Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sharing and Caring: An Interview with Tumbleweed Teachers about Meal Time(s)

One of the most difficult realities of the Covid-19 Pandemic has been that families are not able to come into our school.   As you all know, this means that so much of our life together at school is invisible to you unless otherwise posted on Instagram, sent via text/email, and/or through this medium, our weekly Newsletter.  Therefore, we wanted to take a moment to offer a glimpse at a part of our day that wouldn’t otherwise be seen- Meal Time.  For this purpose, I (Cody) interviewed Sam, Hayln, and Shianne, and this is what they shared:

Infant Cohort

Cody: In three words, how would you describe the Infant mealtime(s)?

Sam:  Intentional, respectful & fun!

Cody: Tell us why you chose one of those three words.

Sam: I chose the word respectful because infants' journey with food is such a new process that honoring each child’s approach makes a big difference! Each child may have a different interaction with food & as they have experiences with different whole & natural foods preferences arise! By respecting each child our meal times are very enjoyable to spend together!

Cody: What do you enjoy most about mealtime(s)? Why?

Sam: The process each day! For example Evie’s excitement as she transitioned from the blanket on the floor to sitting at the table in a chair after building those muscles! Watching Bella and Edie use sign language to express what they need. Watching Gideon smile and mimic his friends in his selection of what to eat next! Using positive language around meal time to encourage and demonstrate healthy attitudes and mindset towards food! 

Cody: Is there anything that might surprise some about that time together?

Sam: The children are familiar with the process and we can all sit at the table for up to 45 minutes!  Friends are often motivated by their peers at the table to keep trying and eating more food rather than cleaning up to play! 

Cody:  Is there anything else you’d like to share about mealtime(s)?

Sam: I wish I had had an exposure to conversations about where foods came from, how they grew, or were made into the delicious dishes we had each day, when I was growing up! Having a lush garden to contribute to our meals brings a full circle around how we energize and take care of our bodies! Infants find so much wonder through these conversations!

Toddler Cohort

Cody: In three words, how would you describe your mealtime(s) together?

Hayln: joyful, delicious, exploration

Cody: Tell us why you chose one of those three words.

Hayln: I think exploration is a big one. We try and retry a variety of foods prepared in different ways. We explore how to be with our peers at a table while eating. Lastly, we explore how to share the experience of sharing food and stories and songs. 

Cody: How have you seen mealtime(s) together evolve since infancy?

Hayln: when the group was younger, a lot of our work around mealtimes was the sensory experience of having different textures of food and drinks and what it meant to eat solid foods and drink from cups. Nowadays, with our mealtime routine established, we get to talk about the particulars of food - peels and rinds - and the experience is more centered around sharing a meal together. 

Cody:  What do you enjoy most about that time together?  Why?

Hayln: the best part about meals for me is the sharing of stories and songs in such an intimate space. We are united in the desire to share a meal (this group loves to eat) and lately we've added so much communication about the food or stories about everyone's home time, or even how to say "more" with language or signing. 

Cody: Is there anything that people might find surprising about your mealtime(s)?

Hayln: How much food everyone eats!  As the cook, I prepare a lot of veggies, protein, and grains and I find it surprising when I hear that all or most of the food was consumed at lunch time!

Cody: What else would you like to share?

Hayln: One of the parts that I really enjoy about mealtime is sharing in spoken and signed language. We have been practicing, since infancy, how to use our hands or words to communicate, and lately everyone has been participating with ease!

Preschool Cohort

Cody: In three words, how would you describe the preschool mealtime(s)?

Shianne: Silly, engaged, curious

Cody: Out of those three words, which one do you think encompases Preschool mealtime(s) best?  Why? 

Shianne: Engaged.  I think that’s seen through how we “check-in” in the mornings at the table.  And I think they’re all good at being both a speaker and a listener during that time.  They can switch between these roles well, which makes for some great mealtime conversation!  

Cody: What is your favorite part of that time together? Why?

