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Choosing the Right Pediatrician: 29 Questions to Ask



Finding the RIGHT pediatrician is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make.  They will become your partner in raising a healthy child – managing your worries and concerns, offering meaningful advice and if you’re truly lucky, you will look at them as an extension of your family.

Roll back almost 5 years, I was about to give birth to my first. I asked a local parent-friend and she recommended a pediatrician in Park Slope who she was satisfied with. I was working FT, didn’t have the time to research, and did not necessarily understand the significance of the decision that I was (frivolously) making. I ended up giving birth to my daughter at Methodist Hospital, and immediately connected to the pediatrician on staff. He held my little girl like she was his own, with an aura of such warmth and compassion that could not be compared.  It was instant, I knew he had to be our doctor! That is how we met Dr. Cao and the amazing staff at SSP.

I was very, very lucky that he was the pediatrician on staff that day and I was able to make the right decision after almost making a very hasty one.  For those of us who understand the importance of finding the right pediatrician and actually doing the research, we’ve put together a list of questions that you should consider asking both the doctor and yourself:



– What happens during a well visit?

– How do I bring my sick child to the doctor? Do I need an appointment or can I just walk in?

– What is the average wait time?

– How many doctors are in the practice?

– Will I see the same doctor or do I see whoever is available?

What are the business hours?

– How does the office handle emergencies during business hours and after business hours?

– Is the practice conveniently located, easy to get to?



– Try to find out the doctor’s approach to practicing medicine. Is it evidence based? For example, you can ask questions about use of antibiotics.

– Ask if the doctors are members of the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics). This is also a good indication of their practice philosophy.

– Ask about their sleep training philosophy

– Ask about immunization policies

– Ask to meet the nurses who will care for your baby before and after the visit with the doctor

– Ask what tests (if any) are done at the office

– If you’re expecting, ask about what vaccines the adults who will care for your baby should receive.

Does the pediatrician or pediatricians have any specialty or focus (important to ask if your kid has any type of special needs)?



– Make sure the doctor you choose as your Primary Care Physician is in network with your plan. Call your insurance to get an updated status of the doctor’s participation.

– Does your partner have different insurance than you? Ask to talk to a billing specialist for advice.

– Ask what to expect in terms of copays, coinsurance and deductible (please, send the office your insurance information ahead of time)

– Ask what happens to the claims for the first visits while the baby is still not officially under the policy.

– Ask how you will be billed for your responsibilities and how you can pay.


A Good Fit (talk about Culture):

It’s important to find out if the practice you are visiting and the doctor you are meeting are a good fit for your family. One way to understand this is to evaluate their company culture.

– Was everyone nice, humble, helpful, attentive, detailed oriented?

– Did you feel ‘at home’ while experiencing the practice?

– Did you leave the meet and greet feeling excited?  

– Did you feel like you “connected” with the staff?

– Have you noticed how the front desk team talks to patients?

– Test them on every channel: call the office and pay attention to how they speak. Email them and see how fast they reply. Reach out on social media and check if they respond and how (Please, remember that as per HIPAA medical information can’t be discussed on social media)

– Ask if the practice has established Core Values (most people will probably stare blankly for a few seconds). Establishing core values is the first step for a business to create and promote a company culture that turns a ‘cold business machine’ into a more human-like team that has your interest and happiness in sight at all times.

How is the practice involved in their community? How do they give back?


To summarize, please don’t make the same mistake I almost did…do your research.  Try to find other neighbors and friends who are patients of the practice you are interested in.  See what they have to say. Ask all of the questions in the world – after all, you are trusting this person with your child’s health.  What could be more important than that? 🙂

Dear Mom: I’m Sorry, Thank You…and You’re Totally Amazing


written by jen valu


Dear Mom:  I’m Sorry, Thank You…and You’re Totally Amazing


I want to start this letter to you with an apology.  I often tortured you as a teenager.  How could I be so mean to the sweetest, most kind, loving and giving mother a girl could ask for.  I was insensitive and incredibly mean to you at times.  I remember purposely making you cry, telling you I hated you over and over again.  I wish with all of my being that I could take back those hateful words and replace them with what I was really feeling at the time:  “I’m miserable.  I’m depressed.  I’m hormonal.  I’m bored with life.  I want to be somewhere else. I’m not happy and I don’t know how to handle anything right now, I feel out of control”.  But instead, I turned my anger and frustration at life onto you, the one person who devoted her life to keeping me and my sister fed, keeping us safe, and most importantly – loving us unconditionally.    I’ve apologized for this behavior later in life, but again mom…I’m so sorry and I hope I’ve made it up to you since.

Now that I’m a mother of two, one being a little girl, I cringe when I fast-forward ahead 10 years.  Is that what my future will hold as well? Now she is only 4, and full of love.  “You’re my best friend, mommy”.  “You make my heart so happy”.  “I love being with you, I always miss you when I’m at school”.  “I wish you could snuggle with me ALL night”.    How do I make sure the transformation never happens from the sweetest little girl to a miserable teen full of angst like her mommy?   I don’t think you could have done anything differently, you did everything right.

