It’s almost trick or treat time! I don’t know about you, but we always struggle to find the perfect family costume (we like to dress up together with a common theme). Every year it obviously falls at the same time, but every year I find myself in stressed out last minute mode figuring out what we’ll be. I think part of the reason is that I take the day and dressing up VERY seriously – so I put a lot of pressure on myself! Last year my husband and I went as fisherman, who had just caught a crab named Sebastian (our son) and a mermaid named Ariel (our daughter). Before our son was born we dressed up as farmers and our daughter was our little sheep! It makes her so happy to see both of her parents in costume, she thinks it’s hilarious. And our son (now almost 2), will surely get a kick out of it next month.
In my search to find creative family costumes, I found certain sites that are helpful for brainstorming:
I thought it might also be useful to share my thought process as to how I narrow down ideas for our family costume. If you have a baby, what are your or your partner’s interests? What do you love?
Are you obsessed with monkeys? How about zoo keepers, monkey parents, or you could be trees (and the monkey is hanging on you)!
Are you an avid basketball fan? Mascot, coaches, cheerleaders and of course the baby star basketball player.
Tennis? A tennis ball, tennis players (add the curly wig and 70’s headband for added pizazz)
Do you love lobster? You could be chefs, fisherman, people with lobster bibs and forks/crackers. Your little nugget is your lobster!
Is Ghostbusters your favorite movie of all time? The ghostbusters, a baby ghost and a Stay-Puft man (they even make a ghostbuster dog costume if you’re getting your dog involved)!
Game of Thrones? Mother of Dragons/Khaleesi and little baby dragons….dad can be Khal Drogo or Jon Snow.
If it’s a toddler or older child, think about what their interests are.
Train: conductor, no crossing sign, different parts of train including middle and caboose.
Legos: different colored blocks, different lego characters.
Pizza: slice of pizza, delivery guy, a pizza box.
Where the Wild Things Are: Max and some of the silly monsters.
Firetrucks: a little fireman, a fire hydrant, a house on fire (put a big box around your torso and decorate as a building on fire or you can just be flames). The ideas are endless!
So what will we be? Well… so far she has expressed interest in being a doctor (I thank Dr. Cao and the awesome staff at SSP for her interest in all things doctors and science)! She has a scrubs outfit, daddy and mommy could be nurses and her baby bro could be wheeled in the stroller dressed up as the patient. Or, he will be a “baby doctor”, which she thinks is super funny. Another family idea we’ve toyed around is Moana, baby brother is Maui, dad and mom are kakamoras (cave-dwelling goblins) OR Tui and Sina, Moana’s mom and dad. Who knows! But one thing is for certain, we will look very silly and have a night to always remember.
© Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Photo by Julie Markes.
Time to embrace all things pumpkin, surround ourselves with colorful gourds and squashes, and of course see our kids returning from play in Prospect Park with bright red, yellow and orange leaves stuck in their hair! Searching for activities to enjoy this beautiful season? Here are events both local to Brooklyn and a bit further out if you’re looking to explore (scroll down for Halloween-specific events).
October 1st, 11am-6pm - Chile Pepper Festival 2017 (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens): Enjoy a day filled with live performances by mariachi bands and music from all around the world including India, Columbia and Cuba. There will be fire breathing, sword swallowing, and other fiery feats. Check out the many food artisans, including more hot sauces than you can imagine, chili chocolates and of course ice cream! Kids can pot up a pepper plant to take home. https://www.bbg.org/visit/event/chile_pepper_festival_2017
Now through October 31st, 10am-6pm - Scarecrows and Pumpkins (NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx): Enjoy this bountiful time of year with eye-popping pumpkins, spooky scarecrows, and plenty of fun. Explore more than 100 friendly scarecrows set among rare and unusual pumpkins and gourds in the Everett Children’s Adventure Garden. Throughout this fall celebration of frights and fun, take part in special activities and demonstrations featuring creepy creatures, hands-on crafts, and more. https://www.nybg.org/event/scarecrows-pumpkins/
Saturdays and Sundays through October 29th - The Amazing Maize Maze (Queens County Farm Museum, Queens): Kids and adults alike will have fun finding their way out of this 3-acre corn labyrinth! The adventure begins with a "Stalk Talk" to prepare you for the challenge of finding clues, solving puzzles, and making your way out of the maze. $10/adult and $5/child (ages 0-3 are free). You can hop on an F train (and then bus), or it’s a short drive away. http://www.queensfarm.org/events.html
October 7th, 12-4pm - Annual Pumpkin Festival (Willowbrook Park, Staten Island): Bright orange pumpkins are reasonably priced, and the pumpkin patch is a great backdrop for photos! Kick off the day with "Music with Patrick," and all are invited to sing and dance along! Quiver Farms Petting Zoo will visit for a portion of the day. Lots of other nature-based activities are in store. And we can’t forget - carousel rides for just $2.00 per spin. https://www.nycgovparks.org/events/2017/10/07/annual-pumpkin-festival-at-the-carousel-for-all-children
