Setting up a thorough estate plan is an essential element of safeguarding your family:

“I was never scared of dying, until my son was born and then I was terrified,” admitted Lori Woodward, a Gilbert  Estate attorney. To help parents with similar concerns, Lori has put together a Kid’s Safeguard Plan, including:

Planning and Nominating Long Term Guardians
Nominating Short-term Guardians
Written Instructions for a nanny or caregiver.
A Family Emergency ID Card
Confidential Exclusion of Guardians
Instructions to Guardians

On July 31, 2006 nothing would ever be the same for a San Diego family who were traveling through Arizona.  The Barber family was in a tragic car accident on Highway 98 near Page, Arizona.  Melanie and Casey, the loving parents of three little boys, ages 3, 6 and 9, died.  Their family was thrown into a nightmare.

This is a true story. Mel and Casey had talked about naming guardians to provide for the care of their three sons and the money they’d leave behind. They never got around to it.  They likely thought their family would be able to work out who would care for the boys and their money, with love and grace, if anything happened.

That’s not what happened.  After the accident, the boys were in the foster care system for a short time until family members could be located.  Since then, over 1,000 pages of court documents have been filed, 9 lawyers, and tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of dollars later, the boys will live with their aunt Janine and their money will be managed by a professional charging $100/hour until the turn 18.  At which point, the boys will share $22.8 million dollars from the jury verdict in the wrongful death lawsuit of their parents and settlements with other defendants.

Is that what Melanie and Casey would have wanted?  We will never know what they would have wanted, but we can be sure they would have done everything they could to avoid what happened.  If only they knew how easy it would have been to take care of it.

It does not have to be this way.  Putting together a Kid’s Safeguard Plan is simple and can protect your kids from this unthinkable situation.

Learn from their experience!  It’s Easy to Protect Your Family and Your Assets with the guidance of a lawyer who focuses on parents like Lori.

By consulting with Lori, you can relax and rest assured your kids will never be taken out of your home or raised by anyone you wouldn’t want.Don’t be one of those people who think they know what to do and leave their loved ones with a complicated mess.  Most LAWYERS don’t even know what’s necessary to keep your kids in the hands of people you know and trust.

Readers of my blog, who own their own home and have minor children, can meet with Lori for an absolutely free personal Family Wealth Planning Session (normally $750) to ensure this never happens to your kids.  If you already have a plan in place, but want to make sure it adequately protects your kids (most don’t!), ask for your free plan review (normally $950).

To schedule your no-charge Family Wealth Planning Session, call (480) 788-8010 now and mention my blog now.

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Meeting monthly with your nanny  insures  long term success. After placing a candidate, we send the family a monthly email, suggesting they sit down and ‘clear the clutter’ and work out anything that’s bothering them. If this doesn’t happen, there can be tension in the home. The parent often doesn’t want to rock the boat, because the nanny is home with the child all day. I’ve had some Moms who are frustrated that the pan of macaroni and cheese is sitting on the counter all day, but she would rather fire the nanny and get another one, rather than confront. Moms may sign up for a nanny without realizing that they’ve signed up to be a manager.

I frequently call to get a reference on a nanny and am told, ‘she’s a great nanny except that she’s five minutes late every day’, or ‘she left the house messy’. My next question is, ‘How did she respond when you brought it up?’  ‘Oh, I never mentioned it because she was so good with my child.’ Is this really fair to the nanny? Now she has this flawed reference and all along she thought that you really didn’t care, plus she’s bringing this bad habit into her next job.

Sometimes parents don’t want to take the time to sit and have a monthly one on one with their employee. But here’s why it pays off. When someone’s given focused time, they feel loved, appreciated. Guess who receives the overflow of that love? Your child, your home. Guess who absorbs the tension in the air if you don’t? Your child, you and your employee.

I recall when my husband and and I were not getting along.We didn’t say a word in front of them, but the kids fought constantly. Once we made up, there was amazing peace and harmony between the kids. They just knew.

It’s not easy to confront employes, but having a regularly scheduled time to go over what’s going right and what’s not makes it easier. They already know there’s something wrong, you can’t hide it. Having this time scheduled also helps avoid the slip into the realm of friendship. You’re friendly, you enjoy each other, but you’re still their employer.

