Long Island Mom

What I've learned about being a mom.

Ropa Vieja

Tried traditional Ropa Vieja at a Cuban restaurant a few weeks ago and fell in love. Shredded flank steak in a delicious tomato-based sauce, served over white rice. I found this slow cooker version while looking through dinner ideas on Pinterest (I have found countless recipes on Pinterest, it’s a great resource for recipes). You can get the recipe here :

http://www.kitchme.com/recipes/cuban-ropa-vieja

I cooked it for 8 hours on low and it was really done at about 7.  I shredded it and kept it on the ‘warm’ setting until we were ready to eat, and served it over plain white rice and a side of roasted broccoli.

For the roasted broccoli, which is the only way we eat it now, follow this very simple recipe:

Cut broccoli into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, put on a sheet pan in the oven at 350 for 15 minutes. If you like it darker and more tender, cook another 5 minutes. We like it with a little bite to it.

 

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The School Lunch

School starts in 2 weeks for my little Pre-K kid and it will be the first time I will have to pack her a lunch and not just a small snack. To say Sofia is picky is a gross understatement. She lives on Cheerios and apple slices. She seems to be gaining weight and her doctor is not concerned (she’s ‘following her own line’ on the growth chart), so I just keep offering her different foods in the hopes that something will stick.

One of the things Sofia will consistently eat is peanut butter. We stick it in milkshakes, make sandwiches, spread it on apple slices or let her dip pretzels in it. It’s her only source of protein aside from her morning glass of milk and the occasional cheese on a slice of pizza. So, when we got the ‘Peanut-Free class’ letter, I nearly had a panic attack. What the hell am I going to feed this kid?

I am not in any way suggesting that my kid’s eating preferences trump another kid’s life-threatening allergies, so please no comments on how insensitive I am. I feel absolutely awful that some kids and their families have to worry throughout every day that if a kid forgets and opens a snickers, their child may need an ER visit.  I just cannot imagine. My issue is one of logistics and planning, so very low on the totem pole of real worry.

The idea of packing a Bento Box lunch like this every day induces such guilt-ridden anxiety in me I can’t even entertain the thought.

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Who has the time for this? I’m serious. If you stay at home, you’re likely chasing kids around trying to get them to wear something acceptable for school before you shove a piece of toast down their throat, lunches in bookbags and out the door. If you’re a working mom, then you’re probably throwing lunches together while doing your hair while finishing whatever lesson plan/report/meeting agenda that you didn’t have the energy for the night before. Who is this mom who makes Pirate-themed lunch boxes for their kid every morning? What kind of drugs are you on to get the energy to do this? Pass them around, please.

I wrote an (I’m sure annoying) email to my daughter’s teacher about lunches. She had no idea what she was getting herself into giving a paranoid, writing mom her email address. I promise to use it sparingly/I’ve already written her 2 emails and school hasn’t started yet. I was hoping she would have some insight, given the fact that she has probably taught in peanut-free classes for awhile now and seen some creative ideas. Hopefully not the Pirate Bento Box.

She suggested Sunflower Seed Butter. I kept an eye out for it at Trader Joe’s, and lo and behold, an entire display of the stuff right by the produce. These people are smart. Made a sandwich for Sofia for lunch and she ate every bite. Success!! Pass this info along to all your fellow peanut-free moms, it may save their sanity!

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Just a Kid

I am endlessly apologizing for my kids’ behavior, from anything as small as not saying ‘please’ or ‘thank you’, to actual smacks to another kid’s face. Some of these apologies are warranted (see smacking above), but others are just plain ridiculous. Most of the time, mid-apology, a friend of mine will tell me to quit it, that they’re just kids and it’s not a big deal. I continue with apologies and sometimes excuses (Sofia needs a nap, David is hungry, etc), and I’m frequently embarrassed.  Why the embarrassment? Because they are a reflection on my parenting skills and on me as a person.

What’s funny about this is how quick I am to tell another parent not to worry about it and that ‘my kid does that all the time.’ Most of the time, this is a true statement.  I think I’ve run the gamut of embarrassing and horrifying situations with my kids and they’re not even school-aged yet. So why is it ok for every other kid to ‘act like a kid’, but not mine?