October 7th-9th, 1:30pm-5:30pm - Dig! Plant! Grow! Scarecrow Weekend (NY Botanical Gardens, Bronx): It’s time to make scarecrows! Help dress up one scarecrow per family to fill the garden with friendly faces. Plant and prepare for fall, explore the garden, and make marigold jewelry. https://www.nybg.org/event/dig-plant-grow-scarecrow-weekend/
October 28th, 12pm-5:30pm - Ghouls and Gourds 2017 (Brooklyn Botanical Gardens): A full day of fun to be had - including stilt dancing, live music, a marching band, dance performances. The kids can build a spider web, hang out with worms and bugs and play games with a “veggie” theme! Brussel sprout bowling, anyone? https://www.bbg.org/visit/event/ghouls_gourds_2017
October 28th, 3pm - Laurie Berkner’s Band Monster Boogie Halloween Concert (The Concert Hall at NY Society for Ethical Culture, Manhattan): What small child is not obsessed with The Laurie Berkner Band? She’ll be playing classics like “Pig on her Head” as well as some fun Halloween jams! Come in costume, and attendees are encouraged to bring stuffed animals (to put on their heads of course). $39/ticket (1YO and under are free). http://www.ticketfly.com/event/1531698-laurie-berkner-bands-monster-new-york/
October 29th, 11am-4pm - Children’s Fall Festival (Queens County Farm Museum, Queens): Dress in costume for this fall celebration! Kids will love the bounce houses, traditional games, pie-eating contests, and cartoon character look-alikes. Boogie down to live country western music, take an autumn hayride, visit the Haunted House, and enjoy a pony ride and farm animals. Stop by the Con Edison Ecology booth for free kids' crafts and recycling tips. There will be food vendors on the farm all day. $20/children & adults. http://www.queensfarm.org/events.html
And let us not forget - HALLOWEEN!!! You picked out your costumes, you’re ready to go. BUT WHAT WILL YOU DO??? Here are some ideas for how we can get into the spooky spirit with our kids.
October 28th, 11am-3pm - Haunted High Line Halloween (Manhattan, NY): Travel back in time and learn the history of the High Line. Get into character with artistic face painting, capture memories with our old-time photo booth, dance, go on a scavenger hunt with candy, and watch live performances. On the High Line between 14th St. to 16th St. | Enter at 14th St. and 10th Ave. Please note this program takes place at two locations between 14th St. and 16th St., but only requires one RSVP. For detailed listing of all events and to RSVP, go to: http://www.thehighline.org/activities/haunted-high-line-halloween-family-event
Through October 29th - Halloween Harvest (Luna Park, Coney Island): An amazing pumpkin patch, face painting, pony rides, music, games, arts and crafts, and magic shows! And dog lovers - don’t forget about the Harvest Dog Parade & Costume Contest on October 14th. http://lunaparknyc.com/events/halloween-harvest/
October 28th, 12pm-3pm - Halloween in Prospect Park (Lookout Hill & Nethermead, Prospect Park): Encounter zombies, werewolves, witches, and other Halloween characters on a haunted walk through the woodland Lookout Hill, ideal for families with children ages 7-12. All ages can enjoy a festive Halloween Fair on the Nethermead, featuring family-friendly activities, as well as sweet and savory treats from some of the city’s top food trucks.https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/10/28#halloween-prospect-park-2017
October 28th, 1pm-4pm - Creepy, Crawly Halloween (Prospect Park): Take a second look at the creatures that give you the creeps, you may find you like them! Participate in fun activities and experiments that will make your spine tingle - like discovery boxes, owl pellet dissection, a creepy crawly walk and an animal encounter. https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/10/28#creepy-crawly-halloween-2017
October 28th and 29th - Boo at the Zoo (Prospect Park Zoo): Don’t miss this annual Halloween event. This year they’ve got a costumed character scavenger hunt, face painting, spooky barn, and of course plenty of animals. $8/adult, $5/child. 2YO & under: free. https://prospectparkzoo.com/events
October 31st, 6:30pm - The Park Slope Halloween Parade!!! This parade kicks off at 14th St and 7th Ave and will end at the Old Stone House. Always a fun time to be had! http://parkslopeciviccouncil.org/event/annual-halloween-parade-2017/
With our little ones just starting school, we thought it would be meaningful to talk to a seasoned expert in the field about her views on public education and the Common Core method of teaching. Stephanie Doran has been in the field of education for over 17 years, as a classroom teacher and teacher-mentor and trainer in NY and FL. Stephanie has worked in both the public and private sector, in traditional classrooms and Montessori settings. In addition, Stephanie presents in national conferences on both math and collaborative classroom strategies.
SSP: A very general question to start the conversation - what are your thoughts on the state of public education in this country, specifically as it relates to elementary aged children?
