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.

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Garden Glory-Sunflowers!

My little sprouts and I harvested over 70 pounds of produce this week AND a table full of amazing sunflowers.  It’s been a very productive week in the garden.  Some of the tomato plants are turning brown and our cucumbers are dying.  I’m not exactly sure why, but it’s sad to see them go. 

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control.  I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.

On Saturday while the kids were gone I took the time to trim some things up in the garden that were out of control. I harvested a bunch of herbs for drying.  This is thyme and oregano.  I also harvested some lemon balm, bee balm, and tarragon.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil.  Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer.  I had over two pounds.  And I didn't even put a dent in what's out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

This is a big CHAIR full of basil. Even though it had flowered, I took it off the stems and ground it up into pesto and put it in the freezer. I had over two pounds. And I didn’t even put a dent in what’s out there, I just cut what was blocking the walkways.

basil

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale.  I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator.  Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid's food.

I also harvested 8 pounds of greens including swiss chard, spinach, and this kale. I washed and stemmed it and dried it in the dehydrator. Then I ground it up finely in the blender to use as a nutritional enhancer in the kid’s food.

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife.  They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them.  I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts.  They are one of my favorites.  The kids liked them too!

Brussels sprouts are tough to harvest WITH the kids because I had to saw the stalks down and cut the sprouts off with a knife. They have helped me pick the sprouts off one stalk at a time, but with several, I thought it was safer to do it without them. I harvested 4 stalks and got 3 pounds of sprouts. They are one of my favorites. The kids liked them too!

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I harvested all of these beautiful hot peppers to make pickled peppers for Mr. Kent.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

I found a few more tomatillos when I had more time to really look.

Monday's harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

Monday’s harvest included lots of tomatoes and cucumbers.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

We got okra and tomatillos as well.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley.  Yum yum.

And some cantaloupe and kohlrabi, and parsley. Yum yum.

We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a big and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Tuesday we harvested some of our sunflower heads.  We were planning to let our sunflowers dry on the stalks, but the birds had other plans, so we cut them down, explored them a bit and laid them on a screen to dry in the shed and harvest them from there.

Yesterday's harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!

Yesterday’s harvest gave us more tomatoes, melons, okra, cucumbers, a few green beans, and some more tomatillos!  (And as usual, plenty of SMILES!)

Garden Glory-Cantaloupe

Me and my sprouts harvested over 52 pounds of food from the garden again this week. I’m amazed at how much the garden is producing right now. Tomorrow I plan to try to trim some wiley things back and open up the walkways so we can get to it easier if it’s not too hot in the morning. Wow, it’s a scorcher out there today! We picked almost 15 pounds of cucumbers this week, 20 pounds of tomatoes, 13 pounds of cantaloupe, and okra, tomatillos, peppers, and carrots. I’m amazed at what the kids have learned about growing this year, and what they have learned to like eating.

Monday's harvest.

Monday’s harvest.

Today's pickings.  We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.

Today’s pickings. We usually pick on Thursday but yesterday we got a lovely 2 1/2 inches of rain that kept us from working outside.


The rest of today's score.

The rest of today’s score.

Today also marks the end of my time watching a very special young man. I’ve taught and taken care of him for over 10 years and it’s super hard to let him go. It’s always hard to say goodbye…

Saying goodbye to daycare kids.

saying goodbye to daycare kids

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food? Yeah right!