Moving on…I’m writing this letter to also say THANK YOU mom.  Thank you for all the time you devoted to me and my little sister.  For how unselfish you always were.  For letting us rule the radio stations in the car, for driving us sometimes 20 minutes to a friends’ house.  Thank you for making the most incredible meals…so good that my friends were begging to have dinner at our house.  For always letting me eat all the leftovers, and accepting my apology when I ate them and it was meant for dinner the next night.  Thank you for always having the most comfortable shoulder for me to rest my head on.  Thank you for taking me to soccer, to ballet and to too many New Kids on the Block concerts.  Thank you for laughing when I made fun of your “bumble bee” glasses or how you pronounce “latte” like “la- tey”.   Thank you for always being so encouraging when it came to the clarinet.  Tryouts upon tryouts, concerts, rehearsals every Saturday morning.  You made sure I never missed one.  Thank you for driving us to all of the colleges and tours, and allowing us the means to go to the schools we desired.   

Most of all, thank you for showing me the most unconditional love.  Thank you for loving me even when I didn’t deserve it.   Thank you for everything.  

Before I end this letter I need to give you some much needed praise.  I’m not sure you fully understand just how proud my sister and I are of you.  Not only did you take such amazing care of us, but thank you for always taking such special care of dad, especially at the end.  When he died 12 years ago, you unwillingly took over his company and with grace, helped it dissolve and eventually close after the worst economic periods (hopefully) in our country’s short history.   You managed to pick up the pieces, as painful as that was, and sold our home of 30 years .  You moved to a beautiful place by the sea and started a new life.  You became strong and independent.   You are now the lobster-roll connoisseur.   You fell in love again. You are happy.  

I love you mom, I’m eternally grateful for you loving me and my little sister so much, unconditionally, through the good and the bad.   Thank you for also being the most fun, silly and loving Gaga/Grandma our kids could ask for.  Dad sure is proud of you.





Interview with Roy Blumenfeld, Co-Founder of Solidaritees


On February 1st South Slope Pediatrics shared our cultures and promises with all of our patients and families, including our core value #7, being humble.  We’ve had such positive responses to this,  one of the most meaningful coming from SSP parents Justin and Kelly Brandon and Roy Blumenfeld and his wife, Lauren Links, who shared an incredible project they had just launched THAT week.  Their project, Solidaritees, ties in to SSP’s promise to always treating others how we would want to be treated.  Solidaritees is a non-profit t-shirt venture they started to show solidarity with the Muslim Americans and refugees after the current administration signed their executive order on the refugee ban.  These brave families decided to take their sadness and frustration and turn that energy into creating a t-shirt and movement with the most positive, inclusive message….hoping to create a dialogue and helping dissolve the fear of the unfamiliar.  Let’s learn more about this venture and how we can help support and get the word out about this amazing cause, started right here in the Slope.

SSP:  Before we dive into this awesome project you have just launched, can you please tell us more about yourself and the other SSP families who are behind this project?

This project was a joint venture of Roy Blumenfeld and Lauren Links (parents of Gabriel Blumenfeld, 22 mo old) and Justin and Kelly Brandon (parents of Ceci Brandon, 19 mo old). Lauren and Roy are both independent high school teachers (Lauren at Berkeley Carroll and Roy at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School). Kelly is a teacher at the Avenues school, and Justin runs a digital marketing company. Our families have been friends for a number of years now and the bond has grown closer since we have kids so close in age.

SSP: How did you connect and make this happen? What inspired you to do this?

Kelly and Justin organized a postcard making party the day after Trump signed his executive order on the refugee ban so folks could write to their members of congress. I was feeling exceptionally sad and frustrated that day. The immigration order, whether intentionally or not, was signed on Holocaust Memorial Day. I’m the child of four Holocaust survivors, so this day has always been challenging for me. I’m all too aware that refugee policy can be a matter of life or death. Sitting around the morning after, I had the idea of wearing a shirt with Arabic on it as a show of solidarity. Justin said he would do the same, and an idea was born. The seed is the shared belief that there’s nothing more important than standing up for those most vulnerable in our society.

SSP: Solidaritees is such a smart name for this venture. Can you please explain the phrase on the front, why you chose it and also the decision behind not including a translation?

The shirt says “ahlan wasahlan,” which simply means “Welcome,” and comes from a beautiful Arab tradition of welcoming strangers as family. We chose not to include a translation in order to encourage conversation. We hope people will wear the shirts in public and wear them often to encourage conversation with neighbors, colleagues, and strangers. We considered a number of possibilities for the shirt including American phrases like “this land is your land” written out in Arabic, but ultimately chose something that was both already familiar to the Arab community (and invariably elicits a smile from those who can read it) as well as something not overtly political. The shirt just says welcome — who could object to that? Only someone in the grips of xenophobia, which is what we hope to dissolve.