Our education system, or the foundation for the educational system, was created in the early 1900’s to prepare children to work in factories. Unfortunately not much has changed in that system. Now we have a completely different society where we don’t need to memorize facts, but rather create critical thinkers and problem solvers. Our education system needs to be completely revamped and teachers need to be taught strategies to teach students to become those problem solvers that we need.
SSP: What do you see as the biggest hurdle facing this country when it comes to education?
Many teachers and parents remember how they were taught, to memorize and produce that information for a test and then move on. Today, our students need to understand big concepts rather than memorize facts. That can be uncomfortable for parents who might not understand why students are being taught these different strategies. Now, it’s more important to understand the process and to get a handle on the critical thinking. That’s more important than answering a fact for an answer on a test.
SSP: How do we, as parents, help?
Be open minded. Understand the way we learned a topic is not necessarily the best way, and that there is more than one way to learn. Also, it’s important to ask your children open-ended questions. For example, ask students “What do you think about this?” And help them become critical thinkers versus memorizers. Also, letting them struggle and make mistakes is very important. There is a lot of research that shows your brain grows when you make a mistake. So we must allow them to make mistakes. It’s OK to struggle. This is key.
SSP: On the flip side, how have you seen education improve over the last couple of decades, and what made those positive changes happen?
The goals of the common core standards are positive, because as educators it creates benchmarks for our students. And I think more teacher colleges are embracing and teaching different strategies and ways to approach a topic. More teachers are starting to see themselves as facilitators of learning instead of directors of learning.
SSP: The enthusiastic debate continues around common core (or as it has just recently been revised and renamed in NY as “The Next Generation English Language Arts and Mathematics Standards”). What are your thoughts on it, and do you truly believe it sets our children up to be successful in college and life?
I believe that yes, it does, if it is facilitated and implemented properly. I think that more teachers need to be trained correctly. By being trained correctly, they will know how to properly teach the strategies. Many teachers do not get the professional development that they need or the support that they need, so they don’t understand how this works, what it looks like, and how to change the classroom. Bottom line is that teachers need the proper support to let go and let the children become independent thinkers.
SSP: How do we as parents help our child and support this “new” way of thinking when it is completely foreign to how we learned?
Here are some specific strategies: No matter what your kids ages are, when you are reading to your child, stop and ask questions. “I wonder what the main character will do next”? Or “That’s interesting..what do you think about that”? Also math-wise, try to get your kids involved in everyday discussions about math. For the younger ones, think about asking “There are 4 of us at dinner - how many plates and forks do we need? How many do we need in all? Can we count by 2’s”? For the older kids, it might be: “Let’s make our grocery list. What does each cost, and what is our budget”?
SSP: What advice do you have to give to parents in regards to best supporting their child throughout the younger school years?
I think it’s important to get involved and understand what is happening in the classroom and to allow your child to be that independent thinker and problem solver. If they bring homework home, try to let them get through it on their own first. If they say “I need help”, ask them specifically “What do you need help with”? Then, “Let’s read the directions together”. Afterwards ask “What do you know”? And then “What do you need to know, what do you wonder”?
SSP: What can we do to help bring positive change to the public school system - is there anything we can do on a grassroots level?
Teachers need training and development. Think about starting or supporting an existing teacher development fund. OR…gift your teacher a membership to NCTM, the national council of teachers for mathematics (there are memberships for other areas of study as well). It’s a great resource for ideas, they provide newsletters, updates and provide free professional modules to the members for professional development (learning a concept, etc). Whatever their professional development resource of choice, it’s around $100 a year but many teachers can’t afford to spend this.
Stephanie holds a Master’s of Science in Education, a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing, and is Montessori trained in both the Upper Elementary and Adolescent curricula.
Photo by Whitney Kidder
Back to school. Cooler temperatures. Brooklyn is no longer a ghost town on the weekends… we’re here and there are things to do! We’ve gathered a list of activities from the very local puppet show and story times to a special Hootenanny 10 Year Anniversary Celebration… to the best apple picking around NYC. So, as we wave a sad goodbye to those warm summer days let’s embrace the beautiful Fall and all of the fun we’ll have with our families! Sugar donuts and apple cider? Yes please!
