greg fam

Fun Fridays – Behind the scenes with Greg at BFC

We thought we would introduce our families to the crew that makes BFC run smoothly each and every day.  Our crew is just like yours, work, kids, laundry, vacations, me time.  First up, some questions for Greg Shafiro our CTO and resident Photographer.  Our new online platform is thanks to him and his team and we are ever so thankful!!!

BFC – How do you balance work and life, with 2 (right?) kids, a F/T IT career and photography on the side?

GREG – That’s a good question. My Wife would probably add, Secretary of the Co-op Board, cycling volunteer Marshal for all events that need help, a UrbanSoccer youth Soccer Coach, and Handyman for anything that might break in my mother’s house. Honestly, my two kids and a wonderful wife enable me to balance work and family life, without their support none of this would be possible, Squeezing 28 hours our of a 24hour day also helps.

BFC – How did you get started with Lindsay and BFC?

GREG – I was introduced to Lindsay, by Miles Spencer whom I met at the NorthSide Conference in Brooklyn. I had been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when I was 11 years old, I started a soda distribution business at my sleep away camp, so when Miles presented me with an opportunity to join the Bell Family Company team as a Founding CTO, it was a no brainier.

BFC – If you could live in any city and have any career what would they be?

GREG – I love to travel, so it’s really hard to pick one city where I would like to live. But if you twist my arm, I would probably say Jerusalem. I fell in love with the city during my studies at a Yeshiva right by the Wester Wall. Regarding my career, it would have to be something that would allow me to spend more time with my kids, help people less fortunate than me, travel and photograph different cultures. Not sure if a position for that job description has been created yet. But hey a man can dream.

BFC – What’s most important to you in a work career?  At Home?

GREG – When it comes to work, I am reminded of a quote by Mark Cuban “Work like there is someone working twenty-four hours a day to take it all away from you”. That said knowledge, hard work and respecting people around me are the most important thing for me.

At home, spending time with my kids and being the best father I can be to them is the most important.

BFC – Greg, What is your pie in the sky family vacation if money and time were no object?

GREG – When my wife and I first moved in together our favorite show was the Amazing Race, by the way we applied twice to be contestants on the show, sadly we never did get selected. Traveling the world and learning from the different cultures of the world with my kids would be my pie in the sky vacation.

How to pay your Nanny!

I recently attended a very informative seminar about how to pay your nanny and learned a wealth of information about having a written contract, decided on the standard weekly hours, tax information , health care and worker’s compensation.

Nikki Kristol, MST is a Upper Westside wife and mother of two with a Masters degree in taxation. She is an enrolled agent with extensive domestic and international tax experience. She is also the owner of My Home Payroll, a Total Nanny Solution Agency.

Nikki facilitated a very informative, easy to understand seminar about the simplest and most straightforward ways to pay in home domestic employees. In addition to assisting her clients completing the necessary forms, she showed how families can help their nannies get health care coverage at reasonable rates and show families how to apply for possible subsidies to off set the cost.

Did you know that worker compensation is an absolute necessity if you employee domestic workers? Nikki and her Home Payroll team know exactly how to navigate the often ambiguous, confusing tax and government process so your nanny and your family can be prepared and covered.

My Home Payroll is also offering all NY Nanny Center and Bell Family (BFC) Families  20% off the setup fees when you enroll for services. In addition to providing you all the needed support, knowledge and action to pay your nanny on the books and save your family money, My Home Payroll can take care of processing your nanny’s (and other domestic worker’s) paycheck with direct deposit.

For more information about paying on the books, compensation packages, taxes and payroll services, please contact Nikki Kristol at 917.929.9486/nikki@kristol.com or visit www.myhomepayroll.com

MK 1 fall

Bell Family Loves – Fall Favorites

It’s a beautiful Fall day in Chicago–Sunny, mid-60s, and a few yellow and red leaves falling from the trees. I love this time of year! My almost two-year old and I are trying to get outside as much as possible and enjoy the fresh air before we hibernate indoors for the winter. There are so many new activities, flavors, and things to discover. Exploring with a toddler is great because everything is new to them. My son, Henry, and I are quickly discovering some of our new Fall Favorites.

Henry is a nature lover and loves to lay in the grass, chase bugs, and watch the birds in the sky. Recently he has discovered that he loves collecting leaves and then throwing them in the air. It’s wonderful to see him get his hands dirty and play with nature. On the flip side, he gets really, really dirty! One of my favorite products to use for a quick and easy clean up are the Johnson and Johnson Hand and Face Wipes. Henry has sensitive skin, but these wipes do not irritate him at all. It gets the job done quickly and without too much protest from Henry, who would prefer to stay dirty!  Happy Toddler, Happy Mommy!

