Sunday, September 30, 2012

Monday Problem: Do I believe my neighbor or my Nanny?

Dear Nanny X,

I just had a real uncomfortable talk with my neighbor who'll I admit right up front is a busy body.  She's an elderly lady retired you know a Yenta. She knows everything that goes on in our building. 

I don't. I work from the early morning until sometimes late at night, as does my husband. We employ a Nanny for our three children to cover school pick up, dinner and bedtime. Long long story short, my neighbor told me our Nanny yells at the boys. Now I admit they're not angels but that irks me. I mean why should she need to yell? And what else is she doing? Before you ask my kids are happy robust normal kids. They flop all over our Nanny and I've never heard a bad word from them about her. She's punctual, reliable and so far, has been satisfactory. But I got to admit now I can't shake the thought that my Nanny is bad. 

I feel awful not knowing - what do you suggest?

Amy X

Oi vey Amy,

every building has one. They're the eyes and ears of the world. 'Did you hear about Mr so-and-so on floor 5? His wife ran off with the doorman. Oi-oi-oi now there was a gold digger if ever I saw one.'

Yenta's sincerely believe what they're saying, that's why they're so convincing. A lot of the time though it's exaggerated small talk at best or malicious gossip at worst. The problem is that your neighbor has planted a seed of doubt in your mind. As a hard-working parent you don't want to ignore what could be a warning sign of abuse. 

You might want to do a few things. 

First, get all the facts, like the when, the how loud, the what was said and was there anyone else around who witnessed it or who can verify that it happens? A doorman or super would be a handy person to back up your neighbor's claim. 

You didn't indicate how old your boys were but they're obviously old enough to go to school. Once you know the facts, ask your eldest child, something like: "Hey I know you guys sometimes like to clown around with (Nanny) right? Does she ever get mad at you?" If your child nods yes, ask some more questions but try not to lead him. "So what does she do?" 

Trust me - if your Nanny's a yeller the kids will tell you. It'll be the first thing they'll tell you when asked. There's a slim chance that your boys are just used to it, which in of itself is not a good sign. There's also a chance that they're acting up and your Nanny feels out of control. 

After you have all of the facts approach your Nanny and ask her how the boys behave generally, like are they listening to her, do they goof around. Look out for indications that she is stressed out or annoyed or emotional about their behavior. A Nanny that yells may simply have done it once out of frustration, like many an exhausted or agitated parent. She may admit it to you. She may not. 

If your children do not complain about your Nanny and they seem happy to be around her. If your Nanny says that she is happy and comfortable with your boys' behavior.  If no one else in your building has ever witnessed your Nanny yelling at your children,  you might want to chalk it all down to a meddlesome neighbor. 

But do your detective work first. 

Nanny X

Got a childcare problem? Email me: Discretion assured. 

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Reads: Harvard couple harbored illegal immigrant nanny, prevented her from leaving

this image is not associated with the original post, sourced on Google, all rights retained by owner
A Harvard couple is facing charges in federal court for conspiring to harbor an illegal alien for financial gain. Martha and Richard Smalanskas, of Lancaster County Road, were arrested on Thursday, Sept. 20 after an indictment by a grand jury on Sept. 18 charged them with one count of conspiracy and two counts of harboring an illegal alien.
According to the indictment, Martha Smalanskas, 47, and Richard Smalanskas, 48, used a fake birth certificate to acquire a visa to bring a Bolivian woman to the United State to work as their nanny. The indictment alleges that the Smalanskases kept the nanny in the U.S. to work for them and prevented her return to Boliva by taking away her passport and telling her that, according to the indictment, “[I]f she left the United States she would be unable to return and would never see their children again.”
The couple also told the nanny not to speak to other nannies or parents when she was out with the children, refused to teach her to drive, required that she ask permission to leave the house, and refused to provide her opportunities to learn English, the indictment alleges.
The Smalanskases promised the nanny a monthly salary of $100—later $150—for her work, which included cooking, cleaning, and childcare, but did not always pay her, the indictment says. According to the indictment, the Smalanskases kept a ledger which showed they owed the nanny $11,919.55, as of January 2010.
“It was the object and plan of the conspiracy for the defendants to harbor an illegal alien and to have [her] perform, and continue to perform, domestic work and nanny services without paying her a fair wage, all for the defendants’ private financial gain,” the grand jury indictment says.
Martha Smalanskas is a Bolivian native and a naturalized American citizen, according to the court documents. The nanny worked for the Smalanskases in Bolivia for about two years, when she was 16, the indictment says.
After the Smalanskases left Boliva and settled in Massachusetts, the documents allege, they arranged to have the nanny brought to the U.S. to work for them. The couple had a false birth certificate made for the nanny that used Martha Smalanskas’s maiden name as the nanny’s last name, giving the impression that nanny was Smalanskas’s niece, according to the indictment. The Smalanskases again misrepresented the nanny’s name on an application for a B-1 Visitor non-immigrant visa, which was issued on Dec. 5, 1997, the indictment says. When that visa expired on Jan. 13, 1998, the nanny became an illegal immigrant, according to the indictment.
The Smalanskases continued to employ the nanny until May 2011, first in Sudbury and later in Harvard, the charges allege. An April 1, 2008, the indictment says, the nanny told the Smalanskases she needed to return to Bolivia because her father was ill, “but the defendants still refused to return [the nanny’s] passport to her or otherwise assist her in getting back to Bolivia.”
Martha and Richard Smalanskas appeared in U.S. District Court in Boston on Sept. 20. They were each released on a $10,000 bond. Their arraignment is scheduled for Oct. 4.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Smalanskases each face up to 10 years in prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fluff: Marika from Beverly Hills Nannies


