Monday, October 29, 2012

Co-op Etiquette

It's true that participating in a babysitting co-op saves you money, frees up some of your time, and helps you to be a valued part of a community. To keep everything running smoothly, though, it's smart to brush up on your co-op etiquette.

·         Take a few minute to show genuine interest and concern for the well-being of your co-op members.
·         Be punctual when dropping off and picking up your children.
·         Honor the established rules for payment, switching shifts, and other aspects of your babysitting co-op program.
·         Be quick to recognize and praise the good behavior that your co-op kids may have displayed while in your care. (Parents always want to know if their children are practicing the social skills they’re teaching at home).
·         Likewise, be sure to inform a parent of any disruptive behavior displayed while their children were in your care.
·         Share any unusual circumstances your child might be experiencing when you drop your child off for another member’s care (sensitivity due to an ear infection, teething discomforts, unusual lethargy, etc.).
·         Give the children in your care the time and attention they deserve.
·         Be aware of the number of tickets you’ve accrued and have left to spend. (Saving up tickets for a special event is fine, but the majority of the tickets need to be in circulation in order for the program to function well).

In addition to your own good etiquette, teach your children how to be good hosts and guests. Teach them to say 'hello' and 'good-bye' as they come and go, correct them when they misbehave, and compliment them when they make improvements. Babysitting co-op is wonderful for teaching children good manners. They get lots of practice in many different households.

What other etiquette tips do you suggest?

Sunday, October 28, 2012

11 Fabulous Egg Salad Variations

Egg salad sandwiches have been such a hit with my kids and their friends that I'm branching out and looking for other ways to use egg salad. Here are some of the best ones I've found.

  • Add avocado and serve on slices of tomato. Oh man, this is good. It's also an alternative for kids who can't eat gluten. Use the tomato like a slice of bread.
  • Serve egg salad in a pita pocket with alfalfa sprouts.
  • Put dollops of egg salad on Ritz crackers.
  • Use hamburger buns instead of regular sandwich bread.
  • Wrap egg salad in whole-wheat lavash and include beet greens or Swiss chard. Here's an excellent egg salad recipe for this at the NY Times.
  • Serve egg salad on a bed of lettuce (okay, this one probably won't work for the kids, but it might work for you!)
  • Wrap it in a burrito with tomatillo, tomato, cilantro, and lime juice, a la Taste of Home.
  • Fill croissants with finely chopped egg salad.
  • Add curry to your egg salad and serve it on naan bread.
  • Serve your egg salad open-faced on rye bread with slices of bacon and crumbles of blue cheese. Check out this variation on Eating Well.
  • Spread egg salad on a toasted bagel for an easy breakfast or morning snack.
Any more egg salad ideas? We're all ears.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site

Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker

Recently I reviewed Jamie Lee Curtis's My Brave Year of Firsts and complained about the awkward rhythms and rhymes. This book, Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site, doesn't have any of that awkwardness. Instead, it falls off your tongue effortlessly, making it a pleasing read-aloud.

In addition, it's a boy book. Little boys love trucks and bulldozers, cranes and cement mixers, and each vehicle in this story behaves very much like a little boy--albeit responsible, hard-working little boys.

If you have a group of little boys in your babysitting co-op, introduce them to Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. You can even show them this video by way of a teaser:

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Emergency Contacts

Babysitting Co-op Basics: Emergency Contacts

When you have your initial start-up meeting for your co-op, you should collect emergency contact information from each parent. If there's an emergency while your child is at someone's house, the person in charge of that babysitting shift needs someone to reach if you're not accessible via your home phone or cell phone.

If your co-op has been operating for a while, it may be time to update your emergency contact information. Next time you have a calendaring meeting, have everyone update that information. Neighbors and friends come and go, and some of that emergency contact information may no longer be valid.

It's best to let your emergency contact person know that you're using them as your emergency contact. This probably goes without saying, but you don't want your sister or neighbor to be utterly shocked when they get a call saying your child is on the way to the emergency room.

In all the years we've been involved with babysitting co-op, we've never had an incident where medical attention was required, but it's best to be prepared for anything.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Book Review: My Brave Year of Firsts by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

My Brave Year of Firsts by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

Though they've written about firsts, this book is not the first collaboration between Jamie Lee Curtis and Laura Cornell. In fact, it's the tenth. They've been collaborating for many years now, and you will probably recognize the illustrations if you've read more than one.

