29 May 2011

Blog Hop

What is a blog hop?  I guess I will find out how well it works.  I just added my blog name to a list of 142 other blogs and I am curious to see if anyone is led here from it.
If you are coming from Not Even a Bag of Sugar, leave me a comment and your blog.

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My Ever-Expanding Circle of Friends

I love my Facebook and recently started fiddling around on Twitter.  I started using Facebook in 2007, just before I got married.  I had a few "likes" and followed a few companies, interests, and people on Facebook, but not too much.

Lately, based on the fact I have been on maternity leave and have FB online most of the time, I noticed something...I laugh at how much the topic of babies/children, especially premature babies have engulfed my life and taken over my Facebook page!  Prior to having babies my Facebook page was something I used to chat to my closest, long time friends and get re-connected with long lost friends.  Now if you look at the "face" of my Facebook you can see who I am and what I stand for or what matters to me by my "likes," which have most to do with prematurity awareness, special causes, NICU topics, twins/multiples topics, mom-to-mom sales, baby products and baby driven companies and so on and so on!

The great thing about all of this, is that Facebook and now Twitter enable me to connect with others who have been going through similar struggles and ups and downs that my family and I have over the last few years.  If my own friends have not experienced what we have, that's no problem, I can reach out to the many amazing people and useful groups online and get to know others' stories and feel like I am connected to others that "get me."  I can also get peoples' thoughts and suggestions when it comes to some of the needs of my twins and how to ensure they are getting the attention and everything they deserve when balancing them with their older brother's needs.

My cell phone plan is coming up for renewal and I told my hubby that given the fact I will have to return to work after the summer, I am not returning without being equipped with a really good Blackberry or iPhone, with all the social network access possible!  I will seriously go into FB/Twitter withdrawal if I am not some how connected to all my newfound friends and supports! :)

25 May 2011

The World of Work vs. Daycare--Can't We Have Both?

My mother worked as a full time nurse while I was growing up.  She worked 12 hour, rotating shifts, while my father ran a successful photography business and was working, working, working.  My brother and I had the fortune of having a wonderful babysitter from the time I was 3 months old, when my mother returned to work.  This babysitter was a wonderful woman, with 5 daugthers of her own.  She had "been there, done that" with 5 of her own kids and was a great person to watch over us.

Our babysitter lived 1 block away from our elementary school and we could safely walk down the street, on our own, to her home.  I started walking to her home once I started Junior Kindergarten at the age of 4.  I wore a tag that said "Sitter's today," which was red and went on my coat or shirt.  I walked the one block (about 1 kilometre), met the crossing guard who knew to expect me, crossed the road and was at my babysitter's.

At this lady's home, we learned to swim in her pool, were coached figure skating by two of her daughters who were 10+ years older, taken on day trips now and then, were invited to family events, such as Christmas festivities.  We were treated like a big part of the family.

We stayed on with this babysitter for about 12 years, pretty much my entire childhood.  She was stability in our lives and someone we could always count on to be there for us and our parents.  We could be dropped off at ridiculous times like 6:30 AM and picked up sometimes after 8:00 PM, depending on which parent was where.  "Flexible" was this woman's middle name!

Why am I going on about my old babysitter you ask?  Well, because I have begun to realize that situations like this just don't seem to exist anymore.  I have been actively looking for suitable daycare for my three children when it comes time for me to return to work in a few more months.  I have been reaching out to anyone and everyone when it comes to finding daycare for my kids.  There are services and agencies out there, that I had never even heard of until I started asking a million questions, searching the internet late at night and so on. 

I love my job and miss my job.  We live in a country where we have been pushed and told to work hard for our dreams, build a career, get married if you want to, have a family if you want to and it will all come together.  Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.  I have often found all kinds of advice is thrown my way, but the "how to" or the help to get there is missing.  The words, "You'll figure it out," come to mind.

When we were kids, did our parents throw us on our first bike without training wheels and expect us to ride like the wind?  No, they slapped on some training wheels, had the first-aid kit ready and guided us along with instructions and pep talks.  We didn't just figure it out, we were taught and led by those who had done it before us.  I think the same should apply in all stages of life, including this one! :)

Then there are the people, who, when you ask for help, shoot you in the foot and dash your hopes.  In recent weeks I spoke to a child care advisor/social service worker, who basically said "good luck finding two infant spots at the same time in the same daycare."  Well thanks, that was helpful! That made me feel good.  Not only do I need to find two infant spots, but one pre-schooler spot.  Fun, fun!

Thank goodness I retain way too much information in the recesses of my brain.  I remembered hearing an old co-worker at a previous job say that her child had qualified for a subsidy for daycare.  This lightbulb went on and I started the research, because quite honestly I had never seen ads or flyers in the pediatrician's office or any other child-friendly place for such a thing,  nothing to alert the general public that this exists.  It seems to be another service that is available by the government, but not talked about too much, otherwise every Tom, Dick and Harry would be applying for it.  I don't know...I can only suspect. 

