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Oct 23 2012

The Best Digital Cameras for Taking Photos of Your Kids

By at 12:04 pm
stacey ilyse photography

Courtesy of Stacey Ilyse.

Hey, I’m Stacey, a mom to my crazy drama queen little girl, Remy, who is almost (gasp!) 1 year old! I also happen to be a professional photographer. The lovely ladies at Kveller have so kindly brought me on board to share tips, inspiration, guidance, and more during your adventures in photographing your kiddos. I specialize in weddings and also, my passion, lifestyle family/children photography. Feel free to check out my work here.

In the meantime, have you ever wondered what the right kind of camera would be for your photo taking needs? Here are my suggestions, based purely on my preference (i.e. nobody’s paying me to say it).

I recommend two different cameras, both made by Canon. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 30 2012

Labor Day: How to Relax Over the Long Weekend

By at 6:08 am

mother and baby daughter on beachIt seems silly to call a trip with your toddler-aged children a “vacation,” right? I mean, we all know what “vacation” literally means — “freedom from duty, responsibility” — and hence, flying to the sunny shores of Florida with two 16-month-old children definitely shouldn’t qualify, right?

Wrong! I am here to tell you that I did indeed take a vacation with my husband and our twin 16-month-old toddlers last week. And no, it wasn’t always pretty, but YES, I did manage to relax and enjoy my time, despite their presence. So, if you’re planning a last summer hurrah over Labor Day, here are a few tips:

1. Snack cups. Seriously, the girls love these things. I don’t know if it has to do with being “in charge” of something, or an ownership thing, but the girls love to walk around with their fists clenched tightly around a snack cup (full of snacks, obviously). So we gave them snack cups at the beach, in the car, at the pool, etc. This occupied them far longer than you might expect. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 19 2012

Embracing My Fellow Russians of Brighton Beach

By at 3:59 pm

brighton beach vacationIf my life had followed the statistically expected trajectory, after leaving the Soviet Union in 1976, my family would have settled in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, home of the United States’ largest Russian-Jewish community. (It’s also very possible that I might have gone to Stuyvesant High School and thus met my husband about 15 years earlier. When, we both agree, I wouldn’t have given him the time of day. But, that’s another story for another time.)

We didn’t, though. We ended up in San Francisco, CA, instead. I stayed in California until the last week of 1994, whereupon I finally packed up and relocated to New York City. But, to Manhattan, not Brooklyn. Read the rest of this entry →

Jun 5 2012

My Baby is a Better World Traveler Than Me

By at 11:48 am
geneva postcard

Bonjour, Geneva.

Traveling overseas is intimidating. And I say this as someone whose last several international destinations have included Ghana, India, and South Africa.

I hadn’t ventured abroad since early 2010, for a fairly obvious and adorable reason. But my husband recently learned that he needed to spend nine days in Geneva for work. I didn’t like the idea of our being separated (with a toddler, four hands beat two), and Lila and I had no pressing engagements, so I suggested a family adventure. Read the rest of this entry →

May 29 2012

Babymoon Bliss

By at 3:29 pm

babymoon beachI’ve heard the term “babymoon” described in several contexts–the most common being a romantic(?) vacation taken before the arrival of a new baby for the parents-to-be to celebrate their alone time before becoming a threesome. Marketed as: “This is your absolute! LAST! chance! to blow a bunch of money on a vacation AS A COUPLE before a baby comes and destroys all of the love and romance and replaces it with screaming and poop!!” I mostly see it as a way to capitalize on the arrival of a new baby much like Sweetest Day enables Hallmark to sell mushy pink cards twice in one calendar year. I’m not buying it. Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 26 2012

The Divorce Vacation

By at 3:27 pm

empty kitchen table with two chairsIt’s quiet in my house. Way too quiet. It’s the kind of quiet that usually means that something really bad is going down in some remote corner. You know what I’m talking about–the quiet that means that one kid is sitting on another kid’s head, muffling the screams, or one kid is systematically dismantling the other kid’s Lego creation while kid #2 is off happily peeing and not flushing the toilet.

