Author Archives: Dana Lightstone

August 20, 2009

An attempt to clash-proof my daughter’s fall wardrobe

ButterflyDressThis summer my daughter Zoe, now 22-months started to insist on choosing her own outfits each day. While I want to encourage her independence and creativity, and I want to get out of the front door with as little toddler-drama as possible, I can’t say it pleases me to take my child out in a bright yellow and orange tank top, blue, green and pink tie dye leggings and green frog rain boots as was the case today (which happens to have been one of the few days this summer in which the skies were completely clear). So as I start to buy her clothes for the fall I am attempting to choose things that even a 2-year-old can’t horribly mismatch.

Daily Tea is always a favorite of ours and Zoe has had at least 2 mix-and-match outfits each season. These somehow always get worn as outfits and so she’s always stylish as long as she’s in her Daily Tea. I’ve decided that this fall Zoe’s non-Daily Tea clothes will have to consist of a lot of neutral bottoms –navy blue leggings, Tea’s Yoshi denim pants, and other choices that can be mixed with most anything. I also plan to look for patterned and solid dresses that can easily mix with the solid leggings. Jackets, sweaters and shoes will definitely have to be neutral as well.

Another key point to consider is that everything in her wardrobe must have at least two coordinating pieces. For example a shirt must go with a few different bottoms. The reason for this is that if Zoe sees this shirt in her drawer and insists on wearing it there had better be a pair of pants available that are not a) in the laundry b) uncomfortable and c) just not what she had in mind for that particular day.
Hopefully this won’t result in too boring of a selection –it does seem I will be shying away from any sort of bright color. I am really hoping that this plan helps to keep Zoe in better style than she has been this summer. Before I start shopping any suggestions of things that have worked for clash-proofing your child’s wardrobe would be greatly appreciated!

August 14, 2009

raising our little citizen in the big city

Many (most?) people don’t think of the city as a good place to raise kids. My husband Jeff and I do have our sights set for the future on a house with more space than our two-bedroom rental apartment, better schools than the ones available in our neighborhood, and a yard to relax in. But at the moment I cannot imagine a better place to live with our almost-two-year-old daughter Zoe and another baby on the way than the Financial District (recently called the “diaper district” in the New York Times) in New York City.

One of my favorite things about our lifestyle is we never have to get kids into cars. Zoe just climbs into one of her strollers and we’re off. We have at least four amazing playgrounds in our neighborhood and we’re pretty much guaranteed to run into some of our friends at any one of them on any given sunny morning or afternoon. The neighborhood is also hopping with other activities for little ones such as playgroups, classes, indoor playspaces, gyms with childcare, kid-friendly restaurants, toy and baby clothes stores, preschools and free outdoor activities for children in the summer. When Zoe starts pre-school this Fall her school is literally 10 feet from our building.

ZOE APRIL 033We also have a great network of friends right in our building. We meet for playgroups or in the building’s playroom or pool on cold or rainy days. We leave our kids with each other when we have to run non-kid friendly errands. What could be more convenient?
When we’re feeling more ambitious there are of course many things going on in other parts of the city –museums, zoos, restaurants, concerts especially for kids, etc.

Of course, there are certain sacrifices that we make to live in the city and as I mentioned, in the long run we’re not sure that the city is the place where we want our kids to grow up. Some days we dream of a yard and the convenience of pulling up to the grocery store in a car rather than hauling groceries home in our stroller or waiting around for delivery. That said, if and when we do make the move to a less urban environment we will miss many of the great aspects of living in the city with small children.

July 30, 2009

babymoon with a toddler?

I’ve always liked the idea of a “babymoon.” One last trip before the exhaustion of third trimester hits and before life gets a lot more hectic when a new baby arrives. A few months before my daughter was born my husband Jeff and I had a great time traveling to Belgium and London. During my second pregnancy my husband, our 21-month-old daughter Zoe and I took a trip to New England. We had a lot of fun on this trip despite it being the rainiest June in a couple of decades. Of course, the trip was not as relaxing as our first babymoon had been but we did get a little R&R in between running after a toddler.

Jeff has wanted to go to Maine for years so I had promised that the first summer that we were living on the East coast we would go. But last summer we ended up making so many trips for weddings and family visits that there was no time left for the Maine trip. This summer we figured that because of the pregnancy we are exempt from such family visits which involve long plane trips and we’re missing the two weddings we are invited to because they are too close to my due date. So we decided to take advantage of a summer off from travel obligations and take a 2-week road trip to New England.

The biggest challenge of the trip was that we did a lot of driving and Zoe (a real city kid) has spent very little time in the car and absolutely hates even a short drive. We tried to plan our drives around her nap time so she’d sleep for most of the trip though a few of our drives were just too long for her to nap the whole time. Long drives aren’t much fun to begin with but with a screaming toddler in the back seat being stuck in the car is even less fun!

