Home Life in Greenwich, Connecticut

Have you been thinking more and more about moving outside the hustle and bustle of the big city? How does Greenwich, CT sound?

In our final week of talking all things real estate, we partnered up with Margaret Vorder Bruegge and Sharon Kinney, our experts of real estate in the Greenwich, CT area (don’t worry, Bell Family has sitters in Greenwich)! Read below for our Q&A, and then find yourself browsing their listings like I did.

Q: What are some common requests that families make when looking for a home?

A: When looking for a new home, families prioritize neighborhoods, school districts and extra curricular activities available to their children. Greenwich has an abundance of sports, social and education resources for all ages. Parents who work in the city ask about access to the train and highways, and about services that make their lives manageable – references for nannys, dogwalkers and doctors and dentists.

Q: When working with a family to find a new home do they come with a clear idea what they are looking for or do you steer them to a home best suited for family?

A: Today’s buyers are smart and have a list of features that they are looking for in their new home.  They know how many bedrooms and bathrooms they want, they have an idea of what size home and property they desire. When buyers don’t know the town well, we help them pinpoint which of the many areas of Greenwich – each with its own lifestyle – meets their desired location needs, which is information not available on the internet.

Q: What are some tips you give to families looking for a new home?

A: We have each lived in Greenwich for over 30 years and raised our own families here. We share resources about schools – public and private, extracurricular sports programs and the fabulous Greenwich public parks, which include a golf course, three local beaches, marinas, a town pool, paddle and tennis courts and hiking trails.

Q: Life with kiddo’s can get hectic and spare time can be limited.  What are some good ways to go about home searching if someone has little extra time in their day.

A: We make the homebuying experience very efficient by understanding our buyers wants and needs and price range. Together we develop a finely tuned profile of the “perfect” home. We then preview homes on the market on their behalf and call them to see the right one when it becomes available. We can add the most value when our clients trust us to be their eyes, ears and advocates.

Learn more about Margi Vorder Bruegge and Sharon Kinney, and be on your way to calling Greenwich, CT home.

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

 

Tips and Time Savers for Home Buyers

We continue with our real estate topic this week through a Q&A with Mary Kirby, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at Douglas Elliman Real Estate. Learn great tips about home searching, buying, and how to make it a stress free process.

Q:  What are some important rooms for a growing household(s)? 

A:
1. Open concept den, kitchens with an island and stools
2. Bathtub
3. Bedrooms on the same floor
4. Quiet street
5. Close proximity to parks, library, eateries, school

Q: When working with a Buyer with children to find a new home, do they come to you with a clear idea on what they are looking for?

A: Generally they have an idea of specific criteria. We then pass along information to the buyer on finding the ideal town or neighborhood by asking questions such as: private school vs public school, public transportation or dependence on car, commute time to work, budget, forever home vs starter home.

Q: What are some tips you give to Buyers with children looking for a new home? 

A: Get to know the neighborhoods. Go out to lunch, stop in the stores, and visit playgrounds to get a feel of the different neighborhood vibes. A lot of times, prospective buyers end up in a completely different neighborhood than they had originally shown interest in.

Q: Life with kiddos can get hectic and spare time can be limited. What are some good ways to go about home searching if someone has little extra time in their day?

A: Finding and trusting a local market expert realtor is key. In such a fast paced market, we typically preview potential homes for our clients, face-time/take videos, send weekly updates on open houses, new listings etc. Once you have chosen your ideal neighborhoods, you should dedicate about two months towards searching for that perfect home. It is also important to be pre-approved by a mortgage lender prior to searching, so you are ready to submit an offer.

To work with Mary and the Douglas Team, click here for more information.

Mary Kirby

 

Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Realtor Brings Home-Buying Tips to Families

We recently partnered with Joe Quiros, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson at Compass Real Estate and Co-Founder of The Joe + Kelly Team, to learn more about the home-buying process, and to share tips with families who are out hunting for their next home.

Q: What are some common special requests that family’s make when looking for a home?

