16 Ways to Travel With Kids (And Enjoy It)


By Joanna Goddard for A Cup of Jo

When brainstorming family trips, I sometimes think of that funny Onion article, “Mom Spends Beach Vacation Assuming All Household Duties in Closer Proximity to Ocean.” So, how can you get a family vacation to feel like a true escape — not just for kids, but for grown-ups, too? Here, experienced mothers share their tried-and-true tips…

From Kendra Smoot, mother of three (aged 2, 5 and 10):

1. I start packing the week before we leave. I set out a suitcase or start a pile out of the way, and when I think of something (bug spray, sun hat, headphones), I just pack it up instead of scrambling right before we leave.

2. Ever since I heard that anticipation is half the fun, we involve the kids in the planning part — learning a bit of the history of where we are visiting, what things we want to do there.

3. We bring headlamps. They’re so handy and comforting for kids when they’re in a new space, or when you are all sharing a hotel room with a sleeping baby, etc.

4. Eating out for every meal with kids can sometimes feel like a drag, so we buy groceries and cook — and save eating out for a few special restaurants.

From Linsey Laidlaw, mother of three (aged 3, 6 and 9):

5. My best advice for easing plane travel is to keep your kids nice and deprived any time they aren’t flying so you can lord the prize of screen time and snacks over them as a bribe for good behavior. We don’t give them juice in our normal life, so the promise of their own little can of cranapple is tantalizing.

6. I love that exploring a new city as a family gives us a truer idea of what it’s like to live there. With kids, we experience grocery stores and neighborhood playgrounds and local spots that we’d probably miss if we were on a grown-up trip. We shape the itinerary so that everyone can choose one activity per day, and we alternate between adult and kid picks. The rule is you have to be supportive of other’s picks. So, if you keep it together on Mom’s walk through the museum, you won’t be cut short at the park — and also your chances for ice cream will increase exponentially.

From Brooke Williams, mother of one (aged 9):

7. On car trips, we listen to podcasts. Hours fly by like minutes. Tumble is a great kid-friendly podcast about science, and NPR has a whole directory of family podcasts. Then there are my favorite books on tape. We devoured the D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, which is read by Harry Belafonte, Kathleen Turner, Mathew Broderick and Paul Newman and might just be the Best. Audiobook. Ever. We also loved Wonder and A Wrinkle in Time. Oh, and we probably listened to The Little House on the Prairie 1000 times. Maybe more.

8. We try to rent apartments when traveling — it makes the pacing feel more human, and you can have that downtime at home. I like Kid & Coe for family-friendly houses in cool places. Plus, that way we’ll eat a good breakfast before setting out for the day. If Daddy makes pancakes, we’re all good!

From Amanda Jane Jones, mother of two (aged 1 and 3):

9. We carry a big (thin, so it can be easily folded) picnic blanket that can be used for picnics in case the kids are too rowdy for a restaurant. It also can be used for naps in transit. 

10. We have the most success when we plan outdoor adventures in nature. The kids are always 10 times happier on some sort of hike or beach or lake, so we try to work that into our days.

11. “Hangry” fits happened so often at the beginning of our last summer vacation, I quickly learned my lesson. Now I’ll pack sandwiches — croissants with tomato, mozzarella and arugula (the kids eat it without the arugula). Or if we’re in a rush, peanut butter and jelly.

From Liz Libré, mother of three (aged 9 months, 4 and 6):

12. We bring a few things for indoor play (for early mornings, downtime and rainy days): A Koosh ball is great for tossing around, especially at the airport; it doesn’t bounce away, which is key. Plus, the games Rush Hour and Spot It. Also, on a recent trip, my friend recommended Perler beads, which were a HUGE hit with the kids. We were on the most beautiful beach in the world, and my son wanted to go back to the room to do Perler!

13. We love being outside but don’t want to get burned, so we wear brimmed hats and hooded sun shirts. Kids are always exposing their backs and necks, digging in the sand or playing on the ground, and these help keep sun off them without being too hot.

From Erin Jang, mother of two (ages 1 and 5):

14. I always like to tell my son, “It’s an adventure!” My dad used to tell me that growing up. Energy is so infectious. If I am stressed, impatient and cranky, my kids feel it and it can sour the moment for everyone. But if I’m amped up, the day becomes that much more fun. As a parent, you can spin anything — even the mistakes, the detours, the forgotten diapers! — into an adventure.

