Stress in Family Childcare

A few weeks ago I asked my fellow childcare providers what they could not live without. One provider said Pepsi and chocolate. I totally agree having a vice of some kind is helpful in a high stress job. One time at a childcare conference, a presenter said childcare was the second highest burnout rate job there is. The first is disarming nuclear bombs. Dealing with a whole group of different children and parents can be stressful, and a lot of the stress involved is in the way you handle it. Late pick-ups, late payments, unreasonable requests, not calling if the kids won’t be there, and other things parents see as no big deal make a huge difference in the stress level of the provider. Sometimes people think because we work at home, we don’t have a life outside our job. We are human, we are flawed, we have different cultures, but most of us do our best to provide good care.

Another thing that makes the job super high stress in Oklahoma is DHS regulations. No, not Department of Homeland Security, DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES. They add rule after rule after rule constantly, some of which are a huge time drain, and some of which are seemingly pointless. I know they add them because someone made it necessary, but the paperwork involved in family childcare is STAGGARING! In fact, 10 years ago when a friend and I started a family childcare organization in this community, we had 90 home daycares in town, today there are 28! It’s so stressful many people have just quit. So what happens to all the babies? Who will take care of them? Many times I think unlicensed providers just open up. But there is some protection for children in the licensing process. Licensed providers aren’t always better than unlicensed, but some of the rules are good. For instance cpr/first aid training requirements. So is that the best thing for our community’s children? Maybe not. But the chaos that is being licensed is stressful.

As providers, the best way we can continue to take care of others is to take care of ourselves. Remember the flight attendant on the airplane advising parents to get themselves oxygen before they put the mask on their kids? So true. If you are spent, you have nothing to give the children in your life. What are some ways to reduce stress in any person’s life?

  1. The biggest way to reduce stress in your life is to be PREPARED! If you hate mornings, take a few minutes the night before to lay out your clothes, make your lunch and get your things together that you need for work. For me, when I don’t organize what I need for the day, my day starts off feeling stressed because I can’t find what I need or am running behind. It takes just a few minutes of preparation to avoid the catch up game all day the next day. You are totally worth it!
  2. Eating good food reduces stress because it helps you have the energy to do everything you need to do. It also helps you think more clearly and reduces illnesses that slow you down in your busy life. You can make small changes to get there like adding fruit to your breakfast and a veggie at lunch. You don’t have to go from no fruits and vegetables to 9 servings a day overnight. Just strive to do better. I used to think eating vegetables at breakfast was weird, but now I usually have some sort of vegetable in the mornings. Right now because the garden is overflowing, I have tomatoes and cucumbers with my morning meal every day. My family still thinks it’s gross, and they don’t partake, but that’s okay, I know I’m doing something good for me. Making sure you eat regularly is important as well. Sometimes we skip meals due to busy schedules but you are much more productive when you have a good meal three times a day.
  3. Get plenty of sleep. Staying up late might be fun at the time, but a miserable day the entire next day is not worth it. Try your best to get 8 hours a night. If you can’t, just get as many as possible. The whole world looks better when you’re rested.
  4. Drinking plenty of water helps you have energy to face the day. Limiting caffeine, sugars, and processed foods keeps your mind and body running at optimal performance as well. Like I said, small steps toward health make a big difference.
  5. Get moving. Some type of exercise will help reduce stress, enhance your mood, and give you energy to carry you through your tasks. Make an effort to move in a purposeful way at least 20-30 minutes each day. I know you’re busy, but dance with the kids, pick weeds in the garden, vacuum the whole house, or walk around the block. You have to make time for you.
  6. Spending time with God is a big stress reducer. He’s my best friend. I know He loves me madly. Time I spend worshiping Him and talking to Him reduce stress in my life exponentially. I have read several studies showing prayer time brain activity matching that of rest. So physically it has been proven that prayer is calming. Prayer and meditation are an important part of your health.
  7. Finally, take some time to do something that makes you happy. If you love cooking, or making jewelry, or skydiving, whatever it is, take the time to do something that simply brings you pleasure. I have several hobbies I enjoy, but when I fell in love with gardening, it had some amazing effects on my mental and physical health. For me it’s been the most stress reducing thing I’ve ever done. Sometimes I would get frustrated if it wasn’t perfect, but then I decided to let God take care of it and nature has balanced out. Some things we lose to pests but I just know those things weren’t meant to be. We have only so much time and weeding and harvesting take all of it, so the rest is what it is. Our Little Sprouts garden is not perfect.