A: The most common request is, and always will be, school district. The NYC school system is intricate and presents many challenges, and while some parents will choose to send their children to private school for middle and high school, a great public school for the K-5 years is always highly desirable. Our advice for parents with children is to really do their homework on what school districts they would be happy to live in, and then focusing on properties in those areas. Homes in great school districts can demand a premium, and we want to avoid situations where clients are comparing properties in lesser school districts, conceivably getting more value, but being disappointed in the options that they would actually be comfortable living in.

Q: When working with a family to find a new home, do they come to you with a clear idea on what they are looking for, or do you help steer them towards a home best fit for families? 

A: We always coach our clients that it’s a process of elimination, not a process of selection, and in order to go through that process, it’s best to keep your search as broad as possible in the beginning and then whittle it down as you see more homes. We’ve had clients who completely gut renovate and design their homes to the inch, and even then, there are things they wish they had done differently. So the idea of a ‘perfect home’ doesn’t really exist at any price point. With that, while every client should have their wish list, it’s important to figure out what items on that wish list are most important, and which can be compromised on a bit and the only way to figure that out is by going out and seeing properties. While we’re there to guide and advise against making a bad investment, to point things out that they may not have noticed, and to make sure they’re not missing anything on the market, ultimately the client is the only person who can figure out what’s most important to them and their family.

Q: What are some tips you give to families looking for a new home?

A: One of the things that we always remind our clients is that real estate mirrors life. Marriage and having children are two of the biggest changes in anyone’s life, and making sure that you have a home that you can grow into is vital. While no one can truly predict the market, typically, if you hold an asset for several years, it’s going to appreciate and end up being a great investment. So, one of the things we try to coach our clients on is making sure, to the best of their abilities, that the home will be a place they can grow into and that matches their life plans. That way, they can live there long enough to allow it to appreciate, while being happy and comfortable while they’re there. Aside from that, having a doorman can be great for older children who are traveling to and from school alone; A children’s playroom is a great opportunity to meet other parents of young children within your building; And having local parks makes it easy to get the kids outside and get some of that energy out!

Q: Life with kiddos can get hectic and spare time can be limited. What are some good ways to go about home searching if someone has little extra time in their day?

A: Being prepared as best as possible is one of, if not the most important things for any serious buyer. If they’re taking out a mortgage, the first step is always to get pre-approved by a bank. Pre-approvals are different that pre-qualifications, as a pre-approval takes more time and documentation, but holds more weight when understanding what your purchasing power is and when putting in an offer. Once that’s done, having an open and constant dialogue about what properties you like to see is vital for efficiency. One of the tools the Compass offers called ‘Collections’ allows us to communicate specific properties in real time and is almost like a Pinterest of Real Estate. It’s a great tool for keeping organized and staying focused on which properties you’ve seen, which properties you want to see, and which properties you’re not, or no longer interested in and is so much more efficient than the dozens of email threads that typically are the case when searching for a home. Using that spare time to go through the properties on Collections can take as little as five minutes and once you’ve accumulated an adequate list, it’s a matter of us scheduling as many of those properties within that block of time as possible.

To learn more about The Joe + Kelly Team, click here.

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Ways Your Organization Can Help Support Working Parents

A great article, as originally published by Harvard Business Review, shares ways on how the workplace can support working parents and help offer what employees everywhere search for; a work-life balance. 

Below are a handful of approaches pulled from the full article that are said to be some of the most effective in getting results.

  1. Start with the facts: Before launching any support programs for working parents, gather the relevant data: Where do parents sit within the organization? What are their attrition patterns? What information can you gather from annual performance reviews or culture-survey data — or simply from informal conversations?
  2. Define the demographic: Most companies concentrate their efforts on “visible working parents” — e.g., new biological mothers — focusing all programming on lactation rooms and other relevant supports. While these are positive, laudable steps, they address the problem too narrowly. Working parenthood is an 18-year job, and it is done by both men and women, biological and adoptive, gay and straight, in all kinds of family structures. Aligning your organization’s programs to this reality better targets the issue.
  3. Acknowledge and foster peer-to-peer learning: Providing basic guidance, even simple talking points, to these internal “peer coaches” enables them to deliver the right messages when it matters.
  4. Become a market maker: Leverage your organization’s existing infrastructure to connect working parents and to make practical aspects of parenting easier. Goldman Sachs’s “Help at Home” intranet bulletin board allows any employee to trade tips and leads on child care.
  5. Focus the resources you do have on key transition points: Coming back from leave, welcoming a second or third child, or accepting a change in role or schedule are just a few of the transition points that can derail or strain the most competent working parent employee. That’s why concentrating benefits and programming on these critical points can yield significant return on investment.

