How Eleven Madison Park Became the ‘Best’ Restaurant in the World

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article by Alan Sytsma of Grub Street

photo by Melissa Hom

In 2012, a New Yorker profile laid out the ways in which Daniel Humm and Will Guidara were changing Eleven Madison Park — the restaurant they’d bought from their previous employer Danny Meyer the year before — to help its performance on the annual World’s 50 Best Restaurants ranking. That year, they were 10th — a jump from 24th the year before — and in the time since then, as EMP’s place on the list has steadily risen, they’ve made no secret about their goal to ultimately land the top spot. Today, that happened, when the restaurant was crowned No. 1 at a ceremony in Australia.

Critics can point to flaws with the list itself (such as its continued lack of meaningful female representation), but it is nevertheless very well-established that placement on the list has a tremendous impact on business, and each year’s release is closely followed by the industry. Even people with a casual interest in restaurants will refer to the list’s winner as the “best” restaurant, even though it’s also well-established that, as an actual objective measure of restaurant quality, the list is sort of silly.

It is a list of expensive, world-class restaurants — all of which offer exemplary dining experiences — voted on by chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and “well-travelled gourmets.” As the official manifesto reads, “There is no pre-determined check-list of criteria,” and voters are free to select whichever spots they prefer. As such, the list is a useful guide to eating $800 dinners, sure, but it’s best read as a look into chefs’ standing, and reputations, among their peers.

In other words, the restaurants that have regularly occupied the list’s top spot in the past — ElBulliNoma, or Osteria Francescana most recently — are the restaurants that the industry is most proud of. Humm and Guidara, who host and attend many industry parties and conferences, are extremely respected and well-liked; voters clearly think that holding them up on a pedestal will be good for the world of fine dining as a whole. And EMP’s co-owners are first-rate ambassadors for the world of hyperexclusive dining: Their restaurant is a modern interpretation of the classic big-city dining temple, proof that “fancy” restaurants, even ones like EMP that are firmly rooted in the European dining tradition, can still feel vital and forward-thinking.

Interestingly, the news comes just as the restaurant is set to close for the summer to renovate and overhaul the menu. The timing may seem somewhat inopportune, but it highlights the way chefs constantly rework their restaurants to stay atop these kinds of international restaurant rankings, where stagnation will cause voters to look elsewhere. Yet, in many ways, the new version of EMP sounds like it will be a natural evolution of the restaurant as it is now.

The current iteration of Eleven Madison Park is just about a decade old. Though the restaurant opened in 1998, Humm took over as chef in 2006. (He and Guidara bought the restaurant from Meyer in 2011.) In an interview with the Times, the partners explained that in addition to updating the kitchen, the dining room will get an overhaul — it will be more comfortable, which makes sense, because comfort is the restaurant’s defining feature. 

ElBulli was a showcase for Ferran Adrià’s fearlessly modern technique and open hostility toward the established pace of a meal at a Michelin-caliber restaurant. Noma, meanwhile, grew to epitomize trends like foraging, traditional preservation techniques, and steadfast commitment to local ingredients. (Not to mention all the earthenware plates you see in every single dining room.) EMP, on the other hand, offers a menu that in many ways is a throwback to traditional luxury ingredients and classic European techniques — a signature dish of Humm’s is celery root or asparagus that’s braised in pig’s bladder and served with black truffle; another dish, “eggs Benedict,” is essentially a caviar course served with homemade English muffins — and sets itself apart with unparalleled warmth and familiarity. Dinner at Eleven Madison Park isn’t about boundary-pushing or avant-garde food; it’s an exercise in opulence and pampering.

That m.o. clearly resonates right now with voters, and with today’s announcement, Humm and Guidara are now the faces of fine dining around the world (just as Redzepi has been for the past decade, and Adrià was before that). The accomplishment is a testament to their talent and determination, of course, as much as it is an indication of the prevailing trends at the highest end of the restaurant world. And just as Adrià’s modernist cooking and Redzepi’s New Nordic aesthetic inspired scores of other chefs, the EMP team’s embrace of unpretentiousness (relatively speaking) and unmatched graciousness should continue to influence other restaurants around the world for many years.


How ‘Downton Abbey’ Fueled China’s Demand for Butlers

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article from New York Times by Chris Buckley and Karoline Kan

photo by Gilles Sabrié

CHENGDU, China — Mao once said that a revolution was not a dinner party. But with the communist revolution turning into opulent capitalism, China’s rich are now making sure the dinner party settings are immaculate and the wine is poured just right.

Inspired in part by the “Downton Abbey” television drama, the country’s once raw and raucous tycoons are aspiring to old-school decorum, fueling demand for the services of homegrown butlers trained in the ways of a British manor.

“What they would like to say to their friends is, ‘Look, I have a butler, an English-style butler in my home,’ to show how wealthy they are,” said Neal Yeh, a Chinese-born Briton living in Beijing, who for over a decade has helped train and find jobs for butlers.

“The country now with the biggest trend in butlers is China,” said Mr. Yeh, whose English accent would be at home on “Downton Abbey,” the television series about a blue blood family in England, which was avidly watched in China. “I dare say I have played a part in starting this trend.”

Butler training schools and agencies have been doing business in China for more than a decade, but the number of recruits has grown sharply in recent years, according to those in the business. Most are Chinese and many are women. The International Butler Academy China opened in 2014 here in Chengdu, a haze-covered city in southwest China, and offers a six-week boot camp on dinner service, managing homes and other minutiae of high living.

“The Chinese are vacationing more now than ever in history, and so they’re being exposed to the West more and more,” said Christopher Noble, an American trainer at the academy who previously ran bars in Cleveland. “But Chinese people see that, experience top-class personal service abroad, and they want to experience it here.”

A boom in butler service might seem incongruous as President Xi Jinping campaigns zealously against corruption and extravagance, and an economic slowdown undercuts lavish spending. But China’s rich continue amassing ever greater fortunes and want what they see as the trappings of respectable refinement. Even under Mr. Xi, butlers are finding growing work as symbols of good taste, according to people in the business.

“You read about an economic slowdown, but China’s wealth is still growing,” said Luo Jinhuan, who has worked as a butler in Shanghai and, most recently, Beijing, after learning the job in Holland. “Old money has passed from one generation to the next. But the new money doesn’t have the same quality. You need to help them improve.”

If butlers symbolize maturing Chinese capitalism, the somewhat awkward status they have here also reflects how the rich in China must play by different rules than the wealthy in many other countries.

It often comes down to a lack of trust. Wealth in China, where a cutthroat business culture is pervasive, comes with insecurity about being brought low by resentful employees, rivals, and officials, especially with the continuing crackdown against corruption. That wariness discourages many millionaires from hiring their own Jeeves to run their homes, people in the business said.

“Some of them discover that in reality they can’t trust an outsider to manage the household,” said Tang Yang, a marketing director at the butler academy. “They’re unwilling to have a butler who knows all the information about the family.”

Relatively few graduates of the academy end up as traditional household butlers. Instead, many work in high-end clubs, housing estates and executive floors, serving several clients at the same time — not with the same intimacy as a personal butler.

Promoters of butlers in China often point out that the country has its own tradition of high-end service, and the classical Chinese novel, “Dream of the Red Chamber,” features traditional butlers, called “guanjia,” or “domestic manager,” in Mandarin. But “Downton Abbey” helped rekindle a new romanticized interest in old-school service in China.

Many student butlers here said they had watched and rewatched the show as an instruction video on the self-effacing unflappability of domestic service.

“I only began to grasp this profession of butlers after watching ‘Downton Abbey,’” said Xu Shitao, a 34-year-old Beijing native studying at the Chengdu academy. “I think that in the future this profession will be quite popular and will have a market.”

But Ms. Xu and her classmates have found that, in reality, being a butler is strenuous work.

On a recent morning, they practiced for hours, learning to serve wine and water the proper way. Again and again, the class of eight clasped a wine bottle near its bottom and stepped forward in unison around a dinner table to dispense just enough wine to reach the widest part of a wine glass.

Not a drop was to splash the tablecloth or, heaven forbid, a guest.

“Stretch, pour, up, twist, back, wipe. Try to extend your arm,” Mr. Noble commanded, using his ever-present translator. “You want to be able to extend your arm as much as possible. You’re doing a ballet.”

Students also take classes on serving formal dinners, packing luggage, cleaning house and countless other details of managing life for the rich.

“You have to get the details right to do your job right,” said Yang Linjun, a 22-year-old student in the class. “Your arms get sore and your hands hurt, but this is a lifestyle.”

After they graduate, many hope to attach themselves to China’s growing number of superrich. In return, they may earn monthly wages of $2,800 or much higher as personal butlers, depending on experience and luck — more than for many service jobs.

By 2015, China had 400 billionaires and billionaire families, an increase of 65 from just a year earlier, according to Forbes’ annual list. The country’s richest 1 percent own about one-third of household wealth, a share similar to the concentration of wealth in America.

Manners can be rough in China, sometimes in a warm way, sometimes less so. But that has been changing as people grow richer, travel and live abroad, and bring back a demand for polished, attentive service.

“A decade ago, very few Chinese people stayed in five-star hotels,” said Yang Kaojun, a property manager with the Summit Group, which employs teams of trained butlers who are at the beck and call of residents. “But now many people have, and that’s given them some understanding of what good service is.”

As well as the Chengdu academy, the Sanda University, a private college in Shanghai, has incorporated butler training into its hospitality program. Many Chinese also learn how to be butlers in Europe. And Sara Vestin Rahmani, the founder of the Bespoke Bureau, a British company that finds domestic staff members for wealthy employers, said her company planned to open a school for butlers and domestic staff people in China this year.

The number of butlers in China is hard to determine. There may be hundreds or thousands, especially in Beijing, Shanghai and the prosperous south. Ms. Rahmani said that in 2007 her company found positions in China for 20 butlers; by 2015 that number had grown to 375, including 125 with families. Others reported similar growth.

“We are in actual fact exporting to China a trade which was once their own,” Ms. Rahmani said. “With communism, everything that was refined, unique and upper-class became a distant memory.”

But Chinese employers often treat butlers as expensive all-purpose flunkies who should be on call 24 hours a day. That violated the traditional idea of a butler as a respected manager of the household and above most menial tasks. Ms. Luo, the butler, said her work was far more hectic than she imagined. Her daily routine included overseeing the sauna, cinema, bowling alley and other rooms in a 32,000-square-foot home.

“I feel that when work starts, there’s no time at all to stop and rest,” she said. “It’s a lot harder than working in a hotel.”

The pressure is compounded by employers’ fears that household servants could exploit sensitive information. Butlers are supposed to have a deep knowledge of their employers’ every foible, traditionally recorded in a book. But the worry that information could be used to rob, extort or prosecute them has discouraged many rich people from taking butlers into their confidence.

“Many of our wealthy are the first generation to be rich, and they don’t have a long accumulation of family history,” said Mr. Yang, the student at the butler academy in Chengdu, who works for a real estate company. “You need trust and a long period of adjustment to have another person suddenly by your side.”


Bringing Down Bébé: How One Mother Mistakenly Hoped a Year in Paris Would Transform Her Sons

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article by Danzy Senna for Vogue

photo by Steven Simko

 

Inspired by a spate of books extolling the French way, Danzy Senna hoped a year in Paris would transform her all-American sons into model citizens. Au contraire.

One afternoon, a few weeks after we arrived in Paris, I took my sons to a playdate at the home of two French boys who lived in the neighborhood. Their mother, Christine, was like a poster girl for all I’d heard about Frenchwomen: Tall, thin, and effortlessly stylish, she was raising two sons while managing a career as a lawyer. She welcomed us into her pristine Saint-Germain apartment. My younger son, Miles, age four, raced past her down the hall in search of toys. My older son, Henry, age six, hid behind me, muttering hello only after I’d prompted him. She led me to the dining room, where I found an unfamiliar spectacle: her two sons, the same ages as mine, quietly curled over the table with pens and paper. They were dressed like miniature businessmen, with haircuts to match. The younger one appeared to be drawing a picture. Fine; my kids did that too. But the other one, the six-year-old, was intently writing down a row of math problems in one column and their answers in the other.

“Homework?” I asked Christine.

“No,” she said with a light laugh. “He just enjoys math.”

Her sons rose at the sight of me and, unbidden, held out their outstretched hands to shake. They said their bonjours before lifting their faces so that we could kiss on each cheek. Then Christine told her sons to go play, and they marched off, obediently, to join mine. When she disappeared into the kitchen, I peeked at the page of math problems, perversely pleased to see that many of the boy’s answers were wrong. Christine returned with tea and a plate of brightly colored macarons. We sat together, chatting, and I found myself relaxing. This was just as I’d imagined my life in Paris—me enjoying adult time while my children played independently. I’d imagined civility as something that people, even raucous American children like mine, could catch, like a bug.

