Friday, September 23, 2022

End Of Summer


Our end of summer was different (for us at least). We made a quick trip out East and then came home in enough time for all of the back to school days, nights, and festivities to begin. It was relatively exhausting, if I'm being honest. I wanted to keep things low key, so we did our usual things: Adventureland and Adventure Bay, movie, nights, and running last minute school errands. Oh yeah, and there was mouse hunting...

The end of summer brought our first ever mouse into the house. Actually, it must have happened over the summer. Doors being left wide open all day and a couple of nights (long story, but backyard camping is currently prohibited) will bring unwanted creatures inside the house. We tried a few friendlier ways of catching our little friend, but our friend made himself at home while we were gone on our trip and I wanted him out. We caught him within the first hour of setting a trap out (and us settling in for the night). 

I made sure to have a special, memorable day the day before school started. It was important to me since this was the big back to the school building year. I've been waiting to give Blue Bean coffee a try, so I could do it with the minis. It received rave reviews from us all, including my sister in law and niece (who were in town and tagged along). Then we surprised the middle mini with a new phone, the youngest with an old used phone and a Google number (for now), laid all of the first day outfits out, and prepped the popular snack bowl for after school days.

We're all beat by Friday night. The oldest goes out with friends most Fridays, but then there are other Fridays when we lay on the couch and fall asleep. We call those impromptu mom and minis sleepovers.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Notes From A Daycare Provider: Red Flags and Facebook Posts

Anyone else sometimes get onto Facebook just to look at the comment sections of some posts? Slowly raises hand over here. Actually, I don't do it much anymore because some of those comments terrify me. Sometimes I want to overlook the sheer stupidity of others. Yesterday I came across a post that I couldn't help but read the comments. Then I saw this post again this morning, read even more comments, felt that familiar sick feeling, closed up my computer, and thought about how the lack of communication between provider and parents can affect the quality of care a child receives. 

I'm going to share a screenshot of the post, no comments because I'm going to dissect each issue for the audience here. A fair warning, I am looking at this through the eyes of both the provider AND as a parent.

As you can see, especially at first glance, there are so many red flags. There are some downright illegal things in the post, however, it's not just the provider that is given the red flags. Admittedly, there is vital information needed that is missing from the post, that can only come from the parent or provider. First off, it is a parent's job to ask questions, be informed, and always communicate an issue before letting things spiral out of control. Let's take a look at each issue, from the provider and parent point of view.

- The AAP and the NHTSA say a child should stay rear facing until three years old. However, the state we're in (Iowa) says a child only has to be one year old OR above the weight for forward facing based on the car seat manufacturers guidelines. That means that if you're nine month old weighs enough to be forward facing, you can switch them from RF to FF. I'm not saying I agree with Iowa law or with the provider for FF, but by law, the provider did nothing wrong unless a parent or guardian can prove (with physical evidence) the provider had the child FF before the weight or age limit was reached. Now, it's unknown if the parent ever asked the provider to RF their child instead of FF. Red flags for both parties.

- No contract? That's risky business for both the provider and the parent. If the parent was uncomfortable with it, then their child should have never been sent in the first place. If the parent got into care for a few weeks and realized the importance of a contract, they could have written one up themselves or pulled a free one from the internet if the provider didn't want to do it. If the provider refused, the parent could pull their child immediately with no repercussions contract. All of that said, I absolutely do not agree with the provider's choice to not have a contract. Even simple guidelines for parents to sign can go a long way. Red flags for both parties.

- A fourteen year old watching children? For how long? At what point in the day? Has this child been CPR certified? Met all of the parents? Likely, due to the fact that the parent is paying by CCA, this provider is registered which means the entire household should have had a background check (children included). Iowa changed their laws so a minor as young as sixteen can be by themselves with a group of children in a childcare setting. Obviously, this minor is younger than that, but if the minor has been cleared by the state, then it is okay for that minor to be around and help out with daycare, but not be completely left alone with the children. The post doesn't answer any questions I asked above, which would be my big ones as a parent. As a provider, I would never in a million years leave my entire daycare with my fourteen year old. He knows every single parent, knows CPR, and has taken care courses, but I still wouldn't do it. Of course, I did leave him with a child that was staying late and I had to take my other child to an activity in the evening. I had parent permission before doing so and my fourteen year old had also babysat for this family before. I was gone for a total of ten minutes and was completely comfortable doing this, as was the parent. I would not do this for all families, nor would I ask my fourteen year old to continuously do my job. Red flags for the provider if the child is being left completely alone. If not, then no flags.

