Monday, December 31, 2012

Are You Working for a New Year's Eve Party?

What to Do with Kids on New Year's Eve

If you are working for New Year's Eve, here are some ideas to use with children as midnight approaches. For kid friendly drinks click here.  For New Year's Eve arts n' crafts click here.

If possible, rent some holiday movies such as How the Grinch Stole Christmasor The Polar Express [Blu-ray]so kids can watch movies if they start to get tired. Be prepared to supervise games such as Wild Planet Hyper Dash,Pictionary Junior,Twister, or Guessing Resolutions (see below). Print out free coloring pages and age-appropriate word searches from children’s web sites so children can color when they first arrive or at anytime during the party.

Games to Play with a Group of Children

Jack Frost:
Have everyone stand in a circle and chose a volunteer to play Jack Frost, who will stand in the middle of the circle. Jack Frost runs around the inside of the circle and picks someone at random to touch. The person that Jack Frost touches must then start shaking that body part, such as the left hand, and cry out ‘Jack Frost nipped my hand.’ That person must keep shaking their hand for the rest of the game.Meanwhile, Jack Frost continues to run around the inside of the circle touching people’s hands, feet, arms, and legs. Each person must cry out which body part Jack Frost nipped and start shaking it. The game is only over when Jack Frost has managed to nip the arms, legs, hands, and feet of someone in the circle, so that his or her entire body is shaking.

Guessing Resolutions:
Make each of your guests write down five resolutions, each on its own slip of paper. Pull one slip of paper out of a basket at a time and read it out loud. Everyone has to write down who they think made each resolution. At the end of the readings, the person who guessed the most correctly wins a prize. Read some of the wrong guesses out loud for fun!

This is a hide-and-seek game in which only one person hides at the beginning. As the others find the hiding person, they squeeze into the hiding spot. The last person to find everyone hides in the next round. If you have a big, nook-filled backyard, and it’s not too cold outside, this is a great game when everyone needs a breath of fresh air.

What to do as Midnight Approaches

Candlelight Resolutions:
Set a kitchen timer for 30 minutes. Turn off all the electric lights. By candlelight, talk about your hopes and resolutions for the year to come. Of course if there are young children at the party use flashlights instead of candles. When the bell rings, it’s midnight, and everyone flips the lights back on to toast to the new year.

Bubble Wrap Stomp:
FamilyFun's Parties: 100 Party Plans for Birthdays, Holidays & Every Day (FamilyFun Series, No. 3) suggests doing “The Bubble Wrap Stomp.” Pick up several yards of the large-bubbled Bubble Wrap used in shipping packages. Just before midnight, unroll the wrap on a hard surface, such as a wooden floor or driveway. When the New Year’s countdown concludes, your party guests can stomp on the bubble wrap to make a lot of noise.

Gather Alarm Clocks:
Gather all the alarm clocks in the house and set them to go off at exactly midnight.

What games or activities do you play with kids on New Year's Eve?

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pajamas That Help Eczema

Does a Child You Care for Have Eczema?

HALO ComfortLuxe™ is a revolutionary line of sleepwear that can help children with sensitive skin. If you care for a child with eczema this sleepwear can actually improve their skin condition.

This innovative fabric outperforms cotton by wicking away moisture and regulating your little one’s temperature. It’s breathable. It dries twice as fast as cotton. And most of all, it's comfortable.

ComfortLuxe has unique properties to release moisture from a child's skin in exchange for fresh air to help maintain a stable body temperature which in turn helps prevent the onset of triggers (usually heat and perspiration) which cause the itch/scratch cycle to begin among many children who suffer from atopic dermatitis, a common form of eczema.

ComfortLuxe fabric helps to manage this trigger, control discomfort and minimize eczema flares to protect a child's delicate skin. This smart fabric also won't absorb lotions or topical creams on the surface of the skin to help maximize their benefits and promote the healing of skin irritations. ComfortLuxe outperforms cotton, the current standard for children's sleepwear by releasing moisture to dry twice as fast as cotton.

These pajamas were awarded the Seal of Acceptance by the National Eczema Association.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

7 Children's Books for the 7 Days of Kwanzaa

Weekly Trip to the Library
Kwanzaa is a non religious celebration s
tarted by Dr. Maulana Kareng, a professor of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach, in 1966, as a way to bring together the African-American community. Here are our picks for some children's books about Kwanzaa to share with your charges.

1. Celebrate Kwanzaa by National Geographic

Celebrate Kwanzaa: with Candles, Community and the Fruits of the Harvest is part of National Geographic's Holidays Around the World series for children in grades one to four. Celebrate Kwanzaa is a book illustrated with color photographs, designed with a picture book format, includes facts about the holiday.  The book shows people in different cities and countries celebrating the holiday, as well as additional resources in the section at the end of the book.

2. It's Kwanzaa Time by Linda Goss

This book has it all: history, stories, crafts, games, recipes, and songs. It was written by Linda and Clay Goss. The stories, one for each day and principle of Kwanzaa, include illustrations by award-winning artists, including Ashley Bryan, Leo and Diane Dillon, Jan Spivey Gilchrist, and Jerry Pinkney. The stories range from folktales to true stories.

