Surviving with Two-Under-Two

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As little girls we spend hours pushing miniature strollers, dressing (and undressing) dolls, emulating how we see mothers care for their babies and practicing for the future.  Just like the real thing, right? Ha! As a child, no one tells you about the diaper blow-outs, catching vomit with bare hands, or being peed on, all while operating on 3 hours of sleep. Taking care of a baby is an all-encompassing job, and while it’s indisputably rewarding in a myriad of ways, it can simultaneously trigger feelings of terror, frustration and exhaustion (in that order) akin only to dodging through crowds of seasoned shoppers at the Saks after-Christmas sale.

In May my husband and I embarked on an emotional roller-coaster as we welcomed our second child when our first was merely 20 months old.  Our cozy family of three had become a quartet overnight and it felt like we were driving a Ferrari without a steering wheel. In the weeks leading up to my newborn’s arrival, I felt a sense of guilt that even surpassed the time I had too many mimosas and purchased full-price Louboutins identical to a pair I already own. How would we preserve what we had with our toddler while embracing the changing dynamic of our growing family? How would I have the energy to keep up with a raging toddler while waking every two hours to feed a seven pound dictator? These were questions to which I would soon have answers.

Having 2 babies under the age of 2 presents its own unique set of challenges, but with patience and an optimistic mindset, it is possible to tend to a newborn’s basic needs while also managing an active toddler. Below I will divulge five of my own tried-and-true strategies for surviving, thriving and even looking chic while caring for two-under-two.

      1. Put the Phone Down

For many Manhattan women, shopping is a competitive sport that requires discipline, stamina and a high-speed internet connection.  If you’re like me, you’re glued to your phone around 11am/12pm EST when the online flash sale sites launch their daily deals. Who wouldn’t be interested to peep all of the discount designer merchandise on RueLaLa, Gilt, Hautelook, etc.? It’s easy to be distracted by the constant presence of our mobile devices and the immediacy of communication and information that they provide. Aside from accessing flash sales, we grocery shop, order dinner, pay bills, read news, and receive social media updates from friends all at the touch of a button. Although it may be difficult at times, it’s essential to disconnect from these digital distractions, especially in the company of your little ones who are competing for your attention. I really restrict my phone usage around my kids and instead use our time together to play games, read books, and focus on being “present”. Sharing these private moments with each of your babies reassures them that they are both loved and an important part of the family. Moms everywhere – Next time you feel the temptation to use your phone, please remind yourself that while the internet will be around for years to come, your babies will be babies only once.

      2. Privacy – It’s Overrated. 

I can’t even remember the last time I was able to take a shower or use the bathroom without the presence of a pint-sized playmate. Now that my toddler has learned to open doors, I’ve surrendered the little slice of privacy I’d been clinging to since his birth. When I’m brushing my teeth, there he is – my steadfast bathroom buddy, excitedly rummaging through my makeup drawer. If anyone needs their toilet flushed 157 times, my kid is available! Need toilet paper? No problem! My toddler has just unraveled an entire roll. Rather than allowing privacy deprivation to get me down, I consider myself lucky to have children who constantly want to be with me and I’ve grown accustomed to incorporating my sweet little sidekicks into my routines, even those that happen behind (once) closed doors. When my toddler isn’t busy ransacking my bathroom cabinets or trying to flush household objects down the toilet, I try to involve him as much as possible in my morning routine. My pint-sized personal stylist loves picking out my clothes and accessories, helping me get dressed, brushing my hair and helping me make coffee.  In the afternoons, I often utilize my toddler’s nap as an opportunity to wash my hair, in which case my infant joins me in the bathroom in a bouncy seat so I can watch her through the glass shower door (with door cracked for fresh air). Sometimes I even add Olbas (http://www.olbas.co.uk/products/olbas-for-children.ashx) oil to my shower if she’s at all congested. She loves the sound of the cascading water and enjoys playing peek-a-boo as I wipe away the fog on the glass door. Who needs privacy when you can have inquisitive smiling eyes gazing up at you at all times?

