Back in the Saddle

My last post on this page was October 2014……not sure how the old blog got so dusty, but, dusty it has been. I haven’t been sitting back eating popcorn smothered in butter and parmesan cheese all this time. I love the stuff, but, no, I have been busy with life and living and growing my little corner of the universe. I want to get caught back up to speed so the old blog is the current blog, and the dust bunnies stay at bay and not on these pages……

After I graduated from The University of Phoenix with a Master’s in Education in 2013, I took the year off to catch my breath and decide what my next adventure would be.  I had fallen in love with the Montessori educational philosophy while working on my M.Ed. and spent several months researching Montessori and how I could best present this method in my preschool and teaching methods.

I began work on an international teaching certification through The North American Montessori Center. Their on-line program best fit my needs of a deeper study of Montessori, the Montessori materials, and how to teach the lessons in a primary classroom. It is done entirely on-line without any student teaching or time required in a brick and mortar building. This perfectly met my needs and so, I sent off my tuition checks and their student materials arrived, and in a year’s time, I became an accredited Montessori Primary Lead Teacher.  The Master’s was the foundation of my academic journey, but the Montessori training is without a doubt, the true meat of my academic journey and my passion.

I had the privilege of being involved in a local professional development co-hort in 2016 and 2017 and zeroed in on organizing the business aspects of running my preschool, being intentional in my environment design, and in adding various tools and equipment. The trainings were phenomenal and I ended up earning a level 6 (out of 7) on the Business Administration Scale (BAS) and a level 5 (out of 5) for the Family Child Care Credential.

Although these two years were very beneficial, I often found myself at odds with trying to “fit” Montessori in the cookie cutter expectations and requirements of the typical family child care culture.  By the end of 2017, I was in such a stew of being torn between both philosophies, that I have taken five months to work through my own professional development plan to try and figure out where both my preschool, The Patch, and I could find rich soil to finally drop some roots down and grow that allowed “us” both to finally feel we were in a good place and able to feel confident in how Montessori is fleshed out on a daily basis without having to compromise in order to appease an outside agency.

Best five months ever…..EVER……I started with a personal reflection of who I am and what I really and truly believe about preschool and little kids and how I related to them. Bottom line: these little ones, that I call treasures, are capable of so much and I am the most happy and fulfilled when they ask questions and we seek the answers together.

No more trying to stuff this and that into our “curriculum” because its traditional or expected. We don’t work on letters or phonics in order any more.  We take whatever we are learning about and add phonics to the current content. During our Bird Unit, we focused on the letters B (for bird), N (nest), C (cardinal) and R (robin).  Their retention was unbelievable and so was their joy for learning.

The Patch’s environment was next. Our room was full to the brink with stuff. Teaching stuff, art supply stuff, various “centers” stuff, any “stuff” that had been set down and not put away…..we had become use to living in a very crowded space and I was feeling it and the treasures were reacting to the clutter and we were all feeling closed in and on top of each other……

I spent a month searching for examples of Montessori room pictures. I printed the pictures from small classrooms that I found on-line and hung them on The Patch’s walls so I could really study why I was drawn to them and what was realistic for my budget and space limitations. The treasures got in on the discussion too. They loved the extra floor space and being able to see their works on the shelves. Our bookcases were dark and often times works would get hidden in the back. They wanted more color on our walls.

I posted pictures of The Patch on a Montessori Facebook page and asked the teachers for their input on how I could decongest the room and lighten it. Their responses came pouring in. Their pictures were beautiful and helpful. I spent the weekend taking things off the walls and off of the shelves and…..I’m just gonna say it…..at first I was very sad because all of our “joy” stuff was removed and the room felt bare and very very very “unsparkly”.  I decided to live with it for a couple of weeks and see what would happen as we went through our days together…..

Here’s our “before” pictures……it is a warm and cozy environment and filled with lots of things that brought joy and comfort of being at home…..it is also waaaaaay toooooo crowded……materials were squished onto the shelves and there was no keeping the “subjects” and “sequence of works” in the right order as the treasures would get works down and return them. By the end of the day…..it was chaos to look at……I was constantly sorting and returning Practical Life and Sensorial and Language and Math and Science back to where they belonged…..too many choices and too many works made too much work to keep it all together for young treasures and their “not so young” teacher……

28872515_10216200513351763_6961531886711603200_n29063115_10216200514111782_3066515024806674432_n29063336_10216200514031780_2753340749910114304_n28872609_10216200513111757_4522097420154175488_n

Here’s a peak after the initial removal of the “excess”……. its very bare looking and feeling, but, I did see that fewer materials meant more space and the treasures were spending more time on their works, which is the goal……after a couple of weeks living in blah-blah-ville, I began to get excited about how living with less actually means “more” of what I was aiming for in an environment revamp…….insert happy face and happy dance for full effect!!!!!

