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UltimateMama wants to give you all a heads up on something — most day camp and spring/summer class schedules are out now and registration has begun!  UltimateMama's three favorite words are "early enrollment discount" and she's seeing those words all over the place – from soccer to language classes to various day camps. 

Plan your child's schedule now for the following reasons:

1. You can get "early enrollment discounts"

2. Your child can get the days/times that work best for your family's schedule

3. Classes and camps are most likely not yet booked

4. You will be able to sleep better at night knowing that your child will be active and happy this summer!

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UltimateMama encourages your nanny or babysitter candidate to bring a resume and list of references with them to the first nanny interview.  If the nanny candidate does not have a formal resume make sure you ask her for references from the last three (or more) families she worked for as a nanny.  Ask the nanny candidate for specifics such as names, phone numbers, duration of job, and why the job ended.  If the nanny candidate hesitates then you may want to delve into why they are not forthcoming about references. 

 

If you are considering the candidate then call these references and ask them some questions that you have prepared.  You will find that many families are very open when it comes to the delicate subject of childcare.  Some references may even offer to meet you face to face to answer any questions you may have about the nanny.

 

Do not interrupt the references when they are speaking.  By allowing them to talk freely you may learn more than you even thought you would.  If something they say is unclear than ask for clarification.  If something they say is unsettling to you then make sure to ask the other references similar questions about the nanny to find out if they give you the same response. 

 

You may consider asking the family references the following questions: 

 

– how many children did the nanny watch?

– what were the ages of the children the nanny cared for (when the job began and ended)?

– how many hours and which hours the nanny worked?

– was the nanny punctual?

– describe the nanny’s personality or general mood?

– what was the nanny’s daily routine with the child (children)?

– what are some of the nanny’s positive characteristics or traits?

– what are some of the nanny’s negative characteristics or traits?

– what was the duration of employment?

– is there anything that I should know about the nanny (positive or negative) that I did not ask?

– would you re-hire the nanny?

– would you recommend the nanny for employment?

– why did the job end?

 

The last question is very important because you will get an idea of who ended the relationship—the nanny or the family.  Some nannies enjoy change and do not stay with the same family for long durations.  Perhaps the family moved to another location and it was no longer convenient for the nanny to commute.  Maybe the children got older and their childcare needs changed.  Of course there could have been an incident that led to the nanny’s departure and uncovering that is critical.

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Now you all know that UltimateMama loves to get deals on children's items.  However, one must always know when to pass something up.  Something may be a "bargain" for a reason (bad construction, ill-fitting, unfavorable color, etc.) and is not a "deal" at any price.  Just because something is on sale does not mean you must buy it for your child. 

UltimateMama always loves watching Stacy London of TLC's "What Not to Wear" tear apart those who head straight for the sale racks and buy items just because they seem "cheap" in price.  Sometimes, these so-called "bargain" items make those who wear them look "cheap".  

UltimateMama defines a deal as getting something for her child at a steep discount that she would have paid full price for anyway. If you would have never purchased the item at full price then it is not a bargain at any price.

Be careful of the following "bargains" with children's clothing and accessories:

– 2 words:  Dry Clean

– Anything missing buttons

– Anything that needs hemming

– Color fading

– Buying bathing suits for the following year (unless your kids swim all year long you may want to avoid buying bathing suits on summer clearance racks because it is hard to guesstimate your child's size)

– Buying snow boots or sandals for the following year (same issue with estimating shoe size—pretty hard to do)

– Licensed apparel (your son may love Diego now but be over him in three months; same hold true with your daughter and Snow White)

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UltimateMama just found out about an emergency milk relief program that is seeking donor breast milk*.  Of course, you do have to be pre-screened.

If baby can't get mommy's milk and caretakers do not have access to clean water (for formula mixing) then safe donor breast milk is an excellent option.

To donate your breast milk to Haiti now or for more information please check out the following sites:

International Breast Milk Project

Human Milk Banking Association of North America or HMBANA

And for those non-lactating folks out there you can always make a monetary donation.  

Red Cross

* Disclaimer:  UltimateMama never had an over-abundant supply of milk in her nursing days and has never donated breast milk.  However, if you want to let it all flow out for a good cause then BRAVO to you.

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UltimateMama has a little tip for you when looking for bargains on children's clothing, shoes, and accessories – MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE SALESPEOPLE!  It is easy and fun to chat to sales assistants when you are on shopping adventures.  Many times, salespeople will tell UltimateMama about upcoming sales, hand her samples, or give her special coupons to use on future store visits. 

Who doesn't like to make a friend and save a buck?!