Shianne: I love when everybody shares about their home life and their experiences.  For example, I like monday mornings when everyone comes in to share what they’ve been doing with their families.  I think it builds community!

Cody: Is there anything that people might find surprising about mealtime(s)?

Shianne: I think children expand their food palette based on their surroundings.  Without it even being spoken verbally, they come to appreciate various foods, as they witness one another enjoying all of what’s available.    

Cody: What else would you like to share?

Shianne: One of the things that the children do before every meal is choose a song to sing together.  Sometimes that song is something that we all know, and sometimes the child who is choosing decides that they want to make up their own words to an existing song.  And sometimes we all make up a new one together!  Because of this, I think that each of them has become more confident in their ability/creativity to come up with something new that we all can enjoy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

On Resilience...

I remember a time when I did not believe in children.  I didn’t believe in their capabilities, their strength(s), and their resilience. Because of this, my image of the child was one of fragility and weakness.  To my credit, I worked at a mental health therapeutic nursery for children who lived in extreme poverty and continually dealt with the often traumatic realities of toxic stress.  However, my view of them was still too small, still lacking, still insufficient.  

And then I began to believe.  I began to believe that children are not made of glass; but rather, courage, strength, and ambition.  I realized they are not made of something to fear.  Instead, they are made of something worth celebrating…

Children are resilient humans.  They are all resilient in a diversity of ways- no matter the child, no matter the context. Skovholt and Trotter-Mathison (2016) define resilience as “the ability to bounce back” (p. 125).  With this in mind, the very act of being born into this world is a heroic act of resiliency. a fetus journeying from the only environment it has ever known, only to enter the brightest, loudest, and the most disorienting experience of their existence as an infant.  Though this example is an extraordinary one, resilience is also cultivated within the mundane.  Masten (2001) spoke to this ordinary nature of resiliency saying, “Resilience does not come from rare and special qualities, but from the everyday magic of ordinary, normative human resources” (p. 235).  In this view, even trying to put on a shoe or overcoming the common cold is building resilience within the child’s physical and neurological processes.  In fact, the absence of such trying experiences only serves to delay the emergence of resiliency (which could also be termed here as development).   

Children, our children of Tumbleweed as well as those outside our doors, are such insatiable learners, protagonists, and explorers in the celestial beauty of existence.  They are theory-builders, co-conspirators, and conduits of grace.  We have the opportunity each day to witness their resilient journeys, as well as offer them the freedom to encounter new challenges and struggle once again.  And each time they bounce back, each time they overcome, we celebrate their beauty and wonder at their continual maturation.  Yes, our children are resilient!

Masten, A. S. (2001). Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American Psychologist, 56(3), 227-238. Retrieved from /10.1037/0003-066X.56.3.227

Skovholt, T., & Trotter-Mathison, M. (2016). The resilient practitioner: Burnout and

compassion fatigue prevention and self-care strategies for the helping professions (3rd

ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. Retrieved from /10.4324/9781315737447

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Politics of Sleep

 Naptime.  One of the most talked about, written about, and contested times of the day for children.  Some caregivers love it for the respite it offers them in a mentally, emotionally, and physically taxing day, while other caregivers despise it for the “power struggle” dynamics that sometimes accompany it (particularly in the preschool years).

Children Need Sleep

Whatever the viewpoint, one thing is for certain: children need sleep.  We all do, and it is not for a little reason.  We need sleep to grow- physically, neurologically, and for a healthy stress response system.  We need sleep to rest-  to give our mind and body the pause that it needs.  And we need sleep to heal- to give our muscles, skin, bones, etc. time to regenerate.   

Sleep is not Dogma

With this said, one culture’s values around sleep is not dogma.  Despite the proliferation of literature on infant sleep schedules and preschool mandates, children are not inherently delicate.  Rather, diverse cultures throughout the world prove that there is no universal law around sleep (except that you need it), especially considering the spectrum of ways in which each culture cultivates sleep for its youngest members.  It’s important that we recognize this so that we don’t get stuck in the falsehood of dichotomizing rest.  Thinking there is a right and a wrong way for children to get what they need is true in some instances, but to assert a universal value around the way children sleep creates the possibility of asserting colonial attitudes on the culturally divergent ways of cultivating rest.  

