Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: What a Difference a (School) Year Makes

This is my daughter Kay on the first day of Pre-K...


... and on the last day.



A note to my daughter Magpie: you didn't go to Pre-K, but here you (and Kay) are on the last day of Pre-Nursery when you were four:


And here's a video of you and your friends singing "So good-bye, to Pre-Nursery, we know that it is time for us to fly..." (I didn't edit it, so those of you who aren't Magpie or her relatives may want to skip it)




Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Yes, I Still Have It - The Shabbat Ima Necklace and other Nursery School Relics

This post is from June, 2008, when my daughter Magpie was in her final year of pre-school and we still lived in Manhattan.

The end of the school year always makes me melancholy, I can only imagine what I'll be like when my kids are really graduating from school for the final time.

Today was Magpie's last day of nursery school. She came home with a whole bag full of swag, including all of her day-to-day stuff from class - her carpet square for circle time, her chair name tag, her yellow triangle with her photo on it which was used to check in every morning, and perhaps most touchingly, her (handmade) Shabbat Ima necklace, complete with her Hebrew name, Varda.

Three years later... and yes, I still have it.



All these things were in her classroom day in and day out, and of course amongst the bustle of a rainy Tuesday morning or a hurried pick-up on a way to a dentist appointment, were the most mundane things in the world. Now, out-of-context and lying around our apartment, they are of course overwhelmingly touching.

And like so many things with one's child's childhood, I am suddenly filled with regret for every moment this past year that I complained about, rushed past, or simply didn't appreciate. Or, as Magpie would say, "no more pre-school."

Goodbye, and thank you, Chabad Early Learning Center.

 Magpie just finished second grade in suburban New Jersey.  How times change.

My youngest starts his first year at Chabad in New Jersey this fall.

I wish I knew where the time went.

Monday, June 27, 2011

More Ideas for July Fourth Celebrations - Festive Cakes and Jello Creations

I know I already posted a bunch of ideas for July Fourth crafts and eats, but I found so many more cute foods, I just had to share these, too.

My favorite for all-around awesome is the Red, White & Blue Cake made with Red Velvet and Blue Velvet cakes, and the traditional Cream Cheese Frosting.

Photo from Cake or Death?

Here's the recipe from Cake... Or Death?

Photo from Cake or Death?

The cake is beautiful, but for those who don't quite have the time commitment it would require, there are also so many cute Fourth of July desserts made with Jell-o.

Look at these choices:

Brown Eyed Baker has Stained Glass Jell-o


Taste of Home has Red, White & Blue Jell-o Cubes:

 
And last, here are two options that combine both cake and Jell-o, (which admittedly, probably look better than they taste):



Kraft's Patriotic Poke Cake:



And the Patriotic Quilt "Cake"


Do you have a favorite July Fourth dessert? Would love to hear your recipes!

For lots more ideas, check out all the July Fourth posts and the Red, White and Blue Pinterest Board I made.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

What I'm thinking about on Sunday night: my engagement

Nine years ago today, I got engaged. Or possibly it was nine years ago yesterday. And to be honest, the engagement anniversary might be tomorrow, or even the day after that.

I can't remember.

I asked my husband, and he can't remember either.

We do both remember we got engaged the same day we moved in together, but we don't remember what day we got our apartment, that awesome first New York City apartment. Awesome, and four non-elevatored flights up. The next year we got married in January, and our daughter was born that December. And then we didn't last too much longer as a couple with a baby in our fourth story walk-up, but it was great while it lasted.

Yesterday I saw my mom. I asked her, "Do you remember when Mike and I got engaged?" She replied, "Why, was it today?"

And I said, "That's exactly my question - was it today? We can't remember."

And do you know what this sweet grandmother replied?

"Who cares."

I'm not sure if grandma is right or not, but my email doesn't go back that far, (I switched all my accounts to my new married name, and the old ones are gone now) so I guess I'll never know.

