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    • Considering adding a nanny to your family? Here are a few key questions that need to be asked during the interview process to ensure a happy and compatible match is made to start you on your path to nanny-family partnership bliss!
      As a Placement Provider for Olive.You.Nanny, I am constantly puzzle piecing to find compatible matches for families and nannies. I have found there to be some key questions that need to be asked during the interview process to ensure a happy and compatible match is made for both the nanny and family involved. If you can find someone who naturally aligns with your parenting style, family values, and worldview while clicking personality wise, then you are on a good path to nanny-family partnership bliss!
      If you are a hiring family you want to first and foremost get a sense for what is most important to your family. In a few words, what is your family focus/motto or what is most important to you as a family unit? Some parents mention education, kindness, openness to new experiences/diversity, or family time as their main focus. Whatever the case may be, it is first important to acknowledge what is most important to you and what you want your children to learn about the world as they are growing up. By asking yourself these questions, you will be able to better clarify what is most important to your family, which will be essential in finding a nanny who naturally aligns with you!
      Nannies come with their own unique personalities, nanny-style, experiences, and values and it is important to better understand their world-view. You don’t want them to mold themselves to you when their ideals and nanny-style could be in contrast. You, the nanny, and your kids will be happier when you are on the same page. Your nanny will act as a role model and teacher when she is with your kids and you will want to make sure what they are learning is something you also desire! I always ask nannies several key questions: 
      1. What are some values that are most important to you in your life? 
      2. What do you think is most important for children to learn as they are growing up? 3. How would you best describe your nanny-style? 
      4. What do you envision when you think of your ideal position? 
      5. What makes you feel most appreciated and happiest on the job? 
      6. What is one of your favorite memories as a nanny and why?
      After interviewing a series of nannies, I have discovered a few commonalities that seem to make Rock Star nannies happy! Most are in search of a family that is open to outings and activities and exploration in the city so they can incorporate play-based learning and get some fresh air with the kiddos. They also want to have open communication and consistency when it comes to nap times, discipline, and boundaries. 
      There are simple ways to make a nanny feel appreciated and chances are you will keep your nanny longer and he or she will go above and beyond in the role if they feel valued. Nannies want to feel like a valued extension of your family opposed to a “worker.” Employers who show their nannies trust by not micro-managing are better able to establish rapport. Thoughtful gestures go a long way in job satisfaction! Letting your nanny off a bit earlier (while being paid) on an occasional afternoon is very much appreciated as nannies tend to work long hours. Remembering industry standards like vacation and sick time and maintaining the nanny’s wage if you do not need him or her the days you choose to be away (same applies to letting him or her go home early if they aren’t needed) are key ways to express respect to your nanny’s profession. Cards of appreciation, small thoughtful gifts, remembering their birthday, having an annual review, and taking time to get to know them, are all ways to show your nanny that you care about them as an individual and value them as an employee. And you are off to a successful relationship!

    • We’re counting down the days until Prime Day on July 11th and 12th and we want to make sure you have everything you need to make the most out of this year's deals. Keep reading for shopping tips to help you make the most out of the 48-hour deal frenzy and a few of the best early Prime Day deals that you can shop for right now!
      Deal are on the way! Amazon Prime Day AKA Christmas in July, kicks off next week and is arguably the biggest sales event of the year. Yep, even bigger than Black Friday! Established in 2015, Prime Day has become the summer's best time to stock up, plan ahead for the holiday season, and splurge on things that we've had our eyes on buying. 
      We’re counting down the days until Prime Day on July 11th and 12th and we want to make sure you have everything you need to make the most out of this year's deals. Keep reading for shopping tips to help you make the most out of the 48-hour deal frenzy and a few of the best early Prime Day deals that you can shop for right now!
      Preparation is Key 🔑
      It's incredibly easy to get overwhelmed by the number of deals available on Prime Day and overspend. Remember, this is a time to save money - not spend more than you need to or purchase things you don't need. Take a few deep breaths, grasp your credit card tight, and follow these tips to be prepared. 
      💳 Membership Check
      Consider Prime Day your virtual Costco or Sams Club - you can't access the deals without flashing your membership at the door. Make sure your membership is current and that you are logged in before you plan to join in. If you're not a member already, the best news is that Prime Day always includes great incentives to take advantage of Amazon's core products - including: 
      Amazon Prime Membership: Try Amazon Prime free (and participate in Prime Day!) for 30 days! Reminder: you can only take part in Prime Day if you are a Prime member! Amazon Family Membership: Save 20% off diaper subscriptions when you join Amazon family Amazon Student Membership: Get 50% off of Amazon Prime for students and 6 months free! Audible Plus: Try Audible Plus and get 3 free months! Gift cards: Buy a $50 Amazon gift card and earn a $5 credit for Prime Day 🗒️ Make a list - check it twice!
      It's inevitable, a great deal is a surefire way to convince you that you NEED that deluxe automatic plant waterer. Save the explanations to your partner when they trip over all of the boxes from your Prime Day haul by making a list and checking it twice. The best way that I've found to avoid over spending is to grab your calendar and make note of all of the important holidays, birthdays, and celebrations coming up. Create a list of names and upcoming events (just make sure you're on that list, too!) and jot down a few gift ideas for each person. Don't forget to also stock up on the household items you'll need and maybe a few big-ticket items (like a new TV or speaker system) if your budget allows. 
      🛍️ Make sure you're actually getting a deal
      Prime Day has put a ton of pressure on competitors so be sure to shop around on Prime Day and leading up to it to see if you're scoring the best price. Big box stores like Target, Best Buy, and Walmart are guaranteed to also slash their prices or even price-match Prime deals to remain relevant during this 48-hour sprint so do your research and shop around!
      🌩️ Capitalize on Lightning deals
      Lightning deals are promos that are only available in limited numbers for a short period of time. If you notice a lightning deal on a product you love, you can track the deal and be notified once it's live in the Amazon App. If you miss out, you may also be able to join the waitlist to be notified if more become available. 
      You don't have to wait until July 11th (at midnight!) to start saving. Prime members have early access to deals on products from brands you know and love like Ruggable and Ring. You can also save early on products from small businesses and support women, Black, and military-owned brands. Here are a few of our favorite early deals! 
      Deals for Kids
      Save up to 60% on Melissa & Doug toys for the kids Save 30% on Balance Bikes Save up to 60% on PJ Masks, FurReal, Baby Alive, and more Deals for Teens
      Save 43% on Amazon Luna controller bundle Save 13% on Polaroid instant print camera bundle Save 35% on a portable karaoke machine Deals for Home
      Save 47% on a Smart Fire TV Save 60% on a new luggage set Save 50% on a Shark IQ Robot  
      *As a 501c3, we are always searching for ways to invest back into NPN and help us continue to grow. For that reason, we may occasionally earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products that we link to at zero cost to you. We vow to only feature items that we genuinely love and want to share and that our opinion on each item is our own and not at all influenced by any earnings. 