In Maine our protein-shunning daughter was introduced to (and couldn’t get enough of) lobster, clams, muscles and scallops. Zoe also learned about another culinary love on this trip –ice cream. We introduced her to hiking in Arcadia National Park which she also loved though she only walked a short bit of the way on her own. For most of the hike Jeff carried her in a backpack which we figured put us on about even ground. Other highlights were the beaches in Maine and Martha’s Vinyard (when we had nice weather) and the Andrew Wyatt museum and Olsen house near Camden, Maine.

All in all the trip wasn’t as relaxing as our first “babymoon” when we had no kids but it was a wonderful family trip and it was well worth doing before we become a family of four.

June 13, 2009

tips for bringing your toddler to a restaurant

During the first year of our daughter Zoe’s life we made many attempts to enjoy a meal out with her. We found that lunches tended to be a bigger success than dinners because she would get so tired at night and since she wasn’t really eating too many solids at this time she would generally be cranky. We would then spend the entire meal passing her back and forth and taking turns eating while the other one of us walked around the restaurant with her trying to entertain her until we had settled the bill and could finally leave. Hardly an enjoyable experience!

As she got older and started to eat more herself we found that Zoe started to really enjoy eating out and now actually gets excited when we tell her we’re going to a restaurant. Now, at 20 months Zoe is a regular restaurant patron and as long as we go when she’s hungry and bring some stickers or crayons she’s happy to sit through the entire meal. Since we live in New York City and hardly ever eat out mid-week because my husband gets home too late we love that we can now enjoy weekend dinners out without paying a sitter. Also we really enjoy Zoe’s company in restaurants and we feel that eating out is an important thing for her to get used to. Here are some tips that we have learned for taking a toddler to a restaurant:

1) We no longer bring any food for Zoe. We have found that she prefers to eat something different than what she’d usually have –so the bread in the restaurant is more appealing to her than her snack trap filled with bunny crackers or o’s.
2) We try not to make walking around the restaurant even an option –we find this only encourages her to want to get up and walk whenever we go out. Of course if she’s really fussy or the meal is taking a long time we will take a walk with her but for the most part we try to encourage her to sit and it usually works.
3) We’ve found that if we are very enthusiastic about the fact that we’ll be eating in a restaurant she is excited for it and more likely to sit and eat quietly.
4) I try to stash away special toys and other distracters that she doesn’t usually get to play with so that they are exciting to her when we pull them out in a restaurant. Stickers, sticker books, different types of “neat” art projects such as those pens that draw with water, new books with flaps or textures or pop-ups have all been good distracters for us.
5) Finally, eat out often! I think this is the most important thing for getting your toddler used to eating in a restaurant.

May 18, 2009

does your toddler like spicy food?

My 19-month-old daughter Zoe likes a broad range of different cuisines including sushi, Indian, Mexican and Thai food to name a few, yet she does not like anything spicy.  My friend’s daughter who is about the same age loves anything spicy –she eats about half a container of Whole Foods guacamole at a sitting.  This same guacamole at first taste made my avocado-loving daughter cry and scream “mouth, mouth, juice please!”  My friend attributes her daughter’s love of spice to the fact that she herself ate spicy food while she was pregnant and while she was nursing her daughter.  But it would be difficult to find someone who ate more spicy food when pregnant or nursing than I did (I was known for putting very hot Vietnamese chili sauce on much of what I ate while pregnant).  Yet my daughter does not like spicy food.  The other day I gave her a fairly mild samosa and she took one bite and said “this too spicy for Zoe.  No eating.”
I know from my time living in India that babies and young children are usually fed a mild version of the food that their parents eat –made with all of the spices minus the chili powder (by taking out the child’s portion earlier in the cooking, before the chilies have been added).  In other parts of Asia I’ve seen families eat non-spicy food but add chilies to their own serving as desired.  This way the small children can eat the same food without it being spicy.  Then, as the children get older they can add spice little by little.  I assume that in other countries where the food tends to be spicy they also have a way of making a mild version for little kids to ease them into eating spicy food, but I don’t know this for sure.  Apparently different kids accept spiciness at different times –some by a year old are eating what their parents eat while for others it takes until they are 8 or 9.  In any event I’ve never heard of anyone raised on spicy food who does not like it as an adult, so all children who grow up with spicy food eventually learn to love it.

April 20, 2009

easter for everyone

People tend to have strong opinions about whether or not it’s okay for kids who are being raised as Jews to celebrate holidays such as Easter and Christmas.  For many, not celebrating these holidays is a matter of cultural pride.  I would argue that non-religious aspects of these holidays have become a part of American culture and that we should embrace these fun traditions just as we would our own.