I do still have photos of our old apartment, including one I took just a few weeks ago. Our stretch of street between Broadway and Amsterdam still looks the same.


But the neighborhood has changed so much. The popular Sarabeth's is still on one end (we used to be able to look out our window to assess the line before heading there for brunch), and H&H Bagels is on the other, though it is closing soon. A bunch of other favorite places are also now closed, and many, like Allan & Suzi (four doors down from our apartment, and where I got my wedding dress) are moving to a new neighborhood.


So there you have it. Lots of memories of the old neighborhood. But no recollection of the date we got engaged.

Do you remember the day you got engaged? Should I make my husband find our old lease to solve the mystery, or do you agree with my mom... who cares?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Fun Flags and Fireworks for July Fourth - A few Ideas for Handprint Crafts and Cute Holiday Foods

July Fourth is one of my favorite summer holidays.

The Fourth of July will be here before we know it, and what better way to celebrate Independence Day than with a festive and patriotic handprint craft?  I also found so many cute July 4th food ideas, I had to share some of those, too.

Here are a few of my favorites (if they look familiar, some were already featured here for Memorial Day and Flag Day):

The Patriotic Bald Eagle:
Photo from All Kids Network
And how awesome is this Edible Eagle?
Photo from Family Fun
There is also always the handprint American Flag:
Photo from Lesson Plans Page
And the handprint and footprint American Flag:

Photo from Serendipity
And (of course) the edible Fresh Fruit Flag:
Photo from Preschool Rock
I also love these elegant edible flag cupcakes from Diary of a Ladybird:


And last, what would July 4th be without the fireworks?  Make 'em with handprints:

Picture from All Kids Network
Or make these candy-licious July Fourth Fireworks Cupcakes from Parentdish:


These cupcakes are made with assorted candy - jelly beans, cut licorice, swedish fish, etc. - and I love that each kid can decorate an individual fireworks display on their own cupcake. You could also use the candy to make American flag cupcakes, love this version from Sugar & Sprinkles:



Happy July Fourth!!!!

For more July Fourth ideas, check our archives. And we've got a lot of patriotic red, white and blue ideas on Pinterest, too.
Would love to hear how you'll be celebrating the Fourth of July. We'll be taking our annual beach vacation, and I'll be making my family favorite red velvet and blue velvet cake, but that's a recipe for another post...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Instructions for My Husband: Don't leave the dirty cookie sheet in the kitchen sink.

The cookie sheet is very large and takes up the entire kitchen sink. And said placement of equally said cookie sheet makes it impossible for me to wash (or even find!) pertinent dishes that may be under it. In addition, a cookie sheet in the sink makes it impossible to pour anything down the drain, or in general to, uh, use the kitchen sink for any other possible use besides cookie sheet storage.

This cookie sheet situation is particularly irksome when I discover it at the exact same time that I am also embarking upon making breakfast for two three fairly impatient and hungry children. Not to mention Mommy who likes to prepare her coffee sooner rather than later.

Please either wash the baking sheet your fucking yourself, or at least let me know it's in the sink so I can wash it myself before the morning rush.*

That would be great. Thanks! :)

* This second option is merely an example, and not really a viable possibility.

This is my twentieth instruction for my husband in my ongoing series. The cookie sheet situation has been irritating me since 2008 when we had two impatient children. Now with three kids, it really annoys the hell out of me.

Image source.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Flat Stanley Visits the One and Only New York City!

My kid got one of those Flat Stanley assignments. (For those asking "What is Flat Stanley?" it is a class project when kids are given a "Flat Stanley" to mail to a friend or family member in another city so Stanley can experience life there and report back on his time visiting a far-away land. It is based on the 1964 children's book called (you guessed it!) Flat Stanley.) 

Our Flat Stanley traveled from the suburban countryside of New Jersey to the urban fairytale that is the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Flat Stanley returned with a trove of photos of everywhere from Arthur Avenue in the Bronx to Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

I share with you now my favorite photo of Stanley on the town:


Thank you so much to Stanley's hosts for showing him such a good time, New York City style.