    • Ahhh the fresh smell of spring. Followed quickly by the strong desire to toss everything! I like to channel Marie Kondo when it comes to spring cleaning…if it aint sparking joy, it’s gotsta go! But it’s a new year and I’m ready to try new things so here’s my list of spring cleaning must-haves.
      If you’re anything like me, at any given time of the day, your home resembles a pigsty (hopefully sans the odor). I have kid toys, clothing, random bits of food, and some of my husbands random items scattered across the tables, countertops, and floors constantly. It’s become our new decor. While I’ve grown to accept that a tidy home is not included in the toddler parenting pack - I am constantly on the prowl for ways to improve the overall aesthetic of my home (AKA ways to hide all of the clutter). Smart storage has become my new thing. The excitement that comes over me when I walk through the cleaning aisle or the Container Store is enough to make my husband green with envy. 
      But who am I kidding? I don’t actually have the time to stroll through store aisles often. So I am forever thankful to Amazon and their array of useful products that aim to make the cleaning process easier, especially for those of us with busy lives and limited amounts of energy. 
      So without further ado, here are a few of my favorite (Amazon) things! Each of which can hopefully help you take on your cleaning goals and keep your home semi-less cluttered all year long (or until next spring, at least!)
      The Pink Stuff Cleaning Paste
      I’ve been hearing about this product line A LOT but it wasn’t until I saw a few reviews on TikTok that I was convinced to try it myself and I have to admit - it works. At only $5 a jar and with over 172k positive reviews, this is a buy that you won’t feel guilty about trying out for yourself.
      Undersink Organizer
      With all of the new cleaning products, tossing them under the sink or into a cabinet just won’t cut it. This undersink organizer was easy to put together and saves me a ton of space while keeping everything organized and easy to find. 
      O-Cedar EasyWring Microfiber Spin Mop
      A few years ago, I splurged on a mop system that also claimed to steam your floors so well you could eat off of them. And then the liquid steam solution ran out and it was a pain ordering a new one or a new mop head. This year, I switched over to this O-Cedar mop system and it also removes 99% of bacteria but doesn’t need special steam solution and the mop heads can be picked up at local stores! This bundle in particular even comes with a few extra replacement mop heads! FTW.
      22 Piece Drill Brush Attachments Set
      My hubby bought this years ago when my 5-year old was in her prime “get everything sticky” phase. I thought it was a joke until he tested this bad boy out on her high chair and it came out looking better than new. I really can’t recommend this product enough, it helped reach all of the tiny crevices that food nestles down into and my husband was excited to use it because it requires a power tool. Anything that can get him to contribute to scrubbing is a win in my book.
      2-Pack Mop and Broom Holder
      The people we purchased our home from were so ahead of the game on this one. They already had this installed into our home so I didn’t need to buy one but I had to list it here because it saves so much floor space and keeps everything in an easily accessible spot.
      Underbed storage
      We use these to store away just about everything but primarily for hiding out of season clothing and kid toys. We even have our kids help pack their underbed storage bin so they know exactly what’s there and where to find things (and return them later) when they want to play with them. My favorite thing about this pack, is that it comes with 3 bins and they have handles on them!
      Vacuum Storage Bags
      Want to stuff even more stuff into your underbed storage container? These vacuum storage bags are addictive and fun. Seriously, we kept looking for items to toss into them and flatten! We even got the kids in the mix and had them help suck all of the air out and talked about the science behind it all, too. I actually just purchased this pack to help with college packing in a few months! 
      Based on some of your advice in the forum, here are a few products I’d recommend to help with some of the main areas you all said to be sure to tackle: 
      Deep clean of baseboards: This cleaner with washable heads can help save your back and knees! Fully clean kitchen and freezer: These storage bins can help re-organize your fridge “Basically everything looks better in storage baskets” - I couldn’t agree more! Here’s a pack of three that are available in a variety of sizes and colors to match your decor! A few of you also mentioned donating things instead of just tossing them and I am a HUGE fan of donating things that we no longer use. Here’s one organization that accepts work attire to help the homeless and other people in need dress their best for job interviews.
      Keep the spring cleaning ideas coming! Share your favorite products, tips, and strategies in the forum!
      *It’s important to note that as a 501c3, we are always searching for ways to invest back into NPN and help us continue to grow. For that reason, we may occasionally earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products that we link to at zero cost to you. We vow to only feature items that we genuinely love and want to share and that our opinion on each item is our own and not at all influenced by any earnings. 

    • With April being Financial Literacy Month, there's no better time than today to start learning about cryptocurrency! Here are three ways to learn and start conversations about financial literacy with your children.
      If you're like me, saving for my children's future is a top priority. But it's more than just saving for college: I want to help my kids have positive relationships with money. And that means talking to them early and often about money and finances so that they are equipped with the tools to make good financial choices as adults.
      However, in the last 10 years, the financial landscape and possibilities have changed drastically with the introduction of cryptocurrency and the Metaverse. As a parent, this leads me to ask so many questions: What does this mean for our kids and their future? How can I better educate myself so that I can safely introduce the world of web3 to my kids? And most importantly, is there a way that I can leverage crypto to incorporate it into our larger wealth-building journey to benefit both myself and my family?
      All of these questions led my husband and I to start a company called The CryptoMom App, the premiere destination for all things crypto for women, by women. I wanted to create an inclusive, secure platform for women to learn about crypto and then invest it in products that are meaningful to our lives, like college funds. And with April being Financial Literacy Month, there's no better time than today to start learning about cryptocurrency.
      Here are three ways to start conversations about financial literacy and web3 with your children:
      1. Model good behavior by researching first
      The best way to learn about the basics of crypto is to start researching. There are really great social media accounts for women that encourage conversations and provide the basics of cryptocurrency; Some of my favorites are CryptoWitchClub on Instagram and Elana @TradingFemale on Twitter. You don’t have to know all of the jargon and buzzwords; It’s more about increasing your exposure to slowly gain familiarity. Then, talk about what you've learned with your kids in a casual setting, like at the dinner table. Your kids will certainly be impressed and you get to flex your 'cool mom' muscles!
      2. Read Books Together
      Kids of all ages love to cuddle up and read books together. You can find books at your local library or online that teach kids the basics of crypto, even board books for infants and toddlers like Bitcoin for Babies. For your teens, offer to start a book club and read the book together. Not only are you learning together but you're also building authentic connections that are often difficult to maintain in the teen years.
      3. Take the plunge by purchasing yourself first
      There's no better teacher than experience so now that you're prepared with research and knowledge, take your first step by purchasing your first coin. Don’t feel the need to invest large amounts of money; Invest what you feel comfortable with, whether it's $20 or $200. Platforms like The CryptoMom App allow you to buy small fractions of bitcoin in just three easy steps.
      If you're looking to connect with other women on their crypto wealth-building journey, sign up for the waitlist for The CryptoMom App to get exclusive, first access to our product. 

    • Choosing a gift can feel impossible at times. It may feel like we’re giving toys, clothes, or other items that may just collect dust or be re-gifted. We know that experiences tend to make better gifts than material objects because they lead to richer memories, deepen human connection, and even encourage gratitude and appreciation in children. Check out this list of perennial favorites and fresh suggestions, which are grouped by price range below.
      Zero to $25
      Garfield Park Conservatory’s Spring Flower Show is here! Send your favorite flower lover off to the Conservatory with a cash donation ready to go. The spring flower show will give children and families the gift of warmth (truly! It’s balmy in there). Add on a disposable camera for fun and see what develops… you may be impressed with what captures the eyes of your nature lover.  
      Bubbles Academy- For the younger child, look no further than Bubbles Academy for everything from drop-in art classes to outdoor classes and a nature playground. Coming this spring for families and children aged up to 7, check out their Silly Space Soiree or a gift card for one of their many fun and developmentally smart activities at any location.
      Chalk it Up - Chalk is an underestimated resource. Whether traditional or “spray chalk,” create sidewalk games like Hopscotch, Four Square, or more. Check out “Shape Hopscotch” for a fun twist.  Birthday message artistry is also a fun treat to wake up to! Spray chalk works on grass and washes out after rain.  
      Bee’s Knees (and butterflies, too!) – For kids or families abuzz to help our favorite little honey-makers, we suggest the gift of a native plant garden. For quickest impact, plant natives from a plug rather than seeds.  Because the helpful native plants are hard to find at most big box stores or nurseries, we specifically like Possibility Place Nursery in Monee, (which also offers suggestions for plants to attract butterflies!). Prairie Nursery in Wisconsin also has native plant seeds with the option to ship. For a tree bee lover, we suggest making a donation in name to Southport Corridor Bees, or adding in a jar of local organic honey to the gift.
      Camping - If your child has their heart set on a camping adventure, we like the idea of sharing a weekend (or just an evening) away. With many camping areas within driving distance, you can make their dream come true easily. Check out Chicago Park District’s Coleman Gear Library, where you can rent everything from tents and sleeping bags to flashlights and much more for free. If your family is new to camping, you can attend a camping experience with Chicago Parks for around $50. Learn basic camping principles, take a nature hike and enjoy an evening around the campfire led by our expert camping staff. At night campers will enjoy hot dogs and s’mores over the fire, and a light breakfast in the morning. 
      Art lovers - While the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute have daily admission or membership options, we find that children and adults alike enjoy spending time and money at the gift shops and surrounding restaurants. Check out specifically MCA’s Family Days and The Art Exchange at The Art Institute of Chicago. Send them with a calendar of upcoming events, and maybe some art supplies and snacks to supplement their fun.
      Movie Theater- Many families have not been to the theater since 2019/early 2020, which means that some young kids have never seen a movie on the big screen at all. Make their day with a gift card to their nearest movie theater or IMAX location. Bonus points if you throw in cash for snacks!
      Chicago Children’s Theatre - offers drop-in day camps for performers and performance-curious. We also love their unique Red Kite Program, which has special offerings for children on the autism spectrum. They even offer financial aid options for those who need it.
      Indoor Play - Fit City Kids offers something from everything from crawlers to big kids. Parents can relax while children run, jump, slide, and dive around the massive play zone. Daily visit passes are available online. Personal and small-group training is also available for the more serious athlete. They even have pickleball classes for kids! You can also check out Climb Zone or Brooklyn Boulders; Trampoline parks like Altitude or Urban Air. And if you’re gifting for a grown-up 21+, check out Altitude’s Adult Nights, where tickets include a drink.
      Date Night -  Who wouldn’t love to be gifted a date night with childcare covered? Send parents the gift of child care:  whether by covering their babysitting costs, or gifting a “Parent Survival Night” at The Little Gym. If you’re feeling generous, send them with a gift card to a nearby restaurant for grownup conversation. Near The Little Gym in Lakeview, we suggest: El Tapatio, Volo, Coda Di Volpe, or Ella Elli.
      Over $100
      Private food experience – For the foodie families in your life, consider giving a private or small-group class or dining experience. Who wouldn’t want to experience a cooking class with  French Chef Vincent at Cook Au Vin? Cooking classes are BYOB, so feel free to package your gift certificate with a bottle of their favorite wine. We hear that private catering options are also available, which may be the perfect gift for small dinner parties or romantic special occasions.
      Sleep - Can you really gift sleep? We sure think so. Kelly Murray Sleep Consulting offers services for new and not-so-new parents. Professional sleep consultants offer free consultations and packages range from from program guides with online support to private in-home coaching.
      Bulls and Bears and Blackhawks, oh my - Tickets to a Chicago Bears, Bulls, or Blackhawks game are wonderful starting points. Chicago’s WNBA team, Chicago Sky, is also a fantastic idea. And for anyone who caught the soccer bug with last years’ World Cup, check out a match for the Chicago Fire (at Soldier Field)  or Chicago Stars (Bridgeview). 
      Family Photos – For families who are so busy making memories that they may forget to capture them, consider a family photo package. Various mini-shoots are available online around holidays. Little Bear Photography and TK Photography are both well-known for their high quality and ease to work with.
      Next-Level Sleepovers - The Shedd Aquarium offers many specialty events for families, including add-on events such as encounters with Sea Otter, Beluga, or even a shark feeding tour! The Aquarium offers impressive overnight events, from sleeping around the Caribbean Reef to Oceanarium, where you can wake up next to penguins, whales and even dolphins. The Field Museum has regular “Dozin’ with the Dinos,” where families with children ages 6 to 12 can spend the night in the museum. Even better, you can prepay for overnight parking! Museum of Science and Industry has the unique overnight “Snoozeum”  
      The Getaway – The getaway gift is staple for a reason. Whether it’s your family or another, most enjoy the gift of a hotel overnight. For those with older children, consider offering a small party or sleepover for them at a cool rental property. While this gift may be reserved for very special occasions, it can be the memory of a lifetime. Imagine hosting a sixteenth birthday party at a rental property with a pool table and a hot tub. Families with younger children may appreciate being sent to an indoor water park or even to the spa for mani-pedis together. 
      Priceless: The Gift of Cereal
      The best gift you can possibly give someone may not be one you could predict. A recommendation shared with me recently was this: Give the child something that they ask for often but usually don’t get. Maybe it’s something you would never think of. Maybe they want to wear mismatched socks one day, or have a parent say yes to their request for a popsicle at the beach or donut at the store. Ask the child’s parent for ideas of what the child is constantly asking for, and find out if you can give the child that. Perhaps it takes the shape of cash for the parent to keep on hand at the beach. In the case of one friend I know, it was cereal.
      The best gifts come from the heart, creative and even wacky gift ideas can be the most memorable. 