3. Seven Candles for Kwanzaa by Andrea Davis Pinkney

In this 63-page nonfiction book, Andrea Davis Pinkney provides a straightforward account of the celebration of Kwanzaa that provides a good introduction to Kwanzaa for all ages. What sets the book apart are the illustrations by Brian Pinkney. Using scratchboard and oil pastels, the artist provides striking illustrations to accompany the information about the origins and activities of Kwanzaa, illustrating each day with family activities.

4. The Gifts of Kwanzaa by Synthia Saint James

Synthia Saint James' artwork, with its bold colors and simple shapes, will immediately engage young children's attention. A young girl's family prepares for, and enjoys, Kwanzaa. Along with an explanation of the family's activities, the author provides examples of what the principles of Kwanzaa mean that even quite young children should be able to understand.

5. Seven Spools of Thread

The story, the striking artwork, and the clever way both are used to illustrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa make Seven Spools of Thread an exceptional children's Kwanzaa picture book for all ages. The author is Angela Shelf Medearis, the popular author of numerous children's books. Daniel Minter's linoleum block prints complement the story, yet stand alone as dramatic pieces of art.

6. Kwanzaa Karamu: Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast by April A. Brady

The subtitle of this book, Cooking and Crafts for a Kwanzaa Feast, provides an accurate description of its contents. After a description of Kwanzaa'sKnutson and photographs by Robert L. and Diane Wolfe.

7. Crafts for Kwanzaa by Kathy Ross

This book provides directions for 20 Kwanzaa crafts. Sharon Lane Holm's colorful sketches and Kathy Ross' clear directions make it a joy to use. Included at the beginning of the book is an overview of the holiday. Throughout the book, Ross introduces Swahili words and describes the relationship of the crafts to the celebration of Kwanzaa.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Do You Charge More When Working on New Year's Eve?

What Nannies Should Charge on New Year’s Eve

A nanny can charge more when her services are likely to be in higher demand, such as on holidays. We recommend you charge more than your usual rate if asked to work on New Year’s Eve.

First, check your work agreement to see if New Year’s Eve is considered a paid vacation day. If you are supposed to have New Year’s Eve off then you should definitely ask for time and a half overtime pay or double your standard rate, since it is a holiday.

If you would like to work New Year’s Eve determine the rate you would feel comfortable making. Asking for a higher rate when you haven’t previously is easier said than done. So, prepare yourself ahead of time.

Ask yourself if you would you like an hourly rate (such as $30 per hour) or would you prefer a flat rate (such as $200 for the night)? The proper response would be, “Yes, I’d love to work for you on New Year’s Eve. I typically charge $30 per hour when asked to work on holidays like New Year’s Eve.” Or, “Since you aren’t sure when the party will end I would be happy to accept $200 for the entire evening.”

According to the The New York Times a decade ago, babysitters were earning up to $100 an hour, some $250 for five hours, with a 13-year old charging $135 per child. If sitters could earn that much ten years ago, nannies can certainly ask for more than the usual rate when working on New Year's Eve in 2009.

If you plan to charge double your typical rate, or a high flat rate, you ought to work hard and be prepared to keep the kids busy. Have fun with the kids by planning activities, crafts, games, and recipes for them to enjoy. By embracing the evening and making it fun for the children the parents will be thrilled to have hired you, even at a higher rate.

Do you charge more per hour for babysitting on New Year's Eve? How much do you charge?

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Does the Family You Work for Celebrate Kwanzaa?

Learning About Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture. It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year. Kwanzaa consists of seven days of celebration, featuring activities such as candle-lighting of a kinara and pouring of libations, and culminating in a feast and gift giving. It was created by Ron Karenga and was first celebrated from December 26, 1966, to January 1, 1967.

These seven principles of Kwanzaa comprise Kawaida, a Swahili term for tradition and reason. Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is dedicated to one of the following principles, as follows:

Umoja (Unity) To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation and race.

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination) To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.

Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility) To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.

Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.

Nia (Purpose) To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.

Kuumba (Creativity) To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.

Imani (Faith) To believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Snow Ice Cream

Wednesdays with Whitney

Christmas may be past but that doesn't mean all the seasonal fun is over. The kids will love this unique twist on homemade ice cream it is sure to beat the post holiday blues!

   1 cup heavy whipping cream
   Sugar to taste
                                                            Vanilla extract to taste
   4 cups clean snow

1. Beat the whipping cream with a hand mixer until stuff peaks form.
2. Mix in the sugar and vanilla to taste.
3. Fold in your snow.
4. Eat right away or freeze to let the ice cream harden.

Reference: Gooseberry Patch: Christmas All Through the House: Over 600 Holiday Recipes, Cheery Crafts and Easy-to-Make Gifts fo r Flurries of Fun!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Nanny Confessions: A Gift and Holiday Tip are Important!

Which is Worse: Not Getting a Heartfelt Gift or No Bonus?

On Facebook we have been discussing holiday gift-giving and end of the year bonuses.

In America, parents thank their nannies for a job well done by giving their in-home childcare provider one-week salary for an end of the year bonus and heartfelt gifts from the kids. Although, this year I have seen more and more experts recommending parents give nannies at least one-week to one-month salary for a holiday bonus.

Before Friday, the general consensus from our readers was that the holiday season is about giving, not receiving. Nannies were sharing advice with other caregivers to not expect gifts and financial bonuses so that they are not disappointed if their employers overlook the social norm.

Although it may sound cold, that attitude changed dramatically since Friday. My mailbox is now literally full of emails from nannies hurt that their employers either forgot to pay them a bonus or give them a gift.

