Friday, March 9, 2012

Goodlife Fitness - Jump! Child Care Review

This is something I don't do very often - write a negative review. I had a really disturbing experience lately, though, and did provide the company ample opportunity to respond, which they did not. So I'd like to share here what happened in the spirit of a reminder to be alert and be thorough when you are choosing child care providers.

On February 27th, my friend and I visited the Canyon Meadows Goodlife Fitness Club (on Macleod Trail) in Calgary. She has two young daughters, a three year old (G.) and a one year old (H.), and I, of course, have a one year old daughter (Mia). She has taken G. to the Jump! center before and everything has been fine before, so we thought we'd try taking the babies for a half-hour test run. I'd never left Mia with a care facility before, so it was a little high-anxiety to begin with for me.

We arrived at the club at around 9:40 am. We checked in, settled the girls. G. went off to play, and H. was playing as well. I sat Mia in front of the bookshelf and she set to playing with the books. I said on my way out that Mia is "used to constant supervision" (my words exactly) - perhaps I was not clear enough and should have said that at her age, she NEEDS constant and attentive supervision as she has an avid curiosity about the world and no sense of danger. I guess I expected that child care providers would know that about one year olds. Mistake.

The child care center at the time of my check in had 9 children (the girl on the desk mentioned this as she had just done a count); at least one of these was an infant in a car seat, I would guess 5 children under 18 months and around 3 children under 6. There was one Goodlife staff member at the desk (in a Goodlife staff shirt), who remained at the desk for all the times I looked in with the exception I will mention later. There were two other adults that I saw in the Jump! center and on speaking with one of them she said she was the mother of one of the children and was "volunteering" (her word) there. Neither of these women were wearing Goodlife staff shirts so I believe they were not staff members per se.

My friend and I went to the change room for a couple minutes to stow our stuff in lockers, and then went to check through the window of the child care center. G. was playing happily, H. was playing at a child set of table and chairs, Mia was still looking at books.

My friend and I went to the elliptical trainers to warm up. The plan was 10 minutes of warm-up, check on the girls again, followed by the circuit and then to pick up the girls. We managed to get 9 minutes in on the elliptical trainers before the girl in the Goodlife shirt from the Jump! desk came out to us. She asked, "Are you H's mum?" to my friend, "She's had a boo-boo".

My friend and I rushed to follow her to the Jump center. H. was in one of the women's arms, screaming, with blood on her face. There were bloody baby wipes and tissues on the floor. On a closer look, H. had a gash in her forehead that was about 3/4" long and gaping open right down to the bone. They said H. had fallen against a wooden fence installed around the child play area. All three of the adults were gathered around her.

My friend took H., one of the volunteers (I will call her that, I am not certain of her status) told her to apply pressure and that they'd already tried an ice pack. The volunteer then applied two bandaids to H's forehead - catching her hair and her eyebrow in the adhesive (which later proved even more painful when they were removed to treat the wound). The volunteer told my friend to take her to the urgent care clinic and asked if she knew where it was. Another parent luckily was able to give her directions. I ran to get my friend's coat from her locker and she rushed off with H., leaving G. with me.

I remained in the Jump! center for the next hour or so while I waited for G.'s dad to come pick her up. I absolutely did not feel comfortable leaving the children in the care of the staff after what had happened and on seeing that my daughter was playing with inappropriate toys at that time (more on that later).

As a result of this injury, H. will have a permanent scar on her forehead. The wound was open long enough that it could not be stitched and had to be glued. Any mother knows that accidents happen, and you can't prevent every fall. However, I don't believe this situation was unavoidable.

