Eclipse Safety: How and Where to Watch with Children

The solar eclipse is coming up on Monday. There are lots of things to know before you step outside. Read on to learn when to see it, how to see it, and where to see it (how about at a library party?)

WHEN TO CATCH THE ECLIPSE

A total eclipse is making a path from Oregon to South Carolina over several hours on Monday afternoon. Since we are north of that, we won’t be able to see a complete eclipse in Westchester, but experts predict we will see about a 70% covering. Pretty cool!

In our viewing radius, the eclipse will last about an hour and a half, beginning around 1:30pm, peaking around 2:45pm when the moon hits the center of the sun, and ending around 4pm.

If you can’t get outside at that time, you can watch the eclipse live at NASA’s website. Click here for more info.

 

HOW TO WATCH THE ECLIPSE SAFELY

Whether it's a good idea to watch the eclipse in person depends on your child’s age. Let’s first talk about the risks. Watching the eclipse without any eye protection can be blinding, as you are literally burning your retinas, and since they don’t have any pain receptors, you won’t have any idea the damage is happening. According to Angela Fritz of the Washington Post, “Depending on the sky conditions, it only takes about a minute and a half for your eyes to be permanently damaged, and the damage is cumulative, meaning you don’t have to stare at the sun without looking away for it to be harmful — you may just be taking quick glances, but it’s still damaging your eye.”

And don’t just think you can slap on some sunglasses and call it a day. Sunglasses only block up to 60% of light rays, but eclipse glasses block 99.9%. They’re the only safe way to watch directly. Want a pair? Call your public library, as they have all been issued safe glasses. Or you can head to a store, but you risk getting a pair that is not authorized. How do you know if your pair is safe to use? NASA has released a list of the only 5 authorized manufacturers:

• Baader Planetarium
• Rainbow Symphony
• Thousand Oaks Optical
• TSE 17
• American Paper optics.

Once you verify the manufacturer, check for the ISO number 12312-2 printed on the side.

Got your hands on some glasses? Check the fit on your child. If your child is old enough to keep the glasses safely on without removing them or peeking around the lenses, you should be safe. If they don’t pass the test, there are still a few ways to watch the eclipse.

Make a pinhole camera

With a pinhole camera, you can stand with your back to the sun and watch the eclipse as it’s reflected through a tiny hole poked into a surface. This is a safe way to let your little ones get outside for the eclipse without worrying about their vision. Here are two DIY guides to make a pinhole camera. This is a great project to complete with a curious kid!

Click here for NASA’s pinhole camera project.

Click here for the Boy Scouts of America’s pinhole camera project

 

Watch it streaming

This is what I recommend if you have little ones who want to watch. This will also be your best bet if it’s cloudy or raining, because unless the sun is out in a clear sky you won’t be able to see the magic anyway. NASA is streaming the eclipse live here.

 

 BEST PLACES TO WATCH THE ECLIPSE                                          

Any place with an unobstructed view of the sun during the eclipse time will be perfect. Not sure if your back yard is a candidate? Head outside during the future eclipse timeframe on a sunny day this weekend and see where the sun is. Most large parks will have a good view as well.

A number of libraries are throwing viewing parties. If you’re interested in attending, call to verify that there are spots left and that you are eligible. Check out our list below for a sampling of libraries that are sponsoring viewing parties.

Warner Public Library, Tarrytown

Riverfront Library, Yonkers

Crestwood Library, Yonkers

Harrison Public Library

Chappaqua Public Library

Eastchester Public Library

Mamaroneck Public Library

Ossining Public Library 

 

Wherever and however you watch it, we hope you have a great time! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Part 3: How to Display Your Zillion Baby Photos

Hi everyone! We’re back with our final installment of our photo series: How to Display Your Zillion Baby Photos. I’ve collaborated with professional (amazing!) kids and family photographer Jaye McLaughlin of The Life in Your Years Photography to tackle the harrowing topic of what to do with all those photos. Read on for my system and her professional tips.

But first: We have the winner of our Family Four Pack of Tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers. Watch to see if you won.

 

STEP 3: DISPLAY YOUR PHOTOS

When we last left off, we were sorting our photos into two projects: a slimmed-down Best of The Year highlights photo scrapbook, and 4x6 prints of everything else that’s good enough to print. But those aren’t the only options. Read on for some more ideas.

THE ALBUM OF PRINTS

Let’s start with the easy part. Now that you have loads of photos in your to-print album, you just need to upload them to a site (I prefer adoramapix.com), choose a size and finish (I like 4x6 luster finish, which is a type of matte), and head to a store or the web to purchase your blank photo albums. I use simple 4x6 sleeve albums from Amazon. I don’t try to fit everything in one book. Instead I buy matching albums that hold about 200 photos each for each kid for each year. Then you just have to load the prints in and you’re done. Adoramapix.com has a free option to label the back of the photo with the filename and/or date, which makes it easier to sort should your stack get knocked over by, say, an enthusiastic toddler.

THE DIGITAL FRAME

Since you’ve gone through all that trouble to make a digital album of selects, why not upload them to a digital frame and enjoy your photos 24-7? There are several digital picture frames out there, but I like my Nixplay frame. It connects with WiFi and uses their website nixplay.com to access your photos from the most popular photo storage places, such as Google Photos or iPhoto. You can easily add files to an album on Nixplay and make a collage, controlling the transitions and rotation time. You can also buy a frame for grandma or grandpa and hook them up to the same account, so they can share in the fun. The best part is when you add new photos to your album, they come up across all your frames, whether in your home or at grandma’s house.

THE PHOTO WALL

My favorite way to display my best photos is a wall of framed snapshots in the house. But making one is easier said than done. Do it the right way, and it adds coziness and warmth to your home. Do it the wrong way, and it turns into College-Meets-IKEA decorating. Want tips to get it right? Check out our upcoming DIY Decorating Blog to find out.

BGCPhoto3-3.jpg

THE ANNUAL SCRAPBOOK

This will be your opus. These albums take a long time to make, so if you want it for the holiday season, you’ll need to get started this fall. I like to have mine done by Cyber Monday so I can take advantage of the sales and have them printed and delivered in time for Christmas.

If you followed our last post, you’ve taken the time to make that highly curated Best Of The Year album on your computer or in a service like Google Photos, so now is the time for all that hard work to pay off. Your impulse will be to dive right in and start uploading to the first photobook website you see, but take some time to browse around and find exactly what you want. I loved Adoramapix when I created my wedding album because it had classy extras like leather binding and metallic edges, but I found their templates were a bit too stuffy for a 1-year-old’s first scrapbook. I ended up using Shutterfly because I liked their baby theme templates. Jaye uses McGuire Storybooks for her professional photo books because their quality is top notch and Blurb.com for her annual family scrapbooks because she likes the ease of use.

Next, decide what size and shape you want the album to be. Do you need it to fit on a bookshelf, or should it be coffee-table size? Or perhaps you want it smaller to fit on a nightstand or in a child’s room. You can change your mind later, but it’s better to start with the exact template you want to avoid any issues from resizing. I learned the hard way when I went to change the size after I created last year's book, and some of the text on the pages got altered because it didn’t shrink quite to scale.

Once you have all that worked out and have chosen a template as a starting point, The next step is to upload your pictures to the scrapbook platform. BUT WAIT! Are your photos going to be uploaded chronologically? If they are on your computer in any other way, take the time now to reorder them or rename the files, whatever it takes to get them in the Shutterfly (or other service) holding spot in the correct order. If you don’t, it will take you twice as long to scroll through your collection trying to figure out what photo should come next. Got it set? Great! Upload away!

Now you’re ready to go, working within the template to place the photos into the pages, keeping in mind variety of layouts, page and frame colors, any captions you want to add, and any elements of art that you want to pop in to accent your pages.

Sounds too easy? Full disclosure: I am a graphic designer by trade, so this is my jam. I’m in my zone using fun fonts, cute phrases, and combining elements from the template to make a supercute finished project. If you’re anything less than a career designer, you might want to heed Jaye’s pared-down approach. Here’s what she recommends for anyone who is intimidated by the task of laying out a scrapbook:

Designing the pages of your scrapbook is time consuming and overwhelming, but I’ve got some tips on how to get it done fairly painlessly.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

Keep it simple

I like to keep my family photo books classic so they will never go out of style. It might be fun to lay on the bells and whistles now, but you might not like fancy layouts and colorful photo frames in ten years. The bigger reason is that simple is just easier, and easier = more likely to get done. So my pages highlight my favorite photos on a white background.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

Keep it clean

Let’s face it, you want your favorite photos to be BIG, so that you can drink in every detail when you revisit the book again and again. I like to choose a “hero” shot for each spread and place it large on one side. On the other side, I include a few smaller, related images that complement the hero.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

Don’t forget to tell the story

Don’t be so brutal in your culling process that you eliminate those little "in between" moments and details that tell the story of your life. A book full of photos of uniformly perfect smiles will be nice to look at, but it won’t be nearly as interesting in one that tells a story with outtakes and and details — just like real life.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

Remove roadblocks

If you find yourself slowing down your pace, ask yourself what is holding you back. Can you just leave that part out? For me, it used to be torture coming up with titles, captions and commentary that I thought should be part of my albums. I would start out strong, but after a while they would sound so CORNY. I cringed imagining myself reading those captions years down the road. I finally realized I was better off with no words in my album designs, and was able to get them printed much more quickly.  

After the printed versions arrive, I page through with a Sharpie and add headings and notes, and the end result is much more natural. Figuring out and eliminating my roadblock enabled me to power through and get to the finished book.

Jaye's next two tips are so genius I had to share them with you:

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

BONUS TIP 1

One day I noticed that my daughter was taking cameraphone photos of the printed pages of our photo scrapbooks in order to share them digitally, and I realized she had no good way to download the photo files in the book without giving her the power to access (and possibly accidentally destroy) all my digital photos. Plus how would she know where to even start looking? To fix this, I now burn a CD of the photos included in each book and tape it to the inside cover. Now anyone can access digital versions quickly and easily.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

BONUS TIP 2

If your designed book is feeling a little…cold, with all those perfect shots and whitespace, try this trick: Sprinkle a few pages of tightly gridded, smaller Instagram-style shots. This adds a more spontaneous, personal, yearbook style that complements the larger, more formal layouts.

I hope that was helpful! Thanks again to Jaye McLaughlin for expert advice. Be sure to check out her blog for everything you need to know about family photography. That wraps up our series. I hope you have everything you need to go forth and conquer your photo To Do list. 

As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

Good Dirty Fun at Mess Fest

Hi everyone!

Thanks for entering our giveaway for a Family Four Pack of tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers. Stay tuned next week when we'll announce the winner.

We’re taking a break from our photo series to tell you about an awesome event that happened over the weekend: The 2017 Mess Fest at Kiwi Country Day Camp, a fundraising day of play organized by The Muddy Puddles Project. Tickets were $35 (or you can go for free if you sign up to fundraise a minimum of $100 for the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation which collects money for pediatric cancer research.) For $35 a person, we had high expectations, and we were blown away by how much there was to do at every age level.

Missed the fun? Read on to find out how you can host your own Mini Mess Fest birthday or block party to benefit the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation.

The event was from 11am to 4pm at the expansive grounds of the day camp. Visitors had access to four swimming pools, a lake with slides and logrolls, kayaking and paddle boating, basketball courts, tennis courts, a climbing wall, a golf driving range, a zip line, two playgrounds, mini golf, and much more. You could spend the whole day on those alone, but the Mess Fest also had tons of additional (messy) activities, including a food fight area, muddy puddles to jump in, splatter painting, a “kiddie car wash” foam machine, whipped cream pie toss, mud pit, and dirty dunk.

