Ashley Okland Star Playground – Real Reviews For Real Families

Ashley Okland Star Playground

5300 Indianola Ave.
Des Moines, Iowa

April 21, 2015

The Ashley Okland Star Playground is a park on the southeast side of Des Moines with equipment for all children. including those with physical and cognitive disabilities. Ashley Okland was a realtor that also did volunteer work with Variety before she was murdered in 2011. The park was created in her honor for the children she enjoyed working with and it is a park to be proud of. Goldy and I took four boys on this sunny but windy day and got four stellar reviews.

The playground is large and spread out with different and interesting equipment. It has a clean, rubberized surface, which I appreciate on muddy days like today. The kids can play with little concern of getting dirty. (You know this is not normally a concern of mine, but we have plans tonight!) There are also wide open grassy spaces and a lot of trees for us to check out another day. There is plenty of parking close to the playground and a bathroom up the hill. The women’s restroom smelled recently cleaned and looked tidy. This is a vast improvement over most area parks. There were even real toilets! I might be a little too excited about that, but have you ever tried to get a newly potty trained child to hover over an open hole? It’s frightening for everyone involved. There were two stalls but no changing station. (That’s what blankets on the grass are for, right?) If you want snacks or water bottles be sure to bring them with you. I packed a lunch and we stopped at a convenience store on the way. It’s not too far off of E. 14th, so there are plenty of places to stop, but I realize not everyone has a handy helper to wait in the car.

Here are some photos of Sharkboy, Little S and their play school friends enjoying Ashley Okland Star Playground. There is a lot more to see!

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We had a great time and I hope you do, too.


Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden – Real Reviews For Real Families

Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden

909 Robert D. Ray Drive
Des Moines, IA  50309


  • MembersFree
  • Adults$8.00
  • Senior Citizens (65+)$7.00
  • Military Personnel$7.00
  • Students (ages 4-17)$6.00
  • Children 3 and under Free

April 18, 2015

The Barkeep and I took the boys to the Botanical Garden on a rainy Saturday afternoon in April. The gift shop being right inside the door with no walls around it is a bit nerve-racking for me. My kids want to touch everything and it all looks so delicate and breakable. I try to hurry through the admissions process by having everything I need out and ready when I go in. We must have just missed a wedding as they were still there taking photographs, but it was not crowded at all. We went straight to the hallway where kids’ activities are usually kept and did some coloring and a rubbing activity. In the past we have done some cool art projects there and they often have sensory activities. For awhile there was dirt for digging in, with plastic bugs and other fun stuff hidden in it. After coloring we checked out the back room, a garden show house. This is usually my kids’ favorite area. It changes frequently and has small, interesting details to notice.

Before checking out the rest of the garden The Barkeep took Little S to the bathroom. They went to a family restroom so he did not check for a changing table in the men’s room. He said the bathrooms were clean. Little S was able to reach everything easily but there was no stool available. (This is an important detail to me, as LS likes to do everything himself.)

The gardens get very wet when it rains. Running is always prohibited in the gardens but be very careful to talk to the kids about using their walking feet when it is wet. The stones get slippery. We did not spend much time in the main indoor area but we did check out the waterfall and the stone stairs in the very back. My kids enjoy watching the fish swim under the bridges but I did not notice any on this trip.

There is a cafe, but other than popping in to buy a Fresca, I have never eaten there. The website says menu is locally sourced and plant inspired, so I think it would be cool to check out. We have always brought a snack lunch, which I discovered today on the website is not allowed. Oops. I’ve been bringing in food for over a decade and eating on the indoor balcony without ever being questioned. Sorry staff!

Outside is where the real fun begins. The entire outdoor area was dug up and remodeled last year. I went to the grand opening and was unimpressed at the time, but hopeful that spring would bring more changes. Wow, did it ever! I did not take many pictures to share because I want you to visit and see it for yourself. I’ll tell you this, it’s much bigger now and there is a waterfall you can go under without getting wet. There isn’t much shade out there right now so don’t forget a hat. The whole area is enclosed now, but it is huge, so it is possible to lose sight of a fast runner.

