Today exhaustion strikes, full-force. I woke up with a pounding headache, sore throat and droopy eyes with a full day ahead of me. Four hours of sleep each night does not cut it for me. As I write this my face is burning up, so it will be less thought-provoking tonight and more of a recap for myself.
This morning Ana, Weston and I went to the shelter. We were in charge of cooking the lunch for the day and got right to work. While I was chopping up fruit for a salad, I began talking to a few of the shelter guests. Paul is a veteran from the Korean War, and Don is a Vietnam War veteran. We instantly connected and could have gone on talking all day long—it really drained the last bit of strength I had and I ended up having to send them on their way so I could focus on preparing the meal. I will definitely be eating lunch as often as I can at the shelter to get to know these folks better.Weston and I served beef stroganoff, mixed vegetables, tossed salad, fruit salad and dinner rolls to 40 people. The guests and those from the community line up right at noon, but aren’t allowed to be served until the clean-up sign=in sheet is completely filled out. This seems to drag out until the last minute before noon, and someone will give in and fill a slot. It’s nice that the chores are given to those eating at the shelter. It gives them responsibilities and structure, while also keeping the kitchen and dining area really clean.
We walked over to the Food Bank in beautiful 30-degree weather. It felt like summertime! Weston and I bagged mini potatoes and competed in finding the smallest ones. I found two that were heart shaped, and wondered if whoever received them in their bag of potatoes would notice. Joe, one of the older volunteers, pulls out his Calvin and Hobbes comic book—my favorite! Adalente is attached to the Food Bank and he told me whenever I need a break come by and read them. He and I are going to get along great.
At two, Claudia and I walked over to PALS. I went in a van with Tim, the director, to do a pick-up of the children. There are 20 enrolled in the program right now. First, we picked up little Codey. He is five-years-old, but has already been kicked out of three different Headstart programs. On the way, Tm told me if you squinted your eyes while looking at him he would resemble a linebacker. When we got to the sitter he was staying at, he immediately looks up at me and asks if I’m a new PALS teacher. I said yes, and he shouts, “Well, where’s your PALS t-shirt, Ms. Chloe?!” Inside the van, Codey pulls out a folder with two letters inside. One was for Tim and the other was for another PALS child. He wrote apology letters to them for kicking the other child yesterday. At the end of the apology to the child he wrote, “I promise not to kick you again and I hope we can be friends. Love, Codey” We scooped up the rest of the kids from the elementary school and headed back.
Most of the children have little or no structure in their home lives, and PALS tries to reinforce that while still having fun. They have a “strong stance” for standing and for sitting to keep them focused and relaxed. There is so much positive energy in the room, but there are several of the children who like to act out.
The children are at PALS for two hours after school each day before being dropped off at their homes. The schedule goes something like this: Hang your bags and put on your PALS t-shirt, wash your hands, eat your snack, circle time, stretches, lesson/homework time, play time, home.
During snack time I sat next to Josiah. He pokes me to look over at him and he has the biggest grin on his face and a milk-mustache smeared above his lips. I look at him and gasp, “Oh my gosh, how did you grow that beard so fast?!” He giggles and scoots closer to me. These kids are precious.
Circle time involves everyone saying their name and responding to the circle time question. Today it was “When the snow melts I want to…” A giraffe, PALS mascot, is passed around the room as we each take turns answering the question. “When the snow melts, I want to ride my bike down the trail by the river,” was my response. Codey says, “When the snow melts I want to make snow balls and snowmen and then throw them at my friends and smash the head off the snowman.” He got pretty restless while the others took their turn and started acting out. I don’t know his full story, but there’s something about him I am drawn to. During learning time he wanted to play on the iPad, but since he had his turn yesterday, I suggested we sit down and write some words together. He pulls out a paper he drew on yesterday with his name and numbers written across. I helped him fix his 4’s, which he kept writing backwards.We then began drawing dinosaurs together and I would write out t-rex, stegosaurus and brontosaurus while he tried guessing the letters. “S” like a snake, I’d say as he sounded out the letters. He is a bright kid and picks up on things quickly, but I feel he has never been given that attention he needs at home. That one-on-one time is so important for him. I hope to be able to start helping out regularly and spend more time with him.
Unfortunately, Claudia and I had to leave PALS early to pick out some snowshoes for tomorrow at Adams State Adventure Program. I came back home completely exhausted and weak. Tomorrow is a long day exploring the valley, and I am going to rest up as best as I can tonight. I pushed myself too far this week, and realized I need to make sure I make time for myself. I need to respect when my mind and body is telling me to slow down. Rest. Recover.
Here’s to a glorious full night’s sleep…