       3. Distract, Distract, Distract.

One of my chief concerns about having two-under-two was how I would keep my high-energy toddler safe and distracted so that I could peacefully nurse my newborn. This thrill-seeking mini-MacGyver, appropriately nicknamed “The Monkey”, would be right at home swinging from trees in the jungle. In highly calculated maneuvers, he pushes furniture to help reach objects, scales shelving units, jumps from high surfaces, and cannot be left unattended for even a moment. I had heard promising feedback about the Amazon Fire tablet through a friend and figured I would give it a shot. The tablet proved to be a successful means of keeping him engrossed and out of harm’s way, but I didn’t feel comfortable exposing him to so much screen time. That’s when I came up with the idea to create a “breastfeeding basket” filled with stimulating toys that I would make available only during the times when I’m nursing the baby. Worked like a charm! Nesting cups, Tupperware containers and Mister Potato Head have been some of his favorites, but it’s important to switch up these toys regularly otherwise the novelty wears off and the breastfeeding basket will backfire. If all else fails, you can always put your toddler into his crib with some toys.

      4. Mommy & Me.

“Who is this new little creature monopolizing my mommy’s time? Why doesn’t she spend as much time with me anymore? Am I still her numero uno shopping sidekick?” Welcoming a new baby presents many challenges for the two-under-two family, the greatest of which, in my opinion, is helping the toddler adjust to the new family dynamic. He/she may be angry, confused and/or jealous of the new baby and unable to adequately communicate any of these feelings. After my daughter was born, it was very difficult for my son to fully comprehend the concept of having a new sibling. Even though we read books about becoming a big brother and role-played with dolls, it wasn’t until we brought the new baby home from the hospital that reality sank in. Although my son has been smitten with his baby sister from the very beginning, there have been times he has struggled with jealousy stemming from sharing my attention. While verbally reassuring him of how much he is loved is important, I’ve found it much more valuable to show him through my actions.  I incorporate into our daily routine at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted “mommy & me” time and it’s been such a fantastic way for me to remind him I’m still his mommy. We take mommy & me classes, go out for lunch, visit museums and play at the park. Most importantly, giving him my undivided attention every day makes him feel valued and appreciated.

      5. They’re always sick – Get used to it

When my son was an infant he never had so much as a sniffle.  I took him to classes, restaurants, and more shopping adventures than I’m willing to admit. Fast forward two years and things couldn’t be any more different.  On any given day, there is a fairly good chance that someone in our household is sick.  Now that my son is in preschool he’s exposed to countless germs, all of which he eagerly brings home to his baby sister. Despite frequent hand washing and our best efforts to sanitize everything that comes through our door, it seems like we are fighting a losing battle. Ever try quarantining a rambunctious 2-year old in a Manhattan apartment? You would have an easier time going to Hermes and walking out with a Birkin. The first winter with your toddler and newborn/infant will inevitably be an endless onslaught of runny noses and low-grade fevers. No need to panic, however. Armed with infant Tylenol, boogie wipes and a NoseFrida, you will have all the essentials to ride out even the worst cold season. Dust off your Juicy velour separates and take advantage of this time by sharing extra cuddles and allowing them to indulge in their favorite television shows. Most importantly, take comfort in knowing that childhood exposure to germs may help boost immunity and enjoy those snuggles while you can!

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Ready, Set, Shop!

On blistery cold winter days, Manhattan parents often struggle with keeping their rambunctious tots entertained in apartments where space is extremely limited. As the mother of a thrill-seeking 2-year old boy, I’m always searching for new indoor venues where I can set my son free to burn off some energy. For parents in the city’s Upper East Side neighborhood, common rainy-day destinations include The Children’s Museum Of Manhattan, The Museum of Natural History, Barnes & Noble Bookstore, the local library and a variety of pay-as-you-go indoor play spaces. After having exhausted all of the aforementioned resources this winter, this weekend we piled into the car and drove to The Westchester, the county’s premier shopping experience and home to some of my favorite retailers. What could have easily been a series of unfortunate and embarrassing meltdowns with a toddler and infant was actually an enjoyable afternoon for our whole family. Below I will share some easily applied strategies that will help to ensure your shopping day with the kids is also stress-free and delightful.

