Staff Meetings…

“I’ve been working on the railroad-all the live long day. I’ve been working in the railroad, just to pass the time away. Can’t you?” Wait, sorry bout that. That’s a song I sing to the babies. I’ve been working at Felician Children’s Center for 2 years now. It’s very fulfilling in a hectic, arm-filled, noisy, drool-dripping, fast-paced, soothing, rocking chair way.

Can’t you hear the whistle blowing?

I don’t really know how this came to be, but the staff (meaning the higher ups at work, though probably not as high as the Pope, but then again, maybe) are required to hold 2 hours of instructional staff meetings a month. Since we are open 11-1/2 hours a day, you can guess when this has to occur. On a precious weekend (heaven forbid), during the middle of the night, or right after the last kid leaves the building at 6 pm.

Most often these 2 hour monthly requirements are held on Tuesday nights from 6 to 8, (which can be tricky during Landon’s high school basketball season. I abhor missing any of his games). Though I try not to miss staff meetings either for several reasons. 1. I get paid when I show up. 2. Not surprising, I often learn something. 3. Since several people are just getting off work, there’s usually food involved, which I’m always up for. 4. Biggest incentive though is if you DON’T show up. Within a couple of days after you miss a staff meeting, you’ll be handed a piece of paper with your name in it. Listed on the sheet will be a choice of several online mini classes from some obscure college somewhere. You’re expected to take one of the classes, pass a test to prove you were paying attention, print out the certificate of authenticity (formally notarized-OK a slight exaggeration) and hand it in to Tracy, my boss within a week. Plus, I do not get paid for the time the class took me. Holy moly. I’d rather have a root canal. Thus I haven’t missed many staff meetings.

Usually we have guest speaker, raising our awareness on an issue or teaching different subjects ranging from being an advocate for any of our children, to report any kind of suspected abuse, to CPR, First Aid or what to do during recess with your class when the weather’s bad outside. It’s all good. But. There’s always a but involved. I would venture about 75% of our instructors and subject matter doesn’t really involve much about our babies in the infant room. Take the last class. Please. (Kidding) The focus was teaching young children to recall things they did during their school day or yesterday, and learning how to follow directions when more than one task is required. Our babies aren’t working on either of these just yet. The infant room is really a very small part of our daycare and school (though the best part, for sure), so I realize hiring a speaker for the night should involve as many kids in as many different rooms as possible.

During this class, it was 95 degrees with no air, and a baby had just spit up on me…

When I got an email from Tracy with the weekly schedule about a month ago, it included some upcoming events, it’s safe to say I wasn’t the only worker bee grumbling and crying in my beer (some alcohol humor, I’ve not had a beer since I was a teen-blech) about the mandatory staff meeting on a Saturday morning. Sacrilege. That’s my time. One of the best perks of this job. No nights, no weekends, no holidays. It didn’t help when I saw the subject matter, The Raging Child. Doesn’t sound much like being very helpful in the baby room does it? When our babies start having temper tantrums, they’re usually about to the move to the next room. Head ‘em up, move ‘em out. They normally transition to The Wonderful Ones between 13-17 months.

I had several issues with a weekend staff meeting. It’s also Landon’s first AAU tourney which happened to be about the closest one, mileage wise, this whole season. But Peyton’s spring dance recital is fast approaching, so she cannot miss any of her classes. Simple solution was to have Peyton stay with us, allowing me to attend the (mandatory) staff and have grandpa run Peyton to her class, letting Shannon travel with Tracey (son-in-law) and Landon (Drew to the rest of the world) for Friday night’s game. The rest of us would arrive in time for his mid-afternoon game on Saturday. Sigh. Just not in the cards. By the time I got back to the house around noon Saturday, Shannon was texting me. Grand Rapids (about 85 miles northwest) was having an ice storm and terrible wind gusts, while we continued to get rain, and more rain.

