Thursday, September 27, 2012

The worst job I ever took

I was thinking last night about the jobs I have had over the years and for the most part I've had some good ones.  Then I got to thinking about the worst job I ever took.

I had graduated from Norland, I had finished my 1 year probationary post with a wonderful family in Kensington and I was holding out for jobs in the U.S. mostly interviewing over the phone.  During this time I needed to take on temporary work as I didn't want to commit to a permanent job for a year and there were enough temp jobs at the time to carry me through.  Remember my baby nursing, slipper shuffling experience?

Anyway I got a call from the Norland Agency asking if I was available to work for a family in London for 10 days starting in 3 days time.  I said I was and was given the phone number to call and have a chat with the parents.  I spoke to the mother and she seemed nice enough, the job was for 2 young children a girl of 4 years and a boy of 7 years.  I was to take over from their old au-pair as the parents were already going to be in the Bahamas by then. 
WHAT?  You were going to leave me in charge of your children for 10 days and you hadn't even met me?  That should have been my first warning.  But I figured Norland had THAT good of a reputation plus I needed the money, how bad could it be!

When I arrived at the house it was Sunday night and I met the au-pair who spoke broken English (she might have been Spanish) she gave me a 5 min tour of the house, introduced me to the children and shot out the door.  Hmmmmmmm second warning???  Immediately the little girl started crying poor thing, she had  just been left alone with a complete stranger.  She had beautiful long, blonde hair, all the way down her back but I couldn't help noticing how tangled it looked.  I was told that the children needed a bath or shower, the little boy who hadn't said much to me at all and looked very annoyed that I was there gave himself a shower and I bathed the little girl and washed her hair.  There was a number of bottles in the bathroom and I couldn't really see a child or regular shampoo so I asked her which one her au-pair had used.......she handed me a dog shampoo!!!!!!!!!!  No wonder her hair was in knots!!!!  I scouted around the place and found a shampoo and conditioner for humans and then we washed her hair.  It took forever to comb out the knots, I mean FOREVER, definitely not less than 30 mins.

The little boy who had been pretty quiet up until this point started picking a fight with his sister.....I intervened and tried to split things up because he was starting to get physical.  All of a sudden he lashed out at me telling me I couldn't tell him what to do, I wasn't his mother and I should "F**K OFF" .......  WHAT????
I was in shock.......I had never been sworn at by a child.  This boy was getting out of control, he started lashing out and I had to physically restrain him from his sister.  Well then of course when he couldn't reach her with his own hand he started throwing things at her.  Oh my God where was I?  The grande finale was when he turned and threw an object at the glass french doors that lead out to the patio and one of the panes cracked!  I had to get him out of here.  I took him up all 3 flights of stairs and put him in his bedroom for all our safety.  He needed to calm down.  I sat outside his bedroom door and every time he tried to come out I shut the door on him and said he had to stay in there until he had calmed down completely.  Now I had always been taught that a bedroom was no place for a punishment but at this point I didn't know what else to do, he was a danger to himself and us.  I remember sitting out there while he screamed and ranted on about how I shouldn't be there and how he wanted his mummy and swearing left, right and centre.  Finally after about 45 mins to an hour all was quiet.......he had fallen asleep.  THANK GOD!

I was very much in shock, very much wishing I had never taken this job but above all felt very sorry for these poor children.  I don't think I slept a wink that night in fear that the boy might smash up the rest of  the house or creep out and run away.  The next day the mother called to see how everything was.  I told her exactly what had happened and she acted surprised......."that doesn't sound like my son"   "my son doesn't swear"  "my son would never intentionally smash a window".......  denial ain't just a river in Egypt lady!!!! 

And so the longest week of my life began!  It was really pretty bad at the beginning, more rantings and ravings and swearing and fights but I think when he realized that I wasn't a push over, when I wasn't backing down and I meant what I said, he started to break down his walls.  By the end he had definitely warmed to me and was respectful and we got along pretty well. I couldn't help but think that these poor children were somewhat neglected by their parents....I mean who leaves their children for over a week with someone they have never met let alone introduced to their children?  I also found out that they had gone through quite a number of nannies and au-pairs over the years, you couldn't help but feel sorry for them but I still couldn't wait for their parents to get home.

The icing on the cake of my stay was on the very last day while driving their BMW a lorry/truck smashed into me on a round-a-bout (that's a circle in the U.S.)  well I guess it couldn't get any worse really.  As soon as the parents got home they thanked me, paid me and the father drove me to the nearest tube was over!  HURRAH!

And that completes the worst job I ever took!

