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I am delighted with the outcome, and enjoyed the process.Dr. Rick Smalley, Professor Rice University, Nobel Peace Prize Honoree
The quality of candidates was very good. It was a difficult decision but Amy has proven to be a wonderful choice. We could not have found a better person. I would recommend your services to anyone looking for a nanny.Sonia Breathwit, Business Owner
Compared to other agencies Morningside presented a higher caliber of candidate.Phyllis Epps, Law Professor
We used two other services and an online service. Morningside Nannies had the most highly qualified candidates, one of whom we selected.Dr. M
Objective and professional with an obvious personal touch, small but important comments about each person.Dr. Shari Rochen
Quality of applicants was way above what we had hoped for. Thoroughly enjoyed working with your agency – we will highly recommend you to friends.Kim McMillan
I trust Morningside Nannies & their research into their nannies more than any of the other seven agencies we talked with. The checks are reliable and the quality of nannies was superb. The process of finding a nanny was handled quite professionally.Dr. Kim Burgess, Pediatrician
As a new mom I was nervous about hiring a nanny, but now I couldn’t be more pleased. I’ve sung your praises to everyone I know.Tarala Rybacki
Morningside was by far the best as compared to the other services we used!Dr. Michael O'Reilly and Dr. Valerae Lewis
Morningside Nannies blew the others away!Myron Morris, O.R. Business Manager and Dr. Audrey Winer, Pediatrician

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50 Things to do This Summer in Houston

50-Things-to-do-This-Summer-in-HoustonLooking for some fun things to do this summer in Houston? Look no further. Beat summer boredom by taking advantage of some of these family events, date ideas for couples, kids-only activities and more.

As a Family

Sometimes you just need some good family fun. Check out these 10 ideas for summer fun!

  • Catch Pippi Longstocking: The Family Musical. Head out to the Main Street Theater at Chelsea Market to giggle at the adventures of this precocious red head. The show plays through August 4, 2014. Check theater for new shows.
  • Rent a pedal boat. For just $10 for 30 minutes the family can rent a pedal boat and pedal around the pond at Hermann Park. Bring along some bread or crackers to feed the ducks, then go to the fountain to cool off.
  • Attend Shakespeare in the Park. The Shakespeare Festival is held at the Miller Outdoor Theater. Check with the University of Houston for current offerings.
  • Watch a Movie Under the Moon. Watch a movie outside and bring a picnic supper or snacks at First Colony Church of Christ. Movies are played once a month.
  • Go to a Swift Night Out Events. Head to the Nature Discover Center to join in the fun of counting chimney swifts, which are birds that nest in chimneys. These events are perfect for the whole family and run from August to September.
  • Watch the bats emerge at sunset. This family event takes place on the first and third Friday all year. Come about a half hour before sunset to hear a presentation about the bats and why they act the way they do at the Waugh Bridge. The city has some guidelines you can check out at Houston TX.
  • Rent and drive model boats. The Model Boat Basin located at Discovery Green rents boats for $5 for half an hour or you can bring your own model boat for free.
  • Bring the whole family to watch some baseball. Houston is home to the Astros professional baseball team. Check the schedule to get your tickets for the next game.  Ticket prices vary.
  • Have a blast riding bumper boats, go karts and more. Zuma Fun Centers includes arcades, batting cages, mini golf, kids’ rides, go karts and bumper boats for family fun time. Go as a family or bring some friends for a birthday party. You can enjoy an all-day pass for $23.99.
  • Visit the wild animals. The Houston Zoo houses over 6000 animals that you can visit daily. Explore Natural Encounters, which lets you get up close and personal with the wildlife.

Just for Kids

Looking for something just for the kids? These 10 ideas will help keep the kids from being bored this summer.

  • Check out the Pre-School “Beat the Heat series”. Bring the kids to the Rosenburg Railroad Museum every Wednesday throughout the summer. The kids enjoy a story, a craft and a snack for a nominal charge. Stay and tour the museum at a reduced rate.
  • Learn the basics of kayaking. For $5 per child you can hire a guide to show your kids how to paddle around the pond at Discovery Green. The kids get to practice paddling and enjoy watching the wildlife on the pond. No reservation is required.
  • Discover your “super power”. Take a trip to the Children’s Museum where the theme this summer is The Summer of Epic Adventure: Where Superheroes Discover their Powers. Bring the kids in their favorite super hero costume so that they can discover their own super power. Tickets are $9 for adults and kids.
  • Burn off some energy at the gym. My Gym that is. From 6 weeks to 13 years, your kids can stay fit and have fun. Try your first class for free to see if your kids love it. During the summer you can get two classes for the price of one.
  • Enjoy some good clean fun. Leave the electronic games at home and let the kids enjoy the petting zoo, zip line, rock wall, horse shoe pit, sand box and more at 7 Acre Wood.  Kids can even take a pony ride. Prices start at $6 for admission and then you pay for extra activities, like paintball, once inside.
  • Get the acting bug.  Upstage Arts is a theater where kids can get cast in a play or simply enjoy watching a performance. This experience is open to kids of all ages, but certain shows may be limited. Tuition varies depending on show.
  • Go bowling. Beat the heat and head inside to Main Event for bowling, laser tag, billiards, rock climbing, gravity, bocce ball and more. Spend the day for only $15.95 per person.
  • Visit the aquarium. Take the kids to the Downtown Aquarium for some deep sea fun. Kids can touch live sting rays and ride the shark voyage train through a 200,000 gallon tank full of sharks. Enjoy the view from the Ferris wheel and ride the sea life figures on the carousel. Tickets are $18.99 for an all-day pass.
  • Blast off to outer space. Let the kids imagine themselves as astronauts at NASA. Get the wiggles out in the giant climbing structure and try holding a live snake. The theater shows two movies, Space Shuttle Launching and Destination Station: The International Space Station. Plan on spending the entire day as there is a lot to do.
  • Stroll down the boardwalk. Head to Kemah for a day at the amusement park. The kids will love the rides and attractions, while mom and dad will love the nostalgia of it all. Tickets are $22.99 for kids and adults 48 inches and up and kids less than 48 inches are $17.99.