Season one of Beverly Hills Nannies was a hit for ABC family. The show focused on the nannies and their relationships with their employers – the good, the bad and the ugly. One mom that definitely stood out on the show was Marika Tsircou. From organizing her breast milk to foot massages this mom wanted the best care for her and her baby. Several weeks ago we interviewed Marika’s nanny, Amanda Averill. Now Marika is sharing exclusively with Reality TV Magazine how the opportunity of being on the show literally came knocking on her door and why she hesitated at first.  Plus, learn if Marika and Justin are still speaking to each other.

RTVM:  How did you get involved with the show, Beverly Hills Nannies?
Marika:  I didn’t seek this out; it came knocking on my door.  I know, it normally doesn’t happen like that but it did for me.  Last September, the producers of Beverly Hills Nannies called to tell me how perfect I’d be for the show.  Right off the bat I told them no, I had a one month old baby and I’d gained an astonishing 65 pounds while pregnant.  I explained I’d gone from a Louboutin loving, size 0, to a pajama wearing, slipper slinging, stay-at-home mama.  And that the old Marika, they’d known, no longer existed!  I’m a mommy now and Xander is my priority and my life.  But they kept calling and eventually convinced me to shoot the pilot in November when Xander was three months old.  I dusted off my hot rollers and pulled out my makeup and went shopping for some bigger clothes. I’d been known to be funny, so I figured why not have some fun with this!

RTVM: Tell us what’s the best thing about being a Beverly Hills mom?
Marika: I love all the activities that are at our disposal. Xander is a VERY active baby; he started crawling at five months and walking at a year, so I need to keep him busy.  We take music classes, mommy and me classes and baby-gym classes. We have an amazing children’s museum in LA and so many great things for small children to do.  My mom also lives in Beverly Hills and is a huge part of our lives.  She and I are very close and we love taking Xander around town together. He loves to eat at yummy restaurants around town.  He’s very social!

RTVM: Why do you think the public is obsessed with anything involving Beverly Hills, including nannies?
Marika: I think it’s the celebrity and the money aspect of Beverly Hills that makes the public obsessed.  Even growing up here in the 70′s, I remember Starline Tour buses driving by my house and school on a daily bases and I never understood why.  I have yet to take one of those tour buses to see what kind of crazy stuff they’re saying and/or making up.  I also think it’s because people love to judge and they figure the rich and famous are an easy target!  People are obsessed with Beverly Hills Nannies because it’s a sliver into the lives of people in Beverly Hills for whom the nannies work for.  Like all reality TV, it’s a chance to see how people live that you normally wouldn’t get to see – and that’s fun and exciting.  What people don’t realize is that the same things matter to us in Beverly Hills like anywhere else, the health and happiness of our children.  Being a mom is the most important thing in my life and my baby will always come first.

RTVM: Do you agree with Ari that a nanny is the latest accessory?
Marika:  I don’t agree with her.  To me a nanny is a loving and important part of the family.  I need someone who is going to love my baby like their own for those rare times I’m going to leave Xander alone with them.  Love, experience and commitment are the most important things to me, and of course being trustworthy, honest, warm and loving.  It matters little to me whether my nanny is fancy or beautiful; all the other qualities come first.  However, the most important thing is that Xander feels comfortable with someone and I can tell within one minute of meeting someone whether they are a true baby person and whether he will like them.

RTVM: What would Amanda say is your best and worst quality as a boss?
Marika: She’d probably say my best quality is how loving and sweet I am; and how I treat her like I would my best friend. My worst quality would probably be that I’m a perfectionist and have specific ways I like things done. I just want the best for my baby, so I cook all his food from scratch.  I don’t cook for myself, but I cook for my baby.  We all make sacrifices as mothers and I need whoever is going to be in my house helping me to adopt a similar attitude of wanting the best for my baby.

RTVM: You (and your fans) seem obsessed with your “magic milk.” Are you still breastfeeding? 
Marika:  I’m not obsessed with my magic milk, as much as I’m proud of it!  I’m definitely still breastfeeding and plan to go until Xander is ready to stop. He’s currently 13 months old, I’m very excited  to nurse a toddler.  Xander is so active and running around all the time, so nursing is our special peaceful time when he loves to curl up and cuddle. Even if I were to eventually get pregnant again my dream would be to be able to be one of those super moms who is able to continue breastfeeding while prego, perhaps even tandem nursing when the next baby comes.

