New Kids on the Block: CityTot

CityTot is a new resource on early childhood classes and learning for NYC parents of young children. It was started by two local moms who know how difficult it can be to navigate the who, what, when, where and why of kids’ classes in the city. CityTot launched in December 2014 to significant interest from both parents and class providers alike. They are focusing on providing research, supporting class reviews, and fostering relationships among parents with children between the ages of 0-5. The site’s target audience is prenatal through preschool, and they are developing to be a one-stop shop for all things early childhood education.

1422161383247

One of their coolest features is a search engine for age appropriate classes for your kids under 5 – only they have an in depth filter system that makes it super user friendly.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 7.57.13 AM

CityTot just hosted their official launch party last night, where guests mixed & mingled with parents and providers. We’re so excited to see this new company grow! Check them out!

WWW – Child Car Safety

Recently, on a shopping trip, I approached a fellow mom. Her completely adorable infant was buckled into a bucket style carseat which was perched precariously atop the store’s shopping cart. I complimented her baby and then gently informed her that those seats are not made to be on top of the cart; it causes a top-heavy situation which makes the cart prone to tipping, and could even damage the locking mechanism made to keep the seat safely secured to the base your car.

She snapped at me to mind my own business before continuing on down the aisle.

I get it. We, all of us moms, are trying our very best. We are taking in all of the research and making decisions that work for our families, and very resentful of unwanted advice and perceived judgment. 

I was not always a CPST. I did not always use best practices with my car seats. I didn’t know! Every day, I am learning more, and I, like you, am just trying to do my best. This is a picture of my son at four months old, and while he is adorable, this is practically an advertisement of what NOT to do. Dangerous aftermarket car seat insert? Check. Overly bulky coat affecting the harness fit? Check. Too low placement of the chest clip? Check. I don’t remember a specific instance of putting his seat on the top of a shopping cart, but I probably did.

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.45.54 AM

I am so, so lucky that we were never in an accident that could have proven my errors to be fatal. So please, don’t be mad if I stop you and critique your car seat – you never know if you might not be so lucky.

Here are few car seat tips to keep everyone safe:

Most of the car seat accessories in the big box stores are not recommended, or even illegal. 

The sleeping bag style car seat inserts, neck pillows, and fluffy shoulder strap covers are not crash tested with your seat, and may alter how it works in a collision. If it did not come in the box with your seat, use extreme caution before using it. Check your manual – use of these aftermarket items is forbidden and can void your warranty.  Additionally, many states have a “proper use” clause in their child restraint laws, and going against the manual would actually be illegal.

 

State laws are minimums, and do not reflect best practices.

Just because something is legal, does not make it the safest. Most states allow for turning your child to forward facing at one year and 20 pounds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until at least 2 years, or until your child outgrows the limits of his seat. Best practices is for children to ride rear facing until age 3-4, forward facing with a 5 point harness until age 5-6, in a booster until age 10-12, and in the back seat until age 13.

 

Get your seat checked by a certified Child Passenger Safety Tech. 

Car collisions are the leading cause of death for children up to age 13 in the United States, and up to 85% of child restraints show critical misuses. An improperly used car seat can actually be MORE dangerous than not using one at all – CPSTs are trained in the various types of car seats and safe installation, and checks are often free. Find a tech near you here: http://cert.safekids.org/find-tech-0  Remember that car seat safety does not end when your child graduates to the next stage. The misuse in boosters is higher even than for newborn seats!

 

Read your manuals – for the car seat AND for your vehicle.

Make sure you are getting the safest possible installation every time! Your vehicle manual will tell you which seating positions allow for child restraints, where the LATCH and tether anchors are located, and anything you need to be aware of for the air bag system. Your car seat manual will tell you when the seat is outgrown, weight limits for use with the LATCH system, and how to properly use the seat. Car seats are not accessories; they are critical pieces of safety gear – make sure you are using them properly!

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 7.46.29 AM

 

-Sarah Ludwig is a former teacher and mom of two. She is a childbirth educator, doula, baby wearing educator, and child passenger safety tech; she is also on the Westchester Safe Kids Advisory Board. You can also find Sarah on her own family blog, lovetheludwigs.com.