Here are my concerns about this situation and what I saw afterwards:
  • If there is a procedure in place for injuries, it was clearly not followed. Here is why I say this:
  • using baby wipes on a would cannot possibly be standard procedure. They contain chemicals, alcohol and fragrances and are not designed for wound care. Completely inappropriate.
  • The staff applied an ice pack *before* contacting the mother of this child, as there was no ice pack in sight when we got into the center yet they mentioned it had been used. How long after H. arrived at the center did the injury happen, and how long before they went to get her mother? 
  • on that note, there were no first aid supplies visible either in the immediate situation or even in a first aid kit on a wall that I saw.
  • One of the supervisors should have been dealing with the injured child, and the remaining adults should have continued to supervise the other children (!).
  • The most basic first aid training for cuts indicates Rest, Elevation, Direct Pressure (RED). H.'s head was elevated, and they were attempting to apply direct pressure to stop the bleeding. This much was done. First aid training beyond the most basic would indicate checking responses and eyes for signs of concussion with a head wound. I did not witness anyone doing this nor did anyone mention it. I'm not sure how much beyond the basic first aid training is required for child care but a blow to the head hard enough to cut to the bone does raise concerns of concussion.
  • The gash on H.'s forehead was such that it would have taken quite a blow against a sharp edge to create. My friend suspects that H. (a curious and active 13 month old) may have been standing on a chair to fall that hard against the rail.
  • While the three adult supervisors were all gathered around H., nobody was supervising the other children at all. Additional children had arrived and I would guess there were 12-15 children there, all under 5.
  • All the adults in the Jump! center made every effort to downplay the injury. Calling it a "boo-boo" was only the beginning. Even after my friend left with H., the women were telling me, "Oh, it didn't bleed that much", "Kids heal fast", and "It will probably only need one stitch" (as though a baby needing even "only" one stitch was okay!!)
Besides the horrifying injury to H., -
  • My daughter Mia (just 12 months) was playing unsupervised with crayons and pencil crayons when I came into the room. At her age, crayons are a choking hazard. Children this age put everything in their mouths, and have teeth to bite off chunks of crayon. Another little boy about the same age was playing with crayons as well. Pencil crayons are equally inappropriate for unsupervised play: sharp, pointy sticks, easy to fall on for wobbly early walkers who like to stumble around gripping things and/or chewing on things.
  • The older children were not separated at all from the younger children (infants were in car seats or in exersaucers in the front area, but any child who was walking was in the larger play area). The older children were playing roughly and running around the unsteady toddlers. The volunteers were reprimanding them but it was largely ineffective.
  • The older children were also giving the younger ones age-inappropriate toys (again a lack of supervision). One of the children (about 4) gave my daughter a piece of construction paper while I was there with her, watching over her and the little boy playing with the crayons. After about 10 minutes of the two of them playing with the paper and beginning to rip it to pieces, one of the volunteers came over and said, "Oh, she has paper! Are you okay with that?". I had been sitting right there and watching the two children so they would not eat the paper, and I recognize that my presence probably made the supervisors less diligent, but all the same it took her that long to notice that these young children had something they shouldn't. This is another indication to me that there were simply not enough adults present.
My recommendations for this club are as follows (and I can't believe these things are not in place already):
  • a maximum ratio of children to adults. There were only two floating "volunteers" and one girl sitting at a desk for 12-15 children under 5. To me this is not nearly enough adults to manage that many young children. 
  • soft flooring (they had several of the workout mats laid out over linoleum, which covered maybe 30% of the flooring). Put in carpet, or if that's too hard to keep clean, put in those foam interlocking mats or another type of soft floor covering. 
  • sharp corners should be cushioned if not removed. Crib bumpers or low mats could be put against the lower half of the rails where children might hurt themselves.
  • maps to the nearest emergency rooms/urgent care clinics should be available in case of emergency to provide to parents.
  • First aid supplies should be readily accessible and available in the Jump! center
  • Older children should be separated from younger ones (eg 3-5 in one area, 1 & 2 in another, infants in another) and each should have independent and adequate supervision.
  • The staff on duty at the Jump! center at the time we were there (Monday, February 26th between approximately 9:40 - 11:20) need further training in first aid and on procedure.
I had been anticipating a morning that would be stressful for me in leaving my daughter with strangers for the first time, but hoped and believed it would all work out fine and I would be able to use the Jump! child care for daytime workouts, which would be extremely convenient. I am disappointed and frankly distressed by our experience there yesterday.

I can say with certainty that after what I saw there that day neither I nor my friend will be leaving our children at the Jump! center and certainly will be telling our friends about our experience. This was extremely stressful and scary. A child care center must maintain consistent, diligent supervision and provide a safe environment for children and I feel that neither of these conditions were met on this occasion.