    • We all have pain points from our school years. Exploring and healing these sore spots will free up space for you to more clearly choose how you want to interact with your child around homework.
      Let’s begin with a boundary check: The responsibility of homework completion falls squarely on the child. Without question, it is hard to watch our children struggle with the effort homework demands, but it is very important that we resist the urge to “rescue” our child from the discomfort of effort. If you “help” a butterfly out of its cocoon it dies because it wasn’t given the chance to build its wing strength.
      So, we can all agree that children should work through homework on their own, but there is still a tremendous amount of pressure on children and parents to achieve at very high levels in our culture. College applications reduce years of education to a discrete set of numbers and the status of being from certain high-performing schools. We are told to not interfere, and then we are shown a world in which not getting the best possible grades and achieving the accolades that come with that means dramatically reduced opportunity. 
      And it all begins with homework, which is why it’s such a charged topic. While we often are looking forward towards an imagined future for our children, we are probably pointed in the wrong direction. To achieve a way forward through this achievement thicket, we should look to our own memories of doing homework as a child. There, we can mine the gold of memory: the parents who hovered over you and checked your work before you turned it in, or the parents who left you completely alone. We all have pain points from our school years. Exploring and healing these sore spots will free up space for you to more clearly choose how you want to interact with your child around homework.
      Your uncomfortable memories of homework and your child’s struggles with it today represent a perfect reparenting opportunity for you, which can lead to a deeply compassionate journey with your child as you work together to make homework work for them, instead of simply feeling like busy work. With this mindset you can start shifting the narrative from struggle and challenge to one that is about how we can learn and grow - together.
      Here are some suggestions of ways to foster relationship and a love of learning:
      Pair your own work time with that of your child by having work/study dates. You can set goals together, take breaks where you share what you are learning or working on, and most importantly celebrate progress together. Turn counterproductive statements or questions into learning opportunities by challenging them to problem solve. Respond to a statement like “I don’t know how to do this” with “What have you tried?” Having a good dialogue about a stumbling block builds critical thinking skills. Problem solve difficulty in completing homework together, as you might tackle a task management problem at work. Engage the challenge as a partner in removing obstacles. By making homework help a self-development opportunity, you can ensure a deeper engagement in learning for both your child and you.

    • NPN's biggest fundraiser of the year, which allows us to continue to bring programming, events and school-choice help to Chicago parents, opens for bidding on Wednesday, March 8th! This is the perfect opportunity to buy things you already know you want or need—and help NPN, a 501(c)3 non-profit that depends on your bids to keep its lights on! Did we mention floor tickets to see Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour in Chicago?
      NPN's biggest fundraiser of the year, which allows us to continue to bring programming, events and school-choice help to Chicago parents, opens for bidding on Wednesday, March 8th! Open to the public, our Online Auction is bigger and better than ever, with more than 200 items up for bid. 
      Once you've had a chance to see our $65,000+ in goodies for Chicago families, make sure to place bids asap! We know how crazy life can get—set your max bid and rest easy. You can stop back in and visit your items or check your email notifications to make sure you are still in the lead. Bidding closes at 10pm CST on Sunday, March 12. 
      This is the perfect opportunity to buy things you already know you want or need—like summer camps, kids classes, museum memberships, restaurant gift cards, birthday parties, theater tickets, sports tickets, jewelry—and help NPN, a 501(c)3 non-profit that depends on your bids to keep its lights on! Did we mention floor tickets to see Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour in Chicago? 
      How to bid:
      Go to biddingforgood.com/npnparents. If you are new to Bidding For Good online auctions, click the Register to Bid button in the top center of the homepage. Enter the necessary contact information and click Submit. If you already have a Bidding For Good account, type in your username and password and click Sign In. Click the View All Items button to peruse more than 400 amazing items or click on individual categories to shop item by interest. Select the item(s) on which you’d like to bid. Enter your current bid, maximum bid and/or straight bid. (For more information about these types of bids, see below.) Make sure to click the Confirm Bid button to ensure your bid is properly processed. Track your bids by clicking the My Items button. To update your account or credit card information, click the My Account button. Check your email for updates when there is activity on your items. Frequently asked questions:  
      Do I need to enter credit card information into the system in order to bid? Yes. Your bid is considered your commitment to purchase the item at that price. If you win the item, the credit card used will be charged for the item you purchased. What is a “Maximum Bid”? Your maximum bid is the highest price you are willing to spend on an item via proxy bidding scenario. You can always increase your maximum bid if you’d like or if you’ve been outbid. What is a “Straight Bid”? A straight bid allows you to bid higher than the minimum increment immediately, instead of having to wait until the bidding is increased to that level. Enter the amount you would like to bid on an item, and check the "Straight Bid" option. The bid will be placed immediately at the amount entered. Do all items “close” at the same time? No. Every item’s closing time will continue to extend in 5-minute increments as long as there is continued bidding. Individual items will automatically close when there is a 5-minute extension period with no new bids or after 60 minutes past the original close time. Is there a “Buy It Now” option? Yes, on three items. For the NPN Online Auction, you have the option to purchase raffle tickets to win three floor tickets to see BEYONCÉ - RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR. You can also purchase raffle tickets for the 50/50 auction and you can Fund a Family by purchasing an NPN membership for a family in need. Those all operate as a “Buy It Now” option. Will I be notified via email if I am outbid? Yes. Bidders are automatically opted in to receive bid alerts when they are outbid. Happy bidding! Thank you for supporting the NPN community.
      Please contact Amy at amy@npnparents.org if you have any questions or need any help. 