The wonderful Montessori teachers who were helping with this assessment and revamp, suggested getting rid of the dark bookcases and installing shelves lighter in color and directly on the wall. I went to Lowe’s and with great excitement, I put the materials on my Lowe’s card with a promise to pay them off as quickly as I could.  I also bought new paint that was several shades lighter and painted the room first.

Here is a before picture of our “unit” wall and an after picture.

First off, I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new shelves.  They are four foot craft planks that are sanded and ready for projects. I hung them on the adjustable tracks and they are secured by brackets and screwed into the brackets. They are adjustable and solid and they hold as much as two previous bookcases. I just love how bright the room looks and how the works are so visible!!!!

I added color to the fireplace wall….totally warmed up the room. I also moved our belonging chandelier to the other side of the room where it was more visible and it didn’t clutter up the fireplace hearth anymore. I took down the certificates and the memberships because they were “eye clutter” to me. I know that I belong to these organizations and that I’ve earned these certificates, but, do I really need to display them to validate me? No……I didn’t.  Down they came and down came my uneasiness about trying to “fit” when I don’t need to anymore……..I kept my M.Ed. and my Montessori Teaching Certification because those say enough about my qualifications and that I take my profession seriously.

After almost a month, I was able to remove the other bookcases from our works wall and install the new hanging shelves…….I JUST LOVE THEM!!!!

I have two more bookcases to transition out, and then, I think The Patch will finally feel and work as a Montessori environment. We are enjoying the lightness and the openness that removing the excess has gifted us.

I learned a valuable lesson on this environment journey……the room is not the joy…..it may be filled with objects that are deemed lovely and are enjoyed, but, real joy comes from the treasures who bound through my door every morning asking to learn more and be invested in……I am such a lucky lucky Montessori teacher!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

My Love of Cardboard

Note:  This was originally written in July 2014 while preparing for The Patch Art Exhibit…..

Art Exhibit 2014 077

I am preparing for an art exhibit to celebrate and honor the artists at The Patch.  It is an undertaking that has me on a creative high and emotional roller coaster at the same time.  Will the adults “get” how truly amazing these little tykes are? Will they appreciate that just a short time ago these little tykes were more like contained jelly fish who couldn’t do anything but cry and drool and poop? Their development over the past year has me astounded.  I remember all those days…..ALL THOSE DAYS…..when we were confined to a quilt and chew toys because all they could do was roll and chew and poop.  Those were some long boring and smelly days…..

We’ve spent the last six months exploring various animals and plants and art forms.  Our art was getting more and more technical and I just didn’t want to send it home with a smile and lose the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and accomplishment each piece represented. Sooooo…….

The idea to have an all out art exhibit was born…….and……I’m thrilled to pieces and a bit overwhelmed as I begin the actual process of building an art exhibit out of appliance boxes and adhesive hooks and lots of rope and tree stumps to secure the structures from wind gusts…..

Yesterday I cut open the first appliance box and unfolded it to its full length. That puppy is one big piece of cardboard! As I was securing it to the driveway wall, an overwhelming memory flooded over me and I had a dejavoo moment…..I was once again eight years old, on the screened-in porch just off of my bedroom…..

I’m a Daddy’s girl.  I make no bones about it and I celebrate it every chance I get.  He deserves it….he truly truly truly deserves it….

Every once in a while, my Dad would bring me a cardboard box home from the office.  They weren’t big like an appliance box, but they were tall enough to an eight year old to become pure magic.  He would cut them open for me so they would stretch out and stand on their own.  And then, the magic would begin.

I would make them into hide outs.  They were puppet theaters.  Sometimes they were space ships for me and my stuffed animals.  But more times than not, they were a chalkboard.  My Dad would bring me the chalk pieces that were too short for his big hands and I’d find an old sock to use as an eraser.

