new york city boy

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By: Diana Bradley

We’ve just recovered from our little guy’s first birthday party. The theme was none other than New York City. Originally, we were going to hold it at the local park, but the weather called for rain, and the thought of lugging everything over there was a bit less than appealing. So, rain or shine, we decided to change plans and hold it in our apartment.

It was slightly awkward figuring out how to keep the babies and adults entertained. So we divided up the guests. We had a special area outside designated for our son and four of his friends (and their parents, of course). Inside, the bigger babies (i.e. adults), were able to squish together in the air conditioning and munch on our New York-ish snacks. There was about 25 guests in all, and I’m happy to report the party was a success. Even though it was probably quite overwhelming for him with the crowd of people in such a small space, and other babies playing with HIS toys on HIS turf, our son held it together for the most part. At least until about 2.5 hours into the party, but by then it was way past naptime. But we really couldn’t have asked for a better first party for him. It had all the key first party ingredients: friends, family, presents and a face full of frosting.

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It's his party...

It’s his party…

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Napping in his stroller after the party.

Napping in his stroller after the party.

Tuckered out.

Tuckered out.

 

the best laid plans

By: Diana Bradley

This is usually how the weekend goes in our household…

Friday night, we come up with some “brilliant” plan to show our infant son one of the many cultural landmarks of NYC. We map out how we will get there, how long it will take, what we will need to bring, the best time to begin our journey (factoring in eating and nap times).

Saturday morning: The journey begins. All goes well. We set off on time. The subway ride isn’t too hellish. We have some lunch. We get to our destination. And literally, the second we get there, baby falls asleep.

It’s weird when you have a kid. Because you find yourself doing a lot of things you’ve already done, just to see their reaction to it all. It’s mainly for them, not for you. Which might sound boring, but seeing their happiness and amazement is almost like experiencing it all again for the first time.

So when your kid is asleep when you get to the museum or the landmark you’ve been to a billion and five times, all you can really do is potter and meander around the place, hoping an ambulance or brass band will pass by to wake the little bugger up. And if that fails, just try to enjoy the place – again – on your own accord.

The worst is when the kid sleeps through the entire visit. Like decides to take a mega two-hour nap or something. And then wakes up as you’re walking back to the subway.

This is the best response I have ever seen to this sort of situation, and we may just have to try it one of these days.

Anyway, that’s pretty much what happened the other day on a trip to the Brooklyn Bridge (baby falling asleep – not placing him in weird scenarios while asleep – though we really should have).

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It wasn’t so bad, as it’s a nice walk and I’d only been there once before myself. But baby fell asleep the moment we got there. Actually, he fell asleep after a cranky 10 minutes walking to the bridge from the subway.

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Right before he fell asleep, I tried my best to get a picture of him. This was the nicest face he had for me.

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At the moment, the bridge has a bit of construction work going on. So there were jackhammers, construction workers yelling – that sort of thing. And because of the construction, a walking lane was taken up, so the bicyclists and walkers were kind of on top of each other. Ultra fun to manoeuvre around with a stroller. A lot of bicycle bells were ringing in our ears.

But even with all of this going on, baby was sound asleep, off in pillow land. I am pretty sure he would have slept through this…

At the end of the stressful bridge walk I decided to reward myself with a treat from Wafels & Dinges. That’s right, I ate this for lunch. I’m disgusting.

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the bee’s knees, baby’s knees and mom’s knees

By: Diana Bradley

Some people – mostly women – enjoy taking pictures of their tanned legs in the sun, while on vacation or at the beach. Last month, this inspired the Hot Dog Legs Tumblr, which begs the question: Hot dogs or legs?

And the funniest part is, it is pretty difficult to tell them apart in most cases. Exhibit A…

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Sometimes you can kind of tell them apart, though. These are definitely hot dogs, for example…

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The ketchup and mustard is a dead giveaway.

Anyway, this idea also got me to take a good look at my own legs. Specifically, my knees.

Ever since my son has started crawling, I’ve developed what is known as “mom knee”. Exhibit B…

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I should start my own Tumblr page: Mom knee or ‘90s grunge knee?

