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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!

Posted in activity, family, happiness, holiday, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Hurrah for the Upper East Side Good Samaritan!

Posted by flsquared on January 15, 2010

Today we spent the entire day outside.  We met up with a new friend and her son and cruised around Central Park and the Time Warner Center.  My older son fell asleep on the stroller ride home and we headed over to the ING Cafe to grab a coffee and a snack and let my little guy stretch his legs.  It was a great morning, but we had to head home for lunch.

Unfortunately, David, my youngest, did not agree.

He fussed and threw a huge tantrum in the stroller as I pushed them home.  Strangers looked at me, some shot me dirty looks (even after he fell asleep!) but I paid no mind.

When I got home, I understood.

This little 14 month old had managed to take off his shoes and socks and chuck all but one shoe over the side of the stroller through the wind protector plastic that was velcroed down.  The poor guy was barefoot in 38 degree weather.

(As an aside, I am convinced that if we could find an adult with a toddler’s energy and determination, they would rule the world.)

I put a blanket on him and headed back down 15 blocks to look for the missing shoe and socks.

Nothing.

Not a huge surprise, but there is always hope.

I came back home and hung out for an hour or so when my neighbor called wanting to go for a walk.  On the hunt one last time before sundown.

Would you believe that some sweet person had put the shoe up, with the socks wrapped in a little ball inside, so that the owner would find it?

Hurrah for that kind stranger!  You seriously made my day.

Posted in baby, kindness, toddler | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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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Clutter Costs: The Case of the Missing PJs

Posted by flsquared on December 13, 2009

I have admitted it before that I am an unabashed packrat.  I buy very little, but I have difficulty letting things go.  Coupled that with our living in a teeny Manhattan-sized apartment and my tendency to overestimate my free time and energy and thus begin (and not finish) projects, we have a full house.

It’s a slooooow work in progress (I work on projects and de-clutter about 15 min/day after my husband comes home), but since it doesn’t interfere with daily living it doesn’t bother me too much.

Well, let me say that it normally doesn’t interfere with daily living.

Here’s what happened a couple of weeks ago:

My oldest son’s PJs were starting to look a little small.  This summer, my mom scoured the garage sales for clothes for her grandchildren and brought up a few pairs of 3T pajamas.  Damned if I can find them anywhere!  I have looked high and low, emptied boxes and suitcases, searched closets and under the bed and they have just disappeared!

It is the worst feeling of frustration to know that you have stored something that you need and you just can’t find it.

After spending a total of probably 3 hours looking for them (care to put a cost on that lost time?), I decided that I needed to streamline the boys’ things.  I put old clothes and toys in bags and put an ad on Craigslist and Freecycle.  We got rid of 4 huge bags of stuff that was just sitting in the closet as well as our car seat travel system!  Hurrah!

I wish I had a happier ending and could tell you that after all of this purging I found the PJs but they are still missing.

The good news?  When I do decide to give up the search and rescue mission, I can use my $110 that I made from the purge and buy some new ones.

The bad news?  I sure would have rather used that time and money for something else!

Posted in baby, clutter, money, organization, saving money, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Toddler Tip: 10 Quick and Easy Ways to Toddler Proof Your Holiday Destination

Posted by flsquared on November 22, 2009

With the holidays and family get togethers coming up, one thing that I dread is predicting how my babies will stay safe in a hotel or someone else’s home.  Especially when that someone else does not tend to have many visits from babies and toddlers.

I put together a list of quick and easy ways you can temporarily toddler proof for your holiday stay while someone takes your little darling for a quick walk around the block.  Of course these are not 100% fail proof, but they may give you a few extra seconds to respond before your baby gets in trouble.

1. Quick scan:
**Get down at your toddler’s level and do a quick scan of the area to see where s/he could get into trouble.  Is there a heavy coffee table?  A delicate vase?  See what you can remove, relocate, or just be aware of.

2.  Cleaning products:
**Take a quick look in the usual areas:  under the kitchen and bathroom sinks, laundry room, etc (or just ask your host) so you can know where they are.  Close doors to these areas where you can.  If they are in common areas (or you are afraid that your toddler will wonder into these areas unsupervised), see if you can put the products up high, out of reach.  For example, I keep my cleaning products above the refrigerator and on the top of my closet.

3.  Bathroom:
**Keep the door closed and the toilet seat down.

4. Cabinet doors:
**Knob doors:  Loop one end of a rubber band around the knob, give the band a twist and loop it around the other knob.  If it’s loose, just wrap it around the knob a few more times.

**Handle doors:  slide a wooden spoon through both handles until the spoon piece “locks” against the handle.  Take a rubber band and loop it around the spoon end.  Give a twist and slide the end of the band over the other end of the spoon.

**Glass doors (for example the “push open” doors on entertainment centers):  if paint and finish are not an issue, I have used packing tape to tape the door(s) closed.  You can also use duct tape, but since packing tape is clear, it’s more difficult for little fingers to pry it off.

5.  Kitchen Stove:
**Most stoves will allow you to remove the knobs from the burners.  You can do that whether or not the stove is in use.  Just keep them handy in case you need to adjust the burners.

