Jan 29, 2014

Memoirs of a Teenage Daycare Teacher: 7 (or possibly 8) years later

To give a 17-19 year old the care of your children probably seems ridiculous, but that's how it was. When I was 18 I could be in charge of 4 under 1s up to 28 school aged kids (6-10 year olds). I'm not sure how it was for other daycares, but the turnover rate for teachers at SBA was high, which lead me to being assigned to the 3 year olds just after my high school graduation. I don't think anyone will mistake working in a daycare as a glamorous job. I dealt with vomit, dirty diapers, scrapped knees, fights over toys, kids not eating, and illnesses that most adults don't get (including scabies, pink eye, and strep throat)--I even had snotty noses wiped on my pants. I struggled to get some kids to sleep at nap time, then spent half of those two hours cleaning up from lunch, just to have to clean up again after snack time when the kids woke up. I was a human jungle gym. I was in charge of 10-12 3 year olds on a regular basis, and I loved them. So much so that when I quit to go to college, I cried at the thought of leaving them.

So, no, my first job was not glamorous or enviable at all, but it was rewarding. Some days. A lot of time I felt like I was making up it as I went--which I probably was because I was only 18 and had very little experience with kids beyond the infrequent babysitting I had done in my early teens. I had kids with behavioral problems--probably from being sent to a daycare for 12 hours a day, 5 days a week. There was a boy, 4 years old, who refused to potty train. A 9 month old who cried unless he was held. A little boy and his sister who came every day dirty--once he hadn't had a bowel movement or a wet diaper in three days. Parents who sent their kids to daycare sick, causing the other kids (and us teachers) to catch whatever it was they had. Parents who yelled at the teachers for trying to do their jobs; parents who would go to the local bar before picking up their kids.

Then there were my coworkers. When I first started at SBA, I was a "closer," meaning I would do the snack dishes, then clean the bathrooms, mop the floors, vacuum, and take out the trash. The teachers were supposed to be in charge of their own rooms, but sometimes the task fell to us. One day the woman who made lunch had been going very slowly on the clean up, so when I got there at 3 I was sent to help her. She left and I ended up doing all of the lunch dishes, with only a half hour to relax before it was time to start the snack dishes. Standing at a sink for several hours was probably one of the worst days of work I had.

But not everything was horrible. It was so amazing to be so close to kids--I learned so much. Have you ever heard that we must be like a child? That is something that I learned a lot about while working at SBA. Children are so forgiving. I would have someone tell me I was mean and then five minutes later he was hugging me. Children are loving. Children are honest--sometimes brutally so, but it's really just that they will say what they think. One day I walked into my classroom and a little girl, E, came up to me and said, "You look like Cinderella!" I have to admit, I was a little confused, being brunette whereas Cinderella is blonde. Then the other teacher said, "It's the ribbon in your hair." I had put in a blue ribbon that morning! Of course, then there was the one time that I was wearing a high waisted shirt and one of the kids asked if I were pregnant. And then the time when I was told that I needed a boyfriend, because I was "old enough." I was 18. The kids also loved helping. They would help their friends, and me. When I was a closer, I would frequently get the help of one little girl, who wanted to wash the dishes, and get the trash, and vacuum. It's always nice to have a little someone to talk to. There was always a plethora of hugs and kisses. There is really nothing like feeling tiny arms around your neck.

The day after my high school graduation, my boyfriend broke up with me. In an e-mail. It was a pretty hard time, but I went to work everyday and did what I needed to. I wasn't taking any breaks because I knew that if I did I would just break down and wouldn't be able to go back to work. If work is good for anything, it's good for helping you forget yourself for a little while, especially at a daycare. One day near the end of the week, we were taking the kids out to afternoon recess, but first we made a stop at the bathrooms. Not all of our kids were completely potty trained yet, so I had to take one of them, R, back to the classroom to change her diaper while another teacher took the rest of the kids. R's mom had just arrived, and was watching while I completed this task--which is unnerving, and also a little strange. She got upset about the way I did something, and in a huff said, "I'll just do it myself!" It wasn't a big deal, but it was enough to break the dam and despite my best efforts I started to cry. I was told to take a break, so I went into our empty classroom and had a good cry. When the kids came in, they found me, and little A (one of my favorites--even though I know you aren't supposed to have favorites), gave a soft little, "Hey . . ." He just let me hug him, and I really did feel better. Parents are probably the worst part about working child care--worse than all the diapers and vomit. E's mom was especially intimidating: tall, blonde, power woman. I know it's unfair, but I frequently thought "If you don't like the way I'm raising your kids, then stay home and raise them yourself!"