I asked my teacher, Mrs. Cathcart, for extra worksheets to take home to “practice with” and she would gladly supply them to me.  I’m almost positive I never told her that they were to teach my dolls and animals with, but, I’m pretty sure, she knew that anyway I used them, was indeed, practice even if I was just relaying information to my class of dolls and animals.

That screened in porch was such a magical place for me…..and the fun I had with cardboard boxes didn’t just stay in my childhood.  That joy and magic has made its way back into my adult life and into my preschool classroom in the past year…..polar bear dens, hideouts, tents, rolling around the play yard contraptions….loads of joy and magic…..

I wanted to be a teacher from a very early age.  I moved a lot as an Army Brat and my love for art and creativity was unfortunately quickly squelched by a variety of well-meaning art teachers who were working in too many schools to really focus on their quieter introverted students.

I knew what I wanted to create.  I had the end piece all in my head,  I just didn’t have the physical skills developed or the experience with tools to master the basic elements.

I was devastated every time my piece was chosen as the example of “what not to do” by various teachers.  I hated art……

I became a writer.

Letters can’t be judged or held up in a classroom as a negative example. I wrote in a journal beginning as an eight year old and still journal…..It’s the creative part of me yelling to be set free….So, for many years, I created with letters on paper…..

My sophomore English teacher gave lots of creative writing assignments.  I was thrilled. I still have two of the assignments…”What I Want to Be” and a poetry compilation that I illustrated.

I became a fluent writer in college all because of being placed in the class of a feared professor.  His reputation was fearless and fearful…. He only gave three A’s and he informed us of this on the very first day of class.

My first attempt landed me a D.  I was devastated.  He told me I was too cautious. He told me I took the easy way out so that all the spelling and grammar and punctuation would be correct….well, most of the time anyway…. He told me I needed to improve.  And then he looked at me.

I was once again that little girl having her work displayed as the “how not to” piece….

Something happened to both of us during our conference.  He took my paper and added a plus sign to the D.  He told me to write a new piece about anything that was important to me without any regard to spelling or grammar or punctuation.  It was due at the next class meeting.  He told me to write my thoughts and not worry about the “how to” rules.  For the first time in my life, I was inspired to try again with this professor that the student body feared….

I wrote.  I wrote and wrote and wrote.  I wrote some more.  It was freeing.  I turned it in and two days later it was returned to me, with a big fat juicy A on it.  In red pencil.  The only red pencil mark on it was the A. I was confused and inspired.

He gave me the next assignment: Now correct the spelling, grammar and punctuation and turn it back in to him.  I did. The editing process went back and forth between us until the paper was finally complete.  It represented my real thoughts and it was written with all corrections made.  I learned more about grammar and spelling and punctuation in two weeks than I had in twelve years.  I was rewarded with an A+ not just on that paper, but I was one of the three that earned one of his precious coveted A’s in the class.   I done good….. 🙂

These two experiences were life changing for me.  These two people gave me a precious gift: Time to explore and time to develop…..

And this brings us full circle to why I love cardboard boxes and why this art exhibit is so important to me.

I want these teeny tiny precious tykes to know that they are valued because they are unique.  Not because they are masters at a skill.  I want them to feel celebrated and to hopefully show their families the importance of continuing the celebration of their uniqueness when they have outgrown The Patch.

Threading ribbon through chicken wire isn’t the celebration.  The celebration is in the experience. The celebration is in the “A-Haa” moment when they finally understood they could place the ribbon anywhere and it could twist and curl if they wanted it to.

The celebration was in their being fully present and being fully joyful at just seeing what happened if they tried this or that…..It was about enjoying the process and not caring if others didn’t understand or appreciate or “get” the final outcome.

Process and  experience are what creates our life.  They are what add depth and width and richness to our life….the actual piece gets lost or ruined and then forgotten…..But what we learn about ourselves along the way is ours to keep for life….

This is what those art teachers forgot…..This is what I refuse to forget….. Everyone earns a big fat juicy delicious A+ at The Patch…..

Until next time,

Patty

Inspired by Color and Joy

I have had the most delicious summer with the tykes at The Patch!  We’ve explored so many wonderful art forms that there’s no way to get all their works and our journey penned on this blog.  I’m starting from our most recent exploration and then will back track to cover our first annual art exhibit in hopes of getting the blog all caught up…..  Fasten your seat belt, the next few blogs will be coming at you with lightening speed!!!