Adventure Seekers

If you are looking for adventure, there are a lot of things to choose from in Houston. You can zip line, bull ride, horseback ride, deep sea fish, parasail and more.

  • Face your fear of heights. Head to Moody Gardens to try your skills on the tallest ropes course on the Gulf coast, then take a turn on the zip lines. Prices for the ropes course are $18 and the zip line is $18 or you can purchase both for $27.
  • Saddle up. Spend some time with the guide on a trail ride or venture off to an endurance competition with Cypress Trails. Lessons are available in endurance riding and Adventure Trail Rides start at $50 for an hour and go up to $135 for all day. Meals can be included for a fee.
  • Go bull riding. Come to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to watch or enter the bull riding event. You can also enter the barrel racing and bareback riding events. The cowboys and girls that enter these events can win some pretty big money.
  • Cast your line. Ever wanted to catch a fish big enough that you didn’t have to exaggerate its size? Try your hand at deep sea fishing off the gulf coast. Charter a boat with Get Hooked Fishing and learn how to catch the big ones.
  • Try scuba diving. Houston Scuba Academy provides scuba diving lessons and certification. They also host diving trips that you can go on once you are certified.
  • Go water skiing. Take advanced water skiing lessons with M2 Sports. Lessons start at $45 for 25 minutes.
  • Fly up and away. Enjoy a bird’s eye view of the gulf when you go parasailing! Prices start at $90 when you go to Galveston Parasail.
  • Feel like a bird and go soaring. Take a test flight on a sail plane with another pilot at the Greater Houston Soaring Association. 30 minute flights are $75.
  • Get a workout and go rock climbing. Stone Moves Indoor Rock Climbing has extensive indoor climbing routes that change monthly. Practice the basics and learn advanced rock climbing moves at this indoor location.
  • Work on landing an Ollie. Head to Lee and Joe Jamail Skatepark to practice your daredevil skateboarding moves. Not only can you work on an Ollie, but you can practice your kick flip and spins, too. There’s no charge to skate at the park, but you need your own equipment.

Couples Only

Reserve a nanny for the night and enjoy an evening out on the town. These 10 ideas are perfect for a date night.

  • Float above Houston to celebrate a special event. Hot air balloon rides are romantic and allow you and your loved one to enjoy a spectacular view of Houston. Prices vary, but two people cost around $400 at Soaring Adventures of America.
  • Go to a wine tasting. Pleasant Hill Winery is open for tasting and shopping on the weekend. Come on a Saturday at 11am or Sunday at 12pm. Check out the various wines they have on their site.
  • Learn to cook. Take a cooking class together at Well Done Cooking Classes. The roasted chicken class starts at $89 per person.
  • Relax with a couples massage. Petit Retreat offers several options for a romantic afternoon or evening. A side by side one hour massage is $180 and you can enjoy further relaxation in the Jacuzzi for an additional $70.
  • Enjoy some music. Live music and dinner is available at The House of Blues. Shows vary, so check to see what’s playing before making a reservation.
  • Take a romantic horse drawn carriage ride. A to Z Events offers horse drawn carriage tours of downtown Houston. Pick up is at the Aquarium and you can reserve a set time by calling and paying ahead.
  • Head to the drive-in. Enjoy a flash back date night by eating dinner at a local diner and then heading to The Showboat Drive-in. Tickets for adults are $6 each. First run movies start at dusk.
  • Try a dinner cruise for a romantic evening. Boardwalk Fantasea Dinner Cruises provide a three hour tour of Clear Lake while you enjoy dinner. If you head out on Friday night you can even see the fireworks over Kemah. Prices start at $99.99 per person.
  • Go for dinner and a movie at the same time. Studio Movie Grill has a full bar and kitchen where you can enjoy cocktails and dinner while enjoying first run movies in comfortable chairs.
  • Take in a view of the city. Head to the observation deck at the top of JP Morgan Chase Tower to get fabulous pictures of the incredible view. There’s no charge to head up to the 60th floor, but it’s only open during business hours.

Summer Cool Down

There’s no shortage of places to go to cool off on a hot summer day in Houston. From city pools to splash pads to water parks and swimming holes, there’s something for everyone.