Sleep is Political

Regardless of our practices around naptime, what is most important for us to remember is that the way that we relate to children and their sleep routines is political.  Children are right-holders and active citizens in society.  As such, mandatory participation in an act of rest comes with no small amount of negotiation.  When we participate in this negotiation, we are affirming the child’s right and competence in co-creating a restful experience, which leads to increased self-efficacy and confidence in their own self-care.  

To be clear, this is not to advocate for a kind of anarchist pedagogy, one in which adults have no authority when it comes to children’s sleep practices.  Authority still exists because a large knowledge gap between adults and children still exists.  However, authority in these instances is not absolute.  Even infants have an innate knowledge of what they need (often heralded by crying); therefore, our work is not how to “get them to sleep”, but to tune in to what their bodies, emotions, and behaviors are telling us.  As a child grows, they become more competent in recognizing what their body needs, as well as what feels most restful for them. Every time that we listen, follow, and negotiate with their thinking, feelings, and desires, we are participating in the politics of sleep by giving our authority and power away, while simultaneously promoting confidence and self-efficacy in children.  It is not easy; negotiating power never is.  But if we desire to live in a democratic society, one in which the rights of each citizen are highly valued, we need to recognize the inherent strength, capabilities, and knowledge(s) of even our youngest members.  

Thursday, November 5, 2020

The More We Get Together

“The more we get together, together, together...

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.

Because your friends are my friends, and my friends are your friends. 

The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”

In the Preschool Class, we sing this song almost every day at one of our three meal times.  And it sounds so simple- “The more we get together, the happier we’ll be.”  But, in the beginning, it often doesn’t feel that way….

It’s Monday morning, and we’re out in the yard.  The children have been working on their “Ninja House” much of the morning, but as we come back outside after snack, their attention turns to the newly-fallen leaves lying under our large maple tree.  CKP finds a leaf with a brilliant spectrum of colors (maroon, orange, and yellow) and says, “Look at my beautiful leaf!”  OP has turned her attention to the same leaf and after Clark puts it down, she immediately picks it up.  CKP notices this, and says, “No, I’m still working with that.”  “No, I’m working with it,” OP replies. 

By this time, I have come over to assess what is happening.  I ask them to hand me the leaf while we talk about how to solve the problem.  “It looks like you both want the same leaf.  How could we solve that problem?”  Hearing this, CKP quickly finds another leaf with its own array of colors and offers it as a substitution to OP.  “So CKP’s idea is that you could have the leaves he’s found and he could have the leaf that I’m holding in my hand.  How does that sound?”  “Not good!”  

Meanwhile, JA hears this same conversation and offers OP a leaf saying, “Here’s a leaf for you!”  “But that one isn’t beautiful!  I want my leaf,” OP responds.  However, as I continue to hold the leaf and CKP again asks to be entrusted with it, OP has her own idea.  I see her bounding up the side porch steps, only to celebrate and proclaim the long piece of grass she has found.  “It looks like you’ve found something else to play with, OP.  Does that mean CKP can have this leaf?”  “Yes!”, she replies.  

Tuesday will host one of the most important elections in our Nation’s history, and it has been met with not a little strife already.  Rather, it has been a continuous and contentious debate over the past four years, while ideas conflict over the appropriate and democratic way to move forward.  And though this discord has been sewn into the fabric of who we are together, I wonder about how, and even if, we will move forward together as a collection of diverse people, situated in the same geographical and constitutional milieu(s).  