Any nannies got any equally bad or worse story?  I'd love to hear them!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Snacktime and healthy snack options

We all snack.
Snacking is a great way of keeping up our energy throughout the day.
Studies show that eating small meals many times a day is more beneficial for our bodies than eating 3 large meals.

But in my opinion children are a little different.  Yes of course I give children snacks but I am very, very careful that they do not eat too much at snack time.  Sometimes for a child it's just the thought of eating that is what they need, anyone who has just eaten a large meal 2 hours earlier is not actually hungry!  We all know that food can be a great source of comfort to people (myself included) and children are no exception to the rule.

I want my charges to be hungry for their meals.....not starving but definitely coming to the table excited to eat.  In order to accomplish this I limit how much they snack on and when they snack.  I never give huge snacks, just a small handful of something healthy.  Giving a glass of milk with the small snack will also help to 'pad' out the snack.

I believe a huge problem with fussy eaters today (not all of them) is that they snack too much.
Old school saying..... "if a child is hungry, they will eat"  I'm not saying starve them.....just be smart.
Look at the portion you would have for a snack and half it for a child.  Half those 100 calories per bag snacks....unless you have an older child involved in afterschool sports activities that burn through their food and require extra calories and carbs to partake in their sport.

It basically boils down to common sense and experience.  I can't sit here and measure out pretzels for each age have to be smart, understand your child and their activities.

Here are some healthy snack ideas.

Healthy snack options for children

-  fruit
-  raw vegetables with a something to dip them in hummus, guacamole, 
   (most children like Ranch dressing, try and find a healthy one)
-  pretzels
-  yoghurt
-  a roll up of a slice of turkey and a slice of low fat cheese
-  crackers and low fat cheese
-  granola
-  cereal bar
-  bean salad
-  edamame
-  rice cakes
-  mini home made healthy muffins 
-  smoothie
-  trail mix

So if you feel your child isn't eating as much at dinner time as you think they should....take a look at how much they eat at snack time.

And with that said.....I'm off to get myself a snack. 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Easy sewing projects for children: a reversible toy tote

Although I didn't have my 6 year old help me sew this tote (limited time now with school) it's really very easy for any child (or adult) that can sew a straight line.

What you will need                                   

2 pieces of  coordinating fabric measuring 18" x 21"
24" of 1" wide twill trim 
a ruler
a pencil or fabric marker
sewing machine
etc etc etc

OK here goes

Start off by cutting 2 pieces of fabric 9" x 10 1/2".  Then cut 2 more pieces  9" x 10 1/2" in a coordinating fabric.  Altogether you will have 4 rectangles of fabric.

Here are my 2 choices for this project.  I wanted to choose 2 appealing fabrics as the bag is reversible.

Pin right sides together along the 2 longer sides and what will be the bottom (make sure your fabric pattern is facing up on both sides)

Stitch all 3 sides, don't forget to back stitch at the beginning and end.  I used the edge of the foot as my seam allowance.

Clip corners at the bottom of the bag

I like to iron my seam allowance open.  I have a teeny, skinny ironing board for narrow projects.

I trimmed the seam allowance on what I chose to be the lining fabric

Turn right side out and gently persuade the corners out from the inside using a knitting needle 

Press under a 1/2" hem of fabric from the top of both bags

They both should look the same

Insert the lining into the outer bag.  The lining should not be turned right side out.
Line up seams and edges and pin together

Cut the twill in half lengthwise so you have 2 pieces that are 12" long.  You can do shorter or longer depending on your handle length preference.  Make a mark with a washable fabric marker (or you could use a pencil lightly)  3/4" from the end on all pieces.

Insert the twill handle between the 2 fabrics at the top of the bag.  The pencil mark on the twill should be in line with the top of the bag.

  I put my handles 1 1/2" from the edge.  Do the same for the other end of the handle and again the same on the other side.  Both handles should be equal in length and position.

It should look like this

Stitch the bags together and the straps in place by stitching a running stitch all the way around the top of the bags.  I used a a blind stitch foot that has a special edge guide.  I then ran another line of stitching about 1/2" underneath the first line of stitching.  For extra strength you can back stitch where the handles join

Feel free to spray your tote with Scotch Gard for some protection (I like to keep mine as is)

Voila!  A perfect tote to throw a couple of books or toys in.
It also works great for snacks and a couple of water bottles

Have a go and make one.....if you do send me a pic, I'd love to see it.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I saw your nanny blog

While doing research recently I came across another blog for nannies and parents, it's called
I Saw Your Nanny

At first I thought what an odd title and wondered what it was about thinking it was perhaps something to do with people spying on nannies.  I've been on the blog a few times since and even responded to a couple of's actually a very interesting place to visit.  It covers all sorts of topics to do with childcare.  It has postings from nannies and parents looking for advice, people reporting nannies ignoring their charges and interesting articles in the news concerning children.