  • Splash Town. Come enjoy the water slides, wave pool and brand new Flow Rider surfing ride at Splash Town. Tickets are $34.99 for adults and $30.99 for kids under 48 inches. Soft sided coolers filled with water bottles are allowed inside the park. There are picnic tables outside the park to enjoy a picnic lunch or you can buy food inside.
  • Schlitterbahn Waterpark. Spend the day staying cool and having a great time at Schlitterbahn, which is home to the Whitewater River, Torrent River, Soaring Eagle Zip Line and more. Tickets are $55.98 for adults and $45.98 for kids and include a refillable souvenir bottle.
  • Head to a splash pad. There are over 27 different splash pads in Houston. Each splash pad has its own theme, so be sure to try more than one.
  • Try out a place that has water rides and zip lines. Splashway is a water park complete with a lazy river, wave pool, slides and more. They also recently added zip lines to the property. Tickets for the water park are $24.99 and the zip lines are $45. There are also campgrounds with cabins close by.
  • Get lost in the space bowl or drenched under the bucket. Try these attractions and more when you go to Baytown. In addition to the standard water slides, Baytown also has exciting attractions like the space bowl, a surf machine and the relaxing lazy river. Prices start at $15 for kids under 48 inches and $20 for everyone else.
  • Swim at an area pool. You can find a listing of all of the pools in Houston on the city website. These pools offer swimming lessons for the young and water exercise classes for the young at heart.
  • Try out for the swim team. Check out the YMCA for the details on trying out and joining the swim team. You can also attend swimming lessons through the YMCA.
  • Dive right in. Head over to W. W. Emmons Natatorium for diving practice. In addition to diving, competitive swimmers can enjoy the 25 yard lap pool.
  • Swim in the ocean and ride the waves. Mustang Island has beaches where you can build sand castles and body surf on the waves. You may even be able to find some pretty shells to collect.
  • Find a local swimming hole. If you are looking for a fresh water option, try a local swimming hole. Check out the list of 10 on TPW Magazine.
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How to Create a Craft Closet

How-to-Create-a-Craft-ClosetMost nannies love to do crafts with kids, but having craft stuff scattered around the house makes it hard to get started. From crayons in the toy box to wrapping paper in the attic, finding everything you need to do crafts can be frustrating if you don’t have a centralized crafting area. That is where a craft closet comes in handy. You do not need to make a whole room into a crafting space to have an organized and useful place to store your craft goods. Consider asking your employer if a broom closet or other small storage space can be converted into a craft closet for the kids..

Once you’ve got the approval to create a space, here are some tips for creating and maintaining a craft closet:

1. Organization

First things first. Organization is the key to making your craft closet work. Tossing in a bunch of craft goods just won’t work. It is not any better than having them scattered throughout the house. Instead, invest in bins, shelves and other organizational storage units to make the most of your small space. Make sure you have a place for everything so that you can find it easily when you need it.

2. Visibility

Another aspect of crafting is inspiration. You can use things you have left over from other projects to create something new. But if you can’t see what you have, how will you ever use it? Make things visible in your craft closet by using clear storage solutions. Bins with clear doors, wire racks and open hangers all allow you to see what you have on hand so you can use and be inspired by it.

3. Access

Kid and adult friendly access is paramount to a successful craft closet. For kid crafts like coloring and finger-paints you may want to keep these items low enough for them to reach. Potentially dangerous items like scissors and needles should be kept on higher shelves that only adults can access. That way you feel safe sending your child to retrieve something from the craft closet for their own craft adventures. Having easy to open bins and easy to access shelves also helps to keep craft goods on hand when you need them. From paper to bags to ribbon, your craft closet should be easy to access.

4. Easy Clean Up

When your craft closet is organized it’s easier to clean up. Another aspect of this is labeling. Having labeled areas for each type of craft good makes it easier for them to be properly put away. Items like butcher paper and newspaper should also be stored with your craft goods to make cleaning up after messy crafts like glitter easier. Laying out a few layers of paper can make cleaning up a snap and help make crafting less stressful and more fun.

5. Workspace

Last but not least is a workspace. Although you might not have an entire room devoted to crafting your craft closet can be a space to work in too. A fold down table can easily be placed up out of the way and gotten out for craft projects in a snap. Even tables meant to fold laundry are great additions to a craft closet and make it even more usable and craft friendly.

Making a craft closet doesn’t have to be a big deal. You probably have almost everything you need already. If you don’t, consider asking your employer for a small budget to stock up on supplies. Setting aside a special craft area can help you make the most of your crafting time together and cut back on time spent searching for crafting supplies.

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Tips for Safe Water Play

tips-for-save-water-play Summer is a great time to get outside and cool off in the water, but if you have children then water safety should be on your mind. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, “Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children between 1 and 4 years old. And it’s the third leading cause of death among children.” How can you keep your children safe around water?

1. Supervision

Watching children around water seems like a no brainer, but constant supervision is easier said than done. Cell phones, talking to friends, bathroom breaks and so on all give parents and caregivers opportunities to take their eyes off of their children long enough to cause problems. Do not trust shallow water either, as small children and babies can drown in as little as one inch of water. If there is more than one adult present, make sure you know who is responsible for watching the children. Lifeguards are a great asset, but do not depend on them to watch your kids. They have a whole pool full of kids to watch! If you have a pool or other body of water near your home, make sure there is no danger of children accessing it without supervision. Gates and pool covers help prevent this danger.

2. Buddy System

Another great way to make sure kids are safe around water is to use a buddy system. Have inexperienced swimmers stay with an adult or experienced swimmer at all times. No one should ever swim alone as cramps, entanglements and other dangers can take down even the best swimmers. According to the Red Cross you should “Avoid alcohol use. Alcohol impairs judgment, balance and coordination; affects swimming and diving skills; and reduces the body’s ability to stay warm.”