At the beach today, my best friend and I were watching her 3 year old and my 3 1/2 year old try their best to antagonize each other. Sharing was about as peaceful as a treaty negotiation between countries and many orders were given to each other in mean tones. Two minutes later they were hugging and playing. At one point, my friend said ‘they’ll work it out’ and I realized that by continuing to step in, we were only exacerbating the situation. When left to their own devices, they did find a way to figure it out.

I think in this age of the carefully-tailored Facebook post of you with your smiling, adorable children on vacation in Florida all fresh-faced and happy, we expect perfection.  But not necessarily out of other people, which is what I find so weird.  I know I don’t expect anyone’s kids to be perfect. Hell when I have a playdate I’m happy if we can keep the meltdowns in the single-digits. What we project to each other online is this perfect notion of blissful parenting with no speed bumps, tantrums, or snot noses. What isn’t posted are the 74 pictures that led up to the perfect one posted online, and I haven’t seen many pictures on my news feed of a kid with a huge booger hanging from his nose or one that is mid-smack to his younger sister. I know this happens, but why don’t we feel comfortable being real about our families? To be honest, those are the posts I would find most entertaining.

When we go through photo albums with my mom, the pictures I love the most are the ones of things I can actually remember. The road trip where my mom ‘tricked me’ into thinking my ice cream smelled funny so she could smash it in my face. The picture of my uncle’s toes painted red because he (maybe) had a few too many and passed out on our couch. The family picture where my brother has his finger up his nose and I’m pushing a hand in the camera lens because I was too cool for said photo op. That’s what real life is.

I won’t say I’m going to stop apologizing for rude or embarrassing behavior by my kids. I don’t think I’m physically able to restrain myself from that. I will say that my apologies will go more like this:

‘she has her dress up around her neck in public again, guess we won’t need that college fund after all’

‘I think my son just wiped his nose on your son’s shirt, let me buy you guys some ice cream and remind him what tissues are’

And I’ll be posting more pictures of what real life looks like in the Arata household. Just hope you’re ready for it.

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More than just Organic

I try my best to feed my family healthy food, which can be challenging with a 2 and 3 1/2 year old as taste-testers/no way am I eating that screamers. I cook almost every night and supplement with pizza (we do live in New York, so save your judgement on that one) and occasional nights out. I am by no means a ‘crunchy’ mama, and that is no dig against those that are, it just takes a level of commitment I can’t even wrap my head around, but I do try to buy organic where possible.  Milk, meats and thin-skinned veggies I buy almost exclusively organic, which means going to several different stores to buy my week’s worth of groceries.

I start at Stop n Shop for all of my dry goods (I’m sorry Trader Joe’s, but your Joe’s O’s just aren’t quite Cheerios), and head to TJs for my organic milk, meats and some veggies/fruits.  Unfortunately there isn’t a huge selection of produce so I do buy non-organic when needed at Stop n Shop.  Now where this has become a problem is in the budgeting. Organic can sometimes be twice the price of non-organic and when feeding a family of 4 that can be prohibitive.

I have toyed with the idea of a CSA box, but, as mentioned above, my kids are not so adventurous (and neither is my husband), so I feel like a lot of it would go to waste.  I came across this new service called Our Harvest.  It’s basically a Whole Foods but online, so no overhead costs that make their products so extremely expensive.  You add items to your cart, check out, then pick up from a variety of locations near you (more coming soon) on the date given.  The items come from local Long Island farms and are as fresh as if you grew them yourself.

What I was most impressed about with Our Harvest was the chicken breasts.  In Trader Joe’s, if I want to buy organic chicken breasts, I’m paying $6.99/pound.  Our Harvest has locally farmed organic chicken breasts for $4.99/pound.  The difference adds up.  The ground beef looks like nothing you have ever seen in a grocery store.  It reminds me of the ground beef my great-grandpa had on his cattle ranch in Missouri.  That fresh.  The produce looks like you went into your garden and picked it.  I tried the bell peppers, bok choy and summer squash and all were unbelievable.