The past two weeks we have been exploring circles.  The younger tykes created a canvas using painted circles, milk caps, milk cap rings, and foam circles.  It is stunning and I’m proud to say that they can all identify the circle shape.

10689971_10205080112908702_7696183578328372645_n

My older tyke created a circle project on his own.  We used a delightful piece I saw at an art fair as our inspiration.  I bought two prints for us to explore: circles and triangles……  This was such a cool process for him.  He chose all the elements, colors, and cut all the pieces.  It took him two sessions, and the final result is more stunning than this photograph can ever relay:

Will's Circles

I’m sharing these beautiful masterpieces in hopes of inspiring you to find your passion as you teach and guide the tykes in your classroom or in your home daycare.  I have been on the most amazing journey since spring 2014, and I feel for the first time, I am finally in my “sweet spot” as a preschool teacher…… Art and nature…. My passion in just two words…..

I’ve spent a lot of time and energy trying to “be” what I thought a preschool teacher was supposed to “be” and “look like”…..I’ve gone through the typical stages of “letter of the week” and other tried and true preschool curriculum styles. I just never felt like I was “doing” preschool “right”…..  I tended to burn out before we reach the middle letter of the alphabet and it was soooo frustrating and defeating……  I just never felt like the curriculum and I “fit” together…..I know now that I didn’t “fit” with the traditional curriculum…..

So, fifteen months ago, I began to explore the Reggio learning philosophy. It totally changed my focus, direction, and drive.  I have spent the past fifteen months redesigning my space, my supplies, and my day around a nature and art based philosophy that is tied together for a Reggio Inspired approach.  I am totally engulfed….. I cannot put into words how free I feel to explore with my tykes and how much more they are taking on in basic knowledge and in applying in their projects…. I have never been more satisfied or more energized than I have been since last spring…..

I’m sharing this because I want to encourage you if you are feeling out of sorts with your class and your teaching.  I want to encourage you to take some time, and I mean       T-I-M-E to reflect on who you are and why you are in education.

What drives you? What brings you joy as a teacher?  What “trips your trigger”?

These are all valid questions that only you can answer and once you pin point the answers you can begin to address how to bring the joy into your classroom.

Finding your passion will generate a cycle of passion that is passed onto your tykes.  It may still look like a traditional classroom.  It may look totally different.  But if you are finding yourself feeling “Blah” or out of sorts or out of steam, I am asking you to take some time to assess if you are where you want to be in your teaching career.  I’m asking you to think about how much joy you are experiencing on a regular basis and how much of this joy you are passing onto your tykes…..

Teachers give of themselves and their resources more than any other occupation.  We are a special breed.  We are relentless in our desire to make a difference.

We need to learn to take care of ourselves.  We need to find our “sweet spot” in order to not only teach, but teach with passion and drive……When we marry our passion to our profession, our occupation becomes joyful and fulfilling and satisfying…..

Here’s to finding your teaching “sweet spot” and your passion!  Let me know what you discover!

Until next time,

Patty

Back to the Drawing Board…

I have had a picture tucked away in my “to do” binder for quite some time.  It is of a little boy doing free style needle work on a loosely knit cloth that has been stretched over a seat-less piano bench.  I loved the natural curiosity and the level of creativity that this activity freely gifted to this child.  I have been in search of a cheap piano bench for several years without any luck….

However, one of my preschool parents asked what I needed and I shared this idea and a few days later a three-foot by five-foot weaving loom table was sitting in my garage……Happy Dance! Happy Dance! Happy Dance!  🙂

I went on a quest for the perfect loosely knit material so my tykes could just jump right in that same night.  I found a vintage drapery at Good Will that just fit the bill.  I dashed into Michael’s and scooped up six spools of ribbon and headed home to do a dry run…..

I am a kid at heart and although I hide behind the veil of “teacher tester”,  I am actually dancing and squealing “Me First! Me First”, as I get the first crack at a new activity…..I am allowing a rare peek into my maturity level…..feel very honored……because I am such a pro at appearing all mature behind my “teacher tester” veil…..