I have been quoted in the Wall Street Journal articles, Cash is King and Holiday Bonus: What to Give Nanny that when parents overlook a holiday bonus, or give less than the year before, nannies do notice and they worry their job performance has fallen short. Yet, when parents cannot afford a generous bonus, all the parents need to do is be honest with their nanny. Only a Scrooge would be mad at parents that cannot afford to give generously this holiday season.

It may not be the socially acceptable thing to say, but the reality is, nannies do resent it if their employers don't give them a small gift and one-week holiday bonus. My full email mailbox is proof of that reality.

For parents who overlooked tipping their nanny or giving their caregiver a gift, there's still time to correct the error of their ways. If parents value their nanny and want to continue a good working relationship with the nanny, I recommend parents have their kids draw their nanny a picture and slip approximately one-week salary into a thank you card before the new year.

If parents prefer to ignore the typical holiday gift-giving and tipping traditions, then they are sending the nanny a clear message that they don't value the employee's job performance or relationship.

Which do you think is worse: not getting a gift from the kids or no holiday bonus?

Monday, December 24, 2012

Should There Really Be Armed Guards in Every School?

photo from Boston Globe
Follow the Money: Considering the Policies of Non-Profit Advocacy Associations
By Polly Psi

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is among the most influential and successful non-profit advocacy associations in the country. Their power derives from their ability to support and to elect candidates and legislators favorable to their policies.

Those policies favor wider gun ownership, relaxed rules about when, how, and where firearms can be carried and a lenient attitude towards the use of firearms as weapons of defense. Yet, despite their power and success, the NRA faced widespread criticism when they advocated for armed guards at every school to prevent a recurrence of the mass murders in Newtown, CT.

My purpose is to discuss how an organization such as the NRA arrives at policy decisions and how this process can affect you. My purpose is not to evaluate the effectiveness or wisdom of the policy.

The NRA gets about $100 million in funding each year from the firearms industry: the makers, the sellers and the advertisers. This $100 million investment begets a $4 billion return. The lifeblood of the NRA is the money of those who profit from the sale and use of firearms. It is the interests of the industry that dictates the policies of the NRA.

The NRA is hypocritical when they claim that gun ownership is a Constitutional right. The NRA consistently wants to infringe on the Constitutional rights of the media, movie makers, and creators of violent video games. The NRA tried to blame video game makers, slasher films, and the media for the reason so many were killed in a school in Newtown, CT. The NRA is willing to attach blame and to fault others, but are unable to accept or acknowledge any misjudgments of their own.

Such an attitude toward the Constitution is not unusual or exceptional. Hugh Hefner became a huge defender of "freedom of speech" when the sale and display of "Playboy" was protested.

Before supporting any non-profit organization, consider who profits from the advocacy association. Often big business are members of non-profit advocacy associations simply for marketing purposes.

From this perspective, that the NRA is a marketing tool of the firearms industry, it is apparent that the "armed guard" policy was inevitable. It was the only position the organization could adopt that would satisfy their true mandate: sell more firearms in an expanding market.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gingerbread Houses

How to Make a Gingerbread House

I have been making gingerbread houses with kids for the past 20-years. I was actually getting bored of making gingerbread houses until the nearly three-year-old toddler and I decorated one this year. She was thrilled. She's so proud of her gingerbread house.

When decorating the gingerbread the kids have to add candy to frosting quickly before the frosting hardens. If using a kit I recommend buying more gumdrops and candy to use when making the gingerbread house since the kits never have enough candy included with the gingerbread house. I also like to buy shredded coconut to use as snow around the decorated house.

Here's how you can build a gingerbread house from You can find gingerbread house molds and kits below.

You Will Need:
 6 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
4 teaspoons ground ginger
4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves or allspice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks (12 Tbsp) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp water


Make the Gingerbread Dough

1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, set aside.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed the butter and brown sugar until fluffy and well blended. Beat in the eggs, molasses and water until well combined.

3. Beat half of the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until well blended and smooth. Stir in the remaining flour. Knead (or use your mixer's dough hook) until well blended. If dough is too soft, add a little more flour.

4. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least two hours, preferably overnight. You can make it up to 3 days ahead of time. Let sit at room temperature for at least 10 minutes before rolling out.

To see the rest of the directions, including how to decorate the gingerbread house visit

How to Build a Gingerbread House by Christina Banner

This book will show you how a few easy recipes, everyday ingredients, and basic kitchen equipment are all you need to create a beautiful gingerbread house. Learn how to bake and build a gingerbread house from start to finish, and then find creative ideas for decorating your house, from butterscotch windows to candy-covered trees, helping you create a gingerbread house of your very own design. Whether you decide to recreate one of the designs provided, or choose to create your own work of art, this book will help you have a fun and memorable experience, and a gingerbread house to be proud of.

Gingerbread House Molds

Pre-Made Gingerbread House Kits

Saturday, December 22, 2012

10 Best Non-Traditional Christmas Books for Kids

Last Minute Christmas Shopping? Buy a Book!

Maria Lopez, a nanny from Miami, Florida contacted me last night crying that she ordered her gifts online and they never arrived in the mail. She was upset because she put a lot of time and effort to buy unique gifts for the kids she cares for and doesn't have enough time to re-order the same gifts online. She and the family she works for are exchanging gifts Monday morning.