Aside from amazingly fresh food at more than reasonable prices, Our Harvest has a philanthropic side. For every $25 spent on food through their site, they donate a meal to a local food pantry.  It’s like Toms shoes, but with food. Socially- conscious, great food, reasonable prices. I can’t find anything I don’t love about this company. They are expanding rapidly, but as of now there are locations in New Hyde Park, Huntington, Hicksville/Plainview, Port Washington, East Meadow, Merrick and Roslyn Heights with more to follow.  Keep checking and email them at info@ourharvest.com to request a location near you

If you decide to give Our Harvest a try, which you absolutely should, use the coupon code LIMOM20 to get 20% off of your first order.  Try it once and I guarantee you’ll be hooked!

 

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Back to School

Tomorrow is unofficially my first day back to teaching.  There are 2 full days this week of Professional Development classes, one day next week of New Teacher Orientation, and then the first day for teachers to report is next Thursday, with kids returning September 2nd.  My time as a stay at home mom to my 2 kids is coming to a close and I have many mixed feelings about going back to work.

I feel incredibly lucky to have had the past 3 years to be home with my kids.  I have watched and helped them grow, I have played, I have cleaned up after and fed, I have bathed, I have read to, I have put down for naps and bed, and I have generally exhausted myself.  I wouldn’t have changed these past 3 years for anything in the world.  I feel now, however, it’s time to move on.

I will still be mom, of course, but in a different way.  I realize that I am passing the bulk of their care over to different people.  Sofia will be in school almost a full day for Pre-K, learning and growing under the careful eye of the amazing teachers at Oceanside School #6.  David will spend most days with grandma, some going to a babysitter that happens to be a friend who lives close by, and playing with her wonderful 4 children.  I am comfortable knowing they are in caring, loving hands.

The control freak in me worries incessantly that these new care-givers won’t do things exactly how I have.  I know this is for their benefit, as I am by no means the perfect mom, and I’m sure these women, who have more experience parenting than I do, have so much to offer my kids.  They will definitely teach them, and me, a thing or two.  I’m trying to let go of the little things and embrace the change ahead, but I worry.

I also worry about my ability to teach, as things have changed so much in the 3 short years I have been gone.  Curriculum and standards have changed, and I am also going from teaching high schoolers to elementary students.  I’m hoping this goes somewhat smoothly.

Most of my worrying comes from the complete disruption of my normal groove of things.  I’m used to grocery shopping on Monday mornings, play dates with friends, and nap times to recharge.  I’m also used to forgetting to eat meals, cleaning OH MY GOD WHAT IS THAT off of the floors, couches, walls, etc. and tantrums.

I miss the adult interaction of working outside the home, and I miss doing what, at least I thought, I do well.  I really enjoyed teaching and I’m excited to do it again.  I’m sure I’ll be a bit rusty, but hopefully get into the swing of things quickly.  It will be nice to pee alone, eat meals without sharing and really only getting half of my sandwich, and having conversations that aren’t interrupted by ‘mommy, you be the boy barbie and I’ll be the girl barbie.’  And I miss money, too, so that will be nice :)

So those are my thoughts upon re-entering the world of the working moms.  Wish me luck, especially tomorrow morning around 7:30am when my son is screaming at the top of his lungs as I drop him off.  That should be fun.

 

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Pure Barre

Anyone that knows me will tell you I’ve become a little obsessed with my new workout.  To say that I’m not a ‘gym person’ is a gross understatement, although I know the importance of being fit and healthy.  I’ve done yoga, even Bikram yoga which is that hot yoga in a sweaty gross room.  That, I actually liked for some reason.  I’ve also done Zumba, but I look like the worst kind of spaz and my ego won’t allow me to continue it.  I heard a few months ago of a Pure Barre studio opening in Oceanside and decided to try it.  I didn’t look into it too much before I went, thinking it was just some sort of ballet-type workout and it would be fun to try.  It is all kinds of intense that I was not prepared for.

Pure Barre is a total body workout that focuses on arms, thighs, butt, abs, and back in separate, intense segments.  You will use light weights, a resistance band and a rubber ball for the exercises and will be encouraged to move in small, inch increments.  It is designed to fatigue your muscles to the point of shaking and inner-monologue cursing, and I am in no way kidding when I tell you that you will see extreme results in your body within 10 classes.  You can read more about it here.

