A Trip to the Trail of Lights

It seems like ages since we’ve been able to walk the famous Austin Trail of Lights. But it is finally back! After last night, I am trying to remember if it was always this fun, or if they added some new things. Regardless, check out all the tips and tricks we wish we knew before attending the Trail of Lights

Tickets

The Trail of Lights is a free event. You do not need to buy tickets. But to make life easier on yourself and your little ones, you might want to consider it. The Trail of Lights has Zip Passes that allow you to get into the park at 6pm before the public opening at 7pm. This is perfect for the under four crowd! You can avoid the rush, still see all the lights, and get home before the inevitable meltdown. There are lots of other VIP and platinum passes which get you into nice, private areas. But there is so much to do and see regardless, it feels unnecessary.

Parking

If it is in your budget, buy parking passes! Yes they are expensive, but it will make life so much easier, especially if you have little ones in strollers. Parking passes allow you to park in a gravel parking lot by the event, or at Austin High School. Austin High School parking is very easy to drive to, but it is still a bit of a walk to Zilker park from the school.

Traffic will always be crazy no matter what day or what time you will go. Give yourself at least 30 more minutes than you think you will need. If you decide to forgo the parking pass at the event, some of the local churches or businesses may let you park for cheap. Be wary of parking in the neighborhoods around Zilker. While some neighbors may be okay with it, no one wants to find out it wasn’t allowed and discover their car has been towed at the end of a long night. You can find more parking information HERE.

Food

This is Austin, so you can count on one thing at every event and that is AMAZING food. The first area you will come across is Candy Cane Lane which is the location of all the food trucks. This is not the only food stop, but it is the best one if you are eating dinner at the trail. If you have little ones who suffer from hanger (hungry +anger), this should be your first stop. The lines will be long no matter which food truck you pick. Have the kids pick out what food they want, let one parent stand in line, and go find a table with the kids. The tables are all picnic benches and it can be tough to snatch one up before another hungry family does.

Once you pass the food trucks, there a lots of snack stops to get kettle corn, hot chocolate and other treats. One new treat stop we found was the s’mores station. This was fantastic! Each s’mores package contains enough for two s’mores. If you have more than one child, it is more than enough to split between two. Don’t feel like each child needs their own smores kit. I promise you, it is too much food! We then traveled to some lovely firepits to roast our marshmallows and scarf them down in the traditional, savage manner.

The festival has also added several drink tents for adults. The drinks are really good and a nice reprieve from the chaos of event. But in true event form, the drinks are heinously overpriced. Personally I’d recommend putting my money toward the spiced apple cider in the Napa Valley Tent. Alcoholic beverages can not be taken out of the eating and drinking areas. If the kids need a small break to sit, this is the time to enjoy the adult beverage!

Things to do

Obviously the main attraction is the lights! There are amazing light displays through the entire park. There are so many fun tunnels to walk through with the kids. They even added bubble machines to certain areas! Be picky where to take that family photo. By the time we got to the last tunnel, there were a lot of exasperated kiddos who were done smiling for the camera. My personal recommendations are to get a picture at the grand entrance and a picture in the blue bat cave later in the walk!

As you move along you will come to the North Pole. This is the section of the trail where you can meet Santa, mail letters to Santa, and see his workshop. It is as adorable as you think it is! Once again, expect long lines. They seemed to be moving fairly quickly, though. This is another great spot to take pictures! It was very cute watching all the kids with Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Past the North Pole you have Zilker Square where the amazing ferris wheel and carousel are located. More lines to contend with, but again they have a system and are good at keeping the lines moving. The ferris wheel and carousel are fun to watch so it can be a nice distraction for a bit.

The last section you will pass is the Holiday Village. This is the point where all the kids are burnt out, which is a shame because this is where all the live music and movies are located. If they have the energy definitely stop by. But if you have gotten a few “How much longer” questions, you can skip it.

There is the final stop of the large Christmas Tree. It is a time honored tradition to head over the the tree, look straight up, and spin until you get dizzy. It is very easy to get to, but could be tough with strollers. While it is a fun tradition, it is not a priority. If the little ones aren’t interested, it will be there next year!

Tips!

