Child Care Director Interviews | Yavapai Region | Anelizabeth Marlowe

Anelizabeth Marlowe
Grannie's House

Interview Transcript:

00:00 LYNDA: Hi, it is August 20, 2020, and I’m here with Anelizabeth Marlowe with Grannie’s House. Thank you so much for joining me today.

00:12 ANELIZABETH: You’re so welcome. It’s my pleasure to be able to be here, Lynda.

00:15 LYNDA: Okay, socould you start out by just telling us a little bit about your center?

00:20 ANELIZABETH: Certainly. I opened Grannie’s House in 1995. I am a DHS Certified Small Group Home. I serve 10 children, basically. I currently have 9 attending. I have two part time staff members. I have a third full time staff member who is currently on indefinite lay-off until some of these things are resolved as far as finances, and maybe more enrollments. Maybe more scholarships from Quality First. We just have to take it one day at a time and see what happens there. (Child crying.) I have children finishing up lunch in the background. One of them who you just heard is one of my little guys who is almost 3. Jonah, please be nice.

1:23 ANELIZABETH: So I have two rooms, basically. We have, we’re a family care unit. But I do have a room where we have infants and toddlers. We have, our youngest is 4 months old, I have a 6 month old, we have a 10 month old and then my staff in there, she has a 13 month old. So we have four little ones in there. In our preschool room, the oldest I have just turned four. We have a three year old who is almost four and then two twos who are approaching three and then a three year old. And that’s all with another staff member.

2:05 LYNDA: Ok. That helps. So we are now several months into the pandemic that has changed many things about childcare and presented you with numerous challenges. What has this time been like for you and your staff?

2:21 ANELIZABETH: Stressful. I closed for one week the last week of March because we thought we had a parent who has two siblings, we thought that the parent had COVID. It turned out, thankfully, that she was negative. But it was still a real difficult time for us. So I had a full time person and two part time staff at that time that I had to lay off. So for that week we had nothing. Then I reopened it was only with one part time staff member and only three days a week, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. That went on for almost a month before the rest of our children, with the exception of one family with two siblings, returned to us.

That particular family, the parents both had lost their jobs, and ended up disenrolling their children the end of June just before the fiscal year started. So, I was able then to offer, (They were both on scholarship) I was able to offer one of those scholarships to another child for a month, for the month of June. And then in July when scholarships were reallocated I had been receiving 7 and I only got 3. So that took a big chunk out of the budget. But we’re making it work. We’re making it work. We’re just waiting and we’re hopeful that there will be more scholarships that come available to us.

4:05 ANELIZABETH: I have been very hesitant to add more children, basically just because I don’t know where they’ve been, where there parents have been, what they’ve been exposed to, if they’ve had any contact with COVID, and just been very uneasy about it. So.

4:28 ANELIZABETH: My infant-toddler room provider didn’t return to work until June with her daughter because of her concerns about health issues. But so far we haven’t had anyone with COVID. Although we have had a couple of scares. People thought perhaps they were positive and got tested. So right now one of my staff has been tested and I was tested recently just before some back surgery that I had. We’re all negative. We’re all pretty much healthy, other than, you know, allergies going around.

5:02 ANELIZABETH: We find that at the end of the day we are all really tired. What with all the extra handwashing, all the extra cleaning we do. Even one of my little boys, um, his infant brother is here with us. And he will say “that has to be cleaned, we’ll have to put it here for cleaning”. So even the kids are getting used to, ok somethings out, they have to be moved over here to be cleaned. We just have to clean more.

5:38 ANELIZABETH: I did make a change in procedure for my parents for signing in and signing out. We moved our sign in table outside. So parents come in the gate. They come to the sign in table. They sign their children in. The children sit down on a bench. We spray the bottoms of their shoes and check their shoes underneath. We use hand sanitizer. If they are going to stay outside we leave their shoes on. And then they go and play sometimes before breakfast. Parents rarely are allowed in to the house.

I am in a position where I am not supposed to be lifting or bending or twisting and so I can hold my babies, but I can’t carry them around. And so by the time my two part time staffers leave, I sometimes am here with an infant by myself. And so parents will come in. They spray. They hand sanitize, everything. They come just into the front door in order to pick the babies up so that I don’t have to walk out with them.

6:45 ANELIZABETH: We’ve limited anyone else coming in, with the exception I did have to have one repairman come in. He wore a mask, he sprayed his shoes, he wore gloves, um, everything. So. I also have adult children, um, grandchildren, actually staying with me currently, and they are all being very, very cautious and very careful with their cleaning and their sanitizing and wearing the mask where ever they go so that they don’t even, there’s no possibility that they could bring something back in to the home with them.

7:29 ANELIZABETH: As far as our families, wow. Some days morale is really good for all of us. And then other days we really struggle to keep the smile on our face and that tenderness in our voices that we need. We do lots of hugging with the kids. Social distancing has not been applicable because we work with so many infants and young children and they have to have that personal touch, that comfort- sitting on the laps, the hugging, the – all of that part of it. So, yeah. We do a lot of touching.