“The more we get together, together, together…” The more our preschool class gets together, the more we see our differences: differences of culture, of thought, of feeling.  And the more we get together, the more we see these differences and recognize them as such.  Initially, we try to change one another, to root out these differences that we see as problematic.  But eventually, the more we get together, the more conflicts we have, the more we see our differences as something to be empathized with (rather than destroyed), and the more we see ourselves in one another.  A conflict over a leaf is just one example of this.  

With all of this being said, a leaf is not abortion or LGBTQ rights or immigration, and it never will be.  But the possession of a leaf is political.   Everything is.  And the more we get together as a community, the more we will learn how to navigate conflict together, empathize with one another’s differences, and just maybe... the happier we will be.   

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Chalk Rocks and Sacred Stones

It’s Thursday afternoon.  Almost all of the children are already gone, except the few who remain outside.  HR is using a dump truck to carry the rocks that he finds around our playscape/garden.  I notice this, and it reminds me of digging for crystals in my backyard  when I was a child.  Thinking of this, I join HR and hunt for rocks all around the yard.  When we are through, we leave the dump truck with all of the rocks in it near the front of the driveway.  

Monday morning rolls in.  The preschoolers are arriving at school and CKP has an idea.  “I want to draw with chalk!,” he says, searching for a piece to begin his work.  I hear and see his ideas, and offer to grab some more chalk out of the shed. 

After we have gathered a spectrum of chalk colors, we begin thinking about what outside materials we could decorate.  CKP quickly spots the truck that HR and I had used for collecting rocks, and the creation begins.  

As OP and JA join CKP in this endeavor, I pause to admire the colors of the stones they have already embellished with fresh chalk.  Bright blue, purple, yellow, and pink adorn these rocks in an array of lines, circles, and scribbles.  I pause, thinking about the way that rich colors such as these have significance and meaning in many Native American Tribes.  For example, the Navojos have four colors (black, white, blue, and yellow) that represent four sacred mountains in each geographical direction (North, South, etc.).  Furthermore, these same colors represent the four stones that are a central part of their creation story (Navajo People, 2020).  This convergence of meanings strikes me, and I experience an array of feelings reflecting on this.

The children do not know this, and I do not mention it to them.  Instead, I ask where they will take these treasures that they have so aptly colored.  CKP says, “We should put them all over the yard so that people can see the beautiful colors!”  Everyone soon agrees to this plan, and we begin the process of distributing the rocks throughout our playscape.  

While the children decorate the yard with their co-creations, I think more about our interactions with these “other-than-human” stones, and I wonder about whether our relationship to these objects reflect the honor that we seek to imbue.  “We acknowledge the people whose land we stand on,” begins the land acknowledgement at the bottom of this page.  And while these words convey our hopes, I wonder if they convey our practice.  In our relating to these stones, to these colors, to this place, are “our pedagogical and communal actions” honoring “the Native American tribes who have come before us, and those who remain here still?”  

I will not end this story with an answer to that question; rather, this blog is a living provocation for continual reflection and reformation of our values and practice. How do these words feel to you? What are we doing as a community to actively engage in the journey of justice for Native Americans? Where do we fall short? And how will we move forward together?

Navajo People. (2020). The Navajo Four Sacred Colors. Retrieved from

*We acknowledge the people whose land we stand on- the Multnomah, Kathlamet, Clackamas, Chinook, Tualatin Kalapuya, Molalla and several other tribes along the Columbia River.  In doing so, we commit ourselves to the continual recognition of the historical violence done to their people by White people.  It is our hope that our pedagogical and communal actions may honor the Native American Tribes who have come before us and those who remain here still.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Living and Learning Together

“We’re driving a car!,” says TH, while he looks through one of our classroom’s books.  CKP joins him, and JA quickly follows suit.  They are occupying our reading chair in the back right corner of our room, which has ample space for their three bodies to fit in comfortably.  JA says, “I’m driving the car!,” while modeling the appropriate “10 and 2” hand positions on the imaginary wheel.  CKP is also “driving the car,” and I begin to wonder about the feasibility of this co-pilot situation.  Nonetheless, they share this role quite nicely, as they negotiate ideas of a way forward.  