    • Your child deserves the best version of you, and the healthiest parents possible. Only you can provide them with a happy, healthy, and functional you. Your behavior is a model framework, and your child learns more from how you interact with others than from how you instruct them to interact with others. 
      As a family law mediator and attorney, my hours are filled with former couples who must learn how to communicate for the benefit of their child. In advising clients on how to do this, we have to consider certain situations or feelings that get in the way. Before diving into advice on appropriate communication, I’ll explain a bit more on why it is so important:
      Your child deserves the best version of you, and the healthiest parents possible. Only you can provide them with a happy, healthy, and functional you.  Your behavior is a model framework, and your child learns more from how you interact with others than from how you instruct them to interact with others.  As we know too well, children are observant and smart. In their social skills now and for the future, your child will reference your communication skills (or lack thereof) as guidance for their social interactions. You are very uniquely positioned to help them become functional individuals who can face interpersonal difficulties. Your child will certainly pick up on your own attitude, demeanor, and language about your ex. If you ask adults whose parents were divorced to share a memory of how their parents communicated, they will undoubtedly remember. You don’t want your child to grow and think, “wow, my parent really couldn’t put me first. They hated my other parent more than they loved me.” You want your child to grow and know, “my parent did their best to protect me from the nuance and nastiness of their adult romantic relationship.” 
      Finally, remember that your child is truly a combination of you and your ex. Regardless of who your child is closer to, resembles, prefers, etc.,  remember this: they have two parents. Your child could likely internalize at least some of what you’re saying about their other parent, because it’s, well, their parent! And you have a truly special opportunity to show them how to communicate in a healthy way. Caveat: My thoughts apply to standard or high-conflict situations where everyone is physically safe. Anyone dealing with an abusive or violence ex should, of course, put safety first.
      Universal guidelines for communication with a co-parent:
      Accept that your relationship with this adult is now primarily transactional. Consider this a business relationship where you are essentially professionals working together raising the child.  Make, keep, and reaffirm boundaries.  I highly recommend the book by Nedra Glover Tawwab as described below. Some common examples of boundaries with co parents are: Only being available to them for matters related to your child; Letting their calls go to voicemail and reviewing the voicemail; Answer non-urgent requests within 24 hours; and Reminding them as needed of your boundaries.  Keep it BIFF: Brief, Informative, Friendly, and Firm. As described in the book mentioned below, communication between co parents can and should, in general, be straightforward. Your exchanges should be brief and to the point; informative and useful (no communication “just because…”); friendly without being flirty, and firm without being harsh. Again, you now have primarily a transactional relationship with this person. Behave accordingly. Consider shared calendar and family organization apps (Google Calendar, Our Family Wizard, Talking Parents) to limit unnecessary back-and forth. Never use the child as a messenger. Consider therapy another source of professional help for handling the massive emotions and changes you’re likely experiencing.  You don’t have to do this alone. When one of you is still in love:
      Accept reality. However you must do this, learn and accept that you are now a solo parent and a single individual. This person is not your spouse, they are not your romantic partner. It is not ok to flirt with them or treat them romantically or “cute.”  Distance yourself. Refrain from contacting them unnecessarily, or for reasons outside of their new role as co-parent (and not as your romantic interest). Ask some friends to be your assistants in this, and check with them before sending or saying anything that you think may not be best. Reframe their role in your life. While you may have once been comfortable calling this person your husband/wife/ spouse, this person has a new role: Teammate on Team Child. I have seen parents save each other's phones as new contacts “Sam Jones- Team Billy!” It’s corny, but maybe it will help. (Side note: if you can’t save them as something nice, save them as their own name. This is not a time for “nicknames.”) When there’s hate:
      Process it on your own. You are probably going to want a therapist, if only for a short term. How can you move forward if you’re still so angry abo it the past? Your anger may be well-founded and deserved, I get it. You must learn to leave your child out of this as much as possible, and prevent them from becoming collateral damage.  Keep it away from your child. Regardless of where you are in the healing journey, your child is dealing with enough on their own. Protect them from adult matters by discussing co parenting issues when they aren’t around. Speaking in “code” or just out of their earshot probably doesn’t work as well as you think it does. Note: if there is or was abuse or violence in your relationship with your now-coparent, i recommend the following  books in particular: “Splitting” and “Why Does He Do That?” These books separately address some of the considerations that you may unfortunately be dealing with.  Regardless of where you are in the coparenting process, I hope you will consider your child above all else. Even the “best” parents struggle sometimes. It is hard! And you can do hard things. Especially ones that are so very worth it for your child.

      **Here are the links to the recommended reads mentioned above:**
      Set Boundaries, Find Peace: https://www.semicolonchi.com/humble-design/1du11v25tyoistwttyram0lgrgxvib BIFF: https://www.highconflictinstitute.com/bookstores/biff-for-coparents Splitting: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/9996542 Why Does He Do That? Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/224552.Why_Does_He_Do_That_

    • Overwhelmed with loneliness, desperation, and the fear of our new normal, I realized that a parent community might be what I needed to restore my hope.
      It was an early Sunday morning in March 2012. I did not get much sleep the night before, because I was 4 months pregnant with our second child, and our first child, Luke, had just received a diagnosis of autism and epilepsy. To say that I was stressed would be an understatement. 
      Related: Your Child Received a Diagnosis, Now What?
      After speaking to my nursing pediatrician, it was recommended that I join a few community groups for support and resources. It was in this search that I found out about a resource fair that was created for parents just like me - parents that were overwhelmed, stressed, and on the hunt for resources and community. I was determined to provide my children with the best options available and realized that attending this fair might help me do just that. Overwhelmed with loneliness, desperation, and fear of our new normal we went to our first NPN Developmental Differences Resource Fair (DDRF) that morning. 
      If I close my eyes right now, I can remember the moment I walked into my first NPN Developmental Differences Resources Fair. I can remember looking around and seeing so many resources and so many families, like mine, all in one room. Instantly, my stress levels decreased and I breathed a sigh of relief as the feeling of hope, which had escaped me for several months, came flooding back. I was able to connect with so many resources at once! The biggest takeaway was the connections with the other families I met; just knowing I was not alone gave me so much encouragement. 
      The following year, I returned for my second DDRF. This time I was more confident, I knew exactly which resources I needed, and I was prepared with questions to ask. My biggest takeaway that second year at DDRF was that there is literally a resource for everything. Education, extra-curricular activities, therapies, government benefits, financial planning, whatever it is - there is a resource for it. I just had no idea where to look to find all of the information that I needed and had been too exhausted as a new mom to seek out the resources on my own.
      Related: Raising a Black Autistic Boy in America
      Fast forward to today and my son is now 12 years old and thriving! I have to say that being an advocate for my son and utilizing the resources that I found at NPN’s DDRF have made all the difference. I am proud to report that we have been able to change the trajectory of our son’s progress for the better. One of the best decisions I ever made was to pull my exhausted, desperate, hopeless, and stressed self out of bed that morning in March 2012,  and take the first steps towards building our community and support network.

    • We definitely just started a new tradition in our home. I cannot wait to take her back next year and to personally experience the magic again, myself. 
      As a mom to a boisterous four-year-old girl, I am always looking for ways to entertain her and keep her busy. That's why I decided to take advantage of the opportunity to take my daughter, Clarke, to see The Nutcracker for the very first time this year. Clarke has been captivated recently with dance and gymnastics - so I figured an opportunity to take her to see the greatest holiday show ever would be as magical for her as it would be for me! 
      Growing up, I was the girl that always dreamt of going to fancy shows and getting dolled up to go out with my mother. However, with two busy working parents and four other siblings, there was always either a shortage of time or money which meant no ballet performances for me; the closest I would get would be to watch a performance on television. So, once the ticket notification hit my inbox, I was overjoyed! We were going to see The Nutcracker for the first time ever!!
      In all of my excitement, I ignored warnings that my daughter might be too young to admire the amazing skills of the dancers or to be truly interested in a performance without words or animation - but as we got closer to our performance date, I began to worry about her attention span and a little bit of everything else. Will our seats be close enough for her to see what's actually going on? Will she want to talk the entire time? Will the people near us be patient and understanding if (when) she does talk the entire time?? Will other kids her age even be there???
      Alas, our performance date arrived, here's how it went and how I did my best to prepare her.
      Hours before the ballet: 
      The afternoon leading up to the ballet, we talked about how ballerinas can be girls and boys and how they study dance and practice for years to take part in performances. We also watched a few clips from a YouTube video on the work that goes on behind-the-scenes to prepare for The Nutcracker performance.  Personally, I watched a video about the history of The Nutcracker. (Did you know that it was originally written in 1891?!) I didn't set out to watch this video on my own but my daughter was not at all interested in this content.  On the way to the ballet: 
      On the way to the ballet, we listened to the famous Tchaikovsky tunes from The Nutcracker while I called out different melodies that I hoped she'd be able to recognize later. During the ballet:
      After struggling to find parking, we ended up arriving 8 minutes late and had to sit in the late section for the first act. This was the roughest part of the experience for Clarke. She kept asking questions about why the dancers were so far away and trying to rock around in her seat to peer a tiny bit closer at the action on stage. I silently counted down until the conclusion of the first act so we could move to our actual seats. After intermission, a snack, and a bio break - we finally settled into our seats and enjoyed a much closer view. To my delight, we sat next to a five-year-old girl that was also there for her first show with her mom. Her mother and I exchanged smiles of support as the lights dimmed for the final act. Much to my surprise, Clarke was completely enthralled! She was focused in and amazed at the movements. She recognized many of the songs we'd listened to on the way there and she giggled along during the hilarious moments and clapped loudly at the end. I'm pretty sure I sprained a cheek muscle from smiling ear-to-ear for 45 minutes straight.  Afterwards: 
      For about a week, our kitchen floors received a complimentary wax as a result of all of the spinning and gliding from Clarke and her fuzziest socks. She was going to be a ballerina, she exclaimed! The kind that dances with nuts. We definitely just started a new tradition in our home. I cannot wait to take her back next year and to personally experience the magic again, myself. 
      The Joffrey Ballet’s “Nutcracker” runs through late December at the Lyric Opera House.
      A very special thank you to The Silverman Group for providing complimentary tickets and making our dreams come true! 