3. Life Jackets

Safe Kids Worldwide recommends having, “your children wear a life jacket approved by the U.S. Coast Guard while on boats, around open bodies of water or when participating in water sports. Make sure the life jacket fits snugly. Have the child make a “touchdown” signal by raising both arms straight up; if the life jacket hits the child’s chin or ears, it may be too big or the straps may be too loose.” In fact, they mention the statistic that “In 2011, 70 percent of all fatal boating accident victims drowned, and of those who drowned, 84 percent were not wearing a life jacket. “

4. Swimming Classes

According to the Red Cross, “the best thing you can do to help your family stay safe is to enroll in age-appropriate swim lessons.” Teaching children to be strong swimmers can help prevent some accidents, but swimming lessons also teach important ideas like: taking breaks to prevent overtiredness, preventing hypothermia, proper breathing, and how to react calmly to incidents in water.

5. CPR Training

Another way you can have peace of mind around water is by learning CPR. Many local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training for little or no cost. Learning what to do in case the worst should happen is a great way to be prepared.

Playing in and around water is a great way to spend the hot summer months. However, you should remember that children need to be constantly supervised, no matter how responsible they seem. You should take the proper precautions when playing in or near water to ensure your child’s safety.

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Do You Know Your Market Value?

Do-You-Know-Your-Market-ValueWhen conducting your job search, it’s vital that you know your market value. To determine wage expectations, many nannies simply add up their expenses each month and set their salary requirements based on those results. Others come up with with a random wage requirement that they are satisfied with and set that as their earning goal. Some even base their wage requirements on what they believe the parents can afford to pay them given where they live and the type of car they drive. And a few see advertisements for high-end positions posted on recruiting websites and assume that’s the norm. Unfortunately, these are not accurate ways to determine a nanny’s market value and earning potential.

The International Nanny Association conducts an annual salary and benefits survey each year. You can review the results of these surveys at http://nanny.org/resources/industry-services/salary-and-benefits-survey/. The median wage rate for nannies in the US is $16 per hour. In Houston, we fall slightly under that market. 99% of all of our jobs place at $14 to $16 per hour for full-time positions and $15 to $17 for part-time ones.

How can you fairly assess your market value and earning potential starting from this base wage range?

Consider your experience.

How long have you been a nanny? What ages of children do you have experience with? Have you worked with other household staff? Are you a full-charge nanny? What duties and responsibilities have you taken on in previous positions?

Consider your references.

What do those who you have worked for say about you? Are the parents giving glowing references or are they just willing to verify employment? Do you have references and reference letters to support your work history and timeline? If you want to work with newborns, do you have a reference from a parent of a newborn?

Consider your niche.

Do you have a specialization? Do you only work with multiples? Newborns? Preschoolers? Do you have a history of staying with a family for 5 plus years? Do you have lots of experience working with children who have special needs? Or who were adopted? Are you a household manager? Do you specialize in working with older children? Are you experienced in the Montessori approach? Are you able to tutor school aged children?

Consider your educational background.

Do you have a college degree in early childhood education? Do you attend NAEYC workshops? Do you have specialized training? Did you take child development courses? How do you stay current with best practices in childcare?

Consider your credentials.

Are you a newborn care specialist? Are you an INA Credentialed Nanny? Are you a Child Development Associate? Do you have a teaching credential? Are you a certified nurse’s assistant? Are you a home health aide? Are you a licensed daycare provider?

Consider your affiliations.

Are you a member of the International Nanny Association? Are you involved with a local nanny support group? Do you attend nanny or educational conferences?

Consider your skill set.

Are you a certified life guard? Can you speak a different language? Do you have a gift for teaching music or are you especially crafty? Are you a former camp counselor? Can you tutor or teach a foreign language? Have you homeschooled?

Consider what you are willing to do.

Are you willing to take on housekeeping related tasks that aren’t child related? Are you willing to prepare family meals? Can you travel with the family? Can you stay overnight or be extremely flexible with your schedule? Will you work for a stay at home parent? Will you iron?

Consider the employment package.

Families are not legally required to offer employment benefits. Some do, as they know they have to in order to be competitive and to attract and retain qualified help. Standard nanny benefits include one to two weeks of paid vacation and paid holidays. Some families will also offer paid personal or sick days or contributions to health insurance. We strongly encourage our families to offer pay 52 weeks per year as well as paid vacation time and paid holidays, at a minimum. Depending on the benefits offered, the hourly wage rate may be impacted.

Like with any industry, the more experienced and educated you are, the higher your earning potential becomes. The more you are willing to work and do, the higher your earning potential becomes. The more specialized experience you have, the higher your earning potential becomes. When considering your market value and wage requirements, please be able to justify why you are expecting a wage outside of local averages. We will gladly present you with your requested wage rate to families, but we need to be able to justify to parents why you are worth a wage rate that is outside of the local Houston average.


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Playground Safety Tips

Playground-Safety-Tips2Playgrounds are a great place to take your child for active, social fun. However, they are also a hotbed for injuries. According to the National Safety Council, “Each year more than 200,000 children visit hospital emergency rooms because of playground injuries.” What can you do to prevent your child from being hurt while on the playground?

1. Look For Soft Turf

Make sure that the playground has a soft surface in case of falls. Children falling off play equipment and swings often are injured if playing on a hard surface. Most playgrounds now have soft surfaces such as mulch or rubber mats. Inspect the surfaces and make sure they are properly maintained and are large enough to handle any kind of fall.

2. Seek Out Appropriate Swings

Soft swings should be far enough apart from each other and from the play equipment to assure children will not hit anything while swinging. Bucket seats should be used for younger children and all children should be closely supervised while swinging to make sure they don’t jump out, let go, or try to stop too quickly and possibly injure themselves. Children should not go close to the swings while in use either.

3. Beware of Hot Slides

During the summer, metal and even plastic slides can become very hot. Make sure you touch the slide to make sure it is not too hot for your child. Children should always sit when sliding and loose clothing should not be worn as it can get caught and poses a choking hazard.