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Vest ::  Jocelyn (sold out) – similar here  Boots :: Marc Fisher Diaper Bag :: Gucci   Bracelets :: Hermes

Put Them To Work

We all have that one mommy friend whose toddler sits peacefully in a shopping cart while his/her mother leisurely shops. Not my kid! Like most 2-year-old’s, my toddler requires constant entertainment and demands immediate gratification. Boredom is our main source of behavioral issues while in public, so giving him an active role in shopping makes him less likely to seek out mischief and lessens the likelihood of any meltdowns. Because he is also extremely independent and loves a challenge, he really enjoys whatever tasks I ask him to complete. Whether it be finding socks of a certain color or grabbing an item from a shelf within his reach, it keeps him busy and gives him an enormous sense of accomplishment.  At the Westchester, one of his favorite projects was throwing a few coins into the water fountain and making a wish for us. He loved being Mommy’s little helper. 

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Teach ‘Em

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A trip to the mall is generally viewed as an indulgence for Mom, but should really be considered as mutually beneficial for both Mom and babies. Here’s why – shopping presents a unique opportunity for the practical application of basic arithmetic and other everyday skills. “If we buy 2 pairs of shoes, how many shoes in total will we have? One, two, three, four…” Math is everywhere in a store and the lessons can become more complex as the kids grow.  “If we buy 3 barrettes and give one to a friend, how many barrettes will we have left?” A fun game I play with my toddler is finding items of a specific shape as we walk through a store. Kids can also practice reading price tags and comparing the cost of different items. With my infant I focus more on introducing colors and exposure to vocabulary words, but I’m always looking out for those teachable moments. 

Time Out

After combing through the racks at Neiman Marcus, what 2-year-old wouldn’t need a break? I suggest strategically planning shopping trips around either playgrounds or amusement centers as a way of rewarding good behavior and allowing them to burn off some energy after all of their “hard work.” Physical activity also lengthens my son’s attention span and helps him sleep better at night. Fortunately for us, The Westchester had just revealed a brand new interactive play area complete with colossal step-and-play keyboard, fluorescently lit Magna-tile station, wall-mounted bead mazes and a baby-friendly arena with soft, colorful gym equipment. My son had so much fun in this play area and can’t wait for his next shopping adventure at The Westchester!

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Evan channeled Tom Hanks in the 1988 classic, “Big,” as he boogied on the giant electric piano.

Feed Them

Kids sure do work up an appetite (even from a smallish spending spree) and stopping to refuel is critical. Incorporating a fun dining experience into a busy shopping day is an effective method to keep kids distracted and happy while simultaneously providing parents an opportunity to relax. Stopping for lunch also breaks up the day and can actually extend your shopping trip and your toddler’s patience. Mariposa, the newly remodeled restaurant at Neiman Marcus Westchester, serves sumptuous New American cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere. The sophisticated eatery is surprisingly kid-friendly and offers a traditional children’s menu. As soon as we entered, the waitstaff were warm and welcoming and quickly supplied my son with crayons, paper, and juice. Our waitress was extremely patient and understanding and eagerly brought clean spoons to my daughter as she repeatedly dropped them on the floor.  Mariposa was the perfect backdrop to our lovely laid-back lunch! 

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While none of these strategies are foolproof,  their execution will almost always buy you at least a few more minutes to peruse the shoe department in peace. Children react well to positive reinforcement, so be sure to praise them for even the smallest good behaviors. With a little planning, patience,  and realistic expectations, a trip to the mall can be enjoyable excursion for the whole family. 

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Winter Fashion Round-Up

 

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The onset of winter weather elicits a multitude of feelings amongst New Yorkers, some of which include fear, dread, and the desire to hibernate indoors for several months. But for die-hard fashionistas, the extreme cold and heavy snow merely present an exhilarating opportunity for layering and extra accessorizing. It is possible to survive arctic temperatures without looking like an urban Eskimo, even while gallivanting around the neighborhood with a toddler and infant. This winter I traded my maternity long johns and unflattering layers for cozy cashmere, luscious furs, vibrant jewel tones, and luxe footwear. Pictured above (and described below) are my most adored pieces from my own winter wardrobe.

Over-the-Knee (OTK) Boots

2016-bootsOTK boots are the hottest shoe trend of the season and can instantly elevate your look from drab to chic and sophisticated. I fell in love with these “Breley” boots by Marc Fisher the moment I laid eyes on them and knew I had to have them. Made from rich caramel-colored suede, these boots ooze luxury. The neutral color beautifully compliments any color palate and their silhouette is universally flattering. OTK boots accentuate legs by making them appear longer and leaner and can be paired with skinny jeans, a mini dress, or even an oversized shirt. These boots are made for walkin’!

