My Nanny McPhee Moment

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I am going to preface this post by explaining my title. Nanny McPhee is a movie about a bunch of unruly children who get a nanny. She teaches them “lessons” about patience, appreciation, being courteous, respecting authority etc throughout the movie without them knowing it. After her five lessons are unknowingly put into action, she disappears.  I was beginning to think I had not made an impact like this on the children I had been watching for nine months but on my last day I was proven wrong, in a very good way.

Wednesday was my last day with the kids I have been watching since last fall. While it may not seem like a long time, I have grown so attached to this family, it was VERY hard to say goodbye. The kids and I have been dreading it for the last month. But I didn’t want to go out on a bad or sad note so we planned the most super awesome week together.

Tuesday we went to Pinkberry, our favorite yogurt hangout. The kids love this place! After our healthy treat we went home for a night of relaxing while watching a movie.

Wednesday came. As usual I woke up at 4 am, got to work at 6 am.. but to my surprise, I-yo answered the door! Dressed and ALL! As I walked in she gave me a BIG hug and told me lunches were already packed, she was dressed, her room was clean and her horseback riding clothes were ready to go! Jare Bear came down shortly after, already dressed and with his riding gear on. They walked me into the kitchen where a bag was sitting by my chair. I handed them their gifts (a picture frame with pictures of us together and a special note to remember me by) and opened mine. They had gone to Starbucks (my favorite mid day hangout and gotten my favorite VIA drinks, a mug and gift card along with the sweetest card and pictures 🙂 Whew..keep it together man!

Lesson 1: Responsibility for oneself

Lesson 2: Appreciation for those around you

After I said my goodbyes to MomBoss, (who was working late and I wouldn’t see again) the kids and I started playing. We turned on a movie, played games and talked about where I was going and why.

I dropped them off at school at their usual time, said “goodbye, have a great day!” like I had every day for the past nine months.. but just as Jare Bear got out of the car he turned around and said “Miss Kelsey, this is the last time you will ever drop us off at school… Have a good day.” (tear jerker instance #2)

Lesson 3: Kindness and Well Wishing

I went back to school mid day to watch Jare Bear get his much earned Honor Roll award. PROUD NANNY IN THE HOUSE! He was so excited and I was honored to get to see him earn this accomplishment. He started spring semester with not so great grades but pulled through and worked hard. AMAZING what effort and hard work add up too!

Lesson 4: Hard work, dedication, self control

The end of school was fast approaching so I left a little early to get in the front of the pick up line.  The kids raced out and hurriedly got in the car. We were off to the races, well.. the ranch! It seemed like forever before we got there but we did. I made a call to the owner of the ranch asking specifically for a white horse for I-yo (who LOVES white horses)! Pattie pulled through and the kids got to ride Sophie, a gentle white mare with soft eyes and gentle manor.100_1429

I-yo was first. My little cowgirl was fearless in the arena, so much so that she got to ride solo. Around she went, gliding effortlessly. Jare Bear was next. He was a little nervous at the beginning but quickly picked up the hang of things. The kids had fun playing with Yum Yum the donkey, Ernie and Hershey the pigs, Mack the cow who thought he was a dog, and the farm dog Jake. After their lessons, the kiddos got to brush down and feed Sophie her favorite treat, carrots!

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The ride home was bittersweet, happy from the fun day we had experienced together but knowing it was almost over at the same time. Not even a Happy Meal could help the ride home. Before we got out of the car I-yo said something she has never said before on her own. “Thank you Miss Kelsey. Not just for today, which was totally awesome, but for everything you have done for Jare Bear and me.” (OK if I wasn’t crying before this sent me over the edge..composure… whew!)

Lesson 5: Appreciation, Respect, Gratitude

The kids said goodbye and raced upstairs to change while I talked to DadBoss. Little did I know they had raced off to cry without me seeing them. Eventually Jare Bear came back down with red puffy eyes, asking me not to go. (ahh these kids and their ability to make a grown woman cry…which I guess isn’t that hard since we are pretty much the most emotional beings on the Earth..regardless, I got choked up yet again)

I really hope I stay in touch with this family for a long time. They are forever a part of my life.

In the words of Nanny McPhee:

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Talkin’ about tough stuff

I had a hard time writing yesterday because I was glued to the tv, and my heart was aching for the people who suffered at the Boston Marathon. I am glad to have had yesterday off from nannying but it got me thinking, how would I have reacted when the kids got in the car scared and confused? What would I say to explain it? How do you comfort a child when such a senseless and random act of violence happens? I figured my readers were probably in the same boat. To be honest, I have only had to deal with having sad conversations like this once, after the Newtown school shootings. So I am saying up front, if you have tips or similar stories, please comment.

