Thursday, June 30, 2011

Go Car and Splash Art

Another birthday. Seems like when you have a family the size of mine, there will be a birthday pretty often. This week, my littlest little man turned 1 year old.

What to get a 1 year old? Should be easy enough, right?

I had these ideas of what he liked and was sure I knew just what would hold his attention for a generous amount of time. I searched a HUGE toy store and a few department stores, but nothing was QUITE right. I had him with me for those trips and nothing really caught his eye either. I love all those musical, learning, loud toys as does he. Turns out, none of them held his attention for more than a few minutes. I guess for a guy who just learned to use his legs to their full potential, not just any old sit-down toy will do. I was beginning to give up, then I turned to my trusted 3 block radius and found just the things he wanted.

First stop was The Craft Studio....again.(Truth is we went in to say hello to old friends and catch a minute or 5 of air conditioning.) While we visited and shopped, I found what seemed to be perfect for my man. It was a Kid O Go Car. This company Kid O is the same one that put out those Bilibo "seats" that many families love. I couldn't see the car with my own eyes, unfortunately. The packaging is this perfect, neutral colored box that is perfect for gift-giving. I figured I would take a chance on the 11 dollar vehicle. It was a chance well worth taking.

The car itself is very light and made of a so-far-durable-plastic that my son loves. The roof is actually a handle that fits perfectly in his chubby little paws. The wheels have a rubber coating that makes it "work" on any floor.....or ground. We should know.....he brings it everywhere he goes. On the front are these 2 little reflectors that replicate headlights. It is too cute. Truly.

Our next find was just a couple of blocks away at The Children's General Store. I frequently window shop in this store only because I am a Craft Studio faithful and I was never too sure about their pricing, but I am glad I visited this day. While I gazed around, I overheard a UES mom asking the store clerk about what activity her 16 month old daughter could do. He suggested Splash Art by Reeve and Jones.

I was sold when he explained it to her. I then Googled average pricing of the toy on my Droid and found this store's price was just right! Such an easy toy. You simply fill this little pen with water and let the kids color on one of the sides of the board and rainbow colors appear where they have written. The board dries and they can start again. It is very similar to a Zen board, which I LOVE. My older children had to constantly be reminded to give it back to the baby. Will be amazing when we travel. The birthday boy LOVED it too. Plus whenever he got thirsty, he sucked the water out of the pen. I bet the little capsule isn't BPA free! I also bet it won't kill him. That's the country in me talking!

I opened my mind this week and found some gems. My little man turned one. He got some cute new little toys and we all celebrated with him for days. Too bad he won't remember a thing of it!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Parental Comic Relief

These past couple of weeks have been very irritating for my family. One would think that the end of the school year would be less stressful and demanding than the beginning, but that was not the case for us this year. One would also think that a break into the warm weather and some vitamin D absorption would lighten the mood. No such luck. I just feel sometimes like I am provoked from every aspect of my life.

I was almost to my breaking point one evening until I read/listened to a post on Facebook from a childhood friend of mine. It just so happened this post has been the most impactful post I had ever bothered to click on. It was the new sensational book, "GO the F**k To Sleep", read by Samuel L. Jackson.

If you are a parent and have not listened to this yet, you must. If you are not a parent and have not heard it, you must. Some may call it crude. I call it genius!

I have never met Adam Mansbach(author),but one read has me thinking he is one of the most honest parents alive! The book makes fun of and mocks many of our bedtime routines with our children and expresses what most of us are truly thinking during those moments!

The illustrations mimic that of a "typical" bedtime picture book. There are cutie-pie babies, sleeping animals, and distraught parents. The words? The words could not be more true! Each page starts with a calm, lulled description and then ends with at least one F-BOMB! Sounds a little bit familiar.

I couldn't stop laughing. I couldn't stop telling people about it either. Turns out, I was not the first person to hear about it. I also had the pleasure of listening to it the first time read by Mr. Jackson, who did it certain justice! I can still imagine him reciting it.

Now I realize that enjoying this to the extent that I did makes me seem somewhat crude and unrefined, but the simple THOUGHT of it made me smile. It makes me smile that there are real parents out there who at least THINK the same thing I have on more than one occasion. It makes me smile that celebrities can appreciate it too. It makes them seem more real and connected....not so untouchable. It makes me smile that even moms on the prestigious Upper East Side are talking about and appreciating its humor.....and not just me.