While talking about the trials and tribulations of finding daycare with my mother, she looked dumbfounded when I told her the quotes I had been receiving.  My mother told me she spent about $28.00 per week for babysitting for me and my brother.  How depressing!!  Just this past month I received a quote of $2800.00+/month for 2 infants and 1 pre-schooler in a local daycare.  Pardon? What???

I had my oldest son in daycare a couple of times a week up until recently.  I was paying $35.00 per day on a part time basis.  I had received another quote of $40.00 per day from another lady.  These quotes were from women running their own daycares out of their homes, basements or converted dining rooms.  Some women have their ECE background or teaching, while others are moms who just couldn't afford to send their 2 or more kids to full time daycare, while they went back to work after mat leave.

When my husband and I discussed having our "second" child and me returning to work after my year long mat leave, we agreed that it would be expensive and hard to deal with, but it was worth it in order for me to continue with my career and not to leave the workforce only to have to start again, keep up on my education and so on to remain competitive in 4 or 5 years down the road.  We were going to suck it up and I was going to pretty much work for "free" once the daycare provider was paid each month.  This is a very depressing thought.  Little did we know we were going to have 3 kids to put in daycare, let alone two babies at the same time.

If your child is in diapers, you pay more.  If your child isn't walking yet, you pay more.  If your pre-schooler isn't quite potty trained yet, you pay more.  On and on and on.

It seems odd to me, as well, that the daycare providers/babysitters are the ones calling all the shots.  Most, who are smart, do have a contract for potential parents to look over before deciding if this spot is right for them.  The thing that irks me is that because it is so hard to find daycare spots in cities and towns across Ontario the daycare providers have the power in their hands.  They tell you when they will take vacation.  They tell you this and that.  If you don't like it, move on because there are plenty of families who need daycare badly that will fill the spot.  Are we, the parents, not the ones who are their employers?  We pay them.  I have never been in the position to be able to tell any of my employers when I will take my vacation, when I will take a few days off here and there, make my own sick days policy and so on.  It seems bizarre.

Then I read a recent article in the Toronto Star on May 9, 2011.  It all became clear to me, why it is as it is.  In this article it states, "There are roughly 1.2 million children under 12 in Ontario with mothers in the workplace, according to the Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care.  There are 236,988 licensed child-care spaces in Ontario."  The article also discusses how it is often grandparents or family members volunteering to help provide daycare for kids while their mothers return to work.  I wish this was an option at this time, but it's not!

I've often heard of daycare co-ops, but have never seen a real, live one.  Where are these supposed co-ops?  My university has one, which is run by true ECEs, but also by the parents who may be on staff at the university or are students.  They take turns providing care in their off times or off work hours.  Costs can be much less to run a daycare in this manner. 

I've always said it would be awesome if the companies I've worked for would have such an opportunity for their employees.  I've worked for some very large, well-known companies, but in-house daycare was not an option.  This kind of setup would promote "being green," to employees and the community as you're not having to truck your children all over the city prior to even getting into work each morning, plus it would more than likely promote more productive and happy employees.

I think one of the first things on my agenda when I return to work is to address this with someone!  Even if I can just say it to get it off my chest, I would feel much better! :)

11 May 2011

McHappy Day ~ May 11, 2011

Do you know what today is?  If you didn't read the title of today's blog or you haven't heard in the news as of yet, it's McHappy Day!!  This day is especially important to my family, as we have three children that led us to the amazing services of the Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada.

Our first introduction to the Ronald McDonald House service was when our firstborn came early at 31 weeks and was taken about an hour away to a children's hospital P.C.C.U.  We were able to have access to the RMH for the 5 days that this hospital became our home base.  At the time, in 2008, the RMH was putting people up in hotels when the actual house was at capacity.  We were able to stay in a beautiful hotel and it gave us some real quiet, personal time, while away from the hospital.  We were moved closer to home only 5 days after our first son was born, which was an amazing feat!

Our second experience came when the twins showed their teeny, tiny faces at 27 weeks.  This time, one baby had major complications two days after birth and the Ronald McDonald House was available to us immediately because of the severity of his illness(es) and his brother's, as well as the fact we were again far from home.  Different hospital and different RMH this time.  The first week after the babies were born was spent driving back and forth, back and forth from hospital to home.  We weren't in the state of mind yet to be leaving the house and staying away from home because we were completely unprepared for their arrival, the house was having renos, we had a nearly 2-year-old and so on.  Things quickly went from bad to worse for Baby B and we then decided about 1 week after their arrival that we needed to take up Ronald McDonald House on their invitation to use their home.