September 24th: Hootenanny Art House 10 Year Celebration at the Bellhouse, 10:30am: Sing, dance, make art, eat an enormous cake and watch an epic slide show of 10 years and celebrate!!!! Music with Pete Sinjin and friends, sing-along is all ages and kids under 1 are free. Get your tickets here: https://www.ticketfly.com/purchase/event/1530798
September 2nd: Zen Zoo Kids Yoga at the Boathouse in Prospect Park, 11am: This is the last day of the recurring event, so don’t miss out! Experienced yoga instructor Kat Janicka will lead these animal-themed classes in Prospect Park’s Boathouse. Asanas will be based in animal forms and shapes, and we will ommmm the sounds of the creatures in the wild. Class will be based on mindfulness, breath meditation, basic breath exercises for kids, visualization and laughter. Bring your own mat. Free. https://achildgrows.com/thecalendar/zen-zoo-kids-yoga-prospect-park/2017-09-02/
September 2nd – December 17th: Pinocchio at Puppetworks, Saturday and Sundays @12:30 and 2:30pm: Carlo Collodi’s 1883 Adventures of a Marionette. Adapted for Marionettes by Nicolas Coppola, (suggested for ages 3 and up). Admission for a Child is $10, an Adult is $11. http://www.puppetworks.org/
September 9th: Sample Free Dance, Movement, Tumbling and Theater Classes at BAX, 10am: Join the families of the BAX community, meet the BAX faculty and take a free sample class. Open house sample class schedule can be found here (pre-registration is strongly encouraged). http://youth.bax.org/general-information/classes/fall-open-house/
September 9th: Kids Campfire Conversations: ‘Being Brave’ at the Lefferts Historic House, 6:30pm: Join the Prospect Park Alliance and the Brooklyn Public Library for this campfire conversation for kids! The new school year brings new friends, new teachers and maybe a new school. Join us around the campfire for a conversation about conquering fears, building confidence and taking on new challenges. This event will be monitored by Tammy Hall and will feature music by Lucy Kalantari (of Lucy and the Jazz Cats). https://www.eventbrite.com/e/campfire-conversations-tickets-37063700526
September 17th: Sunday Story Time with John Parra (Illustrator of Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos) at Powerhouse on 8th Ave, 11:30am: Frida Kahlo and Her Animalitos, written by Monica Brown and illustrated by John Parra, is based on the life of one of the world’s most influential painters, Frida Kahlo, and the animals that inspired her art and life. RSVP appreciated. http://powerhouseon8th.com/events/sunday-story-time-with-john-parra-illustrator-of-frida-kahlo-animalitos/
September 23rd: Family Cooking in the Garden at Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 1pm: Bring the whole family to the Children’s Garden for an afternoon cooking class. The group will harvest ingredients straight from the garden and prepare one salad, one farm-fresh entree and one dessert to share. Members: $15, Non-members: $17 and children under 1 are free. https://classes.bbg.org/CourseStatus.awp?&course=17SCGFCGB
Ongoing at the Park Slope Library: Have you checked out the Park Slope Library’s events lately? There is everything from “Stomp, Clap and Sing with Silly Jazz and Camille” (whose songs include “The Monster Under My Bed” and “The Muffin Man”), to activities for older kids (6+), like “Kids Create in the Garden”, where they can create a garden-related craft to take home. https://www.bklynlibrary.org/calendar/list/?loc%5B%5D=10125
And we can’t end an events blog for September without mentioning apple picking!!! Time Out has collected a best-of list for where you can find the best apple picking near NYC. https://www.timeout.com/new-york-kids/things-to-do/best-apple-picking-farms-and-orchards-for-families-near-NYC
Posted by Jen Valu
One month ago, my very dear friend Lara Hogan was interviewed by NPR for a piece on the connection between high risk pregnancies and heart disease. This interview explored the fact that “women with high risk pregnancies are up to eight times more likely to have heart disease later in life”. This is something we all need to be more aware of. Lara’s heroic story of her dramatic and intense delivery and subsequent posteclampsia is a story we should all read and become familiar with. And as Lara stresses, it’s so unbelievably important that we care for not only our babies after childbirth, but ourselves. Bottom line mamas: pay attention to your heart’s health.
SSP: I understand you had been treated for hypertension prior to your pregnancy. How did that affect your pregnancy, and were you monitoring your blood pressure throughout? I went to a high risk doctor early on in my pregnancy because of my age and because of my genetic hypertension, and as we were watching my blood pressure we decided I’d take blood pressure medication to keep my numbers in check. We were monitoring it closely at both the OB and high risk office. They explained to me their concerns and what I needed to look for in terms of preeclampsia warning signs. Two times during the pregnancy I had to check for protein in my urine, which is the key sign for preeclampsia. Those came back OK and it wasn’t until 36 weeks that everything changed.
SSP: Where there any complications or side effects that you experienced during your pregnancy? I had the craziest, biggest swollen feet you’ve ever seen, which is something that many women get. I don’t know if it was necessarily because of high blood pressure, but I tend to swell and think it’s linked my blood pressure. They were crazy huge and very uncomfortable. I had to buy a size 11 pair of vans to fit my feet. Other than that I didn’t notice anything else.
SSP: When did you notice a drastic change, and how did that affect your delivery?