The day of the Newtown shooting started like any other. The kids got up and ready for school. We left at the same time. The kids got out of the car with a smile…

But when they got back in the car after school, I could tell they knew something was wrong.

“How was your day?” I asked.

Tip 1: Stay positive and don’t bring the subject up until they ask

“eh..” they reply. THEY ALWAYS TELL ME about math class and art projects.

We sat in silence for half the ride home.

“Miss Kelsey? why didn’t we go on recess today and why was Ms. Morgan so sad?” Jo Jo asked.

Now, the big answer…how do you talk to an eight and ten year old about the massacre for children about their age?

Tip 2: Answer their questions honestly but don’t go into gruesome details

“well hun, you didn’t go to recess because the teachers just wanted to make sure you were protected. Kind of like one of those drills you guys do. Ms. Morgan was sad because this morning a bad guy went to a school in Connecticut and hurt a lot of little kids. It happened a long ways away and your school is super safe.”

“Derek said 50 kids were killed” Jay piped in.

“No numbers have been released and it is not good to spread rumors. You mom will have more information when she gets home. So while we wait.. who wants PINKBERRY!”

Tip 3: Be comforting, allow for questions and offer an alternative subject or activity 

As a nanny we can be faced with some pretty tough stuff. Go with your gut and explain what you can. Be an open line of communication and offer lots of hugs.

Pray for Boston and all those affected.

 

The Importance of Sunscreen

Ok, this may not seem like a nanny post about kids, but it will be…after I explain why I decided to write this in the first place.

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Thursday, in celebration of the Masters golf tournament, my dad and I went golfing. We were only in the sun for two hours tops. Knowing the importance of wearing sunscreen, I put some on my face, arms, legs, and neck. Unfortunately I forgot that the shirt I was wearing had an open back…needless to say I have been in so much pain for the last two days that I haven’t slept or made it off the couch much. Not only will I have an awkward tan line, but this burn just raised my chances of someday getting skin cancer..I would not wish this pain on anyone.

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So it got me thinking, with summer just around the corner and kids coming outside to play from winter “hibernation, lets review important sun safety tips to keep kids sunburn free and happy. Early protection is the best fight against skin cancer.

  1. ALWAYS apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Read the directions on the label, but most sun screens need to be reapplied after an hour or two, especially if the child has been in the pool.
  2. Kids (5 and up) usually apply sunscreen to their arms and legs but they often forget EARS, FOREHEAD, BACK, FEET, and NECK. Make sure to double check!
  3. Limit time in the sun from 12 pm to 4 pm, it is when the sun is at its hottest and most damaging.
  4. Stay HYDRATED. Make sure kids come into shade for 20 min every hour they are in direct sunlight. This is a great time to serve up  some water and fruit, and reapply sunscreen.
  5. If a burn should occur, wash the area in cool water, softly dry the area, then apply Aloe Vera gel. This gel is a life saver! It soothes the burn and gives moisture to the skin so it doesn’t peel.
  6. Always put sunscreen on the kids before school, and on a daily basis. My munchkins have been coming home with red faces so I am really cracking down on sunscreen before school. To be a good example,apply it with the kids. One, if a nanny does it, its cool. Two, it helps them learn a pattern of application so they don’t miss any spots.

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I hope these tips will help you and your kids stay safe and sunburn free this summer.

Spotlight on Infants: The everything guide to caring for a child under 1 years old.

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New parents can sometimes be overwhelmed, sleep deprived, and in need of some help. If you have never been a parent, dealt with a little sibling, or watched an infant..it can be intimidating. These little humans come with a long list of do’s and dont’s that EVERY babysitter should know. In my next few posts, I will explain basic care techniques, activities to do with infants, and how to handle emergency situations. So lets explore basic care techniques.

  • Wash your hands. Young babies have not built up a strong immune system yet, so they are susceptible to infection.
  • Be careful to support the baby’s head and neck. Cradle the head when carrying the baby and support the head when carrying the baby upright or when you lay him or her down.
  • Be careful not to shake the newborn. Shaking that is vigorous can cause bleeding in the brain and even death. If you need to wake the infant, don’t do it by shaking — instead, tickle your baby’s feet or blow gently on a cheek.
  • Remember that a newborn is not ready for rough play, such as being jiggled on the knee or thrown in the air.
  • Check and change diapers often. Diaper rash is common for children under 3. Ask the parents if there is diaper cream available should a rash occur.
  • Feed every 2-3 hours. 
  • Never leave an infant alone if they are not in a crib or other confined area.
  • Lay baby on back during naps to prevent SIDS
  • Be mindful of healing umbilical cords, circumcisions or new belly buttons. (these will heal by the 1st month so if your baby is older than that…don’t worry about this)
  • Use calming tones like humming, talking softly or singing. Never yell, make sudden movements that might startle the baby.

