Monthly Archives: October 2008

Lessons Learned at Five a.m. (and beyond)

Can you bring 30ish juice boxes to your son's kindergarten class for their harvest party this Thursday?

There are alarm bells going off in my head at this point. I know that whenever I sign up for things like this, I either forget, or have to go to Herculean lengths to get the cookies frosted or the rolls baked, or whatever it is. But this is juice boxes right? She's not asking me for homemade cream puffs. And, I'm next to last on her list of people to call. Only one more person to try or all the little Tom, Dick and Janes have to drink water with their overflowing plates of sugar cookies, brownies and Rice Krispie bars.

So, ignoring the alarm bells, I say yes. I write it across the entire week in red marker. JUICE BOXES FOR KINDERGARTEN. Every day I see this, and every day I think, Wednesday night when I take a van load of teenagers to Young Men's and Young Women's, I'll go down to Safeway afterward, and buy them. I'll probably pay an arm and a leg for them, too, but I don't want to go clear out to Walmart.

Wednesday, after the teens slouch off across the parking lot in coagulated groups, I faithfully head to Safeway. We're down to two gallons of milk, so I don't feel like my trip down Pioneer is an entire waste of time and gas, right? As I head back toward the dairy section, I notice noodles on sale. Ten boxes in the cart. Ten bucks. Eight gallons of milk. Great Crickey! It's two dollars a gallon! Gas and milk prices are slipping faster than a toddler on a freshly mopped floor.

It isn't until I get home that my first grader tells me he's supposed to bring pretzels. I tell him he'll have to take a ziplock bag full out of our gargantuan Costco bag of pretzels.

AND I realize . . . I didn't buy juice boxes. Not a one. Not that one would do me much good. My sister in law has 11 in her pantry, and my sister has none. 11 juice boxes on this whole sorry street. I have to go back to Safeway.

Not that the entire adventure is a wash. When I go back the next morning at five am, I learn some interesting facts.

1. At five o'clock in the morning, you don't have to wait at a single intersection from here to Safeway.  This reduces driving time by something like six minutes, at least.

2. Shortly after five in the morning, the employees at your local Safeway Food and Drug like to have a little fun with the PA system. Blow off a little steam, get themselves in a chipper mood for the work day. Air a few grievances.  

3. The checkers working at five don't necessarily know English. You might think they know English but if you actually try to engage them in any sort of real conversation,  you will discover their repertoire is limited to "Very good price on this!" and "Good Morning", which can become disconcerting after a certain point. They don't let these employees in on the PA fun, by the way.

4. Headlights are irrelevant from Pioneer, all the way to Division. The city has streetlights up to this point. You won't even notice you're headlights are missing. I suggest turning them on at this point in order to retain the saved six minutes of driving time and not actually go to the other extreme for an indeterminate length of time spent conversing with an irate traffic officer.

And last, but by no means least:

5. A five year old child may be able to haul thirty juice boxes onto the bus, and even into his classroom, but there is no guarantee that a Kindergarten room mom, or even the resident Kindergarten teacher will think to look IN the backpack to actually retrieve them. They will assume you are as flaky as you really are, and have forgotten to bring them in.  

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I've got two mothers who are due in December. They are both wanting care for their collective 5 children one, maybe two days a week until some time after spring break. Then they are both taking the summer off. They both want to know if they have to pay for their full time slot during this period. They have signed a contract at the beginning saying they pay a full time slot, no matter what. But I can't imagine really them affording this. . . Paid maternity leave is what? A few weeks, tops?

And I want to encourage them to spend as much time as possible with their babies, of course. I hate to have them paying me to do nothing–except they are asking me, essentially, to hold open five full time slots for the next nine to ten months for a negligible sum. One or two days a week–maybe–until April, then maybe six weeks until school's out. I could accept five more kids instead, but I won't do that because I like to keep families that know the rules/routines, etc.

And to think I was seriously contemplating reducing my load by half so that I could really give all my time and attention to these babies–good thing I kept my options open or I'd have had one or two kids left.


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The Hand the Rocks the Cradle

What if I don't want to rule the world? What if I don't want to have anything to do with influencing the course of human history, let alone ruling the world?

Do you?