**Make sure to keep the handles of pots and pans turned inward and away from little searching hands.

6.  Bookshelves:
**We all saw the Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives where little ones got in trouble with bookshelves.  I spent a nightmarish summer in a sublet apartment chasing after my crawling son who was attracted to the shelves like a moth to a flame.  If any look like they would be interesting to climb, see if you can slide a chair in front of them or block them off altogether.

7. Stairs:
**I have been known to park my stroller in front of the stairs. Make sure to close (and lock) stairs to basement, attics, etc.

8.  Fireplace:
**Wrap a few towels or a blanket around a brick/stone fireplace footing.

9.  Patio / Balcony:
**Keep the door closed and locked.

10.  Bedroom:
**If you are staying the night and your toddler will be sleeping in a big boy bed, put a second mattress (or at least a few blankets or sturdy pillows (such as from the couch) to soften their fall if they slip out of bed.  In a pinch, I have used a few chairs with their backs to the bed to serve as railings and prevent the fall.

What did I miss?  What other ways do you baby and toddler proof an unfamiliar setting?

Posted in baby, family, safety, simple living, toddler | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

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 »

Simple Pleasures: Say Goodnight

Posted by flsquared on November 9, 2009

Last night, shortly after putting my 2 year old into bed, he called me back into the room.

I was surprised.  He has always been a good sleeper, rarely making a big fuss at bedtime.  I opened the door and walked back into the room, hoping it wouldn’t be one of those nights.

I sat on the floor by his bed and stroked his hair and whispered, “What’s up?  It’s time for bed.”

Smiling, “Mama!”

“Yes?  It’s time for bed, sweetheart.”

He looked at me for a moment.  “Victor happy.”

Until that point, it had been a normal day, nothing special.

Or so I had thought.

Upon hearing those two words, my heart filled, and I knew I would remember this day forever.

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Can a Family of Four Live on a Salary of $150k in NYC?

Posted by flsquared on November 8, 2009

This was the title of an Urban Baby discussion last week that really got me thinking.  My quick answer was a resounding “Yes, and well!”, but many of the posters did not agree.

I suppose what surprised me the most was the tone of the responders.  They seemed to say: Don’t do it!  You will be sacrificing too much!

For me, it’s a given that if you live in Manhattan, you will, most likely, be living in a small apartment.  Even the “big” apartments are small.

On the other hand, in just 5 or 10 minutes walking you can find yourself in a park, a museum, a library, etc.  During the summer there are more festivals than you can imagine.  As the winter is closing in, it’s more difficult to find free activities but they are there.

For us, our major expenses are rent, health insurance, and food.  Next year, preschool will be included in that list.  We also try to go to Spain and Florida once/year to visit family.  Everything else that we spend money on is minimal and we don’t spend even close $150k/year.

We no longer have a car (and all that goes with it), our utilities are next to nothing, and entertainment is cheap.

I will say that I totally understand how you could spend even double that amount and feel like you are living a humble life.  Between eating out, endless forms of entertainment, preschools that cost more than my college tuition, nannies, housekeepers, etc, etc, etc. the money can just slip through your hands.

I have a friend who probably earns triple what we do and honestly feels poor.  She lives 2 blocks away, in a very nice, but not super-fancy, building.  She does not wear designer clothing or go out every night.  She has a part-time “mother’s helper” and someone to clean her apartment once/week.  They have a car and go away at least once weekend/month.  Nothing all too extravagant here, right?  Especially when she compares herself to her friends who have private jets and rent a place in the Hamptons for $30,000.

Saving (or just not spending) money in this town is hard work, but it is very doable.

I think the key to it is both simple and extremely complex.  Be happy from within.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  Be content with your choices, and don’t even notice the Jones’.

What are your thoughts?  Am I missing something?  What are we sacrificing that everyone else seems to need?

Posted in family, frugal, money, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Toddler Tip: Displaying Art Projects

Posted by flsquared on November 6, 2009

Now that my oldest boy is 2, he is constantly painting and coloring and creating all sorts of masterpieces with stickers. But where should we display them?

Posting them on the fridge won’t work:  I’m not a big fan of the cluttered look.  However, more importantly, while he enjoys taking a look at them from time to time, his little brother enjoys eating them more often than not.

I don’t have the energy or patience to create one of those crazy post-your-toddler’s-artwork display centers they talk about on TLC.

And, living in NYC, if there was a “big box” store solution, it would be beyond us.  Plus, money is tight and I’d rather improvise in some way.

After scratching my head for a bit, and collecting a number of projects in a box until I figured it out, I came across the perfect solution in my gifted subscription to Family Fun magazine (November 2009 issue, tip given by Heidi Hadfield):

Tape your favorite projects to the inside of your kitchen cabinets!

aaaaaablog

Awesome!  Everything is tidy, and yet when we want to take a peek at his artwork (or need to grab a bowl), we just open the cupboard.  It’s also a hit with Papa, who loves to come home, grab a snack, and check out what the little ones created today.

Posted in family, organization, saving money, simple living | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments »