I’m Over It, DCL

I am having huge child care issues this week. First off, I lined up a babysitter a month ago so DearDR and I could attend the wedding of our dear friend Erin on Saturday. This babysitter has been remarkably flexible and reliable — up until Tuesday when she bailed on me because she has a lifeguarding job.

She has been scrambling to find me a replacement, and I give her props for that. But we’re talking two days from now, girls I haven’t met and who have met my children, and an all-day gig. Wedding’s at 2 p.m., and reception is from 4 to 10 p.m. My MIL is otherwise engaged.

Second off (?): I am about to go ’round with DCL again. And this time I’m closer than ever to pulling the plug for good.

It all started when Bun got molluscum contagiosum on her bum. She clearly got it from her sister and because I bathed them together (which I no longer do). DCL freaked out a little bit: what if she got it? what if another child in her care got it? Bun was not going to be allowed to swim with the other kids. We had to Do Something.

I spoke with Dr. Bro, the dermatologist, about the situation. To paraphrase his take: Molluscum contagiosum is a very common childhood virus. If a child is susceptible to the virus, then he/she is going to get it, if not at DCL’s then someplace else. The kids at DCL’s have already been exposed through Monkey (who had it on her face; it cleared up beautifully this year after she had had it for nearly 24 months). The recommended treatment in children is to DO NOTHING. The virus clears up on its own, albeit it can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. He is writing a letter to this effect for me.

DearDR and I laid out the above to DCL, also letting her know that if she wasn’t comfortable with our decision to do nothing, then we would understand. I know it’s a bit of CYA on her part — if another child in her care does get molluscum and she has an irate parent on her hands, she is in a tough situation. But her daughter had molluscum as a child, too, and her adult son (who lives there) HAS IT NOW. Monkey came down with it when she returned to DCL’s care after Bun was born.

Where ever does she think the virus is coming from?

Then, she asks me what I would like to do for the summer. Will the girls both be full time? If not, when will they be coming?

I tell her I would like Monkey to come Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I will have her down at her day school Monday, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Those are the days she will be going in the fall in any case.

Turns out that DCL would rather Monkey not come on Thursdays or Fridays because she ‘has too many kids those days’. Huh. Really. And now she is going to start charging for lunch because people are not donating food.

For the record, since my girls are vegetarians, I send stuff like not dogs and garden burgers so DCL has a protein to feed them.

So I told DCL that I will probably just pack Monkey and Bun lunches.

Her response, “Oh, I don’t think that’s going to work.”

I’m sorry, I think the proper response is, “That’s fine, RPM. Whatever you would like to do.”

I mean, I pay this woman a lot of money to render me a service. Shouldn’t she render it to MY convenience, not hers? Am I off my rocker here?

I haven’t talked this over with DearDR yet, and I am not at my most diplomatic right now. But I am tired of running all over the place in the evenings to pick up my children, and I am tired of being dictated to by a woman to whom I give a lot of money every week. Monkey’s day school will gladly take both girls full-time. On the other hand, I don’t want to burn any bridges — I may need DCL for back up during Christmas week for example — and my girls are used to DCL.

I’m just not sure the pros outweigh the cons right now.

Minor Bump

At breakfast on Thursday, Monkey asked, “Where am I going today?”

I told her to St. J’s and then to her dayschool (DS).

(I’m very lucky Monkey is an adaptable child. She goes three different places over the course of five days: Monday and Friday, she’s at DCL; Tuesday and Thursday, she’s at St. J’s till about 11 a.m., and then at DS; Wednesday, she’s at DS all day.)

Monkey’s response? “Yay. I like school.” What she said next stopped my heart: “I don’t like DS so much, though. The other kids are mean to me.”

I tried not to flip and yell, “WHAT??” Instead, I calmly (I think) asked what she meant, and who was mean to her.

She told me that “L” had started being mean to her. “She sings funny songs about me. And she won’t share the teeter totter with me.”

I advised her to ask L to stop doing whatever it was that bothered Monkey, or hurt her feelings. “And if she doesn’t, you can tell a teacher,” I said.

“Yeah. And R’s not my friend anymore. She plays with L now.”

On the upside, she picked a boy, N, to be her new best friend. On the downside, she’ll probably be off in a corner kissing him in another week or so.

I knew I would come up against this as the mother of girls. I’m kind of bummed it’s started already. I hope I can guide her through it. I am wondering if having Monkey tell a teacher is a good idea.

On the other hand, nothing makes you feel more like a mama bear than when your child is hurt — even when it’s “just” her feelings. I want to wade into that crowd of 4- and 5-year-olds and crack some heads.