15. On our last trip, I gave our five-year-old the very important job of being our family travel reporter. To my surprise, he took it very seriously! I brought a notebook, scissors, tape, a glue stick and markers. He collected bus and museum tickets, asked for business cards at restaurants, and sought out other ephemera. He documented the most important events (i.e., all sugary treats he ate) and it was a great activity when we were waiting at restaurants or on long train rides.

16. Lastly, packing cubes! They’re the best! It makes it so much easier to pack and unpack all the kid’s clothes, and keep things organized when we’re traveling.

Of course, tricky things still happen on family vacations, but it’s worth it for the great moments, right? “We’ve had tantrums and time-outs all over the world,” says Linsey Laidlaw. “For us, this is an acceptable cost of business, and we figure if we are gonna learn to master these behaviors somewhere, it may as well be on the go.” Also, I loved this mother’s Instagram comment on vacation mindfulness: “Repeat after me: ‘I’m on vacation and I don’t care!'”

Mommy and Baby Yoga Is Definitely the Cutest Workout You’ll Ever Do


By Laura Wing and Jim Kamoosi for PureWow

Getting back into the habit of working out after giving birth? Easier said than done. That's why mommy-and-me yoga is the perfect solution. We teamed up with Karma Kids Yoga to bring you three moves you can do right in your living room with baby in tow.

Downward Dog to Plank: Start in downward dog, with your feet hips' width apart, your hands on either side of your adorable yoga partner and your butt up toward the sky. Lower your rear end until you’re in plank position with your core locked and your face right over your baby’s happy smile. Hold for 30 seconds, then return to downward dog.

Raised Leg Crunches: A core exercise for mom becomes a flying lesson for baby. Start lying on your back with your legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Place your baby on your shins and engage your core to come up for a kiss. Your abs might get tired, but you’ll never get sick of hearing those giggles.

Boat Pose: Balance on your sits bones with your back straight, your legs bent and your baby sitting happily on your thighs. Increase the difficulty, and fun for baby, by holding your nugget straight up in the air above your core while you hold.

This is officially the cutest workout ever. Check out the video!

The Difference Between a Nanny and a Babysitter: 5 Myths Explained


By Ashley Brooks for Rasmussen College

Nannies are just glorified babysitters, right? Wrong! Nannies are hard-working child care professionals, yet they’re subject to a long list of stereotypes from people who don’t understand what the job really entails.

So what’s the difference between a nanny and a babysitter? A nanny’s duties go well beyond making mac 'n' cheese and popping in the latest Disney DVD. Nannies do everything from planning educational activities to providing discipline when necessary, according to the International Nanny Association (INA).

Don’t get caught believing the stereotypes! We enlisted a few seasoned nannies who are ready to set the record straight. You just might want to pursue this fulfilling career once you’ve heard their side of the story!

5 myths every nanny wants to debunk

1. Nannies are just babysitters who work longer hours

Any nanny will tell you there’s a world of difference between their job and babysitting. A babysitter’s main task is to supervise a family’s children for a short period of time. Their job is over after microwaving frozen corndogs and playing a few rounds of Monopoly®.*

Nannies, on the other hand, are actively involved with the children they care for day in and day out. “They’re responsible for the emotional, physical and intellectual growth of the child,” says Helen Adeosun, veteran nanny and founder of CareAcademy.

A good nanny will be attentive to what’s happening in a child’s development and will make adjustments based on the child’s needs. A nanny’s day might include inventing a game to help a toddler work on her gross-motor skills, teaching a preschooler to identify letters, or noticing that a baby is showing signs of readiness to start solid foods.

2. People become nannies because they couldn’t find a “real job”

“Our job is not taken seriously and it isn’t viewed as important,” says Melissa Martz, a full-time nanny with 18 years of experience. Adeosun agrees that people are often quick to assume nannying isn’t a legitimate job. Yet nannies spend their days doing hard work with specialized knowledge, often earning the benefits to prove it. 

Many full-time nannies receive similar benefits to traditional employees working for a company, according to the INA. In addition to a salary that adheres to the Fair Labor Standard Act, nannies can expect to receive paid holidays, sick days and vacation, as well as a portion of their health insurance premium covered. Some families may award their nannies bonuses and reimburse them for professional conferences or training as well.

3. Anyone can be a nanny

Some people think that no special skills or training are necessary to care for children all day. Those people have obviously never spent eight hours with a two-year-old. In reality, many nannies are highly educated childcare workers who deserve respect for their specialized knowledge.

The INA has identified five educational competencies for nannies, including skills related to children’s developmental and physical needs. They also note the importance of a nanny’s ability to interact professionally with the employing family.