Image

The drapery is perfect for this project.  However, it has sat on my kitchen counter for a few weeks because it just didn’t feel right after I took it for a trial spin.  I realized that those precious little fingers could not weave with this drapery because it was beyond their ability…

They needed an easier canvas to learn what “up”, “down”, “through”, “over” and “under” literally mean. They needed a canvas that they could grasp and turn and learn to manipulate freely within their ability.  They needed a smaller scale tool with larger holes and this beautifully perfect drapery was a larger scale tool with teeny tiny holes…..

So, I’ve been mulling over how to teach little hands how to weave from the most basic point of view.  I can not take credit for this idea. I saw it on http://www.teachpreschool.org/2013/10/simple-sewing-jars/ last year.

Tonight while I was at Dollar Tree, I saw the room deodorizer jars and realized that these would be perfect for teaching my little tykes how to weave and sew.  They even had wider ribbon in stock…..

High Score! I love Dollar Tree…. 🙂

Image

I want to spare you from what I wished I had been spared….Those little beads are SMELLY…..STINKY…..and STRONG! I opened the first jar and made a b-line for the zip lock bags in the kitchen.  I couldn’t get them dumped and the bag sealed fast enough. After all six were dumped, I washed them with hot water and dish soap. This helped some, but I am also going to let them air out over the weekend.  So, if you plan to work with these little jars, do it outside on a windy day…..and stand down wind….

Image

I tied the ribbon to the plastic needle so it wouldn’t come un-threaded a zillion times while the tykes worked with it. I made a huge knot at the end of the ribbon so it wouldn’t easily slip through the hole as they were sewing.  I measured enough length to work through every hole.  I didn’t want them to be overwhelmed with a lot of ribbon, but also wanted them to have enough ribbon to really freely explore.  I will update this post after the tykes have had some time to explore with the sewing kits and let you know how it went and what I needed to alter…..

The goal is to help them learn how to move the needle and ribbon in and out and up and down and through all the holes well enough that they can begin weaving for the sake of weaving and creating a pattern and not be concentrating on the physical mechanics of manipulating the ribbon and the needle and the round frame all at the same time.

Preschoolers learn skills and concepts in stages….and it is my job to ensure that they have plenty of time to explore and master each stage.  They simply cannot move forward until they have mastered the very basics.

Before a tyke can color, they have to understand what a crayon is by how it feels and smells and tastes and looks.  Once they have a basic understanding of what a crayon “is”, they can move on to what a crayon can do.  It can break, it can have its wrapper removed, it can make wonderful noises while being banged, and finally, it can make marks on a piece of paper. After a zillion marks have been made on paper, a child can begin to orchestrate the direction of the marks and the color of the marks and the reason for the marks as they create “a picture”…..

It is a huge process….it is a time-consuming process…..it can be a frustrating process for both the tyke and the teacher if enough time and experience is not freely given for the child to process and progress through each stage of development.

I can not express enough my heart ache when parents see their child’s intentional crayon or marker marks and only see scribbles.  I can not express enough my heart ache when parents are gifted with great pride paper that has been cut into teeny tiny bits with a prized pair of scissors and only see future trash.  All those zillion pieces of paper glued onto paper were glued on with great effort and intention and the child deserves to have their work and effort acknowledged…..

It’s fine to toss the projects when the child is no longer attached to the piece, but PLEASE honor and encourage and celebrate your child’s current accomplishments…..When they are honored and encouraged and celebrated, they will strive to achieve a higher level of skill mastery….

This is the goal:

To Work Deeper and Wider and to Apply Past Knowledge to Future Concepts so Learning is Achieved and Assessed Through the Creation of More Mature and Individualized Creations…….

Which brings me back full circle to realizing that the vintage drapery was developmentally inappropriate for my tykes and that I needed to find a way to start teaching them how to sew from step one before we can bring out that awesome weaving loom table and create some mighty awesome works of art……

All life skills have steps that must be learned…..Start with oversized tools until the basic knowledge is mastered….Add more complex details, one at a time…..

And most importantly, don’t forget to add some joy and fun and love and color into the mix!

Until next time,

Patty

 

 

 

Designing Clay Suns with Corn Kernels…

000B

We are constructing our weather themed chandelier at The Patch.  Friday each tyke constructed a bead thread using one of the colors of the rainbow.  We also added a few fun clouds.  Today, we worked on sun mosaics using dry corn kernels and a wonderful clay recipe that I have fallen in love with.