Statement Sweater

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This chilly-day companion from Bloomingdale’s exclusive Aqua collection is crafted from thick luxurious cashmere and provides mega warmth without the need for several layers. The vibrantly colored skull design adds edge to an otherwise feminine piece. Lauren Moshi is another designer whose unique cashmere sweaters are embellished with rock & roll themed designs (think Guns N’ Roses meets Breakfast at Tiffany’s). I am currently loving the relaxed-fit “Hollis Heart Breaker” cashmere pullover from her current collection.

Classic Cardigan

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This classic never-goes-out-of-style cardigan made by C by Bloomingdale’s strikes the perfect balance between comfort and chic. Its elegant design, delicate hardware and white contrast trim pay homage to Coco Chanel’s classic designs. I usually wear this sweater with skinny jeans, but it can also be paired with leather pants and heels for an easy day-to-night transformation. This is a fashion statement that will last you for years to come.

Down Puffer

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This lacquered nylon puffer comes from the Italian-based brand known best for their luxury outerwear – Moncler. Although this form-fitting jacket comes with a hefty price tag, it’s an investment piece worth its weight in gold. In a city where temperatures frequently dip below 20 degrees, freezing fashionistas need to sashay down the sidewalks in style.

Multicolored Fur

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This Jocelyn genuine fox fur patchwork vest is EVERYTHING! From school drop-off to grabbing drinks with the girls, this piece is the ultimate winter wardrobe investment. An undeniably chic way to bundle up, this vest makes heads turn every time I wear it. The multicolored fox section vest with hood by Blue Duck Shearling is extremely similar and at 60% off it’s an absolute steal. Buy it now!

Luxe Snow Boot

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The Australian Luxe Collective “Foxy” wedge boot is sheepskin done right. An elegant alternative to the long-established Ugg boot, these have a hidden 2 1/2 inch wedge heel and are adorned with authentic, opulent Fox fur. Never before has comfort looked so decadent!

Novelty Jacket

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The perfect addition to any winter wardrobe, the J. Crew Stewart Plaid Quilted Lady Jacket is the answer to my prayers. What sets this jacket apart from others is the attention to detail and quality of craftsmanship.  The cuffs, edges and pockets are framed by fringy braided trim and the tailored silhouette makes for an ultra-polished look even when paired with distressed denim.

Manhattan Mommy Winter Must-Haves

In the city that never sleeps, not even an apocalyptic ice storm could keep New Yorkers indoors. For Manhattan residents, winter brings with it a plethora of exciting seasonal activities, including ice skating at Bryant Park Winter Village, sledding down Pilgrim Hill in Central Park, sipping hot chocolate at Serendipity, and shopping for the perfect resort wear.  Manhattan is picturesque in the winter, but braving the great outdoors in frigid temperatures with little ones takes a great deal of planning and preparation. It can be downright exhausting to dress fidgety babies and toddlers in multiple layers, hats and gloves and ultimately tuck them into stroller blankets. But with all of the focus on the children, who’s making sure that Mom has everything she needs to endure the frosty temperatures? Below are my Manhattan mommy winter must-haves that will make venturing out in a winter wonderland as enchanting as it sounds. Don’t leave home without them!

Stroller gloves

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Gloves: 7AM Enfant

Manhattan’s Upper East Side neighborhood is home to more families with young children than any other region of the city.  Our sidewalks are lined with stroller-striding moms who systematically weave in and out of sidewalk traffic as if they could do it with eyes closed. Dressed in our heaviest down puffers and thermal accessories, we are often multitasking while running our daily errands. It can be difficult to reach into our wallets, answer our phones, grab a burp cloth or anything from inside the diaper bag, or even touch our babies while wearing cumbersome winter gloves. Continuously removing them and putting them back on is not only an inconvenience, but also a needless time drain. Introducing stroller hand warmers, the no-fuss accessory that keeps your hands warm on the coldest of days while simultaneously making it effortless to attend to our babies needs.  Unlike conventional gloves that always seem to go missing, these mitts are securely attached to the stroller handlebar and impossible to lose! Thanks to these innovative gloves, moms no longer need to choose between warmth and convenience.  Who said we couldn’t have it all?