But this time, the quiet just means there are two empty bedrooms in my house for the week. I don’t want to think about this quiet. The lack of pounding elephantine footsteps at an ungodly hour in the morning means that my two boys are off for the week on spring break with their father. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 14 2011

Plane Trip Turns Into Road Trip

By at 10:18 am

van on the road

Woman plans, God laughs.

When last we spoke, I was all overwrought about my four month old’s first “vacation” and plane flight. An hour-long plane flight to Virginia (Colonial Williamsburg, specifically) would, I was convinced, turn into an hour-long screaming poopfest. I would be the recipient of looks of pity and disgust from my fellow passengers. My husband would offer to get bumped.

That’s not really how it went down.

The day we left, I woke up Baby G at 5:30 am – yeah, that’s right, I woke up a sleeping baby, which is a violation of the Geneva Convention. She smiled at me lovingly as if to say, “Mommy, don’t worry – I’m the Perfect Baby.” She is, actually, the perfect baby. I haven’t written here about how she started sleeping through the night at four weeks old because it is the biggest keyn eyn hora anyone ever heard of, but the fact of the matter is, this kid is an absolute sweetheart. She gets it from her father.

So we schlep to the airport – me, husband, baby G, the two boys, ages 6 and 8, and my parents, who are simply the best human beings in the world. We get through security, where my mother’s hip replacement and baby G’s car seat stroller are given thorough scrutiny (you know, because both of them are aspiring terrorists). And then we find out that, thanks to the fog engulfing the New York area, our flight is cancelled. The boys’ faces crumple like Kim Kardashian’s ketubah (fine, she didn’t have a ketubah, but you get what I’m saying). Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 9 2011

Leeeeaving on a Jet Plane

By at 2:56 pm

I'd like my vacation to look like this. What do I need to bring?

I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it’s true: traveling by yourself, or with another consenting adult, is a vacation. Traveling with kids is no vacation – it’s a trip, in every sense of the word.

That being said, traveling with children does get easier as kids get older. If you only have toddlers, suffice it to say that you have no idea how great the difference is between a plane trip with someone who poops in their pants and with someone who knows how to do “scene selection” on a portable DVD player. The latter is far more pleasant and can even have you throwing an aspirational Vanity Fair into your carry-on luggage.

Allow me to brag a little bit about the wonders of self-sufficient-child travel. On a comparatively recent plane trip with my two boys, I reached the Nirvana of plane travel with children. The boys actually sat across the aisle from myself and my husband, alone, and watched a DVD together, giggling all the way. Not only that, but they sat with some other random adult, who commented repeatedly on how smart and polite the boys were. I mean, is that not every parent’s fantasy? Who even needed the vacation after that?

Now, however, I have a wonderful 4-month-old daughter, and am about to face a traveling adventure: we’re going on a plane. I’ve never been on a plane with a baby. Okay, I have – other people’s screaming babies, who I’ve unmercifully hated and attempted to avoid. I’m now ashamed to admit to having acted in that horrible way people do on planes toward babies (you know what I mean: “I’ve never seen a creature like that before in my life, and am certainly not going to admit any degree of empathy or even the fact that I once was someone like this.”). In fact, I dimly recall having written for Kveller on baby-free sections on planes and how utterly unsympathetic I’ve been to those frazzled parent travelers toting two tons of baby crap plus baby.

And now, I will be one of you. Go ahead, laugh all you want. Payback is a bitch.

For a trip of a mere three days to Virginia, Baby G will travel with more stuff than Elle Woods would pack for an entire summer on the French Riviera. It’s really astounding. Changes of clothing for those pooptastic moments, hats, bibs, bottles, bottle brush, formula (horror!), pacifiers, car seat, car seat stroller, little baby hairbrush, medicines for every conceivable baby ailment (pu pu pu), moisturizers, tush ointment, wipes, and, of course, diapers.

