The Last Hurrah

There is a time of year in New York when the weather grows cooler, days become shorter, and moms engage in a myriad of seasonal city rituals. Fueled by gingerbread lattes and pumpkin muffins, we busily unpack vacuum-sealed bags of woolen and cashmere sweaters while basking in the fragrance of pine scented candles. In our spare time, we take our kids on nature walks through Central Park in search of Autumn’s kaleidoscope of blazing colors, a seasonal reminder that change is, in fact, beautiful. We fill our bellies with hot chocolate and tiny marshmallows while watching the leaves flutter to the ground at our neighborhood playgrounds. In only a few short weeks, this concrete jungle will be hidden under a blanket of snow and the picturesque tree-lined streets of the Upper East Side will become a wintry obstacle course of slush lagoons and heaping mounds of yellow-tainted snow (yuck).

In New York, most people navigate the city by foot, which means our children are invariably outside even on the coldest of winter days. And city kids are remarkably resilient, using their mittens to brush off serrated icicles before swinging from monkey bars at the playground. But dressing these children in multiple layers and outfitting them with winter-ready accessories can be an arduous undertaking for parents and caretakers. My attempts to put a winter coat on my youngest are often met with meltdowns of epic proportions and blood-curdling screams akin only to medieval torture. There are many afternoons I raise my white flag of surrender and spend the afternoon reading books or doing craft projects with the kids in our apartment merely to avoid this imminent struggle.

It seems inconceivable that Mother Nature’s grand finale for October was met with short sleeves and open windows. But now, in a veritable race against time, NYC families are scrambling to participate in outdoor activities while the temperature is mild enough for even the most vulnerable little ones without the use of bulky snow suits and polar accessories. It seems like mere days ago we made our annual pilgrimage to Harbes Family Farm in Mattituck, NY.  Comfortably clad in only in flannel shirts and jeans, we bypassed the painful process of layering and spent hours delighting in the farm’s many attractions. A refreshing departure from mundane strolls through pumpkin patches, the farm is home to an impressive 8-acre Barnyard Adventure. This city kid’s wonderland boasts an assortment of family-friendly attractions including pony rides, petting zoo, face painting, gem mining, pig races and more. Framed by velvety green pastures, a colorful jumbo trampoline sets the Barnyard Adventure apart from all other farms of its kind. A treat for children of all ages, the bouncy apparatus was an instant favorite among our crew. It’s no mystery why NYC families make the trek out East to visit this agricultural oasis. Harbes hasn’t forgotten about the adults either. After several hours of chaperoning boisterous children, parents can delight in some liquid patience from the Wine Barn on premises. Paired with their scrumptious apple cider donuts, this is the perfect adults-only afternoon snack. As the sunshine warmed my face for perhaps the very last time this season, I delighted in knowing that in only a few short months we will once again leave our apartment without the dreaded trifecta of winter coats, tears, and temper tantrums.

 

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Bridging The Gap 

As children turn 3 or 4, New York City parents often start considering the possibility of moving to the suburbs. After all, raising children here is not for the faint of heart. Living in New York City offers our children a myriad of rich cultural experiences and exposes them to a melting pot of ethnic diversity. But at what expense? In this sprawling metropolis, it’s virtually impossible to shelter our kids from the poverty, profanity-laced conversations and vulgar displays of human indecency found on the city sidewalks. Eager to ditch the concrete jungle for backyards and barbecues, thousands of Manhattan families every year partake in a mass exodus to the suburbs of Long Island, Westchester and New Jersey. But that leaves us, the courageous leftovers, addicted to the urban hustle and determined to raise well-adjusted, resilient kids in the world’s very best city.

Wouldn’t life be easier if we could open our back door and let our children spill out into the yard? Absolutely! But with Central Park only a few short blocks away and a multitude of iconic New York attractions at our fingertips, city kids are exposed to an exhilarating, diverse environment that challenges their curiosities and nurtures their desire to know more about their world. Sure, my kids may not have 3,000 square feet to stash the toys they seldom use, but after nap on any given day they will experience the thrills of riding the tram to Roosevelt Island, playing peek-a-boo with the animals in the Central Park Zoo, or studying the colossal dinosaurs at the Museum of Natural History.  Although at times it would be nice to have a bit more space, I feel so very privileged to offer my kids these unique adventures.