This event is a lot of fun, but can also lead to a meltdown quickly if you haven’t planned ahead. If your kids are under five, bringing a stroller or a wagon is a must! It’s going to be a long night even if you skip some of the areas. No matter when you go, there will be crowds to contend with. Having your littlest ones in a singular spot where you can keep an eye on them is a big help. For the older kids, have a plan in case you get separated. We always say, if you get separated, head to the ferris wheel. It is the biggest and easiest location to find in the whole trail.

Make sure you check the weather! We arrived at the event with a lovely 60 degree breeze. We were wondering if we should’ve left all our jackets in the car. As the night went on the, the temperature slowly but surely began to drop all the way to a crisp 40 degrees. We were very happy to have our coats and very grateful to our friends who thought to bring hand warmers!

There are porta potties located throughout the trail and they are very easy to find. Shockingly it was one of the few areas that did not have lines! We did use them and they are what you’d expect. They did have hand washing stations, but of course they were out of soap and towels once we got to them. It would be very beneficial to bring some flushable wipes and hand sanitizer. We did not see any area that had a changing station. You will most likely to find a nice spot in the grass to change your little ones. Be sure to bring a changing pad with you!

We hope you and your family has an amazing time at the Trail of Lights. Happy Holidays from our family to yours!

A Trip to Urban Air

Texas weather is always a fun guessing game!  Are we baking cookies in our hot car or are we counting how long thunder comes after lightning?  Sometimes a good, old fashioned indoor play place helps take the pressure off worrying about our hourly changing weather.  I grabbed the 8-year-old and the 5-year-old and we took a trip to Urban Air in Cedar Park!

Austin has a lot of amazing and unique indoor play areas for kids.  Because of that, places like Urban Air can be a little lackluster.  The kids have a blast jumping, running, and screaming.  But as an adult, you notice the duck tap holding equipment together, or the large bucket catching fluid from the dripping pipe in the ceiling. 

We arrived at Urban Air at opening on a Sunday.  The price to play is a little high at $20/person for children over five.  We also had to purchase their special socks which cost around $2/pair.  While children under five are allowed, there is not much for them to do at Urban Air.  All the climbing structures are a bit too big.  They could enjoy themselves on the trampolines, but with how many big kids are running and jumping at full speed, it isn’t the safest for the little ones. 

Once we had our socks, we began to scope out the place!  There is a giant rock wall the kids had zero interest in climbing.  But it looked like a lot of fun and they were very good at keeping the line moving for kids waiting to climb.  There is also a large ropes course and a zipline.  They, of course, cost extra and the kids had no interest in riding on those either.  This did result in me constantly getting scared every time a child on the zipline flew over my head.  I kept thinking a child was falling off the play structure!

Then we found the huge ball pit!  In the center of Urban Air is a large ball pit filled with obstacle courses.  The kids were hooked and had a blast jumping in the balls, swinging from the rings, and pretending to drown so that I could pull them out and save them.

The main even of course is the trampolines!  And I will give credit where credit is due, the kids have a blast on the trampolines!  The kids jumped, flipped, bounced off the pads, and ran up the trampoline ramps.  They have a trampoline in front of a basketball hoop for dunking.  There is a trampoline dodgeball area, and a trampoline that allows you to launch into a big, inflatable pad.  There is a reason Urban Air is so popular, and the reason is the trampolines!

After an hour of “watch me” in the trampoline area, we went in search of snacks and a bathroom.  The snack area is pretty small and very basic.  They have candy, chips, and slushies.  No outside food or drink is allowed so you have to make due with what they have behind the counter.  One very important thing Urban Air has that you don’t find elsewhere is alcoholic beverages!  We restocked on sugar, I lectured myself on why it is irresponsible to drink while supervising children, and went back out to play!

As the morning continued, the place got more and more crowded.  There were about four birthday parties happening all at once.  This would be a great spot for a birthday party for the elementary school kids!  But the crowding can make it a little tough to keep an eye on your kids.  Urban Air is set up in such a way, that if you sit in the café area you cannot see your kids on anything accept the trampoline directly in front of the café.  There are a few benches surrounding the various play areas.  But between the massive amount of kids and the layout, it is really tough to keep an eye on everyone.  Your better off camping out at a meeting spot.

I told the kids to keep playing until they got hungry for lunch.  We left at lunchtime, and the kids were tired and hungry.  Overall, it was a fun day.  We enjoyed our time at Urban Air and the kids were able to burn off some energy.  It wasn’t our favorite place to visit in Austin.  There are other indoor play areas I would probably pick before Urban Air.  But it got the job done.  Tired kids and a break for the adults!

