When I live with the attitude of gratitude, joy is more easily accessed.
Honeycomb Kids is moving into its 10th year, and just became a LifeWays representative program! The fun thing about Honeycomb Kids is that every year it has a slightly different flavor and vibe, but the foundational underpinnings are always the same- give children and their families a safe place to grow and explore, and be surrounded by adults who are joyful! Children thrive in this home-like setting when they feel comfortable, not rushed to grow up, and feel inspired by the smiling adults and peers around them.
Children imitate so much of what we do- whether it’s overt actions like sweeping or folding, or more covert instances that pertain to our emotional and feeling life. Our attitudes are energetically experienced by the children. Knowing this, I have worked hard to make sure I can smile with authenticity and radiate love, joy, and unconditional acceptance to those in my care. Self-care has been the key to making this possible!
Self-care hasn’t always been easy (or even intuitive), and life has been a rollercoaster over the last few years, but worth every second! To me, self-care looks like: getting outside for a short walk every day, going to a dance class, getting at least 7 hours of sleep, and eating healthy food. It means doing things with my family on the weekends and visiting with friends and family. These are basic things, but when you run a demanding business with children, and have your own family in the mix, it’s easy for these ‘self-care’ (or sources of joy) to fall to the wayside—for years at a time!
Joy is something that I try to infuse into my daily experience (with or without children), and I know how important it is for genuine feelings of happiness to shine through. As one ages, what brings someone happiness, and what feels like “fun,” shifts; it is important to identify and move towards what makes one happy today. I have re-ignited my passion for dancing and attend a dance class once a week. I really enjoy spending time outside with the children in my program, and hiking and skiing with my family on winter weekends. I love reading good novels, I have strong female friendships, and I participate in a women’s circle that is inspiring and a meaningful platform for change. I like to see live music, and play music with friends.
This past year of 2017 was filled with incredible opportunities for me, and also was met with deep sorrow and unease. Learning how to stay present through it all has been my primary personal work. 2017’s joyful highlights for me were: I won 2nd place for Vermont’s Early Educator of the year, I completed my LifeWays Training, I made some big changes to my program and staffing, and my husband and I took our long overdue honeymoon! But with all that good, an underlying dis-ease and grit permeated most of my experience this year—our political soap-opera climate, children testing positive for Lyme Disease (and the widespread controversy over treatment), feeling the effects of further separating humanity’s connection to the Earth and each other, and multiple deaths of well-loved family and community members, just to name a few things… I’ve had to dig deeper into myself to find what makes me feel joyful and happy. I’ve also noticed that feeling grateful for my life and what is around me is strongly associated with my state of mind. I have faith in the pendulum swing. From feeling trapped and cocooned with no apparent choices to soaring with iridescent wings, I know I will always come out the other side, usually stronger and armed with more resiliency and knowledge.
Being daring as business owner and entrepreneur has kept me busy, and also keeps me from being too hard on myself. (It feels like) I’ve made every mistake in the book, but I gratefully learn from my mistakes and embody an attitude of embracing change. I remind myself that evolution is the constant. I find joy in experiencing my roles as a business owner, head teacher, cook, administrator and director, family counselor, and janitor as always morphing and adjusting to meet the needs at hand. Sometimes it feels overwhelming, but generally, I wear my many hats with pride and remind myself and other critics that I’m doing the best I can! In the end, even when I fall short, I can almost always find the place in my heart to feel gratitude for this gift of creating an incredible community of children, families, and teachers who all really need each other. I feel joy when I say “yes” to all the chaos and gracefully navigate through life’s unexpected turns. When I embrace the attitude of gratitude, joy is much more easily accessed.
So, I ask you, what brings you joy at this time in your life?
Ellen studied Early Childhood Education and Developmental Psychology at Mills College in California. She has worked as a nanny and a home care provider in Vermont. Her large home program, Honeycomb Kids, serves an average of 14 children a day and as many as 30 enrolled families year round.
At Honeycomb Kids, the daily rhythm supports children in getting the right amount of outdoor and indoor time. The program is set on 4 acres with a short walk to over 1,000 acres of town forest. The staff of four includes two male and two female caregivers, providing the children with a balance of caregiving styles.