Thursday, August 30, 2018



How to Survive Back to School Night

By Margie Royster



              
Margie Royster, Founder and CEO of Nannies As Needed has over 30 years experience in childcare service.  Nannies As Needed (aka NAN), established in 2004, is a unique family care service providing exceptional daily, short term and emergency care on an as needed basis and has been the recipient of the Best of Gold Coast Award for 7 years running,  Margie has a loving yet practical view toward caring for children and her anecdotal experiences will either give you pause or make you think that they are just not pause-able.

As a matter of reference, the insights and perspectives shared here have evolved through personal experience amassed from many of the Fairfield County Back to Schools nights over the last 10 years.  You may already be aware of these ideas, but I’m guessing there are just as many that will be new to you! Pick and choose what works for you…and have some fun!


To Begin…

- Back to School Night is just not a date on a calendar...it’s an important school event, particularly if you truly want to help your child successfully ferret his way through the school year unscathed.  A bit dramatic, perhaps…but in many ways, it really is a call to battle, the academic battle! Do I hear Ivy league?

- How you approach this evening can make the difference between a survivor-able school year and a traumatic one!

- If you put a little effort into your preparation, the payback will dazzle you all year through with residual benefits that just linger on. 
Remember, it’s “Plan the Work….and Work the Plan”



Getting Organized

- Take care of the ones left behind…husband, other children, pets…the right sitter will make sure that all is under control on the home front as you head into battle.  It’s tough to focus on two fronts at the same time!

- Pack your tools in advance – a note pad, cell, canvas bag for handouts. water bottle, pens (black and red), hand wipes, etc.

- Choosing Your Battle Fatigues – Wear something distinctive (but in good taste)...a pin. scarf, sweater…something that when you call a teacher after that night, you can say..”I was the one with the giraffe pin…” . You may be an individual but to the teacher, we are all alike on Back To School Night!



Doing Your Homework

- Don’t forget your Prep Time with your client – what questions does your child have, issues, concerns...Remember, you are his agent!  You will see and hear things this night that may be irrelevant to you on the surface but may be significant to your child.  You need to know what to look and listen for!

- Create an Agenda – Develop your questions by subject/teacher and write them down! This is not a big deal and does not have to entail a big effort.  Think of this as just collecting a few memory jogs. Otherwise, after the first session or two, you will never remember what you want to know about the class that you are in.



Getting Started

- Now that you have a game plan, stick with it!

- To begin, once you get there, park close to the exit (not the entrance) and be sure to be facing outward. When the night is over, you’ll be tired, grumpy and already working on that list of things to do at home.  You’ll just want to get out of there…and fast!

- As you are walking in, there will always be tables with handouts. Take one of everything and just stuff them in your bag. You do not want to be deciding as to what’s relevant or not before the night even begins!



Let the Games Begin

-Be sure to get a seat near the front of each session if only to hear the speaker/teacher clearly. This will also assure that you get all of the handouts in case they are running short.

- Don’t read any of the material while you are there. There will be time for that later.  Just listen to what the teacher has to say and take notes.

- Speaking of which, you can discreetly cell video certain segments of a complex set of explanations or instructions.  This will help you to remember key points and will also give you the opportunity to capture inflections and tones that you can share with your child later.



Pitfalls and Opportunities

- Avoid getting into sidebar chats with a familiar mom or dad that will distract your focus. It’s so easy to engage but can be impossible to break away.

- Identify at least 2 parents that you know that are in each class. They will be your sanity buds during the year in case you need to compare notes, collect missing homework, or to simply grouse. Remember, you may not always get all of the pertinent info from your child on everything throughout the year!

- Meet the teacher personally after his/her talk but for no more than 1 minute (you can’t be late to the next class!) if only to be remembered.

- Have your introductory line (be sincere) down pat.  A question about the material just discussed will not leave an impression but an endorsement, willingness to help out during the school year, or perhaps a useful information “link” will!

- If you decide to share a link, have it written out in advance with your name on it! If it’s relevant, it will go a long way in having you (and child) remembered.



Great Job!!...Endorse yourself!!  Now that you are a Pro in “Working the Room”, you get to do it all over again in the next class!



In the Flow…

- When visiting the teachers for the elective courses, be careful not to drop your guard.  Even the purported “light” classes are just as important as the core subjects and can have their own set of challenges that you need to know about and to be prepared for. Running off to Wal-Mart at 9PM on a Thursday night for poster board for an art project due on Friday morning is not fun for anyone.  


