Meet Ya Ya

It’s no surprise that our au pair Ilaria joined us from Italy two and a half months ago, but I’m just finding time to write and introduce her!  Boy, are we lucky and spoiled to have “Ya ya” in our home.

Why didn’t we just put both kids in day care?  We knew that with two kids under two and only ONE adult home in the morning, we needed a more flexible child care option.  Fred goes to work at 5am, and the thought of getting myself, a newborn and a toddler to day care with only two hands seemed way too daunting.  Plus, we had a hard time finding day cares that a) open early enough for our teacher schedules, and b) stay open late enough for us to get a little work done after school.  With Ilaria, we can customize our schedule and her hours to fit our weekly needs.

Her job is to provide childcare, and also to do any tasks/chores related to the children (ie, their laundry, wash bottles, prepare lunch, etc).  But really she does so much more than that.  She has cooked us dinner and started to learn some sign language.  She keeps our living room spotless, and drives Charlotte all over town.  She shows so much love and patience to Charlotte each day.  She is meticulous with her responsibilities, and creative with her time–last week on rainy days they built a play house from our old Amazon boxes, and a network of tunnels to roll balls through.  Ya ya is the only thing keeping Fred and I sane right now, by stepping in to change a diaper, give a bath, or get started on dinner when we are up to our eyeballs in, well, life.   And she’s done all of this with English as her second language, and knowing not a soul when she arrived in the USA.  She is brave!

By living with us and fully jumping into Follansbee daily life, she is making the day-to-day with two kids under two look easy.  Ya Ya is the reason Fred and I have been able to have a couple of dates with a newborn on our hands.  She’s the reason I can sneak in a run on a random Tuesday afternoon.  I can’t imagine what our lives would be like right now without her!  See below for some fun things she and Charlotte have been up to!

PS – If any moms and dads reading this are wondering about getting an au pair, it’s MUCH more cost-effective than you would think.  Send me a message and I’ll fill you in!


Operation Toy Rotation

We’re having a bit of a problem here in the ‘Bee Hive (and yes, it is a first world problem.)  Charlotte has been home since June when day care ended, and boy can she tear the house apart!  She goes from one toy to the next without a second glance, and within 7 minutes the entire playroom is a disaster.  She’s not so much playing with the toys as tossing them from one spot to the next.  Then she follows us around the house because she’s bored.

So today I decided to tackle this problem: Operation Toy Rotation.

I gathered all the toys in the house, and set aside the ones that are too babyish for Charlotte.  Most of our collection was developmentally below where she’s at!  yikes!.  I then sorted the age appropriate toys by type:

toys for Moving (ie, balls, gross motor activities)

toys for Pretending (ie, play farm yard, baby dolls)

toys for Thinking (ie, puzzles and shape sorters)

toys for Creating (art supplies)


This is where it gets fun: I then made 3 boxes of toys that contained a mix of Moving, Pretending, Thinking, and Creating toys.  Box #1 stayed out in the playroom for this week’s toys.  Box #2 and #3 got stored in the closet, to be rotated in within the next few weeks.  So Charlotte now has about 9 toys displayed on her shelf, along with her easel and play kitchen that are always in play (hehe), and her massive book collection.

The idea is that too many toys can overwhelm a child.  If you carefully choose and artfully display a small selection of toys, you might encourage prolonged play and deeper exploration.  I have no idea if this will work.  But we’re giving it a good faith effort for two months.  I’ll check back in with some updates!


Mommy & Daddy daycare

Charlotte did not attend day care this summer, so we had LOTS of time to explore southern Maine and do a lot of fun things as a family.  Our last few weeks as a family of three have been very busy…soon to get busier with the arrival of Baby ‘Bee #2 any day now!  Click on the pictures to enlarge.

Grin and bear it

It was one of those mornings where I didn’t think I’d ever get out the door.  Up at 6am, but by 8:05 I still wasn’t fully dressed or have my bag packed.  Charlotte had pooped through two layers of pajamas, and then angrily flailed about when I tried to change her, so that she stepped and rolled right in her own poop.