Then I thought: If crawling on the hardwood of my apartment floor is doing this to my jeans, what is it doing to my 11-month-old’s knees?

Most NYC apartments have hardwood floors. It is rare to have a carpeted apartment. No one wants them anymore. It’s all about the wood.

Sometimes tenants are required to cover 80 percent of their flooring with rugs, though this is rarely enforced (as far as I know). Fortunately, my landlord doesn’t push this issue.

There are a couple reasons we don’t have rugs in our apartment.

  1. We personally prefer the look of a bare wood floor.
  2. The price of a rug can only be described as highway robbery.

Unfortunately, no rugs = red, sore baby knees.

So to get around this issue, we began putting Lil’ Melon Baby Knee Pads on our son.

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They easily slip on and off like socks and he doesn’t even notice them. He scoots around like mad and I swear he has developed extreme crawling maneuvers since he started wearing the kneepads – just because he can.

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And here he is bone-weary after an extreme crawling session, tucking into one of his favorite before-bed books.

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These kneepads are the perfect solution to a rug-less crawling space for baby.

I suppose I could get some mom-sized kneepads, but would they have a robot design? No. So I’ll just have to look like I’m wearing Kurt Cobain’s ‘90s jeans a bit longer.

creating a pop-up pond in the city

By: Diana Bradley

Last week, it was my turn to host the Mommy and Me Class Co-op.

Some background on the co-op – it is the perfect solution for moms on tight budgets (if you live in NYC, this definitely applies to you).

Over the past few months, my mom friends and I have been spying on infant development and music classes (not mentioning any names) via free demos.

Sounds dodgy, but we really couldn’t justify paying upwards of $30 per class, especially doing activities with the kids that they a) were probably not taking in completely (they are still infants) and b) we could just teach them ourselves.

In Bay Ridge we have several co-op groups running – some are on the weekend for working moms, and for the stay-at-home moms a couple are held on a Friday.

The classes are all free, but the main rule is that if you are a member you must teach a class at some point. We are all emailed a schedule and must stick to it. When your turn comes up, you are free to do whatever you like with the moms and babies: choreograph a dance routine that involves wearing baby, teach baby sign, teach counting or colors in another language (one mom in our group taught the babies some Japanese – as a Japanophile, I was kind of excited about this), a homemade baby toys lesson, work on getting baby over stranger anxiety via swapping babies during playtime, mimosas and free play in the park – you name it.

Variety a-plenty!

For my class, the theme was, “Nature in the City.”

I stole rehashed this idea, and made a “pond” in the local park using:

  • An enormous blue tarp.
  • A boatload of bath toys.
  • About five 2L bottles filled with water (needed some assistance lugging all this to the park, but fortunately, it is a 5 minute walk from my house).

I found a spot near a tree, so half the tarp was in the shade and half was in the sun. I poured the water onto the tarp, creating little pools, and then evenly dispersed the toys. To anchor the corners of the tarp, I left a filled bottle on each corner, but you could also have a mom sit at each corner to hold it down.

Then we dressed the babies appropriately in wet suits, slathered them in sunscreen, and let them loose.

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It was fun watching them explore the sensory set-up. They got absolutely soaked, and for once, they had a huge, safe area to play on.

My son even discovered that a little rubber ducky makes for a great alternative pacifier.

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This is the perfect activity for a hot summer day. Especially with an infant, when a location like a beach poses issues with sand-eating and cold ocean water. Even if you don’t have a local park, you could easily bring all of these supplies to Central Park or Prospect Park. As for the bottles of water, bring empties and fill them up when you get there in a nearby bathroom.

Leave it to me to wait until September to try this idea out (on the first day with a chill in the air, none-the-less).

Fall weather aside, the sun took pity on us and beat down just enough to ensure our pond world was a success. Will definitely aim to do this more often at my local park next summer – good, wet, cheap fun.

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baby books set in nyc

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By: Diana Bradley

If you ever struggle finding a baby book set in NYC, look no further than the Brooklyn Museum’s gift shop. I found no less than 7 of them, and I’m sure I could have uncovered even more with little effort.