The Wedding Sitter

It may be cold outside, but we’re looking ahead to wedding season! Did you know that BFC offers wedding sitters and kid zones for your big day?

BFC can help whether you need an extra set of hands, confident door greeters, or need us to fully develop a Bell Family Kid Zone. We can assist to ensure your wedding goes smoothly. Our caregivers are extremely professional, and are comfortable playing with kiddies in event t-shirts or black tie attire.

Mom and Ava Wedding

Our Kid Zones are a custom made, interactive kid-only area designed to plug into your family friendly function. Bell Family designs a one of a kind pop-up play center fully equipped with activity stations that engage and empower your guest’s child, arts and crafts corners to further inspire even the most creative minds, princess, safari and fairy land entertainers that will light up their lil’ eyes, movie night when its wind down time and more!

Additionally, our dedicated sitters can tackle any event issue that may arise; we carefully lead a check-in/check-out station, provide custom take home gift bags and provide a level of exclusive service that will wow you and your guests. Our Bell Family Kid Zone is designed to help make your special day an even bigger success!

The Bell Family sitters & staff were such a relief during my wedding. I had sitters at our hotel caring for the lil’ ones & staff to help onsite with my photographer. It really brought me peace of mind on my big day having trusted women there to take care of anything I needed- Jessica, recent bride NYC

Check out more information on how we can transform your event with a Kid Zone or wedding staffers on our website or email us at Info@BellFamilyCompany.com

WWW – Returning to Work After Baby

New Parent? Thinking about returning to work?

The decision to return to your career part or full-time is one that can be beneficial to both you and your family.  Many women struggle to “have it all” and balance work and family life simultaneously.  While many are aware of the sacrifices working mothers and their families must make, there are a lot of benefits too.  After reading Lynn Berger’s book “How to Land, Create, or Negotiate the Part-Time Job of Your Dreams” I’ve outlined some important points she made below:

Ms. Berger is an experienced career coach and counselor

Ms. Berger is an experienced career coach and counselor

The Benefits of Returning to Work:

  • -It will keep your skill level/resume current
  • -It will be much easier to switch to full-time later if you have already been working
  • -Extra income for your family
  • -Social interaction and validation outside of your home
  • -Studies have shown a positive association between the number of roles a woman occupies and her psychological well-being- if one role is overwhelming, you may feel successful in another area of your life
  • -Feelings of self-worth and accomplishment- may help improve spousal relationships
  • -Positive role model for your children- they see their parent as successful/hardworking

How to Make it Work for Your Family:

  • -Consult your spouse and work out a family budget- outline what your salary will be, how much time you will allot for childcare, etc.
  • -Make sure your career options match your current priorities- you want to be at a job you feel benefits you, and is worth giving up family time
  • -Be diligent in searching for the right job with the right benefits for you and your family
  • -Communicate with your partner about any concerns they may have in your returning to the workforce
  • -Prepare for a shift in responsibilities in your home- you may need to divide home/childcare differently
  • -Take quality time-even if you are not spending as much time with your children, make sure when you are with them you are focused on them
  • -Lower your expectations- understand that your family will have to make adjustments with a busier schedule.  You may not be able to go to everything

Find the Right Nanny

Ms. Berger does a great job of presenting options and offering support to parents making the leap. BFC is here to also support you and your family in this transition. There is no need to feel guilt about returning to work when you know your child(ren) are left with a quality caregiver that can provide for all of your family’s needs.  Our nannies are available part and full-time and in addition to childcare can provide light housekeeping, cooking and laundry.

-Lindsey Garibaldi is our in-house operations intern and full time student at Fordham University majoring in communications. In her free time she loves spending time with family, friends & children.

BFL – Presidents’ Day in the City

Most NYC schools have off Presidents’ Day, along with post offices, major banks, and many government agencies.

Presidents-Day-history

Take advantage of the day off and explore the city with these cool activities:

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 7.39.36 AM

 

BFC – Adventure in Gettysburg

I took a weekend getaway with my husband to Gettysburg. Talk about a taking a trip back in time. We stayed at The Swope Manor, which is one of the oldest homes in Gettysburg. They have a few different room sizes, some big enough to fit a family of 4 or 5.

