& then the weekend came.

This week has been a lot of this and that, here and there, up and down. And now it’s the weekend! A busy weekend, for sure, but the weekend nonetheless. Have a good one.

heated blankets & watching new girl
shower planning & craft projects
coffee in the car & preschool drop off 
farmers Markets & sunshine
calling caterers & organizing addresses
dreaming & goal setting
helping friends & laughing hard
planning & following through
orange leaves & green grass
being patient & having expectations
hide & seek
ice cream & rummikub
bananas & peanut butter
orange paint & potato stencils
rice & lentils
lead & rubber
wind & sunglasses
music & clarity

plant on shelfrugpostcardshine oncoffee on bookshelfpurple circle

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A Case of the Mondays

We had a really bad case of the Mondays. It was rainy. We were tired; of one another, of being inside, of everything about the day. I wanted to pull my hair out and I didn’t care how bad it would hurt. But I didn’t. Instead I decided to find something we could all do together. Typically when I’m bothered with the little ones I don’t try to take time away, instead I drop everything I have to do or should do and I dive head first into a game or activity with them. I don’t know why, but this always cures me. So I thought and thought, and then I remembered a post from my favorite blog last week. And like magic, our Monday turned right around. Ultimate forts have a way of doing that, you know?

tent fort

As they played I couldn’t help but snap a picture and send it to my mom. There were so many days when me and my siblings would work hard creating our ultimate fort. And our mom always let us keep it for days at a time. It became our home inside our home. We would pull our sleeping bags and flashlights in it, staying up late and sleeping in the next morning. It is a feeling I treasure. Wanting these kids to have that same nostalgic memory, I let them make a mess as big as they wanted inside. They built puzzles, we read stories in crazy voices, they told secrets and even watched a movie. And I still haven’t asked for them to take it down. Why would I? Truth be told, I kind of like it, too.tent tent top

Whats your best cure for Monday’s? And have you made a fort lately? I highly recommend it! They’re not just for kids. And be sure to stop over and check out my favorite blog today.

The Great Box Expiriment

I arrived to little voices chanting, “Da-nelle, Da-nelle, look we got!” Please don’t be another puppy, I thought. And boy was I ever happy to see a large broken box instead of an animal laying in the middle of the living room. Boss Mom looked at me and smiled, “I knew you’d like that.” And she was right. I really did like it! And I couldn’t wait to get started on turning it into something great!

We tossed around a few ideas: a sled, a dog, a person. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to meet their requests. So, we settled on a movie theater and I was imagining something epic! I was in charge of the cutting. They were in charge of the decorating. And when it was all done, we set it up, and they were interested for two minutes. Humf. That was not what I had planned at all. Box Restaurant 3Refusing to give up on the great box, I tried Plan B. This time, I simply turned it around and put their play kitchen behind it. And voila, like that, The magic happened. As an adult I was thinking, this side isn’t even decorated, how can you like it better? But kids don’t see things like that. They see in things in an entirely different dimension. Soon, they forgot that it was a box at all. In their minds they saw a cafe in France where only the finest food was served. And even though je t’aime parler le francais avec les enfants, I was quickly ousted from the game as the four kids took over.  There was no need for me, even with my fantastic french skills, to be involved in this activity. There was wall built between child and adult that I couldn’t break, no matter how hard I tried to be silly. This was an experience they wanted to share with their brothers and sisters alone. Like the dinosaur I once knew, this box transported the kids from reality. And so I sat down and watched and smiled: this is what childhood is about. It isn’t about things, but who we play those things WITH. And it won’t always be like this around here. We are all growing up so quickly. So I let them relish in one another. I let them forget about their chores and their homework. I let them play. I let them be kids. And I didn’t interrupt them. Box Restaurant 2Nannying for a large family is beautiful. I don’t know how else to put it. I love my days here. They couldn’t get rid of me if they tried.

Nanny House Rules

House Rules. We all have them– what are yours?

Around here, I kept rules to a minimum. Mostly I do this because the fewer rules I have, the fewer the kids have to recognize and the higher success rate we have. Hey, I’m all about doing what it takes to keep the peace. No one wants a bunch of clauses and regulations to follow when you’re trying to play.

Here are our house rules:
1. Be kind to others.
And,
2. Be mindful of your actions so as not to hurt yourself or others.

Being kind goes without saying. If I can be an example of anything, I hope it is kindness. And if I can teach kids anything I want it to be that kindness trumps any other personality trait.

This idea of being mindful, however, is a relatively new way for me to explain things to older children. But I have to brag and say, it really works! I explain to the kinds that “being mindful” means you are aware of yourself and your body, as well as your surrounding, including but not limited to animals, things on the floor and people smaller than you. It means that you recognize what you are doing when you are doing it. We should always try to be mindful in everything we do.

It takes a couple of conversations for children to grasp this, but it is definitely a concept they are capable of understanding. Honestly, this word: mindful, has made a major positive effect in the way that kids respond to what I am telling them. Because instead of scolding, “you can’t be that loud! The baby is sleeping!” I now say, “Please be mindful that the baby is sleeping when you’re talking.” In this way, the kids recognize that they can talk, but they need to keep it down. It also teaches them to be in control of their actions, rather than having me micromanage them constantly. Hey, anything that can cut down on nagging is an all around win! Try it and let me know what you think. I hope it works for you as much as it works for me.