Burnout is common. Taking the time to make sure you de-stress will help you in every area of your life. Like my friend Sharica always says, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Make yourself a priority. For goodness sake, take some time off during the year.  Take care of you, and you will have so much more to give the world. It needs you. This world is a mess and so many people are unhappy, ungiving, and uncaring. Be the change you want to see. Make a difference in your own life so you can help to change this world.

Starting a Fall Garden in the Sweltering Heat of Oklahoma

For the past two years I have attempted to start a fall garden near this time of the summer. Here in Oklahoma, the temperatures are over 100 most days in August, so getting any seeds to germinate is tough to do. You can germinate them inside, but then you have to keep them under a light. The light heats up the house even more, so it’s annoying to use in the summer.

Gardening with kids

This year, me and my Little Sprouts were super lucky because we had a few cold spells in the summer. It actually got down in the 50’s at night for a few days. These temperatures are unheard of here. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen that. I have been looking ahead at the forecast and watching the temperatures. We were able to put in plantings during two different cold spells and get some things to germinate outside. One of them even came with some rain. What a blessing! We planted seeds outside for carrots, lettuce, peas, green beans, and parsnips.

Here are a few tips for fall plantings: Mulch very well to keep moisture in the soil and roots cooler on these dog days of summer. Gardens need more water when it’s so extremely hot, so here, even though we usually water once a week, we have been watering 2-3 times per week to keep the plants from drying out. In addition, plant seedlings and seeds underneath larger mature plants that will be dying out soon from the heat. This gives your tender vittles a little shade to stay cooler as they sprout. Most of our summer plants are starting to die back or will be soon, so we planted ours among them to give our seedlings some protection as they start.

Kids planting seeds

We also planted seeds in flats inside. They have not done very well, but we planted cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, and kohlrabi. I found a few seedlings online for kohlrabi and broccoli so I ordered those and we planted them in the garden. This past weekend I visited an organic nursery in Tulsa and got some cabbage, Chinese cabbage, kohlrabi, chard, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. I also got a few plants of dill since ours has died off for some reason.

Kid's gardening

The Oklahoma State University website has information on what can be grown in the fall in Oklahoma. You can check it out here: http://osufacts.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1114/HLA-6009web.pdf

Here are the planting times they list for each kind of plant:

Beans, Bush Aug 10-20 Seed

Beans, Cowpea July 15-Aug 1 Seed

Beans, Pole July 15-30 Seed

Beans, Lima Aug 10-20 Seed

Cilantro July 15-Aug 1 Seed

Corn, Sweet July 15 Seed

Cucumber Aug 10-20 Seed or Plants

Eggplant July 15 Plants

Pepper July 15 Plants

Pumpkin July 15-30 Seed or Plants

Summer Squash July 15-Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Winter Squash July 15-30 Seed or Plants

Tomatillo July 15 Plants

Tomatoes July 1-15 Plants

Beet Aug 1-15 Seed

Broccoli July 15-Aug 15 Plants

Brussels Sprouts July 15-Aug 15 Plants

Cabbage Aug 1-25 Plants

Chinese Cabbage Aug 1-25 Seed or Plants

Carrots July 15-Aug 15 Seed

Cauliflower Aug 1-25 Plants

Collards Aug 1-Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Garlic Sept 1-Oct 15 Bulbs (cloves)

Kale Sept 1 Plants

Kohlrabi Sept 1 Plants

Leaf Lettuce Aug 1-15 Seed or Plants

Leek Sept 1 Seed or Plants

Onions Sept 1 Seed, Sets, or Plants

Peas, green Aug 15-Sept 1 Seed

Rutabaga Aug 15-Sept 15 Seed

Spinach Sept 5-25 Seed

Swiss Chard Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed

Turnip Aug 1-Sept 15 Seed

As you can see there is still time to plant quite a few things for a fall garden. I have been helping the kids plant seeds all summer long. It doesn’t hurt to try it any time and seeds are not that expensive, so we have been doing a lot of experimenting around here.