A Trip to Rock ‘N River Water Park

It is hot as Hades these days in Central Texas! With lifeguard shortages and high prices, it has been a little tougher this summer to stay cool.  Since I have never taken the kids to a water park, and after checking the absurd pricing at several other water parks in the area, we decided on Rock ‘N River Water Park!

The water park is located in Old Settler’s Park.  It was pretty easy to find with the GPS.  We went during a weekday and were able to park very easily.  I imagine on the weekends it can get a little more complicated to find parking.  Even on a Friday there was a line to get into the water park.

The water park itself was exactly what you would want for the ten and under age group!  The eight-year-old was able to do almost every single waterslide, and the five-year-old was able to do the majority of the water slides.  There are two large baby pools, one has a large shaded canopy over it.  There is a large splash pad area with a climbing structure, slides, and a huge spilling bucket!  There are two separate pools near the back that have a basketball hoop and a swim up snack bar!  And of course, there is a lazy river!

Because we were lucky enough to go on a weekday, we were able to find two nice chairs under an umbrella.  There are a lot of beautiful seating areas.  They have cabanas, loungers, pavilions, and umbrellas but unfortunately, they have to be rented.  Once all the rental spaces are gone, there aren’t a lot of places to sit in the shade.  There is a large grassy area with several trees.  But if you don’t plan on renting a seating area, your best bet is to bring your own picnic blanket.  If we are ever to go back on a busy weekend, renting a seating area is a must!

Once we had saved our seats, the kids were able to run wild!  It can be hard to keep track of the kids, but the water park is small enough it is easy to find them.  Despite the shortage, there were a lot of lifeguards and I felt like the kids were being watched.  The only area that was cause for concern was the lazy river.  It is very small, but between all the tubes, the people, and how fast the lazy river moves, I would only have child in their unsupervised if they are able to stand with their heads above the water.  I can very easily see a little one getting stuck underneath the water and not being seen. 

There are big bathrooms on either side of the park including several family bathrooms.  The bathrooms are your standard pool bathrooms.  There is a really cool swim up snack bar!  I’d recommend bringing some quarters for kids to get snacks.  A credit card or cash in that area would be asking for disaster.  There are several food trucks also available.  We decided to bring in some Chik-Fil-A for ourselves, but we did enjoy some snow cones before we left!

The kids had a blast!  My favorite thing about water parks are how tired kids are at the end of the day.  They climbed, slid, splashed and swam around until they were completely pooped!  We really enjoyed the whole day!  If there is one negative thing about the water park it is the noise!  Not only is there the noise of splashing water and screaming children, but they play music over loud speakers.  It is impossible for the kids to hear you unless they are standing next to you. Make sure you have a good meeting spot!    

I cannot recommend this water park enough.  It is perfect for the younger crowd.  We did see some teenagers and middle schoolers there as well.  They looked like they were having a really fun time, but this place is tailored to the younger kids!  Book a cabana, grab some coins, the sunscreen and enjoy!

Summer on the Cheap

Summer is here!  We all made it through another school year and another year of uncertainty.  It is time to have some fun!  Luckily in central Texas, there are so many cheap and fun ways to keep your kids entertained for the summer.

Movies

For all the movie lovers there are so many fun options.  Many of our cities offer movies in the park on Friday nights, movies in the pool if you need to cool off, and of course Alamo’s Kids Camp that allows you to see movies for only a few bucks!

Concerts

There are always a lot of outdoor concerts this time of year!  To fully enjoy the experience without feeling like your melting into a pile a goo, here are some good things to keep in mind when attending these concerts. 

Pack a picnic with all the snacks and food!  If you are going to bring cold items, freeze them before you head to the outdoor show.  Of course, don’t forget to bring lots and lots of water! 

Bring another activity to the show like bubbles or a football.  Sitting and waiting for things to start, has never been a child’s strong suit.  Make sure you always know where the bathrooms are, and have a meeting spot in case the kiddos get lost in the crowd. 

Story Times and Summer Reading

Every library in central Texas has weekly story times as well as crafts to do during.  It is a great activity to head to the library once a week, and check out books for your kids’ summer reading.  There are a ton of great summer reading incentives through HEB, Pizza Hut or create your own reading chart for your kids!