- This provider is obviously registered if she is accepting CCA (the only way to accept CCA is by being registered with the state), which means there are nutritional guidelines that must be followed. I would not be thrilled with constant fast food for my kid, but unfortunately, depending on if the provider is serving sides with it, a Happy Meal or Chick Fil A kids meal hits all of the guidelines. No red flags.

- Copays and how much CCA (childcare assistance) pays is between the parent and CCA and the provider and CCA. The provider can charge whatever they want. Let's say the provider charges $300 per week (per child). CCA says they pay $50 a week to the provider based on what the parent qualifies for (which is unknown to the provider, by the way). It is up to the parent to cover the rest of the cost of care or they can lose their CCA. If CCA refuses to pay the provider, then it is up to the parent to pay. The parent needs to know what CCA is covering and what they aren't. However, a contract between the provider and parent would solve all payment issues. Red flags for the parent.

- In my eleven and a half years in business, I have never once heard of a special needs waiver....and I have special needs kids in my care. After researching it a bit, as a parent I would never sign this unless I spoke to my child's pediatrician and I would question the provider up and down about it. More information is needed, but the request seems sketchy and somewhat illegal. Huge red flags for the provider.

- Sleeping in a bouncer is NOT safe sleep practices. I would absolutely flip out if I found out my child was only provided a bouncer for sleeping. Then, I thought about it more and I have questions. This child is one. I most definitely have had one year olds want to sleep weird places and I've had them fall asleep in highchairs, on the floor in the middle of their toys, halfway under a coffee table. It is unclear if this was a one time thing or if that's where the child sleeps all of the time while at daycare. If that's what is provided for the child to sleep in, that is 1,000% not okay. However, before beginning childcare, a parent should ask and see where their child will be napping, playing, any area of the home accessible to daycare honestly should be parent approved. If a pack n play, cot, nap mat, etc. wasn't shown, I would (kindly) remind the provider about safe sleep practices and ask if I could provide an approved napping item (as mentioned above). Red flags for the provider.

- If you receive any kind of assistance from the state or federal government, you never once share those benefits with others. It is fraud and illegal. Red flags for the provider.

- It is completely normal for parents to provide formula, snacks, diapers, wipes, milk, food, clothes, or anything a child needs throughout the day. Granted, most of this is covered in my daily rate, but I know several providers and centers in my area that have began requiring parents to provide meals and snacks for their children as a way to combat inflation without raising their rates. It's smart and beneficial for all involved. If your provider asks for something, don't hesitate to provide it. That said, I find it easier to provide nearly everything myself, but that's my personal preference. I have enough to worry about other than keeping track of every child's things. A contract would really help a parent know what is required of them. No red flags for anyone, but definite faults for lack of communication between the two parties and for the parent for not knowing ahead of time what is included in their rate.

* Personal opinion: for what this particular provider is charging, everything should be included though!

- Again a contract would be incredibly useful for knowing about their child's day and what they would be doing. If the provider had prior approval to take kid's off of the premises, is comfortable going places with numerous children, has a safe vehicle and appropriate insurance, appropriate car seats for everyone, I would be thrilled my children were getting out and about each day. If the provider failed to get permission to take the child in a vehicle or even leave the daycare premises, then that is illegal. However, the post makes it seem like the parent simply didn't know the daycare routine. The provider should provide this ahead of a child even beginning care and a parent should ask. No red flags, faults for the parent for not knowing or not being comfortable with it and sending child anyway. If the provider did not get permission from the parent, red flags because taking a child off of a premises without permission is illegal.

- A lost sippy cup? Just one? Dude, I can't tell you how many sippy cups have been lost here. The best is when the missing cup turns up months later with curdled milk in it (sarcasm because I will never forget that smell as long as I live). If the provider is taking the kids out every day, as suggested above, the child could have easily chucked it out of the stroller for fun, left it anywhere in this world quite honestly. I wouldn't question it because I've lost more than sippy cups. I've sent children home without socks and shoes because they shoved them somewhere and I didn't see. Those usually turn up eventually. I've sent kids home in other kid's clothes because of a mix up after sprinkler time. Shit happens at daycare. My advice is to not send your kid in anything meaningful or worth a lot of money because everything that comes into a daycare has the ability to get destroyed or lost. Red flags for the parent because if I had a parent worried about that, I'd probably tell them we are definitely not a good fit.

