This Nanny Loves::: Snack Kebabs

There have been a lot of table battles over here. The kind of epic proportions where someone goes screaming into timeout and the rest of us pretend like we can’t hear the noise in the kitchen. So when things get tough, I get out my battle swords and stick food on them. For some reason, no one fights the kebab snack. And for whatever reason, I don’t really care, because as long as we’re eating and happy, I’m not going to question it!

Here are some of our favorite afternoon snack kebabs! Am I the only one who does this little trick?  Kabob 1Kabob 3Kabob 2

 

We’re almost through the week. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….

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Just Another Manic Monday…

….But I’m so glad it’s NOT Sunday! Unlike most of working America, I. Love. Mondays.

I love coming in and getting smothered with hugs because I’ve been missed.

I love two little pig tails and a super hero cape.

I love the pile of laundry that gets higher and higher because I don’t want to clean today, I want to play today.

I love looking out the window and hearing, “Da sun is out today!”

I love running up the steps at the playground and back down again before the little ones reach the bottom of the slide.

I love walking by the stream and listening to the flowing of the water and the chirping of birds.

I love throwing sticks into the water during a good game of “Pooh Sticks”.

I love sitting under a tree on our picnic blanket.

I love looking up at squirrels as we talk about what they could be thinking.

I love peaceful naps that follow a busy morning.

I love getting excited about their waking up to do our special Earth Day project!

I love all my days here, not just Mondays.

How is your Monday, friends?

 

 

 

A Party for the Toys

Does your little chickadee have their own chickadee? A doll or a stuffed animal that they just can’t leave behind?

When I lived in Atlanta, the littlest one I watched certainly did. In fact, we were extra blessed because she happened to have twins: Charlie and Shelly. And they were quite the busy pair! Always wanting to eat ice cream and go places, always getting toys out and not taking care of them, always needing us to take extra care of them so they would stay out of trouble. Yes, Charlie and Shelly were quite the handful!

Avery and Shelly at the park

One day, my little chickadee came downstairs and announced that it was Charlie and Shelly’s birthday! And didn’t I feel foolish for not knowing! After all that time together, surely I should have marked it on my calendar.

“Well when is their birthday party?” I asked.

“TODAY!” she told me, “so we had better get to work!”

And so we did!

First, we made a picture list of everything we had to do. (Do you make picture lists with your little ones? They’re pretty simple. It’s just like a regular to-do list, only with pictures of your goals instead of words. This way, anyone can follow it- even the littlest chicks who can’t read. yet)

Next, we made decorations. We called our friends down the street. We made birthday hats. We gave the twins an extra nap so they would be on their best behavior. And then, we got to work making cupcakes, because what is a birthday party without cupcakes!

Avery at Party

It didn’t imagine the whole neighborhood would show up. But everyone did. And everyone had fun! And to this day, it is still one of the best parties I’ve ever been to!

While the Parents are Away, the Nanny Will Stay

After a day spent with little ones, there comes your first moment of silence. It’s blissful. Jubilant,  even. And then you realize that still echoing in your head are the voices of those little chicks. And then you realize, huh- this is kind of boring now that they’re asleep. Because, for as much work as it can sometimes seem, those little chicks totally make your day worthwhile. This past week, I have been doing overnights with the family I work for. It has been crazy & fun, stressful & hilarious, but above anything else: satisfying.

I love the last moments of the night (before you turn off the light and hear screaming). I love the snuggling in the rocker and re-capping our days. I love the extra time to make a connection and feel the love. Really, I do. There aren’t many jobs people enjoy having overtime at, but working as a nanny definitely has that perk.

And while the cats have been away, we mice have sure played. And as my week winds down, I thought I would reflect on things that I have learned and done. 

1. Choices. I’m typically pretty good with giving kids choices, but when parents are away there is a larger tendency for kids to want control. And it makes sense: their lives have been a bit rocked, they may feel like you are attempting to boss them around or “be their parent”, and suddenly this person they are used to seeing leave at 5pm is watching them in their pj’s, watching them wake up, eat breakfast, all of those things they would normally do with their parents and not you.  And honestly it is strange.

I’m the type of person who likes boundaries myself, so when I feel like my boundaries are being encroached on, my defense mechanism is to recoil and take control of everything I can. This is the same feeling a lot of kids have when their parents leave. As a caregiver I have learned the best thing I can do is boost up my Love & Logic in these situations. I am all about choices. I am so about choices that by the end of the week the kids just tell me to decide myself and stop asking. But this is a much better option to be than having them storm to their rooms, fight you and be bitter the entire week, wouldn’t you agree? And hey, I like choices, so why wouldn’t they? 

2. Routine. Thankfully I work in a home that runs like clockwork. It’s sometimes chaotic clockwork, but it’s clockwork nonetheless. This is mostly because the parents  I work for have taught their children how to respect themselves, their caregivers, their house and their time. Yeah, I’m pretty lucky. And a very important note: the children have a pretty normal routine they are comfortable with. They know their expectations. They know the rules. They know the schedule.

It was really important for me to carry on with those expectations, rules and & schedule, even while their parents were away. Yes, it’s fun to be the “cool nanny”, to break the rules and let them veg in front of a TV and not have to communicate with one another (wait, no it’s not!). But more than being fun, kids need to feel normal. I needed to give them the closest thing to normal that they knew so that their separation anxiety wouldn’t intensify.Completely throwing off their routine simply to have fun would have been selfish on my part. Plus, there are always ways to have fun within the rules, you just have be creative. 

