The wilds of Brooklyn

When we moved out to Brooklyn a few years ago, I was okay with our neighborhood, it was close to the train and Park Slope and friends. When we moved farther down the line last summer, I got a little freaked out. While it was only a subway stop further, it felt FAR OUT. It is far out. Park Slope is suddenly a shlep and takeout places don’t deliver here. And while this past year has been a whirlwind of renovation, pregnancy, long ass winter, more pregnancy, soggy spring, here we are, and I finally feel at a place where I can start to appreciate where we live and make it our home.

Last weekend we joined our local community garden. Membership includes a key to the garden, two containers to grow stuff (and we’re waitlisted for a small plot) and access to the compost bins, herb garden and a lovely green ENCLOSED outdoor space. I went over with the boys and we tried to see the fish in the fish pond, looked for snails and chucked unripe apricots at the compost bins, a lovely way to spend an hour. I’m so pleased to be a member of this garden, not only because it’s one step closer to feeling like we actually live in a community, but because my kids will have the chance to learn how things grow, to have respect for that which does grow and lives outdoors and know how to get their hands dirty.

We also live a few blocks away from the Kensington Stables. Actual horse stables (you know those horses you sometimes see in the park, this is where they come from) where one can go in and look at the horses and feed them carrots and for $3 take a pony ride three times up and down the block. Here is H riding his first pony. Sniff.

A few blocks from the horses, we found a guy who keeps fancy chickens in his front yard. I have no idea what breed of chicken Mel and Ed are (they are fancy looking, Mel is white, Ed is black) and the guy sometimes lets H feed them and has told us they scare off the cats and any other predators they might have. It has reinforced my desire to have chickens. Some day. On days when I can’t stand the idea of going and looking at horses standing around, we will go see if the chickens are out in the yard.

And a few blocks away from that, is the Sean Casey Animal Rescue Clinic, they specialize in rescuing reptiles and in their courtyard they have three huge Sulcata tortoises (I only know they are called Sulcata’s because we once owned one. We were those terrible people who bought a tortoise not knowing what we were getting ourselves into and once he got too big for the apartment, we had to send him down to Florida to find a new home.) Visiting the turtles is endlessly exciting, even though for the most part they are sleeping or eating lettuces. Sometimes, we can go inside the shop and look at the snakes, gerbils, parrots, grubs and occasional cat and dog.

Hansel, our Sulcata

And I can’t not mention the Prospect Farm, a small plot of land that is being turned into a working farm on Prospect Avenue, across the street from the fruit grove (somebody has fig, peach, pear, plum and apple trees in their yard) and the dude who makes his own maple syrup and sells it on the sidewalk on weekends.

Sometimes I feel weird that we live in NYC and I have seemingly stopped taking advantage of what this city offers, but the other day I realized that given where I am in my life right now, there is so much more to enjoy right where I am. This weird little neighborhood wouldn’t exist if the most fabulous and wonderful people didn’t live in this city for whatever reason they have to be here, and for some reason have decided to make this little corner of town into a veritable farmstead, an urban country. And in my continued effort to exist in the present, it’s a pretty good place to be.

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Filed under Brooklyn, Healthy habits, musing

I am not a housekeeper

In the spirit of making do with less, one of the things that has fallen by the wayside is hiring a professional to come in and clean the apartment. It’s a really nice perk, but one we seem to be surviving without. Of course it does mean that we have to find the time to actually do the cleaning and we don’t get to experience that miraculous feeling of walking in the door and finding the floors sparkly, the porcelain gleaming and everything smelling faintly of ammonia. So, in my quest for balance, where does cleaning the apartment fit in with keeping up with a toddler, vigilant nursing of a newborn and trying to maintain a business and home. Answer, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, at the end of the day, most everything has found it’s way back to where it belongs, my amazing amazing amazing husband manages to clean the kitchen every night, the laundry gets done once a week – and maybe the sheets get changed, the trash goes out every day, but there’s always something left undone. I have never been much of one for housekeeping, clutter makes me crazy, piles make me nuts, so while I can straighten things to death, don’t ask me to do the dishes and I’m a whiz at ignoring a dirty toilet.