    • You are the reason we do what we do, and your membership makes this work both meaningful and possible. Your donations also help NPN tremendously. Read more about how your generosity really makes a difference.
      Many worthy causes are vying for your donations and many organizations tug on your heartstrings, so you may be wondering - why donate to NPN? 
      After all, as a member of NPN, you likely understand that there is a level of privilege here. Topics on our discussion forum include luxurious vacations, elite universities, private jets, and more. But NPN means a lot to many families around the city and we are continuously working towards our mission to connect a diverse community of families by providing the support and resources they need to solve the challenges of parenting in Chicago.
      Did you know that with the help of the Chicago Park District/Special Olympics, Illinois Action for Children, and Carlson Community Services, NPN has distributed more free memberships in one year than ever before? Sixty-five and counting. Or that we help provide free and discounted membership renewals to parents who couldn't join without one? Or that all of our developmental differences resources are free to anyone, anywhere. We truly strive to be here for every new or experienced parent in Chicago who is researching schools, navigating developmental differences, and looking for parent-to-parent advice.
      NPN makes life more manageable for parents in Chicago, and every parent who comes to NPN comes with a need. They need a school, a diagnosis, advice, or a friend. One parent might come to NPN and quickly find school information or summer childcare and smoothly move on to tackling the next parenting hurdle. Another parent might come to NPN and find ongoing emotional support in parenting their special needs child, along with expert help in finding special services and therapies. NPN is here to help parents find whatever they need, and NPN is here for you.
      You are the reason we do what we do, and your membership makes this work both meaningful and possible. However, membership fees don’t cover all of NPN’s expenses. Can you give a little bit more to keep NPN going? 
      Your donation truly matters to NPN. Our financial outlook is challenging. Despite gaining dozens of new members every year, NPN's membership has been declining slowly every year for several years, following the trend of membership organizations in general. We attribute this to families moving out of the city and an increase in parenting resources overall, but we also want to do better. I will explain more about that below. At this moment, a slowly declining membership, an abrupt and extended loss of in-person events during the pandemic, and the continued economic uncertainty faced by our advertisers and sponsors creates the most challenging financial future that NPN has ever confronted in our 42 year history.
      With that in mind, you may have noticed that NPN has turned to focusing on what we do best: helping parents research schools, navigate developmental differences, and find parent-to-parent advice. This coming year we will partner with local education and special needs experts, add new programming for parents of teens, create hybrid school fairs and developmental differences resource fairs, and elevate parent-to-parent advice. At the same time, we are intentionally working to make NPN more inclusive and relevant to every parent in Chicago, regardless of culture, background, gender, gender identity, race, ethnic origin, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, financial means, age, or ability. We want every parent in Chicago to feel welcome and supported here.
      As an NPN member, you are savvy, smart, and doing your best for your family. You also want to do the best you can when you give. Please consider what you could do for NPN and the parents who come here for information and support. Even five dollars a month goes a long way right now, while Meta is matching all recurring donations made by 12/31/22 via Facebook.
      Please consider setting up a recurring donation today by clicking here.
      The NPN staff team, board of directors, your fellow city parents and I are truly grateful for your support.

    • Help your child explore their future through lived experiences.
      If your childhood was anything like mine, I’m sure you can remember being repeatedly asked what it is that you wanted to be when you grew up. I’m also pretty sure what you said then doesn’t match your life now! So, why do we force children to answer this seemingly rhetorical question? And how can we get our children to explore the endless possibilities of their future without boxing them in?
      As an adult and a mom, I’ve come to really appreciate experiences over things. You’ll often find me gifting tickets to shows, museums, or concerts instead of toys and clothing. So when it comes to getting my children to think about their future, I take the same approach and try to help them discover what they like and dislike based on their lived experiences.
      This is why I was really excited when I discovered Rocket Club Academy, a first of its kind program that provides children 7 to 14 years old the opportunity to explore industries in STEAM and entrepreneurship and discover their passions and interests along the way. With the help of industry leaders, Rocket Club Academy members learn by doing via the program’s proprietary curriculum, picking up valuable life lessons and skills that are not taught in the traditional education system. 
      This January, Rocket Club Academy is launching a new module that will guide members on the journey of learning to own and operate a professional sports franchise! Members will analyze the marketing and financing behind major sports organizations, explore the technology behind how athletes are trained, and the impact on local communities. 
      Encourage your child to expand their thoughts about their future by starting with a topic that sparks their interest and gifting them an experience that can change their lives and perspective forever!
      Rocket Club Academy is a boutique club with limited enrollment and locations in the heart of the Lincoln Park and Oak Park  communities. As an NPN member, you have the opportunity to score a free 1-month membership (a $385 value) with access to the January class! Contact Rocket Club Academy to book a tour and learn more today at https://rocketclub.com/chicago

    • What truly qualifies as “best” for one family may not be well suited to another.
      You’ve successfully navigated the nursery years, tolerated the toddler years and are pondering the preschool years when you realize, "OMG! Preschool means 'pre-SCHOOL,' and I need to find an elementary school!"
      A parent’s school search typically starts by sitting down at the computer and typing in “Best Elementary Schools." The results are populated with hits from sources such as GreatSchools, Niche, Schooldigger or School Sparrow. But what do these results mean, and should parents just add the #1 school to their list while ignoring other schools that are closer or more familiar to them? How reliable are the ratings, and how should a parent use them?
      [Related: How to apply to CPS selective enrollment elementary schools and magnet schools]
      The fact of the matter is that school ratings and rankings are a very messy, very inexact method to quantify schools. Because they are summarized by a “number” or “grade” or listed in a “ranking order," parents tend to put undue emphasis on ratings/rankings yet aren’t aware of what is being measured.
      While test scores are typically the largest component to rankings, “school fit” (literally, how good of a fit a given school is for your child) is much more than test performance and is ultimately a very personal matter that can even vary within a family from child to child. What truly qualifies as “best” for one family may not be well suited to another. While it is understandable that parents need some metric to start with, the metrics used can be skewed, out of date, or not reflective of the cohort your family will be entering the school with. 
      Following are some common misunderstandings about school rankings:
      Ratings typically put the greatest emphasis on test scores, so better resourced families often have higher test scores and those family resources continue to benefit their children throughout their education Ratings/rankings are not set in stone and can change as demographics in a school changes Ratings typically reflect 3rd to 8th grade, so younger families should be wary of looking at metrics that may include a very different demographic than the one their family will be in school with Ratings often lump in all programs within a school. So, those with a higher population of students with learning needs may still be a great (or even better) option for your student, but the “rankings” may not reflect the level of supports. Schools can and do change, and schools in gentrifying areas may have more resources added to the school by the time your family will be attending [Related: 9 questions parents should be asking schools]
      Test scores don't tell the whole story
      It is somewhat pre-ordaining to use rankings to choose a school. Think about it: If test scores are a big factor in ratings/rankings, then children who have advantages and resources from birth are certainly going to test better overall and the schools near them will reap the benefits of well-resourced students and parents.
      While new parents may be more swayed by rankings, eventually we come to realize that academics alone are not a single trait to look for in a school. Social-emotional factors — as well as culture, climate and community — are just as impactful yet are hard to capture in objective metrics because they are inherently more subjective. School visits can be invaluable to dispel pre-conceptions or help a family picture themselves in a school, but people gravitate toward or crave the easier route of following rankings.
      School rankings don't measure lifestyle impact
      Parents who blindly follow blanket rankings/ratings may overlook a great "fitting" school in favor of one that a third-party metric says is 10 spots “above” the other school, yet requires a drive across town to attend. In the end, there may not be any marked difference in outcome for their child attending one or the other. But the lifestyle impact could be more negative for the school that's further away.
      One school’s overall scores may be lower because it serves a broader range of backgrounds or has more special needs students, but that doesn't mean your child’s success is reliant on only one school and not another. What your child can achieve and what they score on an exam does NOT have to be the “average” number.
      What to look for instead of rankings
      Using rankings and ratings to be the first or only metric in choosing a school can also serve to negatively suppress positive changes at a school. Instead, families should tour their local school or those near them. Another great indicator of a school fit? Talk to families with children their age who may have older siblings at the school. Reaching out to a school’s parent group or attending local school council (LSC) meetings is also a great way to get an honest scoop on a school.
      Ultimately, the greatest arbiter of student success is parent involvement in their children's lives — way beyond one school over another school, public or private, city or suburbs.