Nanny Must Haves

This week’s list of Nanny Must-Haves includes but is not limited to…

1. Coffee.

coffeeI have to feed my morning addiction. Sometimes, I even feed it in the afternoon. And while I know all that caffeine can’t be the best for me, I’m a much better dancer, pretender, chef extraordinaire, basketball player, hide-and-seeker, painter…and so the list goes… when I have my morning coffee.  How two-year old’s don’t consume coffee and have that much energy is beyond me.

2. Bubble Gum. Gum

It’s my best bargaining device ever. With years of experimental proof behind this claim, I can guarantee GUM to give any nanny a sense of peace throughout their day. Going on a long car ride with an unwilling toddler? There’s gum for that! Need to stop at the grocery store a little too close to meal time? There’s gum for that! I’m not saying I believe in bribing children…wait, yes I am. A little sugar-less gum never hurt anyone.

3. Library Card.

Books bW

We have a close, personal relationship with our local librarian. As she says, “when they walk in here, they look like they own place!” To which I tell her, “probably because they do think that!” Their confidence, however, is attributed to the fact that I have been taking the twins to story time since they were one. They are incredibly comfortable there because it is a part of their normal routine. The librarian has even started calling them the President and Vice-President of her Fan Club. When things are rough at home, we load up and head to the library, where some extra hugs from the librarian always recharge our positive attitude levels. Going to story time and connecting with the library has helped to instill a passion for reading at a very young age, as well as increased their self-esteem and social skills. If your little kiddos are looking for something to do, I highly recommend this from one nanny to the other.

4. Creativity.

BW PlaydoughWith each of the families I have worked for, art has always been a priority. I like to craft and create, so naturally, I want my little ones to experience the same pleasure. My philosophy at art time? We all have a right to create, whatever way we choose, but please, don’t paint the furniture.

Growing Imagination

I firmly believe that a child’s ability to imagine sets them apart from adults.

This difference is beautiful and intriguing. And okay, if we’re being honest, sometimes  this difference is hilarious, really hilarious. I mean, aren’t we all enthralled when we watch the little chickadees travel to England on a purple dinosaur to battle eleven flying monkeys by throwing waffles? (you can’t make that up, you just can’t!)

But this difference is also irreversible. And, once a child loses his imagination they in turn lose their innocence. Sadly, however, the ability to imagine is fleeting. So, we must harvest it in our little ones while we can. We must encourage it and embrace it, egg it on more than we think is necessary. We must do everything in our power as caregivers to stretch its growing season as long as we can.

So what do you do to harness your child’s imagination?

When I was living in Georgia, the girls had a dinosaur (*he lived in the backyard and to us adults he bore a strong resemblance to a fallen tree*). Bold and exotic, yet surprisingly friendly he would offer his scaly back for afternoons of climbing and adventure. Together they would ride to unknown lands until dinner was served. The dinosaur was a confidant for the girls. He allowed them to escape reality and challenge their minds. He allowed them to play, and he didn’t ask any questions. He was a welcomed member of the family, a talked about character at the dinner table, a sought refuge on boring afternoons. And years later, he is missed everyday. But more importantly, he is remembered, always.

Picture 304Picture 312Picture 305

I challenge you to look around for your children– to find a dinosaur for your own family. They’re out there, you know? You just have to use the eye of a child to find them.

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.  

 

Growing Toddler Autonomy: Getting Dressed!

Today is a snow day! We didn’t get much snow, but nonetheless it will be nice to have some real conversation throughout the day with the older two kids I watch.  Unfortunately, with a nagging double ear-infection and a body still recovering from influenza I may not be the best of company for them.  But I will put on my positive face (and a little extra make-up) and prepare myself for a good day! In case there are many other nannies out there feeling snowed in themselves, here is something to do with your little ones to buy some time:  MAKE A BOOK! This is an example of one we made the other day. Enjoy! xOxO

There are no things more rewarding than the things we can do by ourselves. I don’t know who said that. Perhaps I just made it up on my own. But regardless of who said what, the truth remains the same: autonomy is empowering. And, if it’s empowering for adults when we create something & can say, “I did that”, why wouldn’t it also be empowering for toddlers to recognize their own accomplishments as well? I have said it before and I will say it a million times again “the most important thing we can give a child is a sense of autonomy”.

And I’m not always talking about big feats. Most of the time I am talking about small things– using a spoon to stir the muffin mix, knowing where to look for crayons, taking care of their blocks and the most challenging task of the day: GETTING DRESSED!

We often forget that someone took the time to show us how to put on our clothes. But it’s true. Someone did. And for the little ones I watch, we have been growing and learning all about clothes & different strategies of getting dressed. We have discovered that tags go in the back for a reason & sometimes our socks can feel funny.  And while all of these lessons sound simple, they are not. It’s lots of trying and lots of patience for everyone!

So, one thing we did a few weeks ago was make a book about getting dressed.
004 I cut out different clothing items. Then I let them each glue the clothes onto the pages.  This was exciting! The twins I watch just love using a glue stick! I explained to them as they went along that we were making a book. This was even more exciting for them now, as we spent hours reading books, but have never made books before!

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Once the pages were done, I wrote the words. I used simple, repetitive language that they could easily remember if they were looking at the book alone, and that would trigger vocabulary the next time we were getting dressed.

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This book lasted about two weeks around the house, which was a pretty good lifespan for two-year olds. Whether or not the book helped, I’m not sure, but it was fun to use the glue stick and read along with together. Why not make something they already enjoy doing into a life skills lesson without their knowing? This nanny is tricky. And isn’t that what learning is all about, the fun we have along the way?