That’s probably overreacting, though.

What would you do? What have you done?

Hmm. That Was Interesting.

Due to some changes away from the home office having to do with time, I was getting set to talk to Day Care Lady and tell her I was moving both the girls to Monkey’s new dayschool full time. I figured that she would be sad, but she has been pretty adamant that her day ends at 4:45 p.m.

She said she wants the girls still to come. She will accommodate my new, later, hours.

To say I am surprised would be an understatement. I had been dreading the conversation because of how things had gone last time we talked about moving our children from DCL’s.

Somewhat related tangent: I will say, things are calmer these days at DCL’s. She only has six kids on any given day, and most of them are under 5 years old. The children are often at “table time” when I get there, or DCL is reading to them. I’m sure they are still getting more television than I would like, but seeing as they are getting more TV at home than I am happy about (note to Mother Nature: need warmer weather soon), I can’t call that kettle.

Back to the point: DCL simply said she would hate to lose me because of time. I will not be getting to her place before 5:05 p.m., and I warned her that I may be asked to stay later with no notice (there’s a new sheriff in town), putting me at her place around 5:30. She said fine. We’d see how it goes.

I suspect two things: 1. She has genuine love and affection for my children, especially my Bun, whom she has full time during the week. 2. She would be taking a big hit in the wallet if both my girls went elsewhere. I think both those things weigh on her equally.

She also asked me about this summer, and I realized I had no idea what I was going to do. Monkey finishes pre-school sometime in May. My first instinct is to keep her at her dayschool (which is just fancy for day care) for three days a week, because she’ll be back there when school at St. J’s resumes.

I also realized that when school resumes in the fall, that Monkey will be going three days instead of two. So I wonder if I should change her to those three days (M-W-F) at the dayschool this summer.

Who knew all these decisions would have to be made when kids started school? Not me. Jeez louise.

I will say this: when Bun starts preschool, I’m moving everyone to the dayschool full-time. That’s not for another 18 months.

Also? Everything is subject to change without notice.

Finally? The first time DCL b*tches about what time I get to her house, I’m out of there. I have enough stress in my life without grief from someone, who — let’s face it — I employ.

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Random note: I forgot my cell phone when I went to work yesterday. Although I don’t use my cell a lot, I like to have it “just in case”. Plus, DearDR gets uber frustrated when he can’t reach me easily.

So when I got home, and after the kids were in bed, I called it from the landline. I could hear it ringing, very muffled, but I couldn’t find it. I wandered around the first floor. It seemed to be in the kitchen. Maybe I was hearing it through Bun’s monitor. I wandered upstairs. Nope, I couldn’t even hear it upstairs.

Back to the kitchen. I just stood there listening. I checked a couple of cabinets. Nope.

Finally it dawned on me where it was. I had put it in a bag with leftovers from dinner next door Sunday night.

It was in the refrigerator, right on top of the tortellini. I felt like a genius, let me tell you.

For the Record: I Agree

I was curious about the whole DCL concern about Monkey and P kissing, too. A few of you commented here and on plurk that there was nothing wrong with it — it’s cute. And I agree, it is cute when kids hug and kiss. Kids are affectionate, and they model adult behavior. Monkey knows Mommy and Daddy love each other; Mommy and Daddy kiss each other on the lips; Monkey loves P; she and P can kiss on the lips. Elementary!

Although there is nothing inherently sexual in kids under, say, ten kissing — even on the lips — or holding hands, we live in a weird society. And while I wouldn’t condone going this far, I think daycares and schools are within their rights setting rules for appropriate touching. After all, if the child being pinched doesn’t want to be pinched and asks the pincher to stop, and the pincher doesn’t, then it is harassment. Albeit not sexual harassment.

While I feel that telling Monkey that she is not old enough to kiss boys (or anyone outside of our family) on the lips is a good strategy in this case, I think there are other appropriate boundaries to set. For example, I would tell Monkey to ask permission before holding someone’s hand. That would be respectful. I would hope that the little boy in question with Monkey at least said, “Hey, I really like you. Want to kiss?” In that case, I can’t see Monkey saying, “Heck no!” Especially if the boy was cute. (Monkey, she likes the boys.) I would hope that if someone forcefully kissed Monkey or grabbed her hand, she would have the confidence to pull away, or say, “no” or “stop”.

But I’m not going to use terms like sexual harassment or inappropriate touching or even “mouth kissing” with Monkey. She’s four, as she points out several times a day. Not eleven.

I don’t want to go giving her ideas.