 Wishing You Farewell

- When the evening is over and it’s finally done, look for the principal.  He/she is usually shaking hands by the main exit.  A sincere acknowledgement of just how well the evening went (it went well because you were prepared!!) is always appreciated .  And, if you have cause to endorse a specific teacher because of your experience with him/her that night, it will get back to them…along with your name. Look at this as simply a sincere overture of acknowledging his/her attitude and extra effort that he/she put into this evening…and that you appreciated it!






Now for the tough part, do you remember where you parked 

your car?





Bringing it Home…

- Remember, you were the family representative, so share what you’ve learned when you get home with both your spouse (if he/she did not attend with you) AND your child.

- You can greatly help your child by pointing out things that you feel will make their life easier during the school year i.e. what certain teachers are expecting, the “hot spots” for each teacher, etc.

- Post your calendar with key events and project due dates…Surprises do not work for anyone! 



The Follow-up



- Create a shopping list of things to check out or buy as a result of the helpful hints you received by either the teacher or another parent who has “been there” before. Even if you don’t fully understand the full benefit of the suggestion upfront, there is usually a good reason why it’s being passed on to you! 



- Now, take the time to check out the hand outs and find out all of the peripheral things that will be going on at school this year. Getting involved in something, anything, is always good both for your child and for you.  After all, if you are not showing a serious interest in his school and education, why should he?  Your involvement in Back to School night was a great first step for the current year!  




I hope that you found a point or two here that will help you look on Back to School Night just a bit differently and perhaps give you an insight as to the philosophy that we embrace here at Nannies As Needed.  It’s all about the care and nurturing  of the children and their families...



Margie   

Wednesday, May 24, 2017



That Special Needs Touch

Posted by: Bob Marcinuk




J.J. Joyce is just one of those people that you just have no choice but to like. She comes across as a bit shy and unassuming at first glance but a brief conversation will quickly set you straight.  She’s a woman of great diversity of interests and just so happens to be good at them all! In respect of her modesty, we won’t even mention her world class salsa dancing competitions and all that comes with it.  But, we will embarrass JJ a bit by sharing her exceptional skills as a childcare professional here with us at Nannies As Needed.

JJ has a Masters of Education degree from Southern CT State University and has been engaging and caring for children for over twenty years. Her skills, kindness and compassion are quite transparent and most impressive, particularly to new parents.  When asked about this, JJ simply shares that “ My ability lies in engaging children of all ages to explore their world and to learn through responsible play.  I use whatever materials are at hand to create opportunities for children to develop their sense of discovery and unique thought process”.  

 When nudged to go on, JJ said that “I enjoy using my extensive knowledge of Child Development to help each and every child build their self-confidence and encourage their curiosity.  I understand the need to get down on the floor to play and engage them in fun and educational activities”.  It’s apparent to us that because multi-tasking is so natural to her, it’s relatively easy for JJ to push the edges of her creativity yet maintain a safe environment.

Where JJ truly amasses rave reviews is from those families with special needs children…not one but all.   So naturally, it begged us to ask her, just what does it take to be a good special need sitter?   Here is JJ’s response:

JJ’s views on being a good special needs sitter


“What does it takes to be a “good” special needs sitter? My first reaction is why settle for “good”??

First and foremost, be prepared! That will give you the confidence to enjoy the experience of caring for any special needs child.

Do your homework and learn as much as you can about the child and the disability or challenges she faces. A meet-and-greet is highly recommended. This is the best way to let her get familiar with you and gives you the opportunity to watch her reaction to you. Don't be alarmed if it's initially a negative reaction! The other, and equally important, advantage of a meet-and-greet is that it allows you to observe how the parents interact with her. Imitating those interactions are your best tool for entering the child's comfort zone.

Nannies always ask questions!

We routinely ask about allergies, medications, ICE contacts, favorite foods, toys or blankets for soothing, and, of course, any behavioral concerns and how do the parents typically handle them.

There are only a few extra questions to ask:

What is the best way to communicate with her? What will she do in return to communicate her needs?

Are there physical limitations or safety concerns?

Then go ahead and have some fun together! Stick to the child's routine, modify your words to fit her language skills, follow her lead in the activities you share, stay calm if she becomes upset or flustered, let her feel safe and secure in your care.

Now, honestly, isn't that pretty much how you'd approach any child in your care?”

