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The Year of the Tiger!

Posted by flsquared on February 22, 2010

This weekend, we decided to attend the “Biggest Chinese New Year Parade” in Manhattan.

Armed with a 15% off coupon, I traveled down to the BabiesRUS store in Union Square to check out the umbrella strollers.  It was about time we got one, and we would definitely need it for the subway ride.  As with any “big box” retailer (but especially with BRU), I immediately started to get overwhelmed with the choices and quickly slunk out without buying anything.

I perused the Union Square Greenmarket (and bought a huge bag of $1/lb local apples) to calm myself.

Then I went home and checked out Craigslist.

Lucky for me, I found a great used Maclaren Volo for $40.  SCORE!  (Oh, and by chatting with the woman selling the stroller, I made a new friend in Brooklyn!)

Bright and early Sunday afternoon, (40 degree, sunny weather!) we met some friends to see the dragons dancing and floats passing by.  I am kicking myself as I forgot my camera, but it was amazing!  The kids enjoyed the people watching, scooping up confetti and throwing it at each other, (I’m not sure how much they actually saw of the parade), and just seeing Mama and Papa happy.  We even popped into a crowded Dim Sum restaurant and stuffed ourselves while they ate and played with chopsticks.  We ended the day by going over to Union Square and hanging out at the playground (and buying a few bottles of “3 buck chuck” wine at TJs).  The subway ride was uneventful and I was actually able to carry the little guy up and down the stairs myself with the new, lightweight stroller.

After we had gave the kids dinner and put them to bed, my husband turned to me and said “What a great day!”  I totally agree.

For me, the best part about the day was exploring a new part of the city and seeing everyone have a good time.  Amazingly, there was no (well…, okay, very little) crying, fear of crowds, or explosive diapers.  Days like these bring our family closer and open the door for new events and experiences to further strengthen that bond.

Oh, and bill for the day?  $2.25 for the subway and $25 for 4 at the Dim Sum (and believe you me, the kids eat as much as I do!).  Not bad!

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Watching TV Linked to Higher Risk of Death

Posted by flsquared on January 13, 2010

Tuesday’s WSJ reported that Watching TV Linked to Higher Risk of Death.  According to the Australian study, watching 2-4 hours of TV/day increased your risk of death by 13%, and watching more than 4 hours increased it by 46%.  Wow.  They also specified cardiovascular disease:  watching TV for 4+ hours increased this risk by 80%.

The interesting part of this study is the solution.  The researchers don’t say that you need to participate in “hard core” exercise (in fact, the participants in the study averaged 30-45 minutes of exercise/day).

Instead, their worry is that becoming a couch potato reduces “incidental moving around”.  This goes for other sedentary activity (oxymoron, anyone?) such as surfing the net (duh!), reading a book (hmmm…), or taking the train to work (!).  After an entire day of inactivity, your HDL levels can fall 20%.  Wow.

Honestly, articles such as this one just reaffirm to me our decision to move to Manhattan.  Sure, we’re tearing our hair out trying to keep our bills down and we go a bit stir-crazy in such a small space during the winter, but perhaps that’s the point.  It makes us get creative and get moving.  We simply can’t afford the luxury of a huge place with luxuries that would entice us to stay in all day.  Even take out gets expensive so we hoof it over to the grocery store and the make our meal.  And you know what?  All of that movement and activity seems to make us happier!

Speaking of, I am going to sign off, bundle up the kids, and take advantage of the two whole hours of sunny 34 degree weather this afternoon!

Posted in activity, happiness, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Wonderful New Music Class for the Kiddos!

Posted by flsquared on January 11, 2010

Just a short post today to tell you about a wonderful (free!) event that I attended with my sons at NYC’s Webster Library this afternoon.

Emily Ellison presented “Children’s Music from Around the World”, an hour long music-fest geared toward children ages 0-10 (although I think from age 2-6 were probably the best audience).  We arrived late, 30 minutes late to be exact, but were welcomed into the controlled chaos of her high-energy event.

Loved her!  Loved her!  Loved her!  She totally saved what was quickly becoming a loooooong afternoon, and the kids had a blast.

I’m just disappointed that her upcoming concerts will be subway distance away (and I am so not getting on public transit with a double stroller in sub-freezing temps during rush hour for anyone!).

I did get on her mailing list:  emilymusicforkids – at – verizon – dot – net, phone number (347) 589-3225.

