Sunday, February 10, 2008

Photo Time

Just wanted to upload a few new candid photos... this first one gives you a glimpse into meal times in our household. Livi is pretty good with the spoon and fork now, but does have a little nerve damage from her last surgery. As a result she tends to drool a lot more than kids her age usually do and wears a lot of her dinner. It's getting better, though, and I'm just happy to see her able to feed herself finally! It seemed to take us forever to get to this stage.

You'll have noticed in the previous photo as well as in this one that Livi's eyes are closed. Any time you tell her to smile for a picture she squints her eyes shut like that and kind of grimaces. Thank God for digital cameras because I can sometimes take 50 shots in a row before I get one with open eyes and a pretty smile! Here she's practicing her writing at her desk in Mommy's office at home.

Today we went to the zoo, but we actually spent most of our time in the playpark there rather than looking at animals. Livi loves the giant slides and would spend all day on them (or else on the big rope spider web next to them) if she could. It's funny to watch people's reactions to her on the slides--she's so tiny that they are always amazed at how fearless and strong she is.

Speaking of the spider web--how's this for a look of concentration! At one point a much bigger boy (8 years old or so) got on it and said he was the spider and Livi was his fly. I couldn't help but laugh when moments later SHE pinned HIM down on it! I had set the camera down and couldn't get to it fast enough, but it was too cute. He had such a look of surprise on his face and she was laughing so hard she was almost in tears.

This is another zoo photo--this time on the carousel. It's the only one out of more than a dozen where she didn't have her eyes closed. She really loves the carousel now, too. The first few times we rode it last year she wasn't too sure about it, but now as soon as she sees it she starts getting excited.

I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them!


Friday, February 08, 2008

Preschool Hunting

MandyJo asked about preschool hunting. Wow--what a challenge! The first thing you need to be aware of is that you need to start looking EARLY! Many of the schools we were interested in are already completely booked for the Fall term and it's just February! I suggest you start looking in the Fall of the year before you plan to send your child. They should be able to tell you deadlines for registration applications and what testing or admission requirements they have. Yes, I did say testing... Several of the schools in our area test the children as part of the admission process to make sure they are "mature enough" to attend school. We're talking Pre-K3 here! Sheesh!

What is important to you in selecting a school will depend a lot upon your child. Alivia has several medical and developmental issues that we need to keep in mindy. She's been diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and global developmental delays including speech, fine and gross motor skills, and cognitive issues. This means we need to find a school that is able to deal with her issues and not all schools are. You need to be prepared with a list of questions for the school and for the teacher--always make sure you get to meet with the actual teacher for the class your child might be going into. You also need to be aware, though, that there are certain things you don't want to bring up because once these things have been mentioned they become a part of your child's permanent school record if they are accepted at the school.

The questions I think are important to ask no matter what your child's situation is are:

1. What is the teacher/student ratio? (The lower the better. The school we are going with has a maximum 12:1 ratio with teacher aides assigned if more than 6 children.)
2. What is the curriculum and daily schedule of activities? (This is especially critical if your child is only attending a couple days a week instead of the full week. Do they include a good balance of academics, socialization, arts and crafts, outdoor playtime, etc.)
3. What are the school's accreditations?
4. Do you have space for my child? If not, is there a waiting list and what is an average wait time?
5. Does my child have to be potty trained?
6. What are the hours?
7. Are snacks and/or lunch provided?
8. What's the schedule for holidays/school closings?
9. How flexible are your drop-off and pick-up times? Are there late fees?
10. How much is it and do you have a payment plan for tuition?
11. How are children disciplined?
12. Do the children take a nap?
13. What is your student release policy (who do you allow to pick up my child?)
14. Can you give me references of other parents whose children are enrolled here?

You may come up with others, as well, that are particularly related to your situation and your child. For me, it was important to know if the school would allow me to arrange for therapists to visit her at school. I also talked to the teacher about some of Alivia's problems--speech, sensory issues, and a general lack of socialization with other children her age--to see what her reaction was. It was very reassuring to see that she wasn't alarmed and to hear that she has other students in her class this year who are similar in that respect. Experience with those issues means a lot. The one thing we specifically did not mention and won't (again because we don't want it in her permanent school record) is that Livi is a fetal alcohol child. Her case is very mild and --so far-- she doesn't have any behaviors associated with it that would be dangerous or disruptive. Fortunately, she's no worse than your typical child with ADHD. Basically we don't want her labeled as a "problem child" and we want to be able to integrate her into a regular classroom environment.