“Ongoing professional development legitimizes a very important job,” says Adeosun. She found it shocking that teachers were expected to engage in ongoing education but nannies weren’t offered the same type of training. It was that realization that led her to launch CareAcademy.

Some of the skills and certifications parents look for in a nanny include:

  • CPR and first-aid certification
  • Early childhood education or other teaching degree/experience
  • Child nutrition training
  • Sign language
  • Water-safety certification
  • Professional nanny certification

4. Nannies watch cartoons with the kids all day

It might be OK for a babysitter to plop the kids on the couch for a movie marathon, but nannies know their work involves much more than that. “As a nanny, I’m invested in the child’s upbringing, development and well-being,” says Martz. 

That’s why she makes an effort to enroll the kids in her care in various community activities, from library programs to swimming lessons. Martz also makes sure to introduce early childhood learning concepts through finger plays, reading books and asking open-ended questions. That’s a far cry from sitting on the couch!

“Being engaged in the community and in community programs is what helps raise a well-rounded child,” says Martz. By keeping the kids in her care involved in these types of activities, she’s making sure their physical, physiological and social needs are met—something you can’t achieve by watching Frozen for the 100th time.  

5. Nannies don’t work hard

A nanny’s work may not involve sitting at a desk in a big corporation, but they exert a lot of energy to provide the best care possible for their kids. “You're planning, monitoring and interacting in a very close way with the child in your care. It’s amazing and can be profoundly hard work,” says Adeosun.

Nannies don’t get to run on auto-pilot if they’re tired or having a bad day. Any nanny can tell you there’s never a dull moment when they’re on duty. “A nanny is a critical thinker, a problem solver and someone who’s very anticipatory,” says Adeosun.

Nannies are experienced, trained professionals who use their skills to do everything from cooking a nutritious meal to mediating fights between siblings. Lazy folks should steer clear of a position that encompasses this much work!

How to Raise Resilient Girls


By Katie Hurley for U.S. News

I once worked with a 9-year-old girl who was a habitual quitter. 

She was enthusiastic about everything she tried, from sports to acting to art classes. Each time her parents presented her with a new opportunity, she agreed to give it a try. The problem, of course, was that nothing seemed to stick.

She made it through one season each of soccer, basketball and softball. She begged to join the Girl Scouts, but didn’t see it through for very long. She did everything exactly once. Her parents worried that her tendency to quit signified a complete lack of resilience. “The minute something becomes a challenge, she quits,” confided her mother. “She can’t deal with challenges at all.”

Resilience is the quality that allows some people to work through challenging situations and bounce back from failure. Rather than let hardships and failures overcome them, resilient children are able to change course and try again. While some children become anxious and overwhelmed in the face of challenges and setbacks, others pick themselves up and move on.

In simplest terms, resilient kids are “can do” kids. Unfortunately, building resilience isn’t simple. In girls, in particular, it can be a challenge. Research shows that self-esteem tends to plummet for girls at about age 12, and that changes in self-esteem can be attributed to shifts in life events and family cohesion. Bottom line: Difficult times can trigger a dip in self-esteem, and it’s hard to bounce back when you’re feeling low.

This 9-year-old girl, for example, had a number of factors at play. Her mother was, with best intentions, highly focused on achievement. Her mother often described herself as capable and goal-oriented. This hyper-focus on reaching goals and gaining proficiency placed a silent pressure on her daughter that led her to quit activities before she could fail. 

The good news is that research shows both a secure attachment with parents and quality time spent with parents builds resilience. Parents can help young girls become more resilient simply by providing unconditional love and support. Beyond that, parents can help promote resilience in the following ways:

Encourage a growth mindset. When young girls are encouraged to believe that they can overcome obstacles through hard work and trying new ideas (not just repeating the same action over and over again), they learn to turn “I can’t” statements into “I can’t yet, but” statements. In adding those two words, girls can turn a negative into a positive and begin to understand that learning is a process that takes time and practice. Just because they haven’t met a goal yet doesn’t mean that goal is unattainable. That’s a powerful message for girls. 

Tapping into a growth mindset helps to reduce parental pressure and prevent parents from passing on their anxieties about success and achievement to their girls. 

Nurture capability. It’s perfectly natural for young girls to experience frustration when confronted with challenges, just as it is for any child or adult. It’s important to remind girls of their past successes in overcoming obstacles. When girls learn to look to the past to consider how they overcame challenges, it helps build their strength to confront future challenges.

Teach mindfulness. Mindful people are better able to cope with difficult thoughts, emotions and challenges without becoming completely overwhelmed. In fact, one studyfound that people with higher mindfulness – those who are more aware of their thoughts and feelings in the moment, instead of just looking to the past for direction or worrying about the future – experience greater resilience and life satisfaction. 