Posted in activity, frugal, toddler | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Goodbye to the Family and Hello to 2010!

Posted by flsquared on January 9, 2010

Just 10 minutes ago, I closed the door and said goodbye to my inlaws.  They arrive and leave like a hurricane, bringing and taking with them so much emotion, noise, and activity.  And since they live in Spain, we don’t get to see them often.  They will be missed and we’re already counting the days until our next visit this spring or summer.

*sigh*

But on to 2010!

For me, 2009 was a tough year, filled with a lot of hard work, little sleep, sick kids, 3 apartment/city changes, new jobs, etc. etc.  I took theHolmes-Rahe Stress Test and scored a 320 just for last year! where a score of 300 puts you at risk of illness.  If you take the test as read (24 months) I score nearly 500.  Ouch.

Lucky for us, 2010 brings with it a year of stability:  my husband has started his new job, my eldest son has been accepted to a NYC preschool (no small feat!) beginning next fall, and my youngest is moving out of the baby stage, and into the toddler stage which I adore!  We love our new apartment and neighborhood, and have started to make some new friends.

I love to make resolutions with the new year.  It helps me gather my thoughts and set the tone for the next 365 days.  A few days ago, I reviewed my resolutions for 2009:

Theme:  Finish projects that I have started!
(Resolutions in no particular order)

1.  Knit a blanket for each of the kids and finish ours
Status:  I “outsourced” David’s blanket to my MIL (complete) and am 80% finished with Victor’s.  Our’s remains unchanged at about 70%.

2.  Organize our digital photos
Status:  unchanged

3.  Understand ipod and download music
Status:  spent a number of hours to figure out mac-ware (I’m a PC-girl) and downloaded a number of CDs to my ipod.  more to go!

4.  Camera:  take a class/read a book to take better photos
Status:  unchanged

5.  Read a book in Spanish
Status:  unchanged

6.  Read “The Name of the Rose” (long story!)
Status:  unchanged

7.  Organize photos/memorabilia into scrapbooks or whatever
Status:  5% organized

8.  Organize Recipes
Status:  15% organized

9.  Organize professional / social contacts
Status:  unchanged

10.  Organize email
Status:  50% organized

11.  Clean up info on old laptop and save to CD
Status:  95% complete (saved to flashdrive–need to transfer to CD)

12.  Study French
Status:  swapped 1 class

13.  Blog 2x/week
Status:  more or less….

As you can see, my completion rate hasn’t been so great.  Quite frankly, I think I underestimated how much time and energy two little creatures take out of you.  Add in all of our other major life events and I’m surprised I get anything done at all.

So my 2010 resolutions?  2009, Take 2!  The only additions will be:

14.  Keep up with monthly budget

15. Get caught up on pile o’ magazines/newspapers

16.  Begin to take over some responsibilities from my husband (paying bills, medical invoices, etc) in the 2nd half of the year.

17. Take time to enjoy my family, friends, and just be by myself. Live in and experience the moment!

Perhaps my accountability to you will help me complete these projects over the next year. I’ll keep in touch and let you know how it’s going!

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New Year’s Challenge: Live Life Like in the 1980s

Posted by flsquared on December 28, 2009

First of all, I hope everyone had a fantastic holiday!   With my inlaws in town for a few weeks, I have been doing my best to stay off of the computer and just enjoy my family.  I did get an itch today to write a bit on the blog so here I am.

Recently, one of my friends posted this article to Facebook: 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable. With a title like that, how can you not check it out?  It was a fantastic article, and one I hope to not just learn from, but act upon.

Until having moved here, I thought that the average New Yorker would have more interaction with people than those living in the ‘burbs.  After all, just the act of leaving the apartment brings you in contact with people.  Now I know that my assumptions couldn’t have been more wrong!  I have been floored at the number of services that you can receive without leaving your house:  the internet brings groceries and take out to your door, a phone call will pick up and deliver your laundry, a doorman will even bring your packages to your apartment so you don’t have to sign for them.

It is all to easy to stay in the comfort zone of texting instead of calling, sending emails instead of stopping by to visit with someone, or even writing on someone’s wall instead of sending a email or *gasp* a card in the mail.  It’s easier to send a check in the mail to a charity (especially since many times it seems like they’d rather have the cash) than donating an hour of your time and service.  Why risk feeling awkward?  Why risk having a “real” conversation and someone finding out that we are not so clever in person as we are over email and 140 character length twitter updates?