    • Make dinner exciting again! Connect with others while sharing your very own recipes in NPN’s first-ever cookbook.
      One thing I love about NPN is that I’m surrounded by other parents that I can honestly share the joys and woes of parenting with. One of those woes that many of us feel daily is the struggle of deciding what to feed the tiny humans we’ve created. My day often moves so quickly that the thought of slowing down to prep dinner for hours no longer fits into my lifestyle.
      Hangry and searching for ideas that stretch beyond my exhausted “Yummm” Pinterest board, I turned to the NPN Discussion Forum and found several other moms that were desperately looking for new recipes and tips to make dinner easier. A few weeks later, and here we are: launching our very first cookbook! 
      NPN Cooks: Connecting Through Food seeks to compile Chicago meals from Chicago families and solve your weeknight craving for new dinner ideas. Obviously, we need your help and would love to publish your recipe — keep reading if you’re hungry to learn more!
      What is it?
      NPN Cooks is our first cookbook that we hope to turn into an annual NPN tradition and fundraiser. The cookbook will be a compilation of recipes from NPN staff and members and provide all contributors with the opportunity to share their favorite recipes and even add a special note (perfect for shouting out your great-grandmama for the original recipe!) or photo.
      [Related: How to get your kids involved in day to day cooking]
      How can I contribute?
      Click this link to add your recipe! It’s super easy and takes less than 60 seconds for the average recipe. We ask that all recipes are entered by November 25th so that we can design the book and get it ready for print for the holidays.
      Can I share any recipe?
      This year, we are focusing on family weeknight meals with an emphasis on mains, sides, and sweets or snacks. So we ask that the recipe that you share can fall within one of those categories. 
      Is there a limit to contributing?
      Nope! There is no limit on how many recipes you contribute! 
      [Related: 5 tips for cooking with little kids]
      How much does it cost?
      Contributing your recipe(s) is free! The cost for completed cookbooks varies based on the format that you’d like to order. There are multiple formats ranging from a digital version that you can access on your phone or tablet to a hardback-cover cookbook, with a few other options in between.
      How do I order?
      You can pre-order without entering in any credit card information when you submit your recipe. We will notify all members when the book is officially on sale.
      I have questions. Who can I contact?
      Please reach out to me with questions at sitaara@npnparents.org.
      Chef's kiss!

    • Three houses. Nineteen family members ages 6-70. Here's what we did.
      During a week in July, my husband and I hosted his family for vacation. Spread between three houses (including ours), were 19 family members, ages 6–70 years old. With a small backyard and a basement only a teenager would love, we had to get out and about in the city.
      To help inspire anyone who's in a position to play host this fall and beyond, I'm sharing what we did and how it went — both the "goal" and the "reality."
      Chinatown on a (sweltering) Tuesday ⭐⭐
      Goal: Drive to Chinatown, take a water taxi to downtown and back, shop, eat, drive home.
      Reality: The water taxi was only running on weekends over the summer. Bummer #1.
      Parking was easy in the Chinatown North Parking Lot (2001 S. Wentworth Ave.). After parking, we met inside the beautiful, air-conditioned library (2100 S Wentworth Ave.). So far so good.
      We ate lunch at Triple Crown Restaurant (2217 S. Wentworth). Amazingly, they sat all 19 of us right away, at two big tables right next to each other. The dim sum was delicious but it was a severely hot day and the A/C couldn’t keep up. I sweated through lunch. 
      [Related: Chicago date-night ideas that go beyond dinner and drinks]
      After lunch we tried to stay together, but as a big group on a narrow sidewalk trying to make a decision about where to go next, this was not fun. Eventually we all made it to the plaza together and that was much better. Bubble tea, shopping, finding some shade…everything was OK again. Except for the fact that when we got to the parking lot, we realized that we had neglected to get our parking tickets stamped at the restaurant, and had to pay full price for parking. Sigh.
      Downtown on a Wednesday ⭐⭐⭐
      Goal: Take the El downtown, go to the Skydeck Ledge in the Willis Tower, then to Millennium Park and Maggie Daley Park. Eat lunch along the way.
      Reality: We purchased tickets to the Ledge ahead of time and took the train to Willis Tower. There was no wait to get into the elevator. So far, so good.
      The winding line that we stood in to actually walk out onto the Ledge was long, but moved quickly. We were a group of 20 and they allowed 14 of us on the ledge at once. Pictures turned out great!
      Back down at street level, half of our group went home. The rest of us (ages 6-70) ate lunch outside at Willis Tower and then walked to the Crown Fountains at Millennium Park. Everyone had a good day. 
      Climb Zone on a Thursday ⭐⭐⭐⭐
      Goal: Let the kids burn some energy while (some of) the adults do other things.
      Reality: We had eight kids in our group, ages 7–16. They all climbed and played video games, bumper cars, and laser tag. We ate pizza, chicken strips, and salad. Parking was tight in the lot (2500 W Bradley Pl.), but we had the inside almost all to ourselves. Easy and fun.
      [Related: Chicago venues that cater to kids with special needs]
      Miko’s Italian Ice on a Sunday ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
      Goal: Walk to Miko’s (4125 N. Kimball Ave.), eat Italian ice, be happy.
      Reality: Exactly as planned!

    • My advice as a physical therapist and as a parent? Trust your instincts. YOU know your child best.
      As a pediatric physical therapist, something I hear quite often in new assessments with families is that they "knew something wasn't quite right and had questions on it, but were told to wait and see if it was still a problem" at their next pediatrician visit. Many times, things do work themselves out with development for a variety of factors. Unfortunately, it's not every time. If gaining anything from this article, my advice as a physical therapist and as a parent myself is to trust your instincts. YOU know your child best.
      Early intervention has been statistically proven to shorten overall intervention times as well as improve results across all disciplines with children. The challenge with the “wait and see” recommendation is that earlier in your child's medical care at their primary pediatrician, you are seeing each other every four weeks. By the time you may have concerns, your check-in period is every three months. Three months is a long time in a child's first year of development: it's a quarter of their life!
      [Related: Preschool, or therapeutic preschool?]
      So how does a family pursue occupational, physical, or speech therapy for their child? There are a multitude of different ways to access services, which move along their corresponding timelines for each path. Here are some of your options:
      1. Call a reputable, outpatient center or home-based service to provide therapy services.
      Turn around time to services: one to two weeks
      Look at online reviews, ask for others’ experiences in local parenting groups, access NPN’s referral list — any of these areas could be a good starting point to contact for an assessment for services. Most places will directly call a pediatrician for the prescription to be on file prior to the assessment. In Illinois, you do not need a prescription for physical therapy, as it is a direct-access state. This means that patients can refer themselves and receive ongoing treatment without an initial referral. Reputable outpatient service locations will still gain a referral and share treatment plans and evaluation results
      with a primary pediatrician, regardless of the state requirement. You can also ask for this to be done! This is the most direct and fastest way to receive services. This can also be the most costly, especially if you still have to meet an insurance deductible or do not have private insurance to access.
      If you are in a rush to prioritize services, an important question during this process is whether the outpatient center or private-based therapy service site providers are also in network with Illinois's Early Intervention system. (We'll review how to access both services down below.)
      2. Call the Illinois Early Intervention program.
      Turn around time to services: six to 12 weeks, depending on availability
      Illinois has a robust Early Intervention program offered for children ages 0 to 3. Services included in Early Intervention are speech therapy, occupational therapy, physical therapy, developmental therapy, developmental vision therapy, developmental hearing therapy, feeding therapy, social work, nutrition services, and diagnostic referral services, to name a few. Services are typically provided in home, in a daycare, or via teletherapy, depending on a family's preference.
      [Related: What to look for in a therapeutic preschool]
      Families can call the child and family connection facility associated with their home address ZIP code to obtain an assessment and report concerns related to their child's development. Pediatricians or other physicians related to your child's care can also directly refer to the Early Intervention system. To begin Early Intervention services, your pediatrician must agree with and sign off on all recommended services after the assessment. After calling to schedule an assessment, it typically takes two weeks to receive a scheduled assessment. Following the evaluation, recommendations are made and new providers are searched for to provide the recommended frequency of services.
      This process in finding your child's provider team can at times be lengthy to get set up, depending on availability of clinicians in your area. Despite the issues with timely services, the benefits to using the Early Intervention system are great for families! Monthly family fees are assessed based on number of family members and overall household income. This family fee is set from $0 to $200 max per month. Early Intervention can act as your primary insurance (as in, the only insurance plan that is billed for therapy services), or it can act as your secondary insurance (e.g., the insurance to handle any unpaid amounts after visits are processed by your primary insurance plan). Because of this set up, Early Intervention can provide an extremely affordable and accessible means for therapy services for children up to the age of three.
      3. Combination of utilizing private insurance and the Early Intervention system through the state of Illinois.
      Turn around time: one to two weeks to get started; up to three months to bring on Early Intervention coverage
      At times, when a problem has been identified, waiting several months for services can feel like a lifetime. This is where a provider that can initially work with your insurance plan, that has providers certified through the Early Intervention program, can work nicely. Think of it as billing just your primary insurance for the first weeks before Early Intervention can "kick in." Early Intervention can then be used primarily as your benefits plan or to help supplement your insurance plan. Finding an initial provider that provides both services is also helpful so that you do not have to get services started and then switch providers to a different facility.
      Hopefully this has been a useful guide to accessing services and pursuing early intervention for your child. Again, listen to your instincts, pursue help when needed, and don’t rely on “wait and see”: it could prove to take even more time to make gains with this approach.