The though of this book was my sanity this week. When my son dressed up like a clown for a school play and a parent commented TO MY FACE that it was "finally fitting to his character", I thought of it. When my 4 year old threw a whopper of a temper tantrum in public, I thought of it. When I was late to lunch with a friend because I was cleaning up from an explosive diaper, I thought of it.

This book is exactly what some of us need to get us through a day. Once in a while, we need that peace of mind that we get from adult comic relief. This honest genius of an author gave us the laughs and F-Bombs we need to think of when we can't(or shouldn't) use them ourselves. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Now I need to go the f*@k to sleep!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Best Gift EVER

My husband and I were shocked when our son came to us and informed us that he didn't want a birthday party. He continued saying he didn't want a party, a cake, or anything......except for a motorized "drifter". Lucky us.

Upon further investigation, and speaking to some friends who own the drifter, we decided that the motorized buggy was NOT for our son. We searched more and more every day, and spent a lot of time on www.razor.com. From the first time I went to the site, I wished he wanted this tricycle with die-cast wheels on the back. He didn't. He changed his mind from the drifter to the motor scooter. I guess it was ok. It still didn't sit quite right though.

Finally, 1 day before his birthday, he took another look at the tricycle and figured he'd go for it. Seeing it a million times, and hearing the disappointment in my voice over the other choices, swayed him. He went to school thinking that when he got off the bus we'd be heading to Toys R Us to pick it up. I had the hubby pick it up during the day.

When my big man got off the bus, we brought him back to our plaza where it all awaited him.....a cake, some snacks and juice, good friends, balloons, and his Razor RipRider 360! He was thrilled! His brothers and sister also got him the matching Razor helmet.

Let me tell you....this is the BEST GIFT EVER! After a short wait for the assembly of the bike(which a friend and I took care of while the guys watched)he was ready to go. It was a HUGE hit!

The birthday boy took the first spin. He took off peddling then took a sharp turn and spun out! Even us adults were impressed! It was so cute to see. Each kid in the park took turns taking a spin while the others followed close behind. Of course, the older, more daring monkeys got into some pretty good spins, while the smaller or more timid ones just got a little air. Either way, it was fun for all.

After each child had their fair share of turns, I searched for the weight limit of the bike(which, thankfully I am within)and I took my turn. Exhilerating! And a bit dangerous. You just feel weightless when it spins out! I loved it! And it continued to spin , unlike our Big Wheels with the side brake when we were kids. Remember?

We now ride on a regular basis when the weather is nice. Each time, we get looks from children and adults alike, and many people ask where we got it. Like I said before, we got it from Toys R Us but being an Upper East Side Mom had me searching for it on the UES. Results? State News. I hit it on the target first try! And if you act fast, you will be in luck because it seems they are having a sale and are selling it for much less than what I paid.

It is the perfect gift for a little guy. Shoot, it is the perfect gift for a not-so-little-gal like myself. The recommended age is 5 and up, which I can agree with after my feather weight 4 year old flew off and got scraped up pretty good. It seems to amuse kids of almost any age! Only wish I had the time to search my own neighborhood before I assumed it was something only big-time stores would carry. Oh well. It was worth it.

The smile on his face said so.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Befriending the Enemy at Bagels & Co.

My daughter has earned the privilege of leaving the school premises for lunch. I guess that is what happens when your kids grow up. For the first few weeks of this new privilege, I was dispensing lunch money like there was no tomorrow. The next few weeks after that, she stayed in more and more. This was not by a choice of her own. I demanded that she earn this extra expense. Then she went a few weeks without going out at all. At a point, I guess she decided it wasn't worth earning.

Now that the weather is warming up and more and more kids are leaving to have lunch out, the requests for lunch money have resurfaced. She has been pretty good, with the exception of a few foul-mouth responses. Yes, I know. She shouldn't get anything for that sort of back-talk, but I tend to be a bit soft once in a while. My lack of back bone benefited me and my ego last week when my 11 year old daughter called me on her way to school and invited me to meet her for lunch.