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Our goal at Little Sprouts is to grow as much of the food as the kids eat as we possibly can. Could we grow 10%? That would be amazing! Could we grow 50%? Even better! Why do I care about growing all of the kid’s food? With the amount of GMO’s in our food supply, and pesticides and herbicides that are showing up in the blood and tissue of humans, I feel that our food supply is getting increasingly unhealthy at an alarming rate. Even if you don’t feed your kids processed foods, which most of us do, the fresh “healthy” foods we are buying at the grocery store are not so healthy any more. If you don’t know a lot about chemicals in food or genetically modified food, I would take some time to do some research on it. You will be amazed. The only way to make sure the food I feed my family and my daycare kids is truly healthy is to grow it ourselves. So we set out on a journey to learn to grow our own! You would be amazed at the transformation in our menu here at Little Sprouts. We’ve gone from corn dogs, frozen fries, and chicken blobs made of mostly chemicals, to fresh produce and homemade bread made with freshly milled flour. I make my own chicken strips now that just contain chicken, flour, and salt and pepper. And I make my own oven fries too. And I feel great about it each and every time my kids eat. Is it a lot harder and more time consuming? Goodness yes! Is it worth it? Oh my, double yes! Those harmful chemical are destroying bodies at alarming rates with disease at an all-time high in the United States. And studies show that they are even more harmful to children as their bodies are still growing.
Are the meals I serve 100% organic, homemade, and chemical free? No, but we are working toward that and every step I take in the right direction is a good step. We started over 10 years ago with baby steps and one small change at a time. So you might be wondering what in the world do my Little Sprouts eat? You would be amazed at what they have learned to like that they didn’t before or had never even heard of. Shoot, I am eating things I had not heard of three years ago…and LIKING them!
Remember when changing your diet to healthier foods, kids have to be exposed to a food 11 times before it is no longer a new food. Is that a lot? YES! Do I have to throw away food sometimes because they don’t eat it? Yes. But I did before when I served convenience foods, so it’s not any different. Daycares have USDA regulations for what must be served to the kids at each meal. There are parameters we must follow that are intended to supply the kids with a healthy diet, but they have a wide variety of very healthy and not so healthy choices that we can choose to feed them. I try to give my kids the very best. And growing food with the kids and letting them help prepare it are two of the ways that exponentially increase the children’s chances of trying the foods that I offer that they might not be familiar with.
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Another important thing about learning to like healthier foods is that no matter what that food is, there is a way you can like it. You just have to find HOW you like to eat it. The same is true for kids. Take eggplant for instance. I tried cooking it every way I could find and I just CANNOT like the taste of eggplant. I want to be healthy. Eggplant is healthy. So I grilled it, fried it, roasted it, baked it, steamed it, pureed it. But I just don’t like it. So I buy eggplant, grate it up and mix it in my spaghetti sauce or meat loaf. I am eating eggplant. But I can’t taste it.
Consider broccoli for instance. I do not like it boiled to death the way that I had it served to me as a child in the school cafeteria. But my mom boiled hers just a little bit, and it was yummy. When I grew up and started doing the cooking, I cooked it like mom did and it was good. But I found out years later that using fresh broccoli instead of frozen is 10 times more delicious. And then I discovered it….roasted broccoli. Oh my, there is not much better in this world. I put a little olive oil on it, salt and pepper, crushed garlic, and a little grated parmesan cheese. Put it in a 400 degree oven until it’s bright green and just a tiny bit browned on the tips. It is out of this world tasty. I don’t think I have a single child who doesn’t gobble this up. I even have kids begging their parents to buy broccoli to eat at home. I promise you if you don’t give up on fruits and vegetables, you will learn to love many things and you will be able to teach your kids to love them too.
When we first tried to change our eating habits to a healthier diet, we only ate broccoli and corn. So getting 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day was really tough to do. But one at a time we added things to our diet that we now love to eat. We switched out our canned peaches for the world’s most amazing fresh peaches. We left the everyday apples, oranges, and bananas for less of those and a variety of wonderful fresh melons and other yummy fruits. We learned to like Swiss chard, sweet potatoes, squashes and many many other healthy vegetables and our bodies are so much better for it. I think more clearly, have more energy, less mood swings and a myriad of other amazing health benefits. I eat an average of 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day in a wide variety of colors for different nutrients. I eat lots of raw produce as well. And I enjoy it now that I’ve learned to prepare things the way I like them. If you are trying to change your eating habits or the habits of your family, be patient with yourself and with them. It’s a process, it doesn’t happen overnight. But I can tell you that even the pickiest kids (and adults, eh hmm) will come around and learn to like at least some things. It’s definitely worth doing for the health of those you love and you will feel AMAZING!
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