Swope Manor

 

We also took a tour of the Eisenhower property while we were there, a huge farm just south of the town that has been preserved since it was last inhabited in the 1960’s. There is a car tour where you can drive on your own throughout the property. You are given a map & drive from point A to B & read off the significance of the area. For kids, you can pass along the map & take turns reading to the family. They also offer kid-specific tours through the park service.

eisenhower map

There are a lot of adorable bakeries and lunch spots in the area that are family friendly with high chairs and kid friendly menus. For dinner with went to the Dobbin House, which was my favorite part of the trip. They had one of those old huge fire places (the kind you imagine Santa coming down) with a big burning fire. Don’t let the kids near, but it is a sight to see & sure keeps that old house warm.

-Lindsay

 

WWW -Just Do It

Now that the holidays are behind us, I’ve had some time to reflect upon coping with the juggle of increased social commitments, shopping, and travel.  Though it was hard and I was often sleep deprived, I am happy I pushed myself to finish the holiday projects.  In the end, I was happy to create memories with Kermit.

kermit

Timing of the holiday demands was not ideal.  Kermit started solid feeds right before Thanksgiving and so did his teething.  He would not tolerate anything near his gums and went on a hunger strike from Thanksgiving to Christmas, resulting in a decrease in his growth development and a stern talk from the pediatrician to double his milk volume and increase solid feeds to three times daily.  In her exact words, “make a valiant effort.”

I attempted to feed him every 2-3 hours throughout the day and night.  Kermit was not happy with the early morning feeds because he would always rather sleep.  At one point, to my dog’s dismay, he learned that screaming his high pitch cries was most effective.  During this time, Kermit was evaluated for the Early Intervention Program in New York which comprised of a series of 3 scheduled meetings with a service coordinator, developmental and occupational therapist, and a physical therapist.  On top of these activities, I needed to plan a 3 month move to the west coast and pack up our New York home by early January.  When time was a valuable commodity, I found myself wishing there were more hours in the day.

To accommodate all the meetings and holiday dinners, I learned to schedule Kermit’s meetings (doctor’s visits, evaluations, and play visits) in the morning.  Social dinners were scheduled early so I could return home to Kermit and administer his feeds when he was more amenable to eat.  Solid feedings were given routinely after he woke up and diligently every 3-4 hours afterwards.  All shopping, holiday gifts and grocery, was done online.  Organizing and packing was completed when everybody else in the house slept.

I remember making the conscious decision sometime in early December to forego the Christmas tree and holiday cards.  I was too exhausted.  I thought I was at peace with this decision but was haunted by the nagging thought, “Kermit’s First Christmas.”  The voice in my head got louder and louder every time I went to the mailbox filled with holiday cards or opened my email and received discounts from online card makers.

By mid- December,  I resolved to pull a few all-nighters to get what needed to be done.  I kept telling myself, “I can do this.”   The holiday card including a series of 12 photos was completed in one night and it took another 3 nights of compiling everybody’s current addresses.  Decorations were purchased online.  I broke my personal vow not to pay for express shipping.  Thank goodness I did or else everybody would have received a card in mid January instead of December 26.

It makes me smile when I go to a friend’s house/ apartment and see our card hanging on their wall or when we receive compliments from our friends.  I feel like our card served as a conversation starter among our peripheral friends, too.  It was so nice to catch up with them.  Mostly, I am so glad I have something to show Kermit when he gets older.

A little bit of effort goes a long way.

-Jeanne Oh 

BFL – Bradley Wisk

We sat down with Bradley Wisk, a vocal consultant offering services throughout the nation and via Skype for students of all ages and abilities.

2711FC26-2F0B-4DA8-9045-E864A9BBB2F3.full (1)

Q: How did you get your start in music?
A: I was in my senior year of high school and needed an extra credit. My advisor suggested I take choir. At that point, I decided to audition nationally for undergrad, thus starting my life in music.

