Long Island Mom

What I've learned about being a mom.

Rainy Day Activities

Pinterest is good for so many things – recipes, outfits, home decor, and arts and crafts.  I am not a crafty mom and the thought of spending hundreds of dollars on art supplies and making a mess of my already condemnable house makes me kind of shudder, but looking at all of these Pinterest ideas makes me feel like the worst mom ever.  I am never going to do these things, which surely means I’m robbing my children of a fun childhood.  I actually pinned something called “100 activities for a rainy day with toddlers” like I was going to go out and buy a magnetized fishing pole so they could ‘fish’ in the bath.  Then, I pictured this activity in my head.  It ends in screaming over who splashed who, saving plastic fishies from the toilet, and a lot of cleanup of my bathroom.

So, here are my realistic ‘rainy day activities for kids’

1. Play doctor

Sofia has a Doc McStuffins doctor kit and loves to pretend she’s a doctor fixing her stuffed animals.  If I lay down on the floor and pretend to be her patient, I’m guaranteed a solid half hour of doing absolutely nothing.

2. Knock down mommy

I make a pile out of pillows, sit in front of it, and tell the kids to go in the other room and run at me to knock me down.  They can do this for hours, and bonus – it completely wears them out.

3. Make a rocket ship

We get pretty regular shipments of diapers and other home staples from either diapers.com or amazon.com – so we’re in no short supply of large boxes.  Today I sat both of them in the box with an assortment of crayons, stickers and markers and told them to make a rocket ship.  They have been coloring all afternoon.

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4. On your marks…

Just saying ‘On your marks, get set, go!’ to my 2 year old gets him running around the house as fast as he can.  I don’t know why.  He’ll do it 30 times before it gets old.

5. Hide and seek

You don’t have to find them.  You just have to say ‘wow what a great hiding spot! I can’t believe I can’t find you!’ in a loud voice every few minutes.

6. Autobahn

Again, lay on the floor, give the kids some cars and tell them you’re the road and the cars have to drive around you.  They found this hilarious today.

 

If you have any other realistic activities that don’t take a trip to Michaels or hours of cleanup, please pass them along.  And pray for sunshine!

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Big Apple Circus

The Big Apple Circus is coming back to it’s hometown of New York City at Lincoln Center starting October 17th!

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The circus was always a favorite of mine and my siblings, and is a fun-filled, family-centered night out I would love to pass on to my children.  Many of today’s circus events feature exotic animals, and although that sounds like fun, in theory, many times these animals are mistreated and even abused.  For this reason, we haven’t attended many of the circus events we have seen come to our area.  Big Apple Circus does not use exotic animals, in favor of domestic animals like dogs and horses.  These animals are very well taken care of, just as we take care of our domestic pets.  Trainers have years of experience with these animals and even sleep in close proximity to the animals they work with while they’re on tour.  Big Apple Circus treats their animals with love and respect, and that’s something that I know is so important to moms and dads everywhere.

Our family will be attending the Big Apple Circus on November 2nd and the kids can’t wait.  As a gift to our blog readers, Big Apple Circus is offering $25 off of EVERY TICKET, not just the total purchase price, for readers of Long Island Mom.  At checkout, use the promo code BIGAPPLE (*Limited availability. Offer good on select seats and shows. Other conditions apply. Children under 3 are free when on the lap of a paid adult, one child per lap.)

I hope you’ll give Big Apple Circus a try – it’s such a fun experience for the whole family and one you can feel good about taking the kids to!

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Feeling Safe

I got into a car accident today – my first real accident that wasn’t a fender bender in a parking lot or something equally minor.  It was terrifying, mostly because my 3 year old was with me.  We were on our way to Toys R Us to pick up birthday gifts for my niece and my best friend’s daughter, and got hit by a young guy who blew through a red light.  The car spun several times before it came to a stop and I just froze there for a few seconds before springing into action and getting my daughter out of the car.  It was smoking, fluid leaking out all over the road, and I ran to the street corner to get out of the way.  The guy was texting, he later admitted to the cops, and this wasn’t his first accident.  In fact, he had just gotten his car back from his last incident.

We are fine, physically.  Sofia, who is a complainer by nature, hasn’t said a word of anything hurting.  I feel sore all over but I think I tensed up so hard before he hit us that I might be sore for a few days.  Does this mean I don’t need to work out this week?? All kidding aside, we are incredibly lucky that nobody was hurt.  Within seconds, 2 women and an elderly man were next to me, asking how we were doing and if they could do anything.  They waited until the cops came, gave statements, asked again if they could get anything for us, and then left.  I never asked their names and don’t think I even said thank you.  They were patient, kind, and protective, and they didn’t even know us.  My faith in humanity is restored.  In New York, on a busy Saturday, these people took the time out to help a shaken, shocked mom and her frightened daughter.  One of the guys that works at Joe’s Crab Shack even came out and offered to get us something to eat or drink and stayed for a few minutes until he saw everything was ok.