When I interview nanny candidates, I recommend that if those monthly meetings aren’t happening, that they ‘manage-up’. I suggest bringing brownies and saying, “let’s sit down Thursday for a few minutes. I want to find how I can improve.”

It’s hard for the nanny to tell the employer when she’s not happy, because she has a different personality. Her perspective in life is to serve others and we purposely look for candidates with a servant’s heart. But if the employer is coming home 30 minutes late several times a week, and the nanny is receiving the same pay, this isn’t easy to bring up. Give your employee time to voice concerns.

The reason for the monthly one on ones is for the children, for long term, satisfying relationships where both sides feel valued and understood.
For the children’s sake.

Beth Weise

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Helping children face their fears takes time, patience and a strategy.
I was feeding the ducks with my two year old granddaughter at El Dorado Park in Old Town Scottsdale, when a City landscaping truck suddenly began it’s loud safety back-up beeping noise. For a year after that, she was terrified of trucks and loud noises and had to be held whenever she heard a truck go by, even if she was inside.

Use these six tips to help your child cope with severe fears. 

1. Take your child’s fear seriously. Don’t make light of it or dismiss it.
2. Help children learn more about what they’re fearful of by reading about them or watching videos.

This may help them face their fears. Having your child go outside on cloudy and rainy days may help if they’re afraid of severe weather. I took my granddaughter on field trips to construction sites. Mr French, the foreman at the renovation of the Rosen House in North Tempe, was very friendly and explained how the backhoe and grader worked together to level the road to the house. We also watched youtube videos of construction equipment and visited a yard full of construction vehicles on Rio Salado in Tempe West of the 101 Freeway. We got library books and bought books about trucks.

3. Be warm and supportive. Tell children, for example, if they’re afraid of severe weather, that thunder and lightning won’t hurt them and that storms are a normal part of nature.

4. Talk about the things they’re afraid of matter-of-factly. Don’t overemphasize dramatic or frightening stories.

5. Expose your child to what he fears in small, nonthreatening doses and be patient and sympathetic.

6. What if you have an unresolved fear, and you don’t want to pass it on to your child? Like spiders. The human brain responds to facts, details and knowledge. Learn with your child about spiders. Watch youtube videos and look for spider webs together.

I’m happy to say my granddaughter’s favorite toys are now trucks, and for several months, she had to sleep with Lightning McQueen, the tow-truck from the Cars movie.


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College basketball season is in full swing, but one of our favorite players is not out on the court.  If you have never heard of Jason McElwain, you’ll want to take 5 minutes and watch his amazing basketball heroics.  Can you infuse this same amount of confidence in your children even when they face what seem insurmountable obstacles?  Here are 10 ways to raise confident kids.

Huddle up with your kids tonight and ask:  “What do you think has been your biggest accomplishment in life so far?”

Thanks to our Guest Blogger, All Pro Dad

Beth Weise

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More than ever, families are wanting a nanny who can give their child an edge in an increasingly competitive world. Working Moms want to trust that their children are getting personalized attention and the best possible preparation for academic and social success. They want the education, but also the nanny experience, and the more degrees the better.

When the Great Recession hit, we got calls from college grads  wanting  nanny  jobs. But if they didn’t have the nanny experience, we couldn’t help them.

“There’s a world of difference in someone who has professional experience”, Jenny Riojas, our Family Placement counselor, tells us, “in someone who has worked in a private home for a couple of years. Nannying is different from any other childcare profession, in that you’re working independently without supervision most of the time, and there is just so much you just need to know that you can’t learn from a classroom or a board room.”

A college graduate who nannied and babysat through college, however, is in high demand.

What’s drawing college educated candidates into the profession?

Amy Farris, now a Junior at ASU, has one more year to get her BS degree in psychology and is planning to get her Masters’s in child counseling. She has an AA degree from PVCC in Early Childhood Development and Nutrition. She fell in love with child care with her first position, 30 hours per week as a Mother’s Helper (working side by side with an at-home Mom) with a six month old. She realized then that she wanted a career making a difference in children’s lives. Since she does online classes, she’s able to give her family flexible hours. Raised by a Doctor Dad and RN, stay at home Mom, Amy had a typical childhood in a small Texas town. Her Mom instilled a love for serving people and playing soccer throughout high school drilled in the value of hard work and goal setting.