Have you ever participated in a Flat Stanley project? Where did your Stanley visit?

Monday, June 20, 2011

I love the clothes at Tea Collection. And yes, I have the video to prove it.

I love the clothes at Tea Collection, so I was overjoyed when they asked if I would like to review some from their summer collection. My little guy Ziggy has been wearing their baby clothes since he was a newborn.


I went online to shop for both something for my son and my daughter, eventually choosing cute matching  outfits from the Costa Brava Collection (a plaid hoodie for my toddler boy which is now on sale for $29.50, and a plaid romper for my five-year-old girl, also on sale for $39.50).

For those of you not familiar with Tea, they make incredibly durable and stylish clothes for boys and girls (with no licensed characters in sight!) for newborns through age 12. Tea also has some great clothing for women, too.

And because my new addiction is Animoto, I made a video of my kids wearing their new summer outfits. Watching this, you won't need me to tell you that while these clothes may look good, they are clearly made for play.


Thank you to Tea for the awesome summer apparel, and thank you also to Animoto for being the object of my latest obsession. You can use this link for $5 off an Animoto Plus Subscription (and I get a few dollars off mine, too.)

And... I'm a Tea Collection affiliate, too. Just so you know.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Animoto what have you done to me? A Father's Day Video for My Husband

Yesterday I learned about Animoto from the lovely ladies at Cool Mom Picks.

I made a nice, reasonable video for my Dad for Father's Day. It was reasonable both in the time it took me to create and the time it would take to watch.

But curse you Animoto, because you are addictive. So today I made one for my husband. I am posting it here, but I do not expect you to watch it. It is really long.  But I am hoping just the right length if you are the father of the kids in the photos. Happy Father's Day!



I am an affiliate of Animoto, you can get $5 off with this link. I take no responsibility for any addiction to the service you may develop.


Happy Father's Day, Grandpa!

Happy Father's Day Grandpa!

My Father's Day video for my Dad. Animoto is awesome.



Big thanks to Cool Mom Tech for writing about Animoto. Less thanks for the 1,649 hours I will now be spending there making videos.

You can use this link to get $5 off a Pro subscription to Animoto.

Friday, June 17, 2011

GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED ~ Baby Bjorn has a Cool New High Chair and a Great Giveaway!

 
Congratulations to the winner, Beauty to Love!

Thank you to everyone who entered, and to BabyBjorn for providing the great prize.

One of my favorite brands for babies and toddlers is Baby Bjorn. I love the simple, modern design of the products, not to mention I'm always happy to find something not festooned with licensed characters in these days of Dora-fication. And, Baby Bjorn products are well-made and durable.We have a step stool that is still going strong through heavy use by three kids.

So, for these reasons and more, I was excited to hear about the launch of the new high chair from Baby Bjorn, which is for ages five months (or whenever baby can sit-up) until three years. Designed with smooth surfaces and a detachable tray that is dishwasher safe, the chair aims to make cleaning messy mealtimes a little easier.

Below is a photo that I can totally imagine playing out in my family:


Because in no way does my family look less like the awesome one above and more like the one below:


To see more of the chair's features and learn more about the design behind it, watch this video from the launch event, let me know if you or your adorable baby are featured. I spotted Nicole from Momtrends near the end.




To celebrate the launch of the new high chair, Baby Bjorn is giving away a fantastic prize pack of baby feeding gear, including a Baby Bjorn Cup, Plate & Spoon, Soft Bib, Eat & Play Smock. (Total retail value is approx. $80).  All products are completely free of BPA.



Entry:
To enter just leave a comment here with your email (or make sure your comment links to where I can find it) and share your favorite or least favorite aspect of feeding a toddler. For me, I never tire of cutting food into itsy-bitsy pieces just so my little guy can fling it on the floor. And you?