Okay, so  if I can influence it for good–guaranteed for good, then maybe I'll take a bash at it, but you just never know do you? I think of that king in the Bible who begged for more years to live, and probably did great things with those years, except he also sired a devil of a son who did terrible things.

I look at all these children in my care and I don't know that I want to be responsible for how all these little people turn out–and don't stroke my ego here and tell me I'm a great provider or mother, or anything like that. I'm adequate surely, but I'm not nearly as good as you want to think I am.  Then again, maybe adequate is the best any of us can hope to be.

My down the street a few houses neighbor voiced the opinion in Sunday School a few weeks ago that once we recognize that we have a problem or a personality flaw because of something our parents did or did not do, from that moment on, they are no longer responsible for it–we are. I think I like this reasoning. Especially now that I'm the parent muddling up everyone's lives.

In which case I don't have to be perfect. Maybe all I have to do is teach them to think clearly. And hope they can see themselves for who they truly are at a really young age :o)

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Got a thank you note (delivered in person) today from parents A and B. Wanting me to know that they thought I was a great provider and they do not harbor any ill feelings, and hope I don't either–just that they feel these two boys needed immediate separation. Which may be true. Today was incredibly calm. I don't know if his personality was just a catalyst for these specific children, or if he was just that one-too-many child that tipped the scales into chaos–because once he got used to the rules, he was a good kid–just didn't know when to quit sometimes with the other kids. It seriously felt like we were missing half the children today, not just two.

In any case, I think the withdrawal needed to happen, I just regret that it wasn't handled more calmly, on both sides. But it was the father handling it, for the most part, so what can a person expect? Don't take me for a man basher, by any means. I just think women tend to be more tactful in this type of situation. Of course, then we also frequently don't get it done, either. Always tiptoeing around other people's feelings, etc, often to our own or our family's detriment. I have to admire this guy in that when he saw something about his child's situation needing attention, it was immediate action.

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Another Ambush

Another crazy parent/provider episode.

I'm just going to skip the narrative here, and paste in a copy of my email to the furious parents, minus identifying details. It probably speaks for itself. I only regret that I didn't mention to them the fact that their child kicked a little girl so hard in the face that he gave her a bloody nose this week. She admitted freely that it wasn't on purpose, that they were just playing, and I talked to her parents, and they were cool about it. Understood that kids hurt one another. These parents don't/can't comprehend that (and I quote) their "son would NEVER hurt another child. He is not the aggressor."

Their child "C" has been hurt twice in as many months by the child we will call "D". Who, by the way has been diagnosed as autistic. I agree with his parents that he probably isn't autistic, but he is delayed–I think I've written about him here before. He has a speech impediment that makes it very difficult for him to communicate, and sometimes he gets frustrated. Especially when another child is making fun of the way he talks, or pretending not to understand when they clearly do.

So, the first one was a bite. Serious, yes. Deserved after a morning of relentless teasing? Probably. The second was a poke in the eye. Both times C's parents called and came over here up in arms that their child had been hurt and wanted to know my "protocol" in a situation like this. Thus the following email, since I'm not good at thinking on my feet. Actually, I was sitting and they were towering over me, demanding answers. Quite intimidating actually. This time they are going to look for other childcare options, but please, don't consider yourself done caring for our child until we weigh all our options.