It really is amazing all the things local libraries plan for kids over the summer. See what is going on in Round Rock, Georgetown, Cedar Park, Leander and Austin!

Splash pads

The number of pools and splash pads around the central Texas area is amazing.  Because of the lifeguard shortage, many of the pools are limiting their hours.  Splash pads do not require lifeguards and are on most hours of the day. 

When visiting a pool or a splash pad it is always a good idea to have kids wear water shoes or crocs.  Splash pads are pretty good at keeping the area clean, but it only takes one stray rock to ruin the day.

Crafting and Baking

After quarantine I am sure most of us feel like we have done every craft there is to do!  But there are always more craft activities to keep your kids busy.  Check out this great website, or enjoy scrolling through Pinterest for easy crafts and baking projects. 

Make a day of it by going to a craft store or a grocery store, have the kids get all the things they need for their project, and then go home and do the project!

Hitting Milestones

Summer is the perfect time to work on important milestones for kids.  Stay inside during the hot afternoons and work on potty training.  With more time in the morning, you can get the kids used a to a morning routine that includes more chores like making their bed or making their own breakfast. 

If your child is interested in playing a sport in the fall, summer is the perfect time to spend time and practice swimming, basketball, playing catch or any other activity your child may want to improve.  One of the first things I worked on with my nanny kids during quarantine was helping them learn how to ride their bikes! 

Embrace Boredom

There are only so many hours in the day that we can fill with activities.  It may seem like you have to fill up every single second to keep your kids busy, and get them tired at the end of the day.  But boredom can be a very helpful thing for kids. 

It helps encourage creativity as well as time management.  Don’t be afraid to tell your kids that you need to take care of something and they need to think of something to do on their own. Let kids know it’s okay if they have nothing to do.  Sometimes enjoying the quiet without screen time can be refreshing for a young mind.

We wish everyone a happy and safe summer!

Earth Day with Kids

Today is Earth Day!  Every year we remember the ways we can help make our planet a greener and more beautiful place to live!  One of the greatest things about Earth Day is that it is very easy to get kids involved.  There are so many wonderful ways kids can learn to take care of the planet and make our Earth a little better and brighter.

Start a Garden
After quarantine, most of us probably have a garden we planted to help avoid cabin fever!  While the internet is littered with DIY garden projects, you and your children can actually make a simple garden with some dirt, seeds, and pots!  Head to Lowes or Home Depot and let the kids pick out what seeds they’d like to plant.  Make it their job to water the plants every morning.  You can also paint the pots and make a whole project out of it!

Park Clean Up
We have so many beautiful parks in central Texas and many great park clean up projects.  But even without an officially project, heading to the local park to pick up trash is a great activity!  Get your kids a fun grabber and a trash bag and make it a contest!

Meatless Mondays
How do pancakes for breakfast, Peanut butter and Jelly for lunch and mac and cheese for dinner sound?  It sounds vegetarian and kids friendly to me!  Eating fewer meat products can help reduce greenhouse gases.  While many of us love Whataburger way too much to go full vegetarian, Meatless Mondays can be a fun alternative to limit animal consumption and experiment with healthy meals for the kids!

Bird Feeder
There are so many different ways to make birdfeeders.  You can go simple with a pine cone or an apple and some peanut butter.  You can get some popsicle sticks or even be more advance and try a beginner bird house! 

Visit Farms and Farmers Markets
Central Texas has so many wonderful working farms to visit.  Many of them also allow you to pick fresh fruits and vegetables to bring home.  The farmers’ markets around central Texas are also a great activity to do with kids.  Supporting our local famers is a great way to help the planet and teach kids about where their food is from.

Camping and Hiking
Getting out in nature is a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty the Earth has to offer.  Check out the many great camping spots nearby. While Texas weather is unpredictable, now is one of the best times to get out of the house and spend a night under the stars! Many of the camping spots in central Texas offer great fishing, swimming and hiking. Your kids will have to work really hard to muster up an “I’m bored” in some of these camping spots! 

Earth Day Films and Shows
I could probably write an entire blog post featuring all the amazing movies and TV shows that talk about Earth Day! Disney Plus even has an entire section of their streaming service dedicated to all their movies about the planet! There is so much great content out there for your kids to enjoy and learn from.