So what was our experience... well, we visited about a half dozen schools. One required testing for admission which I disagreed with on principle. Livi has had to deal with enough of that kind of BS and I really don't think it reveals that much about a child who's only 2 years old. One school (recommended because of their experience with developmental issues) turned out to be TOO much geared in that direction. Many of the students are autistic or have behavioral problems that I don't want Livi to learn. A third school wouldn't accept her until she turned 4. A fourth school had only two openings left in the Fall class for which we would have had to get in line at 4 in the morning on Wednesday so that we could be first in line to apply for. They also didn't have early drop off hours (earliest time to drop off your child is 9 a.m. What working mom can do that?) Otherwise they would have been a great choice. The fifth school we looked at is where Livi went to daycare for 8 weeks last summer while my mother was healing from surgery. While they are affordable, conveniently located and have a great curriculum, I was disturbed that I didn't know any of the staff when I went to visit. Their turnover is very high and I want Livi to have the same teacher for the whole year.

The final school I looked at and the one we will be using is a private Lutheran school. The tuition is moderate, they are conveniently located and they will allow Livi to go just two days per week for Pre-K3. (Pre-K4 will be 5 days.) They spend more time on socialization than academics on those two days, but that's really what she needs right now. We can work on the academics ourselves, it's the social interaction she really needs that we are having difficulty providing for her. The teacher, as I mentioned, was unfazed by Livi's special needs, but obviously skilled enough to deal with her. She's also been with the school for years, is a member of the congregation, etc., and so is not likely to leave during the year. While I'm not Lutheran, I don't mind Livi getting some religious education, as well. (In fact I've been reading the Lutheran beliefs and am looking forward to discussing them with Pastor Johnson, whom we also met when we toured the school.) I've always been fascinated with the pagentry of the Catholic Church, but don't believe in a lot of their stuff. I found it very interesting that a protestant faith has so many of the things I like about Catholocism and yet more closely aligns with my belief system.)

The application information will be sent to us in the next few days and I plan to get it in right away so that Livi is guaranteed a spot in their Fall class. It has definitely been a challenge, but I'm glad I was able to visit so many schools and get a feel for what is out there. I'm happy with our choice and confident that Livi will do well there.

~ Jeana

Sunday, February 03, 2008

We Have a Winner!

Woo Hoo! Alivia won two trophies today. Both are "Runner-Up" trophies, but one was for the public voting in the "beautiful 2-3 year old" category and the other was for the official judges in the "fashionable 2-3 year old" category. Hurray for Livi!

~ Jeana

Saturday, February 02, 2008

February Already!

The time seems to just be flying by! Okay, so I owe you guys a few updates. Here's the medical stuff... Monday morning Livi will be having an MRI. This is related to the pale optic nerve situation, but we hope it will also give us info regarding her balance issues. Then Wednesday we see Dr. Roy for her final post op from the jaw surgery. He'll want to see her again in a year or so to look at the cleft palette, but I do think we'll be done with his office until then. I'm hoping he can help us with her ear infection, too, though. I have her on some antibiotics but they don't seem to be making much of an impact on it. Then next month we see the orthopedic doctor and a developmental specialist and in April we see a neurologist. The fun just never ends!

Aren't these photos just gorgeous? Livi was entered in the Most Photogenic Baby contest. We'll get the contest results tomorrow, but I was able to get the CD of all the photos today. I just love these pictures of her. Tonight we're going to be meeting some friends for dinner and I can't wait for them to see her--it's been a couple months and she's changed quite a bit. Oh--and today we bought Livi some regular earrings to replace the original set. She's wearing the ladybug set right now--too cute! And I also got her a set that is this truly adorable pair of purses. I just love having a little girl to do all this stuff with!

Monday after her MRI we are going to go check out a couple preschools for Livi. The one that had been recommended by her other developmental specialist had too many autistic children and behaviorally challenged children. I don't need for Livi to learn more of those kinds of behaviors. Oh--and Livi has finally started to show an interest in television. She just adores Blue's Clues. You should see her when she sits in her thinking chair to think! Personally, I think she has a bit of a crush on Steve, the host (yes, we are watching the old episodes.)

Well, I'll probably try to post again tomorrow to let everyone know how Livi did in the photo contest. In the meantime, have a great weekend, everyone!

~ Jeana