4. Use Teeter-totters Carefully

Although many parks no longer have teeter-totters due to safety concerns, there are some variations that are safe for children to use. Spring driven teeter-totters are great for younger kids, while traditional ones are good for older kids as long as they have a tire or other soft surface to keep the seat from hitting the ground.

5. Supervise Children Well While Climbing

The National Safety Council says, “Forty percent of all playground injuries are related to climbing equipment. More children are injured falling off climbing equipment or horizontal ladders than anything else on the playground. Children under 4 shouldn’t play on this equipment.” Older children should be closely supervised while climbing and all climbing equipment should be examined for safety before use.

6. Utilize Playgrounds with Appropriate Access

For children with disabilities, many newer parks offer accessible fun for them as well. Make sure the paths are sturdy and slip free for wheelchairs and that all accessible areas are well maintained for safety. Keep in mind your child’s limitations and health needs and make sure you supervise play closely.

7. Remember There is No Substitute Supervision

All children should be closely supervised while at the playground. Not only for reasons of injury, but also because playgrounds are a public area and are open to all. Not everyone at the park is a parent or caregiver. Make sure your child stays in sight at all times. If older children wish to visit the park with friends, make sure there is at least one adult there to supervise.

Going to the playground should be a fun adventure, not a painful memory. Make sure your local playground is safe for children. If you have issues or questions, contact the owners or the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

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The Best Kid-Friendly Country Clubs in Houston

The-Best-Kid-Friendly-Country-Clubs-in-HoustonHaving a private club to go to is one of the joys of living in an exclusive neighborhood. No matter where you live in Houston or the surrounding areas, you can have access to wonderful, state-of-the-art, family-friendly country clubs. Catering to both kids and adults, these country clubs offer the best of both worlds for families.

1. Houston Oaks Country Club

Located 35 miles northwest of Houston, this country club is expansive, covering over 400 acres with “15 stocked fishing lakes, 27 holes of golf, a sandy beach with paddle boats, kayaks and water bikes, a beautiful family lap pool, a “field of dreams” baseball field, a fish camp and an amazing tree house.” You and your kids can walk the nature trails, go fishing, swim or play tennis. There is something for everyone at Houston Oaks!

2. Northgate Country Club

Located in north Houston, near Spring, Northgate Country Club has “27 holes of championship golf. Fine and casual dining. 8 lighted tennis courts. Banquet and private event space. 3 pools for swimming, diving & more. Active, family friendly event calendar and extensive junior activities.” They also offer a summer golf camp for kids aged 7 to 12 as well as a junior tennis academy.

3. The Clubs of Kingwood

Located northeast of Houston in Kingwood, this collection of country clubs offers a lot of value for the price. “One of the world’s largest private country clubs, The Clubs of Kingwood offers 90 holes of championship golf at two distinct locations, Kingwood Country Club and Deerwood Golf Club.” The have a great summer camp for kids that includes: “swimming, games, arts & crafts, tennis, golf, soccer, archery, paint ball target practice, water day, team building, volleyball, sport skill development, kickball, karate, special events and much more!” They also offer Junior Golf Camp, Tennis Camp and Golf & Fishing Camp. Additionally, they have a full water park with slides, a lazy river, a water play area for small children and both adult and children pools.

4. Royal Oaks Country Club

Located in the heart of Houston, just eight miles west of the Galleria on Westheimer Road, Royal Oaks Country Club is located in a pristine walled community. They offer a variety of things, from swim lessons and golf camps to tennis academies and ballet classes. They even have a Tot Stop “where kids can stay and have fun while their parents work out, play golf or enjoy a romantic dinner.” During the summer they offer Junior Tennis & Sports Camp, which includes “Tennis, Golf, Basketball, Soccer, Swimming, Fishing, Flag Football, T-ball, Pickleball, Kickball, Arts & Crafts, & plenty of Fun!” for ages 5 to 14. Junior Golf clinics, a Junior Tennis Academy, and a summer Swim League are also available.

5. Sweetwater Country Club

Located in southwest Houston near Sugar Land, Sweetwater Country Club offers a sitting service for young children called Kids Cove. Beyond that they have summer camps that specialize in golf, tennis, cross country and swimming. They also have activities like kid’s cooking and art classes, as well as Mommy and Me playdates. Special weekly camps have themes like color and art, science, crafts and outdoor activities. Archery, basketball and sports of all kinds are always on the menu! They also have an Arnold Palmer Golf Academy where kids, adults and families can learn and enjoy golf together. They even have family night activities, like Bingo with a meal.

As you can see, there are many country clubs in the Houston area that offer family-friendly activities and events. Get fit and have fun with your children at your local country club!


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The Best Party Caterers in Houston

The-best-party-caterers-in-houstonWhether you are throwing a birthday party, anniversary gala or wedding celebration, the food is often a definite focus to delight and entertain your guests. Luckily, the Houston area is rich with party caterers offering up elegant and casual cuisine designed for all ages.

From finger foods to fancy fruits and vegetables, find out what Houston caterers have to offer with this quick guide to the best party caterers in the area.

Astral Catering

For an affordable, yet personalized catering experience, sample the tasty creations provided by Astral Catering in Houston. This full-service catering company can provide your guests with casual dining featuring mouth-watering food selections buffet style or an elegant evening of fine dining complete with a full-service staff.

Want to personalize the event? Astral Catering offers a professional team that will work with you to design a custom menu and even assist in all aspects of event planning. Choose a theme and this catering company will provide food to match.