SSP:  I see on your website that you can opt to “buy one forward”. I love this idea, can you tell us more about this and why it is important to your cause?

This was Justin’s excellent idea. “Buying one forward” means you are paying the price of a shirt so that someone else can receive a shirt for free. This has allowed to give out shirts at rallies, such as the Yemeni bodega owners rally at Cadman Plaza. We’ve also given out shirts at Arab-owned businesses and to people who want to support the cause but cannot afford a shirt.

SSP: I understand that this is a non-profit project. Where are the proceeds going?

The first $1000 we raised is being donated to the Arab American Association of New York. All proceeds beyond that (we’ve raised close to $4000 so far) are being donated in equal parts to AANY, the IRC (International Refugee Council) and Immigrant Justice Corps, an organization that provides legal assistance for immigrants.

SSP: How has the response been so far? In addition to purchasing the shirts, how do we help get the word out and support this cause?

The response has been phenomenal. We’ve sold over 800 shirts across the country. You can see a map of where people have purchased shirts on our facebook page: . The next step of our project, now that many people have received their shirts and have been wearing them for a few weeks, is for people to start sharing their stories. Our hope is to create a Humans of NY-style account of people’s stories wearing these shirts across the country. We hope the conversation will spark into one that allows for understanding and acceptance. I firmly believe that people’s xenophobia is rooted in unfamiliarity; it’s easy to project when the issue is abstract. But when you’re talking about real people and real conversations, difference often melt away and people’s common humanity emerges. That’s the hope, at least. The best way to support the project is to tell friends and family about it across the country. Tell them to visit our facebook page and take a picture of themselves wearing our shirt! There’s already quite the gallery in the making at — we recently had someone take a picture in front of the White House!



Kindness and Love: What These 2 Words Mean to Our Children

As we enter the year of 2017, we have never been surrounded by so many troubling world events. It’s impossible to escape – we’re being hammered with it on social media, TV, radio, and throughout our daily discussions with friends and family.   There is no time more important than NOW to focus on the GOOD in the world, reminding ourselves to always be kind and loving… and we must all work hard together to spread that love around.

How do we do that?  A great place to start is with our children.  Let’s talk to our children about what is important in this life, and that is KINDNESS and LOVE.  Have you wondered what these words mean to them?

Pure, honest and innocent, they speak from their hearts without any hesitation or inhibitions.  Let’s hear what these two words mean from their own mouths, and let these words of wisdom give us all a little hope and inspiration.

What Does Kindness Mean to You?

– Being a good person to your family, and taking care of them when they are sick or feeling sad.  If someone is having a bad day, be extra nice to them and don’t bother them – Parker, 7

– Kindness is being nice to a friend, especially if someone is playing alone.  Never make fun of someone and share your food – Cameron, 9

– To be kind means to standing up for someone and care for them and generally be there for them – Celia, 6th grader

– Being kind means standing up for one another, helping each other and taking care of each other – Kira, 4th grader

– To be kind is to have respect – Stephen, 4th grader

– Kind means to be nice to someone – Joseph, 1st grader

– To respect others, show how much you love them and helping others who need help – Kailei, 4th grader

– To be kind means not to be mean to people – Anonymous, 4th grader

– Kind means loving, treating others with respect – Anonymous, 4th grader

– Be nice to others, help and be happy and helpful – Owen, 11

– Kindness means to help others and to forgive and forget and be nice to others – Peyton, 9

– That you don’t be mean and say hurtful things – Finn, 6

– When you feed me – Dylan, 3

– It helps love get around the world – Damon, 9

– Kindness is you need to treat people good – Harper, 5

– Being nice to everyone you know – Avery, 5

– When you’re being kind to someone you’re being nice to them and you’re being their friend – Val, 8

– When you’re being nice to someone – Ellie, 8

– Giving kisses and hugs and being nice – Emmett, 3

– Kindness is doing what you know is right to make other people happy – Evan, 11

– Be kind – Juno, 4

– Being nice and thoughtful – Nina, 7

– When you’re being nice and helping – Amaya, 4

– Being friends with someone – Cole, 6

– Kindness is helping someone – Isaac, 8

– Being calm, nice and giving kisses to someone – Alina, 4

– To make someone who is sad – make them happy, and you’re kind hearted-  like you’re being nice to someone and they really appreciate it and they’ll be nice to you – Anonymous, 4th grader

What Does Love Mean to You?