That said, this year Easter came and went without my 18-month-old daughter Zoe even noticing.  Yet, next year, when she learns about Easter in school, I feel strongly that she should partake in egg coloring, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts and whatever else one does on Easter (with the exception of going to church).  I did these things as a child but I do remember certain relatives and friends reacting with shock and disapproval when they heard this.  And we all have that place where we draw the line.  My mom was happy to decorate eggs with me and let me hang a stocking for Santa but looked at our friends’ yearly Christmas tree with disapproval.  I would imagine that over the years we will experience some negative reactions as well.

There seems to be a widespread idea that Jewish kids feel left out and sad around the time of these holidays because they don’t partake in the fun.  I think for the most part this is a huge myth.  Maybe there are some kids that feel this way but generally I don’t think that for most it is really that big of a deal.  So my decision to introduce these traditions to Zoe is not because I don’t want her to feel left out when her peers are painting eggs or hanging stockings.  Rather, I think any sort of festivity is worth joining in on.  Why miss out on anything?  After all, in our family we also love to celebrate the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali and any other cultural tradition we can get our hands on.

April 10, 2009

celebrating our own culture

I’ve posted several times on this blog about teaching my 18-month-old daughter Zoe about other cultures through travel, cultural events, art, food and even Tea clothing! But I’ve never written about teaching Zoe about our own culture. Last night we celebrated the Jewish holiday of Passover at our home with 10 other family members.

Zoe loves to be the center of attention and had the time of her life with 4 admiring grandparents, 1 great-grandmother, 4 aunts and one uncle to entertain. Everyone was eager to teach her about the various customs and traditions of Passover. Last year we also celebrated Passover with Zoe but she was too young to partake in any of the customs.

My mother-in-law gave Zoe a children’s book on Passover with pictures of the different customs. Zoe loved flipping through the book and identifying each item on the table which matched the pictures -the wine cups, the parsley, bowls of salt water and others.

One of Zoe’s favorite parts of the night was searching for the afikomen which is a piece of matza (unleavened bread) wrapped in a cloth. It is traditional for an adult to hide the afikomen and for the kids to look for it. Zoe loves hiding games and we often hide and search for things for fun so this was right up her ally. Because she is so young the hiding spot was pretty basic -under the glass coffee table. Zoe was very proud of herself when she found it and everyone cheered. She was given money for it (as is the tradition) but wasn’t very interested in the money and handed it over to her dad.

Zoe also loved the blessings over the wine because she knows that her tiny silver kiddush cup (which is a traditional religious cup) is always filled with pure (meaning undiluted) white grape juice. Holidays are the only time she gets pure juice so this is always a treat for her.

The realization that Zoe has finally reached an age where she can partake in various rituals and customs and begin to form a sense of her own cultural heritage is exciting! I look forward to years of celebrating holidays and events from our own culture as well as from other cultures.

March 27, 2009

decorating

I’ve heard that a child’s IQ is actually increased if they are exposed to as many different things as possible in the world around them. I love for my daughter Zoe to be exposed to different styles from all around the world. This is why I am absolutely in love with Tea clothing for her. It is also why when decorating Zoe’s room I decided to draw in art and other design elements from different parts of the world.

On one wall I hung a beaded folk-art tapestry from Haiti that I bought in New Orleans years ago. It is a picture of an angel and a very sweet image for a baby’s room. On another wall I put two paintings that my parents and I brought back from China when I was thirteen years old. I remember at the time that my mom said they’d be great in a child’s room someday. I had forgotten about them until after Zoe was born when my mom took them out and suggested that they be hung in Zoe’s room. The paintings show people and animals on windy roads in what looks to be a Chinese village –at work, play, home. Zoe and I love to look at them every night before she goes to bed and point out the different animals in the pictures.

On the other side of the room is a small painting from a village in India that have spent a lot of time in. It is a picture of Ganesh the elephant god and is done in the Madhubani style of painting which is common in this village. When Zoe is a little older I plan to show her this painting and others and tell her about the village and eventually I’d like to take her there. My hope is that the different styles, cultures and images in her room will help make Zoe interested in the world around her.

March 13, 2009

palaces and playgrounds

Does it get more difficult to travel with kids as they get older? Are there certain ages that are more difficult to travel with than others? How much more difficult will it be to travel with two kids than with one? Since our first fabulous trip to Europe with a then 9-month-old Zoe (which I blogged about here several months ago) we have been asking ourselves all of these questions. On that trip some friends told us that we should enjoy it while it lasts because once she started walking she’d no longer be happy to go along with our activities and travel would become much more difficult. But we haven’t found this to be the case. We’ve found it nothing but pleasant to travel with our now 18-month-old. Now people are telling us that our travels will end this summer when we add another little one to our family. Yes there have been challenges (mainly the flights and the time changes!) but overall we look forward to more trips with Zoe this summer and after that with Zoe and her sibling.

