Monthly Archives: June 2011

Source of LIFE

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In most cases I consider myself an introvert. I enjoy being around other people (most of the time) once I’m there, but it takes a lot of energy and intentionality for me to be ‘on’ and leaves me pretty drained. I get energized by being home, in the quiet, often by myself. Time to think, time to reflect, and time to plan. There is, however, one notable exception. Kids are a HUGE source of life for me. Being around kids energizes me. Spending time with children teaches me about myself. More importantly I can’t help but see truths of God magnified in ways that touch my heart more powerfully than anything else when I watch kids be kids.

Most recently I’ve been caring for my nephews after several weeks of not spending any time with kids.  I love it!  I have never realized just how clearly kids are a life source for me!  Maybe I shouldn’t let myself be away from kids…hmm….

  • At the pool with the boys, God encouraged my heart with lessons on trust, faith and patience.
  • Gazing at the stars with them, God comforted me as we talked about how big God is and His creativity.
  • Resolving a pouting issue, God reminded me to be thankful for so many things
  • Cooking dinner, God showed me yet again how beautifully the fellowship of believers was created to be and function

Just a very short list of the many reasons I am so grateful to spend time with kids.  Not only for myself, but its also a great way to talk to kids about God- tell them what He is teaching me in the moment and how He is shining through them without them even knowing it!  Encouraging them to look for God in their lives.

As we were walking home from the park this morning, I was sharing with them how much I love spending time with them and how hanging out with them is my very favorite thing in the world.  I explained that kids are my very biggest passion and that God created everyone with a different passion.  We got to talking about their passions.  We defined passion as whatever we love doing the most, that makes us feel energized and happy.  Khai said that he was most passionate about football.  Devin said that his passion was singing.  It was a really fun conversation.

Wikipedia defines passion as the following.

Passion (from the Ancient Greek verb πάσχω (paskho) meaning to suffer) is a term applied to a very strong feeling about a person or thing. Passion is an intense emotion, compelling feeling, enthusiasm, or desire for something.

The term is also often applied to a lively or eager interest in or admiration for a proposal, cause, or activity or love – to a feeling of unusual excitement, enthusiasm or compelling emotion, a positive affinity or love, towards a subject, idea, person, or object.

What are you most passionate about?  What activity or idea or teaches you the most about yourself?  God?  The world?  Are you sharing that passion with those around you?  Are you operating inside your passion?

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The Stuff God Made

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This is a new one for me- but it is quickly becoming a huge passion-the importance and immense value of being out in nature- not just outside.  In my years of childcare I’ve always aimed to take children outside, visit a park, explore nature and get fresh air.  Parents nearly always express the desire that I daily take their child for a walk or do some sort of outdoor activity.  These are some reasons I’ve heard most often and some things I’ve learned about the ‘whys.’

  • Sunshine produces Vitamin D:  10-15 minutes of sunshine to the arms and legs produces 3,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D; fortified whole milk only provides 100 IU per cup!
  • Fresh air is good for our lungs and bodies: fresh air is lower in pollutants, more oxygen dense and has significantly more negative ions; These factors are proven to increase endorphins, strengthen immune system,and  improve sleep, metabolism and lung capacity!
  • Good outlet for physical activity: just makes good sense.
  • Wears kids out:  supported by all of the above.

In addition, the Boston Globe published an article a couple of years ago entitled ‘How the City Hurts Your Brain.’  Four pages of fascinating!  It speaks of the effects of city life on mainly adults but also children in comparison to spending time in nature.  Here are a few quotes I found most interesting.

“Hospital patients recover more quickly when they can see trees from their windows, and that women living in public housing are better able to focus when their apartment overlooks a grassy courtyard. Even these fleeting glimpses of nature improve brain performance.”  Pg. 1

“A city is so overstuffed with stimuli that we need to constantly redirect our attention so that we aren’t distracted by irrelevant things….  The mind is like a powerful supercomputer, but the act of paying attention consumes much of its processing power.  Natural settings, in contrast, don’t require the same amount of cognitive effort.”  Pg. 2

“Natural settings are full of objects that automatically capture our attention, yet without triggering a negative emotional response — unlike, say, a backfiring car. The mental machinery that directs attention can relax deeply, replenishing itself.”  Pg. 2