    • It’s with a lot of happiness — and trepidation — that I anticipate my son starting preK.
      My 4 year old is starting preschool in the fall.
      This is not necessarily a remarkable event — kids start preschool the world over every year, of course — but given our circumstances and the horridness of local and world events since his birth, I feel this milestone is really something worth celebrating.
      [Related: Preschool, or therapeutic preschool?]
      Let’s start with my son himself. Julian is…how do I say this…a challenging child. He is hilarious, whip-smart, cute as hell and, when he wants to be, very sweet and cuddly. I’m wild about him. But hoo boy, is he intense. Intense opinions. Intense emotions. Intense moods. Even in utero, he made his presence known with morning sickness so intense I had to take anti-nausea meds right up until his birth. Then there was the colic, followed by torticollis that required physical therapy, then a flat head that required a helmet, followed by refusing to eat most foods that required food therapy.
      Then the pandemic hit.
      I took a leave from my job at NPN to parent Julian and help my older son with online school while my husband worked from home. Feeding therapy went away and, with it, all the Fs I had to give about what he ate, which admittedly felt pretty freeing. Then, three months into the pandemic, he started a wonderful nanny share and, for nearly two years, the other little boy often was his only playmate. Classes, play dates, birthday parties, swim lessons…all the things his older brother got to experience at Julian’s age? Until very recently, he didn’t get to do any of them.
      [Related: How I did my Chicago preschool search]
      So it’s with a lot of happiness and trepidation that my husband and I anticipate him starting preK at our neighborhood CPS school, where his brother already attends. Will Julian follow the rules? Adapt to the new routine? Play nicely with the other kids? Eat a lunch beyond Goldfish and a stick of cheese? These are questions all parents probably have before their child attends school for the first time, but his lack of experience with any kind of classroom and his relative social isolation have me worried. Odds are he’ll be just fine, and preK will do him immeasurable good. But until the jury is in, I will be on pins and needles.
      [Related: Preschool vs. pre-k: What's the difference?]
      And then, of course, are the other worries. Since Julian’s birth four years ago, the world has become an even scarier place. Rampant racism, mass shootings, mass shootings in schools, Covid, Covid restrictions, quarantines, horrific wars around the world, an ever-deepening political and social divide, a rolling back of our constitutional rights…just, wow. It’s a lot. Parents of the world, give yourself a pat on the back for just surviving the past few years.
      Yet I am hopeful. Hopeful for Julian starting this new (easier?) chapter, hopeful that there are good, decent people who are working hard with me to make this world better for him. He deserves it. We all do.

    • While my fertility journey is far from unique, it is personal to me. It has helped shape me into the mother — and person — I am today.
      The irony of being a divorce and family law attorney who deals with the dissolution of the family unit and then writing about the creation of a family through in-vitro fertilization is not lost on me. But then again, nothing about life is predictable or often linear.
      My journey through IVF was similar to that of many others. I was never one to dream about babies and motherhood, but when the time was right for me, I was ready to jump. But lo and behold, my body had other plans for me.
      Most of us at age 35 are considered to be in the prime of our lives — professionally, socially and emotionally. I had graduated from law school a few years earlier after having made a career switch from public relations. I was primed to do anything and that included getting married and having kids. But in the world of reproduction, I was teetering on the verge of being geriatric.
      After six months of trying to get pregnant “naturally” and considering the ticking clock, my husband and I decided to have a consultation at the Fertility Centers of Illinois. After a series of tests, it was determined that both of us were producing what we needed to bear children. The problem was, I couldn’t get pregnant and time was not on our side. We decided to try one round of IUI (intrauterine insemination) before embarking on the IVF (in-vitro fertilization) route.
      Related: Path to Parenthood: From infertility to adoption]
      When I think back to what became of my life — of needles and daily monitoring and sitting in waiting rooms while my name of “Katy M.” was called out (no last names are used so as to avoid confidential information being shared) — it is all a giant haze. The first round produced no eggs of sufficient quality for fertilization. Drugs were changed and monitoring became more intense. I dealt with daily shots and every morning returning to the fertility center to see how my body was faring. As a result of the new protocol, I produced multiple eggs, which were harvested (keep an eye on your language when you’re coming out of being anesthetized; thank goodness for the lightheartedness of the FCI staff) and then fertilized. A few quality embryos resulted and we discussed with our doctor the pros and cons of implanting more than one at a time. After some serious consideration, we decided to implant two. And…no pregnancy.
      Heartbroken, we took some time off. The process had been emotionally and physically exhausting. My body just needed a break. Luckily we had three embryos that we had frozen and when it was time, we implanted two. This time, my body cooperated and I became pregnant. Nine months later, my son Luke was born.
      [Related: What I went through to become a single mother by choice]
      We waited about two years to embark on the journey again. I was now 38 and practically a senior citizen by fertility standards. My law career was bustling and I was slated to make partner. While not technically convenient to become pregnant again, it was now or never.
      We had one more frozen embryo in storage which was implanted. I had thought that given the “youth” of the embryo, pregnancy would be a no-brainer. Well, I was wrong.
      I then embarked on round three of harvesting and fertilization. To say that a few years aged my uterus was an understatement. I was the mom of a 1 ½ year old (read: exhausted), my body produced very few eggs, and when they were fertilized, there were very few viable embryos. My doctor said she would take the very “best” and keep her fingers crossed. Pregnancy number two was not likely, and my husband I discussed adoption as an alternative. I remember driving home from our lake house and googling adoption agencies. It was so overwhelming, I just had to stop.
      My doctor transferred the embryo and just one day later, I was on trial for a very contentious case. I was sure the stress of trial would prevent a pregnancy. But I had no other choice.
      After a grueling 10 days, I decided to take a pregnancy test. Positive. I could not believe it. Here I had a “questionable” embryo implanted, I was on trial, and I was nearly a senior citizen in the eyes of reproductive staff. It was a miracle.
      Nine months later, my feisty daughter was born. She turned out to be a fighter, which I knew would be the fact the moment she held on for dear life that day my doctor took a chance on her.
      While my fertility journey is far from unique, it is personal to me. It has helped shape me into the mother — and person — I am today.

    • When my turn came to drop off my 3-month-old at daycare, very little of my experience mirrored the typical tale.
      Like many milestones in motherhood, I turned to social media and my friends who were moms to set my expectations for returning to work after maternity leave with my first daughter. The narrative was this: You will dread the end of maternity leave and curse the swift passage of time. You will feel your heart break and probably sob as you leave your child with another care provider. You will spend your entire work day trying to focus while only being able to think of your child. You will feel pulled in two directions, but mostly in one direction: home with your baby.
      When my turn came to drop off my 3-month-old at daycare, however, I found that very little of my experience mirrored the typical tale. Although I had some anxiety about leaving her with relative strangers for the first time, after just one week back at work, I felt unexpectedly happy and at peace.
      [Related: 3 things working moms shouldn't feel guilty about]
      Perhaps it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that I felt relief when others felt dread. After all, much of my postpartum experience to that point had veered from what seemed to be the norm. I struggled with postpartum depression, which left me feeling distant and somewhat detached from my daughter. I felt lost, scared and completely out of my element. My daughter was a horrible sleeper, making me a jittery, barely-present zombie just trying to make it through every day.
      When I was back at work, it felt like a gift to put my mind toward a challenge outside the eat-sleep-diaper routine, laugh with coworkers, look presentable and use the bathroom or drink a cup of coffee uninterrupted. After three months of total shell shock, I felt like I was seeing the sun again.
      As the months passed and I slowly overcame PPD and yet still had no greater desire to be at home, I started to feel guilty. I wondered what my happiness at work said about me. How could I be the only one who seemed absolutely certain that working five days a week was the best thing for me? If I were a more natural mother, would I want to be home with my baby like everyone else?
      [Related: Navigating the Great Resignation as a parent]
      But motherhood, it turns out, is much like the introvert/extrovert dichotomy. Where some moms derive their energy and sense of purpose from working, others find it at home with their kids (or some combination of the two). When motherhood worries consume me or I have a bad night of sleep, work provides a chance to step away, surround myself with other adults and remember that life goes on. Work helps me recharge my emotional batteries and regain my sense of self so that I'm a happier, healthier, more confident mom. Best of all, the fulfillment I get from work makes me the best version of myself so that I can be the best mom to my daughters.
      After several years as a working mom, I've become more comfortable in my skin. And the more conversations I have with other moms, the more I realize I’m not actually alone after all. During a daycare social event last summer, another mom confessed to me in a hushed tone, “Sometimes the weekends are so long and hard for me. Sometimes…I look forward to Monday. Am I a horrible person?” I smiled as I told her, with confidence and not an ounce of guilt, that I felt the exact same way.