– Love is always telling someone you love them more.  If someone looks like they had a bad day, give them a long hug  that usually cheers them up!   Love is also making something for them, not buying a gift.   I think that shows a lot of love – Parker, 7

– Love is doing what you don’t really want to do because you know that person wants to do that, like I don’t always want to play UNO but I know that my sister does so I do it to make her happy  – Cameron, 9

– Having appreciation for people – Celia, 6th grader

– Love means being there, hugs, kisses, fully being there and helping them. To be present and visible – Kira, 4th grader

– Love is what you feel when you really care about someone – Stephen, 4th grader

– Love means when you care for people so much – Joseph, 1st grader

– Love means helping others around you, sharing and keeping others safe and comfortable – Kailei, 4th grader

– Love is when you really care for somebody or something –  Anonymous, 4th grader

– Love is honesty, friendship, happiness and helpfulness – Anonymous, 4th grader

– It keeps people together and makes people happy – Owen, 11

– It means it makes happiness and makes a happy thought – Peyton, 9

– It’s happiness in your heart and you have it in your body – Finn, 6

– When you feed me more –  Dylan, 3

– Love makes the world go around – Damon, 9

– Kissing – Mia, 4

– Family – Victor, 11

– People loving people – Harper, 5

– Liking someone but a lot – Avery, 5

– Love is about friendship and being nice and hugs and kisses – Ava, 5

– When you love someone you want to take care of them and if they’re sick you want to help them –  Val, 8

– When you treat something or someone nicely and when you like them – Ellie, 8

– Pancakes – Luke, 4

– Giving kisses – Emmett, 3

Something really enjoyable or someone that you look forward to seeing – Evan, 11

– I love you, to love everybody – Juno, 4

– Loving, sharing and caring – Nina, 7

– I love you – Amaya, 4

– Love is taking care of someone and marrying them – Cole, 6

– Love is family – Isaac, 8

– Love is mommy and daddy, God and friends – Alina, 4

– Caring for someone else – Tessa, 8

– When you love someone you feel happy inside and very comfortable with them inside – Anonymous, 4th grader

“The best portion of a good person’s life are their little, nameless, unremembered acts of kindness and of love”. – William Wadsworth


love-in-a-safety-pin-webwritten by Dr. Cao

In response to the recent shocking tide of intolerance, I want to make sure you know that:

Our Company stands with Love, Equality, Kindness, Compassion and Community.

These are the values in which your SSP Team believes. By showing this ‘Love in a safety pin’ sticker on our door we want you to know that SSP is a Safe Haven where you will find smiles and help in the (hopefully unlikely) event that you find yourself harassed or bullied on the streets of Park Slope.

I am inviting all families and local businesses to join our ‘Love in a Safety Pin’ Campaign by claiming your free sticker and post photos online using #LoveInASafetyPin

How you can help:

1) Donate ( so we can keep producing and distributing stickers free of charge nationwide
2) Post on social media your photo with your sticker with hashtag #LoveInASafetyPin
3) Share this campaign with your friends and family

If you are a business:
1) Display your sticker in your storefront window
2) Establish a protocol to help in the event someone needs to seek refuge in your business
3) Post on social media the following statement:

“Our Company stands with Love, Equality, Kindness, Compassion and Community. These are the values in which your (Company Name) Team believes. By showing this ‘Love in a safety pin’ sticker on our door we want you to know that (Company Name) is a Safe Haven where you will find smiles and help in the (hopefully unlikely) event that you find yourself harassed or bullied on the streets of (Your Neighborhood Name). #LoveInASafetyPin”

When making a donation we will send you or a friend of your choice a free sticker.

Display it proudly and help your community. Help spread the LOVE !

Dr. Cao



In the month of August, Brooklyn is an especially quiet and sleepy place, with many folks out of town.  Although the amount of special events happening is less than usual, there are definitely fun things going on…you just might have to look a bit harder and get more creative!  Let’s explore some of them here, in this month’s roundup of fun family events in and around Brooklyn!

* World Elephant Day (Prospect Park Zoo): On August 12th (World Elephant Day), let’s trample the current Guinness World Records title and create 35,000 origami elephants to honor those lost each year for their ivory.

* North Slope Summer Strolls (Between Dean and Bergen on 5th Ave):  On August 13th and 20th from 5-9pm, come out and play in the North Slope.  There will be a rock wall, bouncy house, jugglers, face painting, music, hula hoops, vintage cars and more!

* PJ Party at NY Kids Club (125 5th Ave): August is a great time to get out for that special dinner (maybe you’ll actually get a seat at your favorite restaurant)!  And NY Kids Club has PJ Parties for our kids every Friday from 6-8pm so you can do just that.  For kids 2.5 – 8YO, these parties feature gym exploration, art, story, games, relays and more.  All parties include a disco dance party and dinner is provided! $36 per child.

