Getting into the Back-to-School Swing!

Young couple walking together --- Image by © Rachel Frank/Corbis

The start of school can be tricky after a nice, fun, relaxing summer break. Here are a few helpful hints to help transition back-to-school in a smooth manner.

Make room in the pantry or refrigerator for designated snacks. Not only will you have foods ready to supplement lunch, but those looking for food will know which snacks that they can have, without having to ask you what’s okay to eat or what the portion size should be.

Set expectations. Have a chat about what to expect when school is back in session. Will the children have afterschool activities every day? Will they still be able to play with the neighbors when then get home? Knowing what to expect will allow for a smoother transition when they get home.

Lay out clothing for school the night before. Gone are the days of changing two or three times before heading out the door! The morning can be a time of rush and chaos. Planning ahead will allow everyone to breathe a bit more in the morning. If you have a child that likes options, pull out two outfits that they can choose from. Better yet, place dividers in the closet with a label of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and have your charge hang up an outfit behind the designated day so clothing is planned out for the week.

Make a calendar with important school dates, after school activities, specified homework time and any other appointments the children have. Assigning a different color for each child is helpful so you can glance ahead and have an idea of what the week looks like for each person in the house.

Set an alarm before bed. If you help get your charges out the door in the morning it might be helpful to make sure they each have their own alarm – not a cell phone or a tablet, but an actual alarm clock. Upper elementary and older children enjoy the responsibility of accomplishing a task on their own time frame. Let them do it. They may surprise you!

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4th of July Fun

4th of JulyThis July 4th marks the 240th anniversary of the United State’s Declaration of Independence! And of course, it’s always a great day to barbecue with family and friends, get involved in local parades and play outdoor games. However, if you don’t want to deal with clean-up after a gathering at your place, check out these Bay Area locations where you can have a day full of fun and see spectacular fireworks, all while keeping your home nice and tidy!

San Francisco
Pier 39
Fourth of July Celebration at The PIER. PIER 39 celebrates Independence Day with fun for the whole family featuring musical entertainment by Tainted Love (The Best of the 80’s live), activities, and fireworks. The City of San Francisco will treat spectators to an elaborate fireworks display over the San Francisco Bay at approximately 9:30 p.m.

East Bay
Alameda County Fairgrounds
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular. The show begins at approximately 9:30 p.m. set to music performed by the Oakland Symphony, along with a Salute to Hometown Heroes Video.

USS Hornet MuseumAlameda
Celebrate JULY 4th onboard the Aircraft Carrier USS HORNET. View of surrounding fireworks displays begins around 9:15 p.m. with patriotic music, weather permitting. Please note that the USS Hornet does not host the fireworks show. Throughout the day, enjoy live music, entertainment, carnival games, Flight Simulator, jump house, interactive Games, ship exploration, food, beverages and more. Monday, July 4, 2016, 1 p.m. – 10 p.m. Family activities will be available from 3 p.m. – 9:15 p.m. There will also be live music throughout this time. Tickets for adults are $20, while kids (6-17) are $10. 707 W. Hornet Ave, Alameda. For more information, call (510) 521-8448 x282.

USS Potomac – Oakland
4th of July Fireworks Cruise on San Francisco Bay. Cruise on Franklin Roosevelt’s Floating White House and have desserts, champagne, tea, and coffee while enjoying fireworks displays along the San Francisco Bay. Monday, July 4, 2016, 7:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m. Yacht docks at Clay St., Jack London Square, Oakland.

Pleasant Hill
Independence Day the Pleasant Hill Way. Fireworks begin around 9:10 p.m., parade at 9:30 a.m., fun at the park at 10:30 a.m., entertainment, games and more.

South Bay
Discovery Meadow, Downtown San Jose
New Century of Service. Enjoy this free, family-friendly event with a fireworks show at approximately 9:30p.m. after dusk with free Symphony Summer Pops music at 5:30 p.m.

Shoreline Amphitheatre
4th of July Fireworks Spectacular With San Francisco Symphony. “A Night At The Movies” with music from Inside Out, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, E.T., Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone, Raider of the Lost Ark and more.