I sent the above information in its entirety to Goodlife, both to that specific club and to their social media contact. (I'd tweeted about our horrible experience and received a quick tweet back to email them about what happened.) I have had no response - not even to indicate receipt of my email.

I just want to be clear, I don't want anything from them personally. I'm not looking for some kind of kickback. What I would like to see is an admission that there are evidently problems with their child care - and some immediate measures to prevent future injuries (or worse).

My friend also spoke with the manager at that club on the phone and via email. (They didn't call her to follow up and make sure H. was okay - she called them.) The response she got was that they "take it seriously" and that they were allowing her to get out of her membership contract without paying buyout fees (she was so upset by the whole thing that she cancelled her membership at the club). Again no apology, no admission that there were any problems and nothing about what they were going to do to make sure that more diligent care was taken with both environment and staff.

I make no claims about any other Goodlife location's child care, and can only say that from my experience at this one, I will NEVER be leaving my daughter with them again.

Glad to Go! Review

I recently had the opportunity to try out the new Glad to Go salad containers. I really do not like a soggy salad (who does?) and these are a great way to preserve the freshness of your salad when you are on the go.

The containers are generously sized for a single portion of salad, and the lid has a spot to snap in a mini container (included) which holds the perfect amount of dressing. It seals well and I have had no leaks. We've been eating more salad lately, as I've recently discovered that I am not allergic to ALL lettuce; I can eat romaine without consequences! Hooray! So, more salads on the menu, which is great.

My favourite salad in the last few weeks has been a Strawberry Spinach Salad that I found online. It's really fabulous and quick (!), definitely worth a try. If you do make it, forget the hour-long wait for the dressing - just pop it in the microwave for 30-40 seconds to dissolve the sugar. And beware, those poppy seeds do tend to hang around in your smile!

Anyway, I recommend the Glad to Go containers if you are in the habit of making salads to take along in lunches, or extra for the next day. I like that they are fairly compact to store (the little containers can all go in the big ones, and the lids are interlocking). They are also BPA-free. Though I never heat food in plastic (ick, leaching chemicals, no thanks), I don't mind storing cold food in them. Hopefully down the line we don't find out that is unhealthy as well!

disclosure: I received product samples to try out, for free. I was not paid for this review and it's my honest opinion!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Moral dilemmas for housewives

1. You find change in the bottom of the washer.
  • Finders keepers! For all the laundry you do, a few coins is a paltry payout. Maybe one day you'll have enough to buy one of those fancy coffees.
  • Into the family vacation fund. Hey, the jar now contains $3.68! You now have enough for an amazing family bus ride (within city limits, one way, if you sneak the baby in under your coat)!
  • Return to sender. You know who never empties their pockets. The change is probably from that lunch out he had one work day last week. Nevermind that someone else makes you lunch pretty much... NEVER.
Okay, you can probably guess which option I choose! :)

2.  You have a couple hours while hubby takes the baby swimming and shopping for a new snowboard (not for the baby). You:
  • make brownies (*see below)
  • do 3 loads of laundry (sorting, washing, drying, hanging, folding, sorting again, putting away)
  • take out the garbage and the recycling
  • shovel the snow off the walk
  • vacuum. The powerhead doesn't work on the crappy central vac at the crappy rental house so you spend ages going over the worst bits of the floor with the hose, inch by inch.
  • tidy the kitchen (wash up, put dishes away)
  • scrub the carpet some more where the baby barfed because she was crying so hard about taking a nap
  • make the bed
  • all of the above
WHY did I choose the last option?! I could have been having a glorious, baby-free nap this whole time.

3. Back to those brownies. The butter and chocolate chips have melted in the pot. You've added the sugars and cocoa and two of the "add one at a time" eggs. You crack the last expensive free-range egg into the pan of hot brownie batter and... it's bloody. Not just a speck, it's got a bloody yolk, bloody white and is seriously, nauseatingly gory. That last egg is sitting on top of the batter. You:
  • scrap the batch. Um, gross! The very thought of bloody egg makes you gag. Eggs are hard enough for the thoughtful vegetarian to eat as is.
  • rush to the sink, pour off the gruesome egg down the drain, grab another egg from the fridge (cracking it into a bowl first, just in case, wishing you'd done that before), and continue to cook brownies. That was gross, but it's over (try desperately to forget). No-one need know.