A balloon pop, arts and crafts, temporary hair color, balloon twisting, face painting, henna tattoos, nail art, three inflatable activity slides, a giant slip n slide set up hillside, an obstacle course, tye dye station, bounce station, candy sushi making, kiddie bingo, sensory art, and treasure hunts.

Not enough? There was also entertainment by magicians, a band, and character appearances by Disney princesses Aurora and Anna, Star Wars figures, and Peppa Pig.

There was so much to do and so much space to do it in that there were very few lines. We spent about two hours having a blast before we had to head out to accommodate naps, and I wish I had been there all day to be able to experience everything. There’s plenty of room to walk around and the grounds are stroller friendly. If you want to get muddy and covered with paint, you can, but if you want to stay clean and dry, that’s easy too.

Our 2.5 year olds had a blast on the inflatables, the foam machine, and playing in the sand by the lake. The food for purchase was delicious and reasonably priced (or maybe it seemed that way because we just got back from Disney World). There was Peppa Pig merchandise for grabs at suggested donation and a raffle of Peppa-themed prizes. We went home with a free bottle of laundry detergent from sponsor Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day. There was a special VIP area for children and families affected by pediatric cancer that featured toys and giveaways. This was one of the best local events we’ve ever been to, and we can’t wait to be first in line next year to get tickets. Put this on your radar for summer 2018 and don’t worry, we’ll remind you next year.

If you missed the event but want to get involved, you can visit The Muddy Puddles Project website or the Ty Louis Campbell Foundation website. You can donate, purchase merchandise, or even host your own Welly Walk Fundraiser or Mini Mess Fest. Some volunteers will be entered to get the chance to win a meet-and-greet with Peppa Pig.

Click here to view instructions and downloadable materials for your own Mini Mess Fest or click here for information on hosting your own Welly Walk.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs. And don't forget to tune in next week to see if you won the family four pack to LEGOLAND in Ridge Hill.

See you next time!

Andrea


Part 2: How to Organize Your Zillion Baby Photos

We’re back with our second installment of this series. I’m collaborating with kids and family photographer Jaye McLaughlin of The Life in Your Years Photography to bring you professional advice in addition to my own tips. Click here to read our first post about how to best store and back up your photos. I'll wait.... You back? Now that we’ve safeguarded them, let’s move on to the next step.

But first, have you entered our giveaway? Win a Family Four Pack of tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers! To be entered in the drawing, email info@babygotchat.com with your full name, hometown, and phone number. I'll be collecting entries until July 31st. 

STEP 2: ORGANIZE YOUR PHOTOS

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

I already mentioned that for every cute photo I have of my kids, I have 5 or 6 outtakes that I can’t bring myself to delete. If you have more willpower than me and always pare down to your favorite shot the moment you take photos, this next part will be much easier. If you don’t, you’ll eventually have to go through and decide which shots to use in a printed album or photo book. The best way to do this?

Note: This walkthrough uses Google Photos as the storage app, but no matter where your photos are stored, the process should be similar.

Before we can sort, we need to define the end product. My goal is to design annual photo books of my children that use about 75 iconic shots that define the year. I probably have three times that many cute shots, so what do I do with those extra pictures that don’t deserve eternal banishment to the digital world, but also shouldn’t be clogging up a curated photo book?

I print them out in 4x6 size and put them into old-school, your-mom-made-em-in-the-80s photo albums. This lets me enjoy all the good photos AND design a photo book that isn’t 300 pages long and/or crammed full of photos scaled to 1” size.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

So, with that end in mind, I sort all my photo files into a "to print" digital album in Google Photos, and then out of those selects I create a smaller "photo book" album of about 75 favorites. Sorting them twice might seem like more work, but I prefer it because when it comes time for the photo book selects, I’m only looking at my favorites, not everything, so I can get a sense of how the photo book collection will look as a piece (it’s easier to notice if your kid is wearing the same outfit in four photos when you are going through 100 photos versus going through 500).

Plus, the first time you sort, you can do it more easily. You're just asking yourself: Yes or No? Print or don’t? I don’t have to tear my hair out wondering “Is this PHOTO BOOK good?” Plus, you’ll want 4x6 original prints of all the photos you end up using in your photo book since they’ll probably get cropped or altered as you design the book.

It may be an easy sort, but it’s also tedious, so if you have a whole year’s worth of photos to go through you might want to break it into smaller chunks. I used to work on this during my morning commute because it’s the perfect activity when you’re groggy.

Here’s what to do: Starting with the photos from January 1st and working to the end of the year, you’re going to look at every photo you have and decide (quickly, gut instinct), if you want to add this to your 4x6 print pile. If there are several versions of the same pose, pick the best one. I create an album in Google Photos called “2017 [kid’s name] Selects” and add the photos I want to keep to this album. When you’re done, you should have twelve months of printworthy photos in the one album of selects. Don’t be scared by how many you have. 4x6 prints are so cheap, you’ll probably spend more on the actual photo albums than you will filling them.

A NOTE ABOUT RETOUCHING: I know we all want to be thinner with no visible pores or bags under our eyes, but when you’re creating an album of family photos, try not to go crazy worrying about retouching. It will just suck up your time and no one will notice or care about the difference. If you need a little more convincing, read this article, or repeat to yourself about people noticing your flaws: “The ones that care don’t matter, and the ones that matter don’t care.” The same goes for Instagram-style filters. You can worry about making every photo amazing in your final photo book, but for the 4x6 prints, the original lighting and coloring is fine.

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

PHOTO BY JAYE MCLAUGHLIN

Now that you've made an album of favorites, you could stop there and bask in the fact that you’ve already done more than most moms. Then you just have to upload the album you made onto a photo printing website (I prefer adoramapix.com prints in “luster” finish) and print them out. If you don’t have a deadline and can wait for a deal, you can upload your pictures now and print them once you get a discount code.

Or you can keep working to make a photo book. For this you’ll want about 35-75 fantastic photos. To find these, I go into my “selects” folder and start picking the best of the best. I copy them to another album called “[kid’s name] Best of 2017” This album should be a lot quicker to fill, as you’re going through fewer photos and you’re looking for only the iconic and most memorable moments of the year.

Jaye’s got a similar system for sorting through the hundreds of pictures she takes every year with the goal of printing an annual photo book. Her folders of “faves”, “to include” and “to exclude” piles are made digitally within Adobe Lightroom, but the same principle applies: do the (brutal!) sorting early on so you can make the actual photo book design at the end of the year a much less behemoth task. She says:

"If you’re like me, you’ve got a LOT of photos. Start the design process with the expectation that you’re NOT going to include every. single. photo. A little organization on the front end will save you tons of time when you’re designing the layouts.  Knowing going in which photos will be included in the book, and which will be the “heroes” will make designing the actual pages much easier, since you’ll have only the actual photos you’re using in front of you and you’ll know from the start which ones you want to highlight in the design."

Jaye's “to exclude” photos don’t get printed the way they would with my system, but she’s got a sort of consolation prize for many of the ones that wouldn’t make it into her highly curated annual book: 

I use Chatbooks! Chatbooks are small bound books of photos automatically collected and mailed to you. How does it work? They use a middle man: Instagram. Even if you don’t use Instagram regularly, you could start posting your favorite photos there throughout the month. My goal is to make sure my favorites get printed, and I know that if they don’t make it onto Instagram, they don’t end up in print.  

A Chatbook is created once you’ve reached 60 photos, however long that takes. You get the opportunity to choose a cover photo and make any changes, and a few days later it’s on its way.

You did it! Now we can move on to our third installment: Displaying your photos. We’ll talk about designing the photo book and getting the best out of the pictures you have. Thanks to Jaye McLaughlin for her tips! Be sure to check out her website for more info.

That's it for this week! This is your last chance to enter our giveaway! Win a Family Four Pack of tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers! To be entered in the drawing, email info@babygotchat.com with your full name, hometown, and phone number. I'll be collecting entries until July 31st. As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

How to Store, Organize, and Display Your Zillion Baby Photos

Like most moms, I'm constantly taking pictures of my kids. I have photos of my oldest from literally every day of the first year of her life. And since toddlers don’t pose, each moment I shoot on camera has about 5 or 6 different outtakes. Multiply that by their age in days, and we’re talking close to 10,000 photos and counting! Pare down, you say? Ever try to delete a photo of your child? That would be like picking out a Cronut to throw away (um, they’re all good, even the ones that don’t look perfect!). Take these three photos. It's blurry because he's bouncing. So cute! How am I supposed to delete that? Which brings us to...

How am I ever going to organize these pictures into albums? And what happens if I lose my phone? It’s enough to make any mom dump the jpegs on her desktop and call it a day.

Photo by Jaye McLaughlin

Photo by Jaye McLaughlin

You can get your pictures under control quickly and easily—all it takes is a plan, and you’ve got to find one that works for you.  I’ve collaborated with professional (amazing!) kids and family photographer Jaye McLaughlin of The Life in Your Years Photography to tackle the harrowing topic of what to do with all those photos and show you what has worked for us. Read on for my system and her professional tips. This is the first installment of a 3-part series.

But first, have you entered our giveaway? Win a Family Four Pack of tickets to LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers! To be entered in the drawing, email info@babygotchat.com with your full name, hometown, and phone number. I'll be collecting entries until July 31st. 

 

PART 1: STORE YOUR PHOTOS

If your photos live solely on a phone or computer, you’re one accident away from losing all your irreplaceable family memories. Sure, you have some pics on Facebook, but most of those aren’t high quality enough to print. You need a place to put the photos where they are backed up and safe. At home, we have an external hard drive and it’s great for storage, but it makes accessing and sorting through the photos a pain. And besides, what mom can sit down at a computer with jealous children yelling and swatting at the keyboard? I need photos I can wade through while holding my phone high in the air out of reach.

Enter Google Photos. Not only does it store your photos in the cloud, where fire, rain (ironically), and tiny hands that seek to destroy aren’t an issue, but it also contains searchability and auto-formatting that traditional hard-drive desktop folders can't offer. I can launch the app on my phone and click a button called “Free Up Space” that will back up AND delete local copies to clear out my phone’s memory so I can shoot 100 more 30-second video clips of my son maybe-almost-but-actually-not-crawling.

Google Photos also uses face recognition so you can sort by person. Their search bar is so advanced, I can search by location (it automatically geotags your photos), by keyword, by specific date, etc. I’ve searched things like “playground”, “library”, “receipt”, “paint” and found what I was looking for.  The is a huge advantage to using your computer's folders because you aren't limited to only knowing the date and file name. You might not remember exactly when that hibachi dinner was, but on Google Photos it doesn’t matter because you can easily figure it out with a keyword, person, or location search.

The home screen has an Assistant tab that displays flashback photos (“Rediscover this day”), automatically makes collages and albums based on date or location, and makes gif animations from your bursts or series of similar photos. You can also make your own versions of animations or collages.

Google Photos has a free version, but we decided to migrate every picture we've ever taken. For access to upgraded storage and features, we pay $10 a month. To give us peace of mind and ease of use, it’s totally worth it.

Photo by Jaye McLaughlin

Photo by Jaye McLaughlin

Jaye has a more professional storage system if you want to go the hard drive route or can’t handle the thought of all those files not being tucked neatly into folders. She writes:

Start with a “Pictures” folder, create subfolders within for each year, then make subfolders in those for each month. I start these folder names with the number for each month (i.e. “1-January”). Why? Because your computer will list the months in alphabetical order if you don’t give it some reason not to.

