March Break Planning Madness


This is the first official school year for my kids. Both girls have always been in daycare. We moved my girls to a school this past September which means that this was my first experience with PA Days and now… March Break! And not just one week—my girls are off for TWO weeks! So what’s the plan? We’re lucky that one of us (Dad) actually was able and willing to take two weeks off from work. Still, dad at home all day with two extremely active kids without a plan asking for trouble. So a couple of months before March Break, I started gathering ideas and planning.  A perfect mix of enjoying time at home, a few educational activities, and some pure awesome fun was my goal. How do you keep a 4 ½ year old, and a two year old occupied all day for 2 weeks?

In this day of Google, naturally, the Internet was my first stop for ideas.

Tons of places capitalize on March Break and create events specifically for families and children during this time.  Although events and programs taking place in places such as Casa Loma, the ROM and the Ontario Science Centre were attractive (and were on my list to consider), I focused my search on York Region. Pottery painting, Princess Parties, Maple Syrup Festivals. Local Recreation Centres offer skating, swimming, and brief drop-in play periods. These were good all good options because they weren’t just one day events and one need not register ahead of time. I like schedules. But I don’t want all my kids’ activities the kind where I have to register them for months or weeks in advance. What if one of them got sick? And there’s something to be said about spontaneity. A beautiful day could mean a walk in the park and time in the playground. A really rainy day is a time to be home in pajamas with hot chocolate and good story books.What I did register for was the Princess Tea Party hosted by the Town of Richmond Hill (on its third year!).  Since it was held on a Saturday, I was able to go with both by daughters. I’ve attended the event every year and this year was the first time Sarah participated. Both my girls were in full costume and we thoroughly enjoyed the event. If you’ve never been to this event, I highly recommend it.
  • How about some culture? A show perhaps? From children’s theatre such as the ones produced by the Solar Stage, to bigger and more musical productions such as Pinkalicious, there were a few of these going on. Also, they can’t see a play or a show every day which only lasts a little over an hour. That would result in one of the most expensive March breaks ever. However, we couldn’t resist buying tickets to Disney’s Disney on Ice: Dare to Dream. 7PM on a weeknight was our chosen date so I could go. I’ll post about this after the show. We all saw Disney Live! Three Classic Fairy Tales for Sarah’s 2nd birthday and it was quite enjoyable. My older one, crazy about all things Princess, LOVED it of course but even little Sarah was mesmerized.
  • Indoor playgrounds are a good option. It’s March, so it could be mild but it could also be raining or snowing so an indoor playground sounds perfect. Let the kids burn energy and Dad can just sit and watch. Well, actually, that depends on the age of your kids and the kind of playground. Because I have a two year old, a relatively small playground (i.e. you can sit one and still see the other end of the room and it’s set up so you don’t lose sight of your child) was the only choice for me.Kinder Zone is always my “go to” indoor playground. It caters to the toddler crowd and yet there’s enough fun stuff for my four year old. So I jotted down operating hours and made a note of other nearby indoor playgrounds just in case.
  • Early Years Centres – I checked but wasn’t quite happy with the available programs or hours. But it’s always good to check your local EYC.
  • What about other indoor venues?  The Woodbine Centre, a fancy indoor park is something we thought of.  We’ve been there once and found the fees to be reasonable. The Rogers Centre has their Spring Fling, a large indoor carnival. But spending a whole day indoors when there might be a chance that day might be nice and mild (and maybe even sunny!) put that idea on our “Maybe” list.

There are some obvious potential things to do (and FREE) like going to a park or outdoor playground. And what about the Library? My kids love the library.

We’re supposed to get a few beautiful mild days, and we are so lucky to live near a great park. There is nothing like outdoor play and fresh air.

I also poured over community program brochures for ideas. In Richmond Hill, there was a fantastic list of half-day and full-day March Break Programs—Art Classes, Dance, Sports, and even one that combined everything, and several unique programs. Lots of similar classes in different community centres in Richmond Hill. And of course, March Break Camps option.

The one thing I noticed, much to my disappointment, was that there were really no programs for children under 3 or 4 years old. I remember that some of my friends used to put their child in a daycare just for the week of March Break. How many daycares will take children for just a week.