I love the idea of teaching your kid colors, words and how to count with their natural (or urban) surroundings.

And, as a parent, you can always fill in the gap these books have most likely missed, like:

  • How many homeless people are sitting on the train today?
  • How many screaming lunatics did we see on the street today?
  • How many rats and how many cockroaches?
  • How many tourists trampled on Mommy’s feet today?
  • How many times will the taxi driver nearly kill us attempting to get to our destination faster for a better tip?

Another fun game for baby might be to guess the liquid slowly traveling toward your feet on the moving subway’s floor. Usually the answer is coffee, but you could get a surprise certain days and find it is urine.

So much for baby to learn!

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keeping cool sans backyard

By: Diana Bradley

On disgustingly humid days, like today, most folks really don’t want to be outside. But you don’t want to hibernate on the final dog days of summer, either.

If you’re going to be outside, water must be involved in some way.

But public pools are usually a trek and a half. And ample backyard space (or any backyard space) for a baby pool is hard to come by in the city.

Balconies are more common for New Yorkers, but, again, you’re pushing your luck for baby pool space.

This summer, I discovered the perfect solution: A ghetto baby water table.

At its most basic level, it consists of filling baby’s highchair tray with water and placing it out on the balcony. Doesn’t sound like much, but plop a few bath toys on that thing and watch baby go insane (in a good way).

It’s also a really great medium for sensory play. Stick some spaghetti on the tray or anything really – baby can be as messy as he/she wants to be, as they are outside.

Stupid hat not required.

Stupid hat not required.

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Look at this face. This is the definition of jubilant. I wish some water on a tray made me this happy.

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goo-goo giveaway: brighten up the nursery

By: Diana Bradley

For most in NYC, buying an apartment is not an option. Even if the asking price seems reasonable, monthly maintenance fees alone can range from a few hundred dollars a month, for a small condo, to many thousands for an “exclusive” co-op – so even if you’ve paid off your mortgage, you are continuing to pay this extra fee, which rarely stays flat.

So most people in the city rent. But with renting usually comes a few ground rules. Most commonly, landlords don’t want you to paint the walls.

Having off-white walls in a baby’s room is a real bummer. In the suburbs, you always hear people deciding on this trim or that wallpaper or having a talented friend paint a mural on baby’s wall. Why should city babies miss out on all the fun?

Then I learned about decals.

I wanted to give my son’s room an “urban” theme (of course), and in my research came across WallCandy Arts French Bull City Wall Decals. You can remove and reuse these beauties without damaging your walls. Absolutely perfect.

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When I received them, I was (happily) surprised to find that you can truly make the design your own. Every little piece of the cityscape is its own individual sticker – the tree leaves are separate from the tree trunks, the helicopter blades are separate from the helicopter. You can lay out the cars and buildings in whatever pattern you desire.

I had fun – maybe a little too much fun – using the blank canvas that was the wall of my son’s room.

What’s even cooler is that these stickers are reusable, so when he is a bit older, he can move them around and redecorate in any way he wishes. He can even integrate the stickers into a storyline with his toys. I love how the picture on the box has a little boy using his toy car to interact with the design.

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You can tell these are fancy shmancy designer stickers – they are beautiful enough to frame. They certainly brightened up my son’s bland walls. He noticed them right away and has been pointing at them anytime he is in the room. It’s a fun way to teach my city boy words like skyscraper and taxi.

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Before.

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Progress.

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Finished.

Big improvement, right?

If you like what you see, you’re in luck.

Parents and the City is running a contest sponsored by French Bull! One lucky winner will receive their own set of WallCandy Arts French Bull City Wall Decals.

HOW TO WIN:

1. Login to enter the giveaway here.

2. Like and share this post on Facebook to get points.

3. Along with liking and sharing on Facebook, follow @PATCblog on Twitter.

The winner will be announced September 3rd. Good luck!

sex after baby: will i ever be in the mood again?

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Olivia Bergeron is a licensed clinical social worker who runs Mommy Groove Therapy & Support, specializing in post partum depression and related symptoms for New York City-based mothers.