JJ’s insights are pretty well grounded and are readily adaptable to most special needs situations. Perhaps confidence comes by simply being willing to try and in taking satisfaction from all interactions as positive experiences.  It’s amazing what a difference a little kindness, sensitivity and understanding can make with all children and with JJ, it just comes naturally.        


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nannies As Needed.....Then & Now



Posted by: Bob Marcinuk



Nannies As Needed was launched from a make shift desk in Margie’s first floor kitchen on January 5, 2004…It proved to be the natural migration from her successful, 10 year home childcare business in Easton to now caring for children on a bit larger scale. After over 25,000 sittings later,  just see how we have grown!   

In the Beginning of NAN Time

  

  The original launch pad (left) was a desk close to the refrigerator, dog bowls and of course, the coffee! This was soon followed by the "assignment center & billing station" (right)...an IKEA special.  OMG...that meant Margie had her first employee...her name was Care (I kid you not!)

  

As families in Fairfield county began to learn about Nannies As Needed, they seemed to appreciate our personal, hands on touch ....and that meant that we kept growing and had to give up Margie's living room for two more desks! All of our early staff were comprised of part time babysitters who wanted to be involved in Margie's vision...their enthusiasm was so addictive!

  

Margie finally got her own work station (left)...Woo Woo!  Now, when she talked to herself, no one would notice...much.  And soon, word of mouth just kept bringing in new families. The corridor outside of her laundry room was the next to go for a work station (note the dryer vent). It was always cold in the winter and sweltering in the summer and whoever worked in "the outer region", had to tip toe around space heaters or fans with great agility.  


The earlier organization ran on it's stomach! There was ALWAYS 4 or 5 trays of sweets left out to nibble on...And the conversation was always the same..."I really shouldn't but I guess one won't hurt".
Only Margie ever did the dishes or cleaned up...call it pride in her own house er...office. And, yes...Margie finally got her own private office! OK, so it was a desk in her bedroom but ever the opportunist, Margie loved to be able to spread out her work on top of her mattress. Besides, at the end of some very long days, she only had to walk 5 feet to collapse onto her bed...and sometimes, she even remembered to file those papers first!

Breaking Out!

This was the way of life until February 1, 2010 when torn between wanting to "reclaim" her home, creating a clear separation between work space and home space and to further establish her presence in the business community, Margie moved into her 1st "out of home" office, on the Green, in Milford Center but....the transition was. let's just say...a bit challenging.
 

Going from a whole floor in her home to a one room office was an adjustment to say the least! It was on a second floor, assessable only by an incredibly steep, narrow stairwell.  Much of the furniture would either not fit in the office or up the stairs to get there. But, it was easy to get to, close to everything, particularly her clients and most importantly, comfortable on Margie's cash flow...an expense that she did not have to deal with before now. The office team fast learned that morning showers and effective deodorants were just as important as answering the phones on the first ring!   

Well, all good things must come to an end, (thank God!) Twenty months later, on November 1, 2011, Margie found her perfect location.  It's where we all now call home!  And, it was just 3 block away from our original location, at the top of the Green in Milford!  

Welcome to Nannies As Needed, 2017! 

 
This is our welcoming reception area...The lighted area in the back is our Operations Center, affectionately referred to as "The Pit". This is the very heart beat of Nannies As Needed. Incidentally, the design, d├ęcor, accessories and colors all came from Margie and....she takes great pride in having prepped and repainted every wall, ceiling, trim and window herself!

In the first shot, the office on the left is our Human Resources location for activities such as sitter interviews, reference checks, quality control, sitter support to name but a few. The office on the right is our Finance site ...for account maintenance, billing, collections, communications and maintaining the "books".  Our kitchen, unlike in the beginning, has virtually no sweets available but, lots of bottles of water and a better selection of coffee... though consumption is down by 60% from the early days.


From the kitchen, it's is a straight shot to "the Pit"...close enough to snatch a water bottle between phone calls. Taking a left out of the kitchen, leads you past the bathroom, directly into our Marketing office. There is one more huge office on the right that is off limits for now while it is being repainted.  It's Margie's office.  And, yes, she's the one doing the painting!  Stay tuned for the unveiling...shortly?  

 

For some inner views, the Marketing office is on the left.  It is kept intentionally Spartan by our marketing manager who claims that simplicity promotes clarity of thought.  On the right, is a view of our Human Resources space... more warm and inviting and certainly more soothing for those sometimes nervous sitter interviewees...

So, this is Nannies As Needed...Then & Now !
  