Once a month, I make sure that all the photos I have recently taken have been downloaded to my computer. I save them all in a folder of originals labeled for that month. I go through this folder and delete the duds and duplicates. Then I sort them into the “Pictures” folder by date.

 

That’s it for now. In our next installment, we’ll talk about how to organize your photos to quickly create albums of print-ready or photobook-ready shots. A special thanks to Jaye McLaughlin for her tips! For more photo advice, check out her blog.

And don't forget to enter our giveaway! Email info@babygotchat.com with your full name, hometown, and phone number. I'll be collecting entries until July 31st. 

As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Baby Races and Win a Family Four Pack to Legoland Westchester

On your mark, get set, go! The NYC Triathlon Diaper Derby was held this past Friday. In its eighth year, the Diaper Derby is a crawling race among about 30 young athletes. Dubbed “The Slowest Two Minutes in Sports,” this race is more about personality than agility. Who will get distracted by the photographers? Who will freeze at the starting line? Who will focus on the remote control being waved by mommy and crawl over without delay?  

BabyGotChat’s resident infant, Cameron, was our representative from Westchester. He was entered in the race weeks earlier, and I was sure he’d be crawling on race day based on his older sister's progress at his age. But he's a lover, not a crawler, and when we arrived at the midtown NYC Hilton, he still hadn’t taken his first…uh…what’s the crawling version of a first step?

But he had enthusiasm! He had fun putting his special onesie and bib and hanging out with the babies on the mat. And funnily enough, he wasn’t the only baby not to move when the announcer shouted “Go!” In the end, the prize went to 11-month old Brooke from Dallas. But I think Cameron picked up some tips on the racetrack because he ALMOST crawled today.

 

WIN A FAMILY FOUR PACK OF TICKETS TO LEGOLAND DISCOVERY CENTER WESTCHESTER

Early this morning (well, early to some. A mom's 7am is like a normal person's 10am) we visited LEGOLAND Discovery Center at Ridge Hill in Yonkers to check out their new Ninjago play space and celebrate the launch of their two-week event "Kids vs. Grown-Ups Imagination Build-Off Challenge". This 5-minute faceoff has parents and kids competing to see who can design the most creative LEGO structure. Winners will be entered for a chance to win a private build session with our Master Model Builder. If you want to participate, visit the LEGO Master Builder Academy inside the Discovery Center July 17th-20th and July 24th- 27th at 3:30pm an 5:30 pm.

WPIX 11 News was there, and my little one got her fifteen minutes of fame. Click here for the video.

If you haven't been to Legoland recently, they have remodeled their play structure to be more LEGOfied than their original basic play place. Ninjago City Adventure boasts areas to climb, balance, and spin to your heart's content. At the Discovery Center there are also two amusement-park-style rides, a theatre, a toddler area with giant foam LEGOs, a girly LEGO Lounge with couches and pink blocks, and a snack bar with LEGO cash registers. My little one ran around for hours. She was a bit too small to climb into the play structure without my help, but rumor has it they are starting up their Little Playtimes for toddlers in the fall, where you can bring your preschool set without worrying about getting slammed by the older kids. We'll be back this fall with a review.

Want to see for yourself? Win a Family Four Pack! To be entered in the drawing, email info@babygotchat.com with your full name, hometown, and phone number. I'll be collecting entries until July 31st. 

For discount admission to LEGOLAND, mention the code WPIX to save 20% at the door or buy your tickets online here

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

The Cheap Mom’s Guide to Westchester

We live in one of the richest counties—newspapers love to point out how much more we pay for real estate and taxes. It may seem to the rest of America that we're crazy for sticking around, but with so many nearby things to do, especially for kids, it's hard to imagine living anywhere else.

But those things come at a price: Maritime Museum on Monday, Rockin' Jump on Tuesday, the Children’s Museum on Wednesday, etc., can really add up. I have to be careful to pick one or two paid activities a week or I could easily blow all our mad money on experiences my child might be too young to remember. It's especially painful to spend $25 on one hour of excitement at a play spot when she seems to have as much fun playing with the empty Amazon box in the living room.

So if you’re looking for kid-friendly experiences around town and don’t want to break the bank, here are my best cheapskate spots:

 

EAT FOR CHEAP

If you haven’t familiarized yourself with my list of places kids eat free, click here and commit it to memory. Otherwise, big chains and diners are great places to feed kids for less. When we get breakfast with our toddler at the diner, instead of getting a plate of eggs, bacon and toast, we order a scrambled egg sandwich. It’s about half the price and has all the same elements. The amounts will be a bit smaller, but it’s the perfect amount for a tiny tummy.

 

 

PLAY FOR CHEAP

If you haven’t done a free trial at every baby gym in Westchester, you’re missing out on about three months of weekly free play sessions. Every gym I’ve contacted offers a free trial for prospective members. Once you try them all, it might surprise you which gym your little one prefers. Don’t think there are that many? When we were shopping around with a 1-year-old, we tried, Gymboree, Great Play, Gymtime Place, Kids U, World Cup, Little Gym, My Gym, and Kidville. There’s also Gymcats, Kids In Sports, and all types of dance, martial arts studios, art studios, and music classes to try out. Have fun with it and you might find a new favorite spot!

Once you burn through all those, there are still more deals to be had:

  • World Cup in Chappaqua offers a free Mommy and Daddy Meetup 45-minute class on Wednesdays in their Romperee (3 and under) gym. This class is for expecting and new moms and dads to meet and learn about childcare and wellness topics. They have featured speakers on topics such as "The Rollercoaster of Motherhood" and "Exploring Your Child's Emotional Life Through Reading." It's free for you, baby, and any toddler siblings to attend. If you haven't been to this Romperee, it's one of the best for the under-3 set. Check their website for dates and times.
  • If you can get to The Play Place in Elmsford before 9:30 am, you can play for two hours for $5, and a second child under a year old is free.

 

  • The Palisades Center has some fun activities that are pretty cheap. It’s about $3 each for kids to ride the carousel and indoor ferris wheel at the mall, and the operators let parents go free.

 

  • The Westchester Mall has a play area on the top floor that will only cost you the price of parking ($3). Click here for my review.
     
  • And, of course, you could visit a different playground in Westchester every day for months and not retrace your steps. Check out the Facebook page Playgrounds in Westchester for reviews, photos, and recommendations.
     
  • You all know by now to check out our list of Weekly Library Programs, but if you haven’t, these are the best free ways to entertain and socialize your child (and yourself!). My personal favorites are Scarsdale Library, Crestwood Library in Yonkers, Irvington Library, Harrison Library, and Warner Library in Tarrytown. You don’t have to be a resident of a particular town to attend most library events. In addition to weekly story times, there are also tons of special programs like kiddie concerts, truck day, free play, meet-a-service dog, movies, and so on, so be sure to check out the library's event calendar. Some programs require advance registration.


 

  • When you’re at the library, inquire about their free museum passes. You can only check out passes from your town’s library, but odds are they have tickets to places like the Guggenheim, the Intrepid, Stone Barns Center, The Katonah Museum of Art, and the Hudson River Museum. Borrowing passes could turn a $100 day on the town into a $30 day. Just go easy in the museum shop.
     
  • There are also cheap ways for parents to play. A lot of gyms offer Parents Night Out that can start as early as 2 years old. This drop-off program is typically three hours long and costs around $35. Kids get to have fun and hang out, and you get a night out (albeit one with an early curfew). Cheaper than the average rate of a babysitter and with a lot less stress, some of the gyms that offer this are Little Gym in Scarsdale, My Gym in Mamaroneck, and World Cup in Chappaqua.

 

SHOP FOR CHEAP

  • If you have something specific you are looking for and don’t need it to be brand new, it’s worth checking out Once Upon a Child in Scarsdale or Affordables in Dobbs Ferry. They have a selection of strollers, walkers, bouncers, swings, plastic toys, and outdoor toys all at about ¼ of the price you’d pay new.
     
  • My favorite finds at Once Upon a Child are fancy dresses. They have a section dedicated to formal wear and I’ve never seen anything over $10. I got a gorgeous pink Disney dress and a blue sequined dress with the original tags for $5 each. The selection is always changing, but if you have a wedding or special event your little one is attending and they’ll only need to wear it once, this is a great place to look before you plunk down $50 at Lord & Taylor.
     
  • Facebook has tons of local kids’-stuff tag sale groups that are fun to browse around on. Just a few of the ones you can join are Westchester Moms Tag SalesWestchester County Kids and Baby Drama-Free Tag Sale, and Westchester Tag Sale: Babies/Kids
     
  • Our dollar stores have a big selection of toys, but I’m wary about how safe the plastic is on these super-cheap playthings. I’d pass over anything a child might put in his mouth, but these shops are a great place to find stickers, school supplies, party supplies, and accessories (I got a big box of rainbow elastic hairbands for $1). This is my go-to place for “car toys”, (small stuff to play with in the car that you don’t care if it gets lost or thrown out the window on the Bronx River Parkway.) I’m close to Dollar Dream in Yonkers, but there’s many others like Amazing Savings in Scarsdale and Dollar Tree in New Rochelle.

 

That’s it for this week. I hope this list has inspired you to get more bang for your buck. Got a tip not featured here? Let us know on our Facebook page! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Watch the fireworks in Westchester

Hi everyone! Happy Fourth! I'm still in vacation mode from our trip to Miami and the Keys last week, so I'll make this short. My friend The Flooring Girl has worked tirelessly on a list of local fireworks, in case huddling together on the FDR for a glimpse at the Macy's show isn't your thing.

Click here to access her full list.

Here's a brief summary of towns hosting fireworks in the next few days.

MONDAY, JULY 3

Ossining
Rye Playland
Kensico Dam in Valhalla

TUESDAY, JULY 4

Dobbs Ferry
Harrison
Irvington
Katonah
Mamaroneck
New Rochelle
Peekskill
Port Chester
Rye Playland
Sleepy Hollow

SATURDAY, JULY 8

Tuckahoe

Click here to access her full list with details and times.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

Toddler Travel Tips

Hi everyone! It's summer vacation season and we've got some tips on travelling with little ones in the airport, on the plane, and at the hotel room. 

IN THE AIRPORT

If you can fly out of Westchester airport, go for it. We just used it for a flight to Miami and though it was a bit more expensive than LaGuardia, it was so incredibly easy and small. We walked less than 500 feet from the airport door to the airplane door. With tons of carry-on bags and little ones to keep track of, it was a lifesaver. You don't get that luxury at LGA.  

Since most flights are smaller and unable to accommodate a lot of rolling luggage, airlines now love it when you gate check. Gate check everything you don't need as soon as you get there. In many cases they'll have you pick it up at baggage claim.  It's like free checked bags! 

Gate check bags for your stroller and car seat are a must. Even if you're not a germaphobe, the amount of filth on the gate check bag (that would have been on our car seat!) was astonishing. Some parents say they store extra stuff in the gate check bags as a way to avoid checking luggage, but we've never attempted this. We have, however, checked a car seat and stroller in separate bags and claimed it was a two-piece travel system (like those infant ones) to avoid paying a separate fee for having two. Remember, your diaper bag doesn't count toward your luggage allowance on most airlines.

 

You're probably bringing a stroller, so take advantage of it by using at as a mini luggage cart. If you can wear your baby and put stuff in the stroller, you'll have an easier time walking through. Just remember that everything including the stroller has to be unloaded to go through security. 