I have to say my favourite part of the site is when people report 'not so great' nannies! 
Most of the sightings are at the park and I totally connect with them having witnessed many similar scenes myself and feeling very frustrated at the lack of attention and supervision some nannies give to their charges.

I'm the nanny following my charge around the playground even today when she is 6 years old.....I never sit on a bench unless she is playing in the same spot and only then it's briefly.  I never take my eyes off her, I start to panic if for a moment I lose track of her but it's never normally more than a few seconds.  It infuriates me to no end when I see nannies/parents just sitting on benches chatting to each other and they haven't a clue where their child could be. 

Go check out the website, it's an interesting read......and a place to report any nanny who is not acting in the best interest of the child.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Norland Manny

About this time of year, 22 years ago I was heading down south to start my training at the Norland college.  My parents drove me there and I couldn't wait to get out of the car and face college life full on.  Then as soon as we pulled up to the front door my nerves kicked in, I felt sick and I didn't want to get out of the car.

I can only imagine the nerves on Michael Kenny around about this time.  He is the second male in a 120 year history to be accepted into the Norland College.  The college ordered him his own special uniform of a tweed jacket and a pair of beige pants, a white shirt and tan neck tie.  I bet he has to wear those sensible brown lace up shoes like the rest of us had to as well! 
No mention of a hat and white gloves though! 
And keeping his hair off his collar is probably not going to be a problem for Kenny.

If you want to see a photo and read more about Kenny and his drive to work with children I can highly recommend this article from the good old Telegraph!


And if you are interested to read about my time at the Norland college here are the links:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

What do I miss about England?

Ever since I can remember I wanted to live in America.  I visited here with my family 3 times growing up and it was always my number 1 place to go back to.  I can't really explain it.....all I know is that it just appealed to me.  There was always so much going on, always something to do and places stayed open past 11pm at night....AMAZING!

So what do I miss about England?  I get asked this question a lot.

Even though I don't really miss England in general (I've been here 18 years) there are definitely things that I do miss from it.

-  The number 1 thing I miss is of course my family.  I miss not being able to have Sunday
    dinner with them or just to pop around to say hello, that regular weekly contact.  I do
    talk to them on the phone a fair amount but it's not the same.

-  I miss the dry, sarcastic sense of humour.

-  I miss the 'down to earth' attitude of the British people.

-  I miss 'Salad Cream' (anyone who visits from across the pond knows to bring me a stash)

-  I miss British TV (although I do get BBC America whenever I tune in it's always 
   Dr. Who or Top Gear.....I do love Top Gear though)

-  I miss a proper pub.  There are plenty of imitations here but it's never the same.

-  I miss the occasional fish and chips.....again....a lot of imitations but never the same.

-  I used to miss the's just not the same in the U.S.
   (but over the past few years my sweet tooth has vanished)

-  I miss the history of places.  It still surprises me that everything is so new here!
   I think it has given me a greater appreciation of History.

-  AND....I miss free health care!!!!!!!

One thing I don't miss is the weather!  I've never know another country where you can experience all 4 seasons in 1 day quite like England.

Any other Brits missing their homeland?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Book review: A Spoonful of Sugar by Brenda Ashford

I finally finished a book!  It was that day at the beach that helped.....after I got battered on the boogie board and nearly lost half my bathing suit it was time to sit and relax.


Now I'm not just saying that because I am a fellow Norlander and it brought back so many memories of my own training that occasionally choked me up at times!  I think this is a fantastic, EASY, read for anyone.  It is so insightful into war time England and really made me feel that I was right there beside Brenda.  It's been a long time since I got lost in a book.

Brenda describes her family life and how she always wanted to work with children and the fact that she was not the best scholar.  She talks about her boarding school experience all the way through to the uncomfortable situation she was in when she had to take the Norland final exam.

Her hospital training was quite a bit different to mine.....I wish I had had the experience to work at Great Ormond Street Hospital.....although not under the circumstances she was in.

Though she describes the war and the horrific circumstance, she talks about always putting her feelings aside and concentrating on the children, they were always her first priority, such a dedicated nurse.  Brenda gives the impression that her job at hand was far more important than any silly war and was very humerous throughout the whole book.  My favourite quote is this...

                  " When you've trained under the doyenne of Britain's oldest nanny 
                    school and the draconian matrons of the 1930's hospital wards, Hitler 
                    and his army hold no fear.  Every fibre of my being was focused on 
                    the welfare of the children in my care.  Nothing was more important 
                    than being the most loving and professional nanny that I could possibly be".