Peninsula
Foster City – Leo Ryan Park
Foster City Fourth of July Celebration. Join the City of Foster City and the Lions Club of Foster City for an exciting all-day event filled with games, food, entertainment, dog parade and grand fireworks display! 9:30 p.m.

Redwood City, Downtown
78th Annual 4th of July Parade – A Family 4th. Redwood City’s Fourth of July celebration will feature a parade, floats, food, arts, crafts, entertainment, bands, a kids area and more! From 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. there will be a Pancake Breakfast with the Redwood City Fire Department. At 8:45 a.m. the Parade Run 5k will begin (check-in is from 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.). A car show starts at 9 a.m., followed by the Redwood City “Best of the West” Parade at 10 a.m. The fireworks show starts at 9:30 p.m., launched from the Port of Redwood City!

North Bay
Dunphy Park in Sausalito
July 4th Parade and Fireworks Extravaganza. An all day celebration from 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.! Parade begins at 2nd and Main St., Old Town, near the old Valhalla Restaurant, and goes down Bridgeway and then Caledonia all the way to Dunphy Park on the waterfront near City Hall. Festivities include live music, food, dancing, family games, tug-o-war and the famous Egg Toss! The celebration continues at Gabrielson Park in the evening from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. and ends with a fireworks display.

75th Marin County Fair
Fireworks at the Marin County Fair. Fireworks will fill the Marin skies every evening June 30 to July 4th at 9:30 p.m. Enjoy family activities, concerts, bands, farm animals and educational/interactive exhibits, and carnival rides. 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael.

Meet Martha, this month’s Candidate of the Month!

ChristmasMartha is a hands-on Nanny who loves to teach children by guiding them through life experiences and sharing the outdoors with them. She has an outgoing, fun, happy demeanor that shows in the picture here with her two sons, daughter-in-law and their pets.

Martha has a zest for life, has “done it all” and loves children! Martha plays the piano, loves to swim and SCUBA dive, has her Bachelor’s degree in Biology, is a certified Naturalist and has two grown sons.

One of her references said, “Martha has an upbeat, bubbly and positive personality. She is the type of person who would make my day better. Martha is extremely intelligent, articulate and forthcoming with information. She communicated with me through email and text messages. Martha also kept a daily log of what my daughter ate, her naps, activities, etc. She was very easy to talk to and I would say that her greatest strength is her dependability.”

Get to know Martha:

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I have always been happiest when I am immersed in water. I grew up swimming anywhere I could – pools, lakes, rivers, and the Gulf of Mexico. I was an avid water skier at 8, a lifeguard at 15, certified in SCUBA at 16 and a Scientific Diver at 20. No question about it, I wanted to be a Marine Biologist.

Why have you chosen to be a Nanny?
A key theme of my adult life has been teaching children. Whether as a high school science Teacher, full-time Nanny or an at-home Mom, I have had the good fortune to follow my passion for developing the curiosity of young minds through hands-on discovery of the world around us. My theory is that if children are led with wonder and curiosity to make accurate observations of nature and then given the corresponding scientific vocabulary, they may develop an exceptionally deep and connected understanding. I want to continue to teach young minds to have integrity, to reason, to deduce and to look at our world with wonder!

What is your proudest accomplishment as a Nanny?
I am most proud of the job I do when a child smiles up at me with pure happiness that comes from heart-felt trust.

If you could be a super hero what would you power be?
I would love to be able to manipulate time! That incredible power would allow me to go back and experience things like the Ancient Library of Alexandria or look into the smiling faces of my grown sons when they were babies. It would be great around dinner time, too, when I could help with homework and then pause my young charges while I cook!

Keeping the Lines of Communication Open

FAN9035673You love your job. You love the family, the kids, the fun afternoons at the park and the art classes you get to attend with your charge.

You want to be there for your employer whenever they need you, but it seems that too often they approach you with a request that interferes with a prior commitment and you feel guilty not helping out, so you cancel the really fun outing you had with your friends.