For more information and a quote, contact Astral Catering at 281-407-5621 or visit the website at www.astralcatering.com.

My Catering Company

Based in the Montrose, Midtown District, My Catering Company offers a broad range of professional and stylish catering services. Whether you are celebrating a sweet sixteen party, corporate event, fund raiser, private party or a wedding, this catering service delivers a personalized experience for you and your guests.

From drop off service and buffet lines to a full-service, black-tie event, you can choose from a variety of food and service options with My Catering Company.

For more information and a quote, contact My Catering Company at 713-529-6255 or visit the website at www.mycateringcompany.com.

Goode Company

Spruce up your next outdoor gathering with the sweet and tangy barbecue sensations from the Goode Company. Offering an expansive menu for private parties, events and receptions, this Houston caterer brings authentic Houston cuisine to you.

With more than 35 years of catering experience in the Houston area, the Goode Company offers made from scratch Texas-style food, set-up and full-service catering.

For more information and a quote, contact Goode Company Barbecue at 713-522-2530 or visit the website at www.goodecompany.com.

City Kitchen Catering

From serving hundreds of people at large galas throughout the city to in-home private dining services, City Kitchen Catering has established themselves as a premier catering service in the Houston area.

Serving impeccable cuisine and offering personalized event planning, this caterer has grown into one of the largest catering companies in Houston.

For more information and a quote, contact City Kitchen Catering at 713-847-8004 or visit the website at www.citykitchencatering.com.

Master Chef Catering

Voted as one of Houston’s A-List caterers, Master Chef Catering specializes in providing personalized full-service catering for private parties, weddings, fundraisers, bridal and baby showers and graduation celebrations.

With delicacies ranging from Asian and Classic American to Latin and Peruvian-Fusion, Master Chef Catering can accommodate parties with 10 to 3,000 guests.

For more information and a quote, contact Master Chef Catering at 713-823-6921 or visit the website at www.masterchefcatering.net.

Culinaire Catering

If you are looking for a venue and a caterer, Culinaire can deliver both. Sporting a gorgeous mansion for private parties, this full-service catering company will host your guests and provide event coordination, bartending, entertainment, décor and delicious dining.

The full-service catering company will also cater in your home, office or private location and offer a personalized menu that perfectly fits your event.

For more information and a quote, contact Culinaire Catering at 713-524-2337 or visit the website at www.cateringbyculinaire.com.

A La Carte Catering

Have a special request for food or décor? Then, A La Carte Catering may be the perfect choice. Offering personalized food that ranges from Tex-Mex to smoked house barbecue, A La Carte Catering can piece together a meal that fits your theme, celebration or reception.

The full-service catering company can prepare party platters, buffets, appetizers and seated meals for your next celebration.

For more information and a quote, contact A La Carte Catering at 281-408-4112 or visit the website at www.alchouston.com.

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Children’s Authors from Houston

Childrens-Authors-from-HoustonIt’s likely your children have a favorite book that they want to read or have you read over and over again. While enjoying the rhymes, illustrations and story plots, what your children may not know is that many of these authors hail from the same city – Houston.

For your reading enjoyment, check out the publications of these Houston authors – known for delivering insightful stories, lessons and illustrations to delight readers young and old.

Crystal Allen

As an author dedicated to writing books for middle-school children, Houston’s own Crystal Allen delivers.

Her book “The Laura Line” explores the life of 13-year old Laura Dyson who wants to be accepted by her classmates and more importantly, to be noticed by the school’s baseball star. Throughout the book, Laura is faced with decisions to figure out what is truly important to her. Crystal Allen offers a funny and touching story of Laura’s path in figuring out who she is and what she wants out of life.

Also the author of “How Lamar’s Bad Prank Won a Bubba Sized Trophy,” Allen depicts the story of 13-year old Lamar Washington, who is an expert bowler, yet not so keen with the girls. During this middle school tale, Lamar spends his summer trying to change his image while making mistakes he can learn from every step of the way.

Varsha Bajaj

Houston-based author Varsha Bajaj knows what it is like to be far away from home, hailing from Mumbai, India. As a counselor turned author, Bajaj turned her experiences traveling to the United States into lessons for young readers to enjoy with a variety of books for children and teens.

Her book, “How Many Kisses Do You Want Tonight?” explores the previous story of baby animals anticipating good-night kisses as nighttime falls. Each creature counts the number of kisses from the parents and show the beauty of bedtime rituals.

“T is for Taj Mahal: An India Alphabet” showcases the exotic treasures of India – from the grandeur of the Himalaya Mountains to the urban city of Calcutta. The book explores cultural differences and showcases traditional meals and customs throughout the streets of Mumbai.

In her debut teen novel “Abby Spencer Goes to Bollywood,” Bajaj focuses on one teenager’s quest for excitement and search for her father. While struggling with loyalty to her family, the main character realizes that something in her life is missing. When Abby discovers her father lives in India, her mom decides it is time for the teen to meet her father and the adventure begins.

Deborah Blumenthal

A former resident of Houston who now lives in New York City, Deborah Blumenthal has published a variety of young adult and children’s books with creative illustrations and lessons for your children.

Among the most popular of her children’s books is “The Blue House Dog.” The book explores the journey and struggles of a stray dog who wanders the streets after his owner has died. A young boy takes an interest in the dog and begins to care for him, ultimately forming a bond between the boy and the dog known as “Bones.”