A semblance of some structure and scheduled activities at home is extremely important. As parents, we know children thrive on routine. And for children who are in school or daycare, I believe we need to incorporate some aspects of the school’s routine into their time at home.  I try my best to keep naptime and meals at the same time. Homework or study at night even when on March Break (and I cannot believe, the teachers sent homework for my 4 year old). We succeeded on all these points except for nap time. Unfortunately, although Sarah is such a good napper in school, Dad can’t just convince her to take a nap. It doesn’t help that the little one wants to keep up with older Sis who no longer naps.


Fun Activities at Home
My daughters are close enough in age that they can play well together… until they start fighting. But really, the one joy with siblings is that the parent(s) doesn’t have to be the playmate all the time. We are well equipped at home—dress-up costumes, play kitchen, tea party sets, dolls, painting and colouring sets, stickers—enough to keep two young kids occupied for a long time. Well, not long enough for Daddy, apparently; not when “Daddy must play ‘Hotel’ with them, and referee who gets to sit on the Tinkerbell chair next. And when the girls are beginning to get extremely tired and a bit cranky, and Daddy needs time to make a meal, then a good ol Princess or Dora movie does the trick. Ah, peace and quiet. That is, until meal time. 


Time with Grandma
Ahh… who doesn’t love grandparents who are retired and like to spend time with grandkids? I made sure to make my mom-in-law part of the plan and insisted that Daddy drop off the kids with her for a few hours while he has his ME time. Extremely crucial lest I come home one evening to find him ready to give up the kids for adoption.


Caribbean vacation, anyone? The one disadvantage of March Break is that parents like us feel compelled to take the family vacation during this time especially when this “break” is two weeks long.  So, we looked for deals. No such thing for March Break. And the prices! After much research and considering a few vacation options, including  a Holland Nickolodeon cruise, we settled on the ever predictable all-inclusive Carribbean resort vacation. Found a tax-free deal one night and jumped on it. And after the transaction was completed, it dawned on me (too late) that we may be trapped in the resort with large groups of loud, obnoxious, drunken university kids. But then I realized that we were travelling on my kids’ second week of March Break and not on the first week, which was the official March Break for most Ontario schools and many provinces. So cross fingers, everything will be fine.

When I was confident about my plan and after discussing with hubby, I plotted everything into Google calendar with full descriptions, address locations when appropriate – a couple of days with planned and scheduled classes and activities and several “free, whatever works” days—and shared it with hubby. Too much? Well, it works and gives me peace of mind.

Of course, after I had planned all this, the school, decides to run a March Break program for parents interested. SIGH. That would have been so much easier. Still, one of us was on vacation, and the school’s program was not free. So we stuck to my plan. As of this posting, the girls have been alone with Daddy all day for one day. So far, so good.

What are your kids doing on March Break? Were you a planning fiend like me? Did you escape on holiday? Leave them with Grandma and said “good luck, have fun!? Or are you a free-flowing spirit and taking it day by day?

My Chrismukah: Joyous and Complicated


Christmas is just around corner. And so is Hanukkah. This means that in our household, my husband and I, our four year-old Princess and 22 month old girl, Blue Eyes, will celebrate with lighting the menorah, latkes and jelly-filled donuts one night (or eight), and receive a few presents from his family (mainly because of me), and on Christmas Eve, together with my parents and a few aunts and uncles, we will celebrate with a feast, tons of presents and Christmas carols late through the night till Christmas morning. And I will wonder, is this the last year that my Princess will enjoy every ritual, every celebration and get-together without asking the hard questions?

Christmas is my favourite holiday. And Christmas time has become even more special ever since I’ve had children. Last year, Princess, who was over three at the time, helped me decorate the tree for the first time. There were quite a few broken ball ornaments but it was still fun. (Note to self: Buy shatterproof ornaments this year). Recently, Princess, without my prompting, asked me when we could start decorating the tree together. This made me all warm and fuzzy all over and pretty excited more than ever to put out the tree early. However, we haven’t really talked about why there is a tree. I may have pointed out the baby Jesus in my mom’s nativity set, but she doesn’t yet realize the significance. I bought her a Children’s Bible. Is that a good start?

Last year, my Princess also lighted the menorah by herself for the first time. This was a special moment for me but more so for my husband and an absolute thrill for my in-laws, her Saba and Safta. This year, I want Daddy and I to tell her the story of the Maccabees. The challenge will be to tell a story that she can comprehend.