I suggested she run to a local book store and pick up these unique Christmas children's books to give to the kids instead. Not only do books make a great holiday gift, the ones listed below are also unique.

1. The Wild Christmas Reindeer by Jan Brett

The highlight of this tale about an elf charged with training Santa's reindeer for their annual Christmas ride is the rich artwork by author-artist Jan Brett. Intricate scenes of elf workers busily prepping for the big day frame the main story, so kids discover something with each reading.

2. The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold and Chanda A. Bell

How exactly does Santa keep tabs on who's naughty and who's nice? Turns out he's got an elf on the shelf who comes packaged with a companion book. The elf mysteriously changes locations overnight, and kids love looking for him as soon as they wake up in the morning. Bonus for parents: Since the elf's always watching, you should be able to milk major good behavior out of the kids.

3. Angel Pig and the Hidden Christmas by David M. McPhail

The plot of this tale hits close to home in these uncertain economic times: A family of porkers thinks Christmas is ruined because they don't have money to buy "jeans and sneakers with fancy brand names" at the mall. Then a sneaker-wearing angel appears, encouraging them to make and bake gifts instead, and teaches them what gift-giving is really about.

4. Santa Mouse by Michael Brown

A lonely little mouse realizes Santa is always giving presents but never gets them, so he leaves a gift. His thoughtfulness is rewarded when he becomes Santa's little -- very little -- helper.

5. The Night Before Christmas by Rachel Isadora

This isn't the traditional Clement C. Morre's poem. This gorgeously illustrated version, which uses collage papers and oil paints, adds a modern twist: Santa wears funky pants, sports dreadlocks, and leaves the children traditional African gifts.

6. Olive, the Other Reindeer by J. Otto Seibold

When Olive the dog hears the phrase from the popular Christmas tune "all of the other reindeer," she concludes she is "Olive, the other reindeer" and heads to the North Pole to join Santa's team. Doggie hijinks ensue.

7. Fancy Nancy: Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor

Nancy's psyched about the holidays until her ultra-fancy tree topper breaks. Can the ultimate girly-girl learn to love plain old DIY tree decorations? As always, the detailed, sparkly illustrations make this a fave among the princess set.

8. Tyrannoclaus by Janet Lawler

With a little ingenuity and a lot of excitement, this twist on the classic The Night Before Christmas is sure to bring smiles to dinosaur fans everywhere. Deep inside a volcano crater, Tyrannoclaus and his helpers are busy wrapping up Christmas presents for dinosaur children when, suddenly, the volcano erupts! How will they ever make it through and deliver presents on time?

9. Dream Snow by Eric Carle

Lovers of Eric Carle's classic The Very Hungry Caterpillar will recognize the same iconic collage illustrations in this wintry tale about a farmer who dreams about a white Christmas. Like Caterpillar, the pages hold extra interest for young readers, with cutouts and counting.

10. Snowmen at Christmas by Caralyn Buehner

The secret life of snowmen is revealed in this gorgeously illustrated tale. Snow families gather in the town square, sing carols, and get their own visit from "the snowman Kris Kringle" before re-assuming their positions in the front yard as dawn breaks.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Has a Nanny Agency Ever Disrespected Your Confidentiality?

No Nanny Should be Issued an Ultimatum by a Nanny Agency
By Judi Merlin, A Friend of the Family

Stephanie Felzenberg, editor of Be the Best Nanny Newsletter contacted me because she has noticed nannies on social media networks complaining about nanny placement agencies giving nannies ultimatums to tell their current employers they are looking for a job before sending them on interviews.

She asked me if job seekers can complain to the Alliance of Premier Nanny Agencies (APNA) Ethics Committee if a member nanny agency is giving nanny candidates such ultimatums.

My answer is: if a nanny placement agency is a member of APNA and that agency is not treating a job seeker with respect or safeguarding their confidentiality, then that nanny can make a complaint to APNA's Ethics Committee. APNA has a process for handling every complaint and the same process applies to nannies as it does to clients.

Nannies should be aware that if they are working with an agency that is a member of APNA and feel they are not being treated fairly, they can and should go to the APNA web site and complete a complaint form. APNA will handle everything from there. If after the investigation, the agency is found in violation of the standards of APNA, they may receive an official reprimand or they may have their membership revoked by a majority vote of the board. If the agency is not an APNA agency, we have no recourse or authority.

But, there is no one standard for nanny placement agencies working the nannies that they have placed. Each APNA member may have their own policies. However all APNA agencies would agree that no nanny should be issued an ultimatum by an agency.

APNA agencies don't solicit nannies who we have placed on any job, but if the nanny comes to us, asking to find a new job while they are still on the job, then agency policies vary.

If a nanny is currently working for a family, nanny placement agencies can encourage the nanny to give notice to her current family. However, they can work to find the nanny a new placement, while respecting her request not to contact the current employer for a reference until she has given proper notice. The job offer may be contingent on completing the last reference, if there is not a strong work history of other families or she has worked for this family for a length of time. But each nanny placement agency requirements may vary.

Whatever agency you choose to work with, ask them up front about their policies regarding checking references and finding your next job once you have been placed. If you don't want the agency staff to contact your current employers their answer will help determine which agency you want to represent you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sandy Hook Love Letters

Wednesdays with Whitney
By Whitney Zeibarth 

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre I want to encourage crafts with a more selfless aspect to them this week. As nannies, we understand how impactful a child’s love can be. So why don’t we send some of this love in the direction of those heartbroken families who are now left without it? Help your little ones create Christmas cards or unique artwork to let the victims of Newtown know they are loved.  
Stickers, glitter, or markers – let this craft be a free for all which allows each child to express the message they want to send. Encourage the children to write letters of support, or have them dictate as you write their words for them.