A Trip to Monster Mini Golf

We needed an activity to get us out of the house without having to worry about what mood the Texas weather was in that day.  Monster mini golf is an indoor, glow in the dark mini golf course with an arcade and laser tag room.  I grabbed the five-year-old and the eight-year-old, and with zero expectations or planning, we went to minigolf! 

The location itself is fairly easy to find, but it is in a long business strip center, and it can be easy to zoom by and realized you missed it.  But GPS liked us that day and we found it with no issues. 

The inside is really cool.  The whole place is dark, but wonderfully lit up with black lights and murals of some of our favorite Austin celebrities!  We started with laser tag since there was a wait for mini golf.  Laser tag was a blast!  It is a fairly small room, so it wouldn’t work for huge groups.  But there was enough room for the three of us to run around and try and get each other.  They have vests for everyone to put on with the laser guns attached.  The vest was too heavy for the five-year-old, so she just ended up being on my team, and we hunted down the eight-year-old together.

Finally, after laser tag, we were able to start mini golf.  They are really good at spreading people out, but you still feel a bit like you are rushing through the course so you don’t hold up the line.  I kind of wish they had let us make it through a couple holes before allowing the people to follow behind us.  Mini golf is designed to be frustrating.  Combine that with kids (and sometimes adults) who can’t control their emotions, and mini golf can turn sour real fast.

Mini golfing itself was very fun.  You get to pick a glow in the dark golf ball!  There are creepy statues and haunted looking objects all over the course.  It’s another reason why I wish we hadn’t felt so rushed, because it is fun to look at everything around the course.  We finished the whole course in about 45 minutes.  If we weren’t getting close to our meltdown time, I bet it would’ve taken an hour.

There are a few arcade games at the front of the course.  They are your basic arcade games.  And while there is a good amount, it’s not like going to Pinballz or Dave and Busters where they just have rows and rows of games.  They even have some prizes at the front like they do in arcades.  But you should consider the arcade games and prizes to be a side dish and not the main course. 

It was a great little outing.  But we only spent an hour and a half there.  We probably would’ve spent more time if we had played arcade games and took our time on the mini golf course.  But in reality, this place isn’t an all day or even a half day activity. 

In terms of food and drink, they have some basic snacks for sale at the front counter.  But the only tables available are in private rooms for birthday parties.  This wouldn’t be the type of place where you would pack a lunch and spend the day.  It would be the perfect place for a birthday party!  Grab a group of 10-year-olds and cross your fingers they don’t decide to sword fight with the golf clubs.  This location also offers date night packages, which would be a really fun idea!  Leave your kiddos with a sitter from Wilco Nannies, and go enjoy celebrity zombies in the dark!

Rock Rose Scavenger Hunt

Get outside this weekend and enjoy the beautiful weather, before Texas remembers it’s winter time. Rock Rose is a great street in the Domain. There are lots of fun shops to explore and some great restaurants to take kids. While you are exploring, take this scavenger hunt along and see if you can find everything on Rock Rose!

Level Easy

  • Someone walking a dog
  • Someone wearing a hat
  • Red flowers
  • Shoes in a window
  • Someone pushing a stroller
  • A cross walk sign
  • Ice cream
  • A playground
  • A cookbook

Level Medium

  • A ping pong table
  • A birthday card
  • A book about superheroes
  • Austin FC logo
  • Three mannequins in one window
  • A “now hiring” sign
  • Candy bigger than your hand
  • An indoor tree

Level Hard

  • A bear
  • Three murals
  • Four barrels
  • Red umbrellas
  • A water bowl for dogs
  • A white tree
  • A red car, blue car, and yellow car

Nanny Job Red Flags

With COVID shutting down schools and daycares, nannies have never been in more demand.  With such a high demand, there is an opportunity for nannies to have options when choosing a job.  The time of the $10 an hour nanny has long passed.  It is important for a good position to fit for your schedule and your budget, but also fit your desired work-life balance.  Here are some red flags to look out for when job searching!

They want you to start without an interview.