“According to several studies, children with attention-deficit disorder have fewer symptoms in natural settings. When surrounded by trees and animals, they are less likely to have behavioral problems and are better able to focus on a particular task.”  Pg. 3

“In that stroll down Newbury, the brain is also assaulted with temptations — caramel lattes, iPods, discounted cashmere sweaters, and high-heeled shoes. Resisting these temptations requires us to flex the prefrontal cortex, a nub of brain just behind the eyes. Unfortunately, this is the same brain area that’s responsible for directed attention, which means that it’s already been depleted from walking around the city. As a result, it’s less able to exert self-control, which means we’re more likely to splurge on the latte and those shoes we don’t really need. While the human brain possesses incredible computational powers, it’s surprisingly easy to short-circuit: all it takes is a hectic city street.”  Pg. 3

“Psychological benefits of green space are closely linked to the diversity of its plant life. When a city park has a larger variety of trees, subjects that spend time in the park score higher on various measures of psychological well-being.”  Pg. 4

“When a park is properly designed, it can improve the function of the brain within minutes. As the Berman study demonstrates, just looking at a natural scene can lead to higher scores on tests of attention and memory. While people have searched high and low for ways to improve cognitive performance, from doping themselves with Red Bull to redesigning the layout of offices, it appears that few of these treatments are as effective as simply taking a walk in a natural place.”  Pg. 4

All of this makes me wonder what studies more specifically geared to children would show about how a child’s brain is affected by city life in contrast to more natural settings.  I also can’t help but wonder if school playgrounds are set up to provide maximum benefit for our kiddos.  It also increases my appreciation for the only fully outdoor preschool of our nation.  I shared this on Facebook not long ago, but it has really stuck with me.

Next time I’m spending time with kiddos I am even more eager to take advantage of the stuff God made and get out into rich, diverse and fabulous nature around us!

Next time I’m debating going to the gym to run on the treadmill vs. heading to a trail and enjoying some fresh air, sunshine and trees, I hope I begin to choose the latter.

Have you ever wondered…?

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I tell you about my love and passion for kids, share with you some of my experiences as a nanny and grieve with you over the loss of my own.  Amidst all of this, have you ever wondered why I treat your kids the way I do?  There are many wonderful people out there who have child adoring hearts, cuddle every little one they can get their hands on, engage in conversations about fairies, sports or whatever is on the mind of the child in front of them.  These wonderful people quickly become best buds almost instantly with kids they see often enough.  I am not this person.  And to be quite honest, I have definitely wondered why.  I have spent a considerable amount of time contemplating this lately.

I love to observe kids in general from a distance, watch behavior, ponder development, research stages, tools and resources, talk to parents about hurdles and triumphs in their child’s lives, teach just about anything I can and form meaningful relationships when there is a need.  But I think the main difference between me and the cheek-squeezers mentioned above is that I am not particularly interested in being friends with kids.  This probably sounds terrible, but let me explain- hopefully I can make some sense of it.

I’m still trying to make sense of this for myself, but for as long as I can remember- from the youngest ages I can recall- caring for kids has been about other things.  (The list of things mentioned at the start of the last paragraph.)  Getting the kids in my care and sphere of influence to like me has never been priority number one.  (I actually think this is one of my strengths as a care giver.)  If I don’t perceive the child having a need for a relationship with me, I tend not to pursue it.  One might perhaps argue that even without the specific needs that there are benefits of showering all kids with affection and attention, but that discussion is for another day.

Even as I am writing this, I am stumbling over my words, deleting sentences and struggling to fully grasp what intrinsic things about me cause this dichotomy.  Actually, there are likely many elements at work here.  Perhaps I feel the need for a defined roll;  ‘teacher,’ ‘nanny,’ even ‘babysitter’ each have a fairly well defined boundary for me and most children.  I fit into their lives easily because everyone knows what to expect.  I’ve never quite figured out what the boundaries are for ‘friend of my mom’s’ or ‘random-lady-who-loves-kids-but-doesn’t-have-any-of-her-own-to-pay-attention-to-so-she-pays-attention-to-me.’