If your stroller gets broken at the gate or in checked luggage, stop at the luggage desk (usually where lost luggage is) and make a claim. They'll hand you a paper form to fill out. We were able to bring ours home and mail it so it didn't add extra time to our trip. They make you jump through hoops (we had to give them a copy of the receipt! We didn't have it because it was a registry gift so we called Buy Buy Baby and they emailed us a PDF). But if you stick with it they will reimburse you. We got our $179 back to buy a new travel base when they broke the handle on ours. 

That was also the first flight we tried out Trunki, a ride-on suitcase for kids. Our 2.5 year old loved it! We didn't end up pulling her through the airport, but it gave her something to do while waiting at the gate. Since she loved to hang on to it and felt responsible for staying with it, it was a bit like having her tethered to her luggage. 

Here's my best airport tip: don't wait at the gate you're assigned. Here's why--if your little one is loud or whiny or annoying, they get to do it for a completely different group of strangers than the ones you have to sit on the plane with. Then when you board with a new group of passengers, it's like you hit the reset button.  

ON THE PLANE

If your baby is under two and you are bringing them as a lap infant, ask at the gate if the flight is full. If it's not, they may let you bring your car seat on and put it in an empty seat next you. I had good luck with this during my baby's first year. 

Consider the plane layout when booking. When we flew with 4 people, instead of booking 4 seats next to each other (both sides of the aisle), we booked one side of rows 3 and 4 and put our toddler in row 4. That way if the she kicks and yells, mommy is in front of her instead of an unforgiving stranger. 

Remember that if you bring your car seat, your toddler has to be booked in a window seat, and if you have two kids in car seats, they need to be in the window and middle. They will stop you from putting a car seat in the aisle seat. You also can't have two lap infants in the same side of the row because there is only one extra oxygen mask per side. 

Bring an extra outfit for them and shirt for you in your carry-on luggage. I once got spit up on right as we started boarding. I was able to change myself and her quickly before we got on the plane.

Dressing them super cute helps to bide them a bit of extra empathy as they tazmanian devil themselves through the flight. I used to put personalized name bibs on my baby for flights. People seemed nicer when they knew her name was not Anonymous Crying Baby. 

If your destination includes driving, it's a good idea to bring your own car seat. I've heard the ones at the rental car agencies can be sketchy at best, and completely unsafe at worst. Evenflow makes a $40 light version that's not super comfortable, but will get the job done. If you're buying a seat for a toddler, you can bring the car seat on the plane (just check that it's FAA approved--most are.) The Car Seat Lady says you can rear face, but the stewardess stopped us when we tried and we didn't feel like pushing the point. If you definitely want to rear face, it might be a good idea to bring printouts of reliable websites that say you can. We suspect stewardesses hate it because the person in front of you can't recline. 

Having your child in the car seat has an added bonus of safety, a familiar and comfortable place for them to settle in, and barriers from the grime of the plane. 

IN THE HOTEL ROOM

If the hotel will be providing a pack n play, chances are they won't have fitted sheets at pack n play size. Rather than fold the twin size flat sheets they'll give you instead, which can move around as they sleep, bring your own fitted pack n play sheets. They'll also smell like home, which may be comforting and help them sleep. 

Once you unpack, put all the toys you brought on the floor together and take a photo. Then when you're leaving it will be easy to see if anything is missing.  

Bring a separate set of baby wipes and a changing pad for the hotel room. It's a hassle to keep taking them out of your diaper bag and guarantees you won't forget them in your room.  

Don't forget a nightlight. Hotel lighting is often too bright to leave on for kids.  

Check to see if the room you're staying in has a dishwasher so you can bring your bottle rack. Washing bottles by hand in a hotel sink is so gross.

A lot of baby-proofing stuff is small and lightweight. Plug covers and doorknob locks can easily be taken with you at little added space and weight.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

 

 

 

It's Carnival Season!

Happy Father's Day, everyone! I hope you had a relaxing day celebrating with the dad in your life. We went to eat hibachi and then cooled off in the backyard kiddie pool. The heat and sun has signaled the beginning of carnival season—my favorite season (behind holiday season, of course). Below is your guide to local carnivals, festivals, and fairs happening this summer.


Yorktown Heights Fireman's Carnival and Parade

Wednesday, June 21 - Sunday June 25, various times

Fireman's Parade: 7pm Wednesday

Carnival: Wednesday 7-11pm , Thursday 6-11pm, Friday 6-11pm, Saturday 12-11pm, Sunday 12-9pm

Parade, food, games and rides for all ages. Free carnival admission and parking. Visit the website for $5 off ride wristbands..

Yorktown Heights Fire Station
1916 Commerce Street
Yorktown Heights, NY 10598

Click here for more info.


Palisades Fair

Multiple dates and times, see below

This annual fair takes place at the Palisades Center Mall, and runs on select days from June 23 to July 9. Carnival games, rides, food and entertainment, including Monkeys Riding Dogs, Lance Gifford’s Magic & Illusion Show, a hypnotist show, a lion and tiger show, and more. Visit the website for a half price coupon. Full price admission is $6.

Friday, June 23: 5:00pm - close
Saturday, June 24: 1:00pm - close
Sunday, June 25: 1:00pm - close
Friday, June 30: 5:00pm - close
Saturday, July 1: 1:00pm - close
Sunday, July 2: 1:00pm - close
Monday, July 3: 1:00pm - close
Tuesday, July 4: 1:00pm - close
Friday, July 7: 5:00pm - close
Saturday, July 8: 1:00pm - close
Sunday, July 9: 1:00pm - close

Click here for more info.

Palisades Center Mall
1000 Palisades Center Drive
West Nyack, NY 10994


American Roots Music Festival

Saturday June 24

11:00am

Enjoy performances by numerous artists, activities for kids, tours, and picnicking. Paid seating is available, or set up on the lawn nearby to hear the performances without the view. Food is available to purchase. Parking is free.

Click here for more info.

Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts
149 Girdle Ridge Road
Katonah, NY 10536


African-American Heritage Celebration

Sunday June 25

12:00pm to 7:00pm

Celebrate African American culture at Kensico Dam Plaza. Live music, food, family activities and other vendors. Free.

Click here for info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


White Plains Independence Day Celebration

Friday June 30

6:00pm to 10:00pm

Come to White Plains High School for fireworks and a concert by Bruce Springsteen tribute band Tramps Like Us from 7:30-9:00pm. The Kids Corner is from 6:30-8:30pm and features activities including gemstone mining, animals, an acrobat, and the Frisbee guy.

Click here for more info.

White Plains High School
550 North Street
White Plains, NY 10601


Annual Great American Weekend

Saturday July 1, 9:00am - 5:00pm
Sunday July 2, 10:00 - 5:00 pm

9:00am to 5:00pm

Organized by the Goshen Chamber of Commerce, this event contains 150 craft booths, food, and live entertainment. Admission is free.

Click here for more info.

First Presbyterian Church Park
33 Park Place
Goshen, NY 10924


Music Fest and Fireworks

Monday, July 3

6:00pm to 10:00pm

Live music and fireworks. Concertat 8pm and fireworks at 9:15pm. It is suggested to bring a blanket or chairs. Free admission and parking, but as parking is limited, it is recommended to carpool.

Click here for more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Independence Day Fair at the John Jay Homestead

Tuesday, July 4

11:00am to 4:00pm

Games, crafts, music, tours, and a reading of the Declaration of Independence. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

John Jay Homestead
400 Jay Street
Katonah, NY 10536


Hudson Valley Balloon Festival

Friday July 7 - Sunday July 9

Various times

The annual Hudson Valley Hot Air Balloon Festival featuring family activities and balloon launches will take place on July 7, 8 & 9. Balloons are scheduled to take off at 6 p.m. Tickets are available on the website or at the gate. Children under age 3 are free. Parking is free.

Click here for more info.

Barton Orchards
63 Apple Tree Lane
Poughquag, NY 12570


Pleasantville Music Festival

Saturday, July 8

12:00pm to 9:00pm

Thousands of friends, families and lovers of live, world-class rock, setting out their chairs, blankets and tents, going up to the stage and dancing. Food and drink, a beer and wine garden for the adults, fun activities to keep the kids happy, and a zero-waste program to keep the Earth happy. Plus stuff to buy, charities to learn about, and a warm, positive backyard vibe. Headliners include Blues Traveler and Suzanne Vega. Purchase tickets online in advance for discounts. Free parking at Pace University, with shuttle buses running to Parkway Field. See the website for details.

Click here for more info.

Parkway Field
Village Lane
Pleasantville, NY 10570


Polish Heritage Celebration

Sunday, July 9

12:00pm to 6:00pm

Celebrate Polish culture at Kensico Dam Plaza. Live music, vendors, Polish food, and more. Admission and parking are free.

Click here for more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Orange County Fair 2017

Various dates and times, see below

Thursday, July 13: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday, July 14: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Saturday, July 15: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Sunday, July 16: 12:00pm - 9:00pm
Thursday, July 20: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Friday, July 21: 4:00pm - 11:00pm
Saturday, July 22: 12:00pm - 11:00pm
Sunday, July 23: 12:00pm - 9:00pm

This fair dates back 177 years. Games, entertainment, food, and demolition derby. Tickets and discount information available on their website.

Click here for more info.

Orange County Fairgrounds
239 Wisner Avenue
Middletown, NY 10940


SummerFest Kids' DJ Dance Parties

Thursday, July 13
Thursday, July 20
Thursday July 27

6:00pm to 8:00pm

Dance party for ages 5-12 with WPLJ DJ Mike Allen. Top 40 music, a dance-off, and hula hoop contests. Parents are required to stay with their children. At the Cross County Mall on the green. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

Cross County Shopping Center
8000 Mall Walk
Yonkers, NY 10704


Hyde Park Car Show and Street Fair

Sunday, July 16

10:00am to 4:00pm

Annual car show and street fair with music, food, vendors, raffles and more. Rain date of July 23. Free admission

Click here for more info.

Stop & Shop parking lot
Route 9
Hyde Park, NY


Hispanic Heritage Celebration

Sunday July 16

12:00pm to 7:00pm

A day of Hispanic culture at Kensico Dam Plaza. Food, live music, vendors and more. Free admission and parking.

Click here for more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Arab-American Heritage Celebration

Sunday, July 23

1:00pm to 7:00pm

Celebrate Arab culture at Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale. Food, live music, vendors and more. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

Ridge Road Park
287 Ridge Road
Hartsdale, NY 10530


Italian Heritage Celebration

Sunday July 23

12:00pm to 7:00pm

Celebrate Italian heritage at Kensico Dam Plaza. Food, live music, activities, and vendors. Free admission and parking.

Click here for more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Putnam County Fair

Friday July 28: 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Saturday, July 29: 10:00am - 7:00pm

Sunday, July 30: 10:00am - 5:00pm

Free Admission! Free Parking! Animals, Country Living Auction, Food, Entertainment, Games, Activities, Exhibits, Horse Show, Chicken Barbecue, Master Gardener Plant Sale, Touch a Truck! Rain or shine.

Click here for more info.

Putnam County Veterans Memorial Park
201 Gipsy Trail Road
Carmel, NY 10512


Irish Heritage Celebration

Sunday, July 30

1:00pm to 5:30pm

Celebrate Irish culture at Ridge Road Park in Hartsdale. Food, live music, activities and vendors. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

Ridge Road Park
287 Ridge Road
Hartsdale, NY 10530


Heritage of India Festival

Sunday, August 6

12:30pm to 6:30pm

Celebrate Indian culture. Food, music, vendors and more. Free admission and parking. Rain or shine. 