    • A final, extremely-early miscarriage, several years, and an adoption later, we have a beloved son.
      I chose married life at the age of 40. I felt a bond with my future husband when we met. My first impression: I felt like I was meeting someone I already knew. Fast-forward a year and a few months when we decided to make our dreams of parenthood come true.
      A Thanksgiving positive pregnancy test! We shared our happy news. I attempted to schedule an appointment with my ob/gyn. Things became strange quickly. I was told that I could only see a nurse, until I was further into the first trimester. Huh?
      Two ultrasounds later, a feeling of dread increased. A nurse came and told us that the baby was known as a “missed abortion." This medical term refers to the situation when “the pregnancy stops developing, but the pregnancy tissue does not pass out of the uterus for at least four weeks”. The practice's administrator accompanied the doctor's delivery of the sad news by asking if we were satisfied with our experience at the practice. I greatly appreciated my husband's response: “Well, other than that, how did you like the play Mrs. Lincoln?” Our experience highlights the importance of speaking about pregnancy, pregnancy loss, and infertility very carefully and sensitively. The language used in the U.S. to discuss this experience regularly fails to encompass the complexities of pregnancy, and pregnancy loss.
      [Related: Three IVF myths you probably believe]
      So, how to have our miscarriage? The hospital was only willing to induce a miscarriage; they were uninterested in helping me have a natural miscarriage. Targeted medical research showed that surgical miscarriages could damage the cervix, making future pregnancies more difficult. A friend who had experienced a miscarriage for each of her successful births, told me that a miscarriage is comparable to a birth. The doctor's office told me to wait no longer than three weeks to miscarry.
      Within two-and-a half-weeks, I began experiencing  lower back pain at work. We had the miscarriage at home, catching the “products of conception” in large plastic containers. At one point I felt extremely light headed and asked my husband to call the practice. By the time the doctor on call called back, the feeling had passed. I had felt lightheaded as the fetal sac passed from my body intact. I held my baby in my hands and thought about he or she. Then I spoke with the doctor, who told me under what circumstances I should come into the hospital. I never needed to, but it would have been nice for the medical professionals to have shared this information in advance. Some people have home births; I had a home miscarriage.
      We tried again and became pregnant. This time we had a heartbeat! My husband's expression of joy included a gift of a Beanie Baby kangaroo. My much younger sister was also pregnant, and we imagined raising our children together. Our mother was looking forward to her first grandchildren. But on a follow-up doctor's visit, we learned that the baby had died in utero. Since my pregnancy was more advanced, we opted for a surgical miscarriage. On the day my miscarriage was scheduled, I went for a final ultrasound, to insure that the baby had no heartbeat. Then I went to the hospital for the medical procedure known as a miscarriage.
      I visualized a miscarriage with no surgical damage. Later the doctor told me two things that I appreciate knowing: He told me that I must have been ready to miscarry, since he touched my body and the miscarriage began with minimal medical contribution to the process. I told him I had visualized my miscarriage happening this way. Next, he told me that I had asked to hold the baby. All I'd known is that I came out of the anesthetic with tears on my face. I appreciated the facts that the doctor shared with me.
      A final, extremely-early miscarriage, several years, and an adoption later, we have a beloved son. We chose adoption as our path to parenthood, and we enjoy our son every day. Given the fact that Roe v. Wade has been overturned, I feel it necessary to say that I support every woman's right to choose, and to make, with her doctor, the medical decisions necessary to preserve her physical and mental health. The ignorance resulting from the misinformation spread by those who fail to grasp the complexities of pregnancy, childbirth, and pregnancy loss threatens women, children, and society at large.

    • Paying nanny taxes isn't just good for your nanny, it benefits your family, too.
      Sponsored by The Nanny Tax Company
      You've hired a great nanny and you've agreed on a nanny contract (either with a nanny share family or on your own). You're done  now, right?
      Nope. You still need to tackle one more important thing: nanny taxes.
      Nanny taxes are employment taxes (social security and Medicare, state and federal income taxes, and state and federal unemployment taxes) owed to the government when you have someone working in your home. Though the term “nanny” is in the name, it’s important to note that nanny taxes are NOT just for nannies! Anytime you hire someone to work in your home, whether a babysitter, home health aide, housekeeper, etc., the government views you as an employer, making you responsible for employment taxes. Though there is a misconception that these employees can be categorized as “independent contractors,” misclassifying a household employee as an independent contractor can lead to a charge of tax evasion.
      Wondering why household help can’t be classified as an independent contractor? Because per the IRS, a person is an employee when you tell them what they will do and how they will do it, as opposed to an independent contractor that you tell only what results you’re looking for. For example, you would consider a landscaper an independent contractor. You tell the landscaper what you want done — they’re responsible for ensuring that it gets done and they’re free to sell their services to everyone in town. A nanny, on the other hand, works in your home at the hours you set, and cannot sell their services to others while working for you.
      While many families think they can “fly under the radar” of nanny taxes, keep in mind there are ways the government might catch on. Although you may not get audited by the IRS, if you fire your employee they could try to claim unemployment benefits. Or, your employee might file for social security benefits and there is no record of her employment with you.
      Plus, paying your nanny legally gives you the added benefit of knowing your employee is receiving fair and legal wages, has the employment paper trail that will allow him or her to purchase a car or home, and will be able to collect social security when they are older. Everyone benefits from paying their nanny taxes: families and employees alike!
      While the complex requirements of nanny taxes can sound a little confusing (and scary!), there is help available. Start by reading IRS Publication 926 to learn about the federal component of nanny taxes. Then check out the Illinois Department of Employment Security (IDES) and the Illinois Department of Revenue websites for information on reporting household employer taxes. Lastly, check the Social Security Administration website regarding filing the employee’s W-2 forms each year.
      The Nanny Tax Company is a family and woman-owned company with over 25 years of experience handling nanny taxes. We know the ins and outs of nanny taxes and are readily available to answer your questions via phone and email. The Nanny Tax Company can be reached at (847) 696-7260, or https://www.nannytaxprep.com.

    • These steps offer suggestions that can be scaled to fit any size patch, from large outdoor garden to tiny indoor pot.
      Water, sunlight, soil. It’s what all plants need, and one of the first science facts that kids learn. So gardening is the perfect way to harness an interest in the environment and to cultivate future scientists. These steps offer suggestions that can be scaled to fit any size patch, from large outdoor garden to tiny indoor pot.

      The winter seems rather endless in Chicago, so thinking of warmer times ahead is a wonderfully positive pastime. Once we get past new year we start to dream of a flower-filled garden. Last year we created mood boards (both as a collage on paper and digitally using Canva), to share our individual visions.
      Looking up native plants, preferred growing conditions, and the necessary maintenance, makes great reading and research practice, while sparking a conversation about sustainable gardening and climate. We love going to the library either in person or digitally (using sites such as Epic which has a free basic plan).
      [Related: Family-friendly summer bike rides in Chicago]

      We’ve all read that children who spend time around nature are happier, better focused, and more empathetic to others and the planet. A trip to the garden center makes a lovely family activity. Assign tasks to keep things harmonious: who is responsible for the cart, the shopping list, keeping track of the time? Alternatively, purchase from any of the one-off plant sales that occur across Chicagoland (bookmark for next year). Some of these have the option to pre-order and then for drive-up collection, which can be convenient if you don’t fancy keeping a toddler in line.
      You know how much children love to get their hands in soil. Seeking out smaller tools can facilitate the planting. Little ones will love the colorful options available, while older children will take greater ownership if they’ve chosen items that appeal to their emerging aesthetic. Readers can check that plants are finding their preferred piece of your patch, while new writers can practice their handwriting by labelling popsicle sticks – drawings encouraged.
      Every small child loves to wield a hose or watering can. Use this as an opportunity to watch the weather forecast and talk about the seasons. Then formulate a coding-like plan for watering: if there is no rain, the temperature is between X and X, then water once in the morning, and so on. Create a chart (an opportunity to practice computer and/or graphic design skills) and assign responsibility.
      [Related: 7 things to have on hand for fun at-home activities with your kids]
      If you can include something you can harvest in your plantings, this will hold everyone’s interest. Tomato plants with little green fruit will provide a quick reward, which is imperative with very little kids. Peppers and herbs are other vegetation that kids get excited about and can lead to some fun cooking activities, including the crowd-pleasing pizza.
      Of course, plants do not follow strict instructions and with even the most loving and zealous care do not always yield the desired results. Making a review of your "land" part of your weekly family time and having conversations around this can help children understand that as well as planning, problem-solving and flexibility are important skills to learn. Then encourage them to suggest solutions for you to try.
      With children’s affinity for the natural world, gardening is a perfect activity to involve the whole family. Whether you have a vast, outdoor space, or need to set up your greenery indoors, there is the opportunity to engage and converse. We hope that this shared interest will continue to bond us as a family as we navigate the years ahead together.


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