Brenda talks about her job placements after training, her romance on her days off and the amazingly interesting people that she encountered through all of this.  When I reached the end I was disappointed, another chapter was about to begin in Brenda's life and I was keen to read on.  Is there going to be another book?  I hope so.

Funny timing but yesterday I received my copy of 'Norland Now' (a small publication that is sent to Norlanders).  The literary agent, Kate Thompson that worked with Brenda is looking for other Norlanders to talk to with a view to having their stories published!  I hope someone steps up.....I definitely don't have enough time or amazing stories under my (20 years of experience) belt but it would be very interesting to read about others!  Or maybe a good idea would be a collection of short stories from different nurses in different eras???


You can find a copy at 

It's a great read for anyone......and especially interesting if you are a Norland Nanny!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

How important is routine to a child?


I think we all love it. I know I do and every parent/care giver I have ever met does too.
I know my 6 year old is itching to get back she has missed her friends and although she doesn't realize it I know that she has missed her school life routine too.

I have cared for this little gem since she was 5 months old.  I took over from a baby nurse who had her in a great routine from very early on (in my opinion it's important to start early).  She was a brilliant napper and religiously took her naps in the morning and evening until she was almost 2 years old.  We would walk every morning and afternoon as weather permitted (at Norland it was stressed how great fresh air is for all).  Plus it helped me to shed a few pounds.
Happy Smiley
 She fed at the same time every day and bathed at the same time every day and was a very happy, relaxed, content baby.  I know, I's the luck of the draw too.  It's the whole nature/nurture debate as well.  I believe I had great material to work with but I also believe that the routine helped tremendously.

Giving a child a routine is the best way of giving them a sense of security.  They know what to expect and when to expect it and it helps create self confidence and makes them feel secure.  I also believe that the routine should never be so inflexible that as soon as there is any change it is upsetting to the child.  Rules are meant to be broken or twisted a never want to be so strict that there is a melt down or a definite change in behaviour of the child due to a change in schedule. 

It also teaches children how to become self sufficient.  If a child is used to the bedtime routine as a bath/shower, brush teeth and then read for 15 mins they are likely to carry this on themselves when older. Knowing that a routine like this is done on a daily basis also helps develop healthy patterns of behaviour such as being aware of personal hygiene. An added bonus is that it also may eliminate some of the arguing and power struggles between parent and child.

Routines also help build trust between a child and parent or care giver, if I tell a child the schedule of the day and it actually happens then a certain level of trust and understanding has been built between the two of us.

A routine can also help to create a clock of the day for young children.  Think about it, as adults we all know what time it is and when to expect certain events of the day such as lunch due to looking at our watch or clocks.  To children who cannot tell the time it's just one big wide open day, a routine can help guide them through the day.

When my charge was young I would always start the day by talking to her over breakfast about what we were going to do that day, I believe it made her feel happier that she knew what was going to be happening to her during the went a little something like this.

After breakfast we'll get dressed and go for a walk.
After the walk we will got to see Mr Bruce at music class.
After music class we will come home and have lunch.
After lunch it's nap time.
After nap time we will go to the park.
After the park we will have dinner then a bath.
And after the bath 'Mummy comes home' ........and Lulu will go home.

I would also update her during the day to let her know what was happening next (I would never expect her to remember the whole sequence of the day) and as she grew older I would ask her if she remembered what came after lunch etc.  A benefit to this is that it helped build her memory skills too.

She is 6 years old now and we still start with the layout of the day so she knows what's going to be happening......especially in the summer time which offers a different kind of schedule.

Yesterday we talked about how the weeks are going to be once she is back at school.  She has an after school activity every day par Thursday so knowing what is coming her way will help her prepare and feel more comfortable about the day.

In my opinion a daily routine for children can make life easier for everyone!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Flickr Photostream and Slideshow

I'm sure many of you out there are familiar with Flickr and I'm sure some of you don't have a clue what I'm talking about.

Flickr is (according to Wikipedia) an image and video hosting website.

"And why are you telling me this"? I hear you ask.

Basically it's where I am going to post all the pics of everything I have made in my crafty little world......some are items that have been tutorials on this blog so you will have seen them before.

You can go directly to the Textile Trolley Flickr page  to view them
or I added a nifty little gadget called a slideshow to the Textile Trolley Blog.

You can find the slideshow by looking at the right side column under the header 'CRAFT ITEMS I HAVE MADE'  which is directly underneath the 'ABOUT ME' header.

And if you're one of the many that read this via email then you're just going to have to go to the blog page to view it.

It's a lot of bibs, bibs and more bibs at the moment because that's what I've been working on.

Have a great day.