I know I have been unkind to you all and am now sorry. Please show me mercy and help a mother out here: what am I forgetting to bring????

More tips about travel with children here.

Sep 6 2011

Vacation is Over, Getting Your Kids To Eat Well Again

By at 1:00 pm

I got back Saturday from five days on the beach in Cape May, N.J. (It should have been a week’s vacation; I’m looking at you, Hurricane Irene.) And instead of feeling rejuvenated, I’m nursing a stomach sick from eating ice cream, crab cakes, ice cream, saltwater taffy, ice cream, chicken cheese steaks, a hot dog, and ice cream. But that’s not what’s eating me. I’m more bothered that Ellie, my 20-month-old, keeps saying her stomach hurts, too.

I’m not going to pretend that she eats perfectly all the time. If it’s green or meat, she’s not interested, and I’m convinced that if it were not for the existence of challah, she would have long ago starved. But in Cape May, the only options on the kids’ menus were hot dogs, grilled cheese, fried shrimp, chicken fingers, buttered noodles, and mac and cheese – all served with fries and a tot-size soft drink. There wasn’t a veggie to be found. (Potatoes in the fries don’t count.) When I asked at a pricey Italian restaurant if the chef could steam some carrots in place of the fries, the waitress said no.

Much to my annoyance, my husband wasn’t nearly as concerned as I was about what Ellie was putting in her mouth. He justified her poor diet as a casualty of being on vacation. After all, we weren’t exactly scarfing down broiled salmon and crispy kale. “She’ll get right back on track when we get home,” he assured me.

That kids’ menus offer little more than fat- and cholesterol-laden options is not new, not unique to Cape May and, when you get down to it, not very surprising. After all, those are the foods most kids – heck, most adults, if we’re being honest – would prefer to eat. And us parents, hoping to avoid a scene in a public place, let them eat it.

But even McDonald’s lets you choose apple slices and milk in lieu of fries and a soda in a Happy Meal. Isn’t it time for more restaurants step up to the plate?

Now we’re home and Ellie keeps asking for mac and cheese. She hasn’t gotten it. Tonight she had a tantrum because she wanted ice cream after her bath. She didn’t get that, either. Of course, at her age she doesn’t connect her tummy trouble to what she ate, so getting her back on track will apparently be tougher than I naively thought it would be.

Short of packing a suitcase full of fruit, yogurt and whole-grain bread, what’s a parent to do? What do you do to make sure your children eat healthy away from home?

Jul 8 2011

Mayim Bialik’s Adventures in Legoland

By at 10:28 am

We first went to Legoland in Oceanside, California when my second son, Frederick, was born. It was my first outing in 40 days, and my older son, Miles, was almost 3. I was in a peasant skirt, Converse hightops, and my pajama top. Literally: I was in my pajama top, since I nursed pretty much round the clock for the first months, and I had barely been in real clothes since Fred was born anyway, so why make an exception for Legoland?

I mostly sat on benches in a hormonal daze and nursed while trying to not draw attention to myself since I was crying out in pain (nursing my sons for the first several months of their lives elicited that for this lucky mama). Miles and my husband had a blast going on all of the amazing 3-year-old-friendly rides. Fred screamed the entire two hour ride home, simply because he could. I almost lost my mind and vowed never to leave the house ever again.

Cut to almost three years later. Yes, I have left the house, and yes, Fred has stopped screaming in the car for no apparent reason. Now he screams in the car because–don’t you know it?–he is “DONE DONE DONE” with the car “NOW NOW NOW.”

We ventured to Legoland again last week; Fred is the age Miles was when we first went, and Miles is almost 6 and super pumped about both LEGO and spending the day with his 6-year-old friend who was there with his family to celebrate his birthday. Yeah: this family we are friends with bought a 5-day pass, stayed at a hotel inches from the entrance, and really lived it up. Way to make us look like the loser parents, guys.

Read the rest of this entry →


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