The official reason we were in Paris was that my husband had a sabbatical from his university professorship in L.A. We’d decided to uproot the family for the year to give the boys a cross-cultural adventure. We wanted them to grow up worldly and bilingual. And for me, it was more than that. I was not sure I liked the overly precious culture in which I was raising them. In preparation, I felt I had to read Pamela Druckerman’s playground sensation Bringing Up Bébé. I was horrified to see myself in the book’s descriptions of the overindulgent American parent. My kids represented everything that was wrong with our country. They made too much noise in restaurants. They were picky eaters, to the point where I often cooked them two separate meals at night. Their toys lay scattered all around the house, as if to mark the territory they’d won. My husband and I had not had a conversation that didn’t revolve around them in years. I was forever sleep deprived. And long after giving birth I still looked, well, a little bit pregnant. Once, in a yoga class, the teacher asked me if I was expecting. “Actually,” I lied, “I just gave birth.” She congratulated me, and I waited until she was out of earshot to add, “Four years ago.”

Druckerman wasn’t alone in extolling the virtues of the French. In the same way that Julia Child once introduced American women to the exquisiteness of French cuisine, an entire cottage industry has grown around the idea that when it comes to living, Frenchwomen do it better. Consider French Kids Eat Everything; Forever Chic: Frenchwomen’s Secrets for Timeless Beauty, Style and Substance;or the upcoming French Women Don’t Get Facelifts, by Mireille Guiliano, of the original French Women Don’t Get Fat. The list goes on. We’ve always admired their fashion; now it seems they’ve become standard-bearers for every facet of our existence. In contrast to our American child-ruled ways, French mothers apparently practice some elegant form of detachment parenting, which is why they look so much better than we do, and also why their kids are so much better behaved.

At home in L.A., my husband and I were at least aware of the problem. Whenever our sons complained that they were bored, my husband would reply, “This isn’t a cruise ship, it’s your childhood.” But the world outside our door sometimes seemed to be arguing otherwise. One mother I knew admitted she’d taken to asking her ten-year-old daughter on occasion: “How do you think your childhood is going so far? Pretty good?”

I’d always been susceptible to parenting manuals. When the boys were small, I read a book on attachment parenting that convinced me I’d already done them deep psychic harm. I’d failed to give birth to them in a bathtub. I’d failed to wear them strapped to my body all day in a sling while I cleaned and cooked and tended crops in the field. I’d failed to nurse them until they told me it was OK to stop. As a result, I learned they were doomed to be obese, anxious, and somewhat dim.

It was in some ways refreshing to read Bringing Up Bébé—except that it turns out I’d messed up my kids by being too attached. Frenchwomen didn’t believe that hoo-hah about “you’re only as happy as your saddest child.” Frenchwomen nursed for only as long as they felt like it. Frenchwomen didn’t feel the need to follow their toddlers around the park in earth shoes, interpreting their experiences for them. But, according to the book, it wasn’t too late. I could still turn this cruise ship around. And here we were, in Paris, determined to make our kids tough, gritty, independent, and exceedingly polite in two languages. They were going to attend the local public school, where they could put the French they’d been practicing to good use. International schools, I’d been told by the admissions director of a French lycée in Los Angeles, were for wimpy Americans who wanted to just have “a nice year.” We didn’t want a nice year. We wanted a French year.

I nibbled Christine’s macarons and asked her the question posed to Frenchwomen through the ages: How do you do it? I swept my hand around her apartment. Taking my question literally, she explained that she had it all down to a system. She saw the kids on Monday evenings, Thursday afternoons, and then Saturday mornings were reserved for their grandparents, and then. . . .

From the back of the apartment came a loud crash, followed by a scream. The dreamscape was shattered. I rose and followed Christine toward the commotion, trying to think of a way to explain my children. I’d tell her there was something wrong with them, that they’d been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder—something vague but clinical-sounding, like oppositional defiance disorder—and then I’d get us the hell out of there.

But when we reached the back of the apartment, we found her older son straddling his younger brother on the floor, clutching his neck tightly, while the smaller one flailed around beneath him, his face turning scarlet. My two sons stood at the sidelines, each clutching a toy car, watching with mouths slightly open.

“Ça suffit!” Christine shouted, leaning down to pull the one brother off the other. She slapped the older one swiftly several times on his bottom and then helped the younger one to his feet, berating them both in a tone I have yet to master.
If I was looking to the Old World for help with parenting, it was probably because I had no cultural tradition to draw from in my own background. The only tradition in my family, going back on both sides for generations, was to break with tradition. One of my grandmothers was an Irish playwright from Dublin; the other grandmother was an African-American jazz musician from the Deep South; one grandfather was a blue-blood Harvard law professor turned civil rights activist; the other grandfather was a professional lightweight boxer from Nuevo León, Mexico.

I was raised in 1970s cultural chaos. Dinner was tacos one night, spaghetti the next. My mother’s idea of discipline was to occasionally throw shoes at us while shrieking, “I can’t take this anymore!” Other times she just laughed at our misbehavior like an older teenage sister. Once, when I was eight or nine, she told me her theory that everyone had two ages, an actual age and a spiritual age. “For example,” she said, “I’m always going to feel seventeen.” She glanced at me through cigarette smoke. “And you’re always going to feel 40.”

I once saw a sculpture by the artist Charles Ray that seemed to sum up the American family as I’d known it: four naked mannequins—a mother, a father, a young boy, and a toddler girl—standing in a row, holding hands. They appear at first glance to be your average nuclear family, but the artist has slightly enlarged the children and shrunk the parents so that they all stand at equal height. It unsettled me because it spoke so clearly of a land where children were treated as adults and parents acted like children.

Before I knew it, the French school year had begun. From the outside, the boys’ école looked like a huge fortress, the playground a crush of screaming children—kind of like the public schools I’d attended as a kid. The class sizes seemed alarmingly large. I had to remind myself of our mantra—childhood is not a cruise ship—when I left the boys there behind the gates that first day.

At pickup, I leaned down to ask Henry how his first day of school had gone. He told me, his mouth smeared with pain au chocolat, “Weird; I feel like I don’t exist. How many days before we go back to L.A.?”

When I looked for Miles inside the maternelle, I found him sitting in a corral with the other four-year-olds. He looked calm enough, but he was wearing a purple jacket I didn’t recognize with a name tag that read mohammed. I tried to tell his teacher that there had been a mistake, but the elderly M. Rousseau just nodded and said, “Oui, oui.”

I tried to laugh the misunderstanding off, but by the second week it didn’t matter, because Miles had changed his name anyway. He was insistent that everybody call him Oui and he would throw a fit if we dared call him otherwise. He also began to speak in a drunken slur that made him hard to understand. It took me a few days to realize he was trying to sound as if he had a French accent.

When I went to a school official and told her my concerns about the kids’ adjustment, she assured me they’d be fine. “You pay too much attention to them,” she told me. “Keep yourself busy with other things. Enjoy Paris!”

And so, I tried to put away my worries about Henry, a previously sunny, popular child who now played with his hands constantly, making conversations between them. After writing at home in the mornings, I wandered Paris during the days, searching for the city I’d read about in books. I discovered a farmers’ market near our house like nothing I’d ever seen before. And I admit I did forget the children’s woes as I perused the exquisite displays of cheese, the glistening fish, the beautifully arranged fruits. Once, on my way home, I bumped into a neighbor, a Parisian mother of two. I asked her if she, too, shopped at the farmers’ market, holding up my bags proudly.

“Never,” she said, clucking her tongue. “That’s for American tourists. Tomorrow I’ll show you where real French mothers do their shopping.”

The next day she led me to a store called Picard. The logo on the sign out front was a giant blue snowflake. Inside, it looked a little like a morgue—a bare white space filled with rows upon rows of freezer chests. I followed her through the aisles, peering at the boxes and bags of frozen food. The French had found a way to freeze everything: escargot, foie gras, stuffed salmon, tiramisu. Pumpkin soup came in a bag of frozen blocks you just melted in a pan. “Is this what you feed your children?” I asked, thinking of the pressure back home to buy only fresh, local, and organic.

“Every night,” she said, laughing at my expression. “Oh, you didn’t know? This is the little secret of Parisian mothers. We don’t cook. Who has the time? At night I put Picard in the microwave, and dinner is ready in five minutes. Voilà!”
Everywhere I went in Paris, I saw beauty, history, nattily dressed children, and fantasies of America, from the movie posters in the Métro to the names of the French clothing labels—American Vintage, American Retro. It was as if, at this moment of identity crisis, with France’s economic future somewhat uncertain, the country had finally come to appreciate our pioneering spirit. I noticed that the French remained, however, stubbornly attached to quality and tradition, and as I walked the streets, it was impossible not to be impressed by the cut of a silk scarf or the elaborate window display of our local pastry shop. At the boys’ school, it was true that there was a lot more rote memorization than they were used to, but I was glad that Henry was learning to handwrite in the most beautiful cursive, a far cry from the iPads that had been dispensed to every kid in his L.A. kindergarten class.

Whatever Paris’s charms, the boys were deeply homesick. At night, in their twin beds, they whispered back and forth to each other all the things they missed the most about Los Angeles—horrible things, like the garish outdoor mall with the fountains that “danced” to pop tunes, or the Santa Monica Pier, where they’d both shrieked with terror on a ride before throwing up their cotton candy. They missed it all—especially their preschool, which I had affectionately called Kumbaya Academy, where, instead of their being corrected for any mistakes, every smear of paint or mindless utterance was met with “Great job!”

It was fall, and the U.S. presidential elections were in full swing. One evening, I found Henry standing in the living room watching CNN footage of a Mitt Romney campaign rally. He was chanting, “U-S-A! U-S-A!” I switched off the TV and sharply reminded him that we were Obama supporters—but even I could see that wasn’t the point. In bed beside my husband that night, I asked him to remind me what we were doing here with the kids. “Exposing them to another culture,” he said, trying to reassure us both. “They’ll adjust in no time. Remember? Kids are resilient.”

Everything crystallized the next weekend when my husband and I attended an American-fiction festival in Paris. There I met a French photographer who was doing a series on contemporary writers. Sixty-something, gray-haired, he asked me to lean against a wall while he fiddled with his camera. We chatted. I told him we were here for a year with our kids, that we’d put them in French public school. “We’re hoping they’ll pick up French,” I told him.

“Ah,” the man said, nodding. “My parents did that to me when I was seven. We moved here from Sweden, and they dropped me in a French public school without having any French. Because, as they say, kids are like sponges.”

I tried to laugh away my growing discomfort. “I guess it worked,” I said. “You sound French now.”

“Funny you should say that,” he said. “Fifty-five years later, I’m still trying to remember that year. According to my parents, I didn’t speak for the first six months after we got here—not a word. I was rendered completely mute by the shock of it.”

He hid his face behind the camera. “Now let’s start with one of you smiling.”
One Monday morning soon after, Miles pretended to be sick, and I pretended to believe him so he could stay home. As I was walking Henry to school, he tripped on the curb, fell, and skinned his knee. Though the cut was tiny, he began to weep like I’d never heard him weep before. I sat down beside him and held him in my arms, and a memory floated back to me from my own childhood. My father, in the late seventies, in the wake of his divorce from my mother, had sent my sister and me to a black-pride academy deep in the heart of Boston’s African-American neighborhood. The founder’s motto was to “instill racial pride while teaching.” During our time there, we performed in an all-black Christmas pageant called The Black Nativity, learned to sing the black national anthem, and were swatted with a switch by a dance teacher in an Erykah Badu–style head scarf when we forgot our steps.

My sister and I wept each time we were led up the steps into this new world where we were generally ostracized by the other kids. My father had the best of intentions—to make us proud of our black heritage in the midst of a predominantly white city—but in a haze of idealism and political ideology, he couldn’t see the more immediate reality of our daily misery. He inflicted this education on us like a bitter medicine. Someday we’d be proud to be black. Someday we’d reach the promised land of Negritude, and this would all make sense.

Henry sobbed in my arms over the cut on his knee that wasn’t really the problem. I held him and told him, “It’s lonely, isn’t it, being in that school? I’m so sorry. Let’s just stop. OK? Today we’ll go inside and say goodbye to your schoolmates and your teacher. We’ll thank them for having you. Then we’ll leave and we’ll never go back again. I’m finding you a school where people speak English.”

He looked confused for a moment. “Really?”

“Really.”

The following week I had both boys enrolled in bilingual international schools. We weren’t abandoning the language project altogether—half their day would be in French, half in English. But along with French children, there would be other Anglophone children like them.

The first day, I took Henry to his new classroom. We found a group of rowdy American and British boys crowded around a table building a Lego castle. They were neither self-contained nor well behaved. They were everything Bringing Up Bébé claimed French kids were not. I nudged my son to join them.

Afterward, I sat in a nearby Starbucks, drinking a soy chai latte, surrounded by brash Americans. I thought about all the parenting books I’d read over the years, with their shifting and contradictory advice on how to do right by one’s children. My husband and I were still just making it up as we went along. My kids would not go home bilingual, with scarves wrapped artfully around their necks, happy gourmands who greeted visitors with kisses to both cheeks. I wasn’t going home as a French mother, real or imagined. It was shameful to admit, but I was the happiest I’d been in weeks.


A Child’s Lifelong Self-Esteem Emerges Earlier Than We Thought

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article from Huffpost

photo from Sleeptastic Solutions

Children may form a sense of their “overall goodness” by preschool.