I would definitely check this one out of the library before you decide to buy it, and here's why. Some books are difficult to read aloud, and this is one of them. If your kids are like mine, they'll want you to read books you own over and over and over again, and this is not one that you'll enjoy reading aloud. The words don't flow off your tongue in easy rhythm like Dr. Seuss books. You feel more like you're trying to move your fat tongue out of the way to keep up with a rhythm that disappoints.

For example:

I struggled at first to learn to tie shoes.
My sweet Auntie Cookie showed me choices to use:
Bunny Ears, Classic, Loop-over-under-through.
I tried and tried till at last I could, too.

And that's just one page. The musical and visual dexterity it takes to maintain the rhythm, not to mention the mental energy reserves to sort through the various fonts and text colors, is more than I can deal with at bedtime.

And there's one more thing that makes this book less-than-ideal for babysitting co-op storytime. It's going to make some kids feel like have-nots. The kid in the book talks about her mom's iPhone, her pony, eating truffles, and her father's restaurant. I don't really feel up to explaining truffles to preschoolers. After all, I've never even seen them.

If you find that you and your kids enjoy this book, Harper Collins has published a pdf file containing activities to go along with the book. They include mazes and matching games about feelings. These could be good activities for your babysitting co-op shift.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Pumpkin Pancakes Recipe

If you make a double batch of these delicious pumpkin pancakes for breakfast, you'll have enough left over for a healthy, yummy snack for your babysitting co-op shift later on in the day. When using pancakes as snacks, don't bother with the messy syrup. Just let kids pick them up and eat them like pretzels.

These pumpkin pancakes are high in vitamins and fiber, and they're moist and fluffy, too. Stock up on pumpkin now while it's cheap, and you can enjoy pumpkin pancakes all winter long.

Pumpkin Pancakes

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup milk
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup canned pumpkin

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks, milk, pumpkin, and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. In a mixing bowl, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; fold into batter. Pour batter by 1/4 cupfuls onto a hot greased griddle. Cook as usual for pancakes. Yields about 15 pancakes.

And if that weren't enough, here's a recipe for Hot Cider Syrup:

1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup corn syrup
2 Tbs. butter
3/4 cup apple cider or apple juice
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. nutmeg

In a saucepan, combine the syrup ingredients. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes or until slightly thickened. Let stand for 30 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Field Trip: Pumpkin Patch

If your co-op hasn't had a good outing for a while, it's time to visit a local pumpkin patch. Outings are great because you'll have time to chat with the other parents. Usually, you just swap pleasantries at the door as babysitting shifts begin and end, but during an outing, you can really get to know one another.

Also, kids enjoy these group outings so they can see all of their friends at once. They'll have a ball, run around the pumpkin patch, and be home in time for naps.

Search online for local farms that offer Halloween festivities. Some farms allow kids to pick a pumpkin directly from the field. In addition, you may find that some farms have other activities available, too: hay rides, kettle corn, corn mazes, and more.

We recently visited a pumpkin patch that featured 3 haunted barns, 2 trike trails, a life-size Candyland game, a straw jumping pile, a petting zoo, and a bouncy castle. There was enough fun to last all day.

Friday, October 12, 2012

French Parenting--Have You Tried It? Pamela Druckerman's Bringing Up Bebe

Last year it was Amy Chua's Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Chinese parenting was in. Her oldest daughter now at Harvard, Chua seems to have figured it out.

This year it's the Frenchwomen's turn. Only it's not a Frenchwoman who's advertising. It's an American, Pamela Druckerman, in her book Bringing Up Bebe.

An American expat in Paris, Pamela Druckerman notices that the natives parent differently than Americans, and as a result, French kids sleep better, eat their vegetables, and sit still at restaurants. So she digs deeper to find out how they do what they do.

I think you can learn more about a culture by studying daily living than you can by studying politics and history, and that proved true during my reading of this book. Suddenly, I understood my French friends better than I ever had before. I understood their aversion to snacking, their reticence to praise and compliment, and their seeming belief that there's a right way to do any given thing.

As far as parenting, I found a few helpful tips as well. I like the idea of the "cadre," the framework kids operate in with very firm boundaries but plenty of freedom within those boundaries. I like the insistence on good manners, and I also like the emphasis on helping children to be independent and self-sufficient as soon as they're able.

