Archive by Author

Childhood Obesity and Picky Eaters

11 Feb


I am guilty: I’ve recently become addicted to adapting a healthier lifestyle for my family. Through all the reading I have done lately on the benefits of eating healthy, I’ve been reminded of how prevalent childhood obesity has become, especially in the DC area.

According to the CDC, approximately 17% of children and adolescents ages 2-19 years are obese. That equals out to 12.5 million children in the United States alone. Since 1980, childhood obesity has almost tripled.

This also means that 1 out of ever 5 children is considered obese. To put this into perspective, if we considered the 182 children in the families of the North Star Nannies’ clients, that would mean 36 children were overweight. Try that on for size. Personally, I am a bit biased, and ALL of the North Star Nannies’ kids are pretty delicious.

I am originally from North Carolina, and while I come from a very nice area, the eating habits of my hometown were staggeringly different to the eating habits of the families I have worked with in this area (both as a nanny and as an agency). When I moved here, I thought that families were CRAZY to buy organic food. I had no idea why anyone would spend any money to have food that didn’t look as good as the big, beautiful (and yes, now I know, injected with goodness knows what) peppers at the grocery store. I didn’t understand why parents withheld the cookies, soda, etc. I think this had mainly to do with the fact that my generation didn’t know too much about high fructose corn syrup, saturated fats, or MSG, but now it is all I read about.

SO, rather than rattle off some ideas for healthier eating habits, here is a link to an article that I think is fantastic. It also offers insight into how to deal with children that don’t want to eat their dinner, or are very picky eaters.



10 Inappropriate Questions to Ask a Nanny During an Interview

10 Feb

I was recently contacted by Savannah from about helping to pass on some information that families may not know about during the interview process of hiring a nanny. Plenty of the families I have worked with have certainly asked some of these questions, and I have also been asked some questions not even on this list in my own past. Here I have copied the blog, as well as put a link to it at the bottom. 



10 Inappropriate Questions to Ask a Nanny During an Interview

FEBRUARY 7, 2013 

Hiring a nanny can be a complicated and confusing process, especially if it’s your first time through the ordeal. In addition to the overwhelming number of candidates to sift through and the stress of narrowing down the field, you’ll also have to make sure that the questions you ask your final candidates are both appropriate and in accordance with employment laws. While it’s natural to want to know everything about the person who could potentially be responsible for the care of your child, these are 10 of the things that you should never ask a nanny candidate during a job interview.

  1. “Where Were You Born?” – This question can be a slippery slope. As an employer, it is your responsibility to ensure that any nanny you hire is legally eligible to work in the United States. Asking about employment eligibility is both legal and completely appropriate. Directly questioning where a candidate was born, however, can open the door for accusations of discrimination. As long as you’re careful about the wording of this question and it’s posed only to determine employment eligibility, you should be in the clear.
  2. “What Religion Do You Practice?” – Under no circumstances should you ever ask a nanny candidate what religion she practices. Even if you plan for spiritual instruction in your own faith to be part of your children’s upbringing, you can’t discriminate against a nanny simply because she does not practice that religion. You can, however, ask if she is willing to accompany your child to religious activities and classes.
  3. “Have You Ever Been Married?” – There are several laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of the United States that prohibit employers from discriminating against a candidate for employment based on their marital status.
  4. “Have You Ever Declared Bankruptcy?” – While the justification for asking this ethically questionable and potentially illegal question holds that a nanny who can’t manage her finances may not be the best choice to help manage a household, it’s completely inappropriate to ask questions along these lines.
  5. “What is Your Political Affiliation?” – Unless you plan on raising a preschooler whose idea of fun is a spirited political debate, there’s no reason for a nanny candidate’s political leanings to ever come into play during the hiring process.
  6. “Have You Ever Had a Substance Abuse Problem?” – Requiring a pre-employment drug screening as a standard part of your hiring process is one thing; outright asking a nanny candidate about any history of substance abuse may be considered another.
  7. “Do You Plan on Having Children?” – Finding the perfect nanny only to lose her for an extended maternity leave or because she’s chosen to stay home with her new baby is understandably frustrating, but asking a nanny candidate when or if she plans to procreate can negatively affect her perceptions of you and the position due to the invasive, personal nature of the question.
  8. “What is Your Ethnicity?” – Under no circumstances should you ever question a candidate’s heritage or ethnicity. In addition to being an illegal question that reeks of discriminatory hiring practices, it’s also highly offensive and will not make a qualified candidate likely to accept the post.
  9. “Were Your Parents Born in the United States?” – A nanny candidate’s nation of origin has no bearing on her ability to perform her job, and isn’t something you should be asking about unless you’re determining her eligibility for employment in the United States.
  10. “What is Your Sexual Orientation?” – Though some states may not recognize sexual orientation as protected under employment discrimination laws, the Federal government does. You could very easily find yourself faced with a civil lawsuit for asking about a candidate’s sexual orientation, not to mention difficulty in securing a private, in-home childcare provider should word of your discriminatory practices reach other nannies in the area.