 

Five-year-old children may only read and write at a basic level, but their sense of self is surprisingly sophisticated. A provocative new study suggests that by kindergarten, a child’s self-esteem is as strong as an adult’s.

The research, published in the January 2016 issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, finds that most children have developed an overall positive sense of themselves by this age — and that sense of self remains relatively stable over their lifespan.

“Some rudimentary sense of children’s self-esteem appears to be already established by age 5,” Dr. Dario Cvencek, a research scientist at the University of Washington and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “That does not mean it can’t change with life experiences and maturation. We think self-esteem is malleable but we also think that it starts earlier than previously thought.”

The research overturns traditional psychological beliefs about the way self-esteem develops during childhood. Scientists previously thought that preschoolers were too young to have developed an overall positive or negative sense of themselves, according to Cvencek.

“Our new work,” he said, “shows that preschoolers do have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person. It’s a first.”

In previous studies, psychologists relied on verbal self-evaluations to measure a child’s self-esteem, which may have provided unreliable data due to young children’s limited verbal abilities.

So for their study, Cvencek and his colleagues designed a new test, called the Preschool Implicit Association Test (PSIAT), to measure children’s positive feelings toward themselves. The researchers administered the test to 234 five-year-old boys and girls living in Washington state.

Similar to an implicit association test for adults — which asks participants to quickly associate words such as “self” and “pleasant” or “unpleasant” — the preschoolers were asked to associate objects.

The children were presented with several different varieties of flags, which they were taught to divide into two groups: “yours” and “not yours.” Then, the preschoolers completed a task in which they pressed buttons to indicate whether “good” words (fun, happy, good, nice) and “bad” words (bad, mad, mean, yucky) were more associated with “me” or “not-me.” 

The results of this and two other implicit association tests revealed that the children associated themselves more with good qualities than bad ones. 

“Previously we understood that preschoolers knew about some of their specific good features,” Dr. Anthony Greenwald, a psychologist at the University of Washington and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “We now understand that, in addition, they have a global, overall knowledge of their goodness as a person.”

The study also revealed that high self-esteem was correlated with strong gender identity and preference for members of their own gender, suggesting that a child’s self-esteem is connected to other formative parts of their personality.

Now that we know that self-esteem emerges early in life, how can parents and teachers foster the development of a healthy sense of self in a child?

The warm, supportive connections a child develops with others are probably the most important factor, according to Cvencek.

“Children who feel loved by others may internalize this to love themselves,” he said. “Our findings underscore the importance of the first five years as a foundation for life.”


The Surprising Effects of Listening to a Baby Cry

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photo from Getty Images

article by Jen Gann from The Cut for New York Magazine

Parents who’ve done any form of cry-it-out sleep training — or all parents, quite frankly — are only too familiar with what happens when their baby cries: It feels horrendous. It feels immediately alarming, as though every nerve ending is suddenly subject to an electrical fire. Yesterday, the New York Times took a good look at some of the science behind a baby’s cry — and our sometimes surprising reactions.

Seeing some of the crying facts laid bare is a little staggering. Normal infants, for example, cry about two hours every day. What the Times calls a “notorious human crybaby” will sometimes cry for two hours, every two hours. Crying, of course, is essential to survival: Infant mice stripped of the ability to cry are ignored by their mothers, and quickly die.

Indeed, we’re hardwired to respond to crying. Researchers have “found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.”

What to do with that reaction, when all your attempts to calm a crying baby are met with more crying? Personally, I always rolled my eyes a little at anyone’s claim that I would “learn to decode” my baby’s cries, that the cries would sound different depending on what he wanted (it seemed like most of the time, he didn’t know?). But according to a study summarized by the Times, Spanish researchers have been able to categorize three cry types: anger, fear, and pain.

With their arms and legs pinned to provoke anger, mad babies usually kept their eyes half-open, looking off to the side as they cried. Babies frightened by a loud noise, “after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.” For babies given a shot, the cries were immediate, forceful, and conducted with shut eyes.

On a more uplifting note, the Times presents some possible evidence against so-called “mommy brain”:

--

In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.

“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.

Why not try this out at home? Your angry, fearful, or pained baby is primed to give you lots of opportunities.


Recipe!: Baked Sweet Potato Fries

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 4 small)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Cut each sweet potato in half lengthwise, and place it flat side down on a cutting board. Cut the potato halves into 1-inch-wide wedges.
  • In a small bowl, combine the oil, chili powder and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Place the potatoes on a roasting pan and brush with the oil mixture. Lay the potatoes flesh side down on the pan and put the pan in the oven.
  • Cook until potatoes, turning once, until soft, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and season with remaining1/2 teaspoon salt. Let the wedges cool for a bit, and serve warm.
    • For dunking, ketchup always works (at 15 calories per tablespoon) or try a squeeze of fresh lime juice for a British chips-and-vinegar effect.

Recipe!: Orange Cranberry Muffins

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 navel orange, cut into eighths
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Coat a standard-size 12-cup muffin tin with cooking spray.
  2. Put the orange wedges, orange juice, egg and oil into a blender and blend until smooth.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; whisk to incorporate. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients; pour the orange mixture into it and stir to make a thick batter. Stir in the cranberries.
  4. Divide the mixture among the muffin tins, filling the tins about 3/4 full, and bake until the muffins are golden and push back when gently pressed, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack and enjoy warm or toasted.

Recipe!: Parmesan Cheese Straws

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Recipe from You Can Trust a Skinny Cook via Parenting

Photo by Lucy Schaeffer

Ingredients:

  • Small scattering of flour
  • 1 8 1/2-ounce sheet puff pastry, defrosted
  • 1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. On a lightly floured surface, unfold the puff pastry. Flour the side facing you and use a rolling pin to roll it to a 12-inch square. Brush the puff with egg mixture (you’ll probably use less than half of what you’ve got, but that’s fine).
  3. Sprinkle the cheese and paprika evenly over the puff. Press the toppings gently but firmly into the puff to help them adhere.
  4. Slice the puff into twenty-four 1/2-inch strips. Divide the strips between the prepared baking sheets, seasoned side up. Twist the strips twice, clockwise at the top and counterclockwise at the bottom, so that you’ve got one long spiral. Put the baking sheets in the oven and cook until the twists have puffed and are golden brown, about 18 minutes.
  5. Let cool and serve.

Recipe!: Jam and Graham Cracker Cheesecake

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Recipe by Smitten Kitchen via Parenting

Photo by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese, softened for 10 seconds in the microwave
  • 3 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • A few sheets of graham crackers, broken into squares or rectangles

Directions:

  • Mix the softened cream cheese with the jam. Spread a little of the mixture on top of each graham cracker.
  • Either eat right away, or chill for 30 minutes.
    • The grahams will soften and become more like a cheesecake crust, and the topping will firm up.

**Pro-tip: Use different flavors of jam, top with a slice of fresh strawberry


Recipe!: Cucumber Boats with Spiced Yogurt

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recipe from Smitten Kitchen via Parenting 

photo by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • Small cucumbers, such as Kirbys
  • Small container of plain yogurt
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cumin

Directions:

  1. Halve cucumbers lengthwise and scoop out seeds. (A melon baller works great for this.)
  2. Mix some plain yogurt, a couple of pinches of sugar, a pinch of salt and a dash of cumin in a bowl.
  3. Spread into hollowed cucumbers.
  4. Decorate as desired

Buy Time Not Stuff!

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image by Kristen Solecki for NPR

article by Allison Aubrey for NPR

Money can't buy happiness, right? Well, some researchers beg to differ. They say it depends on how you spend it.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessuggests that when people spend money on time-saving services such as a house cleaner, lawn care or grocery delivery, it can make them feel a little happier. By comparison, money spent on material purchases — aka things — does not boost positive emotions the way we might expect.

Think of it as a way to buy back what has become for many Americans a scarce resource: free time.

Yet, in a culture where many people are quick to buy the latest model phone, a big-screen TV or a fancy pair of shoes, those same people are often resistant to spending money on time-saving services.

"Contemplating paying somebody else to do something you're perfectly capable of doing yourself may provoke feelings of guilt," says Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study.

Dunn and her colleagues had a hunch that if people spent money to hire out some of the unwanted tasks on their to-do list, they might feel more satisfied with their quality of life.

"We hypothesized that people would be happier if they spent money to buy themselves out of the things they don't like doing," she says.

As a test, she and her colleagues designed an experiment: First, they recruited 60 adults under the age of 70 from Vancouver, British Columbia. The researchers gave the volunteers a little cash and asked them to spend it in two different ways, on two consecutive weekends. 

"On one weekend we gave them $40 and asked them to spend it in any way that would give them more free time," Dunn explains. Participants in the study chose a variety of services — everything from meal delivery to a cleaning service to help with errands.

Then, on the other weekend, the participants got another $40 to spend on a material purchase. They could choose anything they wanted within that budget. "One person bought polo shirts," Dunn says. "Another participant bought wine that she described as fancy." 

After each weekend purchase, the researchers called the participants and asked how they were feeling. The participants reported how much "positive emotion" they'd been experiencing and how much "negative emotion," Dunn explains. 

When the study participants spent money on time-saving services, they reported more positive emotion.

"Buying yourself out of [tasks] like mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom — these were pretty small, mundane expenditures, and yet we see them making a difference in people's happiness," Dunn says.

But how much happier? A separate part of the study helped to answer this question.

The same researchers surveyed a group of 6,000 people across a wide range of incomebrackets in the U.S., Canada and Europe. (The median household income for U.S. residents in the survey was $75,000, but the study also included working adults who made about $30,000 per year and some European millionaires.)

Respondents completed survey questions about whether they spent money each month to increase their free time by paying someone else to complete unenjoyable tasks, and if so, how much they spent.

In addition, the respondents were asked to rank their own level of happiness on a 10-point scale of life satisfaction. Think of the scale as a happiness ladder with 10 rungs.

"What we found is that people who spent money to buy time reported being almost one full point higher on our 10-point ladder, compared to people who did not use money to buy time," Dunn explains. People from across the income spectrum benefited from "buying time," she adds.

Moving up one rung on the happiness ladder may not sound like much, but the researchers say they're very excited by their results.

"Moving people up on the ladder of life satisfaction is not an easy thing to do," Dunn says. "So, if altering slightly how people are spending their money could move them up a full rung, it's something we really want to understand and perhaps encourage people to do."

Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA who was not involved in the study, tells NPR he was a little surprised by the results.

He says it's an intriguing possibility to think about time-saving services as a "stress-management tool." But there are still some unanswered questions, he says. For instance, is the boost in positive emotions sustainable, "or is it just an immediate response?" Maidenberg wonders.

The authors are "presenting enough data to justify a more careful look into this," Maidenberg says. "It's exciting."


30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

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photo and article courtesy of Popsugar

written by Sara Goldstein

Sometimes it can be tough getting your child to talk about their day. Instead of asking the mundane question "How was your day?," try using one of these creative queries from our friends at Parent Co.!

When I picked my son up from his first day of 4th grade, my usual (enthusiastically delivered) question of "how was your day?" was met with his usual (indifferently delivered) "fine."

Come on! It's the first day, for crying out loud! Give me something to work with, would you, kid?

The second day, my same question was answered, "well, no one was a jerk."

That's good . . . I guess.

I suppose the problem is my own. That question actually sucks. Far from a conversation starter, it's uninspired, overwhelmingly open ended, and frankly, completely boring. So as an alternative, I've compiled a list of questions that my kid will answer with more than a single word or grunt. In fact, he debated his response to question 8 for at least half an hour over the weekend. The jury's out until he can organize a foot race.

Questions a kid will answer at the end of a long school day:

  1. What did you eat for lunch?
  2. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
  3. What games did you play at recess?
  4. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  5. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  6. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  7. Who made you smile today?
  8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  9. What new fact did you learn today?
  10. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  11. What challenged you today?
  12. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  13. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  14. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  15. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  16. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  17. Who do you want to make friends with but haven't yet? Why not?
  18. What is your teacher's most important rule?
  19. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  20. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  21. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  22. If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
  23. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  24. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  25. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  26. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  27. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  28. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  29. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
  30. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?

10 Tips for Sustainable Toxic-Free Cleaning

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photo from Mother Mag

article written by Anna Jacobs for Mother Mag

While summer about to come to an official close, there’s no time like the present to deep clean and refresh for the start of a new season. To make tidying up cleaner and greener, we’ve gathered together our favorite tips for eco-friendly cleaning that are safe for the environment and your family. With these tricks in your back pocket, you’ll be breathing easy as you tackle your biggest projects yet.

Use Dr. Bronner’s For, Well, Anything
What can’t you do with Dr. Bronner’s? You can wash your clothes, use it as shampoo, and even brush your teeth with this all-natural soap. Bonus: a little goes a long way, so one bottle will last you for months, saving you time and money. Check out the dilution cheat sheet for an extensive list of all the ways you can use this sudsy stuff. Committed to fair trade and organic materials, as well as social and environmental accountability and transparency, Dr. Bronner’s is a company you can trust.