RTVM: Besides Amanda, who do you think is the best nanny on the show?
Marika: Of course I’m partial to Amanda and absolutely ADORE her.  I also think Lucy is great with kids. She’s very sweet and very good with Tricia’s boys and it seems like she has a lot of experience.

RTVM: You and Justin seem to have a love/hate relationship. How is your relationship currently?
Even though Justin doesn’t know the first thing about babies, he and I had great banter and always had fun hanging out while filming. At the end of the day, I think we’re funny together because we know how to push each other’s buttons.  We have a brother/sister type of relationship; one day everything is great and the next we’re at it again.  I love joking around, having a good time and making people laugh – and Justin is definitely fun to joke around with.  I just don’t appreciate it when jokes get turned into fables.  When I recently confronted him on saying something about me that he knew to be untrue in an interview, he apologized saying it was a joke.  I have forgiven him, but I truly hope he realizes that sometimes jokes can go too far and I look forward to seeing where our relationship goes.  I will always love Justin.

RTVM: Do you think Cindy has a crush on her manny, Scott?
Marika: Cindy did seem pretty hot and bothered by Scott, and rightly so! The cupcake scene was the absolute best! I love Cindy and think she’s fabulous on the show. Though I’m hoping that Scott and Amanda get together, as they would make a beautiful couple!
RTVM: Is there anything you regret doing or saying on the show?
Marika: There is really nothing I regret. It’s all in good fun.  I try not to take myself too seriously, so there’s not much to regret. I hope the audience gets my humor and I hope I was able to make people smile.

RTVM: Season one was a hit, will the viewers be able to look forward to a season two?
Marika: Hopefully there will be a season two, we are waiting to hear.

RTVM: What’s next for you? We learned you are an artist, so is there anything art-related coming down the road for fans to look out for?
Marika: Xander is my life and my focus right now. I’m a strong believer that the first years of a child’s life, before starting school, should be spent with Mommy as the main caretaker. Kyri and I would also love to have another baby and get pregnant in 2013. I’m in my art studio as much as possible (which at this point being a full-time mom only ends up being around once a week) and would love to have an art show soon. I was just commissioned to make a large scale painting for a beautiful home in West LA. It’s always a fun challenge to make a piece on commission! My artwork is such a huge part of who I am and I was said it wasn’t more prominent on Beverly Hills Nannies.
Fans of Beverly Hills Nannies also hope there is a season two.  Viewers love the glimpse into the elite lives of these Beverly Hills mothers and their nannies. To keep up with Marika and her adorable son Xander, follow her on Twitter at @MarikaTsircou.

Want more? Follow our tweets on Twitter and like us on Facebook!. Click here for more information about Beverly Hills Nannies. For other great reality TV news, please feel free to check out SirLinksALot: Reality TV

Photo Credit: Bobby Quillard

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Thursday Book: Organic Nanny to the rescue!

The Organic Nanny's Guide to Raising Healthy Kids: How to Create a Natural Diet and Lifestyle for Your Child [Paperback] $10.76

Who needs a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down when professional nanny Barbara Rodriguez has tips to make the medicine go away? In The Organic Nanny’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids, Rodriguez shows parents some simple lifestyle changes that can help them dramatically improve the well-being of their children.

As a nanny, Rodriguez has seen some disturbing trends—toxic foods, childhood obesity, insomnia, and a lack of communication between parents and children. Her advice? Nutritious food and natural remedies to resolve chronic health and behavior issues. The Organic Nanny’s Guide to Raising Healthy Kids will help parents put their children on a more natural track and give them a childhood to remember.

By Diane, Turning the Clock Back,
I have always gotten a bit of slack from my friends for the way I feed my kids.  Organic milk, locally raised meat, smoothies and tons of fruits and vegetables make up the majority of our diet.  I am not saying that is ALL we eat.  I have been known to let them indulge in the occasional fast food meal, carbonated beverage or sweetened cereal but those are rare treats.
The introduction of this book gives the reader a look into how the author’s childhood guided her ideas about food.  Her grandmother (or Tata) played a significant part in instilling the idea that eating whole foods and living a natural life made a significant impact on a person’s health and well-being.  Those ideas are the foundation for The Organic Nanny.
The purpose of this book is to help guide you to a more natural way of eating.  The author teaches you how to wean your family off of processed foods and eliminate artificial sweeteners.  She shows us how to incorporate real foods and whole grains into even the busiest of lifestyles.  She encourages people to avoid factory farmed meats and toxin laden dairy products.  Beyond food, she also discusses healing your family with natural remedies and avoiding toxic chemicals in your beauty routine.
There are numerous case studies scattered throughout the book and while many of them might be a bit extreme there ARE people who have children that only eat pop-tarts and chocolate milk.  That idea is frightening and the author is quick to point out that YOU (the adult!) are the one responsible for bringing food into your home.  She encourages parents to make smarter choices when it comes to shopping and change gradually so as to not shock your children completely.
I thought the discussion of food addiction was particularly interesting.  Apparently, junk food can be addictive and scientists have actually proven that with animal models!
The author encourages people to analyze their diets and figure out which areas need to be changed. She says all you need is L.O.V.E.  (Local , Organic, Vegetable-centric, vegetarian, or vegan (your choice), and  Environmentally conscious)  I think that is a great summary of what our diets should be made of!   And she provides common sense, practical ways to achieve a more natural diet. There are m any tips, tricks and recipe ideas to help transition your kids from fast food to real food.  She tells you what to avoid if you are buying premade products (transfats, artificial flavors, and many others) and then gives you healthy snack suggestions like whole grain cookies and flavored rice cakes.
The Organic Nanny is a wonderful resource for anyone who is concerned about the foods their child is eating.  The author teaches you how to make realistic choices for your family that will help you eat healthier without your children rebelling completely.  