Avoiding allegations of discriminatory hiring practices can not only protect you from the possibility of costly lawsuits and time-consuming litigation, but also preserve your reputation as a nanny employer in your area. The nanny industry can be a relatively small world, even in larger cities. If you establish a reputation of asking discriminatory questions, even if your intentions were good, you’re likely to have difficulty securing a high-quality private childcare provider in the future.

Agencies vs. Websites

22 Jan

Yesterday was MLK day, so I decided I would actually take a day off…which for me means working from home. I did wake up, thoroughly enjoy my coffee, watch the inauguration, and work from my laptop. I follow quite a few nanny bloggers, as well as nanny support groups and mommy bloggers, but one I stumbled across yesterday really hit home for me.

The Be the Best Nanny Newsletter is a wonderfully written blog, but this is one I didn’t want to read.

Here are some hard facts about how nannies found jobs last year:

How Nannies Found Jobs in 2007
42% Nanny Placement Agency
20% Nanny Web Sites
15% Word-Of-Mouth
15% Classified Ads in Printed Publications
How Nannies Found Jobs in 2010
38% Nanny Web Site
29% Word-Of-Mouth
19% Nanny Placement Agency
14% Craigslist
How Nannies Found Jobs in 2012
79% Nanny Web Site
10% Word-Of-Mouth
9% Nanny Placement Agency
2% Craigslist

As an agency owner, half the people I tell that I own an agency either think I am a genius to start a business in an area where most households are dual income, or they ask me how I’m “handling” the changes with websites like or SitterCity.

The answer is pretty simple: I am doing business as usual here at North Star Nannies.

You’re crazy if you think I haven’t reassessed my career choice with the current state of the economy, and yes, I have thought for hours, days, weeks, and honestly, months on end about how I can “update” or “tech-up” my company. And here is what I have decided: I am not changing a thing.

When I started my agency, the whole point was to be the most personalized agency in the area. Yes, there are much cheaper ways to find a nanny. Two of which are and SitterCity. My agency has ads on both websites, and many of our nannies do find us on there. I think I’d be crazy not to put ads in a place where there are clearly tons of nannies and babysitters looking for work..all in one place…all where I can see their “profile”. But what these websites lack is the personal touch.

People are sometimes even offended by our rates, which by the way, we are one of the cheapest agencies in the area. And of course, we intend to be the best agency in the area. We breathe, eat, sleep, and live all things “nanny-related”. Yes, you can go online and browse through countless profiles, and yes, more often than not, you might have some luck and find an amazing nanny. I found a job myself on one of those websites on a part-time basis a few years ago, but my hours started to slowly decrease as the mother’s schedule changed. To be honest, I only worked those two days a week to have something to do, but if I had been relying on that income, I would have been the one that was “screwed here”.

Agencies provide security. North Star Nannies meets every single one of our nannies. We meet every family that we place. Sara and I spend countless hours over coffee and her “refreshers” from Starbucks just chatting with nannies and getting to know them. We are aiming for the small town feel, here. I know more about our nannies than I know about some of my friends. We are all in this together. We have one of the most important jobs in the world, and I spend nearly every waking minute (when I am not doing CrossFit, taking care of my monkeys, and reading zombie novels) thinking about how we can improve our agency.