So it really was the first day of turning 36 wks. That evening we hosted a birthday party at my house and everybody fell asleep watching a movie afterwards. I felt a little uneasy…I got up and started cleaning the kitchen, and while cleaning, I could literally feel my blood pressure rising…which is not something most people can physically feel. It’s hard to explain what it feels like. My heart was fluttering, my body was a little flushed and tingly. I decided to check my blood pressure. It was 190 over 120, an extremely high number. Normal is somewhere around 120 over 80. I woke my husband up and told him we needed to go to the hospital. I knew something was wrong. My OB had told me at my 1st appointment we have to get you to 36 weeks at the earliest. It’s very strange that it was to the day my 36th week. We drove to the hospital, we live far from it – about a 45 minute drive. We went to the ER and they immediately sent us up to the maternity ward. They checked vitals and the doctor who saw me left the room after the 1st check and came back 10 min later saying “we spoke to your doctor…looks like we’re having a baby tonight”. Within 10 minutes Chad, my husband, was in scrubs. We had to wait a few hours until 5 in the morning…so we snuggled and slept until then. I called my mom, and she flew in right away.
We went into the operating room, they administered anesthesia, then Chad came in and they started cutting me open for the c-section…when I said “OW”. They cut through the uterus wall and I could feel it. They shouted “everybody stop”!!! That’s the last thing I remember. They brought me emergency anesthesia and I was totally knocked out. I woke up in the recovery room, in the dark. I had a full blown panic attack – where is my baby, where is my husband…I’m totally alone. Chad was in the NICU, with our baby boy. Boys have a much higher rate at 36 weeks to go into NICU, where he ended up spending a week. I got sent up to the high risk maternal unit. The hope with preeclampsia is that it goes away with delivery, that’s the way to get rid of it. My blood pressure however would not go down, and it was really, really high. I had to be monitored, on the cuff and on all of the special monitoring units. A few hours later it shot up even higher. They had to give me an IV of magnesium, which is supposedly the only way to get it down if it doesn’t go down on it’s own. It’s to prevent seizures, the biggest fear with preeclampsia. I couldn’t leave my bed, this is the worst part of it. I still had not seen my son. I saw pictures of him on the phone from Chad. I was so emotional – I can’t see or touch my own child at this point. He’s in the NICU, I’m worried about him. I can’t see him until my numbers regulate. Forty-eight hours later, I had my “Meryl Streep” moment as my husband calls it. I yelled “If you want my blood pressure to go down, I need to see my baby”! I called my doctor, got into a wheelchair hooked up to IV, and got to the NICU. Meanwhile l’m learning how to pump, trying to get any colostrum to him and waiting for my milk to come in. Finally I saw my son Zion and it was obviously the best moment of my life, it seemed to make everything better. I was sent home a few days later when my numbers were close to normal. Having to leave him in NICU was hard but he was in great hands.
Unfortunately, that same night I felt that same feeling as the night I went into the ER. I called my sister, a doctor in NYC, and she freaked out (she does not get worked up over anything). She called my mom and she immediately took me to the ER. This was actually more scary for me than the first time. At this point I have a baby – this time i have a baby who needs me – I can’t die. I’m on the stretcher, and my numbers are so high that they had to call the resident down from the high risk unit to watch me and not leave my side for fear of seizure. This is now called posteclampsia, There is very little research on preeclampsia, so you can imagine how little research there is on posteclampsia. It’s so rare and unheard of. A lot of people don’t know what to do about it. I was hoping to avoid the magnesium again, which by the way I forgot to tell you is like getting the worst flu of your life. Imagine a c-section, not seeing your baby and having the worst flu in your life. You can’t keep your eyes open for more than a few minutes at a time, and that was when I was pumping.
Anyway, I couldn’t avoid the magnesium. I started tasting metal in my mouth. A nurse was standing over me with a paddle, five doctors around me . A crew followed me because of the fear of seizures. I had no appetite, I was just so sick. I got through that, my numbers got better, and Zion and I got to go home a week later. Unfortunately, that was not the end of the nightmare.
I was really sick for more than 6 weeks. We were trying to regulate my medication. My doctor had connected me with a group of doctors at Cedars-Sinai called the Barbara Streisand Women’s Heart Center, where they have a research group focused on women’s high risk maternal health issues. I joined the registry and became supervised by these amazing doctors who were getting as much out of me as a patient that I was out of the doctors. They are trying to raise awareness about the high risk of heart disease in women who have high risk pregnancies. That is why I ultimately did the NPR interview. So, throughout those weeks, I worked closely with my doctors to find the right medicine and dosage. That meant being very sick and not being able to even change a diaper until 6 weeks in. That was so incredibly difficult. My mom and my husband are my heros, they never left my side. They fed me, set my pump up and took care of Zion during the day. I had a postpartum doula at night as I couldn’t really get out of bed. From 9pm to 6am the doula would get up with him, change him, bring him to me and put him back down. I needed that extra help for 6 plus weeks. Needless to say, this was not how I had dreamt of my birth experience.
SSP: How do you personally care for your heart’s health since the birth of your son, Zion?
I am on routine medication, I go for checkups with my women’s care doctors. I try to keep on top of monitoring my blood pressure but again I can usually feel when it’s not right. I live a healthy lifestyle as much as i can. Eating right and exercising.
SSP: Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to share with expecting moms who have had complications in pregnancy and are concerned about their blood pressure?