Thanks for being Part of our Journey!

 '

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Russian Egg War...or  Easter in the Rear View


Posted by:  Bob Marcinuk


As another bunny holiday bites the dust and chocolate foiled rabbits are tucked away in drawers to feebly attempt to avoid a terminal sugar rush, there remains only the eggs.  Those colored eggs that look so perfect on the panels of food dye boxes reside as neurotic tie-dyed wonders in the refrigerator because the fun is in the creating, not in the eating.  Moms frantically google search for those easy to prepare but absolutely delicious hardboiled egg recipes that have somehow eluded them in years past.  Don’t bother.  They just don’t exist. 

If this sounds familiar…it should.  If you are honest with yourself, you’ll admit that it happened to you at one time or another.  It kind of makes you reflect a bit…wondering if it has always been this way.  When I paused just before Easter this year, my thoughts took me to a place in childhoods past.  Simpler times? Maybe. More traumatizing, definitely!

Coming from a Russian lineage, holidays were always filled with traditional stories.  Knowing the characters in my family and their propensity to intermingle honored historic values with old wives tales (called something that sounds like “bikkies”), I am not at all certain that this tale is 100% accurate. But hey, somehow it managed to survive the centuries in my family…tattered and frayed a bit for sure.




After a frantic last week at NAN, our team of Jamila, Ellen and Margie were ripe for this story that I have held in reserve for some time now…and yes, props helped to hold their attention. 
The prop?  Eggs boiled in a traditional ornate Russian cauldron with 2 lbs of onion skins! The result….a deep, rich rust color that challenged that of bricks in intensity. 



Each participant was asked to prepare for the Russian Egg War by carefully selecting an egg that would hopefully endure the rigors of battle.  With an egg firmly held by each, I watched them morph from grown women into mesmerized little girls in anticipation of the tale....


                               
The original Russian Egg War was held many centuries ago between two feuding kingdoms which had ravaged each other for generations.  The destruction of villages, livestock and humanity was devastating to both for as far back as anyone could remember.  It was the sole reason why neither had grown in strength or evolved as a people because they were always were rebuilding. Although the specific details escape me, it was this one year on the eve of an Easter battle that Czar Nikta (the warm and benevolent ruler) proposed to his adversary Czar Bautrus (the devious and malicious monarch) a simple solution to their endless plight.  He proposed that they war with hard boiled eggs instead of swords.  They would both tap eggs and the czar whose egg broke, would give up his empire in it’s entirety to the winning egg bearer.  Surprisingly, the agreement came easily and sealed, with a locked arm shot of vodka.

Onion skin dyed eggs were used…and each czar, carefully selected his weapon with the help of their generals.  The selection process took over two hours and there was much taunting and jeering emanating from the troops.  The battle was about to begin…

It was Czar Bautrus who officially challenged Czar Nikta to the battle giving him the honor of being “the striker”.  As he lifted his egg a mere 2 inches from that of his opponent, he unceremoniously and swiftly struck. Czar Nikta’s egg was broken…..

As the news spread quickly across the armies, the cheers were equally balanced out by the groans.  But, what silenced them all was when Czar Nikta in a very low tone said to Czar Bautrus...“But my egg has two sides….”  And in flipping his egg over said “It is I, Czar Nikta, who now challenges you to war”.  Bautrus snickered boastfully and extended his egg for battle.

The blow came quickly….And now, both czars each had a broken egg!

 As the tale has it, Czar Nikta stood and held his egg over his head to the sky as in thanks to a higher being.  And, it is said that a ray of sun broke through the heavily overcast day and lite on the extended egg!  With that, and feeling fully empowered, Czar Nikta again challenged Czar Bautrus to a war….and gently tapped his opponent’s egg….

The roar of exaltation that arose from both armies was deafening as Czar Bautrus mounted his horse and slowly road into the barren Siberian wasteland in defeat along with two of his closest generals.  Their frozen bodies were discovered 73 years later and the story has it that Czar Bautrus was found with a shattered egg clutched in his right hand.

As for Czar Nikta, history tells us that he went on to be a kind, magnanimous and just ruler who ruled both kingdoms as if they had always been one.  And, ah, I would be remise if I did not point out that Nikta in fact did rightfully earn the title of being the “original good egg”!    

So, in fitting honor of this age old Russian bikkie, we recreated the war of the eggs here at NAN on Good Friday afternoon.  And, I think that it was only fitting that the sole Russian member of our team, won the war!       

      
                              































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