If the weather isn’t cooperating, which can often be the case in Chicago, we like to stay indoors and read a lot of books. Recently I took Henry to Barnes and Noble to choose some books. My husband would have preferred to avoid the weekend traffic and order from Amazon, but being a teacher, I love to actually visit the bookstores and try all the new books before purchasing.

Mommy, Dada, and Henry all got to choose a few of their favorites. Henry’s top picks were “Biscuit Visits the Pumpkin Patch” by Alyssa Satin Capuccilli. Henry loves the “oggy” Biscuit and loved finding all the “pun-kins” in the book. His other book of choice is called “Little Owl’s Night” by Divya Srinivasan. This book is filled with all sorts of nocturnal critters for Henry to identify. By the end of the story, dawn breaks through, and Owl and his friends fall asleep for a good day’s rest. A very cute story! Mommy’s favorite choice is called “10 Trick-or-Treaters: A Halloween Counting Book” by Janet Schulman. I love math and anything with numbers, so I chose this book because it was a fun book for Henry to read that teaches him something (or attempts to! He’s only two!) and bring in the theme of Halloween. He loves the “mummy”, “witch”, and “neleton” (skeleton)—all are great books for kids ages 1-4.

What would Fall be without a little pumpkin spice! Henry is in love with the Pumpkin Loaf from Starbucks. On the weekends, his dada will take him on a coffee/pumpkin loaf run. When Henry sees it he will keep saying, “Peeeeeease! Peeeeeease!” and making the sign-language gesture for “more” until he gets it. (Please note: that’s the only sign-language he knows!) A delicious fall treat for my boy!

There are so many wonderful things to love about Fall. These are just a few of our favorites!

Maureen Kruse is one of Bell Family’s Sitter turned mom and is the Chicago coordinator for our sitters.

KCS train

Keep em entertained !

Living in the city with kids has a slew of considerations all their own (what other city do you have to register for preschool while the kid is still utero ??).  Kids need freedom, they need space and most of all in a city like NYC they need an outlet for their energy that could power a freight train.

Whether it is art, music, gymnastics, bowling,  checkers, DJ academy or gardening to name a few, the apple has a ridiculous amount of offerings for the wee ones up to high school.  And it can make your head spin when trying to navigate the options, it’s plain overwhelming.  Our friends at Kidz Central Station are trying their hardest (and succeeding) in helping make this process painless.  Their one stop shop gives you 3 click access from looking to booking and then moving on to more pressing issues, like a glass of wine ;-)

Kidz Central Station: Your Go-To Resource for Kids’ Fall Classes

If you’re looking for ways to keep your kids active and learning this fall, check out Kidz Central Station a one-stop-shop for parents to find, compare, and enroll their children in classes and activities in and around NYC! With over 3,000 classes to choose from (in music, art, soccer, ballet, mommy and me, and so much more!), Kidz Central Station makes it easy for busy parents to find and manage their kids’ activities all in once place. Use the site to:

  • Narrow a class search by age, location, class type, date, and price.
  • Enroll in hundreds of NYC’s top class providers, such as 92Y, Gymboree, Little Maestros, and Super Soccer Stars.
  • Sign up for trial classes.
  • Earn reward points! With the Kidz Rewards program, the more classes you book, the more discounts you earn toward future purchases!

Visit Kidz Central Station to check out all of the great activities for your child this fall!

Personal home accountant and check writer that’s not me – um yeah!!!

What’s it like to be able to just go home on Friday after work?  Just go see your family, and not have to worry about stopping off at the ATM for cash to pay your nanny or housekeeper?

With My Home Payroll, we pay your nanny by direct debit, as often as you like, and automatically file your nanny taxes too.

-We seamlessly pay any domestic employee, nanny, etc.

-Backed by Intuit Payroll Software

-Remote Access to submit hourly wages from anywhere.

-We pay your employees by direct deposit.

-We pay your federal, state, and local taxes.

-We submit your quarterly and yearly filing obligations.

-We handle Workers’ Compensation in your state.

-You spend more time with your family.

My Home Payroll is Beyond Nanny Taxes – we provide a complete service for employers of domestic help.  Founded in 2013, we are dedicated to making the nanny tax an affordable afterthought.

