i am in a euphoric daze.  all this pre-school stuff has been weighing on me on and off for the past few months.  luckily, my job allows me to pry into the lives of the local young families and trade secrets from the best granite countertop cleaner and kale recipes to WHERE ARE ALL THE COOL KIDS GOING FOR PRE-SCHOOL?

i had three on my list:
Animal Crackers
Lutins du Bois
First Steps

Michelle (Ethan's mom - funny how people know moms better by whose child they belong to than their own individual identity...) and i were talking last week and she happened to find out that February is the month to get your kid enrolled/registered in time for September.  that got the ball rolling a little faster for us.  i called Lutins du Bois and Michelle called First Steps.  we both had heard great things about First Steps which is conveniently located at the Baptist Church up the street.  we called just in the nick of time to make it for both pre-school's open house!

the First Steps open house was yesterday morning and i checked it out with the kids.  honestly, i have to say i felt a little disappointed.  it wasn't to say there was anything especially negative or unappealing, but with all the hype about this being the place where parents lined up overnight to get their children in, i obviously had some high expectations!  i was expecting to be blown away and convinced on the spot that i would be nuts to consider anywhere else.  in fact, michelle and i actually were planning on pitching a tent and doing the overnight to land a spot.  the lady was as friendly as one would expect.  i suspect she has children of her own.  but she didn't feel like a teacher.  she felt like a mom.  i brushed anything off that i felt a little weird about, trying to keep a positive mindset.  this was reasonable, i thought.  i am not especially bothered by anything that is happening...

fast forward to 5:30pm.  the Lutins du Bois open house was 6-7:30pm and i was in the computer room crying on the phone with my sister out of frustration of where i would be sending Moses.  you see, i come from half of a very Catholic upbringing, my mother a traditional Filipino Catholic, my father an atheist to my knowledge.  to my mother's great disappointment, that upbringing fizzled out when i hit grade 7 and brought about years of arguments, forced attendance, and tears of frustration.  my relationship with religion has been very rocky to this day, and now with my own rat pack in tow, it looks like i'm having to face these demons head on and fast!

i had talked to kevin at lunch and he mentioned there being a preschool at Sacred Heart which is the Catholic private elementary in Ladner that kevin and his sisters attended.  this reignited the fire under my ass to get the kids baptized, start attending mass again, and instil (a more relaxed version of) Catholicism into their lives.  my insides boiled over with the same frustrations and issues that have kept me away these 16 years.  would i have to argue with priests all over again, hot tears burning down my cheeks, just to put my kids in this very well-reputed school?  would they turn my kids away because i did not hold the same fundamentals as they did?

i sometimes wonder if i had not had to experience things like mass in a makeshift chapel in my grandma's basement - complete with holy water font by the door for genuflecting, life size statues of the Virgin Mary and other saints, and an altar - if i had been brought up in a less intense Catholic household, maybe i would have been able to more easily adopt the religion and benefit from spiritual guidance.  my sister said that although she no longer attends mass that she is thankful she had a religious upbringing because her faith (her own version anyway) has helped her get through hardships in her life.  i had to admit that i was envious of this.

and now that i think more about it, i'm sure my mom was less upset about me going to Hell and more worried that my life might be more difficult without something greater than myself to turn to when times got tough.  she also made a very bold statement two summers ago when my cousin married the love his life.  it was a gay wedding and in spite of being a devout Catholic, my mom managed to convince her strongly opposed mother to attend the wedding.  in my mom's mind, there was no mistaking how sweet, kind, loving, and wonderful her nephew was and that his sexual orientation had no bearing on his amazing personality and strength of character.  she understood that in the end, supporting a loved one took precedence over whatever the Bible read.

this astounded me and gave me hope.  my mom had listened to her heart.

anyway.  my overwhelmed emotions would have to be put on the back burner .  it was now 5:50pm and Michelle was calling me on the other line to hit the road for Lutins du Bois.  i wiped my face, threw on my jacket and boots and met Michelle at her car in the parkade.

we arrived right on time and the second we walked through the door an immediate sense of calm washed over me and i knew in that very moment this was where Moses was going to be.  the room was so thoughtfully composed.  shelves lined the walls and gathered in the centre, housing rows of neatly organized learning activities.  learning activities? YES LEARNING ACTIVITIES!  not toys, not just girls toys and boys toys to keep kids busy, but puzzles and games to actually get the brain working.  the room felt rich with learning opportunities.  the intention of this place is to learn and grow.  the First Steps felt more like a daycare more than anything and had the saddest selection of books thrown into an old shelf.

there were 3 teachers present and the two we spoke with were fantastic.  coincidentally, the lady with all the forms whom i had spoken to on the phone just two days before the open house recognized me from Thrifty's.  i recognized her, Mirka, from outside the window as we approached.  they were so friendly, welcoming, and open.  my initial hesitation was that they didn't want kids whose parents were not French speaking and i had prepared myself to feel excluded and awkward.  this was the furthest thing from the truth.  there were a handful of kids present, some new and some attending, and it was great to see the teachers interacting with current students.  one boy came up to the teacher to show her what he had done.  they conversed back and forth, she in french and he in english.  although he was not speaking french, he was comprehending everything she was saying.  i was thrilled!!!!

we filled out our names on the registration list at one of the tables where cookies, juice, and water were set out for us.  there were also a few photo albums that were filled with past years' outings.  my heart was swelling!  Michelle called her husband and had him bring us our cheques for the registration fee as well as health records for the boys.  it's times like this i am especially thankful that we are next door neighbours!  the forms required the updated immunizations and asked a series of questions about the child including favourite activities, siblings, memorable events, allergies, etc...  my confidence soared.  they really really care.  they are not just babysitting and mildly nurturing children.

i'm on cloud 9.  as if that was not enough for me, i knew one of the moms there and she informed me that there is also a StrongStart* in the same building that is in french!  instead of driving out to Ladner for the StrongStart we had attended a handful of times in December, we could stay in Tsawwassen and seamlessly introduce Moses into French.  not only that, but he will be recognize this place as his school before he even begins!

Note: the washroom is just around the corner with no door so that 
your child doesn't feel afraid and a teacher can easily attend if necessary.
It is a tiny toilet!

*For any of you that do not what Strong Start is, it is a government funded "pre-school" that introduces kids into a schedule.  they have circle time, story time, singing, gym time, show and tell, and many play stations from kitchen, to painting, to puzzles, and good old toys.  it is free and open for drop-ins unless your area has a large number of attendees in which case they usually have to schedule you in for certain days.  the catch, of course, is that it is mandatory parental participation, you can not just drop off your kid and leave for any part of the three hours.

i am still hmmm-ing and hawing...  i am still interested in the prospect of sending them to Sacred Heart.  i do value the religious upbringing i had away from my intense family.  my elementary was wonderful and i have fond memories of singing songs in church and having and overall sense of peace and goodness.  i feel like it was healthy and if in the end it doesn't work out for my kids, i won't freak out at them.  at least i gave them the opportunity to have something larger than themselves to turn to.  i think whether or not i send them to the school that i am going to have them baptized.  i don't necessarily believe in all the meaning surrounding these rituals and rites, but it certainly isn't harming anyone and in the end, it is their life and their decision.


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