Repair Old and Damaged Clothes
It’s easy to give up on old pieces of clothing and dump them in the trash. This year, consider mending clothes that are a little worse for wear, and test your hand at dying faded clothes to give them new life. Patagonia has pop-up mending shops around the country, or keep an eye out for clothing repair workshops at local stores wherever you live.

Keep and Eye Out for Green-washing
We’ve all been there. In a rush to buy a natural cleaning product, we’ve picked up a bottle of who-knows-what that’s plastered with pictures of the earth and words meant to fool you, like natural, green, and eco-friendly. After taking a closer look at the label, you’ve found the so-called “natural” ingredients, aren’t so natural after all. This year, take your time to do some research on eco-friendly products ahead of time, so you can find products that suit your family best. Head over to the Environment Working Group’s Food Score website to learn about the products and companies you’re supporting, as well as which toxins are most important to avoid.

Ditch the Plastic Wrap
We’ve all heard it before, but we’ll say it again: plastic is bad for you and bad for the environment. Let’s commit to ditching our unsustainable habits and commit to using less plastic. Thankfully, the folks behind Beeswrap have done the hard work for us, crafting a reusable alternative to plastic wrap made of beeswax-coated fabric. It’s easy to clean and comes in a variety of sizes. While you’re at it, swap out plastic Tupperware for the stainless steel variety, and buy linen food covers to slip over uncovered bowls and dishes.

Turn to Your Kitchen Cabinets
We’re willing to bet your kitchen cabinets are full of ingredients that can clean a gnarly mess just as easily as they can add flavor to your cooking. Vinegar is a versatile cleaner that can do just about anything—dilute it for a simple, nontoxic window cleaner, mix with baking soda to remove the most stubborn carpet stains, and try it out as a shampoo alternative to get rid of product build up. Baking soda works wonders on dirty floors and tarnished silver—mix with a bit of water and do a little scrubbing for some seriously shiny results.

Host a Clothing Exchange
Call up your friends to come over on a weekend afternoon for a clothing exchange. You’ll get rid of clothes you’re tired of wearing, and add a few new additions to your closet. Try it out with children’s clothing, too. The best part? It’s free! Leftover clothes can be donated to Goodwill, or a similar organization. Consider sending your gently used bras to The Bra Recyclers, where they distribute lightly used bras to women and girls who need them.

Change Your Light Bulbs
Are you still using incandescent light bulbs? Stock your garage shelves with energy-efficient bulbs so that next time a light goes out, you’re prepared for a sustainable switch. LEDs, halogen, and compact florescent bulbs are stocked at most home goods stores. These bulbs use significantly less energy than the incandescent variety and last much longer, saving the planet and your wallet.

Invest in Solar Panels
If you’re up for a larger home project, consider investing in solar panels for the ultimate form of spring-cleaning. Save money on your electric bill, while significantly reducing your carbon footprint. Bonus points if you also drive a hybrid or electric car.

Ditch the Toxins
Take a look at your cleaning products in the kitchen and bathroom. If they have scary labels that say “danger”, “caution”, or “warning”, it’s time to get that stuff out of the house pronto. Call your recycling center to find out the date of the next hazardous pickup day to responsibly dispose of any toxic products you have lying around. Replace your cleaning products with the nontoxic, natural variety, so you never have to worry about your kiddos’ safety when it comes to cleaning.

Check Out Your Sponges
Kudos if you’re already using sponges to clean your countertops instead of using paper towels or wet wipes. Sponges are wonderful minimal waste to clean, but they can get pretty nasty after months of hard work and frequent use. Toss your stinky sponges, or if they’ve got a little life left in them, stick them in the microwave for a few minutes (make sure they’re wet before you do this). If you’re starting fresh, pick up some biodegradable sponges, so you can compost them once they’ve outlasted their use.


HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR NANNY

From The Washington Post (Leslie Kendall Dye)

 

As a parent, I do many things. I work, I clean, I cook, I worry, I dote on and discipline a person who is younger and shorter than I am. I am also an actress, a dancer and a human being.

Buried among the other items on my resume is this one, of which I am particularly proud: I was a nanny. A part-time nanny, but nonetheless, I cared for at least 100 children over the better part of a decade. Some were one-night stands — an agency would send me to a hotel to care for the spawn of tourists. Many were regulars —  New York City families who needed evening care. And then I had about 10 families whose children I cared for each week. Of those families, six became family. By this I mean they treated me as such. The mutual rewards of this bond are (almost) immeasurable.

One might think that when I hung up my nanny cap and became a mother, I would no longer identify with nannies. That I would begin to see things from the other perspective. That I would soften in my understanding of certain injustices I had faced in countless households.

I thought I would shift, but I was wrong. If anything, I identify with babysitters and nannies even more now that I have a child of my own.

She is 4 now. We don’t have the means for a nanny and we rarely use a sitter — mostly because I won’t pay less than the going rate for babysitters in a city where one must sell a kidney to purchase a bottle of soda. But when I can, on occasion, welcome a sitter into our home, we love to talk sho

I thought I would shift, but I was wrong. If anything, I identify with babysitters and nannies even more now that I have a child of my own.

She is 4 now. We don’t have the means for a nanny and we rarely use a sitter — mostly because I won’t pay less than the going rate for babysitters in a city where one must sell a kidney to purchase a bottle of soda. But when I can, on occasion, welcome a sitter into our home, we love to talk shop.

Did you know there are books that devote whole sections to training babysitters and nannies? Of course you do; they overflow from every parenting book section in every book store the country over.

Let’s take the particularly odious book “City Baby, New York: The Ultimate Guide for Parents, from Pregnancy to Preschool.” I had morning sickness when I stumbled on this gem, but I don’t think it was the hormones that made me ill.

I opened it and skimmed the contents. I came across the “nanny training” chapter. My heart sank. My blood pressure rose. I’d seen the book at my obstetrician’s office, I’d seen it on display at every baby supply store and it had a million stars on Amazon. I shook as I read it. It was nothing more than a spotlight fixed determinedly on why things go wrong between nannies and their employers. It might as well have been a guide to losing your nanny. Disregard for a nanny’s humanity is clearly a deep-rooted weed in the world of childcare.

“You may want to tell your nanny that you have a camera so that she is always on her best behavior,” the book advises.

“We have changed nannies several times … The most important person in your child’s life is you, the parent. Kids eventually adjust to a new nanny or caregiver,” it says.

“We are big on giving a nanny a trial period. Take this opportunity to observe her with your baby,” it continues.

I read the entire chapter and I couldn’t find one sentence that didn’t seem designed to set up an antagonistic attitude toward “the help.” I’m not arguing for or against nanny-cams, and I’m not saying that parents aren’t entitled to maintain their role as primary love objects for their little ones (and fear not, no one can replace you — really!). I am also not saying that all nannies are fabulous and that they never need to be replaced.

I am arguing that nanny-training books fan the flames of misunderstanding between a nanny and her employer by embedding a patronizing point of view in a parent’s mind. From the start, a tragic dynamic is set in motion. And how unfortunate for that family, because they will often lose their nanny and have no idea why.

It is hard enough to be pregnant and hormonal and terrified of becoming a mother. It is hard enough to say goodbye to a small baby and leave her in the hands of another person. Must guide books intensify this terror by warning parents that nannies may be performing acts of witchcraft in the living room or feeding their children non-organic produce? (True story: an East Side mother once admonished me for buying a banana for her child from a street cart. It was definitely not organic.) If a parent has checked references and spent some time getting to know the nanny as a person while they pass the baby back and forth, his or her diligence is plenty thorough.

A guide book should encourage parents to establish loving and considerate relationships with their nannies. I searched cover to cover for even one paragraph on being respectful toward your nanny. I think you can guess if I found one. Expectant parents are reading toxic bunk that may damage one of the most important relationships they will ever have.

As an alternative, I’ve compiled some suggestions for parents who have nannies and babysitters in their homes.

Remember that you were not always a parent. Being a parent does not need to change you. You can and should remain the warm and caring person you are. It is okay to see a nanny as a friend; it will not diminish your authority. Actually, it will make it easier for you to express your needs and concerns.

Taking care of your nanny is much like taking care of your kids. Fight the urge to ask how the kids are every time you call. First, ask the nanny how she is feeling. Is she tired? Did she get enough to eat? Did the kids give her a hard time today?

Don’t think nannies are as replaceable as batteries.You might need to replace one at some point, but respect their place in your child’s heart and the time they have been in your home.

Don’t think of the relationship as the same type of professional one you might have with office staff.Caring for a child is a deeply intimate experience. Talking to a nanny is not like running a corporate meeting. Laying out rules and asking questions in a business-like manner can make a nanny feel like she is under the command of a drill sergeant. Marching orders don’t make for nannies who obey commands. Mr. Banks, after all, had no luck with that. Remember when Mary Poppins took the children on their first outing? They jumped into a painting and ate (non-organic) candied apples.

Further, keeping the relationship “strictly professional” ensures that a discussion of delicate topics such as domestic chores or safety concerns is awkward. Think of how you treat raising a delicate matter with a friend. Your friend has feelings, and so do nannies. You may feel an issue is resolved because you have formally discussed it. But your nanny may feel admonished rather than respected. That resentment usually festers. Yes, she works for you and you have a right to ask that things to be done in a certain manner, but it isn’t easy to feel good will toward people who treat you like a servant. Sometimes, tone is everything. Your house is not Downton Abbey.

Also, be open to the notion that each caregiver has a unique way of relating to a child, and special ways of nurturing that child. Give your nanny space to do her work; that’s what you are paying her for. She may do things a bit differently than you would, but that’s often a good thing. Children benefit from receiving different kinds of care and listening to other viewpoints.

Remember that nannies spend all day nurturing. They get depleted. When nannies are refueled by being nurtured in return, they go above and beyond. I have scrubbed kitchens, organized bookshelves, taken photos of my charges and framed them for their parents and brought picture books and treats to houses where I am treated like family. And it’s a pleasure. Ask your nanny how her day was. Ask her about her life. Did she do well on that test? How is her boyfriend? How is her father’s health? Where did she get that nice dress? She may not give you long answers, but she will greatly appreciate your genuine interest in her life, which extends beyond the care of your child.

Keep in mind that many families are eagerly searching for a nanny like yours. If you allow hurt to build up, if you step on her toes too often, if you forget her humanity, it is easier for her to replace you than vice versa.

***

I miss one particular family whose three children I cared for. They used to live on the Upper West Side. The mother gave me all her maternity clothes when I was 20 weeks along. She exemplified the kind of parent I hoped to be. She didn’t mind if her children wanted to sleep in her bed sometimes, or fall asleep next to their nanny, or try a sip of beer, or jump from great heights for fun. She was comfortable with herself; she was comfortable in general.

She trusted me. And because of that, I became even more trustworthy.

Leslie Kendall Dye is an actor and dancer in New York City. 

 

www.washingtonpost.com/news/parenting


Should You Hire a Baby Nurse?

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Hiring the right baby nurse will ensure you are trained on sleep methods, how to recognize development and most of all have peace-of-mind that your infant or infants are safe, cared for and in the care of a professional who works with the parents in a cohesive team for correct development during the first year.

An average cost of a baby nurse is $20-35 an hour.   Email us at info@bahs.com for a list of questions to ask the baby nurse during the interview process

British American Newborn Care (bababynurses.com) has the highest quality professional and screened newborn care specialists/baby nurses/night nannies on the East and West Coasts of the USA as well as the UK.  Whether you are looking for a long or short term with a night nanny/baby nurse or a British materntiy nurse, we can help you find your perfect solution.

Should You Hire A Baby Nurse?

If this is your first pregnancy stop worrying about labor and giving birth. The real exhaustion of childbirth comes afterwards; even if you have a perfectly normal delivery, expect at least a two-week recovery period. Not only will you not feel well, you will have a little baby to take care of and probably limited experience with newborns. Many New York couples survive this time and enjoy their child's first few weeks of life with the help of a baby nurse. 

What is a baby nurse and what does one do? She is an experienced nanny with training in newborn skills. She is responsible for the care of your baby 24 hours a day. She will get up for nighttime feedings while the new mother gets her much needed rest. If the baby is breastfeeding, the nurse will get up with the new mother, help position the baby, and carry him back and forth. 

A baby nurse will do the baby's laundry everyday and help with light housekeeping and snacks. She will teach you to change diapers, bathe, and feed the baby, or she will do it all for you. She will answer your questions. She will hold the baby throughout the day providing security and affection when you need a break. She will keep you company, or disappear when you want to be alone with your new family. 

When interviewing a potential baby nurse, tell her your expectations. One friend who stops pregnant women on the street to recommend her baby nurse said she wanted to feel like a Victorian lady. She wanted her little one brought to her clean, fed and ready to sleep on her lap. She wanted the baby taken away to be changed and brought back in a fresh, new little outfit. 

Baby nurses take a tremendous burden off new fathers who may not feel capable of providing the nurturing a new baby and recovering wife need. If a husband can't take time off from work, he knows he is not leaving his wife to fend for herself. 