When I started, I was going to 2 classes per week.  By class 5 I could see definition in my arms in a sexy, womanly but powerful way.  I am now just past 30 classes and my entire body has changed.  They call it ‘Lift, Tone and Burn’ and it is a very accurate description of this.  Everything is lifted and toned, and after 2 kids that is no small feat.  I’m so addicted to this workout now, that I’m going 6 days a week.

I am also loving the abundance of options as far as times are concerned.  I can go as early as 5:45am, before the kids are awake, or as late as 8:40pm, long after they are (hopefully) asleep.  There is an app you can download to reserve your spot in a class and to pay, buy merchandise, etc.

On the note of merchandise, I would greatly suggest buying a pair of ‘sticky socks’ before your first class.  Several of the exercises require a grip on the floor and socks must be worn, and trust me when I say that regular socks won’t cut it.  They also offer lots of cute leggings, workout tops, etc. in the studio, which is always tempting!

For those of you interested in trying this addictive and amazing new workout, Bryanne Graser, owner of Pure Barre Oceanside, is offering a free class to anyone who mentions they read about it on Long Island Mom.  So show up, put on some sticky socks, and get ready to see a complete change in your body.  You can thank me later!

You can also follow Pure Barre Oceanside on Facebook, and don’t forget to follow me there too!

 

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The Nap

50% of my worries in parenting surround nap and bedtime procedures, length and time of day.  The other 50% is made up of mostly food-related issues, which is another post entirely.  I thought with my second kid, I would have this whole sleep thing down, but alas these kids couldn’t be more opposite when it comes to sleep, so my experience with Sofia did not prepare me whatsoever for my experience with David.

Sofia wanted to be rocked to sleep for a minimum of 20 minutes before I would gently lay her down and pray to ALL THAT IS HOLY that she wouldn’t wake up.  When I finally came to my senses, we did the ‘cry it out’ method (see here and here) and haven’t had too many problems since.  David had no problem going to sleep, and still brings us his blankie and says ‘ni-night’ when he’s tired, but he won’t stay asleep for anything.  He’s up sometime between 5-6am and it doesn’t matter what time he goes to bed.  He’s our little rooster.

I’m so tired (literally) of worrying about their sleep.  At this point, Sofia is nearing 4 years old and doesn’t need a nap every day, but how do I judge when she needs one?  When she passes out on the floor? (Not even an exaggeration, it’s happened several times since she dropped her nap) Sometimes I put her in her room and she just talks to herself for a full hour until I come get her.  Is that child neglect?

Also, at what age is it appropriate to put David in a toddler bed?  He will be 2 next month and seems fine in his crib, but at what age is it ridiculous to have a child sleep in baby jail?  Sofia was evicted at 18 months because her brother was on his way, so I can’t even really go by her.  She also is content to lay in bed until I get her, even now.  I have a feeling he’s going to escape and be in my bed in the middle of the night.

Lastly, how long do I have until the baby monitor is no longer a monitor of safe sleep but more a creepy surveillance system?  That’s going to be a hard one to let go of.

 

What are your sleep issues and questions with your kids?  And can anyone help me with this ridiculousness?

 

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Couture Princess

Wanted to share a Facebook page that I follow and frequently purchase from for you moms of girls out there.  Couture Princess is a Facebook page that posts adorable and very fashionable baby and children’s clothing, mostly for little girls, that you can easily purchase by sending your email and paypal info.  I have bought more dresses than I care to admit (to my husband) and love everything I’ve received.  She has an entire line of Frozen shirts, dresses, backpacks, beach towels, etc and many many dresses that are perfect for holiday photos.  Take a look at these gorgeous pictures –

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And, last but not least, Sofia wearing one of the dresses I bought from this page, for her Pre-K moving up ceremony

 

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So, Couture Princess is offering 15% off of your first order if you mention you heard about her here on Long Island Mom, take a look at her adorable and well-made clothing for your little girl and enjoy the discount!

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The Child-Free Vacation

My husband and I just celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary and we realized as it was approaching that our last vacation without kids was – gasp – our honeymoon. Dave has gone away with friends a few times without the kids and I’ve gone with them to visit my parents in Texas a few times without him, so he is used to spending a few nights away from them. I was the problem. For some reason I felt like leaving them to go do something fun for a weekend was somehow going to make me a bad mom. You know, mommy guilt being what it is.