Of the entire article, I believe that #4 most rang true for me.  When I first joined Facebook, I was excited to re-connect with many old friends and classmates.  I had moved from Maryland to Florida when I was 12 (a horrible time for a dramatic change for a girl, made worse as even long distance calling was prohibitive for my family, not to mention airplane flights) and I always wondered what had happened to my childhood friends.  However, after a bit, reading the updates and writing some of my own, I realized that nothing had changed–we all still had our own lives and we were not “friends” but more a curiosity.  It would take more effort than a few emails to reconnect, and the friendships would have to start from zero.   Uff!  But that is just too much effort!

My challenge to myself (and you!) is to get out of your comfort zone:  Turn off the computer and TV, stop texting and get out!  Make personal contact with people, no matter how strange it may feel.  Drop by at a friend’s house and have a conversation.  Ask a neighbor for some sugar and bring them some cookies in return.  Take a walk and notice the people that you pass.  Volunteer at a soup kitchen.  Don’t avoid the annoying guy.  You may surprise yourself with how good human contact makes you feel.

Posted in activity, challenge, environment, happiness, philosophy, simple living | Tagged: , , , , | 2 Comments »

The Battle of the Laptop (or how to keep the focus on the kids)

Posted by flsquared on November 18, 2009

Toddlers are exhausting.  They have endless sources of energy and fear nothing.  No matter where they are or what they are doing, they always seem to find exactly what they should not touch, and put it directly in their mouths.  Or what they should not climb, and not only climb it, but try to jump off….head first!  Just physically and mentally exhausting.

I remember reading an article sometime last year that one of the reasons that Facebook is so popular with new moms is that it allows you to catch up with friends (or at least read their status updates) in 30 second increments.  Which is approximately the free time you have after re-directing your baby from climbing up onto the dining room table to eating the TV cable.

The problem with these 30 second intervals is that they become addictive.  First, you are reading an email or two every few hours, and slowly but surely you are creeping over to check for any sort of outside stimulation every 10 or 15 minutes.

What I have found is that when this happens, I start watching the clock as the day passes so very slowly, the kids are cranky and vocal (read:  crying, tantrums) for attention, and there really aren’t that many interesting FB updates, emails, or blogs to read.  (At least ones that you can intelligently digest in 20 seconds or less).

Instead, when the laptop is out of sight, the kids and I (and my husband, if he his home) spend quality time together and enjoy it all the more. I focus 100% on them (okay, 90%), instead of stealing glances at the inbox, and have a great time.  And time just seems to fly by.

So why does that pesky laptop seem to migrate to our dining room table more often than not?  Easy.  There are things to do: emails to answer, plans to make, weather forecasts to check, library books to renew, etc.

My new challenge to my husband and I is to put focus back on the family.  I challenge us to keep the laptop out of the common area during all but 2 hours/day, while the kids are awake.  Believe me, this will be tough for us.  And I have yet to break the news to hubby.

I will let you know how it goes.  Wish us luck!

In the meantime, I would love to hear how you minimize distractions in common areas of your house.  How do you keep your family tuned in to each other during family time?

Posted in activity, baby, challenge, family, happiness, philosophy, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Toddler Tip: Veterans Day Crafts

Posted by flsquared on November 10, 2009

My boys and I attend a pre-school-like class twice/week where the caregivers rotate bringing in the snack and preparing a project for the kids.  The toddlers range in age from 20-25 months (not including my David, who usually is so happy to have the playroom to himself he doesn’t want anything to do with the craft!).

Today was my day.  And let me just say that I stress waaaaay too much about the craft.

This nervousness is not unfounded–the last time I was in charge of the art project, I brought in egg cartons and pipe cleaners to make little spiders and caterpillars.  After 5 minutes, the instructor whipped out some stamp paints with stencils.  So what if the mamas and nannies were doing most of the work!

(Ours turned out very cute though–who doesn’t love googly eyes??)

aaaaaaablog 003

Hoping to avoid another embarrassment, I did about 2 hours of research last night on different crafts that toddlers and pre-pre-schoolers may enjoy doing to learn about Veterans Day.  Here are my favorites:

**  Enchanted Learning shows how to make a 3-D American star.

**  DLTK has two cool wreath ideas:  rememberance hands and poppies.   I especially love the hands wreath because one of Victor’s favorite activities is to have me trace his hand, and for him to trace mine.

