Author Archives: Dana Lightstone

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.

January 28, 2009

introducing a world of winter sports

My husband and I love to ski and ever since our 16-month-old daughter Zoe was born we have been anxious to get her on skis. We first brought her to Jackson Hole, WY when she was 3 months old but of course she spent most of her time indoors on that trip. This year, at 15 months we brought her back to Jackson Hole and she actually did get an introduction to snow and winter sports.
The first time that we took her out in the snow we just let her walk around and get a feel for it. She didn’t like the fact that it was slippery and difficult to walk. I guess when you’ve only learned to walk a few months ago it’s probably pretty annoying when something like snow interferes with this new freedom. She also got cold very quickly because she refused to keep her mittens on. A passer-by suggested duct tape and that worked wonders!
After this initial time out in the snow we decided it was time for her to try skiing. We bought little skis that are made specifically for the under-two set and strap on to regular snow boots. When we first put them on her she was not happy at all, but once we got her sliding down the mountain (well it was technically just a pile of snow in the driveway) she was having the time of her life. Afterwards we built a snowman which she was intrigued by and pulled her around on a makeshift sled which she loved.
Zoe’s least favorite snow activity was definitely the horse-drawn sled through the Elk Reserve. We thought she would love this because she loves animals. As it turned out the snow was coming down in her face and she was cold and so she hardly even noticed the horses or the elk even when we pointed them out. I don’t think anyone on the sled was too happy with us! Maybe we’ll try it again someday but not until she’s at least 6 or 7!

December 5, 2008

global gifts for the holidays

Gifts are a great way to teach kids to think with a global perspective. Two gifts really stand out to me as great globally oriented gifts –one that we gave and one that we received.

We recently went to the 2nd birthday party for a friend’s son. On the Evite invitation they asked that instead of gifts guests consider making a donation to an organization called Heifer. When I went onto the organization’s site I saw the great selection of gifts that could be purchased for this organization which aims to relieve hunger and poverty around the world. We chose a portion of a water-buffalo. While my daughter Zoe at 14 months is a little young to understand what she gave to her friend for his birthday over time she will start to understand. The birthday boy received a card with a picture of an animal that described our contribution. The organization describes this and other gifts as the “must-have gift of the year: self-reliance.” How great is that gift?

This gift inspired me: for Zoe’s next birthday and as she gets older and more aware I am going to request that some of her gifts be donations to help Ijot, a children’s library in rural India that I’ve been involved with for years. At some point I plan to bring her to the library to meet the children who use it. Children, libraries, and animals are all things that small children can relate to and for this reason they are great donation gifts for children.

On a lighter note, we have received some great board books about different cuisines by Amy Wilson Sanger. We have one about Indian snack food and one about sushi. These are two of our favorite cuisines and we always take the books with us to the restaurant. Zoe loves to look at the pictures and hear the rhymes about the food that she is going to eat.

November 19, 2008

celebrating diwali in new york

This past weekend we celebrated Diwali (the Indian new year) in a restaurant in New York with about 50 other adults and numerous children –some Indian, some not. We are not Indian, but I have spent a lot of time in India and speak Hindi and always like to find ways to encourage my daughter Zoe to learn about this amazing part of the world. We often celebrate Indian holidays with our Indian friends, make frequent trips to Queens or uptown for the best Indian food, and we look forward to taking our daughter to India at the first chance that we get.

Diwali is a Hindu festival which is known as the festival of lights and is celebrated with four days of burning lanterns. Diwali celebrates the marriage of the Hindu deities Lakshmi and Vishnu (though there are theories which dispute this origin). In India and Nepal Diwali is a national holiday.

I remember celebrating my first Diwali in India. In the South Indian town that I was living in it was tradition to decorate everything inside and outside of the house –computers, cows, living spaces. Tea lights were set up throughout the home and fireworks went off in the sky for four very noisy days (and nights) as a thank you to the deities for things on earth. Everyone wore new clothes for the holiday and took a bath in the morning before putting on these new clothes.

Today Zoe was dressed in an Indian outfit and ate Indian food while Bollywood music played in the background. She scribbled on coloring books of Hindu deities and lanterns. She loved the food and had a great time playing with the other kids. My hope is that as Zoe grows up Diwali, as well as other Indian holidays and customs, will be something that she recognizes as a familiar and fun celebration that we do every year.

November 14, 2008

a multi-generational trip to costa rica

My father first proposed the idea for a family trip to celebrate his seventieth birthday when I was 3-months-pregnant with Zoe. We knew that at the time of the trip “the baby” would be a little over a year old. We went through several possible locations for the big trip –Japan, France, Morocco, the Caribbean. We decided on Costa Rica partially because it seemed like it would be a fun, interesting and relaxing trip to take with a young toddler, and it was.

One of the great highlights for all of us was seeing Zoe reach one of life’s great milestones during the first few days of the trip –she learned to walk. She had been taking steps for a few weeks but it was on the trip that she really took off and walked on her own. Of course she had a very excited fan club of parents and grandparents cheering her on.

Zoe was very different on this trip than on our summer trip to Europe. While she is still very young I did feel that she got more out of this trip than the last. She was giddy with excitement over the butterflies and giant cats in La Paz. She loved going in the hot springs at Arenol. She loved the beach at Papagayo and loved playing in the sand and swimming in the ocean. She loved all of the tropical fruit. Most of the people that we met were incredibly warm and friendly to her and she enjoyed making new friends. As she becomes more aware it becomes more and more fun for us to travel with her and to see her excitement at doing and seeing new things. The trip was such a success that we are taking another –next month we are going to California and Wyoming.