Barbara was humanized at an early age by the same harsh conditions that many Haitian children live in today. Her one inspiration was her grandmother, “Tata,” who instilled in her a love for organic, whole foods and holistic healing. “Tata” taught her to listen from the heart.” What I’ve learned from Tata is how to listen for those answers, really listen, to a child who is sick or unhappy or having trouble communicating, and to find the remedies–whether whole foods, natural cures, or behavioral lessons–that will actually help.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Trends: Nannies & Social Media (Best Nanny News Letter)

google images all rights reserved by the owner

1. Complained About Boss While Using Boss's Computer

A nanny that formerly worked in Brooklyn, New York said she was fired from her job for complaining about the kids in her care and her former employers on her Facebook account. She was irritated she had to stay late at her nanny job one night without prior notice from her employers. She missed a dinner date with her boyfriend. While waiting for the parents to arrive home the nanny complained about the parents on Facebook. She was using her employer's computer and used software on the computer to scribble doodles on the photo of her Dad Boss to look like the devil. She uploaded the photo of her Dad Boss with the caption, "Thanks For Nothing Boss From Hell," under the photo. The nanny didn't realize that her password had been saved for the account and the Dad Boss saw the photo and said it was so upsetting to him they would have to go their separate ways.

Lessons Learned: Don't complain about your employers on the Internet. Don't use your employer's computer for personal use like using social media.

2. Bad Choice of Words

A nanny that is very embarrassed to share her story wants readers to know she is not a racist. She explained that right before the 2008 Presidential election her nanny job wasn't going well. She was a conservative Republican and the parents who employed the nanny were (in her words) bleeding heart liberals. The nanny explained that she was joking with her friends on Facebook and used the "N" word to describe one of the presidential candidates, which she says she knows was dumb of her. The nanny explains that she wasn't friends with her employers on Facebook so she is still upset that one of her friends told her employers about the comment. Several days after the post on Facebook the parents wrote her a long note and spoke with her. They said since they were already having problems in the work relationship this was the straw that broke the camels back. The father said that he didn't want his kids growing up to say racial slurs or hear racial slurs. The nanny says she pleaded saying that she would obviously never say anything like that in front of the kids. She claims the comment wasn't even the truth, it was a joke. But, the parents said she shouldn't even use them as a reference because the father would tell anyone calling for a reference that she publicly called an African American the "N" word.

Lessons Learned: Don't post any inappropriate terms. Don't make racial slurs. Anything on the Internet can be shared with others. Just because you are not "friends" with your employers on Facebook, they still might find out what you wrote on Facebook.

3. Posted Photo of Child Without Permission
I was babysitting overnight while the girl I nannied for had a sleep over with her friend. I let them dress up and play with the mother's make up. I posted a cute photo of the girls on Facebook with the caption, "I'm sexy and I know it." The parents of the other girl were upset that I posted a photo of their child without their permission. I don't know how they ever saw the photo in the first place. But they were ruthless about getting me fired after they saw the photo and what I wrote under it. The other girls' parents and my employers were so upset about the caption that they said I had bad judgement. They said I lacked enough common sense to care for kids. I obviously took the photo down immediately after they told me to. I kept explaining it was just a joke. I obviously wouldn't have posted it if I thought it was inappropriate! They basically called the nanny agency and said they need to find a new nanny and they felt I needed to find a new job. 

Lesson Learned: Don't post photos of other people's kids without their permission. Never suggest a child is sexy.

4. Spending Too Much Time On Facebook During Work Hours

I was working as a nanny for 55-hours per week and there is a lot of down time especially when the baby was napping and the older child was in school. I was "friends" with the mother on Facebook. I actually never complained about my job in any way. I commented a lot on Facebook during the work day and below each comment it lists the time and day you write the comment. The mother actually took the time and energy to write down how much I commented. She showed me her log of my comments and said I was spending way too much time on Facebook and neglecting her children and that I was being given my four-weeks notice to find a new job. 