By: Olivia Bergeron, LCSW

I see many new moms in my therapy practice here in New York City.  From the Verrazano to the Whitestone, what do they all have in common? Pretty much without exception, for new moms sex takes a backseat. Between the almost hourly feedings and the turmoil of adjusting to a new role as parents, who has time for a shower, let alone lovemaking? If you add the baby blues, or even postpartum depression (PPD) into the mix, sex can drop down a notch below scrubbing out the garbage cans on a new mom’s priority list. 

Of course, many women who aren’t depressed also experience a nosedive in desire following birth. While I don’t believe that New Yorkers are any different from women around the country in this regard, I suspect that this sudden bottoming out of our sex drive hits women here pretty hard. We are used to being in control, at the top of our game, sexy and sexual and now…fuggedaboudit. Lack of libido combined with the physical and hormonal changes that having a baby brings, can bring even the most active pre-baby sex lives to a screeching halt. Leaking breasts, excess weight and spit-up do not make for a very sexy feeling mama.

Incidentally, one of the most common symptoms of depression is decreased sex drive. So if your sex drive has plummeted, take some time to consider whether you might also be facing PPD. One in seven new mothers experience postpartum depression and one in five experience emotional difficulties beyond the baby blues. So if you are in this boat, please know that you are not alone and help is available in the form of support groups, therapy and even medication, if necessary.

Whether or not depression is playing a role in the lack of libido, the physical and life changes involved in having a baby can be incredibly isolating. Partners often report “missing” each other and their former sex lives. Sex can create intimacy and boost mood: great benefits for all involved. For women with a young child, lovemaking—the whole gamut from nonsexual touching to sex—can provide a welcome bridge back to their partners.

So how do you jumpstart romance when on a desirability scale of one to ten, you feel minus five? Here are seven tips to fan the flames and get your sex life back on track:

  1. Have patience with each other. If you’ve been avoiding sex or just haven’t felt like it for a few weeks or even months, give yourself time following the birth of your child to get back to a semblance of normalcy. In the meantime…
  2. Keep up the non-sexual touching. We all need to be touched and held. Touch can convey warmth and intimacy even if we don’t feel up to having sex.
  3. Let each other know you find one another desirable. Telling your partner that you find them sexy and attractive (despite the spit up stains) can boost self confidence and provide reassurance that you haven’t forgotten each other.
  4. Slow down. It may take more time and effort now to get into a frame a mind where you are able to tune out thoughts about baby and tune into your own sexual desires. Take the time to turn each other on.
  5. Romance each other. Nothing sets the mood like a thoughtful gesture, a sexy text message or the old standby, wine and roses. We all need to be wooed, especially during this period of transition.
  6. Listen. Physical changes after birth may bring about differences in sexual needs and wants. Speak up about your needs and listen to your partner’s.
  7. Be “selfish.” Date nights may seem a distant memory, but taking couple time is essential to being good parents. Carve out time here and there to get away, talk and reconnect.

Each couple is different and there is no magic formula that will work for all.  However, maintaining honest communication and making time for intimacy can go a long way towards reestablishing a fulfilling love life as new parents.

working out with baby

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By: Diana Bradley

For most new moms the world over, a car is essential — especially if they have a little one in tow.

Not so if you live in the city. Most people do not own cars here, and even if they do, it’s much easier to walk everywhere. I must walk an hour each day, at the very least.

On the plus side, with all that walking, new moms will quickly get back into pre-pregnancy shape.

But another option for new moms that seems to be taking the city by storm is stroller-friendly exercise groups, which integrate the stroller into activities. May sound ridiculous, but it’s no joke.

A friend of mine in Brooklyn actually runs one of these groups with her husband: Training Wheels Stroller Fitness Classes. They are also new parents and bring their baby to the class.

With the classes a mere $15 a pop, I had to check it out.

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If you are considering going to one of these classes, do not delude yourself as I did into thinking this is some fun little strollercize sesh, consisting of prancing around with the gals while leisurely pushing your stroller.

Dead wrong.

As someone who really doesn’t exercise, this class was a bit of a shock to the system. In fact, after I arrived, I forgot to take off my heavy backpack for the first activity. I was wondering why I was already sore before I even began.