The day started simple enough.  We rolled out the clay, cut the clay with jar lids and the tykes designed their own sun as we talked about how nice it is to be outside on warm sunny days and that hopefully, today, we would be able to finally get outside.  Pretty simple.  Pretty straight forward preschool activity.  Pretty stress free activity….. I was so tickled with myself and so inspired by the intentional designs each tyke created. Yup….I was feeling like I had totally rocked this plan…..and…..then…..

My oven chimed to tell me it was preheated to 200 degrees.  As I carried the cookie sheet with our Rembrandt sun designs to the stairwell, I began to wonder exactly how hot 200 degrees felt to a corn kernel….I began to rethink the intelligence of using corn kernels for this project…

As I started up the first part of the landing, I mused that my air popper felt a LOT hotter than a mere 200 degrees.  It was probably like 400 degrees so that all the kernels popped to perfection.  I convinced myself that microwave popcorn probably reached an alarming 600 degrees…..And by the time my foot reached the last step, I had totally convinced myself that there was no need to worry about my oven catching on fire to the beat of corn kernels exploding….

Opening the oven door, everything went into slow motion as math equations and logic and reason and artistic flare all went to war in my head… I felt like Martha Stewart was on one shoulder saying, “It’s fine! If they do pop, think about the decorative popcorn string you can create to feed to the birds and squirrels in the neighborhood”, and Smokey the Bear was on my other shoulder sadly and slowly saying, “Only you can prevent forest fires”…..

I’m not sure how I chose Martha over Smokey, but the cookie sheet went in, the oven door was shut, the timer was set, and I went back downstairs hoping that the C- I made in high school algebra was good enough to keep all good in my hood…..

000A

I kept a close ear in case those kernels did decide to pop for the next hour.  Nothing…..Zip…..Nada…..I am so happy and relieved to report that corn kernels do NOT pop at a mere 200 degrees. Even after being in an oven for an hour.

Martha and I did a happy dance as I pulled the cookie sheet out of the oven, and Smokey wiped his brow in relief…The tykes all danced and clapped as their masterpiece was hung on our beloved tree limb….And….I’m still high fiving my obvious maturing math skills and calculations.

I wonder if my high school math teacher would add a few points to that C- to make it a nice fat, juicy, and well-earned C+……..

Here’s the recipe for the clay – it’s AWESOME and comes with a bonus: You can safely add corn kernels to the design….. 🙂

1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 3/4 warm water…combine in old sauce pan and stir constantly over low heat until the mix becomes thick and looks like regular play dough. Remove from heat and once it is cool enough to handle, knead until smooth.  I put the mixture in a zip lock back over night and it was still fresh the next morning for our sun creations. Cook on parchment paper for one hour at 200 degrees.  Turn oven off and flip pieces over to dry the bottom of the pieces while the oven cools down.

000C

Here’s to a day where Martha, Smokey and Ms. Patty all got to wear the “I Did Good” button…..

Until next time,

Bubbles, Chocolate and Advil…..

1898094_10203308812707304_181657872_n

I love love love being with and working with preschoolers.  In all honesty, I love love love it 98% of the time.  However, that 2% just about does me in.

Totally done in…..Check my pulse because my eyes are glazed over and there’s no response whatsoever….

I’ve been known to fill out on-line applications for jobs where children are not allowed, nor welcomed, or ever mentioned while at the office water cooler…..I’ve been known to toss down four or five cans of Diet Coke to just make it to the end of the day on a 2% day…..and…..I’m ashamed to admit this one, but, here it goes anyway…..I’ve been known to plop tykes down in front of the TV and play Max and Ruby not just once, but on repeat…..so it repeats…..many times….shameless for a Reggio inspired educator….I feel no remorse…..None…..Nada…..Zip…..

Although the Max and Ruby Marathon seldom happens, it happens because I have neglected to take care of me and I am running on empty physically, emotionally, spiritually, mentally and every other way that can be thought of.

I mean, think about this,  who in their right mind would want to be subjected to three hours of parentless bunnies? Ruby’s voice is soooooo annoying! Why won’t she just give up trying to convince Max that it is fun to play dress up???

Seriously Ruby, you need to grow up and get a life!

The bigger picture, is that, Ms. Patty needs to get a life.  A real life that has time to rest, and to play, explore new interests, connect to friends, and a home that is finally clutter free and organized…..