Can't family help? Your mother or mother-in-law may be selflessly offering to stay with you as long as you need at no cost to you. Is it wise in your postpartum emotional state to have the woman who told you what to do your whole life living with you? If you think a baby nurse will intimidate you or force her childrearing ways on you, it won't compare to what your mother can do, - this is her grandchild. If you don't like the idea of a stranger knowing your family business, remember that she leaves in two weeks and doesn't have any stake in your life. 

If your relationship with your mother or mother-in-law is such that you have no problem with her staying with you, by all means graciously accept her help. If this is her first grandchild, you may find a completely different woman in your house. 

When you have family help, you will be open to receiving visitors or risk hurting someone's feelings. But you may not feel like being seen or you may want to spend at least the first week enjoying your new immediate family. You probably don't want a lot of people holding your baby, but if you have visitors you will oblige them. Avoid the situation altogether. Tell everyone, including grandparents, you'll see them next week. 

The doula option Depending on what you expect of your childbirth experience, you may consider hiring a doula. - a woman who provides the mother with support before, during and after childbirth. She will help you come up with a birth plan and be in the delivery room with you if you want. Most New York area doulas, however, specialize in the postpartum period. They offer the new mother guidance and encouragement. Some are even lactation specialists. The idea is to nurture the new mother, they do not take care of your baby. 

The duties of a baby nurse are more flexible. She can offer you advice and teach you parenting skills. If you are too tired or too overwhelmed to learn anything, take advantage of the nurse's willingness to take care of your baby while you recover. 

So how do you find a baby nurse? Everyone I asked said through word-of-mouth. Ask couples with children in New York City. Someone will have used one. Most nanny agencies can help you find a baby nurse; some specialize in them. 

Every pregnancy is different and you can't predict what kind of recovery you will have. Hiring a baby nurse is like buying an insurance policy. It can ensure that you and your baby come home to a calm environment where you can enjoy every moment as a new family. 

By NYMetroparents 

 


 


Hiring Seasonal Domestic Staff

Hiring the right temporary domestic staff for your summer home is a large project for any principle or family. This article discusses why this can be so challenging and offers potential solutions to common problems I have seen every season. I am someone with extensive experience in the luxury hospitality and staffing industry and I have run British American Household Staffing and British American Yachts, the leading domestic staffing and yacht crew agency in the USA and UK as well as British American Newborn Care, which works with the best childcare professionals in the USA and UK. Most agencies have a roster of recurring staff in all the domestic staff categories. The earlier you start the hiring process the more likely you will secure the most qualified candidates. If you have very specific requirements and early start will help you find the ideal person for a potentially harder match to find.

A family looking for a live-in housekeeper-cook for their Hamptons home should look at contacting agencies in New York as well as the Hamptons, but nowhere too far for the housekeeper-cook to travel back and forth to on their days off (for instance New Jersey is too far from Easthampton, one full day off will be used for traveling). A live-in housekeeper-cook for the Hamptons will have to drive so this is a challenging order as many domestic candidates don’t want to live in and many housekeepers do not like to cook, especially cook the volume needed for the summer season, which is typically filled with parties and extra guests.

The best solution is to do the following: - Start the hiring process early - Contact high end agencies only, both local and non-local (as it is live in) - Set a salary range that is generous to allow you to find the best fit more easily - Make sure you have set an appealing schedule so you open-up the pool of qualified candidates. The schedule should always have 2 consecutive days off and usually a Sunday is given as a day off, in conjunction with Monday or Saturday - Phone screen the candidates first - Check their level of experience - Check they have been a flexible worker in the past.

One of the most common recurring issues for larger estates lies in the team of domestic staff. Staffing a larger home or estates is like running a small business in your home. The pyramid model works well for estate staffing. Start by hiring a house manager or a butler house manager. This person can then help you screen the rest of the staff, which helps them establish their authority with the staff you decide to hire for the summer that this house manager will be overseeing. This is the most important hire you will make over the summer, so screen this person for the following qualities:

- Ask their management style and ask for two or more references from staff they managed previously - Find out why they are looking for the summer only - Hire someone who has experience in the area they will be working - Ensure they have estate staff management experience - Once you hire them, hire the domestic staff with them and keep an open line of communication with the staff in case there are revolving door problems and it is the fault of the house manager - Make sure they have relationships with the top agencies in the area and ask who they liaise with at those agencies - Ensure they understand scheduling for staff - Pay them very well with the promise of a bonus at the end of the season In case you are doing the hiring alone or with a remote house manager, you will need to know how to attract the best staff (housekeepers, chefs and nannies) for your summer home Housekeepers: - Other than nannies, most high quality domestic are looking for a secure full-time job position, preferably with benefits. This is something every principle hiring only for the summer with deal with and lose staff too.

The best solution for this is to hire the best local candidates on a lower full time salary, offer benefits and give them a bonus at the end of the summer. This is the best solution for retaining top talent in a seasonal area such as the Hamptons - Housekeepers, more than any other domestic staff category, like a regular schedule with overtime, which is the law. A constant live in or Wednesday to Sunday schedule is always unpopular, but more-often-than-not needed for summer hires, especially in the Hamptons. Hire one more extra housekeeper than you need so each housekeeper gets one weekend of a month. This will attract the best talent - A standard and suggested formal housekeeper salary is $70,000 plus benefits and overtime.  A seasonal housekeeper is $35 to $40 an hour.

 

Chefs: -

Chefs often like a temporary position that helps them earn a solid income and allows them more freedom to freelance during the year, or travel etc. - Yacht chefs are some of the best chefs you can find and they are accustomed to short-term gigs, long schedules, catering to large formal parties in a small space and working 7 day or more stretches. I would recommend this direction if you can accommodate a live- in chef. - Use an agency that works with both yacht and domestic staff - Top chefs are often happy to do the Hamptons in between jobs. Again, starting this search early and constantly checking in is an excellent way of increasing your chances of securing the best private chef for the summer - Suggested salary for a summer chef is $8-12,000 a month.

Nannies: -

Nannies fall into many different categories: 1. Career nannies 2. Mother’s helpers 3. Nanny/housekeepers 4. Second language nannies 5. Newborn Care Specialist nannies 6. Travel nannies Childcare is the most delicate of all domestic hires to make, as they need to be fully-qualified for your particular childcare situation. I recommend using an agency with a specialized childcare department. Screen the head of the department and make sure they are qualified in childhood education and development and hold the appropriate degrees (and newborn care specialist should be an expert in their field and should have experience training, screening and offering certificates to newborn care specialists). If your children are older (3 and up) a travel nanny or student nanny could be a great option. These nannies are often students, actresses, singers, writers or have another unrelated career during the year. They must be experienced nannies with your children’s age group and this should be screened by the agency childcare branch. This can be a good option if they are able to tutor and educate your children over the summer, or teach them a musical instrument etc. This is the more economical option, with a salary usually starting at $25 an hour plus overtime. Travel pay is not a legal prerequisite but overtime pay is. If you have an infant, or infant twins, a certified and educated newborn care specialist or baby nurse is the best option. A regular nanny (career nanny, nanny/housekeepers, second language nanny, mother’s helper or suchlike) will be looking for a permanent position, so they are harder to pin down for the summer. If you do, the career nannies will likely be expensive at $35-45 an hour. Some will accept a summer position in between jobs but this is rare. For all childcare positions we highly recommend going through the childcare division at a reputed agency. Again, screen the person who heads this branch.

 

Examples are British American Household Staffing (bahs.com) and British American Newborn Care (bababynurses.com). Ashley Mundt and Katie Morin are both childhood and infant development specialists and highly certified, their bios below. For more information on domestic staffing, temporary or permanent, feel free to reach out to me at: info@bahs.com

By Anita Rogers www.bahs.com www.babynurses.com

 

Childhood development specialist and nanny hiring specialist for British American Household Staffing

Ashley Mundt, M.Ed., CCLS Nanny Consultant Ashley is our child development expert and nanny specialist. She has a strong academic background and years of hands on experience working with children and families in private and group settings. She received both a B.A. in Sociology and Youth and Human Services from Pepperdine University and an M.Ed. in Applied Child Studies from Vanderbilt. Her training as a Certified Child Life Specialist enables her to support and guide children and families during medical interventions, chronic illness, and family/home crisis situations. Although she has worked in many different settings throughout her career (including homes, schools, camps, and hospitals), her passion, and bulk of experience, is working directly with families in private homes. Over the past 15 years, she has worked as a highly sought after nanny, childcare consultant, parent educator, and caregiver trainer. Ashley's background of extensive developmental education and hands on experience in luxury homes puts her in a unique position to understand the needs of families, caregivers, and (most importantly) children.

 

Infant development specialist and baby nurse and newborn care specialist hiring specialist for British American Household Staffing and Newborn Care Katie Morin, ACNCS, NCSE Newborn Care Consultant and Placement 

Katie began her career in childcare over 20 years ago. She has been extremely fortunate to have worked with some amazing families along the way. One of her first and most memorable experiences with multiples (a set of newborn triplets) was 28 years ago. It was then that she realized her passion for working with children. It was then that she also realized her passion for caring for multiples. Katie has a degree in Child Development and Psychology and has countless certificates including being Advance Certified through the Newborn Care Specialist Association. Through the years, Katie has been a career nanny, a daycare owner, a preschool teacher and a Certified Newborn Care Specialist. She also has had great success in matching NCS candidates with amazing families worldwide. She does not consider these positions just a job, they are a passion and what she loves to do. It allows her to meet incredible people, all with different personalities and aspects of life. This experience gives her the ability to educate and assist new parents during the most amazing part of their life. To date she has worked with over 40 sets of twins, 9 sets of triplets and quadruplets. She has also worked with dozens of preemies (some born as early as 26 weeks) as well as newborns with special needs.   

 

www.bahs.com

www.bababynurses.com

www.bahsyachts.com


Celebrate Your Moment: How to Feel Like a Million Bucks at Your Baby Shower

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Courtesy of Happily Eva After

I’m a huge fan of celebrating pregnant women with all that we’ve got.  There’s nothing quite as powerful, as beautiful, or as magnificent as growing a new precious life inside of your body– but I think we pregnant women can often feel very vulnerable during our pregnancy journeys.  Whether it’s due to fears, hormonal anxiety, everyday aches and pains, or even feelings of insecurity or self-doubt– a woman’s pregnancy can ALSO herald a period during which time we go through a totally out of body experience.  During my first pregnancy, for example, I felt super strong physically, and in-tune emotionally with my pregnancy.  I did yoga and pilates, walked for miles a day, and was meditating and reading tons in preparation for my daughter’s birth.  This time around has been the opposite of that.  I’ve felt so out of touch in so many ways as I try desperately to balance my existing child, my relationships, my business, and my own needs.  Not to mention I’ve felt less than great about my body at times during this pregnancy.  I think most second-time Mamas out there can relate to this!

Our identities as women can sometimes get put on the back-burner as we are encouraged to give up our previous lives in order to pledge our bodies to our unborn babies.  But of course we are all more than just Mamas! I think it’s super important to make sure that you are being gentle with yourself emotionally, and celebrating the woman that you are during your pregnancy, in big ways or small.  A wonderful, personal Baby Shower is such a great way to do this.  Even just knowing that those close to you are taking time out of their busy schedules to celebrate you and the epic journey you are about to embark upon can be so soothing to those pre-birth jitters.  Take advantage of this special celebration! Make sure you are enjoying every minute and setting up your special day so that you can truly bask in the glory of it.  These moments pass us by so quickly.

Today I’m sharing my best tips and tricks to prepare for your baby shower and feel like a million bucks.  You deserve it, Mama!


Why Nannies Should Be Vaccinated

Why Nannies (Newborn Care Specialists and Baby Nurses) Should Be Vaccinated

Professional Child Care Providers Should Be Vaccinated

More and more parents and nanny agencies are requiring nanny candidates be vaccinated for the flu, whooping cough, and measles.

While some people may have allergies to specific vaccines and cannot get vaccinated, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) shows why child care providers should be vaccinated.

Even healthy people can get very sick from influenza (the flu) and spread it to others. The CDC lists that hundreds of thousands of Americans are hospitalized each flu season and that flu viruses circulate at higher levels in the U.S. population.

Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal influenza; thousands of children are hospitalized and some children die from flu.

Children younger than 5 years and especially those younger than 2 years are at high risk of serious influenza complications. Newborns and infants are most at risk.

An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of getting sick with seasonal flu and spreading it to others. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through that community and protect our newborns, infants and children.

Pertussis, also known as whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease. Pertussis can affect people of all ages, but can be very serious, even deadly, for babies less than a year old.

There are whooping cough vaccines for babies, children, preteens, teens, and adults.

The CDC urges all caregivers and family members that come in contact with a baby make sure they get a pertussis vaccine at least two weeks before meeting a baby.

Measles is a very contagious virus that is particularly dangerous in children under age 5. The disease can be spread to the fetus of pregnant women, threatening the fetus. It is easily spread through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Measles can easily be prevented by receiving the MMR vaccine.

In 2014 there were 667 cases of measles in 27 states and in just one month, 121 new cases of measles were reported in the United States. In February 2015 a total of 125 measles cases had been confirmed linked to two Disney theme parks in Orange County, California. The majority of people who got measles were unvaccinated.