This is a good starter list. Always listen to parent’s specific routines, rules and suggestions. No baby is the same.

Smile and enjoy these little bundles of joy!!

QUICK! Its after school and no snack?? Problem SOLVED!

Strawberries are in season and are a great way for kids to get their recommended daily fruit servings. But, eating them plain can get boring. Here are a few easy recipes to liven up strawberries.

Strawberries and Cream Cheese Dip

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My mom makes this for us every summer. It is perfect for picnics, after school snacks and a really yummy addition to pancakes.

Supplies

  • 1 8 oz Box of Original Philadelphia Cream Cheese (one of the few recipes where store brand won’t work.)
  • 1 Jar of Marshmallow Creme
  • 1/2 cup of Powdered Sugar

Directions

Soften cream cheese then mix all ingredients together. It takes about 5 minutes to make and 1 minute to finish!

Put in a bowl to dip strawberries in, or smother on pancakes and add fresh fruit on top.

*Also great with other fruits like apples and berries. My sister loves putting the dip on graham crackers too!

Fresh Fruit Smoothies

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After soccer practice or before homework, this quick smoothie has lots of fruit and fuel to power any kid! It takes about 5 minutes to put together and is easy for on the go nannies.

Supplies

  • 1 cup of fresh berries (I use frozen because they are cheaper and come out thicker)
  • 8 oz of orange juice
  • 1 cup of vanilla yogurt (the family I nanny for buys individual yogurt cups, 1 of any berry flavor works)
  • 1-2 frozen bananas (I cant stand bananas so I skip this part and use frozen yogurt instead, it is more or less just for creamy consistancy)

Directions

Put all ingredients into a blender. Mix for 2-3 minutes or until thick but drinkable consistancy is reached. Add small amounts of orange juice if the drink is too thick.

Fruit-sicles 

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Granted these will take a couple hours to freeze properly but on a warm spring day, these are a healthy alternative to ice cream and candy.

Supplies:

  • 1 small jar of diced pineapples (save the juice!)
  • 2 diced kiwi
  • 1/3 cup of strawberries (about 5-6 strawberries)
  • 1/3 of diced watermelon (about 1/2 of a seedless watermelon)
  • *can add any other fruit to the mix. Mango, kiwi, strawberry is another good combo!
  • 6 oz plastic cups
  • Popsicle sticks

Directions:

  1. put the diced fruit in small bowls with spoons in each one
  2. let kids pick which fruit and order they want their flavors together
  3. add a small amount of the leftover pineapple juice to the top of the fruit mixture
  4. put a popsicle stick in
  5. let freeze for 3-4 hours.
  6. run under warm water to take the fruit-sicle out

ENJOY!

Sunday: A Day of Rest…or not!

Today my twin five year old cousins are coming over which means my usual pajamas all day-veggin’ on the couch-only getting up for food kind of day will now consist of chasing the two little munchkins around the house, going to the park, and playing hide and seek.

So while I am running around playing with my cousins, I hope you enjoy a day of rest 🙂

Coming up this week on my Nannyville:

  • Spotlight on Infants: The everything guide to caring for an infant. 
  • Easy Peasy Healthy recipes with STRAWBERRIES!
  • Saying Goodbye to your Nanny
  • Money-Whats the going rate, What you get for your money, and ways to make sure you aren’t being taken advantage of as a child care provider
  • The Nanny Contract

Bad Behavior

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Parents are the sometimes the most blind about how their child really acts. I can say this because I have seen it. I go into a home and the parents assure me their kids are well behaved, respectful little angels then BOOM! the second they leave, all hell breaks loose. On the other side of the coin, I can say I KNOW how easy it is to walk all over babysitters because I was that evil little girl who went through five babysitters in one month. (No that is not an exaggeration…) So what is a teenager supposed to do when an eight year old breaks his mother’s favorite vase, or the five year old paints the house in pretty shades of pink lipstick?? How do you punish a child for saying a bad word or hitting their little sister? And at what point does bad behavior go beyond your (as the babysitter) control? I don’t know. A lot of your leeway in discipline comes from the parents. A lot of it comes from what you feel comfortable with. Some of it will be instinct. Some of it will be a mistake. But ultimately, you have to set the boundaries from the beginning so the kids know what to expect from you. We have all heard the saying “if you give a kid an inch they will go a mile..” ITS TRUE!! You could be the carefree sitter who doesn’t care if the kids eat nothing but ice cream and stay up til midnight when the parents say not too…or you could be the fun loving sitter that allows dessert if chores are done and the kids behave. Just know, if you are too buddy buddy with the kids they will take advantage of it and your job will become 10x harder in the long run.