“Black Diamond and Blake” is another popular children’s book by Blumenthal. In this story, a prize racehorse is sold to a prison horse-care program after suffering an injury that eliminates him from competition. Black Diamond gets a second chance at happiness when he forms a bond with an inmate who cares for him. The story focuses on defining the meaning of home for this horse and the inmate.

Randy Cecil

Houston-based author Randy Cecil has been writing since he can remember. After sending off his first manuscript at the age of eight, Cecil has since published several children’s books with illustrations that delight both the young and old.

“Horsefly and Honeybee” was written and illustrated by Cecil. This children’s book explores the trouble that ensues when Honeybee decides to take a nap in the same flower as Horsefly. After quarrels about sharing and a separation, the two soon meet again and must find a way to work together when caught in a dangerous situation.

“One Dark and Dreadful Night” is a mysterious and comical tale of Maestro Von Haughty’s quest to directs a theater company consisting of ragtag orphans uninterested in the gloomy play he is tasked to direct. When the spirited orphans take over the stage on a quest to find happiness in a dark tale, mayhem ensues.

Kathy Duval

Houston-based author Kathy Duval shows her love of Texas in her children’s book “Take Me to Your BBQ.” The funny tale showcases the best of Texas by detailing the experiences of aliens who have landed on Willy’s farm. The rhyming book takes readers through square dances, fiddle performances and of course, a barbecue.

Also the author of “The Three Bears’ Christmas,” Duval unravels the mystery of who has eaten the gingerbread cookies, sat in their chairs and slept in their beds, too. The follow-up children’s book, “The Three Bears’ Halloween,” takes the bears on an adventure into a scary house while trick-or-treating. Baby Bear is in for a Halloween trick with this cute tale.

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Minimizing Car Seat Misuse for Parents and Nannies

Minimizing-Car-Seat-Misuse-for-Parents-and-NanniesWith statistics ranging from 70 to 90 percent, it’s safe to say that a majority of car seats are incorrectly installed or misused.

For parents and nannies who often share the responsibility of transporting the children, it’s essential that there is a clear mutual understanding of state laws governing car seat use as well as best practices for safely transporting the children in their care. It’s important to note, however, that state laws and best practices aren’t always equivalent. While the law may state that  children can be turned forward facing once they reach age 1 and 20 pounds, for example, The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children ride rear-facing until age 2 or until they reach the maximum height and weight for their car seat. With a number of rear-facing seats having higher height and weight limits, children can ride rear-facing even longer, with the gold standard being keeping kids rear-facing as long as possible.

To ensure that children are transported safely every time they ride, parents and nannies should work together to ensure that they are using the best car seat possible. The best car seat is the seat that fits the child best based on age, height, weight and developmental level, fits the vehicle properly, and is used correctly each and every time.

What are some ways parents and nannies can work together to minimize car seat misuse?

1. Opt of Rear Facing Only Infant Seats with Removable Bases.

When transporting newborns and infants, choose rear-facing only car seats with removable bases. Purchase an additional base for the nanny’s vehicle. Ensure all bases are properly installed. This includes being installed in an acceptable location in the vehicle using an approved method of installation for that location as outlined in the vehicle manual.  Review the car seat manual together to ensure proper use and to determine  the weight and height limits of the seat.

2. Install a Convertible Seat in Each Car.

Once a child has outgrown his rear-facing only seat, a convertible seat can be used in the rear-facing position. When a child has outgrown the seat limits for rear-facing the seat can be used forward-facing. Properly installing a convertible seat in both the parent’s and nanny’s vehicles can prevent installation errors during the daily transition between caregivers. Having a convertible seat  in each vehicle can also ensure that the child always has an appropriate car seat available.

3. Opt for Easy to Install Combination Seats.

A combination seat is a forward-facing seat that transitions from a 5 point harness to a booster seat. When parents and nannies are sharing a car seat, or when the car seat will be uninstalled and reinstalled regularly and by several caregivers,  ensuring that the seat is easy to install properly  for all caregivers is critical. The Britax Frontier 90 is a combination seat for children who are at least 2 years old and 25 pounds that has the ClickTight installation system. This system takes the guess work out of car seat installation and makes getting a proper install easy for everyone. With Britax’s ClickTight Installation System you simply squeeze your thumb and finger to expose the ClickTight Technology, thread the vehicle seatbelt over the armrest and under the seat opening, buckle the seat belt, then push close, eliminating the need to fight with the vehicle seat belt in an attempt to get a tight install. Another pro of this seat is that it allows for extended forward-facing with harness, accommodating children up to 90 pounds and 58 inches and booster riders from 40 to 120 pounds and 45 to 62 inches. And if you’re worried about your seat getting ruined from accidents during potty training, spills or wet bathing suits, check out Britax’s Seat Saver Insert. It’s approved for use for Britax seats.

4. Use Easy to Transport Boosters.

For elementary school aged children, in addition to their primary caregivers, their friends parents’ may  be responsible for occasionally transporting the children to and from school,  playdates and activities. While it’s essential that parents and nannies ensure that their children are being transported safety in others’ vehicles, it’s also important that they transport the children of others safely. For children ages 4 to 11 and between 40 and 100 pounds and up to 57 inches, the Bubble Bum is a super solution. Inflatable (in less than 20 seconds) and weighing less than one pound, it’s compact and easy to transport and store making it great for sending along with the kids, traveling and taxi riding too. Since the Bubble Bum is narrow, fitting an additional friend or two safely in your vehicle can help to ensure that there is an appropriate car seat for everyone, every time.

