quality - Really, I'm not a curriculum freak, who has a lot of requirements for the things I want Max to learn. More than anything, I want him to feel that school is a good place to be. That's it! But yeah, I get a little nervous when I hear about computers as a center activity that they can choose to spend a great deal of time with. Or when no one can describe what they are teaching currently. Or when the "Spanish" teacher mispronounces Spanish color names. Or the learning is such a focus that the children are sitting like little robots. All of which I have seen in the last two weeks.

So that's where we are. I found one that is fabulous, in our neighborhood and budget, but the hours are wrong. And another that the hours and budget work, but there just weren't any warm fuzzies. I have a couple more places to visit next week, and many options that I haven't followed up on yet. In my ideal world, Max and Luke go to a great in-home care center in the mornings and I "homeschool" Max in the afternoons. But that's selfish of me. It doesn't meet Max's needs and desires for a bigger world. And I'm not even sure it's an option in my job anymore. The search goes on.

And I really can't even think about finding new daycare for Luke yet. Two pick-ups, two drop-offs...wahoo. Here come the years of living in my car, right?

Can I just cry now?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


As I'm watching my tivo'd recording of the inauguration, from the other room I hear:

"Luke, isn't it nice we get to live together? Now, get in the boat and let's go find a whale."


"Isn't this fun, Luke?"


Pretty cool.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Christmas, Part 1

I know I'm a little late in posting my Christmas update, but I still wanted to share pictures of our great holiday. This year we were with my family, and we spent the time at my parents' cabin. It was such a special year - the first holiday in the cabin, Savannah's first Christmas, and some long overdue vacation time for everybody.

I am really lucky to come from a family that genuinely enjoys hanging out. While chasing after the kiddos, playing Wii, reading, knitting, playing board games, and our favorite hobby - eating - the talking never stops. There are so many things to catch up on, and surrounded by the snow and warmed by the fire, we were in heaven.

To recount the time would take too long, and probably bore you to tears. Instead, I'm going to share far too many pictures. Bear with me, or come back another day!

Presenting: The Patrick Family Christmas

Max helping to decorate the cabin Christmas tree (we waited until we all got up there, and then the guys went out to the forest to cut one down - another Patrick family tradition):

Luke and Savannah checking out each other's snacks. It was great to see them starting to interact with each other - there are definitely fun years ahead!

My amazing brother-in-law, Alex:

My sister's beautiful family after Christmas Mass:

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is listening to my mom read The Polar Express. She's been reading it to us since we were young, and no one reads it quite as well as she does. Max fell in love with this tradition, too.

The cousins opening stocking surprises:

Our family on Christmas morning:

My sister Erin helping Savannah open Christmas presents. Savannah was content to just chew on the ribbon....

Max enjoying his new doctor's kit and costume:

Max, Alex, and Dan playing a game of "Sequence for Kids". Sequence was a big hit for all this Christmas, and Max loved having a game just like the grown-ups.

Max got this big dump truck last year for Papa for Father's Day. Luke thought that it made a wonderful place to sit:

Max enjoyed riding around the driveway, being pulled by Papa on the four-wheeler:

Max and I hanging out in the snow:

It was all wonderful - Christmas Magic, pure and simple.

Christmas, Part 2

Christmas trees are a big deal to me - they are the center of the decoration in our home, and a focus of my Christmas memories. But this year I was a little concerned about Luke's lack of self control and my precious ornaments. We decided to try something a little different - origami ornaments (inspired by the Pottery Barn catalog) made from wrapping paper. It was a fun little project for Dan and I, and I didn't worry at all when the basketball sailed into the tree or Luke's hands got a little grabby. (But i am eager to return to the traditional next year - the tree just didn't have the emotional hold for me that hanging all those years of memories does.)

We are so lucky to have families who are very understanding of the need to share holidays. But due to this sharing, we didn't have Christmas with Dan's family until the beginning of January. When it happened, it was perfect - a nice calm day of hanging out and enjoying each other's company here in our home. The boys loved a chance to open gifts again, and the quiet pace allowed them great playtime with new toys. The favorite for both boys? The chance to sit and read new books with Grandma and Grandpa. We are all lucky, indeed.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Post 100!!!

Well, it has taken well over a year, but I am posting my 100th blog post. I really want to thank those of you who stop by here. It's not always exciting, but I love sharing our little world with you.

I'm still planning on doing a Christmas update - but think this evening is a time for me to post some of those moments/updates that I don't want to forget.

- Luke can walk. He started taking steps at Christmas, right about his 13 month birthday. NOTE: I did not say Luke is walking. The truth is, he can take several steps at at time - he just doesn't really want to. Crawling is getting the job done for him, thankyouverymuch.

- Max is in love with all things "firefighter". He received a much-hoped-for fire truck for Christmas, and often proclaims he is headed to work as a fireman.

- Today he proclaimed himself on vacation from being a fireman - instead he was a superhero.

- We are all still in some phase of being ill. Yeah - 7 weeks now.

- The preschool search is on, and it is miserable. But that's the subject for another post.

- Max does not believe that Luke can't go to preschool with him next year. He has reassured me that he will "watch out for him and take care of him", and that Luke will be staying with him. Love that.

- Luke loves the slide. He does NOT love the swings or the see-saw.

- I will probably be returning to full-time work next year. I want to cry.

- I knitted a sweater for my niece for Christmas. And it's still here. Argh! I will get the buttons on this weekend, and get it in the mail, Erin!

- I think cupcakes may be on the agenda for the weekend. Or cookies. Hmmmmm.

I'm going to wrap up with some pictures from the last week - and thanks again for reading! Think this blog-thing will have to stick around.....

Having a snack in the yard - soaking up rare winter sun:

Hanging out at Happy Valley Park:

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Today is one of those days where I feel it. That twitch in the back of my brain, the wiggly fingers, the inability to focus. One of those days where I long to be crafty. I want to lock myself away and revel in the joys of yarn and fabric, find some paint and a brush, play with photos and paper. No real focus in mind - no end project.

Unfortunately, this is also one of those days when that just isn't in the cards. I stayed home from work with a fevery-pukey babe and active 3 year old. I thank God for the Ergo - it's the only reason I can be here at all today. There are blanket forts to be built, popcorn snacks to be made, and cuddling to be done. And I'm glad to be able to do it (in no small part due to working for an employer that provides paid sick/family illness days - but that's a tangent I'll tackle another day).

But still.....

These days when I really want to make something are coming less often than they used to - and I have to believe that it is due to how rare it is for those itches to actually get to be scratched. You know - the whole creativity breeds creativity thing. It's like a muscle that needs to be exercised. And my muscles are starting to atrophy.

One of my goals for this year is to be better at taking advantage of the small moments of time. Instead of waiting for the endless hours of quiet to appear, I need to seize the 10 minutes here and the 15 minutes there. I need to move my lazy behind to the sewing machine rather than the couch when both boys crash for the night. Instead of reading blogs about other people's creativity, I need to explore my own. And keeping a small knitting project in my purse wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

It's that word again - cultivate. I need to cultivate my creative spirit. I need to nurture that twitch in my brain.

Maybe CSI tonight will help me get a few more stripes done on the pillow I've just cast on. And if that's all the time i get today, then it sure is better than nothing.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

My word.

Happy New Years! I hope that today finds you warm and well, enjoying the possibility of all that 2009 might have to offer. I'm deliberately choosing not to focus on the fact that as the clock struck midnight last night, Max woke up in bed, throwing up. That just isn't going to be the sign of things to come.

Instead, I am intent on finding my word. For those of you familiar with the divine Ali E., you already know about the idea of choosing one word as the focus for the coming year. Instead of thinking about 5-6 resolutions that will make it to next week, I am going to focus my efforts this year on living my life in a way that fits with my word.

And that word is.... (drumroll, please).......


cul·ti·vate [ kúltə vàyt ] (past and past participle cul·ti·vat·ed, present participle cul·ti·vat·ing, 3rd person present singular cul·ti·vates)

transitive verb

1. prepare land for crops: to work land or prepare soil for growing crops

2. grow plant: to grow a plant or crop

3. loosen soil: to break up soil with a tool or machine, especially before sowing or planting

4. nurture something: to improve or develop something, usually by study or education

5. develop acquaintance with somebody: to develop an acquaintance or intimacy with somebody, often for personal advantage

6. make somebody cultured: to civilize or educate a person or group

It wasn't easy finding my word this year, but it really resonates with me. One of my great joys last year was starting our garden with Max. Yeah, the garden itself was fun, but even more because it helped me to do more of the things that I want to be doing in my life - being outside, being active, being in the moment, while anticipating good things to come. It forced me to start learning a whole new set of skills and information. I cannot wait to continue and expand this year. As a teacher, cultivating new ideas and thoughts is the role that I believe I should have in the lives of my students. I love the definition number 5 for my role as a wife. Even though we are going to be sharing our tenth anniversary, I want to continue to develop greater intimacy with Dan.

But I am drawn most to "cultivate" in how it fits with my role as a mother. There are so many things I want for my boys, and my greatest job is to help them discover, learn, and tend to their desires for growth and exploration. Whether I am helping to cultivate musicians, painters, athletes, readers, or in the most immediate case, walkers, I will focus my time and energy helping them to grow.

Yeah. Cultivate. That's my word. What's yours?