 

Read up on the few additional ways your organization can help support working parents, by reading the full article here.

The Best Baby Shower Gift

As a woman, it’s inevitable that you will host, attend, or somehow be apart of a baby shower in your lifetime. There’s often the usual suspects when it comes to gifts: diapers, clothes, stroller, bassinet. The same old gifts can become rather dull, and if you’re anything like me, you kind of want to pick out those things yourself. That’s part of the fun, right?

What if we told you that we have the new and improved best baby shower gift? After talking to local expecting moms about what is on their baby shower registry, we found that it’s not your typical ask. No more monogrammed blankets or boxes of diapers, what moms really want as a gift is childcare relief!

Moms are asking for funds to go towards babysitters, nannies, and baby or night nurses. Think of it as a GoFundMe for all things childcare.

Of course the Bell Family team fully supports this idea! If you’re looking to be apart of this one-of-a-kind gift, contact us. We can make all arrangements for your friend or family member – no stress! You can purchase a gift card, buy babysitting hours, or put money towards the mom’s future childcare provider. Email us at info@bellfamilycompany.com for more information.

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

A Story About the Evolving Nursery

It was verging on wintertime in Ohio, and my husband and I were in the process of building a new home. The home buying process is a full-time worry within itself, but what added an interesting twist was the fact that I was six months pregnant … with my fifth child. Talk about an exciting time in the Bell household!

Since we were building the home from scratch, we had a lot of decisions to make. My husband focused on all of the practicalities (of course), while I was deep into the interior design and how I wanted all of the rooms to look. The time came around to when we needed to decide how the fifth bedroom should look, and given that my new bundle was soon to arrive, the room was dedicated to become the nursery.

The nursery was brightly decorated in pink bunny wallpaper with pink accents to match – a perfect color for a baby girl’s room. The room would stay designed this way for a handful of years, and then the bunnies turned into flowers as the baby grew.

About five years later, my oldest daughter was off to college and the room arrangements changed a bit. After she left, an opening for that special pink room occurred, and my brain churned with all of the ideas of what the room could become. I landed on transforming the what will always be called “the baby room” in our house into a guest room.

With the shift into a guest room, the walls found a change in color and went from pink to gender neutral. The floors were changed from carpet to wood, and the little tike bed graduated into an adult size one. Next, it was so long to the toy box and pink girly accents, and hello to a night stand and decor that didn’t involve Spongebob Squarepants.

Several years later when the first child became a mother, the guest room made its way back into a nursery. It was this same time when I wished I had kept some of the items from my own children’s nursery from back in the day. The adult size bed shrunk back into a crib again, and out went the night stand and back came the toy box and baby accents. The bedroom went through a complete 360 – I always favored it as a nursery anyway.

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Written by our Recruiting and Retention Coordinator, Christine Bell

Ask Dr. Jen … We Did!

We recently had the opportunity to partner with Pediatrician Jen Trachtenberg, MD, to get some of our Pediatrician questions answered and to learn more about her latest ventures, which include great tools for parents!

Take a read through our Q&A below, and then visit her website to learn more. You’ll soon find that you are on your way to a more comfortable and confident parenting experience (it exists!).

Q: Finding the right Pediatrician can be a big decision for new parents. How early would you suggest new moms and dads to find one? And what are some good questions for parents to ask the Pediatrician when trying to decide if he/she is a good  fit?