**  The “Love To Learn Place” Suggested writing a letter of thanks to Veterans and sending them to VFW Hall.  One idea I had would be to draw a picture or decorate a flag and send it in to the Vets.

**  First School had a turkey and flag coloring page (Veterans Day and Thanksgiving!)  and a “My First Flag” activity where you use finger paint to make thumb prints for the stars on the flag.

In the end, I decided to go with something straightforward and easy.  I chose the “My First Flag” activity, but we glued foam stars and stickers onto the flag and colored a bit.  It was a bit hit!  There was no cutting, and lots of gluing (these guys love to glue!).  Most importantly, it was something that could be somewhat completed during their less than 2 minute attention span.

Here’s how ours turned out:

aaaaaaablog 002

(Oh, and it was Victor’s idea to not just sign his name, but to sign his brother David, Mama, and Papa.  What a sweet guy!)

I would love to hear from you–what projects are you planning on doing for Veterans Day?

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My 15 Minutes: of Fame and Freedom

Posted by flsquared on November 7, 2009

First for the “Fame”!:

Yesterday, I was surprised to receive a note from WordPress that my Toddler Tips had been chosen as one of their “Freshly Pressed”:

superblog

How exciting!!!  I hope all of my new viewers are enjoying my posts, and that you will stick around for our adventures to come.

And now for the “Freedom”:

My youngest just turned 1 last week.  I think something happens to our boys when they hit that magic first birthday.  It seems like a switch is flipped and are immediately more independent and just happier in general.  Which, in turn, means that Mama is a bit less exhausted at the end of the day….and thus my 15 minutes of “free time” before I crash for the night.

So what should I do with this newfound luxury?

15 minutes is not a lot of time, but I do want to take advantage and take some time for myself to relax and recharge.

Here are some ideas that I have, in no particular order:

1.  Browse through a (non-child-related) magazine or read a few pages of a book.
2.  Take a walk.
3.  Chat with my husband about something non-work, non-child related, just like the “old days”.
4.  Organize and continue unpacking (we’re now at the 10-box-post-move state…if we’re not careful, those boxes will still be full until our next move!).
5.  Bake cookies or other treats (probably more than 15 minutes, but perhaps I can prep as I am cooking dinner?).
6.  Have a glass of wine or tea and just be one with my thoughts.
7.  Call up / email a friend I haven’t talked to in a while.
8.  Continue knitting the blanket for David.
9.  Clean something.
10.  Go to sleep early.

OK, I just nixed the two “work related” items that escaped my fingers before I thought them through.

What do you suggest?  What sort of things do you do when you only have 15 minutes?

Posted in activity, simple living | Tagged: , , , | 4 Comments »

Last Minute Halloween Costume: Mini-Farmers!

Posted by flsquared on October 30, 2009

Today, on the way back from Central Park we passed Ricky’s.  Apparently, it is the one-stop shop for Halloween costumes.  At 50% off today, there was literally a line a block long to enter (at 2pm, no less!).

To be honest, I hadn’t thought much about it until last week.  I can’t say that I’m a huge Halloween fan.  My husband is from Spain and has never celebrated it.  He’s not into dressing up at all and, as such, I have not been to a Halloween party in, oh, 10 years.  My first son was born in 2007 and spent most of September and October in and out of the hospital due to jaundice, so we didn’t do much more than take him for a short walk on Halloween.  My second son was born last year on October 28 and I think we left the hospital Halloween morning.

This year, we have 4 Halloween parties for the boys!  We definitely needed costumes.

On to the thrift shops I went.

No luck.

No luck?  Wow.  New York (Upper East Side, anyway) is tough!

I went into their closets.  And I started thinking….Every time I put the boys in cute little overalls, my husband calls them “farmers”.  I pulled out blue jean overalls, a flannel shirt, and a couple of red bandanas I had for whatever reason.  I actually had everything for both of them except overalls for the eldest.

Back to Gymboree (I finally got to buy something for us at that sale!).  The sales girl found some PERFECT overalls marked down to $7.99.  20% off coupon added and that was the price tag for their costume.  Hurrah!

Here’s one farmer:

aaafb 013and the little guy:

aaafb 012

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More Simple Pleasures: Running in the Park

Posted by flsquared on October 29, 2009

After writing the previous post, I continued thinking about simple and fun activities that I used to do as a kid.

My mind wandered, and I remembered this scene from Friends with Phoebe running in the park.

Enjoy!

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