Fortunately, there are simple ways you can teach your children to be mindful. Try these fun mindfulness games at home:

Breathing buddies: Ask your daughter to lie down on the floor and place a favorite stuffed animal or a small pillow on her belly. Ask her to focus on deep breathing(breathe in for four counts, hold for four and then breath out for four counts) with her eyes closed. Ask your daughter to notice what happens to her stuffed animal as she breathes. Ask her to send her thoughts out in thought bubbles that float away from her head as she tunes in to the sounds around her.

Apple slice: Place a blindfold on your daughter and put a fresh apple slice in her hand. Ask her to use her deep breathing while she considers how the object feels and smells. Focusing on scent and touch can be very calming. Try other fruits, and talk about how different scents trigger different emotions.

Mystery bag: Have your daughter close her eyes and hand her a small brown bag containing a mystery object. (A smooth rock, a cotton ball and a feather are all good options.) Ask your daughter to touch and describe the object as she tunes in to her senses. 

Teach self-care. Self-care is often discussed in the context of adults, but it’s imperative for young girls to understand how practicing self-care helps them become more resilient. When girls are well-rested and less stressed, they are better prepared to handle difficult challenges.

Discuss the basics of self-care:

  • Adequate sleep: Ensure she gets the necessary nine to 11 hours of rest each night between the ages of 6 to 13, and eight to 10 hours for ages 14 to 17.
  • Nutrition: Help your daughter learn to choose and cook healthy meals.
  • Daily exercise
  • Downtime 

Model time management and problem-solving skills. Girls are more apt to be resilient when they feel that they can solve their own problems and manage their own time. To that end, it’s important to stop fixing everything and micromanaging. 

Teach your daughter how to overcome challenges by modeling effective problem-solving skills. Help your daughter learn to manage her own time and complete her own projects by teaching her to use calendars and timers and to set goals. If you model it and talk about it, she can learn it.

Increase meaningful social connections. Your daughter doesn’t need to befriend every girl in her grade for social support, but she does need to make at least one meaningful connection. Building close friendships creates support and increases resilience, because girls know they are not alone. 

To help your daughter strengthen her social connections, focus on empathy, compassion and teaching her how to be a good friend.

Spend time together. It’s no big secret that our girls are overscheduled and running from activity to activity these days. In all of that running, it can be difficult to find time to focus on parent-daughter time. 

Having a caring relationship with a parent not only increases resilience, but it also fosters empathy, compassion and kindness. Slow down. Your daughter will still be able to try new sports and enroll in exciting activities, but right now she needs time to strengthen her attachments at home.

How a Staffing Agency Can Help


British American Q and A in Goop.com

Anita Rogers, founder of household staffing agency British American, has more than a decade’s experience in pairing families with household staff, from nannies and butlers to personal assistants and estate managers. She’s earned a reputation for finding successful matches–and also for helping to handle any situation that may arise in the working household. Here, she shares her insights on why hiring for your childcare or home needs is profoundly personal, and how a staffing agency can help with the process. 

A Q&A with Anita Rogers


What are the upsides to using an agency?

An agency helps you determine what kind of help you really need, and devises the way in which you want your staff to fit your lifestyle. It also saves you time and keeps you safe during the interview process. Some families have limited experience interviewing and hiring childcare and household staff, which makes it easy to miss signs of danger, red flags, or dishonesty. We enforce strict standards as we interview thousands of candidates each year. This has allowed us—and other reputable agencies—to become experts at spotting dishonest references and to be able single out specific personality traits and potential challenges. A staffing agency has seen how similar traits have played out with other candidates, which lends to its ability to find the best fit for you, your family, and your household.

What are the biggest misconceptions about household staffing?

Both parties must be willing to give and take in order to find the best match. Often people think they can hire a candidate if they offer a competitive or high salary. Or if a nanny or butler has excellent experience, they might assume they can get a higher salary and an ideal schedule. But staffing is a matchmaking process, and both parties must be satisfied with the relationship and the circumstances in order for it to work.

How do you recognize good talent?

It’s a long process—and it’s so much more than just a great résumé and reference letters. We look for candidates that have a balance of experience, training, and education in their field and glowing references from past employers. Other indicators we look for include personality, attitude, flexibility, grammar, responsiveness, and confidence.

The résumé is always the first indicator of talent, where we look at formal level of experience, age appropriate childcare experience, the types of homes an individual has worked in, longevity in previous jobs, and demonstrated professionalism and willingness. We screen all résumés and references and do extensive state, federal, and international background checks, as well as a thorough screening of their social media.