Brother Love

Brotherly Love

Other things to note: There were umbrellas available right outside the door to the outdoor gardens. Nice touch! The website says their on some strollers available on a first come, first serve basis. Other than the open floor plan of the gift shop there are no other “snack traps” or areas selling junk toys. We love the toys available in the gift shop but many are a bit out of my price range. You can get small books of stickers or stencils and a low price if you want a souvenir. Parking is free and plentiful and the staff is polite, happy to see the kids and helpful when needed.

We are members of Reiman Gardens in Ames so our trip to the Botanical Garden was free. As the boys ran around the paths outside I tried to assess how I would feel about the trip if we had paid the $22 to get in. I would not be disappointed, but I would probably not return again for quite awhile. As members we decided to return at least once a month to see the changes in the gardens as they grow. (This is our plan at Reiman Gardens, as well.) I highly recommend a membership if you like to take family outings. I bought the “supporter” membership for $55 and get myself, The Barkeep and all minor children in to both gardens FREE. There is also a list of other gardens across the country where you can get free or reduced admission. We have not taken advantage of this yet. If a membership is out of your price range be sure to drop hints to family members around Christmas and birthday time!

We had a great day and I hope you do, too!

Des Moines Art Center – Real Reviews For Real Families

Des Moines Art Center

  • 4700 GRAND AVE
  • 515.277.4405
  • FREE

April 16, 2015

We are currently studying the arts in play school and I thought it would be fun beneficial for the kids to visit a real art center. I wanted them to see all the different types of art and the many mediums and styles used by accomplished artists. I was also a tiny bit terrified about taking four kids, 5 and younger, to an art gallery. I’d like to give a shout out to the awesome Facebook group Des Moines – Beyond 4 Walls for their help in making the decision. I decided to go and bring Goldy to assist.

Before we left I read the kids books about visiting an art museum and made sure to emphasize the parts about not touching the art and other rules. I also prepped them all the way there, “hands to yourself, walking feet, museum voices”, being careful not to use the words I didn’t want them to pick up. If you say, “don’t touch” kids are more likely to touch. Try it sometime.

We were greeted at the entrance by a woman behind the desk and a “guide”. I’m putting guide in quotes because they turned out to be more like guards. Both were very pleasant, though, and not at all put off by the kids. Off to a good start. We were offered a map and after a quick appraisal of the boys ages she also directed us to the restroom, where we went immediately. Smart thinking, lady. The bathroom has several stalls, 3 sinks, and a stool. Everything was easy to reach and use for older kids. (I’ll be highlighting words like bathroom in these reviews so if people want to skim for key points, they can.) Back upstairs, we started our self guided tour. The kids all touched the first sculpture we encountered, but quickly pulled back when reminded to keep their hands by their bodies. I was very impressed by how well they listened! We walked around, constantly herding the boys into one small group so they were easier to watch. They are not used to this method. On most trips I let them spread out and check things out at their pace, but I had warned them this was a different kind of trip. I asked them questions about what they liked about certain pieces, what they thought the people in pictures were feeling, and what they though the artist used to make it.

I’d like to say it was a fun learning experience, but it was also very tense. I realize the guides are there to protect the artwork and they probably see a lot of unruly kids and unconcerned parents, but it is very uncomfortable to have someone follow you like a shadow, especially when your kids are behaving so well. I know he was doing his job, so this is not a complaint, just something you should be prepared for if you take children. We were followed very closely and if the kids got close enough to actually see something the first guide barked, “don’t touch” and they all jumped out of their skin. And of course Sharkboy and Little S immediately felt a strong urge to touch something, luckily it was just the wall. The farther we went into the building the less concerned the guards seemed and the more we enjoyed ourselves. The kids did amazing. They did not run or yell or touch. This is a group of boys that normally wrestle, jump, shriek and climb. If they can do it, your kids can do it. I recommend a ratio of one adult for every two kids unless you have a naturally calm group.