Or, maybe you’re an employer and your nanny is the best nanny you’ve ever hired. She’s attentive, she kisses boo-boos, she keeps your place tidy, she’s always on time and you treasure her in your life, but it seems she has made one too many requests to get off early or come in late. You want to help her out, but you hired her because you need her for the full schedule she’d agreed to.

You both want to make things work, but you’re starting to feel a bit taken advantage of. What should you do? Talk. 

Talk about what’s going on. Talk about how you feel when the unexpected requested continually comes up. Talk about how much you enjoy one another and talk about your boundaries. Know what you’re willing to do and how often you’re willing to go out of the normal routine. We all need to be flexible, so try not to feel taken advantage of when you have a request to do something that doesn’t fit with the routine.

Keep the lines of communication open. Have weekly meetings to check in, leave one another notes in the morning or evening if you don’t physically see one another, have a work agreement. T+C highly encourages families and nannies to have a work agreement in place when a new position begins or when job responsibilities change. A well-thought out work agreement should help avoid too many surprises along the way.

The most important thing you can do is talk. Set a time that works for everyone to discuss what’s going on. If you don’t talk about the challenge, it’s not going to go away.

Ask Us! How do I get it all done in one day?

1488520We don’t  fly around with a magic black umbrella or claim to have the skills of Mary Poppins, but our Nanny Team Counselors do have over 100 years of combined experience placing great Nanny candidates in childcare jobs all over the Bay Area. When it comes to navigating the world of professional in-home childcare, we’ve just about seen it all. So go ahead, Ask Us!

My job has Family Assistant responsibilities in addition to childcare. Some days it’s tough to get it all done. Do you have suggestions as to how to manage the children and the household duties? – Julie

Dear Julie,

We all know multitasking can be difficult, especially when it comes to getting things done with children by your side. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of Family Assistant duties that are included in a Nanny’s job description. Here are a few suggestions for how to get household chores done efficiently.

Grocery Shopping and Running Errands

  • Get shopping and errands done early in the day. Grocery stores tend to be less busy in the morning. They often have the freshest produce in the morning, too. Children are also less likely to be overtired and hungry.
  • Turn shopping into an adventure. Use your imagination with children. Are you just picking up fish or are you going deep-sea fishing? The sky’s the limit when it comes to imagination. Creating your story or theme to fit the children’s interest will speed the errand and curb meltdowns.
  • Use the items in the aisles of the store as a language learning experience. Associating words and objects is great for children. Point out items and say their names. If you speak a second language, and the parents want you to speak in that language to your charge, you should say the word in the secondary language, too.
  • Bring healthy snacks. There’s nothing worse than a hungry child in a grocery store. Make sure the snacks are parent-approved and easy for children to manage by themselves.
  • Plan ahead. If you are responsible for preparing meals, make a menu for the week and make a grocery list from the menus. You could even use a website like Pinterest to save your best recipes.
  • Use an App like “Our Groceries” or “Grocery IQ” to have the family share their lists with you so you can get as much as possible in one visit and limit trips back to the store.

Some duties are best suited for nap time, but if your charges are too old for a nap, the duties can be accomplished while the children are doing an independent activity like coloring or homework. Always make sure your charges are within your sight and within arms’ reach. Creating the most efficient work flow is helpful to make sure all of your tasks are completed. The duties outlined below can be done simultaneously.

Laundry: When the children go down for a nap, start a load of laundry. Laundry has a delay, so after you start the load, you have a period of time to get other things done. While the laundry is going, clean up any dishes from breakfast or lunch. Starting with a clean workspace will allow for easier meal prep.

Meal Prep: After you have cleaned the kitchen, dive into meal prep. Marinate the protein and chop the vegetables. Cook what can be prepared ahead of time, realizing that some things should be cooked right before serving. Wash all the dishes you used in your meal prep and wipe down the counters. Switch over the laundry and start a new load.

Light Housekeeping: Nannies are not expected to do deep cleaning, but they are expected to keep the house tidy. Pick up any stray toys and vacuum or sweep the floor if needed. If you have the bandwidth, take on small organizational projects. After the home is back in order, take a moment to sit down and rest while you fold the laundry.