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See the doofus with the backpack? That’s me.

The hour-long class was filled with med balls, squats, lunges, resistance tubes, push-ups, and sit-ups. We even had to speed walk with the strollers, swivelling around cones as quickly as we could in some sort of tiny obstacle course. Some activities involved using the stroller for balance.

I am not going to sugarcoat it – this was one tough class.

This husband and wife duo certainly runs the class like a well-oiled machine. For moments when we had to briefly be away from the babies, one of the two instructors was always by their side, distracting them. We went from one activity to the other, and they always made sure class members were hydrated and moving at a speed comfortable for each, individual student.

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Here are some of the stroller exercises we did in our class:

Two days after the class, I still slightly feel like a Mack truck has hit me. But that is testament to the fact this class did what it was supposed to do.

Classes like this are truly important on a physical, emotional and social level for new mothers.

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i love ny: coney island

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Baby the morning after Hurricane Sandy.

By: Diana Bradley

My son arrived about two weeks before Hurricane Sandy touched down in NYC. After the storm, NYU Langone – the hospital where he was born — had to be completely evacuated after its backup power system failed.

I can’t imagine experiencing a hurricane, and then being evacuated while in labor is much fun. I was so close to being in just that situation, and that will always kind of give me chills.

But going through a hurricane and its aftermath with a newborn is no walk in the park either. The night the hurricane struck, my husband and I had a slumber party in the living room with baby, as that was the safest room (besides the bathroom), if disaster really struck and a tree fell on the house or the windows shattered.

As a side note, my English husband had been given a genius tip from his native New Yorker boss that you could always test the seriousness of a NYC storm via Chinese takeout – if they were still delivering to people’s houses, then it really wasn’t so bad.

Of course he had to go ahead and tryout this theory, and so he ordered some Chinese food at the height of the storm, when the eye was directly above us. The poor delivery guy actually made the journey to our apartment. The moment my husband opened the door to him, it almost flew off its hinges, and the delivery guy caught it midway with catlike reflexes. He probably deserved a heftier tip than we gave him for risking his life to bring us food that night.

Anyway, the storm came and went. We survived, unscathed. Our lights flickered a lot. But we never lost power.

Even so, I spent the next two days fearing our power would suddenly cut and worrying myself sick about different scenarios that would cause: How would I sterilize baby’s bottles? How would I heat his formula? How would I keep him warm?

Fortunately, we never had to figure out the answers to these questions.

But many other families weren’t so lucky. More than 15,000 homes were destroyed and hundreds of lives were lost.

Coney Island

One NYC landmark that really took a beating was Coney Island, which sustained $1 million in damage.

The Bradley clan decided to pay a visit for the first time since the storm. Actually, last time we were there, baby was still baking in the oven.

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Family selfie on the way to Coney.

Expectations weren’t high. But as soon as we arrived, we were greeted with what seemed to be a cleaner, shinier Coney Island. Bright new signs adorned establishments that had been there for eons.

We breathed a sigh of relief when we spotted Nathan’s – an institution that is basically the area’s main identity. It looked exactly the same.

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My husband celebrated with some goopy cheese fries and a hotdog. But alas, I was wearing baby, so just had to sit there drooling and staring as he ate.

The weather wasn’t the greatest, so we didn’t really stop long to take in the sights on the beach.

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We took a little wander across the boardwalk and around Luna Park.

It was busy. The park looked unchanged. Baby began a pointing frenzy and stared open-mouthed at people whizzing by on all the rides. Really looking forward to when he is older and can enjoy the rides himself.

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We swung by Williams Candy before leaving and grabbed a couple of candy apples for the road.

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And on our walk back to the train, spotted a man outside the Freak Show shoving a screwdriver all the way up his nose. This is living.

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I would have to say the highlight of the day was seeing a man wearing the same exact outfit as our son. What a little trendsetter.

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It’s incredible to think of all the hard work that has gone on behind the scenes this past year to ensure the Coney Island experience still lives on. And it truly does.

I just hope these efforts weren’t in vain; meteorologists predict that a storm stronger than Sandy may strike this autumn.