Tech Gloves 

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Gloves: Echo

Smart phones are pocket-sized computers designed to utilize various communication modalities to simplify our daily lives. Their development has revolutionized the way we keep in touch with family and friends and has literally put the entire world at our fingertips. But why is it that we can’t operate our devices while wearing our finest winter accessories to keep our hands warm? How can a thin layer of cashmere suddenly cut us off from the outside world? I didn’t know either until I did a little digging.  Apparently, when we swipe our finger across the touch screen it produces an electrical current that allows the user to interact directly with what is being displayed on the screen. When we wear gloves, the fabric interferes with the passage of this electrical current, rendering us unable to operate our smart phones. I don’t know about you, but nothing comes between me and a good online sale, not even my favorite winter accessories! This fall I embarked on a quest to find the perfect tech gloves, the kind with coated fingertips that transmit the electrical current from your body to the device. I was afraid my efforts wouldn’t bear fruit as I sorted through pair after pair of uninspiring options that reminded me of shoddy juvenile mittens. And then, just as I was about to give up, I discovered the Echo tech gloves with fur cuffs. These beauties, still available at Bloomingdales, are made from the most buttery soft leather and are equally warm and sophisticated. Most importantly, they are compatible with iPhones, iPads and other touch-screen devices. You really can have your cake and eat it too!

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Echo Leather Gloves with Asiatic Raccoon Fur Cuff – $129, Bloomingdales

Aquaphor

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Aquaphor healing ointment is the first line of defense against your baby’s minor cuts and scrapes and for this reason it’s a staple item in the diaper bags of most moms. It’s best known for its use in healing baby’s sensitive skin and the treatment and prevention of diaper rash, but unlike most other baby products on the market, Aquaphor’s uses extend far beyond the nursery. It’s a multipurpose ointment that can be used to promote healthy skin for moms and the entire family.  Flakey chapped lips are a common cold-weather complaint for everyone in a cold climate, especially Manhattan moms who spend a great deal of time outdoors transporting children and running errands. Sure, you can apply layer after layer of balm to your lips, but this isn’t an effective long-term solution to a chronic condition. Aquaphor, on the other hand, not only moisturizes severely chapped lips, but also adds shine and keeps lips soft by acting as a barrier against cold winter weather. This is one item I cannot live without. Grab some of your baby’s Aquaphor and pucker up, Moms!

Insulated Coffee Mug

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Coat: Moncler   Fox Scarf: Optimal Accessories (old), similar here    Sunglasses: Prada   Gloves: Echo    Jeans: Seven For All Mankind

Rain or shine, Manhattan moms are always on-the-go. We schlep our little ones to classes and play dates even in the most frigid temperatures. We arm ourselves with coffee to warm our bodies from the inside out, but how many of us have taken a big gulp of a venti Starbucks latte only to discover it’s quickly gotten cold? We’ve all been there. A durable, well-insulated, and spill-proof coffee mug is an absolute must-have for java-drinking Manhattan moms. The LifeSky mug keeps coffee piping hot for 8 hours and features a one-hand opening mechanism, perfect for stroller-striding moms who don’t have use of both hands. Fill your mug with delicious brew and drink it at your leisure because this mug will keep your coffee piping hot for an impressive 8 hours. You can buy your own here.

Headgear

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Earmuffs: Surell

All fashionista moms would agree that the one thing sabotaging their perfect blowouts this winter is none other than the traditional winter hat.  There is nothing worse than arriving for an event and removing your hat, only to discover that your perfectly tousled tresses have fallen victim to “hat head.”  But what is a Manhattan girl to do in a city plagued by abysmal winter weather?  Earmuffs and thermal headbands are cold weather accessories that won’t wreak havoc on your hairstyle like hats do. From cozy cashmere to luxurious furs, there are plenty of options in all styles and price ranges. I received a pair of Surell ear muffs for Hanukkah and never leave home without them. Get yours here.

Rethinking New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year from my family to yours!

For many Manhattan women, the start of a new year marks the initiation of healthy diets, exercise regimens and other self-improvement resolutions, many of which are decided upon while nursing New Year’s Eve hangovers and vowing never to drink again. New Year’s resolutions are both optimistic and fundamentally flawed, as most of us set unrealistic goals, thereby setting ourselves up for failure. This year I have a different strategy – rather than making resolutions that I’m unlikely to attain, I’ve formulated smaller, more manageable lifestyle “tweaks” that if adhered to will contribute to a healthier and more productive 2017.

