Archive | November, 2010

Ornaments and window clings and nail polish! Oh, my!

30 Nov

Hannah’s quote of the week:

On Thanksgiving, we went around the table to say what we’re thankful for. When it was Hannah’s turn, Sean asked, “What are you thankful for, Hannah?” Her response: “Turkey!” I can’t help but love her honesty. Now let’s transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas…

‘Tis the season to spend lots of time on holiday celebrations and lots of money on gifts. Well, maybe not this year. My husband and I decided to have a lighter Christmas to save a little of both.

I figured it would be fun to find a few simple and inexpensive holiday activities to do with Hannah since she is now old enough to begin grasping the concept of Christmas. I’m nearing the end of my first semester in grad school, too, so I’ve been trying to do quick projects with Hannah in between assignments. Here’s what we’ve done in the past few days:

Project: Christmas tree ornaments

Purchased from: Target

Price: $2 for a package of two ornaments

I found felt ornament and garland kits that require minimal instruction. Hannah and I made two Christmas tree ornaments one night, and then we made slightly more complex Santa ornaments the next night. We started on the garland, but that seems to be a bit beyond her age range, so I plan to finish that one myself. Overall, this project was enjoyable for both of us, and it didn’t take long at all.

Project: Winter window clings

Purchased from: Wal-Mart

Price: $2 for one sheet

I’m eager to decorate my house for Christmas, but I don’t have time right now to spend a whole day doing it. I figured sticking a few snowflakes on our front window would only take five minutes but would start to create a holiday feeling at our house. Although we had some trouble getting them to stick, the clings were still a fun and easy way to get in a holiday mood. Hannah loves to help, so this was a good project for her.

Project: Holiday nail polish

Purchased from: Wal-Mart

Price: $2.50 for a 0.40 fl oz bottle

Wearing festive nail polish is another way I like to celebrate the holidays, and as you might expect, curious little Hannah has taken an interest in this as well. While we were grocery shopping, I found some green nail polish and thought painting our nails would not only be inexpensive, but also entertaining and simple.

There are dozens of other inexpensive ways to celebrate the holidays with your kids. Here are a few websites worth checking out:

1.  http://www.nickjr.com/printables/index.jhtml

This Nick Jr. site has printable holiday activities, including Wubbzy’s Hanukkah Menorah, Umizoomi Placemats and Dora’s Thanksgiving Tree.

2. http://www.raisingarizonakids.com/index.php?page=1.calendar.calendar

The Raising Arizona Kids site has a calendar of events with a variety of activities you can enjoy with your children during the holiday season.

3.  http://www.michaels.com/Seasons-Celebrations/projects-seasonsandcelebrations,default,sc.html

Michaels is probably my favorite arts and crafts store, and their website has tons of great projects for many holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

4. http://www.food.com/cookbook/holiday-food-art-for-kids-175653

Food.com has a section dedicated to food projects for kids, so if you and your kiddos prefer to eat your art rather than hang it on the wall, this is the place for you!

Let me know if you’ve found any other great holiday project ideas or websites, and I’ll mention them in my next blog post. Happy holidays!

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Should I stay or should I go?

23 Nov

I recently learned that several exciting journalistic opportunities may be heading my way. Some say every challenge creates an opportunity, but in this particular situation, my opportunities are creating a challenge. So what’s the challenge?

Spending time away from Hannah.

Next semester one of my classes will include a nine-day trip to the Dominican Republic. When have I ever had an opportunity like this? And when will I have it again? Answer: never and probably never. But nine days away from Hannah? Will she be ok? Or, more realistically, will I be ok? A week and a half isn’t that long, so I’m trying not to worry…too much.

The other opportunity, though, is to spend next summer in Washington, D.C. Yes, the summer–that’s 12 weeks. I really want to take advantage of this because I absolutely adore the idea of being able to explore Washington as a journalist. I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing it would be. But…12 weeks away from Hannah?

I have consulted some friends and family members about my predicament and have received a variety of answers. As of today, I still don’t know what I should do. Fortunately I don’t have to decide right away. Any advice would be welcomed at this point, though. Hint hint.

I have, however, come to the realization that objectivity is key here. In addition to consulting those who know me, I decided to do a little homework on parents who travel. Here we go:

1. “How to Stay Connected to Your Kid When You’re Not Home” by parenting.com contributor Patty Onderko.

This article gives great tips on how to make the distance easier to bear. One tip was to utilize Skype, which one of my friends actually mentioned to me recently as well. This way we could see and talk to each other, even though we’d be far apart. Calling home was another suggestion, which I would probably do a bit more frequently than using Skype.

2. The Traveling Parent: Take the guilt out of business travel and have fun with your kids!” by Genanne Zeller of operamom.com.

I felt a little relieved by the time I finished the first paragraph, which said, “ Nearly 90% of business traveling parents say it is difficult to cope with being away from their home and family.” Ok, well at least I’m not alone!