A child’s loving words might not be eloquent and they might not be perfect, but they are exquisitely healing. And no one can use that more than the families in Newtown. Send the “love letters” to Sandy Hook Elementary School and spread a little warmth this Christmas season.
Send your letters and cards to:
Sandy Hook Elementary School
12 Dickenson Drive
Sandy Hook, CT 06482

“No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted”  -Aesop

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nanny Confessions: We Want You To Come Home On Time

Nanny Confessions
by Elizabeth Hawksworth
Are You Paid Overtime?

I admit that as a nanny, I am sometimes excited when the parents come home late. It means extra money for me. It may also mean more time with the kids, which can be great if we’re doing a special craft or watching a movie. But nine times out of ten, I want the parents I work for to arrive home on time. I have plans, I have chores, and I need time to myself – it’s what helps me to be a better nanny.

I’ve had some parents try to increase my working time significantly by going upstairs and talking on the phone, or they’ll say they’re running out to the store and can I just hold on for another half an hour? I don’t mind when this happens once in awhile, but I definitely mind when it happens all the time. I have experienced parents also not paying me overtime. Any time I stay past normal working hours is overtime, and I should be paid for it.

In America anytime a live-out nanny works over 40-hours per week their overtime pay should be calculated as time-and-a-half their regular hourly rate. Live-in nannies should earn time-and-a-half overtime after working 44-hours per week. Click here to see reference.

Parents, I urge you to make sure you discuss working hours with your nanny. If you find that she's working overtime often it may be time to rejig your contract. A good nanny will provide quality care regardless of her work hours, but she’ll start looking for another job if her hours aren’t respected. Arrange overtime pay (and ensure it’s on the books) for your nanny, and you’ll find that instead of a harried good-bye when you come home, she’ll likely be much more understanding of your timing needs. If you keep your working relationship open and respectful, you’ll find that timing issues cease to be issues at all.

Elizabeth Hawksworth, also known as Torontonanny, is a nanny, writer, and blogger. She’s been in the childcare business for approximately 17-years, and currently works part-time with a number of children in the city. She enjoys working the most with newborns and babies up to the age of two, and details her nannying experiences on her blog,                                                                                                                                                  
She is also a published writer, and you can find her first poetry book, Break for Beautyon and below. Elizabeth enjoys walking, shopping, reading and crafting, and lives with her two cats, Athena and Fili, in the heart of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Teaching Kids to be Safe

Must Read Books About Safety by Gavin de Becker

In response to the horrific killing of in Connecticut this past Friday I recommend all nannies, au pairs, and parents read the absolute best books about safety by Gavin de Becker.

I first remember seeing Gavin de Backer on the Oprah Winfrey Show and it was the first time I heard an expert in security really make sense. He emphasized listening to your instincts to protect yourself.  He also showed that children must do anything and everything possible to draw attention to themselves if they feel unsafe. It was powerful watching a scenario in which actors had a child reach under a man to press the gas pedal in a car to create a crash. The fact is, a child is safer getting in a car crash if kidnapped then being taken to a remote area in a car with a stranger.

I highly recommend reading his books and then sharing them with your employers.

Protecting The Gift by Gavin de Becker

In Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe Gavin de Becker shares with readers his remarkable insight into human behavior, providing them with a fascinating look at how human predators work and how they select their targets and most important, how parents can protect their children.

He offers the comforting knowledge that, like every creature on earth, human beings can predict violent behavior. In fact, he says, parents are hardwired to do just that.

Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe provides a direct look at the strategies of predators, a study of how children are victimized, and a look at why. Understanding human violence empowers parents to protect their children more effectively. De Becker asks readers at the outset, “Of all the strategies you might bring to protecting your children, could ignorance about violence possibly be an effective one?”

Exploring issues surrounding child abduction, family violence, childcare workers, school safety, teenage dating, driving, drinking, and the often-deadly relationship between boys and guns, Protecting the Gift: Keeping Children and Teenagers Safe will enable parents to confidently answer some of life’s highest stakes questions:

-- How can I know a babysitter won’t turn out to be someone who will harm my child?
-- What’s the best way to prepare my child to walk to school alone?
-- What should I do if my child is lost in public?
-- How can I spot sexual predators?
-- How can I know if my child is being sexually abused?
-- How can my kid’s safety be improved?
-- How can I know whether some friend of my child’s might be dangerous?
-- Is my own child displaying warning signs of future violence?
-- What must my teenage son or daughter know in order to be safe?
-- How can I teach my child about risk without causing too much fear?
-- How can I reduce the worrying?

The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker

An instant #1 National Bestseller, The Gift of Fearreveals practical lessons from Gavin de Becker’s decades of studying violence. The book appeared on the New York Times bestseller list for seventeen weeks and has been published in 13 languages.

In 2008, Oprah Winfrey did a special show commemorating the 10th Anniversary of its publication, and the book was featured several other times on her show, as well as two full hours on Larry King Live, three weeks in a row on Prime Time Live, two center pages in Time Magazine, among many others.