Dear A and B,
I think I have not been very clear about discipline procedures here at our childcare, or what has been going on with C. Main reason:
At the end of the day, when you ask if C has behaved himself, I tell you he has had a great day, because he really is growing. It has taken him a while to remember the rules–you can't climb up onto the roof. You can't throw food. You can't make paper snowballs with the pages out of the books. Normal, spontaneous four-year-old boy behavior, that he is learning to control, and has been doing a fantastic job with. The growth I have seen in C since the beginning of September is outstanding for a child his age.
C has been more respectful about other people's property and person. He asks permission before he gets into things. He remembers rules and tries so hard to remember to obey them. He has done so much better about not calling names and not making fun of D's speech impediment. He has learned to play with a child who is very different than himself, and get along. (Most of the time!)
I do not tell you about every time-out, or every lie or mistake C makes because I feel these things are  between C and myself–if he feels like he pays the consequence of his behavior here, and then I turn around and tell on him, he isn't going to trust me. I firmly believe that with the exception of truly chronic or disturbing behavior, it is more important to forgive, forget and start every day with a clean slate of– I like you, I think you're a great kid, and I trust you to make better choices. I can't do that, if I can't move past the misbehavior as soon as the consequences have been dealt out. If it is safety or serious moral behavior patterns emerging, I'm going to tell you, of course. If he pulls down his pants because he wants to show G his incredibly cool spiderman underwear, I'm going to discuss this with him. If he does it again, then I'll discuss it with you.
I want him to understand that when he tells me, or another child, sorry, and tries to do better, that I have forgiven him, and he can try again.
I hope this protocol about misbehavior is something you feel comfortable with. I really hate to "tell on" C, unless his behavior here is something he isn't willing to work on here. And so far he is willing. Every day he does better. Don't we all? And doesn't God let us have another day, and another and another, and blesses us beyond measure?
I don't like to reinforce the negative. I want him to understand that
I understand that he is really trying hard to make good choices. This goes for the other children as well. Obviously, if a child does something really dangerous, I have to talk to the parents, as I did with D biting.
If a child misbehaves for Marty, he will send them in saying, D needs a time out. He hurt C. And I back him up. But I don't ask for details or rehash the behavior. I trust his judgment and he trusts me to back him up, and it goes the other way too. When he sends C in, I don't ask for the details–it is between him, the child he hurt, and Marty. This is why, when you call, I don't know exactly what happened. After the time out, I will ask Marty and the hurt child if this child can come back out to play.
If the behavior is repeated, or really out of line,  they stay inside and think of something really nice they can do for the other person, so that when that other child comes in, there is a picture or a snack or a sticker to share. But they still have to stay inside, all day.
Just so we understand one another completely about the consequences of behavior and what constitutes behavior I
do need to talk to parents about, I thought I'd list the major points below. Feel free to comment, or raise concerns as you perceive them.
First, the children are never unsupervised. An adult is always watching them, inside and out. We are very careful about this because misbehavior is best dealt with instantly, not after so-and-so said, he said she said they did this.
When a child misbehaves, depending on the severity of his actions, his age and his understanding, he gets a second chance to behave before time-outs begin.
If your child throws toys or fights over toys, I will take the toys away until both children agree who gets the toy.
If your child hits another child out of frustration, he gets a time out, as does the child he hit. They have to mutually agree on when the time out is over and that the other can get up and play, after they apologize to one another. This works really well with C and D because they always want to do the same things. They can't bear to be in time out for very long, and then they become quite chummy.

If your child breaks or spills something, or accidentally hurts someone else, we talk about the behavior that caused the damage, and how it can be avoided in the future. If the behavior is repeated (swinging on the curtains, whipping a coat around in the air so that the zipper hits someone [classic C behavior]) they sit in time out for one minute for every year of their age, and we repeat the talk about better/safer behavior.
If your child lies about behavior, double time out and they have to stay with Kimber all day–no outside time unless she is outside, too. Not as fun as playing with Marty.
If, as occasionally happens, a child seriously hurts another child, they have to stay inside–sometimes for days or a week until they have earned trust back, as happened with D when he bit C.
If in play or anger a child leaves a mark on another child, I have him explain to the child's parent, if at all possible, what happened. This is terrifying to them–rarely do they utter a syllable, as you saw with D.
I address it with the parent of the injured child, just like I did with you when C was bitten–I told you up front what had happened because unless a parent is asking, the children often won't remember to say, hey, this is what happened to me today. I'm sorry I didn't notice the red eyes–he didn't seem to be hurt as much as upset about wanting to take D's blanket inside and D not wanting it inside, etc.
I'm not sure you understood the purpose of my call to you. It wasn't to defend D, so much as to assure you that I do know what's going on, and that it isn't one sided.
You have to realize that C has hurt other children, unintentionally and intentionally. He has never been malicious or really, intentionally dangerous, and so I have never seen a reason to bring it up with you. Kids hurt one another occasionally.
[Why didn't I mention this week's bloody nose here? Maybe because I forgive, forget and MOVE ON] We are very careful with both D and C to not leave them alone near the younger children for even a moment because they play with a lot of energy and momentum. They jump off the slide and they wrestle and throw things. Sometimes they get hurt.
I guess I just want you to understand that neither child is a victim here; neither child is totally without fault. But they are four year old boys. After the bite, D wasn't allowed to play with C outside at all, until C was begging, every day–when can D come out? And they have gotten along really well for the most part these last few weeks. They have learned to share toys, and respect one another's property, and even share G
[the girl they fight over], no small feat, let me tell you.
I feel like C is doing well here. He has come a long way, and he seems happy. But I don't know your son as well as you do, and there is possibly a better fit for him somewhere else.  If you are uncomfortable with my procedures, policies or care, I am totally fine with you looking elsewhere–or even just trying out some other options and asking him what he likes better. I just want to be sure we understand one another.
As far as D and C in the near future, all I can offer is that we can have D not play with or around C until your son asks and receives your permission to do so.
We have many activities here, and they can paint/mold/build/slide/color/read at different times until you find alternate care if that is what you choose. It won't be much of a stretch to separate them since we usually do things in two separate groups anyway.