A few years back we heard about the idea that if you and your partner each clean for 10 minutes a day, you will always have a neat house. This idea does not work. Okay, in theory, if you’re doing a massive cleaning once a week, then sure, 10 minutes a day of picking up around the house might work, but there’s that once a week deep cleaning. And so far, I haven’t figured out how to do this 1x a week clean with two kids in the house. As far as I can tell, diligent cleaning is almost impossible with a toddler. So I’m excited to try this new method I read about from the Work at Home Woman – the 22 minute house cleaning. LOVE IT.

Okay, I’m not saying that cleaning is awesome, but it needs to be done, living in this city, the dust alone that builds up on the furniture could kill you, and  I can find 22 minutes a day to do these things (especially if Jeremy continues his commitment to the kitchen) and then if we put into the schedule, once a month, drop the kids at grandma’s and scrub the place down. We can do this. I think.

One final thought about housecleaning and then I swear I’ll post something fitness related – the other day Harry and I were listening to Free to Be, You and Me. When I was a kid, my mother mainlined this album for me. I remember my record had a chip on the edge and as long as we didn’t listen to the first couple of tracks, it worked fine. But, we were sitting in his room and it came on the pod (sidenote…when I was pg with Harry, I bought a Fisher Price record player because I don’t want him to think that music only comes out of a sleek white deck of cards looking thing, now to find some records) and there was Carol Channing talking about housework. I stopped building my Lego tower and flashed back to 8 years old. I guess all that listening I did as a kid actually sank in, because I realized there are so many lessons from this album that I hold true to my heart. It’s Okay to Cry, William Wants a Doll, Parents are People…but this Housekeeping one, boy howdy. It’s worth copying.

You know, there are times when we happen to be
Just sitting there, quietly watching TV,
When the program we’re watching will stop for a while
And suddenly someone appears with a smile,
And starts to show us how terribly urgent
It is to buy some brand of detergent,
Or soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
To help with the housework.

Now, most of the time it’s a lady we see,
Who’s doing the housework on TV.
She’s cheerfully scouring a skillet or two,
Or she’s polishing pots till they gleam like new,
Or she’s scrubbing the tub or she’s mopping the floors,
Or she’s wiping the stains from the walls and the doors,
Or she’s washing the windows, the dishes, the clothes,
Or waxing the furniture till it just glows,
Or cleaning the fridge or the stove or the sink,
With a light-hearted smile, and a friendly wink,
And she’s doing her best to make us think
That her soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
Is the best kind of soap, or detergent or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach,
That there is in the whole wide world.
And, maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t,
And maybe it does what they say it will do,
But I’ll tell you one thing I know is true.
The lady we see when we’re watching TV,
The lady who smiles as she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
Or whatever she does on our TV screens,
That lady is smiling because she’s an actress,
And she’s earning money for learning those speeches
That mention those wonderful soaps and detergents and cleansers and cleaners and powders and pastes and waxes and bleaches.

So, the very next time you happen to be
Just sitting there quietly watching TV,
And you see some nice lady who smiles
As she scours or scrubs or rubs or washes or wipes or mops or dusts or cleans,
Remember, nobody smiles doing housework but those ladies you see on TV.
Your mommy hates housework,
Your daddy hates housework,
I hate housework too.
And when you grow up, so will you.
Because even if the soap or cleanser or cleaner or powder or paste or wax or bleach
That you use is the very best one,
Housework is just no fun.

Children, when you have a house of your own,
Make sure, when there’s house work to do,
That you don’t have to do it alone.
Little boys, little girls, when you’re big husbands and wives,
If you want all the days of your lives
To seem sunny as summer weather,
Make sure, when there’s housework to do,
That you do it together!

So this is one thing I know. Housework sucks. And one way to begin to achieve balance is to get a handle on it, get everyone in the house involved and don’t spend too much time worrying about it. There are far more important things in life than worrying over streaky stainless steel.

