Finding the right daycare

Liam is at that age where we want to transition him to daycare to help him socialize, play, and learn.  It's a little stressful... okay alot stressful trying to find the "right" daycare.  We were lucky enough to have my mother in law watch him up to this point.  But how do you completely trust a stranger to take care of your little one? What happens when you're not there? I'm sure they are capable and may have qualifying credentials but with all of the reports of abuse/neglect in the news, it makes me hesitate because having credentials doesn't necessarily reflect a person's good moral character.  

There are some steps you can take to make you feel more comfortable in making a sound decision. 

Make a visit to the center.  

  • Is it clean and organized? How well do the teachers/caregivers interact with the children? What is the teacher/student ratio?  We have visited some centers that felt like a chaotic environment and unorganized.  Of course kids can be like little tornados leaving destruction of toys strewn everywhere. haha. What I'm referring to is does everything have a place and order (ie toys in the play area only and not in the kitchen with sleeping cots and shoes all thrown in together). How often do they vacuum, disinfect toys, ect?  Daycares are a breeding ground for germs.  Kids touch everything! Sometimes, if not most of the time, they touch their eyes or put things in their mouths.  Just remember, even though hand washing and clean practices can be helpful, it doesn't always mean that it will prevent your child from getting sick.  Be prepared for germs that can spread easily (ie. colds, lice, hand-foot-mouth syndrome) because you really don't know what your kids will be exposed to.     
  • What programs do they offer? What is their day like? Do they offer a structured program with sensory play and learning? Some centers follow different schools of thought and are centered on baby-led learning versus structured lesson plans so to speak .
  •  Extra things to think about: Do they have a secure facility to prevent strangers from entering? Do they serve hot lunches/snacks? Do they clean soiled laundry on site? Can your baby grow within the same center for years to come?  Do they have a safe outdoor and indoor play area? And don't forget about location. Not just for the convenience (close to home/work) but is it safe and away from busy streets and cars?

Read Reviews.
On YELP, from other parents/mom groups, or directly from their website. I understand everyone's experience may be different but getting a glimpse of how they felt may give a little better insight on how the center operates on a daily basis.   

Cost.
Is it affordable to fit your budget? Daycares can be super expensive but the most expensive one may not always mean it's the "best".  Consider all alternatives including hours and full/half days and if you want a smaller independent daycare or a franchised center.  Some centers offer 2-5 day care as well as ranges from 8-11 hours a day.  Keep in mind registration fees, late tuition payment fees, and additional incurred fees for late pickups.

Credentials.
Are staff members FirstAid/CPR  certified? Do they hold degrees in early childcare development/education? Is the site itself accredited? Can they tailor to the needs of your child? How well do they deal with food allergies?  Some children may require more attention from caregivers due to behavioral or cognitive concerns.  Do they have experience in this area or provide what you need for your child?    

Parent involvement.  
Do they have clear ways to communicate with parents (in general and in emergency situations) calling/texting/emailing? Do they allow parent drop-ins? How frequently do they update parents on their child's progress? Is there any parent/teacher involvement with activities/fundraisers? I feel that a center that allows parents to visit at anytime and unexpectedly are more transparent in their practices. 

These are all things to consider and it is ALOT! (and for good reason too!)  I would recommend looking EARLY! We started our search mid-May/June for September enrollment (for a toddler) and we were just a little too late.  WAITLISTED!  If you know that you will be needing daycare, I would recommend reaching out to the center as soon as possible to inquire about availability and/if when to check back.  Don't forget that some centers have age requirements and depending on your baby's age, he/she may not qualify just yet.  It's a daunting task but we have yet to encounter what comes when he's actually enrolled and goes to daycare all day.  I'll let you know when I find out. =)

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Quick dinner solutions

During a busy weeknight, it's sometimes hard to make a healthy and satisfying meal for your family.  I do love quick dinner fixes especially after a long day at work. Although I do enjoy cooking, I don't like to be slaving away all night on a weeknight.  I'd like to think of myself as a Sandra Lee... semi-homemade! Something that I can whip up relatively fast.  For me, pasta is a go to meal that is quick and easy and baby loves it too. You can change it up so many ways and always plenty of leftovers to bring to work the next day.