      1. Clean-out my closet

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Every city girl remembers the iconic “Take or Toss” scene from Sex and the City when Carrie has the girls over to help clean out her closet. Much like Carrie’s, my closet is in dire need of decluttering. Having too many clothes actually makes getting dressed much more difficult and sabotages my morning routine on almost a daily basis. And even more crippling, it leaves me with no space for new clothes! Although every item in my closet has at one point made my heart flutter, Manhattan closet real estate is far too precious to house pieces that aren’t part of my current rotation. While it might be tough parting with some of my lesser-worn pieces, regaining control of my closet is a small undertaking that can really make a huge impact on my day-to-day life.

      2. Get more sleep

sleepSleep – the elusive slumber sanctuary of moms everywhere. “Just nap when the baby naps,” people eagerly suggest. What an innovative idea! How have I never thought of that? I suppose these very same people will pay my bills, tidy up my apartment, check my emails and do all of the hundreds of other things I do when my toddler and infant are sleeping. I should also mention that only occasionally do their naps actually overlap. In any case, sleep deprivation is real, especially for nursing moms who are waking for night feedings. Going to bed early is an effective means of counteracting my high sleep debt and I wake up feeling well-rested and prepared to tackle the needs of my toddler and infant… not to mention that restorative sleep helps prevent fine lines and promotes a glowing complexion. Here’s to sleeping my way to a brighter, fresher, and more vibrant 2017!

      3.  More “Me-Time”

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As busy moms of the Big Apple, we try to take advantage of having the world’s greatest parks, museums, theaters and play spaces all at our fingertips. Our days are often spent toting our tots to music classes, play dates, story times and workshops, leaving little time for sanity-saving solitary moments. Although time apart from our babies can be guilt-inducing for many busy moms (myself included), it’s an essential part of contemporary parenting. Avoid confusing self-indulgence with self-preservation and give yourself permission to unwind for a few moments every day. Whether it’s perusing the racks at Bloomingdale’s, getting a massage or meeting a friend for lunch, taking some much needed “me time” every day will help me gain a fresh outlook and a renewed sense of perspective in 2017.

      4. Drink more watermmmWe all know the health benefits of drinking water, but how many of us are actually drinking the recommended 10 glasses per day? Not only does staying hydrated flush out toxins and leave your skin looking radiant, but it also has the beauty benefits of helping to strengthen hair and nails. Although it seems like the busy lifestyle of a Manhattan mom isn’t conducive to meeting the recommendations for daily water intake, it’s actually easier than it sounds – just take it on-the-go. The best way to make sure that I’m drinking around 10 glasses of water a day is to keep a bottle of water with me throughout the day. Recently I became the proud owner of a cheetah-print S’well bottle and it accompanies me wherever I go. Not only does it keep my water ice-cold, but its sleek appearance makes a fierce fashion statement. Let’s raise our glasses of H20 and drink our way to looking more radiant in the coming year!

      5. Prioritize family dinnerhires

Despite knowing the long-term benefits of eating together as a family, pleading with a 2-year-old to sit at the table rather than paint the walls with ketchup is a monotonous routine that would send even Mary Poppins into a tailspin. At the end of a long day, it can be so tempting to give the kids an early dinner, put them to bed and indulge in Chinese take-out with my husband while playing catch-up with our DVR. Despite chaotic schedules, we will prioritize family meal time 2017 and eat together as a family as often as possible. Sitting down at the table and talking about our days is the perfect way to connect in today’s busy world. Besides, food tastes better when you eat it with your family!

Have Babies, Will Travel

Sunscreen ✅, bathing suits ✅, passports ✅, toddler and infant ✅.   Some people think my husband and I are crazy for bringing our babies on vacation with us, but the truth is, it wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable and fulfilling without them in tow. Traveling with our children also exposes them with to new people, cultures and lifestyles that will help them become well-rounded adults with a perspective that extends beyond our neighborhood. We really love embarking on these adventures with them and cultivating memories that will last a lifetime.

Our family just returned from a week-long trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico. While there, we stayed in a 2200 sq foot suite at Grand Residences Riviera Cancun Resort. Like most Manhattan parents, we sacrifice living space for the unique opportunities that raising kids in New York City provides for our family.  When we travel, however, we never skimp on space and instead opt for spacious family suites at hotels that specialize in providing a luxurious experience. YOLO! The Grand Residences did not disappoint and in many ways even exceeded our high expectations. You can find my honest review here.