And this brings me to the meat of today’s post: Self-care

I work an average of at least 65 hours a week, 49 out of 52 weeks a year, and rarely take a sick day….Last June, I finally finished my Master’s degree in education. For three years I was putting in 15 to 20 hours above my normal work schedule for course work….Many nights I was up until after 2am getting assignments completed and was living off of less than 5 hours of sleep a night….This set me up many times for major seasons of burn-out….

Self-care is to a preschool teacher what a pacifier is to an infant. It helps soothe the soul when life gets hectic and stressful.  It took me a while of living crazy, before I began to really practice the art of self-care, but now that I am taking better care of myself, I have enjoyed these benefits:

My perspective is so much better and realistic at the end of one of those 2% days…..

I am kinder to myself when I feel like I totally bombed the day at the end of one of those 2% days….

I am encouraged and refueled to begin again the next day at the end of one of those 2% days….

Self-care will look different for everyone.  Here’s my short list to help you get started creating yours:

  1. Bubble baths – long hot with loads of bubbles.  If the water gets cold, drain some out and fill ‘er up again….Stay until you feel better and are totally relaxed. [2% days merit two-hour soaks for me….]
  2. A stash of comfort foods.  I keep a pack of gum, a bag of something salty, and a bag of something with chocolate in the kitchen area of The Patch.  Nap time is self-care time…..and on 2% days, self-care time is munching away until I feel better and I never feel bad in telling the tykes, “Ms. Patty needs this….”.
  3. Over the counter meds are always stocked in The Patch – Advil, Excedrin for Tension Headaches and an acid reducer….No joke…..I head off as much physical discomfort as early as possible…..
  4. My journal – I write until I feel better….
  5. Walking. In good weather, I walk the entire subdivision including the winding streets.  It’s three miles and its the best gift I give myself.  I really miss it when I can’t walk.
  6. A creative project.  I am a creative person – so, I have a project going at all times.  I scrapbook, I blog, I create journals out of cardboard and twine and beautiful paper scraps, I cross-stitch, I create my own curriculum for The Patch.
  7. I take myself out to eat at a really nice place.  I enjoy my own company and feel very comfortable eating out alone.  There’s nothing better than a cloth napkin and someone asking me, “Is there anything I can get you?” after taking care of tykes for days on end….
  8. Texture and color…..When I’m feeling funky and on the verge of a burn-out, I take an afternoon and go to my favorite stores and touch all the textiles and take in all the colors.  There’s just something soothing for me to experience beauty and design.  Call me silly, but, this has been such a healthy therapy for me when I am down and it helps me to choose to see colors both physically and emotionally, instead of greyness from not taking good care of myself…..

Self care keeps me grounded.  It keeps me energized. It keeps my perspective realistic.  It keeps my inner joy flamed. It allows me to live abundantly and with joy and with humor……When I’m in a good place personally, I’m in a good place professionally.

I hope these thoughts and suggestions have been helpful.  I hope they have encouraged you.

So, go get a pencil or pen or crayon and some paper or construction paper and begin creating your own list…..I mean it…..go…..now!  And let me know what you came up with and how you are doing…..

🙂

Pinball and Preschoolers

So…I’ve had a couple of hours to sit in my quiet cozy bed and reflect on today at The Patch….It was a first for me.  I’ve never been able to say, “Today was a total loss” until today…..I feel like a complete failure.  No matter what I tried or what I didn’t try, the day just wasn’t going to be pulled in a better direction……Plus……I have a major head cold…..and the weekend is one more day away…..must….hang….on….until the last tyke is gone tomorrow and then I am going to yell, “Timber” and fall into my bed for the next two days…..I can hardly wait…..

I loved to play pinball as a kid.  The Officer’s Clubs always had the coolest machines and it only cost a dime to play.  The more the silver ball banged and clanged on the bumpers, the higher your score would climb.  I was a whiz at using those foot things to shoot the ball back into play when it rolled down the side alleys.  The sounds that came from these machines were amazing! The more noise you heard, the higher your score….. 🙂

I hadn’t thought about pinball in ages, until today.  Instead of only one silver ball in play, there were six of various ages and stages in play today.  It was the game that just would not end.  Here’s a bird’s-eye view of our room from the ceiling looking down of my day in pinball land:

The Quiet Bump and Walk Move: This tyke is a pro at this move and it is well-practiced.  The goal is to walk quietly by the prey unnoticed and then push the prey to the ground, take the object of desire, and continue walking as if nothing has happened.  If it is done quickly and quietly enough, even Ms. Patty can’t tell why the prey is on the ground crying because there was no sound or confrontation heard or observed…..