For extra entries leave a comment for each of the below letting me know you already/do now:
If it's easier, you can also tweet or leave a message on the Facebook page that you follow/like and you don't need to also leave another comment below.

If you do ALL FIVE of the additional entries above, you can just leave one comment along the lines of "home run!" "the whole enchilada!" or even a reference to a trifecta or hat trick will work fine.

~ Good luck! Enter Now! Entries close on Monday, June 27 at 9pm EST ~

Giveaway small print: Contest open to U.S. residents age 18 and over. Contest ends at 9:00pm EST, Monday, June 27, 2011. Winners will be randomly selected via Random.org and announced here as well as emailed or messaged on Twitter with the good news. Entrants must provide contact information in their comment. If winner does not respond within forty-eight hours, a new winner will be selected. Prize supplied and fulfilled by Baby Bjorn. Colors of winning products will vary. I was not compensated for this post or for promoting this contest.

For more information and full giveaway rules, please contact anna@randomhandprints.com.

I received a similar prize pack for review. My toddler loves everything, and has no idea we got it for free so his opinions are 100% his own, as our mine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rockin' the Bump - Hitchcock Style

I'm not a big fan of having my photo taken in general, and certainly not when I'm pregnant. But I knew my son would one day want to see a picture of me pregnant with him, so I agreed to this one:


I'm at the beach in Delaware, 7 months pregnant with my third kid (the other two are ages three and five at the time), and very annoyed with my husband for being at his brother's bachelor party in Las Vegas - but I bet that's already obvious from the picture.

Thanks to Shell at Things I Can't Say for hosting this very fun Rockin' the Bump linky, I love seeing everyone's preggers pics!



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My Huz is on the Twitter

So if you live in New Jersey, or are just interested in New Jersey gas prices, follow @NJgas for the best (and worst) prices at the pump.








Wordless Wednesday: In Honor of Father's Day

When I lived on the Upper West Side, I used to pass this sign every day on the way to take my kids to preschool.


It always made me sad. I came across this photo I took of the sign when I was looking through some old pictures on the computer, and thought with Father's Day coming up it was as good time as any to share these thoughts.


And yes, reading this still makes me sad. (You may have to click on the photo to be able to read it.)

Here's hoping next Father's Day all the dads are back home.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Instructions for My Husband: A distressed collar is not a ruffled shirt.

When our son is wearing one of his many cool hipster-in-training shirts, they sometimes have distressed or frayed details. An uneven neckline perhaps.
Slub Tee from Appaman.com
The shirts do not have ruffles. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

They are shirts, for boys.

Now, if you wanted to talk about his Emo make-up choices, you might have a point...


This is my nineteenth instruction for my husband in my ongoing series Instructions for my Husband.

Do you and your husband share a sartorial vision, or does he also need a little fashion guidance?

Friday, June 10, 2011

Looks like the Central Park Zoo is on my list now, too.

At the Zoo, un-Dora-fied.
My family has always teased me for putting place after place on my list. Rude to me at the local dry cleaners? Cut-off. Bad meal from the diner? Cut-off.

But, in my defense, if I love a place I totally spread the word and am incredibly loyal. It's not coincidence that six other members of my family use my dentist (and my father in law is a dentist) and just as many get their hair done at my hair salon.

But I digress.

I do have a list. And it is lengthy. And I wish I didn't have to add another place to it, but I do. And that place is the Central Park Zoo. Because they are now as Dora-fied as the Bronx Zoo, which had already earned its own spot on my list a few months back.

Cutting-off the Central Park Zoo will put a total damper on our family's usual Merry Zoo Day celebrations. But a person has to stand for something in this world. And I may be a lazy activist, but I'm not completely lazy. I do have a few principles. And one of those is that public zoos shouldn't show a Dora and Diego movie pretty much just because Nickelodeon paid them too. (Yes, I understand that budget issues mean that zoos really need this money.)