I was over the moon, especially since we argued right before school over her lack respect and consideration. I had to remind her that she would never have the NERVE to speak to her teachers the way she can sometimes speak to me. The argument sure was a doozy. She didn't even kiss me good-bye which she still usually does. One the bus headed to school, she must have had a change of heart(or lapse of judgment)and thought of me.

I met her at one of her favorite lunchtime spots, one block away from school. Bagels & Company on York Avenue, between 75th and 76th street, is a restaurant I have heard about one million times from her and all of her schoolmates who happen to live right around it. I had never been to try it since there are 3 or 4 spots nearer to our home that I am pretty faithful to. Here I was, on my way to another bagel place for lunch.

I vaguely remember my girl telling me about all the lunch specials at a handful of places near the school. Bagel & Co. seemed to have one of the best. They have a special where you get 2 slices of pizza and a can of soda for 4 dollars! That is almost unheard of, unless it is yucky pizza. It was anything BUT yucky! It was pretty darn good, and it was also Kosher. Bonus for any of my fellow Upper East Siders who follow Kosher. Not a bad deal at all. I think I was the last to learn this though, because the place stayed with a continuous line out the door for the entire hour we were there!

Apparently a few of the schools in the neighborhood let the kids leave to eat, and the "Company" is a crowd favorite. They always say a place is great if the line is out the door, and this line wasn't even just school kids looking for a few slices and a soda. There were more moms and nannies there with their charges than you would believe. The only downfall is the place doesn't have parking for all the Bugaboos and Maclarens.

Seems they have a wide array of things to choose from too. Looks like they have a bunch of salads and wraps and sandwiches, etc. The options looked endless. Too bad I couldn't try one of everything. I have to get back there again.

I am not sure what it means that a mom and her daughter sometimes need a few slices and a can of soda to come closer together, but those calories were sure worth it. Just the fact that she was thinking positively about me after such an atrocious argument shows me how much she is maturing. Or maybe she is becoming more deceitful and she was just trying to befriend the enemy! Either way, I'll take all the time I can.....especially when it is requested. Perhaps I can earn myself a walk TO school one of these mornings so I can sneak a taste of the bagels!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

German Ruby

This week, I was unfaithful. My loyalties to a long term relationship were tested and (in the blink of an eye)were extinguished. All it took was one demonstration to break a bond of over 10 years. Move over Maclaren. Cybex just swooped in and stole my heart.

Being an active mom on the Upper East Side has gradually made me a bit of an expert on many things "baby". Strollers are no exception. In fact, at some points in my parenting, strollers have been a bit of an obsession. I have done my research. I have done my field studies. I have bought and sold and returned and donated more than a handful of strollers. Up until this morning, I was a Maclaren advocate. I have owned more than a couple and would have sworn by them, and only them. My love of strollers was changed today, or at the very least, it was broadened.

The only unfortunate part of this new experience is that my purchase was not made on the Upper East Side. I ventured out of the neighborhood and found this gem in the "hood" across the park. The gem I am referring to is a lightweight, aluminum umbrella stroller designed by a German company called Cybex. The style is one of their very latest called the Ruby.

My mission was to go in and buy a Maclaren Volo that I had seen online. My friend and I were floored and taken in by this oceany-green/blue stroller that was placed in our path to the Volo. We checked it out and gave it a little spin in the aisle. When the man came over and asked what we were looking for, we could not help but ask about the Spring colored "ride". He went on to tell us that they were in the process of urging people to take this stroller instead of the ever-popular Maclaren version. He pointed out all features then added that Cybex also gave a lifetime warranty on their wheels! That was music to my ears since I pound the pavement a LOT and tend to be a bit rough on my wheels. I was almost sold. Almost.

I was really looking for the under 9 pound weight of the Volo. This Ruby is 12 pounds. 3 pounds is a big difference when you have a 24 pound baby inside! The gentleman went on to show us why EXACTLY the Ruby wins. The 2011 Ruby comes with a "Super Canopy". This feature means that the hood(which is also made from SPF 50 material)can be pulled forward for extreme sun coverage and can be pulled up and down to accomodate a wide height range of children. To me, this means the stroller would be a good fit for my child for much longer. Volo hoods are short in comparison to this one.

