First…Go Inside: A guide to finding quality childcare

Touring the Facility
By now, you’ve made the phone calls. You’ve asked questions and you’ve narrowed down your choices. It’s time to go to those scheduled appointments! Before you go, decide if you are going to bring your child with you. There are pros and cons to both.
1. Pro-If a director schedules a tour, she will (if she’s good) inform the teacher and have something prepared. A cool name tag, pencil, a treat bag to take home. The teacher will prepare the children (age appropriate) and they will make your child/children feel welcome.
2. Con- Your child may not engage immediately and therefore cling to you. If this happens, it’s going to be hard to really focus on what’s being said and remember all the questions you wanted to ask. It might be a good idea to not take the child to the first tour and then bring them on a day when you decide to “pop” in. I encourage you to definitely do this.
Whatever you decide, be on time!
Here’s a basic list of things to look for. You may have some that aren’t on the list. Great!
1. Is the office clean? Clutter free? Does it smell good? (Dirty diapers–gag)
2. Is anyone in the office when you arrive? Can you just waltz in without anyone knowing or even acknowledging you?
3. What does it sound like? Is it noisy? (it will be a little but happy noise and whining and crying–not the same)
4. Are you greeted warmly? Does the director remember she’s scheduled you? She should. Do other teachers acknowledge you and say hello as you walk through the facility on your way to the child’s room? Do they greet your child?
5. Are children happily engaged? Are there more crying than playing? What do their faces look like? Snot crusted? Food on their face? Shoes untied? (Get out!) Now, let me just say, you will see some runny noses and a shoe untied and if you go right after lunch some food, but it shouldn’t be a majority of the kids.
6. How does the teacher greet you? Is she friendly? Does she address the child? Does she engage him/her into the chilren’s activities allowing you time with the director/management? She should!
7. Listen for other teacher’s voices. Watch how they interact with the children. Do the children seem to enjoy being near them? Are toys everywhere? (The toddler room may be a little messier than preschool. It shouldnn’t be as cluttered.)
What to ask
1. Ask to see a lesson plan; do they follow it; do you get a weekly sheet and does it include what your child had for lunch; if appropriate do they get a potty or diaper sheet; how often do they change the children?
2. Ask what the discipline policy is. It should be age appropriate. (We’ll cover behavior in a future blog) Quickly though, infants, toddlers and two’s should always be redirected, although this is debated and you’re getting my opinion. Preschoolers- time out one minute per age. But even preschoolers can be redirected better than time out works. NO NO NO PHYSICAL PUNISHMENT. EVER. If you spank your child fine, but do it at home. Most regulations won’t even let you spank on site your own child! I’ve had parents tell me, “Close your eyes, for about one minute!” 🙂
3. Ask for a schedule and all policies. Do they close under severe weather and how does that effect the weekly price; Do you get free days? Vacation days? When is payment due? Is there a late pick up policy? (Please don’t be one of those!) Is there a late payment fee? (Yes.) Do they have cameras?
4. Ask to see the curriculum if the director doesn’t offer to show it to you, but she should. Ask about napping procedures. Ask for the menu and what is the rule about snacks being brought in.
5. And yes, ask if you can see the bathrooms and the playground (the director will probably offer to show you the playground anyway…kids love it. It generally seals the deal if you have a good one-to the child anyway) Seriously. Take a look. (Poor directors are now shaking in their boots right…what if that little boy missed the target and then you walk in! Sorry!)
If your child has any type of special needs, now is the time to see if that facility can accomodate them. Allergies, illnesses, medications. Get a medication policy. Who administers medicine? Do you get a sign off sheet?
If your child sleeps or not…tell them. Anything you think is important make sure and tell them!
Your child may act shy and hang on your leg even with coaxing and encouragement from you and the teacher to engage in activities. It’s okay! It doesn’t mean they hate the place. It’s an adjustment for everyone. Give it time.
When you walk out of there, make sure you have in your hands all of their policies and pricing info., a buisness card, a menu, and if they have weekly connection sheets–get one. And go with your gut. Your looking for a place where you feel at home, where your child will feel comfortable, a happy place with happy teachers and smiling kids (for the most part). 
Hope this helps! Directors/Teachers, if I missed anything feel free to add to it!
Tomorrow a guest blog by Former Director Lisa Boyd!