The article goes on to provide activities you can do with your child to prepare for the separation, such as an itinerary swap and travel place mats. The ideas in this article are very creative and probably quite helpful, especially for young children.

3. “Better Business Travel While the Family Stays Home” by Erin Kane, a work-life balance contributor for BusinessBalance.com.

Organization seems to be the main component of this article, which provides ideas such as stocking the kitchen before you leave, preparing a daily schedule for the caretaker and utilizing an online calendar to log travel dates and important events that may take place while you’re gone.

When push comes to shove, this decision will primarily fall on my shoulders, but I also have to think about those who will be left to help care for Hannah if I go. My husband thinks I should do it, and I certainly appreciate the support. It’s a lot to think about, but as he reminded me, many journalists travel. Might as well jump in with both feet. Definitely something to consider.

Multitasking in Kazakhstan

16 Nov

On November 2nd, Election Day, I had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interview a journalist from Kazakhstan who was visiting ASU with a group of professionals in the Edward R. Murrow Program for Journalists. I initially spoke with this woman, Olessya Ivanova, about how our election process differs from hers, how she feels about social media and what she learned during her trip to the United States. I then got a little more personal and asked about her family. I learned that not only has this woman been a successful journalist for more than 10 years, but she is also a mother of two. I couldn’t help but wonder how she manages to find success in both her career and at home, so we talked about it for a while. Her response to my questions helped confirm my belief that I can, in fact, have the best of both worlds.

After our interview, I created an audio-only podcast as part of a group project for my broadcast journalism class. I thought this would be a great place to share it, since the goal of my blog is to show that multitasking as a parent/student or parent/professional is entirely possible. Olessya is a wonderful example of this idea.

Click here for my interview with Olessya Ivanova.


Crisis brings clarity

9 Nov

Update: Proposition 302, which I discussed last week, did not pass. This means the funding for the First Things First program will not be reallocated, at least for the time being.

Also, I received several messages on Facebook regarding my interest in preschools, and the advice was greatly appreciated. Thank you to those who contributed!

As I mentioned last week, retention of health and wellness programs is a huge concern, and having the right kind of help to get your child through a difficult time is essential.  I never thought I would know this from experience, but I learned all about it a few years ago.

Hannah was born with a serious congenital heart defect in October 2007. We lived in Albuquerque at the time, so at one day old, Hannah had to be flown to Denver for surgery because the doctors in Albuquerque did not believe they could repair her defect.

We spent a total of five months in the hospital with Hannah before her first birthday. During this time, and up until this past February, Hannah was still receiving help from health programs, including physical therapy, occupational therapy and in-home nurse visits, as well as medical supplies delivered to our home on a pretty regular basis. By the time we moved to Phoenix last year, Hannah had “graduated” from all of the programs, except for physical therapy.

When all was said and done, between the lengthy hospital stays, all the tests, the surgeries, the supplies, etc, we would have had to pay somewhere in the $2 million range. We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance, and we were later able to add Hannah to a Medicaid plan, so a huge portion of this was covered.

I’m not going to go into the whole health care/insurance debate because I don’t want to keep you here all day, but I do want to talk about the help we received from the various therapies Hannah needed.

Hannah received in-home visits from a nurse, a physical therapist and a feeding/occupational therapist through Presbyterian Home Healthcare Services. You don’t realize the value of having someone come to your home for medical care until you really need it, let me tell you. When we first brought Hannah home, nearly three months after she was born, she was on several (six or seven) medications about every four hours, and she was also being fed every four hours through a feeding tube in her stomach, called a gastronomy or g-tube. Taking her out was a huge strain because of all the equipment needed to go anywhere, so having a program like this to relieve some of the stress was tremendously helpful.

For several months we also utilized WIC, which stands for Women, Infants, and Children. This program, which is intended for low-income families, helped cover Hannah’s very expensive formula and several food items for me after we came back from the hospital and were struggling to regain financial stability. One of my colleagues has a fantastic blog about receiving government assistance for his family, which I recommend visiting.

In addition to receiving help once we returned to Albuquerque, we were also provided with assistance from The Children’s Hospital in Denver. It was not only financial (such as meal vouchers for the hospital cafeteria, which was wonderful), but also emotional. Everyone was always willing to help us with anything we needed. We could not have been sent to a better hospital. At one point a staff member recommended a blog site utilized by many hospitals that gives parents the opportunity to keep loved ones informed while they’re away. This saved us from having to make a lot of phone calls while we were gone! I still occasionally update the blog, which is specifically about Hannah’s medical condition and how she is doing (the page name is HannahBananaIngram). Within the blog, I also talked about another place we received assistance: the Ronald McDonald House.