What’s the secret to finding a good match between a family and nanny?

Everyone must be on the same page from the very beginning of the process. One family’s dream nanny could be another’s nightmare. It’s imperative that the candidate and the family have a similar approach to raising children, as well as complementary personalities. Someone who is really laid back isn’t going to work well in a formal home that thrives on structure. (The reverse is true as well.) The perfect nanny and family pairing has similar philosophies about discipline, education, and responsibilities. There has to be a mutual respect between the parents and the nanny regarding the decisions made concerning the child. As a parent, if you feel like you have to micromanage and instruct your nanny on how you’d like every situation handled, you will become frustrated and resentful of the situation.

One of the most important factors to consider during the process of finding a good match is assessing the needs and expectations of the family. There’s a huge difference between a parent looking for an extra set of hands to help with driving, activities, and meals and a working parent who needs someone to be the child’s primary caregiver. A take-charge, independent, problem-solving nanny with sole-charge experience isn’t going to thrive as a helper. In the same way, a nanny without the confidence to make decisions on his or her own and proactively foresee situations isn’t the best choice for a family where the parents are gone most of the day. 

Once the hiring process is done, what other support do clients typically need?

It depends upon the family. Clients will often come to us for help with communicating with their new employee, especially during the transition process while the employee settles in. We always encourage regular, open and honest communication between both parties. On occasion, we will go into the home as a “manager” and help iron out any small issues that may exist. A relationship between a family and their household employees needs to be nurtured and carefully built, as this is a private home, where discretion is of utmost importance. We encourage clear communication and a weekly sit-down between a family and staff.

If a match doesn’t work out, what is your advice for handling a potential change (or parting ways)?

We suggest that each party be gentle but honest about their feelings. The parting should be done with kindness and care so that everyone involved understands that it isn’t a personal attack, just a relationship that has outlived its potential. When hiring staff, you are creating a business in your home. I have seen people distraught if something isn’t working out because they don’t want to offend someone, they don’t want to hurt their feelings.

In certain situations, we’ll go into the residence and let the candidate go so that we can assure it’s done with delicacy. Every situation is very different. We’ve learned it’s best to never point fingers and to make everyone feel good. We directly address and try to resolve any problems, serious or minor, that are brought to our attention, and to support the client or candidate. The ending of a professional relationship can be emotional, particularly if it involves an intimate household setting, so we work to minimize any potential animosity a much as possible.

Is there a difference between a nanny and a career nanny?

Most definitely. A typical nanny is different from a career nanny in that they often have a lot of experience with families, but no background or education in child development. Other nanny candidates are great with children and may have teaching degrees or other formal education, but limited in-home experience (typically part-time babysitting work).

A career nanny is someone who has chosen childcare as his or her profession. Most often, these candidates have formal education in child development and/or psychology. This can include a college degree in education or or training from previous jobs. Career nannies also have an employment history of long-term placements in private homes, understand the dynmics of working in a home environment and are great with children. A career nanny knows how to anticipate needs, respect a family’s privacy and space, and handle the logistics of high-end homes. Being in a home is very different than working in a school or daycare; there is no way to prepare or train someone for it, it’s something you learn and understand only after having experienced it.

How have staffing agencies changed over the years?

Historically, many agencies have been run by only one or two people. Today, the amount of work it takes to verify backgrounds, interview candidates, and create and nurture relationships is impossible with such a small team. This is a time-intensive business, which is why a larger team with modernized and strict processes is essential.

Anita Rogers is the founder of British American Household Staffing (BAHS), the nation’s leading domestic staffing and childcare agency with branches in New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, and London. BAHS provides childcare and estate staff available in the USA and U.K. She is also the founder of Anita Rogers Gallery in SoHo, New York, and of British American Talent, based in Los Angeles, London and New York.

Feel free to contact us for any immediate permanent, temporary or seasonal staffing needs.



From The Rebel Chick

Planning a last fling before baby comes? Taking a babymoon is all the rage these days, however, picking the right spot can be daunting. You want to go somewhere romantic and rejuvenating, but also with the right adventure or chill factors depending on your holiday style. You’ll also want somewhere that the focus isn’t on drinking and partying all night, as who wants to watch other people overindulging when the mama to be can’t? As such, we give you three very different boutique destination resorts in North America to consider for a babymoon.