The beginning of nap time might seem like a sprint, but getting the bulk of household chores done while the children are sleeping will significantly lessen your load when the little ones are awake and ready to play. While folding laundry listen to a podcast or music (without headphones). Having that mental recharge will keep you energized for the rest of the day.

National Nanny Training Day 2016

TCRStaffOn Saturday, April 16th over 50 Bay Area professional Nannies joined the Town + Country Nanny Teams for continuing education and training at the Foster City Recreation Center. Our T+C seminar was part of National Nanny Training Day and held during the nationally celebrated “Week of the Young Child.” This year’s National Nanny Training included an estimated 1,150 nannies gathered at 32 events across 23 states. All of those in attendance came together not only as Nannies, but also as caring individuals each resolved to be a positive influence in a child’s life.

NNTD1At our Town + Country event, three speakers addressed relevant Nanny themes, including a lively session on “Reading with Your Charges” by Marsi O’Malley-Riley, Youth Services Librarian at the Belmont Library. After lunch in Leo J. Ryan park, two Town + Country Placement Counselors, Amy Horning and Tess Kotch, presented the second seminar, “Using Technology with Your Employer and Charges” which reviewed ways for communicating with your employer throughout the course of the day. Michelle Fleming, who is a Town + Country placed Nanny, gave suggestions on how to get through the “Dinner Time Crunch.” We the wrapped up with a raffle where we gve away items that were generously donated by our sponsors.

We had fabulous day filled with laughter, networking, raffles … and of course, learning! We are grateful so many Nannies spent their day with us and we look forward to our National Nanny Training event in 2017!

Mother’s Day Flowering Tree

MD CraftThere’s nothing better than the pride and sweet smile that a child shows when they’ve given a gift that they made.

Make Mom’s day special with this Flowering Tree that can be handcrafted by her biggest love. You probably have all the supplies on hand. Prep and cleanup are a snap and it’s a perfect activity to do any day of the week! It’s colorful, quick and easy and can be a great Mother’s Day this Sunday!

What you will need:
Brown cardboard or poster board
Construction paper in various colors
Pencil
Safety Scissors
Glue stick

Constructing your tree:

  1. Trace child’s hand and forearm onto cardboard or posterboard
  2. Draw two horizontal lines across the bottom of the paper to serve as the trunk of the tree, which is the base needed to hold the tree up.
  3. Cut out the tree and base.
  4. Cut two small slits on opposite sides of the base so you can slide them inside one another to make a sturdy base. You could also just tape or glue the base together.
  5. Cut out hearts for the flowers on the tree. You could also cut out leaves, if you’d like, and glue them on the tree branches.
  6. Cut a piece of paper to use as a sign at the bottom of the tree that says “I Love You Mom” and glue or tape it to the bottom.
  7. Connect the base by sliding one bottom half inside the other, gluing or taping it together.

Reference from Krokotak & BeTheBestNanny.com
Project and Photo from Town + Country Resources

Making a Difference on Earth Day

EarthDayWe all know about Earth Day. We love it, it feels good to participate and it’s a great opportunity to talk with kids & charges about recycling, littering, planting trees and energy conservation.

Did you know that Earth Day was the first modern environmental movement for the U.S.? Think about all of the positive impacts Earth Day has initiated, in just over 40 years! The idea for a national day to focus on the environment came to Earth Day founder Gaylord Nelson after witnessing the consequences of the massive 1969 oil spill of the coast of Santa Barbara, California. This event caused a rare political alignment, enlisting support from Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, business owners and laborers. By the end of 1970, the first Earth Day went global, with 200 million people participating in 141 countries and lifting environmental issues onto the world stage. Today, Earth Day is the largest secular observance in the world, celebrated by more than a billion people every year, and a day of action that changes human behavior and provokes policy changes.

Every little bit of positive change helps. Let’s teach the children in our lives to consciously & deliberately make decisions that benefit the environment every day. The suggestions below are some simple ways that you can minimizing climate change pollution for your household while also saving money on your utility bill. After all, cutting electricity waste means we don’t need to rely on as may fossil fuel-burning power plants, which are America’s largest source of climate-warming carbon dioxide emissions.

