Bubbles, Chocolate and Advil…..

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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

“Seriously???”

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Evidently, this is my favorite word to use during the day at The Patch…..

I use it with one up-turned eye brow after I just get finished changing a toxic diaper only to hear that another one has just been added to my “to do” list by the same tyke who must have a colon the size of a grape….

I use it with a huge tone of panic when I discover that the diaper wipe box does in fact have a bottom to it…..

I use it with hands in the air when the blocks go airborne yet a zillionth time after I have been on my hands and knees playing blocks with the tykes “the safe way” and I only just got my cracking knees to propel me up into a standing position when those munchkins blank out on my labor of love and teaching….

Today, I said it very slowly as I tried to dislodge one of those thin metal pots from the bottom of a chair leg.  It was stuck….it was stuck good….It was stuck better than Mr. B’s chubby hand in the hollow of his cot the day I discovered dish soap was my new favorite tool in my teacher’s tool box…..

“SERIOUSLY????”  I bet I mumbled it a dozen times before I realized I had an audience of three tykes who all found the sight of Ms. Patty dancing around with one of the green chairs saying her favorite word……funny…..

The oldest one came over to me, put her hands around my leg, looked up at me and said, “Seeeerrrrssleeeee, Paddy!”. The next oldest clapped his hands and said, “rrrrreeee”, and then dramatically placed his head into his hands as if he could figure out how to dislodge the pot and rescue his Ms. Patty. The youngest one grabbed my other leg and let out the giggle that only she can create. 

And, so began my lesson from the tyke teachers today……Perspective……I had allowed my focus to become grumpy because once again they had fit an object into something that it was never made to fit into or come out of….and it was no big deal….

Here’s what the big deal is: I want them to think outside of the box (or metal pan).  I want them to experience more than those silly cartoon teaching posters can teach (do they really teach???).  I want them to gain the confidence and develop the joy of learning and discovery and creativity.  If this is what I truly desire for the tykes at The Patch, then I need to embrace their lesson today of “Perspective” and realize that it was a play chair leg and a play metal pot….

Today I am gifting them more freedom to explore and challenge their ideas using the tools that I have set out for them.  If I truly want them to learn, I will allow them to try out their ideas even if there are things that break or get stuck or get messy…..

Perspective….I hope someday when they are all grown up to have the opportunity to share with them the impact and impressions and lessons they so lovingly and honestly teach their Ms. Patty……

Until my next lesson,

Patty

 

A Glimpse at Organized Chaos

Today was such a delicious day. The day flew by.  It zipped right by without me noticing the time or praying for the time to please move faster. Spending the day with tykes is my passion.  I sing songs with gusto and I get competitive when we are building block towers. I secretly love to count how many goldfish crackers I can stack on my tongue without anyone noticing. I do NOT share my lavender play dough. It doesn’t matter how much those little eyes spy and covet my lavender and very clean play dough. Their play dough becomes hairy and gross and slimy. There are precious few things that are tyke proof and my lavender play dough is one of them…. Let’s be a smidge honest here. As much as working with preschoolers is my passion, there comes a time when working with tykes is work and I watch the clock like a hawk .

Today was not a hawk watching day.  Today, I was totally immersed in this conversation and that conversation when I realized that for this brief moment, the room had finally transformed into a Reggio inspired version of the “third teacher”……Did I capture this moment? You betcha and Bob’s your uncle I did.

The concept of the room being the “third teacher” is pretty awesome.  A child’s first teacher is their parent.  Their academic teacher is their second teacher. A well stocked room that invites a child to explore and experiment and create is their third teacher.  The Reggio Emilia and Montessori philosophy are built on the foundational belief that the child is very capable of learning on their own with the right tools and a teacher who will guide them to learn new knowledge when they are ready without having a set agenda or lesson plan. The “lesson plans” are the age appropriate activities and supplies that the child uses freely.  I have been working towards this goal since 2010, so I was ecstatic today to get a glimpse of all that work fall into place.  Happy Face….Happy Dance….:)

Here’s what I was blessed to capture in digital form:

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A child demonstrating nurture and compassion and empathy at twenty-four months.  She sat in our cozy corner for a good thirty minutes singing and rocking and making sure her baby dinosaur was warm and comfy.  This was significant because this child normally holds the baby dolls by their feet, always takes their clothes off….ALWAYS…..and tosses them aside when she is bored with the strength of a baseball pitcher.  Today this was real for her.  Today she demonstrated such sweet emotion and tenderness and I had a hard time keeping my focus from distracting her and intruding on such a sweet scene…..

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These two are my spit-fires.  They are twenty-two and almost nineteen months old. They have been connected at the hip since they could barely crawl.  If you saw one, the other one was near by. They are partners in crime and keep me on my toes and my heart melted daily.  They have discovered the joy of tossing bowls down to hear them spin.  To them, spinning bowls is better than extra cookies and getting into the diaper wipe box while I’m not looking.  I had to hide the wood bowls and put out these plastic ones to keep all our ear drums from bursting and our nerves from exploding.  They practice their new magic trick several times a day. SEVERAL TIMES A DAY…..I have to remind myself that they are learning and exploring and that this is wonderful and so very meaningful and valuable…..In all honesty, it is meaningful and valuable.  The wonderful part is probably a stretch….They are practicing to see if the results will remain constant and if how they throw the bowls will change the sound or the spinning. Serious research is going on with these two precious rascals.

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These little blue containers are actually a sensory activity.  There are two bottles filled with rice, two with beans, and two with nothing.  The tykes are to listen to the bottles and match them up with the bottle that has the same sound.  Today, however, they became spy glasses for the older tykes who are also best buddies.  They spied a squirrel in the yard, snow falling, my tree stump, and various cars passing by the house.  They discovered that it was easier to see things outside than inside and decided it was because the sun was outside and not inside. They also found out that colors look different when viewing them through the blue containers, and that if they looked through them lengthwise, they could see more. These two learned a lot today with vet medicine bottles on our observation deck….pretty smart cookies!

So….there you have a glimpse into our organized chaos…So much was explored and experimented with and enjoyed and we didn’t use a single worksheet or flashcard….The day zipped by and it was in fact, a delicious, non-hawk clock watching day….:):):)

Until next time,

Patty