- A full diaper is a topic I see a lot amongst parents and providers. As a provider, it bothers me so much when I send a child home in a full diaper. I try, really try, to have fresh diapers on all the kids before sending them home. Of course, sometimes kids pee at really inconvenient times. I've had kids that fill a diaper the moment they walk into daycare or the minute a parent arrives. However, it should not be an every day thing. As a parent, if I were really concerned my child wasn't being changed, I'd mark the diaper I put my child in before daycare and check to see if it's a new diaper after pick up. If I noticed my child hadn't been changed all day long, I'd say something to the provider immediately, especially if the parent is providing diapers. Red flags for the provider.

All of this these issues come down to communication. As a parent, it's your job to protect and speak for your child(ren). The parent should be asking questions to the provider, helping to solve any issues, not complaining to a friend who then posts on Facebook for them. In this case, the lack of communication affected the care the parent thought their child should be receiving and what the provider was doing. It could be as simple as this parent and provider are not a good fit, although in this case, if everything from the social media post is true, there are several illegal practices on the provider's part. Some of this could have been prevented if the parent was well informed, asked the appropriate questions before care even began, and communicated effectively with the provider. If I were this parent, I would speak with the provider, pull my child, and report the above red flags to the state (especially the illegal actions of the provider).

Then again, the biggest red flag of all was the comment section of the post. People felt entitled to ask the provider's name, address, and information, so they could blast them on social media and/or report them to the state. Here's a tip: the state will do nothing with your report because it didn't happen to you or your child. I can understand maybe wanting to get the daycare's name out there because of poor care or to warn others, however, nothing has been proven! I strongly feel the parent is a tad daycare na├»ve and doesn't have the proper expectations when it comes to daycare life. There was negligence on both the provider's and parent's part, but the power of social media cannot be overlooked. This one post has the power to destroy someone's business and name (which, if there was a contract, a quick paragraph about slander would protect both parties) with absolutely no basis other than a post from a third party who is not directly involved. I'm more interested in hearing directly from the parent before fully judging the provider. 

Friday, September 9, 2022

First Days Of School


Two and half years. That's how long it's been since the minis have been inside of a school building. Last year on back to school day, we were living on a houseboat in Northern Minnesota. This year, we had two days of back to school things for all three, so by the first day of school, we were all frazzled. Those early mornings are killer when you're not used to being in action before 8:00 a.m.

Thankfully, they all let me get those first day of school pictures and I had the first few days off, so I could be available for drop offs, pick ups, and mid-day phone calls from the assistant principal (more on that later). I'm not sure if it was exhaustion or the fact that this was the longest the minis and I have been apart since the pandemic began, but after those first few days, the minis and I opted for a slumber party on the couch and early bedtimes on Friday night.

The oldest bravely conquered his first few days as a freshmen in high school. He says his days went fabulous. He is thrilled with his art and cooking/food prep classes he got into. He's joining theater and hopes to have a role in the fall play, along with getting volunteer hours in, so he has the option to serve on student led crews and activities next year.

The youngest was thrilled to be back with familiar faces. She loved how teachers and staff all made a big deal that she was back with them and not homeschooling (something the school knew since we homeschooled through our school district). She quickly settled in, scheduling play dates and "hang outs," and getting back into the dance studio (the same day school began). She has also joined band, where she will learn to play the clarinet and her school's news crew, where she will share the daily news with the school ("but I have to put it into kid terms and not how CBS does the news") and learn about journalism and videography.

The middle one had a rough few days. REALLY rough. His school is affected by the shortage and is missing key support staff along with busy teachers. He was thrown into his seventh grade year and had to figure out middle school with zero help from the school. Even I was ready to go back to homeschooling after his first few days, which I spent on the phone with teachers, counselors, and the principals. Luckily, not much gets this kid down and he's persevered all on his own. I'm so incredibly proud of how this kid has handled himself. I'm even more proud of him for trying new things. He decided against dance this year and is instead taking a drama course, creative writing, and joining a co-ed volleyball league (not through the school since the school doesn't have a boys volleyball team and he was not allowed to play on the girl's team), in addition to flute lessons.