I was always particularly fond to Prego tomato sauces.  So when I found out I was going to be able to try out their new Prego Cooking Sauces, I was pretty excited.  I received a free sample of the creamy lemon parmesan sauce and I couldn't wait to try it. 'Just add chicken and it'll be ready in about 20 minutes', just pick it up from your local supermarket.  I opted for shrimp instead since I've been eating chicken all week and I can say it was equally delish and even faster to cook and get dinner ready.  I paired it with roasted garlic & parsley linguini with a spring of fresh basil from the garden.  Simple ingredients makes for a savory meal. 

It reminded me of one of my other pasta dishes that I typically make.  A few simple ingredients: bowtie pasta, broccoli florets, and chicken breast in an olive oil/butter garlic sauce finished with a squeeze of lemon and grated parmesan.  This Prego Cooking Sauce will be a quick alternative too for those who may not be too savvy in the kitchen with all the gourmet flavors.  The recipes are endless and can be switched up from chicken to seafood and adding any type of pasta to accompany it with.  I will definitely be trying out the other flavors soon.  What are some of your quick dinner solutions and recipes to share?

New Beginnings

 photo credit: changeboard.com

photo credit: changeboard.com

I can't stress enough how important work life balance has become for me since having a baby and finding that right balance between the two.  Retail pharmacy isn't the easiest for working moms as you're obligated to work nights, weekends, holidays, and during hurricanes/blizzards - you name it.  That leaves little room for family. It might've been easier when it was just us two and no baby, but burnout is huge and especially with a little one at home... it takes a toll on you physically and mentally. It's just draining and exhausting where I have little to no motivation to do anything when I get home but to just decompress.  We have plenty of vacation/personal time that we can't get approved off.  We aren't allowed to call out sick because there is no coverage yet at one point we have had plenty of floaters; floater pharmacists that had hours cut back and eventually quit because they couldn't afford to work 24 hours a week and pay bills/school loans on that salary. We are constantly working understaffed, no lunch breaks, no bathroom breaks, standing on your feet for 12 hour shifts, dealing with difficult customers while administering immunizations, patient consultations, keeping verified time under 15 minutes, and all trying to meet corporate metrics.  Pharmacist just don't count pills or slap a label on it.  We are monitoring drug interactions, making sure dosing and therapy is appropriate, preventing opioid abuse and therapeutic duplications while maintaining and upholding quality patient care .  We as pharmacist have a dual liability of what we fill and if there was an error on the doctor's part that we did not catch, we are the first to get reprimanded - not the doctors.  Unfortunately, that is the reality and retail pharmacists are being spread thin.  

So many pharmacy schools are pumping out pharmacists in an already saturated area and that makes us easily replaceable. What is trending in the world of retail is that companies are pushing out older "slower" pharmacists to make room for faster younger pharmacists who are eager, who are power hungry, and out to prove themselves.  When I say older, I have colleagues who are in their mid 40s who are afraid of their jobs because they may not be as fast as they used to be.  I may not be able to speak for all, but I feel the culture of retail is changing to where we are all expendable at any given time.  There is no longer job security or any recognition but more of  questions of 'why aren't you doing more?' with less - (less hours, less help, less support). 

I can honestly say that I had great store managers and district managers supporting me and helping me grow my career through the years. But after working in retail for 17 years (8 years as a pharmacist) in the same company, the right opportunity came along and I knew I had to take that leap. Every retail pharmacist has that dream of leaving retail in hopes of a more positive work environment where work life balance is key.  Finding that right work environment and network to support your career and life at home is where we all want to be (in the present and future).  It is attainable - with the right job.  I actually interviewed twice for this position and got rejected the first time. ๐Ÿ™ƒ But I guess my determination and perseverance paid off for what I really wanted.  I found it kind of awkward to reapply for the same position that had opened up again but it couldn't hurt right? If I don't put myself out there and go for it, I would've never had this opportunity come up (and it doesn't happen often). I had to compromise on some aspects of this new job ($$) but everything was screaming WORK LIFE BALANCE! It has been my dream to work for a PBM (pharmacy benefits manager) or insurance company working that cubicle life, Monday-Friday, no nights, weekends or holidays. I'm super excited about this opportunity and new area of pharmacy.  Not because the hours and positive work environment is great (okay, huge plus!) but I'm grateful that someone gave me that chance. It's super hard to break out of retail pharmacy when that's all you have on your resume.  I can only further my career from here and be able to focus on making lasting memories with family and friends.  

Certain things catch your eye,
but pursue only those that capture the heart.
PROVERB