I definitely can’t stress enough that every mom who has a high risk pregnancy should go to a cardiologist after having the baby. We’re so focused on the new baby, it’s hard to focus on ourselves but we need to. This is for long term care of you and your heart. Preeclampsia, diabetes, any issue. Also, if you know you are at risk for any of these issues, find the right high risk doctor as soon as you can. Mine was my guide through all of this. Make sure you have a supportive team getting you through whatever you need to get through.
For a link to Lara’s recent NPR interview, go to:
by Jen Valu
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:
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? 🙂
Posted by Jen Valu
Coming clean here: I often dread dinner time. After a full day, who on earth wants to make two separate dinners – one for the kids and one for the adults?! Not me. Although sometimes I do succumb to this I try my hardest not to make those frozen chicken nuggets the norm. After all, I want my children’s taste buds to be as all-inclusive as possible (ha ha, much easier said than done)! My kids eat super early so it’s often the night before’s dinner leftovers for them, and a new dinner for my husband and me.
Here are 10 healthy, easy and generally crowd-pleaser dinner ideas that your entire family will (hopefully) enjoy. They are tasty, fun, colorful and balanced.
* Make Your Own Taco – Let your child help make his/her taco. This is FUN!!! Lettuce, avocado…greek yogurt to dip. Substitute beef with bison for a healthier option. These shrimp tacos are a favorite in my house!
* Crispy Chicken and Homemade Fries – SO much healthier than the frozen chicken nuggets and store bought fries (packed with added sugar, fats, sodium). To make the adults version a little more “mature”, how about a chipotle dip?
* Mac n’ Cheese – Adults love a good mac n’ cheese just as much as the littles do. Want to kick the healthy factor up a notch? Substitute regular pasta with a whole wheat, brown rice or bean based pasta.
* Moroccan Chicken – Fast and tasty, this recipe includes peaches and orange juice to add flavor and please those sugar-craving taste buds.
* Orecchiette with Broccoli and Walnuts – Fresh pasta with protein and fiber filled walnuts and vitamin-rich broccoli. Simple, colorful and yummy.
* Almond Fish Sticks – OK, yum…cod covered in crunchy almonds and flakes. Want to add a little “adult” into this recipe? Make a side dipping sriracha or tartar sauce.
* Black Bean Quesadillas – This is my go-to when I need something super-quick, that I enjoy as well. SUPER simple and healthy. Add a fried egg if you want! On the “adult” quesadilla, consider adding onions, spices and jalapeños!
* Swordfish Piccata – My daughter, like many other 4 year olds I know, will not eat fish (other than shrimp)…HOWEVER, there is something about swordfish that excludes it from the “I hate fish” rule. Maybe it’s the more dense consistency, almost like chicken – not sure. Personally, I don’t include capers on hers, and I’m generally not a fan of thyme either.
* Hamburger Buddy Pasta – This recipe helps you hide a few vegetables, like mushrooms and carrots. Try substituting with bison for a healthier version. Add spices to the adult portion as many will find it on the blander side without.
* Pasta with Fresh Tomato Sauce – Kids cannot get enough pasta. Let’s at least try to make it a little healthier for them by making a homemade tomato sauce! Here is basic recipe, for you to tweak as you wish!
One piece of advice to new mommies – don’t succumb to “kids food” 24/7. They will be dictating their menu to you, and will refuse to open up to new (healthier) ideas. Listen, getting a toddler to eat a new food or fish for example (god forbid), can feel excruciatingly impossible. We’re not going to win every food war. My thought is this: have them at least TRY something, even just a few bites. They might actually like something they thought they detested. There’s an old Sesame Street episode about this, where Elmo has to try a kiwi, which he didn’t think he liked…and he enjoys it! Try watching this with them. Note: it can take ten tries before your taste buds decide if they like a food or not. And…often if my child is not crazy about the dinner option for the evening, I explain there are no other options, so she needs to eat whatever it is if she doesn’t want to go to bed starving. And of course definitely no after dinner sweet if she doesn’t eat it. Having the energy to take this on every night is difficult, but we can try to introduce new healthy foods once or twice a week and see what sticks! Don’t give up!
Posted by Jen Valu
I’m talking to all parents here, but moms specifically. We are always too busy (a word I use way too often to describe how I’m doing), taking care of everyone – our kids, our home, even our spouse…that we often neglect a very important person – YOURSELF. Easier said than done, I am guilty as charged. I sometimes wait 6 months to get a haircut. I rarely get much needed “girl time” with my friends. I can’t remember the last time I was able to pick up a book and get lost in it. I feel good thinking about all of the things I get done every day – taking care of two children, working PT, paying bills, food shopping, taking care of the house and somehow mustering up the energy after both kids are asleep to make my husband and I dinner when he gets home from work. After all, look at what we accomplish every single day. We should feel proud!!! BUT…do you ever feel like you’re losing yourself in the day to day grind, not having a moment to think about you?
Here are a few ideas for ways we can take care of ourselves without breaking the bank and taking too much time away from those snuggles and laughs with our babies.
