Thursday, March 26, 2009

Daycare Drama

I’m afraid of the boys in my daughter’s daycare.

It was late – almost their closing time - and I raced in to get Madden. At the end of the day all the remaining kids are together and usually outside enjoying the good weather. When I arrived, she was across the yard in the caregivers arms. She saw me, I saw her, and I loudly said, “HI BABY!” and she squealed in delight. So satisfying.

Then, the boys were there. Suddenly three older kids were upon me…teasing, jeering and yelling “Baby, Baaabbbyyyy, hiiiii baby.” They were crazed…circling me, taunting me with my own happiness. One even began leaping up at me and trying to grab my face. It was utter madness. Strangely, I was embarrassed and a bit frightened at the same time. How could I be afraid? After all, aren’t these kids like, at the most, FOUR years old??? I am actually 37 years OLDER than these little punks. So, why didn’t I feel like an adult?

Perhaps there is something about kids teasing that takes a person back in time suddenly and without warning. There I was back in carpool. Seven kids packed into the back of some parent’s gigantic wood paneled station wagon. Parry Dilworth was teasing me and pulling at the pony tails in my hair.

OK, it wasn’t that bad, but still…what a strange feeling.

I scooped up Madden and bolted through the doors of daycare. All the while I was whispering in her ear, “I’ll save you baby, you’re safe now,” when deep down I knew that it was her who was saving me.

That night led to a lot of thinking about daycare. It was not easy to find a place for her and we were on waiting lists since last July. This was back when Eric was working and we thought we’d end up needing full time care. It turns out she is just there two days per week so that she can learn to ‘play’ with other kids and have a bit of social time.

When we first went to visit this particular place, there were signs on the door that read, “We have had several incidents of lice in the past week – please check your children.”

Eee gads to that. We thought we’d never be back.

Wouldn’t you know they were the only place to call and offer us placement.

It turns out this center is the smallest of the ones at which we applied. We like the fact that there are only 30 kids total and we like that there are only 5 kids in the “under 2” room. Madden is the youngest kid by a long shot and she is often getting held and cuddled when I go to pick her up. She seems to be settling in well and doesn’t look too tired, or hungry, or upset when she comes home.

There is a chart on the wall that the daycare teacher fills in with details like the number of wet nappies, times that baby slept, and how many milliliters she drank from her bottles. Now that she’s eating solids her teacher fills in what she ate for “afternoon tea”. I rather like that. It’s so Australian.

They also keep a large scrap book in the room where they write the days activities and often include a happy photo of each child. Madden’s picture on Monday showed her in a bin of plastic balls. Next to the photo was a description that told me of my daughter’s development and excellent use of gross motor skills.
On close inspection of the photo, it was apparent that my little girl had red rings around her eyes. Hmmm.

So now I’m onto them and their game. When I drop off Madden, there is always a kid crying and another that is about to do something that will surely be reprimanded.
The REAL book would probably read something like this…

After two hours of inconsolable crying, your child was placed in the bucket of plastic balls where she finally found a brief moment of happiness. (We took a photo of happy Madden for the book). In the meantime, Ned was playing on the ground until Jake hit him over the head with the wooden block letter B. We were unable to tend to Ned due to Ari having his diaper changed at that exact moment. He cried for a time until we managed to give him a pacifier and this calmed him (see happy photo of Ned in book). Then Ari and Jake got in a fight over the letter B. At this time, Mia woke from her nap and fussed for a bottle. The two boys continued fighting until Mia’s bottle was found and mixed. Madden was now becoming unhappy after being stuck in the plastic ball box for over 20 minutes. Mia, Madden, Jake and Ned all started to cry in unison. Ari started to open the locked cabinet and was very pleased with himself. (See contented photo of Ari). Cabinet was locked and mental note was made to ensure that cabinet’s dangerous contents were not loose in baby room. Jake, now victorious since overpowering the others and getting the letter B all to himself, holds it proudly over his head (see photo in book)…..etc….etc.


I came home tonight, opened up my email, and found a note from Madden’s daycare…”Please be warned that there has been one child diagnosed with worms as well as another child diagnosed with a case of conjunctivitis. Please check your child for the following signs and symptoms…..”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It Seemed like a Good Idea at the Time.

We met some other Americans when we first moved to Australia and we have become close. There seem to be a lot of similarities as couples, other than they are about ten years younger than we are. Unfortunately for us Adam and Jenn are leaving and heading back to the States in April.

As one of the many last hurrahs, we decided to meet up with them and another couple (our friends Tim and Tash and daughter Celeste) in the Barossa region of South Australia. For you wine geeks out there, Barossa is known for Shiraz.

Since Beth is returning to work after the glorious invention of maternity leave, we had options of transport. 1) Fly: The benefit of flying is of course time but is more costly. 2) Train: there was a special running for $198 all of us could ride, including taking a car. The problem is that our car was too tall for the train. Imagine that. 3) Drive: I am always up for a good road trip, the cost is reasonable, and it allows us the flexibility of time and what we can see along the way. Drive wins!

Everything begins fine, we get a late start in the morning because Madden needs feeding, then a change, and we have to try to time starting the journey with one of her long nap times. I then delayed it even further because I wanted a coffee from the local shop. I am trying to remember if Beth has blogged about the traffic here. If she hasn't, lets just say that it is awful and we get about 30 miles away within the first 2 hours when Madden has to stop to feed again. That's fine, I completely expected that we would be stopping frequently. I just thought that we would be past the outskirts of town.