Lesson Learned: Know ahead of time if you are allowed to be on the computer or visiting social media websites at your job (if at all).

For all the stories of nannies who  have lost a job for posting unprofessional comments and photos on Facebook, there are many more who upset their employers for what they have posted on the social media giant. The biggest lesson I learned from the nanny's that were fired above is that nothing is private on the Internet. 

To be true professionals, nannies must refrain from complaining about their jobs online. No one should post a photo of a child without the parent's permission. All employees should limit the amount of time spent on Facebook during working hours.

By Best Nanny News Letter all rights reserved 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Problem: Should I move heavy boxes?

Hi Nanny X,

I'm in a sticky situation at work because I'm a live in Nanny and I like my job a lot. I've been with the family for 8 months now and care for two infants, twins. My job involves housecleaning and sometimes I walk the dog. I don't mind because it's all part of my daily job. I like to stay busy. The mom and dad work all day outside of the home, long hours like 7-7. At weekends they go to the country and I am off. I really like this family and up until now have been very happy. 

Then last week my boss (mom) asked me to sort out the family storage in the basement of their building over the weekend.  It's like one small room. I said 'okay' I don't mind. I figured it would take like hour tops. When they came back she looked at the storage and frowned. "Oh I needed that stuff boxed up" She pointed to a pile of heavy folders.  "Okay" I said "No problem". I got old boxes and put folders in the boxes after 7pm when they got home.

Today she (mom) send me text "Oh P..... can you bring up the boxes to apartment because my husband's assistant will pick them up." I'm like 'are you serious?' with two little ones plus those boxes are too damned heavy. I don't want to hurt my back. I know she won't like it if I say 'no' - but I'm p****d she's asking me to do it. Can you help me?


Dear P.G,

you sound like a resourceful Nanny. Organizing a client's storage area on your time off quite frankly was a generous gesture. If it was a one-off request (which I suspect it is not) going the extra mile for your client is a positive move. The employer/employee relationship especially if it is in the home, involves plenty of flexibility. 

But as you suspected I think a line has been crossed this time. Moving heavy boxes is not a Nanny's job. Plus it's asking you to compromise your primary care of the children, because how can you move heavy boxes and watch them? 

There are ways around this without causing a major confrontation. 

Why don't you ask your client whether the super or building staff or her husband's assistant could move the boxes for her? You can cite health and safety rules adding that you would not want to risk injuring your back. I doubt she will have an issue with that. If for some strange reason she insists that you move the boxes you must politely but firmly decline. 

I had a good (Nanny) friend once who moved some heavy boxes for her employer. She injured her back and was off work for 6 months. The employers paid for chiropractic adjustments but she did not receive any sick pay or compensation for a loss of earnings. As a gracious gesture the said family kept open her position for her. But my friend declined. It had proved to her what little security the job held for her.

A job is important but not as important as your health. Here are some tips for lifting boxes should you need to - in the future for yourself. But for here and now, say 'no'. A Nanny's spine must be protected without it, she cannot do her job.

Nanny X

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Guest Blogger: Marni Kent: traveling internationally with infants

By Marni Kent 2012 all rights reserved

As a nanny who is well traveled I have a good bit of experience with the dilemma of trying to change a baby's diaper (although I try to get nonstop flights as much as possible and that helps a lot!). If you're lucky, one of the restrooms on the plane will be equipped with a changing table. Unfortunately that doesn't happen too often. As an alternative find a restroom in the airport between flights for the change, as long as you have time. If you have to do it on the plane and there is no changing table, there are a couple of different methods that work ok. 

If your little one is small enough to fit on your lap, you can sit on the toilet and lay them on your lap to do the change. If they're too big for that, you can put the lid down, lay a changing pad over top and lay them on that (my least favorite method, I only use it in an emergency). If the diaper's just wet, you can put the lid down and have your little one stand on the toilet while you do a standing diaper change. It takes a little practice, but is surprisingly easy (and better than laying them down amid the yuckiness that may be surrounding the toilet)!

And never in the seats or cabin. Change in an airport whenever possible and if not possible then try changing them on your lap in the bathroom or on the toilet seat cover once on board.I have traveled extensively in the last 8 months (AA) Carry a changing pad, package of wet wipes, scented disposal bags and enough diapers with you.... we also practised "quick" changes at home to get our technique down pat.

The rich and famous are not immune from the horrors of diaper changing – even when flying on an airplane. Katherine Heigl, who is mom to 20-month-old daughter Naleigh, describes a recent mid-flight incident saying:

This is grown-up kind of poo. I’m in this airplane and they didn’t have these fold down tables to change her on; it’s just a tiny little bathroom. I couldn’t put her on the floor. I had to jam her head in the corner and lay her across the toilet and kneel below her and it was brutal. I was like, ‘What did you eat?’ I had to walk back to get her because she was sitting with the nanny and trying to sleep and that whole plane smelled really bad. I had to wake her up because it was just really mean to all the people around her. Now I’m so committed to potty training.”

