I can’t let this historical weekend go without writing down / sharing a few thoughts.
First, I watched the inauguration speech given by Trump and I was unimpressed and uninspired. I will never root against him because I want him to make some radical changes in our country and I want to move forward as a nation and I want politics (and both parties) to change. But I’m not convinced his presidency will be anything but divisive, which I see as a huge step back for us all. I hope and pray that he proves me wrong.
Second, I didn’t march yesterday, but I am so grateful that many people (millions!) did. My best friends were out there in many different cities – thank you! Thank you for representing me and my daughters and all of the women I know. I’m not sure why so many people were and are against the march and what it stands for. Can’t we all agree that marching for human rights is a good thing? That women’s rights are necessary and should be protected? That, as a country, we should demand better of our president than the things he has done and said in the past?
We are paying attention, Washington. I think the march proved that point.
Even if you didn’t march and don’t understand the march and what it stood for and the people who participated – let’s all move forward in love and optimism and hope and appreciation that we live in a country in which we can speak our minds and gather together so our voices can be expressed collectively. We should all feel better that we are among citizens who stand up for oppression and inequality, in any form.
The world is not changed by those who sit at home and write comments on the internet, the world is changed by people who get out there. Donate money. Volunteer at a local organization. Love your family and friends. Take care of yourself. Protect the Earth we all call home.
Yesterday I wrote an email to a friend who is debating whether (and where) to send her 3 year old to preschool this fall. Then it occurred to me that a lot of moms might be having this same internal debate about choosing a preschool, because enrollment starts this month in a lot of areas, including ours!
So I wanted to share the letter I wrote to my friend (slightly edited for blog purposes).
Here are some thoughts to consider when choosing a preschool…
– Length of the day. I’m glad I didn’t choose one that is less than 4 hours per day. At about 8:45am I frantically get both girls in the car and head to preschool, and by the time I unload both girls at school, get Clara in the door, then get Isabelle back in the car, drive home, unload Isabelle again… it’s already 9:45am. Then I put Isabelle down for a nap which takes us until about 10:30am. Then I have some blissful time until Isabelle wakes back up and we leave again around 12:30pm so that we’re a bit early for Clara, who is done at 1pm. Basically, even though she’s gone for 4 hours, I am lucky to get 2 hours ‘off’.
– Whether lunch is provided. If you can, find a preschool that makes and feeds the kids lunch. I am so thankful that I do not need to pack a lunch for Clara every day. They feed her organic and vegetarian food and she eats it, loves it, and when she gets home in the afternoon I just put her to bed for a nap without having to deal with the normal lunchtime chaos and mess.
–Distance from home. I wish I could have found a preschool within walking distance. I would have LOVED that but it wasn’t meant to be for us. Instead, we drive about 10 minutes to her preschool, which I think is still doable. If we had to drive more than 20 minutes it would absolutely not be worth it to me, even if it was a 4 hour school day.
–Teacher turnover. I was advised to find a preschool with low teacher turnover rates, which I think makes a lot of sense. The school that Clara attends is run by a teacher who has been running her own preschool for about 20 years, and now that Clara has formed a bond with her, I love knowing that she will still be around for the months/years Clara will be at the school.
– Environment. I think you should love the school’s environment or find a different school. I really feel great about dropping Clara off at school. We toured one other preschool and I got a very ‘meh’ feel about it. The school I didn’t love had little classrooms, the kids were separated by age, it was very structured, and there was a tiny outdoor space. I just found it kind of depressing. The school Clara goes to is completely unstructured, has a huge outdoor space with logs to play on, a fort to climb in, kitchen tools to make mud ‘food’, garden supplies, and then the inside area is two floors of a big house and has old couches, play areas, all wooden toys, comfy reading nooks, craft tables… it’s like a mini-wonderland. Clara can choose what to do for her two free hours there (two other hours include lunch and circle time) and she can always go outdoors. If it’s raining, they put the kids in boots and rain suits and out they go! If Clara needs more structure when she’s four years old I’ll re-evaluate, but at her age I love the unstructured time. Plus, I am sure that she is going to be intellectually ready for kindergarten when the time comes so I’m more concerned with her learning social skills.
I’m sure there are other more-practical things to take into consideration when choosing a preschool, but to be honest, I was more focused on the convenience and feel-good factor than the cost. If you can find a preschool that is nearby, affordable, and has the type of environment you value, I totally think it’s worth sending your kid to! I cannot even put into words (although I tried with this post) how much I love my toddler-free mornings twice per week. It has been a total game changer for our family.
