Friday, May 30, 2008

Daycare: Wombat seeks adventure! Part 4

We went to the Goddard school in Gaithersburg today as part of our daycare hunt. The long and the short of it is: we liked the school ok, better then Childtime, not anywhere as much as Bright Horizons, and we found it very, very expensive. I guess we couldn't quite see where the much higher tuition that Goddard charges was actually going for our infant.

The place feels like a school, not really a daycare - and with most of the facility catering to ages 2 and up, it makes sense. It seemed to mostly be a pre-K environment, with the infants and toddlers "on the side", so to speak. Which is not to say the little ones are not taken care of, it just doesn't seem to be the focus or the strength of the school.

In its layout, the infant rooms had more in common with Childtime; however, the teachers themselves were definitely much better. They attended to the children and seemed to really enjoy playing with the kids. They also attended to kids based on their needs, not on some random schedule, and the children were able to interact with one another. Younger infants can also see older infants in a corner of the room, which should help with development.

The teachers make lesson plans and are allowed some time to develop their teaching for the month. (Each month has a theme, and the teachers then build their plans around the theme. The center director approves all teaching plans before they are actually implemented). All the teachers, like Childtime's staff, had the '90-hour certification', but no one seemed to be able to explain what the certification actually was or what body had granted it.

The school has 2 outdoor play areas; however, the areas are very small and covered with artificial turf. There is no grassy play area at all, and the school itself is located in a large office park/parking area.

So it was better then Childtime, but it was the same type of thing - only for $500 more a month. And similar to Childtime, we feel that it's not great - better then "not bad", but not great. We still might end up placing Wombat here, just while waiting for a spot to open up at Bright Horizons..... And still more daycares to see in the next 2 weeks! Not submitting our waitlist application yet. :)

Quick Stats:
Tuition: $1850/month
Waitlist: pretty long for infants; only 6 spaces total are available for up to 10 month olds.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Daycare: Wombat seeks adventure! Part 3

The daycare quest continued yesterday with a visit to Bright Horizons daycare in Germantown. In good news, we have found a wonderful place for our Wombat. In bad news, Wombat may not be able to get a spot at this wonderful place. :(

Bright Horizons is a company that usually contracts with other (large) businesses to provide daycare for the employees. The waiting lists are prioritized so that the employees get first priority, "related fields" get second, and general public is third or fourth. We are in a "related field", so we get third priority - which is not so bad. What is bad, though, is that there are so few infant spots that they usually fill up very quickly, and almost all of them are available in the summer....

But - the daycare itself was WONDERFUL! We loved it! The facility is immaculate, the teachers are paying attention to the children, the schedules and learning type is driven by the kids themselves. The administrator was very very knowledgeable about every aspect of the daycare, answered all the questions we had in great detail (including providing us with medical forms, showing children's detailed daily activity binders and introducing us to the teachers). Most importantly, all the kids loved the daycare. They came in running to the classrooms and their teachers, and seemed to be thrilled to be there.

Even in the infant room, the little ones would cling to the teacher. The music was playing nursery rhymes loudly, the teachers were paying 100% attention to the kids. The small infants were mingling with the older children, watching older kids play as they were dozing off.... It was a great environment for the younger kids to watch the older ones, while still being doted on by a teacher. Unlike other daycares, Bright Horizons did not try to pretend that our infant would have a "schedule"; they simply said that he will set his own schedule and they will work with whatever that schedule happens to be. If he wants to nap, he'll nap; if he wants to eat, he'll be fed, and if he is alert and awake, someone will play with him. All while being in a happy stimulating place, surrounded by other kids to interact with. That's what we want to hear. :)

This facility had 4 playgrounds; 2 for infants and 2 for older kids. The children are outside twice a day, 30 minutes each time. The facility is also surrounded by a large fields on the DoE campus, so kids go on nature walks, etc. Even the infants are being carried out in buggies for walks twice a day, so they get to enjoy the fresh air they need.