Here are some handy things to pack:

  • Your child’s lovey or blanket.

  • A light blanket, jacket or sweater for your child that you can add or remove depending on the temperature of the plane

  • Any electronics or cameras you are travelling with as these often “disappear” from checked baggage and most airlines will not cover them. In a pinch, saved pictures on a digital camera are great entertainment for toddlers and small children.

  • A magazine can double as entertainment for a child. Send them on “treasure hunts” looking for a picture of something specific in the magazine, or flip the pages asking them to make up stories about the pictures they see. For very young children, it can be entertaining just to look at and name the pictures in a magazine. An empty sippy or bottle if needed.

  • Non perishable food for your children, especially if you’re travelling during mealtime. I’ve never successfully gotten baby or toddler food on a flight, and while older children may be able to eat the meals, many airlines are cutting back to light snacks or nothing at all. Nothing makes kids grumpy faster than being hungry and having nothing to eat. If you cannot bring something from home, pick something up in the airport. If your child requires special utensils (E.g. a baby spoon) bring one.

  • Our favorites: sliced cheese, freeze dried fruit, Cheerios. puffed wheat. You're likely to be in close quarters with other kids, so avoid allergens like peanut butter. If your child is old enough for solids, avoid liquids like applesauce (which need to be declared separately at security).

  • If you have a baby who drinks formula, it’s easiest to bring powdered formula and mix it with water on the plane. Note: Never use tap water from the airplane bathroom to rinse or fill a bottle as it may not be safe.

Milk if your child will need it during takeoff or landing. Note that you need to buy this after clearing security at the airport. While some airlines are happy to provide milk during takeoff and landing, others carry enough milk only for coffee service and will not make more than a few ounces available for your child.

Marni Kent
2002 INA Nanny of the Year 
Authored the INA Mentor/protege program 
Spoken at Denver area nanny conference, INA, nannypalooza 
Household manager. Baby nurse,
Career nanny 26 years, current living in SF. 
Travel with executive and infant

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Friday Fluff: Alicia Keys and her significant others in NYC

Musical mom Alicia Keys only had eyes for her two favorite guys while out in New York City today (September 19). The ‘No One’ singer and her husband Swizz Beatz were spotted taking a sunny stroll with their son Egypt through the city’s West Village. Perched atop his dad’s shoulders, 1-year-old Egypt looked adorable as ever, his cute curls poking out from under his hoody. Proud mama Alicia recently gushed about her son’s latest milestone, telling People, “He just got potty trained!” - “…It’s really just consistency and love and support and it was just so amazing,” she said of the often-trying process.

2012 Copyright Celebrity Baby Scoop

Thursday Book Review: Nurture Shock

Copyright NYTimes 2009

As if we needed yet another indicator of economic collapse, note that the men who once chronicled financial high jinks have turned to baby sling strategy and sibling rivalry. First Michael Lewis, author of “Liar’s Poker,” hit the best-seller list with a memoir about the perils (and awww, rewards) of being a dad. Now Po Bronson, who made his name novelizing Bay Area bond trading and Silicon Valley upstarts, has come out with a book on child-rearing.

But not just any book! “NurtureShock,” with its Toffleresque title, promises to revolutionize parenthood with “New Thinking About Children.” According to Bronson and his co-writer, Ashley Merryman, who runs a church-based tutoring program for urban youth, “nurture shock” is the panic common to new parents that “the mythical fountain of knowledge is not magically kicking in.” It’s that gut-pummeling doubt that hits the moment you bring your first child home from the hospital— “They let us keep this thing?” — and snowballs from there. Such feelings of inadequacy, the authors suggest, are justified. But, as they write with deeply felt earnestness, “small corrections in our thinking today could alter the character of society long term, one future-citizen at a time.”

The key, outlined in 10 deftly organized chapters, is to ignore common assumptions about children in favor of the latest social science, much of it counterintuitive. Think it’s best for 10th-grade slackers to high-tail it to school at 7 a.m.? Wrong! Let them sleep in, say the prevailing studies on teenagers and sleep. Believe that reading the Berenstain Bears and other turgid “pro-social” stories will make your kinder­gartner more genial? They’re actually more likely to inspire in her new ways of tormenting her little brother.

Based on a pair of Bronson’s high-profile cover stories for New York magazine, which applied similarly brazen titles (“Learning to Lie,” “How Not to Talk to Your Kids”) to academic research of the past two decades, the book is perhaps less revolutionary about parenthood than it is revelatory about books on parenthood. That sounds weighty and abstruse, so as Bronson and Merryman might phrase it, let me “unpack” what I mean.