Amy was hired by a doctor a year ago for her then 22 month old daughter and a baby on the way after interviewing several candidates and a one week working trial with Amy that the agency strongly recommends.

“For me”, Amy tells us, “nannying started out as a way to make money and turned into a passion and a way to impact children’s lives in a big way. I consider it far more than an occupation. “I’ve been told that I’m very patient, and I have so much fun playing with them and teaching them.”

We asked Amy how her  education has helped her nanny career.

“I would say my education has helped immensely, for example, when the kids are going through a new phase or challenging me in a new way, my first thought is to research to find a physiological understanding of their behavior. With three to four years of nanny experience, Amy obviously loves being with children, playing, reading, singing, dancing or cooking with them, and sees herself as teacher, mentor, tutor and big sister. She brings a lesson plan for every day, with a weekly theme, color, letters, and integrates textures, music, lunch, crafts, and museum trips around the themes. She thoughtfully and intentionally gives babies lots of sensory activities. “Everything is new to them.”

During down time, Amy plans for the next weeks curriculum, reads child development books and articles, and helps out with light housekeeping, dishes, family laundry, kids bathrooms, bedrooms and play areas, and tidying up. In the past, she’s done dinner prep or complete family dinners as well as grocery shopping. Her current family has also hired a chef through Caring Nannies, so her culinary skills aren’t as needed.

Do degreed nannies earn more? In an annual survey conducted by the International NannyAssociation this year, nannies reported a median salary of $16 per hour. College educated nannies can receive salaries equal to entry level jobs in other careers for grads. It can save a family the cost of tutors who can charge $25 to $60 per hour. Parents today often want someone with as much education as they have.

Born in Venezuela, Lisbeth Mendoza-Ferger moved to the US at age five with her family of eight. Her Dad, a CPA, wanted a better education and life for them. He insisted on preserving the history and culture of their native country, so he gave them additional history and Spanish lessons after their regular homework was completed. As a result, Lisbeth speaks perfect English and perfect Spanish, and is a fascinating mix of Spanish, Norwegian, Scottish, German and Castilian Spanish.

Lisbeth returned to college for a BS in Business management later in her adult life and after 15 years in the medical field and 10 years in the insurance industry. She took a semester in early childhood development through PVCC, taught preschool and then started nannying. She’s raised her own children and volunteered in community children’s activities and her children’s extra curricular activities.

“Knowing that I’m partnering with the parents’, she explained to us, “and providing for the kids what no one else can, I find it rewarding to be ‘family’, ‘best friend’ and ‘care provider’. I’m organized, manage time well and love the kids intensely and they know how much I care for them.”

We placed Lisbeth one year ago with a family with a four year old, a three year old and a baby on the way. She keeps the parents involved by taking pictures throughout the day and sharing details each night.

We asked Lisbeth how her education has helped her in her day to day job. “My nursing experience and education has helped me with taking care of the children when sick, managing my time and financial obligations with the family expenses, buying groceries or kids clothes. I have to be a good steward of the finances they’ve entrusted me with.”

“When I was in school, being a nanny wasn’t in my plans. I dreamed of having my own business in a service industry. I love helping people. It wasn’t until I was laid off that I fell into what I enjoyed the most, playing and spending time with kids. My education has helped me in teaching the kids how to develop their minds, critical thinking skills and reinforcing what they learn in school as well as teach them the love of reading books to broaden their imaginations.

We asked Lisbeth if she saw herself as a career nanny.

“I do. I love the family I work for and they love me and appreciate my time, efforts and sharing my life experiences after raising my own kids and grandson. I find this career more rewarding than my two previous careers. Being a nanny has made me a better mother, grandmother, wife and most important, kept me young at heart and active.” Lisbeth normally does a lesson plan for every day, a theme for the week, colors, letters  and combines this with textures, crafts, lunch and books they read.

But what really makes a great nanny? How important is education? Is this just a post-recession trend?

A doctor Mom with newborn twins called me six years ago asking for a nanny with a college degree and I sent Charlene, a seasoned nanny with 20 years experience and a high school diploma. Charlene has a warm loving demeanor, knowledge of children’s developmental ages, the ability to multitask and organize, and a wealth of knowledge about raising children. Charlene was hired on the spot and stayed for the next 5 years and is still part of their lives.