Desperate parents are nothing new.  School gets cancelled and parents with full-time jobs have to figure out what to do with their children.  New apps like Bambino have made it easier for families to get someone to come to their home quickly.  While occasionally sitting for a family without meeting them is normal, it should be a big red flag when someone is hiring a full-time nanny.  A parent who is ready to hire a nanny without interviewing them, asking for a resume, or wanting to call references is a bad sign.  If you ask them to do these things and they refuse, this should make you uncomfortable.  While you know you are a good, reliable person, for a family to assume that site unseen, raises serious questions as to what the position actually entails.

They want to pay you a salary.

In the state of Texas, household workers must be paid no less than minimum wage on an hourly rate basis.  Many families will offer paying you $400 a week or $50 a day.  In actuality, that is a huge red flag and against the law.  Many families may have a set schedule during the week, but life happens and nannies need to work late, parents go on date nights, etc.  Guaranteeing that you will be compensated for all the hours you work can only happen if you are paid an hourly fee.  Families not willing to consider paying someone hourly, most likely means they want to try and squeeze as much work out of you as possible, for as little pay as they can.

They only want to pay you under the table.

Many of us grew up babysitting and are used to being handed a wad of cash at the end of a Saturday night.  But working as a nanny, it is important to have a record of your payment.  There are great payroll services out there for parents to use.  Even if your employers decides not to use a payroll service, direct deposit and Venmo allow you to keep track of how much and how often you are being paid.  It is important to have a record of your pay for your taxes as well as filing for unemployment.  If a family only wants to pay you using cash, it may be a sign that they are trying to find ways not to pay you as much. 

They won’t sign a contract.

Wilco Nannies provides a Work Agreement for all families and nannies to fill out.  These agreements simply allow nannies and families to have their hours, pay, and job duties on record for all to see.   You can also easily find contract templates to use online.  A family unwilling to enter into a contract or work agreement with you, is a bad sign.  Contracts do not mean you are “stuck” in a position for a certain amount of time.  They help dictate the parameters of your work.  If families are unwilling to consider a contract, it is very easy for them to not to pay you on time, ask you to do household chores you did not agree to, or make you work longer hours than originally agreed.  Always, always, always have a contract!

They trash their old nanny.

Nannies and families decide to go different ways for many reasons.  While a nanny and employer can end on bad terms, how parents speak about their former nanny can be very enlightening on how they view the nanny position.  If they speak about the nanny with small complaints such as “they were on their phone all the time”, this can be read as they simply did not get along and it wasn’t a good fit.  If the complaints become more personal, “she was lazy” it can be looked at as not having respect for the person they employed.  If you ever hear of a nanny suddenly leaving a family with no call and no explanation, this could be a sign that something bad happened in the home and the nanny needed to leave immediately.

Above all else, as a nanny you have been hired to do a very important job.  Finding a family that you have a good rapport with, is just as important as having a family that respects you as a professional.

Finding Your Unicorn Nanny

Hiring a nanny for your family is a weird task.  You are not only hiring a professional you expect to do a job, you are hiring someone to be a part of your family.  You want an employee with a good personality match.  You can’t hire a nanny who is great at her job but that you don’t like.  Likewise, you can’t hire a nanny with a great personality that doesn’t have the experience you want.  Here are some tips to help you find the right nanny for your family.

Qualifications

Qualifications for nannies can range from a career nanny with 20 years of experience, to a high school student who is the oldest of a lot of siblings.  The reality is that the qualifications you are looking for, directly reflect what you are willing to pay.  If your budget can only afford you to pay a nanny $15 an hour, your nanny will most likely be someone who only has previous babysitting experience.  If you are able to pay $20 an hour or more, you can expect to have someone with several years of experience.  Once you reach $25 and over, you will have nannies with years of experience and several certifications to their name.   

At a minimum, all nannies should have an updated CPR certification.  CPR certification only lasts two years.  Career nannies know this is part of the deal.  A lot of high schools do a CPR and first aid class for their seniors.  If you find a nanny you really like but they are not CPR certified, the Red Cross has many classes they can take.

Resumes and References

Career nannies will be ready with all the information you could ever need.  Resume, certifications, references, whatever you need they have it ready at a moments notice.  However, for a nanny who is less experienced, or new to being a nanny, it may not occur to them to make a resume.  All this to say, don’t be surprised if the nanny you hire does not have a resume.