Whenever we have the opportunity, we strive to engage in quintessential New York City experiences and have amassed quite a bucket list of Big Apple essentials. Last weekend we capitalized on the unseasonably warm conditions and embarked on an expedition by foot across the Brooklyn Bridge. The elegance of this beloved landmark of grandiose proportion is surpassed only by the breathtaking views of lower Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, and Freedom Tower. While walking the promenade, I couldn’t help but marvel at the potpourri of both tourists and NYC dwellers – a veritable melting pot of ethnic and cultural diversity. It is my hope that continuous immersion in such a heterogeneous city will encourage my children to grow into compassionate adults who understand and respect similarities and differences amongst people in their communities.

Once across the bridge, we wandered through Brooklyn Bridge Park in Dumbo, where the kids galloped through the large lawns like wild stallions against a backdrop of the most magnificent Manhattan sky-line. And no trip across the bridge would be complete without a visit to Jane’s carousel, the majestic waterfront merry-go-round enclosed in a genuine glass jewel box. The exquisite attention to detail is as extraordinary as the panoramic view from within the ornate crystal enclosure. Horses painted with genuine gold leaf are adorned with custom bridles hand-painted by the same authorized agent who puts finishing touches on the finest Mercedes-Benz vehicles. As the blazing afternoon sun began to weaken, I watched as my son circled round and round, dipping and rising to the tune of life’s most simple melody. There he was – my little boy, riding off into the sunset – the city at his back and only the horizon ahead. Sometimes in life we need to take a step back to see the beauty of what’s right in front of us. It was in this moment I felt so overcome with gratitude for the opportunity to rediscover this awe-inspiring metropolis through the eyes of my children. You see, while we may not have the picture-perfect suburban home and private back yard surrounded by a white picket fence, what we have is far more valuable. We have New York – the “Big Apple,” “the city that never sleeps,’’ the “concrete jungle.” And here, anything is possible. 

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Babies n’ Boardwalks – Our Coney Island Adventure

Whenever we have a free weekend in the city, my husband and I enjoy taking the kids to other neighborhoods in Manhattan or to the outer boroughs to participate in all kinds of cultural events and view popular landmarks. The Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Bridge, and Coney Island are only a few of the world-famous (and kid-friendly) attractions we are fortunate to have at our finger tips. For many New Yorkers, Coney Island is synonymous with unapologetic indulgences and an overcrowded boardwalk teeming with sleazy characters. In fact, many of my friends and neighbors steer clear of this tourist trap for this very reason. But not us! With a tight grip on our wallets and children securely strapped into their stroller, last weekend was the perfect Coney Island adventure, a trip we’ve been making every summer since even before the kids were born.

Coney Island is widely-recognized for its iconic boardwalk and rightfully so. Lined with food stands, beachside performers and surf shops, it’s the perfect respite from the stagnant city air. The opportunities for supreme people-watching are endless, as it attracts a diverse crowd of all ages. And let’s not forget about the greasy food – Coney Island is home of the original Nathan’s. Yes, please! After first making a pit-stop for hotdogs and fries, we pushed my daughter in her stroller along the boardwalk, keeping a close eye on my toddler who was carefully weaving in and out of beach-goers. He’s an avid explorer of new territories, but in these situations I’m not too proud to sport matching bracelets connected by a spiraled rope (most commonly referred to as a “leash”). There must be a very delicate balance between a toddler’s desire for independence and safety.

After meandering through crowds of people and stopping for cotton candy and ice cream cones, we made our way to Luna Park, an old-fashioned amusement park that most closely resembles a county fair. There we would spend the next 2 hours watching our toddler bask in the glory of this recreational utopia only before moving on to the aquarium, the only one of its kind in New York City.  We cruised through the animal exhibits in record time thanks to my energetic toddler on a sugar high and arrived at the Aquatheater just in time for the sea lion show. It was difficult to determine which my raging threenager enjoyed more – the interactive sea lion performance or climbing up and down the steps 547 times during the show.

By the day’s end I was thoroughly drained and unsure of how I would make it to bedtime. But despite the all-encompassing exhaustion of motherhood, on this day (like many others) I had the opportunity to stop and soak in the world through the joyful eyes of my children, and for that I am grateful. It’s days like these when I really feel my cup runneth over.

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Young, Wild, and Three!

As busy parents raising kids in New York City, it’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of our every day lives. With jam-packed calendars and stacks of unopened mail, we often feel as if we’re constantly engaging in a game of catch-up. And the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. In an effort to take full advantage of all this heaping metropolis has to offer our children, we often over-commit them with trips to museums, enrichment activities, lessons and playdates. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been guilty of trying to fill every minute of every day with a variety of activities to keep my kids busy. But we must not lose sight of something so very essential to the healthy development of our children – the importance of green grass and fresh air.