* Kids to the Rescue (Jewish Children’s Museum, 792 Eastern Parkway, Crown Heights): Mon-Thurs 10am-5pm and Sundays 10am-5:30pm until September 1st.  Free with Museum admission.  This is your child’s opportunity to engage with an age-appropriate emergency scene and discover the dynamic police, ambulance and fire departments.  Climb aboard life size emergency vehicles for imaginative play.  Children will also learn to be prepared for emergencies with things like interactive dispatcher phones and “stop, drop and roll” drills.  Real life NYPD police & FDNY firefighters will be there to talk to and take photos with.

* BK Block Party: Mario the Magician (Corner of Fulton & Bond): On August 13th let the kids party it up while you shop for fresh foods and hand-made gifts from Brooklyn vendors.  From 10am-12pm, this features Mario “the magician” Marchese, an artist and inventor who creates his own props with a clever and refreshing integration of DIY electronics and robotics in to his performance.

* Family Fun with Suzi Shelton (Jalopy Theatre, 315 Columbia Street in Carroll Gardens): On August 28th from 11am-12pm, join award winning NYC family performer Suzi Shelton and various guests as she returns to her favorite venue in Brooklyn for a family show!  Sip on a coffee or Bloody Mary while your little one delights in the music, then head next door to Jalopy Tavern for lunch.   Kids: $5, Adults: $10, Family: $25.

* Seaglass Carousel (Battery Park, Manhattan):  Ready for an adventure and want to do something awesome and unique with your kids?  Take the R just a few stops over the river to the new Sea Glass Carousel.   Open 7 days a week from 10am-10pm, in this “underwater carousel” the rider sits within iridescent fish that glide around on 4 turntables.  With color-changing LED light fixtures and integrated audio systems, “each fish is designed to recall the bioluminescence found deep in the ocean”.  $5 per ticket.

And for those super hot days, when you want to be INDOORS….SkipKid put together this great list of playspaces:

JACOB’S NEW DRESS – Gender Fluidity in the Words of Authors Sarah & Ian Hoffman



As parents we are always looking to find books that are both entertaining and at the same time help teach valuable lessons. As a mother of two who grew up in an extremely homogenous (and often narrow-minded) small town, some of the most important lessons I believe we can teach our children is to think with an open mind, to embrace honesty, to not judge and to accept differences with an open heart.   Every now and again we stumble upon a book that not only our child loves reading, but also helps reinforce these values we hold dear. Jacob’s New Dress, by Sarah and Ian Hoffman, is absolutely one of these books.  It follows a little boy named Jacob who wants to wear a dress to school, and the struggle he faces in feeling so different from his peers.


SSP: Can you please tell us a little bit about your personal experiences that have helped shape your inspiration behind Jacob’s New Dress?

When our son Sam was two, he wanted to play with the toys and wear the clothes generally thought to be for girls: pink sneakers, pink t-shirts, flowered hats, and the princess dress-up costumes at preschool. Eventual Sam asked, “Can I wear a dress for real? To school?”

It was a confusing experience for us as parents as we tried to balance supporting our son’s intense desire to be himself with concerns about his safety. We joined a national support group for parents of gender-nonconforming kids, and found we were not alone. There were lots of parents like us, and none of us had resources to help our kids manage the complex social dynamics that come from being different. As writers (Ian as a children’s book author and illustrator; Sarah as a writer for grown-ups about kids and gender), it seemed natural to collaborate on a picture book about a boy who wants to wear a dress. It was our way to help other boys like Sam. Having a book where they can see themselves portrayed in a positive way is very powerful. And it gives parents and teachers a way into a conversation about acceptance of difference.


SSP: For all of the parents out there with gender-fluid children, this must provide immeasurable support….reading about another child out there that is so similar to them! Can you tell me about the most meaningful feedback you’ve received?

While it’s exciting to read good reviews in magazines and newspapers, the most meaningful feedback comes from individuals. Parents of gender-diverse kids (as well as gender-nonconforming or trans adults) from all over the world have written to us to share their stories—stories that are often heartbreaking as well as heartwarming. They send photos of smiling little boys wearing princess dresses and holding a copy of Jacob. Knowing we’re making a difference in a real child’s life makes us feel both immensely proud and deeply humbled.

In a recent visit to a K-5 public school, a parent cried as she told us how the book had transformed her whole family’s approach to supporting their son, how they moved from shame and hiding into acceptance and even celebration of their son. By the time she was done we were all in tears.


SSP: I personally appreciate how honest and realistic this book is. It is not easy being different, and reactions to being different can often be extremely hurtful. Why was it important for you to write in this way, specifically when you write about how Jacob “can’t breathe” when he’s in these circumstances? It tugs at a parent’s heart.

Thank you.

Life can be very difficult for kids who are different, in any way. Since our goal was to write the book in a way that portrayed a gender-nonconforming child in a positive light, we had to also be honest about what life is like for a child like that. While our son felt happy and free twirling in a sparkly dress while wearing a tiara, his experience with other people’s reactions (both kids and adults) was often deflating in a way that gave us that “can’t breathe” feeling. It’s a story we heard over and over again from other parents, and we felt that the experience needed to be reflected in the book.