What have you been up to in your garden?

Delicious Brussels Sprouts

Most of my kids love Brussels sprouts.  My family likes them and they are one of my very favorites.  When I was a kid I hated them, but most people over cook them and that makes them really really not yummy.  When they are lightly cooked and fresh tasting, they are amazing!

We planted some Brussels sprouts in the spring and it took forever for them to produce so we cut them down in the heat of the summer.  Any greens, or cole crops can become bitter when harvested in the heat.  For my Brussels sprouts, a quick blanch was all it took to take the bitterness out of them.  If your sprouts aren’t bitter, no need for that step.

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts.  This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow.  Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew.  I was amazed that the plant was this big!

I cut down four stalks of Brussels sprouts. This is what they looked like piled in a wheel barrow. Before I started growing them, I never knew how they grew. I was amazed that the plant was this big!

 

I cut the leaves off of the stalks.  This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there.  So cute.

I cut the leaves off of the stalks. This is how the little sprouts are growing down in there. So cute.

 

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

Then I used a sharp knife to cut them off the stalk.

 

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in.  I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens.  I blanched them for 3 minutes.

I washed the sprouts and prepared a pan of boiling water to blanch them in. I added salt to the water which also helps remove bitterness from greens. I blanched them for 3 minutes.

 

Then I plunged them into ice water.

Then I plunged them into ice water.

 

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them.  They are delicious at this point.  You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Once they had completely cooled in the ice water, I drained them. They are delicious at this point. You can make them into a salad or just eat them plain like this.

Next I cut one piece of bacon into small pieces and browned it in the skillet.  I added the Brussels sprouts and sautéed them in the skillet for about 2 minutes until they were just tender, but still bright green.  I use salt and pepper to taste.

sauteeing brussel sprouts

Brussels sprouts are delicious raw, boiled, sautéed, or roasted.  I have never tried them any way I didn’t like them except for over cooked.  I know some pretty picky eaters that enjoyed them with this bacon method.  I cook a lot of vegetables with a piece of bacon for flavor because it helps picky kids take interest in them.  But I cook them for my family and my kids without bacon and they still enjoy them.  Just salt, pepper and olive oil and throw them in the oven until they are lightly brown on the edge, or grate some parmesean cheese over the top as they finish roasting and that is delicious as well.  If you don’t like Brussels sprouts, try cooking fresh ones yourself and if you don’t over cook them, I’m willing to bet you will like them too.

Garden Glory-Cucumbers

This week my Little Sprouts harvested over 50 pounds of yummy produce from the garden.  We picked over 15 pounds of cantaloupe from the mystery vine that planted itself.  Our cucumbers are starting to slow down but we planted some more seeds to try to get a second crop to grow.  About a month ago we planted a second crop of a lot of things.  We’ll see if it pays off.  Somehow, I can’t find the pictures from Monday’s harvest, but total for the week besides the cantaloupe, we picked 8 pounds of cucumbers, 5 pounds of okra, 20 pounds of tomatoes, and tomatillos, hot peppers, and a few beans.  Our beans are doing terrible this year, hopefully we will get some more beans from our second crop.  We’ve been having to buy beans at the farmer’s market, oh the shame of it all! 

Harvesting-Gardening with Kids

harvesting vegetables with kids

Garden harvest

Harvest-Gardening with kids

Yesterday I had a vacation day, so I had to pick the harvest while the kids were gone.  The crusty things on the end are the drying beans.  We planted pinto, calypso, and black beans.  I’m not sure how long to leave them in the pods, so I just have them in a bowl right now.  I also found those two monster okras we missed, so I’m saving those for seed.

Garden Harvest-Gardening with Kids

What are you picking this week?

Helping Ease Separation Anxiety

School is starting and many kids are exploring new adventures, it’s a good time to talk about separation anxiety. What is it? Everyone experiences a nervousness when they start something new. A little anxiety is normal. But sometimes children experience a greater anxiety about a new adventure. There are many ways we can help children overcome their fears about doing something they haven’t done before.

