The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 20, 2013

Enjoying the ‘wild ones’

By Jessica Farrish
Register-Herald Reporter

— When Lisa McGann was a teenager, her Shady Spring home was always filled with kids younger than herself.

Like many teenagers, she baby-sat to make extra spending money.

But she loved little kids, and she welcomed them over when she wasn’t getting paid for it, too. Kids would stop by just to visit with her, and she’d take time to serve them snacks and to chat.

“I’ve always enjoyed children,” said McGann, 32, of Beckley. “I’ve always been drawn to kids, always.

“Life is just so exciting to them,” she explained. “Everything is new, just an adventure.”

McGann, now a mom and stepmom and married to John McGann, an award-winning chef of Asian cuisine, still fills her house and her life with kids.

When she isn’t hosting her kids and their friends and entertaining friends’ children, McGann is the nursery director at Memorial Baptist Church and a full-time child care provider at Bullfrogs and Butterflies day care in Beckley.

A quick survey of most churches will reveal that nursery workers are in high demand. Many people sign up for nursery service out of a sense of obligation and breathe a sigh of relief when they can (finally!) pass the tiny congregants off to their parents.

Not McGann, though.

“When my girls (Desiree and TajZhane, both 13) were in the nursery, I’d go into the nursery to volunteer,” said McGann. “I always enjoyed it, especially the infants to preschool ages.”

Not only does she enjoy ministering to kids on weekends, she loves spending time with children during her week job, too, she said.

“They’re just big balls of energy,” McGann said. “I get a lot of energy off of them. I enjoy watching them grow.”

Child care has its glamorous side, with “princesses” inviting McGann to tea parties and “hairdressers” styling her hair constantly.

But there are hazards, too. She’s been peed on, vomited on and used as a diaper. Dangerous creatures that are extinct everywhere else casually roam the day care, and sometimes they “attack.”

“I was playing ‘dinosaur’ with a little boy,” she recalled. “I turned around to pick up one of the other kids, and he bit me.”

The situation ended in a talk about “pretend” and “real,” McGann reported.

McGann said she — and other prudent day care and church nursery workers — also play “pretend” when baby book happenings are at stake.

“I guess you might see first steps, first words and just the different milestones as they develop,” she said. “Some parents wouldn’t want to think that you would see it for the first time. So sometimes you might pretend you didn’t see that.”

While caring for kids is her passion, McGann said she feels satisfied knowing that she’s giving parents the peace of mind and security of knowing their kids are happy.

“Without good, quality day care, lots of parents couldn’t work,” she said. “We provide the children a safe environment, ensure all their needs are met. We ensure that we spend individual time with all the children so they feel loved.”

Bullfrogs and Butterflies staff members schedule kids with the same workers most days so strong bonds can develop, she added.

McGann said she loves all the kids. Does she ever have a favorite?

“I always enjoy the ‘wild’ ones,” she said, laughing. “I don’t know why, but I do. The quiet ones are never in trouble, so I make it a point to pay attention to them. But the ‘wild’ ones, where you’re constantly chasing them, they just stick with you.”

McGann said she’s developed deep bonds with church children since she’s involved in many of their lives from the time they are born until they start kindergarten.

“One little girl told her mom that I’m her ‘other mother,’” she said, laughing.

McGann’s twin sister, Michelle Sparks, works with mentally challenged community members.

— E-mail: jfarrish@register-herald.com