I have wondered how much of my distance with some kids is caused by the pain in my heart due to my infertility.  I dare say that I have assumed most people attribute my distance to this struggle.  I do not at all discount this as a factor.  It is hard for me to hold babies sometimes because of my baby-ache; more so now than ever.  But I also rationalize that I have studied much research (that I am inclined to believe) encouraging moms not to pass babies around- its scary for the little tiny ones to helplessly rely on a stranger- they want mom and rightly so.  Let alone my current thought that if/when I have a baby, at this point in time I can’t imagine sharing them, sitting and watching someone else hold them.  You moms out there might think this is crazy, but I don’t want to have to share my baby so why would I ask you to!  Perhaps I could get a baby fix but is it whats truly best for the baby?  If not, then what am I doing?  Jump into toddler hood and pre-school age and most kids are timid and shy even around adults they see often.  They know me in passing.  They have no desire for me to request entrance into their lives, or to be nudged to do so by well meaning parents.  This stage of ‘stranger’ shyness is good and healthy and will pass (most of the time) when the child is more equipped to handle the situation in other ways.  Then the kids are in school- they have teachers and care givers at every turn- school, church, home, babysitters, coaches, parents, relatives, their friends’ parents, etc… why would they possibly want or need another adult lurking around.  Since I already know I’m not just looking for a pal (and they really aren’t seeking another adult pal either) then what am I doing?  In short, perhaps incorrectly, I have assumed that to push myself into a child’s life at any of these stages would be more for my own self-medication than the child’s benefit.  So I don’t do it.

Perhaps I am underestimating the need children have for any and every willing adult in their influence to engage purposefully.

Maybe I am shortchanging myself and others by not risking it any way and being more intentional in creating a roll for myself.

Or possibly this is actually respectful of kids and a good balance for me at this stage in my life.

Ask me to babysit once or often (and in my dreams be your nanny) and I will have meaningful encounters with your kids, attempt to challenge and encourage them, pour myself into them, and truly deeply enjoy the time with them.  See me in passing at the store a couple weeks later or even in your home when I come for a chat and I will take my cues from the kids letting them set the pace for our encounter.  It might seem to you that I’m ignoring them.  You might wonder “Why doesn’t she act more like this person or that?”  You might wonder quietly about my love for kids but my distance from yours.  If you do, know I have wondered it too.  And I hope this helped.  🙂

Book Review: Searching for Mary Poppins

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Searching for Mary Poppins: Women Write About the Intense Relationship Between Mothers and Nannies  Edited by Susan Davis and Gina Hyams

The forward and introduction to this book drew me in.  “Sometimes a whole week goes by in which I never see my nanny.”  A sentiment I can echo as there have been weeks go by where I only see one of the parental figures of a household where one just works seemingly endless hours- both moms and dads.  “..themes familiar to those of us who outsource some of our parenting:  gratitude, guilt, resentment, relief.”  Also a sentiment I can identify with as I have felt each of these emanate from nearly all mothers.

The book is comprised of 24 essays written by mothers about their experiences with women in the nanny profession.  In some ways the experiences vary quite a lot.  Nannies come from all ethnic, financial and familial backgrounds, although the majority in this book are lower class immigrants.  Some young but mostly middle aged and above; one male but mostly female.

In the forward, Pamela Kruger is quoted “In talking to other mothers, I quickly found out that many of us had been dumped unexpectedly by our nannies…”  I was almost offended.  And as I read on, I was quite upset to find this statement to be true!  Many nannies leaving their families, the precious children in their care, with no warning, explanation or forwarding information.  Difficult to read.

This is a very thoughtful book and has challenged me on many fronts.  I find myself wondering what my previous employers would say…cringing at the thought of some and encouraged by what I hope others would say.  I have not been a perfect nanny by any stretch of the word, but I hope and pray that I am learning and growing and becoming a better nanny every day.  I find myself questioning the mere existence of nannies in our culture.  Nearly every mother in this collection of essays, acknowledged that at the end of the day, they are who the child needs and longs for the most.  To become a nanny is to purposefully place yourself as second best- and try to be second best as best you can.  This bothers me.  But it seems to be a necessity of our culture.  Mothers work; Babies need caretakers.  So what characteristics make up the ‘best second best’?  From what I’ve experienced and found throughout the pages of this book, I propose the following.