Regardless of the quality of accommodations awaiting you at your destination, you must first conquer one of the most dreaded aspects of traveling with multiple kids – the plane ride. Below I will share some useful strategies for navigating airports, eliminating stress, and keeping even the most challenging children content and quiet on airplanes.

  1. Wear sensible shoes.

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Before having my babies, I had no problem navigating airports and train stations while teetering in 5-inch platform heels. After all, how else are we supposed to reach those overhead compartments? These days, traveling most often involves wearing my infant in a carrier and sometimes even carrying my toddler simultaneously on my hip.  In these instances, heels would be extremely impractical and arguably hazardous. In addition, most airlines require that you remove your shoes when you go through security so it’s essential to wear a shoe that easily slips on and off. There is no need, however, to sacrifice fashion for function. I almost always travel in a ballet flat or smoking slipper, both of which are incredibly on-trend.

       2.  Infinity scarves – wear one.

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They’re chic, small enough to stash in your carry-on, and sometimes all you need to transform an outfit from DRAB to FAB!  Most important, an infinity scarf can even double as nursing cover. The Itzy Ritzy “Nursing Happens” infinity breastfeeding scarf comes in a variety of patterns and colors. An absolute must have for any nursing mom on-the-go, this is the one accessory that I cannot live without, especially while traveling with my kids. You can get yours here.

       3.  Do your research.

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Mamava pod in JetBlue terminal at JFK

As a nursing mother, it can be daunting to locate an on-the-go nursing space that is both clean and private. Mamava is an app that acts as an online GPS tool to help nursing moms locate their pod-shaped booths away from home. The Mamava booths provide comfortable and private nursing/pumping space with deadbolt closures and indicator lights that show whether the space is vacant or occupied. Each of the pods features a bench, fold-down table and an electrical outlet to charge your phone or plug-in your pump. Mamava pods can be found at all major NYC Airports (JFK, LaGuardia, Newark) in addition to many other airports, stadiums and convention centers around the country. After checking in at JFK Airport for our most recent flight to Mexico, I used the app to locate the closest nursing pod to feed my infant prior to boarding.  It just so happened that the closest Mamava pod was only a few gates away in the JetBlue terminal – jackpot! I was able to seamlessly feed my daughter while still allowing for plenty of extra time before boarding, which leads me to my next tip.

        4.  Board early. 

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Evan and Chloe – all settled onboard

Many airlines announce pre-boarding for families flying with children under the age of 2. While other airlines may not announce pre-boarding for families with children, they might grant it if you request it at the gate. When you arrive at the gate, tell him/her that you’re flying with infants or toddlers who are likely to require additional time. In my experiences, flight attendants are usually accommodating to parents with small children as many of them are also parents and understand the lengthy process of getting small children settled on the airplane. Boarding the plane early also allows for extra time to sanitize the seats, windows, arm rests and tray tables before the other passengers board. Fact – the dirtiest part of the airplane is actually the seat headrest, as these never get cleaned!!

        5. Stick with the Schedule.

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Try to keep your travel day schedule consistent with that of a normal day at home. Altering your child’s nap schedule can backfire and create a nightmarish flying experience for parents and passengers alike. If your child sleeps easily in a car, your best bet is to schedule a flight during nap time. My toddler naps at 1pm and my infant naps around 1:30 or 2pm. I typically try to fly around 1pm when I am almost certain to get a nap from both. Once my toddler starts nodding off I can then focus on getting my infant to sleep, which sometimes requires pacing in the aisles while wearing her in my Ergo carrier.  I almost always wear her facing inward otherwise she gets too distracted by the other passengers and won’t fall asleep.  Once facing inward, her tired eyes are no match for the combination of gentle turbulence, white noise from the engine and the closeness that the baby carrier provides, which brings me to my next point.

       6. Use a carrier. 

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If you don’t have one, get one.  I love my Ergo 360 for its multiple positioning options, but any carrier would suffice.  I typically wear my infant in the airport and use my free hands to push my toddler in an umbrella stroller, which makes it extremely easy to weave in and out of crowds. As previously mentioned above, the carrier is also invaluable on the plane.