Villa Buena Onda

We love this luxury property in Guanacaste, Costa Rica for a number of reasons. Located atop a hill overlooking Playas del Coco, it is a romantic and private adults only hotel with just 8 rooms (there are more staff than guests, and service is a priority here), making it perfect for romance and privacy on a babymoon. The location just 20 minutes from Liberia International Airport, which has direct flights form a number of American hubs, is another plus for a quick weekend getaway. And perhaps our favorite perk — especially for budgeting about to be parents — is you’ll know pretty much exactly how much you are spending as three a la carte meals are included in the nightly room rate. The food is delicious, using locally sourced ingredients that highlight the unique flavors of Costa Rica. While it’s all to easy to just spend the days being lazy by the two-tier,  swimming pool, Villa Buena Onda also is perfect for active couples as the area is home to all sorts of excursions from sailing to sport fishing, hiking to horseback riding. If you want to explore further afield after experiencing Villa Buena Onda, sister travel agency Namu Travel can design custom adventures around the region. Note, Zika virus is always a concern with travel to certain regions these days, although Costa Rica is taking many precautions and the number of cases in Guanacaste remains very low.

Garden of the Gods Collection, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Perched atop a mesa in Colorado Springs, Garden of the Gods Collection is a private club and luxury resort that showcases expansive vistas of the Rocky Mountains, snow-capped Pikes Peak and the awe-inspiring Garden of the Gods Park. Boasting a legendary history, the Collection has played host to some of America’s most beloved characters from Walt Disney to Gene Autry and John Wayne, and today, the same beautiful setting makes an ideal babymoon location. You can golf the 27-hole championship Kissing camels course, play a game of tennis inside or out or just relax at the just opened International Health & Wellness Center, which also includes a fantastic spa.  Here, guests will discover treatments not found elsewhere in the state that integrate Eastern and Western medicine with a focus on proactive health and wellbeing. Colorado Springs has its own airport, that is very easy to access. If you can’t find a direct flight from your city, however, try flying into Denver International Airport, which is located just about an hour’s drive north, and has more flights.

Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur, California

Another favorite babymoon location is the elegant luxe Post Ranch Inn, which is perched on a cliff some 1,200 feet above the Big Sur coastline. The adults-only property is in a stunning, romantic location where ancient forest meets craggy shoreline in a landscape that has long inspired writers and artists. Accommodation is in one of 39 serene redwood guesthouses that blend rustic elegance and modern luxuries with either ocean or mountain views. There are no TVs in the rooms, as the focus is on romance and re-connecting. Complimentary on-site activities include daily yoga, guided nature hikes and stargazing, and there are also options for helicopter tours. The award-winning Big Sur spa is another reason to love this property, and couples treatments can be arranged in your room. 

Today’s Butlers Are Trading Silver Trays for iPads


By Robert Frank for The New York Times

When Graham Lefford started working as a butler in 1989, his daily tasks usually involved planning formal dinners and carefully arranging the daily breakfast tray with coffee and a newspaper.

But on a recent afternoon, Mr. Lefford had to tackle a more modern butler problem: a giant TV screen that had failed to descend from the ceiling. He spent nearly an hour troubleshooting the electrical system, testing the drop-down motors and scrolling through the multimedia TV controller before finally rebooting the home’s universal software interface to get the screen to pop down.

“These homes are so complicated and filled with so much technology,” said Mr. Lefford, who works for a wealthy family in New York. “If you don’t have basic tech skills, you can’t do the job anymore.”

The life of the butler has been transformed by the digital age. As the homes of the rich become filled with new status symbols of technology — such as retinal scanners, iPad-controlled door locks, hidden flat-panel screens and underwater lighting shows — butlers are becoming more like one-man I.T. departments.

Rich homeowners are increasingly looking for house managers and butlers with corporate technology experience or engineering degrees. Butler schools are teaming up with home-software companies to better train students, while home-staffing companies are increasingly recruiting from tech departments at big companies and hotel chains. Butlers themselves — who were transformed into more corporate-style “household managers” in the 1990s and 2000s — are now struggling to balance their core job of pampering their finicky bosses with managing temperamental smart-home systems.

“There is no silver tray anymore,” said David N. Youdovin, chief executive of Hire Society, a household staffing firm based in New York. “If you can’t set up a secure wireless network or sync an iPad or use the Crestron or Savant, it’s hard to be considered for these jobs,” he said, referring to two home-automation brands.

Granted, even the nonrich struggle with increasingly complicated home technologies. But in recent years, the rich have taken smart homes to a new level — and assigned their household staffs to keep them running. Weber Tysvaer, an estate manager and chief of staff to several rich families, said one home he worked in had so many motherboards and servers in the basement, the connecting wires formed giant, multicolored columns along the walls.