The cat was slinking in and out of the hallway coat closet…and upon further inspection, I found that he’d been using it as a litter box for…who knows how long?

Charlotte was begging for milk, signing and shouting it simultaneously, but refusing every vessel I put it in.  I finally relent and go for the open “big kid” cup, which she demands to handle by herself.  And we suddenly have a pool of milk on the living room rug.

The yogurt wasn’t cold and the ice cubes were melted.  Did I really have time to examine a broken appliance right now?  Just as I’m skimming the owners manual to learn how to adjust the settings, I tune into the fact that it is painfully quiet in the kitchen…

…and round the corner to find Charlotte chowing down on the cat’s dry food.  Smiling.  And signing “kitty crackers” to me.

I admit.  When I finally got Charlotte into her car seat (and she had tried–and failed–to buckle all the buckles by herself), I got into the drivers seat and cried for about 30 seconds.  Not one of my finer moments.  Self-pity is not pretty.

But as we’re driving to day care, I catch a glimpse of her in the backseat that turned my whole day around.  Rockin’ out to Aretha Franklin, the girl was shimmying her shoulders and bobbing her head as if her life depended on it.  Really, there is nothing cuter than a dancing baby.  All was right in her world, so I decided to let it all be right in mine as well.

Thank you, little ‘Bee 🙂  You really are my sunshine.  I hope you’ll keep reminding me this when we have two kids under the age of two…I might easily forget.



Bring your A game

Lately I’ve felt the need to advertise the fact that I have an eight month old baby at home.  You see, I started a new teaching job a few weeks ago.  And usually with new jobs, you try hard NOT to show up with the kids and leave soon after the final bell.  You slave away before and after school, trying to stay ahead (well, let’s be honest, you’re really just trying to not get behind!)  You can’t really go on autopilot, because you don’t even know what the flight path is.  Teaching in a new school is hard–and long–work.

But I have been showing up moments before the students, and leaving school within an hour after the final bell.  Slacker?  That’s why I keep telling everyone that will listen about my Baby ‘Bee.

I’m not just leaving at 3:30 to go shopping or go to happy hour.  I’m picking up my daughter, changing diapers, breastfeeding, cooking dinner, playing with blocks, making lunch, reading books, rocking to sleep, and then collapsing myself sometime around 8:30pm.  I arrive at school just before the kids because I’ve spent the morning wrestling my daughter into clothes, attempting to pack a healthy lunch, and maybe even read a book before we rush off to day care.  I’m sure there are tons of other working moms who recognize this routine.

The reality of being a full-time teacher and a full-time mommy is that you really can’t do it all.  And if you can, you’re probably not doing it all well.  A close friend once told me, “you can’t always bring your A game to everything.  Your kids have to get your A game.  And your marriage has to get your A game.  But work?  Sometimes it might have to get your B+ effort. And you can’t spend the time to feel bad about those priorities.”  

Now I do realize that I might be pushing some buttons here.   I’m a teacher.  I work with the neediest, lowest kids, and every single one of them is somebody else’s baby.  They need and deserve help, and shouldn’t teachers spend every breath of every minute doing more and doing better?  Mommy guilt is no joke, but teacher guilt feels strangely the same.  It’s exhausting spending the work week never quite feeling like you’re doing enough, both at home and at work.

I’ve become efficient with my lesson planning.  I know how to eat lunch and analyze a reading test, while chatting with a teacher about student A , and mentally lesson planning for student B. When I’m at work, work is totally getting my A game.  But come 3:30, I’ve got another little face that gets 100% of my attention.  So please, just remember when you see me lugging my books and computer to my car at 3:30…I’m really just heading off to my second job.  And I’m trying my hardest not to feel guilty!

Friday fun

I just couldn’t help but share this gem.  It kills me to drop Charlotte off at daycare each morning, knowing that I’ll miss her and would rather spend the day with her, but there is a silver lining: she gets to spend her day with other kids, and with someone who engages her and plays with her all day… instead of struggling to get the laundry done/living room vacuumed/dinner on the table while still playing at the same time.

And yes, she most certainly is a literacy teacher’s daughter.  Proud teacher mama here 🙂

Click on the pictures to enlarge.