Parents:

Before you separate from your child for the first time, make sure they are well rested and have had something to eat. Everyone has a harder time dealing with life when they are hungry, thirsty, or too tired.

Talk about what’s going to happen for a few weeks before it happens. You are going to school. I am going to go to work. After I am done working I will pick you up from school. Mommy will be back. Mommy loves you.

Practice separation. Leave your child with a caregiver for brief periods at first and then build your way up to a full day.

Have a ritual for saying goodbye. Whether it’s a kiss or hug or whatever, do it the same way every time. Tell them you are leaving and that you are coming back. Do NOT stall, or hang around not wanting to leave. This makes it much harder for your child.

Don’t give in. Make sure your child knows they will be fine, and leave. This is the hardest thing for parents to do, but if you give in and come back, it will make your child have a harder time adjusting because they will think if they are unhappy, you will come back every time. Also, children feed off of parent’s emotions, so remember if you are nervous, they can feel it and will be nervous too.

Remember that you have a job to do and you are leaving your child in the best care you can find for them. You are allowed to work and provide for your family without guilt. Leave that guilt at the curb. You are allowed to go to dinner with your husband or go to the spa as well. It’s okay to take care of yourself. It will make you a better parent in the long run. Don’t feel guilty about it. You are human too!

Make sure to tell the truth. Never sneak out when your child is playing. It will break the trust they have with you. Tell them what you are doing and then do it.

Providers:

If you are providing childcare for a child who is having a tough time separating, there are several things you can do to help them transition better.

I have a policy of having two interviews with each family before the child starts care here. One at their house and one at mine. If parents are not interested in doing that, I’m not interested in keeping their children. It gives me, the parents, and the child another opportunity to get to know each other. Going to their home helps the child feel secure when they see me at their home where they know it’s safe. If Mom and Dad let Ms. Christina come over and play here, she must be safe for me. In addition, while at the child’s home, I try to meet their pets, and play with their favorite toy with them. Then if they are upset at drop off I can say, how is your dog dizzy, or where is your elephant that you keep on your bed? It really helps the child and nervous parents cope.

Another thing you can do is let the child bring a familiar comfort item from home. A blankie, stuffed animal, or other item they use at home with which to comfort themselves will help make them feel secure at your home as well.

Having a picture of mom and dad at your house is helpful as well. They can look at them when they miss them and know they are coming back.

Make sure to give the child extra attention as they transition. They may need some extra hugs to comfort them. In contrast, make sure not to pick them up or touch them if they don’t want you to. They will tell you when they are ready for your comfort.

Be patient and remember how scary it is to leave the comfort of home and go to a strange place without the people you love. If you give it time, they will love your home and you as well. Some kids take longer than others to trust. Also, different ages of children are in different stages of separation anxiety as well. Don’t forget a child who is 10 months to about 2 will be much more leery than a younger infant or an older child. It’s a natural part of their development, so make adjustments for that as well.

Getting to know someone new is hard for everyone at first. I even feel nervous when getting to know a new child as well. Give it time and the friendship always grows. Usually faster than you think it will!

Homemade Pesto Sauce (without nuts!)

I am working on harvesting some of our garden surplus like the herbs that we haven’t used up and we had a ton of basil. I harvested two pounds of basil leaves from the walkways in the garden. Man did I smell good!

basil

I am allergic to nuts so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts.  I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

I am allergic to nuts so I wanted to come up with a pesto I could eat too, so I decided to roast up some sunflower seeds to use in place of the pine nuts. I used 1/4 a cup of seeds and toasted them lightly in a skillet.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Toss the toasted seeds in the blender with 2 cups of basil leaves and we also added a couple of dried thai peppers for some kick.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Add 1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese and two cloves of cut up garlic.

Blend until smooth.

Blend until smooth adding olive oil until sauce will blend. Approximately 1/4-1/2 cup.

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later.  It was delicious!

We used some of the pesto as a topping for some cooked pasta and froze the rest in pint sized jars to use later. It was delicious!

The kids loved this pasta and it was super healthy.