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Filed under Balance, marriage, relationships, werk

Things I’ve learned to do on a rainy day pt. 2

Occasionally I find myself stuck at home with a couple of kids and a rain day. After the requisite 9am Sesame Street viewing and maybe some Price is Right, there’s a whole lot of space time and energy needed to burn in there. This past winter I found a book called The Toddler’s Busy Book, meant to give stuck at home parents all sorts of jolly craft and cooking ideas. The best idea I got from that book. Get a basket and some balls and play “Toss the Balls in the Basket”. This book is a wee bit too unrealistic for me. I am not lucky enough to have a craft room or even a craft closet. I do have a craft box, filled with stuff like paint and chalk and bubbles and mostly stuff I don’t feel like cleaning up after he decides to smear it on the rug/couch/wall. I am also not lucky enough to have a kid that eats. Anything. So the Super helpful ideas of making ants on a log or whatever other “toddler friendly” concoctions are in that book, not helpful. Does anyone need a Toddler’s Busy Book?

So, for the urban dweller amongst us, here is some stuff I’ve figured out that helps keep the kids entertained and a few that also allow me to get something done around the house.

  • Rain boots and puddle jumping. Even if it’s just around the block, loads of fun until someone takes a faceplant in said puddle because the uneven sidewalks are hidden by same said puddle.
  • Bear piles. Take all the bears and whatever other stuffed items you have and make a big pile and then jump around on it. This activity hopefully results in leaning back on the pile and reading a nice book.
  • Rearranging the kitchen cabinets, because nothing is more fun for a 2 yo than taking things out of the cabinet and putting them back in  (get a rag and clean the cabinets while the child is removing items) and imagine how surprised your partner will be when they come home, reach in for the nuts and find a can of beans instead. Keep them guessing!
  • laundry. Not as easy with a newborn, but if the baby is napping, the laundry room can be a very exciting place
  • Dance Party – fire up that playlist and dance dance dance (which also counts as exercise)
  • Puppet Shows – pull out your favorite book (Confederacy of Dunces has worked well for me) and reenact scenes with whatever puppets, animals, figures you have lying around. The kids are entertained and I get to revisit an old favorite.
  • Youtube exercise videos, they are short and can target specific areas. Get the kids involved and challenge them to see who can do more crunches.
  • Make something – as a last resort, I’ll pull out the glue and glitter and whatever cardboard item I’ve saved, stick them all together and enjoy the delightful sparkly mess we made

Any combination of these ideas along with a sizable nap and “lunch” should usually get us through til 4pm when we can all sit down and watch Oprah or Ellen…although crap, starting next week, we don’t have an option. Oh Oprah, we’ll miss you. I guess I’ll get to enjoy my first attempt at explaining That Television Show Isn’t On Anymore.

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Filed under fitness, motherhood

What Motherhood means to me

I’ve been reading loads of inspirational thoughts about Mother’s Day, really nice things have been written about what motherhood means to moms and to their kids. This one always gets to me

“Making the decision to have a child – It’s momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”
– Elizabeth Stone

and this is sweet and sentimental

Lost Some Memory
I think I’ve lost some memory
since _______ was born
I don’t remember sleeping late
on a lazy Sunday morn
I don’t remember quiet dinners
with candlelight and wine.
Or getting up and ready for work
and making it there on time.
I don’t remember summer days
just lounging on the beach
And those memories of “girls’ night out”
are somehow out of reach.
I don’t remember long warm baths
with bubbles and a good book
Or my favorite TV program
or a movie worth a look.
I can’t remember all those things
I spent time on yesterday
And I can’t remember life
being any other way.
And as I lay her down at night
and kiss this little girl
I can’t remember so much happiness,
such love and joy in my world.

But today I’ve been thinking about the fact that this morning, while feeding the baby I wondered aloud, why is he so upset, and Jeremy said hmmm, could be because he’s peed through his pants and I said, oh yeah, the sheets are wet and then I scooched over and fell back asleep.

Motherhood means not minding sleeping next to someone else’s peed on sheets.

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Is it wrong?

That all I really want for Mother’s Day is to have a day to myself, go to the movies, get my nails done, eat something yummy and have a really good margarita?

I love all those boys I live with to death, but I spend all day every day with them. And I’ve been wanting a fine margarita since about month two of being pregnant.

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Filed under mom stuff, musing, stuff that makes me happy

Get that Body Back®

On Monday I’m headed out to Danbury, CT and getting certified to teach Body Back®, another Stroller Strides program designed by Lisa Druxman.  This is a results-based workout designed specifically for moms. Whether you just had a baby or had a baby twenty years ago, it will help any mom get her body back. Most importantly, it will help moms unlock their personal possibilities in an inspiring and powerful environment.

It’s different from Stroller Strides because it’s done without the babies and you sign up for an 8 week session, meet 2x a week and follow a meal plan designed for you.

I am really excited to be able to offer this program to Brooklyn moms. Because I NEED it. Really, I need someone to give me a Body Back class. I feel fine and can see how I’ll eventually get rid of this belly (10 months up, 1o months down is my new mantra) but I’m ready to get back out there, find my groove and rejoin the world of the living.

ready, set, go!

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Filed under Brooklyn, fitness, Stroller Strides

toxins=gross

As if I don’t have enough to worry about.

We moved to Brooklyn from Long Island City in 2008. I was pregnant, we were living in a big drafty third floor walk up apartment with no laundry that overlooked the midtown tunnel toll plaza and just beyond that, the Newtown Creek, you know, one of the most polluted waterways in the country.  I wasn’t excited about the idea of raising a baby exposed to those toxins. And this is aside from the fact that Jeremy works in a shop on the Gowanus canal, a brand new Superfund site. I relish the day he comes home having sprouted a second head.

And now there’s this “a just-released report by the National Cancer Institute that showed a 9.4% increase in childhood cancer between 1992 and 2007, the FDA let moms and dads all across America down. Instead of making the long overdue move to do something serious about getting rid of toxic food dyes so ubiquitous in our food supply, they instead fell back on those two simple words so often used to stall, delay and deny: “more research.”” Link to the full article at Healthy Child, Healthy World here.

But if you don’t feel like clicking on the link, the gist of the article is that so much of our packaged food, most of which is marketed towards kids, includes artificial dyes and food colors, and links are being made between these dyes and hyperactivity, cancer and food allergies. Okay, so we as progressive parents know about these dyes, and to read labels and avoid processed foods when we can, but if you’re still with me, here’s the kicker. Major food manufacturing corporations, I’m looking at you Kraft, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, have removed these dyes from food they manufacture and sell in other countries. What ?!?!

In the UK, these companies “have voluntarily removed artificial colors, the preservative sodium benzoate, and even aspartame from their products. Particularly those marketed to kids. Take a close look at the ingredient list for the product below.”

So if these companies have proved that they can make healthy processed foods without the added chemicals, WHY can’t they do it for our kids? Why can’t the FDA just admit that added chemicals are not good for us and let’s move on. In the meantime, keep reading those labels and keep eating clean.
But wait, there’s more. I just heard this crazy statistic – up to 80% of the antibiotics used in the US are given to farm animals, and only 20% go to sick people.  The animals in question are not necessarily sick, but are given the drugs prophylactically so they’ll grow faster and won’t get sick from the wholly unhealthy conditions they live under. A regular grass fed cow takes something like 5 years to go to slaughter, whereas a corn-fed cow given an unhealthy dose of antibiotics can be ready for slaughter in 9 MONTHS. This is bananas.
Props to NY Congresswoman, Louise Slaughter, (the only microbiologist in Congress) for raising awareness and bringing this to the floor. Back in 2009 she introduced the The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), designed to ensure that we preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics for the treatment of human disease. Last month she reintroduced the bill. The new bill aims to prevent certain antibiotics from being given to animals, because they’re the same ones (think tetracycline, penicillin, etc.) that we humans rely on to fight off dangerous infections. The more those antibiotics are given to animals, the more antibiotic-resistant “superbugs” develop—and these superbugs are responsible for a growing number of deaths. For example, each year 90,000 Americans die from bacterial infections acquired during hospital stays, and 70 percent of those infections were resistant to the drugs that should have conquered them.
If you’ve stayed with me this far, some things you can do. Buy organic meat, dairy and eggs. Rather than spend the money to eat antibiotic laden food , spend the money, buy the good stuff and eat less of it. Write your congressperson and ask them to support PAMTA. Click here for an easy link.

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Filed under Family, healthy eating, Healthy habits, mom stuff