Another thing about working at the daycare is that there was always something funny to tell. The kids would come up with their own jokes (none of which made any sense), or they would just laugh. The laughter of children is infectious. Then, of course, there were the times the kids didn't know they were being funny. I had to open the classroom cupboard up once, and C saw some candy that had been put in there. He proceeded to try and convince me for 10 minutes that the candy belonged to him. "But Miss Widanee!" he'd protest. "My mom brought it from home!"

The summer after my freshman year at university, I went home and worked at SBA again, to earn money for the study abroad I was applying for. That summer was pretty hard. I woke up really early in the mornings to be there when it opened and I usually worked overtime. It was actually really nice to see the kids get dropped off. There was one little boy who had a hard time with his mom leaving, but we finally got to the point where she would just hand him to me and he'd be fine. This same little boy would sometimes sit with me during my lunch break while I worked on homework for my online class. If he didn't, he wouldn't sleep and would cry and wake up the other kids. During the month of July we had all of the school age kids there all day long. Twenty-eight 6 to 10 year olds. That's where I spent most of my summer and it was hectic. We tried to come up with enough activities and field trips to keep them interested, but when it's too hot most days to play outside, and they have to be quiet for two hours to keep from waking the babies up, it's pretty hair raising. The best day of that summer was when we took the school kids to the zoo. Not only did I get paid to go to the zoo, but I was only in charge of three kids instead of 28. And the three I had were some of the most well behaved ones. We ate popsicles, saw the bird show, and rode the train. I like the zoo, but it is so much more fun when you go with kids!

When I wasn't with the school kids, I usually gave the other teachers their breaks, which meant I got to spend time with all the ages. The baby room was fun, because you just got to hold babies, or play with them on the floor. I got pretty good at holding a baby in one arm and making a bottle with my free hand. The next room up, with the 1 year olds, was nice because they were starting to talk and discover the world outside of themselves. One of the older girls in this room once started "races". "1 . . . 2 . . . 10," she'd say, then run across the room. The other kids caught on pretty well. Then there were the 2/3 year olds. They talk and understand a lot more, but still don't quite get the concept of sharing. It's really about this age that they start seeming like "little people." They are so excited to go to the "potty," and do grown up things.

The 3/4 year olds have, usually, been potty trained, which is nice. They can follow instructions better, and are more willing to help. The 4/5 year olds are amazing. I spent quite a bit of time in this room as the principle teacher for about half a summer. After recess we'd sit and read a story and then be able to have a discussion based on the story. One discussion we talked about what they wanted to do when they grew up. It was fun to tell their parents that they wanted to be a nurse like their mom, or a rockstar. One even said she wanted to be a teacher like me! At this age they still took naps, but it was easier to get them all asleep than the younger ages. Basically, it was just fun to see the changes in age, and to watch the kids grow up.

The kids I used to take care of are now between 7 and 17. That's crazy. I don't know where any of them are, what they're doing. Sometimes I think of them and hope that their lives turned out well. Thanks for allowing me this little walk down memory lane. I only wish I could give you a "where are they now" snippet.

Jan 26, 2014

Self Image, Attractiveness, and Helping a Sister Out

This last weekend, I drove to University Town to spend the evening with Bro. He bribed me with a new camera. But seriously, Bro is probably one of my very best friends, for which I count myself lucky. During the four hours I was there it seems that our conversation just kept coming back to self image and how it's affected by different things: the media, classic art, dating, friends, etc.

