Saturday, October 25, 2014


As I alluded to in Col's birthday post, we hit a bit of a rough patch the last couple of weeks. Settle in, because--rant alert!--it's going to take a while to relate all our woes.

Said patch was precipitated by a 9:30 a.m. phone call on Monday, 6 October, that the kids' nursery had to close for the day and one of us had to go pick up the kids. Turned out the nursery had been doing some bathroom remodeling, and a surprise inspection by the local childcare regulatory authority led to them being sanctioned for letting kids be there while strong paint fumes were pervading the nursery.

It happened to be less inconvenient for me to take the day off than for Lars, who had just returned home the day before from two weeks working in Greece. I got the kids and let one of the head teachers know that this surprise closure was unacceptable--they should have planned to do the construction outside of school hours if it were at all likely to pose a safety issue, and I'd certainly rather have them do a planned shutdown if necessary to complete it so that we could arrange alternative care. She in turn let me know that the nursery would not likely be open on Tuesday. Terrible news.

The kids and I bummed around town on my bike, going to the library, feeding ducks, and eating lunch, then heading home for naps and for me to triage my weekend/Monday morning emails. I also started getting in touch with babysitters to see whether anyone could watch the kids the next day. Finally, around bedtime, we conscripted a friend of a sitter to take the job.

Portrait in front of a fishcake factory run by a shark
(yes, the chainsaw is for the fish)

The next day we all met the new sitter at 8:30, and Lars and I gave her detailed instructions on managing the kids. We headed to work. At 11:30, Tor's teacher texted to say the nursery had had its funding withdrawn. I called her and the nursery; no response. Thinking this meant the nursery would be closed indefinitely, I started calling every daycare I could reach to see whether they had spots. Of course, because it's Oxford, no one had spots.

I finally got in touch with Col's teacher and she let me know that the childcare authorities had withdrawn funding from the school because of the paint fumes--they effectively didn't want to endorse the school, which meant that it wouldn't close, but that it wouldn't be able to receive childcare subsidies. Since Tor (like every 3- and 4-year-old in England) gets 15 hours a week of free care, this affected us. I let her know I was sorry, but we'd probably be shopping around now, though the kids would continue to go there and pay full price for the time being.

I called Lars. We thought this was bad news, obviously, but at 1:30, Col's teacher called back with the REAL bad news. Hold on to your hats:

The construction had unearthed a nest of rats, and the nursery wouldn't be able to open again until the authorities were sure the rats were gone. In practice, this meant the nursery would likely be closed for several weeks, if not longer.

Now it was urgent to find the kids a new daycare. I spent the next few hours (at work) calling more places and finally found one, considerably out of our way, that had spots for both kids. We arranged a tour for the next day. 

Blessedly, everything had gone fine with the new sitter, and that evening we tried to figure out how to handle the next few days. We finally sorted out an emergency nanny (not cheap--job hunters take note) for Thursday and Friday, but we had to cover Wednesday ourselves. We arranged a trade-off midday so both of us could kind of work.

This guys was stoked to spend the day at home and help unpack some remaining boxes

At this point I let my manager know what was happening--I just started a new job at OUP on 30 September, so this was particularly devastating timing from a getting-things-done-at-work standpoint. Fortunately she has a 3-year-old son too and had great sympathy for the situation--I could take as much time as I needed to sort out the care, as long as I made up the time later.

On our Wednesday tour. the new nursery was fine, though much bigger than the kids were used to: 24 preschoolers in Tor's room, 18 toddlers in Col's. But beggars can't be choosers, so we signed up the kids. They could settle in for an hour on Thursday and two hours on Friday and then start full time on Monday, 13 October, an unusually fast period for a nursery here, so we felt extremely grateful.

Wednesday afternoon, Col's teacher called to let me know the whole staff was at the nursery, cleaning, along with the owner, who had not contacted us during this whole time. I got the owner on the phone and spoke with her about her expectations surrounding the closure, which corroborated the picture we'd gotten: the rats were the issue forcing shutdown, and she had no clear expectation of when that would be resolved. Even when the nursery opened again, she said, the funding still wouldn't be available. I let her know we were highly unlikely to return, and asked if we could come say goodbye to the staff, which was fine with her.

So the kids and I biked down to the nursery to see the teachers that they'd been with for ten hours a day, five days a week for the last eight months. We collected the scrapbooks their teachers had made for them, with notes on all the milestones they'd achieved there and pictures of them with the friends they'd made there. We had ten minutes to say goodbye to these teachers before they had to go keep cleaning, out on the sidewalk because kids weren't allowed in the nursery.

Thursday and Friday, the kids had their visits at the new nursery and hung out with the emergency nanny the rest of the work day. The next week, they started full time. Everything seemed to be going all right, and I started to relax a tiny bit, until Wednesday--Col's birthday--when I picked him up. His teacher informed me that he'd just thrown up and would need to stay home for 48 hours. That is, we needed emergency care for Thursday and Friday. Again.