“It looked like a cathedral organ,” he said. “It was actually quite beautiful — unless something went wrong.”

Mr. Tysvaer worked in a Manhattan triplex, owned by a Middle Eastern prince, that was loaded with state-of-the-art technology and security. Yet systems were often crashing: The Wi-Fi rarely worked, the home-software system always had to be restarted, and a set of “Star Trek”-like doors designed to open and close with a smooth whoosh at the push of a button that often failed to close. The entire tech system for the home had to be redone, at a cost of about $500,000, a little over a year after it was built.

Mr. Tysvaer has worked in other homes where an iPad can be used to dial up a movie, change the music, set the lights, turn on a waterfall or have special custom-made scents pumped through the ventilation system. But many times the systems don’t work together, he said — and finding the root of the problem can take hours of calls with product manufacturers and software teams.

The buyers may not realize that these systems “are far more powerful and complex for what they really need,” he said.

Mr. Lefford, who travels between his home in Michigan and his employer’s home in New York, said technology had given him more freedom, but also more headaches. He can manage his employer’s New York home remotely with an iPad, setting the heat, shutting the blinds, turning off the lights and locking the doors with the tap of a screen. He even accepted a flower delivery at the home in New York, and selected bouquets for each room, while sitting in Michigan.

But one Sunday night, when Mr. Lefford was off duty, his boss couldn’t turn on the lights on an upper floor of the house. “To fix it, I would have to remove a panel from an electronics cabinet, unplug something else and hit a reset button,” he said. “They just decided to leave them off till I came back the next day.”

Butler training schools and associations are forging closer ties to the companies that make tech gear for high-end homes. The Domestic Estate Management Association says it’s working with Crestron and Savant to create training programs to teach butlers how to run and troubleshoot smart-home systems. Other schools are adding courses in I.T. networking and programming.

“It’s part of the standard training now,” said Matthew Haack, president of the association.

In many homes of the superrich, technology is so complicated that owners are hiring specialized techies to work alongside butlers and household managers. Kevin G. Johnson, founder of Green Baize Door, a London-based placement agency and advisory firm, said he recently placed two I.T. specialists in mega-homes in Britain. One had been the chief engineer for a big London hotel group while the other came from a corporate I.T. department. They are now earning higher salaries, “in the six figures,” according to Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Youdovin of Hire Society also recently helped place two personal I.T. experts. One was for a hedge fund manager in New York who has a sophisticated trading system set up in his home. The other was for a Hamptons homeowner who wanted a searchable video system allowing him to watch certain moments from scores of professional sports games. Both workers are making over $150,000 a year.

Sometimes a butler’s toughest tech task is to get rid of technology. Mr. Lefford said a previous employer got so frustrated with his remote digital thermostat systems that when he started planning a new state-of-the-art home, he requested the old-fashioned Honeywell dials. But the company installing the home’s heating and cooling system kept pushing for a more expensive digital controller.

“My employer insisted on the dial,” Mr. Lefford said. “He said, ‘I want to be able to change the heat in my own damn house.’”




By Modern Boca Mom

Top pediatricians in Boca Raton, Doctors Chad Rudnick and Paul Gilbert, are no strangers to answering the most commonly Googled questions for parenting healthy kids. Every day at their local office, they block out an entire hour for their patients to conduct wellness check-ups and answer parents’ questions the way docs did in the good ‘ole days. They carry black “house call bags” for actual house visits, keep their cell phones on them 24/7 in case parents have questions via text or email, and spend a TON of time focusing on wellness.

More wellness = healthier patients in their book!

Between their ultra-personalized office visits and 24/7 “pediatrician-in-your-pocket” on-call status, it’s no wonder the docs at Boca VIPediatrics have quickly become top pediatricians in Boca. “We want to empower parents by bringing back the old-fashioned relationship young patients had with their doctor. So, we encourage them to reach out anytime. Any questions they forget to ask in the office, they can always email or text directly to us 24/7,” says Chad Rudnick, MD, founder of the nation’s first pediatric smart officeBoca VIPediatrics.

The Johns Hopkins-trained Dr. Gilbert knows that parents of babies and toddlers are not the only ones who rely on their pediatrician for healthy development. As “Camp Physician” at Camp KenMont/KenWood, one of the nation’s premier sleepaway camps in the Berkshires, he’s also accustomed to bonding with school-aged, adolescent, and teenage patients. “The relationship between the pediatrician and a school-aged child or teenager is what allows us to maintain their health. This helps them grow into successful young adults,” says Gilbert.