When you work with a website, you’re doing the leg work yourself. I can’t tell you how many profiles or applications we get from those websites, because I haven’t tracked it. If I did, my guess would be that we only even get to the interview process with 1 out of 15 people we get to phone interviews with, and even a smaller number from there “clear” our screening process and reference check. This sounds pretty cutthroat, but so many people just don’t take jobs seriously. We get spotty references and resumes, as well as countless no-shows. You simply can’t gauge a person based on a phone interview and their resume. Once nannies make it past that point, and we think they are a good match with your family, only then does a family meet with them.

And for nannies, the process is much more secure than the websites also. As I mentioned, we meet every one of our families too. We come into contact with quite a few people where red flags pop up when it comes to safety. On, most nannies meet with families in their home, and they are walking into the unknown. Since most of our families are referrals from other North Star Nannies families, there is an added level of familiarity.

Security, safety and other scary words aside, agencies just also help you make decisions. Believe it or not, we do have experience with this kind of thing. We know the “nanny market”. We know what nannies make on average compared to job duties. We know what makes a position appealing to a nanny.

These days, it seems like families are the ones competing, rather than the nannies. It used to be that if I worked with a nanny, I always knew if they were interviewing with other families, because those families were North Star Nannies families. With the added options through the websites, the turnover rate of nannies is much higher. We’ve been forced to work a bit faster, and sometimes candidates that are fantastic for a job accept another position outside of the agency before they even get to meet with a family. This is why I encourage families to actually be ready to hire when they come to us. On our website, it says to allow for 4-6 weeks for placement, but I like to move much more quickly. Yes, I’m organized, and yes, I go 90 miles an hour sometimes, but this is for the family’s benefit. When you get that gut feeling that you just met your nanny, go with it. Your gut knows better than anyone if they are right for the position.

Yes, things are changing in the nanny industry, but some things are staying the same including North Star Nannies. With us, you will get us on the phone rather than a number option of why you’re calling. You will actually be able to see the background checks that are run, instead of just hearing that a nanny “passed”, because then you’re not left to wonder about the definition of “pass”.

Here’s a chart I made about the benefits of an agency vs. website:



Confessions of a CrossFit-Obsessed Nanny

14 Jan


A few months ago, the woman I work for joined a local CrossFit gym called CrossFit Rubicon in Tysons Corner. I had also heard about that particular gym from a fellow blogger (to be honest, no one should ever put me in the same category) who had just celebrated her 1 year anniversary with CrossFit. Down from a size 14-16 to a size 4, as well as 40 lbs, she looked FANTASTIC. I met with her for coffee to discuss it, and less than a month later, I joined.


My dad is a huge CrossFit guy back home in North Carolina. When he started, he was an out of shape 53 year old man (no offense, Dad!), but less than two years later, he is a CF regular and has completed a Tough Mudder. For those of you who don’t know what a Tough Mudder is, it is an all-out 12 mile mud run with 60 obstacles. He completed it at age 55. The day after he finished that race is the day I emailed CrossFit Rubicon.


I am a former athlete, and I played 14 years of soccer before I went to college. I had numerous injuries including 7 concussions, countless broken bones including my jaw, fingers, toes, ankle, you name it, and a pretty bad hyperextension in my knee that tore all the muscles in the back of my leg. Needless to say, I needed a break from competitive sports, and I was advised by a doctor not to play anymore contact sports because of all my concussions. I loved the feeling of being in shape, but I didn’t really like to work-out. In all honesty, I HATED working out. Throughout college I gained close to 20 lbs, topping out at 140 lbs. I’m 5’6, and I should weigh around 125 lbs (I think…at least I am usually in shape around that number). On my wedding day I was 119 lbs, but boy, was I a stressed bride that had just started a business! It’s hard to say where I feel the most comfortable…other than where I am now.


On my first day of CrossFit at Rubicon, I was scared out of my mind. I had seen videos of these super buff women, and even though I have always been athletic and good at sports, I was VERY intimidated. But, I knew a few women who started farther behind me. I certainly psyched myself out, but the first day I went, I was hooked. We were asked to do box jumps, and I was surprised at how high I could jump…but that was the easy part. The main work-out consisted of wall balls. Wall balls consist of holding a 14 lb weighted ball, squatting down very low, and then propelling yourself up and throwing the ball 10 ft up on a wall…..150 times. It.Was.Tough…..But, it was goooood. I was sore for days, but again, I was hooked.