Another advantage over the Volo? Ruby lays down! Only one position, but one position is enough. It is just enough that if my child falls asleep, I won't get the dirty looks from people in the street. You know, when they fall asleep in an umbrella stroller that does not lay down, they tend to just bend their neck and lay on their own shoulders. Not comfy at all. Being able to lay him back is great.

Another plus? Everything is machine washable. I can take the seat off and throw it in the wash. All the Cheerios, and ice cream, and other food that gets mashed in can be easily washed off. And the hood? Also machine washable. My hoods always end up getting coffee stains eventually. At least I can fend the nasty stains off very easily!

There are a few tiny disadvantages, although none are too tremendous they kept me from buying. A rain cover needs to be purchased separately. I worried about that for only a second when I realized that the hood nearly completely covers the passenger anyway. Only other issue is the poundage. 3 pounds heavier than the stroller I went in to buy.

What more could I ask for in a stroller at only 20 dollars more than my planned purchase? That 20 dollars pays for the reclining feature and the Super Canopy. I now have a nice, summery, washable stroller. The baby looks comfortable and I have no trouble carrying it up the subway stairs. And although my eyes were drawn to the cool and bright color of the demo, I opted for black. It has silver/grey accents and matches much more. Besides that, I know my husband would have had issues pushing that bright color down the street!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sharing is NOT Always Caring

This weather simply can not make up its mind. We have had temperatures nearly in the 80's and are now suffering through high 40's and low 50's the past few days. This is the kind of weather that no matter how you dress or layer, it just doesn't seem right. I have been guilty of under-dressing my kids on some days and over-dressing them on others. Throw in some seasonal allergies and you have a recipe for disaster.

It is inevitable that a number of kids and adults alike will come down with colds and flus and all sorts of other illnesses when the seasons change. We can give our children all the vitamins and orange juice in the world but if all of us are not practicing the same sorts of preventative measures, we are almost asking for these little bugs to spread like wildfire!

It is hard to keep after 4 kids to wash hands every time they sneeze, use the restroom, throw out garbage, etc. It is hard to get them NOT to share items when you have spent years teaching them that "sharing is caring". It is nearly impossible to keep my affectionate children from loving all their school germs onto my little guy. It is a full-time job in itself just to harp on such issues! The one thing that we have to all learn and pass on to our children is that some things are just better off being kept to themselves.

I won't even get into the whole bed bug issue again and all of the things that our children should learn to prevent the spread. Lice.....the schools make that one an easy one. As soon as they know about a case, the child is not allowed back into the classroom until the school nurse checks and clears them. We simply have to explain to our kids the importance of not sharing things that could spread the little bugger. It is such a common childhood thing.(Yes, it happens on the Upper East Side too!)Illnesses....not such a black and white issue.

I can recall just a short month ago when my 8 year old came home from school with a violent looking eye. I immediately took him into the doctor who prescribed an antibiotic for the bacterial pink eye that he had contracted. Rule is that until he was taking the meds for 24 hours, he should not be in school. Simple enough. He was capable of BEING at school, but it just wouldn't be fair to the other families for me to send him.(Luckily, I had been laid off from work last month, so it wasn't a huge inconvenience for him to stay home). I wondered about the child that my child caught it from. Did his/her parents think the same way? Did they know it was contagious? Did they even care? Or could they not afford the day off from work?

I have certainly been there. I have struggled with sending them or not a million times. I can even remember another mother's advice of drugging them before school so it would seem they suddenly got sick in the middle of the day. Seems like that may work if I needed it to and had no other choice. It also seemed that these are the types of parents that don't really consider how serious the implications could potentially be for performing such an act. I know all too well. The very next week, my infant son had a yucky eye.

When my daughter's belly was turning and rumbling and her head hurt, I was tempted to make her go in to school anyway. I contemplated it only briefly before I imagined her best friend's little sister with the same symptoms. Not cool. Even though we realize our school-aged kids are somewhat resilient and can handle these illnesses, some people don't think about the infants and elderly family members that these germs could be brought home to.