Founder, Nikki Kristol, graduated from Philadelphia’s University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s Degree in Science, and graduated from San Francisco’s Golden Gate University with a Master’s Degree in Taxation.  She worked for 7 years in London, England as an International Tax expert, including 3 years at a Big 4 firm, before returning to the U.S.  Nikki is a big advocate of making the nanny tax affordable for families and caregivers.  She founded My Home Payroll in 2013 as a mom-entrepreneur with a unique perspective on household employment, and how to pay for it properly.  She lives with her husband and children in New York.

BTS

Keeping your sanity with back to school routines and transitions

In our house, summer was one big playdate without enforced bedtimes and scrambling each morning for camp (we are NOT a morning household).  Come the first day of school none of us were prepared, couple that with an earlier start time for the bus and we were in a tizzy.  Great advice below from BFC resident social worker, nanny coordinator and all around great gal, Ali Shepard….

It’s that time of year again as the kids are slowing getting back into their school routines or starting school for the first time! A time of vast transitions for many families and keeping parents, kids and caregivers happy and sane can seem impossible. Here are some simple easy reminders to help your family get back in the swing of things and set everyone up to win with less bedtime battles and flustered mornings rushing to get everyone where they need to go!

  • Be realistic and patient
  • Keep it simple
  • Make a plan and stick to it
  • Get the kids involved when transitions happen children often feel that they do not have control. Find ways where your kids can be part of creating the schedule
  • Use picture charts for children 2-6 years old as a way to empower them to get their “jobs’ done (Betimes and morning routine) then then can earn a reward. Rewards can be playing a game, reading stories together, playing on the computer, watching a short TV show, or playdate etc. Use these things as motivators not just givens.
  • All children need down time. Build it into the schedule.
  • Children can feel overwhelmed when there are a lot of adults telling them what to do. They to keep the talking and number of adults to a minimum.
  • Avoid frustration and upset by being matter of fact and flat with your emotion and reactions
  • Set limits, when you say no, mean it
  • First things first. Children need reminders/little nudges. Use less words.
  • Make it fun and keep your sense of humor
  • Get support/be a team

It is easy to get overwhelmed and stressed out, especially when dealing with so many moving parts and changes. Remember that children are not little adults, their brains are not able to understand the world like we are. We have to role model the behavior we want to see from them. Enjoy the time you have and find creative fun ways to tackle the day to day routines.

platinum drive

Movin on up…to the burbs

Once you have spoken with a counselor at Suburban Jungle and have decided that you are in fact moving to the burbs, call our friends over at Platinum Drive Realty – one of the premier Realty groups in Westchester, covering the county as well as Fairfield, CT.  below are the top 10 reasons to consider confirming that moving truck and kissing the concrete jungle goodbye according to agent Seth Keslow who made the move himself a few years ago.

Top 10 Reasons to Consider Moving to Westchester from Manhattan:

10) Price per square foot.  Imagine having more than a 10 x 10 area for 4 people and much more for much less money!

9) Overall quality of life for you and your family – much less hustle ad bustle, so me time and fresh air.

8) Open Spaces and trees -  Most people are happy to have a slightly longer commute for the payoff of having trees , a yard and much more.

7) A sense of community and involvement – Every town in Westchester offers excellent community and recreational opportunities such as beautiful parks, sports teams for adults and children, tennis courts, community pools and more.

6) Private laundry within your home – No more schlepping your laundry through public hallways, elevators or even streets.  Most city residents never have the opportunity to have their own washer and dryers within their home.

5) Super Markets! – HUGE super markets (and a variety of them including Stew Leonard and Fairway!) with plenty of room for wagons and strollers in each isle and everything you need for your home under one roof.

4) Property taxes in Westchester are higher then in NYC – BUT the schools are worth every penny and are FREE.

3) Privacy – Having a large backyard to host friends and family for a barbeque without having all the nosey neighbors across the street being voyeurs.

2) Safety – Having a sense of safety for you and your family with less threats of terror. Having your sense of physical, spiritual, financial, and more protected against failure and harm.

1) Education – Some of the best public schools in our country. In addition, many of the public schools in Westchester are better and higher rated than the private schools in NYC and without the cost.

 

 

precisioneventplanning

Mother Nature Weather Woes

Any outdoor event has its challenges certainly, but the biggest fear for all event planners, moms, dads and guests alike is the unpredictability of the weather.  Having a gorgeous 75 degree sunny day right before your event, only to have torrential rainstorms the day of your event that have you shooting dagger eyes to the weatherman for being wrong is so not our idea of fun.