We spent less than an hour inside but saw almost everything. I could see that the kids had reached the limit of their restraint. They were starting to move a little faster, talk a little louder and get a little closer to the art. Too often adults ignore these clues and the results are unpleasant. Leave while everyone is happy and can remember the trip fondly.

We went outside to the rose garden but it is mid-April so there wasn’t much to see yet. Instead I had the kids race from tree to tree using different movements, flapping their arms like birds, swimming, skipping, galloping. It was a relief to move and touch and explore after following such strict rules for so long.

Overall I would recommend the experience. I think it is important for kids to be exposed to art. Be prepared for a shadow guide and make sure your children know the rules in advance. If you are overly anxious you may want to wait until they are older or take them while they are still young enough to be work in a carrier or pushed in a stroller. We had a great day and I hope you do, too.

Thoughts form the kids:

Sharkboy: I liked the face pictures and going outside. I like to look at abstract art and make real art.

Little S: I liked all the pictures and the gold trophy statue. I didn’t like the persons there. I didn’t like the steps that didn’t have the stuff right here on them. (Indicating stairs that had open backs. I forgot about that, none of the kids like that. Glad I asked for their input!)

Friend 1: The guy just said, “stay on the carpet!” The statue was thinking about his Mommy.

Friend 2: (Not much of a talker, simply said yes when asked if he liked the trip.)

A few things people have asked about since this was posted, great questions!
There was ample free parking on a weekday at opening time. There is also overflow parking, I would assume used more for events. We were able to park in the center row, with a sidewalk down the middle. I wish every parking lot had spaces like this!

There was a changing table in the women’s room. I did not see a family restroom or check the men’s room for a changing table. Men, if you are not provided a changing table change your baby at the front desk. I think they will file your suggestion faster that way!

The gift shop is located off of the atrium and we did not even go near it. There were no other snacks or toys sold throughout the center. We dd not check out the cafe and I believe outside snacks are prohibited. We ate before entering and had lunch as soon as we left. I recommend keeping the visit short if you had a snacker. There were seats throughout the gallery but I did not see a specific place for breastfeeding. I will keep my eyes open on future visits, as I know that is important to many parents.

Thanks for the suggestions. I will try to add these elements to future reviews.

When The Shit Hits The Fan

Remind me to think of a clever title later.

I had to have an MRI in February and I almost wrote about it then because I have developed some ridiculous anxieties, one of them relating to being pinned down in a magnetic tube for an undetermined amount of time.

Have you ever had an MRI? It’s weird because they give you this list of rules and make everything sound important and serious and then you show up and they’re like, “oh those rules, scratch half of them.” I was completely bare faced, not even moisturizer, because some make ups and toiletries contain metallic fragments. And by “some” I mean “most of mine”. I think I’ve mentioned I like sparkly things. So bare faced but not bare chested because apparently underwire is not the problem the rules lead me to believe it would be. (I know a lot of women would probably revel in the opportunity to go braless but I am not one of them.)

I laid down, fully clothed, and had just reached a state of zen about MRIs when the radiologist put something down over my head that fastened across my chest. She described it as “like a helmet” but it felt more like a cage and she sensed my immediate panic and moved the mats out from under me so my cage wasn’t so tight. Once I was able to take a deep breath without bruising my chest she sent me into the tube of doom. It was surprisingly relaxing and I managed to hold still for at least 30 minutes before my mind started to wander.

Are fillings magnetic?
Should I have told her I have fillings?
I did, it was on the list of questions.
Did they read that list?
Because I answer the same question at every appointment for every doctor and they still ask again.
I hope my bra strap doesn’t mess up the results.
What if I need to do this again because of my stupid bra?
Could my fillings fly out of my teeth if the magnet was strong enough?
I’m 39 years old, I should probably not be afraid of magnets.
Did I use the sparkly body wash this morning?
Why would there be metal in my body wash?
I’m sure it’s something else.
I’m 39 years old and I own sparkly body wash.
I do what I want.
My teeth feel weird.
I’m sure my fillings can’t be pulled out by a magnet.