As I think about this instance, as well as the other ways in which we are together (seen in the pictures pasted here), I think about the communal nature of our learning.  While I am a teacher of the preschool group, I am not the only one, and I’m not just talking about Shianne.  Each member of our group brings their own knowledge, abilities, and ideas into our time together, and it is from this collection of our many identities that we co-create who we are as a group.  The stunning thing about this is that they are such extraordinary community and knowledge builders.  Whether it be driving a car, sending sounds through a tube, harvesting tomatoes, or painting a collaborative canvas, they construct knowledge and meaning together, while becoming closer to one another as a group.  Even their conflicts over these meanings are soon followed by an invitation to share, to play together, and to collaborate anew.  That kind of fidelity in the pursuit of ideas, and in relationship to one another, is subversive in an increasingly individualistic society, and I have front row seats to it every day.  

With this being said, I do not pretend that children give us the perfect model for how to be together.  In many ways, the complexities of their relationships to one another are made possible by adult scaffolding, situational maintenance, and environmental maintenance, without which the same kind of communal learning may not be possible.  Though children are provocative in their relationships, they are still immature psychologically, emotionally, and of course, physically.  This renders a need for assistance, for a guide, which is a role that adults often fill.  It’s important that we believe in, and advocate for, the abilities of children, while not romanticizing their contributions.  

Children, our preschool children, are such competent protagonists in their own learning and community building.  And while we recognize their limitations in this, we also celebrate the way in which they navigate our living and learning together! 

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Complexities of Inclusion


“I want to see the picture of my Mom,” JA says, as they run to take a quick peek at the phone that I’ve pulled out of my pocket.  “Teacher Cody,” he continues, “I miss my Mom.”  


TH is playing in the “dome” (Or the “jungle gym,” some may call it).  He’s making food and serving it to CKP, who is also in the dome.  JA sees this and says, “I want to get in.”  I ask what hole he wants to go through to enter the climbing structure, and he quickly chooses one of the triangle openings closest to the ground.  He sits next to TH, and TH offers some of the “food” that he’s prepared.  JA smiles at this, looking up at me and commenting, “He just gave me some food!”


JA is sitting in my lap inside the classroom soon after rest time.  TH, who is sitting across from JA and I, says to JA, “Can I hug you?”  “Yeah,” JA responds.  Reaching over into my lap, TH extends his arms, clutching JA  tightly before letting go.  JA turns to me with a big smile and says, “That person just hugged me.”  “I saw that.  What did you think about it?,” I ask.  “I liked it!,” he says.  

Since JA’s first day with our Preschool cohort, he carried a complexity of emotions through our gates.  When he left The Nest, he left his peers, their families, and teachers.  Furthermore, he left the place that had comforted and nurtured him for so long.  What had become so familiar to him was now replaced by the unfamiliar.  What was known has now become foreign.

This foreign place, people, and social processes make up what is Tumbleweed.  And as Tumbleweed, we interact within a tapestry of social patterns, cues, feelings, thinking, etc.  These patterns come from the stuff we have woven into what it means to be a Mom, what it means to be a Dad, what it means to be a child, what it means to be human.  And each family’s weaving looks different, shaped by the threads of practices, customs, traditions of family and context- all combining to create the tapestry of culture(s) and cultural processes that we engage in with one another.  And though we seldom acknowledge it, these things are not easy to digest or comprehend because  their intricacies and dynamisms are legion.

In the brief stories shared above, I highlighted only three experiences that are included among the multitude of feelings and interactions that shape the inclusion of a new child into our community.  Grief, connection, and consent expose the sadness, the joy and the negotiation of all these experiences.   And we celebrate JA’s journey in traversing these experiences.  But they do not convey the whole of what he experiences each day, as he walks onto our grounds.  

