My Fresh Hell
Life in Scribbletown.

Summer of My Discontent

2005-07-25
I knew that September would bring change to the Fresh Hell household but until June, I had no idea how much change that would mean. To add to my general low-grade depression, the pompous elitist band of vestry members that rule the church that funds Dusty’s preschool (is that like the rat that ate the cheese that lives in the house that Jack built?) decided to close the school after 40 years. I know I’ve written about this before but in the last month I’ve been spending an enormous amount of time and energy trying to pointlessly find a way to keep it open. I saw the writing on the wall but I just couldn’t sit idly by and let it happen without a fight. I abhor passivity. Especially in the face of a blatant injustice.

The preschool is unique and the fact that this wealthy, greedy bunch of vestry assholes have decided to funnel their filthy lucre elsewhere, without a thought for the effect this will have on not only the teachers (unemployment) but the children and the (working) parents, just pisses me the hell off. I’m working on a letter to them that I will post next month that pretty much sums up my hatred and disgust of them and their un-Christian action.

So, what all this means is that not only will Red be moving on to a daycare center three days a week in September, but Dusty will also be starting her final preschool year at a new place and will have to make new friends. She will also have to pack a lunch which means more work for me. And, I have a long list of supplies I’m supposed to buy. It’s like kindergarten! Only I’m paying for it!

For Red, the change will be good, I think, long-term. She’s been with a grandmother-type woman (who is, in reality, a grandmother) in her very tiny home (900 sf?) since she (Red) was six weeks old. The up side of this arrangement has been that the sitter takes her part-time. I cannot afford full-time infant care (seeing as I have no trust fund – and if I did, I wouldn’t have to place my children in a daycare center in the first place) and do not want it. Other daycare establishments don’t even offer the option – it’s full time or nothing until children turn a year old, which seems to go against the whole notion of what’s best for babies.

The other benefits to the sitter arrangement are the cost (very low) and the fact that Red was only exposed to two or three other babies, and the occasional grandchild. The down side was that the damn television was on all day long. This drives me nuts! And, it’s not even as if Red was forced to take in the Wiggles or Sesame Street. We’re talking the morning news, talk shows, The Waltons (!!), the afternoon news, the early evening news, and every other negative-images show you can imagine. Now that Red is older, and is really focusing on the television now when it’s on, I have decided she’s better off, despite the cost (ouch!) and the exposure to zillions of filthy children, in a developmentally-appropriate atmosphere where she’ll have books to look at and can color once she’s mastered holding a crayon, and there’ll be outside time as well.

So, I’ll be destitute and will probably be spending a lot of time nursing all the colds and stomach viruses she’s liable to catch, but she won’t be surrounded by images of death and dismemberment, Praying Hands and Last Supper statues, and the dozens of scary dolls that the sitter collects staring at her from all corners of the room. She’s a nice woman and has been very good to Red and will most likely continue to babysit her on future occasions, but....it’s time to move on and expand Red’s horizons, not to mention her play area.

Daycare choices are so agonizingly, excruciatingly tough – balancing good aspects and bad, and so much depends on cost. What’s the best I can afford? Actually, I can’t afford any of it but I don’t have a choice so the question becomes, what’s the best care I can find that won’t land me at the bankruptcy lawyer’s office?

When I was pregnant with Red, I visited all the centers in the town where I work (not a lot of choices) and I would come away depressed for various reasons: no part-time, too expensive and, worst of all, depressing and smelly buildings. One place just felt like I’d accidentally stumbled into a Russian orphanage. There wasn’t any one thing I could put my finger on, it was the cumulative effect of listless, uneducated caregivers; rooms full of cribs; babies strapped in bouncy seats; bare, slightly dirty walls; tired, uninspired murals of Pooh and Piglet and Roo. *shiver*

And now, Dusty, too, will be starting afresh. I had seriously considered placing her at the same center that Red will attend. I’d get a slight reduction in the tuition with two kids attending and it would be easy to take them and pick them up at the same place at the same time. But then I stumbled upon this other center that’s very close to home. It is housed in a low, log-cabiney-like house surrounded by enormous old maple and oak trees that shade the gardens and front yard. The yard is filled with flowers and plants that were all planted by the children. The play area includes a wooden pirate ship that was given to the center last year by the elementary school that Dusty will attend next year. The director was warm and full of the right answers to my questions. The children seemed happy and engaged. When I arrived to get more information and take a tour, it was Hawaii week. The children had made a volcano and grass skirts and parents were dropping off pineapples and coconuts.

One down side is that, looking at the children’s art work displayed, it became clear that while there is a lot of creativity here, it’s a more standard “product vs process” philosophy that is prevalent in public schools. All the Eric Carle roosters looked basically the same. All the palm trees the children had painted had the same sideways sway, the same kind of sunset colors, the same pre-cut palm leaves. At Dusty’s old preschool, the emphasis was on process – experimenting with different types of art supplies, learning how watercolors work differently than oil pastels, was more important than the end result. Now, children this age like their drawings to be representational and this is an important stage in their development, but it seems to me that they ought to be able to draw a palm tree however they choose, not based on some adult’s idea of one or a picture from a magazine.

The other down side, well, it’s not THAT bad, really, (in fact it might quickly become a plus) is that the children bring their lunch. This means more work for me but, on the other hand, it eliminates the worry of what will Dusty eat. Since I’m raising my children as vegetarians, I have had to have long conversations with care givers about food policies and such. Will they be providing an alternative protein or do I need to supply one? Some places do not allow “outside” food because of ridiculous federal regulations....unless the reason is religious. Now, please don’t get me started on that! I’ve considered lying and passing us off as Hindus or Muslims just so I don’t have to explain WHY we don’t eat meat. But, these days, I’m finding that no one blinks an eye at soy milk (“Oh, a couple of kids here drink soy milk, too”) and I’m able to bring in the day’s protein ration. And, thank goddess I haven’t yet run into the Peanut Allergy problem because if Dusty couldn’t bring peanut butter sandwiches to school, she’d be in sorry shape.

The up sides of the new preschool are that it’s close to home, has a nice feel to it (I know Dusty will be fine there after an adjustment) and she might make friends with children who will eventually end up with her at the same elementary school. There’s a lot to be said for that kind of continuity.

But, damn! So, while we’ll save on gas and commuting time, Dusty will be missing out on her Daily Urban Experience. I’ve decided that we’ll begin a monthly jaunt into the city to do something cultural. Dusty loves museums so we’ll start there.

And, since we’re talking about Dusty, I’ll pass on two recent quotes that originate with Bugs Bunny cartoons that she is absorbing at an alarming rate:

“Mommy, after dinner, I want to go outside and take the air.” Oooo-kay.

This next one probably requires a bit of explanation. Red likes to cover herself with blankets and walk around like a ghost. I also believe that somebody in the BB cartoons, probably Yosemite Sam, exclaims, “Great Caesar’s Ghost!” on more than one occasion. Hence, the wonderful Dusty quote:

“Today, the baby was a Ghost Caesar!”

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10:06 a.m. ::
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