The teachers are highly trained, with a NAEVC accreditation for the entire center. The teachers are required to attend staff training days in addition to their initial training, and all teachers are given ample time to develop lesson plans for their classes. The teachers looked happy, involved with the kids and not stressed. The seemed to like their jobs and the children.

It was perfect, really. We are definitely getting on the waiting list. Just hope there is a spot for our little Wombat..... Fingers crossed - and still a few daycares to visit. Will see Goddard School in Gaithersburg tomorrow!

Quick Stats:
Rates (infant): $1357/month

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Flipping out

I got a new Flip camera for my birthday (Thank you Mom and Dad!!), and we were playing with it over dinner.... great fun :) Here is some footage of Ingy and Bismarck testing out the new camera.

Some very pregnant pictures

By popular demand, here are some pictures of me at seven and a half months. Go wombat! :)

Daycare: Wombat seeks adventure! Part 2

The first daycare we visited was Childtime in Gaithersburg. We saw the place on Friday afternoon, on Memorial Day weekend. So any negatives we found would have to be offset by it being a really busy holiday time for the teachers.

Childtime is a corporation that own lots and lots of daycare centers across the country. They are not franchised, and so each center has to answer to a higher authority. They do not follow a particular teaching method as such.

The Gaithersburg facility is large, with good indoor and outdoor spaces; all areas were clean and well organized. The door to the facility is always locked, and access is given when you buzz in (although the administrator just buzzes everyone in automatically without asking who they are).

Touring the daycare left us with mixed feelings. On one hand, the administrator was nice, ready to answer most questions and helpful; classical music was piped throughout the facility; everything appeared very sanitary. On another hand, the administrator seemed unable to answer some pretty basic questions, couldn't describe in detail their teachers' qualifications, and was giving instructions to the teachers off the cuff.

In the positive experiences, the administrator mentioned that there is very low turnover of teachers (the longest teachers have been there is over 8 years; the youngest teacher has been there 2 years). The facility looked well maintained, and the security is well taken care of. All children, even infants, get to play outside (infants are taken around in buggies to enjoy the outdoors).

In the negatives, the administrator could not answer what vaccinations are required from the kids, and could not explain what qualifications the staff are required to have. She stated that the staff must have a 90-hour certification, but could not explain what the certification was or what body had granted it. During our tour of the facility, we saw a few somewhat unpleasant things as well. In the infant room, one of the babies was crying for a while with no one paying attention to him. The infant room had no colorful objects or walls in it; everything seemed to be white or beige. Most infants were laying in their cribs, with just 2 being held by 2 teachers in the room; one of the two was being fed. In the toddler room, one of the kids was sitting by himself with snot dripping out of his nose with no one, again, paying any attention to him. Both of these kids were picked up/attended to by the administrator when we happened to stop by; it was not clear if she was qualified or supposed to handle the kids. The administrator also was giving instructions in each room as to what teachers should take which kids where; nothing was written down or organized and it looked like confusion could very easily set in.

The teachers looked stressed and tired. The teachers in the toddler rooms looked overwhelmed by the kids in the room. After the child is potty trained, the child/teacher ratio goes to 10:1, which must be very taxing on the teacher.

Many of these things could be explained by it being late on a Friday afternoon before a holiday, so may be it's much better on other days. And, again, this is the first place we've seen. But having seen the daycare like this, it seemed somewhat depressing.

Overall, it was not bad. We are just hoping to find better.

Quick Stats:
Rates (infants): $365/week
Waitlist: about 6 months; the facility will call you on the month you want to place the child if the space is available.

Daycare: Wombat seeks adventure!

We are planning to keep the little Wombat home for a few months after he arrives. But, after about 6 months, it will be time to introduce a little adventure into Wombat's life as I return to work - and so we are looking for daycare that we like.

This seems to be a complicated and confusing process, and we haven't really seen a list of resources for daycares in the Washington DC area. One source we did find is the Washington Parent's list from 2005.