Peyton doing her thing…

We decided to just stay home. Damn. I did get a lot accomplished though. One word: blackberries. Meijer had them on super sale this week and my stash of seedless blackberry jelly is getting precariously low. I stopped at Meijer on the other side of town to buy some, only to find they were completely out. I could get a rain check, but the cashier informed me for 12 measley boxes. What? That’s like one batch of jelly. Geez, I’d be running through the checkout lane several times to get enough rain checks to make it worth my while. Instead, I stomped out of the store to mull over my next move. I know Meijer gets their produce truck about the time I get up, so I stopped at my east side Meijer at 5:15 a.m. the next morning before heading to work. They had just unloaded their truck with a fraction of the amount of berries they’d been expecting. The supplier was having trouble filling Meijer’s full order everyday, but the produce dude wholeheartedly approved my taking what I wanted while they were still on the pallet (less work for him). I grabbed my 50 boxes, smiling all the way to the Jeep.

Number 3 Landon, but we all know he’s really # 1…

In many ways, I hate making seedless anything. It’s the amount of fruit I waste. Still, seedless Blackberry is my second favorite (next to Apricot jam-where I use everything but the pit, so maybe it evens out). After washing and smashing the berries, I simmer them for a few minutes to vigorously encourage them to give up all their dang juice. Then dump this through double cheesecloth (it splashes everywhere, magenta polka dots decorate my kitchen walls) into a colander. And wait. My plan was to keep the juice in the fridge until after work Monday because we’d be out of town. Since I was stuck here anyway, might as well make the jelly. So 30 jars later, the jelly and canning equipment is ready to be hauled back downstairs. Now why was I even telling you this non-essential, boring information? I really wanted to tell you about Dr. Phil.

Yum, Seedless Blackberry Jelly…

I kid you not, his name is Phil. But not the TV Phil. He’s a children’s therapist from Grand Rapids, a few years older than me, semi-retired, who has a theory. Or several. He started his practice in the mid 70’s, then went to work at Headstart 25 years later. During that quarter century he noticed a marked difference in the issues he was treating of these troubled children and their behavior. Instead of children needing therapy because of a divorce, traumatic event or death of a parent or grandparent, Dr. Phil’s theory on this young generation of raging children stems from their lack of attachment. According to him, some parents and their young babies aren’t connecting with that deep bond of affection, trust and love right away. Which is bad for babies, especially as they grow.

Now I don’t agree with Dr. Phil on all of his notions but he was quite compelling, and I thoroughly enjoyed his shortened seminar. (He packed his 6 hour talk into 2-1/2 hours, so we missed some juicy stuff like the terrible 2’s temper tantrums. Dr. Phil apparently loves them, yet we know not why). He was folksy, humorous and kept us pretty much entertained with his stories. Worth every penny and I wish we could have heard more. On a different day. With heat. Our school’s gym furnace automatically turns down the heat after 5 and on weekends, so pretty much anytime we might be having a staff meeting there. I’m always froze by the time I walk out of there.

At our staff retreat last week. Brrr…

I should have bought Dr. Phil’s book that he brought along. (The ever hopeful author) But my PhD clinical psychologist daughter Shannon’s an expert on childhood behaviors, often testifying in court on their behalf or offering a diagnosis and treatment plan. Although Dr. P believes this attachment or lack of it is deeply rooted already by 3 months of age, as far as I can see, all our babies seem well adjusted, loved and cared for at home with mom and dad and in our care. Phil did however validate many things I do as a caregiver that I had never given any thought to before. Holding babies, looking into their eyes while I rock or give them a bottle. Touching their fingers, toes, heads, cheeks. Saying their name often, but not in a condescending way. I love singing that old 60’s song, The Name Game to them. Anyone remember it? “Shirley-Shirley-bo-burley, banana-fana-fo-furley. Fe-fi-mo-murley-Shirley.” The babies love it when I do a bunch of their names while pointing to each one of them. Or simply smiling at them, which makes them smile back, even from across the room, which is priceless. Talking to them while I’m lugging them around. While they know not what I’m saying, they do realize that I’m talking to THEM. Who knew I was doing a couple things right?

But there’s always room for improvement. Always. So until May’s staff meeting (hope it’s warmer in the gym, plus it should still be light out when we’re released on good behavior), I will ponder the theories of the lesser famous Dr. Phil, while striving to become a better caregiver. Making a positive difference in our babies lives. Each day I’m there. All I can hope and pray for…

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