I biked the kids home and there we met two of Col's teachers, the ones who had spent the most time with him and who we'd invited to celebrate his birthday since he wouldn't get to see them as planned. The upside: one of them was available to watch Col for the next two days! The downside: Col was a basket case during the rest of the evening. He ate a little dinner, but he barfed right before bed. We still hoped it was just because of too much cake and excitement at school and put him down for the night.

This is the face of Norovirus

The one smile of the evening--maybe we'll have forgotten about the context
 10 years from now when we look through our photos with him
Col was fine the whole next day, and Friday too. Lars and I got work done, and Tor went to the new nursery. Then Friday, after coming home from a work dinner, Lars spent the entire night in the bathroom with Col's stomach bug. Saturday, which he'd planned as a catch-up day for work, was shot for him. I took the kids to the library, the grocery store, and the park, mainly just keeping them out of the house.


When we got home for their rest, Tor said that his stomach hurt. I got him a bowl just in time and he spent the next 12 hours sick, with three sets of sheets as casualties. (Now, this is bad if you've got a good washer-dryer, but it's worse when you've got a micro washer and zero dryer. We had sheets hanging everywhere for the next four days.)

It must be a miracle that I didn't catch whatever the guys had, for which I'm sincerely, sincerely grateful. But I simultaneously contracted the office cold that's been felling team members one by one. Monday, I went to work in the morning but had to head home after lunch to sleep it off. I stayed home Tuesday morning too, while Lars graciously biked the kids in (even further out of his way than mine). When I made it back into the office that afternoon, I brought Lysol and hand sanitizer for my desk--should've come standard with it.

Whew! So! We're figuring out this new routine and everyone's largely back to health. But the kids will take some time to settle in. Col still cries when I drop him off and again when he sees me coming in the afternoon, which he never did at the old nursery. Tor still talks about going back to the old school to play with his friends and teachers, and it's heartbreaking to have to explain that we don't know when he'll see those people again. Tor's also started wetting the bed at a higher frequency than at any time since he was first potty-trained, which we'll hope he gets control of over the next few weeks.

But today was good: we went to carve pumpkins with our friends, which was the first really normal time with friends we'd had since Lars left for Greece. Tor and I made Halloween cookies this morning and frosted them, and he wore his Ironman costume. Guess which pumpkin is ours?

Hint: it's the American-sized pumpkin

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dear Col

We knew it was coming, but it's still almost impossible to believe that in just one year we've gone from this ...

... to THIS:

Insert eyebrows of choice

Today of all days, you have a tummy bug, but we still celebrate YOU! Here's a snapshot of a few things you're up to right now...

When you're excited about something--a person, a toy, food, or nursing--you rapid-fire kick both your legs in and out, in and out. You've done this since you were tiny and I suspect you'll quit once you start talking, but I sure enjoy it for now.

You love to dance, especially when Dad plays music:

You hold toys out to people as if you want to share with them, but really you just want to SHOW them. And keep the toy. You particularly like playing with anything that Big Brother plays with, right when he's playing with it. If he gives it to you and moves on, you lose interest and move on with him.

Corollary: You wholly worship your Big Brother except when he tries to wrestle with you. Then you squawk in no uncertain terms. He particularly loves grabbing your head and you particularly hate that.

We are looking forward to dressing you up properly for your second Halloween and to giving Big Brother all your candy (minus the candy tax, natch).

"Keep smiling ... make eye contact ... inch toward the berries"

For the most part, you go to bed around 7:45 and wake up around 4 a.m. to nurse, then you're down again until 6:30. However, some nights you're also up around 1 a.m., just to break up our sleep more evenly.

In terms of child care, you've stopped acting relatively low key when we (and especially I) leave. Instead you pitch a fit at the signs of imminent departure. I'm told you settle down pretty quickly, but it's never while I'm in earshot. I'm sure your security quotient is not helped by this week's day care drama: you have been unceremoniously uprooted from your cozy spot in the baby room at Stepping Stones and transplanted into a much larger toddler room at your new nursery, Kids Unlimited--Oxford Waterways. (More about the sudden and terrible nursery shutdown in a subsequent post--this is Col's day!)

You're in the 50th percentile for height, weight, and head size, but you look enormous to us because Tor was so bitty. Very few of his winter clothes fit you because he was a full size smaller than you at one year old. You've still got some epic thigh folds but I'm sure you'll lose these when you begin walking in earnest.

Livin' large

You think baths are THE. GREATEST. We have not had a bad one yet--you can be tired and angry or even hungry, but once you get in the bath, it's all good, and it's better than good if Big Brother's in there with you. Of course, it's a different story once you get out: the rage begins once you hit the towel and usually doesn't stop until there's food in your mouth.

You resemble baby pictures of both your dad and me. Which really means the two of us kind of looked like each other as children. I also think you look a lot like my mom's dad, which is fitting since we used his name for one of your middle names--Harry.

My dear Col, you have delighted us with your cheeriness from sunny California to drizzly Oxford. We are so grateful to have you in our family and I am honored to be your mom. May your year ahead be one filled with joy, growth, discovery, and love.