So we had to redo that little bit of the MRI because I was moving a lot. I pretended to be asleep and it worked pretty well because she had to shout at me to get my attention. She injected some dye into my body and put me back in the tube of doom for 15 more minutes that felt longer than the first hour.

And then I was done.

All the anxiety leading up to that day seemed silly once the test was over. As I gathered my things the radiologist mentioned that the ENT would be calling me sooner rather than later if there was anything in the MRI results we needed to discuss. The doctor had already told me that if she was not in touch within 7 days I should call her. We chatted about the weather, as people do in February in Iowa. As I walked out she said again, “the doctor will call you if there is anything on the MRI results.”

I briefly considered turning back around because I have a knack for getting people to tell me things they’re not supposed to and I got every indication she had something to say and really wanted to, but looking back I realize I wasn’t quite ready to hear it. That might be why later, at nap time, I ignored two calls from an out of town area code. It wasn’t a number I recognized as any of my doctors so I let it go.

Luckily I also missed a call from Beauty’s school and had to check my messages. Both out of town numbers were my ENT asking me to call her right away. And so I did.

That was about a month ago. It started with new insurance and a routine physical and a new doctor that actually listened when I said I couldn’t hear and I was always dizzy and I wanted to know why. Never let a doctor blow you off. They may be right more often than not but sometimes your gut tells you your symptoms are important and you deserve peace of mind. It may be awhile until I reach “peace of mind” but I’m glad I can at least start working towards that again.

I have a rare, benign tumor called a vestibular schwannoma. It’s on a set of nerves related to balance and hearing and explains my single sided hearing loss and  tinnitus as well as many other minor issues. A lot of people call it an acoustic neuroma even though that is not what it is, and for some reason it annoys me. From Wikipedia:

“The tumour is also sometimes called an acoustic neuroma, but the term “acoustic” is a misnomer, as the tumor rarely arises from the acoustic division of the vestibulocochlear nerve. The term “neuroma” is also a misnomer, since it means “nerve tumor” but an acoustic neuroma is a Schwannoma.”

When the ENT first told me about it she said it was a tiny benign growth and made it sound pretty harmless. I imagined a surgery similar to getting tubes put in my ears and shrugged it off. That denial lasted about half a day before reality sunk in. Lump and growth are just pleasant words for tumor. I have a tumor. In my brain.

                  except it is

Now instead of seeing a doctor I see a neuro-otologic surgeon and he was somewhat surprised by my calm demeanor. I already knew what he was going to say. I’m quick on the Googles, ya know. And I was alone. With a doctor neuro-otologic surgeon I had just met. I am a cry baby. I don’t just cry at movies and books, but I cry at songs and commercials and sometimes when the Sharkboy and Little S gang up on me at bedtime. I cry when I have PMS and I cry when I watch viral videos, but I don’t cry in front of strange men telling me things I already know. Instead I get exhausted. I felt too tired to drive home. Hit me up in the comments if you want to discuss how normal that is because I can barely function lately I am so tired. My mind is constantly preoccupied with all the things I want to do before surgery and what I will need to line up to stay sane after surgery. I can’t adult. I can’t even shower without worrying about how I will shower after surgery.

Some people name their tumors. No thanks. I don’t want to personify mine but if I did I’d say I’m having this asshole evicted, I don’t care what his name is.

Yeah, my tumor would definitely be a man.

I want to be the strong person you always hear about dealing with these things, but I also want to go to bed until it is all over. And I mean ALL. I want to sleep through all the test and the surgery and recovery. Especially recovery. I have a list of worries, ranging from sane and normal to silly and unnecessary. I’m worried one of the surgeons will sneeze and I’ll never walk again, or they’ll nick my facial nerve and I’ll be lopsided. I’m worried my kids will not react well to me being unable to parent for at least a month and they’ll become unruly and start swearing at inopportune times. Er, except they already kind of do all that, so mostly I’m just worried it will hurt their little hearts when I can’t pick them up and that instead of crying they’ll lash out in other ways. I’m worried about my house falling apart around me because even though I’ve never been the best house keeper I am the only house keeper. And the idea of one of my wonderful well meaning helpful friends tidying up (as they have already offered to do because they are wonderful) makes my stomach turn. I’m worried about my lack of income and whether or not I can wear makeup in the hospital because I will probably have visitors.