I went through all of today thinking it was Thursday, which is unfortunate since it’s only Tuesday. Whoops. Evidently the long weekend totally threw me off.
A few things are keeping me busy lately…
// Scandal. Tim and I are OBSESSED. We just finished season 2 and are onto season 3. I’ve heard that it goes downhill around season 6… can anyone confirm or deny?!
// A wardrobe challenge. The lovely Audrey from Putting Me Together organized a wardrobe challenge for January and it has been nothing short of amazing. I absolutely love participating and I hope she does another one for the summer! Basically, at the beginning of the challenge she created a shopping list and suggestions of clothes to own and then every day she sends an outfit idea to wear that day. I LOVE not having to think about what to wear this month! This challenge has saved me so much time, has cost me very little money and I always look put together!
// An outdoors challenge. I’m also participating in a challenge through Hike It Baby to either hike 30 miles this month or walk/hike/play outdoors for 30 minutes per day, three times per week in January. We spend a ton of time outdoors in the summer, but in the winter we definitely don’t go outside every day for a long period of time, so this challenge has really motivated me to ensure we get some outdoors time for the girls!
// This book, which is an easy read and also really good. I want to underline entire paragraphs of it to reread, which is always a good sign.
// My new planner. The only thing I don’t like about this planner is that it doesn’t do all of my tasks for me. It turns out I’m much better at writing and organizing lists and tasks than actually doing them. For the longest time I didn’t have a planner and relied on my computer/phone for lists and calendars, but nothing can beat an actual planner, in my opinion.
// Not sleeping. No one in my house is sleeping lately. Absolutely no one. It is brutal. I can’t even describe the chaos that is nighttime in our house, other than to say that we start bedtime before 8pm and at 10pm both kids are usually awake and at midnight usually one kid is awake and then we wake up about another 3 times before 7am. Right now we are focusing almost all of our energy on toddler sleep (since Clara has completely regressed since she started preschool and is dragging out bedtime like it’s her sole mission in life to stay awake forever) and it is beyond exhausting.
// Thrift stores. I found these shoes (in like-new condition) for $8. I love going to thrift or consignment stores and finding good deals!
Clara just started going to school last week and let me tell you, signing her up is the best decision I’ve made in quite some time!
Let me preface this post by saying that before I had a toddler, I said I wasn’t going to send Clara (or Isabelle) to school until she was four years old. At least. I thought preschool was expensive and too structured for young children and I also thought that I could easily handle a toddler all day long, every day, and that it was my duty as a SAHM to do so.
My current self is laughing at my former self. Per usual.
Clara turns 2.5 years old this month (tomorrow, actually!) and so last month we found a school with openings for young toddlers and signed her up! (I think 2.5 years old is the youngest age that schools accept around here.) I prayed that we would find a perfect fit for her and we did!
Let me back track. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you have read that I find staying at home with two children to be completely exhausting. Once Tim went back to work after his 10 week paternity leave, I felt like I was losing my patience, energy, and tolerance for both kids. I was losing myself, basically. So, Tim and I discussed solutions to this problem and decided to look for preschools.
Now Clara is going to school in a huge house with 2 levels and a large outdoor play area. It’s a Waldorf-inspired school so there is two hours of free time each day for the kids to explore and play with whatever they choose. There are no plastic toys. There are no structured activities except for ‘circle time’ in which they dance and sing and read stories each day. The kids all play together, so 2.5-5 year olds interact and the little kids (ideally) can learn some social behavior from the older kids. The kids can also play outside whenever they choose. There are old comfy couches and reading nooks everywhere in the house. There are small tables on which the children eat organic, vegetarian lunches and snacks and drink water from their mugs (no sippy cups allowed, we had to go out and buy Clara a special ‘real’ mug for school!). Outside there are tree stumps for balancing and a mud kitchen with utensils for making mud muffins and all sorts of goodies. There are lots of real, old tools and toys and today when I dropped Clara off some children were playing bongo drums. The whole thing is set-up like a kids’ wonderland and is so simple and not state-of-the-art and I love it. No technology, minimal structure, free play, an emphasis on creativity and exploring and being outside. Even in the winter, Clara has been choosing to play outdoors for about an hour each time she’s there.
I could not be more thrilled.
I could go on and on but you get the idea.
What’s most important, though, is that Clara absolutely loves going. She loves her main teacher and talks about her constantly. There were no tears the first day (I was shocked!) and when I picked her up she grabbed my hand and showed me all of the things she loves in her new school. Then the next time I picked her up she wouldn’t put her coat on because she didn’t want to leave. We’re always the last ones out of the building.