My daughter goes to Sunday Hebrew school, albeit with a secular curriculum. Will she one day ask if it’s ok to have a Christmas tree?

We are not just a mixed or intercultural family; we are an “inter-faith” family. Filipino and Israeli; Roman Catholic and Jewish. Neither my husband or myself are particularly religious but we celebrate our holidays. There are no issues now but can we expect a few down the road? Do we need to label our children? Jewish? I didn't convert so technically, she's not. Half-Jewish? Humanist? How about just a “good human being”? Does it have to be complicated?

My Jewish friend who is married to an Italian Catholic said, “My children are “spiritual”, less specific.” He says his family celebrates Christmas and Hanukkah in unison.

The questions will come. But for now, I think I’ll enjoy the tree decorating, menorah lighting, cookie baking, and the purity of my children’s happiness and enjoyment of the simple things.

Are you part of an interfaith family? What kinds of choices did you make?

=============================================================================
This post is also a Today's Parent submission to their blogging challenge. I hope they also like the following:

Daycare or nanny? Daycare or nanny? Daycare or...

Like most new moms, my husband and I debated whether to place my child in daycare or hire a nanny once I returned to work (when Naomi turned a year). We didn’t really start thinking about it until Naomi was about six months. We considered the pros and cons of both options, and eventually, decided to put Naomi in daycare.
Immediately after making the decision, we visited many, many daycares, and interviewed their staff until we found one that met our expectations.

For the first four months after I returned to work, Naomi was part-time at daycare, and part-time with my mother-in-law. We were lucky that we had family who wasn’t working and was willing to take care of Naomi (in fact, she volunteered!). Today, at 17 months, Naomi is in a daycare full-time, well cared for and enjoying herself.

Frankly, choosing daycare over having a nanny wasn’t all that difficult for us. Yes, we did think seriously about each option, but it was more difficult finding and deciding on which daycare to out our child in was the hard part. The following were my lists of pros and cons, which we considered during the nanny/daycare decision process.

NANNY (PROS):

  • Dedicated one-on-one attention
  • No need to wake baby up at an ungodly hour every morning
  • No rushing to drop-off baby
  • No rushing to pick up baby (and get stressed in traffic). Did you know that daycare fines for being late are $1.00 a minute?!
  • Baby is in a comfortable and familiar environment from the beginning. Less transitioning needed.
  • Extra help with caring for baby (ahhh.... maybe we can eat dinner in peace)
  • Visions of a super tidy house and dinner waiting came to mind. (Of course there's no guarantee nanny will do all that.)

NANNY (CONS):
  • Potentially quite expensive (“potentially” because the fees of certain daycares are shockingly expensive too)
  • Would require us finishing the basement of our home (sounds like a lot of money and work but we were prepared for this option)
  • Not enough social interaction - this is a really big deal to me
  • No stimulating activities (Maybe Nanny will be boring and Naomi will end up watching T.V. all day.)
  • Nanny could be serial killer (I get really paranoid when it comes to my child!)
  • But seriously, how do I know if the nanny is hurting or being mean to my child?? I don’t want to have to put nanny cams everywhere. And do I really want to live like that where I can’t trust my caregiver? This was a drawback I couldn’t get over.

DAYCARE (CONS)

  • Well, opposite of all of the above pros for the Nanny option. Also:
  • People tell me kids in daycare get sick more often (unfortunately, for the first 2 months, this was true)
  • Potential neglect due to lack of staff (The daycare we eventually decided on bragged about always having extra staff. And you know what, it seemed Naomi got extra attention on the days she needed it.)

DAYCARE (PROS)

  • Lots of fun activities including circle time with songs and reading, arts and crafts (yes, they do it for infants), indoor and outdoor play, and various other programs
  • Will learn to be more independent and become comfortable with another caregiver other than mommy (At the time, I really, really hoped this would be true.☺)
  • Social interaction with other kids. It drives me crazy when people tell me that young children (under two or three) don’t need to interact with other children. Okay, so a child may turn out “ok” being alone at home but believe me, children do benefit from playing and being around other kids their own age! It would take another blog post for me to list all the benefits (maybe another time) but don’t take my word for it—do your research.
Naomi has learned from other children by trying to imitate what they do. It has motivated her for example, to try and stand/walk sooner rather than later. I do know that Naomi loves being around other children. I’m sure this could be partly genetic (being a social creature) but it’s also because in her first year, I took her to my mommy and baby get-togethers, classes, arranged frequent playdates, and I just always tried to find opportunities to have her be around other kids.