       7. Technology is your friend.

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The Amazon Fire (Kids Edition) tablet is hands-down the best purchase I’ve ever made. My toddler is obsessed with it and can easily spend hours perusing the preloaded kid-friendly apps and videos. On the tablet he can easily flip through e-books, watch his favorite television shows, trace numbers and letters, and engage in so many other educational activities. As if that’s not enough, the tablet comes in a removable foam case that protects it from the wrath of even the angriest toddler. If somehow your child defies the odds and manages to break the tablet, Amazon will replace it at no charge for up to two years.

Grand Residences – A Tropical Wonderland

Gourmet dining, pristine beach, immaculate spacious accommodations and exceptional service – what more could any family want? The Grand Residences Riviera Cancun Resort provided the most perfect backdrop for our first international vacation as a new family of 4.  Our private driver greeted us at the airport and whisked us away in a luxury SUV only after providing chilled aromatherapy towels and bottles of ice cold water. Our car was equipped with two car seats for our children and our driver was extremely helpful in getting them settled in their seats and making sure we were all comfortable.  During the short drive from the airport he called the hotel and arranged for the most delicious cucumber margaritas to be offered to us upon arrival. After a quick check-in, we were given a tour of the grounds, ending in our beautiful 2200 sq foot suite.  Much to our surprise, aside from the two cribs we had requested, our concierge had also set up an infant bath tub and diaper genie and left dolls in the cribs for each of our kids. I was also delighted to find the greatest assortment of Bvlgari bath and shower products in our bathrooms in addition to espresso machine in our kitchen and many other amenities throughout the suite.

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living/dining room in the master suite

Although my toddler was too young to be left in the Kids Club (for kids 4+), we spent several hours in the colorful activity rooms with him and were extremely impressed with both the staff and program.  Kids can paint pottery, make t-shirts and jewelry, build with Legos, read books and participate in many other fun activities. The staff members were extremely interactive and kept all kids busy and happy. I wouldn’t hesitate one bit leaving my children (once old enough) in the Kids Club. There is an activity desk across from the Kids Club that provides sand toys for the beach and anything else kids may need, including life jackets, snorkel gear, and body boards.

The Grand Residences Resort is home to Riviera Maya’s largest infinity pool, and their staff goes above and beyond making sure that you enjoy every minute under the sun. The moment you choose your chair at either the pool or beach, a server arrives to set up your chair with towels like a bed and leaves ice waters, chilled towels, and Evian facial mist.

There is a very large children’s pool area in addition to a swim-up bar, a separate lap pool and several hot tubs.

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bikini: Asos   sunglasses: Prada

For those who love the beach, this is the place for you! The water is incredibly crystal clear and there are hardly any rocks or seaweed on the beach.  My toddler loved frolicking in the white powdery sand and dipping his toes in the surf.

While my husband and toddler braved the choppy waves, my daughter and I enjoyed exploring the resort and walking along the beach. 

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shoes: Valentino    sunglasses: Prada    kaftan: Lindsey Brown Luxe Resortwear (old)

The beach bar, appropriately named Heaven, serves a wide array of menu items including (but not limited to) chicken tacos, salads, burgers and a full children’s menu. The palm trees and tropical flowers were certainly a welcome departure from the concrete jungle. 

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If you choose the all-inclusive option like we did, you will be eating most of your meals in their El Faro restaurant, which is truly a fine dining experience from start to finish. Some of our favorite dishes were the lobster and filet mignon, fig and goat cheese salad, and the créme brulée trio.  The service is impeccable and waitstaff will honor any special request. My toddler would become antsy toward the end of our meals and our waiter would bring him crayons or other small toys to keep him happy while allowing my husband and I to finish our dessert. There is almost always live music in the dining room, which really makes for quite a lovely ambiance. 

Although it didn’t bother us much, the night life is quiet (or non-existent). After putting the kids to bed, we enjoyed sitting on our balcony and listening to the ocean or taking a dip in our private outdoor hot tub.  My toddler was determined to get into the hot tub and we allowed him to join us on our last evening. 

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This resort is the personification of five-star hotel service. If there is such a thing as heaven on Earth, it’s at the Grand Residences. After 6 nights in paradise, we returned to the concrete jungle feeling rejuvenated, refreshed and comforted knowing that this tropical wonderland is only a short plane ride away.