Ann Hulbert, author of “Raising America,” could easily lend a hand. As Hulbert made clear in her 2003 history of parenting advice, each generation of parents falls sway if not to a singular sanctified Dr. Spock, then to a bevy of conflicting sages. (The current generation is likely to be remembered as that of Drs. Sears and Brazelton on the child-centered side, John Rosemond on the parent-centric side, and Jenny McCarthy and Tori Spelling on the Hollywood-­mommy fringe.) Whereas others may call upon medical training, paternal wisdom or been-there-done-that mother­hood, Bronson and Merryman, having “parsed through the science and reviewed the evidence,” appeal to scientific reason — just as, Hulbert writes, experts more than a century ago first urged the scientific and systematic study of children.

What comes around goes around, goes away and then comes back. In a chapter on overpraise, the authors describe laboratory studies in which children, having taken an initial test and then been praised for their intelligence, fared worse in follow-up rounds, while children who were instead commended for their effort challenged themselves further and performed better over all. Frequent and oft-undeserved rewards in the form of praise, the authors caution, deprive a child of motivation and discourage persistence. “It’s a neuro­biological fact,” they write, pointing to studies of M.R.I. scans and trained rodents. True, but far from new. Albeit without the sci-techy benefit of brain imaging, in 1964, “Children: The Challenge,” a popular manual of the day, warned, “Praise, as a means of encouragement, must be used very cautiously.” It can be “dangerous” if a child sees praise as a reward and “could easily lead to discouragement,” the author, Rudolf Dreikurs, noted.

Still, much of the research here on the upkeep of children is interesting and worthwhile. (And what new parent has the fortitude to sift through academic journals?) Several studies, for example, demonstrate that the more children are threatened with punishment, the more they lie and the better they get at it. In one, kids who attend a traditional colonial school in western Africa, where teachers frequently slap children for misdeeds, were especially likely to lie progressively more in order to avoid the consequences. Another study found that reading “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” increased children’s likelihood of lying, while a book on George Washington and the cherry tree decreased it dramatically. And not because kids revere Washington — the students in the study were Canadian.

One of the most valuable chapters looks at how white parents deal with race. For those who think it best to describe Caucasians as “pinkish white” and blacks as “brown skinned” (raise your hands, Upper West Siders), recent research delivers a strong rebuke. Pretending race doesn’t exist leaves young children to form their own — often racist — opinions. A chapter on early childhood testing delivers similarly distressing and critical news. Bronson and Merryman do parents a service by calling attention to studies that seldom make their way into the media.

But to judge from these pages, the authors are a bit too enthralled with their academic sources. Their penchant for describing psychological studies and research projects as if they were chemistry experiments, with phrases like “the test of scientific analysis” and “the science of peer relations,” conjure up the image of Thomas Dolby repeatedly exhorting “Science!” Let’s face it — even if, as the authors suggest, “preschoolers’ E.F. capability can be measured with simple computerized tests,” chances are, this year’s E.F. (“executive function”) will be tomorrow’s E.Q. (“emotional intelligence”), which the authors deride as an unreliable predictor of academic achievement or adult success.

No doubt we’ll worry about that later. For now, Bronson is, above all, a brilliant packager of books about what people care about most: themselves. As he did in “What Should I Do With My Life?,” his 2002 best seller, Bronson has adroitly polished a fairly unoriginal subject into high-gloss pop psychology. This isn’t the big news of the day, but the small, consequential news that affects our daily lives; it’s the stuff of breakfast shows and private-school parenting seminars. It’s “What Should I Do With My Kids?” And isn’t that all about me, anyway?

Pamela Paul is the author of “Parenting, Inc.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tuesday Trends: Park Slope Parents (Classified) tighten up after Nanny fraud

After some disastrous PR via the Daily News the Park Slope Parents association has offered its members new guidelines and advice on how to present prospective Nannies to other members. Fraud - specifically the use of fake id or references by Nannies - is an issue in the childcare community, so we welcome this step forward by Park Slope Parents in protecting both families and the reputations of honest, hard-working and professional Nannies. 

By Park Slope Parents, all rights reserved, 2012.

If you want to help your current or former nanny find a job, Park Slope Parents is a great way to get the word out there that your nanny is available.  Posts recommending nannies on the PSP Classified list have helped make many excellent matches between families who need a nanny and nannies looking for work.  But this will only work if you take the time to do it right. The power of Park Slope Parents is in the parent-to-parent connections. You owe it to your nanny and your neighbors on the list to put in the effort needed to effectively advertise your nanny’s availability.  Doing some of the heavy lifting up front can greatly increase the chances that she not only finds a job, but one that will be satisfying for both the nanny and the new employer.  Here are some things to do that will optimize this effort:

1.         Reconnect with your nanny’s past employers. Let them know that your nanny will be looking for a job, ask them to send you a reference and get updated contact information. Have them start spreading the word that the nanny needs a job.

2.         See what others are saying about their nannies. Read through the Park Slope Parents Classifieds Nanny Recommendations to see what other people are posting. You'll find that too many people write about an "Amazing, Wonderful, Loving, Fantastic Nanny." Strive to write something different from the overly gushy, perfect nanny posts. Talk about what made your nanny a good match for your family, or what kind of family your nanny would do best with.