Well, I had enough and booked a trip to Hilton Head, SC. My parents had been there a few years ago and raved about how much fun it was, and when I got an email from Jet Blue about cheap fares, I jumped on it. We stayed at The Beach House, which is a Holiday Inn Resort. The entire 3 night/4 day vacation cost the 2 of us about $1000. Not too bad! We flew into Savannah, GA, which is a short 45 minute drive to Hilton Head. We stopped for lunch in Savannah at The Olde Pink House, an 18th century mansion turned restaurant. We had an amazing lunch and set off in our rental car to Hilton Head, playing Zac Brown Band the whole way. Made for a nice drive!

The Tiki Hut bar at The Beach House became our home base. Fruity frozen drinks and a steady stream of live music right on the beach made for a relaxing adult-only retreat. I think I tried every specialty drink on the menu before I settled on Coconut Mojitos. We drank, swam in the pool, and just basically lazed around. We asked for dinner recommendations from the bartenders there and were sent to a few cool places. Night 2 we headed to a fish place and sat at the bar to eat. Two couples sat next to us as we were wrapping up and we got to talking, and decided to meet at a bar when they were finished with dinner. Definitely not something that would have happened in New York, people just aren’t naturally that friendly toward strangers. Something about the south!

Had a great time chatting with our new friends Andy and Danielle and wound up having dinner with them and their adorable 5 year old son, Asher, the next night. Hoping to go visit them in Nashville sometime soon. Did I miss the kids? Of course. Watching all the kids splashing around in the pool and in the ocean made me wish they were there. Waking up whenever the hell I felt like made me love being without them. At home, my mom and dad tended to the kids and generally exhausted themselves. When my dad came to pick us up from the airport he burst into laughter recalling a trip to the grocery store with both of the kids to get ‘a few things.’ Anyone with a couple of kids or more that does the grocery shopping can probably guess how that went. When we got back to the house, my mom looked like she was just released from Guantanamo and was so relieved to see us. And we were so happy to see them. A long weekend without the kids made me so appreciative of the chaos I’m surrounded by day to day. They’re little lunatics, but they’re my little lunatics.

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I’m back!

A little over a year ago, I decided to quit writing here in a fit of exhaustion. Parenting 2 kids under 2 years old and waitressing/bartending at night was enough for me, and I was unwilling to sacrifice the sleep I was capable of getting to write here. A year later, I find myself missing it. I love being able to chronicle the lives of these two monkeys I live with. It’s a great outlet for me, and a great source of support too. So as long as you’ll keep reading, I’m going to keep writing.

Update on where we’re at as a family – Sofia is 3 1/2 now and entering the 4 year old Pre-K program here in Oceanside. She’ll be in school from 9am-2pm Monday thru Thursday and is so excited to go back. David will be 2 next month, a fact I can’t quite believe yet, and is pure maniac. My husband Dave has a new job in Manhattan and is really enjoying it, and I will be returning to teaching after a 3 year stint as a stay at home mom. To say I’m excited to go back is a gross understatement.

I’ve written before about staying at home vs working full-time, and I know it’s a sensitive subject for people. It’s all hard. There is no kind of parenting that isn’t a challenge and the whole mommy war over which is harder is so ridiculous that I won’t give it the time of day anymore. Being a parent is the most challenging and also the most rewarding experience of life and whether you’re home trying to keep them alive and entertained 24/7 or are out of the house busting your ass and feeling tremendous guilt over not being home, it’s all tough. I will say that I think I’ve taken the stay at home part of my parenting career as far as I wish to. I crave the adult interaction and peeing alone part of working out of the house. So, I’m going back.

I’m looking forward, also, to writing about the hilarious and ridiculous things my kids say and do. They frustrate me to the point of copious wine drinking and also fill my heart with so much love and admiration that sometimes I think it might burst. Looking back on the last 4 years of my journey in pregnancy and parenting, I can’t believe how far they have come. Mostly, though, I can’t believe I have managed to keep them alive.   photo (5) photo (6) photo (7)

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