I didn’t have to worry about my old injuries since I had so much one vs. one interaction with the coaches. It felt like I had a personal trainer. They took an interest in me, and they continue to this day to push me to my limits….but I am one of those girls who needs to be pushed. When I was younger, it was a rare occasion that I really tried my best when it came to sports. If I tried my best, and I didn’t do well, or my team lost, I was so tough on myself. But in the gym, I wasn’t worried about what anyone else was thinking…except when I got caught checking out all the muscles these amazing women had. I heard a few of their stories, saw some before and after pictures, and I set my mind to being the best that I can be.


I only have a little time left before my husband and I have children, so my one last goal before pregnancy is to get in the best shape of my life. I am only 5 weeks into this, and I only go 3 times a week, but I am already thinking about how I need to increase to an unlimited membership. I have actually GAINED 7 lbs since I started, and I am coming in at a proud 131 lbs at the moment (with all my clothes on). I am going to say that 5-6 of that is muscle, with maybe a little extra from the holidays ;). I have lost a dress size, my rear end is, I swear, an inch higher, and I like to flex a few of my muscles in the mirror from time to time. I feel the best that I have ever felt in my life.


The work-outs are short, and the people I meet every day are amazing. Our gym has people of every shape, color, size, fitness level, you name it. But, EVERYONE is nice. Most of the time, I still have no idea what I am supposed to be doing, but I know that I am never annoying anyone by asking for help.


I am now acting like my dad: obsessing over awesome pictures of athletes doing some amazing tasks, posting about my work-out every day on Facebook, living in my work-out gear, and yes, still admiring some of the women’s awesome muscles. For the first time in my life, I am not interested in being skinnier….I want to be STRONGER. I even get to wear my zombie socks for when we climb the ropes. 

Katie+Anything zombie related+CrossFit=Happy Katie


If you are interested in trying CrossFit, feel free to contact Chef, the owner of CrossFit Rubicon. His email address is They just added a ton of new classes to accommodate everyone’s schedule. Here’s a link to Rubicon’s website:

Constantly Learning: Discipline Strategies from a Hard-Working Nanny

8 Jan




I recently became obsessed with listening to a comedy channel on Pandora radio when I was traveling with my husband to the mountains for New Years. We don’t listen to all of the same music, so we figured we would pass the time in a new way. I was immediately hooked on a few comedians, two of whom are Aziz Ansari and Louis CK. While both can be a bit crass, there were a few tracks we listened to that discussed disciplining children, as well as just managing your patience level in general. Here is a link to one of the Louis CK tracks, which is pretty hilarious, but also very realistic. (Disclaimer: there is some serious profanity in this one, but the overall message is the point here)


Louis CK talks about how one night his 3 year old daughter woke him up multiple times at night for no reason, and he then goes on to talk about how their morning went afterwards. Long story short, she was very difficult and just wanted something to be mad at.


Since I work with 3 year olds (as of Friday, ahhhh!!!), I completely lost it in a good way when he started talking about a moment in which she was so angry and cranky, that she said she needed help when choosing with bite of her pancake to eat first. I figured I would share a few things that I have learned over the years when it comes to disciplining. Yes, this can be a very touchy subject for nannies, as well as parents, and especially when you combine both parties. However, here are a few things that I have found work in ALL parenting styles:


  1. 1.    Giving choices!  Instead of using the word “no” over and over again to redirect behavior, instead try giving children choices on which action they would like to do. For example, instead of saying, “no jumping on the bed, Trevor!”, you could say, “you have two choices: you can either hop down off the bed and find a book to read, or you can help me wipe down the table”. Yes, this sounds a bit extreme to some, but I have found that actually giving the child a choice (and yes, usually the second option is some sort of chore for them to “help” me with), makes them feel like they are in control of their own actions. I guarantee you they won’t choose to help you wipe down the table. The kids I have taken care of over the years absolutely love to have a choice…even if choice #2 stinks.
  2. 2.    Do NOT raise your voice! Sometimes I have to speak up a bit more (and I am already a loud person) just to be heard by the 4 kids I care for, but I have never once yelled AT them. In my family, we definitely raised our voices as kids, and so did my parents. That was just my family dynamic. BUT, I have found that when I raise my voice with children (again, never yelling at them) that it just gives them more power. They see that they can upset you, and they WILL continue to push your buttons to see if they can rile you up.
  3. 3.    Telling a child “I told you that would happen” after they get hurt doing something they shouldn’t have been doing. Children don’t always listen. If that is a surprise to you, please find me so that I can study everything you are doing to become a super parent some day! But, there are countless instances where kids get hurt doing something I warned them about. For example, one of the monkeys I take care of loves to open my car door. Every single time he nearly opens the door into his own face. I try to oversee him opening the door since I am all about self-sufficiency, but the other day he beat me to it when I was keeping the other one from running into a tree (yes, this sounds completely ridiculous). Needless to say, he thoroughly whacked his own mouth with a steel car door when I had just reminded him that this was a possibility. Of course, my first thought was to say, “This is exactly why I ask you to have Katie help you open the door.” But he was very upset, crying, and he had a nice red mark forming. In other words, he just learned that lesson himself, and this is their version of self-correcting. When something happens as a result of not listening to a grown-up’s directions, just soothe the child until they’re ok. Trust me, they probably learned their lesson the hard way, so there is no reason to pull the “I told you so” card.
  4. 4.    Threatening to enforce a rule with an action you won’t follow up on. I am 100% guilty on this one. I constantly find myself threatening to relocate a toy they are fighting over or to leave an outing that we are on when there is no way that I will actually enforce that. Instead of threatening, follow up on what you say. Maybe redirect them into better behavior by giving them a CHOICE like I mentioned earlier! J In short, You Must Be Consistent – If you decide to lay down a law/rule you must have the self discipline to enforce it with real consequences. If you don’t enforce the law how can you expect a child to respect it?
  5. 5.    Listen to them! Most often, when a child is acting up, it is because they are not being heard. If they feel like they are being heard and taken seriously, they will act more maturely and won’t have to misbehave in order to get your attention. Even when you’re at your busiest (ie: cooking dinner, answering the phone for work, and keeping an eye on all of them), make sure you listen. When kids ask you questions or simply try to talk to you, just stop for a moment to listen to them. They’re just little guys trying to learn….or just asking for a hug. 

Good luck!


Surviving the Holidays!

18 Dec

Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 3.23.18 PM


Raise your hand if you are overwhelmed! Or, throw up the Vulcan “Live long and prosper” hand signal, if you are SO busy with the holidays that you might perish from an exploding brain! (Please reference above photo).

Yes, that is me….doing a nerdy Star Trek move on live television.

To be clear, I was not in my right mind yesterday. Since I serve on the board of Borromeo Housing Inc., a local non-profit in Arlington that supports young mothers and their children, I volunteered to help with a feature that NBC4 did on BHI for their “Twelve Days of Giving” program. It was a fantastic way to raise awareness and funds for BHI, and I am always proud to be a part of this FANTASTIC program!

But, the fact remains that I was so all over the place yesterday that I got caught goofing off when I thought the cameras were not on me. I did try to play it off by pretending to “fix” my hair, but let’s be honest, this just looks blatant.

I am SO overwhelmed by the holidays! And I know that if you are a normal human, you probably are too! So, I figured I would write a blog that may help ALL of us to put things into perspective.

I am a very organized person. I label everything in my house. I label everything in other people’s houses. I have labeled my husband. If you are familiar with the show “Friends”, I am Monica Gellar (but I secretly want to be Rachel Green). I used to send Christmas cards at the end of November. I used to write up my thank you notes before an event even happened. I used to actually fold the laundry that I do daily, instead of creating a mountain of laundry in our guest room that I have to dig through daily just to find something appropriate to wear to work or the gym. To be honest, the only motivation I have to fold that laundry is when Erica sleeps at our house on Monday nights. Last night, we even had our own Christmas miracle when I spent 2 hours folding 7 loads of laundry until 12:30am.

What happened to me? Why have I still not sent out Christmas cards when we are now 7 days away? Why did I not send out thank you notes until 11 MONTHS after my wedding? The answer is simple: I grew up. I got busy.