The Gallup While You Snatch But Then You Fall On Your Face Move: This tyke reminds me of those “Nailed It!” pictures with one side showing an athlete in perfect stride without a hair out-of-place and the other side showing a chubby child running with hair all in disarray with eyes as big as saucers when the chubby child realizes the ground is going to hurt bad in just a second or two…..This tyke just never gives up.  Several times today, this little critter saw a prize, galloped at full speed towards the prize, and just inches before victory was tasted, the carpet was tasted instead….or the side of the table….or the edge of the wall…..

The Snuggle and Snatch Move:   This tyke will cozy up to their prey and giggle and smile with their prey, but all the while they are calculating the exact piece of skin that will be pinched and how far they have to scoot over to avoid retaliation and still make off with the newly claimed object. I see it coming and am mesmerized by the dramatic showcasing going on….I can’t seem to act quickly enough to disrupt it though….Before my very eyes, the deed is done and tears are flowing and flowing and flowing….. It works every time….EVERY TIME…..

The “I Don’t Hear You or See You, Ms. Patty” Face:   They are all masters of this move.  I can be right next to them or in clear line of vision with them while they are trying to squish their prey into or out of a spot and no words or hand movements by me or acknowledged….Nope…..It’s just too much fun squashing her foot with my knee to stop now…..it’s just too darn fascinating to pull socks off my screaming prey to stop now…..it’s just another day in paradise as I am caught yet again drinking from and emptying everyone’s milk cups…..

The Push Down Without Eye Contact Move:  This one was the favorite today…..all day….by all three middle tykes….It is very similar to a cat pushing their kitten down a flight of stairs without any hesitation or reaction. Tyke A will walk by Tyke B and without any hesitation or reaction, Tyke A will push Tyke B to the ground without every stopping their stride across the room.  They do it in slow motion, they do it in warp speed, they did it all day….ALL DAY…..

The Walk-Up Ninja:  This was a favorite tool today.  Tyke A walks right up to Tyke B and smacks Tyke B on the face and then steals object from Tyke C. Tyke B walks right up to Tyke C and pulls Tyke C’s hair and then steals object from Tyke A. Tyke C brings Tyke A an alternative toy and then passes it to Tyke B while taking Tyke B’s original toy because that was the goal all along….

The “Do You Feel This?” Move: Bunny Foo Foo is alive and well at The Patch and today was no different.  Take any object and spy a tyke quietly playing and then bang that object on the head of the quietly playing tyke as hard as you can…..Then look surprised that your friend is now crying and Ms. Patty is giving you “that look” that looks kinda like your Mom’s “look” right before your full name is slowly and carefully over-enunciated….Many many many points were scored with this move today…..

Add a teeny tiny infant to this mix….

Add two older preschoolers who just want to play their games and enjoy their pretend worlds but were constantly interrupted by chaos….

Add a teacher with a head cold who became Ms. Cranky Pants at mid afternoon…..

Sooooo……Here I am in bed, trying to make sense of today and how to avoid tomorrow being a repeat performance…..I don’t think I can do another day in a pin ball machine…

I can however, turn the “light” out on today and just let it be what it was…..a lousy crazy day….So that’s what I am doing.  It was just one day out of almost seven years of good, great, and best days…..That word, “perspective” has popped up once again to help me see what today was….just a day and not a lifetime….just a moment and not a routine…..I really love the word “perspective”….

In spite of all the chaos, all the noise, all the tears and all the chaos (wait….I already said that), these six little pints totally rock my world.  They inspire me daily…..even as bad as today was, they still jumped in my lap with free hugs and wonderful smooches and roped me into singing “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” with them and playing “Where’s Ms. Patty?” where they all try to cover my eyes to hide me and then they find me as I try to look through my finger printed and smudged glasses at the six best hearts to ever connect to mine…..

I do I do I do…..love them deeply and widely in spite of all the pin ball moves they can create in a single day……and……I am so humbled that at the end of a really sucky day….they still smile and wave and say goodbye to me as they head home and I head upstairs to my comfy cozy bed…..:):):)

Until next time,

Patty