A: Finding the right pediatrician for your family is an important task because having a physician that makes you feel confident as well as comfortable asking questions to, is essential to getting the best care possible for your baby. I recommend starting early – in the last trimester of pregnancy – to begin finding a pediatrician. Ask family and friends, as well as your OB/Gyn for recommendations. You can easily search the doctor’s credentials on the internet, but I highly recommend going for a “meet and greet” or prenatal appointment in their office so you can ask questions directly and see how the office operates. You can also come a bit early and speak with other parents in the waiting room for their opinions as well. Make sure to bring a list and ask your questions to the doctor. Here are a few important ones:

  • - Are they board certified and continue with ongoing medical education?
  • - Will the pediatrician see the newborn in the hospital?
  • - What are the office hours and who do I contact in case of an evening emergency?
  • - Do you use email or phone to return messages?
  • - What are your views on vaccines and breast and formula feeding?

Listen for how the doctor responds and see if you feel you have a connection, and your questions are answered adequately. As a new parent, there are no silly questions, just ones you need the answers to. By finding a pediatrician who listens and understands your concerns and fears as new parents, you can ensure safety and better health and wellness for your new bundle of joy.

Q: You have two published books on the shelf, 1) The Smart Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids through Check Ups, Illnesses and Accidents and 2) Good Kids, Bad Habits: The RealAge Guide to Raising Healthy Children. What can readers expect to learn in each of these books. 

A: I have written two parenting books to help decrease parents’ fears and anxiety that often comes with raising a child. By giving easy to understand information, it helps to build healthy habits and also empowers parents to advocate for their child’s health. Good Kids Bad Habits: The Real Age Guide to Raising Healthy Children, breaks down habits into small easy steps and demonstrates how making even a few changes in nutrition, exercise, stress, and safety can have a huge positive impact on your child’s long term health and wellness. My second book, The Smart Parent’s Guide to Getting Your Kids through Checkups, Illnesses and Accidents, is all about empowering parents to speak up and how to get the information you need to make the right decisions regarding your child’s health in the ER, during a hospital stay or dealing with a routine well visit.

Q: You provide a great video series called, Pediatrician in Your Pocket, offering parents a one-stop learning experience on all things childcare. What are some essential items new parents will takeaway from these videos, and how can people access them to view? 

A: My latest venture is my new comprehensive video guide manual Pediatrician in Your Pocket for parents that gives you all the answers you need about caring for your baby from newborn through age 2 years. It’s the only science based, mom tested, no judgement video guide for new parents.  The ultimate video cheat sheet, stacked with information new parents need to feel more confident during their first parenting journey. The bite size five minute videos are comprehensive, reassuring and easy to understand, and available to you 24/7 whenever you have a question or need answers. I am a virtual doctor-on-demand, delivering medical tips backed up by the American Academy of Pediatrics. I discuss sleeping, eating, peeing, pooping, vaccines, common illness, developmental milestones, what to do for fever, baby proofing, temper tantrums and so much more. When you know the answer to your question, it’s as simple as one click and a video clip. New parents can take a deep breath and know someone has their back any time day or night.

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Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Time to Exercise the Brain With Brain Gym®

It can be easy to overlook, but keeping your brain healthy and active is an important part of maintaining your best self.

We partnered up with Mari Miyoshi, Occupational Therapist and licensed Consultant/Teacher at Brain Gym, to learn more about the importance of keeping your mind active. Read through our Q&A below, and then checkout their website to learn more!

Q: A focus on what you do is through the original 26 Brain Gym movements (“The 26″). What are these activities and how do they improve or focus on mental health? 

A: Actually, the 26 movements are only a small part of the larger Brain Gym/Educational Kinesiology program. The movements draw from many other fields, such as developmental optometry, Feldenkreis, Alexander technique, sensory integration, athletics, and more to create simple movements that reorganize the way the brain works. As powerful as the movements are, they are only like the tip of the iceberg.

Each of the 26 movements can be used a la carte to address a myriad of challenges from difficulty writing, reading, focusing, and learning. But the larger field of Brain Gym or Educational Kinesiology consists of brain balancing processes during which the client sets a particular goal around a challenging task and the practitioner looks at the way the client moves, works, holds tension in the body, or has habitual movement and thought patterns and then uses brain gym and reflex integration in order to re-organize the brain. You will often see kids make incredible changes in one or two sessions that they may take six months of a regular therapy program to achieve.