Click here fore more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Ecuadorian Cultural Heritage Celebration

Sunday, August 13

10:00am to 7:00pm

Celebrate Ecuadorian culture at Croton Point Park. Food, live music, vendors and more. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

Croton Point Park
1A Croton Point Avenue
Croton-on-Hudson, NY 10520


Corn Festival

Sunday, August 13

12:00pm to 5:00pm

Live music, food and kids’ activities. Free admission.

Click here for more info.

Beacon Riverfront Park
Beacon, NY 12508


Jewish Music & Arts Heritage Festival

Sunday, August 20

12:00pm to 6:00pm

Celebrate Jewish culture at the annual Jewish Music and Arts Festival at Kensico Dam Plaza. Music, food Israeli dancing, activities, vendors and more. Free admission and parking. Rain or shine.

Click here for more info.

Kensico Dam Plaza
One Bronx River Parkway
Valhalla, NY 10595


Dutchess County Fair

Tuesday August 22 - Sunday August 27

10:00am-10:00pm

For six days each August, the bucolic fairgrounds on Route 9 in Rhinebeck plays host to nearly half a million patrons. The second largest county fair in New York State is the showplace for agriculture in Dutchess County. Over 147 acres of finely manicured gardens and grass create the beautiful setting for thousands of farm animals, agricultural exhibits and horticultural displays.

The fairgrounds becomes an entertainment destination where big name talent can be enjoyed, “thrill a minute” excitement can be experienced at one of the finest carnivals in the entire country, free shows and attractions can be viewed almost constantly from the time you arrive to the time you leave. The tradition of excellence that has been the Dutchess County Fair for over 170 years offers something for everyone and creates memorable moments that will be cherished for a lifetime.

Rain or shine. Admission: $15; seniors/military: $10; aged 11 and under are free. Discounts available on their website.

Click here for more info.

Dutchess County Fairgrounds
6550 Spring Brook Avenue
Rhinebeck, NY 12572


Know of a carnival that's not on our list? Send us a note! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Summer Safety Tips

Hi everyone!

So hot today, right? It wavers between too-hot-and-sunny or just-right-and-rainy. Since it's so unpredictable outside, join us inside on Tuesday morning for a Parent and Child Meetup at The Play Place in Elmsford. Come socialize with other parents while your kids enjoy the play structure, infant spot, and sports areas at The Play Place. Our event is from 9am to 11am, and if you arrive before 9:30 it's only $5. Siblings under twelve months are free with paid admission. Click here for more info. 

Since it feels like summer, I'd like to share some info about hot weather and water safety that affects all parents.

THE SUMMER STROLLER MISTAKE

We all know not to leave kids in the car, even for an instant, but there's another risk out there that a lot of mothers practice. Stroller covers are great to protect little ones from the elements, but if you throw a muslin over the whole stroller in the heat, you create a mini sauna where baby is sitting. Parents magazine ran a story about researchers in Sweden who discovered that the temperature inside a stroller without any covering that was left out in the heat was 72 degrees. But after being covered by a thin cloth, it reached 93 degrees within thirty minutes. After an hour, the temp shot up to almost 100 degrees. Shading your babe from the sun is a great idea, but if you are taking them out for a walk, keep the stroller uncovered for maximum air circulation. Use your stroller's sun cover or an infant hat for protection. Or just use a thin blanket on top of their body, not over the entire stroller. 

Read the original article here.

 

THE DROWNING MYTH

Hot weather means water fun, and we all know to be especially careful with children. We are aware that even things like a bucket of water or a small amount in a kiddie pool can be a danger, and we make sure that they don't have unsupervised access to a swimming pool. We keep a close eye on them in public pools and beaches. What a lot of parents don't know is that drowning doesn't look like the scenes portrayed on TV. Typical drowning does not involve shouting, waving arms, and bouncing up and down in the water. The blog ModernMom published an article relaying the warning signs of drowning so parents can stay aware in the water. Parents should look for The Instinctive Drowning Response. Below is a recap from the post:

1. Except in rare circumstances, drowning people are physiologically unable to call out for help. The respiratory system was designed for breathing. Speech is the secondary or overlaid function. Breathing must be fulfilled, before speech occurs.

2. Drowning people’s mouths alternately sink below and reappear above the surface of the water. The mouths of drowning people are not above the surface of the water long enough for them to exhale, inhale, and call out for help. When the drowning people’s mouths are above the surface, they exhale and inhale quickly as their mouths start to sink below the surface of the water.

3. Drowning people cannot wave for help. Nature instinctively forces them to extend their arms laterally and press down on the water’s surface. Pressing down on the surface of the water, permits drowning people to leverage their bodies so they can lift their mouths out of the water to breathe.

4. Throughout the Instinctive Drowning Response, drowning people cannot voluntarily control their arm movements. Physiologically, drowning people who are struggling on the surface of the water cannot stop drowning and perform voluntary movements such as waving for help, moving toward a rescuer, or reaching out for a piece of rescue equipment.

5. From beginning to end of the Instinctive Drowning Response people’s bodies remain upright in the water, with no evidence of a supporting kick. Unless rescued by a trained lifeguard, these drowning people can only struggle on the surface of the water from 20 to 60 seconds before submersion occurs.

So if your kids are splashing around, they're probably just having a great time. It's when they are still and upright that we should make sure they're okay.

Read the original article here.

 

DRY AND SECONDARY DROWNING

This is the new panic sweeping the Facebook mom groups. Dry drowning is so rare that I'm hesitant to mention it and spread the fear, but it's helpful for parents to know that not all drowning happens underwater. Since kids don't know to hold their breath around water, they can sometimes breathe it in even when they are not being submerged in it, and because of their size, their airways are more susceptible to damage. There are two types of incidents that can happen. Below is an excerpt from a WebMD article. 

Dry Drowning: With dry drowning, the water children breathe in never even reaches the lungs. Instead, breathing in water causes your child's vocal cords to spasm and close up after he's already left the pool, ocean, or lake. That shuts off his airways, making it hard to breathe. Symptoms of dry drowning usually happen right after any incident in the water.

Secondary Drowning:  This happens when your child's airways open up, letting water into his lungs, where it builds up, causing a condition called pulmonary edema which ends up as troubled breathing. Secondary drowning generally starts later, within 1-24 hours of the incident.

Dry drowning and secondary drowning have the same symptoms. They include coughing, chest pain, trouble breathing, and fatigue. They make up only 1-2% of all drowning incidents, so it's not something you should be actively worried about, but keep it in mind if your child is having trouble breathing outside the water.

Read the original article here.

That's it for this week! Stay safe out there! And don't forget to come to our meetup on Tuesday! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Our Last-Minute Father’s Day Gift Guide

Hi everyone! You guys are all ready for Father’s Day, right? You began to make your personalized gifts months ago, shipped them economy in May, and wrapped them last weekend? That was me on our first Father’s Day in 2015, but now I’m lucky if I can get my act together the week before. This time I'm bailing you out. I've researched where to get the perfect thing for that great dad in time for his big day. Below are some ideas for gifts you can pull together by Sunday the 18th.

But first, mark your calendars because BabyGotChat is hosting a Parent & Child meetup at The Play Place in Elmsford on Tuesday, June 13 between 9 and 11am. Come anytime, but if you can arrive before 9:30, admission is only $5. Siblings under a year are free with a paid child. If you haven’t been to The Play Place, it’s a fun spot with spaces for infants and toddlers and sports areas that even older kids will like. There are also tables and benches for when you want to take a break. Click here for more details. Hope to see you there!

Now, on to our gift list...

Category 1: Tickets

Maybe it’s too late to snag seats to Hamilton, but here are some next (okay, more like next-next-next) best things:

Rye Playland

Dads ride free on Father’s Day! With $15 admission for everyone else. They are open from noon to 8pm, so let him sleep in and head over for low-key fun. Click here for more info.

Concert Tickets

Here are some events coming up that you can pass off as “For Father’s Day”:

Billy Joel at MSG
Dave Matthews Band at Jones Beach and Holmdel, NJ
Bob Dylan at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester
Neil Diamond at MSG
Grateful Dead tribute band at the Capitol Theatre
Pink Floyd tribute band at the Tarrytown Music Hall
Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater (if you haven’t been, this is a must-do)
Jerry Seinfeld at the Beacon Theatre

Movie Tickets

We now have two luxury movie theaters in Westchester: Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers and iPic Theaters in Dobbs Ferry. Combine dinner and a movie and save on babysitting hours.

 

Category 2: Personalized Gifts

Okay, so you're out of time to make him a personalized board book that you wrote and designed with custom photos of them (which is what I did for my husband on his first Father’s Day), but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get in on some homemade fun.

Walgreens Photo Magnets

The Walgreens on Central Avenue near Ardsley Road prints photo magnets in store for same day pickup. This works out very well if, say, you are on a momcation cruise by yourself and miss the critical week before Mother’s Day to order a gift for Grandma. Check out this and other photo items available to print in store. Click here for more info.

Pottery Painting

Why make him a gift when your LO can do it for you? There are a few places in the area where you can bring your child to get crafty.

Paint Your Own Pottery: Located in the Midway Shopping Center on Central Avenue near Great Play in Scarsdale. Call to confirm hours and pricing. Click here for more info.

Fun Craft: Also on Central Avenue in Scarsdale, they accommodate walk-ins, but call to confirm. Click here for more info.

Plaster Palace: Located in Larchmont, this is another great place to create a masterpiece. They post their hours each week on their website. Click here for more info.

Personalized Books

Putmeinthestory.com is just one of many online companies that will create a personalized story with your child's name and photo. This is a Father's Day present that does double duty as a gift for your kid. It's going to cost you a bit in expedited shipping, but if you act fast it can arrive in time! Click here for more info. 

 

Category 3: Manly Gifts

Sure, these are closer to your typical gift ideas, but clichés exist for a reason, right? 

Shop local

Get him a growler of local beer from one of these watering holes:

Growler’s in Tuckahoe
Broken Bow Brewery in Tuckahoe
Beer Noggin in Bronxville
Craftsman Ale House in Harrison
Peekskill Brewery in Peekskill

Barnes & Noble in Eastchester has a well-curated Father’s Day display table with plenty of options. Or pick out a book from the local authors wall.

The Art of Shaving at the Westchester Mall has fancy shaving notions and lotions.

Rothman's in Scarsdale and their smaller store, Harry, in Bronxville are one of a handful of mens shops still around in the area. Click here for more info.

 

Shop online

You can shop from your couch, but the money you save in time and gas you'll spend on fast shipping. The items below are all available to arrive before Father’s Day.

Team Gear

The Northwest Company has a fun selection of sports-themed bean bags, throw rugs, floor mats for the car, gym bags, and even window panels for his man cave. Not into sports? They also carry Marvel, Star Wars, and other entertainment-themed items.

Diaper Bag For Him

My husband hates holding my Vera Bradley bright purple quilted duffel, and he can’t be the only dad out there made to carry his wife's feminine diaper bag. So how about getting him his own? Skiphop has a version that's cute but rugged. Click here for more info. 

Beer Cap Display Piece

Does he like beer...and a state? Uncommon Goods has a Beer Cap State wall plaque to for him to collect and display his favorite pours on his favorite state. Click here for more info. 

Man Crates

Just what they sound like.... Enjoy a bevvy of items shipped in a wooden crate, because he's too macho for a cardboard box. They have themes like Exotic Meats, Whiskey Appreciation, and even a gift card that comes encased in concrete for him to smash open. Because you're married to a cave man. Click here for more info. 

Etsy

Etsy always has lots of sentimental, fun, and funny gifts. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Papa bear keychain. Customize with birth years.