I say all of this in hopes to convey one reminder: Inclusion is a most necessary task, and it is a task of a whole community.  When JA, or another new member of our Community, is experiencing the complexities of learning the communication, rituals, social patterns, etc. in which we have built, we are all called upon to respond.  We are called to seek their full inclusion (children, parents, family, and culture) into Tumbleweed, while also recognizing the challenges that they face.  We are called to allow the thread(s) of their selves become woven into the tapestry of who we are.  We are called to include.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

2020 & ECE

Early childhood education has often flown under the radar by the general public, and has consistently been under appreciated, unrecognized, and under supported.  Tumbleweed is an incredible example of how under pressure, and in the midst of trying circumstances, there can still be something beautiful.  2020 has been a great example of this resilience, compassion, understanding and empathy in our own community. 

As adults, parents, caregivers, and humans, we have been presented with a rollercoaster of a year.  We were not given any warning as to what was ahead- consistent dread of the uncertain and experiencing more hardships than likely before... all compacted into a mere 6 and a half months.  It has been clear through social media, talking with friends, colleagues and neighbors about what this has done for our own well-being.  Not to mention, the overarching expectation that we need to continue to hustle, rush and take care of ourselves and all those around us in whatever capacity that may be.  

We are all trying our best to care for ourselves, our family members, our parents, our children, our neighbors, our pets, our community, our society and those who are continually oppressed.  If we were to use Dr. Bronfenbrenner's  socio-ecological theory, even one who may be not familiar with this model, could potentially see the connections. 

Starting at the center, there is the person. The human. The child. Surrounding that human, are the different layers of their environment that may be playing a role on development and understanding of the world.  

Without over-explaining, or diving into the micro-specifics, think to yourself the question: what layers am I functioning in right now?

Are you only focused on the microsystem around you? Maybe through the exosystem?

In the last week, have you spent more than say 30 minutes worrying about the Marco, or Chronosystem?

In reflection of my own work as a human during this time, as well as my time spent in the classroom with the children and my surrounding colleagues, the underlying topic that comes up in some form or another is how much we are trying to process while also completing all the other tasks and responsibilities at hand. 

Our minds are not solely focused on our micro or mesosystem.  We are functioning with the reminder in our pocket that the world around us is experiencing racism, hardships, oppression, inequality and so much more. We are, as some would say, in survival mode.  

We all want what is best for our immediate family, whether that be your children, your spouse, your parents, your partner, your animals.  But when our "systems" get overwhelmed, the boundaries, guidelines and energy is depleted. We are functioning in the best way we can, and perhaps we are simultaneously harder on ourselves for the difference in that quality of work or accomplishment than we would've been before. 

We are overworked, overstressed, under compensated and misunderstood. This is not just in the Early Childhood Education field, it is a thread that is running through the work force during these times. 

In our own mesosystem, that is the Tumbleweed Community, each person is a moving piece in the web of support we have created to sustain a meaningful, engaging and compassionate program.  We wouldn't be Tumbleweed if it weren't for all our children and families.  You are the purpose, the drive, and the passion.  Providing quality childcare will be a continuous climb in our profession, and we feel honored to provide that for our families at Tumbleweed. 

As teachers, we not just only care for the children, families, and the school, but also for each other.  During these times, my fellow co-teachers have become my closest peers, confidants and professional motivators! I think I could speak for all of us when saying none of us saw our teaching careers evolving to what it is now.  We have followed state policies, created our own, and worked with our community to make sure we could meet their needs at home and at school.  All during a time where one headline could send your mood spiraling, depending on what you feel in your heart and for the world around us. 

Enjoying the company of the children, families, teachers, admin and our surrounding community is what fills our cup. We chose this profession because of our passion. The feeling in our heart that wants to help the children discover the world around them with curiosity and develop a sense of self & agency. I do believe we are raising the generation that could change the world.

It starts with you & Early Childhood Education.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Comfort of Dragons

TH loves hugs.  They love to be held, cuddled, carried, and cared for in a most gentle way.  His heart is tender, and he feels with a ferocity that is unwavering.  He feels not only for himself, but for others also.  There have been countless times when he has provoked the entire class to a more empathetic response to a story, an event, or a situation.  