But much of what we see here works in a very homogeneous culture like Druckerman's upper middle-class Paris. They all do the same things: bottle feed, send their kids to the "creche" (daycare), serve meals at the same time, etc. Here in The Melting Pot it's not so simple. And while the complexity of our culture makes it difficult to even figure out how to get your infant to sleep through the night (because there are 42 different books containing 185 different methods in your local library), I'll put up with the difficulties to gain the vibrancy of our culture. I love that I can relate to selective aspects of Druckerman's views and at the same time relate to selective aspects of Amy Chua's views (author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother). 

All in all, it's a nice, breezy read. Druckerman is an excellent, light-but-punchy writer. She's funny, too. I recommend it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Storytime: Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney

Anna Dewdney has added to the Llama Llama collection again. If your kids enjoyed any of the other Llama Llama books (Red Pajama, Mad at Mama, Misses Mama, Holiday Drama, Etc.), they'll have a good time with the latest addition.

In Llama Llama Time to Share, a new neighbor has moved in to the neighborhood, but Llama Llama isn't quite sure about sharing when the new girl comes to visit. It's a rollicking, rhyming afternoon until somebody gets hurt. But in the end, a valuable life skill is learned, and a new friend is made.

Fans of Llama Llama will enjoy the new website where you can make cards, listen to songs, play games, and download the Llama Llama Red Pajama app.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Rush to the ER for Behavioral Problems?

Traditionally, parents have made trips to the emergency room when their kids have fallen off the monkey bars or come down with pneumonia. But NBC News recently ran an article by Dr. Tyeese Gaines about ER visits to see psychiatrists. In a 2011 John Hopkins study, researchers found that the majority of young patients' ER visits were for disruptive behavior such as verbal altercations, disruptive classroom behavior, and running away.

Emergency rooms are adept at handling acute physical problems like lacerations, broken bones, and asthma attacks, but psychiatric issues require more time and resources than the ER is prepared to handle. But the real question is, "Why are parents taking their kids to the ER for these problems anyway?"

Dr. Gary M. Blau says, "[Parents] don't know what to do. They're not sure what mental health conditions are and whether to be concerned about them or not." It often comes down to discipline, according to Tanya Haney-Miller, a school counselor in New Jersey.

And discipline begins when children are quite young. In your own babysitting co-op you probably notice that some children respond more appropriately to adults than others. You may even notice that your own kids are some of the less responsive.

While your kids are still young, set firm boundaries for them. Kids feel safer when they have firm boundaries, and they will respect both your authority and the authority of other adults if you reassure them from the start that you have their best interest in mind and your not afraid to take a stand for their best interest (even a stand against them).

To avoid finding yourself in an emergency discipline situation with nowhere else to turn to except the emergency room, prepare early. Begin disciplining your children when they're young. Develop a cohesive community with your babysitting co-op, so you can discuss these issues with friends who have the same goals for their own children. Your regular babysitting co-op planning meetings are a great place to discuss discipline, get ideas from other parents, and tackle problems before they grow too large.

How have you worked to tackle discipline problems in your own home and babysitting co-op?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Review: Nightsong by Ari Berk & Loren Long

If you could instill a trait in your child, good sense seems like a wise choice.

Author Ari Berk and illustrator Loren Long have produced a wonderful story about good sense--also known as echolocation.

Something about Nightsong's prose and artwork (and maybe even the typestting) makes you want to whisper the beginning of this story. It's dark, the pictures are intimate and understated, and the tone is almost reverential. This is the stuff that great storytimes are made of, and you won't be disappointed when you add Nightsong to your storytime repertoire.

The main character of Nightsong is Chiro, a young bat on the verge of his first taste of independence. His mother has taught him well, and she expresses unflagging confidence in Chiro's ability to fly at night on his own for the first time. Chiro himself doesn't seem so sure at first, but then he glimpses the beauty and marvels of the world just beyond the margins of the world he's known so far.

In a world where children are often taught to fear the unknown, it's refreshing to help them to believe not only in themselves but also in the world around them. When you look around with wondering eyes, there is beauty to be found, friends to be made, and courage in the very young.

This makes a great bedtime story, but it's also a fantastic book for reading to overexcited or rambunctious children. The calm tone and eye-catching illustrations will capture their attention and maybe even slow them down to normal human speed.