Vaccinations have been a polarizing subject because of a discredited report in the Lancet about 18-years ago. Some believe the MMR vaccine causes autism. This belief has been discredited by scientific study. Even those who authored the study have discredited their findings.

Therefore, the overwhelming majority of doctors and public health officials agree the vaccine is safe and recommend everyone who can be vaccinated with the MMR vaccine be vaccinated.

Clearly the vaccine works. The chart above shows that measles rates have plummeted after the introduction of the vaccine.

While many workers may be required to be vaccinated, the nanny industry is unregulated. So, it is a personal decision parents to require their nannies be vaccinated, or not.

Nannies, newborn care specialists and baby nurses may lose job opportunities if parents and agencies require their job candidates be vaccinated. So it’s in their best interest to be immunized.

Of course some people cannot get immunized due to allergies. Concerned nannies, newborn care specialists and baby nurses should discuss their worries about vaccines with their doctor. They can ask their doctor for a MMR Titer Test to see if they need the vaccine.

From bethebestnanny.com


12 Classroom Discipline Tricks That Will Work at Home

By Amy Morin for VeryWell.com

Imagine multiplying your child by 20. Then, you have to stay in a small confined space with all 21 kids. And, you have to teach those kids how to add and subtract and read and write.

Elementary school teachers manage to do all that every day, year after year. They keep order, manage behavior problems, and promote learning while somehow finding time to give each child individual attention.

Adopting some of the same discipline tricks elementary school teachers use could help improve your children’s behavior at home. Here are 12 classroom discipline strategies that work at home too.

1) Post a List of Written Rules

Many of the best elementary school teachers create posters that outline their classroom rules. Then, kids know their teacher expects them to, “Use an inside voice,” and, “Raise your hand before talking.”

Create a list of household rules and hang them on a wall in your home to remind your children of the most important rules they need to follow. Similar to a teacher’s list of rules, make your rules simple.

Restrict your list to the top five or six most important rules. If your list is too long, your children may grow overwhelmed.

Word your rules in the positive whenever possible. Instead of saying, “Don’t take anyone else’s stuff,” say, “Ask for permission before touching anyone else’s belongings.”

2) Explain Your Expectations Ahead of Time

Teachers explain their expectations before kids enter into new situations. You might hear a teacher say, “You are going to have a substitute teacher this afternoon. I expect you all to follow the rules.”

Or, before a guest speaker enters the classroom, the teacher might say, “I expect you all to listen carefully to our guest and raise your hand before you ask a question.”

Your children won’t know how to behave in new situations unless you explain what is socially appropriate. Your child won’t inherently know he can cheer at a soccer game but should remain quiet at a ballet recital. So, before you enter into new situations, spend a few minutes explaining the rules.

3) Create Structure and Be Consistent

Ask your child, “What happens after lunch?” and you’ll likely hear, “After lunch we have recess. Then, we have math.” Elementary teachers maintain a fairly consistent schedule each day because they know structure helps kids manage their emotions and their behavior better.

Create structure in your home by giving your child a regular schedule. Set aside time for homework, chores, dinner, and bath. Although you might not be able to keep the routine as consistent as his teacher can, creating structure will help your child manage his behavior better.

4) Whisper When You Need to Get Your Child's Attention

When the classroom is noisy, an experienced teacher doesn’t yell—she whispers. Yelling only adds to the noise and the chaos and the teacher’s voice blends in. But, when a teacher whispers, students stop talking so they can hear what she’s saying.

If your children are squabbling at dinner, or they’re arguing over who gets to go first, lower your voice. You might find it’s a much more effective attention-getter.

5) Use Non-Verbal Cues

Remember when your teacher used to shut off the lights to get everyone’s attention? The sudden change in light was a fast way for the teacher to get everyone to stop talking without saying a word.

Look for opportunities to use non-verbal cues to address behavior problems. If your children are arguing in the backseat of the car, turn down the radio. Or, try shutting off the light in their bedroom when they’re getting too loud.

6) Problem-Solve Together

The best teachers invite children into the problem-solving process. Rather than assume they know what the problem is, they ask kids for input into how to resolve the situation.

A teacher may sit a student down and say, “For the last three days in a row you’ve been having trouble getting along with the other kids at recess. What do you think we can do to make sure you don’t have any problems with the other kids today?”

Kids are usually willing to do their part when they’re able to be part of the solution. When you notice a specific pattern of misbehavior, or times when your child seems to be struggling, point it out in a matter of fact way. Then, see if your child can offer some helpful solutions.

7) Adjust the Environment

When a student is easily distracted, a good teacher doesn’t simply say, “Pay attention,” over and over again. Instead, the teacher modifies the environment to make it easier for the student to concentrate. Placing a student near the front of the classroom or near the teacher’s desk could be instrumental in helping the student stay on task.

Think about the steps you can take to set your children up for success. If they struggle to get along when they get home from school, assign them chores in opposite rooms. Or, if they fight over a specific toy, remove the toy from both of them.

Changing your children's behavior shouldn't always be about expecting them to change. Sometimes, a few simple changes to the environment can prevent behavior problems before they start.

8) Offer Opportunities for Do-Overs

Rather than simply scolding a child by saying, “Don’t run in the hallway!” a seasoned teacher will make the child go back and try it over again. By returning to the classroom and walking down the hallway again, he’ll learn running actually slows him down. He’ll also practice the good behavior.

If your child impulsively grabs something out of your hand, take it back and ask, “If you wanted to see that, what could you do instead of grabbing it out of my hand?” Then, have him practice asking for the object nicely. By practicing the desired behavior your child learns how to do it better next time.

9) Monitor Behavior and Give Feedback Often

The best elementary school teachers don’t stay at their desks while the kids are working and they don’t stand next to the building when the kids are playing at recess. They walk around monitoring kids’ activities. They offer feedback, answer questions, and give guidance.

While you don’t want to hover over your children, monitoring their activities can be one of the best ways to keep them on track. If your children know you’re going to periodically peer over their shoulders when they’re surfing the internet, or you’re likely to go outside to check on them at any minute, they’ll be less likely to get into trouble.

10) Use Rewards to Motivate Your Child

When certain children have difficulty in the classroom, teachers implement reward systems. The teacher may document a child’s behavior throughout the day in a kid-friendly manner—such as a sticker chart. If the student exhibits enough good behavior, he may be able to earn a privilege, such as picking a prize from a treasure chest or having a few extra minutes of free time.

Sometimes, teachers use incentives on a class-wide basis. If all the students behave well for a substitute teacher, the whole class might earn a chance to play a game together. A little healthy competition can encourage students to help one another to do their best.

Identify a specific behavior you want to target with your child. Create a reward chart or establish a token economy system. Then, let him earn tangible rewards, like extra time to play on the computer or a chance to go to the park.

11) Create a Plan for Behavior Problems

When the usual discipline strategies aren’t working, the best elementary school teachers develop a careful plan that will help them approach the behavior in a new way. They may meet with the parents, guidance counselor, and other school staff to gather ideas and identify the best interventions.

If your discipline strategies aren’t changing your children’s behavior, try something new. But don’t just start trying anything. Craft a plan that will help you target the problem.

When you have a plan in place, and you apply your discipline consistently, you’ll be able to see if it’s working. And you’ll be able to make changes to your plan in a way that will increase the likelihood that you’ll be able to help your child.

If you’re feeling stuck, brainstorm discipline ideas with other adults. Talk to your child’s doctor, guidance counselor, or other caregivers. Working together as a team could be the key to reducing behavior problems.

12) Catch a Child Being Good

Managing a classroom of 20 or more students can be difficult. And often, all the students are vying for the teacher’s attention.

A skilled teacher knows giving attention for good behavior is the best way to encourage all the students to behave. Instead of pointing out all the students who are talking, the teacher might say, “I like the way Jasmine is sitting so quietly right now. Zachary, you’re doing a great job being quiet too!”

When your children are acting out, don’t give all of your attention to the misbehavior. Attention—even when it’s negative—can encourage behavior to continue.

So rather than say, “Quit playing with your fork,” turn to your other child and say, “I really like the table manners you are using right now.” Praising one child for being good might inspire the other one to follow suit.


Science Student Shows the Magic Properties of Breast Milk

Written by Jessica Machado for The Daily Dot

If you've ever opened a parenting book or clicked on a mommy blog, you know there is a lot to be said about breast milk. Much of it touts how perfect it is while ignoring that formula is just fine and that many mothers can't breastfeed or keep up with pumping when they go back to work. 

But absolutism and lactation elitism aside, breast milk is pretty cool, not only as a complete food, providing all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of life, but also as a disease and germ-fighting agent.

Biosciences student Vicky Greene recently proved this latter part by adding breast milk, from mothers feeding kids ages 15 months to 3 years old, to nine Petri dishes filled with M. Luteus, a bacteria that colonizes in the mouth and upper respiratory tract. And what she found was that where the milk was placed in the dish the bacteria had been killed off.  

Greene, whose post has gone viral with almost 20,000 shares, said that the experiment also worked with E-coli and somewhat with MRSA, an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria. Her study also shows that breast milk's immunization properties don't diminish the older the breastfed kid gets.

Previous studies have shown that breast milk also has the ability to cure 40 types of cancer because it contains a special substance called HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made LEthal to Tumour cells). It's also a pretty neat self-regulator, adjusting its immunological composition based on your baby's backwash (yes, for real).

The human body is a magical thing—and yet not every body is the same.
 

BAHS is planning upcoming events in this category. Details will be published here in the near future.

Please try selecting another category.

Recipe!: Jam and Graham Cracker Cheesecake

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Recipe by Smitten Kitchen via Parenting

Photo by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • 3 ounces of cream cheese, softened for 10 seconds in the microwave
  • 3 tablespoons strawberry jam
  • A few sheets of graham crackers, broken into squares or rectangles

Directions:

  • Mix the softened cream cheese with the jam. Spread a little of the mixture on top of each graham cracker.
  • Either eat right away, or chill for 30 minutes.
    • The grahams will soften and become more like a cheesecake crust, and the topping will firm up.

**Pro-tip: Use different flavors of jam, top with a slice of fresh strawberry


Recipe!: Cucumber Boats with Spiced Yogurt

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recipe from Smitten Kitchen via Parenting 

photo by Deb Perelman

Ingredients:

  • Small cucumbers, such as Kirbys
  • Small container of plain yogurt
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Cumin

Directions:

  1. Halve cucumbers lengthwise and scoop out seeds. (A melon baller works great for this.)
  2. Mix some plain yogurt, a couple of pinches of sugar, a pinch of salt and a dash of cumin in a bowl.
  3. Spread into hollowed cucumbers.
  4. Decorate as desired

Recipe!: Ham Rollers

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recipe from Parenting

photo by Michael Kraus

Here's a super simple recipe! 

Ingredients:

  • 1 Granny Smith Apple
  • Cheddar Cheese
  • Deli-style ham

Directions:

  1. Slice apple into thin wedges
  2. Top apple wedge with a small slice of cheddar cheese
  3. Wrap apple and cheese with deli-style ham

Buy Time Not Stuff!

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image by Kristen Solecki for NPR

article by Allison Aubrey for NPR

Money can't buy happiness, right? Well, some researchers beg to differ. They say it depends on how you spend it.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencessuggests that when people spend money on time-saving services such as a house cleaner, lawn care or grocery delivery, it can make them feel a little happier. By comparison, money spent on material purchases — aka things — does not boost positive emotions the way we might expect.

Think of it as a way to buy back what has become for many Americans a scarce resource: free time.

Yet, in a culture where many people are quick to buy the latest model phone, a big-screen TV or a fancy pair of shoes, those same people are often resistant to spending money on time-saving services.

"Contemplating paying somebody else to do something you're perfectly capable of doing yourself may provoke feelings of guilt," says Elizabeth Dunn, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia and an author of the study.

Dunn and her colleagues had a hunch that if people spent money to hire out some of the unwanted tasks on their to-do list, they might feel more satisfied with their quality of life.

"We hypothesized that people would be happier if they spent money to buy themselves out of the things they don't like doing," she says.

As a test, she and her colleagues designed an experiment: First, they recruited 60 adults under the age of 70 from Vancouver, British Columbia. The researchers gave the volunteers a little cash and asked them to spend it in two different ways, on two consecutive weekends. 

"On one weekend we gave them $40 and asked them to spend it in any way that would give them more free time," Dunn explains. Participants in the study chose a variety of services — everything from meal delivery to a cleaning service to help with errands.

Then, on the other weekend, the participants got another $40 to spend on a material purchase. They could choose anything they wanted within that budget. "One person bought polo shirts," Dunn says. "Another participant bought wine that she described as fancy." 

After each weekend purchase, the researchers called the participants and asked how they were feeling. The participants reported how much "positive emotion" they'd been experiencing and how much "negative emotion," Dunn explains. 

When the study participants spent money on time-saving services, they reported more positive emotion.

"Buying yourself out of [tasks] like mowing the lawn or cleaning the bathroom — these were pretty small, mundane expenditures, and yet we see them making a difference in people's happiness," Dunn says.

But how much happier? A separate part of the study helped to answer this question.