Caring Nannies places candidates who have just a high school diploma, but with years of experience. Being bi-lingual is always a plus. Caring Nannies gets requests for nannies who speak Spanish, French or Mandarin.

We asked Lisbeth’s family if they felt her education makes a difference in their family. Amanda, the Mom told us: “I don’t know if that has made a huge difference in our interaction and overall experience with Lis. I think most important is that she’s open to feedback and we collaborate on parenting techniques. It’s extremely important that we be on the same page…Lis reads parenting books and does research on items as they come up with the kids. I’m sure her college education helped her develop those good habits…but don’t think it necessary.” We also asked Amanda, “How would you weigh her experience raising her own children and her character and personality versus her degree?” Amanda remarked: “Her character qualities and fact that she has had her own children have made the biggest impact on our family and have led to the great relationship we share. Having gone through much of what we are going through…Lis often gives good advice and helps us not worry about the small stuff. She’s a great nanny!”

“We look at the whole person,” Ashley Zehring, our nanny recruiter tells us.”The most important qualities we need are experience, great references, creativity, a sweet personality, warmth and interaction, and great communication skills. We want nannies who are basically happy. Cheerful. Curious. Playful. Fun. Flexible. Interested. Patient. Nurturing. Someone who’s passionate about what they’re doing can teach a child far more than someone with a PhD, who isn’t excited about being with a child.”

Beth Weise

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Caring Nannies was voted “Best Nanny Agency in Phoenix” by Arizona Foothills Magazine for 2014. This prestigious award was won by online  voting. We are grateful to our many families and nannies who made their choice clear. Thank you!
The  goal of  the 2014 Best of Our Valley competition annual competition is  to reveal what’s up-and-coming, recognize those who deserve recognition and provide the best of the best to Arizona foothills Magazine’s loyal readers.
Hundreds of thousand of people throughout the Valley voted in this year’s competition.  We were thrilled with the amount of votes that came in this year, and are excited to be on the 2014 Best of Our Valley List!

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How can we put the fun back into the holidays? Let’s be honest, the social obligations, impossibly long lists of things to do on top of already overloaded family schedules makes us hope that the holidays will  bring us a break but actually, the month between Thanksgiving and Christmas only intensifies the schedule, the activities and the stress. Here’s how to de-stress:
1. Create a Holiday Journal. In a journal make two columns and label them “What Works” and “Not That Again.” Under “What Works” list activities that come naturally, bring you joy, and ease into place. Under “Not That Again” list challenges. Jot down energy-draining activities that bring you down. What changes will you make to delegate, dump, or modify the items in the “Not That Again” column and embrace more of what is in the “What Works” column? This idea is from Beth Tabak, personal and business life
2. Shift thinking from, “What am I getting?” to, “It’s fun to give!” Allow the kids to give from their own savings, rather than you giving them money to give to those in need. Give them two or three options of local kids’ charity. Make a list of what each family member will give. Then make delivery a family event.

 3. Plan one family activity each week, like driving around town to see the lights. We love singing carols in the car. Come home for hot cocoa and popcorn. Another night, bake cut-out cookies for friends and neighbors, go shopping for that charity, or enjoy a game night or movie marathon.
4. Keep up that thankfulness habit and consistently ask the kids what they’re grateful for each day, either at dinner or bedtime.
5. Be on the lookout for friends, family members or co-workers who are feeling stressed or depressed. Maybe your own spouse or child is one of them. Say, “What can I do to help?”
The key to joyful holidays is to plan ahead, refuse to continue traditions that aren’t uplifting, target family activities and relationships rather than ‘stuff’, and meet the needs of those around you.

Beth Weise

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Grateful people are happy people according to research, but how can we teach gratitude to our children?.”No one is born grateful,” says life coach Mary Jane Ryan, author of Attitudes of Gratitude. It needs to be taught.