As a result of the research, we plan to see the following daycare centers in our area:

Bright Horizons
The Goddard School
Crossway Community Montessori School
Iman Learning Center
Peppertree Children's Center
Crystal City Children's Center
Children in a Shoe

We will also be exploring a couple of in-home daycares, and we'll post our reviews (biased, and tainted by inexperience :) ) on this blog. A summary of all the questions asked of each daycare, as well as their responses is available as a Google spreadsheet for all to see. Hopefully it will at least organize our own thoughts - or may be help you if you are looking for daycare as well.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Day out in the park

Pictures of the day.....

Friday, May 23, 2008

Ju Ju Be Diaper Bag

I have actually found a diaper bag I like!! I mean, an actually cute and functional and well-built bag. So, to pass along the diaper bag loving here are some pictures.... (heck, I think I might carry this even if I didn't need diapers). The bag I bought is the flowery specimen below. Soooo perfect for a summer baby's stuff! :)

Check out more pictures (or get your own) at JuJuBe (note that their site only works in IE....ah, what do bag designers know about browser wars?) :)

Even more impressively, this company actually sells wristlets! I have been looking for a good wristlet for the longest time, and I am very very impressed with these. Expecting or not, must have one of these. Or two. Finally, all the things I need to carry are physically attached to me, and I don't have to worry about leaving my purse somewhere!! (Yes, I do have the wherewithall of a 5-year-old. I have seriously considered stringing my gloves together inside my jacket during wintertime, just so that I'll stop losing them....)

(The color of my wristlet matches the color of the diaper bag, so it's the cute blue flowery print. Yeay!) And here is the inside of the wristlet..... My goodness, there might actually be hope for me.

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Crib and the Changing Table!!

Iggy assembled our crib today! It is really, really really really large! It looks like a baby could have a gym in there, forget sleeping... But it's also very pretty, very sturdy and looks very safe. It fits perfectly into the room! Here are some picks of assembled furniture, as well as the satisfied assembly crew.

Ikea Changing Table/Storage Unit - all assembled, with the super-cool boy toybox added in. :)

The assembly crew. The man, the legend. :)

The not-really-good-for-anything mother-to-be, surveying her new domain.

Assembly supervision management team. Pictured here at an offsite get together.

Cat Tree!

Not really a baby or wombat-related post, but.... our cat finally has his cat tree! For a year now, the cat has valiantly served as the dog's squeaky toy, has never taken a sick day, and didn't have a place of his own. We got him some toys, but the dog would always take them away from the cat.... The injustice finally got to us, and we got him his very own tree with his very own toys, attached to his very own high spot that the dog cannot reach. Here is a photo documentary of the cat exploring the tree. As you can see, he is in shock. He can't believe it.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Baby Furniture Assembly

I came home from ballet today to find the baby furniture assembly team in full swing! :) Looks like the storage unit/changing table is first; tomorrow we might have some pictures of it completely assembled in the room! (The crib is coming tomorrow, too!) Here are some pictures of the working crew taking a well-deserved break. :)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Our Crib

We bought the Bonavita drop-side Sheffield crib yesterday!! It's very pretty; check out the picture below. Our crib is a bit darker though - it's cherry stained. The picture shows a lighter stain then what we have.

The crib should be here some time in the next 2 weeks or so; we are getting it delivered. Very exciting!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Nursery Furniture!

Continuing on the shopping.... I have been really reluctant to buy baby furniture - it's too expensive, not really practical and generally, can't this thing just sleep in a basket or something? :) But - we went to IKEA today, and they have some really really great storage units, and for crazy cheap prices!! Have to brag.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Buying Baby Stuff

So, amazingly enough, we haven't really bought anything for the baby up to now. Besides the stroller (which, arguably, is more for us then the baby....) But!! Today marks the day I officially gave in and bought something for the little Wombat. (OMG, I can't believe this is happening.)

Cecilia told me about the KangarooKorner shop, and I kept looking at their slings for the last few months. Somehow, I decided that today is the day to buy - so now we should have a baby carry sling.... and a few toys. Couldn't resist.

To celebrate this historic moment, here are some pictures :) It should all be here in a few days! Very exciting.

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