8:10 ANELIZABETH: Our families for the most part are coping ok. However, I do have a mom who was widowed a year ago and she’s having a rough time. Just now beginning to approach the idea of counseling for herself and the children. Another one of our moms is in her last semester of nursing school and she’s….it’s been a real struggle for her. Just to get her kids here, to go home and do school, everything is on the computer. Some days when she comes in, I mean she literally looks like she’s been through a war. She’s exhausted. So the staff and I, you know, we are as supportive as we can be offering encouragement and, you know, any helpful tips when we’re asked. So day to day lives for everyone is changed. There is no, there is nothing “normal” about, there’s nothing we can compare to our former normal as being “normal.” With the exception of we love our kids when they come in. We nurture them, we hug them, we sit and talk with them, we rock them, we read with them, we play with them. That’s our normal. That’s our normal.

9:49 LYNDA: Apart from COVID, just your whole role as a director, what have you learned in your years of doing this work that you wish you had known at the start?

10:02 ANELIZABETH: When I first started Grannie’s house back in 1995, Lynda, I thought I knew it all because I had three grown children. I had grandchildren. I’d been a caretaker since I was very young. I have ten siblings, nine of them are younger and I’ve always been there to take care of them. Um. Over the years, and I think more so once I, once I really decided okay I’m going to go to college, I’m going to get a degree in Early Childhood Education – prior to that when it was first offered, when I first was doing a self-study program and was asked, was asked about accreditation, “Oh no, I don’t want anybody else in my business. I don’t need any help. I don’t need any of that.“ And somehow, something got through to me and I realized I really didn’t know it all. And the more that I know, the more that I knew that I didn’t know. So, yeah. It’s been hard for me to ask for help over the years. I think I saw asking for help as a sign of weakness or an inability to accomplish something. With some maturity and wisdom under my belt, I realize that that is not the case. So I’m getting much better at asking for help.

11:54 ANELIZABTH: I’ve had some medical issues that have limited my mobility in the past few years and I have to ask for help. So I’m learning that every day we’re working together as a team. And I appreciate my staff so much. My one assistant has been with me for, oh my gosh, five years. We actually graduated from Yavapai with our Associates at the same time. We can finish each other’s sentences. I’ll say something and she’ll be right there on the same page. We’re really dedicated to the kids and the families that we serve. And just striving to improve the lives of the children in this really confusing time.

12:53 LYNDA: What do you think that they will remember from their time having been cared for in your home?

12:57 ANELIZABETH: I’ve had multiple family’s generations come and attend Grannie’s House. I see former students and families all over town, in the grocery store, everywhere. I’ll have kids yelling “There’s Grannie!” I’ll have families stop in the middle of the aisle, “Grannie! How are you? Are you still taking care of kids? Are you still there?” Yes, I’m still here. I believe that they do and that they will always remember the abundance of love that they received and the relationships that they built with friends, with me, with staff. I have families who will always refer to me as “Grannie.” I have two school agers who come occasionally and I will always be “Grannie” to them. They’re 13 and 12 and I’ve had them since they were 15 months old and 9 weeks old.

14:08 LYNDA: Oh my goodness. So you essentially helped raise those children.

14:13 ANELIZABETH: Yes. And you know I just stayed with them one night a few weeks ago and their mom had brought me a card yesterday and it just said “You ARE their Grannie” and its so true. Its’s so true. They come in the front door when they first enroll. They are engulfed and they are a part of me. They are just part of me. They are my family. They are my family.

14:37 LYNDA: That’s great.

14:39 ANELIZABETH: I really appreciate them.

14:44 LYNDA: So what do you think – what does Quality Child Care mean to you?

14:48 – (Child’s voice in background.) “I want help.” (Anelizabeth turns to attend to the child.) “You have to have Miss Becka help you. I’m talking. Okay, go take your bare bottom.” (Kisses child and send him to staff.)

14:56 ANELIZABETH: It means walking up to the door and hearing children laughing, singing, having fun. It means having a bare bottomed boy come up “I need your help, Grannie.” It means being, greeting parents on the sidewalk and reaching for the children that are in their arms. (choking up) It means getting emotional about it sometimes. I think quality childcare is a happy environment where you’ll see children engaged in activities that they’re enjoying and sometimes don’t want to leave. You’ll see them playing in a classroom or rolling around in the grass, picking up leaves and twigs to cook on the grill or stove.

15:34 ANELIZABETH: Quality Child Care is healthy children, happy, healthy children running and playing and falling down and being helped up and being encouraged to go on “You’re going to be okay.” It’s sitting in the middle of a group of kids, reading, singing, telling stories, and telling some very strange stories sometimes! (laughter). It’s babies fussing and providers rocking and comforting and a director sitting with a staff person, holding hands, or just hugging and encouraging each other that whatever it is we are going through, that this will pass. It will pass. It’s sunshine on faces. It’s Kleenex wiping noses and tears. It’s back rubs and “Booskas on Hooskas” (that’s pats on the bottom at nap time). Paint on hands. Just, it’s just incredible, loving relationships that are built between adult providers and those children.