And I’m worried because The Barkeep is no longer just a barkeep. We bought a whole restaurant. It has a bar in it so his name will remain. He leaves around 9, stops home in the afternoon for an hour or two and goes back to work for the night, coming home well after the boys go to bed, which is later than it should be.

I also have an amazing support network, though. Goldy is living with us while she goes to college. Beauty is a fun babysitter. We have two sets of grandparents in the immediate area. And so much more. So many people have already offered help and support. And I need to learn to suck it up and accept it.

Because that is what you do when the shit hits the fan. You count your blessings. You learn to accept help. You make sure your glass is half full because your kids always need a drink.

And if you’re me you also book a trip to Vegas.

I’ll try not to drive you crazy with tumor related blogs, but I’ll keep you updated because if we’re keeping it 100, thst’s what I do when the shit hits the fan, I write about it.

Ten Things *Only Parents of Boys AND Girls Will Understand (*or any other enlightened individual)

I don’t have ten things. I don’t have a list for you. These “only parents of boys understand” blogs just keep getting dumber and dumber so I had to address it. I spend my day with as many as 5 little boys, and as the youngest sibling with 3 brothers, I feel like I always have. There was a time, though, when I spent my days with girls, so often and so many I felt like Carol Burnett in Annie. Let me tell you, most of the points made in these blogs are not gender specific. Not only that, many of them simply don’t pertain to my life at all, with boys or girls.

These articles are are all about their specific type of parenting, not gender. You do not have to pick between Marvel and DC unless you choose to pick one. (Marvel, obviously, but we’re raising the kids with both.) Goldy loved Star Wars and boys’ sandals because they were more functional for climbing and even their jeans had better pockets and those legs that zipped off. Beauty loved getting dirty and covered in slime. Both girls knew how to bite a sandwich into the shape of a gun by the time they were five. My sons like wearing pretty wings and having “tea” parties with water, but, because of their dad’s influence, they are more into superheroes than my daughters were. Not because of their penises, I promise. Do you know how I know? Goldy and I both love watching superhero movies with them. (I grew up with them, she did not.) ALL of my kids, even the ones I watch, are or were, “noise with dirt” as one blog admits “might be true of some girls.” (Emphasis my own, because eyeroll.) I have no idea where anyone got the notion only boys should or want to get dirty. (See photos below.) Some kids love it and some do not, but most get dirty whether they intended to or not.

Maybe there are some universal truths, all boys might be one way and all girls another, but I haven’t found that truth in any blog post yet. What I have found, is that parents who think boys want trucks will buy them trucks, even though there is an age when all children want toys that roll. Hot Wheels, Barbie’s convertible, they don’t care, they just want to roll them. It’s part of their development. Parents who think boys will be boys will allow some wrestling and dirt play while they park their jealous little girls in front of Sophia The First because she is a good role model for little girls. I have encountered, and often, men that won’t let their sons roll the pink Barbie car or paint their nails. That is why these blogs annoy me. They perpetuate that idea that kids should be one thing or another, and they shouldn’t. They should be kids. They should do what is developmentally appropriate. All kids need big body play, not just boys. (Mothers of daughters, click that link!) All kids need art and the resources and opportunities to express themselves. All kids need to snuggle.

I don’t know where these women are getting the idea that little boys don’t want to cuddle and why they are so shocked when they do. I know, some kids aren’t as physical, but it does not seem divided by gender lines. As a young child Beauty reserved hugs for close family only. (She’s over that now, judging by her Instagram photos.) I’ve watched many children that only like to snuggle when they are hurt or feeling needy, boys and girls, but eventually, they all cuddle.

I’m cutting the authors some slack, assuming they only have boys and don’t realize their experience is limited. Also, I get it, it’s a blog. They’re trying to be whimsical and attract more clicks.