Jacob’s New Dress was a hard book to write. We knew the joys and sorrows of Jacob’s life so well from our own son’s experiences. The early drafts were too intense for a young audience; it took a while to move away from the reality of our son’s story and come up with Jacob’s story, which is fictional and more appropriate for a picture book. You can read the real-life story of Sam’s first day in a dress here


SSP: As a mother of 2, one being a 3 year old daughter…I see how innocently and beautifully they visualize the world. So accepting and open. No gender-bias. When she invites her boy friends over for a play date, she often asks if they want to play dress-up (which means a tutu in this house). She never questions or thinks why that would be different for a boy or girl. How do you suggest we help them maintain this way of thinking?

Bias is learned. Parents teach it, teachers teach it, television and movies and gendered aisles in toy and clothing stores teach it. Even if at home you support your daughter’s open-hearted free thinking, as she gets older it will become harder and harder to counter all of the gender-divided messages she’ll receive from the world. However….

We’ve learned that kids are pretty tolerant of difference if they’re taught to be tolerant. Education makes a huge difference in terms of what kids will or won’t accept. We saw it clearly in Sam’s school—when kids were taught simple lessons about letting everyone be who they are (Colors are for everyone! Boys can have long hair! Girls can have short hair! Like what you like, and let others like what they like!), they accepted Sam. When they weren’t explicitly taught, they rejected him. Education is powerful. It works.

In unsupportive environments, kids like Sam are teased, ostracized, and brutalized. We want to try to prevent these behaviors before they start by building a culture that tolerates, values, and celebrates difference. Our book is a small piece of a much larger effort to build a more empathetic, compassionate culture.


SSP: Is there anything you’d like to share specifically with those parents and families of transgender children?

First, find support—for both yourselves and your children. Join a support group of like-minded parents (or form one if you can’t find one); bring your child to a group for gender-nonconforming or trans kids. Enlist thoughtful, supportive family and friends to buoy and celebrate your child and your efforts to make their world safe. Read books about parenting gender-creative children, and fill your child’s library with books that reflect gender diversity (our website has a list of books for adults and kids of all ages— Ask your school to be proactive about anti-bullying programs in general and gender education in particular (and if asking doesn’t work, demand it). Find organizations that support families and schools (our website has a list). The National Association of Independent Schools has a document, Guidelines for Independent Schools Working With and Supporting Transgender and Gender Nonconforming Students, which provides invaluable support for building acceptance in schools.

Educate everyone you can. Gender diversity is a new concept for most people; ignorance and prejudice are deeply ingrained. Even people who love your children—like grandparents—often need time to adjust. See each interaction as an opportunity to educate someone about the many forms of gender identity and expression.

Remember that your responsibility is to your child, not to manage the discomfort of adults. Walk away from judgment, and shield your child from it as best you can. And when you can’t shield them, teach them to manage it. Teach them the historical context for overcoming bias. When Sam was in kindergarten, we taught him about Rosa Parks and Harvey Milk—ordinary people who stood up to bias against them and changed the world. Tell your child the world will change. That it is changing. And that they are helping to change it, simply by being themselves.

Lastly: breathe. When you’re the parent of a kid who’s different, it’s easy to overthink everything you do, tempting to try to interpret the significance of everything your kid does, and appealing to try to predict the future. Our job is to accept our kids for who they are, and to protect them from harm. We can’t know who or what our children will evolve into as they grow up. We had no idea that one day Sam would put on khaki pants and cut his hair short (as he did at age 11) and be happy with that choice. We had no idea if he would grow up to be straight, gay, bi, gender-queer, trans, or his own special something—in fact, we still don’t. Sam, like all of us, is a work in progress. All we as parents can do is support our children unconditionally, and be open to who they become.








Taima Lopez: Super Mom, Super Nurse, Super Human!


written by Jen #supermom

Anyone who is a patient of South Slope Pediatrics is surely familiar with Taima Lopez, the most nurturing and kind nurse that greets us at our appointments.  Whether it be weighing our babies or administering those dreadful shots, she does it all with a smile while keeping our nerves at bay.  Her genuine compassionate nature and strong work ethic make her such an invaluable part of our practice.   Lets get to know her a bit more in this month’s interview!

SSP: We all know you as the most gentle and caring nurse at South Slope Pediatrics.  Can you share a little more about yourself and your family?

I am a nurse at South Slope Pediatrics. I consider myself to be a self-motivated and compassionate person. I have 3 kids: my oldest is 19, my second youngest is 13, and my baby is 19 months.

SSP: Can you tell us about your job and what you do?

My job here at SSP is to obtain and document vitals, do eye and hearing exams, and lead and hemoglobin tests on the children. I obtain basic patient information and transmit this information via an electronic medical record for the doctor to perform his medical assessments.

SSP: How long have you been at the practice?  What were you doing before coming to SSP?