I am grateful each time I get a Yahoo Groups email from a mom in my child's class reporting that their child came down with "X" and had "Z" symptoms. It keeps us on the lookout and reminds us to remind our kids of their hand-washing and germ-sharing habits. It also shows the amount of consideration these people have for other human beings and their respective situations. While I can't say I am sad to have these allergy-ridden germ machines home for this LONG Spring break, I am thrilled at the chance for us all to heal. This vacation will be all about sharing. Sharing the tissue box, the childrens Zyrtec, and many many revitalizing naps!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tar and Heels

Last week, my birthday found me and some friends(who also happen to be Upper East Side moms)eager to have a "girl's night out". It takes a lot for me to find the stamina and the inspiration to actually put on make-up, dress in more than jeans and a cotton top, and venture out after 9pm. I find myself sometimes feeling like an old lady when it comes to planning an evening out. So I left it to a friend of mine.

One of my BFFs is Lebanese and has always frequented an Egyptian restaurant/cafe WAY downtown. I went with her once, and truly enjoyed the experience, but despised the ride home. Riding trains alone that late are not a good idea. Same goes for a cab ride for a car-sick-prone mom. I remember the food being delicious, and authentic(according to the dishes my friend cooks and I have had the pleasure of sampling). The atmosphere was cool too. Very comfortable and warm. The hookah? Ah, the hookah. I enjoyed it. Boy, did I enjoy it.

This time around, she decided to keep it local. Turns out, the owner of the successful restaurant downtown had opened one up in our neck of the woods! We only had to take a short little ride to 62nd st between 1st and 2nd Avenues. That is my kind of travel. This spin-off is called Horus East. It was a bit hard to see the place until I saw a slight change of color glowing behind an Eye of Horus symbol. Very fitting. Deeper investigation taught me that the symbol stands for all kinds of good things like protection and good health. The subtlity of the signage made finding the place a little challenging, but was such a compliment to the atmosphere once I experienced it as a whole. Very classy place. Very Upper East Side.

We decided to stay upstairs. Yes, there are two floors. We didn't learn until later in the evening that the downstairs was a bit more "clubby" than the upstairs. Upstairs is where you eat a meal and listen to authentic music. Downstairs is where you "drop it low" and "put a ring on it". Next time we will have to make some time to venture downstairs.

We left the ordering to the experts. That was a smart move, because not one thing remained on our plates. Each item was delicious.....right down to the rice! We also had some mint tea in tiny little cups that seemed to make it more authentic tasting. I feel like we continued to just pick at everything until there was nothing left to pick at!

The hookah was incredible. Now I am not a smoking advocate AT ALL. In fact, I was thrilled when all the laws were being made to keep it out of public places. It even makes me sick! For some reason, the light taste and smell of the hookah is enjoyable to me. It could have something to do with the fact that we happen to get a "premium" nicotine-free set-up that is smoked right out of a pineapple. Who can resist the taste and smell of smoke pineapple? Not this hookah novice 2 times over. Or maybe it is the mentality of doing something where no one under the age of 18 is allowed to enter! Probably a little of both.

Somewhere in the middle of all the eating and drinking and fruit-smoking, the music got louder and enriched with a little more bass. Then out came a belly dancer! She was beautiful and talented. I was impressed and amazed and a little bit envious. I soon found myself sucking in my baby gut just a little bit more than I was before!

Before we left, the music got loud once again and my friends had the waitress bring out a little chocolate souffle surrounded by strawberries. It had a candle on top and a unrecognizable birthday song played while everyone clapped. I was completely embarrassed and pleased all at the same time. The song goes back and forth between English and what I assumed was Arabic. All I know is the English part wished me a happy birthday and I felt like a million bucks.....for an awkwardly long time.

Overall, it was a fantastic night. Before we went out, I was thankful for friends who wanted to take me out. I was also thankful for a reason to put some tar on my lashes and heels on my feet. I was thankful to my husband for being a babysitter. After the night was over, I was thankful for the door-to-door ride home. I was thankful for being able to still stand in those heels, and I was surprisingly thankful for that skinny, talented lady who inspired me to get my slightly squishy self back into gear. I always seem to be thankful. But when you have the opportunity to be an Upper East Side mom with 4 reasons to still get up at the crack of dawn after a long night....why not?