Love in Winter

The young girl bundled up and went out into the cold bitter wind, like she did everyday.  It was a long walk to the shoe factory where she toiled hard each day in order to make a few dollars a week to help her mama raise four other little girls.  She wasn’t much older than thirteen.
Each morning she would walk by a hat shop.  In the window were many beautiful hats displayed in every color and design.  She loved hats.  Every Friday afternoon as she would pass by that shop she would sigh and dream of owning just one of them.  She would wonder what it would feel like resting on her head of dark hair.  A crown maybe? She would put her hands deep into her old tattered wool coat pockets and feel the little bit of money she had labored all week for, close her eyes and wish just once she could use that money to buy something she desired.
Instead she would come home to four little sisters.  She would do laundry, feed the horses, get supper ready, bathe the girls and get them to bed, and then tidy the house before mama would come home from working her job all day long.  She wondered where her daddy might be, he had been gone so long… and then she would dream of the hats.
Her mama dreamed as well.  She dreamed life wouldn’t be difficult and unfair, that she wouldn’t have to raise five little girls alone, that her husband would have never left and that he would have loved her. She dreamed that her oldest daughter wouldn’t have had to grow up so quickly and work in a shoe factory she hated and that those few dollars she carefully placed into her palm each week could be spent on hats—but they were only dreams. If only…
Late one afternoon the little girl came home and on the table was a box.  A round box.  Her heart began to skip a beat.  She had seen the boxes before…in the hat shop by the shoe factory. 
Her mama came into the room and smiled.  “Open the box, Dorothy.” 
The little girl opened up the box and inside was the most beautiful hat.  She hurried and put it on and danced around the room.  Suddenly she stopped and looked at her mama with wide green eyes.  “How,” she asked in a concerned whisper.
Her mama’s smile was tired as she replied, “It doesn’t matter how, let me worry ‘bout that… it’s a gift”.
This little girl was my late grandmother, Dorothy, and I’m writing a memory of hers to share with you this holiday season.  Giving the sweetest gifts comes with sacrifice.  I don’t know how my great grandmother saved the money to buy that hat or what the cost, but I know it was a great sacrifice.  I know as she watched my grandmother dance about in the beautiful hat, she was receiving as great a gift– making it all worth the while.
Jesus gave the greatest, sweetest gift…salvation…which came at a great sacrifice–Himself. When we accept His beautiful gift, He sees us dance with freedom. Like my grandmother’s hat. A helmet of salvation.
I believe, just like my great grandmother, He smiles and says, “Don’t worry about the cost, let Me…it’s a gift.”
May this Holiday season remind you of the greatest gift given to us and the sacrifice that was involved. May you dance with grateful hearts full of joy around the room and may you have a very blessed Christmas season!
“Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15