The same researchers surveyed a group of 6,000 people across a wide range of incomebrackets in the U.S., Canada and Europe. (The median household income for U.S. residents in the survey was $75,000, but the study also included working adults who made about $30,000 per year and some European millionaires.)

Respondents completed survey questions about whether they spent money each month to increase their free time by paying someone else to complete unenjoyable tasks, and if so, how much they spent.

In addition, the respondents were asked to rank their own level of happiness on a 10-point scale of life satisfaction. Think of the scale as a happiness ladder with 10 rungs.

"What we found is that people who spent money to buy time reported being almost one full point higher on our 10-point ladder, compared to people who did not use money to buy time," Dunn explains. People from across the income spectrum benefited from "buying time," she adds.

Moving up one rung on the happiness ladder may not sound like much, but the researchers say they're very excited by their results.

"Moving people up on the ladder of life satisfaction is not an easy thing to do," Dunn says. "So, if altering slightly how people are spending their money could move them up a full rung, it's something we really want to understand and perhaps encourage people to do."

Emanuel Maidenberg, a clinical professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA who was not involved in the study, tells NPR he was a little surprised by the results.

He says it's an intriguing possibility to think about time-saving services as a "stress-management tool." But there are still some unanswered questions, he says. For instance, is the boost in positive emotions sustainable, "or is it just an immediate response?" Maidenberg wonders.

The authors are "presenting enough data to justify a more careful look into this," Maidenberg says. "It's exciting."


30 Questions to Ask Your Kid Instead of “How Was Your Day?”

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photo and article courtesy of Popsugar

written by Sara Goldstein

Sometimes it can be tough getting your child to talk about their day. Instead of asking the mundane question "How was your day?," try using one of these creative queries from our friends at Parent Co.!

When I picked my son up from his first day of 4th grade, my usual (enthusiastically delivered) question of "how was your day?" was met with his usual (indifferently delivered) "fine."

Come on! It's the first day, for crying out loud! Give me something to work with, would you, kid?

The second day, my same question was answered, "well, no one was a jerk."

That's good . . . I guess.

I suppose the problem is my own. That question actually sucks. Far from a conversation starter, it's uninspired, overwhelmingly open ended, and frankly, completely boring. So as an alternative, I've compiled a list of questions that my kid will answer with more than a single word or grunt. In fact, he debated his response to question 8 for at least half an hour over the weekend. The jury's out until he can organize a foot race.

Questions a kid will answer at the end of a long school day:

  1. What did you eat for lunch?
  2. Did you catch anyone picking their nose?
  3. What games did you play at recess?
  4. What was the funniest thing that happened today?
  5. Did anyone do anything super nice for you?
  6. What was the nicest thing you did for someone else?
  7. Who made you smile today?
  8. Which one of your teachers would survive a zombie apocalypse? Why?
  9. What new fact did you learn today?
  10. Who brought the best food in their lunch today? What was it?
  11. What challenged you today?
  12. If school were a ride at the fair, which ride would it be? Why?
  13. What would you rate your day on a scale of 1 to 10? Why?
  14. If one of your classmates could be the teacher for the day who would you want it to be? Why?
  15. If you had the chance to be the teacher tomorrow, what would you teach the class?
  16. Did anyone push your buttons today?
  17. Who do you want to make friends with but haven't yet? Why not?
  18. What is your teacher's most important rule?
  19. What is the most popular thing to do at recess?
  20. Does your teacher remind you of anyone else you know? How?
  21. Tell me something you learned about a friend today.
  22. If aliens came to school and beamed up 3 kids, who do you wish they would take? Why?
  23. What is one thing you did today that was helpful?
  24. When did you feel most proud of yourself today?
  25. What rule was the hardest to follow today?
  26. What is one thing you hope to learn before the school year is over?
  27. Which person in your class is your exact opposite?
  28. Which area of your school is the most fun?
  29. Which playground skill do you plan to master this year?
  30. Does anyone in your class have a hard time following the rules?

10 Tips for Sustainable Toxic-Free Cleaning

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photo from Mother Mag

article written by Anna Jacobs for Mother Mag

While summer about to come to an official close, there’s no time like the present to deep clean and refresh for the start of a new season. To make tidying up cleaner and greener, we’ve gathered together our favorite tips for eco-friendly cleaning that are safe for the environment and your family. With these tricks in your back pocket, you’ll be breathing easy as you tackle your biggest projects yet.

Use Dr. Bronner’s For, Well, Anything
What can’t you do with Dr. Bronner’s? You can wash your clothes, use it as shampoo, and even brush your teeth with this all-natural soap. Bonus: a little goes a long way, so one bottle will last you for months, saving you time and money. Check out the dilution cheat sheet for an extensive list of all the ways you can use this sudsy stuff. Committed to fair trade and organic materials, as well as social and environmental accountability and transparency, Dr. Bronner’s is a company you can trust.

Repair Old and Damaged Clothes
It’s easy to give up on old pieces of clothing and dump them in the trash. This year, consider mending clothes that are a little worse for wear, and test your hand at dying faded clothes to give them new life. Patagonia has pop-up mending shops around the country, or keep an eye out for clothing repair workshops at local stores wherever you live.

Keep and Eye Out for Green-washing
We’ve all been there. In a rush to buy a natural cleaning product, we’ve picked up a bottle of who-knows-what that’s plastered with pictures of the earth and words meant to fool you, like natural, green, and eco-friendly. After taking a closer look at the label, you’ve found the so-called “natural” ingredients, aren’t so natural after all. This year, take your time to do some research on eco-friendly products ahead of time, so you can find products that suit your family best. Head over to the Environment Working Group’s Food Score website to learn about the products and companies you’re supporting, as well as which toxins are most important to avoid.

Ditch the Plastic Wrap
We’ve all heard it before, but we’ll say it again: plastic is bad for you and bad for the environment. Let’s commit to ditching our unsustainable habits and commit to using less plastic. Thankfully, the folks behind Beeswrap have done the hard work for us, crafting a reusable alternative to plastic wrap made of beeswax-coated fabric. It’s easy to clean and comes in a variety of sizes. While you’re at it, swap out plastic Tupperware for the stainless steel variety, and buy linen food covers to slip over uncovered bowls and dishes.

Turn to Your Kitchen Cabinets
We’re willing to bet your kitchen cabinets are full of ingredients that can clean a gnarly mess just as easily as they can add flavor to your cooking. Vinegar is a versatile cleaner that can do just about anything—dilute it for a simple, nontoxic window cleaner, mix with baking soda to remove the most stubborn carpet stains, and try it out as a shampoo alternative to get rid of product build up. Baking soda works wonders on dirty floors and tarnished silver—mix with a bit of water and do a little scrubbing for some seriously shiny results.

Host a Clothing Exchange
Call up your friends to come over on a weekend afternoon for a clothing exchange. You’ll get rid of clothes you’re tired of wearing, and add a few new additions to your closet. Try it out with children’s clothing, too. The best part? It’s free! Leftover clothes can be donated to Goodwill, or a similar organization. Consider sending your gently used bras to The Bra Recyclers, where they distribute lightly used bras to women and girls who need them.

Change Your Light Bulbs
Are you still using incandescent light bulbs? Stock your garage shelves with energy-efficient bulbs so that next time a light goes out, you’re prepared for a sustainable switch. LEDs, halogen, and compact florescent bulbs are stocked at most home goods stores. These bulbs use significantly less energy than the incandescent variety and last much longer, saving the planet and your wallet.

Invest in Solar Panels
If you’re up for a larger home project, consider investing in solar panels for the ultimate form of spring-cleaning. Save money on your electric bill, while significantly reducing your carbon footprint. Bonus points if you also drive a hybrid or electric car.

Ditch the Toxins
Take a look at your cleaning products in the kitchen and bathroom. If they have scary labels that say “danger”, “caution”, or “warning”, it’s time to get that stuff out of the house pronto. Call your recycling center to find out the date of the next hazardous pickup day to responsibly dispose of any toxic products you have lying around. Replace your cleaning products with the nontoxic, natural variety, so you never have to worry about your kiddos’ safety when it comes to cleaning.

Check Out Your Sponges
Kudos if you’re already using sponges to clean your countertops instead of using paper towels or wet wipes. Sponges are wonderful minimal waste to clean, but they can get pretty nasty after months of hard work and frequent use. Toss your stinky sponges, or if they’ve got a little life left in them, stick them in the microwave for a few minutes (make sure they’re wet before you do this). If you’re starting fresh, pick up some biodegradable sponges, so you can compost them once they’ve outlasted their use.


Hiring Seasonal Domestic Staff

Hiring the right temporary domestic staff for your summer home is a large project for any principle or family. This article discusses why this can be so challenging and offers potential solutions to common problems I have seen every season. I am someone with extensive experience in the luxury hospitality and staffing industry and I have run British American Household Staffing and British American Yachts, the leading domestic staffing and yacht crew agency in the USA and UK as well as British American Newborn Care, which works with the best childcare professionals in the USA and UK. Most agencies have a roster of recurring staff in all the domestic staff categories. The earlier you start the hiring process the more likely you will secure the most qualified candidates. If you have very specific requirements and early start will help you find the ideal person for a potentially harder match to find.

A family looking for a live-in housekeeper-cook for their Hamptons home should look at contacting agencies in New York as well as the Hamptons, but nowhere too far for the housekeeper-cook to travel back and forth to on their days off (for instance New Jersey is too far from Easthampton, one full day off will be used for traveling). A live-in housekeeper-cook for the Hamptons will have to drive so this is a challenging order as many domestic candidates don’t want to live in and many housekeepers do not like to cook, especially cook the volume needed for the summer season, which is typically filled with parties and extra guests.

The best solution is to do the following: - Start the hiring process early - Contact high end agencies only, both local and non-local (as it is live in) - Set a salary range that is generous to allow you to find the best fit more easily - Make sure you have set an appealing schedule so you open-up the pool of qualified candidates. The schedule should always have 2 consecutive days off and usually a Sunday is given as a day off, in conjunction with Monday or Saturday - Phone screen the candidates first - Check their level of experience - Check they have been a flexible worker in the past.

One of the most common recurring issues for larger estates lies in the team of domestic staff. Staffing a larger home or estates is like running a small business in your home. The pyramid model works well for estate staffing. Start by hiring a house manager or a butler house manager. This person can then help you screen the rest of the staff, which helps them establish their authority with the staff you decide to hire for the summer that this house manager will be overseeing. This is the most important hire you will make over the summer, so screen this person for the following qualities:

- Ask their management style and ask for two or more references from staff they managed previously - Find out why they are looking for the summer only - Hire someone who has experience in the area they will be working - Ensure they have estate staff management experience - Once you hire them, hire the domestic staff with them and keep an open line of communication with the staff in case there are revolving door problems and it is the fault of the house manager - Make sure they have relationships with the top agencies in the area and ask who they liaise with at those agencies - Ensure they understand scheduling for staff - Pay them very well with the promise of a bonus at the end of the season In case you are doing the hiring alone or with a remote house manager, you will need to know how to attract the best staff (housekeepers, chefs and nannies) for your summer home Housekeepers: - Other than nannies, most high quality domestic are looking for a secure full-time job position, preferably with benefits. This is something every principle hiring only for the summer with deal with and lose staff too.

The best solution for this is to hire the best local candidates on a lower full time salary, offer benefits and give them a bonus at the end of the summer. This is the best solution for retaining top talent in a seasonal area such as the Hamptons - Housekeepers, more than any other domestic staff category, like a regular schedule with overtime, which is the law. A constant live in or Wednesday to Sunday schedule is always unpopular, but more-often-than-not needed for summer hires, especially in the Hamptons. Hire one more extra housekeeper than you need so each housekeeper gets one weekend of a month. This will attract the best talent - A standard and suggested formal housekeeper salary is $70,000 plus benefits and overtime.  A seasonal housekeeper is $35 to $40 an hour.

 

Chefs: -

Chefs often like a temporary position that helps them earn a solid income and allows them more freedom to freelance during the year, or travel etc. - Yacht chefs are some of the best chefs you can find and they are accustomed to short-term gigs, long schedules, catering to large formal parties in a small space and working 7 day or more stretches. I would recommend this direction if you can accommodate a live- in chef. - Use an agency that works with both yacht and domestic staff - Top chefs are often happy to do the Hamptons in between jobs. Again, starting this search early and constantly checking in is an excellent way of increasing your chances of securing the best private chef for the summer - Suggested salary for a summer chef is $8-12,000 a month.