3.         Research what potential employers will be searching. Do searches of your nanny's phone numbers, email and name on the following sites to make sure that the information is consistent and professional on sites such as FaceBook, Craigslist, Google and nanny job sites (sittercity,,

4.         Tell everyone that your nanny needs a new job
  • Use the power of word of mouth. Tell people in your building, your Mommy group, parents in your kids' classes. Send emails (post to Facebook) to your circle of friends, condo, school groups.
  • Write your Recommendation for  the Park Slope ParentsClassifieds, following the Requirements for Nanny Posting:
---Give your nanny’s first and last name.
---Say, honestly and briefly, what your experience employing this nanny has been
---Include your contact information including your phone number. If you are not willing to speak to people by phone it sends a signal to the potential employer.
---Give examples that explain why you recommend this employee/former employee.
---If you have recommendations from other employers, include them or indicate in your post that you will provide them on request.

    5.         Send parents who post "In Search Of Nanny" requests a personal email recommending your nanny.
    • Parent to parent connections are much more likely to lead to a job for your nanny than having the nanny do the contacting.  People who post on PSP are doing so to get recommendations from parents, not to be contacted by sometimes desperate nannies who may call multiple times to a potential employer.
    • (NOTE: It's against PSP Policy to forward emails to anyone who is not on the list without their permission.  It’s also a waste of time, both for the nanny and the potential employer. Many parents have told us they are annoyed by and do not respond to calls that come directly from nannies.)
    • Letting a nanny go it alone may give the message to potential employers that the nanny wasn't good enough (or important enough) to you that you took the extra time to help her find new employment. Spend the extra time to make the connections yourself.

    6.        Help your nanny prepare for the job hunt.

    Interviews. Just because she's a great nanny doesn't mean she's great at interviewing.
    • Go through the list of interview questions on the PSP website and coach her.
    • Remind her of experience she’s had in your home that others will want to hear about.
    • Remind her about what you liked (and didn't like) about what she did when she interviewed with you.
    • Work with her to come up with a list of questions to ask potential employers.  An interview should be a two-way conversation. This will help her decide if the family is a good fit with her working style or if she'd be unhappy with the employer.
    Resume. While not absolutely necessary, having a resume shows a level of professionalism that can make her stand out.

    Training. If there is relevant training (CPR, home safety, etc) she can get, help her find and take a class, or update a certificate.

    7.         Be an effective reference for your nanny.
    When you are contacted by potential employers call them and give your recommendation and let them decide whether to contact your nanny. (NOTE: Do not forward responses to the nanny unless you have permission to do so- your personal parent to parent connection will have much more impact than having the Nanny contact them.)
    Be willing to take the time to:
    • ---Read through the "Questions for References" on the PSP website to better prepare yourself for what questions may be asked.
    • ---Follow up in a timely manner with people who contact you for a reference.
    • ---Be available for phone calls or face-to-face meetings, not just emails.
    • ---Be prepared to give examples that show why your nanny is great.
    • A---fter you speak to a potential employer, offer to be available to answer other questions as they think of them.

    8.         Interview potential employers. Remember, you don't just want your nanny to have a job, you want her to have a GOOD job.
    • Be frank with the potential employer that you care enough about your nanny to make sure she will be happy working for the new family.
    • Find out if there's a match. What kind of nanny is the potential employer is looking to hire. Playmate? Chaperone? Social coordinator? New age guru?  If you don't see that it will work, let the potential employer know up front and save everyone the time and effort.
    • Try to find out what kind of employer the interviewee will be. Does she seem to have it together? Does she seem to have realistic expectations? Is she frazzled? A stealth bomber parent who is hard to please?
    • It's in everyone's best interest to make sure that the situation is one the nanny (and employer) wants. Desperate nannies (and employers) may agree to things that won't work in the long run and you can help run interference, saving both parties a bad experience.

    9.         Keep your emotions in check.
    You may be feeling guilty and sad about the end of the relationship with your nanny.  You may even feel a little desperate because you feel obligated to pay her until she finds one. Be aware of your feelings and act responsibly.  Don't let these feelings cause you to do or say things that will negatively affect a potential employer or your nanny in the long run.

    10.       Be HONEST with potential employers about your nanny.
    • Inflating the truth can set your nanny up for a short-term job when she doesn't achieve expectations. No nanny is perfect, and saying, "she has no faults" is a trigger for some people that she shouldn't be hired.
    • Talk about any negatives in a way that makes clear that you consider this person an excellent employee.  Talk about “challenges” and “areas for growth,” how she has worked to overcome them. Offset any negatives with her many stellar qualities.
    • Talk about difficulties you've had and the way your nanny has grown as an employee. Knowing some of the ways that you and your nanny negotiated the employer/employee relationship will give her next employer a good start.