Who’s going to keep my baby!? A guide to finding quality childcare

“I don’t want to leave my baby!”
How many times over the last decade have I heard that! How many times lately have I heard that? A LOT. I couldn’t begin to count. 
I’ve had over a decade of experience working with children in a corporate childcare setting. I started young as the infant teacher, went through training and state credentialed programs to move all the way to the Academy director. I’ve seen it all. More than my share in fact. I’ve seen the good. I’ve seen the bad and the ugly to be cliche. I’ve laughed. I’ve cried. I’ve been fit to be tied.
I’m also a parent.  I’ve been a parent with a child “raised” in the center and I’ve been a parent who’s had the opportunity to be a stay at home mom.  I’ve helped family members and friends find the “right” childcare center for them.
The childcare industry is tough. Being a parent trying to find a center–equally as tough.
So, I thought I’d bring what I know to you. Maybe it will help you find a center, run from one, find a job or humor you in the very least if you’re a teacher/director—maybe even help you improve in your classroom or facility.
Not only will I bring you what I know, but you’ll get to hear from some other professionals in the business. Respectable ladies some with more years on their belts and some with less, but all with great insight!
Finding childcare is scary! Especially in the times we’re in and with everything we see on the news. What’s a good fit for you? In home? Mom and Pops? Corporate?
How do I find a good childcare center? The telephone tour.
First of all, as a “green” parent inquiring of childcare, make phone calls! What does the person answering sound like? How many rings does it take to answer? Is she friendly? Is she hurried? What do you hear in the background? Is it quiet? (it won’t always be if you call while the director’s watching a class or cooking) Noise can be good and it can sound loud. Question is who’s louder the adult or the children? You can tell the difference between happy noise and unhappy.  If she’s busy with kids, she may ask to call you back. This doesn’t mean she doesn’t care. It means she can’t hear you and she’s smart! Nothing is more frustrating than trying to ask questions about the most important step you’ll be making only to hear, “What? Huh? Say that again? Johnny, honey go play I’m on the phone.”
 Get the name of who you are talking to, their position, and ask a few questions. Most teachers don’t answer the phone—management does, but occasionally it will happen. I usually designated the infant teacher to handle a call if no one was available but me and I needed to run to the restroom. Believe it or not, the infant room really is the quietest! I also trained her in what to say and how to retrieve information so I could return a call. (BTW, if you don’t receive a call back by the end of the business day unless specified that the call would be the next day don’t bother touring. There’s no room to forget to call a customer who needs the greatest service ever. That’s my personal opinion.)
As a parent be curious to how teachers interact with you over the phone, but remember teachers aren’t always as informed as the director or management. How they tell you that makes a difference. No one wants to hear this, “Could you tell me what you charge for an infant?”
“Uh, no. It’s expensive though. Want me to have someone call you?”
NO!  Hang up!
“Could you tell me what you charge for infants?”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have that information in front of me. Could I please take your name and number and have my director, (name) call you back.”
When you do get a hold of the director she may ask you to come and see the facility—at a scheduled time. This is okay. She wants to be able to spend time with you and your child! She’s not necessarily “hiding” anything. Childcare directors wear many hats. They stay running all the time! Sometimes, when a teacher calls in, the director wears the teacher hat and touring you isn’t going to happen at that moment! Even if you pop in unexpectedly and she’s in a class, she may ask you to come back when she can be free to give you undivided attention. This is okay too.  Been there…done that!
However, ALL centers should have an open door policy and popping in is okay to do after the initial scheduled tour (or anytime, but you can’t be guaranteed the time and attention you’ll get if you schedule a tour). I encourage you to do that—pop in later! What’s going on when everyone DOESN’T know you’re coming?
Make a list of centers you’ve called with the questions you’ve asked and answers. Some good questions to ask over the phone is:
  1. Do you have childcare availability?
  2. What is the state teacher/child ratio? Do you follow that ratio or do you keep a lower ratio? (Some centers especially non-profit keep lower teacher/child ratios. It’s a plus but it doesn’t mean a state followed teacher/child ratio isn’t as good.) How many children are in the classroom and how many teachers or caregivers?
  3. What is your full time rate? Part time? Does this include meals/snacks?
  4. What curriculum do you use? (If they charge big bucks…they better give you a bang for it!)
Let me make a note here…good schools use curriculum. It’s a learning center. If they don’t use curriculum and they simply say, “We teach them stuff.” It’s not a learning center. If you just want a place for your child to play then this might appeal to you. But most parents want their children to learn something while they’re gone all day!
These few questions will give you an idea if you want to tour or not. Write them down and compare answers with other centers. (All ratios should be the same as it’s a state mandate unless they specify they use lower.)
Schedule your tour. Good directors will make appointments and add you can come anytime though. They want you to feel comfortable popping in, but want you to be aware that they also want quality time to spend with you.
Have you had any nightmare stories when making phone calls or really great experiences? Teachers, Directors…any other advice to offer parents on the “phone tours?” Have any questions about phone touring that wasn’t covered? Just ask!
Next blog…what to look for when you visit the center for a tour.

What’s In Your Basket?

A Cornucopia: Horn of Plenty


It’s that time of year when we see that strange looking basket with fruits in it. Our children will bring home cut outs and colored pages of it. A cornucopia. It means horn of plenty. Abundance. Inside it is filled with overflowing fruit. This holiday season I think of our Horn of Salvation…Jesus Christ (Luke 1:69; Psalm 18:2) Because of Him we can live lives of abundance (2 Corinthians 9:8). Abundant lives so that we can abound in every good work, overflowing with fruit! During this Thanksgiving season, as we give praise and thanks for what we have, we should also examine ourselves and ask God, “Am I overflowing with fruit?” Even a child is known by his fruit whether it is good or bad. Are we abiding in Him–the Horn of Salvation? Abiding in Him bears much fruit! Maybe you need pruning…I’m always in need of it. I don’t necessarily like the process but I know it’s for my own good. During all the hustle and bustle I pray you’ll get with God and take inventory! Get rid of what shouldn’t be there and make room for sweet fruit! Happy Thanksgiving, friends! Be safe and enjoy the time with family and friends!

Where you are matters!

I’ve noticed the last few days that The Word for you Today devotions are really speaking to me personally. Ever had that happen?

Especially with everything going on in my life at the moment, I couldn’t hear these things at a better time. I hope you’re encouraged by the small excerpt.