If You Can Read This Bring Me a Beer socks. Printed on the bottom so everyone knows when his feet are up, he's off duty. 

First Father's Day Onesie. Bottles up! 

 

I hope this list gives you some good ideas! If you still can’t find something he’d like, then pop a $20 in a Snoopy card and call it a day.

That’s it for this week! Don't forget to come to our meetup on June 13! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Spotlight: Hoff-Barthelson Music School

Hi everyone!

My quest to cover all the music classes in Westchester continues. This time I’m at the Hoff-Barthelson Music School in Scarsdale. Unlike many programs, this one has a dedicated campus that hosts students from three months old to adults. I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the magic of a Hoff-Barthelson Early Childhood Music Class. The class I attended was called Tunes for Twos, and it meets once a week for 40 minutes. The instructor leads the class on the autoharp, piano, and various other instruments. When I arrived, my expectation was that it would be similar to most of the other music classes I’ve been to, (how different could it be teaching music to two year olds, right?), but I was blown away by their finely structured program.

Want to experience it for yourself? Come to their Early Childhood Music Classes Open House on Friday, June 9, from 10am to 12pm. There will be a free demo class at 10:30. Click here for more info.

 

Photo by Steven Schnur

Photo by Steven Schnur

 

With an emphasis on classroom structure, this music program is a great training ground for your child to learn about listening to and performing music. The kids are taught to stay seated during singing time, to get up during dance time, and how and when to play instruments during instrument time. I even heard them singing along to songs, something I almost never experience in a toddler class.

The focus on disciplined learning reminded me of a ballet class or a martial arts lesson, where the rules are built in to the class structure and doesn’t feel like “discipline” at all. I loved that this program could prep my child to enjoy music like an adult (sitting, listening, participating when needed, and letting loose when it’s time to let loose). That’s not to say that kids weren’t being silly and having loads of fun. Everyone was having a great time singing, playing, running, and spending time with their parents and one another.

The songs in the program include more of the simple nursery rhymes than other music programs, but the advantage is that the little ones can easily learn them and sing along. During the class I attended the children sang Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; the alphabet song; a riff on Humpty Dumpty; Rain, Rain Go Away; as well as various other songs that aren’t part of the typical toddler cannon.

My favorite part of class was when each student got the chance to perform a solo. They would face the class, sing a short song (with the teacher as backup vocals and on piano), then get to run around the room by themselves—a precursor to a dance routine. The rest of the kids then join in a lap around the room before everyone sits down and it’s the next student’s turn. I loved the idea that kids can get a chance to try out performing for a crowd at such a young age. What better way to gauge your LO’s interest in being the next Beyoncé? The toddlers’ attitudes varied from super-shy to let-me-sing-again! This solo practice helps them get used to being in front of the class in preschool and beyond.

The teacher sings all her instructions, and I myself almost didn’t catch the promptings that were hidden in song. The kids didn’t miss a word, though, and it was cute to witness how they had learned to listen closely to the music and find meaning in it, even if that meaning is just to put the drums back in the bin.

Despite all the learning going on, there was still time for lots of good silly fun with musical purpose. Putting scarves on our heads and blowing them off, wiggling animal finger puppets and singing the accompanying barnyard sounds, getting bounced on laps to the beat were just some of the games that were played.

Photo by Steven Schnur

Photo by Steven Schnur

Hoff-Barthelson offers programs in Early Childhood Music and Movement for children ages three months to Kindergarten. Classes are Parent/Child for the younger set, with drop off classes available at three years old. The instruments get more sophisticated over time to prepare kids for lessons at a later age. The school offers group violin classes for children as young as three, and recorder and flute group classes starting at kindergarten.

If you’d like to see what all the fuss is about, come to the Early Childhood Music Classes Open House on Friday, June 9, from 10am to 12pm. There will be a free demo class at 10:30. Click here for more info.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


The 2017 New York Baby Show top picks: Must-see items for Baby and Mom

I’ve been talking about the New York Baby Show for a few posts now, and I was so excited to actually go this past weekend. I had been to the show for the first time last year and had a great time, and now that I am running BabyGotChat, I was excited (and anxious) to represent the blog on my own this year. Fistful of business cards in hand, I made my way to Pier 94 on the west side of Manhattan (superclose to where my big Momcation cruise departed!) and got there just as the doors opened on the first day. I’ve been to a lot of expo-type events in NYC, and this one is clean, well organized, well stocked, and has a great variety of vendors from the big guys (Babies R Us) to independent companies and local inventors. Plus, it’s stroller heaven.

That’s right. If you aren’t sure about strollers, every maker I can think of was there with every model they make on display and ready for you to test out on the stroller test track: an obstacle course with the urban mom in mind. There are bricks, subway grates, grass, pebbles, gates, and steps to try out. It’s a great place to learn and experience the ride for yourself.

I looked at dozens of new products and old favorites, and have composed my list of top picks from the baby show. Read of for the best of baby.

1. Pello

These gorgeous pillows may look like they are more pet-friendly than child friendly, but they are a beautiful and luxurious alternative to the Boppy (and anyone who’s ever tried to prop a newborn in a Boppy knows they aren’t great as baby seats.) Pello has it figured out! Cute prints on one side, soft fuzz on the other, a pocket in which to tuck a paci, and spots to tie ring toys, this is the perfect pillow for little ones. They also make the Comfy Cradle, an ingenious soft spot that looks like a cross between arm swimmies and a pillow. You put your forearm through it and suddenly baby has a soft spot on which to feed. This is perfect for nervous feeders (I’m looking at you, Grandpa) who worry their lap isn't enough to comfort baby.

2. Fridababy

We are a Frida family. NoseFrida and Windi have dominated our lives, especially this time around with Baby 2, who frequently gets stopped up and needs the intestinal help that Windi provides. We have a love/hate relationship with NoseFrida—my husband swears breathing through the NoseFrida tube makes him sick—but we are both fanboys when it comes to the Windi. If you've never used it, be happy you've never really had to worry about a baby pooping. But if you have, you know that it turns a gassy, in-pain baby into a happy just-pooped sleepyhead. But that’s not why I’m excited. Their newest contraption is not even on the market yet, but we got a sneak peek at the baby show. It’s a cross between a pacifier and a medicine dropper, and it’s meant to administer liquid medicine to baby in a way that doesn’t pass over their taste buds and cause them to spit it out. The pacifier bottom has them sucking the medicine in happily till the last drop. Yes, please!

3. Savor Keepsake Storage

Like the best-meaning of new moms, I’ve saved the newborn bracelet, the sign in the hospital bassinet, the It’s A Girl! balloon, a lock of hair, a pair of shoes, the first drawing . . . all in a crappy, overstuffed clear plastic bin that looks like it got separated from an episode of Hoarders. What to do with all that baby stuff that actually feels cute and archival? Cue Savor. They have it figured out by way of a system of small drawers and labels that you can customize to fit your collection. As big as a magazine holder and easy to store on a bookshelf next to albums, the systems accommodate Baby Years and School Years easily with plenty of pockets for everything you saved. You can pick and choose what you want to display, so no feeling like a bad parent if you didn’t bronze that first pair of shoes. Just skip past that label and on to what you've got!

 

There was lots of other fun stuff as well, including Noobie Box curated pre- and postnatal picks, Austlen strollers for the mom who actually needs to store real groceries, that Pockit stroller that folds up to backpack size (I tried it, and yes it is as easy as it looks in the viral video that made its way around the Facebook mom groups). Tray Buddi, a solution for highchair food winding up on the floor, Vertiplay wall toys that stick on the wall and provide stand-up activities for toddlers, Tinybeans free baby journal app for milestone tracking and digital scrapbooking, and Bare bottles that don’t trap air and improve infants’ intake experience.

There was so much to see and learn about that even though I spent more than three hours at the show, I felt like I was cutting out early when I finally went to go meet my ride. If you didn’t get to make it to the Baby Show this year, swing by next time. There will be free tickets floating around, and you’ll get to pick up some free swag, make a discounted purchase, or just learn about the newest in baby gear.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


Happy Mother's Day! My gift to you: free tickets to the New York Baby Show

Hi everyone!

Happy Mother's Day! Today is a bittersweet day. Yes, it's my first Mother's Day with my new son, but I also found out today that my friend's toddler passed away of pediatric cancer. It makes me feel spoiled to think of myself as anything but grateful for each stained shirt, thrown block, and midnight wakeup, because some of us are on the outside looking in, and would take all those bad moments in exchange for more time. For all the mothers out there who have experienced loss, our hearts break for you and we admire your strength on a day like today. 

I hope everyone planted a kiss on a mother or child today. They deserved it!

Got plans next weekend? I have free tickets to the New York Baby Show! It's a big kid-friendly event on the West Side in NYC with swag, contests, and lots of product info. We are giving away 10 free tickets for you and your family to experience the show! Just be one of the first ten readers to click the link below and enjoy the show on us!

Click here for access to free tickets!

If the ten free tickets are gone, click the link below for 50% off tickets.

Click here for access to half-price tickets!

Normal ticket price is $30 per family (for 2 adults and up to 4 children), and $20 per individual, so take advantage of our free and cheap tickets! We attended last year and had a great time getting free samples, checking out the latest in baby gear, attending lectures, and some other fun bonuses like a stroller test track and a stroller sterilizing chamber. Want more info? Click here for our review of last year's Baby Show.

That's it for this week! As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

Mother's Day Special: DIY crafts with Miffy

Miffy, a longtime favorite of children around the world, has just launched Miffy Fun, which offers new and engaging activities for young children. From baking to crafts, Miffy Fun provides a great opportunity for kids to learn while enjoying themselves. While many of these activities are based on Miffy’s adventures, they can also be done independently of the show or the books. 

MOTHER'S DAY CRAFTS

Mother’s Day is around the corner, and Miffy wants to help you celebrate!  She’s created four fun activities that kids can do for or with their mom this weekend.  Whether it’s creating homemade flowers or picture frames, making a no-cook breakfast or writing a poem, everyone is sure to have a great time!

Homemade Paper Flowers

Miffy loves sharing flowers with her friends. Below are three ideas (easy, medium and hard difficultly level) for giving Mom flowers, even when they’re not in bloom!

Materials

  • General: Scissors, glue/tape
  • For Stem: 3-5 popsicle sticks (colored/painted green) or green straws, rubber bands
  • For Flower And Petals: Paper towel roll, construction paper, for easy: 2-3 different colored tissue paper options, for medium: colored construction paper and for hard: coffee filters

Instructions

Stem:

  • If not already green, use this opportunity to paint or color stem material green.
  • Group stem material tightly in a bunch and wrap 2-3 a rubber bands around them at the top, middle and bottom of the group. For popsicle sticks, stack them on top of each other.

Flower Center

  • Place paper towel role standing upright in center of paper, trace outline of roll onto paper and cut out traced circle.
  • Glue or tape newly cut circle to top of stem.

Flower Petals

Depending on the age of your child, choose an easy, medium or difficult option for creating flower petals.

  • For the easy option, simply crumple up different color tissue paper into fist-size balls. Then, glue or tape them in alternating colors around the center of the flower.
  • For the medium option, take two regular size sheets of paper and fold each vertically, then horizontally and then vertically and horizontally again. Cut each folded paper into three sections, which will produce several smaller pieces of paper each with a fold in the middle. Place each paper under the circle/center of the flower at the fold so that one side of the paper is behind the flower’s center and the other side is sticking up in front of it.  Glue or tape the papers to the flower center. Once all papers are stuck to the center, either fold each bit of paper forward and press down or pull paper up and out for a more “open” look.
  • For the difficult option, dye coffee filters with 2-3 different colors and then stack them together, alternating each color. Next, fold in half and then in half again, fold ½ of the folded pile backwards and then the other half backwards in the opposite direction. Release. Glue or tape filters around the circle/center of the flower.