Kissing Boys at Daycare

If you’re thinking, “Oh, no she didn’t” let me assure you that she did not. But it was a close thing.

Day Care Lady informed me today when I picked up the girls that she, DCL, had found Monkey and P (a 5-year-old boy) *this close* to kissing. She said I had to talk to Monkey because she, DCL, did not allow that.

When the children were separated and “talked to”, apparently Monkey’s response was, “But I’m four now.”

I am equally amused and distressed. I know that kissing at this age is all about curiousity and true like (Monkey and P geniunely like each other and are always looking out for each other at DCL’s) and being friends. I have one friend, now married with children, who says she doesn’t remember kissing boys at that age, but she does remember kissing girls.

When I told Monkey that she was not allowed to kiss P, she (inevitably) teared up. I simply told her that I know that she likes P, but she is not allowed to kiss boys yet. I also told her that I wasn’t mad (seems to be a concern of hers these days, whether DearDR and I are going to be mad at her).

And the entire time I had to keep a straight face when I felt like giggling. I’m so high school that way.

And that was it. She didn’t complain; she didn’t ask questions; she didn’t declare her undying love for her daycare Lothario.

We’ll see.

Random Thoughts: News of the Week

I signed Monkey up for preschool and a new daycare on Tuesday. I am so excited for her! I would spare you the, “I can’t believe my little baby is going to preschool” yadda, yadda, yadda. But you know what? My little baby is going to preschool!

She asks everyday, “Am I going to preschool today?” She can’t wait. I can’t wait! I really think she is going to love it.

And, yes, a new daycare. Right now, just three days a week (well, technically two half days, after preschool, and one full day). She may start there full time depending on what DCL decides to do. More on that in a moment.

And Bun is on the waiting list at the new daycare, too. They have to hire another staff member for the toddler room first.

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DCL: First, I have noticed some changes since DCL, DearDR, and I sat down for our little conversation. DCL is trying to bring more structure to her day, instituting table time, planning activities, and so on.

Second, DCL received an anonymous note in the mail threatening to report her to the state and the IRS. She thinks it came from one of her neighbors (no, it didn’t come from me or DearDR). As a result, she and MK are considering going in together, and getting a license from the state. That would mean should would have to cut the number of kids (regardless of the season — she says she always has more in the summer). It would probably also mean her prices are going to increase, but my expenses are already increasing as Monkey enters school and a new daycare. So what’s the diff?

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I get to go to dinner with some blogging Burgh moms tonight. They will probably manage to write about it before I do because: We are going to Kennywood tomorrow!

It’s my company’s annual employee picnic. It is only costing $20 for the four of us, and they have free pop and a free lunch from 1-4 p.m. How cool is that?

I haven’t been to Kennywood since I was pregnant with Monkey. In case you didn’t know, you can’t ride ANYTHING at Kennywood when you’re pregnant. Not even the Turnpike. Well, actually, you can ride the carousel. I don’t even like the carousel, but I did ride it on that occasion. Just to prove a point. Don’t ask what point.

It will be Monkey and Bun’s first time. I’m curious to see how they do and what they want to do. And what kind of dirt Bun decides to try to eat. I promise — promise — to bring the cameras, both still and video.

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In house news: We have killed three mice. (For the funniest mouse-killing story I have seen online, go here. If we could buy a cat, we would. But I am allergic. Maybe when the girls are old enough to clean out the litter box, I’ll reconsider and take a daily Claritin for sniffles, but for now, no cats.) Of course, I mopped my kitchen floor and put things back together last night (I still have to disinfect the drawer under the stove), and then saw the body in a cupboard this morning. Gross!

Left a note for DearDR. For goodness sake, I’m a vegetarian. I’d let the critters share the house with us if they weren’t disease carriers. And if they would agree to not poop in my silverware drawer.

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The bathroom floor is a disaster. DearDR pulled up a corner of the rug, dried out the floor, and then ripped out half of the rug. The former owners GLUED the rug on top on linoleum. So now I have a big, sticky mess in there.

I have three levels of frustration about this project:

1. I had wanted that rug removed when we first moved in, a little over three years ago now. I consider rugs in bathrooms the height of disgusting-ness (is that a word?). Unfortunately, it wasn’t high on DearDR’s list. I’m still not sure it’s on his list.

2. I went though the trouble and stress to take the girls to Erie by myself (driving on the interstate with two toddlers in the back is a recipe for an accident, and I have to stop doing it). When I first noticed the spreading dampness on the rug, I told DearDR something had to be done. He said, and I quote, “Take the girls to Erie, and you will have a new bathroom floor when you get home.” I have a different bathroom floor than the one I left last Friday, but it’s certainly not new.