Here is a list of do’s and don’ts when it comes to disciplining kids while on the job:

  1. DO sit the kid aside and explain why their action is unacceptable immediately after the action has happened. If you try to explain it 3 hours later, they will have forgotten what the bad behavior was.
  2. DO NOT lecture them for long, their attention spans are short and they won’t remember why they are sitting down to begin with
  3. DO sit them in a quiet place (like their room, bathroom or corner) for the # of years old they are. I.E the max punishment for a 4 year old is 4 minutes in time out at once
  4. DO NOT answer the child while they are in timeout. For older kids, if they ask if they can come out restart their time in it. Once they can answer their own question, let them out.
  5. DO keep track of bad behaviors. If repeated multiple times, it could be a sign of behavioral disorder or action is triggered by a specific thing. This should be reported to parents. ( Jay flipped out whenever Jo-Jo would hum during homework time. He needed complete silence. We found that this was one of his ADHD triggers)
  6. DO NOT use capital punishment as a way to give out punishment.. if the child runs breaks his sisters hand by running over it with a scooter, it won’t end pretty if you try to do the same to him.. PLUS then there is two kids in the ER, two sets of hysterical crying, two angry parents..the list goes on..
  7. DO give rewards for good behavior. I created the Pinkberry Contract with one of my families. If the kids had a good behavior day they got a star. If it was a bad day they got a strike. Three strikes and no treat for the month. If they were good, they got frozen yogurt. It worked for that family. There are other reward systems out there. See future post about rewards.
  8. DO NOT give incentives to calm down once they are riled up. Candy, cookies and ice cream are among the worst but toys, games or t.v. time is just as bad. If the kid has been bad consistently bad during the day, there is no need to add a reward like dessert. It only tells the child that bad behavior is ok.
  9. DO set boundaries early. Let the child know what is acceptable and unacceptable when you are in charge. Make a chart with the rules spelled out clearly or make a fun song that can help them remember it.
  10. DO NOT make up fake punishments like calling their parents when you don’t actually do it, or calling an imaginary police man who will take them to jail if they don’t straighten up. These methods lead to more problems down the road when Policeman Jones doesn’t actually come to take them to jail or mom can’t remember giving her “punishment” over the phone.

I have always set the standard for myself that I will never hit, spank or grab a child that I watch. I will not scream in their face or talk down to them. I will not use “capital punishment” on a child of any age for any punishment. And I will work hard to stay calm and stay in control of every situation that arises. 

What happens when a parenting style collides with your standards and ways of operating?

It sucks. I have been with a family for almost a year now we have never been on the same page as me when it comes to disciplining the children. I am with the family for the majority of the week but between the parents lack in co-parenting and adding me to the mix, the kids can basically get away with murder since there is no consistency. I hear “well dad lets us drink soda” from the kids and turn around and the mom is banning soda. Or “mom hits us if we talk at the dinner table but dad lets us eat in the family room”. I am constantly battling the mom said dad said syndrome. For the most part, I tended to lean with the mom’s standards of disciplining until one day when Jay’s consistent bad attitude had reached its breaking point for all of us. What I witnessed that day will haunt me forever, as I have never seen a parent discipline a child so ruthlessly. I could NEVER treat my kids or any other kids in that manner regardless of if I had “permission” to do so.

My advice is this, every family has their own disciplining methods. Don’t get in the habit of using time outs or taking items away. It can make escalating to more severe punishments easier. Talk openly with the parents you are working for and ask what works for their kids. Some children don’t like small spaces so shoving them in the closet for 10 minutes will not help them calm down. It will have the opposite affect. Other kids NEED a space to decompress and separate from their surroundings and the closet may be the only place that is possible. Tell parents your comfortability level with discipline. If you don’t mind shoving soap in their mouth when they cuss, make that clear. Bottom line, the more consistency and transparency between parent and sitter the better. You have to do what you feel is right and trust that the parent’s chose YOU to watch their precious children for a reason. They TRUST you.