Q: What kind of experience do you have?
A: I have my undergrad in music from Indiana University and my Master’s of Music from Manhattan School of Music. I have studied with the top vocal teachers in the country and have had the opportunity to perform in various venues all over the world. I’ve performed for tens of thousands of people as well as for small, intimate productions. I also have experience with professional studio work, live television, and reality tv.

Q: What style of music do you find your students are most interested in?
A: Because each student has their own unique interest, I provide vocal guidance for multiple genres of music. However, I do believe that vocal technique comes from a classical foundation.

Q: What does a typical session look like?
A: I first focus on breathing techniques, which helps to calm and relax the student. Then we move to a series of vocal exercises to gain flexibility and range. We work through their repertoire, focusing on difficult and problematic areas. We also talk through their personal performance goals and make a plan to achieve them.

Q: How do you help your students get over any insecurities about their vocals?
A: I tell my students that they must trust what they’ve prepared, and that in the moment, they must let it all go. Through their hard work and technique, success will come.

Q: What does it feel like to see a student have a breakthrough moment?
A: It’s thrilling for me as an instructor, but what’s more important is watching the students reaction as they have their own “ah-ha” moment.

Q: Anything else you want us to know?
A: What’s amazing about teaching, is truly understanding the learning experience and knowing that the experience is never over.

Want to learn more? Visit Bradley’s website or shoot him a quick email!

BFF – When to Give Your Nanny a Raise?

There are so  many factors that go into setting a nanny salary, and each nanny/family pair is truly different.  However, we’ve compiled some industry standards to help you make your decision.

Nannies are an integral part of your family’s life. A great time to discuss raises is during your nanny’s yearly review, when you get the chance to talk about any changes, feedback as well as rewarding your nanny for her hard work.

Mary Poppins

Generally speaking, most families reward their nannies with a raise each year. Your nanny may seem like a member of the family, but remember she is also a professional. Typically, a recommended salary increase is the rate of inflation plus anywhere from 0-3% depending on performance. If your nanny is now taking care of an extra baby, a pet, or changed her list of duties, make sure to take that into consideration as well.

brandybunch

Another good time to discuss a raise is if your nanny received additional education or certifications from her initial hire. This will make her more attractive to other families and more valuable to yours, so make sure you are compensating her accordingly.

The thought of spending more money each year for your nanny can be daunting, especially if it’s not in your budget. But remember, your nanny has expenses too and inflation and the economy do affect her. Sometimes families elect to give the nanny a bigger bonus at the end of a year, increase her vacation days, or pay more into her health insurance. The important thing is having a frank conversation with your nanny and being upfront about what your family can offer her.

-Lindsay Bell Wallace, President and Founder, and Lauren DiRuggiero

WWW – Calling Out Sick

I am not sure what feels worse being sick or calling out sick. It is that time of year and colds, flu and illness will happen! The weather is changing and the heat is on whether you want it or not. No one likes being sick, but it is inevitable. Being sick as a nanny can be emotionally and financial stressful too.

Childcare providers know their families depend on them to be at work and when they cannot make it due to an unexpected illness it can cause havoc on the family finding last minute coverage. It is a hardship for everyone. How can childcare providers and families work together to make sure the nanny can take time off for illness without the emotional or financial stress? How can families get the coverage they need? There is a solution!!!

Bell Family Company offers on demand, last minute sitters for many reasons, but in particular when a family needs a sitter fast. It is easy to register and get linked with a variety of experienced vetted sitters. Every BFC sitter is hand-selected, college-educated and undergoes a rigorous interview and background check process.

sick

I am grateful for the amazing families I have worked with over the years that understood the importance of health and overall well-being. In a standard US work week an employee works 40 hours. A typical full-time NYC nanny works 50-60 hours a week (10-12 hour days) plus the commute home. Does your nanny’s compensation package include, paid sick days, personal days, holiday’s etc. vacation? I know that not all childcare providers are afforded these benefits, but it definitely creates positive morale in the workplace/home. Have a conversation with your nanny/sitter and set up some healthy boundaries and strategies so families can have enough time to line up alternative coverage and providers can take the time they need to rest and get better without the stress of missing work and possible financial burden it may cause. It will make a huge difference in the long run if everyone feels valued!

 

 -Ali Sheppard, MSW