Hence, my fear was that if I left Naomi with a nanny, she would miss the social interaction, perhaps get used to it, and become one of those kids that get overwhelmed when around other children. As well, I wanted her to benefit from children’s activities in the same way she did when I took her to music and play classes.

But my biggest fear is not knowing how my child is truly being treated by the nanny. Until my child can speak and tell me what goes on, I will never be comfortable leaving her alone with one person who is not family. And this is the same reason, we decided against home daycare. I’ve heard too many horror stories of overcrowding and children being abused in private homes.

I know there are good nannies; I know there are good home daycares. In the end, it’s really what you’re comfortable with, and you do what you believe is best for your child.

What about that list of disadvantages for daycare?
  • Well… it is a bit hectic in the mornings. But Isak (my husband) has flexible hours so he doesn’t have to be at work by 9am sharp. Not even 10am, actually.
  • Naomi is not woken up at an ungodly hour— she wakes us up earlier than we would like ☺.
  • Yes, transitioning week was hell. I cried. But we all got through it.
  • I don’t have to kill myself trying to make it home by 6pm because mom-in-law picks up Naomi between 4 and 5pm (HUGE help).
And what about visions of a super-tidy house? Well, that still remains just a vision.

All's Well that Ends Well

Sarah is normal and doesn't need a brace, or any contraption or adjustment for that matter. WOW. Isn't that just the best news ever!

The day came when we had to go to Sick Kids Hospital so Sarah could get an ultrasound (her second; the first being at Branson Hospital), and to get her fitted for... something-- a brace or harness, we weren't sure yet.

Multiple line-ups and several waiting rooms later, the specialist came to see her. He examined her and gave us the verdict. Based on the test results and their scoring system (which wasn't explained but what else is new), she is "just normal". I may have even heard "borderline normal". But who cares? Normal means no torture device on her. It means life can go on and I don't have to worry about her hip development.

Now, because hip dysplasia runs in my husband's family, we will have to go back and get Sarah checked when she turns six months.

This sudden and unexpected good news is almost miraculous from my perspective. I didn't even know there was going to be a second and more conclusive opinion from THE specialist. So happy!

It's a big deal because she's mine

I hate hospitals. Any type of medical clinic, actually. And I hate waiting. On the Friday when we had to take Sarah for her ultrasound, I packed water, reading material, and everything that else that I thought would help me endure a long waiting period. Because from my experience, hospital appointments and long waits are pretty much synonymous. Well, on that Friday, there must have been a glitch in the universe because Isak, Sarah, and I were in and out in less than an hour! Yeap, from the time we got to the parking lot,  registered, waited, got called to the ultrasound room, to the time we had the procedure done, and back out. Under an hour. Unreal. If we could get that lucky, it must be a sign of good news to come.

Unfortunately, the doctor (when we finally saw him again) gave us the bad news that Sarah does have a dislocated hip. We don't know much. But we were told that she's not in pain. She'll have to be fitted for an orthopedic brace that will keep her thighs and hips in a position to fix the problem. There will be no long-term problems because the defect was caught before she turned one year old.

I am crushed by this news. I am sick with worry. I haven't done much research online (yet) because I know I will find more stories about complications than success stories. It's just how it is.

Isak consoles me. He tells me it's not that bad. It's not a heart problem. It's not a permanent defect. It's not a big deal.

Not a big deal?! It's a HUGE deal. Doctors never tell you everything. And we don't exactly know the extent of the dislocation. How do we know the brace will work? Will there really be no long-term problem? It's no cancer but it's not 'nothing'. And sometimes 'nothing' turns into something. It's a big deal because she's MY baby and life should be perfect.

SIGH...

So, now, we wait again. We are waiting for a call from Sick Kids Hospital so Sarah can get her brace, and hopefully, more clarity into the situation, more answers.

A Princess Tea Party for My Princess

When I discovered that the Town of Richmond Hill was holding a "Princess Tea Party" event for children, I knew I had to take Naomi. If you had a girly-girl who loves dressing up, wouldn't you, especially after seeing this?
(click to enlarge)
I think it's there should be more community family-friendly events like this one. Apparently, the Town held the first Princess Tea Party last year, and it was such a hit that they decided to hold it again this year. Well, of course it's popular. It's reasonably priced excellent entertainment for your little ones, and it's good for toddlers too as the event lasts only an hour.