But this offends me, “Boys love unconditionally. The anal rententive in me screamed to stop this list at nice, round, even #10, but this is by far the most important thing I have learned about raising boys. Boys love unconditionally. They love unabashedly. They love with their entire little bodies. When your little girl stomps her foot and tells you to leave her alone, your son simply loves you. When your tween daughter is sullen and sulky and hates you, your son simply loves you. When you teenage daughter gives you the silent treatment, your son simply loves you. Their love is solid. Their love is strong and consistent from the start. And it sticks around for the long haul.
From: 11 Things Only Parents Of Boys Understand By Shannon Ralph/The Next Family

I don’t know anything about her family, though I could probably check her blog. I prefer to imagine she doesn’t have girls so this is an idea the media (social or mass) has put in her head. I wish I had video of my sweet, loving son, the one that says I love you a hundred times a day, stomping his tiny foot at me and yelling, “Bad Mommy!” He gets just as pissed as my girls ever did. In fact, at 15 and 19, I’m pretty sure I’ve only had a handful of, “I don’t like yous” from each girl, but I get that many a week from Sharkboy. Not that my daughters and I haven’t argued. Wall shaking, cat scaring arguments. But never, for even a sulky, sullen minute, did I think that my daughters didn’t love me unconditionally. I get mad at them. I’ve stomped my foot. We’re fierce. In this family, we all love unconditionally and unabashedly, even the females. I’m a girl. My love is solid. It’s strong and consistent from the start and it will damn well stick around for the long haul. Don’t sell my daughters short and don’t sell me short.

My baby BOY

Beauty, breaking gender stereotypes since 1998


Goldy and Beauty


my unicorn boys, Little S, Sharkboy and a playschool friend

real men wear pink

On Wednesdays we wear pink.

Naptime Is For Ranting

If there is any question I hear frequently from fathers it is, “How can I help? I know she wants my help but I don’t know what to do.”

Guys, I’m not falling for it.

You can’t hear your kid asking for a drink right as your wife (girlfriend, boyfriend or whoever the second parent is in your home) finally sits down to enjoy her book? You don’t hear your child saying she needs to go potty for the hundredth time right as your wife sits down to eat? You don’t see the mountain of dishes or the pile of books or the floor that needs vacuumed or your underwear in the bathroom or the jelly on the counter or your wife busting her ass to take care of all of that? You can’t smell that diaper!?

OR. You do see and hear all of that but you think you help enough by bringing home the bacon? Maybe your wife makes a few less pounds of bacon? She’s still working, she’s still contributing and parenting is still a full time job for both parents. From changing diapers to potty training, from reading just one more story to listening as they struggle through those first sentences on their own, from the first day of school all the way to graduation, and beyond, parenting is 24/7 for both parents.

Maybe your wife doesn’t “work” at all, maybe she stays home with your sweet little tax credits all day while you do the manly chore of chair warming in your cubicle. Actually, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you work hard at a demanding job, IF you give her the benefit of the doubt that staying at home with children all day can be mentally draining and emotionally challenging. It can be physically intense. It can be every bit as exhausting as working outside the home. It has it’s perks, many, and I have addressed that before, and those perks are beneficial to you, as well. If having the person that you chose to have children with home with them, raising them, isn’t perk enough, remember she is also saving you money. Cha-ching.

I’m not done. This may come as a surprise to a lot of men and even some women, cleaning isn’t parenting. Cleaning is cleaning. Everyone in the house makes messes so everyone should be involved in cleaning them up. (In an age appropriate way, obviously.) Cleaning is not a mother’s duty, it’s just a part of life and happens even in houses that don’t have mothers or children.

So you say you want to help, then do it. It’s that simple. It’s not a mystery to decode, chances are she has told you, and loudly, exactly what she needs. If not, you have seen it, heard it and smelled it yourself, so get up and do it.

But don’t stop there.

Acknowledge her hard work. Show her appreciation for what she does manage to get done and realize her “to do” list is most likely longer than your Netflix queue. Show her respect, because your children learn from you, and because she deserves it. Remind her that she is more capable than she is aware and still beautiful in every way. Be her ally. Be her advocate. Be her friend. But above all else, be a parent, because you are not helping, you are parenting your child.