“God’s plans for your life always involve your gifts,His timing and being in the right place. But 3 things can keep that from happening: fear of failing, unwillingness to leave your comfort zone, and being swayed by the opinions of others…Where you are matters!”

Wow! If you’re a writer, I’m not sure how this doesn’t apply to you! 🙂

I’m working on looking at failure as a bump in the road on my way to where I’m going. In just a few months, I’m about to get real uncomfortable (I’m already feeling the effects), but RISK is something we have to take–especially when we know God is calling us somewhere! Where we are matters!

What about you? What keeps you from taking risks?

A small moment with Myles

Myles laid on the couch, whimpering over a rotten headache he had while watching Tom and Jerry. After several minutes, he sat up and asked, “Hey, Mom, are you going to have another baby boy?”

I half laughed, half snorted, “No.”

“Another baby girl?”

“No more babies, Myles.” I tried to get back to reading an interesting blog by an aspiring author.

“Well why not,” he asked slightly irritated.

“I have all I need. Why do you ask?”

“Well,” he sighed, “everyone’s doin’ it.”

As if having babies is a trend! Have a great weekend everyone and I leave you with a quote from The Word for Today devotional.

“Every accomplishment starts with a decision.,,Unless you’re willing to take prayed-over, carefully-considered and well-advised risks, you’re not operating in faith. And ‘without faith it is impossible to please God…’ Heb. 11:6. It means putting all your eggs in God’s basket (don’t worry, He won’t drop them!). When you step out in faith, God moves and extraordinary things happen.”

It was definitely the word I needed for today! See you Monday!

Urban Translation Thursday!

“What is TTYL,” asked my husband when he looked at my tween daughter’s artwork. She and I laughed hysterically and told him Talk To You Later. Times are a changing, my friends, and if you want to keep up, you gotta go with it!

I happen to love new words and meanings. So Thursday will be dedicated to urban lingo. Today’s words are:

bomb dot com :

another way to express when something is awesome/cool/amazing.
party foul:
something socially unacceptable done in a social setting
head splinter:
A painfully annoying song that gets stuck in your head, in extreme cases, impeding everyday tasks.
Have you ever heard these words before? Try and use all three of these words in a sentence. Let’s see what you got! Oh, and when you go to work tomorrow, or school, or wherever, I dare you to use them in your conversation just for fun!

There’s no turning back!

I was sharing with a friend of mine about a leadership retreat that I had to go on as the Academy Director for a Corporate Childcare center I worked for. I had to go alone. I knew no one and I was terrified with no way out of going!

I made it. I didn’t miss any of my connecting flights (which had me in a small state of panic) and I arrived in beautiful Colorado–in January and in one piece.

We had to do many outdoor excercises as well as indoor lectures. One in particular stood out and it was this one I shared with my friend (right before Phil Wickham and Mercy Me took it away at a concert!).

Our facilitators took us out on a bus to the middle of nowhere, blind folded us and then put helmets on us! What? Why do I need a helmet? Now, for all the southerners let me just tell you about the three feet of snow and air so cold that tiny icicles hung from your nose hairs! (eew I know but you need to understand this)

They guided us, blindly, and then put our gloved hands on a rope. In a whisper they said, “Now go.”
That was it!? Go where? I don’t even know where I am! My thoughts raced but then I realized–I may not know where I’m going, but I know I’m ultimately safe and I slowly began my adventure to somewhere.

I could hear women crunching snow all around me and then I heard a woman sobbing. I remember thinking, how could she be this afraid? We’re safe. But she was terrified.

Then I came to a point where one rope crossed over another and then another and another!

Decision time.

Do I change course? Do I keep hanging on to what was placed in my hands? I didn’t know if it was a timed excercise or not. But instinct told me…I don’t have forever. Keep moving. Go! I held fast to the rope that had been placed in my hands and I followed it…until it came to a dead end.

I could feel the tree right in front of me. I could hear water running nearby and I could still hear the woman– weeping in the distance. Now what? Do I go back?

I stayed. I sat down in the freezing cold, in the bank of snow and I sat silently as women scrambled around, bumped into one another and some even giggled and laughed…and the one woman never stopped sobbing.

It was then that I felt my own tears run down my cheeks.  I realized that God had given me the free gift of salvation…a helmet… and in my hand was destiny, purpose, a plan. A race to run. A place to go. And I went. Where it would end…a mystery.

I was unsure, but ultimately–I was safe. And the woman weeping made my heart cry. She felt alone. Afraid. She didn’t realize that she was safe. She was being watched by someone who could see the course laid out. Someone who wouldn’t let her fall into that abyss.