Try setting your alarm clock 20-30 min early if you can’t find time in the day to do these things. Start the day with YOU-time. And watch the beautiful sun rise while you do it.
Listen, there is never enough time in the day or the funds to do what we really want to do for ourselves. Sure I’d love a day at the spa once a month and a yearly trip with close girlfriends somewhere on a secluded beach in the Caribbean. I’d love to go into Manhattan, all alone and just wander around for an entire day. Meet up with friends for lunch, go shop. Just a me-day. One day we’ll all get there (here’s to hoping), but these things can feel a little out of reach with the little people in our lives. Maybe we can take some of these small steps towards that much needed “me time”.
Remember, if you feel like you’re taking care of “everything”, that includes you. If you truly take care of yourself, you are happier…you are a better parent, a more patient parent. You’re also letting your children know that YOU matter, and that you truly value yourself.
Posted by Jen Valu
Looking for something special to do during the month of July with your family? Look no further. Here are 10 ideas, from taking your child “Phishing”, kayaking at the Brooklyn Bridge Park, and checking out interactive installations at the Kids Summer Family Day at the Whitney Museum of Art.
July 4th: Independence Day in Prospect Park, 12-5pm: Enjoy family-friendly activities at the Prospect Park Audubon Center, Lefferts Historic House and the Carousel. Activities include nature activities at the Audubon Center, signing a reproduction of the Declaration of Independence at the Lefferts Historic House and a ride on the infamous 1912 carousel. https://www.prospectpark.org/news-events/events/2017/7/4#independence-day-prospect-park-2017
July 4th (location: all over NYC): Do you have a little one that will stay up late and watch fireworks with you? Time Out lists best places to watch this year, including Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Brooklyn Heights Promenade: https://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/where-to-watch-the-4th-of-july-fireworks
July 8th: Family Cooking in the Garden at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 1pm-2:30pm. Bring the whole family to the Children’s Garden for an afternoon cooking class. Harvest produce from the garden, then try the kitchen tool, techniques, and recipes in the Children’s Garden that will also keep kids engaged in the home kitchen. The group will prepare one farm-fresh entree and one dessert to share. Member Fee: $15, Non-Member Fee: $17. https://classes.bbg.org/CourseStatus.awp?&course=17SCGFCGA
July 9th and 23rd: Rock and Roll Playhouse at Brooklyn Bowl in Williamsburg, 12pm. On the 9th come check out The Music of Elvis Presley for Kids. And on July 23rd, Kids Gone Phishing: Baker’s Trio. Each workshop is 60 minutes long and is specifically designed for children 7 and under, but all members of the family are welcome to this family show. All ages, tickets are $10 (kids under 1 are free). http://www.brooklynbowl.com/event/1487392-rock-roll-playhouse-music-brooklyn/ and http://www.brooklynbowl.com/event/1469789-kids-gone-phishing-baker-s-brooklyn/
July 15th: Whitney Kids Summer Family Day at the Whitney Museum of Art, 10:30am – 3pm. Immerse yourself in movement at Whitney Kids Summer Family Day! Explore moveable sculptures in Calder: Hypermobility and interactive installations in Hélio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium. Join us for gallery activities, artmaking workshops, and a special Samba performance and dance party. You can also pick up a free Kids Activity or Audio Guide. Buy your admission ticket online in advance to save $. http://whitney.org/Events/Summer2017FamilyDay
July 16th and 30th: Music In The Grove at Fort Greene Park, 11am-12pm: Free. On July 16th: Kids Concert W/ Rozz And Val Show.The Brooklyn-based high-energy duo Rozz & Val Show is coming to Fort Greene for an extra fun Sunday! http://www.fortgreenepark.org/events/2017/5/31/music-in-the-grove-kids-concert-w-suzi-shelton-sng5r-bms53. And on July 30th: Kids Concert With Hopalong Andrew. Come listen to some upbeat, urban cowboy tunes brought to you by Hopalong Andrew, a former Central Park Ranger! Bring your blanket and set it down by the trees just south of the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument for this free concert catered to children 0-8 years old. http://www.fortgreenepark.org/events/2017/5/31/music-in-the-grove-kids-concert-w-suzi-shelton-sng5r-bms53-rwsck-9m35n
July 30th: Member’s Night for Children and Sunset Picnic, Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, 6:30pm-8pm. For members only (great reason to join prior)! Join the fun-loving bluegrass band Astrograss for an evening of singing and dancing, especially for the kids in your life! BBG educators will also be on hand with a special planting activity. https://www.bbg.org/visit/event/members_night_for_children
Sundays through October: Smorgasburg, Breeze Hill in Prospect Park, 11am – 6pm. Find 100 vendors and food from all over the world every Sunday at Breeze Hill, located near Lakeside and the park’s Lincoln Road entrance. Presented in partnership with Prospect Park Alliance. Dog friendly. Rain or shine. Here is a list of the top 10 foods you might need to try this year: http://bbook.com/nightlife/10-things-you-need-to-eat-at-smorgasburg-2017/
Saturdays through 8/26: Kayaking In Brooklyn Bridge Park, 10am-3pm. For those with older kids, this is a fun adventure waiting for you! Free. Location: Pier 2. Glide along the water while kayaking with the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse at the Pier 2 floating dock! Children under 18 must have an adult guardian present. All levels are welcome and no experience is necessary. There are doubles for one adult and no more than one child under 14 (or paddler that needs assistance). http://www.brooklynbridgepark.org/events/kayaking
Thursdays – Sundays through October: Makeryard, Brooklyn Children’s Museum (Crown Heights): Inspired by adventure playgrounds, MakerYard, Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s newest exhibition, invites children to test their motor skills and imaginations as they construct, build, and invent structures and other creations using everyday materials such as cardboard, tape, fabric, string and recyclables. Parents and caregivers are invited to sit back and let children explore independently, or work collaboratively to create together. http://www.brooklynkids.org/visiting-exhibits/
Posted by Jen Valu
Photo of Shipwrecked Miniature Golf, by Sai Mokhtari
OK…it’s starting to get hot, and it’s only going to get hotter. You’re in your little (hopefully) air conditioned apartment wondering how you and your family will be able to play and enjoy your day without melting into a puddle. You’re sick of the local playground water feature and need a change. What to do??? Here are some ideas, including awesome public pools and for those SUPER hot days…indoor play spaces!