3. Recognition. This is definitely the easiest one to to add to the mix. In an odd way to connect this philosophy I think of how I felt the summer Sean was in India. It was terrible. The person I trusted and loved the most was gone. In general it was just very lonely. But, when I would go out and people would pay me the extra mind, I could feel my spirit lift. When friends would send a quick text or note of encouragement my happiness would rise. Positive energy smothers bad feels any day of the week! We have all felt it, so we know it’s true.

So one thing I am sure to do when parents are gone to thicken my compliments. “Wow, thanks for helping with your dishes this morning.”And, “hey, I was watching you in basketball and I noticed you were the only kid who…” Not to mention that I “sent your mom a text about how well you have been getting up in the mornings and how kind you have been”. That last one always knocks it out of the park! Kids LOVE knowing you have been praising them to their parents. It shows them that you went the extra mile to not only notice it, but report back. Often nannies get a rap for only reporting the bad stuff, so reporting the good stuff is a great thing to do! I don’t think it’s always necessary to reward kids for their behavior with gifts. It can definitely help, but in general I think taking the time to pay the compliment sticks with them longer than anything else. 

And the best news of all is that I survived the week! And everyone was happy and smiling, still liking each other and me. So, here’s to the start of fun and relaxing weekend- sans children.  

 

Another Rainy Day Activity: Make Your Own Board Game

When the older kids I watch have a day off from school, one of the first things they ask to do is make a board game.  Of course, I have to agree. 

How it works? Collectively, or alone (depending on how everyone is getting along) I ask them to design a game for me to play with them.  They decide the rules. They decide the layout. They decide the colors and the pieces. They decide EVERYTHING! I sit back and watch it all go on, trying to intervene… never.

How long it takes? This is one of the most time consuming projects I know. Typically every child I have ever done this with stays occupied anywhere from one to four (yes!) hours!

Twists? Sometimes in the summer, we use sidewalk chalk outside to draw a board, then use ourselves as the pieces that move around the board. Don’t forget your sun block!

Materials? This project always leads us to one place: the recycling bin. The kids love making cards, boards, pieces, dice, spinners, you name it! from old homework assignments, boxes, marker caps, etc.  It’s fun to see just how many things they want to upcycle with, rather than use new.

Example: The first time we did this activity we found an old posterboard from last year’s secience project and we completely covered it with duct tape. This was a bit tricky and I offered to help for the beginning stages. Since this first time, however, they have found other ways to make boards without my help.

Here is a board they made the other day…

Make your own board game

Lessons Learned?

#1: It’s best to write down all our directions BEFORE we start playing.  It’s easy to make a few tweeks here & there until it’s perfect, but it’s always best to start with some general guidelines. Also, it’s a great way to start organized, focused and get them to write without realizing it!

#2: Some ideas for our board games are best kept a secret. No one likes when their games turn out exactly the same, afterall.

#3: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Wait, didn’t Thumper say that on Bambi? Either way, it also applies to making board games, too!

#4: Even if we never get a chance to play our games because it takes the whole afternoon and then Mom and Dad come home, that’s okay, too. Most of the fun is creating— and there will always be another afternoon to play!

Rainy Day Crafts for Children

As a nanny of many, many years, I know how hard it is when the weather is poor and everyone is trapped indoors for the day. It’s hard on the kids who have too much energy to be trapped inside and it’s hard on the caregiver, who has to think of ideas to keep them busy and out of trouble.  Luckily I have come up with a box that is filled with rainy day crafts for children that can combat any “I’mmmm boooored” comments that are sure to come your way!

This Christmas, for the family I watched, with a ten year old, eight year old, and twin two-year olds, I put together a box of random items and labeled it “Save It For a Rainy (or Snowy) Day”. After they opened it, the ever-entertaining ten-year old pointed out that it was “the most random box he had ever seen”. Which made us all laugh, because really, he was right. It was random. And it didn’t make much sense in the moment. But the randomness was intentional, and soon he would discover the reason behind his nanny’s madness. But, it would take a rainy day, trapped in the house for them to truly appreciate this box of rainy day crafts for children. Rainy Day Crafts for Children

Included in the box were: markers, pipe cleaners, play dough, paints, paper, muffin mixes, cake mix, popcorn and glue sticks.

Rainy Day Craft Box

Some of the items in the box will complement one another. Some they will use individually. Some will take up a lot of time, while some will only burn a good thirty minutes. But all of it will inspire creativity. And all of it is something they can (mostly) do on their own (minus using the oven). My goal in any gift or activity I give to children is to foster creativity and spur autonomy. As a culture, I believe we do too much for our children. We have, in some cases, taken away their opportunity for original ideas. Personally, I make it a goal to encourage activities that allow children to act independently, because it is in those moments that they begin to form who they are and understand their limits. That is why I so strongly encourage every home to have a rainy day box. Pull it out, see what they can make. Give them an opportunity to show you who just who they are. Children, when allowed to do things independently always have a way of surprising themselves, as well as us.

As our friend the Cat in the Hat taught us: rainy days are not meant to get us down, but inspire us to play!