Q: What can new comers expect to learn in your courses? And how do they sign up to join Brain Gym? 

A: One of the most important parts of brain gym is a process called noticing. It is in alignment with the principles of mindfulness that often is part of yoga and meditation. Basically when a person tunes into the present moment, they are activating the part of the brain that is responsible for decision making and executive functioning. Executive functioning is a part of the brain that thinks and makes new choices and allows an individual to exercise these skills which are uniquely human. New comers can expect to learn how to notice in more specific ways than one usually does in daily life. There will be movements that are taught as a way to see how the brain is communicating inside itself and in doing so, you can learn to see what is going on in your own brain when you are experiencing stress. The participants will also learn the 26 movements and with these new noticing skills start to learn how to apply the movements to help their own brain communicate better inside itself. I think most people want to understand why they think, move, and do the things they do, especially if they are not productive, and want to have something that is effective and easy to change it. The thing that is lovely about brain gym is that it is not a cookie cutter and prescriptive way of working with a person’s brain and behavior. By learning to move and notice in this specific way, the person can learn exactly what their own unique brain and body need and start to do that to change their own lives.

People who are interested can sign up through the eventbrite link on the events page of the website or by emailing me to ask for a hard copy of a registration form.

Q: Tell us about the different types of sessions/classes you offer. Are these classes for people of all ages? 

A: The sessions are for all ages. Due to the level of focus and attention that is available, younger children who need to be accompanied by an adult usually takes a one hour session. These sessions will consist of both working hands on with the child and also educating and modeling the movements for the parents (or caregiver) so that it can be carried over into their daily life. The teen/young adult sessions are an hour and a half, and also include hands on work as well as education around their goal and specific movements that help unlock their brain. The goal is to make a movement menu that is specifically helpful to each individual that they grow over time.

All sessions can consist of many things, and can look different each time. There can be talking and education around brain development and where the challenge that they are working on is causing a “breakdown” in the brain. There can also be coaching, hands on work that help facilitate brain development. I also have training in other modalities such as reiki and craniosacral therapy, and I bring those aspects into the session if the client’s body tests that it needs that kind of work. In all cases the sessions are lead by the client’s brain and body and exactly what is needed in the moment.

At this time, classes are usually for professionals who work with clients of all ages as well as parents and educators who want to help their kids. Adults who are also looking to reduce stress in their own brain and body and want to use brain gym to learn a new skill (such as learning a new language, dance, martial art, meeting deadlines, stress management, etc.) are also encouraged to attend. No experience with brain gym is necessary and I offer many formats for exposure to brain gym. There can be a two hour mini intro, one day intro as well as the official three day workshop.

Q: What motivated or inspired you to start Brain Gym? 

A: I learned about brain gym from one of my therapy supervisors who suggested I start using it with my caseload of kids to help them relax and get the most out of the sessions. I started using it as a warm up for all my sessions and noticed that the kids were calmer and more focused. Also, because I did the movements with my kids, I noticed that I was more calm and organized. Then I started to use these movements with my caseload of kids I had in the public schools. I did not know any theory but I could see a change and it felt good. After about a year, I tested one of my kids’ visual skills and he had jumped in ability from below average to the high end of average! That was a 40 point increase in a standardized test for visual skills. When I checked my therapy notes from the previous year to this current year, the only difference in the activities was the five minutes of brain gym I was doing at the start of this particular student’s session ONCE A WEEK! After I saw the change in this particular 4th grader, I decided to go take a class and asked my teacher about this result and she told me these kinds of things happened all the time. On a side note (but very much related) during this whole time I was doing brain gym myself with the kids, not for myself but so that the kids feel supported when they were doing the movements, so I was doing brain gym 6-7 times a day with each new child I had for a session. I started to leave work 1-1.5 hours earlier than usual and my paperwork and time management skills improved. I didn’t initially put it together but I realized after I saw this child improve that it may be the movements that I was doing everyday!

So I took the class and learned more and started doing it a lot and have seen amazing changes both in myself and in clients of all ages. I started learning this process in 2002 and became an instructor in 2004. I have been teaching classes and working with students and using brain gym in some form, either for myself or someone else (often both) everyday!