Nannies: -

Nannies fall into many different categories: 1. Career nannies 2. Mother’s helpers 3. Nanny/housekeepers 4. Second language nannies 5. Newborn Care Specialist nannies 6. Travel nannies Childcare is the most delicate of all domestic hires to make, as they need to be fully-qualified for your particular childcare situation. I recommend using an agency with a specialized childcare department. Screen the head of the department and make sure they are qualified in childhood education and development and hold the appropriate degrees (and newborn care specialist should be an expert in their field and should have experience training, screening and offering certificates to newborn care specialists). If your children are older (3 and up) a travel nanny or student nanny could be a great option. These nannies are often students, actresses, singers, writers or have another unrelated career during the year. They must be experienced nannies with your children’s age group and this should be screened by the agency childcare branch. This can be a good option if they are able to tutor and educate your children over the summer, or teach them a musical instrument etc. This is the more economical option, with a salary usually starting at $25 an hour plus overtime. Travel pay is not a legal prerequisite but overtime pay is. If you have an infant, or infant twins, a certified and educated newborn care specialist or baby nurse is the best option. A regular nanny (career nanny, nanny/housekeepers, second language nanny, mother’s helper or suchlike) will be looking for a permanent position, so they are harder to pin down for the summer. If you do, the career nannies will likely be expensive at $35-45 an hour. Some will accept a summer position in between jobs but this is rare. For all childcare positions we highly recommend going through the childcare division at a reputed agency. Again, screen the person who heads this branch.

 

Examples are British American Household Staffing (bahs.com) and British American Newborn Care (bababynurses.com). Ashley Mundt and Katie Morin are both childhood and infant development specialists and highly certified, their bios below. For more information on domestic staffing, temporary or permanent, feel free to reach out to me at: info@bahs.com

By Anita Rogers www.bahs.com www.babynurses.com

 

Childhood development specialist and nanny hiring specialist for British American Household Staffing

Ashley Mundt, M.Ed., CCLS Nanny Consultant Ashley is our child development expert and nanny specialist. She has a strong academic background and years of hands on experience working with children and families in private and group settings. She received both a B.A. in Sociology and Youth and Human Services from Pepperdine University and an M.Ed. in Applied Child Studies from Vanderbilt. Her training as a Certified Child Life Specialist enables her to support and guide children and families during medical interventions, chronic illness, and family/home crisis situations. Although she has worked in many different settings throughout her career (including homes, schools, camps, and hospitals), her passion, and bulk of experience, is working directly with families in private homes. Over the past 15 years, she has worked as a highly sought after nanny, childcare consultant, parent educator, and caregiver trainer. Ashley's background of extensive developmental education and hands on experience in luxury homes puts her in a unique position to understand the needs of families, caregivers, and (most importantly) children.

 

Infant development specialist and baby nurse and newborn care specialist hiring specialist for British American Household Staffing and Newborn Care Katie Morin, ACNCS, NCSE Newborn Care Consultant and Placement 

Katie began her career in childcare over 20 years ago. She has been extremely fortunate to have worked with some amazing families along the way. One of her first and most memorable experiences with multiples (a set of newborn triplets) was 28 years ago. It was then that she realized her passion for working with children. It was then that she also realized her passion for caring for multiples. Katie has a degree in Child Development and Psychology and has countless certificates including being Advance Certified through the Newborn Care Specialist Association. Through the years, Katie has been a career nanny, a daycare owner, a preschool teacher and a Certified Newborn Care Specialist. She also has had great success in matching NCS candidates with amazing families worldwide. She does not consider these positions just a job, they are a passion and what she loves to do. It allows her to meet incredible people, all with different personalities and aspects of life. This experience gives her the ability to educate and assist new parents during the most amazing part of their life. To date she has worked with over 40 sets of twins, 9 sets of triplets and quadruplets. She has also worked with dozens of preemies (some born as early as 26 weeks) as well as newborns with special needs.   

 

www.bahs.com

www.bababynurses.com

www.bahsyachts.com


8 Ways to Have a Great Relationship with Your Nanny

Advice for talking to and interacting with nannies.

By Ellen Seidman

I have two loves of my life: My husband and my nanny. She's been with us since my son was born seven years ago, and I do everything I can to let her know how much I adore her. Take the other evening, when I went to an event thrown by a local mom's group. It was "spa night," and we were treated to manis, pedis and massages. We could also make our own bath salts, poured into a little glass jar and tied with a ribbon. I knew right away what I was going to do with mine: I came home and handed it to our nanny. "It's for you, so you can take a relaxing bath -- you deserve it," I said. 

Granted, I sure could use a relaxing bath (or twenty) myself. But I'm always trying to make sure our nanny feels cared for. This is the woman who I trust to take care of my kids. She's my partner, my copilot, my wing-woman in parenting. I want to keep her happy -- and I want her to do good by my kids and me, too. And just like having a good relationship with my husband, that takes time and attention. Plenty of other moms I know feel the same -- and have their own smart strategies. Read for yourself about the ways they've built great relationships with their nannies.


1. Make Expectations Clear From Day One
"If you want your nanny to help with dinner or do laundry or light cleaning -- and she'll have the time free during the day to do them -- let her know from the start," says Betsy, a mom of one. "You don't just want to spring major new demands on a nanny, because then she'll feel taken advantage of." Some moms refuse to ask their nannies do housework, as tempting as it may be. As Judy, a mom of one, says, "Sure, I'd like some help, but I don't want to send the message that my baby isn't the top priority. She is."

 

2. Care -- Really Care -- About Your Nanny
"I care about my babysitter's mental and physical health as much as I care about my family's," says Denise, a mother of two. "I do it because she's part of my family, and I want her to feel that way. Also, the healthier she is, the better she'll be able to take care of my kids."

 

3. Pamper Her
"My babysitter has been with us since Brodie was 11 months old -- now he's five! -- and I try to help her enjoy herself. You know, like giving her job perks!" says Dani. "I'll tape some of her favorite shows on TiVo so she can watch them when Brodie's asleep, and make sure I have her favorite snacks around." Adds Betsy, "On my nanny's birthday, I give her a personal gift -- like a scarf -- and some cash in an envelope, and I'll have Melinda draw her a card. Really, she's like my child's other mother!" Hedy, a mother of two, goes even further: "I buy my nanny's two kids presents for the holidays. It makes her really happy, too."

 

4. Don't Get in Her Way
"My sitter has raised her own kids, so I generally give her a lot of autonomy," says Kara, a mother of two. "Even if she does some things differently than I do, I figure it worked for her, no harm done. And we always make sure that our kids, who are two and five, know that her word is final when we're not home. This has gotten important now that my oldest is playing more with kids in the neighborhood and asking them to go over, or to go to their house. Whatever Cynthia says goes! It conveys respect and also makes things run more smoothly."

 

5. Be Generous
Most moms give their nannies an end-of-year bonus (sometimes, as much as an extra week's salary), plus an annual pay raise. "I believe really strongly in not nickel-and-diming my sitter," notes Jessica, a mother of two. "If she works an extra half-hour, I'll round up to an hour. If she bought my kids a $6 lunch, I'll reimburse her $10. My friends think I'm crazy, but I see the payoff. She always comes when I need her, and more importantly, she's happy and cheerful and works hard to make our lives better in every way."

 

6. Pick Your Battles
"I avoid speaking up about minor stuff that bugs me," says Kara. "Like, my babysitter has a habit of opening the microwave without first pressing 'Stop.' I think it could screw it up and if my husband did it, you'd better believe I'd ask him to stop! But I've held back. My philosophy is that the less I critique and make requests, the more impact it will have when I have an important change I want her to make."

 

7. Speak Up About Big Issues
"If I have to talk with our nanny about something I'm not happy about, I try to get home from work early so we can talk before she leaves, or I'll ask her to come in a few minutes early in the morning," says Joanna, a mom of two. "Leaving notes about biggie things is not okay -- your nanny, and your children, deserve a discussion. If you leave a note, your nanny might feel attacked. It's so easy to read the wrong tone in a note."

 

8. Help Her Stay Organized
"I have a large calendar hanging on the kitchen corkboard where I write down the kids' activities and playdates," says Hedy, a mother of twins. "That way we can remember what's happening when. It keeps us both sane!" 


What To Expect When You Are Expecting

Via Ashley Ann Photography

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I scoured this book every night.

EVERY NIGHT.

How big is the baby now?

What is growing?

How are things changing?

What am I supposed to be feeling?

Is this normal?

What are the warning signs?

40 weeks…isn’t that 10 months not 9 months?

What is the earliest time the baby could safely arrive?

How close are we to the end?

EVERY NIGHT I read that crazy book. I read the chapter that dealt with where I was at in my pregnancy, but also the next chapter. It was like I’d read one night and then hope that when I read it the next night I was somehow so much closer to the Bringing Baby Home chapter. I could tell you exactly how many weeks and days I was pregnant. I could tell you if the baby was the size of a pear or a melon…and exactly which kind of melon.

I think I picked it up once during my second pregnancy and then never again.

Now I have a new version that is getting a lot of use these days:

We are finishing up a couple of things for our dossier (the big packet of everything that goes to our agency and then to China). We’ve been in the busy stages of gathering and compiling all kinds of things. Now we are just waiting on things. Waiting for a fingerprint appointment. Then we’ll wait for approval of those fingerprints. Then we mail off our dossier and really begin the long months of waiting.

I’m just as emotional this round as I was with our other four kids. There is a commercial of a mom giving a baby boy a bath. She says something about how her type is the chubby bald kind (referring to the baby). I used to cry when I saw that commercial because I understood that feeling of giving a tiny little guy a bath and being overcome with love. Now I cry…thinking of all the baths I am missing. There is a lot of grieving that takes place with adoption – I am only beginning to understand this.

There are so many uncertainties. So many question marks. One thing we don’t question…don’t waver on….we have a little one in China. God clearly, so very clearly to us, marked this path. THIS SPECIFIC PATH. OUR CHILD. And right now I may not have a name or face, but I’d move heaven and earth to get my little one home.

So in the wait, we’ll keep talking about our little one across the ocean. I’ll probably keep checking my timelines. And one day, I’ll stop checking those timelines. Just like I stopped reading that pregnancy book. I’ll be at the Bringing Baby Home chapter…..

My 2 & 3 year old were playing. He said, “Let’s pretend it’s our baby in China and I go get the baby and I give the baby to you. You can be the mommy.” Of all our kids, he talks about his sibling in China the most. Several times a day.  If he understood timelines, he’d probably be reading them with me tonight….


10 Parenting Tips For Raising Unspoiled, Thankful Kids

In my private practice I often see affluent families struggling with wanting to raise "grateful and unspoiled children" despite being wealthy, going on lavish vacations, having beautiful homes and owning the latest gadgets, toys and luxury cars. They ask me if it is really possible and my answer is "Yes, but you are going to have to work hard at it." I call it intentional parenting and it takes a lot of discipline to pull it off.

So, here is my list of the top 10 things around which you and your support group need to have clarity and consistent follow through in order to raise unspoiled children.

And at the end of the day, if you have a spoiled child—one who relentlessly nags, cries and throws a huge fit when they do not get what they want—you only have yourself to blame! Stop giving in and start applying most if not all of these values and approaches. Start being a great example. You will have greater enjoyment in being a parent, your child will be happier and better adjusted and there will be greater peace and love in your home. And that is something money cannot buy.

1. Say no...often. 

Practice delayed gratification and simply not always giving your children what they want, even if you can easily afford it.

2. Expect gratitude.

Go beyond teaching your child to say please and thank you. Also teach them eye contact, a proper hand shake, affection and appreciation for the kind and generous things that are said and given to them. If this does not happen, have them return the gift (either to the person or to you for safe keeping) and explain that they aren't yet ready to receive such a gift.

3. Practice altruism yourself.

Donate clothes and toys to those in need (not just to your neighbors when it's easy and they have younger children!) and have your kids be a part of that process. Do this regularly as a family and sort through, package and deliver the goods together so the kids really see where their things are going. Do this often and not just around the holidays.

4. Be mindful of the company you keep. 

If you only hang around other affluent families who are not raising their kids with intention, you may be surrounding yourself with those who will not help out with what you are trying to accomplish. Be sure family or friends you are spending significant time with have similar values to yours, otherwise you are going to feel defeated after a while.

5. Write thank you cards. 

Yes, handwritten on paper with a pen! Kids these days generally have shorter attention spans, are easily distracted and aren't taught to take careful time and attention to express their appreciation. This simple yet important act can go a long way as a skill to teach expression of feelings and thoughtfulness.

6. Don't catch every fall.

Practice natural consequences from an early age — share some of your own experiences and teach them lessons such as "life is not fair." In addition, don't over-protect them from disappointments. You have to really understand and believe that failing and falling is a part successful childhood development.

7. Resist the urge to buy multiples of things.

Just because you can doesn't mean that you should! Don't buy four American Girl Dolls—buy just one and have your child love and appreciate what they have.

8. Talk to their grandparents and explain your intentions to them.

Share with them your desires to have respectful, appreciative, kind and responsible children and the ways in which you are going to achieve that goal. You will need their help in doing this if they are like most grandparents who want to spoil their grandkids! Ask them to spoil them with love, time, affection and attention—not toys, treats and money.

9. Teach them the value of money.

Have your child manage their money through saving, giving to charity/others and then spending.  If you do this from an early age you are truly setting a foundation of responsible wealth management.

10. Share your story.

Last but not least, you should tell your kids the legacy of your family's fortune. When I say wealth or fortune, that is all relative. If you come from significant wealth tell the story of how that was earned and created. If you are self-made, tell that story too—just don't forget that "giving your kids everything that you didn't have" is not always a good thing. There is probably a lot that you learned along the way by stumbling to make you the person you are today.

 

By Sheryl Ziegler

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