Here are five ways to teach them and five great crafts to instill this vital quality in your children

1. Be grateful yourself–talk to your kids every day about the little daily things you enjoy-dinner, a warm house, friends, trees, your job, a warm blanket a pet.
2. Create a daily dinnertime or bedtime tradition-let each one share one or two good things that happened that day.
3. Good manners and gratitude go together, so be sure to use the words “please” and “thank you” with children and insist that they use them too.
4. Insist that they help with household chores. A two year old can put away his plastic dishes and ‘silverware’ in a lower cupboard from the dishwasher, put her dirty clothes in the hamper. When they experience the effort, they’ll be more aware of all the work you do.
5. Insist on thank you notes. Even a preschooler can scribble on a card and you can add your own words or dictate a thank you note.

1. A thankfulness tablecloth. To make: Purchase a light-colored tablecloth and fabric markers. Wash the tablecloth and iron it before using. Invite your kids and every guest to write several things that they’re thankful for. Let the kids decorate the tablecloth with others creative ideas they have.
2. A Thankfulness turkey. This is a darling idea if you have a little time to create a turkey out of paper plates, construction paper and a toilet paper roll. Kids write something that they’re grateful for on each of the turkey’s feathers.
3. Thankfulness place cards. This idea comes from the Family Education Network: Have your kids create place cards for each guest. Fold a small piece of tag board in half. Have yourchild write on each place card: “We’re thankful for you because…” Place a Thanksgivingsticker on each place card along with the name of the guest.
4. A blessing, prayer or poem. Either have your kids write a poem, blessing or prayer or if you’re comfortable, let them search the internet to find one that speaks to them and have them recite it at the start of the Thanksgiving meal.
5. Placemats: Using oversize construction paper in fall colors have your kids decorate each paper with words of thankfulness and drawings. Cover each sheet with clear contact paper to they can be used as Thanksgiving placemats year-to-year.

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As parents and children are getting bombarded with TV adds and making their holiday toy lists, let’s give thought to what make a good toy. Which toys can actually make our kids smarter? Should we just let kids be kids and not focus too much too soon on education?

Electronic toys limit creativity and disconnect children from others.
Picture a family on a road trip. The kids are each playing their own their own Game boys, watching a movie or listening to their ipod. Dad has the radio on and Mom is checking her email. Everyone’s disconnected. No one’s talking or interacting. It’s deceptive because there’s no arguing, the kids are quiet, but car time is probably your most vaulable bonding time.

When our family drove from Tucson to the farm in Iowa, we played the alphabet game, sang songs, practiced our jokes, or read.  You have a captive audience and it’s an opportunity to ask questions, listen and transmit your values.

Will that toy you’re considering stretch your child mentally, making them think and be more creative? Can it be used in different wys? Will it engender cooperation, empathy, a desire to learn more?

Or does the toy do too much? Does it simply entertain? Is there only one way to use it? Is it just something to get? Did your kids ever really play with Ferbie? Is it tactile, does this toy cause children to grow up too fast? Does it agree with your values about what’s important?

A good toy makes sure that the child does the playing that requires them to use their imaginations and interact with others.

Research shows that when children are involved in creative play their play lasts longer, is more focused, involves more children, and they cooperate more. They become more socially competent. Creative play develops focused attention, memory, logical reasoning skills, language and literacy, the ability to reflect on one’s own thinking and to take another’s perspective.

What’s so wrong with electronic toys?

They don’t engender creative play, they’re highly addictive and make life too simple. Is your child  frustrated or bored? Just push this button.
Remember tick tack toe, jacks, pick up sticks? The classic toys. Blocks, Connect 4, weaving looms? The big toy companies can’t make money on these simple toys.
A good toy:

* Expands the child

* Engages the child

* Is age appropriate

What’s really the one best toy you can give a child? A toy that is guaranteed to make him smarter? It’s you, you interacting, talking to her, asking him questions, laughing and playing with him. By spending quality time with your child,  listening attentively, playing and modeling and encouraging positive behavior. Warm, interactive parents who were on top of their children’ activities, are spending time playing and interacting, talking and listening and modeling and encouraging positive behavior and avoiding harsh discipline are most likely to have intelligent and socially favored children no matter their race, income level, or marital status.  (Infants and Children, Laura E. Berk, Fifth Edition, p.492)

It’s helpful to get toy advice from an expert. We recommend our friend Sari at The Doll House and Toy Store for age-approriate, creative, long lasting toys.

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