Read on to see what secrets top pediatricians in Boca, Dr. Rudnick and Dr. Gilbert, are spilling regarding healthy parenting!

The Secret To Just About Every Sleep Question Is…

Consistency. We get asked this question every single day. While our office goes into more detail about methods, products, etc. to help our patients (and parents!) sleep, the bottom line is always: Be consistent.

Human beings (especially babies) are creatures of habit. We tend to want to go to bed at the same time each night, wake up at the same time each morning, and sit at the same spot at the kitchen table for dinner. Once you’ve spoken with your pediatrician and your partner about a routine that works well for your family, stick with it. It sounds easy in theory, but sometimes life gets in the way, which is the difficult part.

You may have to decline plans that interfere with naptime or bedtime, and you’ll likely catch some flack from family or friends who don’t understand why you’re running such a tight ship. Once you get the routine down and have a consistently good sleeper (at least 2 months), then it’s possible to bend the rules for a special occasion like a family dinner or vacation.

Don’t Google; Ask Your Pediatrician

When it comes to your child’s health, we don’t want you guessing or crowdsourcing. Every time you Google your child’s symptoms, chances are your diagnosis will be WRONG. If you ask your other parent friends or post a question to a Facebook group, you may even be given information that is potentially dangerous. You should never have to wonder when it comes to the health of your child or avoid seeking the help of your pediatrician because it’s after-hours or a weekend.

At Boca VIPediatrics, there is no waiting until the next day or Monday morning when you have a concern about your child. All of our families can reach us 24/7 to ask questions if and when they arise. These top pediatricians in Boca Raton also do virtual visits where parents can send photos or videos of coughs, bumps, rashes, and even the inner ear with our otoscope attachment for the iPhone to check for ear infections. We always offer same day sick visits. You should always be able to reach out to your pediatrician or their office 24/7. Googling symptoms usually causes more harm than good.

Fevers Are Not The Enemy

Unless you have a child younger than 3 months, fevers are actually not as bad as you think. A fever is considered anything over 100.4 degrees and remember, forehead thermometers are widely inaccurate! In most cases with toddlers and older children, the level of fever is not concerning, it’s how the child is acting.

We’ve seen children with a fever of 104 who are playing soccer in our office. And, we’ve also seen some pretty miserable 101’ers who can’t get out of bed. A fever is your body’s natural reaction to fighting off infection, so it can actually be a good thing.

We treat based on how the child is feeling, NOT the number on the thermometer (Remember that this does not apply to babies less than 3 months of age). 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, our patients can email or text us to ask about dosing to make sure you are giving your child the proper amount of fever reducer.

Antibiotics Will Not Treat A Cold

The most common illness that a child will get (over and over) is the common cold – which originates from a virus. Antibiotics do not treat colds! Because these top pediatricians in Boca Raton are not fans of over-prescribing or over-medicating, they like to try natural remedies first. In fact, we never guess whether your child has a cold or infection. We’re one of the only offices in South Florida to utilize a simple nasal swab which tests for over 30 different viruses and bacteria. That way, we’re only prescribing an antibiotic when it’s 100% necessary to get your child better, faster.

Trust Your Own, Inner Parental Instincts

Nobody knows their child better than mom or dad. We like to listen intently to parents when they have a concern, because their intuition is usually spot on. That’s why we offer house calls and urgent care 24/7. We received a FaceTime call a few nights ago from a worried mom who heard a concerning cough from her 2-year-old daughter. As it turns out, she was right to be concerned! It was croup and we were able to get medicine called into her 24 hour pharmacy right away. We’ve treated late night ear infections, stomach bugs, coughs and rashes. Our office has even saved patients from ER trips by being available on our cell phones at all times. Every patient has our numbers and when it’s urgent to them, it’s urgent to us.

Every Child Is Unique

It feels like as soon as you have your first child, suddenly everyone comes out of the woodwork to give you advice. Beware of “experts” who are not experts, or professionals who try to put your child “in a box.”

Remember we are all different people with different hobbies, interests, and personality traits. Children develop at their own pace with their own set of likes/dislikes. They will grow up to change the world in their own unique way regardless of when they first start to walk, talk, or ride a bike. It’s important to work with your pediatrician and discuss milestones and development to be sure that your child is tracking as expected.

When an issue does arise, we are able to facilitate further evaluations with pediatric speech, physical, or occupational therapists so our patients are able to get back on track faster. Milestones aren’t just about babies and toddlers. School aged children (teens included)are also tracked to make sure they are reach their potential in the classroom.