OP loves hugs as well and also enjoys the gentleness of her caregivers.  She also loves to care for others.  Many parents have experienced this whenever they arrive on our school grounds. Before they can even enter through our gate, OP has proclaimed their presence to all who are within an earshot, but most specifically, to their child.  She likes to make these connections, to help, to bring joy to another one of her friends at the news of their parent’s arrival.  

One day I came out to the garden after my planning time to find these two engaged in pretend play with one another.  OP was a “Momma Dragon,” while TH carried out the role of the “Baby Dragon.”  “Mommy, I’m tired,” says Baby Dinosaur.  “Ok, Baby, time to go to bed,” replies Mommy Dinosaur.  TH walks gingerly over to a toy storage box at the side of the shed.  He climbs on top and pretends to sleep.  OP soon joins him on the box, and after she sits down, he soon rests his head in her lap.  His face tells me he’s content, while her face tells me she’s enjoying her recurring role of caregiver.  

As I watch their play continue to unfold, I pause the cycling tasks in my head in order to appreciate this moment.  Here is OP, caring for TH in her familiar, gentle way.  And here is TH, resting his head in the comfort that he so adamantly enjoys.  Here are two pieces of our community, finding purpose and comfort in the embrace of one another.  

Community is like that.  We come with all that we have and all that we are, and somewhere in the midst of our messy muddling, we find connection, solace, and peace.  Sometimes this comes easy, and our relationships quickly fuse into the mosaic of a collective.  Sometimes it’s hard, and it seems like we’d sooner find comfort in a complete stranger than we would with those right in front of us.  And sometimes, but only sometimes, we just transform into dragons.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Transgressing Scarcity

“I want to paint!,” says OP, as she echoes what is for her a consistent desire during the transition between rest time and play.  She pulls out a paper tray and a piece of paper, while I offer her watercolors, brushes, and a paint palette.  Sitting down, she begins to meticulously place a multitude of colors and shades on her white piece of paper.  

OS has only recently woken up from their nap and hears the commotion happening at the table across the room.  They pull themselves off their mat and gingerly cross the other mats, scattered over the floor.  “I want to paint too!,” they say, when they arrive at the table.  I acknowledge this, and begin to gather more painting supplies from the shelf.  Turning to hand them the tools they will need to accomplish their wish, I am started by what I see: OS has picked up a paint brush off of the table, and has begun to paint a dark swirl of color on OP’s creation, already in progress.  

Some may remember an earlier story I had written about a similar event entitled, “Dancing Without Borders.”  In it, I described my amazement of the way in which OS and OP had allowed one another to transgress commonly-held notions of boundaries.  That was juxtaposed with the way in which the United States has treated immigrants over the past several years.   And now, here these two are again,  dancing with paint bushes, while challenging others’ ideals of possession.  

While I continue to watch OS and OP return to their dance together, I am again transfixed by their inaudible negotiation of a space, of an event, and of a shared creation. Their arms become tangled in the messiness of their activity, and perhaps their activism, co-mingling colors and ideas.  As they continue to blur one another’s lines and shades, they also continue to transgress societal views of ownership and scarcity, and as they transgress one another’s space, they continue to transgress the current immigration policies of the United States.  Reflecting on this, I remember the words of Ghandi, “There is enough on earth for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.”  

OP’s Mom arrives at the end of the day.  She is met with the same enthusiasm and energy that OP exudes each time her Mom arrives in the afternoon.   After some exchange of hugs and greetings, OP runs to her bag and pulls out the same page she was painting on only hours earlier.  “Mommy, Mommy, look what me and OS made!,” she exclaims as she hands her Mom their work of art.  I smile; generosity has won the day.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

The Ghost in the Studio

There is a ghost in the studio

And the children are running.



Fleeing to the elevator.