Ronald McDonald House Charities provided us with a place to stay while we were in Denver, which removed a huge burden. Sean and I alternated most nights—one of us would stay with Hannah at the hospital while the other would stay at Ronald McDonald to get a decent night’s sleep. When we weren’t at RMH or in Hannah’s hospital room, we also had the option of staying in a “sleep room,” which was another service for parents provided by the hospital. This way we could sleep comfortably, but we would still be in the hospital. Sean used to say he felt like he was homeless because we would have to get on a waiting list each day for one of these sleep rooms, and we would have to wait to find out where we’d be sleeping that night. Clearly, we have no real concept of what homelessness is really like, but this is the closest we ever came.

Also, if we had not received financial help from friends and family during this time, we would have been homeless when we returned to Albuquerque because we would not have been able to pay our mortgage. That being said, asking for help from loved ones may feel awkward (it was for us), but it may be worth it. In crisis situations, sometimes you have to do things you would normally never do.

Without the in-home programs, the financial assistance and help from our loved ones, we could not have survived this medical crisis. If you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, utilize your resources. There are plenty available.

Educating our children

2 Nov

Note: I considered breaking up this rather lengthy blog post into two parts, but I already have another topic planned (as mentioned below) for next week. So grab a snack and please join me for a few!

In honor of a project I’m working on in one of my classes, I would like to dedicate this blog post to education. Not only is it a huge issue across the country, but it is also very important to me as a student–and as a mother.

I also want to talk about education because today is Election Day, and one of the Arizona ballot initiatives is Proposition 302. According to an article by Maria Polletta of Cronkite News, “Proposition 302 would transfer First Things First’s $325 million in funding to the state general fund and eliminate the program as of Dec. 1.” First Things First is an early childhood development program focusing on health services and early education for children ages five and under.

I realize that there are two sides to every story, and those who support this initiative believe the money will be better spent in a general fund and will, in fact, continue to provide support to early development programs.

As a new journalist, I am trying to learn how to remain neutral with regard to politics and hot-button issues in general, but this is one issue I am struggling to remain neutral about. So, rather than telling everyone how I voted, I will instead discuss my experience thus far with early education programs. I would like to follow this up next week by focusing specifically on health issues because Hannah has had plenty, and I have learned that programs focusing on child health and wellness are extremely valuable. But first, education in Arizona.

I decided a while ago, without the slightest hesitation, that Hannah should attend preschool. Why the lack of thought? Because I went to preschool and always just thought it was just the first step in the education process. The sooner the better, right? Fortunately, my husband and I seem to see eye to eye on this subject. I didn’t even realize until after having Hannah that preschool wasn’t actually a requirement! Maybe that makes me sound a little ridiculous, but maybe it’s also because I have always placed such a high value on education that I never thought any step was unnecessary or optional. I always expected to go to college, rather than trying to decide whether or not I should. It was never a question for me. Well, I have applied this same sentiment to Hannah’s education.

We haven’t decided where we intend to send Hannah yet, but I have found that Phoenix is full of options for not only preschool, but also facilities that provide education to children who aren’t yet preschool age. One place I was impressed with was Tutor Time, which has a number of locations throughout the valley. I was pleased with the variety of activities available to the children, and the structure of the program seems well organized and positive. Although it may be a bit out of our price range, I am definitely keeping that option on the table for further discussion.

KinderCare centers are also spread throughout the valley and many other cities in the United States, and word-of-mouth has led me to believe this may be another good option. You can go online to schedule a visit, which I intend to do in the near future. This, too, has a variety of programs for a variety of ages, and I am comforted by the fact that there are so many centers all over the country. Based on this alone, I assume they must be doing something right.

Before moving to Phoenix last year, I also spent hours doing online research on the elementary schools in the area and talking to people who already lived out here. Although Hannah still had quite a bit of time before entering elementary school (and she still does), I wanted to know how the schools were rated, what programs were available and which areas would provide her with the best education. Sean and I eventually developed an idea of where we thought she should go, but our plans fell by the wayside when we struggled to find a home in those particular parts of the valley. We actually ended up moving to one of the lowest-rated districts in the area, but I was thrilled to learn that Arizona provides the option to put your child in the district of your choice, which is called an interdistrict transfer.

I recently learned that interdistrict transfers are actually becoming a problem in the state because parents are pulling their children out of their districts and placing them in higher-performing ones. This leads to overcrowding in some schools, while others continue to lose students due to their poor ratings, inadequate educators or lack of attention paid to fundamental education issues within the school.

However, as with many matters in our lives, there are alternatives. Private school is actually becoming more and more appealing to me, although the costs incurred with this type of education are obviously higher than those incurred in a public school unless the student receives a scholarship and/or financial aid.

Montessori schools, which foster self-directed learning and development, are another option, as well as charter schools, which, according to the U.S. Charter Schools website, “are nonsectarian public schools of choice that operate with freedom from many of the regulations that apply to traditional public schools.”

It’s a relief to know that, as a parent, I have many options when choosing a school for Hannah, although I wish I lived in a district that encouraged me to enroll my child in its schools instead of one that causes me to avoid them. It may be a time-consuming uphill battle, but if you do nothing else for your children, ensure that they receive the best education possible.