  1. Buy LED light bulbs. Why use 60 watts for the everyday light bulb with when an LED light fixture uses 10 watts to produce the same amount of light? And LED lights last many times longer, reducing the need to replace blown incandescents.
  2. Adjust your TV’s settings by turning the Auto Brightness Control on, and Quick Start off. If you have a few extra seconds to wait while your TV turns on, you’ll only use 0.3 watts instead of 20 watts with quick start.
  3. Wash clothes in cold water and use the fastest spin speed available. Now you’ll avoid having to heat the 15 plus gallons of water use per load, and spinning the clothes longer & faster means that they’ll require a lot less time (and energy) in your dryer.

BayAreaEarthDay.org  has an extensive list of Bay Area activities and events on their website.  Check them out!Just type in “Earth Day” and you’ll find enough opportunities to fill your entire day!

Is it Time for a Raise?

blogWe frequently get questions about raises from our Nannies and Clients.

  • “When should I ask for a raise?”
  • “When should we give a raise?”
  • “My family is expecting a new baby next month, what is the rate increase for another baby?”
  • “It’s my Nanny’s work anniversary, what is the standard salary increase?”
  • “I now do full housekeeping for my employers, should I get a raise?”

We always recommend sitting down and talking to one-to-one when a job change has been made. Here’s an industry standard overview of some common situations when it is appropriate to ask for or give a raise.

New baby: The standard salary increase for a new baby is $1.00 per hour. You should offer your Nanny the increase even if it is within your first year of working with one another. Any time a new baby is introduced, a Nanny’s responsibilities will change and increase and additional compensation is warranted.

Anniversary: A Nanny should get an increase in their hourly wage to cover cost of living increases as well as to acknowledge their increased level of experience. A typical raise is $1.00 per hour each year. Similarly, as a Nanny, if your employers have not given you a raise each year you have worked for them, it is totally acceptable that you schedule a time to meet with them and ask for an appropriate salary increase.

When the job responsibilities increase: If your Nanny is doing more for you than was originally decided upon, for example doing full housekeeping or cooking family meals, a standard salary increase is 3% to 5% percent of the Nannie’s annual income. For the most part, Nannies are open to doing more for their employers, though it is important that your Nanny knows her extra work is appreciated.

Bonuses: Bonuses should never be expected. A majority of families will offer a bonus at the end of the year near the holiday season, but they are merit based. They can range from one week’s to one month’s salary. Sometimes the bonus is just a small gift. Bonuses are influenced by how well the Nanny is doing in her job. Families should not feel obligated to offer bonuses, but if you love your Nanny, it is a great way to show her! For Nannies, remember that a bonus is a plus, and one should never be disappointed by the amount received.

What’s Appropriate for the Internet?

3057284Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat … we’re online all the time. Although social media can be a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, your work life should be kept off the internet. When you work inside a family’s home, the list of things you should never put online grows.

Pictures of your charges. While Mom and Dad are away it’s your job to keep their child safe. Posting pictures of your adorable charge for others to “ooh” and “ahh” over might not be okay with them. Background details in photos and give clues as to the kids’ location, items in the family’s home and other personal information that they may not want shared. If the parents have asked you to keep them updated throughout the day with pictures of their cutie, send the photos directly to them, but keep the pictures, stories and kids off of social media.

Big milestone. There’s nothing worse than a parent learning about a big milestone through reading it online in a public or semi-public forum. Let the parents experience the first steps, first words or first solo bike rides before anyone else.

Never post how frustrated you are with your employer or their children. There are few things that can put you among the ranks of the unemployed faster than going online to complain about your job or your employer. Your current employers – as well as potential future employers – will take your comments to heart and may be seen as ungrateful or disloyal.

Curse words or crude memes. You’ve worked hard to build trust and a good working relationship with you employer. One offensive slip and your reputation can be ruined. What may have seemed like a funny post when you were out with friends may look awkward and offensive in the light of day.

Remember, if you wouldn’t want it published on the front page of the New York Times, it’s probably best not to post it online or on your social media.

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