  • Engage with the children in your care from moment one of the interview to beyond your final day at work.  Don’t ‘act like a professional’; show that you are passionate about kids.  Parents don’t like it when you come for an interview but don’t engage with their child almost as much as they are bothered by a nanny who leaves their child wondering why the nanny left and where she went.  (If this one is particularly challenging for you, then perhaps being a nanny isn’t the best career choice!)
  • Be honest and generous in relaying your professional and personal life.  While maintaining some boundaries, its important to try to keep a balance between how much you know about them and how much they know about you.  Withholding when they have little choice but to divulge only causes suspicion that you have something to hide.  Dishonesty on either side results in a painful situation when you are this deep into each others lives.
  • Punctuality and dependability are important for a reason!…Even if the mom or dad works from home and no matter if they are healing cancer or taking a nap.  Its not about the minutes but about character.  This is one of the few aspects of your career that is observable by your employer.  A nanny is rarely observed on the job and even more rarely has anything to show for her hours of work.  Being where you say when you say speaks volumes about your quality of care.
  • Contracts are a must in order to keep expectations and needs clear on both sides.  A good contract contains a detailed job description, clearly laid out compensation package and mutually respected position ending procedures.  To begin a job without any of these discussed and agreed upon is a breeding ground for disappointment and difficulty.  Once the contract is signed, stick to it.

Searching for Mary Poppins is worth the read if you are at all interested in understanding the nanny phenomena that is growing in our culture.  I fear that it is a bit more negative than positive in its portrayal of nannies and that it doesn’t incorporate nannies like myself or several of the friends I have made who also strive to be excellent nannies.  At the end of the day, the collection of painful stories in this book made me wish that there was not a need for nannies.  That families were close knit enough to care for their own children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  That more women were willing and able to make the sacrifice in their careers for the sake of their child’s first few life-molding years.  But as long as great nannies are needed and sought, I will do everything I can to be one and facilitate others toward that worthy end.  To be the best second best possible.

Ready, Set, ART!

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I ran across this amazing word cloud that basically depicts another one of my PASSIONS with kiddos!  I LOVE ART!  And I think a childhood without exploring all manner of artistic medium and ideas is bleak indeed.  To give credit where credit it absolutely due, I found this word cloud on Tinker Lab’s website this morning and had to share and give it props!  Whether a mom or childcare provider, involved relative or friend, having a setup with all of these at hand (or many of them) is sure to provide hours of fun at a moments notice!

I added a few things- and found a few suggestions to the list as well…

*straws

*bubble wands/bubbles

*magnet tape

*wheels of all sorts

*shaving cream

*tooth brushes

*pudding

Basically, the list is endless!  There are SO many creative ways to play and make art!  Thinking outside of the box is part of what makes art so darn fun, rewarding and perfect for kids!!!

DID YOU KNOW

~ Art stimulates both sides of the brain and develops hand eye coordination!

~Art is also a fun way to teach analysis to young minds- creating something out of nothing, looking at the strengths and weaknesses, planning strategies to reach desired outcome- all while having fun!

Passion #1

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Welcome to the world of a Childless Mother!  Here I will share all of the fascinating things I find about kids, adventures I undertake with kids “on loan” to me by their parents and occasionally the heartache of unfulfilled desire.  Child development amazes me and the wonder of learning and sharing, teaching and loving kids is a life giving force to my heart and soul.  There are SO many adventures to be had with kids!

Here is one of the things I am MOST passionate about:

Reading to Kids!

 

DID YOU KNOW

*Comprehension levels from listening and reading do not equal out until around 9th grade!  Even if your child has learned to read, continue reading to them!  There are SO may benefits!

*The children’s chapter books and beyond that are being published today have significantly more words with single syllables and sentences with simple construction than otherwise.  Expose your children to classic literature; their vocabulary and literary intelligence will soar!

*The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease is a fabulous resource on this subject.  Check it out!  And let me know what you think!

Along these lines I frequently explore the world of children’s literature and keep up on the trends.  I even dream of one day writing children’s books of my own!  I look forward to sharing what I find.