I really don't feel this is about D specifically as much as it is about you feeling totally comfortable about a good fit for your child in our environment–and that is a crucial thing for a childcare situation. I hope I have explained a bit better what exactly our policies are, and of course, I am open to suggestions.
I have learned to love your children and I wish them the very best, no matter where you take them.

Thanks for your time,



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All is lost

Quite literally. My computer is Kaput. Someone is supposed to come replace either my motherboard or my hard drive–and no, I don't know the difference–some time next week. Because the local people I bought the three year warranty from apparently can't/won't fix it. If it had died a month ago, under the one year warranty, yes, they could have fixed it in 48 hours. But since it died this month, the warranty I paid them for must be serviced by some company based out of Texas. Or Taiwan. I couldn't tell.

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Because we wouldn’t want anyone to actually DIE on death row.

This headline from MSN: "Death Row Inmates Denied Healthcare".

According to ACLU attorney Gabriel B. Eber inmates waiting for execution have been denied prompt healthcare and are in danger of–I kid you not–dying while waiting to die. The article cites instances of inmates waiting 45 minutes for help after pushing the emergency call button in their cells, and then another 3 hours for a doctor to arrive. And dental care. Well. Some inmates are opting to have their teeth pulled rather than suffer pain while waiting for complicated procedures.

Really? They don't want to eat soft, body temperature foods like the rest of us who can't afford to get a root canal, or if we can, have to wait months for an appointment? I went into my local community health clinic–they have a sliding fee scale which is reasonable, and some good dentists. I had to wait six months to actually make the appointment, then another three months to actually be seen. The verdict? I need a root canal. Two of them. But they only fill and pull teeth there. I'll have to go to a private dentist for a root canal. Which is fine, you know? But I can't afford a root canal right now, and I don't know if I want to–it will last five to seven years, they tell me IF it takes in the first place. No money-back guarantee if it doesn't. So my question is–why not just save myself thousands of dollars and get it pulled now? The dentist looks at me like I'm nuts. I have him pull one tooth and I live with the other for the last six years. I drink warm water and chew on the other side. Maybe I should call the ACLU.

"The failure of prison officials to adequately respond to the medical emergencies of prisoners, and to ensure proper access to critical medications, is inexplicable and could well result in prisoner deaths," Mr. Eber says.

Are you kidding me?

It isn't that I object to the humane treatment of prisoners. In an ideal world everyone, including the felons (would there be felons in an ideal world?) would have affordable access to timely, quality health and dental care. But this is AMERICA in the 21st century, people. Something like 47 million Americans haven't got any insurance at all, and we certainly don't have emergency call buttons next to our beds. When my father-in-law fell thirty feet onto icy cement, I can't even begin to tell you how long it took the ambulance to arrive. And how much it cost!! If I remember right, that ambulance ride to the hospital a few miles away cost more than his airlifted flight to Harborview on the other side of the state. 

On the same MSN page, another article, about Amber Joy Milbrodt–not a criminal, mind you–in a Texas hospital who waited 19 hours to be seen by a doctor before giving up, going home, and splinting her broken leg herself. (She had it x-rayed elsewhere and it actually was broken.) The hospital charged her $167 dollars for a nurse assessing her vitals while she waited.

A few days before Milbrodt's miserable visit, a 58 year old man died after waiting 19 hours at the same hospital without ever being seen.

Did the convicted felon, who complains of waiting three hours for a house call pay a dime for his healthcare? I highly doubt it! And he was actually seen by a doctor!

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