17:27 LYNDA: That’s great. For all the struggles and challenges there may be, what are the rewards of this business?

17:34 ANELIZABETH: We all know that it’s not monetary. (Laughter) Having a child just out of the blue stop whatever they’re doing, come climb in my lap, squeeze my cheeks and say “I love you so much!” There’s no greater reward than that. Then seeing the smiles on their faces and seeing them not wanting to leave Grannie’s House and go home at night. That’s it. All that love that comes back.

18:11 LYNDA: Relationships.

18:12 ANELIZABETH: Absolutely

18:15 LYNDA: What gives you hope for the future?

18:18 ANELIZABETH: My relationship with God. Knowing that He’s in control. And even though it’s hard, I know how the story ends. Also knowing that “This too shall pass”. And that the children that I care for are being given a great foundation for learning, for building relationships, and forging new frontiers. They are our future. That’s my hope, to continue giving them the very best that I can give them.

19:03 LYNDA: What do you think fosters resilience in children to be able to cope with challenging times?

19:19 ANELIZABETH: Oh, again, I think that’s all about relationships. We build relationships with children from all walks of life. We offer then experiences, opportunities to explore their own ideas. To be creative. To model things for other children. “Look, see what I can do! Can I help you?” I think knowing that they have the support of their families and the providers and that they have a place of safety that they call home, and they have a place they call their home away from home.

19:52 LYNDA: How can you build resilience in yourself and your staff?

19:56 ANELIZABETH: Oh gosh, by being supportive, by being encouraging, provide staff opportunities to let their hair down and not have to be always smiling and always uplifting. To give them some down time. I think having access to our Quality First Coaches, our Smart Support, and community resources – knowing that we have all those things available to us I think helps us to be more of a rubber band and not to snap at the first little thing, but to be able to bend and flex, and to go with the flow, whatever that flow might be for the day.

20:46 LYNDA: What do you personally do for self care?

20:51 ANELIZABETH: (chuckles) When I was thinking about this this morning, I thought, well, this is going out to the public. (chuckles)

21:02 ANELIZABETH: I try to take time, I MAKE time to sit and do nothing except sit on the porch swing. And I like to do that in the morning before the day starts with my cup of coffee. And sometimes I don’t get a second cup of coffee, or if I do it is cold all day long. Ending the day just reading. I do a lot of breathing, relaxing, thinking about the day in as positive a way as I can. Loving on my dogs. Just really appreciating the beauty of nature. We have some, a beautiful tree in our back yard, I have two lovely trees that I planted in our front yard. And we have grass I n the back. We have flowers and sunflowers. And just beautiful things to look at and to enjoy. And then I like to get a manicure and a pedicure.

22:01 LYNDA: How do you encourage your staff to practice good self care?

22:07 ANELIZABETH: Well, I encourage them to take time out when needed. Also I try to see their needs and to respond. Sometimes just being available to them to talk and offer suggestions, to be able to provide a space for quiet time. Especially during the day, when the kids are down for a nap and it’s a little bit of down time, staff needs that down time too.

22:41 ANELIZABETH: I use essential oils and so do they. And I have crystals in every single room of my home. Just before lunch today three boys had taken some crystals out of a bowl over on a table and were sitting on the sofa. And sometimes we just do that. We just sit and hold a crystal and just relax and feel it and just let things go. Let things go.

23:11 LYNDA: Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you would like to share?

23:17 ANELIZABETH: There is something I’d like to share. It’s not necessarily a question, but it’s more of a comment. Not everyone is a good fit to be a child care provider. If you’re not happy with what you do, or what you’ve done during the day, when you go home or you close up at night , you should find another profession.

When you know that your work is your heart’s desire, then no challenge will be too great, or overwhelming. You have to breathe deep and often. You have to smile, even when you really may not feel like it, and just let that smile bring you to a better place. When you make mistakes, when I make mistakes, admit them. Make amends where you need to. And always remember to forgive others and myself. There’s no better job. There’s no better job in my opinion, than that of loving a little child. Teaching them.

24:33 LYNDA: Thank you so much. I really appreciate you spending this time with me today.

24:38 ANELIZABETH: Absolutely. My pleasure.

(PAUSE) we had brief conversation off line and then I started camera again at her request.

24:49 ANELIZABETH: I really would like to offer my appreciation to First Things First and all the programs that they sponsor. For Quality First, for the In Home people who go and visit with families. There are so many things that First Things First does that probably never would have been possible for so many families had this organization not come into being. So, dog gone those smokers, but thank you!

25:30 LYNDA: Well, thank you very much.

25:32 ANELIZABETH: Certainly. (big smile)

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