In The Gift of Fearde Becker draws on his extensive expertise to explode the myth that most violent acts are random and unpredictable and shows that they usually have discernible motives and are preceded by clear warning signs. Through dozens of compelling stories from his own career and life, he unravels the complexities of violent behavior and details the pre-incident indicators (PINs) that can determine if someone poses a danger to us.

Readers learn how to:
-- Recognize the survival signals that warn us about risk from strangers
-- Rely on their intuition
-- Separate real from imagined danger
-- Predict Dangerous Behavior
-- Evaluate whether someone will use violence
-- Move beyond denial so that their intuition works for them

Offering in-depth solutions to people who are dealing with domestic abuse or workplace violence or who are the targets of unwanted pursuit, de Becker also provides unique insight into death threats, stalkers, assassins, children who kill, and mass killers.

The Gift of Fearis an important book about human behavior, one which has left millions of readers stronger and safer.

Fear Less by Gavin de Becker

Gavin de Becker’s book The Gift of Fearshowed millions of readers how to better protect themselves from violence and unwarranted fear. Now, in Fear Lessde Becker answers the questions many Americans have been asking since September 11th:

-- Can air travel be safe?
-- What is the risk of biological or chemical attack?
-- Can the government detect and prevent future acts?
-- How can we best talk to our children about what has happened and what might happen?
-- What can individuals do to reduce fear and worry?
-- What specific steps can individuals take to reduce terrorism?
-- What are terrorists likely to do next?
-- Most simply, is everything going to be all right?

De Becker says, “Just as your imagination has placed you in frightening situations, it is now time to place yourself in empowering situations, time to see that you have a role to play, and contrary to so many TV news stories, it isn’t just victim-in-waiting.”

Fear Less: Real Truth About Risk, Safety, and Security in a Time of Terrorismoffers specific recommendations that can enhance our national security and our individual safety – and help put fear into perspective.

“In this war, there will be no captured beachhead upon which we can lay our fears to rest. So we are challenged to find safety and peace of mind in other ways.”

“You and I can be sources of reasoned information, insight, comfort, and courage. The more of us there are, the better – and though we may not be able to stop all terrorism, we can stop lots of terror. Let’s go further into the relevant topics than one can do in a sound bite, go into them without alarming bulletins and scary graphics, go into them without hype or politics, go into them just deeply enough to come out the other side.”

“Then you can see if you reach the same conclusions I have: that you can find your life in these times, that you can influence your own safety, that you can help protect your country, that you can manage fear, and that you are going to be all right.”

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Best Books to Give Kids for the Holidays

Children's Books Make the Perfect Holiday Gift

We have been discussing giving kids quality gifts is much better than expensive gifts this holiday season. Books are perhaps the best gifts nannies and au pairs can give to children. There is still time to visit your local book store.

Think of your charges favorite book series or their favorite characters when picking a book for the child. You can never go wrong picking a children's book about the holiday season or a Caldecott Award winner. Although we list age recommendations with our favorite children's book choices below, it's fine to give an infant a boxed set to start building their library. Here are some of our great children's book recommendations.

Classic Tales

The World of Peter Rabbit The Original Peter Rabbit, Books 1-23, Presentation Box by Beatrix Potter
All 23 original Tales by Beatrix Potter are available in a beautifully redesigned presentation box. This luxurious box features the new branded design, spot lamination and full-color original Beatrix Potter art, including a pop-up of Peter Rabbit and friends inside the lid. Peter Rabbit always makes a great gift for kids four- to eight-years-old.

The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
A stuffed toy rabbit (with real thread whiskers) comes to life in Margery Williams's timeless tale of the transformative power of love. Given as a Christmas gift to a young boy, the Velveteen Rabbit lives in the nursery with all of the other toys, waiting for the day when the Boy (as he is called) will choose him as a playmate. In time, the shy Rabbit befriends the tattered Skin Horse, the wisest resident of the nursery, who reveals the goal of all nursery toys: to be made "real" through the love of a human. "'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'" This sentimental classic--perfect for any child who's ever thought that maybe, just maybe, his or her toys have feelings--has been charming children since its first publication in 1922. This is a great read-aloud for all ages, but children ages eight-years-old and up can read it on their own.

Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
This unique gift set includes all four of the original A. A. Milne classic books plus "Return to the Hundred Acre Wood," the only authorized volume of new tales about Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends. Winnie the Pooh is always a perfect gift for young children. Kids four- to eight-years-old will love this gift.

Books for Kids that Can Read in a Series

Super Fudge Series by Judy Blume
Fans young and old will laugh out loud at the irrepressible wit of Peter Hatcher, the hilarious antics of mischievous Fudge, and the unbreakable confidence of know-it-all Sheila Tubman in Judy Blume’s five Fudge books, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great, Superfudge, Fudge-a-Mania, and Double Fudge. Now all packaged together for the very first time, this collection of Fudge books will please lifelong fans and entice a whole new generation of Blume readers. Super Fudge is a great series for kids four- to eight-years-old.

Ramona Series by Beverly Cleary
Generations of children have grown up with Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, Ralph Mouse, and all of their friends, families, and assorted pets. Beverly Cleary continues to capture the hearts and imaginations of children of all ages throughout the world. This collection includes the titles: "Beezus and Ramona," "Ramona the Pest," "Ramona the Brave," and "Ramona and Her Father." There are other volumes to purchase as well. This series of books are well suited for children nine- to 12-years-old.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney
Among boys and girls in elementary school, the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney has skyrocketed in popularity. The fifth book in the series, The Ugly Truth just released in November 2010 and would be a perfect gift for any child.