Ever since my son was born, I’ve been flabbergasted at the amount of energy radiating from his itty-bitty body. Even from a young age it was abundantly clear that he required outdoor play time every day in order to blow off steam and sleep soundly through the night. In addition to assuring a good night’s sleep, the health benefits of outdoor exercise are immeasurable. Regular physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight, builds muscle and reduces the risk of many health conditions.  Green grass and fresh air are also essential for the psychological well being of children, especially city kids, most of whom are confined to small apartments. I still recall the very first time we introduced my son to playing in the grass – he was so hesitant to wander off the blanket and picked at the individual blades of green, so fearful that they would pierce his tender little feet. Flash forward almost three years later and he runs like an untamed antelope through fields of green grass.

Some of my most favorite childhood memories are long summer days spent building forts in the woods behind my childhood home, playing in the snow and other self-directed activities outside. Now that I have two kids, it’s a bit more challenging to get outside, especially in the colder months. Bundling up babies in several layers is an arduous task, but I understand the importance and make it a priority to get my kiddos outside for at least 30 minutes every day. And as often as possible, my husband and I take the kids out East or to Connecticut to visit family outside of the city. Disconnecting from our electrical devises and spending time outside as a family is one of our favorite things to do.

What are some of your favorite outdoor family activities?

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Chugga Chugga Two Two – Adventures of a Toddler on the Second Avenue Subway

Like most Upper East Side moms and residents alike, I was absolutely ecstatic about the January opening of the mythical Second Avenue Subway project after decades of setbacks and delays. Aside from easing congestion along Manhattan’s East side and providing efficient transportation to other neighborhoods, the unveiling of the long-awaited project also provides unique opportunities for those of us with young children.

New York City weather is as unpredictable as the sale racks at Bloomingdales on Black Friday, and much to my chagrin, my rambunctious 2-year-old doesn’t share my affinity for hibernating indoors in sub-zero temperatures, torrential downpours or the most simmering summer heat waves. The 86th Street subway station has become a frequent fieldtrip destination for my kids, especially on days when either rain or severe temperatures prohibit outdoor play. The subway platform at the 86th Street station is 93 feet below street level and impervious to the city’s most severe weather elements. And unlike most other subway lines, a mechanical cooling system within the station will be activated this summer to maintain a comfortable temperature of approximately 10 degrees cooler than outside at street level.

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As my toddler approaches age 3, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep him entertained within the confines of our Manhattan apartment. Always on the hunt for new adventures and opportunities to assert his independence, he thrives in new environments and enjoys being an on-the-go tot. Because of his blossoming curiosity about the world, I present him with frequent hands-on experiences to keep him physically active and nurture his urge to know more. He’s been enamored with the Q Train since its Upper East Side inauguration and we can’t pass by its entrance without him pleading to go for a ride. The first order of business when headed to the subway is perhaps my toddler’s favorite part – descending via escalator deep into the cavernous station. I use this opportunity to teach and reinforce the basic safety measures of facing forward, holding hands, and being cognizant of what’s going on around us at all times. Although we always avoid rush hour, the escalator can be treacherous for toddlers and it’s imperative to take the proper precautions to avoid injuries.

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Once on the train platform, we eagerly await the arrival of the train. As it approaches, my toddler beams with excitement and his silky baby strands blow wildly in the breeze of the oncoming train. Years from now, I will remember him as joyful as he is in these tender moments. When the doors open and people file in, he knows to quickly locate an empty seat and sit down. And when the train starts moving, he’s in all his glory, squealing with delight as the train accelerates down the track. It’s not long before my toddler amasses a fan club of passengers who are enchanted by his playful demeanor and irresistibly sweet face.  A natural performer, he feeds off this attention and loves making new friends. It doesn’t matter where the train stops or what’s nearby; as soon as we exit the subway car and ride the escalator to street level, he’s ready to turn around and do it all again.

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Although he’s barely 2.5 yrs old, my toddler enjoys examining the large New York City Subway map in the train car and pointing out various locations around the city. He understands that the colored lines represent different trains and that straphangers ride different trains to get to different places. We’ve had many conversations about how the subway is a means of connecting people in different neighborhoods city-wide. I point out landmarks he recognizes (such as JFK Airport and his favorite parks) and we discuss which train line we would take to reach those points. Two-years old isn’t too young to be introduced to basic concepts of geography and by allowing him to take an active role in the discovery process, I’m laying the foundation for a lifelong love of learning. Next stop – the New York Transit Museum!

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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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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. 

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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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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.