This particular home is beautiful!  It was laid out so well.  It had a warm, brightly lit front lobby and reception area.  It had warm, friendly and inviting staff and volunteers!  The rooms were beautifully and tastefully decorated.  Each room was decorated in a different way and was sponsored by previous families or businesses.  We had the luck of receiving an apartment style room, which gave us lots of room to spread out and feel comfortable.  It also had a walk-in closet larger than all of the bedroom closets combined in my own home!!  This was a nice perk!

We went on to spend over 100 days in this house (I lost count.)  By mid-July our oldest son, who was just 2, was referring to it as "home."  To hear this out of my little boy's mouth was on the sad side, however, it was positive that he felt comfortable and happy enough in this temporary home that he felt it was a place he could call "home." 

I still had to do lots and lots of driving back and forth from the hospital to home and it was exhausting, but the Ronald McDonald House helped us all through it.

The Ronald McDonald House became Twin A's first home outside of the hospital after he was discharged.  He lived at the House for 3 weeks until his "younger" brother, Twin B, was able to be discharged to officially go home.

I have met several families since leaving the RMH and hospital, that have also used the Ronald McDonald House in the city their child or children stayed in hospital.  Ask around and you might be surprised how many people you know who have used the service or know someone who has.

The Ronald McDonald House is definitely a "home away from home" and it is a place past residents feel welcome to visit and return with updates as time goes by.

I hope today you will keep this amazing service in mind and stop by your local McDonald's who will be fundraising to help "keep the lights on" at local Ronald McDonald Houses and local children's charities.  My hubby and I will be participating with meeting and greeting, flipping and serving or whatever the restaurant needs us to do!

Follow the links for more on the Ronald McDonald House, including a video interview of my husband and I at the Ronald McDonald House.




8 May 2011

A NICU Mom Loves Poopy Diapers! Happy Mother's Day!

It's Mother's Day.  This is a day that I get to reflect on my life, flipped upside down by premature babies and the experiences that followed in just two years.  My first son was born 7 minutes before my first Mother's Day, which was a special gift.  Although my baby was born 8.5 weeks early at the time and we were stressed to the max, Mother's Day would become a very special day as a mother in two ways.  My first son's 1st birthday landed on Mother's Day, which was doubly special.

A 1st birthday and 2nd Mother's Day together!

This is my second Mother's Day with my twins.  My twins were born one week before Mother's Day last year.  Last year on Mother's Day, while in the NICU, I was able to change Baby A's diaper for the first time since he arrived. 

It is amazing what small things can make a NICU mother so happy and shed tears of happiness!  While most moms and dads are arguing over who has to change the next poopy diaper...NICU parents are jumping for joy when babies pee and poop and look forward to changing the first of many diapers.  If both parents can't always be in the NICU, then a schedule is often made up as to which parent will be there for each three hour diaper change, tube feed, bottle feed or nursing experience. 

Slow and steady wins the race.
Here I am carrying out the delicate and cautious procedure of changing Baby A for the first time, who was not quite 3 lbs. yet

Yesterday we celebrated our oldest son's 3rd birthday and had a big party with lots of friends and family.  He is very proud to say his brothers are now 1 and he is 3 years old. 

Now, if we could only get the 3 year old to be fully potty trained...because really...we have double the diaper duties to continue with even when the oldest can fend for himself.

Happy Mother's Day to those currently in the NICU, all NICU grads, mommies with Angels, and all other amazing mommies out there!  It's a beautiful day!

2 May 2011

1 Year

Yesterday my babies celebrated their first birthday!  What a major feat when you think of all they went through in their early days! 

We had our direct family over to watch them mouth and gum on smaller sized cupcakes made just for them, which was their first real taste of something sugary.  As they were 3 months early, their corrected age is 9 months and they have been working at meeting many of the milestones for the average 9 month old baby.  Baby A did an awesome job at smooshing the cake and icing in his right hand and smearing it on his face.  Baby B seems to be the cautious baby, clean and tidy was his method for cupcake eating.

At the end of our night, we learned while channel surfing and then our favourite Sunday evening show starring the one and only Trump was interrupted for "Breaking News," alerting the world to the fact that terrorist Osama bin Laden was taken out by a group of US Navy Seals in Pakistan!  Amazing news! Great news to end what was a very memorable year for my family.  Close to 10 years of waiting for this man to show up and be caught.  I am glad my children will not know much of this man, except what may be taught in history books.  I hope, going forward, my children will not learn of or be subjected to such hatred and disrespect for other walks of life, values and ways of life.  I can hope...

We also enter into year two of the twins' life with the SAME Prime Minister! Go figure!  After a call to vote, Canadians have voted Stephen Harper as a majority government leader.