And if someone from the Wildlife Conservation Society is reading this... I would love to buy tickets to the zoo and come back. And my kids would love to even more.

Don't let Nickelodeon own you. Tell Nickelodeon that Dora and Diego will have to catch that robot butterfly somewhere else. Like the Children's Museum of Manhattan. (Yes, it's Dora-fied, too. And yes, also cut-off.)

If the Dora-fication of cherished children's places bothers you too, please support the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. They have an anonymous donor matching gifts until June 30, 2011 so now is a perfect time to make a donation and to make a real difference in the lives of children.

Dora and Diego have taken over not only the Bronx Zoo and the Central Park Zoo here in New York City, but also the NC Zoos, the Cincinnati Zoo, the Detroit Zoo, and I'm sure there are more, too. With zoo experiences like this, maybe the kids should just stay home and play the Zoo Tycoon games instead.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Three Ideas for Backyard Summer Fun with a Toddler

This is our first summer in a real-life suburban house with a real-life rambunctious toddler. I'm not quite ready to take the plunge and buy a swingset and make our own playground in the backyard (but I'm sure I'll be doing this before too long) so in the meantime, here are my three ways to keep a little one happy for more than five minutes:

Kiddie Pool

Really any kind should do the trick, but I especially like the Step 2 Play & Shade Pool ($59.99) because it is sturdy and should last at least this season, if not a few more. This pool is recommended for ages two and over, but it is perfect for my son right now, and he won't be two until August.

The Step2 pool is made of a solid plastic, which is great because you don't have to inflate it and also because it should be more durable then the plastic ones which seem to tear or leak way too soon. The Step2 pool is also nice because it has an umbrella for shade and a bunch of toys to occupy the little ones, too.


Sprinkler

We have a circular spray sprinkler, but the oscillating versions of my youth would be fun, too. Combine the sprinkler and the kiddie pool, and my kid is happy for a whole morning without me having to design elaborate outdoor games. I would recommend buying a real garden sprinkler (we have a Nelson Whirling Sprinkler, $11)
over the sprinklers marketed by the toy companies. Not only are "real" sprinklers well-made and durable, but they are much less expensive then the sprinklers geared towards kids. We had the Little Tikes Super Spiral Sprinkler last summer, which was fun, but didn't make it past July before cracking, and it cost $30.  Our Nelson sprinkler is on it's second season, and I can't imagine even my kids will be able to figure out how to break it.


Slide or Climber

If like me, some days you're just not up to the pre-prep and post-production that accompanies toddler water-time, you need something fun (and dry!) to do in the backyard. My kid is endlessly busy with just a slide, or a slide with a minor climbing component.

Step2 has The Play Up Toddler Climb & Slide ($79.99, ages 1-4) which is just big enough, without being too big for the toddler-sized.


We also like the Panda Climber from Step2 which is larger and has some more features, but is also more expensive ($129, ages 1.5-5)

And, on a days when you're feeling particularly ambitious, the slide can even be positioned in the sprinkler or to land your kid in the kiddie pool. But of course, this is not officially recommended and would need some responsible adult supervision.

While none of these ideas are exactly cutting-edge, they do keep the kid happy. And I would love to hear your ideas for toddler fun, too. What are your favorite things to do with toddlers in the summer? Should I get a sandbox? Or a see saw?

I received a Step2 (Step Two) Play and Shade Pool for review. All opinions are my own. My son doesn't know which items were received for review, which ones we bought, and to be honest, which ones actually belong to the neighbors.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Instructions for my husband: No eating or drinking in my car.

I'm serious about this. There is no eating or drinking in my car. I like to keep my ride nice. Even with three kids.

The kids even adhere to the no eating and drinking rule.When their friends get in the car, they even follow the rule. And if they don't, our kids politely remind them of the rule. And then they follow it.

And if the under-eight crowd can, you can follow the rule, too. And if you can't, you need to at least destroy the evidence.


This is my eighteenth instruction in my ongoing series of Instructions for my Husband.

Have an instruction to share? Email me at anna@randomhandprints.com. I'd love to share it here. What could be nicer for Father's Day?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, June 6, 2011

In Praise of Dumpster Diving and Dancing

I was digging through my old photos, looking to see if I had any that showed  one of my "finds" from the curbs of New York City, which I wanted to share with my friend Liz at Flourish in Progress in case she was looking for inspiration for her upcoming Dumpster Diving trip.

And I did find one, a photo of a not-half-bad painting of camels hanging on the wall of my living room. My nice Jewish family found this on Christmas Day when we were leaving a Thai restaurant. How's that for a New York story?


While I was looking for the curb find photos, I also found this pretty awesome video of my daughter Kay dancing on the front porch of our old house, fifteen seconds of pure kiddiness. And of course, I just had to share.




Oh to be young again.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

What I'm thinking about on Sunday Night

What a week it's been! Last night my two daughters headed off into the great big world - one to a sleep over at grandma's place in Manhattan, the other to her first slumber party. And as if these two sleepovers weren't enough, we decided the quiet house was the perfect time to transition the little guy from his crib to a bed.

Needless to say, today, the day after these sleepovers, was a very long day indeed.

In other going-ons this week, I told my husband we don't buy Skechers - unfortunately, this information was imparted to him at the shoe store immediately after he had just told the girls, "sure, those sneakers look fine."

Everywhere I looked there were more distasteful products for kids, including from Walmart this pillow with "Spooning Leads to Forking" inexplicably being sold in "girls bedding."


Things took a turn for the better when Ilana at MommyShorts included my (gross) story among her six contenders in The Unsexiest Parenting Moment contest - thankfully, I now know of five people with a worse story then mine, which means even more to me then winning.

And last but not least, my brother and sister-in-law found out that they're expecting a baby girl in the fall. So S and E, I'll be on the look-out for your entry in next year's Unsexiest Parenting Moment contest. But be forewarned - there's some serious competition.

This week I'm looking forward to all the end of the school year fun, including Kay's Kindergarten school play on Friday. And tomorrow, my mom is coming over to help me plant a vegetable garden. And you? What's on your schedule for the week ahead?

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The End of an Era: a Slumber Party, a Sleepover and a Big Boy Bed


What a Saturday night.

My oldest - she's seven - is at her first slumber party.

My middle one - she's five - is at her first solo all-by-herself sleepover at grandma's place.

And my youngest - who I still call the baby - he's spending his first night in his big boy bed.

So I guess he's not a baby. But he is still a toddler. A toddler who is growing up way too fast.

I'm thinking that when I'm saying goodbye to the last one outside his dorm room at some leafy liberal arts college in New England, I'll look back at this and laugh about how ridiculous I'm being to think they're already so grown-up, but tonight all I can think about is how it's The End of an Era.

And it makes me just a little bit sad.

I am going to try and console myself with some bad TV and several good drinks, but it wouldn't hurt if I won Mommy Short's Contest for the UnSexiest Parenting Moment. As the children grow-up so quickly, these beautiful memories of diaper blowouts mean all the more.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Skechers has company! Two-and-a-half more bad companies!

Just a few days ago I posted about my distaste for Skechers shape ups for girls. Who knew in just 48-hours I would find two more companies who are just as bad for girls, possibly worse.

I present:

Walmart's "Spooning Leads to Forking" Pillow - being sold as Children's Bedding


Burberry's Perfume for Babies. Their Burberry Baby Touch is recommended for infants and toddlers. And best of all, it's only fifty bucks. For baby perfume.
So there you have it, Burberry and Walmart have something in common. Who would have guessed it?

Forever 21 was going to be on the list for their "I'm too pretty to do math" magnet, but I just read that it's no longer for sale. So yay for that. 


As the photos below show, clearly Forever 21 is a feminist company:


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