Contingency plans are always good to have, but at the end of the day it is still a force of nature (literally) that you have no control over.  Our friends at Precision Event Planning NY have come up with a great handy checklist that every bride to be and family/ event/ coordinator/planner should take a gander at to help alleviate some common issues that can be controlled…

Although the sun may have been shining bright the day you signed your contract for your wedding venue, that doesn’t mean unexpected weather will not make an appearance on your big day. When living in the North Eastern part of the US, each season offers a delightful variety of wonderful ways to celebrate your wedding, but it can also cause much commotion if not prepared for it to take an unexpected turn. Here are some tips to avoid disaster on your wedding day and shine bright like the sun even if the sun is hiding in the clouds.

Summer:

Heat: Summer, although considered a popular time to have events especially weddings, is not necessarily the most comfortable. Unless the entire wedding is indoors with central air, chances are those guest are going to be reaching for a fan!

Solution:Hand held battery operated fans as wedding favors. You can personalize them four your wedding and this way the guest can actually read the program instead of using them to cool off.

Bugs: Summer time is breeding ground for bugs and at an outdoor wedding this can become a problem.

Solution: When choosing an outside venue, make sure to think about the surroundings and choose a venue that has maintained greenery.

Fall:

Wind: In the Fall, the leaves are changing colors and the air is crisp, but the air can also be a little too powerful. A windy fall day can end up blowing decorations around and messing up your hair.

Solution: Make sure all decorations are secured to something stable or heavy enough to not blow away.

Also, try a classic updo for your hair to eliminate the risk of your hair getting tangled or getting in the way from an unexpected gust of wind.

Winter:

Snow: Winter usually means snow and this past winter was especially cold and snowy. If you have always dreamed of having a winter wonderland but don’t want the cold temperature or snow to interfere then here are some solutions.

Solution: Some ways that you can make sure guests and your wedding party stay warm and happy at your winter wedding is to offer warm beverages like hot cocoa. When it comes to picking a venue make sure that the venue is strict with driveways remaining salted and shoveled. The wedding party can wear gloves to add a classic element and help them to stay warm in those beautiful outdoor snow photos.

Spring:

Rain: Spring flowers are one of the top reasons to get married during this time of year but flowers grow because of rain. If an outdoor ceremony was planned this can become quite an obstacle.

Solution: Arrange for an outdoor ceremony under a tent so that even if it rains the wedding can proceed. A fun option is to have umbrellas in the colors of your wedding theme to distribute to guests who may have forgotten their own. These umbrellas will also make for great props in wedding photos.

Bell Family Loves… the suburbs?

Thinking about ….. the suburbs? Take a sneak peak with our guest blogger from Suburban Jungle Realty Group!

 

NYC is an amazing place to have a baby. There are endless places to sit outside on a nice night, grab a bite to eat, park the stroller and let your infant sleep with the white noise of the city. If your child is anything like my first, she only slept in her stroller and generally outside. This made for some rough nights but great dining al fresco. The list of activities, parks and cultural benefits is endless, but the reality is often inevitable.

 

After 2 kids, for many families it gets a lot more difficult to stay and space can become an issue. Don’t get me wrong, the city is fantastic for kids, stay as long as you can or you can afford. But when the time is right, and you will know it, many of us will move. We long for some green grass of our own, and a bit more space for toys,strollers, scooters and eventually bikes.
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This is where Suburban Jungle steps in, and can serve as an amazing (and totally free) resource to help you find the suburb that will be the perfect fit for your family. The approach is based on “town first”, and your consultant will help you determine which towns best fit what you need for your family. Whether its based on commute time, schools, that small town vibe, or a bit of the city in the suburbs, Suburban Jungle will guide your search.  Leaving NYC can feel overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.
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Reach out to alana@suburbanjunglerealty to learn how you can get started!

Family Friday: Shannon

Bell Family works hard to connect the best sitters and nannies with your families; truly making them feel like part of your family. We’d like to take this Family Friday to introduce one of our own Bell Family Company “family members” here in the office: Shannon.

shannon Smith photo

Shannon is our resident Project Coordinator. Despite taking a few months off to travel the world, she is back in action and will be helping connect families and sitters from the NYC office.

Shannon is originally from Long Island and is a graduate of the University of Delaware. She loves to travel and has spent time abroad as a full-time, live-in Au Pair in Germany for 4 children ages 1-5 years. She is fluent in Spanish and conversational in German!

Shannon gets welcomed back by her favorite German family while visiting

Shannon gets welcomed back by her favorite German family while visiting

She has babysat her entire life for families in her neighborhood newborns to teens. Shannon also volunteered at a school with had classrooms that combine mainstream students and students with special needs. Shannon adores children and is a great part of the BFC team!