The lady on the phone from whom I purchased the tickets told me to encourage my daughter to dress up. And good thing she did! It almost didn't occur to me and although I would have put her in nice but fairly casual clothes. I bought Naomi a really pretty dress that had a full skirt-- a real special occasion outfit. Oh, boy, did she ever get excited when I showed it to her on the day of the party.

Overall, I thought the event was good. It started with "tea".  Tea sandwiches (not that great but oh, well). Ham and cheese, jam, tuna (?!)... Cookies of course (tasted of the boxed kind). Juice (too sweet). And caffeinated tea for the adults. Well, only the adults would eat the sandwiches, so there.

The tables were set in various pink colours. There were shiny paper crowns and stickers. Really lovely. Very inviting. Balloons and good decorations in the room.

Shortly after tea, Princess Ariel, Snow White and Cinderella made their grand entrance. Each one sang a song and interacted with the audience. Then, they came around to speak to the little girls. This was your chance to have photos taken with them.

Then came the autograph session. LOL! The little ones lined up to get a piece of colouring sheet and them have these signed by each of the princesses who sat at a table.

After autographs, it was time for the final photo opportunity. Little ones lined up once again to get their pictures taken with all three princesses under a decorated arch.

All throughout, many of the little girls (mine was one of the first ones) ran around, danced, and just had a grand time. And there you have it, a memorable princess tea party.

Painfully waiting, waiting...

"She may have a dislocated hip..." That's what the pediatrician said about my 7 week old baby girl. "May have"... Hearing those words is sometimes worse than knowing for sure, isn't it? I want to know for a fact. I want reasons, concrete why's and how's. I want to be sure.

Because the doctor is not certain, my baby has to undergo an ultrasound, and we wait to get that appointment. Then we wait to have those results sent to the doctor. Then, we count the days (four, apparently) till we can call the doctor to see him so he can tell us the good or bad news. Much waiting. Much anxiety.

My pregnancy was about waiting, and constant anxiety. Stressful, especially during the last few weeks.

"There's a chance your baby could have Down syndrome." Huh. Well, I needed to know. So we opted to get the amnio done.

"It will take 6 weeks to get the results." Aaaaarrrgh!

"Well, you can pay $175 to get partial (but definitive) results in two days."  It was either pay up or be totally distracted and unable to focus for six weeks. My husband and I paid. We received good news after two days.

Then, "You have low PAPP-A," they said. They got this from the same IPS test? Damn test.

It could mean nothing, they said. Okay... And I wait for the "but".

"But low PAPP-A has been associated with a poorly functioning placenta... and baby is unable to get its nutrients...We need to do... (more acronyms that refer to more tests)."

There could be worse things. But the experience is taxing just the same.
Test, after test, after test. Waiting in hospitals. Waiting for results. Hoping, praying.

"Everything seems fine... but let's send you for (more tests) just in case." I can't bear it. Just tell me!!!

Wait for the next test. They never found anything wrong with my placenta, or with the baby. But till the very end, it was a case of endless uncertainty about Baby's condition.

"It's time to check out. We need to induce you."

"No." I wanted to go into spontaneous labour.

"Well, baby did not grow enough. It's possible your baby is fine." Here comes the 'but'.  I could feel it.

"But you could have a dead baby." There it was.

The doctor explained that there was a lot they didn't know about low-PAPP-A. What they do know is that the condition has been associated with babies dying suddenly and unexpectedly in the womb as well as still-births.  

The day before I was to be induced, I was subjected to a non-stress test (which is really, quite stressful, in my opinion).

"Hmmm... I'm not happy with the tracing," the doctor on call says. "We'll need to keep you overnight. We'll have to (more stressful non-stress testing) and then we'll wait and see..."

NO! NO! NO! No more waiting, and seeing-- please!!!

I stayed overnight in the hospital where I was monitored continuously.

Baby Sarah was born a perfect, healthy baby the next day. You can see my announcement and a picture of her a few blog posts back. 

But now, just as I was getting used to a relatively normal, medical-test free life, I am once again, waiting, hoping. Her hip clicked, the doctor thought. But it could be nothing. And there could be worse things. We'll have to wait and see.