And now, I’m left with a feeling of ‘What if…’

I’m not loving this side effect.  I’m reminded how quickly things can go so so badly.  We’re ok, we got very lucky, and all I can think about is how badly this could have gone.  My son was home with daddy, sleeping, and his car seat is on the passenger side, where we got hit.  I was in an SUV, and he was in a compact car.  When we spun out, we didn’t hit anything, or anyone, else.  Any number of small changes in this series of events and we could have been really hurt.  Sofia has been clingy and emotional all afternoon and evening, and to be honest, so have I.  I keep hugging them so tight and kissing their faces, trying not to cry.  At any moment, car accident or no car accident, these precious babies could be taken away from me, a thought I never want to have, and yet right now, it’s the only thought I have.

So, sometimes it takes a scare to remind you of what’s really important.  And they’re in my lap right now.

 

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It goes so fast…

‘It goes so fast’ is always the first thing veteran parents tell soon-to-be parents or parents of young kids.  It’s so cliché, but now I know it is so true. My son turns 2 next week and my first baby, the girl who made me a mommy, will be 4 in a few short months. As I sat next to her on the couch tonight, her long, skinny legs sprawled out across my lap and her long blonde hair cascading over the cushions, I had a hard time remembering what she looked like as an infant. It seems now that she has always been this age. I can’t remember the times before she started to walk and talk, and it’s hard for me to remember the long nights rocking and nursing her in her room. It also seems like all of those times were minutes ago, and I have a hard time recognizing her as she sings and dances across the living room, using expressions like ‘tell me about it mom’ and ‘oh mannnnn’. How did 4 happen upon us?

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And my son, my baby boy who turns 2 in a few short days, when did he become a real person? I think back to the early days in the NICU, hoping he was ok and would come home soon, the frustration and heartbreak of Early Intervention Services for a 10 month old who wouldn’t even roll over. Now I see a confident, giddy, laughing toddler, running and jumping and climbing over everything he really shouldn’t be. How did these 2 years fly by the way they have?

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Now I am the ‘It goes so fast’ mom, cautioning my new mom friends to take lots of pictures, to document everything, because – it does. It goes. So. Fast. I know in another blink they will be in high school, then another blink and off to college, having their own babies. It’s so difficult in the day-to-day craziness to take the time to soak in their kid-ness. It takes a moment like tonight, when I barely recognize the very people I made myself, to make me slow down and appreciate how special it is to be a mom. I feel so truly lucky to sit here and see what happy, well-adjusted, beautiful children I have. I get to be their mom, and no career accomplishment or personal accolade will ever measure up to that.

So, to all the soon-to-be moms, new moms, and moms of young kids. Soak it up. Because it goes so fast.

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Peapod

Our local grocery store – Stop n Shop, has had a grocery delivery service called Peapod for a long time now, which I discovered shortly after my daughter was born. You are able to buy your groceries online, on a very easy to navigate website, pay, and pick a delivery time. For a fee (normally around $10), they bring your groceries to your door. What a lifesaver, especially after my son was born and the thought of taking 2 kids under 2 years old into a grocery store gave me hives.

To be honest, once the kids were old enough to tackle grocery shopping, I felt guilty paying $10 to have someone bring them to me. I also had a hard time thinking far enough ahead to have them deliver, as the delivery times are normally 2-3 days from when you order. So, I’ve been schlepping my kids with me ever since. At 2 and 4, they’re old enough to:

– throw things into the cart when I’m not looking
– knock over displays
– beg and cry for toys/junk on every single aisle
– try to open packages of things they want to eat once I put them in the cart
– yell ‘I HAVE TO PEE RIGHT NOW’ as soon as I’m next in line to pay

My local Stop n Shop (and many throughout Long Island and Fire Island) is now offering a pick-up service for free (I believe a small fee is coming but for now it is totally free). Using the same Peapod delivery website, you add items to your shopping cart, pay, and then pick up during a one-hour window that is convenient for you. Bonus is that window is normally the next day.

I used the pick up service today, and was able to sit in my car in a spot by the front that they designate for this service, call the phone number on the sign (or you can go in) and they bring the groceries to your car, give you your receipt and you’re on your way.

No lines, no ‘clean up on aisle 3′, no mystery items you swear you didn’t put in your cart, and no tantrums.

This infographic explains all the benefits of this service:

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Peapod is offering a $25 off online gift code to one lucky winner!  All you have to do is like Long Island Mom on Facebook, and like the Peapod post on my Facebook page.  I will pick a winner on Thursday at 5:00pm and that person will win the gift code!

Give it a try, it takes one of the worst chores out of your weekly list!

 

 

UPDATE: As of October, Peapod has instituted a $2.95 fee for pickup orders and a $60 minimum order.  With PodPass, new customers can enjoy 60 days of no-fee pickup.

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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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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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