No one is ever just anything.

It was sunny and warm on Friday, but not so hot and humid I had to swim through my yard. It was one of those perfect spring days that Icould be outside all day, letting the sun ease my tension and the fresh air detox my lungs. I felt amazingly lucky for my job as a childcare provider. We went outside at 9 am and didn’t go back inside until nap time. I was spending time with my own children, watching them enjoy the same benefits of nature and play with their friends, a group of kids I truly enjoy working with. I love my job. Friday was one of those days that reminds me why, because just like everyone else, some days I need a reminder.


If I had a dollar for every time someone said I was just a babysitter or preschool teacher, or referred to my job as easy or didn’t understand why I couldn’t drop what I was doing to do what they needed because, you know, I’m home all day doing nothing, well, I wouldn’t need a reminder about why I love my job because I’d have all those extra dollars to remind me. I’m not complaining about my job because I am doing exactly what I want to do, but I want to paint a picture of my day that helps you understand I’m not just a daycare provider. No one is ever just anything.

If someone else’s job seems that simple and undemanding to you, I suggest you give it a try. I don’t want to flip burgers and clean bathrooms at McDonald’s. I don’t want to drive a cab or a school bus or stock shelves. I do not want to stand on my feet all day and cut hair. I don’t want to sit at a desk and crunch numbers or enter data. Those jobs all sound incredibly difficult to me. I don’t understand comments to the contrary. Most of the people that I have heard make disparaging comments about those jobs probably couldn’t do them. They are all worthwhile jobs, though. They all pay the bills and put food on the table. They are all important. Consider the cab driver that takes an elderly woman to the doctor or drives your drunk ass home from the bar. How can he be “just a cab driver” when he is potentially saving lives? Not just anyone can give you the amazing feeling of a new haircut and I don’t want to know what public bathrooms would look like without the cleaning staff. Every job needs done and every job takes some amount of skill and effort.


Sometimes it probably looks suspiciously like all I do at work is sit in the sun and play Duck, Duck, Goose… and sometimes that is all I do. (Don’t tell me you never get down time, unless maybe you’re a nurse. I’ve never seen a nurse not busy.) But if you are a parent and you spend any amount of time with your children and put any effort into their upbringing you can admit it’s one of the most stressful things you do. Add a few more kids and consider you are getting paid and evaluated by more than just the society that is already judging your every move. At least sometimes as a parent it feels that way.


As a childcare provider I have to weigh my words and speak carefully so I don’t damage, or overfeed, developing egos. I guide verbal children to express themselves with words and not harmful actions, and help non-verbal children learn the words to express their feelings. I help them learn appropriate ways to express anger, sadness and disappointment. I answer questions about complicated topics, like, “is peanut butter good for you?” Today a little boy asked me if I had a big penis. Death is a hot topic here lately, too. Luckily the focus is mostly on cats right now but I know the time is coming when I have to answer harder questions. Sometimes I do all of that, and make breakfast and change diapers, before 9am. Even in those pleasant moments when I can sit still and enjoy the sunshine I am still on duty. I break up more fights than a hockey referee, and I can’t just shout, “knock it off, you two!” They might actually knock each other off the play equipment. I have to physically intervene and model the appropriate way to handle their frustration and anger. My job isn’t just breaking up the fight, but helping them learn to prevent the fight. I’m not just trying to get through the day, I’m helping these children learn to get through the rest of their lives.


I prefer the term provider over teacher because I think my job is to provide them with opportunities and experiences, not to teach a specific lesson. I do a little of that but it takes up a minute percentage of my day. I provide tools and resources and the guidance to use them. That all sounds simple enough, but not everyone knows and understands what children really need from them. They need choices and chances and lots of paint and mud and water, tons of water, and so much more. And someone with enough patience to give them all of that… and clean it all up afterwards.


If that doesn’t impress you just imagine how much screaming I listen to each day and how many diapers I have to change.

No one is ever just anything. Your job is valuable and important and so is mine. Make an effort to recognize that in others.

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