Bill Bryson wrote a book about Australia, I have not read it yet but I understand that it is pretty good and the title is very appropriate….In a Sunburned Country. As most of you know we have had devastating fires here and driving through the countryside you can start to understand why. As we get past the outer ring of Melbourne the landscape looks like a tan sea. You can start to see it in the dry lawn at the end of a Minnesota summer, but it goes on as far as one can see and there has been very little watering for the last decade. Unfortunately this is where Madden started to projectile vomit. Egads

In short order we had to stop to mop everything up. Of course it can't be contained to just her. We have to take the car seat out and clean it and the back seat. This went on for what seemed like hours. I think that we were about 60 miles away from Melbourne now...just barely into a 10 hour trip. In the outback you have to take certain precautions that we are now quickly learning. Finding a tree that can provide shade is a good example, or when you make piles on the ground of the stuff that you have to clean you need to make certain that your child is not placed near one of the many gigantic anthills! I also just may invest in one of the stupid looking hats with corks dangling from the brim as this keeps the flies out of a persons eyes.

Through perseverance, patience, endurance, tolerance, persistence, fortitude, serenity, prayer, or whatever it was that got us through, we made it about ¾ 's of the way. However, ¾ 's of the way is on the edge of nowhere. Not a wide selection in motel's. Let us suffice to say that the Keith Motor Lodge does not rank in my top 10 places, and the attached sub par "restaurant" was the only place in the whole town to eat. I am thankful that we stopped though. When we pulled Madden out of her seat she was listless, gray, and her lips were blue. After a day of not keeping anything down she was terribly dehydrated. We called the local hospital to get some advice as to what we should do. We were reassured that we were doing the right thing but that if her symptoms persisted that we should bring her in. My understanding of fear has reached a new level.

After a really long night and subsequent long next day...we arrived in the Barossa and our holiday cottage. Madden was still vomiting but a bit pinker in color and we were so relieved to have her out of the car and be in the company of other people.

The cottage that we stayed in was really cool. It was a three bedroom place with walls that were sufficiently thick to isolate the couple without a child from the other two couples with children. Plus we got to go to some fun vineyards and drink some fantastic wine. We even signed up for a session where we could mix a Grenache, Shiraz, and Mourvedre, to our own special blend and bottle it. Part of the great fun of this was that it reminded Beth and me of being back at the U of M in chemistry lab. My blend is called Madden's Two Tooth Vintage, and Beth's is called Casa de Tjopert. In a blind taste test 3 out of 6 people picked mine to be the favorite. I am not sure how to feel about that. Am I proud that I can mix a good wine, or am I disturbed that my taste buds appeal to the masses.

Also in the blind taste test, Beth ranked her bottle to be the worst mix...even going so far as to label it "foul." Most everyone agreed that it was a bad blend. She blames it on almost a year of not drinking and I'll grant her that.

Penfolds is one of the more famous wineries in the Barossa valley. There are a lot of people milling about the tasting room and the occasional oddball is present as well. I was pushing Madden in her pram and as I turned a corner a man was standing there fussing with his belt. Before I know it his pants had fallen to the ground and he stood there fully exposed in the corridor. I am not sure what to think about it, was he exposing himself to me, the sleeping child, or was he just drunk? I am voting for option 3 that seems to be the least offensive of the three. I also object to black bikini underwear on short, portly men…..

Our other friends that we met up with are Tim and Natasha (She was actually named after the character on Bullwinkle. I am trying to get her to say "moose and squirrel" with a Russian accent.) They have a beautiful 2 year old named Celeste. Celeste has taken a liking to Madden and vice versa. Celeste pretended her water bottle was a phone and was heard saying "Hi Mads, hey you goin' Mads, g'day mate." Not only is it really cute that she did that, but a 2 year old Australian girl has given her a nickname that just may stick. Mads.

You would think that everything would now be on our side for the long drive home, but fate has its own agenda. On the morning that we were to leave the cottage, Beth and Madden both began vomiting. I was not about to give up on the thought that we could still take a leisurely route home and see some of the sights since we missed them on the drive out. Wouldn't everyone want to take a ferry out to a place called Kangaroo Island? This is where Beth put her foot down, no to an extra day on the road and a big fat no to a ferry!!!!! I still had dreams of the three of us playing in the sand and walking along the ocean. We didn't make it very far that first night and stayed in another bad motel with a sick mom and baby. I've had better road trips.

The next day, they were still both sick but we agreed to remedy this holiday and stay for the night in a cute little town called Port Fairy. The path from Port Fairy to Melbourne is a famous for scenery. It is called the Great Ocean Road. We have driven it several times and I wasn't too excited about driving it again but it was better than nothing. We checked in to a beautiful cottage and instead of going out to see the town, we bought a pizza and sat on the floor and played with Madden. We were all happy to be tucked in for the night and everyone was feeling better. It was a perfect evening.

The next morning was our day to drive the great ocean road and salvage what we could of the road trip portion of our vacation. But, the next morning - I was ill! I didn’t get the same stomach virus that the two ladies had but it totally wiped me out. Beth was feeling better and so could drive the rest of the way. It was a unanimous decision to skip the Great Ocean Road and take the most direct way home - through the same ugly sunburned landscape we had just driven.

We have wondered why people just plant themselves at resorts for an entire vacation, but now we get it. Road trips with an infant rarely work.

I wouldn't say that this is the worst road trip we have ever had, the car is still in one piece, but we did learn something from it.

Next time we fly.