The Magic Treehouse by Mary Pope Osborne
The Magic Treehouse series by Mary Pope Osborne lets kids join children Jack and Annie as they go back in time and visit dinosaurs, medieval knights, and other times or places that let the imagination run wild. Gift-givers can choose from over 40 books in the series.

Captain Underpants by Dav Pilkey
This series is a hit with elementary-aged boys. This graphic novel that enraptures kids that don't even enjoy reading. Fall of 2010 brought about a new series, Ook & Gluk, who are kung-fu cavemen. The focus is definitely on fun with these books.

The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
This is a great gift because the book contains the finest stories from around the world -- most of them old favorites: "Sleeping Beauty," "Rumpelstiltskin," "Cinderella," "The Arabian Nights," and 33 more. The book includes original 138 black-and-white illustrations.

The Red Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
This book contains 37 familiar stories ("Rapunzel," "Jack and the Beanstalk," "The Golden Goose,") and not-so-familiar stories ("The Voice of Death," "The Enchanted Pig," and "The Master Thief,") and 97 illustrations.

The Yellow Fairy Book by Andrea Lang
This book includes 48 stories from American Indian, Russian, German, Icelandic, French, and others including, "The Tinder-Box," "The Nightingale," and "How to Tell a True Princess," with 104 illustrations. This book is best suited for children ages nine- to 12-years-old.

The Narnia Series by C.S. Lewis
The Chronicles of Narnia, by C.S. Lewis, is one of the very few sets of books that should be read three times: in childhood, early adulthood, and late in life. In brief, four children travel repeatedly to a world in which they are far more than mere children and everything is far more than it seems. Richly told, populated with fascinating characters, perfectly realized in detail of world and pacing of plot, and profoundly allegorical, the story is infused throughout with the timeless issues of good and evil, faith and hope. This boxed set edition includes all seven volumes. Librarians recommend this series for kids 9- to 12-years-old.

The Princess Present by Meg Cabot, a Princess Diaries Book
Even princesses have trouble finding the perfect Christmas gift. In this frothy holiday romance, Princess Mia is spending Christmas in Genovia with her Grandmère. She's delighted that her best friend and boyfriend are coming to join her, but worried about what to give to Michael. A light, holiday read for those who don't want to think too deeply. We recommend giving this book to teens.

Books for the Holiday Season

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
This book is also a Caldecott Award winner. One couldn't select a more delightful and exciting premise for a children's book than the tale of a young boy lying awake on Christmas Eve only to have Santa Claus sweep by and take him on a trip with other children to the North Pole. And one couldn't ask for a more talented artist and writer to tell the story than Chris Van Allsburg. Allsburg, a sculptor who entered the genre nonchalantly when he created a children's book as a diversion from his sculpting, won the 1986 Caldecott Medal for this book, one of several award winners he's produced. The Polar Express rings with vitality and wonder. The Polar Express is a good choice to give to kids four- to eight-years-old.

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore
The full text of the familiar poem is illustrated in Engelbreit's crisply decorated style. A large trim size allows each highly embellished spread to hold a plethora of detail. From the opening stanza's view of the non-stirring mouse's hole (a cracked teacup is his bed, a potholder his doormat, and a paintbrush is his broom) and throughout the verses, the artist adds lots of elves and ornamentation. Santa is not pictured as "dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot"; he's wearing a checked coat with fur trim and what appear to be leather bowling shoes. He does twinkle a lot, though, and that may be enough for some readers. Review by S. P. and this book makes a great gift for kids of all Ages.

The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers
New York Times bestselling artist Susan Jeffers has created a Nutcracker unlike any that has before, with a lovely spare text based on the ballet. This is the perfect gift to share with children before they see The Nutcracker. Everyone who has seen the ballet will cherish it—as will anyone who enjoys stories where love triumphs. Come, take a front-row seat. The world's most beloved holiday fairy tale is about to begin. This book makes a great gift for kids that are four- to eight-years-old.

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter
In this original folktale about the seven sons in an Ashanti family, Medearis introduces the seven principles of Kwanzaa. When he dies, the father of seven brothers who don't get along so well, leaves each of his boys a spool of thread. His wish is that they find a way to turn all the colored spools of thread into gold. The sons succeed --- they work together weave all the spools of thread into a beautiful kente cloth. Crisp and colorful woodcut illustrations are a treat. This is a great book for kids five- to eight-years-old.

Light the Lights! A Story About Celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas by Margaret Moorman
Interfaith families that aren't religious can still read this great book about different faiths and religious traditions. In the book, Emma helps her father light the menorah at Hanukkah and decorates the tree with her mother at Christmas. This book is the perfect choice for kids five- to seven-years-old.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Over the years, Dickens's holiday classic has been embellished by some of the finest artists around. Michael Foreman, Trina Schart Hyman, Greg Hildebrandt, and Lisbeth Zwerger are just a few of the luminaries who have taken on the challenge originally set by Arthur Rackham in 1915. Joining the list is Lynch, whose watercolor-and-gouache illustrations lavishly enhance this handsome edition, which includes the complete text. Ranging from spot art to full spreads, with something to savor on almost every page, they offer a real flavor of Victorian England and make the most of the inherent drama of the story. The gold-embossed spine and thick, textured paper contribute to the appeal of the package. Review by Mara Alpert, Los Angeles Public Library. For children in grade five and older or young adults.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss
The Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, hates Who-ville's holiday celebrations, and plans to steal all the presents to prevent Christmas from coming. To his amazement, Christmas comes anyway, and the Grinch discovers the true meaning of the holiday. Many recommend the book for kids eight-to 12-years-old but I recommend it for any age.