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UltimateMama was just told she was a day late for the spectacular Children's Place sale that is going on right now in stores!  However, she just bought her daughter a "rugby sweater" in blue with multi-colored stripes, a "solid henley sweater" in petal pink and the "favorite jacket" in horizon blue for $3.99 each plus an additional 15% savings with her "Spring Pass" booklet of friends and family coupons!  For all you mathematicians out there, that is right, the final price of each of the three items was $3.40! 

Place 
Not to mention the FABULOUS deal that a few mothers of young boys received when they found "3-in-1" multi colored blue/black winter jackets for $9.99 from $59.50 originally (plus they also used their 15% off coupon).  Read my lips (or font in this case), the total cost of the winter jacket was $8.50!

UltimateMama will note that it does not appear to be the same sale ONLINE where prices are higher on most items she evaluated!

UltimateMama's only regret was that she did not know about the MONSTER sale yesterday!

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UltimateMama was a Costco virgin up until a few weeks ago.  Now, she's a Costco slut.  Once, she thought of Costco as the utopia for suburban American overinsdulgance.  Now, she thinks of Costco as a smart, efficient, and effective way to shop for her family without breaking the bank. 

UltimateMama loves her Manhattan Costco!  Costco recently opened a store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that is accessible to those without cars! (those with cars can ride up there and park).  One can walk, take a subway or a bus, or cab it (like UltimateMama who was under time constraints with childcare) uptown without a problem. After shopping, you walk out and a limo service is there to load your goods into a towncar and deliver them (with you) to your apartment.  UltimateMama did not even lift a finger!

Check it out at 517 E 117th St (E 116th St and FDR Drive).

What I loved about Costco:

 - Dove soap

– Cheerios (huge boxes)

– Dried fruit (20 packs)

– Desitin

– Canned tomatoes

Eli Zabar bread

– Carter's clothing for babies and toddlers

– Speedo bathing suits for kids

– Armani shirts for men

– Patagonia fleeces for women

– Organic milk in 3 packs

– Great fruit

– Lots of meat and fish (the veal cutlets were amazing)

– Barilla pasta

– Goldfish crackers

– Kleenix

What I did not like:

– No Triple Paste

– No Pampers Sensitive Wipes without perfume

– No Huggies Overnight diapers

So, go to Costco and stock up on food and necessities today!  Make extra portions of marinara sauce, soup, and stew and freeze some for future happy eats!

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UltimateMama is always amazed when one of her intelligent, educated, sophisticated friends tells her they have not yet completed their will.  If you have children, a will is a must. 

Do not procrastinate by thinking that a will is an uncomfortable topic and one that you are too young to deal with at this stage of the game.  Creating a will is the most selfless thing you can do for your family and it will be extremely helpful should anything terrible happen to you (or your partner). 

Run to your lawyer and draft a will today.  If you do not have an attorney then get a recommendation from a friend or ask your accountant for a referral. You can even go online and do a search to find a lawyer close to your home. 

Think about the following when drafting a will:

– will you do a living will for yourself and your spouse?

– who are a few people you and your partner comfortable leaving your children with in case anything happens to both of you? (ask them first!!)

– who is in charge of executing the will? who will be the executor of your estate?

– who is in charge of dividing your finances or trust? (please make sure your assets as well as finances are in order, create a spreadsheet or folders and let someone you trust know where to find all of your accounts, insurance statements, valuables, art work, jewelry, etc.)

– will your children have trust funds?  if so, what age can they retrieve the money?

– who should make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself?

After your will is completed make sure those mentioned and all beneficiaries in the will either have copies of the will or know where to find them.

Also, re-visit your will every year and make appropriate changes as needed. 

Trust UltimateMama, you will be able to sleep better at night knowing that your family is protected in the event of a tragedy. 

Dollar

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UltimateMama wanted to give her daughters a huge, colorful, fabric wall map of either the United States or the World for the holidays.  She envisioned her children spending hours learning the locations of states, countries, cities of interest, and more.  However, FAO Schwarz sold out of them in the fall!  UltimateMama was slightly relieved because each wall map was well over $100 but she was a bit disappointed that she could not provide her children with such an important educational tool. 

An idea came to her!  UltimateMama decided to buy oversized colored paper maps of both the United States and the World and take them to Staples for lamination.  For under $20 per map, UltimateMama's kids will have hours of fun learning about different destinations!  

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UltimateMama wants all of you to know that according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Graco has recalled strollers because of fingertip amputation and laceration issues. Remember, this is on the heels of the November Maclaren USA stroller recall. 

Do yourself and your family a favor and put safety first!  Pay attention to recalls as well as safety notifications.

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