5. Meet with a Certified Child Passenger Safety Technician Together.

Safe Kids Worldwide is home to the National Child Passenger Safety Certification Program. Through this program individuals – including nannies and parents-  can take courses and become nationally certified child passenger safety technicians (CPST). Technicians are also required to participate in continuing education to keep their certification current. Parents and nannies can find a local certified CPST or car seat checkup event in their area.  When meeting with a CPST or attending an event parents and nannies can learn to properly select, install and use an appropriate car seat.

When it comes to safely transporting children, parents and nannies should communicate often and discuss their transportation practices in detail. Including information relating to transporting the children in a nanny and family work agreement can help to ensure that there is no miscommunication when it comes  to the expectations and safety standards surrounding transporting the children in their care.

Michelle LaRowe is the executive director of Morningside Nannies and a nationally certified child passenger safety technician.  The Britax Frontier 90 and Bubble Bum seat were provided at no cost for editorial consideration. Michelle is not affiliated with either company and no payment for this post or guarantee of inclusion was made. Michelle has personally used the Britax car seats since 1999 and believes Bubble Bum offers parents and nannies of booster appropriate children a simple solution to common transportation dilemmas. 

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Tips for Beating the Heat in Houston

Tips-for-Beating-the-Heat-in-HoustonWhen the sun is shining and your children are eager to play outside, fun in the sun is inevitable. Whether your family is ready to splash around at a local waterpark, enjoy a jaunt to the park or launch a sporting event in the backyard, a sunny day is the perfect setup.

Safety, though, is a concern when the Houston heats up. Summer safety in the heat of the summer involves preparing yourself and your little ones so you can all enjoy those sunny days and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Heat-Related Illnesses

Heat exhaustion is one of the most common heat-related illnesses that can affect both the young and old. According to the Houston Fire Department, heat exhaustion is the body’s response to an excessive los of water and salt contained in sweat.

Signs of heat exhaustion include the following:

  • Profuse sweating
  • Paleness
  • Muscle Cramps
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Weak-but-rapid pulse
  • Fainting

If heat exhaustion is not treated, it can progress to a heat stroke, warns the Houston Fire Department. “Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature rises rapidly, the sweating system fails, and the body is unable to cool down,” according to the professionals at the Houston Fire Department.

It’s also important to remember to NEVER leave a child in a car unattended. Children can overheat very quickly – even when the temperature outside isn’t what you’d consider dangerous. The inside of the car heats up quickly, raising the child’s body temperature, which can result in heatstroke or too often, even death.

Heat cramps are another cause for concern with the heat of Houston. Typically, heat cramps will cause muscle pains or spasms in the abdomen, arm or legs during strenuous activities.

With any heat-related illness, the Houston Fire Department recommends the following precautionary steps:

  • Stop all activity, and sit quietly in a cool place
  • Drink clear juice or a sport drink
  • Do not return to strenuous activity for a few hours until after the cramps subside because further exertion may lead to heat exhaustion or stroke.
  • Seek medical attention for heat cramps if they do not subside in one hour.

Learning how to safeguard your family from heat exhaustion, heat cramps and heat stroke is crucial when the temperature warms up.

Fuel Up and Cool Down

Before heading into the sun and engaging in outdoor activities, fuel up your family with plenty of water and electrolyte-replacement beverages, such as Gatorade, Powerade and Propel Fitness Water.

Avoid beverages with large amounts of sugar or caffeine, such as soda or coffee, as these can speed up the process of losing fluid, warns the Houston Fire Department.

It is also best to avoid strenuous activities during the hottest times of the day, typically between 12 and 4 p.m. If you have a day planned of outdoor work or exercise, take advantage of the early morning or evening cooler temps. “Individuals unaccustomed to working or exercising in a hot environment need to start slowly and gradually increase heat exposure over several weeks,” suggests the Houston Fire Department.

Take breaks often and find a shaded area or air-conditioned area to cool off several times throughout the day.

Protect Your Skin

The risk of sun poisoning and burns is significant when Houston heats up during the summer months. Protect your skin and your overall health with some preparation.

Shield your little ones from too much sun exposure by covering them in loosely fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat that allows for ventilation. Lather them up with sunscreen, too, and reapply every two hours throughout the day.

Water Safety

There is nothing more refreshing than jumping into a cool pool of water when the Houston heat is bearing down on your body. Knowing the basics of water safety, though, is crucial so the heat does not get the best of you.

Lather up with sunscreen before, during and after each swimming session and rehydrate everyone with plenty of water throughout the day. Your little one may not feel the need to drink water when he is surrounded by pools of it, but looks can be deceiving. The heat can zap the liquids from his body quickly during the heat of the day.

Pool Safety during hot days should also be a top priority. The Houston Fire Department recommends the following when accompanying your children to the pool:

  • Never leave a child alone near water and always watch your children around swimming pools
  • Use approved flotation devices
  • Bring a cell phone to the pool in case of emergency
  • Make sure there is no standing water on the pool deck. Standing water is the No. 1 cause of slips and falls around a pool.
  • Always have a first aid kit and emergency contacts handy
  • Watch for dangerous “TOOs”- Too Tired, Too Cold, Too Far from Safety, Too Much Sun, Too Much Strenuous Activity
  • Pay attention to local weather conditions and forecasts. If lightning and thunder are nearby, get out until the storm has passed.

While there is bound to be fun in the sun, safeguarding your family from the heat of Houston will ensure that the smiles and giggles continue into the hottest days of the year.

Posted in Advice for Parents, Houston | Comments Off
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