I have been with South Slope Pediatrics since 2013.  Before coming to SSP I worked in a private school, training nursing students.

SSP: What led you into the medical field and why did you decide to become a nurse?

What led me to this field is that I enjoy helping people in need. This is my biggest satisfaction.

SSP: What interests you most about nursing?

What interests me most about nursing is how a simple act of kindness can make a change in someone’s day.  For example,  just holding a persons hand and letting them know it’s going to be OK.  Just being there for them makes a difference.

SSP: What is the most challenging part of your job?  Why?

The most challenging part of my job is vaccinating children. At the moment of injection it is painful for them.  They don’t why we are doing it and that it’s for their own benefit.

SSP: Do you have a special experience that has helped shape you as a nurse?

My special experience  that has helped me as a nurse is having kids of my own. I can relate to parents and their concerns.

SSP: You are always smiling.  You are full of positive energy and it helps each of our little ones (and us parents) when we have to come in for shots.   What’s the secret??? 🙂

My secret is that I enjoy and LOVE what I do and knowing it’s for a good cause. My positive attitude I thank God for.  My kids and my family are my inspiration, my strongest motivation to strive for continuous improvement. Also, working with Dr. Cao, Matteo, Dr. Wilson-Taylor and the whole South Slope Pediatrics team has been a very rewarding experience, one which has promoted professional growth.




written by Jen #supermom

As a parent of two children who are patients of Dr. Cao, I can only say WOW…how lucky are we to have found the most genuine, caring, attentive, comforting and professional pediatrician.  I remember the first time I met him 3 and ½ years ago.  I had just given birth to my little girl at Methodist Hospital, and Dr. Cao (the resident doctor at the time), came to visit us in our hospital room to check in.  It was immediate – I knew right away that this guy had to be her pediatrician.  He instantly calmed me, made me laugh, and showed my daughter genuine affection and care.   I’ve always wanted to know a little more about the doctor we all love and admire so much, and I think many other parents want to too!

Let’s start from the beginning…when did you first realize you were interested in studying pediatrics?  What inspired you?

I remember very clearly I first wanted to be a physician before my family arrived in the US when I was 5.  My brother stepped on a rusty nail in a refugee camp in Indonesia and a physician cared for him.  The relief and comfort I saw in my mother’s eyes was invaluable.  

I had always wanted to be a physician, but it wasn’t until the last year of medical school that pediatrics was where my heart resided.  I grew up in a town of 10,000 and wanted to be the town physician.  However, the task of caring for 0-100yo seemed daunting.   0-21 was achievable and I knew I could be effective at my job.  In my rotations, the pediatrics rotations (surgery, oncology, anesthesia, NICU, newborn nursery) interested me and the kids just made me smile, even when we had to be there at 4am and leave at 11pm.

How did South Slope Pediatrics come to be?

I like to attribute the merit to my daughter. Four years ago my husband was at the playground in Prospect Park with our then 10 month old daughter, who, while playing with other babies, grabbed a toy from two adorable twins and started crawling away from the group. When she returned the toys, my husband started a conversation with the twin’s mom about what our dreams were and how we were looking to open my private office. We ended up leasing her property on 5th avenue after 5 months.

South Slope Pediatrics came to be because I wanted to realize a professional dream of running a progressive, service-oriented office without the constraints of larger institutions priorities where family is the focus and relationships are the tools we use to help parents through their amazing, and at the same hard, journey.

What brings you the most joy, as a doctor?  

As a doctor, I enjoy watching the parents grow – yes, the parents.  I love to see the fear and overwhelmed, sleep-deprived feeling being replaced by a “we got this” confidence and knowing that we helped to bring that about.

Do you have certain experiences as a pediatrician that have affected you which you can share?

The experiences I have had as a physician that mold me involve losses.  The first hour I spent in the NICU involved CPR on an extreme preemie that did not make it.  My last night as a student in pediatrics involved staying up with a 7 year old boy with AML that passed way too soon.  These experiences gave me perspective for my approach to general parenting/doctoring.

What are your other interests?  Many of us have seen you running Prospect Park at lightning speed…

Well, first of all, LOL and thank you. I really enjoy running. It helps me focus and stay in shape. I play tennis (I love playing with my 5 year old daughter whose backhand looks very promising).  I also play volleyball, I’m into gardening, I could spend hours fishing and snorkeling … and have a soft spot for garage sales.

As a beloved pediatrician and father, do you have any wise words or advice to share with us parents?