3. So now when is he going to do it? We are completely tied up the next two weekends. Unless he commits to doing it on a Sunday, and gets help, I don’t know when it is going to happen. And I’m not taking the girls to Erie by myself again so that it can happen. So sorry, Charlie.

I am getting an estimate from my sister-in-law’s brother, who is a contractor. But unless he gives us a break on the price, I sincerely doubt we’ll be able to afford it. One plus: We got free ceramic tiles from my parents. So at least we don’t have to pay for that. Just time & labor. Great.

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If you are not already checking out this site, you have to go. Go now. This chickie (and I sincerely use that term with the highest respect) makes me laugh out loud. She pretty much takes stuff from the Post-Gazette and sums it up in her own inimitable and very, very funny style. I’m glad she’s saying it, because somebody should. Thanks, PittGirl.

Day Care Conundrum

When we moved to this suburb of Pittsburgh, I was a freelancer/work-at-home mom. Monkey was only nine months old.

In order to be able to work at home, I needed to find someplace to store her a couple of days a week. Friends in the area suggested Day Care Lady.

Two years later, and through a lot of different set-ups (part time, full time, one kid, two kids), DCL has been pretty flexible and always good to my kids. She works out of her home; she knows CPR and other life-saving techniques; she has a lot of toys, and also lets the kids play outside when the weather is nice.

DCL is not state-inspected; she gets paid in cash, so she doesn’t bother the IRS with what she is earning. Which, from us, is about $12,000 a year. Yeah, that much. And she’s got a bunch of other kids.

While I have nothing bad to say about DCL as a person or as a care-taker, I have started having some misgivings about having my children at her home. First of all, she has anywhere from six to ten kids on a daily basis (during the summers, a few more). If she were state-sanctioned, she would only be allowed to have six.

Second, the TV is on a lot.

Third, because DCL does it under the table, I cannot claim my daycare expenses as a tax write-off. This will particularly bothersome on this year’s taxes.

There are other lower-level things — gut-level, if you will. Just a feeling I get that my kids would do better in a more structured environment; DCL’s is quite a free-for-all. Some days my kids seems really over stimulated, and dealing with the aftermath of that at home is difficult. DCL says my children are angels at her house, and don’t give her any trouble, although she has mentioned having to yell at them for things (standing in front of the television, for example, or putting everything in her mouth [Bun]).

When DCL goes on vacation, we take the kids down the street to Ms. K. Similar set-up, only fewer kids. During the summer, Ms. K only has a total of six, if that. I noticed the weeks my children were there that they were much calmer when I picked them up. Also when I picked them up, they were usually all engaged in a specific activity (i.e. playing with blocks at the block table). The TV was on only once when I went to get them. On top of everything else, once they were back to DCL, Monkey would ask when they were going back to Ms. K’s. She declared she didn’t like DCL anymore.

Now, we think that some of Monkey’s problem with DCL is a general problem with authority, perfectly appropriate to the age. Even though she complains about going every day (according to DearDR), DCL says she doesn’t give her any trouble about being there, and she certainly doesn’t appear unhappy when I pick her up.

Talking things over with DearDR, we thought we would move Monkey and Bun down the street to Ms. K’s. The environment seemed to be better for them, based on my observations. We didn’t think it would be that big a deal.

Boy, were we wrong. DCL was furious with us. She felt we were being rude by asking Ms. K to watch the kids “behind my back”. She felt Ms. K was betraying their friendship by agreeing to watch our girls. She wanted to know what was wrong with her, and why we were unhappy.

After a very stressful weekend full of anger, regret, apprehension, and talking it over (and over and over), we decided to keep the girls at DCL’s … for now. Ms. K, when she saw the trouble the move was going to cause, utterly collapsed and reneged on her agreement to take the girls after we had talked to DCL. I am not happy, but I also had not intended to cause any hurt feelings (and feelings, believe me, were hurt).

We’ve another month (less!) to go this summer. Monkey is being enrolled in pre-school (two half days a week), and those days she goes to school, she will be ferried over to a closer daycare by people at the school. If I end up liking that daycare, I may move Bun there, too. Knowing that I have all this in my back pocket alleviates my current (albeit not very strong) misgivings about our current daycare arrangement.

What do the rest of you do? What do you think of my plan? Am I wimping out? I would like to emphasize that my children are in no danger, physically or emotionally, and to be honest, DCL loves my children. I think she was crushed to think that kids she loved were going to be leaving her for (in her view) no good reason.