Have I mentioned that my Mom Mobile is back in service BIG TIME? Between shuttling my own kids to their activities in the evenings, the first few days I used every single seat in my vehicle for carpool. I'm so very thankful I went with an 8 passenger vehicle! We celebrated the first day of school with dinner at the kid's favorite Mexican restaurant. Now that we've had twelve days of school under our belt, the dog is more stressed and depressed than ever and this mom is less stressed now that the teacher title has been removed. I'm still Mom and business owner, who gets slightly crazed making sure my children are out the door on time and are picked up on time, followed by getting food in them and to their activities each night. I'm imagining the stress won't stay away for long!

Pictured (top): the youngest taking a picture of her food, essentially making fun of me for doing it all of the time; (middle): school pick up, which I'm thrilled to have handed off to my husband after the first three days; (bottom): how the dog is dealing with his kids being at school all day.

Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Exploring Upstate New York


We squeezed as much as we could into our short time in upstate New York. We crossed off bucket list hikes in Watkins Glen State Park and Letchworth State Park. We saw Niagara Falls at night, in the daytime, and hiked under the falls. We dipped our toes into Lake Ontario and marveled at Toronto across the lake. Every part of it was an unforgettable, unique, and amazing experience. The only rough part of it all was the lack of cell service driving all of the small highways in between state parks.

The Finger Lakes region was truly gorgeous and filled with hikes galore. Thankfully, we didn't have the dog with us because many of these hikes weren't dog friendly (which I knew in advance and the reason we squeezed them in because we usually travel with our dog in tow). All of the state parks required an admittance fee ($8 per vehicle for Watkins Glen and Letchworth) minus Niagara Falls State Park, but you do have to pay for parking.

We left Atlantic City bright and early. We had a peaceful, scenic drive along the Delaware River, on the boarder of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Of course, any scenic drive is going to take longer. Add in road construction and lane closures throughout Pennsylvania and the drive took MUCH longer than expected.

Watkins Glen State Park was everything I hoped for. We did the Gorge Trail, filled with waterfalls, staircases, and many, many people. We went towards the end of the day and the trail was still packed. From the little part we hiked, the upper gorge trail was not as crowded, but also didn't have that magical, unique feel. Be prepared for the Instagramers and influencers galore, just looking for that perfect shot. It was rather frustrating....especially when they were getting in the way of my perfect shot!

We arrived in Niagara Falls just in time for the nightly fireworks show. I'll never forget hearing the roar of the falls and the way the ground vibrated as we stood near them. I've heard the falls are a better view from Canada, but there's nothing quite like standing over and next to such powerful waterfalls.

We wanted to experience the falls at night and during the day. The next morning we were up and buying tickets for Cave of the Winds, which literally takes you under the falls where you experience hurricane force winds. That was one of the boy's most favorite thing. They acted as if it was a water park and happily got drenched despite wearing the fancy plastic covers.

I wonder how many people glanced up at the hotel room window and saw two kids bouncing around, waving at the street below? It gave me a giggle at least. We stayed at a hotel down the street from Niagara State Park (where the Falls are), which had free parking. This was a steal because parking around the falls and at the state park was expensive. More expensive than DC expensive. However, we were able to park at the hotel (and stay parked once we checked out) and walk to the falls.

We learned ALL about the falls. Things like how much power they produce, that the American Falls are the most rocky and most powerful, oh and that the falls have actual names (American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls, and Horseshoe Falls), and Horseshoe Falls is actually the largest.

Next up was Fort Niagara State Park. We paid $8 so we could put our toes in Lake Ontario. This means we only have ONE of the Great Lakes left to visit (Lake Huron). 

Our last New York adventure was Letchworth State Park. We hiked the Lower and Middle Falls trail (starting from the swimming pool area). It was A LOT of work, with a lot of up and downs throughout the gorge. Unlike Watkins Glen, you don't go fully into the gorge (midway at the most). There were some gorgeous views, but all of the viewpoints were quite crowded. I can't imagine how crowded this park gets with visitors mid-day.

Inspiration Point was gorgeous, but other people brought full picnics and photography equipment. That was a bit distracting and took away from the nature aspect of the trail. This is definitely not the trail if you're looking for solitude.

They found a tree stump and pretended to be the Statue of Liberty.

Then we were road warriors to make it home. The computers and our Amazon Music playlists were a huge help for the long drive.