It is like the gift that keeps giving and getting more interesting with each passing day and each new unique brain and body sessions that I get to be a part of.

Mari Miyoshi

Written by our Marketing & Social Media Consultant, Taylor Bell

Family Fun Grows in the Garden

Gardening is an activity that families can enjoy doing together. It serves as a good way to bond, exercise, and learn about different kinds of plants. Not only that, it’s increasingly important to get kids to experience as much of the outdoors as they can, and one fantastic way to do that is to get them interested in gardening. Introducing them to growing their own flowers, herbs, and vegetables can help instill curiosity, empathy, and a nurturing instinct that is essential for a person to have.

However, it is difficult to find the time or the space to garden in an urban environment. The common lack of a garden, for starters, poses a basic problem that can seem hard to get around for this particular outdoor activity. However, there are plenty of ways to still get children interested in growing plants!

A great place to start is a potted plant inside the apartment. This can be an herb or a small flowering plant, or even sprouts! A child’s wonder at seeing their plant grow isn’t affected by the size of the plant or the scale of their gardens, but by the mere fact that they made this plant grow and change. Herbs and sprouts make wonderful potted plants, because they tend to be fast-growing and easy to take care of.

The natural progression from this may seem to be hoarding a ton of potted plants, but it doesn’t have to be. Try finding a community garden in the area! These are becoming popular in urban spaces, and can be a great way to expand your “garden”. It could even be the beginning of your child’s very own vegetable patch!

Personal Creations has put together a detailed guide that features what you can (and should) plant, and what to avoid when gardening with children. It even includes a list of kids’ gardening tools, and how to go about maintaining your garden. So grab those gloves, get a watering can, and get started!

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Special thanks to Katie Santos and Personal Creations for writing and partnering with us for this post!

Smooth Sailing Into Summertime

The transition to summertime can feel a little precarious for children and grown-ups alike. Schedules and routines may change. Caregivers and environments may be different. Familiarity may be less available. What to do?

The first step is get yourself comfortable with what’s to come. Solidify a plan, ask questions of new caregivers, reflect upon successful transitions from the past. Then support your child. I often recommend that parents, depending on their child’s age and need, use one (or a few) of the following:

  • Write a social story. This can be 4-6 pages (or so) and describes, in child-friendly language, what is ending and what is beginning. Talk about the emotions a child may be experiencing and mention the “tools” that child has for managing those emotions. Use photographs if you can to show the child in each step. For younger children, I write the story. For older children, I try to engage them in the story telling, or include fill-in-the-blank sections for them to add. There are many social stories available online as well.
  • Use a calendar. Some children love to have a calendar at their eye level that they can check from time to time. One week may show a small picture (photo or drawing) that depicts them and friends from school. The next might show the logo from the camp they are attending. You could also include photos of grandma and grandpa, or friends you may be visiting. Try to strike a balance between giving a general sense of where they are going to be and when, with giving too many details that can inhibit flexibility.
  • Write out the sequence. For many children, simply writing down what is going to happen on a piece of paper can be incredibly supportive. Recently, I used this strategy with a client who seemed to be showing some increased anxiety. Though no one was quite sure what it was about. It turned out, he had been feeling sad about leaving his current teachers but was also concerned that he would be on a bus to camp without any grown-ups. Writing down the sequence of events opened a discussion during which I explained what a counselor was and the fact that they would be on the bus.

I find that supporting transitions is helpful for all children (and most grownups too). Even when we don’t see external signs of anxiety related to transitions, children may be wondering what’s to come. Let me know how it goes!

As always, a friendly reminder that you don’t have to do it alone! Whether you have concerns about developmental delays or you’re going through some bumps you’d like to smooth out. If I can help you accomplish the goals you have for yourself and your family, please reach out. You deserve to feel competent, joyful, and EMPOWERED, when you are with your children. They should feel self-confident and have the opportunity to reach their fullest potential. I can help you do that!

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This blog has been repurposed from the Dana’s Kids website. To learn more about the writer, Dana Rosenbloom M.S. Ed., click here.