Homemade Photo Frame

Miffy loves going on adventures with her friends and family.  To capture these memories, Miffy takes pictures and keeps them in fun frames.  Below are three ideas (easy, medium and hard difficultly level) for creating your own picture frames. 

Materials

  • Four popsicle sticks
  • Photo
  • Craft glue
  • Scissors
  • A piece of cardboard (the size of one side of a small box)
  • Ribbon (if you want to hang frame)
  • Decoration Options
    • From Outside: Rock, stones, leaves, shells
    • In Your Kitchen: Cut up straws, cut up colored sponges, cotton balls dipped in colors
    • At Your Desk: Colored tape, markers, ribbons, buttons, stickers

Instructions

  • Gather two popsicle sticks and put dabs of glue on opposite ends on each of the popsicle sticks.
  • Lay two more popsicle sticks parallel to each other.
  • Place two popsicle sticks glue-side down horizontally across the edges of the other popsicle sticks in order to form a square. Press down and hold for 30 seconds.

Once frame is dry, choose decorating options:

  • Easy: Paint or color frame and decorate with stickers.
  • Medium: Place dabs of glue sporadically on all four popsicle sticks. Decorate frame with fun items, such as stones, leaves, shells, cotton balls, cut up straws, cut up colored sponges.
  • Difficult: Cut 9 pieces of tape to be slightly longer than the width of each individual popsicle stick. Place three pieces of tape on each popsicle stick and paint over the entire area of each popsicle stick. Once p aint has dried, remove tape and either leave blank or color in these spaces with different colors or designs to create a zigzag pattern.

 

  • Trim photo to fit in frame.
  • Cut out a piece of cardboard or a sturdy piece of construction paper so that it is slightly smaller than frame.
  • Glue photo to cardboard and glue cardboard to back of frame.
  • To hang photo, cut a ribbon and glue each end to the top of the frame. To make an easel, cut another piece of cardboard so that it is about half the size of the frame. Fold cardboard into triangle and glue one end of the triangle to the center of the back of the frame.

Breakfast In Bed

Miffy loves delicious treats and is excited to make one for her mother on this special day.  Below is a recipe for Miffy’s “I love you ‘berry’ much” bites.

Ingredients

  • 1 bowl of berries: Raspberries, blueberries or strawberries
  • 1 small container of vanilla yogurt
  • Ricotta cheese (1/2 cup
  • Honey (to taste)
  • Granola (1/4 cup)
  • Bread (3 pieces)

Directions

  • Mix berries, honey and ricotta together
  • Take clean paper towel holder and cut out circle shapes from bread
  • Top bread with berry ricotta mixture, drizzle with honey and place 2-3 pieces of fruit on top
  • Serve with love

Mother’s Day Poem

Miffy loves to tell her friends and family how important they are to her. Use the following words in a poem to express your love on Mother’s Day.

  • Love
  • Friend
  • Play
  • Happ
  • Mom/mommy/mother

If you make any of these, send us photos! 

Andrea

 

Time for a Momcation!

Hi everyone! Hope you're all gearing up for breakfast in bed next Sunday! I remember being pregnant three years ago and hearing that the #1 Mother's Day wish was a day away from the kids. What monsters! I thought. Flash forward to last week, when I was preparing to leave for not just a day, but a whole week. The kicker? I went by myself! Read on for my account of the good and bad of taking a mothering sabbatical. 

 

WHAT I DID ON MY (SOLO) MOMCATION

I had my first child 2 and a half years ago. While pregnant, I tried to bask in my time alone, realizing every restaurant outing was one meal closer to that typical family-with-toddler meal—one parent furtively swipes the table clean of glass and silverware while the other parent holds a kicking two-year-old and death stares the waiter until a high chair appears. One minor tussle and the toddler is buckled in and ready to start their infinite loop of beg-for-something, throw-thing-on-floor. (Repeat, repeat, repeat.) When I left my job a year ago to stay with my daughter full-time, I knew I was trading eight precious hours of adult identity outside my home to become the right-hand (wo)man to a very boisterous two-year-old who is a delight, but requires every moment of my attention. 

Needless to say, I'm exhausted. 

But what could I do? I'd been so used to my decade in the working world where days off meant a break from everything. My husband and I have taken a few kid-free weekends here and there, but nothing I would call truly rejuvenating. Add to that a second newborn with some health challenges and a husband who started his own company, a double-edged sword of make-your-own-hours and work-days-nights-and-weekends.) Long story short: I desperately needed a week without diapers, loading the kids into the car for mommy-and-me-classes, being grounded on the couch for hours while a baby ate themselves to sleep, and trying to reason with the whims of a two-year-old. 

When I tallied up the midnight feedings, weeks parenting alone while my husband was on business trips, and hours during the weekends when it was just me and the kids, I realized that if this had been a company job, I would have some vacation time coming. I also found myself jumping more quickly to exasperation with my kids, and I figured if I didn’t get some space apart, I might become one of those miserable mothers. I was too happy to be able to stay home with my kids to become a terror doing so.

So I broached the topic with my husband of taking a little getaway. He wanted us all to come of course, but we both realized that if the kids came, it wouldn’t really a getaway for me. My original plan had been to go to a city like Austin with a friend, driving around and taking in the food and music scene. But as airfare went up and Airbnb availability went down, my husband saw me become more and more desperate for a friend to lock in their Yes so we could start planning. I tried to recruit my friends, but for the week I wanted to go away everyone was either too pregnant to travel, too strapped for cash, too ensconced in full-time parenting, or just coming off a vacation themselves. I had to figure out a vacation I could take that would be fun on my own.

“I know what you should do,” my husband announced confidently. “Just take a cruise, one that leaves from New York.”

The Norwegian Breakaway

The Norwegian Breakaway

Innnnnteresting. While I wouldn’t call us cruisers, we got engaged on our first cruise from New York to the Bahamas on New Year’s Eve, and for our honeymoon we took a two-week European cruise. I knew the advantages and comfort of a cruise, especially one you could take without getting on an airplane. I started watching prices as my target week approached, and on the Tuesday before I booked a cruise to Bermuda leaving that Sunday. A bargain $720 all in with taxes to buy out a double inside stateroom. $100 a night to go to a sunny destination, including meals and entertainment? Yes, please! I frantically clicked “Submit Order”, then ran upstairs to go pack.

It's a short ride from Westchester down the West Side Highway to the cruise ship terminal with my husband as driver and two kids nodding off in the back. I excitedly and sadly got out, touched their two sleeping faces, and went on my way. Luggage dropoff is easy, and since there is no real baggage allowance I was able to pack anything and everything I wanted to bring.

I boarded the ship at about 2:00 pm for a 4:00 pm departure and spent the first few hours unpacking, touring the ship, and getting in a workout at the fitness center. The gym has floor-to-ceiling windows, so it's a good spot to watch NYC go by once the boat leaves. Which seemed like a great idea, except once we took off I realized I was on the side of the boat where the view is of New Jersey. Eek! I rushed upstairs to the sundeck in my gym clothes. The boat travelled down the west side of Manhattan, by the Statue of Liberty, and under the Verrazano bridge (which I swear we only cleared by 10 feet). As the last of the boroughs went by, I realized I was officially on my cruise. Alone, for better or for worse. This next seven days would either feel like liberation or like jail, and I was nervously excited to find out which.

The great thing about cruising is that there’s plenty to do or not do, and so many people that walking around alone is not particularly noticed. I wasn’t ready to go into full-on meditation mode, so I spent the first night taking advantage of free giveaways and raffles. Free shots at the duty free shop, a champagne raffle at the art gallery. I took in dinner at the main restaurant. After eating hundreds of meals where a tiny human in a high chair got to decide when I started and stopped, I did not waste a minute of my dinner feeling sorry for myself. I was too grateful for the quiet. So grateful, in fact, that I was in bed by 9:30. After all, the point of this vacation is to relax, not push it. 

The always-empty adults-only sundeck and hot tubs.

The always-empty adults-only sundeck and hot tubs.

The seven days went by delightfully slowly. I was relaxed and on my own schedule for more than 170 continuous hours. I quickly settled into a routine: tea delivered to my room at 7:00 am, forty-five minutes at the gym every day, time in the hot tub and on a sun chair, entertainment throughout the day, slow meals in the restaurant, purchasing a half carafe of wine deck night at 5pm that I leisurely doled out throughout the evening.

The boat spent three days in Bermuda where I traded in my deck chair time for a towel on the sand and my hot tub time for the ocean. The best part of cruising, and especially important when cruising alone, is that the hotel room is always a two-minute walk away. Anytime I needed a break or a nap or just to be invisible for a while, I could go back to my room and unwind.

On the third day I booked a spa treatment, and since I was alone the technician threw in free access to the ship’s private thermal spa for the entire week of my stay. This would have cost more than $200 if I had purchased it myself. Now I could add to my routine a soak in the thermal pool and a visit to the steam room or salt room. The cushy deck chairs and floor-to-ceiling ocean views were reason enough to visit at least once a day.

That’s not to say traveling alone wasn’t without its awkward moments. The crew, not other passengers, seemed to be the most confused about my solo status. My spa facialist (who had a fully articulated cat’s eye and red lip at 7 in the morning) started chatting me up. When she heard I was here without the kids she blurted out, “Don’t you miss them?” Internal eye roll. Of course I do. Then there was this gem:

"What do you do?"
"I stay at home with my two kids."
"Oh, so you don't work?"

Yeah, I thought. I don’t work. My kids dress and feed themselves, change their own diapers, and take Uber to the baby gym and music class by themselves. At the end of the treatment she was giving me her hard sell on skincare products to be used under foundation, but stopped halfway through as she realized: “I don’t know if you wear makeup, since you stay home.” I resisted the urge to inform her that “staying home” was not meant to be taken literally.

I felt hilariously alone when perusing the nightly photographer setups. I had won a free photo and was bound and determined to redeem it. The first night I dressed up and posed in front of each of the six somewhat tacky backdrops by myself while groups of people stared with a look I can only imagine to mean, “What the…?” I went to look at the photos the next night and—OMG! I looked terrible. Then I remembered that cruise ship lighting rounds you out. Even on my honeymoon cruise, at my wedding-thin weight, I was horrified at how chubby I looked in the photos. Flash forward to having actual post-baby chub, and the results are horrifying. I couldn’t buy any of these photos. I made it my mission to get a good picture to take home, so each night I marched through a myriad of setup and poses. The photographers were surprisingly friendly and helpful. Five days and about eighty photos later, I had one that looked like me—not like someone else swallowed me. The person who loaded those eighty photos of one woman alone into my personal picture binder must have been either confused or amused at all the solo posing. What’s with this chick? Does she live alone surrounded by professional photos of herself leaning on a white Grecian column? All I know is I got the shot.

My free photo!

My free photo!

If you’re a New Yorker on a cruise, you’re in the unique situation of living in a place where you already have access to the best of everything. You have to let those standards go when you’re on ship. For me, the Broadway show performed on ship was just ok (having had seen the original on actual Broadway), the dueling pianos entertainment was nowhere near as great as the one I saw near Times Square once, the food was okay but not fantastic. The art at the art auction was nothing you’d see at any city museum. Let’s just say Thomas Kinkade is a superstar on a cruise ship. But those cheesy moments are what makes cruising fun. And you have to dive in deep.