References on the other hand are a different story.  Even if you are talking to an 18-year-old who has never worked a day in their life, anyone applying for a nanny job should have at least three references.  If they do not have work references, teachers or coaches are always a great option.  For nannies with a bit more experience, ask for references for the past five years.  Nannies may still have a close relationship with families they worked for ten years ago, but people change and grow over time.  The more recent references are the better ones.  Your nanny’s references are your best asset.  It is important to ask the references how they know the nanny, and what responsibilities the nanny had when working for them. 

The Interview

The interview process is a good example of the complicated relationship you have with a nanny.  The interview should have two parts, the professional questions and the personal questions.  The professional questions are the ones you find on forums all over the internet.  “How long have you been taking care of children?”  “How much are you looking to be paid?”  “Are you flexible with work times?”  It is always good to make sure everyone is on the same page with job expectations. 

But these informational questions are only one part of what you need for a nanny.  The other questions should help you get a sense of the nanny’s personality.  My favorite questions to ask nannies are: “What is your favorite movie to watch with kids?”  “What is your funniest kid story?”  “What is your favorite place to take kids to play?”  What is great about these types of questions is it give you an opportunity to see if you relate to your nanny.  Can you guys laugh over your love of Disney movies or cringe over shared potty-training disasters?  It is so important to have a personal connection with the person you want taking care of you children. 

Finding the right nanny is looking at a balance between the professional and personal side.  When you are lucky enough to find that balance, you will have a lasting and wonderful relationship with your unicorn nanny.  And your nanny will have found her unicorn family! 

Shopping with the Kids!

It’s the weekend before Christmas and you still have some shopping to do! Shopping the weekend before Christmas is a nightmare in and of itself, but if you forgot to call Wilco Nannies to get a sitter for the kids, your nightmare just got a whole lot worse! But it can be done! You can take your kids shopping during the craziest shopping time of the year, and live to tell the tale!

Car Ride

First battle to face when Christmas shopping with kids, is the traffic! While it’s ideal to get up first thing in the morning and hit the stores early, anyone who has had to scream “put on your shoes” 20 times knows it doesn’t always work out that way. Prepare for the day by packing snacks and drinks to keep in the car. Pack and extra pair of clothes for each child too. One spill or bathroom accident can ruin an entire day. Have the kids help you find a parking spot! Tell them to keep their eyes open and try to find the closest ones.

Store Rules

Before entering the store, be very clear with your kids about the rules and expectations. No touching items you don’t plan to buy. Do not leave any store without Mom or Dad. Listen to the workers inside the store, they are in charge. If you are in a large shopping mall, point out the security guards or where the customer service area is located. That way if you lose your kids in the crowds, they know who to look for. Most importantly, don’t rely on the store workers to watch your kids. It is not their job, and they won’t do it!

Breaks

No matter what age your kids are, shopping is tiring and they will need breaks just like they do on a normal day. Plan a bathroom break in the morning, at lunch time, and in the afternoon. Plan a morning snack break, lunch, and afternoon snack. This will do wonders to delay a meltdown. Let’s be honest, the meltdown will happen, but we do anything we can to delay it.

Give them a Job

Kids are always much more engaged in boring errands when they get to be a part of it. Let the kids know what you are shopping for. If you are looking for a particular store, have the kids help you find it on the map. If you are looking for a specific item, ask the kids to help you find it in the store. If you are just browsing try for a game of I-Spy. It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy looking at all the pretty decorations and window displays!

Rewards

Don’t forget about good ol’ fashioned bribery this Holiday Season. If you have to take all the kids shopping with you, keep them focused on good behavior with the promise of a movie, playing on the playground, hot chocolate, or even a nice warm pretzel!

When They are Done

We all know that our kids have a threshold. When the threshold is reached, the witching hour begins and no amount of bribery, snacks, or threats is going to calm your child down. Most of us already know what time of day our kids begin to hate everything. If that is the case, make sure to be in the car by that time.

If you are unable to make it out of the store by the witching hour, there are a few ways you can make it out in one piece. When the meltdown begins, quickly scoop your child out of the store or to a nearby bathroom. Let the child have their meltdown. Once the initial storm has passed, explain to them why they are feeling the way they are, and give them some steps to take. For example “You are tired that is why you’re sad. We are going to pay for these items, go to the car, and go home. And then you don’t have to do anything else today.” Kids are generally able to get it together if they know they only have to hold on for a little while longer.

Taking little kids on a shopping trip is never anyone’s ideal scenario. But life happens and we have to adjust!