Mistletoe by Hailey Abbott, Melissa de la Cruz, Aimee Friedman & Nina Malkin
This delightful collection of four short stories with a Christmas theme is sure to bring a little romance into the holiday season and get you thinking about who you'd like to meet under the mistletoe. This book is a perfect choice for older teens.

Caldecott Award Winners

Snowflake Bentley by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
Most children are captivated by snow, but how many go on to make it their lifework? This beautiful biography, winner of the 1999 Caldecott Medal, tells the true story of a Vermont farm boy who was mesmerized by snowflakes. Wilson Bentley was fascinated by the six-sided frozen phenomena, and once he acquired a microscope with a camera, his childhood preoccupation took on a more scientific leaning. Bentley spent his life taking countless exquisite photographs (many that are still used in nature photography today), examining the tiny crystals and their delicate, mathematical structures. Jacqueline Briggs Martin tells this tale with simple, graceful prose that will engage children's imaginations. Edifying and snowflake-scattered sidebars offer more information about Bentley's methods and snowflake science. The artwork of Mary Azarian, whose 19th-century hand-press illustrations decorate the charming Barn Cat, shines once again in Snowflake Bentley, with woodcuts that reveal an appreciation for detail as well as for the man who loved snow. The lovely illustrations and equally fresh text will inspire and comfort youngsters (and grownups too) who wish they could capture snowflakes all year long. Give this book to kids that are ages four- to eight-years-old.

The Lion & the Mouse by Jerry Pinkney
In award-winning artist Jerry Pinkney's wordless adaptation of one of Aesop's most beloved fables, an unlikely pair learn that no act of kindness is ever wasted. After a ferocious lion spares a cowering mouse that he'd planned to eat, the mouse later comes to his rescue, freeing him from a poacher's trap. With vivid depictions of the landscape of the African Serengeti and expressively-drawn characters, Pinkney makes this a truly special retelling, and his stunning pictures speak volumes. This book is best suite for children four- to eight-years old.

Click here for our 10 Best Books to Give for Hanukkah.
What is your favorite children's book?

Does the Mass Shooting Killing 20 Children Yesterday Change Your Opinion on Gun Control?

After the shooting yesterday in Connecticut where 27 are dead, including 20 children, after a man opened fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School I can't help but discuss gun control.

I really do understand both sides of the debate. Rifles for hunting and protecting one's home has always been considered a right to many Americans. But, emergency room doctors in cities see the terrible statistics of gun violence at it's worst. For many living and working in cities with a lot of gun violence, and where no one hunts for food or sport, citizens fight for more gun control.

Gun control is a touchy topic. When we discuss "rights" I think the majority of the public believes owning a gun as an American right. When we discuss gun safety most people agree we need some gun ownership regulation.

We all understand that guns don't kill people, people do. But, we all can agree some gun control is necessary. Certainly we all support current regulations of running background checks prior to purchasing weapons. But, I think banning the possession of semi-automatic rifles is also a popular and necessary regulation. No one needs a semi-automatic weapon to hunt or to protect their home.

Here is a list of the 20 mass shootings in the past five years from the article "After 19 Mass Shootings In Five Years, Still No Answers" in the Huffingon Post today:

20. December 14, 2012 -- Newtown, Conn. -- 27 dead (including gunman)

19. September 27, 2012 -- Minneapolis, Minn. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

18. August 5, 2012 -- Oak Creek, Wisconsin 7 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

17. July 20, 2012 -- Aurora, Colo. -- 12 dead, 59 injured

16. May 31, 2012 -- Seattle, Wash. -- 6 dead (including gunman)

15. February 22, 2012 -- Norcross, Ga. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

14. October 12, 2011 -- Seal Beach, Calif. -- 8 dead, 1 injured

13. January 8, 2011 -- Tucson, Ariz. -- 6 dead, 14 injured

12. August 3, 2010 -- Manchester, Conn. -- 9 dead (including gunman), 2 injured

11. November 29, 2009 -- Parkland, Wash. -- 5 dead (including gunman)

10. November 5, 2009 -- Fort Hood, Texas -- 13 dead, 30 injured (including gunman)

9. April 3, 2009 -- Binghamton, N.Y. -- 14 dead (including gunman), 4 injured

8. March 29, 2009 -- Carthage, N.C. -- 8 dead, 3 injured (including gunman)

7. March 10, 2009 -- Geneva County, Ala. -- 11 dead (including gunman), 6 injured

6. June 25, 2008 -- Henderson, Ky. -- 6 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

5. February 14, 2008 -- DeKalb, Ill. -- 6 dead (including gunman, 21 injured)

4. February 7, 2008 -- Kirkwood, Mo. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

3. December 5, 2007 -- Omaha, Neb. -- 9 dead (including gunman)

2. October 7, 2007 -- Crandon, Wis. -- 7 dead (including gunman), 1 injured

1. April 16, 2007 -- Virginia Tech campus, Blacksburg, Va. -- 33 dead (including gunman), 23 injured