 

I played Bingo. I drank cheap wine. I watched people bid on a painting of a landscape where the clouds were in the shape of dogs. I went to a Glow party where people wore glow sticks and the DJ played Baby Got Back.

Glow party on the top deck.

Glow party on the top deck.

But the best part of cruising if you are a weary mom is how easy it is. Someone cooks every meal for you. The steward makes up your room twice a day. You don’t have to make a bed or even fold a towel. You walk away from your dirty dishes. There’s always time for a nap and a shower. The difficult parts are lack of digital access, but if you wanted to spend the money there are internet packages on board.

I had discovered my phone’s iMessage worked through most of my journey, so I was able to text my husband as well as some friends and family throughout the cruise. I had not expected that and it made the week of solitude a little more friendly, as I was always a keystroke away from communication. It was so wonderful that when it stopped working on day 6, I panicked. My husband and I discovered a workaround where I could receive Facebook chats from him, but since my replies didn’t go through, I went to the free “Send-A-Photo-And-350-Characters” kiosk to snap a pic and slowly type out my reply. This meant that he had instant access to tell me anything, and I could only get back to him once every hour or so when I dragged myself back to the touchscreen. It was actually pretty romantic to be on the receiving end of someone's thoughts without having to type out a “lol” or “ok” each time. My replies read like telegrams due to the curt nature of the touchscreen. “love this keep texting” I would beg while other cruisers waited for their turn at the kiosk.

My husband got a dozen of these head shots so I could send him messages on board.

My husband got a dozen of these head shots so I could send him messages on board.

At the end of the seven long days, I was ready to go home and excited to squeeze those baby cheeks I had missed all week. Getting off the ship, through customs, and into the car of my waiting family took fifteen minutes. We zoomed up the Henry Hudson and within a half hour I was back at home. It was a pleasure not to undo all my relaxation with the stress of flying.

So if you’re a tired mom who wants to get away, and wants an easy sunny spa-y vacation with no baggage fees, 3-ounce liquid constraints, or navigating new places by yourself, you should check out checking out on a cruise from New York City. For Westchester moms, it’s kind of the perfect getaway. I don’t think I’ll accrue enough days to leave again for a long while, but getting a week off from the demands of my baby bosses reset my stress meter, and I’m ready to happily go back to “staying home” and “not working”. Now excuse me while I go put on some makeup.

That's it for this week. As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


It's DIY week: Make your own slime!

Hi everyone!

Now that the weather is getting warmer, there's nothing more satisfying that making a messy, fun DIY sensory project—outside! This one calls for (optional) glitter, so brush off that outdoor furniture and get ready to make slime! Guest blogger Amy Rios from the blog A Beautiful Friendship is going to walk us through it. Read on for her account below:

 

Thank you Andrea for letting me share Micheals' Kid-Friendly Slime recipe with your readers. This slime recipe is super easy and only takes about 15 minutes. Most of the ingredients you probably already have at home.

 

SUPPLIES

  • Kitchen Scale                                                           
  • Measuring Cups
  • Mixing bowls
  • Craft Stick
  • Acrylic paint
  • Decorations for the slime such as glitter, pom poms, googley eyes, sequins, etc.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 5 oz Washable School Glue (clear)
  • 1/4 cup of Baking Soda
  • 2 Cups of warm water

 

DIRECTIONS

  • Measure out 5 oz of glue into your mixing bowl. 
  • Measure out 2 cups of water and 1/4 of baking soda. I try to make as few dirty dishes as possible so I mixed the baking soda into the water inside the measuring cup. 
  • Slowly pour the baking soda solution into the glue, mixing with the craft stick. You will see the slime starting to form immediately. There will be a lot of baking soda solution left over. 
  • Take the slime out and knead it until it is dry and a good slime consistency. 
  • Stretch it out and punch a hole in it. Mix in your add ins. And you are done! Hope your little one enjoys it!

 

Thanks, Amy! For other ideas and inspirations, check our her blog, A Beautiful Friendship. If you want your kids craft project featured in our monthly DIY post, send an email to babygotchat@gmail.com. 

As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


 

 

Spotlight: Shake, Rattle & Roll + Free Music Class

There are so many music classes out there—each with its own cult of followers. We’ve tried several programs and always have a good time, but the one I’ve been taking my daughter to since she was six weeks old is Shake, Rattle & Roll. Flash forward two years later and she still loves going, and we now bring her baby brother who loves it too. Why SR&R? For parents, it’s the structure of the program combined with the flexibility of locations and schedule, and for kids it’s the fun they have playing new instruments while learning about rhythm and melody. For both it’s about making friends. My daughter and I have met some of our closest buddies in Shake, Rattle & Roll classes. 

 

During the month of May, take advantage of a free trial class! Click here for more info.

The program has been created by Susan V. Davis, a guitar-wielding, songwriting, kid person and one-(wo)man-band. At the beginning of the semester each parent gets a songbook and an album of music to listen to. The thirtyish tracks vary from traditional music of different countries to Susan’s own original songs and adaptations. We’ve learned to sing in Spanish, French, Italian, Chinese, Japanese, and other languages. Many of the songs are accompanied by their own special movements like stomps or twirls that we act out in class.

The kids have a great time being able to get up and dance. The albums are essential because kids get the chance to experience the music they are learning outside of class. I play the songs in the car to soothe and entertain my daughter. Each semester welcomes a new album with all new material. My daughter has attended for two years we now and we have four different albums of fun, catchy songs that are a pleasure to listen to.  It’s definitely not drive-you-crazy ("Daddy Finger", anyone?) kids music.

Each class is 45 minutes long and covers about 10 songs from the album, varying in selection and order each week. Most of the kids are too young to sing along, but the parents sing and children enjoy playing the instruments, marching around the room in time, or wiggling and acting out movements to the music.

Our latest class started with our hello song, then we drummed in unison to a song about a dancing frog. Later we all stood up and ran around the room for one song and pretended to be farmers for another. Then we sat down and wiggled our fingers and toes.

During class we play all sorts of things from traditional egg shakers to tone blocks, cymbals, triangles, drums, boomwhackers, and even DIY instruments such as water bottles and coffee tins filled with sand. We also use props such as balls, scarves, socks, and sunglasses to act out our songs. The childrens’ favorite moment is the instrument free play, where all different kinds are laid out and the kids immediately hone in on their favorite item. With a different instrument for each person, we become an ersatz band shaking it up to an upbeat instrumental song, usually from Africa or South America.

Our last song of each class (before the goodbye song) is typically a slower lullaby-type song to wind down the excited little ones.

Shake, Rattle & Roll is offered in five locations throughout Westchester and is starting at a new location in Riverdale in May. The makeup policy is generous and easy, and infants six months and younger can attend free if their older sibling is enrolled. There is a 15% discount available to anyone enrolling with a friend who is new to Shake, Rattle & Roll. The Spring/Summer session is coming up soon. 

Want to experience it for yourself? Take advantage of a free trial class. Click here for more info.

As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea


How to host your own egg hunt!

Happy Easter! Kids love the thrill of an egg hunt, but for the 4-and-under set, the local town hunts aren't always the best bet. Toddlers need a little more time to locate and pick up eggs than your typical cutthroat fifth grader, which is why we host an annual toddler-friendly backyard egg hunt for my 2 year old and all her friends. This is a great party to throw as it's easy to prep for and all outdoor for simple cleanup. Here's what you need to host your own backyard egg hunt:

1. Get the supplies

I go egg shopping on Easter Monday when all the unsold eggs hit the clearance rack. If you don't want to prepare that far in advance, Oriental Trading and Party City have great deals on eggs.

You can ask kids to bring their own baskets, but I like to provide them with my own small baskets (smaller baskets also means that one older kid won't collect 40 eggs before the little ones can even cross the lawn). I use these baskets, which hold about 10 eggs. Once kids fill them up, they move on to opening them and leave the rest of the eggs for the other hunters. Which brings us to

2. Stuff the eggs

Finding suitable egg stuffers for toddlers is tricky. Since everything you give them fits into a plastic egg, you are basically hosting a choking hazards party. I've managed to find toys and food that are fun and will work for all but the most determined of object-swallowers:

Brightly colored cereal
Fruit snacks
Popcorn or puffs
Stickers
Bracelets
Rings
Finger puppets
Toy paratroopers
Plastic toys
 

It's not really about what's inside, at least not at this age. Kids just love collecting the eggs, so budget your money towards more eggs than towards high-ticket prizes. Oriental Trading has some great deals that will give you a lot of prizes for the money. I got 72 bracelets for $6, and if you buy a giant bag of Malt-O-Meal Berry Crunch for about $4, you can stuff dozens of eggs. I forego the whole "golden egg" for this age group. They don't really get the difference, and they won't understand why someone gets a big prize and they don't. 

3. Send out the invitations

I invite everyone about three weeks ahead of time via email, and I pick a rain date just in case you get a washout. I like to have the hunt in the morning, when kids are less cranky and energy is high. I invite every toddler I know, and older sibs can come too. I just make sure the parents know it's geared toward the toddlers, so their older ones shouldn't pick up all the eggs in thirty seconds, even though they probably could. This party is truly "the more the merrier". I just make sure to stock up on those smaller baskets so I have more than enough for everyone. It's helpful to know who is coming so that you don't start the hunt early in case someone runs late (a perk you don't get at those town hunts!) I send out an email the night before asking to text me if they are running late so I can hold the hunt for them.

4. Start the hunt!

I lay out the eggs in the backyard, hiding a few in foliage but keeping most in plain sight. You don't need to clear the area. In fact toys and furniture legs have great hiding spots for eggs. I try not to put eggs anywhere I don't want kids going (like that small spot behind the bushes), because if one finds an egg there they'll all be wedging themselves in. Then we gather at a place where there's no access to the yard (for us it was our deck), and wait for everyone to arrive before we open the doors. I take the opportunity to find any older siblings and explain that their job is to find all the really hidden eggs and let the babies pick up the easy lawn eggs.

BGC-EH4.jpg

We set out bagels, muffins, quiche, and juice, though we've found that the party time of 10am doesn't require a ton of food (we've all been up since 6, right?). We open the yard up and the kids go load their baskets. After all the eggs have been found (which takes a while with toddlers), they have a blast in the yard playing with toys or discovering what's inside their eggs. We even managed to borrow an Easter Bunny costume for a quick visit from Mr. Rabbit himself! Left to themselves in the yard, little ones will play until the naptime tantrums overcome them. Our last partier left around 12:30, and everyone had so much fun we can't wait to have another hunt next year. 

This is a great annual party to have. It doesn't require many decorations, is easy to prep for, and you'll have supplies left over that you can recycle for next year. I put out 200 eggs and even though they were all claimed, at the end of the party I found I had almost a hundred pillaged empty eggs to reuse next year. Some even left the baskets behind, which means I'm already close to stocked up on supplies for next year. The treasures, however, were nowhere to be found (as they should be!)

 

ROCKIN JUMP MEETUP

Don't forget to join us tomorrow for our Mommy & Me Meetup at Rockin Jump at Ridge Hill from 9am to 11am. Come anytime between 9am and 11am for the Rockin Tots program. Kids under 6 have the run of the place from those hours. They get access to the entire play space. BabyGotChat has negotiated an exclusive discount of $15 for one parent and one child. Any extra children are $3. If you haven't been and need to buy their designated socks, it's $3 a pair. Parking is $3. Purchase tickets at the counter when you arrive and mention BabyGotChat for the discount. We look forward to having fun with you!

As always, check our website for events and weekly library programs

See you next time!

Andrea