Shipwrecked Miniature Golf: Right in our back yard of Red Hook, take the family out for a fun day of miniature golf (perhaps followed by a seafood lunch at Brooklyn Crab – also in Red Hook)! This place is indoor, has 18 holes and even theatrical lighting and special effects as you travel through the different themed areas of the course! They also host singers, magicians, jugglers and more. 621 Court St, 2nd Floor. http://www.shipwreckednyc.com/
City Treehouse: For those who are adventurous and are willing to take your child into Manhattan, check out the City Treehouse. Inside this play area is an interactive water play, a treehouse themed indoor play area, even a cavern illuminated by stars! It’s in Chelsea at 129A W 20th St. (between 6th and 7th Ave), Manhattan. http://www.citytreehouse.com/
Lefrak at Lakeside: You probably know about the amazing splash pad with 41 jets (AMAZING)…but, have you considered the other activities here? Rollerskating of course… and what about renting a single or double surrey bike for your family, and go explore Prospect Park? OR, go on a pedal boat where they allow one lap child. You could spend an entire day here, there is so much fun to be had! http://lakesidebrooklyn.com/#page-content
Brooklyn Public Pools: There are a plethora of free public pools right here in Brooklyn. A few of the favorites are the Red Hook Pool, the Sunset Park Pool, the Brooklyn Bridge Pop-up Pool and the Double D Pool in Gowanus. Remember to read all of the rules before planning your trip (check out “Know Before You Go” section here: https://www.nycgovparks.org/facilities/outdoor-pools)
The NY Transit Museum: This underground super COOL museum is where you can sit on a vintage car, sit at the wheel of a city bus and check out a real subway platform and tracks with cars from different times in history. The interactive exhibits are so exciting for the little ones. Boerum Place at Schermerhorn Street in downtown Brooklyn. http://www.nytransitmuseum.org/
NY Beaches: Of course there is Coney Island, but how about Jacob Riis in Queens? There’s a playground, concession stand and a boardwalk. Or maybe try Cedar Grove Beach in Staten Island, known as the cleanest of the Staten Island beaches. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/attractions/best-beaches
SeaGlass Carousel: Pretend you’re underwater and check out the new SeaGlass Carousel, where you sit on an iridescent fish, instead of a horse – and “swim” up and around in all different directions. It’s amazing and such a quick subway ride on the R to Battery Park. http://www.seaglasscarousel.nyc/
American Museum of Natural History: Check out those dinosaurs and explore and discover in the “Discovery Room”, where kids can dig for dinosaur bones or search for animals in a baobab tree. Microscopes, animals and other fun things are there for your child to explore. There’s even a story time here on Monday mornings for preschoolers! http://www.amnh.org/learn-teach/pre-k-to-grade-2
NYC Water Taxi: Thinking about going into Manhattan with the family? Instead of the usual subway ride, get a little creative and take your family on the NYC water taxi from Red Hook into Wall Street! Best part…it’s free on Saturdays and Sundays. See the beautiful views of the NYC skyline while you cool off in the summer breeze. After, head over to Pearl Street where you will find several restaurants with outdoor seating. https://www.nywatertaxi.com/ikea
While you’re at it, treat yourself to a gelato or an ice cream. The best ice cream in town can be found at Ample Hills Creamery, which has a location in Gowanus that includes a rooftop deck with chairs! And check out L’Albero Dei Gelati in the Slope for some incredibly yummy gelato. Bring on the heat, this can also be the most fun time of the year here in Brooklyn. Enjoy!!!
Posted by Jen Valu