The holidays are supposed to be a time that are spent with family, a time where we take a break from the crazy just to be with our loved ones. My husband and I got so caught up in how crazy everything has been lately, that we weren’t even planning on being able to visit either of our families…..until yesterday, when we decided that our priorities were all wrong.

We are a family that is focused, first and foremost, on family. We both own small businesses. We both do CrossFit. I have two jobs. I am a bridesmaid in THREE weddings in the next 10 months, and we are thinking about having kids sometime in the near future (yeah, right. This may have to wait a bit! Who are we kidding?).

I am a slave to my cell phone. My job is such that I need to be available nearly every hour of the day, and while I do my best to do that for the sake of my business, it also puts my family life in jeopardy. I have been accused, even on public forums, of being non-responsive (my response to this is that when the power goes out for 14 days in your office, I can’t return phone calls….or sometimes it takes me 2 hours to respond to an email when I am at my nanny job), but I am far from non-responsive.

For the past two years, my business has become my life. It takes up 90% of my day, with sleeping coming in at 5%, and my family coming in at a measly 5%. Yes, these percentages are an exaggeration, but again, my priorities have been off lately.

That is until Drew and I decided to reclaim our lives. Balance has always been a big struggle for me in life, because if I decide to do something, then I am going to do it the right way. I like to think that I am selfless, so my challenge to everyone this holiday season is to be a little selfish!

Don’t spend hours laboring over which Christmas card you’re going to send. Send an e-card! Don’t spend hours perfectly wrapping Christmas presents. Who cares if they don’t look like they can be in a Pottery Barn ad?! Don’t spend days, or even weeks, deciding on that PERFECT gift to get someone. Odds are, they won’t even like it, so get them a gift card. If people know you well enough and know you care, they will be happy that you even thought of them enough to get them a simple present.

Go to the gym! And then come home and eat another Christmas cookie! The time for making big changes to your life is New Years, so let’s all enjoy the Holiday Season. Let’s take breaks from work, but let’s focus on really working hard during the hours we DO work. Let’s put the iPhone down for a few hours and just sit in front of the fire and drink hot cocoa…..

Or if you’re Drew and I, let’s sit on the couch looking at our pile of laundry and drink expired milk, because that is all we have in our fridge these days 😉


Note: PLEASE ALSO DONATE ANYTHING YOU CAN TO BORROMEO HOUSING INC. THIS HOLIDAY SEASON! Every dollar counts J Here are links to the donation page, as well as link to the segment on NBC4.

First Segment (If you look really hard, you may see some weird-o signal Planet Vulcan):

Second Segment:

What a Meany!

10 Dec


A few weeks ago, I may or may not have received a puzzled/confused/incredulous look from a mother when I was in Barnes and Noble with the children I care for. We were preparing to leave for their movement class, and I had just refused to put the books they had been looking at back for them. I did not use a mean voice, and I said something along the lines of, “no, I will not put those back for you. If we take books out, we need to put it back together. I’m happy to help you.”


Now, I could just be misinterpreting the look that came my way, but it certainly made me think about how some parents, or nannies, may think that I am too tough on children. Let me follow that up by saying that I would do anything for the kids I take care of, and I am certainly guilty at least once a day for doing a chore they are expected to do just because it is easier than having them “help” me with it. If there are a few toys left out that someone may step on, I may go ahead and throw a few of them back into the bin. Or, if one of them pulls the entire contents of their PJ drawer out, I will fold all the laundry but have them help me to put them back into the drawer.


I think we are doing children a disservice if we do every single thing for them.


I was BLOWN AWAY when I started working with a family where the two year old made her bed every morning. To say I was impressed was an understatement. I had no idea that if I was just consistent in my requests/expectations of their daily “chores” that it was even possible to have them start to help with these activities. Since then, I have been reinforcing the fact that we should at least “try” to clean up a mess or do our “jobs” (I refer to chores as jobs), and this is a theme that really translates into other areas as the children grow older. This teaches them to be self-sufficient, confident, and responsible kids, and what could be more helpful than an extra set of hands to a busy mommy?!


Having children help with chores isn’t crazy….unless maybe you ask them to patch the roof, that is!


And one last thing, why DO kids not realize that I cannot pick up one of them when I am already carrying three? And I don’t know about you, but I am not very good at tying a shoe when I am driving 😉