Zoe’s second trip to London was a success. We all had a fantastic time. The main purpose of our trip was to go to a wedding but we also got in a lot of time with Zoe’s Great-Grandma Nita, saw lots of other family and had a lot of fun around London and some great dinners out. There is a lot to be said for traveling East with a baby -she didn’t get cranky at our 8pm dinners because to her it felt early and I got to sleep late for the first time in nearly 18 months!

For our last day in London we had gorgeous weather. It was in the 60s and sunny. We started the day at Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards because this is one of my greatest memories of trips to London as a kid (granted I was a little older than 17 months so we’ll have to take her back in a few years). After the guards we went to St. James Park which was absolutely gorgeous. We found a great playground which Zoe thoroughly enjoyed.

At Trafalgar square we took a replica of the picture we took last year of Zoe held up in the air with her belly exposed. We saw a great Picasso exibit at the National Gallery which Zoe napped through. One of the great things about traveling to a city with a baby that still needs sleep during the day is that we never had to worry about how to get this sleep in -we just went to a museum or other activity that she wouldn’t mind missing while she slept in the stroller. When we took Zoe to Costa Rica we spent a lot of time in the hotel rooms while she napped and her naps often dictated our day’s activities.

I often hear that kids don’t usually eat as well while traveling as when they are home. We have definitely found this to be the case. I have wondered why Zoe doesn’t seem to eat much on our trips since we always find her favorite foods and she eats well in restaurants at home. I just try to remember that kids will always supposedly eat enough to get the very minimum of nutrients that they need. The only meal Zoe actually ate on the entire trip was at The Rock and Sole Plaice which is the oldest fish and chips restaurant in London. We couldn’t blame her as it was excellent!

The next day we headed out to Waddesdon where the wedding was. The wedding was beautiful. It was in the dairy at the Waddesdon manor which is an amazing house built in the late 19th century for the Rothchilds. In England it seems to be pretty common to bring kids to weddings and Zoe had a great time playing with her cousins and soaking up lots of attention at the wedding. For me it was a bit exhausting running after her in heels and I prefer the New York way of hiring a sitter when going to a formal event!

Stay tuned as we find out if travel gets more difficult over the years.

February 11, 2009

learning to eat fake sushi

My husband Jeff always swore that our kids would grow up exposed to many different types of cuisine. He was particularly sensitive to this because he has always felt somewhat cheated as a result growing up on bland boring English food. My Mother-in-law dislikes any type of seasoning including garlic. It wasn’t until he was in his twenties that he tried different types of food and hasn’t looked back since (he’s somewhat of a foodie). Since we eat various types of ethnic food regularly there was no question that our daughter Zoe would as well.
As a first birthday gift Zoe received a wooden toy sushi set. It’s an adorable toy. At this time she was just starting to eat finger foods such as peas and o-shaped cereal and wasn’t quite ready for anything quite as large as a piece of sushi. But she quickly became somewhat obsessed with the sushi toy. She’d point to it and say “sushi, sushi” asking us to take it down from the shelf. She loved to try to pick up the sushi pieces with one Velcro chopstick tip attaching itself to the Velcro on the sushi piece. She loved taking apart the sushi pieces and reattaching them to a different piece of rice. She also loved pretending that she was eating it by putting a piece to her mouth and smacking her lips.

A few months later, pregnant with Zoe’s sibling-to-be, I went through a bought of first trimester sickness. The only thing I could eat for a couple of weeks was veggie sushi rolls and I craved them constantly. We made almost daily trips to the café area of Whole Foods for veggie sushi rolls. Many nights the three of us went out to our local Japanese restaurant for “sushi” which again meant avocado rolls for me and Zoe and “real” sushi for Jeff.

Over the course of these two weeks Zoe became obsessed not only with her sushi toy but also with the food itself. Now that I am over that phase we still eat sushi pretty often –partially because Zoe requests it. When I ask her if she wants to eat lunch she asks “sushi?” When she’s playing with her toys and sets the toy people around the little toy table and chairs and I ask “Zoe what are they having for dinner?” the answer is always “sushi.” Since the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting until at least age four to introduce raw fish, for now the only thing in her sushi rolls is avocado or cucumber. However, I hear that in Japan both pregnant women and young children eat raw fish as long as it’s not tuna or other high-mercury types –so maybe we’ll both be eating a spicy scallop roll earlier than I had thought.