There is a ghost in the studio

And the children are running.

It’s Friday, May 29th, 2020.  Last night I watched a video of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, being assaulted and killed by a white police officer.  This is not the first time this has happened.  In fact, it has happened 1,254 times since 2015 (Tate, Jenkins and Rich, 2020).  I feel sad thinking about this, as I watch the children play a new pretend game that they’ve been rehearsing the last couple of weeks. 

There is an old wooden shed in front of me, nestled within our outdoor garden/playscape.  The roof of this “storage shack” jets out behind it to provide shelter for our newly-revived outdoor studio.  Only yesterday one of the children’s’ parents came to guide the children and I through the construction of a long table that now inhabits this covered area.  Also inhabiting this space is a thin white sheet, hanging along the back wall of the studio.  “It’s a ghost!” LW announces, as they, and the other two children, turn and run out of the studio and towards the front of the shed.  Once there, LW yells, “Get into the elevator!”, while all three of the children jump on top of a small table.  “Press the button!”, says OS, while TH presses the imaginary button on the wall with a stick which they had gathered on the way to the elevator.  “We’re at the top floor!”, LW says, and they climb down from the elevator and into a net of safety again.


For almost three months now, these children have been under the ominous cloud that is COVID-19.  At school we often refer to this reality as “the virus,” and the children have seemed to find some understanding in the term.  However, for perhaps the first time in their lives, there is something that their parents don’t have an answer for, their teachers don’t have an answer for, that no one has an answer for.  This must be a scary place for them to be, as those who have built such strong fencing around them struggle to construct a new barrier, a new layer of protection from this new reality.  As the children continue to engage with this ghost, I am curious, and I wonder about the connections their making between this thing that they are running from and the virus that we’re all trying to escape…


It’s Thursday, June 4, 2020.  The children have just finished adding to our “BLACK LIVES MATTER” mural, outside the fence of our playscape. We are in the studio again; however, today I notice a change in their play.  Contrary to their interactions with this ghost for the past couple of months, they are not running away.  They are moving towards the towards the white sheet with sticks in their hands, and they are attacking it; they are attacking the ghost.  OS has two sticks in their hands as they become entangled with it, hitting it, assaulting it, from close proximity.  CF says, “It disappeared!” “What disappeared?”, I asked.  “The ghost disappeared because we hit it!”, CF replied. 
We gather in the studio together and celebrate the destruction of this thing that they once feared.  As we revel in this new occurrence, I can’t help but to become curious once again.  What has changed in their relationship to the ghost in the last couple of weeks?  What transformation has taken place?

I do not pretend to know the answer to these complex questions, but I also can’t help but to draw on the symbolism that is occurring.  This ghost, this white sheet, has for so long been a cloak that has symbolized hate, racism, and even death.  It has been wielded as a weapon of fear and a relic of ignorance.  Even those who have sworn to protect the citizens of our country have embraced this ghost.  In fact, since I began writing this post, the number of black people who have been killed by the police has risen to 1,298 (Tate, Jenkins, and Rich, 2020).  That’s forty-four people in less than one month. 

The Fight

But it is time to stop running from it.   It is time to recognize that this ghost is something that lives all around us, among us, and even within us.  It is time to encounter the thing that we fear.  It is time to attack it, to thwart it, to destroy its ideal and its reality.   It has been wielded for far too long and far too much.  It is time we take a lesson from the children, to take a stand and to fight.

On a morning soon after George Floyd’s death, we were talking about what happened to this man who was beloved by so many.  I shared with the children the story of his death and without any prompting, TH spoke up and said, “I would have pushed the policeman off of him!”  “Wow,” I thought, "I hope we all have the courage to do the same."

There is a ghost in the studio

And the children are attacking.

Hitting it,

Dismantling it,

Taking it by force.

There is a ghost in the studio

And we are not running anymore.

Tate, J., Jenkins, J., Rich, S. (2020). Fatal Force. The Washington Post.  Retrieved