I learned a lot about myself and my faith in that simple excercise. I learned to keep going until the very end. There is no stopping.

Take the plan of God for your life and go…go…go. Go blindly. You’re protected! Ultimately, you are safe!  At the end, the blindfold comes off and all the things you couldn’t see becomes clear.

I couldn’t help that sobbing woman who was afraid during that excercise, but in the kingdom race I know that I can! So can you!

Give me just a little dirt…please?

One thing I admire most in a leader is transparency. I think what this world is looking for is something “real.” It’s a compliment that I value most. I think it’s one reason that my husband and I are successful in our ministry to young adults. My husband’s favorite thing to say is, “I’m not telling you this because I’ve always done it right; it’s because I’ve done it wrong–a lot.”

It’s important for people to know, as leaders, that we make mistakes. We struggle and oh dear heavens, we sin! This is the place you should gasp and throw your hands over your wide open mouths as you go into shock! What? Leaders sin? Shepherds make mistakes? Shutup!! Yes, yes it’s hard to believe, I know…I know–but it’s true. Any leader who tells you differently struggles with LYING!

There’s a well known female figure that shares her past before Jesus and it’s marred and messed up for sure. But now that she’s saved, you never hear her EVER tell about struggling with anger issues, balancing her time etc…it’s as if she’s miraculously zapped into a perfect person. When she does share about things “us flock” get bound by, she uses other people’s examples or her past before Jesus, but what about slip ups she makes now? Doesn’t she have any? Uh…yeah…I’m pretty sure she does.

But baby Christians, or really naive ones will surely think she has it all together and when they can’t seem to pull it together for themselves, it can be very depressing! “Well Miss So and So doesn’t ever seem to have a problem now that she’s saved…she’s preaching to millions and writing books and blah blah blah…what’s wrong with me!?”

Nothing is wrong with you. She doesn’t have it all together. You don’t have to–you can’t! Imperfect people do great things for God. There is no perfect, all together person! I promise you!

Now, there’s another very public female person who is just the opposite. She’s transparent about still messing up, never having it together and struggling–without dishing all the dirt, just some! I’m not saying we should tell the world every evil thought we have, just let those we minister to know that we aren’t perfect. We sin. And yes, even use some examples of mess ups.

It’s all too easy to think we should keep our imperfect lives from those we minister to and lead. By sharing that we actually do argue with our spouse on occasion over ridiculous things, we do lose our cool and yes…holler at our kids, we do think a four letter word when a jerk cuts us off and maybe, just maybe even let it slip out of our mouths, is okay to share when relevant to something we’re teaching (you don’t have to actually tell them the word :)). It doesn’t make us less credible, it makes those listening appreciate the fact that regardless–God still wants to use us and that means that God wants to use them as well.

Never letting those you lead know you’re as big of a chump as the next guy/gal, can even breed pride.

One of my favorite men, other than Jesus—duh you guys do I even have to say that?….is Peter. Peter’s letters were inspired by God but full of “I’m telling you this not because I did it right but because I did it WRONG,” messages. Read for yourself and think back over his time spent with Jesus.

“Be sober, be vigilant; because[a] your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith…” 1 Peter 5:8-9

Penned with Divine inspiration…said out of experience. Let’s go back…

 “Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. 34 Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.”
35 He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. 36 And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.
37 Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. 40 And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.
41 Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come…” Mark 14:32-41

I think Peter learned his lesson to stay awake…be sober…be vigilant…why? Let’s go back even further…

“Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail…” Luke 22:31

Peter knew well what Satan wanted…to kill steal and destroy. Why? Because he’d made the attempts on him. But Jesus prayed for him that when he returned to him (Jesus knew Peter was going to mess up…key word-return…He loved him and wanted him anyway) he would strengthen the others. Peter would be a leader and he was a schmuck! Peter still messed up on occassion, I believe Paul called him out! Paul…hahaha a whole other story!

Who knew best to stay awake, pay attention, be watchful than a man who didn’t (even though he’d been forwearned) and made a huge mistake of denying Christ three times.

Leaders, it is okay to share your mess ups and mistakes with those you’ve been entrusted to guide without giving super intimate details, unless of course you feel led to.

Those of you sitting under someone, they’re schmucks like Peter… all of us are! 🙂 Don’t put them on a pedastal or when they fall (and they will) it will devastate you and you might even grow bitter. Don’t be naive. Pray for your leaders. Understand they aren’t perfect. They have a big responsibility! Expect mistakes out of them!

What about you? What do you think? What would you like to see more out your leaders?