While Clara is at school, Isabelle and I enjoy about an hour of bonding time and then I enjoy some free-time while Isabelle naps. And this extra time has saved me. Honestly, it’s amazing. Right now I’m typing this blog post in peace, drinking a latte, instead of chasing around Clara at a toddler activity. It’s heaven.
Not that we don’t do toddler activities – our Tuesday/Thursday/Fridays are filled with fun things we all do together. But Mondays and Wednesdays are the most peaceful mornings in our house. Isabelle can sleep in her crib (instead of being forced to skip a nap) and I can do whatever I want to do in the house while Clara is having a great time with her friends. Then I get so excited to pick her up and hear all about her adventures!
PLUS, Clara has already become much better at playing by herself while at home. And by that I mean she’ll do it for about 5-10 minutes. Hey, improvement is improvement and I’ll take it!
Even though I’m still not sleeping (which is another post for another time) I’m feeling quite refreshed these days! It’s amazing what 8 toddler-less hours a week can do for a person.
Tim has always wanted to go whale watching, so being the awesome wife (I say) I am I decided to buy him tickets for his birthday. I consider gifts like this the very best kind, because I get to do something that I want to do and call it a gift for Tim! I think he’s generally onto my strategy though…
Anyways. It isn’t necessarily ideal whale watching season in Seattle, because winter months tend to be wet and miserable, but we found a tour that operates year round that conveniently leaves from downtown Seattle. I was optimistic when buying the tickets (about a month ago), but after our chaotic family snowshoeing ‘adventure’ I almost cancelled the entire trip because I didn’t think my mental state could handle hours of (my) whining toddler and screaming baby.
However, I really don’t seem to learn lessons very easily (or maybe I’m just really stubborn), so on the trip we went!
It was wonderful.
It was a super convenient tour because the boat left right from downtown, which is close to where we live and also close to a public parking garage. Then, we found a booth to sit at in the indoor area of the boat so that the girls could eat snacks and stay warm. We, of course, went outside when there were fun things to see, which was often!
We enjoyed beautiful views of Seattle! Thank goodness for a day full of sunshine.
We saw sea lions, seals, bald eagles… and whales! There’s nothing like seeing wildlife in their natural habitat and knowing that it’s so close to where we live.
These two eagles were one of the highlight of our trip! They were trying to dive after something in the water. Also, I realized after they were gone that my shutter speed was way too slow so the pics are blurry – wah.
The girls were surprisingly (decently) well behaved on the 4-5 hour trip and they were entertained by the snacks and watching for animals and the booklets they gave us that had pictures of the wildlife we might see…. Plus, Clara loves boats and Isabelle was able to nap during her normal naptimes while we wore her in a carrier.
Here are some tips so that if you go you can have an awesome experience, too:
Get to the dock early. There’s no worse feeling than feeling like you might miss your boat or get there late and hold up everyone on the trip! There aren’t many things I’m on time to these days, but we got to the dock early and I was very glad.
Bring snacks. Way more snacks than you think could ever be consumed by a tiny human in only a few hours. Actually, even if you don’t have kids you should bring snacks and water!
Bring lots of extra layers for everyone, especially if you go whale watching in the winter. We went on a rare sunny day, but it was still very windy on the water!
Bring a camera with a zoom lens.
Attempt to get on the boat quickly so that you can grab a seat indoors (if you have kids who aren’t going to sit still outdoors).
Go on a whale watching tour that has a whale guarantee. I was so happy that our tour had a ‘guarantee’ which basically said if we didn’t see whales on our trip we would get free trips until we saw them.
Be on the lookout! On our trip I actually saw a dolphin or whale or something near the boat but I was nursing Isabelle and couldn’t get anyone’s attention to tell them so the boat didn’t stop! If you see something, say it so that everyone else can check it out, too!
Get excited by more than just whales. The whales were pretty neat, but the other wildlife was awesome, too. For instance, we saw two bald eagles soaring in front of the Seattle skyline, trying to grab something out of the water. They almost got in a fight and it was just so neat to observe.
This big guy (a California Sea Lion) was enjoying the sunshine!
All in all, it was a great day, that we ended by eating a nice dinner at Steelhead Diner near Pike’s Place downtown.
I honestly cannot believe the girls made it through the entire day without any major meltdowns! I think God was trying to give me a break after our stressful Christmas. Adventures are still possible with small children! We can still do fun things!
Let this inspire you to go out and do the fun things. Kids in tow. But maybe don’t go snowshoeing.
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