As a parent, my biggest advice is to not ‘over-parent’.  I say this in a lot of my meet and greets with expecting parents.  We all shoot for an A+ and the kids don’t care and are no better when be achieve a B.  Kids need to be given the space and opportunities to fall/fail.  End your day knowing you did your best and your child appreciates and loves you for it.  No one has been perfect and no one expects you to be the first!




by Jen #supermom

When I became a first time parent I distinctly remember being so confused by all of the different playground names.  Mom friends would talk casually about Harmony,  JJ Byrne or Vanderbilt Playgrounds, and I had absolutely no idea where these places were, although had been living here in Park Slope over 4 years (without child)!   I had of course seen these playgrounds, walked by them countless times…but had never had any interest in them or what their names were until I had a baby.  Now with a 3.5 year old (and a 4 month old), I’ve become quite the “playground hopper”!  As weather is warming up, I thought it might be helpful to new parents or parents new to the neighborhood to share my favorite spots in Park Slope!

* JJ BYRNE:  Just renovated a few years ago, this park on 5th Ave between 3rd and 4th St is pretty fantastic.  I like the fact that it’s segmented into different play areas for different age groups, including a gated toddler area.  Slides and swings galore, standing farm animals for kids to climb on, and my daughter’s favorite – the spinning chairs that go way too fast.  Best feature of this park is surely the water play, from sprinklers and water pump to shoot and spray water cannons!  Definitely a popular spot on those hot summer days.  Downside: not crazy about the rock features in the middle of the park, be careful to watch your small child as they run on them (have seen some nasty spills)!

* VANDERBILT PLAYGROUND:  Located in Prospect Park (just down the hill when walking from the 15th St entrance) lies this gem of a playground.  Tunnels, a great twisty slide, lots of things for kids to spin on, water feature, bridges and ladders – this playground will not disappoint.  I love that it’s just across from the lake, so you can pair up a trip to say hello to  the swans and ducks with a visit to this play area.  Downside: no bathroom.

* ZUCKER NATIONAL EXPLORATION AREA:  Just down the hill in Prospect Park from Grand Army Plaza is Zucker Natural Exploration Area, truly my favorite of all of the playgrounds.  New York Magazine must agree, as they recently voted this as one of the best of NY!    Made by trees damaged by storms and other materials from within Prospect Park, this space encourages open, unstructured play. Uprooted trees for kids to climb on, a massive sand play area and a pump that pours water onto a log are some of the elements that make this space stand out.  I love getting here really early, when the park is hushed and the morning sun has just rose – it’s truly a beautiful spot. Downside: no bathroom.

* GARFIELD TOT LOT : Located just inside the Garfield Place entrance, this playground caters exclusively to toddlers. There’s a mini-jungle gym and slide, and the lot is lined with trees and benches (which come in handy for diaper changes, feeding and snack breaks).  A perfect place for the little ones, and typically a very quiet and relaxing spot.  Downside:  I would say no bathrooms, but most of the babies/toddlers I know under 2 aren’t potty trained, so this shouldn’t be an issue!

* HARMONY PLAYGROUND:   This music-themed playground located near the Bandshell at 11th St in Prospect Park is AWESOME.   Shaky bridge, wobbly bridge, tons of swings, slides (including a twisty slide), a toddler-friendly area, tunnels, large sandbox,  and my favorite water feature of all the parks, an upside-down “U” shape mister that gently sprays water towards the ground – just gentle enough that your child can get a little spray or can hang out underneath for a full soak!  Bathroom with changing table is a nice bonus as well!  Downside:  it’s rather large, so be prepared to do lots of chasing.

* THIRD STREET PLAYGROUND:  Almost a hidden gem, this playground is located off 3rd Street and Prospect Park West. Less chaotic than Harmony and offering more shade, this  bench-lined circle has several play structures, tire swings, a circle sandbox and water features.   This playground is a preferred spot for playdates, as parents can hang out on a bench and easily watch their children (while having adult conversation – imagine that)!   Kids can run through a huge red coil water feature to cool off, or chill out in the sandbox.  Bathrooms are nearby at the Picnic House.  Downside:  Not sure I can think of one!

* IMAGINATION PLAYGROUND:  This park is a bit further out, just over on the east side of Prospect Park (near Lefrak Center at Lakeside).  A bit more creative in design, this park is inspired by children’s literature, featuring statues of characters from Ezra Jack Keat’s books, a bronze dragon with water flowing down it’s back, and animal masks for kids to hide behind. Three playhouses and an open stage help stimulate children’s imaginations and creativity.  A nice break from the typical slides and swings!  Downside:  No bathrooms!

* SLOPE PARK:   For those of us South Slopers, this local playground is very convenient AND happens to be located across the street from a very decent coffee shop, Southside Coffee.  My favorite part of this park is the water feature, which includes a little wheel that kids can turn and subsequently water flows out.   There are different water spray elements – both horizontal and vertical for children to jump in.  It’s a bit more intimate than the larger parks, which is also a positive.  Downside:  stay away in afternoons when kids get out of school – this playground gets taken over by teenagers!   


I know I am personally always looking for new places to explore.  Hopefully there is a playground on this list that you haven’t had the chance to visit yet –  so cheers to doing something new and exciting for you and your little one!