It's interesting talking to Bro because of the whole "guy perspective." I don't have a lot of really close male friends, so it's nice to have someone to talk to who can kind of shed some light on guys. He talked about how he is most attracted to girls who just look healthy--and that doesn't necessarily mean athletic. But that they look like they eat, and get some exercise. We talked about some stuff going on in my life and he gave his opinion, which mainly came down to everyone is confused. :)

One thing that we talked about is mostly what I've been thinking about since that night, and that's complimenting. I was telling Bro how nice it feels to be complimented, especially by your date. I don't know if guys realize how much thought we females put into what we're going to wear and how we are going to do our hair. I, personally, might spend a day or more, on and off, thinking of what's in my closet and what I look good in but will feel comfortable wearing. Then I spend more time than usual trying to make my hair fall just right and doing my makeup. And that it's just nice to hear someone say, "You look nice." It's not a big thing to do, but it means a lot.

Bro said that he has a hard time doing that; that he doesn't feel comfortable. Here's the thing, guys: if you are genuine, no girl is going to not take a compliment. And girls, take the compliment! Just say "Thank you." Don't make some comment about how you didn't do your hair that morning, or "this old thing," or whatever. Say "thanks." That guy just stepped out on a limb to say something to you, so don't dismiss it with self degradation. It takes some training, but it's possible.

One of the best compliments I have received in the last year was from a guy in my ward. After the first meeting, he complimented my shoes. I had just bought the shoes the day before, so they were brand new, and I had looked in about 10 shoe stores for the perfect pair. And the moment he complimented them, I knew that it had all been worth it. Yes, I liked them without the compliment, and yes, we should feel good about ourselves without having to get vindication from other people, but that vindication certainly doesn't hurt!

Bottom line: guys if you like something--how a girl did her hair, her shoes, her dress, or that you just think she looks nice--tell her! It will make her day. And if you aren't interested in her, tell her anyway. We aren't THAT crazy that we think every compliment means something. Girls, be gracious and accept  compliments how they are given. Even if you feel like you look like crap, you apparently don't. Let's just be nice to each other!

(I feel like at this point we should take hands and start singing "Kumbaya." Everybody!)

Jan 24, 2014

Book Quotes

Occasionally, I write in my reading journal quotes that I liked, thought were interesting, or thought beautiful from a book that I just read. I thought I would share those with you here (because, then I wrote a blog post, but it took minimal effort on my part. Win-win!).

From 2010

". . . Marriage is like a well built porch. If one of the two posts leans too much, the porch collapses. So each must be strong enough to stand on its own. . . . To know that you can stand alone, to know that he can too--it seems very good advice." (Deb Caletti, The Secret Life of Prince Charming, 272)

From 2011

"Call no man your enemy until he has proved himself so, and even then, you may have to change your mind. You are very young . . . and you are quick to anger, swift to resent, and slow to forgive. But however strongly children hate or love, it is no more than play, though they always think otherwise." (Laura L. Sullivan, Under the Green Hill, 77-78)

From 2013

"Fear can't hurt you. When it washes over you, give it no power. It's a snake with no venom. Remember that. That knowledge can save you." (Maureen Johnson, The Name of the Star, 260)

"I want you to remember this, when everything around you appears to be falling to pieces, when it all seems lost: the world belongs to those who stick around and tough it out. . . . Never run away from what scares you. It will always come back in the end." (Anna Jarzab, The Opposite of Hallelujah, 389)

"An untold story has a weight that can submerge you, sure as a sunken ship at the bottom of the ocean . . . the ghosts from that drowned ship, they keep haunting." (Deb Caletti, Stay, 1)

"Love at first sight should send you running, if you know what's good for you. It's your dark pieces having instant recognition with their dark pieces." (Caletti, 3)

Jan 19, 2014

A Personal Victory

I think that we should celebrate the small victories of everyday, so I'm going to share with you the victory I'm most proud of from this last week: I learned how to unclog a disposal!

Monday evening I was making dinner when I tried to put some food down the disposal, but instead this happened:


It was after the apartment complex office had closed and I didn't want the water just sitting in the sink for a day or more, so I decided to figure out how to fix it myself. 

This involved calling my dad on FaceTime. I think he was amused by my antics as we went about "troubleshooting" the problem. (Can you use troubleshooting for anything or is it specifically for computers/technology?) The first thing I tried was using a plunger. Since M and I don't have a plunger, I headed next door and Boy Next Door #2 let me borrow theirs. That didn't actually do anything, but it was a good try and I'm grateful to have such good neighbors. 

After the failure with the plunger it was time to go under the the sink and check out the pipes. First I emptied as much of the water in the sunk into an empty garbage can, then got a towel and a bucket to put under the pipes to catch all other water/refuse. Taking off the pipes meant dealing with a pretty foul odor. I then had to put a spoon handle in the pipe from the disposal to unblock it. 

When the water come gushing out, along with a whole bunch of carrot peels. I immediately jumped up and ran to the other side of the kitchen, exclaiming how gross it was. I heard my dad laughing on his end of the phone. 

I got everything cleaned up and the pipes put back together--the first time with no leakage! I was so proud of myself that I told everyone I talked to about it at least once. Possibly twice. :)

Anyway, so that was my little victory this week! Here's to all of your little victories 

Jan 13, 2014

Hey all. So, I made it through the first week of my new schedule. I'm not going to sugarcoat it, it was a kind of stressful week. It's weird to have two extra days of not going to work--it kind of makes you feel a little bit useless. Especially as I am a single adult without very many responsibilities besides going to work.

To make myself feel a bit more useful, I've decided to organize! It wasn't really a conscious decision, more like I started cleaning the kitchen last Monday and then felt that I just couldn't do it until I organized! I spent the afternoon trying to find shelves for our pantry, and then putting those shelves together, putting things on those shelves in some kind of orderly fashion, and then I could clean the kitchen. I am now looking into a spice turntable to organize our spices, then I'll clean out my closet. Exciting times.

I think M might have wondered if I'd gone a little crazy, since we'd gone over a year without an organized pantry or spice shelf. But now I have the time, and it's something to do other than sitting around and pinning things on Pinterest all day.

The week was stressful for a mix of reasons. The change in my routine, then I was "exiled" to a cubicle on the opposite end of the floor from the rest of the staff. And with only three days of work, I feel like I won't be able to get as much done, since I'm trying to put five days of work into three now. I had a talk with my manager and we discussed how I should go about doing my work. It involves me having to let some things go before they are complete, in order to get a larger quantity done in the next six months. That's hard for me, because I want to see everything through, but I understand why it has to be so.

I also came to the conclusion this last week that it really is time for me to move on from the project. I've kept trying to get a full-time job there, and I've just realized that one of the reasons I'm not getting them is because it's not right for me. Coming to this conclusion doesn't not mean I have accepted it yet, though! It's hard to not have any idea what's going to be happening in the next few months. Especially when I felt so good about being at the project when I first started, and then a year and a half ago when I got my part-time position. I was talking to my bishop this week, and we were talking about paths and that sometimes we are lead down a certain path just to come to a dead end, but that doesn't mean that you weren't supposed to walk it in the first place. It's just hard to have all these paths in front of you, but you aren't able to see them. Then yesterday in church, I felt like all the talks were about kind of the same thing. And then the hymn was "Lead Kindly Light." Weird how everything just kind of fits together like that.

On Friday, to "celebrate my first Friday off" my parents took me to see Frozen. I'm not sure, but I kind of feel like my mom knew that I was going to have kind of a hard time last week when she suggested it.  That was a fun movie to do have. I also got a few text from my friends at work, so I know that I'm missed! Then Saturday, the Boy Next Door (I'm not being coy, facetious, or aloof with this name. He literally lives next door) invited me to see The Book Thief with him. That was a good crying movie. I will say this, the movie was beautiful and moving and heartrending. But the book, in my opinion, is more so. I really believe the book is one of the best pieces of literature of the past ten years and everyone should read it. With a box of tissues.

So, while the week was a bit stressful, the weekend was nice. Though by Sunday night, I was EXHAUSTED. M and I watched two movies because we didn't feel like moving from the couch. Here's to a better week this week!

Jan 6, 2014

A Change in Routine

Hello everyone. Today is the first day of my new schedule, which is a little weird. For now until whenever I find another job (either part time or full time) I'll be at work Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, leaving me to my own devices on Mondays and Fridays. To keep myself from going crazy and/or feeling like a lazy, slothful person, I've come up with a schedule for those two days.

I'm going to write in the mornings (on Fridays, after I go to the temple), then I'll clean a room in the afternoons, as well as job searching/reading/journal writing/guitar playing/grocery shopping/working out, etc. The afternoons are sort of free, as long as I am doing something productive.

Today, as I said, has been a little weird. I woke up as I usually do, which confused M to no end. I just felt that if I woke up at the same time as always, and got ready for the day, then I would feel more like I was doing something more than just being lazy. This morning, I ate breakfast, read my scriptures, made some tea, and sat down with my computer to write. Today, I wrote for about two hours, working on the letter game. It just felt weird, sitting down on my couch at 7:30 instead of arriving at work. I'm wearing jeans instead of a dress. Everyone else in the complex was going to work and school, and I was here in my apartment.

When M got home from her class, she asked me if it felt like a Monday. In a way it does, but in a way it doesn't. It doesn't quite feel like a Saturday though, either. Saturdays are lazy, with me sleeping in and not getting dressed for a long time, then I read or watch TV. I also don't feel overly distracted, which surprises me. I think this has to do with the schedule I created: yes, there are dishes in the sink, but I have time set aside for dealing with that, so I don't have to worry about it at the moment. We'll just have to see how it goes from here.

Jan 3, 2014

Unknown Paths: An Original Poem

I stand on a road of my choosing,
too many paths in front of me,
each one as less taken as the next.
The paths are dark and winding.

I cannot look backwards,
that road was walked and blocked.
The forest before is the only choice,
which path will lead me safely through?

Some I have stepped towards
only to find they end after the first step;
others seem so dark, tangled, and rough
there can't be any good from walking them.

"Guide thou my feet," I pray as I consider
the paths that lay before me. I am lost.
The way is slow and dark and I,
I am forced to take it, step by step.

So I take that step, cautious and trembling,
toward that path I feel forced upon
and all my hope is given to a faith
which leads me ever onward and upward.

Jan 1, 2014

December Book of the Month

Happy 2014 all! Start off the new year right and read!

I've been trying to decide what to recommend to you all. On one hand, there's the classic A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens . . . but Christmas is over now (not that you can't read it anyway). There's also a new Julie Berry book, but I've already recommended a book by her, just last month. So, do I recommend another fairytale-like book? It's so complicated sometimes. le sigh.

How 'bout I just share thirteen books from 2013 that I didn't recommend already? That sounds good. Here you go!

For murder mystery fans, I'd suggest Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. This is the first Miss Marple mystery.

For a retold fairytale, there is The Wager by Donna Jo Napoli. Napoli doesn't shy away from some of the grittier details, but there is nothing in the book very scandalous. This is a retelling of a little known Sicilian fairytale.

If you want a fun, light read, Going Vintage by Lindsay Leavitt is probably the way to go. It's the story of a girl who decides to try to live a simpler life by living with only things available in the 1950s.

Winnie-the-Pooh by AA Milne is a great throwback to childhood. You never know what little pearls of wisdom there are in children's stories until you read them as an adult.

If you're looking for a cozy "cottage" mystery, the Aunt Dimity by Nancy Atherton books are some of my favorites. Start with Aunt Dimity's Death and go from there!

Sometimes you need a book that is told in a unique way, and that is where The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick comes in. This is a book told sort of like a silent film in print--with pages of pictures that tell the story along with prose.

I'd recommend Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver, just because it's a good book. It's a little bit like Groundhog Day, but instead it's a girl living the last day of her life 7 times. This was a reread and I found it interesting that almost every "day" was a different stage of grief.

For fans of theme parks, fairytales, and love, How Zoe Made Her Dreams (Mostly) Come True by Sarah Stromeyer might be the book for you. Zoe is working the summer at the Fairytale Kingdom as the assistant to the "evil queen."

The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni is a historical novel based on two real mysterious "caged graves."

If you want a fun time travel book, I'd suggest My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by Rachel Harris. There is also a sequel called A Tale of Two Centuries.

If you're looking for a more serious read about family, grief, self discovery, faith, and facing your fears, then I'd recommend The Opposite of Hallelujah by Anna Jarzab.

For my last book, there is Scarlet in the Snow by Sophie Masson. It's a new fairytale with elements of tales that you are familiar with.

Happy reading!